Daniel put his hands against the low, heavy door, and pushed. The angle was all wrong, his back protested as he strained. When the door didn't budge, he looked around for a latch or a lock.
"What's the holdup?" Jack moved up beside him. Although the lighting was dim, it was bright enough for Daniel to make out the individual members of his team.
"The door's stuck. Or locked."
Jack began running his hands along one side of the door, Daniel did the same with the other. He found large, rusty hinges, so it stood to reason that Jack's side would have a lock and/or handle. Daniel crouched down and the position relieved the constant ache in his shoulders and neck, but did nothing to help with the burning in his thighs. He'd spent too much time either crouching or walking around stooped in the low-ceilinged tunnels.
"There's nothing." Jack stood slowly and Daniel did the same. They all had bumps and bruises on their heads from standing too quickly, forgetting the tunnels didn't accommodate people who were over five feet in height. "There are brackets for shoring up the door but nothing that looks like a lock. Try again."
Daniel braced himself and shoved the door one more time, and this time, with a loud squeak, it shifted slightly. Sunlight peeked through the opening, encouraging him, and he pushed again.
"Not like that. Put your back into it."
Daniel ignored Jack and locked his knees, pushing harder.
"Daniel, let me do it."
Red faced and gasping, Daniel stepped back from the mine's side entrance and permitted Jack to take his place, wishing him luck under his breath. Jack placed his shoulder to the door and began pushing. Daniel didn't say a word, simply exchanged a look with Sam and Teal'c while Jack grunted and swore. Finally, when Jack stepped back with only another inch to show for his efforts, he bent down to examine the bottom of the doorway.
"Maybe it's wedged closed."
"It's made of iron, Jack. It's just heavy."
"Sir, I think this is made out of one of the metals that Honsuef mentioned was impervious to staff weapons." Sam's voice held a trace of excitement as she rubbed her hands up and down the oily metal.
"Remind me to tell Hammond that we really don't need those metals. Just having a door this heavy is sure to keep the Goa'uld out." Jack turned to Teal'c just as the Jaffa moved forward.
"Teal'c, maybe you should give it a go."
Both men spoke at the same time and Jack rubbed his shoulder as both he and Daniel shuffled back to give Teal'c access to the door. As Teal'c slowly forced the door open with a loud grating sound, Daniel wondered why they hadn't let him open it in the first place. Fresh air was tantalizingly close, the sound of birdsong and wind in the trees had Daniel fidgeting from foot to foot. The close, stale air of the mines, despite their occupants' assurances that there were plenty of ventilation shafts, was making him antsy.
"I got the door started," Jack groused as Teal'c raised an eyebrow at him as he ducked past the low opening and stepped outside.
Daniel followed, gladly stepping out of the low-ceilinged passageway and straightening up the moment he hit the wide open spaces of the outdoors. They'd been inside those mines for hours and he was beginning to feel that he'd never be able to straighten his body or get the kinks out of his upper body.
Sam walked outside, rolling her shoulders and then rubbing at the back of her neck. "Definitely not made for tall people."
Teal'c followed her and unlike the three of them who were trying to work the kinks out of their upper bodies, he straightened, then stood, waiting patiently.
Daniel looked around the bright, sunlit field. The sun was high, chasing away the shadows cast by the huge cliff behind them. The mountain that housed both mines and an incredibly complex underground city loomed over them.
"You sure this is where we're supposed to meet Grumpy?"
Daniel batted away a bug and ignored Jack's nickname for their guide. "Honsuef said the west exit. That's where the map led us."
Before Jack could reply, the door's rusty hinges complained as it opened wider. Honsuef pushed the door aside as if it were made of cardboard. The short, heavily muscled man stepped outside, breathing deeply. Sennedjem and the other miners followed, shutting the door behind them with an ease that belied their strength.
"You know, a touch of oil on those hinges could make a world of difference," Jack grumbled as Honsuef trundled past Jack. The man's face was nearly hidden in a huge tuft of beard and eyebrows. Despite his people's short stature, their bodies were thick and squat and heavily muscled. They resembled someone of Teal'c's stature who had been compressed to fit into a body more than two feet shorter.
"Good, you found the place," Honsuef said to Daniel.
Immediately switching into the Goa'uld tongue that was the only common language between SG 1 and Honsuef's people, Daniel answered, "Your map had very clear instructions."
"So, we got Grumpy, Bashful, Happy and Sleepy," Jack muttered as three more Dwarves followed Honsuef out of the mine. "And Sneezy," Jack added as Daniel's allergies kicked in.
Daniel rolled his eyes, extremely grateful Honsuef didn't understand English.
"This way." Honsuef pointed towards a trail in the woods and they set out behind him.
The Dwarves moved fairly quickly despite their short legs but Daniel wondered curiously how long they'd be able to keep this pace up. He turned to glance at Sam, who smiled back at him. "You know, you were right, Sam. I asked them about their past and they said their home world was nothing like this."
"A heavy gravity planet. It would make sense, their physiology is all wrong for this planet � even for Earth. Genetically speaking, there's no reason for them to have developed that way on a planet like this one." Sam leaped over a log, and grinned. "You know, I think this planet's gravity is slightly weaker than Earth's."
Daniel knew what she meant. Despite their problems with the door earlier, walking was less of an effort. He threaded his fingers through the mossy fern-like leaves on either side of the path.
"What's interesting is how they've all retained ancient Egyptian names, a legacy from their rule by Ra." The bruised foliage left a slight vanilla-like scent as he brought his fingers to his nose and sniffed.
"Well, we know part of how they managed to revolt and win their freedom. If they were able to barricade themselves inside the mines with the Jaffa having no way of getting inside..."
A brightly plumed bird shot out of a branch overhead, screeching loudly, and Daniel followed its colourful path through the trees until he lost sight of it. They could still hear its ear-grating call, which was answered by another to their right.
"The children of the village still try to capture the golo bird," Honsuef said as he picked up a multi-hued feather from the ground. "Old tales say that to have one in the house is a sign of good luck."
"Maybe it's good luck if you're deaf," Jack muttered from behind Daniel once he'd translated. When Daniel turned to frown at him, Jack smiled sweetly at him.
Giving Jack a pained look, Daniel turned his attention back to the trail, entranced by the different types of trees and plants than what they were used to finding on populated planets. Although green and lush, the setting looked more like a tropical jungle, but without the resultant cloying humidity. Foliage grew large and thick, or tiny and delicate, like the ferns-trees.
Honsuef stopped as the trail separated. He pointed to the right. "We go this way, Daniel, to the river. Sennedjem will escort the others along this path."
Daniel stopped and turned to look at Jack, who was fiddling with lime green and orange caterpillar-type leaves of a bush next to him.
"This is where we split up, guys. The smelter's that way." He pointed along the way Honsuef had indicated.
"I still don't know why you want me to go with you, Daniel." Jack struck Daniel's chest with the colourful leaf for emphasis. "It's not like my words of wisdom will convince these other folks to let us cross their land to cart the minerals to the Stargate."
"Well, if you tried learning the language," Daniel muttered out of the corner of his mouth.
"Hey, I know enough to get by."
"I'm sure all those terms Teal'c taught you will work great in diplomatic situations. These people might not appreciate having their mothers called a�"
Jack tossed the leaf back into the trees. "At least I know how to find the bathrooms in a Hatak."
"Big deal. They're usually part of the jail cell."
"And which is why I never get to practice what I learn."
Daniel smirked at Sam as she waved to both him and Jack, trying to smother a grin as she followed her short guide.
Honsuef had already moved forward, and Daniel hurried to catch up. The other two Dwarves lumbered behind Daniel and Jack.
"So, you learn anything of interest in that library back there inside the mountain?"
"Sort of. The Keeper of the Scrolls�Librarian," Daniel quickly amended at Jack's questioning tilt of the head, "confirmed what Honsuef told us. Their people have been at odds with the Eirans for the past couple of hundred years since they began refining the ore to sell offworld."
"So you think these Eirans will agree to let us transport the rocks if we can convince them we can show the Dwarves cleaner methods?"
"Considering the Eirans live off the land, I think we have a good chance of that. And just think, we might be helping to settle a four hundred year old feud."
They stepped out from amongst the woods into a clearing that was bordered by a river. Daniel's first impression of the waiting Eirans was that of slimness and height. Three long canoes were parked at the edge of the river, the method of transportation evident.
"If you tell me next we'll be meeting with Orcs and Goblins, Daniel, so help me, I'll make sure you never live this down."
"Jack?" Daniel turned to glance at Jack, who was staring at the Eirans.
"Elves. Dwarves and Elves. What's next? Dragons? A quest to be undertaken by four strangers foretold by an oracle? A princess in distress? An enchanted ring, perchance?"
"You watched those movies again, didn't you?"
"Hey, don't blame me if these guys look like something Tolkien dreamed up."
Daniel had to agree that these new folks looked similar to the fantasy descriptions of elves. Tall and slim, long pointy ears and slanted eyebrows, the nine representatives were equally as impressive as were the Dwarves.
"You know, Jack, maybe Tolkien didn't dream them up. Both the Eirans and the Dwarves had to have visited Earth centuries ago. The similarities are just too coincidental for someone to have made them both up in their imagination."
"Most likely. Probably not the Asgard's doing if the Dwarves were already Ra's slaves."
They stopped before the Eirans, who looked down at Jack and Daniel curiously. "Hello, I'm Daniel Jackson," he began, then went on to introduce Jack. He smiled politely as introductions were made, trying to keep the names straight but knowing he was lost after the fifth.
"Thank you for agreeing to meet with us, Penmennefer." Daniel ignored Jack's glazed look, grateful he at least remembered what he assumed was the leader's name.
"I will admit to some curiosity of your claims to improved machinery." Penmennefer waved to a small campsite where cushions had been placed on the ground. As Daniel lowered himself onto one of the cushions beside Penmennefer, Jack walked to Daniel's side and remained standing.
"I'm going to go take a short walk down the shore," Jack told Daniel, "see if there are any fish in there. Just whistle if you need me."
"Of course I need�"
"I figure it'll waste a lot of time you having to translate everything being said, so you go on ahead and start the negotiations."
"Daniel, just radio me if you need my input. Anyways, I won't go that far. C'mon, you really expect me to sit here and listen to all the gibberish? I've been doing that for two days now inside those mines."
Daniel sighed. He knew how hard it had been for Jack, with Teal'c and Daniel the only two able to communicate with the Dwarves. He nodded slowly. To be honest, he was envious of Jack's freedom.
"I won't be that long," Jack said as he patted Daniel's shoulder. As Jack turned and walked along the shore, Daniel bit back a grin as Jack began whistling, 'Heigh ho, hi ho, it's off to work we go'. He schooled his expression and began explaining why Jack was wandering off.
- - - - - -
Jack smiled as he pictured the expression on Daniel's face, continuing with the tune until he figured he was out of earshot. He stopped and looked out at the river. He hadn't left the party to get away from the negotiations, just the opposite. He wanted to see for himself what the Eirans had claimed, the pollution from the ore refining plant.
Since the smelter was farther upriver, Jack looked carefully into the stream. At first, nothing seemed amiss, so he continued walking. Several feet further up, he spotted his first dead fish.
He walked about a quarter of a mile until he saw the soiled water spilling down the hillside. It was a rusty, oily color, but soon absorbed and distilled by the river. There was no growth around the contaminated stream, and very little grew around the shoreline for several feet in either direction. The little there was looked diseased.
So there was something to be said about these Elves' complaints. From what Daniel had been told, they bred animals, and lately the young were either stillborn or didn't live beyond a few days. Obviously they weren't happy and they had a reason not to be. Jack checked his watch and keyed his radio.
"Daniel, how's it going?"
Jack could hear raised voices in the background. "You didn't whistle. You doing okay by yourself?"
"Moral support would be nice about now." Daniel's voice was nearly drowned out by someone arguing. "The Eirans are really upset over the pollution," he said after a pause. "They don't quite know what to make of our offer."
"Just so you know, the river definitely is contaminated. Lotsa dead fish in the area."
"Great. I hope you weren't planning on catching any for supper."
Jack smiled. "Nah, MRE's are a lot more appetizing right about now. Hang tight, I'll be there in about twenty minutes to give you a hand."
Jack started back, thinking he should send Carter later to take samples of the soil and water, just to see how bad the contamination might be and what they could do to fix the damage already inflicted.
He was deep in thought when the sound of gunfire rang out from the direction where he'd left Daniel.
Jack began running, yelling into the radio as he hurried towards his friend. "Daniel, what's going on?"
It was several long seconds before Daniel's breathless voice came back. "Ambush."
Jack yelled back into the radio. "Carter, Teal'c, Daniel's in trouble. I need your here." He broke off and Carter replied tersely, "We're on our way." There was more weapons' fire. Jack swore as he ran, not realizing how far away he'd wandered up the river.
"Daniel, talk to me. What's your situation? How many are there?"
He waited impatiently for Daniel's answer, but none came. There were no more gunshots, and Jack couldn't help but wonder if Daniel wasn't in a position to change clips, or if he'd been injured.
Jack spotted the clearing up ahead where he'd left the powwow. He slowed, aiming towards some trees for cover. Moving as quickly as he could, he stopped and peered around the side of a tree. All three Dwarves were sprawled on the ground, covered in blood, obviously dead. Several arrows were sticking out of their chests. Jack grimaced at the sight.
He looked towards the water. The canoes were gone. There was no sign of Daniel.
Jack edged towards the water and peered down the river. He could just make out the canoes as they turned around a bend in the river. He made a quick count. He spotted seven Elves. There was no sign of Daniel.
"The damned Elves kidnapped Daniel," Jack growled into his radio. "Get down here, they ambushed the dwarves." He took off at a run, flying through the bushes, feeling incredibly light and free for several minutes. For a short time the boats remained in sight, but the current was too fast, the Elves were paddling for all they were worth and despite his efforts, the boats quickly shrank out of sight.
Jack finally had to stop, the euphoria of the chase catching up with him as he bent over, his hands on his knees, and for the next few minutes concentrated on trying to breathe without puking. When he stopped seeing spots before his eyes, he straightened and began making his way back towards the carnage.
- - - - - -
The agony in his shoulder took his breath away. Daniel clamped his teeth together to keep from screaming as fire burned in the wound while his body shook as if ice flooded his veins. He shivered, the spasm causing his shoulder to flare up even worse as the muscles tightened against the arrowhead.
He felt a shadow cross before him and he turned his head. A low, blurred shape approached, straddling his hips, effectively pinning him down. He was stuck in some sort of hollow, with slabs of wood rising on either side of him. He could see other blurry figures behind and before him leaning near the edges of the wooden slabs.
He blinked the sweat from his eyes and finally made out teeth bared in anger as ice blue eyes glared down at him. There was something evil about this person, the arched eyebrows and tipped ears sent another shiver down Daniel's sweat-soaked back. The creature hissed malevolently as he brought up a wickedly sharp knife. Daniel tried to fend off his attacker, but the motion was too painful and this time he couldn't hold back a cry.
The knife was at his chest, and the evil sprite toyed with him, cutting off his vest and jacket, exposing his chest and injured shoulder as strips of clothing were quickly cut away. Daniel gasped in both pain and fear. He looked around, searching for escape, for succor, but nobody even glanced his way.
But even as he searched wildly, he finally connected the odd lurching motions of the others that he was in a boat of some sort, and the other elves were paddling. He watched helplessly as the remnants of his vest were handed to someone behind the Elf just as Jack's voice came through his radio. The radio, which was still in the vest's pocket.
"Daniel. Daniel, can you hear me? Are you all right?" A long pause. "Damnit, Daniel, answer me."
The worry in his friend's voice somehow gave him courage to yell out as he saw the radio and a bodiless arm move out over the edge of the boat. It barely took Daniel a second to realize that the radio, his only link with Jack, with his team, was on the verge of being lost as it was about to be cast overboard.
"No!" The arm paused in its swing, and the creature sitting on top of him hissed again. Then it spoke Daniel's name and his brain finally connected that the hissing sounds were speech. He tried to concentrate on the words, finally making them out with great effort.
"Be calm. You have been injured. The poison acts very quickly. I must remove the arrowhead."
His memory came back in a rush.
The face before him suddenly no longer looked evil. Simply sad. As the Elf shook his head, Daniel realized it wasn't a male, but a female.
"I am Hentempet."
"Poison? You said poison?"
"Yes. There is no more time to waste. I must remove the arrowhead now. Brace yourself."
Something thick and waxy was placed in his mouth and before he could spit it out, Hentempet cut into his shoulder. Daniel arched off the boat's bottom, biting reflexively onto the wad in his mouth, screaming in pain as the arrowhead was slowly and excruciatingly worked out of his body.
Soon he heard another hissing sound, different this time as it seemed to be internal, echoing inside his ears. The pain receded as his vision dimmed. Daniel looked away from Hentempet, noting how her blood-streaked fingers left a smear of blood on her cheek as she distractedly pushed back a strand of hair. He turned to look up at the blue sky, darkening oddly as the edges closed in. A branch laden with orange fruit passed overhead, and Daniel languidly turned his head to watch until it, the boat and the pain, disappeared.
- - - - - -
Consciousness returned with suddenness that was both painful and frightening. Gasping in misery as he reflexively tried to hunch over his wounded shoulder, the movement worsened the agony as acid fire burned from the injury, down his right side and arm.
"Try not to move." The Elf was back. Or had she ever left?
Hentempet, Daniel remembered, the streak of drying blood still on her cheek. She fiddled with something on his shoulder and cool wetness slid down his burning skin. The fire in his wound was such that he was sure in a moment, steam would rise as the inner heat burned the liquid away.
He raised a hand to see what she'd done to his shoulder, and was surprised to see how heavy his arm felt. He could barely lift it, let alone bring it up and over his chest. Despite his effort, Hentempet gently took his hand and laid it back down onto the wooden bottom.
"Lie still. The poultice will draw the poison, but you must try and relax. Here." She held out her index finger before his face. There was some brownish goo on it. "Open your mouth. This will help with the pain and fever."
Daniel obeyed, willing to try just about anything to ease the burning. He could feel the fever in his joints, pale in comparison to the searing in his shoulder. She dabbed the goo onto his tongue and his inner cheek. The taste was peculiar, almost rancid. His tongue and lips tingled. He felt his mouth immediately fill with saliva and he swallowed, anxious to get rid of the taste. But his mouth continued to water, and he swallowed again.
"Hent... Hent..." He had to swallow again as drool spilled over the corner of his mouth when he wasn't fast enough.
"You may call me Tempy, if you wish." She wiped his chin with a piece of material and raised his head just enough to slip a wad of cloth beneath it. "I know, the loash feels odd at first. It will stop soon." She smiled at him, and held a gourd to his lips. Water dribbled into his mouth and he eagerly swallowed it. It helped rinse away the lingering taste, but did nothing for the unceasing flood of spit.
She turned his head so that the saliva could flow from the side of his mouth, catching it with the cloth. After a few minutes his mouth began to feel normal again.
And that was when his head began to feel like it was moving away from his body. A strange sensation, difficult to describe. He knew he was whole, but his neck seemed to elongate, his awareness nearly a foot away from the wound. He could still feel the searing pain, but it became disassociated, something that was happening to him but without the debilitating effects of agony and fever.
His tongue wouldn't cooperate. His brain was fuzzy and thick. A hand was placed on his cheek and blue eyes neared.
"Relax now. Sleep, if you can. Allow the loash to free you from the pain so the doola berries can draw the poison."
Daniel tried to shake his head, and the world tilted dizzily. The hand gripped his cheek, staying the movement. "You are safe. Lie still."
A blanket was spread over him and Tempy moved away to sit not far from his feet. He turned his head to follow her, saw she was watching him. He could hear slight asthmatic wheezes as he breathed, the air whooshing through his lungs, along the several feet that was now his throat and in and out of his nose. The water lapped occasionally against the bark of the canoe, small splats of sounds that were louder than the oars being dipped into the river.
Birds chirped, occasionally one flew overhead. Daniel turned his face to the sky and watched the trees go by. Occasionally a thin, tinny voice would echo over the water, a voice that although meant comfort and safety, kept a small flame of worry alive in the back of his mind. There was something he'd needed to tell Jack, but for the life of him, he couldn't remember.
He floated. Time had no meaning. The sky drifted by, broken only by moments of awareness when Tempy changed the poultice on his shoulder, or gave him more of the loash-goo, or water. He fought to stay awake until the boat stopped and someone jumped out and set off at a run. The footsteps were still audible as the canoe was pushed back into the water.
"Amenwashu is going to warn the keepers and have them move the animals to the winter grazing grounds. It will take the Little People time to make the journey here if they wish to slaughter the beasts. But they will be safe for a while as Dwarven legs are not made for such a venture into the hills."
Daniel squeezed his eyes shut, trying to make sense of her words. Despite the drug he'd been given, his head began to ache. Whether it was from the growing fever or the poison, he didn't know.
He felt a pang of fear, realizing he was at the mercy of these people. Something had happened. Something bad. He just couldn't quite remember. Maybe if he went back to his team they could tell him what it was.
"Shhh, your friend is not here. Try to sleep."
"No, please. Jack..." He shifted, and someone else's shoulder erupted in agony. A moan drifted around his ears, and Daniel wondered who was in so much pain.
"Daniel. Lie still." Tempy placed a hand on his chest, holding him down. "Bakenkhons was also injured and he is responding well to the doola berries. Stop resisting and relax."
He nodded, too tired now to plead. His eyelids were heavy and he closed his eyes. The feeling of weightlessness recommenced, and this time Daniel let himself go.
- - - - - -
"According to Sennedjem, the closest Eiran settlements are here, here and here." Teal'c pointed to the spots on the map with a finger. All three were by the river which the attack had taken place. "They maintain their herds in this area," a finger pointed to what appeared to be a series of valleys, "but the Dwarves are not interested in the beasts at the moment."
"The people who took Daniel�these guys know which of the villages they belong to?" Jack waved a hand at the map before him.
"Sennedjem believes Penmennefer is from this village. It is also the one nearest to the mines."
"They'd be crazy to return to their home. They can't just come and kill off the Dwarven representatives, kidnap Daniel and then go back as if nothing happened." Carter straightened as best she could from the table they'd been huddled over, trying to get some sense over the hustle of activity in the mines.
"That's if Daniel's�" Jack broke off, not wanting to finish the sentence.
"They have to know the Dwarves would retaliate," Carter said after a few moments of awkward silence.
"Maybe. According to what Daniel's found out, the Dwarves and Elves have been pretty much heading towards a showdown lately. It was probably bound to happen, we just happened to be the catalyst." Jack pursed his lips, the anger at the viciousness of the attack mounting at every moment wasted. All that they had found of Daniel's was his 9mm, lying in an inch of water on the shoreline near where the canoes had been parked. The three Dwarves had been shot dead with arrows, each arrow aimed with deadly accuracy. The Dwarves would have died instantly from any single shot; the multiple hits had been to ensure that if one missed, the second, third or fourth, wouldn't.
They all hated this. Not knowing if Daniel was alive or not. Not knowing exactly why he had been taken but the act forced their hands into joining the Dwarven militia in a rescue attempt couched in vengeance.
"You find someone willing to take you through the tunnels back to the Stargate?" Jack looked at Carter, eyebrow raised.
She looked at Teal'c a moment before answering. "Not yet. The men don't want to take the time and the women are too busy helping prepare them for the coming fight. One of the women, Honsua," she looked at Teal'c who nodded in confirmation, "said she'd take me once the guys have left."
Jack rubbed a finger over a muscle that started to jump in his forehead. "An hour to go through the tunnels and then another fifteen minutes to the 'gate. Hammond will send backup, but it'll take at least an hour to mobilize the teams. Another hour here � I know these guys know the lay of the land better than we do but they're not built for going cross country. If you double time it you might just catch up to the war party by sundown."
Carter leaned over the map again. "If this map is accurate, it'll take at least a day on foot to get to the nearest settlement. The boats travel much faster, the current is pretty strong. And with their short legs," Carter glanced at the Dwarves who were rushing back and forth in controlled chaos, "it'll take them even longer. You and Teal'c could get ahead of them easily and�"
"That's Plan A. Plan B is you getting the backup to us before the Dwarves start a war."
"I think the Eirans already did that, sir."
"O'Neill, if you are correct and this situation was bound to occur, perhaps the Eirans have taken DanielJackson to ensure we prevent the Dwarves from attacking."
"Use Daniel as a hostage?"
"It is a possibility. One that should be kept in mind."
"Well, we won't know until we get there, will we?" Jack gathered the map, folded it and pocketed it.
"I'll see you in a couple of hours, sir."
"Run like the wind." With a hand resting on his P-90, he made his way back to the river where the Dwarves were amassing.
Armed with picks, knives and spears, the angry miners had already begun moving down the river without any sort of order. Jack motioned for Teal'c to follow and they began walking in the same direction. It didn't take long before they overtook the leading contingent of Dwarves and walking at a good clip, the two of them headed towards the first of the villages.
When the voice first came through the radio, Jack thought Carter might have accidentally activated hers. The second time, although weak, he unmistakably heard Daniel calling his name.
Jack stopped and grabbed his own radio, speaking so quickly that in a small corner of his mind he reminded himself of Daniel in the throes of excitement. "Daniel, are you all right? Where are you? What happened?"
There was a short moment of silence.
"I'm not sure... I was in a boat... and now I'm... somewhere else."
"Where? Where are you? I need you to tell me so we can find you."
"Um... curtains, I think."
Jack shared a glance with Teal'c. He didn't like the vague sentences. Either Daniel was drugged or he was hurt, either would explain the uncharacteristically slow speech.
"Are you injured, DanielJackson."
"I've, ahhh, been better."
"What happened? How badly hurt are you?"
When Daniel didn't answer, Jack couldn't help the anger and the worry colour his voice when he yelled his friend's name. Still, neither his continued calls nor subsequent cursing brought forth a reply.
- - - - - -
Daniel lost his hold on the radio, his hands numb and slippery with sweat. He could hear Jack calling his name and with great effort he lowered his arm to pat the sides of the bedding where the radio had slipped. The drug, or whatever they'd been giving him, was wearing off and he was very aware of the pain in his shoulder again.
The unfamiliar Elf who had entered the small, curtained room a few minutes ago and had given him his radio, put his hand over Daniel's fingers and picked up the device himself. The Elf brought it to his lips and spoke.
"I wish to speak with Jack." The Elf kept his gaze on Daniel while silence reigned over the airwaves. Daniel's fuzzy brain could picture Jack and Teal'c discussing him and his situation.
"JackO'Neill does not speak the language of the gods." Daniel smiled sleepily as Teal'c's voice came through the radio. "If you have no objections, I will proceed to translate."
"Teal'c's my friend, too," Daniel said softly.
"I have no objections. I ask, however, that you do not allow any of the Little People to overhear this conversation."
"That is not a problem. They are not within hearing distance."
"We would bring Jack to his friend, Daniel. Tell him to follow the river until he sees a small island. Someone will meet him there."
"Ah, wait just a second." Jack's quick interruption caused the Elf to frown.
"How do we know this is not a trap?"
"You have my word Jack will not be harmed."
"See, I'm sorry, but after the slaughter over by the mines, I can't exactly take your word for our safety." The Elf turned to Daniel for a translation at Jack's outburst. "Daniel, you still there?"
"He doesn't trust you," Daniel said hesitantly. He put his hand out for the radio. He spoke first in Goa'uld, then in English, repeating the same thing in both languages. "The Eirans saved my life, Jack. I think you can trust them."
"Small island, huh? How far?"
"He wants to know how far the island is from the mines."
"Tell him it is approximately three hours on foot. Not Dwarfish feet, but a man of your size walking quickly should have no trouble making it in that time."
"Three hours." Daniel forced the words out, exhaustion, pain and fever eating at him. He didn't protest when the radio was taken from his hands and wasn't surprised when Tempy somehow replaced the male Elf.
More loash was smeared on his tongue and lips. He was getting used to the watering effects and simply turned his head and let the saliva flow, too tired to try not to choke while swallowing it down.
He waited, impatient, anxious for the pain to recede. His body was racked with shivers and another blanket was spread over him. He tried looking around the small curtained room he had awoken to find himself in, not recalling being moved from the canoe. When the wall rippled, he realized he was in some sort of large tent.
Tempy changed his poultice, causing Daniel to hiss in pain when warm mash encountered his open wound. This time when the disassociation happened, he welcomed it.
- - - - - -
"That look like an island to you?" Jack eyed the small piece of land in the center of the river. It was barely big enough to put his Minnesota cabin on, let alone the deck.
"An island is a body of land surrounded by water. This is indeed what it appears to be."
Jack stopped across the shore from the island and looked around. There was no one to be seen, but then again, the three hours it was supposed to take to get here had already been eaten up by one since they had already been on the move. A small detail they hadn't mentioned; maybe that hadn't been a good idea. He looked farther down the river to see if there were any other islands in sight, but there was nothing but water.
Jack turned his attention back to the island before him at Teal'c's warning. A canoe was coming around the shore and heading straight for them.
There was one person in the canoe and the Elf put a hand out to stop Jack and Teal'c from coming closer as he brought the craft to shore. He said something and Teal'c's translation didn't make Jack feel good about the whole situation.
"He requires your weapons and your communications device before you embark with him."
Jack thought about refusing, but then Daniel had said he thought they could be trusted. He unclipped his P-90 from its chest strap and began handing it over, when he realized exactly what Teal'c had said.
"My weapons? What about you."
Teal'c and the Elf spoke for a moment. "He says his orders were to convey only you to the camp."
Jack stepped back and placed his gun comfortably beneath his arm. "I'm not going anywhere without Teal'c. It's either the both of us, or neither."
The Elf glared at Jack once Teal'c translated, but then nodded his head. The P-90, Teal'c's staff weapon and their pistols, after the man had pointed at their thigh holsters, were placed in the front of the canoe, out of their reach. The radios followed, and only then were they allowed to get on. They were each handed a paddle and Jack tried to imitate the Elf's smooth motions as they set off down the river.
They hadn't traveled for more than fifteen minutes when Carter's voice came through the radios. She called Jack repeatedly, then broke off after several minutes. But at least now he knew she was back on the planet within the timetable Jack had calculated, so chances were she had one or two SG teams with her. The cavalry was on its way; Jack just hoped it would get here on time.
Jack's arms were burning from the unaccustomed exercise, and it was close to an hour later when he spotted the village. The sun was going down quickly; pinks and orange hues colouring the river as they paddled towards the series of tents. As they got closer, Jack could see how easily the tents could be taken down. These folks probably traveled from one part of the land to the other; maybe when their herds of whatever it was they kept needed a change of food or had eaten everything in the area.
They disembarked from the canoe and were greeted by several Elvish men. Jack hadn't stayed long enough at the earlier negotiations to recognize any. All had blond hair and most had blue eyes. One of them spoke quietly and turned, walking towards one of the larger tents. Jack recognized his voice; he'd spoken to him over the radio.
"He will take us to DanielJackson," Teal'c translated. With a glance at their gear still in the canoe, Jack moved quickly to follow.
The tent was sectioned off into smaller partitions. As Jack walked down the center 'aisle', he could see that the majority of the rooms were used as sleeping quarters. The Elf stopped before one and pulled a piece of canvas aside.
Jack stepped inside. Daniel was lying on a small bed. His face was flushed, a small mound of blankets were pulled up to his chin. He was shivering, but he seemed to be sleeping.
"Daniel?" Jack knelt beside his friend and placed the back of his hand against the reddened and dry cheek. His fever was high. Very high.
"What's wrong with him?" Jack pulled the blankets down and immediately spotted a bandage holding what looked to be a poultice in place over his shoulder.
A female entered the room, taking the place of the Elf who had brought them here. She knelt opposite Jack and spoke softly as she took the blankets from Jack's fingers and covered Daniel's chest with them.
"He is suffering from a poison which was applied to the arrowhead that wounded him," Teal'c interpreted. "The doola berries are drawing the poison, but he is still very ill."
"He's burning up. We gotta get his fever down." Jack rummaged in his vest, removing a blister pack of Tylenol. He reached over Daniel and shook his uninjured shoulder. "Daniel, wake up. Come on, wake up, buddy."
Daniel opened his eyes, his eyelids barely lifting. Even from the little Jack could see, his irises were dilated, replacing nearly all of the blue with black. It took a long while before Daniel actually seemed able to focus on Jack, but then a smile slowly spread over his face.
"Jack." His voice was weak and breathless, but his hand twitched, and Jack immediately reached for the hot fingers and squeezed gently.
"I'm here. I've got some Tylenol. You think you can swallow 'em?" Jack brought the pills close to Daniel's mouth, but the Elf quickly grabbed hold of Jack's fingers. She spoke urgently, and Jack turned to Teal'c for an explanation, waiting impatiently as the two spoke for what felt like a long time. In the meantime, Daniel seemed to fall asleep, his breathing short and fast.
"She says DanielJackson's fever must remain unchecked. The heat of his body aids the ingredients in the poultice in fighting the effects of the poison. To lower his body temperature before the poison has been eradicated will surely cause his death."
"His fever's gotta be over 104 degrees. We have to bring it down."
Teal'c placed a hand on Daniel's neck. He spoke again to the Elf, and she shook her head vigorously.
"She states that his fever will break very shortly. She is aware of the dangers of an unchecked fever but in this case, it is necessary."
"I don't like this."
"He has been drugged, he is not feeling any discomfort from the effects of the poison or his illness."
"All my instincts are telling me to lower his fever and ram some antibiotics down his throat."
"I concur. But the sickness is not due to infection, but to poison. She has assured me that his illness is cresting and the fever will soon break."
Jack nodded and pocketed the pills reluctantly. In the short time he'd been in the tent, the sky had darkened. The Elf stood and reached up for some sort of holder hanging from one of the support struts. She lifted a covering and green light flooded the small space. It looked like some sort of fluorescent vegetation, and it did a good job of lighting the area despite the odd colouring.
Daniel moaned softly, bringing Jack's attention back to the bed. Even as Jack leaned closer to adjust the blankets, Daniel's breathing turned from quick and short to breathless gasps.
"Hang in there, Daniel," Jack said softly as he continued to hold Daniel's hand. His skin was hot and dry and Jack knew what his friend needed now was a bunch of antibiotics for whatever gunk these people had put on his wound, fluids for the dehydration that was more than obvious, and most likely morphine for the pain in his shoulder which was probably going to be infected. If it wasn't already. Fraiser could probably have done something to counteract the poison.
"Why did your people bring him here? We could have brought him home; our medical facilities could have dealt with the poison."
The Elf looked Jack straight in the eye when she answered Teal'c's translation. "There would have been no time. The poison needs to be treated immediately otherwise there is no chance of survival. We could not have let him there to die, not after he helped us."
"Helped you? Your people murdered those Dwarves!"
"No, they didn't." Daniel was gasping for breath, but his words were clear nonetheless. His eyes were still dilated, but he was more aware than he'd been just those few short minutes before. "...Was an ambush."
Daniel's breathing became even more laboured as he tried to speak.
"Don't talk. Save your breath."
"...The trees... shot the... trees."
"He's delirious," Jack said softly to Teal'c. "Come on, help him out here," he begged the Elf. "At least get me some water so I can try to bring the fever down a bit."
The Elf nodded and returned with a bowl of water and a soft cloth. She dipped the cloth in the water and ran it over Daniel's face. At her touch, Daniel began to shiver even harder.
"How much longer? There's gotta be something we can do for him."
"Soon. The poison has a good hold on your friend. Perhaps it affects your kind harder than ours." She smiled at Jack kindly once Teal'c repeated her words. "Bakenkhons was also poisoned and he is long past this stage."
"Get the trees, Jack. Shoot them."
"That fight's over, Danny," Jack said softly. "Now you just fight to get better, you hear me?"
"Burns. God, it burns... I'm so cold." The words were forced between panted gasps and chattering teeth.
"I thought you said the stuff you gave him stopped him from feeling the pain?"
"The loash has worn off and I dare not give him any now. Do not fear. He will not suffer like this much longer."
Jack let go of Daniel's hand and straightened. "We got morphine in the packs. We can give him something to ease the pain, put him to sleep. Let us get our stuff and�"
"It is not necessary. Look."
Jack looked down and saw Daniel's face shiny with sweat. Even as he watched, a small number of beads formed on his upper lip. The Elf wiped the moisture away only for it to be quickly replaced by more. Within seconds those small beads had formed into larger ones and were dripping down his face and neck.
Jack took Daniel's hand back into his, amazed at the damp skin he now felt. The Elf grinned at Jack as she swept back Daniel's now-soaked hair from his forehead.
"The fever indicates that the poison has been cleansed from his body. He will continue to be weak for some time, but he is no longer in danger of dying."
Daniel continued to shake and sweat, but after time, the shivering slowly eased as Daniel's breathing calmed.
"I require help to remove his clothing and wash the doola berries from his wound. Would you aid me?"
Jack nodded, and reached for the blankets, but she put a hand to stop him. "First, I will give him some more loash now that the fever has broken. It will be more comfortable for him while we cleanse his wound."
She took a small jar of something from a pocket and dipped her finger into it. To Jack's surprise, she smeared the stuff inside of Daniel's mouth and followed it up with some water, which Daniel greedily drank down.
Daniel coughed a short while later, spitting up the water. He turned his head to the side and more water ran from his mouth. For a moment Jack thought he was throwing up, but the Elf calmly wiped the liquid away from his mouth and chin.
"It is fine. It is simply an effect of the loash. This will end soon."
"He could choke on his own spit," Jack said to Teal'c. He contemplated turning Daniel into the recovery position and placed his hands on Daniel's shoulder and hip in preparation to do so. But he decided to wait a few more minutes and as promised, the flow of saliva stopped almost as fast as it had started.
She nodded at Jack and Teal'c when Daniel's gaze lost its focus and they began stripping Daniel's clothes from him. He was limp and pliant, it being obvious that he didn't feel any of the discomfort from their handling him. Once naked, he was waddled up in absorbent blankets that took the moisture away and kept him from getting chilled. The Elf, Hentempet, as she'd finally introduced herself, rinsed the poultice away from the hole in Daniel's shoulder.
The wound looked deep and inflamed but it didn't look infected. Yet. Once there was no trace of the bluish gunk that had been piled inside, she sprinkled some powder onto the open sore and covered it with a bandage.
"Antibiotics wouldn't hurt," Jack mentioned to Teal'c. He nodded and immediately broached the subject.
"The powder I have applied to his wound helps heal and prevent infection. But he is very weak; your medicine would surely aid in his recovery. Come with me and show me what you need from your supplies."
Teal'c stood and left the room with the Elf. Jack sighed and put a hand to Daniel's cheek and was relieved to see his fever had gone down considerably.
At the touch, Daniel opened his eyes. He smiled when he saw Jack.
"How are you doing?"
Daniel licked his lips and Jack immediately picked up the cup of water Hentempet had put aside, and brought it to Daniel's mouth. When Daniel had drunk more than half, Jack ran the damp cloth over his face.
"You're welcome." Jack wiped his wet hands on his pants. "So, feel up to explaining what happened out there today?"
"It was an ambush." Daniel's eyes began glazing over and his eyelids began to drift shut.
"Yeah, you mentioned that already."
Daniel forced his eyelids back open. "The Eirans didn't..." He licked his lips and frowned as he fought to keep his eyes open. Despite Jack wanting to yell at Daniel for answers, he didn't have the heart to force him to stay awake. "Help them." Daniel's whispered plea totally confused Jack.
Teal'c returned a few minutes later with the antibiotics.
"How is he?"
"He's drifting in and out." Jack glanced at the pills in Teal'c's hand. "Let him sleep a while. I don't think he can manage to swallow those without choking on them right now." He watched as Teal'c placed them near the water; a reminder the next time Daniel woke. They'd feed him the antibiotics along with the water. "What're the Elves doing?"
"They have terminated funeral rites for the one named Penmennefer. They are now preparing to abandon this place. Already several boats have left."
"Women and children?"
"The older women are taking the children to safety. They are still dismantling many of the structures."
"Something's not quite right with the whole scenario. Why wouldn't they have done that *before* attacking the Dwarves?" He stared down at Daniel, wishing he would wake up and tell him what had happened.
"Indeed. They will not answer my questions as to what occurred during the negotiations. They maintain that DanielJackson will do so when he wakes."
"Well, he better wake up soon. If those Dwarves march through the night, they'll be here come morning."
- - - - - -
Throbbing pain in his shoulder pulled Daniel from the depths of oblivion. He tried to ignore it but the more he did, the worse the throbbing got. Soon his head began to pound in counterpoint. He shifted, thinking maybe a change in position might stop the hurt but the movement changed the throb to a sharp jab.
He gasped in pain, his whole body freezing as he waited for the agony to ease.
"Easy there. Don't try to move."
Jack. That was Jack's voice. He had vague memories of Jack talking to him, dream-like. And then he recalled telling his friends everything that had happened, and he relaxed. Jack probably had everything under control. He'd asked Jack to help the Elves; surely everything was settled by now? He opened tightly squeezed eyes and saw his friend's face illuminated by a strange, green glow.
"Think you can swallow more of these?" Jack held some pills before him and Daniel nodded, recognizing the Tylenol and antibiotics in the mix. He tried to lift his head and hissed as the movement hurt his shoulder.
"Damnit, I told you to stay put." Jack placed a hand beneath his head and lifted it just enough so Daniel could drink easily from a cup after Jack popped the pills into his mouth. As he slurped the water down, it brought back more vague memories of being fed water, pills and broth and of Jack or Teal'c encouraging him to drink just a little more.
"Where's Teal'c and Sam?" Daniel asked weakly.
"Teal'c's outside helping the Elves pack up the village and Carter's... bringing in the cavalry, I hope."
"Pack? Where are they�cavalry? Jack, what's going on?" Daniel placed his good arm on the bed, thinking to sit up when he remembered the pain brought on simply by trying to lift his head.
"I'm hoping you can tell me, Daniel. First off, Carter went back to Earth to get some backup to try and rescue you. The Elves are getting the hell out of here before the Dwarves swarm this village and exact revenge for the slaughter."
"Rescue? Revenge? Jack, I told you, it was an ambush."
"Yeah, you did, but your explanations were a little vague."
"Vague? I told you there were snipers hiding in the trees and they caught us by surprise."
"No, Daniel. You said�" Jack blew air noisily out of his mouth and rubbed his palms over his forehead.
Daniel realized then that Jack looked tired.
"Look, you were a little out of it at the time and weren't quite making sense. How about we go over it once more?"
Daniel nodded. "They shot�" Daniel broke off when Jack raised his index finger, holding it up in the air.
"Let me get T, he should hear this, too." He stood up and pulled aside canvas curtain, then turned to look at Daniel. "You gonna stay awake long enough for me to find him?"
"I'll be awake."
Jack hurried out and Daniel listened to his footsteps. There were voices outside, blurred by either distance or deliberately subdued. Despite his assurance to Jack, Daniel found it harder and harder to keep his eyes open as he waited.
It was Jack shaking his uninjured shoulder that woke Daniel.
"Sorry, I know you're tired, but we really need to hear what happened."
"I know. I'm sorry." He blinked several times, trying to focus on his friends. Their forms remained distinctly blurred. "They shot Honsuef and the other Dwarves before we knew what had happened. We ran for cover. The Elves had bows and arrows in their boats so I used my gun and gave them cover fire. Penmennefer and two others got their bows, but the snipers were in the trees. We couldn't see them. We tried but I don't think we scored any hits.
"They got me in the shoulder with an arrow. I dropped the gun and they stopped shooting at us. Someone grabbed me and threw me in a boat and... well..." Daniel swallowed, his mouth was dry. Strangely, the pounding in his head had gone down a notch, as had the throbbing in his shoulder. "Was there something stronger than Tylenol in those pills you gave me?"
"Vicodin. Figured you could use some relief."
Jack lifted Daniel's head and tipped more water into his mouth. Daniel drank, the water doing little to lubricate his mouth.
"What more do you remember of the assailants? Did they speak? Did you recognize their language?"
Daniel turned towards Teal'c. The green glow in the small room made Teal'c look grey. His friend's face was fading in and out of focus now. "No. They were quiet. Just the twangs of the bows, and the cries of pain whenever they hit someone."
"So you're saying they shot the Dwarves, then only shot at you and the Elves when you started shooting back at them?"
"Yeah. Jack... they had the advantage of height over us. Our cover was sparse and I know they could have gotten some of us easily, but they didn't. We weren't their intended targets."
"They got the Dwarves but wanted to make it look like the Elves did it."
Jack was quiet, staring at the canvas wall behind Daniel, so he closed his eyes a moment. Focusing was too hard. He was so tired, and now that the pain was receding, it was even harder to stay awake. He thought he heard Jack's voice speaking from far away but he was too far gone, and the effort of climbing back out of the pull of sleep was too great.
- - - - - -
Jack sat back, watching Daniel sleep. He felt like he'd been thrown for a loop; suddenly the enemy wasn't the enemy - not the kidnappers but the saviors. And there was a small army, no pun intended, marching down on them.
"He's probably gonna be sleeping for a while," Jack said softly. "I think I need to talk to someone..."
"Amenwahsu is now leader of this village. I can take you to him."
Jack nodded and followed Teal'c out of the tent. Much of the canvas had been taken down, leaving it open and bare except for where Daniel lay. Many discoloured areas showed where rugs and furniture had been removed.
The village was brightly lit by bonfires and a multitude of torches. As they made their way towards the river, Jack saw that most of the tents had already been dismantled and were being packed onto large rafts. Teal'c led Jack to one of the men who was supervising the packing. Somehow Jack wasn't surprised that this Amenwash guy was the one who had met them and had brought him to Daniel.
"Daniel tells me you saved his life." Jack waited as Teal'c interpreted his words. He hated this; maybe Daniel was right. Maybe he should make a concerted effort when they got back home to learn the language.
"He was injured attempting to save the lives of my people. We could not leave him to die."
"About that�thank you for helping him."
The Elf inclined his head Teal'c-like.
"The Dwarves, though, are under the impression you killed their people. They're on their way here, you know."
The Elf simply raised an eyebrow.
"What am I saying, of course he knows," Jack muttered to himself as more supplies were piled onto the rafts.
"That is one reason why I have brought you here. I hope you may be able to convince the Little People that we are innocent of wrongdoing."
"One reason? What's the other?"
"Daniel was asking for you."
Teal'c asked a question while Jack pushed back the guilty feelings of Daniel being alone with strangers. Had Jack not gone off on his own, maybe things might have played out a little differently.
"O'Neill. This way."
Jack pulled himself out of his reverie when Amenwash began walking towards a small table left out by the tent. He picked up the pieces of a broken arrow and held it beside a whole one.
"This was removed from Daniel's shoulder." He handed Jack the broken pieces. "This one was made by Penmennefer." Jack took the whole one and held the two side by side. They were identical.
"They're the same."
"They are. Both were made by the same person. The fletching is unmistakable."
Amenwahsu took another broken arrow and an undamaged one. "These are mine. This one was used to kill Penmennefer." The two were similar, although Jack couldn't tell the difference between these two and the other two except for the colour of the feathers.
Jack placed both arrowheads in one hand and held them up to Amenwahsu. "If the Elves didn't shoot these, then who?"
The arched brow rose higher. "Like the Little People, we trade through the Stargate."
The Elf's words, for some strange reason, surprised Jack. He knew the Dwarves used the 'gate for their ore, but he hadn't realized the Elves did also.
"Is there a way to the Stargate other than through the mines?"
"Of course. It takes a day to go around the mountain on foot rather than through it. Often the ones who deal with the Little People will continue this way to trade with us. Our arrows are highly sought by them."
"Are we talking about one race of people here, or several?"
Jack waited impatiently for Teal'c to translate.
"One. Those who trade for the minerals are keen to the hunt."
"You think they might be the ones who're behind the attack?"
"Jack. There is another item they are always very interested in acquiring. The poison that was used on the arrowhead which injured Daniel and my people is made from an organ taken from one of the amphibious creatures that live in the river. We always carry a small amount of the poison simply as a precaution against the hoongat, who prey on our livestock."
Amenwahsu removed a small metallic tin can from a pocket and opened it. There was a clear, oily paste inside. "One needs only rub some on the edges of the arrowhead�" He took the broken one from Jack's hand and mimicked dipping it into the tin�"and without the doola berries, you would be dead within an hour's time."
"Okay, so we have the suspects. Do we have a motive?"
"I can think of none. We have never had any quarrels with them, nor have the Little People."
"Jack, what if it's us?"
Jack spun around as Daniel stumbled out of the tent. He'd wrapped a blanket around his waist. The bandages around his shoulder gleamed white in the dark, except where they were dotted with blood.
Immediately Teal'c was by his side, supporting him as he swayed. Daniel's face was pale in the light of the nearby torches. His injured arm was cradled in his good one but he doggedly continued moving towards Jack.
Jack took the final steps that separated them, placing a hand on Daniel's good shoulder, stopping him. The skin beneath his hand was hot and damp with sweat. "What do you mean?"
"Maybe this isn't about the Elves and the Dwarves. Maybe this is about the people who've been trading for ore with the Dwarves being afraid that we're moving in on their supply. What if they decided to kill two birds with one stone; by tricking the Dwarves into attacking the Elves so there would be no more opposition to contaminating the land, and maybe at the same time getting us to help them do their dirty work by timing the attack during the negotiations?"
Daniel swayed and Teal'c placed a hand on Daniel's shoulder.
"How would killing the Elves or chasing them away help them? We'd still be around. Wouldn't they consider us the competition?"
"Then the Dwarves could increase their mining production without worrying about repercussions from the Elves. They could produce enough ore to satisfy both them and us."
"It sounds logical. But as nobody actually saw the snipers, your theory is just that."
"Well at least it's a starting point. We can go back and check the site where the attack took place. Maybe there are signs to prove my theory."
"Small detail, Daniel. The Dwarves are on their way here to get their revenge, misplaced as it might be."
"Then you have to convince them otherwise." Daniel's voice rose just as his legs gave out. He slowly began to descend as his knees folded. Jack wasn't sure where to grab him as Teal'c wrapped both arms around him and held him upright against his chest.
"Put him down," Jack suggested. As Teal'c lowered Daniel to the ground, Jack sat and took Daniel's weight against him. "Ya should have stayed in bed," Jack told him as Daniel leaned heavily against him.
"You have to convince Honsuef that the Elves are innocent," Daniel mumbled against Jack's shoulder.
"Daniel, Honsuef died in the attack, remember?"
Daniel tensed a moment, then nodded. A shiver went through him and Teal'c removed his jacket, placing it carefully around Daniel's sweaty, bare back.
"We'll talk to the Dwarves. In the meantime, I think Amenwahsu and his folks had better evacuate and wait until we give the all clear."
The Elf stepped closer as his name was mentioned, and Teal'c turned to him to translate.
"We will not leave." Amenwahsu knelt down to their level, looking at Jack over Daniel's bowed head. "We have moved the children to a place of safety; we will follow with the remains of the village as it is their legacy. But those who are able to take a stand will remain. We are innocent; we will not run. We survived the ancient gods, we will not be chased from our homes by others who wish to destroy our land."
"Teal'c and I need to go back and talk to the Dwarves." Jack looked down at Daniel who was shivering in earnest now. "Can you take him somewhere safe? Somewhere where he won't be in danger of getting hit by friendly fire?"
"Hentempet can take him to safety. She can bring his communications device so you can inform them when it is safe to return."
"No." Daniel pushed away from Jack. "I want to stay. I can help."
"You're in no shape to fight, and if we have to make a run for it... Daniel, I'm sorry, but�"
"I can help Teal'c with the translations."
"You can barely sit up. You need to rest."
Daniel pulled himself up straighter, winced and hunched over. "I'll be fine. It's not sunrise yet, there's still time for me to rest." Teal'c's jacket slid off of one shoulder at the movement.
Jack pulled the jacket back up over Daniel's exposed skin, then turned to Amenwahsu. "Speaking of which, can we have our radios back? I need to find out what's happening with my people."
Daniel was slow on the uptake, and Teal'c quickly translated Jack's request. The Elf nodded and barked out a command. One of the younger Elves ran towards the river.
"I need to do something to help. I can't help but feel responsible for us being the catalyst to the attack." Shivering and swaying, Daniel put a hand out and latched onto Jack's arm.
"You've done quite a lot already. You helped the Elves and you've already given us a possible motive."
"Daniel�" Jack sighed loudly. "How about a compromise? You rest now. We'll see what condition you're in when the Dwarves get here. If by then you're not better and I say you go, you go. No arguments."
Daniel closed his eyes in relief. "Okay," he whispered as the young Elf ran up to them with one of the team's radios. Amenwahsu took it and handed it to Jack.
"Carter, this is SG-1 leader. Do you read?" Jack waited a moment, watching as Amenwahsu left them and entered the communal tent with the teenager.
"Colonel? It's good to hear your voice, sir. We were getting worried."
"We're fine. We're with Daniel, actually. How about you? Got anything to report? Please tell me everybody back there decided to turn around and go home?"
"Colonel O'Neill." Carter's voice was replaced with that of Colonel Hendrick's. "SGs-4 and 7 are on their way to provide backup. We've caught up with the... Dwarves, sir. From what we've been able to figure out, they say we'll reach the Eiran village by mid morning."
"So they didn't stop for the night? None of them related to 'Sleepy' or 'Dopey'? Damn, they'll all be Grumpy in the morning."
"No, sir. They're marching through the night. They may have short legs, but I have to hand it to them, they've got endurance."
"Okay, then, we'll see you guys in the morning."
"Colonel? How's Daniel?"
Jack glanced down at his friend who was now leaning against Teal'c, his eyes half closed, listening to their conversation. At the mention of his name, he glanced up at Jack. With a smile, Jack placed the radio near Daniel's mouth and pressed down the button.
"Hey, Sam. Don't worry, I'm fine and in good company."
Jack shook his head at his friend and spoke into the radio. "He took an arrow laced with poison in the shoulder. He's out of danger, but he's a bit sore and a lot grouchy."
Amenwahsu came out of the tent carrying an armful of blankets while the teenager followed with what appeared to be the mattress Daniel had been laying on inside.
"I'm gonna put Mr. Sunshine to bed now. We'll see you in the morning."
Daniel leaned his head back down against Jack's shoulder while Jack watched the Elves set up the makeshift bed beneath a stand of trees in a quieter area of the village. When Amenwahsu motioned for them to come a moment later, Jack moved in close to Daniel and spoke softly. "Think you can walk a little ways? You'll be more comfortable lying down."
Daniel nodded and with what seemed like great effort, pulled away from Jack and raised his head.
He and Teal'c helped Daniel up. Walking unsteadily, they guided him to the trees and helped him slide beneath the blankets.
"Could we have our packs?" Jack asked Amenwahsu once Daniel was comfortable. "I'd like to give him more medicine for the fever."
The boy was sent off again and soon after Jack was dosing Daniel with more Tylenol and water.
"Try and sleep," Jack told him, pulling the blanket up to his chin. It was dark beneath the tree; most of the torchlight didn't reach their shelter. There was just enough light for Jack to see that Daniel had closed his eyes.
"Any ideas?" Jack asked Teal'c as they both leaned against tree trunks, watching as the main tent was struck down.
"Perhaps it would be best if the Eirans were not present when the Dwarves arrived. If we could convince the Elves to remain out of sight while we attempted to speak to the Dwarves, we might avoid bloodshed."
"If they don't find them here, they might just keep on going to the next village."
"Then perhaps keep only a small contingent of Eirans here to initiate peace talks."
"What if those aliens are following the Dwarves, Jack. They could strike out at us again here before anything was resolved."
"Aren't you supposed to be sleeping?"
"Okay, okay. Teal'c, how about you�"
"I shall go speak to Amenwahsu and will also check our perimeter." Teal'c stood and walked towards the river.
"Thanks, Jack." His blankets rustled slightly as he shifted. "You know, if you stopped talking, I might be able to get some sleep. I'm a bit tired, actually," he said with a slight smile.
- - - - - -
Sunlight gleamed onto his face. He turned his head away but the brightness followed with the movement. He tried to turn onto his side and put his back to the light but the movement reminded him he'd been injured.
A need to pee and an awful thirst suddenly made themselves known, pulling him fully from sleep. Daniel sighed, opened his eyes and looked around, wondering where he was and where the bathroom might be. He blinked, rubbed his eyes and sat up.
He was underneath some trees which had provided shade, he suspected, but now dappled sunlight was reaching in through leaves which looked like fuzzy caterpillars. All around was a wide open space with trampled grass and bare spots that looked like some sort of buildings or tents had occupied the space. There was a river farther back and a few canoes pulled up on shore. A handful of people were gathered near the water. Daniel placed his hand over his forehead to shade his eyes from the sun and even without his glasses, managed to make out Jack and Teal'c's fatigues amongst the solid browns and beiges of the locals.
His shoulder was stiff and sore but allowed for a small range of motion. His arm felt weak and he flexed his hand and wriggled his fingers while he slowly stretched his arm. Everything seemed to be in working order, they just seemed to have less strength than normal.
He stood, feeling a little weak and lightheaded. He was tangled up in a sheet and it was only when he managed to disentangle himself from it did he realize he was naked. Gulping and hoping nobody had noticed, he managed to rewrap the covering around his waist one-handed.
His need to pee was becoming urgent and he decided to forego searching for the latrine and simply walked behind the nearest tree. He leaned his good shoulder against the rough bark and looked around as he emptied his bladder. Daniel finished and returned to where he'd been sleeping, grinning in embarrassment as he held onto the sheet to keep it from sliding down his hips as Jack hurried towards him.
"I seem to have lost my clothes," he said when Jack reached him.
His friend scratched his chin, then looked back towards the people assembled near the water.
"Yeah, right. I think I saw your pants with the rest of our supplies. You can use my spare tee shirt. Sit down and I'll go see if I can find them." He took two steps and then turned back. "How are you feeling?"
"Thirsty." He thought a little more as he sat, and realized, as his stomach grumbled, he was more than simply thirsty. "Hungry," he said in surprise. Maybe that was part of the reason he felt a little lightheaded.
Jack smiled. "I'll bring you breakfast."
"Think you might stop at the local Starbucks?" Daniel called after him. "A coffee would go down nice right about now."
"One O'Neill special coming right up. I hope you like your water lukewarm."
"Not really," Daniel mumbled, wishing he did have a nice, hot, strong coffee to help clear the cobwebs from his brain. He rearranged the sheet, then pulled the edge of the bandage away from his shoulder, trying to see the wound.
Daniel jumped when Hentempet knelt beside him. She'd moved so quietly he hadn't heard her approach. He lowered his hand and sat quietly as she unwrapped the bandage. He stared down at the red, puckered flesh.
"So, what do you think?" he asked as she gently pressed around the wound. It was an uncomfortable feeling, bordering just on this side of painful, and he broke into a light sweat.
"It is healing well." She flashed a smile at him, then sprinkled some powder from a small pouch onto and into the wound. Daniel tried to distract himself from the discomfort and watched Jack walk back towards him. Tempy finally finished and wrapped his wound with clean bandages.
"Everything okay?" Jack looked at him with a worried look as he handed Daniel a canteen of water.
"So she says." Daniel smiled his thanks as Tempy wiped her hands on her pants, brushing the powder from her fingers. He took several long swallows of water, feeling the liquid hit his stomach.
"Hey, slow down." Jack pulled the canteen away from Daniel's mouth. "You don't wanna get sick now, do you?"
Daniel nodded, feeling the water swish around uncomfortably for a moment or two before his stomach settled. Jack handed him what looked like a piece of filled pastry. He bit into it carefully, then more eagerly when he found it was filled with spiced meat and vegetables.
"This is good," he said around a mouthful of the pastry.
"Yeah, I know." Jack wiped some crumbs from his fingers, waiting patiently while Daniel finished eating. Just as he popped the last of it into his mouth, Teal'c came by with his arms full of clothes.
"Amenwahsu says the Dwarves will be here shortly. They are only a kilometer away."
"You feeling up to this?" The worried look was back on Jack's face.
Daniel licked his fingers and took a last swallow of water, nodding vigorously. The food had helped a lot and although he was sure he'd be wishing for rest before this was all over and done with, he knew he was up to the job.
"Daniel, the truth. I don't want you here if you're only saying this because you're feeling guilty over what happened."
"I'm okay. Really, Jack." He reached for his clothes and with a quick glance around to make sure Tempy wasn't nearby, let the sheet drop and quickly began to dress. Expediency made him bite back remarks that he didn't need any help when Jack helped pull his pants up when he couldn't quite manage it one-handed.
"Where are all the other Elves? I thought they were planning on making a stand?" He gingerly threaded the tee-shirt over his injured arm and then, as Jack held it steady for him, pushed his other arm through and allowed Jack to raise the neck of the shirt over his head. He felt like an overgrown kid and it would have been embarrassing if the need to hurry hadn't been there.
"They are. We have convinced them to wait on the other side of the river to both not make a target of themselves and to appear less threatening. This tactic might give us a bit of leeway and get the Little People to listen to us if they decide to rush the Elves."
"Good idea, Teal'c. So only those..." he counted quickly, "eight are staying?"
"Your nurse is going across, along with her husband, so that'll make six."
"Colonel O'Neill. We have a visual." Daniel picked up his socks while Jack answered Carter through the radio.
"Understood. We'll be waiting by the water."
Daniel winced as the shirt rested uncomfortably against his injury. He pulled the edge away and readjusted it. Jack took out the piece of material Daniel sometimes used as a bandana and instead turned it into the implement it had originally been meant for. Once his injured arm was securely cradled in the sling, some of the pressure was taken off his shoulder.
Again Daniel allowed Jack to help him after he attempted to pull his socks up onto his bare feet. Once his boots had been laced, Daniel stood. He pulled the shirt's material away from his shoulder again as they walked to the river. His legs were shaky but after several steps, he began feeling a little stronger.
"It is good to see you well, Daniel." An Elf moved away from the group of five who were watching a canoe glide over the water, carrying Tempy and another, presumably her husband, across to the other shore.
"Thank you... um..." He glanced at Jack, then Teal'c, for an introduction. To be honest, most of the Elves he'd seen since he'd been hurt were a blur, except for Tempy's.
"This is Amenwahsu. Leader of the Eirans now that Penmennefer is dead."
"I'm sorry about Penmennefer. I wish I'd been faster, I might have been able to�"
"Daniel. Please. I have heard how you put yourself in the line of danger while my people tried to get to their weapons. There was nothing more you could have done. I am grateful for the lives you helped save."
Daniel nodded, still wishing he could have done more. Then the Dwarves showed up, and all thoughts of guilt disappeared.
- - - - - -
Daniel grimaced and stepped back as Teal'c fired his staff weapon into the ground before the approaching phalanx of Dwarves. The angry mob came to a stop, surprised by the flash of flames and the dirt kicked up by the small explosions.
"Okay, folks, listen up." Jack stepped forward, a hand on his gun as he glanced to make sure Daniel followed. His friend was still pale and seemed shaky, but he followed unhesitatingly. "Seems like we've all had the wool pulled over our eyes. Someone wants to start a war between you and them�" Jack pointed from the Dwarves to the Elves and back again a few times, while Daniel interpreted. "Someone who's either desperate enough, or stupid enough, to kill to get what they want."
The Dwarves were muttering amongst themselves, and Jack quickly spoke to Daniel in a low voice. "You're up."
Daniel took a few steps forward past Jack and began talking. While Daniel began trying to explain what they believed to have happened, Jack kept an eye on the Dwarves. There were at least two hundred of them. What had been a strung out, unorganized revolt when he'd left the mines now was a lynch mob.
The two SG teams were flanking the small army, one on each side. Even with their superior fire power, if the Dwarves decided to turn on them, they'd be swarmed in no time. The only ones with a chance of escape were Amenwahsu and his five men and women, who remained near the river. If things got squirrelly, they could jump into the canoes and barring any thrown weapons hitting them, they'd be safe if they managed to paddle out of harm's way fast enough.
A few of the Dwarves yelled out as Daniel continued to speak. Jack recognized a few choice words, but Daniel either ignored them or gave back as good as he got. Jack exchanged a look with Teal'c, who nodded slightly. After a few minutes, the Dwarves seemed to calm a bit. They called out occasionally, but this time it wasn't in anger, but in question.
Daniel seemed to be doing okay. He stumbled once when he turned too fast to answer someone on his right. Jack would cast a critical eye his way once in a while. Daniel was still quite pale but either he'd recovering pretty fast or was running high on adrenaline as he answered question after question.
Teal'c spoke out a time or two, as did Amenwahsu. Unbelievingly, the Dwarves eventually lowered their weapons and began to mutter angrily amongst themselves. Sennedjem, who seemed to be in charge of the group, began discussing something with several others, their voices raised as they yelled over the conglomeration of miners. They seemed to settle on some decision because the Dwarves turned around and began marching back the way they had come, leaving Sennedjem and a dozen others behind.
"Hendrick, Carter, follow them a bit and make sure they're really heading out."
The remaining Dwarves all put down their weapons and three of them approached Amenwahsu. They bowed their heads and said something which sounded formal and ritualistic.
"They're apologizing," Daniel said softly behind Jack. "Sennedjem is sending his people home and is asking Amenwahsu for conveyance back to the mines by canoe. He's worried that their families might be attacked since they're vulnerable and every able bodied man and women is here." Jack glanced at Daniel, who looked quickly at Jack before turning his attention back to the Elves, who were quickly urging the Dwarves into two canoes.
"I don't think they're in any danger."
"I know, but Sennedjem thinks that whoever killed their people is already sneaky enough to have done this, then they might try again, if only to continue the ruse that the Elves are trying to provoke them into a war."
"I can't blame him for being worried." Jack raised a hand in farewell as the canoes floated by. Sennedjem called something out, and Daniel yelled back.
"Thanks and a blessing," Daniel clarified when Jack arched an eyebrow in question.
The tramp of feet could no longer be heard, the voices of the departing Dwarves faded as distance separated them. A bird chirped, the wind brushed through the leaves. Amenwahsu approached them, smiling widely. His face suddenly changed to concern as he hurried forward just as Jack felt a weight crash against his back.
He turned, barely in time to catch Daniel as he slid to the ground.
"I think I need to sit down," Daniel mumbled, head lolling and eyes closed as Jack eased him onto the grass. Then Teal'c and Amenwahsu were there.
"You couldn't have told me that ten seconds before?" Jack brushed his fingers against Daniel's neck, relieved to feel no fever against the sweating skin. Daniel's pulse was fast, but even as Jack tried to count the beats, Daniel opened his eyes and looked around at them.
"How are you feeling?"
"Tired. I'm fine, I just got dizzy for a second."
"Uh huh. You just rest a little longer and then we'll let you get some more sleep."
There were voices from the river and Jack saw more than a dozen canoes crossing from the other side. At the same moment, his radio crackled. "Colonel." Carter's voice sounded almost cheerful. "The Dwarves are definitely heading back towards the mountains. Should we continue following?"
"No, I think it's safe to say you can come back." Jack looked down at Daniel again, who had closed his eyes. "Teal'c, you think Amenwahsu would give also give us a lift back to the mountain?" Or the Stargate? Does the river run around the mountain?"
He tuned out the conversation and put his hand to Daniel's wrist again. The pulse had slowed somewhat but it still seemed pretty fast.
"Amenwahsu would be honoured to convey us to the mines. But the way to the Stargate is quicker through the mountain. The river does not go all the way around and it would entail a half day's journey on foot."
"Then as soon as the teams get back, ask him if we can head back home."
- - - - - -
Daniel opened his eyes to the sight of a thin, wooden slab before his face. The gentle swoosh of water lapping the boat and dripping paddles brought back a familiar memory.
He was lying on his side at the bottom of the canoe. Even though there was padding underneath him, the hip and shoulder he was lying on felt stiff and a little bruised. He turned gingerly onto his back and gasped as healing skin stretched painfully.
He looked down towards his feet and saw Jack sitting there watching him.
Daniel yawned and nodded. Before he could debate on whether to close his eyes and sleep some more, or sit up and eat something, a warm hand touched his face and fingers ran through his hair. He tilted his head back and saw Sam's smiling face looking down at him.
"No fever, you've slept for almost four hours, and hey, I think you're hungry," she laughed as Daniel's stomach rumbled loudly.
He sat up and Sam immediately put a hand against his back to hold him steady. Jack tossed a power bar onto his lap and Sam handed him some water.
"Where are we?" Daniel glanced at the passing scenery, trying to unwrap the power bar and failing with one arm still in the sling. "Oh, never mind," he said when he spotted the huge mountain looming before them. He was pretty sure they'd be arriving at the mines within a few minutes. He took a bite once Sam reached around him and unwrapped the food for him.
"Where are the others?"
Jack made a twirling motion with his finger. Daniel twisted around so he could see behind him, awkwardly turning his whole body to avoid pulling healing skin and muscles. Three other canoes were following, and he spotted Teal'c and the other two SG teams sitting amongst the Elves.
Suddenly feeling better than he'd had in a long time, he waved to Teal'c. He grinned when Teal'c raised a hand and waved back. He hadn't expected his friend to do so and the gesture warmed him greatly.
Daniel chased down the mouthfuls of food with some water. He wiped his chin with his hand, sloshing some water over his wrist in the process. He caught sight of a break in the trees along the river and pointed towards it. "Is that...?"
"Yep, looks like that's our stop."
He hurried and finished the power bar, cramming the last mouthful and chewing quickly. He took another long guzzle of water, then handed the canteen back to Sam as the boat was propelled onto the sandy beach.
He waited until everyone else disembarked, then with Jack holding onto his good arm, Daniel stood and stepped over the edge of the boat. He averted his eyes as they passed by the blood stained area where the Dwarves had been slaughtered. Right now everything still held a nightmarish quality to his memories, probably due to the drugs and fever resulting from the poison. He didn't want to add any fuel to the fire.
Then they were on the trail, and Daniel soon found out how weak he truly was. Within minutes he was gasping for breath, until Teal'c called out to Amenwahsu and asked that he slow the pace. Daniel was grateful when the Elf did, but he still found himself damp with sweat by the time they reached the thick, metallic doors.
"Is there a doorbell or something?" Jack commented after Teal'c attempted, without success, to open the doors.
Amenwahsu pounded on the door with a rock while Sam and the other SG teams spread out to check out the surrounding area.
"Maybe with the place being so short handed, they're not going to take a chance and open the doors," Daniel commented as he walked into the shade of a small overhang. He slid down the rock while Amenwahsu and Teal'c took turns pounding on the door. "Did we pass the other boats on their way back to the Eiran village?"
"Yep. While you were sleeping." Jack sat beside him and picked up a twig. "They dropped the Dwarves and turned around. I guess they shut the door behind them, not taking a chance." He drew two lines in the dirt between him and Daniel. "Like you said, until the rest of the miners get here tomorrow, they're at a disadvantage." Then he drew two more lines going in the opposite direction. Jack then drew an X in the top right hand corner, and handed Daniel the stick.
Daniel placed an O in the center square. "How long are we going to wait?"
Jack took the stick back and drew an X next to Daniel's O and beneath his first mark. "Our only other option is to go around the mountain." He handed the stick back to Daniel, who drew an O beneath Jack's two Xs.
"That'll take how long?"
Another X, this time in the left hand top corner to block Daniel's two diagonal Os. "If Amenwahsu gives us a lift as far as he can, half a day on foot. Otherwise it's a full day."
They played two more games of tic-tac-toe until Teal'c and the Elf joined them. "Amenwahsu believes the Dwarves will not open the door until they feel safe in numbers. He has offered to convey us farther down the river if we wish to continue the journey on foot, and will have one of his people guide us to the Stargate."
"How about it, Daniel, you up for a walk?"
"I'm f�" Daniel bit back the normal statement, and then said slowly instead, "I'm a little shaky, but I think if we take it slow, I'll be okay."
Daniel turned to Amenwahsu and asked how long they'd be on the river. "Yes, I'm sure," Daniel said when he heard the answer. "He says we'll be on the water for another four hours, so that'll give me plenty of time to get more rest. Are we going to walk through the night?"
"No, we'll make camp. No use going into unfamiliar territory in the dark."
"Then I'll be up to the trip." Daniel rubbed the dirt with his fingers, erasing their game.
"Fine." Jack clicked his radio. "Carter, Hendrick. Meet us at the river. We can't go through the mountain so we'll be going around it."
- - - - - -
There was still at least two hours of daylight left, but Jack debated giving the order now to set up camp. Despite the fact that he'd given Daniel some Vicodin about 90 minutes ago, he was walking slightly hunched over, his good arm cradling his injured one.
SG-4 was ahead of them with Bakenkhons, their guide, to make sure that there were no surprises waiting for them. SG-7 was flanking them, and Teal'c and Carter was bringing up the rear. Not that Jack expected trouble, but those snipers had to have gone somewhere and if they hadn't gone through the mountain, they had to have gone around it. They could be anywhere, or they could have gone back to their home world.
"Okay, let's take five," Jack finally decided when Daniel stumbled and went down on one knee. He'd give Daniel a chance to rest a bit and then he'd see if it was necessary to stop for the night. Although they'd made good time, they'd left the river four hours ago and had been walking pretty much most of that time.
Instead of getting up and finding someplace comfortable to sit, Daniel simply allowed himself to slide sideways onto the trail. As Jack knelt beside him, he saw the twin spots of colour high on Daniel's cheeks and the glazed look in his eyes that bespoke the return of fever.
"SG-Leader to SGs four and seven. Fall back. We're setting up camp."
"What? It's still early." Daniel's exclamation nearly drowned out Hendrick's and Riley's responses.
"Yes, it is, but you're dead on your feet." Jack fished out some Tylenol and handed the pills to Daniel without a word. He watched as Daniel chased them with some water, then with his finger, tipped the canteen back towards Daniel's lips. "Fraiser'll have my butt if I bring you back dehydrated on top of being shot and poisoned."
A small smile curled the edges of Daniel's lips as he took a few more swallows. "Honestly, Jack, I can go keep going until dark." He handed the canteen back and Jack simply made sure it was capped and placed it inside Daniel's sling.
"Sure you can. But an hour won't make a difference either way. Anyways, we're all tired and can use the�"
Jack broke off when Riley's voice came through the radio. "Colonel O'Neill. Chapman just discovered some blood spoor and footprints. Sir, they're human."
Daniel had shut his eyes. Despite his objections, he obviously wasn't feeling well and this meant they'd have to move on again.
"It's pretty likely. And sir, I think I smell wood smoke."
"Truman, Wallis, anything on your end?"
"Negative, sir. No sign of anyone coming this way, and we don't smell anything."
"Nothing on the trail, Colonel."
"Riley, stay put. We're coming out to meet you. Hendricks, proceed back with caution. If these are our snipers, we don't want them forewarned."
"Come on." Jack stood and reached down a hand to Daniel and helped him up. "Carter, you're with Daniel. Teal'c, you're with me."
They crept through the woods as quietly as they could. By the time they reached Riley and Chapman, Jack could definitely smell a campfire. They followed the blood trail, which ran parallel to the main trail that went around the mountain. After several minutes they spotted the small fire. Four men were sitting around it, two of them obviously wounded. One had a bandage wrapped around his thigh, the other had an abdominal injury.
"Looks like you might have just gotten some lucky shots in yesterday," Jack whispered to Daniel. "Now, stay put." He motioned to Carter to stay with Daniel and she nodded.
He caught Hendrick's eye and motioned for him and his men to go around the camp while keeping an eye out for any guards. SG-7 was sent to the right while Jack, Teal'c and Bakenkhons made their way to the left. When everyone was in position, the three of them moved in, weapons drawn.
"Run into a little trouble, have you now?" Jack said conversationally. The two uninjured men reached for their bows, but Jack shot a couple rounds into the air. The men froze, watching as the other two teams stepped out of the woods.
"Thank goodness. We had a bit of a hunting accident and lost our way. We need help." The man who'd spoken smiled at Jack.
"Really? An accident? Run into the path of a bullet, maybe?"
He reached down and pulled the bloody bandage away from the wounded man's thigh. It was unmistakably a bullet hole. The other man had obvious entry and exit wounds into his abdomen and out his side.
"Bakenkhons, you might want the honour of helping to tie these bastards up." Riley stepped forward, holding out several plastic clips and showed the Elf how they worked. Bakenkhons and Riley took great pleasure in securing the prisoners.
Within minutes, Jack had appropriated the snipers' campfire, moving the men farther away and setting up guards. Daniel was brought in from the woods and given the place of honour immediately before the flames. He covered Daniel with a blanket and he seemed to fall asleep right away.
Jack set the sentry duty and leaned back against a tree. Teal'c and Carter were going through the prisoners' supplies. Not surprisingly, they found two small tins that contained the poison Amenwahsu had shown him yesterday.
The sun was setting and the woods were darkening fast. It wasn't cold and the night promised to be comfortable for sleeping. Jack accepted an MRE from one of Riley's men and dug in.
"How much farther to the 'gate?" Jack asked Teal'c as he blew on a spoonful of beef stew. He ate the spoonful while the question was asked of Bakenkhons.
"Another two hours, possibly less."
"Good. Let's hope Daniel's a little stronger in the morning."
"His fever is probably due to exertion and the residual effects of the poison rather than infection."
"I know. But I'll feel a lot better once I hand him over to Fraiser."
"You will not be blamed for his condition."
"Ya think? Once Fraiser finds out what happened to him, she'll have my butt in a sling so fast that�"
"What are you whining for? I'm the one who got the poisoned arrow in my shoulder. Janet's gonna keep me in the infirmary for a month, at least." Daniel added a heavy sigh to end his complaint.
"I keep asking you this, Daniel. Aren't you supposed to be sleeping?"
"And I keep telling you, if you stopped talking so much, I'd be able to sleep."
"He's feeling better," Jack told Teal'c.
"You hungry? Wanna eat something?"
Daniel raised his head, looked at what Jack was eating, and shook his head, wrinkling his face in distaste. "Not that hungry."
"You'd rather have the pastries from this morning?" Jack reached into his pack and took out some of the meat pastries Amenwahsu had given him before they'd said their farewells by the river. He unwrapped one and handed it to Daniel.
Rolling so he was lying on his side, Daniel nibbled at the Eiran food. That he was eating was a good sign; that he wasn't eating with his usual appetite wasn't. Daniel ate a third of the food before pushing it aside and rolling onto his back again.
Jack took the uneaten pastry and finished it off before lying down next to Daniel, the dying campfire popping occasionally as Jack lay there listening to the sounds around him, waiting for sleep to come.
- - - - - -
Jack pulled his attention from Carter, who was handing her weapons over to an airman while holding onto Daniel's arm, and looked at Hammond. "General?"
"Do we have any chance of attaining a treaty with the people of P7U 339?"
"Treaty? Oh, yes sir." Jack pulled out the folded sheet of parchment from his vest pocket. The one that Sennedjem, newly appointed leader of the Dwarves, had given to him shortly before they'd reached the Stargate. Now if only the Dwarves had come out of hiding *before* they'd had to trudge around the mountain�
He handed the parchment to Hammond as Carter and Daniel exited the Gateroom.
"Very good. There's been a lot of pressure from the Pentagon for more ore samples. This will hopefully keep them happy for a while."
"Ah, I'm glad, sir," Jack answered automatically as he handed over his own weapons to the airman.
"What did we agree to give them in return?"
"Agree? Oh, nothing yet, sir." Of course the prisoners' SG-1 had handed over to the Dwarves had been very welcome. Jack held back a shiver; he didn't think those four would survive for very long.
Hammond blinked at him in surprise as they slowly walked out of the Gateroom.
"Well, we caught the guys who killed their people and shot Daniel, so they were more than willing to give us what we'd asked for in the first place. I think we could, as a matter of good faith, go ahead and help them update their machinery. It would help clean up the land, and we owe it to the Elves."
"Elves, Colonel?" Hammond stopped by the stairs in the hallway leading up to the Control Room.
"Yeah. Pointy ears, slanted eyes, Peter Pan wannabe's? They helped Daniel, probably saved his life. I would think it's the least we can do."
"I think I'm almost afraid to read your report," Hammond answered with a smile. The general turned and headed up the stairs, dismissing him.
Jack hurried to the infirmary, anxious to hear what Fraiser had to say about Daniel's condition. By the time he got there, Daniel was lying in a bed, fatigues exchanged for scrubs. The nurse was finishing up with him, several vials of blood and one of urine on a tray beside her. She made a notation in his chart and nodded at Jack as he came to stand by the bed.
"Fraiser see you yet?"
"For a second. She said she'd be right back. I hope you'll back me up when I tell her I'm doing a lot better."
Jack heard the rapid telltale sounds of Fraiser's heels and gave Daniel a quick smile. "I think they're ready for me now," he said, glancing towards Doctor Warner who was busy examining Teal'c. "Good luck," he mouthed as Fraiser came up to Daniel's bed.
"Thanks a lot," Daniel muttered as Fraiser pulled the curtain closed with a loud snap.
- - - - - -
Jack shifted the bag from one arm to the other, ignoring the heat of the takeout food inside and rang the doorbell one more time. He heard the chimes echo inside and started to worry until the doorknob finally turned and the door opened.
Daniel stood before him, hair mussed, wrinkled cotton shirt pulled half in and half out of his pants, blinking the sleep out of his eyes.
"Oh, sorry, did I wake you?" It was more than obvious that he had, but Daniel merely stepped aside to let Jack in without a word.
There was a blanket spread half on the couch and half on the floor, evidence of where Daniel had been sleeping. Jack went through the living room towards the kitchen and stopped when he caught sight of the several large volumes Daniel had stacked on the coffee table.
"Fantasy? You reading up on the origins of Dwarves and Elves?" Jack pushed each one aside and glimpsed at the titles. "Myths and Fairytales?"
Daniel smiled sheepishly at Jack. "I thought it might be interesting to see if I could find where in history they turn up."
"Were the folks back on '339 interested in finding their home world?"
"Actually, the Dwarves know where it is. Honsuef told me they've gone back but admitted they didn't like the place. Said it felt... heavy and uncomfortable... to live there."
"Ah, the gravity thing."
Jack continued on into the kitchen, where he placed the bag onto the table.
Daniel yawned loudly as he followed behind Jack. "The Elves, though, don't know where they're from. At least Honsuef didn't think they knew." He stopped by the door and leaned against it. "So, is there something I can do for you?"
"I didn't mean to intrude. I just thought you might appreciate something hot to eat."
"I *can* cook my own meals, you know."
Jack turned and gave a pointed look at Daniel's right arm, still encased in a sling. "How about something you didn't have to cook yourself. Maybe something more nourishing than popping bread into a toaster?"
Daniel looked away, then raised his hand to cover another yawn as Jack began pulling out the Chinese food containers from the brown paper bag.
"I did eat, you know. Sam came over and brought me something for breakfast."
Jack paused as he opened a container of beef and broccoli. "Breakfast? Daniel, do you have any idea what time it is?"
His friend made a face and then looked at the clock on the microwave. "That can't be right," he finally said. He grabbed Jack's arm, twisting it so he could get a look at his watch. "I didn't sleep the whole day..."
Jack gently extricated his arm from Daniel's grip and continued pulling containers from the bag. As Daniel stood there, dumbfounded, Jack took out a couple of plates and put them on the table. "Look, Fraiser told you you'd be tired for a while. You more than obviously needed the rest."
"But Jack, Sam came over just after seven and it's�"
"Nearly nineteen hundred hours. I know. And now eat your supper so I can go home satisfied that you're resting and had something nutritious to eat."
Daniel bit back another yawn and sat. He stared at the food Jack had dished out onto his plate, then picked up a fork and took a bite of food. Jack did the same, watching with a smug smile as Daniel realized how hungry he was and wolfed down the rest.
"So, you find anything of interest in those books?"
Daniel stopped eating, then smiled sheepishly. "Not yet. I sort of fell asleep before I could do much research."
"Ah." Jack helped himself to more rice. "You know, maybe this would help." He fished into his shirt pocket and removed the flash disk and slid it across the table to Daniel."
"What's this?" Daniel eyed the small rectangular piece of technology.
"Carter and Teal'c thought you probably were going to look up the mythology thing so we went ahead and did a bit of research. Articles, websites, a few things to get you started�" Jack stopped when he saw the look of surprise on Daniel's face. "Well, you know, to save you from using that arm on the computer for a day or two." Jack pointed his fork at the sling.
"Thanks." Daniel ducked his head in embarrassment. "And for the supper, also. I appreciate the trouble you've gone to for me."
"Hey, it's no trouble. We did warn you we'd check up on you until Fraiser gave the go ahead for you to go back to work."
"Yeah, until traces of the poison are gone from my system. And until then, I'll be tired and probably sleep a lot." Daniel put his fork down and burped loudly.
"I brought some movies, if you're interested." Jack stood and began clearing the table. "If you think you can stay awake, that is."
"Nah. Not those. Peter Pan, actually."
"Peter... I didn't mean... Jack�"
"What, don't you want to research those Elves?"
"But, Peter Pan? Isn't that a little... childish?"
Jack put on an innocent expression. "Childish? Pish tosh, Daniel. One can never be too old for Peter Pan."
"I guess it could have been worse," Daniel said as he pushed away from the table. "It could have been one of those Santa Claus movies complete with elves."
"Hey, how'd ya guess that was the other movie I brought?"
"You didn't." Daniel stopped and leaned against the table, smiling at Jack and looking at him over his glasses. "Just do me a favour?"
He grinned. "Never grow up, Jack."
Author's Comments: This is for my Heartsisters, as a simple thank you for all the encouragement you've given me over time. And a huge, sappy hug for devra, who lent her keen eagle-eye to this fic.
Note: I began writing this story while reading ELG's novels (Elorin Leighton Grey's "The Charndras") and couldn't help but wonder if the fantasy world had ever met Stargate. I have to thank ELG for at the least inspiring me to add some of the elements of fantasy into the story instead of the usual transplanted *humans*.
Her books are full of rich characters and intertwining plots, so if you like fantasy, magic, elves and dwarves, then give her novels a chance. She has two of them out and hopefully more to come soon.
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DISCLAIMER:The characters mentioned in this story are the property of Showtime and Gekko Film Corp. The Stargate, SG-I, the Goa'uld and all other characters who have appeared in the series STARGATE SG-1 together with the names, titles and backstory are the sole copyright property of MGM-UA Worldwide Television, Gekko Film Corp, Glassner/Wright Double Secret Productions and Stargate SG-I Prod. Ltd. Partnership. This fanfic is not intended as an infringement upon those rights and solely meant for entertainment. All other characters, the story idea and the story itself are the sole property of the author.