Sequel to Tears of the Ancient
Colonel Jack O'Neill wiped his hand across his brow and then flicked it towards the ground in disgust, watching the droplets of sweat sizzle on the hot sand.
"What is it with temple ruins and dry hot planets?" he grumbled to no one in particular.
"Not temperate enough for you, Jack?"
Jack threw Daniel Jackson the dirtiest look he could muster, knowing full well that Daniel was revelling in the heat, having been born and raised, for a few years at least, in Egypt and then later living with his wife and her family on Abydos. The heat was Daniel's friend and Daniel was hardly raising a sweat. Jack, on the other hand, would take the cold of a Minnesota winter over this any day.
"Telemetry from the UAV indicated ruins three miles to the east of the gate, Colonel." Major Samantha Carter made her way over from the DHD, glancing occasionally at the diagnostic tool in her hand. "Given that the sun has only just risen here and it's already over 100 degrees, we should get going before it gets too hot to travel."
Jack groaned. 100 degrees already and it was only early morning. "Just how hot do you think it's going to get?" he complained, watching Daniel out of the corner of his eye.
"Well, sir, based on the previous MALP readings, I would say that the average mean temperature is going to hit around 150 degrees."
"Thanks, Carter, I knew you'd cheer me up. Okay, camels, let make one with the desert and ride. Teal'c, you've got point, Carter, take our six, and Daniel and I will tag along and discuss the finer points of exploring ruins in more environmentally friendly locations with more trees."
"Yes, Carter, camels."
Daniel flicked his head in Jack's direction and raised his eyebrows in surprise.
"I thought you hated trees?"
"Not as much as I hate the desert," Jack grumbled, pushing Daniel ahead.
"I do not believe that this building is currently being occupied," Teal'c announced as they stood before the crumbling stone structure.
"Really, Teal'c?" Jack pulled up the neck of his desert cammo shirt and ran it across his face. "What gave it away for you?"
Teal'c turned his formidable form away from O'Neill, hiding the slight smile that graced his normally stoic features. Years of serving side by side with the Tauri had taught him some of the finer points of sarcasm and yet he was constantly amazed at the ease with which O'Neill wielded such wit.
"Daniel," Jack warned, admonishing him with a raised finger not to wander far. "Carter, Teal'c, set up a perimeter and make sure there's nothing here that our boy can get himself in trouble with." Jack looked across at Daniel, and obviously waiting for his usual offended retort, arched an eyebrow at his distracted look.
Decayed and scattered, the ruins lay before Daniel, filling him with a sense of disappointment and frustration. What the weather hadn't claimed, the sands of time had. Two walls leaned drunkenly together, and remnants of the roof peeked lopsided from the rubble. Daniel sighed, and glancing at Jack, picked his way through the ruins.
"Anything you feel like sharing with the rest of the team, Daniel?" Jack asked, plesently enough, though his tone held a thin edge of impatience and Daniel thought he only barely managed not to roll his eyes.
Shaking his head at his friend's attempts to stall him, Daniel smiled thinly and replied, "Oh, I don't think so, Jack, but letting me get a bit closer might help."
"I think the only thing that would help here would be an engineering team but go ahead. Just be careful."
The smooth exterior wall was in stark contrast to its inner side. Whereas the outer wall had been worn down from countless centuries of exposure to the wind and sand, the interior was rough and pitted. In places, there were remnants of faded murals, and intricate writing, but exposure to the elements had left them impossible to decipher.
Stepping over fallen pieces of roof, Daniel made his way to the more sheltered second wall. Like its counterpart, there were signs of plasterwork and, squinting carefully, Daniel made out faded traces of color. Following the line of the plaster to the ground, he carefully brushed away sand from the base of the wall. A tedious task; Daniel worked with patience and diligence. For every handful of soil he removed, more tumbled back into the hole. Eventually, it seemed Jack couldn't stand watching him struggle, and handing Daniel a collapsible shovel from his back pack, said, "God, Daniel, dig the damn thing out! I can only work for another couple of years, have to retire before I'm ninety!"
Crouching down, and ignoring Jack's comments, Daniel continued his painstaking and careful excavations. With a cry of triumph, he edged closer to the wall, and brushing it carefully, stared at the barely readable text. "It's Ancient!" he cried, whirling around to face Jack, and running a hand through his sweat dampened hair, beamed with excitement
Hunkering down beside the breathless archeologist, Jack raised his sunglasses and squinted at the ancient text. "Okay, that's small, are you sure it's Ancient?"
"Oh yeah, no doubt about it." Daniel looked quickly at Jack to gauge how long his patience would last, and caressed the words almost lovingly. "It means House of the Enlightened. Something about remembrance memoria." Shaking his head in disappointment, he added, "The text is badly faded."
"Oh, well, age and all. Why is it written so low on the wall?" Jack edged forward and stared at the wall above them, "Why not up here? Away from the elements a little."
"Good question." Daniel replied, warming to the subject. Subconsciously using his teacher's tone, he fiddled with his glasses and lectured, "The sand has pretty much swallowed up the temple, and what we can see is the upper section. Most civilizations built their places of worship above all other buildings, so it's fairly safe to assume that under the sand could be an ancient village. This section of writing is actually quite high up. We'd have to dig down further to see if there are any other writings left."
"Which, of course, you'd just love to do," Jack mused, patting Daniel fondly on the shoulder. "I'm worried about how much dirt we can displace before the structure tumbles down on us."
Jumping to his feet, and waving his hands under Jack's nose, Daniel pleaded, "What? Oh please! This place has been standing for God knows how long! I think it's safe to dig a bit further."
Jack groaned softly. He rose and took a few steps backward, casting a critical eye over the area. "Carter," he said softly, "are you picking up any energy readings at all?"
Patting her vest for her diagnostic device, Sam looked around and replied, "Nothing, sir. We would need to get a GPR in here to assess the area around the structure, but if the rest of Daniel's hypothetical village is as old as this temple, then I don't think there will be much left to find." She moved the device from one hand to the other and did a slow moving circle, all the time watching the small screen. "The only readings I'm getting are all atmospheric."
"And just what are those atmospheric readings telling you, Major? Keep it simple."
Attempting to hide her grin behind her hand, Sam tilted her head and replied in a light voice, "Yes, sir. We could be in for some windy weather, though."
"Okay." Standing still and scanning the horizon, Jack nodded his head. "Carter, Teal'c, set up camp. We're going to need the shelter real soon. Daniel, you can dig, but take it real slow, and when I say it's time to stop, I expect you to do just that."
"Jack, I'm an archeologist. We don't go any other speed except slow."
Jack rolled his eyes and walked away, muttering something about treading where angels dare.
Daniel smiled at his friend's departing back, and hearing his crusty comments, picked up his trowel, and continued digging.
The midday sun beat down, and wincing, Daniel frowned with the start of a headache. Meticulous digging had finally unearthed what looked like a blockaded doorway, and scrubbing his hands across his face, he knew he had found something exciting. He took his brush in his long fingers, and gently sweeping away the grains, smiled slowly. "At last! I knew it would be here."
Clambering to his feet, he searched for the Jack and called out, "Hey, I think we've got an entrance here." Gesturing towards the discolored blocks, he added, "These look more recent than the rest of the building. They're located below the line of script so they could be well be concealing a doorway."
"Okay, settle there, grasshopper, I'm coming." Strolling over to the ruins, Jack craned his neck and looked behind the wall. "There's nothing but sand on the other side, Daniel. Not much of a room."
"Stairs?" Daniel ran his hands over the discolored wall, pressing it very slightly.
"What are you doing?"
"Just testing the surface for any give."
"And that's a wise thing to do?"
"Probably not, but it feels pretty firm to me. I could use my chisel to try and work one of the blocks loose. It's worth seeing if there is anything behind it."
"It's not worth having the whole place land on our heads though," Jack countered.
Tapping the uppermost block with his chisel, Daniel replied quickly, "Maybe, sure, you're probably right. Look, if I start closest to the top, there should be less chance of bringing the whole wall down. We've come this far, Jack."
"Should? Should be less chance of bringing the wall down?"
"You can't resist the thrill of the find anymore than I can."
"True, but it's the thrill of dying that I'm not fond of."
Laughing softly, Daniel chose to ignore Jack's smart-ass reply, and ran the edge of the fine chisel around the outside edge of the uppermost block. It took some time but finally the compact soil that had been used to bond the blocks together came loose, and with cussing and unorthodox use of their military issue knives, Jack and Daniel maneuvred the top stone out whilst Teal'c gently guided it to the ground.
"Well, we're still here," Jack remarked, peering over Daniel's shoulder. "What can you see?"
Daniel shone his flashlight into the small space, coughing as dust flew around him. "It looks like another wall about three feet away." Wriggling, he tried to push his upper body through the hole but a firm hand dragged him back.
"Daniel, where ya going?"
"Jack! I think there must be stairs below us but there isn't enough room to get a good look. We need to remove another block to get a better view." Daniel refused to meet Jack's stern gaze. He knew Jack wouldn't be pleased.
The second block proved much easier to dislodge than the original and left them with a hole large enough for Daniel to squeeze his upper body through. Jack's firm hand never left his shoulder once and Daniel knew Jack was leaving nothing to chance.
"Stairs!" Daniel exclaimed, shining the flashlight downwards and away from the inner wall. "I can't see how far they go but they are fairly steep."
"Pull back, Daniel, we need to take a break and assess the situation before we go any further."
"Huh? Right, okay, sorry, Jack." The afternoon's activities, combined with the intense heat, had left him drained and tired, and Daniel was happy to take a rest.
Later that evening Jack relented and gave Daniel the last remaining hours of daylight to tackle the opening. Teal'c moved several of the large fallen blocks in an attempt to create a secondary barrier to support the first. With his gentle strokes, Daniel chiseled around several of the lower pieces, standing back to allow Teal'c and Jack to removed them. "Thanks, guys, this is a huge help!" Daniel said, grinning through his dirt encrusted face. Slowly the staircase revealed itself, allowing Daniel to shine his flashlight down into its depth.
"It must twist away at the bottom. All I can see is wall."
"So this is the point at which you tell me that we have to throw all caution to the wind and take our chances on the stairs."
"Well, Jack, we've made it this far."
"Of course." He sighed.
The staircase was narrow and they had to descend one at a time to navigate in the cramped conditions. Daniel took point and shone his flashlight into the black space ahead, trying to read any writings that might give him some more hints. The trek was less arduous than they first feared, and looking around in amazement, they found themselves in a small room.
Daniel's flashlight beam bounced off the walls and revealed dozens of small clay pots of various shapes and sizes, frozen in time. Shelving decayed over time had collapsed, and taken its precious cargo with it. Others were rubble but some were intact. Jack unclipped his pack, letting it fall to the floor and took out several light sticks, snapping and shaking them till a moderate fluorescent glow lit up the room.
"Wow!" Daniel said softly, looking at the rows of pots, "this is absolutely incredible, Jack." It was obvious, even in their current state that the pots had been meticulously decorated, and as far as he could see, no two pots were the same. Moving over to the nearest shelf, Daniel shone his flashlight closely at the little pots and smiled with delight. "God, who knew?"
Shining the light at one little clay pot with interest, he leaned forward and mouthed the words etched on the rim. A name? A vague memory tickled his mind but before he could remember more, it had gone. Peering inside the small pot, he saw small metal objects woven through wool or some kind of ribbon." "What's this?" he muttered under his breath. The metal was still intact, but the fibers had long disintegrated so just a few remnants remained.
"Daniel?" Jack's said, walking up to the mesmerized archeologist and slapping his back firmly, "still with me, buddy?"
Frowning at the hit and growling, "Yes, thank you for your concern, by the way." Daniel caressed the pot with care, and turning it around, added, "I think these are memorial urns. Definitely Ancient though."
Bouncing on the balls of his feet, looking anxious to leave the burial chamber, Jack asked, "How so?"
"Well, each pot has a name imprinted into the clay and the decorations on each one are different as well. Trinkets have been placed inside, which would seem to suggest that these were made to remember someone." Screwing his face into a thoughtful scowl, he said quietly, "I've seen something like this before but I can't quite place it."
Jack flicked on his own flashlight and held it in Daniel's direction. "So, this is a family crypt then?"
"No, not family, Jack." Daniel sighed and grappled to remember what bothered him. "I think these belong to the villagers that used to live here."
"Okay," Jack shuddered, looking longingly at the exit, "that's just creepy."
"No, these are of varying ages. Whatever happened to these people, it probably took place over a long period of time."
"No, I'm thinking natural order of life."
"Birth, life, death, that sort of-" Jack's sentence was cut short when the floor tilted slightly.
"What the Carter, Teal'c, come in." Jack slapped his radio and growled when static was all that could be heard. "Crap, what now? Daniel, pack it up, let's get the hell out of here." Jack shouldered his pack as Daniel ran towards the staircase.
It all happened so quickly that Jack wasn't really sure what took place.
The light that filtered down from the staircase disappeared, and the tiny room became suffocatingly full of dust and debris. Jack searched for Daniel, and swore as he saw him falling backwards. "Daniel," Jack yelled above the noise. "Answer me!" No answer. "Crap, this is not happening!"
Rocks bounced through the narrow opening and ricocheted into the room like bullets. The last thing that Jack remembered was watching as Daniel landed in a tangled heap at his feet, his head connecting painfully with the floor.
The air was heavy with dust and Jack wheezed like and old man, his lungs protesting loudly with every breath. Groaning involuntarily as his ribs ached with the movement, he wondered if he'd busted one or two. "That smarts," he moaned softly.
"Daniel?" he croaked, his throat constricting painfully with the effort of trying to talk.
He groped around him, searching for the flashlight. Switching it on and off for a few moments, he resorting to banging it on the ground when it wouldn't light up. "Of course," he muttered, "What else could go wrong?" Finding one of the light sticks nearby, Jack did a painful circle of the room, spotting Daniel several feet from the start of the staircase.
"Danny," Jack called softly to his friend as he checked for a pulse under his jaw line. "Weak," he breathed, "but definitely there." Running his hands over the unconscious man's face gently and checking for injuries, Jack winced as he found his hand slick with blood. Daniel's blood. A three inch long gash, just behind Daniels left ear, told Jack all he needed to know.
"Just stick with me, Danny, that's all that I ask." Patting Daniel's shoulder, he searched for his pack, dragging it over and unclipping it with one hand. "Good boy, just hang on, okay?" Opening the first aid kit from the pack, Jack patched the wound quickly and skilfully. "There you go, see, didn't hurt, did it? Lucky Carter's not here, she'd put a splint on it!"
"Colonel Daniel, do you copy?" The unexpected radio chatter startled O'Neill.
"Carter, Teal'c, what the heck happened?"
"Sorry, sir, there was no time to warn you. A dust storm passed through the area and the sensors didn't pick it up till it was right on top of us. The wall was weakened from the blocks that you removed and the whole thing came tumbling down. What's your situation?"
"Daniel's out cold and I haven't had time to check him out for any injuries other than a blow to the head. He was closest to the staircase when the wall came down. Other than a few bruises, I'm fine. I can't see daylight from here so I guess the entrance has collapsed."
"Yes sir. Teal'c and I have started to clear the area as best we can, but it's going to take some time, as we don't have the right equipment. Recommend that I make my way to the gate for backup and Teal'c remain to continue clearing the area."
Jack agreed and took stock of their situation. Two fully loaded packs and canteens of water but very little air. Thankfully it was getting dark outside and the temperature was dropping.
"Agreed, Carter. Best possible speed. Daniel and I are on the clock as far as breathable air goes."
"Leaving now, sir."
Jack turned his attention to Daniel who lay silent and still. Turning him slightly onto his side, Jack ran his hands across Daniel's chest, wincing in sympathy when Daniel reacted in pain.
"I know, buddy, it hurts like a bitch." Running his hands across his stomach, his fingers gently probing, Jack sighed with relief as Daniel showed little or no reaction to his ministrations. "You're gonna be okay, Danny, trust me," he muttered, praying to any god that was listening that it would be true.
"O'Neill?" Teal'c's deep voice reverberated around the small space.
"Yeah, buddy, I hear you."
"I have cleared a path to the opening of the tomb and suggest that you and DanielJackson move yourselves away from the area of the stairwell. I do not wish to have any more blocks fall down upon you both."
"Copy that. I need a minute to drag Sleeping Beauty away from the entrance." Jack slid his arms under Daniel's shoulders and gently manhandled him across the small space, apologizing silently for any small rocks digging into him on the way. "Nearly there, buddy, just hold on." Finding a clear spot near some shelves, Jack eased Daniel down, rolling him onto his side. "There you go, good boy."
Daniel groaned, his face grey with pain.
"Danny?" Jack held his shoulder firmly, preventing him from rolling onto his back. "Hey, just keep still; you have a few injuries there that Carter will need to check."
"Yup, I'm here."
"Freak wind storm collapsed the entrance to the chamber. Teal'c's digging us out and Carter's gone for help."
Daniel's eyes fluttered open briefly, trying to focus.
"Daniel?" Jack cast a worried look at his friend. "You with me, buddy?"
"Pots," Daniel murmured.
"They're pretty much gone, Daniel." He saw Daniel's eyes flutter and close. "Hey, you think you can stay with me here?" He gently shook his shoulder, trying to keep him awake.
"Pots. Memoria. Rashna."
"Rashna? What's Rashna, Daniel?"
His eyes sliding shut, Daniel was lost in a memory that had finally wormed its way to the front of his weary mind.
Deshal watched the elder with fascination as he slowly molded the clay on the fast turning wheel, the small pot taking shape under the expert guidance of weathered hands. His body and face were so relaxed that Deshal was sure the man had simply fallen asleep.
"Rashna?" he said, pulling at the old man's sleeve.
"What are you making?" Deshal watched as the elder took up a fine reed, and slowing the wheel down to a stop, started to etch fine markings in the soft clay of the pot.
"This is a memoria pot which I'm sure you've seen before." He looked at Deshal with a knowing expression, eyebrows slightly rising, mocking him. "We make these to remember those that have passed."
Deshal looked over the small pot still sitting atop the wheel and thought back to the last time he had seen one of the pots presented. The population of the cloister, some two hundred people, had gathered around the small fountain, central to the village square, in expectation of Mahlia's ascension. Tarhin had told him that Mahlia was old, and although she was not suffering from any ailments, her body had simply worn down from a very full and happy life. Deshal had accepted his mother's explanation and, despite not really understanding the implications, had stood in wait with the others of the colony for a sign that Mahlia had passed.
As it was, the wait had been long and it was well into the night before Mahlia's kin had exited the family shelter to recount her peaceful pass into ascension. Deshal remembered the beautifully colored pot that Mahlia's son had held whilst family and friends had filled it with tokens of her life. Small objects that would probably hold little interest to anyone else, but to those that knew Mahlia, they would be a reminder of who she had been during her life.
The pot that Rashna was decorating was almost finished and the old man was carefully pushing block shapes into the side. Deshal, leaning closer to the pot, recognized the wedges as similar to those that Tarhin and Andos use for his writing lessons.
"Whose pot is this?" he asked, struggling to see the stocky shapes of the Lantean alphabet.
"This is Cordah's pot," Rashna replied. Fear instantly rose in Deshal's chest. Cordah was the daughter of Tarhin's sister and only a few years older than him. Was she sick? Surely mater would have said something.
"Cordah is not ill, Deshal," the old man offered instantly, seeing the confused and fearful look on the young boy's face that Deshal could not disguise. "I make pots for the whole village, Deshal. We cannot tell what lies in our path. For some, the path is long and for others, not so. Better to be prepared than to be without."
Still, Deshal did not find this comforting.
"Rashna?" he whispered, barely looking up. "Where is your pot?"
The old man smiled but never replied.
So it went on for many days. Deshal would sit with Rashna when the colony was not in meditation, partaking of shared meals, or seeing to the simple needs of village life, watching the man craft the beautiful little pots and sometimes sitting at the wheel himself with Rashna guiding his small hands as they plied the damp clay.
It was many months later when Rashna had finally let Deshal sit at the wheel alone as a small present for the turning of his fifth year and, although Deshal's feet barely reached the peddles of the wheel, he had managed to gain enough leg power to work the wheel up to a reasonable speed. He was sure he saw Rashna's eyes light up with surprise as he moulded the clay, just applying enough pressure at the center to form the crude beginnings of his own pot.
Deshal had become so mesmerized with the clay that he hardly noticed the passing of the time nor the serene look that had crossed Rashna's face as the old man lay back peacefully on his cot. The small sigh that passed his usually quiet lips was all it took for Deshal to have his concentration broken.
"Rashna?" He climbed down from his perch on the wheel, wiping his hands on the worn cloth that was always kept nearby and crossed the room to kneel beside the cot. The old man smiled, his eyes blinking slowly, and a gnarled hand reached out to grasp Deshal's arm, pulling him closer.
"It is my time, Deshal," he whispered.
Deshal shook his head, feeling his chest tighten with fear, and yet quietly understanding what Rashna was implying. Deshal, like all children in the cloister, was taught from a young age that death was not something to be feared, but merely the start of a new and wonderful experience. One that should be fully embraced.
Yet Deshal still felt fear.
"Where this path ends another starts and true learning can begin." The old man drew Deshal closer, placing a closed hand on the boy's cheek, and caressing away a stray tear with his thumb. "This is no time for sadness for we will all meet on the great path. I am proud of you." He took Deshal's hand, and turning it palm up, he dropped several wedges into it.
Deshal stepped back, raising the wedges closer to inspect them. Instantly recognizing the letters, he looked back toward the old man whose body, now relaxed, was bathed in a pearlescent light that rippled to become a swirling mist. Deshal smiled, although having never witnessed ascension himself, he knew what was happening. Within moments Rashna's new form curled slowly around Deshal, smothering his fears, before it rose into the air above his head and leached through the ceiling into the evening sky.
Deshal took the wedges and moved back to the potter's wheel. It wasn't pretty and certainly lacked the finesse that Rashna had displayed with many decades of experience but none the less, the small pot had now claimed ownership and a place in the history of the village as Deshal pressed Rashna's name into the clay.
"Dammit, Daniel. Eight years of this shit and you'd think I'd be used to it by now." Jack O'Neill knew he was ranting to the walls because there was no way Daniel was listening. "Yes, I said eight. I'm counting your year on Abydos because even though I knew you were there, I did nothing but worry the whole time! God knows I'm counting your glowy year because I just had to believe you were around. Way too many freaky things happened for you not to be." Jack gently rolled Daniel onto his back the moment he noticed his breathing had started to labor. Now he slid behind him and had them both sitting up against the nearest wall surrounded by broken and withered shelving and even more broken pots.
"There is no wind twenty eight floors below a mountain, and I don't know how many times missions were heading south and suddenly they work out for the best. No intervention, my ass." Jack slid his right arm under Daniel's and held him firmly across the chest, his head resting in the crook of Jack's neck.
Jack coughed, noticing for the first time just how thin the air in the room was becoming.
Jack reached for his radio, hoping silently that the noise might be enough to wake his silent friend.
"Major Carter has contacted the SGC and reports that medical and rescue teams will be through the gate in the next fifteen minutes."
"That's good. The air's getting a little thin in here and Daniel isn't doing so well."
"I have managed to clear most of the debris away from area of the opening but my attempt at removing the blocks covering the doorway resulted in some further slippage. I have decided to wait for the rescue team to arrive."
O'Neill shook his head in frustration. It was getting harder to breathe but forcing Teal'c to dislodge the offending masonry without support would probably bring the whole wall crushing down on them.
"We'll be fine till then. Let the medical team know that Daniel has a head injury and some rib damage. I'm concerned about his breathing but I've got him sitting upright and he seems to be coping better."
"I will convey your concerns. Teal'c out."
Well, there's timing for you, Jack thought. "Whoa, hey buddy, you back with me?"
"Don't feel so good."
"Let me know if you're going to throw up, okay?" Jack felt Daniel's head move against his shoulder in response.
"Help is on the way but we have to sit tight."
"So, no dancing?"
"Probably not the best right now."
"My arms are full of injured archaeologist."
"Yes, well, my colonel pillow is good but my butt feels like I'm sitting on broken glass."
"Not quite, more like broken pottery pieces."
"Pots," Daniel frowned. The image of an old man sitting at a wheel flashed into his mind. "Memoria," he whispered, trying to sit up away from Jack.
"These are memoria pots. I watched Rashna makes these when I was a child." Daniel shivered suddenly, feeling a chill move through his body. "Each pot is unique, no two are the same."
"No. No. Jack." Daniel was panting heavily. "I need to remember this. When someone in the village ascended, the family would fill the pots with tokens of the person's life. Jewlery, writing tools, anything that represented who they were or what they did in life." He sagged back again against Jack's shoulder, eyes struggling to stay open. "I remember this," he whispered weakly, pain etched across his face, "I stood with Tarhin and Andos when elder Mahlia ascended. I watched her family and friends fill her pot and put it in the temple." He paused, shaking his head slightly. "No, not a temple, a house. Yes that's it " Daniel coughed, raising his hand to cover his mouth and pulling it away when he tasted blood. His palm held a smear of blood that he wiped onto his BDU pant leg.
The movement was not lost on Jack.
"Come on, Daniel, you need to rest." He increased his grip across Daniel's chest, urging him to recline further.
"Jack, don't you see? I remember this! These are Deshal's memories and they could be important. I've never been able to recover anymore than what Oma gave me."
"Easy there, kid, I'm trying to understand you." Grimacing, Jack knew he had no idea what Daniel meant. His friend had more fragments of memories, his own and someone else's, floating around in that mind of his than any sane person could reasonably handle. This whole situation was crazy and Jack couldn't begin to comprehend the streams of thoughts that were unraveling in the other man's head.
"I need to look at the pots that aren't damaged." Daniel implored, struggling to wriggle from Jacks grip.
"No, you don't Daniel; you've got a head injury and some busted ribs. Lord knows what else, so you just stay where you are. Help will be here soon."
"Let me go, Jack," Daniel insisted, becoming agitated, "I need to see if this was my village." Daniel pulled his knees up to his chest in an attempt to stand.
"Dammit it, Daniel, stay still." Jack increased his hold on Daniel, wrapping his left arm around the top of his chest to pin him in place. "We can check all that when we get out of here, but right now, you need to rest till Carter gets here with the medical team. Just rest, please." He relaxed slightly, feeling Daniel slowly give up his struggle and fall back, breathless. "That's better. I promise we'll gather up some of the pots for you to look at as soon as it's safe."
"I said so, didn't I?"
Daniel nodded once, closed his eyes and let himself drift away.
"Should have known you wouldn't be taking it easy." Jack pulled out one of the stools from Daniels work bench and made himself at home.
"This is taking it easy, Jack." Daniel stared at the older man over the rim of his glasses. "I thought you'd left for the night."
"Yeah, well, I stopped by the infirmary to check on you, only to find that Janet had released you. What did you have to bribe her with this time?" He cast his eye over the contents of the work bench and reached forward to snag a bracelet of glass beads.
"I didn't bribe her " Daniel smacked the top of Jack's hand, urging him to leave well alone. " she simply saw the wisdom of letting me go versus putting up with my constant need to be elsewhere."
"So you bribed her!"
"A bottle of Baileys Irish Cream and my entire stash of chocolate coated coffee beans."
"Not the dark ones?" Jack feigned despair.
"Oh yes, every last one of them."
"Bet that wasn't pretty."
"I'll cry in private later." Daniel smiled and turned back to the task at hand.
His work bench, or what could be seen of it, was totally covered in pots and other objects from the ruins on P9R114. Some of the small clay vessels were still intact, but many were nothing more than shards. The archaeological team that excavated the site, after the engineers had guaranteed it wouldn't collapse any further, returned with a treasure trove of artefacts that reflected a time line of over two thousand years.
"So. Well, I don't think so, Jack. This wasn't my village."
"And you know this how?"
"Rashna never made any of these pots, and yes, I know that in a time line as long as this, there would have been hundreds of potters but none of what I've seen was made by him." Daniel picked up one of the little pots and sat it in his palm. "From what I remember, and from what you've told me, when the war started, those choosing to stay created a portal that would not allow their enemy in, so I chose to believe that that particular colony still exists somewhere."
"Bit of a stretch."
"Maybe. It's more likely that the sanctuary still exists but the villagers have all died or ascended. Either way, Rashna made hundreds of pots and I can't find one." A small smile crossed his face as he took in the words written in Ancient that had been pressed into the clay.
"What's so funny?" Jack asked.
"I was with Rashna when he ascended. I was only five and he let me sit at the potter's wheel alone." Daniel's voice dropped to a whisper. "I could barely reach the pedal, let alone drive the wheel, but still he let me try. It was the ugliest thing you could imagine. The pot, that is. I tried to make it round, but it was so lopsided that I was sure it would slide off the wheel; still I kept trying to straighten it up. Rashna never commented, not once, he just lay back watching me."
"I can relate to the whole pottery experience."
Daniel just stared and blinked slowly.
"I can do pottery Daniel." Jack protested.
Daniel just pursed his lips and turned his attention back to the pot. "Anyway, that's probably another story."
Turning his attention back to the little pot, Daniel continued, "Despite having crafted memoria urns for the whole village Rashna never made one for himself. My ugly little pot claimed ownership as Rashna rose above me and ascended into the heavens." Daniel put the pot down and pushed his glasses onto the top of his head so he could rub his eyes. "It was actually a quiet event. I remember feeling scared but happy all at once. It was like he just smiled at me and left, and I went straight back to the wheel." He glanced down at his hands and spread them wide. "I remember pressing his letter wedges into the soft clay to spell his name and then taking the pot out to bake in the sun. Mater knew. She came to me, and I can still see the smile that she greeted me with."
"Tarhin my mother."
"You've claimed his memories now." It was a statement and Jack could see Daniel churning the words over in his mind.
"I guess I don't really have a choice. Deshal is me, but I'm Daniel. We are one and the same. A part of me is grateful, you know. I mean it's every historian or archaeologist's dream to be able to see the past. To live it. To understand it. Yet there is another part of me that is as confused as hell. Still trying to sort out my pre ascension memories and now having a completely new set added into the mix."
"Must be hard."
"You have no idea."
"You're right and I'd like to leave it that way. Come on," Jack gestured towards the door, "Janet say's if she finds you haven't signed out by the time she leaves the mountain, she's sending SF's to escort you back to the infirmary."
"You're joking right?"
"Hello! Doctor with the big honkin' needles! Do you think I'm joking?" Jack looked back towards the table. "There will be plenty of time to look over your pots but for now a decent meal, and a solid night's sleep, is what we both need, and I have a guest room with your name on the door."
"Yeah, that does sound good right now."
"Come on, pot boy, let's blow this place."
Daniel tossed and turned, his sleep interrupted by vivid memories of his past. Of the boy he once was, and of the boy he had been.
Deshal lay in his mother's arms, the pain that had overwhelmed him, now soothed by his mother's comforting embrace. He reached up and gently wiped away the tears on her cheek. "Do not weep for me, Mater. I go to be with Andos and Rashna. I am blessed."
She smiled through her tears and nodded. "And soon, I will join you, my son."
He nodded and closed his eyes, his hand still tightly grasping hers.
Melburn Jackson smiled as his newborn son grasped his finger tightly and squawled his discontent. He kissed his wife's brow and smiled at her. "You won," he said. "If it's a boy, you choose his name."
Clare looked down at her son and stroked his downy head with gentle fingers. "Daniel. Daniel Jackson."