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TITLE: The Battle Royal
STATUS: Complete
AUTHOR: Tiv'ester
CATEGORY: "Gateway to Eternity" zine fic which is at http://ashtonpress.net. This "little" fic is over a year old now! We're so proud!
RATING: PG
PAIRING: Guest characters
E-MAIL:  tivester@lycos.com
SPOILERS: Quite a few.
SUMMARY:: Daniel returns to Abydos to find danger lurking around every corner. Political uprisings, uneasy alliances and an enemy from the past are only the beginning of the troubles he faces as he, Kasuf, Skaara, Hammond and all of SG-1 fight to survive.
AUTHOR'S NOTES:
1. This started out as a humongous plot bunny which I chopped in half. One half became the Battle Royal, the other is slowly turning into that post-FIAD Daniel/Sha'uri story. Needless to say, both are monster sized fics. 
2. Big thanks to all the people who helped me with this one.  Lems is the best beta in the world! Lex, Jmas, you guys rock! 
3. Pictures were found at Stargatefan.com and found on my hard drive (I found some pictures hidden in my temporary internet files).
4. This story was originally printed in the zine Gateway To Eternity which can be found at Ashtonpress.net.
WARNINGS: Violence, war, fighting…
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.

 

THE BATTLE ROYAL

**********

battle royal: [battle + royal, grand in scale.] noun
1. battle involving many combatants: especially a fight to the finish.

2. great conflict: a passionate conflict, especially one that unfolds in public

**********

 

Never again. Never, never, ever again.

Oh, even that hurt. The whispers were echoing through his skull. Loud? Very. Loud as thunder? No, it was much, much worse. Maybe thunder wasn't the best description to use in comparison? Louder than a sonic boom? No, that wasn't right either. A sonic boom wouldn't even place in the top ten. Louder than a heavy metal rock concert? That's better. His kids dragged him to one of those once. Once. It took three days for his hearing to get back to normal. That description was a little closer to how loud the whispers were screaming. Amidst the mental noise, George Hammond cautiously opened one eye, and then slammed it shut when he decided that he really didn't need bright lights battering into his corneas and hammering around his skull. The noise was bad enough. His head hurt far too much already to be abused by that kind of torture.

Okay, George. Get yourself together. Try it again.

He steeled himself against the pain he knew was waiting on the other side of his eyelids and tried again. Slowly opening up both eyes, he waited for them to adjust to the bright light. No, not a bright light...starlight streaming through a small window could hardly be called bright. Truthfully, it was so dark that he could barely see anything in the small room in which he had been deposited rather unceremoniously by all appearances. Maybe the room being so dark was a good thing after all. He felt sure that he appeared less than dignified. He was lying on a thin mat near the wall - a very thin mat by the feel of it. No pillow, not that his pounding head would have noticed the difference or cared even if he had. Feeling sick, oh yes, very sick. His stomach was doing somersaults in cadence to the pounding in his head. He only had himself to blame. Jack had warned him. Regardless, no matter what the cause, this was not a dignified way for a general to appear. In a fleeting, wispy moment of unrelated concern, he wondered where his boots were.

Oh.

They were on his feet.

Okay.

He still had his boots on like any good general should and...his jacket had been draped across him?...strange. At least he still had the trappings of his rank identifying who he was, but he felt like road kill -- even if he did have his boots and coat. Now this was definitely an all-new low. Pounding headache, queasy stomach, no clear idea of where he was, and he was worried about his boots? No matter how you looked at it, he felt in a way that was very unbecoming to a general, and he knew he looked it, too. At the moment, dignity should be the last concern on his list.

Where was he?

He thought about his situation...where exactly was he? He tried to remember...Abydos...trouble...fight...explosions...knives...poison...enemy at the gate...

Right. Now he remembered. They had walked right into trouble.

Turning his head, he noticed the other people in the small room in various stages of unconsciousness. Colonel O'Neill was lying on the floor by a high pallet on the other side of the room, snoring quietly. Major Carter was sitting at a small table, her head lying comfortably on her crossed arms. Teal'c was sitting next to the wall -- no, sitting and leaning against the wall for support in a state that George was positive wasn't kel-noreem. Doctor Jackson...

Where was Doctor Jackson?

He should have been on the pallet by Colonel O'Neill. He was too weak to move under his own power. In fact, he was too weak to do much of anything without assistance. O'Neill hadn't left Jackson's side for hours, not during the fever, not during the hallucinations...

Hammond wasn't able to rise from the floor. His head was pounding in excruciating pain. He couldn't move any further so he had no way of knowing if Doctor Jackson was in the room with them. Low sounds from outside the small room started echoing inside Hammond's head. In a vain attempt to keep his head from exploding, Hammond clamped his hands over his ears to block out the noise.

Clenching his eyes shut again, he thought to himself, 'How did we ever get into this mess?'

**********

A Few Days Earlier

"Incoming traveler," Sergeant Davis called out over the klaxon alert. He waited a moment, read the identification signature of the incoming signal and happily announced, "It's the Abydonians, sir." That pronouncement brought smiles to more than a few faces. Even if the visitor brought bad news, every member of the SGC could see how happy Daniel Jackson was to greet someone from his adopted home, especially if the visitor was a member of his family. His eagerness was contagious. The rest of SG-1 would become equally enthused, a rare occurrence in itself and one that was a welcome change to the normal routine.

Hammond himself had given Kasuf, Daniel's father-in-law, a GDO in case of emergency. The Abydonians had suffered a great deal at the hands of the Goa'uld, and the general had sworn to himself that he would always help them, no matter what the personal cost. Had he not tricked Colonel O'Neill into sending a tissue box through the small gap in the Abydonian Stargate's barricade, the Abydonians might have lived in peace for many years before any Goa'uld returned to their planet. Instead, that little trick paved an unfettered path for Apophis to go to Abydos and kidnap Kasuf's son and daughter. That had led to three years of Daniel and Kasuf watching and waiting, praying for the day that their family would be reunited.

Hammond had watched and waited silently with them, feeling the guilt that can only be felt by a commanding officer whose orders brought about disaster. His hopes for that one day were always in his mind when he watched SG-1 go through the Stargate that maybe, on that mission, Daniel Jackson would find his wife or his brother-in-law. The House of Kasuf would be together again.

Events never happen exactly the way people hope.

During the past two years, more times than not, receiving that particular signal had meant trouble, but there were those rare occasions when Kasuf would come to Earth just to visit his good son. He was determined to keep what was left of his family close despite the fact that one member was a universe away. Kasuf had confided in Hammond once that he knew what family meant to Daniel since he didn't have one of his own. The only father he knew was on Abydos, the only brother he had was there as well. Aunts, uncles, grandparents, all members of a family that had welcomed Daniel as a long lost son. Kasuf was determined to keep close ties on his wayward son, even if he had to ask the general to let Daniel return home occasionally. Hammond never had to twist Daniel's arm to go to Abydos, and he would always return with new stories that entertained everyone that listened. In return, Hammond had insisted that Kasuf also visit Earth. The Abydonian Elder didn't drop by for social visits very often, but when he did, it was always pleasant.

When the visit wasn't social, then there was real trouble brewing.

It was time for a social visit, wasn't it?

"Open the iris," General Hammond ordered, "and send for Doctor Jackson and SG-1."

As the iris withdrew, General Hammond watched as a young man stepped through the wormhole, not Kasuf. Young, perhaps not even eighteen years old, but not childish in stance or bearing. According to Abydonian law, he would be considered an adult even at so tender an age, but despite his youth he seemed...sadder but wiser. He was exhibiting a much older attitude than anyone would expect from someone so young. Although Hammond had never before laid eyes on the young man, he knew instantly it was Skaara, Daniel's brother-in-law. It had to be. Who else but a member of that family would walk into an unknown situation and gaze around a room in complete curiosity and not be alarmed at the myriad of guns pointing at him? Just like Daniel.

But he came alone? Where was Kasuf? The GDO was in the Elder's keeping, not his son's.

From the look on Skaara's face, George didn't think that this was a social call.

What kind of trouble was about to be placed at their doorstep?

**********

The briefing room hadn't been pleasantly noisy in quite some time -- pleasantly being the key word. It had been the designated site for cliche-mangling arguments, debriefings and treaty negotiations. It had been the war room used by the command staff. If the walls could talk, they would tell of verbal battles that far exceeded any incursion on the battlefield.

But not at that moment.

No, the room was the site for a much-welcome, very noisy family reunion.

For a long while, Daniel and Skaara conversed rapidly in Abydonian. Skaara had refused to tell Daniel the purpose of his visit until he told him all the news of the city. One would barely get a sentence finished before the other said something, the words falling down one on top of the other as the two talked. Teal'c explained to Hammond and the rest of SG-1 that the two were engaging in family gossip that was not meant for other's ears...or other's understanding. They were using a sub-language of Abydonian that Teal'c couldn't translate very well. He believed it was the language used by the people who lived in the mountains above Nagada, a rare form of ancient Egyptian used by the original inhabitants of Abydos that had adapted itself to the more rural customs and culture of the mountain people.

Obviously, some very interesting situations had been going on back on Abydos given the way the two brothers were laughing. No one dared interrupt them yet. Hearing Daniel laugh -- actually hearing him laugh -- a deep, true, belly-bouncing laugh -- was an almost non-existent event. Ever since his original return from Abydos, he smiled occasionally but rarely went further. For a while after Sha'uri died, even the smiles stopped. Hammond had seen very few things that could make Daniel as happy as he was at that moment when talking with Skaara about the goings-on of people near and dear to their hearts.

No one would spoil the moment.

No one except Daniel, of course.

"All right, Skaara," he said trying to catch his breath from laughing so hard, "you didn't come here just to tell me about Grandfather's latest antics or Grandmother's latest complaints about Grandfather or Uncle Halsekh griping about his sister-in-law moving in with his family. What's going on?"

"You believe I wouldn't come here just to tell you about our relatives?" Skaara tried to look hurt.

"Uh...no," Daniel told him. "Something's going on back home or you want something. You always get that shifty look in your eyes when you're trying to con me into doing something you know I won't want to do."

Skaara again feigned a hurt expression. "Conned?" The very non-Abydonian word flowed very well from Skaara's mouth. "Dan'yer, I've never conned you into doing anything," he argued half-heartedly, a wary grin creeping onto his face.

"You mean you've never succeeded," Daniel corrected him. "That never stopped you from trying. Remember the time you wanted me to help you talk Father into letting you go to the mountains by yourself?"

"I was of age. I was old enough to go across the desert alone."

"No. Even Kasuf isn't old enough to go across the desert alone. Besides, that's not the point."

Skaara almost laughed. "You think it was too dangerous? That I could not take care of myself? How many times did you cross alone or journey with Sha'uri? No one ever stopped you."

"That's because when we were going to the mountains, that's where we were going. We weren't taking any little side trips either. And when I was traveling alone, I wasn't meeting with certain trouble-making friends of mine and going off to Saqqara to make some mischief with a certain stonecutter's four daughters."

Skaara almost blushed. He felt sure that no one knew what he and his friends had been doing. Apparently, he and his friends hadn't been as careful as they thought. Seeing the smirking faces of the people around the table, he realized that they had all been guilty of similar antics in their youth.

Jack cleared his throat. "Four daughters, Skaara? I think we need to talk."

Daniel leaned over to his brother and said in a loud whisper, "Trust me, he doesn't want to talk. I think he wants to know how to get four women --"

"Daniel!" Jack sputtered in mock anger. "If you're suggesting...I'll have you know that...I don't need help in that area! I can get my own dates."

Skaara, in a loud whisper to his brother, said, "He's protesting too much. That can only mean one thing. Maybe I should give him advice?"

"It couldn't hurt. I don't think he's been on a date in...Sam? How long do you think it's been for him?"

Sam thought for a moment, counted on her fingers, and answered, "I don't believe I've ever known Colonel O'Neill to go on a date. He definitely needs some advice, Skaara."

"Perhaps O'Neill should record Skaara's advice rather than writing notes," Teal'c suggested. "He seems to misplace his memos quite frequently."

"That does it," Jack complained. "General, permission to hurt Daniel? He started this."

"Permission denied, Colonel," was Hammond's reply. "Doctor Jackson is only concerned about the welfare of your private life...or lack thereof. I believe he and Skaara mean well."

Great. Even Hammond was having fun at Jack's expense. He just sat back and scowled.

Quickly changing the subject and saving Jack from further embarrassment, Daniel asked, "So what is going on back home? Is Grandmother threatening to leave Grandfather again?"

At that question, Skaara saw the expectant, inquiring looks from his audience. In a rather unamused voice, he said, "No. No threats. Actually, I came to invite all of you to a wedding."

"A wedding?" Sam Carter asked. "Who's getting married?"

Skaara hesitated and then said, "Kasuf."

"Kasuf?" Jack sounded perplexed. Kasuf was still as devoted to his wife's memory as Daniel was to Sha'uri's despite the fact that Skaara's mother had been dead for over 10 years. Getting married? That didn't sound right.

Daniel sighed, then asked the obvious question. "Married? Okay, who's he supposed to marry and what's the political motivation behind it?"

Yep, leave it to Daniel to cut right to the chase when it came to Kasuf.

Skaara almost seemed reluctant to tell them. "Dan'yer, do you know the Chief Elder of Abu Simbel?"

"Yes. Personally. His name's Marenkeh. I met him a few times when the Council had to attend meetings in other cities. I do remember that he didn't like us very much. Still doesn't. What does he have to do with Kasuf getting married again?"

"He said that lately he's starting to feel his age and he's a little worried about his family's rights to the succession of the Eldership." Skaara saw the disbelieving expression on his brother's face. "That's what he's told the Abu Simbelians, and that's what was also said to the Nagadans. The truth is that he's not as politically powerful as he used to be, and he can't hide that fact anymore. He's been having some troubles with some of the leading Houses within Abu Simbel. One rival house in particular has been trying to gain control of the city by formally challenging Marenkeh's Right of Eldership. So far, Marenkeh has been able to stop that from happening, but he doesn't know how long he can stand against them. If the Simbelian Council determines that Marenkeh can no longer govern as Chief Elder successfully, then he will lose all support he has with the Council members. He doesn't believe and neither does the Simbelian Council that any of his successors are capable of handling the responsibilities of the position or holding off the rival house and maintaining their status within the community, so he secretly asked the Simbelian Council for permission to secure Kasuf as his successor. Since the rival house has a member on the Council and a legitimate claim to the succession which Kasuf doesn't, they have issued a public challenge against the decision. Marenkeh has been forced to make a request." Skaara got very antsy about this. "Instead of announcing that he'd like the Eldership to be passed to the Elder of another city, he has been forced to ask that a male member of the House of Kasuf be married to one of his daughters in order to secure the Eldership according to the laws of succession." When Skaara saw Daniel's shocked look, he added, "We seem to have a reputation of being good leaders."

Daniel really didn't like the sound of that. He wasn't exactly for arranged marriages either, but it was the custom on his adopted home world. "And what did Kasuf say?"

"Father said that it is too soon since Sha'uri died to ask you, and far too soon since I was freed from my demon to ask me. Since there are only the three of us in the House of Kasuf, he had to volunteer himself."

"What?" Daniel exclaimed. "That's it? He's considering an alliance between our two Houses based on the request of a Chief Elder he doesn't really like in the first place because that Elder can't take care of the affairs of his own city and is about to lose his position?" Daniel shook his head. This was unbelievable. He knew Abydonian politics better than that. He knew Kasuf better than that. "What else is going on, Skaara? I know Kasuf. He hasn't even thought about marriage since your mother died. Marenkeh's request wouldn't make a great difference to him unless something else has happened."

"Kasuf is facing the same challenge as Marenkeh," Skaara explained further. "Hafas, the head of the House that is next in succession to the Eldership, is claiming that Kasuf has not publicly accepted patriarchal responsibility. By right, he may challenge Kasuf's Eldership."

Daniel's face paled considerably, so much so that even Teal'c was worried.

"Daniel Jackson?" the Jaffa's voice sounded.

"Damn it!" Daniel slapped his fist on the table. "None of that was Kasuf's fault! It wasn't ours either! The Council couldn't agree -- "

"The Council has already decided that Hafas' claim is in accordance with the law. And the law states --"

"That the head of a House is obligated to accept the accolades for successes or endure the punishments for crimes committed by members of the House," Daniel finished for him. "Hafas is going to ask the Council to punish Kasuf, aren't they?"

"Yes," Skaara admitted. "There is only one thing we can do about that..."

Before Daniel could ask about what came after that, Jack interrupted. "Whoa. Hold it. Could you two please slow down and explain what the hell you're talking about? In the fewest possible sentences. Please?"

"The fewest?" Daniel asked.

"Less is more," Jack answered.

"Marenkeh, the Elder of Abu Simbel, and Kasuf, the Elder of Nagada, are both being challenged for the Eldership of their cities. Marenkeh knows that none of his heirs are capable of ruling a city and so does the rival House challenging him, so he's having to look to Kasuf for help. The House challenging him in Abu Simbel isn't going to let Marenkeh just hand over the Eldership to Kasuf."

"And Hafas, the head of the House that is next in line of succession to the Nagadan Eldership after us, is trying to challenge Kasuf. His problem is that he can't challenge him personally because Kasuf is a formidable, capable leader with strong support. Hafas is attacking him legally. This means that he can invoke the law of patriarchal responsibility. Skaara and I have acted, or in some cases not acted, in certain ways that aren't exactly in accordance with the laws. Since Kasuf is head of our House, he is held responsible for our actions. That can be bad. Kasuf could be executed. The worst thing that could happen to us would be that we'd be banished, but Skaara and I can deal with that. We can force the Council to apply the indiscretions to us and not Kasuf due to extenuating circumstances. His Eldership is pretty solid even if Marenkeh's isn't. Hafas won't be able to take it from him legally without a big fight. But," Daniel turned back to Skaara, "I want to know what's so important that would make Kasuf agree to marry one of Marenkeh's daughters? Kasuf has never had to be concerned about the governments of other cities. What's the real problem?"

The moment of truth -- the moment Skaara had wanted to postpone as long as possible. His brother wasn't going to like the news. "It's the Tah'tutiu," Skaara said quietly. "They're back."

"What?" Daniel asked stunned. No, not them.

Seeing the almost scared expression on Daniel's face, Jack asked, "Who are they?" Anything that could bother Daniel like that had to be bad.

Daniel answered. "Nomads. They're the descendents of criminals that were exiled from the cities about two hundred and fifty years ago. The crimes they committed were bad enough that the Councils of all the surrounding cities decreed that the punishment had to be just as bad. One of the worst punishments that can be given is to have your children pay for your crimes, so the Councils ordered that they be exiled to the 10th generation. They became nomadic. At first, they survived by preying on caravans and stealing their food, water, animals and possessions. Eventually, most settled in the far reaches of the desert, but some continued to steal and kill. There are a lot of stories of attacks and killings, most of them used to scare children when they're bad, but when Kasuf was a boy, the Tah'tutiu started raiding small outpost communities that were too far away from the cities to be protected by the local militias. Finally, one of the elders of Dendera set a trap using the city's militia, beat the Tah'tutiu back into the desert, but there were a lot of casualties on both sides. For a long time after that, the only stories heard about them were that they kept attacking caravans but only at night. It wasn't until after Ra was killed that anyone considered them a real threat anymore. Most people knew that it was only a matter of time before they came back."

Hesitantly, almost sheepishly, Skaara said, "The Tah'tutiu have become bolder these last few years. After Ra was killed, they began attacking caravans and travelers openly. Then they destroyed some of the smaller outposts near the city of Saqqara. A few days ago, they attacked Saqqara itself. The city walls were damaged in the onslaught, then breached. Many of the Saqqarans were killed. The Tah'tutiu took many prisoners and control of the city. They placed one of their own leaders as Chief Elder of Saqqara. Their army grows with soldiers forced to fight under threat to their families. Soon they will be large enough to attack Abu Simbel. Dan'yer, you have seen the city. It is well fortified and well guarded. It may not be as large as Nagada..."

"But large enough that any attacking army would think twice before doing it," Daniel finished. "Unless they've got the numbers and resources to maintain a long term siege...and enough siege engines to destroy the walls."

"Yes. And Abu Simbel is very close to Saqqara. It will be attacked soon. So with a rival house seeking power inside Abu Simbel and the Tah'tutiu ready to attack outside the city and claim control..."

Daniel thought fast. "Marenkeh is thinking that by allying Abu Simbel with a politically powerful House like ours, he would consolidate his own power by stopping any rival house from usurping his authority and splitting the military factions inside the city. That is, if our reputation is anything like it once was, and no one really wants to challenge our House. And if the ruling family from Abu Simbel and the ruling family from Nagada were linked, one city's army would be obligated to come to the aid of the other in a time of crisis. And if the two cities worked together, the chances of anyone in the Tah'tutiu defeating the defenses of both cities would be pretty thin."

Skaara was still amazed at the speed at which his brother's mind worked even if he had learned to expect it. That was what made his brother such an important member of the Nagadan government - and a leader of the militia.

"Do we know who's in charge of the Tah'tutiu now?" Daniel asked his little brother. He really didn't want to hear this part...

"The old leader, Dierkan, was found dead not long ago. We've discovered that the one who took over is an old friend of yours," Skaara said sarcastically. "Men'thu."

Daniel just shook his head. He had been right. He hadn't wanted to hear that part. "I'm better friends with Apophis that I am with Men'thu. Actually, I'd trust Apophis more."

Skaara grinned at his brother's comparison. "If the Tah'tutiu attack Abu Simbel before the wedding takes place, Nagada will not be under any obligation to help them. Men'thu will be able to claim the Eldership. His next priority will be to attack Nagada and kill us to stop any resistance, but he'll have something special in mind for you. He doesn't like you very much."

"Ya think?" Daniel asked with Jack's age-old expression.

"Daniel?" Jack asked exasperated. These two weren't explaining anything to the peanut gallery. "Exactly what were you doing on Abydos for that year? Apparently more than digging up old map rooms and teaching the boys how to make moonshine."

"It wasn't anything much," Daniel explained. "Kasuf's younger brother Halsehk is a traveling merchant. One of the times I went with him and his caravan to one of the outposts near Saqqara, Men'thu and a small group attacked us and tried to steal the caravan. Obviously, he wasn't successful."

Jack's eyebrows went up a few notches. "Oh?"

Daniel just shrugged his shoulders. "Uh, well, you know I like to collect swords?" he asked. Upon seeing Jack's nod, he quickly rambled out, "I don't just collect those swords. I know how to use them." He'd let Jack infer what he would. "When I was on Abydos, I tried forging one. It was rather crude, but it would work. It did that day. I beat Men'thu. He's got a grudge."

"We're in trouble," Skaara told Jack plainly.

"You mean Father's in trouble," Daniel corrected him, changing the subject back to the one that had him concerned. "I mean, it's an arranged marriage..."

"Yes. Politically speaking, it is a good union. But for father..."

"He's still in love with your mother," Daniel commented, knowing well the pain of loving someone who was no longer there. "So he's willing to be the volunteer in an arranged political marriage. This also means that if he goes through with it and accepts the succession, then you and I would be the heir designates of the Eldership of Abu Simbel and Nagada. Marenkeh's family couldn't contest his decision and would be relegated to the secondary heir positions unless one of us father children."

"Yes, Dan'yer. We would have a great deal more influence than we have now." Oddly enough, Skaara hadn't thought about the inheritance. And Dan'yer -- he had never sought power but knew how to wield it effectively when necessary.

"So," Daniel continued, "this begs the question, which one of Marenkeh's eight daughters is Kasuf supposed to marry?"

Now they had come to the point that worried Skaara the most. "I don't know. Given what happened between father and Marenkeh before and given the fact that they truly don't like each other..."

"Excuse me," Jack held up a hand to forestall any further conversation, "but do I hear another story here?"

Story time again. Well, maybe a short story... Daniel answered him. "Before Kasuf married Skaara's mother, he and Marenkeh's oldest daughter, Vadiahan, were...close."

"Close?" Jack asked. "As in...close?"

"As in planning to be married until Marenkeh arranged a more profitable match for her. The Chief Elder's position is like royal succession. It's usually passed from father to eldest son or eldest son-in-law if there is no son. At the time, Kasuf was sixth in line for the Chief Elder's position. Marenkeh thought he'd never be an important political ally, so he wouldn't let them marry. Instead, he chose the eldest son of the Chief Elder of Dendera, a city west of Abu Simbel. For Marenkeh to be desperate enough to now ask Kasuf for a marriage between the two Houses..."

"Marenkeh's eating crow?" Jack asked.

"Feathers and all," Daniel answered.

Jack thought this over for a moment...oh, there might be one little fact worrying the two brothers..."So how old are Marenkeh's daughters?"

Skaara didn't hesitate. "His eldest, Vadiahan, is a little younger than Kasuf. His youngest is about 12 years old."

Oh.

Daniel could only smile at the thoughts he knew were going through Jack's head. "Marenkeh's been married five times. His last wife was about 35 years younger than him."

"And which daughter would Kasuf be marrying?" Jack asked.

Skaara shrugged his shoulders. "The most likely choice will be his fifth daughter since she is now the eldest unmarried daughter Marenkeh has. She and Sha'uri would be about the same age."

Jack leaned toward Daniel and whispered, "That's young."

Daniel leaned back and whispered, "That's politics. Once Kasuf is a member of the family, Marenkeh can legally grant him the succession regardless of who's next in line. He's trying to use a loophole called Succession Prerogative."

"Sounds complicated," Jack muttered.

"It can be," Daniel muttered back.

General Hammond sat back in his chair. "I'm sure everything will work out, gentlemen. Skaara, we would be proud to attend the wedding. When will it take place?"

"In five days. Once the agreement is made and the formalities completed, the marriage takes place very quickly."

"You can say that again," Daniel readily agreed. The arrangements had happened so fast between him and Sha'uri, he didn't even know he was married until a day later. "When do you need me to be on Abydos?" he asked his little brother.

"Uhm, the wedding's in five days but the wedding party from Abu Simbel will arrive earlier than that. We have to deal with Hafas' charges and the Council, we might be able to think of another way out for Kasuf if we go back early..." Skaara thought about his answer for a moment, then said, "How about now?"

**********

Abydos.

Daniel was home.

In a way, the desert was always home for him. The familiar warmth in the air, the rich aromas mixed with the unmistakable smell of the heated sand, the very nature of the desert itself warmed him in a way no other place could.

But Abydos...

This desert was a part of his own essence, his soul, his very being. It was him. The sands of Abydos, like the sands of Egypt, helped define who he was. There was an old adage about the desert always changing, always staying the same. Once, long ago, he'd heard that adage applied to him. He didn't remember who said it or when or where, but he'd always felt maybe they were right. No matter what happened in his life, he tried to remain true to who he was. One truth that he claimed eagerly was that he was Dan'yer, son of Kasuf. Abydos was his home, Nagada his city, the House of Kasuf his family. The thought that raiders were despoiling his home and power-hungry opportunists were threatening his family was insupportable. Unthinkable.

Once he and Skaara stepped through the Stargate, Daniel glanced longingly around the gate room. It was the same as he remembered -- every nook, every cranny. He had spent so many hours in the room studying the gate and the DHD. He knew, he knew, that the gate could open up the universe if he could just find the right key, the right combination of symbols. Maybe it was a good thing he never did. Given the disaster that befell them when he completely removed the barricade to let Jack come through, there was no way to know how devastated their lives would have been had he discovered the truth any earlier. The Goa'uld could have come sooner. The Abydonians would have easily been enslaved again, maybe even killed.

Not for the first time, Daniel wondered why he took the barricade down completely when he got Jack's "message." He had left a small opening in the barricade so Earth could send a letter through if they had to...whom was he kidding? He knew why he let the barricade down even though he had argued with the Council against it at the time. First of all, he wanted to share what he had learned with someone, even someone like Jack who wouldn't understand the scientific significance. The truth needed to be known. Secondly, he believed that Jack was in trouble. The fact that Daniel and the Abydonians were still alive and not small bits of radioactive dust left behind by a nuclear explosion had been discovered by the military Powers-That-Be, and Jack was in big trouble for concealing the truth. Daniel felt that he owed Jack, and if letting him come back to Abydos was his only way to help, then that was what he was going to do. Yet he argued against it. Some sixth sense had warned him against it, but he didn't know why. He had no proof, so he decided that obeying the Council's request and helping Jack was the lesser of two evils.

They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions...

More memories about the gate room kept coming back to him. There was a small room off to the right where he and Sha'uri would sleep when his research meant staying at the pyramid for longer than a day.

Sleep. Yes, they would sleep in there sometimes, but sleep wasn't the only interest being pursued in that small room.

So many happy memories taking place in the gate room, one too horrid to remember, all woven together in a tapestry that was his life. His life -- a life that was to have been lived out on Abydos with Sha'uri at his side where they could have grown old together watching their children and grandchildren laugh and live and love. They would have seen their sons grow up strong and tall, one day to be leaders in the community. They would have watched their daughters grow into beautiful young, intelligent, brave, strong-willed women -- just like their mother. That was how his life was to have been.

Home? Yes, although it wasn't the same for him, but no matter where he lived, Abydos was his home. He wasn't going to let Men'thu or Hafas add more bad memories to all the places that held good memories for him. Not without a fight.

**********

Kasuf sat alone in his tent contemplating his problems and his fate. He gingerly held a lock of his wife's hair in his hands. He had cut the lock himself before she was prepared for burial and had kept it hidden secretly in a small pouch he kept in his tent. Dark, thick, a veritable forest of tresses Kasuf loved to run his hands through. The memory still stirred him. He had loved her more than life, loved her so much that death couldn't change it. He missed her, missed her companionship, missed her teasing, missed loving her...

And now, he was faced with the reality of another marriage, this time a politically arranged one. That was a stark contrast from his first marriage which was not political or one of convenience. They had truly loved each other, and that love produced two fine, strong children. It was a good union, they were a strong family. Kasuf had never sought another wife. He had been comforted by the fact that he had loved and been loved by a rare woman. But now...

For the love of his family, he had personally agreed to the arrangement. Given the danger the Tah'tutiu presented, only a marriage between the two ruling houses could assure an alliance between the two cities. This type of alliance was not Kasuf's first choice, but it was the only option open to him at the moment. The burden of this duty fell to him. He couldn't volunteer Skaara. His youngest son was still recovering from Klorel's possession. He still suffered nightmares of the demon's cruelty. Skaara had spoken little of the terrors he experienced at the whim of the demon, and Kasuf didn't want to push him away by asking too many questions too soon. Dan'yer had urged Kasuf to give Skaara time to deal with his imprisonment and unexpected freedom. Skaara needed to readjust to Abydonian life. It would take time, but Kasuf was determined to take all the time necessary. He had his youngest son back, and for that, he was grateful.

And Dan'yer...he would not volunteer his good son. Dan'yer still grieved for Sha'uri. Whenever Dan'yer visited Abydos, his first destination would be Sha'uri's grave, then to their little house that Kasuf kept for Dan'yer so he'd know that he always had a home of his own on Abydos. He knew that his good son had never had a true place to belong before he came to Abydos. He'd been overwhelmed at the thought of having a place to live -- a place that he could call his. Even though Sha'uri was dead, at least the house where they lived was there, ready for Dan'yer to occupy it again. Yet...it was an empty remembrance of better times. Dan'yer didn't talk about Sha'uri much, but she was always there, in his thoughts, in his heart, in the unspoken words and haunted eyes tainted by loneliness. Half of Dan'yer's soul lay buried in a deep grave in the desert, the other half knowing that it would one day be laid to rest by the one that had gone on before. Everything else that happened in between was nothing more than dust and wind.

Kasuf understood that kind of grief. He had felt it for a long time. It was heart wrenching to see his good son walk through the same sorrow he had, but he knew that the heartache Dan'yer felt would be there for some time. Dan'yer couldn't be asked to make an arranged marriage. It was too soon. It was too cruel.

No, there was no other choice. Kasuf was the only one of his House that could accept the arrangement, but would it even come to that?

If Hafas were successful in Council, then Kasuf would no longer be Chief Elder. He wouldn't be locked into a political marriage. He would be found guilty of failing his responsibility and executed. Skaara and Dan'yer would be pariahs, outcasts, banished, perhaps worse.

That could not happen. This was his home. This was his sons' home.

What could Kasuf do?

He had to defeat Hafas legally before the Council. That, he was confident he could do, but how could Kasuf marry the daughter of a man he had no respect for? How could he betray his wife's memory by marrying a woman he didn't know, didn't love? How could he plunge his small family into such political intrigue knowing the hardships that had been inflicted on them over the last few years? Was he ready to have another family?

There were so many questions.

Providence gave him the answers.

"Father," Skaara called out as he and Daniel entered the tent. "We're here."

Yes, sometimes providence was kind.

Kasuf rose and embraced his sons happily. "Dan'yer," he said as he stepped back to look at his good son. "I am sorry that your homecoming is in the midst of trouble."

"Don't be," Daniel assured him. "You know we thrive on trouble."

"Yes, I am well aware of that," Kasuf almost joked. Oh, yes, his children could find trouble better than anyone else he had ever met. "I fear that this trouble will not be easily dealt with. If Hafas --"

"Good father," Daniel interrupted him, "the only thing we can do is take one problem at a time. Hafas' accusations are mine and Skaara's to deal with. He's using what's happened to us as a way to get to you. Besides, between the three of us, we know enough about the law to get around some of his allegations. We have to force the Council to agree to negate your responsibilities in these particular matters. If that doesn't work, we have to force them to level them at us. If we're found guilty of a breach of conduct, the worst they can do to us is banish us. They could execute you."

"Yet it is my duty to accept all responsibility of the behavior of those in my House."

"Traditionally, yes, but there's no way you can be held responsible for what happened." Daniel told him. "Even the Council didn't know about the Goa'uld. They only knew that Ra existed. If the ruling Council of the city itself couldn't foresee what was coming, how could one man? Even if you are the Chief Elder and the leader of our House, you're only human."

"They will not take that into consideration," Kasuf admitted.

"They'll have to," Daniel said quietly. "I failed in my duties to protect our House. Once Hafas' claim against you is negated, I intend to invoke my rights as eldest son. The charges can be leveled at me. And if that doesn't work or they decide against me, I'll call for the ancient laws to be used. I can request Punishment by Proxy."

"No!" Kasuf objected viciously. "I won't allow it!"

Skaara stepped between his father and his brother. "Father, that will be our last defense. If Dan'yer has to ask for Punishment by Proxy, then you can ask the Council to recognize the Familial Law." Skaara looked at his father...both sons watched their father as he considered this. "The Council will follow the law, even the old ones they may have forgotten existed."

Kasuf turned and walked back to his seat. The utter futility of arguing with his sons was a well-practiced game with them. Once his two boys put their minds on something, nothing could stop them. It was an established fact, one that Kasuf had learned through countless hours of enjoyable arguments with his children around him. How he missed those times.

"I do not wish this," he muttered.

Daniel sat down next to Kasuf, his hand on his father's shoulder. "I don't wish it either, but I will not let them execute you for crimes you're not guilty of. Skaara and I talked about this. It may be the only way."

"Hafas will have strong arguments against me. He is not a man to attempt things in half-measures."

"Neither are we," Skaara admitted as he joined them. "He believes he wants the Eldership. I don't think he knows everything you do. If he did..."

"If he did," Daniel continued, "he'd probably run as far and as fast as he could. You don't have the easiest job in the city."

"No, I don't," Kasuf agreed, a slight smile showing on his face. He was a lucky man to have such fine sons, luckier still to have the affection of the two young men sitting by him. The son of his blood, the son of his heart, both willing to risk all to help him. "Hafas will not be difficult to defeat in Council, I hope. The Tah'tutiu are another matter."

"Skaara told me that they attacked Saqqara recently." Daniel said, changing the subject.

"Yes," Kasuf agreed. He reached behind him and brought a flask of water and two cups. He silently scolded himself for not offering them water the moment they entered his tent. Where were his manners? As he poured them each a cup of water, he said, "The Tah'tutiu's main force hasn't advanced beyond the Saqqaran border yet. Their scouts have been spotted along the boundaries of Abu Simbel. They will attack that city soon. Nagada will be next. I fear that even the combined forces of both cities will not be adequate to defend us."

Daniel sipped his water slowly. Abydonian water always tasted better than Earth water to him. It had a rich flavor -- that sounded so odd. No one ever thought of water as being rich. No, it was the taste of water found only in the deep wells. Pure. Clean. And, Daniel would never admit this to anyone, Abydonian water made the best coffee. He had to keep some secrets to himself. He didn't want everyone from the SGC coming to Abydos just for the water. "Skaara said that Men'thu is leading the Tah'tutiu. Do you know if he's involved in the attacks or if he's commanding from the rear?"

Kasuf hesitated for a moment. "He leads them."

Daniel knew immediately when his father didn't wish to speak of something. "Father, what?"

"According to our information, he has fashioned himself a replacement arm," Kasuf told him. "He forged it from the debris of a death glider. It is described to be in the shape of an elongated hook with sharp edges. It is also said that he is seeking revenge on you, to take from you what you took from him."

Daniel sighed wearily. "I should have taken off his head instead of just his arm. I just wanted to drive him off, not kill him. It's my mistake."

"No, Dan'yer," Kasuf admonished his son sternly. "Compassion is never a mistake. You gave him a chance. He did not take heed of it."

Skaara patted Daniel's shoulder. "It was your knowledge of swords that saved you, Uncle Halsehk and the caravan that day. You know how to wield a long blade. That weapon was unknown here. His badik was no match. Men'thu did not have the skills."

Kasuf stood and walked over to a wrapped bundle and withdrew the item being discussed. "You have the knowledge of this weapon," he said as he unwrapped and admired the long sword. "You forged this sword from that knowledge. You taught Skaara and me how to hold and use one. I have kept this sword should need of it arise again. It is here should you need it."

It is here should you need it. What Kasuf wasn't saying was that the sword would be there for him when Men'thu came after him.

Daniel hoped it wouldn't come to that.

**********

General Hammond was determined to have every bit of paperwork finished by the time he left for Abydos. Every request signed, every report filed. He had rechecked the roster and rescheduled team assignments temporarily. He didn't want anyone off world while Major Ferretti was in temporary command of the base. He didn't want any surprises.

He'd only be gone a few days, but he knew as well as anyone how quickly conditions could change and surprises could pop up.

What surprised him most was his superiors' enthusiastic agreement for him to go to Abydos. Good politics, they said. Shared diplomacy. A way to cement the good relations between Earth and their first off-world contact. Of course, the fact that Abydos was a naquada rich planet and that the inhabitants were more than willing to share what was to them a useless chunk of rock had nothing to do with their quick acceptance of Hammond's request.

Right. And pigs could fly upside down wearing a tutu.

A knock at the door and Colonel O'Neill's head peeking inside got his attention away from the paperwork. Thankfully.

"Come in, Colonel," he waved Jack into the room. "I take it you've completed your paperwork before we go to Kasuf's wedding?"

"Well, sir, when Skaara said that the wedding was in five days, he was talking in Abydonian time. They have 36-hour days, so that's 180 hours total. Our idea of five days is 120 hours. So that gives me 60 extra hours to do my paperwork. I'm pacing myself." Jack's remark barely registered an outward response from the general, but inwardly, he was laughing. Loudly.

"Jack, we'll be leaving late tomorrow so we can be on Abydos early in the morning their time, just in case we can be of any help to Doctor Jackson and his family. The President himself thought that it would be a good will gesture on our part to volunteer our help. I'd appreciate all your work finished before then," Hammond suggested.

"Yes, sir," Jack agreed. "I've also taken the liberty of requisitioning some more ammunition and weapons for the Abydonian militia."

Hammond pulled the requisition from the top of the pile. "I was wanting to talk to you about that, Colonel. As we've been warned by more advanced cultures, most specifically the Tollans, should we be giving advanced technology to a less advanced culture?"

Jack thought about it, pondered the quandary, examined the questions from all sides, and answered, "Absolutely. Anybody that wants to fight the Goa'uld and has saved my butt at the expense of their own, they've got my vote."

"I agree," the general said as he signed the requisition.

"Did someone say something against supplying the Abydonians, sir?"

Hammond just smiled a little, and said, "Let's just say that certain parties have occasionally questioned our motivations behind helping them. Given that Doctor Jackson can claim Abydonian citizenship and can formally request assistance forestalls any objections any of our allies have. However, we have been warned of the dangers that can arise by giving too much assistance."

"The Tollans had something to say about it?" Jack wanted to know.

"They're concerned, Colonel, but that's not why I asked you to come to my office. I was wanting to discuss something with you. And it's off the record, Jack. Nothing you say will go outside this office."

"Yes, sir?"

"The President posed this question to me, and I didn't really have an answer for him. I was hoping you might."

"What is it, sir?"

"Doctor Jackson's loyalty to Earth and to the SGC can't be questioned. I understand his loyalty to Kasuf and the people of Abydos is just as strong. His loyalty to family is one of the reasons he's there now. Given the threat the Tah'tutiu present to the Nagadans, what would Doctor Jackson's actions be should, God forbid, something happen to Kasuf?"

"You mean what would he have to do or what would he do?" Jack asked.

"Both."

"From what I understand, Abydonian law states that the eldest son would inherit the Eldership. If he couldn't, a younger son fills the role. After that, you look to the other male members of the family like grandsons, brothers and nephews to take over. If the person next in line can't handle the job at that particular time, a regent would be appointed until he could. If none of the family can be the Elder, a new one from another House could be appointed or voted in. Until that time, the most eligible Council member would perform the duties of the office. The vote's taken at the changing of the seasons. That's called the Yohadah. At least, that's what Skaara told me."

"Are you worried, Jack?" Hammond asked his second in command.

"Not really, sir," Jack said truthfully. "I expect Daniel to do what he has to do. Besides, we're talking family, and that means a little more to Daniel than it does to anyone else I know. Since he didn't have one for so long, he really appreciates what he has. But...I don't think there's any danger of losing him. Kasuf's healthy, and unless a pyramid falls on him, he ought to live a good long time. Besides, we need Daniel too badly."

Right. Jack wasn't worried. And he hadn't been asking Skaara questions just to make polite conversation either.

"Did Skaara tell you anything about this Men'thu?"

All military protocol left Jack. He scooted his chair up closer to the desk, leaned forward on his elbows and was almost grinning like the proverbial cat that ate the canary. "Men'thu's sometimes called the Samiu. The Devourer. He's been known to destroy anything he touches. This guy and Daniel had a few run-ins before Men'thu attacked that caravan. Some incidents of one-upmanship, I think. Men'thu always carried a badik. That's like a machete, about the same size. Skaara said that the Abydonians never had any need to experiment with long blades. Besides, Ra wouldn't let them. Anyway, Daniel's traveling with their Uncle Halsehk when Men'thu and his bunch attack them. He's trying to kill the people on the caravan by chopping them to bits, but Daniel had been experimenting with some of the metals he had found on Abydos. He'd forged himself a sword, but it wasn't finished. He had taken it with him on the caravan trip to work on it. He and Men'thu got into it, and, sir, Daniel chopped the guy's arm off right below the elbow!"

"Our Daniel Jackson?" Hammond asked stunned.

"General, you've never had the chance to see Daniel at work on Abydos. He's not Daniel there. He's Dan'yer, son of Kasuf, member of the Council, general in the militia. In some ways, he's a completely different person. You'd hardly recognize him."

"I did hear some stories about him when we were there for Sha'uri's funeral, but I thought they were a bit exaggerated. I take it they were true?"

"Sir," Jack said in a low voice, "just between you, me and the fencepost, I wouldn't get in Daniel's way when it came to anything having to do with Abydos."

"Do you think he's in any danger there?"

Jack considered that question; he'd been considering it ever since Skaara had told them of the troubles afflicting Abydos recently. "Sir, Men'thu is leading an army that's big enough to sack entire cities, and he's the one that wants Daniel dead. If it had been anywhere else, we could have made Daniel stay here while we went and dealt with the bad guys. But it's Kasuf and Skaara and the Abydonians...sir, there was no way we could have stopped Daniel from going. He'd have found a way through that Stargate no matter what. Besides, I think he's a little more worried about Hafas. I don't know the whole story about that and Skaara wasn't talking. If we can help them deal with the Tah'tutiu, I think we should, but it's up to them to deal with Hafas. It's political."

"And Kasuf can't show any weakness in the political arena," Hammond concluded. Politics. He hated politics, and it seemed to exist everywhere! "I have a feeling that Hafas will be keeping them busy for a while. Perhaps while we're waiting, we can give the Nagadan militia some new pointers about offensive and defensive maneuvers."

"I'm sure they'd appreciate that, sir," Jack said smugly. "They seem to take any military advice seriously. You should have seen them when we beat Ra. They were pretty good for people who'd never fought before and only had a few minutes of instruction from me, Kawalski and Ferretti, but they could use the help."

"They could?" Hammond asked. Of course, they could. The militia was still learning how to act in an organized, professional military fashion. That didn't happen overnight, no matter how good the soldiers were to begin with. "Tell you what, Colonel, I think I'm going to add a few more munitions and staff weapons to your requisition. I'm sure we can conduct some training exercises while we're there."

"They're quick learners, sir."

"Of that, I have no doubt. Besides, if the Tah'tutiu attack while we're there, I'd like to be well-prepared for them."

"General?" Jack couldn't quite believe what he heard. Was the general planning to help finance a war?

"They're our allies, Colonel. And anyone who wishes to fight an enemy to save my people's lives at the expense of their own gets my vote."

Jack smiled. "I agree 100%, sir."

**********

Men'thu was not the type of person who strolled or meandered. He walked with a purpose. His every step was measured and exact, and his gait reflected his outlook on life and way of thinking. He was not given to frivolity or playfulness. He forced himself to follow a regimented lifestyle and expected the same from his followers.

He had seen first-hand how such exactitude and obedience could win wars. He had secretly been in Nagada when O'Neill and Dan'yer had destroyed Ra. He had watched O'Neill command his men. He saw those men follow O'Neill in the same manner the Jaffa had followed Ra, only these men weren't slaves. They were a well-trained army -- something the Abydonians were not. Ra had not allowed them to form any real type of defense or resistance group, nothing beyond the guards that watched the city gates and patrolled the streets to keep order.

Once Ra was gone, everything changed.

The new governments were founded in every city, the militias were formed, and the dissidents became very vocal. The Tah'tutiu were more active but in disarray. Men'thu saw his chance to seize power. By killing Dierkan and taking command of the Tah'tutiu, he had the ability to exact retribution from the townspeople for exiling them for ten generations, and exact it he would. Outpost by outpost, city by city, he would make the Abydonians rue the day they turned the Tah'tutiu out into the desert. Then, once he had the major cities under his control, he would call all those exiled from the far reaches of the desert, return them to the cities that had shunned their ancestors. They would rule over the Abydonians. It was their time for greatness.

The training of his army went quickly. Attacking the caravans kept his "army" in food, water and animals, but they were hardly more than minor skirmishes. The destruction of the outposts were mere maneuvers to train his men in precision and timing. Saqqara was a triumph. A minor one, but a triumph nonetheless. His men got a taste of real conquest instead of a fighting frenzy. When Saqqara fell, many of the leaders and defending militia were executed so any new rebellion would be difficult to organize. Men'thu then forced the Saqqarans to fight in his army. Most were untrained, but they learned quickly under threat of death to themselves and their families.

As Men'thu walked purposefully through the Saqqaran streets, he saw his soldiers everywhere, their individual ranks denoted by their attire. They were either controlling the populace or training them to fight. Soon, they would march to Abu Simbel. Once their ranks swelled with recruits and resources from that city, they would be able to attack Nagada. He needed Abu Simbel before he could take Nagada. There were only two paths that led to Nagada. One was through the desert, around the mountains. No amount of mastadges could haul enough water to sustain his entire army for the length of time it would take to traverse the distance. Only small groups carrying enough water and food would have any hope of surviving. He had too many warriors to attempt that journey. The other path was through a narrow mountain pass. The pass itself was wide enough for a herd of mastadges to travel in threes, but with the size of the army Men'thu would need to take Nagada, it would take several days for them all to come through the pass. He had to make sure that no help from Abu Simbel would be attacking from the rear when they attacked Nagada.

A simple plan, but its execution had to be flawless.

"Men'thu!"

The Tah'tutiu leader turned at the sound of his name. His second, Dharef, came running up to him, his breaths coming in short gasps.

"What is it, Dharef?"

Dharef calmed his breathing before saying, "Our scouts have just sent word that Dan'yer may be returning to Nagada. Skaara was seen traveling to the pyramid, and Dan'yer is the only person he is known to contact. Also, Marenkeh has offered one of his daughters to Kasuf's House for marriage as a means of forming an alliance between the two cities."

"To Dan'yer?" Men'thu asked quickly.

"The scout didn't have that information yet. As soon as he does --"

"As soon as he does is not quick enough," Men'thu said to himself aloud. He thought for a moment. There had to be a way to stop the union. "Has the Simbelian wedding party already left for Nagada?"

"We're not certain. I sent a team toward Abu Simbel as soon as the scout reported. If the marriage party hasn't left, they won't be allowed to leave the city. If they have, the team will track them down and keep them from ever reaching Nagada. It may be a while before we hear anything."

Dharef waited for Men'thu to approve or disapprove of his actions. Luckily, he disapproved rarely.

"Very good," Men'thu nodded. He knew that Dharef was one of the few people he could trust implicitly. They both wanted the same thing. Knowing that, Men'thu realized that the day might come where he would have to eliminate Dharef or see his own power and position challenged. But for now, Dharef served a useful purpose.

He motioned Dharef to walk with him. They barely acknowledged the people they passed by, they just spoke quietly between themselves.

"Dan'yer will be returning? Are you certain?" Men'thu asked. The Tau'ri was a secondary concern to him, but he was a concern that had to be dealt with. Personally.

"With the information about Skaara going to the pyramid and marriage, I would say yes," Dharef answered quietly. "I've given orders that he is to be left alone. I assumed you wished to deal with him yourself."

Men'thu glanced down at the metal appendage that now replaced the lower half of his arm. It was his daily reminder of the hatred he felt for Abydos' rescuer. For a moment, his thoughts flashed back to the moment he had lost that part of his arm. A caravan...an attack...his badik swinging toward one of the travelers...the traveler using a long badik as a defense...the traveler's long badik cutting through his arm...

It was not a memory he would allow himself to forget.

"I will kill Dan'yer, and I will have his head on a pike for all to see."

"It will be a great trophy for you," Dharef commented absently. He alone knew the hatred Men'thu harbored for the man.

Men'thu nodded. "Yes, and it is a trophy I will display for the Nagadans. Their belief in the power of the Tau'ri will be shown to be the lie that it is."

**********

Dan'yer, son of Kasuf, had returned to Abydos.

Once word had reached the Council that Dan'yer had arrived, they convened quickly. Ammar, the chosen speaker of the Council, sent Nabeh to bring Kasuf before them in the Council Chamber. Knowing the family as well as he did, Ammar had no doubt that Hafas was not going to be successful in his plan to take over the Eldership. True, he had followed the law, but Ammar knew that Hafas had not considered Dan'yer's ingenuity. After all, who would know the law better -- the Council or the man that had found the original texts carved in the walls of the buried caves and translated every one of them? Dan'yer would not allow Hafas to take the Eldership from Kasuf, but Ammar had no idea what Dan'yer was planning to do.

Ra's temple had been designated the new Council Chambers once the festivities for Ra's defeat were over with and the Abydonians began to settle down into the everyday, mundane, wonderful life they had to forge for themselves without the specter of a demon clouding their days. With Ra gone, the Council was no longer just a governing body in name only, used by the Goa'uld to help maintain order. They were the effective rulers of Nagada, and they took their new responsibilities seriously. New laws had to be agreed upon, old ones to be considered or thrown out. They had asked Daniel about the workings of the governments and law-making procedures on Earth. Some of the descriptions that Daniel spoke of were adopted by the Abydonians, some of the laws eagerly accepted -- all of them argued over and discussed until a new set of laws were in place. The first few weeks were rather noisy indeed. Once the new government had started working, actually working, every disagreement from property disputes to grand theft mastadge was heard in the temple.

Now, they were about to hear the complaint that Kasuf had failed in his duties as Chief Elder and patriarch of his House, one of the most serious crimes that could be committed. Hafas would level his complaints against Kasuf, and then...

What would happen would happen.

Ammar heard a loud commotion outside the temple. He knew that sound well. The children were clambering around Dan'yer, yelling their greetings in their eagerness to see him. He could hear pleas for stories, each child telling him what new thing they'd learned at school. Just like old times. The noise reached a fevered pitch, then the sounds of adults quieting the children and shooing them away could be heard.

Ammar sat in his designated seat and waited patiently.

Daniel entered behind Kasuf and gazed at the hall. Someone had been redecorating. Every reference to Ra was gone, even the pictoglyphs and carvings were chiseled away. Instead, the point of origin for Abydos was proudly displayed on the walls with the symbol for Earth alongside. Drawings of Ra's defeat and their alliance with Earth were shown in vivid colors. Daniel even saw a drawing of him and Jack standing before the pyramid. Well, he assumed it was the two of them. The drawing wasn't true-to-life.

Seats were scattered around the chamber. It only took a moment for Daniel to realize that the seats were for spectators. Allowing people to watch the Council at work had been a goal Daniel had argued for, and it seemed that someone took his opinion seriously. The people could watch the Council reach its decisions. As the last few years had progressed, some of the ideals of a democracy had begun to filter into the every day lives of the Nagadans. It was slowly changing, but the Council no longer held the firm grip on the people as they once had. In some concerns, each person had a vote.

Daniel smiled a bit as he remembered the old saying, the more things change, the more they stay the same. It didn't seem to matter what form of government was in power. Political jockeying for position was everywhere. Hafas had always wanted power, had always envied Kasuf's position in the community, but to level an outright challenge against Kasuf in this manner...Daniel still couldn't believe it. How could events have led to this? Why would Hafas want control now? The Tah'tutiu were readying for an attack. Even Kasuf didn't want to undertake the task of fighting them, and he didn't let anything frighten him.

Maybe Hafas didn't know just how much trouble they were in.

Regardless, Hafas couldn't succeed. When this Council hearing was over, Kasuf had to still be the Chief Elder or Nagada would be lost. Hafas wasn't capable of fulfilling the responsibilities inherent in the Chief Elder's position nor did he didn't have the experience or ability to lead a defense against the Tah'tutiu.

It was a pivotal moment in time that would determine the fate of Nagada and, ultimately, Abydos.

Daniel finally looked at the others in the room. Ordinarily, the Council of Elders consisted of six individuals: the patriarchs of the five senior Houses and Kasuf presiding as Chief Elder. All five Houses were represented; each seat along the far wall of the chamber was occupied. Daniel saw a few friendly faces. Hafas, temporarily relinquishing his seat on the Council to his eldest son in order to present his claim of Kasuf's negligence, stood on one side. Kasuf, Skaara and Daniel stood opposite Hafas.

The drama was about to begin.

Ammar took his staff and banged it on the ground three times. In a loud voice, he said, "This Council has convened privately to hear the complaint now before us. Hafas, you have made claim that Kasuf has failed to uphold his duty as leader of his House. Repeat your claim before the Council of Nagada now."

Hafas stepped forward and faced the five assembled leaders. His posture belied a self-assurance that he felt as well. "I make the claim that Kasuf has not protected his family. He allowed the demons to kidnap his son and daughter and remove them through the Chappa'ai. He allowed his children to commit murderous deeds. He did not execute the man that killed his daughter. He has not punished his good son for allowing his daughter's murderer to remain free. He failed to protect his grandson. He allowed the demons to remove the boy from Abydos. He has not punished his good son for not returning the grandson. The facts are known to this Council. I ask for a judgment against Kasuf and his House."

The facts were well known indeed. A great deal of sorrow had haunted the family for many years. Who didn't know?

"Judgment is not to be given in haste," Ammar said authoritatively. "The conditions that brought about these events must be weighed against your claims. According to the law."

"The law is clear," Hafas reminded his colleagues. "The patriarch of a House must bear the burden of responsibility for all actions committed by the members of his House. Both Dan'yer and Skaara have failed to follow both law and custom. Kasuf must bear the punishment for not disciplining his sons."

Ammar heard the muted mumbling of the other Councilors. Hafas had great influence within the Council itself, but Kasuf had the support of the people. Everything Hafas had said was true, but...

"I ask permission to speak before the Council," Daniel calmly asked.

Ammar nodded his head toward Daniel. "You may speak, Dan'yer."

Daniel took a stance before the Council members. "Hafas has claimed that Kasuf has failed in his responsibility as patriarch of our House. I claim that the responsibility was not Kasuf's."

"He is the leader of your House, Dan'yer," Ammar pointed out. "How could the responsibility be removed from him?"

"I claim that the responsibility was never his," Daniel argued. "If it was never his, it cannot be removed." Argue with that logic, he thought to himself.

The Councilors murmured louder, but no one opposed his request. Only Ammar seemed to grin at Daniel. He knew exactly how clever Daniel was. "Dan'yer, you may speak your argument."

Daniel made sure that he had the full attention of each Council member, including Hafas. They had to understand that there was enough responsibility to go around. "Sha'uri and Skaara were taken by Apophis, a demon we never knew existed until that day. We didn't know to keep a defense against the Goa'uld. Because the danger was unknown, this Council ordered me to remove the barricade from the Chappa'ai once we received O'Neill's message. I argued against it at the time, asking that we keep the barricade intact and only send back a written response. Kasuf supported my decision. We knew that O'Neill wanted to return, and we knew that he wouldn't bring any danger with him. Yet, we wanted to be careful. We know now that the barricade was a minor defense from the demons, and had it not been removed, Apophis would not have been able to come that day. My wife and my brother would not have been taken, and all the subsequent actions that Hafas has claimed against my father would not have happened. That decision belonged to this Council, therefore the responsibility was not Kasuf's."

Hafas was livid. "You dare to blame us?" he sputtered.

Blame? "No, Hafas. The blame is not with the Council. There's no blame for any of us, only Apophis. The Council does hold the responsibility of ordering me to remove the barricade. A great many things happened not only here but on Earth as well that allows the responsibility of their kidnapping to be shared."

The Councilors began arguing in earnest. Ammar held up a silencing hand. "You may continue, Dan'yer."

Seeing that Ammar was on his side gave Daniel a little more confidence. "Once Apophis had taken Sha'uri and Skaara, he placed demons within them. The demons committed the murders and terrorized the innocent. Sha'uri and Skaara were helpless to stop them. I tried to find them. I tried for three years. Every day. When I found Sha'uri, I couldn't save her. The demon inside her tried to kill me. In order to save my life, Teal'c, the Jaffa, was forced to kill the demon."

Hafas stepped forward. "In killing the demon, he also murdered Sha'uri. Do you deny that?"

"No, Hafas, I don't deny that," Daniel admitted. "I lost my wife that day. I would have gladly died if it meant that they could have rescued Sha'uri, but that wasn't what happened. After the funeral, Teal'c went to Kasuf and begged his forgiveness. He even offered his own life as restitution for taking Sha'uri's. I --" Daniel's voice cracked, his throat choked up. He closed his eyes for a moment to regain control. "Sha'uri begged me to forgive Teal'c. She knew she was going to die, and she knew that I'd need his help to find her son. Since Sha'uri could forgive him, could I do any less?"

Daniel's calm impassioned plea didn't fail to hit its mark. Each councilor seemed quite moved by the simple question asked by the still grieving husband.

"You say that Kasuf did not protect his grandson. I claim that he did. When the demon inside Sha'uri came for the boy, Kasuf sent for the Tau'ri. We stopped the demon, we stopped the Jaffa, but the boy had already been removed. I promised Sha'uri I would find him. It took some time, but I did. The only reason I didn't return him to Kasuf was because the being that was caring for him could protect him better than anyone else including Kasuf or myself. There was no choice. His safety was my first and only concern."

Hafas asked for permission to speak again, a request that was granted by the Council. "Would not the boy's safety be better protected here among his mother's people? Do we know the intentions of this creature Dan'yer left him with? Can this creature be proven to be of good will towards the boy? Since Dan'yer is not the child's father, how can he feel for the boy what a father would? I ask this of the Council."

"I may not have fathered him, Hafas, but you cannot say that I don't feel for him what any father would feel for his child. I was the first person to hold him when he was born. I heard his first cry. I hid him here in relative safety when I had to return to Earth. I found him with this being who not only rescued him from the demons, but also destroyed the demons trying to take him away and kill us at the same time. This creature, Oma Desala, cares for my stepson, just as I do." Daniel's voice carried the full emotion he was feeling. Hafas was an idiot if he didn't recognize that he was pressing the issue too far.

Daniel redirected his speech back to the matter at hand. "Everything that has happened has been in response to the attack made on my family by the demons. We have only been trying to survive one day at a time while we bring our family back together. At least now we know where everyone is, and everyone is safe."

Before Hafas could speak again, Ammar held up a hand to silence him. "Dan'yer, you have made your arguments to this Council. What is your claim?"

"I claim that the responsibility was never Kasuf's. Our family was torn apart by the demons, and every action we have taken since then has been the result of the demons' attack. I ask that the Council negate the charge of Patriarchal Responsibility. I will be accountable for my own indiscretions as will my brother. Yet I remind this Council that all actions we have taken have been the result of the demons attacking us."

Ammar considered what Dan'yer said so eloquently, but there was one present that had yet to be heard from. "Kasuf? What reply do you have to Hafas' accusations?"

Kasuf knew what he wanted to say, knew what he should say, but that was not his sons' plan. They had a mode and method that they believed would work. So he answered, "My good son has spoken our answer as is his right. I will not say any word against his testimony."

The Council murmured among themselves for a few moments. Ammar stood as the others left the chamber. "We will discuss the claims presented here. Should the judgment be against Kasuf, he will suffer a great punishment."

As Ammar began to leave, Daniel said loudly, "Should that happen, then I ask the Council for Punishment by Proxy."

Skaara added, "And I ask to give my brother the punishment under the Familial Law. We both share the obligation of protecting our family even though the demons inflicted the attack."

"Do you both know what you ask?" Ammar asked them. "For one brother to administer punishment on another...to have a House so --"

"We understand," Daniel admitted freely. "We know the consequences. We accept them."

Kasuf stood in the shadows, his head bowed. He would not say anything against his sons to dishonor their sacrifice, not in front of the Council, but it took every ounce of strength he had to not order them both to keep quiet.

Ammar could only nod his head. "We will discuss your request." With that said, he left the chamber with a fuming, impatient Hafas and a worried family left behind.

**********

The mastadge driven caravan ambled through the mountain pass, each wagon and pedestrian carrying supplies for the three-day trip to Nagada. Some carried the wedding endowments necessary when a political marriage took place. As always, the father of the bride contributed a hefty dowry befitting the rank and station of their family.

Marenkeh was bringing a great deal of gifts for his daughter's marriage.

As the hours slowly passed by, the conversations of the foot-bound members of the party changed topics repeatedly and often, but always returned to the wedding that was to take place.

Walking near the rear of the caravan were two individuals of no great consequence. They were two of the people in Marenkeh's employ, hired to care for the many mastadges owned by the Elder. They were average Simbelians, not distinguishable in a crowd, working to support their families. Yet like many others, these two average, ordinary, unobtrusive citizens were absolutely dumbfounded by this wedding.

"Three days to travel to Nagada, at least eight days for the wedding and feasts, three days back to Abu Simbel..." the first man grumbled.

"It does no good to complain. We both agreed to go with Marenkeh when he asked us to come along," the second man answered.

"Do you know why he's asked Kasuf to marry one of his daughters? I thought Marenkeh hated him," the first man observed.

"I don't know if it was hate. I've heard that there's a history between them and a great deal of distrust. I've seen them be civil to one another, but no more than that. I heard that he had asked for one of Kasuf's sons, but neither one can marry right now. There was no reason given for that. I don't understand Marenkeh doing this."

"I've heard that Marenkeh doesn't want to leave the Eldership to any of his own sons or good sons or grandsons," the first man whispered. "He doesn't think any of them would make good Elders."

"I've heard he's forming the alliance between the two cities because of the Tah'tutiu," the second man added.

"We'll never know. It's not like the Elder or the Council confides in any of us. They always do things secretly."

"I hear that the Council is different in Nagada. The people are involved in the choosing of laws," the second man surmised.

"They are?" the first man queried. "Nothing like that will ever happen in Abu Simbel."

"When will we reach Nagada? Tomorrow afternoon?"

"As long as we don't run into any problems, we should. I will be very glad to put these mastadges in a pen instead of herding them." The first man wrinkled his nose as the wind wafted the unmistakable smell of mastadges toward him.

"Yes. Marenkeh must want to make a good impression by giving Kasuf all these mastadges. They're good breeding stock," the second man admired. "That bull has already sired many strong calves."

"Did you see that new bull that Zehmar bartered for in Dendera?"

And, like all other conversations to keep the boredom at bay, the two men began discussing anything but the upcoming wedding.

However, in the first wagon sat two people whose opinions and thoughts were a mystery. Marenkeh and the daughter being carried to her future husband had been seen by very few since the trip started.

**********

The Council returned to the chambers with grim looks on all their faces. Kasuf watched them as they filed in, hoping to see some hint of dismissal in their eyes. He could not allow his good son to be put through this.

The Council members took their seats again. Ammar struck his staff on the ground three times to reconvene the meeting. In a loud voice, he said, "We have heard the claims made in this chamber. We have heard Hafas and Dan'yer state their arguments well. All Hafas has claimed is true, but there were circumstances beyond our control, circumstances that we had no knowledge of. In consideration of that fact, we accept Dan'yer's defense. Patriarchal Responsibility was never Kasuf's in these matters. The punishment of execution has been denied."

Kasuf breathed a sigh of relief. His good son's argument had been heard and heeded.

"Also, Dan'yer has proven his value as eldest son of Kasuf's House with his continual search for his wife and brother, both of whom must be held blameless for the actions of the demons. We have all witnessed the cruelty of Ra. Dan'yer and the Tau'ri have fought the demons relentlessly. His selflessness is a virtue I wish more possessed."

"However," Ammar continued, "there is a law that states that regardless of situation or circumstance, the leader of a House has a responsibility to protect and discipline those of his House. The Jaffa Teal'c did destroy the demon Amaunet in order to save Dan'yer's life, but in doing so, he murdered Sha'uri. Dan'yer was obligated to execute the man who murdered his wife, however, the circumstances surrounding her death, her possession, the taking of her child all dictated Dan'yer's actions afterwards. He could not execute Teal'c, the reasons are understood, but the responsibility does belong to him. Despite the circumstances claimed by Dan'yer, Kasuf must accept the consequences of being unable to meet his responsibility as leader. He could not admonish Dan'yer for not executing Teal'c, nor could he execute the Jaffa himself. This creates a two-fold problem that both father and son must be held accountable. Therefore, we order that Kasuf bear the minimum penalty of twenty lashes as according to the law."

Twenty lashes? Kasuf sighed. It could have been much worse. He would gladly take the twenty lashes if it meant that his sons would not be banished from Nagada.

Hafas sat on his side of the chamber, fuming in anger. This was not how the Council was to have voted!

Ammar spoke again. "We have discussed Dan'yer's request of Punishment by Proxy. We have no reason to deny it. Nor have we any reason to deny Skaara the right to administer the lashes. It is according to the law."

"No!" Hafas objected loudly. "The punishment is Kasuf's. Dan'yer isn't even from Abydos, why should he be allowed to --"

"Hafas, you will be silent or you will be removed!" Ammar yelled back. "This Council has passed its judgment as you requested. We have determined that Kasuf has not failed in his duties; he was only prevented from performing them. There are situations in which he could have acted differently, but given the nature of the circumstance and the people involved, he was prevented from doing so. Since there were other methods for Kasuf to follow, we have ordered that he be subjected to twenty lashes. We will allow Dan'yer to accept that punishment according to the laws of Punishment by Proxy. Also, this punishment will also be concurrent with his own for not executing the man that murdered his wife. The sentencing is over. Punishment will now be given."

Ammar's voice had taken on a reluctant tone that Daniel had never heard. He didn't want to punish anyone at all! If only it mattered. Daniel willingly walked over to the far wall of the chamber where a tall pole was erected. Two ankle-high poles were embedded closely alongside. Two of the Council's guards came forward and cut Daniel's shirt from him.

This wasn't going to be pleasant.

The guards wrapped Daniel's arms around the pole and secured them at the wrists with a thick rope. His legs were also bound by ropes to the two poles embedded in the ground next to him. Hafas, in his anger of being defeated in Council, had been granted the right to check the ropes around Daniel to make sure they were tied fast. Kasuf walked over and stood in front of Daniel. The law dictated that he be forced to watch as the punishment was carried out, but he was going to let his son see him, focus on him instead of the whipping.

The sentence was twenty lashes, and Skaara was to deliver the blows on his brother -- but Hafas didn't know the law as well as Daniel did. Or Skaara. Or even Kasuf.

Hafas stood back as he admired the knots. Daniel wouldn't be able to escape no matter the amount of struggling. He was thoroughly immobile. He also glanced over at Skaara. Yes, seeing one brother whip the other would be some measure of revenge for his defeat, but it would not satisfy his lust for power. He would have to find another means to win the Eldership of Nagada...but for now...now, he would watch the spectacle. He would enjoy seeing Daniel bleed.

Councilor Ammar handed Skaara the whip. It was the one that had been used by the Council for generations to administer this particular brand of punishment. Skaara took the whip and hefted its weight in his hand. It had an unnatural feel to it, a ghastly weight. The three ends of the whip were tipped with metal edges to deftly cut the skin and cause a great amount of pain. It was designed to let each subsequent lash dig deeper into the wounds left by the previous lashing. Each metal edge was coated with the juice of the bitrot fruit, a highly acidic compound that burned horribly on contact with the skin. Most people who had been given this punishment mercifully passed out after the third lashing, but usually the executioner delivering the blows was unmerciful. By all the true gods, but he was about to do irreparable harm to his brother...but they both knew that there was no other choice. Daniel would survive. Both Skaara and Kasuf knew what to do and when to do it.

There was no other choice...was there?

Skaara looked at his brother's bare back. He saw Kasuf's countenance just beyond, his father's concentrated gaze never leaving Daniel. "Dan'yer?" he asked, his voice trembling more than he would have liked.

"Do it," Daniel told him. "Remember the law?" He saw Skaara nod his head. This was one time that Daniel was grateful that he knew one law better than Hafas did.

Skaara let the ends of the whip fall from his hand. The three ends of the whip hit each other; a low tinkling of metal could be heard in the silent room. He pulled his arm back and then quickly brought it around and down.

Lash number one.

The whip tore into Daniel's back, the three ends painfully breaking the skin, the burning bitrot juice inflaming the wounds. He bit back the cry trying to rip out of his throat. He kept his eyes fastened on Kasuf as he felt the wounds start to burn worse. He didn't know if they were bleeding, and he wouldn't dare ask. He kept telling himself he had to do this. He had to accept the punishment. Kasuf wouldn't be executed; he and Skaara wouldn't be banished...he had to do this.

Kasuf's thoughts were his own, but could find no comfort there. He could only watch his youngest son be the instrument of his eldest son's torture. He did as Daniel had asked him to do. He fell into the selfish thought that this had to be done. Daniel had to undergo the punishment to save the family.

Kasuf would rather have cut off his right arm than allow him to do this.

Skaara brought the whip down again.

Lash number two.

Daniel couldn't keep a small pain-filled moan from escaping as the lashes bit deeper into his skin. He could feel the blood coming from the wounds as they criss-crossed the cuts from the first lashing, each one feeling as if it were on fire. His moan was the only other sound in the room.

Kasuf's eyes closed in sympathy for his son's pain.

Skaara almost couldn't go on...but he knew the consequences. Daniel's lashing or his father's death. Kasuf would not survive twenty lashes. He wasn't strong enough. This was the lesser of the two evils.

Again, he brought the whip down.

Lash number three.

The muted scream flew from Daniel's throat. He hadn't realized the extent of the pain that he was going to suffer. He didn't know if he could go on...no. He could go on. He would. He'd take the pain, the burning...

God!!! When was it going to stop?

Kasuf stepped forward in response to his son's scream, his need to comfort his son overpowering.

Daniel saw his father take a step forward and shook his head. Kasuf stepped back.

Skaara brought the whip around and down again.

Lash number four.

Daniel didn't try to stifle the scream. It rent the air loud enough that even the Council shrank back in heartfelt pain.

You can do this, you can do this. Daniel kept repeating the mantra to himself. You can do this. Remember there's no other choice.

Skaara, hesitating only slightly, brought the whip down again.

Lash number five.

Daniel's scream could be heard outside the chambers, probably as far as the walls of the city. Everyone in Nagada had to know what Daniel was suffering by the fifth lash.

"Enough!" Kasuf cried as he ran to Daniel's side. Skaara dropped the whip and hurried to his brother as well. Daniel's head hung in pain, his breathing ragged. There was some question as to his state of consciousness.

"Good son?" Kasuf gently raised Daniel's head. His son's eyes were tightly closed, his lips pressed together in pain. "Dan'yer?"

There was no response for a moment, then, in a raspy voice filled with pain, Daniel said, "Do it. Now." His strength left him as his eyes rolled back in his head and fell into the darkness that was beckoning him.

Kasuf gently lowered Daniel's head and walked determinedly before the Council. "The law of Punishment by Proxy states that any son who willingly endures the punishment sanctioned on the leader of his House is administered only half of the punishment originally ordered. Councilor Hafas' original dictate condemned me with twenty lashes. My son only had to suffer ten." Before Hafas could protest, Kasuf looked at him and said, "Twenty lashes halved is ten." He then turned back to the Council. "The Familial Law states that when a member of a House is designated to administer the sentence of Punishment By Proxy, again, the punishment is halved. Ten lashes halved is five. He has received his five lashes. Punishment has been ordered, given and received according to the law. My sons and I are exonerated for all crimes Hafas has accused us of."

"No!" Hafas argued loudly. "The law --"

"The ancient laws were made so that punishment may be ordered, but the family remains intact. My sons knew what was being asked of them, yet they both willingly performed the tasks put upon them. For families that do not care for one another, the ancient laws mean nothing. For families like ours, where any one of us would gladly lay down our lives for another, the ancient laws reduce the punishment so that the family will not harbor ill will toward each other," Kasuf stated proudly.

"But --" Hafas began.

"Hafas," the ever-calm voice of Ammar was heard as the older Council member raised a silencing hand. "Kasuf is correct. The laws determining Punishment by Proxy and the even older familial laws, which until now have hardly been heard or used by the Council in many years, were written long ages ago. They have never been challenged; therefore, they are still valid laws by which Kasuf may claim exoneration. Kasuf and his sons have followed the law. This matter is closed."

That was all he needed to say.

The Council stood and filed out of the Chamber. Ammar glanced over at Kasuf who had returned to Daniel's side. Skaara took his position by his brother as well. He had thought it amusing that Hafas had the audacity to challenge such a strong family. What they witnessed in the tent that day had been unseen in their lifetimes. Ammar then noticed that Nabeh had entered the chamber after the rest of the Council had left and was standing by the tent opening. "Nabeh, bring the healer for Dan'yer. Quickly."

As he watched the young man run to get Davaris, Ammar wanted nothing more than to go over to the posts and help Kasuf tend to his son, but he was a Councilor and there was a custom and a practice to such proceedings. He had to leave the chamber and leave Kasuf to his own family's business. It was unseemly for the judge to aid the condemned.

He wished he could condemn that particular rule.

Once outside, Ammar glanced back and watched as a sulking Hafas stormed out of the chambers, his plan to take over the Eldership thwarted. He couldn't complain much since even his eldest son had agreed that Kasuf was not to blame for the family's misfortune. It was the demons. Hafas would never admit defeat, but he had lost nonetheless.

As soon as the Council was gone, Kasuf quickly cut the ropes tying his son to the posts. Together, he and Skaara were able to maneuver Daniel to the ground without aggravating the wounds further. The blood was pouring from the cuts in his back, and they kept his torn skin away from the gritty sand.

"Father, the wounds --" Skaara began.

"I know," Kasuf said as he cradled his unconscious son against him. "Nabeh is bringing the healer. Dan'yer will be well. Both of you did what was necessary to protect our House and our family, and I am proud of both of you." His hand went to Daniel's sandy-brown hair. He could feel the tremors of pain still echoing through his son as his body trembled. He should have found another way to stop Hafas. He should not have let Daniel sacrifice himself for him. "I should not have allowed you to do this," he whispered more to himself than anyone else.

Skaara placed a comforting hand on Kasuf's. He, too, could feel his brother's body trembling. "There was no other way, Father. Dan'yer and I knew that. You knew that. The only part we did not know when we decided to follow this course was who would use the whip and who would be forced to endure it." Skaara tried to tear his eyes away from Daniel's back, from the physical proof of their desperation. "You are still Chief Elder. We are still here. The alliance between Abu Simbel and us can now take place. We will have a better chance to defend ourselves should the Tah'tutiu attack us."

Daniel's body jerked slightly, the sudden movement causing his wounds to bleed more. Skaara couldn't do much for his brother, no one could until the healer arrived. "There was no other way, was there?"

Even if the plan had been Dan'yer's?

Even if they didn't have the time to develop a better idea?

How could Skaara ever face his brother again after hurting him so cruelly?

**********

Jack decided that a quick inventory was needed on the items they'd be taking to Abydos. Rounds for AK-47s, staff weapons, some 9 millimeters...oh, and the wedding gifts for Kasuf and the probably very young bride.

The question was what would be a suitable present. Luckily, the wedding presents for a political Abydonian wedding weren't the same as the ones on Earth. It wasn't a case of blenders or microwaves or crock-pots, china dishes or silver utensils. A political marriage meant presents for the community, not the couple.

Strange custom, but Jack could deal with it. So the question that had people wracking their brains was what would the community of Nagada like for presents?

Ferretti had remembered how interested the Abydonians were in their BDUs on their first visit. So, the first present was several bolts of BDU material.

When the Abydonian prisoners rescued from Amaunet were on Earth, they were enthralled by many ordinary items. Tape recorders, fountain pens, reams of paper, even an old manual typewriter.

Those were good second-choice presents.

Another little present -- O'Neill style -- was an entire baseball set-up. Bases, balls, bats, mitts, caps...Kasuf had fallen in love with the game. Too bad there wasn't any ice on Abydos. They'd never know the joy of a hockey game.

"Everything here, sir?" Sam asked as she walked into the storeroom. Teal'c, walking behind her, picked up a baseball and raised a questioning eyebrow.

"What?" Jack asked defensively.

"Are these appropriate gifts, O'Neill?" Teal'c asked as he replaced the baseball

"Hell if I know. We're kinda taking things we know they liked when they were here last."

"Are we taking enough batteries for the tape recorders?" Sam began inspecting the numbers of items being offered.

Jack just shrugged his shoulders. "I just think they could use some more practical...things."

"What would you suggest, O'Neill?"

"I have no idea. I'd call Abydos and ask Daniel, but he's probably enjoying himself and having a high ole' time. No point spoiling his fun."

**********

With pack in hand, Davaris hurried to the Council Chamber. When Nabeh had come running into his house begging the healer to follow him, Davaris knew it was bad, but what Nabeh told him had happened was not what he had expected.

Kasuf had not been executed, that much Davaris knew. No one had expected him to be found guilty. Kasuf was a very smart man. He'd always been, even when they were children together. He could easily find a way to best Hafas in the Council's proceedings. Instead, Dan'yer had been whipped according to Punishment by Proxy.

And Dan'yer needed a healer immediately, so Davaris hurried to the Council Chamber.

The sight that met him was grisly. Seeing Dan'yer lying unconscious against Kasuf and Skaara gently pressing a cloth to some of the wounds trying to staunch the blood only proved that Hafas' desire for vengeance went unsatisfied. That could make Hafas a dangerous enemy someday, but not today. Today, an innocent family was hurt because of Hafas' greed. Davaris understood that innocent people pay dearly for someone's desire for power.

Quickly, he turned to Nabeh who had followed him into the Chamber. "Nabeh, go to Kasuf's tent. It's closer to the Chambers than Dan'yer's house is. We'll take him there once I have finished. Have a bed ready for him."

Once Nabeh left to make those preparations, Davaris immediately went to Daniel and examined his back. Being careful not to aggravate the wounds further, he gently probed the torn skin to determine the damage. The cuts were uneven and with varying depths. Each cut bled freely, and the loss of blood could be dangerous if he couldn't stop it. He had to work quickly.

"Skaara, I'll need some bowls of water," the healer said as he began to work. With Kasuf's help, he then laid Daniel facedown on the ground. Davaris checked his patient's heartbeat and found it steady if not as strong as he would have liked.

"What do you think?" Kasuf asked his friend.

"His heartbeat is good. He's young, strong. He's stubborn -- something all three of you share. He'll be fine."

Skaara returned with two large bowls of water and placed them beside the healer. "What else can I do?" He felt so helpless.

"Hold your brother's feet," Davaris told him. "I have no desire to be kicked."

Davaris dipped a cloth in one of the bowls and meticulously cleaned each of Daniel's wounds. Thankfully, Daniel was so deeply unconscious that he didn't move. Davaris hoped he would remain so for the next few minutes. He had no wish to add to the young man's pain. Once the blood had been cleaned well enough for Davaris to get a better look at the cuts, he proceeded to treat them.

"Kasuf, I'll need you to hold his arms," Davaris said aloud to his friend. He could see that Kasuf was worried. He had to give him something to do. "We both know this will be painful for Dan'yer if he awakens before I am finished."

"Of course," Kasuf said as he gripped Daniel's wrists. He'd seen lashings and their aftermaths one too many times. Treating the wounds was a terrible thing to witness, let alone endure, but the results were miraculous. The only hope a healer could have was for the patient to be unconscious lest he suffer through the pain of the treatment.

Davaris pulled two long cloths from his pack. One, he placed in the second bowl of water. The other, he kept separate. Next, he pulled a small pouch from his pack and conservatively poured some of the powdery contents into his hand. He carefully sprinkled the powder directly Daniel's wounds. He took the dry cloth and draped it over Daniel's back. He then took the cloth from the bowl of water and placed it on the dry one.

The chemical reaction was immediate. The dampness mixed with the powders and the result was a strange, chemically induced heat. As the cloths began heating Daniel's skin, his body shook with violent tremors. Billowy smoke rose from the wet cloth. Daniel, still unconscious, shook and groaned in utter pain. Beads of sweat peppered his forehead as he began to thrash. Skaara and Kasuf held onto him.

All they could do now was wait for it all to be over.

Davaris didn't understand how the powder and the cloths worked. It was a healing method healers had been using for centuries. The miraculous powders were gifts from Ra as a means to quickly heal serious injuries. After all, healthy workers could mine more naquada than ailing ones. Davaris' supply of both items was too precious to squander since Ra was dead and no new supplies would ever be received. He had to use them sparingly, only in the most needy circumstances. The effects were remarkable. Once the cloths cooled, they could be peeled away from the skin to show mostly healed wounds. There was only one drawback to Ra's gift. It had to be applied to the wound within a relatively short amount of time to be effective; otherwise it would have no effect at all.

Several agonizing minutes passed before Daniel's body stopped shaking. Davaris reached out to test the temperature of the cloths. They were cooling rapidly.

"Davaris?" Kasuf asked quietly. His son had to be all right.

The healer checked Daniel's heartbeat again. Stronger. Steadier. He gently peeled away the cloths to find Daniel's back still marred with mostly healed lash marks, but they were no longer the raw ugly wounds that bled so profusely. Once he wrapped a dressing around them, there wouldn't be any risk of infection. Another benefit of the treatment. "He'll be fine, Kasuf. He may sleep until tomorrow. It would better if he does. Then he won't suffer any pain while he is healing."

The look of relief on Kasuf's face was apparent.

"Nabeh told me a little of what happened. I know it was difficult for you."

Kasuf nodded. "It was. I would have gladly accepted the twenty lashes to spare him this. Dan'yer would not allow me to do that."

Davaris propped Daniel up against Kasuf as he wrapped bandages around him. "Dan'yer's a good son."

"I wish I were as good a father."

Davaris didn't comment. Kasuf would feel guilty about this, but what had happened was for the best. He only wished his sons were as loyal to him as Skaara and Dan'yer were to Kasuf.

**********

Dharef did not bear good news. The scout's reports held only bad tidings for them, for their plans.

As he walked toward Men'thu's tent, he glanced at their new Saqqaran recruits. They were very poor soldiers. They would make worse fighters. They weren't born Tah'tutiu, and that meant that they could easily be used for fodder in battles and not risk their own people.

Every army needed expendable soldiers for the more fatal work.

Men'thu's residence had belonged to the former Elder -- before his execution. The Saqqaran luxuries were few, and the tent had few extra amenities. Men'thu wasn't the type of man who sought out comfort, but he did seek out the trappings of power. The Elder's tent was one such trapping.

The Tah'tutiu general was sitting against a large pile of furs, staring into the fire, deeply lost in thought. He was absently tapping his arm-badik in his hand. Dharef knew he was thinking about how to take revenge against Dan'yer.

"Men'thu?" Dharef asked as he entered the tent.

Men'thu's attention immediately switched from wandering to Dharef. "What news?"

"The wedding party left Abu Simbel yesterday. They will arrive at Nagada tomorrow if the sandstorms do not rise. We have no chance of catching up with them."

"Why didn't our people attack the caravan once they realized one was crossing the desert?"

"The scouts determined that the caravan was too formidable a target. They are being escorted by a large number of their militia. Too many for out scouts to engage," Dharef explained. "It was a job for our army, not the scouts."

"And the wedding?" Men'thu mentioned.

"Most likely in a few days time," Dharef said. "Abu Simbel and Nagada will be allied. Men'thu, our army is not yet strong enough to take Abu Simbel, even with the Saqqaran troops whose loyalty is nonexistent."

"Would we be able to stop the wedding party before they reach Nagada?" Men'thu asked

"They will have already reached the mountain pass. By the time we could travel through the pass, they will have reached Nagada," Dharef surmised.

Men'thu thought for a moment. Reaching Nagada by the next day would be almost impossible, not without killing too many mastadges and exhausting if not killing too many of the soldiers. It would take too long to maneuver his army through the pass. How could he -- wait. "Dharef, prepare our soldiers. Send word to our scouts to ride to Nagada. They can arrive there tomorrow after the wedding part arrives and lay siege to Nagada. We will ride to the city immediately. Those of us here should reach it in two days if we ride at full gallop in small numbers. Our chances of moving quickly and surviving are greater. They will not be expecting an attack during the festivities. We will take that city before the wedding takes place. Their defenses will be easily breached, and we will have the chief Elder of Abu Simbel as well."

Dharef was stunned. "We cannot take Nagada. Our resources are limited. Abu Simbel --"

"Abu Simbel would be an easy target given the fact that the Elder has left, but if we send our troops against Abu Simbel, the marriage will take place and we will be facing the Simbelian militia from within and the Nagadan militia without. I will not allow us to be trapped between two armies with no means of escape except the desert. If we attack Nagada before the wedding takes place, Simbel is under no obligation to help them. We would only be facing the Nagadans. Our scouts can lay siege to Nagada first. The rest of the army will follow as quickly as possible. With the full force of our army, we will take Nagada, the largest city on Abydos, and the rest will fall without raising any protest."

"Nagada's defenses won't be easily breached," Dharef pointed out. "The one reason we haven't attacked that city is because we don't have enough troops or resources for a prolonged battle."

"It won't be a long one," Men'thu told his friend, a sly grin on his face. "I intend a very short engagement in this matter."

"What do you mean, Men'thu? What are you planning?"

Men'thu poured them both a cup of water as he explained. "The rules of war are simple. Defeat the leader of the enemy, you defeat the enemy army. Once the House of Kasuf has fallen, we will have won the war. All we have to do is kill three people."

"That means that we will still have to breach the walls," Dharef said, eagerly awaiting his superior's next enlightened explanation.

"Perhaps, but that will not be our primary battle plan. Felling the walls will be more of a diversionary tactic. We need only to get a few people over the walls and into the city -- there is a place perfect for such an assault. It won't be guarded. Once we successfully place a group inside the city, their orders will be to kill Kasuf and Skaara. I will kill Dan'yer myself."

Dharef considered the chances of the plan working, and realizing that it had as much a chance as any other plan they could enact, he said, "Brilliant. Assassinate the leader to win the war. Can we do it?"

Men'thu nodded his head. "Yes. Getting into the city isn't as difficult as it first seems. We'll still have to fight, but we'll win. Go. Send the message to the scouts and prepare the army. We will start sending out small groups immediately."

"There is one other aspect we will have to consider," Dharef seemed reluctant to mention it...

"What?"

"The Toldah Sandstorm is due soon. We may be facing a long delay if we --"

Men'thu raised a hand to silence his friend. The Toldah Sandstorm. The yearly sandstorm with winds vicious enough to tear down stone walls. Nagada had reinforced their walls centuries ago. It could withstand the storm, but if his troops were outside the walls when the storm hit...

"Then we will have to take Nagada before then."

If it were only that easy.

**********

The Next Day

It was Hammond's fourth trip through the Stargate. After the first trip, you never had the queasy-going-to-bring-up-everything-I've-eaten-for-the-last-five-years feeling. Walking through a wormhole was as easy as walking through a door. Only a lot more fun.

Occasionally, Hammond thought about what it would be like to give up his general's commission, take on the rank of a colonel again and command an SG team. Why should Colonel O'Neill have all the fun? Going through a wormhole was more fun than riding a roller coaster! But...well, he'd already been a colonel and he rather liked being a general. After all, if someone else took command of Cheyenne Base, who'd keep SG-1 out of trouble? That seemed to be one of his major responsibilities.

The wormhole closed after Hammond and three members of SG-1 were deposited onto the dais in the Abydonian gate room. Abydos was one of those places where Hammond would never want to live but was grateful to visit. The people were warm and inviting, the hospitality plentiful, and the food...interesting. He had read the reports of the teams that had gone to Abydos, but the truth was a little different. This was one of the few planets where there was a family link to be considered. It seemed, although Hammond would never be able to get anyone to admit it, that any friend of "Dan'yer's" was welcome. If only it weren't so hot! Hammond didn't understand how Doctor Jackson could have lived here for over a year or even wish to return. No electricity, no computers, no telephones, nothing that he could find back home.

But, for Daniel Jackson, Abydos was home.

The planet was the closest environment Jackson could have found that was like the world he lived in before his parents were killed. Most of his expeditions and archaeological digs were in the deserts of Egypt. Hammond wasn't a psychiatrist, but he always believed that Daniel was always trying to find the home, love and security he had lost thanks to a falling cover stone in a New York museum. He had found it across the universe in the soul of a woman that stole his heart and gave him hers in return. He had a wife, a home, a purpose and a family. In short, he had found that which most people take for granted. He found contentment.

The moment they stepped off the dais, some of the militia came forward to greet them. Everyone was at least acquainted. Hammond remembered one of the boys from Sha'uri's funeral. He was Kasuf's nephew, Tazir. He had been close to Sha'uri and Daniel when he was younger and felt her death keenly. He, like many of the others attending the funeral, had wept openly. Daniel hadn't. Perhaps he didn't have any tears left. Maybe he was too mad-angry-devastated to cry. For whatever reason, Hammond had not seen any real grief, but he had seen the loss of hope. Hope that one day he'd go through the gate and Sha'uri would be there. Hope that he would be able to rescue her and they could get on with their lives. The search for Sha'uri's son gave him a purpose, but what is left once the purpose has been completed? Hammond had seen Daniel struggle to find a reason to continue, to find a purpose for his life, but his purpose -- no, his goal -- had been to restore his family. Lately, he had been going on the missions, doing his job, turning in his reports...but where was the passion?

It was here.

Here on Abydos. Here was his home. Here was his purpose. He would fight to protect the innocent like the people of Abydos from the Goa'ulds. It wasn't the same purpose as rescuing his wife or finding her son, but it gave him his hope. Hammond could see it whenever Daniel talked to the Abydonians. His eyes lit up in a way people rarely saw on Earth. There was more life in him here among the dunes than all other planets put together.

Tazir came forward to greet the guests, his smile a very welcoming one. "Hello, O'Neill."

"Hey, Tazir. How you doing?" Jack said.

"Very well. Major Carter, Teal'c, it is good to see you again," Tazir said with a big smile.

"Thank you, Tazir," Sam answered. "It's good to see you, too."

"Indeed. We are honored to have been asked to attend Kasuf's wedding," Teal'c added.

Tazir seemed almost in awe of the general. "General Hammond, we are very glad that you have come. It brings great honor to Kasuf that the leader of Dan'yer's tribe could be here as well."

"We're very glad to be here," Hammond told him.

"How are things going?" Jack asked casually.

"All is well. The wedding party should arrive today from Abu Simbel as long as there are no sandstorms. The entire city is waiting to greet them. My father is acting as host at the moment until Uncle Kasuf can come. He's been rather busy this morning." Tazir started ushering them out of the pyramid. Apparently, he was in a bit of a rush. As they left, Tazir looked behind him at the Stargate room. "I do not wish to be rude, but my father instructed me to take the presents you were bringing inside the city. What did you bring?"

Jack just looked at Hammond, allowing his CO to answer the question. Hammond took the hint. "The presents will be coming later. Sergeant Siler is still getting a few of them together and ready for transport here. We were told that the wedding would take place in several days, so I believe we still have some time before the gifts are needed?"

"Yes," Tazir agreed. "The wedding will not take place for at least two or three days yet. A great deal has to be agreed upon and feasts must be prepared." Tazir lowered his voice and whispered to Jack, "I hope you are bringing those small writing devices that go in and out. Those are fun."

Jack could only smile. "I think we can arrange a good supply of ballpoint pens. No problem." In fact, he pulled one out of his pocket and handed it to Tazir who spent the rest of the journey flicking the pen point in and out.

As they continued across the desert, Hammond was glad that they had worn their BDUs and carried their dress blues. Sand was everywhere! It was already getting into his boots. Climbing the dunes toward Nagada was a workout. It seemed that for every step he took forward, the sand would shift under his feet and move him two steps back. In an effort to get his mind off the never-ending walk, he asked, "We were told that your uncle's Eldership was being challenged by a man named Hafas. Has that been settled?"

"Yes," Tazir answered quickly. "Uncle Kasuf defeated Hafas because Dan'yer was able to prove that he didn't willingly disobey the law. He also called for Punishment by Proxy and Skaara claimed the Familial Law."

"Punishment by Proxy?" Teal'c asked worriedly.

"What does that mean?" Sam asked.

"The Punishment by Proxy judgment means that an innocent person will take the punishment ordered for another. In this instance, it means that Daniel Jackson was given the punishment that was to have been administered to Kasuf," Teal'c explained quickly. "What is Daniel Jackson's condition?"

"Dan'yer is fine," Tazir said quickly. "Davaris has healed him. He has slept since yesterday, and he is well now."

"Tazir," Jack muttered almost impatiently. "What kind of punishment did Daniel get?"

"The one accorded by the law. He was whipped."

"Whipped?" Four voices gasped in unison.

"Yes," Tazir answered. "It is the law, but Dan'yer is fine. He's already awake and preparing for the wedding." Tazir seemed unaffected by the goings-on or that his announcement had caused great concern to the visitors.

"What happens if Kasuf is ever charged again?" Sam asked.

"He won't be," Tazir explained. "It's against the law to hear the same complaint twice. Dan'yer calls it Double Jeopardy."

As Tazir started making his way faster toward Nagada, the four visitors had to hurry to keep up. "Double Jeopardy," Jack grumbled. "Long live democracy."

Before they had topped the final dune before reaching the city, they could hear a loud murmuring rumble. It was the sound of thousands of voices joined in a celebratory union. As they reached the top of the dune and finally saw the city itself, they were greeted with a surprising view. There was a great tent erected near the front gates that towered over everyone. Its purpose was to shelter the councilors and representatives as they finalized the alliance agreement. But even the tent seemed small when compared to the thousands of people celebrating around the entire area. Jack hadn't seen anything like it since they had fought Ra. Sam was impressed with the calm but ordered chaos in the expectant curiosity she was witnessing. Teal'c raised an eyebrow at the spectacle. Hammond could have placed bets that every citizen of Nagada was there waiting to see the arrival of the Abu Simbelians. They had all assumed that this marriage would be a much smaller political ceremony, not the equivalent of a royal wedding.

As they walked through the massive throng of people, Tazir began pointing out individuals of particular interest. The Council, the teachers, the weavers, the healers, the butchers, the bakers, the candlestick makers. Everyone was waiting for the procession from Abu Simbel.

All except three notable exceptions.

"Sir," Carter kept scanning the crowd, "I don't see Daniel anywhere."

"Or Kasuf or Skaara," O'Neill added. "Maybe the intended family waits inside?"

"They're still in Kasuf's tent," Tazir told them. "They have much to do before the Simbelians arrive."

"O'Neill," Teal'c gestured toward the city gate. "I believe someone wishes to obtain your attention."

Jack looked in the direction Teal'c indicated and saw Nabeh running toward them, waving at them, motioning for them.

"Nabeh will take you to Kasuf. I have to help my father with his duties until Uncle Kasuf can come."

As Tazir was heading toward the tent in search of his father, Jack yelled out, "Tell Halsekh we said hello!"

"O'Neill!" Nabeh came forward and shook Jack's hand, a habit he had picked up from the Tau'ri. "You came."

"Wouldn't miss it," Jack told him. "How's Daniel?"

"Dan'yer is fine. Why wouldn't he be?" Nabeh wanted to know.

"Tazir told us that Daniel underwent a Punishment by Proxy," Sam said. "Is he hurt?"

"He was, but he's better now. Come. I will take you to Kasuf's tent. They are expecting you."

**********

Kasuf and Skaara had been called away from the tent for a few moments, and Daniel took advantage of the brief solitude to rummage through his belongings. Kasuf had taken meticulous care of his things. Meeting his future mother-in-law required that he dress in his best set of clothes. His formal attire was a deep brown robe Sha'uri had made for him so long ago.

As he pulled the robe from underneath the many other objects that Kasuf had so carefully preserved, he couldn't stop the memories from coming. Sha'uri had shown him how to gather the cotton, spin the thread, dye it, weave the cloth and sew the robe. Some people laughed at his interest in what was commonly considered "women's work," but he only had to explain once that he needed to learn how to do everything in order to learn if the Abydonian method was different than the way he had learned on Earth. After that, the laughing stopped, and everyone he knew was eager to teach him what they took for granted.

He would have happily spent the rest of his life learning all the Abydonians took for granted.

He carefully removed the bandages wrapping his back. Other than a few twinges of pain, he felt fine, but the bandages were scratching his skin. Davaris had said they could be removed, so removed they would be. His back was mostly healed, and he felt better than he had in a long time. Of course, sleeping over twenty hours helped as well. He wasn't sure when he went from being unconscious to merely sleeping, but he did know that he got a good night's sleep for the first time in a very long time.

Just as he pulled off the remaining bandages, he heard a very loud voice say, "Jeez! Daniel! What happened?"

Daniel turned at the sound of Jack's voice. There stood SG-1 and General Hammond in the flap of the tent.

Daniel began to pull the robe onto his shoulders, but both Jack and Sam rushed over to him and stopped him. The wounds were practically healed, but his back was criss-crossed with the lash marks. There was no way to deny what had happened, so he didn't try.

Jack thought that he had seen bad before, but this was...not as bad as it should be. The wounds were...almost well? "Daniel, you said that the worst thing that could happen to you is that you'd be banished. What happened? I mean...what happened?"

"Jack, relax. It doesn't even hurt anymore. This was the only option open to us and --"

"Option?" Okay, Jack was moving past surprised and was rushing head first into angry. "Daniel, so help me, if you did something stupid --"

"Sir," Sam interrupted.

"Jack," Daniel interrupted Sam before she could try to calm Jack down. "We were backed up against a wall. Hafas was challenging Kasuf's right of Eldership by accusing him of not doing his duty as patriarch of our House. If he had been found guilty, the Council would have executed him and banished us. That's the law. The only way to avoid that was for Skaara and me to take the responsibility of our actions due to extenuating circumstances. It's an old law, and it's not invoked very often, but given that the Goa'uld were the reason we did or didn't do certain things, our defense worked. There were some...accusations...that we couldn't get out of, and this was the punishment. And being banished is far worse than a whipping could ever be."

"Doctor Jackson," Hammond began, "son, this --"

"Sir, Abydos is my home. It was the first home I ever had. My wife is buried here. When I die, I hope to be buried beside her. Skaara fought Klorel to come back here. He wants to have a family, grow old and die here. This world is all Kasuf has ever wanted. Five lashes is a small price to pay to be able to stay and let Kasuf remain as Chief Elder."

Five lashes? This was more than five lashes! A small price? Jack let Daniel put on the robe. Sitting back on his heels, Jack couldn't believe...no, he could. Only Daniel would go to such lengths for his family. Why should he be surprised? "You know, I'd've probably done the same thing," Jack admitted out loud.

"I know you would," Daniel agreed.

"Daniel Jackson," Teal'c asked, "is this matter between Kasuf and Hafas settled?"

"Yes. No one will ever be able to accuse Kasuf of not doing his duty again. It would fall under Double Jeopardy."

"Are you sure?" Sam wanted to know. She was not going to forget the condition of Daniel's back any time soon. "How do you know you won't have to go through this again?"

"Because it's the law, Sam. They lived under Ra's rule for so long, the thought that they can rule themselves is still very important. They're trying to establish a legal system that's as fair as they can make it. It hasn't been easy, and they're changing laws daily, but Kasuf's been vindicated in the eyes of the law," Daniel was met with disbelieving stares. "Abydos has a law that's a lot like Double Jeopardy. Once you've been tried and acquitted, you can't be tried a second time. We've proven that Kasuf is innocent of everything Skaara and I have done or haven't done where the Goa'uld are concerned."

Jack detected something in Daniel's voice. He wasn't telling them everything. Not yet, but he was going to. "What do you mean," he asked warily. "What have you done or not -- wait a minute. Hafas had a wild card up his sleeve, didn't he? He accused you or Skaara of something pretty bad? Daniel, what has been going on here?"

"It's not that it was anything bad," Daniel told him. "Hafas just stated a fact that I couldn't deny. I didn't follow a basic law, and Kasuf supported my decision at the time. Under normal circumstances, what I didn't do would be unforgivable under Abydonian law, but since these weren't normal circumstances..."

"What?" Jack almost yelled. This was getting frustrating.

"Daniel Jackson?" Teal'c's voice reverberated through the tent. "What did you not do?" Teal'c believed he knew what it was.

Daniel couldn't meet any of their eyes. How could he? After a few moments, he answered lowly, "The law's very specific in certain areas. Given that Klorel had control of Skaara's body, Skaara won't be held responsible for anything Klorel did while in his body. When Sha'uri and Skaara were kidnapped, I tried to find them. They know that. But since Sha'uri was my wife, her well being was my responsibility. The Council knows I spent those three years trying to find her. That was my duty under the law. And even though I did my duty to the best of my abilities...when Teal'c killed her, it doesn't matter that he was trying to stop Amaunet from killing me. It was my obligation to execute him. I didn't. Kasuf backed my decision."

"Decision? What decision?" Jack sputtered. "They couldn't expect you to execute Teal'c for killing Amaunet."

"Teal'c did the right thing," Sam said quietly. "Even you and Kasuf said so. The Council has to see that."

"They see the end results," Daniel told her. "Sha'uri was my wife, my responsibility. Teal'c did...under Abydonian law, he killed Amaunet but murdered Sha'uri. According to them, I was supposed to execute Teal'c. It doesn't matter that Amaunet was trying to kill me at the time. I couldn't argue the point legally. The Council had to rule the way they did so Kasuf could remain as Elder. Skaara and I won't be banished. It was a legal hinge to guarantee that Hafas can't level the charges against him again because every argument he claimed against Kasuf has been dealt with."

"Kasuf allowed this?" Hammond asked.

"We didn't give him a choice. Skaara and I doubled-teamed him."

"And not even Kasuf can argue with the two of you," Jack muttered. "This is just great. Danny, what are we going to do with you?"

A noise outside brought a smile to his face as he tied his robe in place. "Right now, you can act like polite guests. Here comes Kasuf. And the Council proceedings are not topics for conversation."

"Daniel --" Jack started.

"I mean it, Jack. Stay off the subject. We did what we had to do. Enough said."

Kasuf entered the tent at that moment and realized his guests had arrived. He wasn't dressed in his usual robe and reddish hat. Instead, he was attired in the requisite formal garb necessary for important functions. His robe was a darkened hue with the edge tipped with a light brown shade. Very somber yet with a hint of formality.

"I am sorry I wasn't here to greet you," he apologized. "The Council met to decide on a few additions to the alliance agreement, and Skaara is overseeing other details that must be ready before our guests arrive." He shook hands with O'Neill and Hammond, then bowed to Carter and Teal'c.

"No need to apologize, Kasuf," Jack said smugly. "Those last minute details before a wedding are always a headache."

"You have problems such as this on Earth?"

"Sort of," Daniel answered quickly. "When Jack got married, the tailor lost his tux."

"And losing this item is bad?"

"It is if you've rented it."

"Sara wouldn't let me wear my uniform. She insisted I wear that monkey suit," Jack explained, sort of.

"Well, you know the old saying, if the suit fits --"

"That's shoe, Daniel, not suit," Jack said indignantly. Looking over at his commanding officer, Jack asked, "General, are you hearing this? He's doing it again. I get no respect."

"Oh, no, Jack. You can handle this one on your own. I'm not here in my capacity as a general. I'm here as a guest, and for the next few days I intend to enjoy myself." Hammond was almost laughing out loud. No one, absolutely no one would dare to challenge Daniel on Abydos. Not even Jack O'Neill.

**********

Mastadges were not comfortable. Their bony backs and rough, smelly hides made even the toughest people grimace in disgust. They were chattel, cattle and means of travel, but they weren't comfortable to ride under any circumstances.

But they could certainly move across the desert.

Men'thu rode his steed at its fastest pace. The idea of small groups geared for desert travel racing through the mountain pass was working. His army had lost fewer mastadges and fewer soldiers than even he had anticipated. The mad rush to Nagada would still produce a great many Tah'tutiu ready for a fight. The soldiers that would arrive first would attack first. Their ranks would be increased hourly over the next two or three days as the remaining army arrived in small groups. The Nagadans would think that the Tah'tutiu had an endless supply of fighters. They would be frightened, perhaps even less inclined to fight once they saw the might of the enemy.

Dharef rode at his side, his own mastadge showing signs of exhaustion. They would be through the pass within the hour and then they could allow the beasts a moment of rest -- but only a moment. They wouldn't reach Nagada until long after the next sunrise, but it would take even longer should they lose the mastadges and have to travel by foot. Their chances then would be that they wouldn't reach Nagada at all.

The desert was a cruel taskmaster and dealt harshly with those who didn't respect its ways.

Throughout the ride, Men'thu had rethought his plan to take Nagada. It was risky, he knew that, but what choice was there? The marriage had to be stopped, the alliance thwarted. Once Nagada was under attack, he needed only to kill Kasuf, Skaara and Dan'yer to take the city. Once that was done, he would even have the Chief Elder of Abu Simbel as prisoner, and that city would fall without raising a weapon against it.

But to take Nagada...

This was an impressive city with a well-trained militia. Perhaps not as well trained as the Tah'tutiu, but they would not easily be beaten nor would they surrender. They would fight. Many on both sides would die, but that was the price for victory. Men'thu realized that his involvement in this battle would be far greater than even he had first assumed. He would have to personally kill Dan'yer, not only for revenge for his missing arm but for the political advantages of destroying Ra's killer and decimating his family before the Nagadans.

But first, he had to get into the city. That was not as difficult as first imagined. There was one place in the city that would be easier to access once everyone was busy defending themselves from the invaders. It was the one spot that no one would think to guard or watch. Not even Dan'yer.

The plan was perfect, provided Dan'yer didn't second-guess Men'thu's ulterior plans -- but Dan'yer had a way of knowing exactly what he was thinking. No matter. Men'thu had a plan. He was going to beat Dan'yer, no matter what he had to do to bring it about.

**********

"I know a little of Men'thu," Hammond said conversationally as he and Kasuf walked toward the city gates, "but not enough to have a true idea of how we can help. What can you tell me about him?"

Kasuf kept greeting the well wishers as they passed by. "He commands the largest army on Abydos. The Tah'tutiu were scavengers, the descendents of criminals we banished from the cities. He trained them to fight together, as the Tau'ri do. Now, when they attack, the battles are precise and complex. When they attacked Saqqara, Men'thu used less than one fourth of his forces. The city fell in a matter of hours."

Hammond had to maneuver through another small crowd of people greeting him and congratulating Kasuf. "I understand he's using tactics you've never seen before?"

"I have seen them before. I have seen the Tau'ri in battle, and I have no doubt that Men'thu was in the city when O'Neill and my children fought Ra. He followed your methods just as we did, but we had one advantage he did not. Once we discovered your way of waging battles, our militia asked Dan'yer to instruct them in this new way."

"Doctor Jackson was training your soldiers?" Hammond asked incredulously.

Kasuf could only laugh. "No, not training them. As he has often said, he is a scholar, not a soldier, but he did tell us stories of many of your great warriors and how they battled their enemies. The stories of Alexander, of Hannibal and the Battle of Canai, of Julius Caesar and Attila the Hun. We were able to take those stories and learn from them. Our militia commanders held what Dan'yer called war games. They would develop battle tactics and determine their success on a battlefield. My son was of immense help in that regard. Without him, we would not have the knowledge that we now possess. O'Neill gave us the idea, but my son showed us the way."

Hammond couldn't believe it. Doctor Daniel Jackson, military consultant on battle tactics? Every passing moment, it was becoming easier and easier to understand how Daniel Jackson didn't exist on Abydos, only Dan'yer, son of Kasuf, did. There were times that Daniel had thoroughly surprised Hammond, but never so much as that moment. Jack had been correct when he said that Daniel was a different person on Abydos, someone even the colonel didn't want to go up against.

"And Men'thu is using similar methods of fighting?" Hammond said as another large group of celebratory Nagadans came forward to wish Kasuf good luck.

"Similar, but not exactly like ours. As I said, we had Dan'yer to help us, but Men'thu is very intelligent. He learned many of our ways in secret. The times he and Dan'yer have met in battle, he --"

"Wait," Hammond interrupted. "I know that he and Men'thu had a few encounters, but are you saying that they've fought before? Not just that one time he took Men'thu's arm?"

"That was only one of the times Men'thu tried to take my son's life, Hammond," Kasuf told him, a little anger in his voice. "Dan'yer has fought Men'thu several times, but most of those times were when he served with the militia. They were fighting small groups of Tah'tutiu. There were a few times when Men'thu himself fought my son. Both fought with badiks or with fists. Dan'yer always returned home to my daughter. I did not understand at first how a scholar could fight so well, but my son has surprised me on many occasions."

Me, too, Hammond thought.

"Dan'yer once told me a Tau'ri saying. You can judge a man by his enemies. Men'thu has many, all of them intelligent and capable. Only my son has ever defeated him. I have often heard Dan'yer say that once you understand the mind of your enemy, you can defeat him. This is true. Dan'yer and Men'thu understand each other well. Each knows what the other is thinking, even in battle. That is one of the reasons we need him -- why I need him here now. The Tah'tutiu will attack soon. I must use every advantage to protect my people."

Looking behind them, Hammond noticed Skaara, Daniel and the rest of SG-1 were trailing behind. Everyone looked happy. The people greeting them, the people outside the city walls waiting for the caravan to arrive, even Kasuf and his little family seemed contented with the proceedings taking place around them. That was the moment the importance of the proceedings going on around them struck a chord with Hammond. The Nagadans were secure in the knowledge that the alliance and Dan'yer's arrival meant they had a chance to survive an attack by the enemy. Every advantage, Kasuf had said. These people knew that Kasuf and his family would do anything to protect them, and they in turn would support them wholeheartedly in whatever means they chose to protect them. Despite the alleged rift between Kasuf and Marenkeh, the cities would be joined by a political marriage, and the Nagadans would accept Marenkeh's daughter not only for Kasuf's sake, but also for the sake of Kasuf's dedication to the people and the alliance itself.

Kasuf was truly an amazing man, and not for the first time Hammond wondered if maybe he and Doctor Jackson could possibly be blood related. Such willingness to sacrifice for other people had to be an inherited gene. No one could teach such generosity and selflessness.

They paused at the city gates to see what awaited them. It was a spectacle the likes of which Hammond had never imagined. Thousands of Nagadans milled around awaiting the Simbelian wedding party. The leaders of the more influential Houses were gathered near the enormous tent where the final formalities of the alliance would be agreed upon.

"I had no idea that this many people lived on Abydos," Hammond told Kasuf. "Our first reports had mentioned maybe five thousand."

Kasuf looked out fondly over the masses. "We are many more than that, Hammond. We number in the tens of thousands."

The crowd's attention was more focused on the desert rather than the gate, but when Kasuf was noticed, a resounding cheer sounded from the happy group.

"By the way they're behaving, no one would know that you were facing the Council yesterday," Hammond acknowledged.

"They knew we would win," Daniel answered as he walked up to the gate. He didn't want to talk about the Council hearing, but he also knew that it wasn't something that could be ignored forever. Small references would find their way into the conversation until it was discussed openly, but Daniel could keep the discussion from becoming too serious for the moment. "Dealing with Hafas was more formality than threat."

"Formality?" Jack countered rather loudly. "Any more formal and you wouldn't have a back."

"Maybe, but how many people do you think placed bets on us winning?"

"Good point."

Sam seemed almost overwhelmed at the scene. "What do we do now?" she asked.

Kasuf turned toward his guests and answered, "We must take our places. Hammond, you and your people are my welcome guests. You must stand with them." He pointed toward a small group of people standing on a slightly raised platform, giving them an unobstructed view of everything. "We," he indicated himself, Skaara and Daniel, "must stand at the tent."

"Must?" Jack repeated. "You're Chief Elder and the bridegroom. Can't you stand anywhere you want?"

"Unfortunately, I cannot," Kasuf sighed. "I must do as custom dictates."

Oh, yeah, it was the same everywhere. "Ah, such is the plight of the bridegroom," Jack almost sang. "Do as you're told, stand where you're told and don't make any noise until you say I do."

Kasuf glanced back at Jack, remembering their earlier conversation. "Bridegrooms have the same problem on Earth, I see," he stated confidently. "It is comforting to know that we must all accept the same fate."

Jack inwardly groaned until he saw the crooked smile on Kasuf's face. The Elder was definitely developing a unique sense of sarcasm...Daniel had to be rubbing off on him.

The small group parted company, Kasuf and his family walked through the throng of people to reach the tent, Hammond and the rest of SG-1 found places to stand on the platform. It was an odd sight to behold, but the setting Hammond saw spoke the truth of Abydonian society far better than any oration possibly could. Like a king, Kasuf stood in front of the tent. Daniel and Skaara behind him. The leaders of the Houses stood on the sides, their attention split between their own conversations and the goings-on around them. The priests stood nearby, the councilors as well. What surprised Hammond the most was the sight of his ranking civilian. Standing behind Kasuf, smiling at the conversations around him, Daniel stood straight and regal. His bearing held no trace of his earlier whipping

Regal. That was one word Hammond had never associated with his ranking civilian before, but seeing Daniel in his adopted "native habitat" gave the general an entirely new perspective. Daniel had always possessed a quiet strength that could transform itself into a ferocious wall of sheer willpower when necessary, but here it was different. Here, he wasn't fighting the military mindset or wading through the endless red tape as he did at the SGC. Here he was part of the authority. He truly was a prince of Abydos.

Dan'yer, son of Kasuf, Elder of Nagada. Prince of Abydos. It was a title he bore with all the dignity believed necessary for a member of a royal family.

Without warning, the horns sounded loud over the crowd. The multitude of people turned toward the west as a caravan moved slowly over the horizon. Great mastadges pulled the ambling wagons behind them while an entire host of Simbelians walked alongside. There were hundreds of people in the party.

"They don't do things halfway, do they?" Hammond whispered to O'Neill.

"No, sir," Jack told him. "Just wait for the reception afterwards. These folks know how to throw a party, but stay away from Daniel's moonshine. It'll take rust off iron in five seconds flat."

"Strong?"

"Almost lethal." Jack still didn't know exactly what was supposed to happen. "So, Teal'c, any ideas about what's going to happen?" Jack asked his up-to-then silent friend.

"The wedding party will arrive, the bride will be presented to Kasuf, and the representatives will finalize the negotiations for the marriage alliance."

Right. Short. Sweet. To the point. "Yeah...and?"

"And?" Teal'c raised an eyebrow at the question.

"Aw, come one, Teal'c. Something other than that's gotta happen. Look at this crowd. What you just described is about as exciting as watching paint dry."

"I have never watched paint dry, O'Neill. I do not know what excitement may be found in such an endeavor."

"Teal'c," Jack almost cursed. Sometimes he just didn't know when Teal'c was serious or pulling his leg. The guy would be a great poker player. "We came all this way for...that?"

"It is a time of celebration, O'Neill. However, given the seriousness of the situation with the Tah'tutiu, every agreement must be made formally in order to establish a true alliance. There will be a somber tone to the proceedings, no matter how festive."

Oh. "So, no party?"

"As I understand, there will be a great festival after the negotiations are finalized, and celebrations every night until the Simbelians leave. I believe the festivities will last at least eight days after the wedding itself."

"Eight days?" Sam asked quickly. "They celebrate for eight days?"

Good question. "Just don't go near the moonshine, Carter. Remember?"

"Yes, sir. Although I do recall that you had a more traumatic experience with the moonshine than the rest of us did."

Hammond hadn't heard that story. "Traumatic? Colonel?"

"It wasn't traumatic, sir," Jack quickly defended himself. "Let's just say I wasn't quite expecting what I got."

"Major?" Hammond directed his attention to her.

"He took one sip and spit it out. The rest of us didn't have any problems handling our liquor."

Jack just shook his head. "No respect. I'm just not getting any respect. General, isn't there a rule about this somewhere?"

"I'm sure there is, Colonel. We'll ask Doctor Jackson about how to treat military officers when they're on Abydos when he's not otherwise occupied."

Jack just had to hang his head. Everyone was out to get him, even George. "Right, sir. Thank you, sir. I really appreciate that, sir."

Further conversation was curtailed by the Nagadans' cheers at the approaching caravan. The thrum of the crowd rose to a fevered pitch as voices joined in welcome for the guests rambling closer.

One wagon in particular pulled away from the others and was driven directly toward the tent. Kasuf waited until the driver reined the mastadges to a stop before approaching.

The curtain on the wagon was pulled aside by one of the attendants and an older gentleman emerged. He stood before Kasuf and bowed.

Kasuf bowed in turn and said, "Welcome to Nagada, Marenkeh. We are honored by your presence."

"Thank you, Kasuf. It is our honor to be welcomed in Nagada."

Jack's eyes rolled. "Great, they're speaking Abydonian."

Kasuf pointed toward the tent and said, "Food and drink have been prepared and await you."

Marenkeh smiled a little, a little defeated smile, and said, "Your kindness brings honor to your House."

Protocol. Pleasantries had to be followed. It was expected of them.

Marenkeh motioned to someone inside the carriage. The attendants helped a shrouded individual down. It was the bride to be. Marenkeh took hold of his daughter's hand and guided her to stand beside him.

"To secure the alliance between Nagada and Abu Simbel, I present my daughter as pledge in marriage to your House." He placed his daughter's hand in Kasuf's, a public acceptance of the agreement.

"Kasuf, my daughter. Your wife to be. May your bonding be proof of the Alliance. May your lives be joyous and long." He then removed the woman's veil to allow Kasuf to see her for the first time.

Dark hair...dark eyes...so well remembered...It couldn't be. It was!

She was Vadiahan!

"Hello, Kasuf," she said in her gentle voice.

"Hello," he answered, stunned.

She was beautiful. She still had the life in her eyes that he remembered so well, the playful look that had captured his heart so many years ago. "I did not know...your husband...what happened?"

"He died a few years ago."

"I am sorry. I was never told," Kasuf couldn't believe he was actually speaking with her again...after all the years...

Vadiahan motioned to one of the people standing nearby. "My youngest son accompanied us. I would like to introduce him." The young man, perhaps a few years older than Skaara, approached and bowed to Kasuf, the anger in his eyes apparent. He was obviously unhappy at the idea of this particular arranged marriage.

"Kasuf, this is Arakeem."

Kasuf bowed as well. "You are welcome here, Arakeem. I thank you for coming."

The young man didn't respond.

"My eldest son is attending to his duties in Dendera. My daughter is expecting her first child and is near her time. Only Arakeem could attend."

Kasuf realized that then and there was not the time to try to become friends with Arakeem. It was apparent that he felt some anger toward Kasuf but was trying to fulfill his duty as son of the bride of an arranged marriage. There would be time for becoming acquainted later. Instead, Kasuf smiled patiently and turned back to Vadiahan. "May I present my sons? I don't believe you've ever met them." Kasuf led her back towards the tent where his family stood. "This is my youngest son, Skaara, and this is my good son, Dan'yer."

"Dan'yer?" Vadiahan asked incredulously. "I have heard of you. You helped destroy Ra and free us."

Daniel would have blushed had he not heard that same statement a hundred times before. "I had help, madam," he told her. He took an immediate liking to the gentle-eyed woman. There was an air about her that reminded him of Sha'uri. "O'Neill is here as well and would be pleased to make your acquaintance if you'd like."

"Yes, I would," she smiled. She had a pretty smile and was, as he had been told, a handsome woman.

Marenkeh walked forward to greet Daniel and Skaara as well. More protocol, more pleasantries. He made no pretense of anything other than practiced civility. His words were crisp and sharp, not conversational at all. He had never truly liked Daniel, but he did respect his position in Nagada and his actions against Ra. For that alone, he could accept the Tau'ri into his family. Skaara, he barely knew. He had been not much more than a child the last time they had met, but he was willing to give the boy every opportunity. They had no other choice.

Jack strained to hear what was being said, but since the words were Abydonian he gave up. "Did you understand any of that, Teal'c?" he finally asked in utter frustration.

"Indeed. The Elder of Abu Simbel has presented his daughter Vadiahan as bride to Kasuf."

Sam smiled, Hammond grinned, but Jack was a little confused. "Vadiahan? Why does that name sound familiar?"

"Sir, that's the woman Kasuf was in love with before her father forced her to marry that man from Dendera. Remember?" Sam reminded him.

Oh. Right. Old girlfriend. Wait a minute..."The dad's letting the daughter marry the guy he didn't want her marrying before?"

"It would seem so," Teal'c commented wryly.

"How's Kasuf dealing with the revelation?" Hammond wondered aloud.

"He seemed surprised but not disappointed," was Teal'c's answer. "Vadiahan's youngest son has accompanied the wedding party but did not speak to Kasuf. Kasuf is introducing Skaara and Daniel Jackson to Vadiahan, and they are quite pleased to meet her. She has also expressed a desire to meet you, O'Neill."

"Me?"

"You are also responsible for Ra's destruction and ultimately the Abydonians' freedom. You are considered a local hero."

"I am?" Jack grinned.

"I do not understand it either," Teal'c remarked.

**********

Beneath the shelter of the tent, the Nagadan and Simbelian representatives formally accepted the negotiated terms for the alliance via marriage. The entire ritual was performed mostly in silence, the terms age-old and well known.

Daniel and Skaara stood behind Kasuf -- as was their place. It was all part of the ritual.

Kasuf was slightly distracted. He and Vadiahan were sitting opposite each other, both trying to stifle their grins. Kasuf couldn't speak for her, but he felt like he was young again.

"Do you agree, Kasuf?"

Kasuf turned toward the representative speaking to him. "Agree?" he asked.

"To the agreement?" the representative repeated indulgently.

"Yes, yes, of course." Not that Kasuf had paid any attention to anything being agreed upon. He was remembering a season long ago when they were young and anything was possible.

He wasn't young anymore, but he felt it. Did Vadiahan feel the same way? Was anything possible?

Vadiahan was also feeling like she had all those years ago. Kasuf was still the good man she had known years earlier. He was just as kind and caring, his devotion to his family paramount. They had been able to speak to each other only for a few moments before the negotiations began. She had learned of the recent events, how Dan'yer and Skaara willingly offered themselves to the Council's punishment in order to spare Kasuf. All the stories she had heard of the stranger that had killed Ra paled in comparison to the reality before her. Not only would she get to be with Kasuf, but she would also be stepmother to his two fine sons. Sometimes, what's meant to be just takes time to happen.

As her eyes met Kasuf's, the grin finally broke free from her control just as the horns sounded the warning signal. Every head turned to the guards on the lookout post.

"Tah'tutiu!"

That was the only alarm needed to bring about an ordered pandemonium. Civilians rushed back into the city while the militia members headed out toward the desert, weapons held at the ready.

Kasuf's immediate attention turned toward his guests. He quickly ushered Vadiahan and the wedding party back toward Nagada as he yelled orders that hurried the population along with them. If the Tah'tutiu attacked before they could get everyone inside the city gates...

Daniel saw that his father, the Council and the militia had things well in hand. Once he saw that everyone was following their command to retreat into the city, Daniel grabbed Skaara by the arm and chased after the militia commanders who were running toward the desert in order to survey the situation. He had to know. If Men'thu was with them...

Nabeh made his way through the rushing crowd to where he had last seen O'Neill. Only Teal'c spoke Abydonian, so the other Tau'ri might not know what was going on. They wouldn't know what to do during an attack.

"O'Neill!" he yelled over the din. "O'Neill!" So intent on finding O'Neill, Nabeh didn't realize he had done exactly that until he slammed into the colonel and was knocked back onto the ground.

Jack reached down and yanked Nabeh back to his feet. "What's going on?"

Nabeh grabbed Jack and started pulling him toward the city, motioning for the rest of the Tau'ri to follow him as well. "You must come. We must get inside. The Tah'tutiu are coming!"

"Where --" Jack didn't get a chance to finish his question. The ground began to shake beneath their feet as if a thousand hooves were pounding the ground. Turning, Jack could see now what the lookouts had been able to see moments earlier. A tremendous dust cloud rose over the horizon. Moments later, the silhouettes of mastadges and their riders could be seen hiding within the dust storm.

"Inside! Good idea!" O'Neill yelled as he ran alongside the general and his team.

**********

There had to be five hundred mastadges charging at full gallop toward Nagada.

Too many.

From their vantage point atop a low mesa, the militia leaders viewed the oncoming army as it sped toward them. One commander, Baewah, silently counted the mastadges a second time.

Far too many.

Then he took note of the riders. It didn't take a practiced eye to realize that the approaching force was composed primarily of scouts -- their clothes betrayed their status within the Tah'tutiu. So many riders, each of them armed...

This wasn't just a raiding party. It was going to be a full-scale attack!

"I think we're in trouble," Skaara whispered to his brother.

"I think that's an understatement," Daniel agreed.

Baewah called for the other's attention. "We can't fight this many on open ground. Retreat to the city. Take up your defensive positions and ready yourselves for an attack." He moved purposefully toward Daniel and Skaara, his superiors. "The scouts will be followed by the main army. Even if we were to defeat this one group, a larger group will undoubtedly follow. Is there anything else we can do?"

Daniel took one last look at the oncoming threat. "No. Not now. Once we get inside the city, I have a few ideas. Luckily, we've got Jack and the others here to help. They're professionals. They'll have more than a few ideas."

"It is not against the Tau'ri rules to fight in our war? O'Neill will help us?" Baewah needed assurance.

"Absolutely. He loves all this soldiering stuff. Let's go."

**********

Maneuvering several thousand startled people back into the confines of the city was no easy feat. Many stumbled and fell; some were nearly crushed in their mad dash away from the threat. Most of the spectators re-entered Nagada -- a little more the worse for wear but safe. The militia was the last to enter, the gates closing fast behind them -- just ahead of the rapidly encroaching army.

With a speed and precision born out of danger, the militia quickly barred the gates and assembled guards on the battlements and on the parapets every three paces thereby securing the area. Placing themselves as the living defense between the enemy and the Nagadan citizenry along with the stone defense of the walls, there was some sense of a wary, temporary security.

Kasuf quickly ushered his guests into the nearest building -- the Council Chambers. As his guests, their safety was his first personal duty according to the ages old custom of the sanctity of a guest in one's home. Their lives were Kasuf's responsibility; he was obligated to protect them even if it meant losing his own life in the process. So intent was he on getting his guests to a safe place, Kasuf had grabbed Vadiahan's hand, led her inside and had yet to let go.

The building was large enough to hold many people so convening an impromptu meeting was no problem. The Nagadan Council, Simbelian representatives, militia leaders and the visiting Tau'ri gathered around a long unused altar to discuss their options. Hafas stood opposite Kasuf, his concern as evident as his fear. It was odd to think that only a day earlier, he had wished to be the Elder. Had the Council voted otherwise, the disaster about to befall the Nagadans would have been his burden to shoulder, not Kasuf's.

Providence perhaps?

Kasuf looked through the familiar faces to find the two that he had lost track of the moment the warning trumpets sounded. He didn't see them.

"Where are my sons?" he asked.

Commander Baewah glanced behind him. "They were with me when we returned to the city. I do not remember where we were separated."

At least they were safe inside the walls. Kasuf couldn't wait for them to arrive, even though he knew they would be there soon -- and he believed he knew where they had gone. There was not much time. "Baewah, did you count the enemy numbers?"

"Yes," the commander told them. "Perhaps five hundred Tah'tutiu scouts, well armed and all on mastadges."

"Scouts?" Hafas asked incredulously. Just scouts? "Are you certain?"

"Yes. They wear the scouts' colors."

High Council Ammar quietly sighed. "This was how they took Saqqara. It is only the first part of their attack. Scouts will test our defenses before the rest of their army comes."

"But why attack Nagada?" Hafas demanded to know. "The Tah'tutiu cannot possible hope to succeed. We are too well defended, and our city is much stronger than Saqqara. Men'thu is a fool to think he can win."

"Men'thu didn't have a choice," Daniel explained as he and Skaara entered the tent, both carrying staff weapons. Seeing the knowing nod from Kasuf, the two young men approached the altar -- their silent agreement known only to them.

"How do you know this?" Hafas challenged.

Kasuf turned to Hafas, an accusing glare riveted on his face. He was still angry at Hafas' earlier attempts to oust him as Elder and for causing harm to Daniel. The tension between the two men was palpable. "You dare to question my son? Dan'yer understands Men'thu better than you. He alone has beaten the Samiu, and still you doubt him."

"Hafas," Daniel's gentle voice cut through the friction Hafas had unwittingly created, "Men'thu must have learned about the marriage alliance too late to stop Marenkeh and Vadiahan from arriving. If his plan is to stop the wedding, he'll have to ride here as soon as possible. Until word reaches Abu Simbel that the alliance has been secured the Simbelians are under no obligation to help us. Men'thu can lay siege to Nagada without worrying that he'll be attacked from the west by another militia. If he does succeed in getting into the city, he'll only need to kill my family and he's won. And Marenkeh's here. If Men'thu can capture and execute him, he'll have won Abu Simbel without ever raising arms against it. He'll have gained two cities for the expense of only one campaign."

"You cannot know this," Hafas complained again. No man could possible understand the ravings of such a madman -- unless he was mad himself.

"Yes, I can," Daniel countered bluntly. "In his mind, he has no other choice. All we can do now is hold them back long enough, force them to use up all their water and weapons and make sure they've got no other escape route than the open desert."

It sounded plausible. Jack, however, had questions. Breaking his up-until-then silence, he asked, "Uh, Daniel, exactly how are we going to do that?"

Many of the others were curious as well, but they had seen the Elder's family defuse minor situations like this before. They trusted that Kasuf and Daniel had a plan -- one much better than anything they could devise.

Kasuf lifted the top of the altar to show a variety of scrolls hidden within the structure. He pulled one from the lot and unrolled it over the top. It was a roughly drawn map of the area, the major cities, outposts, mountains and rivers. Kasuf pointed to a pass in the mountains. "Men'thu must travel here quickly. He will have to travel through the pass. Our first objective is to cause an avalanche that will block the pass. That will divide Men'thu's forces. Those on the opposite side of the pass will have to go around the mountain. To get here in time to help with the attack, they will have to ride their mastadges at full gallop. That will kill many of the beasts and with no mounts, little water and a long journey, many of the soldiers will die as well."

Daniel shifted Jack's attention to the depiction of Nagada. "With the pass blocked, the Tah'tutiu won't be able to retreat either. Their only hope is to get into the city because we have enough food and water to outlast them. We can keep them from doing that, but it should make them desperate."

Jack could see where they were going with this. "You're going to use the desert against them."

"Exactly."

"But Nagada is still in danger," Hafas uttered. Was no one concerned about this fact? "Placing us in siege is not wise nor can it be successful."

Hafas had never been a military-minded man -- neither was Daniel, but at least he knew enough military history that he could see the advantages as well as the disadvantages. Knowing it was best not to instigate an argument with the man at the moment, Daniel calmly explained their position again. Maybe Hafas would understand the defense plan if they repeated it enough times. "It's risky, I'll admit it, but putting us into a siege is our best option, Hafas. After we block the pass, a large portion of the main army will have to go around the mountains. They'll also have to ride their mastadges at a full gallop if they want to get here to reinforce their troops since it would take too long for them to clear out the pass. They'll run most of their animals into the ground from exhaustion. They'll use up most of their water and food getting here. They'll lose approximately one third of their attack force to exposure, exhaustion and heat sickness. By the time they get here, they'll be tired, low on supplies and desperate. Their numbers will have been depleted. They'll have to fight, and they won't be ready. And, according to the old ones, the Toldah Sandstorm is imminent. Men'thu's going to be fighting us, the desert and time. If they don't fight quickly and just sit out there, they'll die. We have shelter, food and access to water. They don't. Trust us. This time, a siege can be our best hope of survival."

"Sandstorm?" Jack quipped. He hated Abydonian sandstorms. They were so...sandy.

"A great sandstorm that comes once a year," Kasuf told them. "Sometimes, the winds are so powerful that they can destroy buildings. If the Tah'tutiu are not inside shelter before the sandstorm reaches Nagada, they will not survive. No one does. The sandstorm will by our ally, if necessary."

There was a great deal of common sense in the suicidal plan.

Teal'c had listened passively, weighing the options available to the Nagadans, and found that the course of action already decided on had merit. "Daniel Jackson, how do you propose we block the pass? According to the map, it would take at least one day to reach it, and the Tah'tutiu will be entrenched around the city."

Daniel smiled, the grin obviously contagious as Skaara and Kasuf also joined him. "With the help of a little military secret, Teal'c." He glanced over at Kasuf and saw his father's nodded permission to tell them. "Not long after I came here, I found some technology Ra left behind in the main temple. There wasn't much still intact, but I did find some transport rings that connect to other parts of the planet."

Goa'uld technology? Right under their noses? And Daniel hadn't said anything to anyone? "And you're telling us this now because..." Jack sneered jokingly. Already, he was seeing that everyone in the room was listening to Daniel and Kasuf as they discussed their defense. It wouldn't do anyone any good to rile the natives by arguing with their favorite son.

"Military secrets, Jack. You never know when advanced technology can save your life, but the rings are considered to be need-to-know. You're not on the Council or a member of the upper echelon of the Nagadan military, so you didn't need to know."

Great. Daniel was turning Air Force rules against them! Sneaky little so-and-so...

"Skaara and I can transport there and use the staff weapons to shoot down enough boulders at the top of the pass to bury it. Then we transport back here...the Tah'tutiu won't know what's happened until it's too late."

Brilliant. Dangerous, but brilliant. "Okay. You block the pass. Then what?"

"We fight, O'Neill," Skaara answered quickly. "Men'thu's left us no other choice."

Right. Jack looked at Hammond, perhaps expecting his commanding officer to make a comment? He was disappointed. On Abydos, Jack did have a special standing with the Nagadans that even outranked Hammond. "Okay. We fight. Where do you want us, Kasuf?" Jack asked.

**********

Military secrets.

Daniel had kept a military secret from Jack.

Daniel had kept a military secret from SG-1.

Daniel had kept a military secret from Earth.

Jack didn't know whether he should be annoyed, angry or proud. True, one of the SGC's primary objectives was to find allies and technology to help fight the Goa'uld, and Daniel had kept one of the basic technologies secret for several years, but it was also true that each government had military secrets that could not be revealed. The Nagadans had transport rings, and Daniel was sworn to silence. Jack understood that. He did.

He was still angry that Daniel hadn't told them about the transport rings.

Carter was already eager to take a look at them. Here was a prime opportunity to study the devices on a friendly planet -- friendly after the Tah'tutiu were dealt with -- and she was already trying to decipher the inner workings based on Daniel's descriptions. Unfortunately, the Council had put the kibosh on the idea of her analyzing it. As High Council Ammar had reminded them, the rings were secret, known only to the Council, the militia leaders and the Chief Elder's family, but perhaps they could make some special dispensation for the Tau'ri. Not that they didn't appreciate all the help the Tau'ri were offering, not that they weren't grateful for that help, it was just a good idea to keep military secrets...secret.

Diplomatic double-talk.

Hammond and Carter had gotten easy jobs. The general was discussing battle tactics with the Council while Carter had been recruited to repair a few of the staff weapons that were housed in the temple. Also, she got to walk Daniel and Skaara to the transport rings. Daniel had asked Ammar to let Carter at least see the transport rings even if she couldn't actually study them. She knew enough about them to decide for herself if they were still working properly, and the Council had allowed that -- but only that. Jack and Teal'c had been recruited to help bring weapons from the armory to the defending militia. Teal'c had been somewhat impressed by the inventory the Nagadans had amassed. Spears, arrows and badiks were abundant, but they also had a better supply of staff weapons than the SGC. There were even a few laser cannons recovered from death gliders, all in perfect working order.

As they were filling the wagon that would be taken to the front wall, Teal'c observed, "You are angry, O'Neill."

"I'm not angry."

"Then you are upset."

"I'm not upset."

Teal'c piled another armload of spears into the wagon. "Then you are disturbed by something?"

"I'm not disturbed!" Jack almost shouted. "I'm freaking pissed!" He tossed several badiks into the wagon, one blade burying itself into the wood.

"May I ask why you are freaking pissed?" Teal'c asked, his amusement very visible. "Is it because of Daniel Jackson's silence concerning the Goa'uld technology he discovered here?"

"He should have trusted us, Teal'c. We would have kept the secret. There's no way I'd ever do anything that would harm the Abydonians. These people are...well, hell, they're some of the best people we're ever going to meet." Jack leaned up against the wagon for a moment. "I thought I knew him better than that."

"Daniel Jackson is an honorable man," Teal'c reminded his friend. "He promised to keep the transport rings secret, and he has never spoken of them, just as he has never betrayed the Earth's defenses. If he had told you of their existence, would your superiors have trusted him with any military secrets?"

Good point. "No, they wouldn't have trusted him. And he wouldn't have been allowed on SG-1. And I wouldn't have been allowed to tell him anything either."

"Just as he was not allowed to tell us anything about the Abydonian military defenses," Teal'c theorized. "I believe that Daniel Jackson was only following orders. As any soldier would."

Soldier. Danny, a soldier? The entire concept was bizarre. But here, on Abydos, he was a lot more than the sneezing geek who drove Jack to distraction. Teacher, leader, general...Daniel wore a lot of hats. "You're right," Jack conceded. He walked up to the mastadge, took hold of its harness and led it away with its wagon full of weapons. "But I'm still freaking pissed about the whole thing."

**********

The transport rings quickly descended from an alcove in the roof of the tunnel, transporting Skaara and Daniel to one of the caves hidden inside the mountain pass. From that one cave entrance, they had a perfect view of the largest section of the pathway that connected Abu Simbel and Nagada. They also had an unimpeded view of a series of boulders atop the crest of the mountain. Just perfect to cause a rockslide and block the pass.

The tunnel's darkness hid them from the outside world, but as they moved toward the tunnel entrance, they could hear voices. Trying to stay hidden but also trying to find the source of the voices, they saw two Tah'tutiu in the distance, perhaps standing guard? Perhaps acting as guides to passing soldiers? There were only two of them. The Tah'tutiu were facing away from the tunnel opening, their attention on anything but the pass behind them.

"Only two?" Skaara whispered. "That's not a very wise move."

Daniel nodded. "No, not a wise move on Men'thu's part, but it's a lucky break for us. We only have to deal with the two of them and not an entire troop."

"But why only two? Men'thu would plan a better rear defense, wouldn't he?"

Daniel craned his neck to see the opposite end of the pass without allowing his head to peek into the daylight. "He's probably thinking that since they're continually riding mastadges through here, there'll be enough soldiers to ward off any problems. Besides, there's only open ground between the pass and Abu Simbel. Even Saqqara. They're not expecting any resistance from that direction. Men'thu's not going to waste a lot of troops to guard their best means of escape."

"Escape?" Skaara kept his voice low. Even though they were in a tunnel that was blocked off from the pass by a large boulder leaning over the opening, a voice could easily carry to both entrances of the pass. "I don't believe that word is known to Men'thu. He's only been truly defeated once." Skaara's voice filled with admiration at his brother's innocent victory.

"But only that one time. He --" A loud noise started sounding, the ground shaking beneath their feet. "Here comes the next group."

They watched from the darkness as a large group of mastadges rode quickly through the pass. This time, it wasn't scouts. Those were the fighting troops, all well-armed and ready for battle.

After the mastadges had ridden past and the dust had settled, Daniel noticed the two guards moving. "They're coming."

The brothers hid further back into the darkness as they watched the guards come closer and pass by their hiding place. They headed up the pass -- exactly in the direction Daniel and Skaara were interested in.

"What are they doing?" Skaara asked quietly.

"I'd say they're patrolling. They probably walk from one end of the pass to the other just in case Men'thu decides to check on them."

"So what is the plan?"

Daniel watched the two guards walk farther away. He had limited options. No, change that. They had no options.

But maybe Daniel could keep two more people from getting killed in Men'thu's war.

"Once they get closer to the far side we'll fire."

Skaara looked at his brother as if Daniel had suddenly lost his mind. "Why wait?"

"Once we shoot at the boulders, those two will have to run in the opposite direction to keep from being buried. They'll be on the other side of the pass and won't be able to reach Nagada without going around the mountain." Daniel hoped his reasoning was sound, but Skaara's disbelieving look made him think twice. "Look, I'd like to get out of this with as few people as possible getting killed."

Skaara nodded his understanding. Dan'yer was always a fair man, even in the face of war. They tried to stay in the shadows of the tunnel as much as possible while still having a clear shot at the canyon ridge. They aimed the staff weapons at the ground below the boulders perched high on the canyon's wall. Several rounds loosened the ground and destroyed the base of the boulders. The heavy rocks toppled over the edge, shattering on ledges and cracking loose great chunks of the wall. The avalanche poured dirt and rock over the entrance to the pass and buried the path for dozens of yards. The rumble echoed off the walls of the canyon and sounded down the pass. By the time the echo of the avalanche reached the troops, it would be too late. Daniel and Skaara would be back in Nagada.

Men'thu's best escape route was buried. It would take quite a while to clear the debris to restore the trade route, but the immediate need to cut off the Tah'tutiu from their supply lines and reinforcements took precedence at that particular time.

"Do you think the two guards escaped?" Skaara asked.

"I don't know. Let's hope so." Daniel took one last look at the destruction. Nagada's trading with Saqqara and Abu Simbel would be stalled for a while, and the visitors from Abu Simbel would be temporary residents of Nagada. That probably meant that he'd have extra guests in his house for a while. "Let's get back to Kasuf. We have --"

"Kel mak!"

Daniel whirled around at the defiant scream of anger.

Men'thu hadn't been foolish! He had sent backup! Two more Tah'tutiu soldiers charged at them from the clear end of the canyon, both running with badiks. Without thinking, Skaara rushed toward the smaller soldier as the taller one aimed for Daniel. Skaara fired the staff weapon at the oncoming runner, the blast piercing the enemy's stomach. The taller Tah'tutiu raged toward Daniel, every step bringing him closer to his target. Daniel ran to meet the challenge as the taller Tah'tutiu threw his badik at Daniel's head.

Daniel ducked as the badik whizzed by his ear. The Tah'tutiu used the opportunity to tackle him to the ground. With another knife in hand, the Tah'tutiu pinned Daniel beneath him. Each man had a firm grip on the knife, the soldier trying to stab the knife into Daniel's throat, Daniel trying to not let him. In a sudden move, the soldier swiped the blade across Daniel's upper arm.

"Dan'yer!" Skaara yelled.

Skaara's surprised yell distracted the Tah'tutiu enough for Daniel to change his grip on the knife. Using the momentum of the soldier's weight, he quickly altered the direction of the knife and stabbed it into his opponent's stomach.

He really hadn't wanted to do that.

He shoved the dying soldier away, stood and quickly grabbed his own arm. Oddly enough, the wound didn't hurt. Shock, he supposed.

Suddenly, Skaara was practically pushing Daniel to sit on the ground. "The Tah'tutiu sometimes have a lethal poison on their blades. I have to see."

Daniel watched as his brother quickly examined the wound. It was clean, sharp edges, no sign of poison. Ripping off a part of his shirt, Skaara bound up his brother's arm. "There was no poison on that blade. You're lucky."

"What about the other's blade?" Daniel asked.

Skaara ran back to the soldier he had killed and gently grasped the enemy's knife by the hilt. On the blade was a green-tinted substance. Poison. "It's tainted," Skaara said.

"Let me have the knife. I may need it." Daniel suggested. "We'd better get back. There's no telling what's going to happen back there once they hear the sound of the avalanche."

**********

The trip back through the transport rings was very quick, only Ammar was there to greet them as they emerged from the transport. "Dan'yer, O'Neill wished me to tell you that he wanted to see the Tah'tutiu better. Your friends are at the front gate. There was some unrest once the rumbling sounds were heard. I believe the Tah'tutiu scouts are aware of what has happened."

"Have they made a move yet?"

"No. A large contingent of mastadges rode up just after you and Skaara left. Another has just joined them. Others are riding in quickly. There will be many to fight before this is battle is won."

Many. Daniel wondered for a moment if anyone had any idea how many. He wondered how many groups had already ridden through the pass. "Thank you," Daniel said as he ran out to rejoin his friends. There was the rustle of activity all around him as he sped through the city streets. People who hours before were congratulating Kasuf on his upcoming nuptials were now slapping Daniel on the back with hearty thanks for a successful first strike against the enemy. Maybe where he had once felt awkward at his adopted people's adulation, now he felt as if he had truly earned some of their well wishes. The Abydonians weren't given to false praise. They said what they felt. After he had helped kill Ra, he had felt self-conscious and embarrassed every time someone thanked him, some people actually falling to their knees and bowing before him. Eventually, with his new family's help, such exhibitions stopped but not the grateful thanks of a once enslaved people. Now, he accepted their accolades with a good humor and a thankful heart, always painfully aware that he was in a position of authority and some of his accomplishments were no more than the outcome of his duty to the Nagadans.

The parapet above the front gate was crowded. Daniel ran up the stairs leading to it two at a time. Hammond and the other members of his team were already there with a few commanders looking at the army encamped around the city.

"That's a lot of people," Jack commented.

Daniel tried to find Men'thu, but he didn't see him anywhere among the soldiers. That could only mean one thing. "The scouts were able to get here the quickest. Wait until Men'thu gets here. He's already got his main army moving, and I don't know how many got through the pass."

"Main army?" Hammond asked incredulously. He wasn't expecting the population of Abydos to be this many despite what Kasuf had told him. Maybe even Kasuf's estimate was understated? "Exactly how big is this army, Doctor Jackson?"

"The main body would be a few thousand, I would guess. Maybe even over ten thousand in all if you count the scouts and support troops. They've had ten generations to fill their ranks."

"A few thousand, he says," Jack snorted. "You know, I've got to tell you, putting us in a siege still isn't the brightest idea I've ever heard, Daniel. Remember the Alamo?"

Daniel looked hurt. "It's all we can do, Jack. Unless you can think of anything else?"

Jack seemed dumbfounded for a moment. Then said, "Nope. I can see why you're doing it. You've got a good plan going, but I still don't like it."

Carter could only smile at the comment. It was as close to a compliment the colonel was likely to give Daniel. He wasn't one for verbal congratulations. "Sir, if everything we've been told about the Tah'tutiu's fighting tactics prove to be correct, then using the desert itself as a weapon could force them into a premature battle that they're not expecting or prepared for."

"Indeed," Teal'c also agreed. "Daniel Jackson has initiated a battle plan that will be successful. As I have witnessed, the Nagadans are capable of fighting and are willing to do so despite the fact that the enemy outnumbers them. Such determination can win wars. They will persevere."

Persevere. Jack didn't just want them to persevere. He wanted them to have more. He owed these people too much, almost as much as he owed Daniel. That first mission had turned him around. These people had helped pull him out of his depression, but it was Daniel that had given him the insight to see where his self-destructiveness was taking him. It wasn't enough that he missed his son. It wasn't enough for him to want to end it all in a blaze of glory. It was what Daniel had said that made him realize that what he did affected others. I don't want to die, these people don't want to die, it's a shame that you're in such a hurry to. Truer words had never been spoken. Daniel would die to protect the Nagadans just as he had died protecting Jack that day in Ra's ship. No, perseverance wasn't enough. These people won their freedom from a Goa'uld, and he'd see to it that they'd win their freedom against a group of tyrants -- especially when the head tyrant was after Daniel's head.

*************************

Nightfall didn't dampen anyone's spirits. Hammond watched in admiration as the Nagadans prepared for the inevitable battle to come. Water was drawn in multitudes of pitchers and urns, barricades blocked all city gates or passages into the city, all animals were rounded into their pens. The majority of Nagadan weaponry consisted of spears, arrows and knives. The AK-47s and staff weapons were in the hands of the militia, but could they make the difference in a battle? If the enemy's numbers were as great as Doctor Jackson had told them, they would run out of bullets before they could significantly decrease the Tah'tutiu forces.

It really was going to be a hand-to-hand scuffle.

The General was at a loss to know what to do or where to be. Since he had no authority on Abydos, he deferred to the greater wisdom of the desert fighters. Commander Baewah had told him to do one thing: find Dan'yer and do as he asks. O'Neill had been right. Doctor Jackson was a completely different person on Abydos. He helped ready the defenses with a military precision Hammond had not expected, especially from his ranking civilian.

"Doctor Jackson?" Hammond approached Daniel and Kasuf as they spoke with the Council. "I'm not sure where I need to be. What can I do to help?"

"A lot," Daniel told him. Taking the general by the arm, he pulled him away from the Council. "Sir, given what I've seen so far, I'm guessing that the Tah'tutiu are using different battle tactics than the ones we already know about. Men'thu must have changed the way they fight for this battle. Just from watching the scouts, I'd say that they're going to be more regimented and precise. The Nagadans don't know how to fight like that. They're still using the old methods."

"I've asked Jack and Teal'c to cover the west and south walls. They're the most vulnerable areas. Sam's got the east wall. I need you to go to the north wall and help Baewah. Everyone here knows that you're soldiers and the five of us will be coordinating the battle with radios. You have to work with the militia commanders to help organize the defense. You may see an opportunity that the militia won't and take advantage of it."

"Of course, " Hammond agreed, rather amused at the leadership abilities and command attitude the archaeologist had adopted. He wondered for a moment if these skills could be carried over to the SGC but quickly dismissed the notion. He was a man with little patience or sympathy for the military lifestyle and had ways of skirting around normal procedures -- much to the amusement of all who watched him. The SGC needed Doctor Jackson as the archaeologist/linguist/diplomat. SG-1 didn't need another soldier. "What about you?"

Daniel exhaled a long breath. "Skaara and I will be with the militia at the front gate. Kasuf has to stay back with the Council, but he'll be in charge of the overall battle. Marenkeh has his people scattered around helping protect the walls. We should have enough people to keep a full complement of three shifts on guard."

"What exactly can we expect?" Hammond wondered aloud.

Daniel pointed toward the desert. "The fighters outside will probably attack at daybreak. It will take them that long to get everything organized."

"May I ask why?" Hammond knew why he would attack at dawn or why someone on Earth would, but he needed to understand the Abydonian way of thinking. Perhaps it was similar to what he already knew.

"They'll be at their best fighting ability after a good night's sleep. I know Men'thu well enough to know he'll have developed a system and trained his soldiers to follow that system even when he's not there. But this group is going to be mostly muscle. They'll follow orders and be very unimaginative. This skirmish won't last long. As their reinforcements get here...probably throughout today, tomorrow, and the day after...that's when the real war will start."

That soon? "I thought it would take days for them to go around the mountains to get here."

"For those still on the far side of the pass, it will. Men'thu's not stupid, sir. He was bringing his troops here in small groups through the pass, and I have no idea how many made it through before we caused the avalanche. He also would have had regular patrols out in the desert. They'll be able to travel here quickly without expending all their resources. Those coming around the mountain won't be so lucky. There's a slight chance that Men'thu will be with them, but he's probably already on this side of the mountains. Our only hope is to use the desert against them and kill Men'thu at the first opportunity. If the desert or the sandstorm doesn't get him first."

"Will killing Men'thu have that much of an effect?"

"Yes, sir. Here, destroying the leader of an army is symbolic of destroying that army. For that one reason alone, most leaders stay out of the line of fire."

"Which is why Kasuf is staying with the Council."

"When the main battle starts, yes, sir. He'll be visible for this first little skirmish. Hopefully, seeing him will help our people's morale. There are psychological aspects to every war. We can use their own rituals and customs against the Tah'tutiu."

Hammond was definitely impressed. He'd rarely heard such thought out battle tactics coming from Daniel. "Well, anything else I can do, just give the word." Hammond started walking toward the north wall.

"Sir?"

Hammond turned as Daniel handed him his own weapon. "It's a badik. It'll work better than your knife if you get into close quarters combat. The blade's a little longer than the standard SGC issue."

Hammond grasped the hilt of the knife. It had a good balance. "What about you?"

Daniel reached into the folds of his robe and withdrew a sword. In a tone more serious than Hammond had ever heard, Daniel stated, "This may give me the advantage if I have to go one-on-one with Men'thu. And if this doesn't," he withdrew a small knife with a green tainted blade, "this will. The Tah'tutiu like to use poisoned blades. I may have no choice but to use it."

Hammond didn't have to comment. He could see the reluctance in Daniel's eyes. To him, this wasn't just fighting -- it was killing. And Daniel didn't like to kill.

**********

Daybreak

The first battle had been short enough. The scouts made the first charge before the first sun had risen. They formed ranks and rushed the walls in segmented waves. The first group to reach the walls had been pushed back by staff weapon blasts. O'Neill's advice had been to hold the AK-47s in reserve. For the first attack anyway.

The second wave, made up mostly of the groups that had ridden in after the scouts had arrived, were somewhat demoralized by the presence of staff weapons. A barrage of Nagadan arrows turned them back.

The third wave which consisted of a mixture of scouts and soldiers began its charge toward the west wall but turned back when the Nagadan militia fired two rounds each from their AK-47s.

A simultaneous barrage of spears countered the fourth wave which was an all-out attack by every Tah’tutiu present.

By the end of the first hour, the Tah'tutiu soldiers had been decimated to less than half of their original number. The remaining few retreated back from the city to regroup. They set up a secondary camp as they waited for fresh reinforcements to arrive.

Men'thu would not take their defeat well.

**********

"They'll be coming 'round the mountain when they come.

They'll be coming 'round the mountain when they come.

They'll be coming 'round the mountain, they'll be coming 'round the mountain,

They'll be coming 'round the mountain when they come.

"They'll be riding hairy critters when they come.

They'll be riding hairy critters when they come.

They'll be riding hairy critters, they'll be riding hairy critters,

They'll be riding hairy critters when they come.

"And we'll all start a-shootin' when they come.

And we'll all --"

"O'Neill, is this singing necessary?" Teal'c asked, a slight hint of annoyance creeping into his voice as he and the other people with radios were forced to listen to the Colonel's out-of-tune singing coming over the speakers. In a battle situation, no one was allowed to turn off their radios, no matter what noise was being heard over them.

"It's an old Earth tradition, T," Jack said. "There are certain occasions that just beg for a song. When kids get on a school bus and want to annoy the driver, it's 99 Bottles Of Beer On The Wall. When you go to the train station, it's Down By The Station. Since we're sitting here waiting for the bad guys to come around the mountain, I thought it was appropriate."

"I see."

For a moment, Teal'c was silent, then, "But those are not the words to She'll Be Coming 'Round The Mountain."

Criticism? From a Jaffa? "You know the song?"

"Cassandra Fraiser taught me many songs that she had learned in school. She'll Be Coming 'Round The Mountain was one of her favorites when she was younger."

"Really?" Jack almost looked hurt. "She never told me that was her favorite. I thought it was Little Brown Jug."

"That was a long time ago, sir," Sam reminded him. "She grew up. Her tastes became more sophisticated."

A loud shout from below interrupted their conversation briefly. The healers were barking out orders to help carry the wounded into buildings set up as hospitals -- such as they were. Luckily, the number of casualties was relatively small.

"Not bad for a first try, huh?" Jack asked his team. "What do you think they're gonna do next?"

"Wait for reinforcements before attacking again," Teal'c suggested. "That is what Daniel Jackson is preparing for."

Daniel was preparing? Jack never thought he'd hear that coming from anyone. "Well, he's been right so far. Let's see if he can bat a thousand."

"He knows what he's doing, sir," Sam complimented her teammate. "He understands the rules better than we do."

"Thank you, Sam," Daniel's voice sounded appreciative over the radio. "It's nice to know someone has confidence in me."

"Now wait a minute!" Jack broke in. "I've got confidence. It's just...uh, well..."

"Jack, it's when you're either worried or bored that you start singing. You can't be bored so you must be worried."

Jack could almost feel the sarcasm. "Daniel, I'll have you know --"

"He's right, sir," Sam quickly supported Daniel's assertion. "Remember P7R-856? We were helping the Tok'ra, had to wait hours for the next transport, and you started singing If I Only Had A Brain from the Wizard Of Oz."

"Hey! It's a good movie."

"He behaved the same during the archaeological expedition on M97-541, Major Carter," Teal'c added cheerfully. "While Daniel Jackson and the other scientists were exploring the pyramid SG-2 discovered, O'Neill was whistling a song that Major Ferretti recognized as the Yellow Rose Of Texas."

There was the sound of muted grumbling coming over the mike.

"Colonel O'Neill," Hammond's voice of ever-present reason sounded calm and sure over the speaker, "I seem to recall another instance when you were humming Danny Boy. I believe it was when Doctor Jackson was giving his presentation of the Furlings language."

"That's what he was humming?" Daniel wanted to know. "I couldn't place the tune. Ferretti thought it was the theme song to Speed Racer."

"Oh, we are so not dissing Speed Racer!" Jack yelled back. "I always wanted a car like his. Made James Bond's cars look like they were made by Matchbox."

Other yells could be heard from outside the walls. Jack looked toward the west to see what was coming. "Uh, Daniel, there are a hell of a lot of riders coming in all at once. I think a lot of Men'thu's main forces are starting to filter in."

"We were expecting them." Daniel didn't seem at all surprised. In fact, he hadn't been surprised by anything that the Tah'tutiu had done. "Regardless of how many arrive, they'll attack in the morning."

Sam had faith that Daniel knew what he was talking about, but there was some skepticism coming from her military side. Daniel wasn't a soldier. True, he had more field experience than most soldiers she knew, but he was a civilian doing a soldier's job. He wasn't trained for it, no matter how well he did the job. "Daniel, are you sure they won't attack earlier? Or later? It seems a bit cliched for them to attack at dawn."

The whole mess was one big cliche. "It'll be the best time, Sam. Some will have gotten some food and rest. And they're trying to beat the sandstorm that's coming. Right now, they don't have enough people to do much damage. They will by tomorrow morning. That's when they'll hit." Daniel was sure of that. He was more certain of that fact than of any other fact in his experience. It's what he would do. "We shouldn't have too much trouble until then."

"And then?" Jack had to know.

"All hell's gonna break loose."

*************************

No guard would leave his post. No commander would release their command even temporarily. Everyone was eager for the next battle and was anticipating what was to come. All preparations that could be thought of had been taken.

The hard part was the waiting.

Kasuf had taken his leave from Vadiahan, his guests and the Council to reassure himself that his sons were alive and well. Although he was supposed to remain out of sight and out of the line of fire, the momentary lull seemed safe enough for him to venture out. He climbed the steps to the narrow scaffolding above the gate where Daniel and Skaara had taken guard positions. They were keeping an eye on the enemy while they were talking in hushed tones. Kasuf knew what they were discussing. Not much got past him, but he'd never let those two know that he was wise to their tricks. A good father always had to be able to get the best of his sons, even if sometimes he had to let them get the best of him.

"You did well this morning," Kasuf praised them as he sat down beside them. "The commanders are sending messages that your plan to defend from the initial attack was successful."

"We just didn't let anyone get in," Daniel said absently as he passed a flask of water to his father. "We may not be so lucky next time." Daniel didn't want to talk about the battle. He wanted to satisfy his curiosity on another matter. "How are Vadiahan and Marenkeh? Are they all right?"

"Very much so. Marenkeh has been helping to coordinate the preparations. He has proven to be very adept in organization. Vadiahan is helping the healers ready bandages for the wounded, and her son has volunteered to assist Davaris."

Skaara wanted more, not just a clinical explanation of what was going on behind them. "And Hafas? He's with you and the Council, isn't he?"

"Yes. And he's very glad that he did not defeat us before the Council. I do not believe he wishes to be the Chief Elder at this moment." Speaking of which, "Dan'yer, how is your back?"

"It's fine."

"Dan'yer, you can't lie to me. I know you too well," Kasuf gently scolded him.

"All right. It twinges a little bit, but it's nothing serious. I can do what I have to."

"Of that, I have no doubt," Kasuf beamed with pride. "This will be a day long remembered by our people. If we can defeat Men'thu, we would have helped rid our world of a second tyrant. It would be a good thing to be remembered so."

The three men waited on the scaffolding for the remainder of the morning, talking with each other, spending what could be their last day together. By noon, the desert outside Nagada was again filled with Tah'tutiu soldiers. This wasn't a poorly equipped advance scouting party with a meager portion of trained soldiers to fill their ranks. This was a contingent of armed soldiers ready to fight and who weren't underestimating their enemy.

"We no longer have surprise as an advantage," Kasuf groaned as he watched the Tah'tutiu prepare for their next attack. "They know what we will do now, how we well defend ourselves."

Daniel was spying on the enemy through a pair of borrowed binoculars. He felt...no, he knew that Men'thu would be with them. He couldn't leave the disruption of the marriage alliance to his subordinates. Men'thu had to personally stop the wedding. That act alone would solidify the fear of him in people's minds. Resistance to him would be non-existent.

Then...there...approaching the Tah'tutiu line on an exhausted mastadge was Men'thu.

He had arrived.

"They know some of what we will do, but they don't know everything we can do. And we've still got an edge."

"We do?" Kasuf watched his son stare at their foe.

"If we can hold them off for another day, the sandstorm will take out many of them. You taught me how to read sandstorms. Look at the sky, those clouds. The Toldah Sandstorm will be here tomorrow."

Tomorrow. Kasuf knew the timetable as well as his son did. All the signs pointed to an afternoon sandstorm, perhaps even earlier. "They will not attack before morning you said," Kasuf remembered. Surely they wouldn't attack earlier than tomorrow morning? Knowing the ruthlessness imagination Men'thu possessed, there was a very good chance that he might attack early. Nagada couldn't withstand both a battle and a sandstorm if the battle lasted two days. The plan to try to withstand the Tah'tutiu had proven the only viable defense possible, but now...

"Tomorrow," Daniel repeated. "They'll attack tomorrow morning, and the sandstorm will come. We've got a chance."

*************************

The hour before dawn.

There's a stillness that settles over the land before the first rays of sunshine break over the horizon. A stillness that speaks the promise of all things possible before the day is done.

As Daniel looked over the enemy camp, their campfires glowing in the darkness, many different thoughts sped through his mind. The predominant thoughts were of the coming battle and the number of people involved. Men'thu's army was larger than anyone had thought, and more were arriving every hour. They were well armed with arrows and spears, and each soldier carried a badik. Their mastadges had been removed from the camp; their few wagons barricaded escape routes from the city.

Not that anyone was looking to leave the city.

One small group in particular held most of his attention. Daniel had read about siege engines, seen pictures of them, but this was the first time he'd ever seen one built. Just off in the distance, they were building a battering ram. There wasn't that much wood in the area, but Men'thu had secured ample beams to tie together with ropes. A large stone was placed at the tip of the beams to finish the weapon. Crude, but effective.

What was Men'thu planning? The battering ram was somewhat obvious, but Men'thu could be very obvious about his plans and designs. However, he wasn't one to let the enemy know his plans before he unveiled them, so why was he allowing his troops to build a battering ram where the Nagadans could see them? Was it a terror tactic? Was he trying to scare the Nagadans into surrendering? That wasn't Men'thu's style.

He wasn't surprised to learn he wasn't alone.

"That's a lot of people," Jack whispered as the rest of the team joined Daniel for a quick look-see at the army. Besides, it might be the last time all of them could talk to each other. The next few hours would tell. Jack fervently hoped that the narrow scaffolding would hold all their weight.

"Almost two thousand were there before sundown," Daniel told him. "At least, that's the current guess in the betting pool. Now, maybe between four and five thousand."

"How many do you think there are altogether?" Sam wondered aloud.

"No one really knows, but Men'thu will have called up all of his soldiers for this battle. Nagada's too big for him to use half measures."

The sound of Jack's muted laughter followed his statement, prompting him to say, "What?"

"You. You're using military terms. Acting like a general preparing his troops." Seeing Daniel's almost annoyed look, Jack said quickly, "Look, we know you know a lot. You've been around us for all these years. You had to pick up a few ideas. You've got more practical field experience that most of the people at the SGC. I just didn't know you could do all..." he motioned his hand back and forth, "this. You never have had much patience with us military types, and here you are acting like one."

Teal'c also added his approval. "As a scholar, you have proven yourself many times. As a warrior, you have as well. I do believe that your skill as a militia commander has been strengthened by your achievements with SG-1. We are suitably impressed, Daniel Jackson."

That did bring a smile to Daniel's face. "It's all part of the job of being an Elder's son-in-law. Skaara and I are in command of the militia, whether we can actually do the job or not. Most of what we do is guesswork."

"A great deal of what a general does is guesswork," Sam agreed. "At least, that's what my dad says. You just act like you know what you're doing and hope for the best."

"Your guesses have been right on the money from what I've seen." Jack did admire the results of Daniel's instincts. "Now, tell me why we're not attacking them before they're ready? We're waiting for them to hit us first."

"Uh, custom," Daniel told him. "If we wait for them to attack, we're justified in whatever action we take to stop them. If we attack first, we become the aggressors and look like tyrants to the other cities."

"Oooookay," Jack uttered, his disbelief apparent. "We're waiting for them to take the first shot to protect Nagada's reputation. Sure. No problem. Makes sense." He paused for only a moment before saying, "This is stupid, you know that. Right?"

"Yes, I know, but those are the rules. We've got to work with it."

Jack could see the outline of the Tah'tutiu camp as the first sprigs of sunlight peeked over the dunes. There were a lot of Tah'tutiu out there. More would come. And they'd have to fight them. There was no way to get an accurate head count either.

This was not going to be pretty.

"Dan'yer!" Skaara walked along the parapet and approached them on the scaffolding quickly but carefully. No one wanted to fall off the narrow structure. "Father wants us to join him and General Hammond. He said that there was something you should see."

It only took a few minutes to join Kasuf and Hammond at Commander Baewah's post. The two were watching the Tah'tutiu intently.

"Father?"

Kasuf moved over to allow Daniel a better view. "There. Do you see?"

What did he see? A large group of soldiers walking toward them. One man in particular stood out from the others. Not by his height or stature, not his clothes or looks...no, it was something far less tangible yet much more realistic than any physical affectation. He had a commanding presence that was unmistakable. As he walked through the ranks of soldiers, they parted to give him an unfettered path. No one dared approach him, speak to him or even look him in the eye, yet they followed him with their eyes or by turning their heads. His slightest whim was translated with the merest movement of a hand or finger or twitch, and that whim would be carried out immediately. All without saying a word, and the only one who could give the word was that one man.

"I take it he's the head rat boy himself?" Jack asked.

Kasuf looked where Jack was pointing. The sight was not a welcome one to anybody. "Yes. That is Men'thu."

That was the man himself. Mister Big Bad. Head honcho. And he looked like he meant business.

"Mid-cha!" Men'thu yelled at the Nagadans. More words followed in a combination of several dialects. Jack didn't have to understand any Abydonian to know the meaning behind Men'thu's words. They never changed regardless of who uttered them or where. Surrender or die, then a long stream of insults.

The Nagadans understood him. Kasuf was furious. "Dan'yer, you should answer him. I'm certain he would be pleased to hear from you."

Both Daniel and Jack took a quick glimpse at Kasuf, then each other. "Kasuf's got a healthy respect for sarcasm, doesn't he? Jack commented.

"And it's getting healthier every day."

Daniel stood, his eyes never once leaving Men'thu's. In a very direct manner, Daniel answered Men'thu back in fluid Abydonian. The laughing Jack heard among the Nagadans was nearly riotous. Even Teal'c grinned. The laughing stopped the moment the first volley of arrows was fired over their heads into the city.

"Jeez! Daniel! What the hell did you say to him?"

"Nothing he hasn't heard before."

"Daniel -- what?"

"Just that we wouldn't surrender, we're ready to fight, and for Men'thu to stick his head between his legs and kiss his ass goodbye."

The looks he received from his team were surprised. "Look, I just insulted him. He's angry. He'll attack before his troops are ready. We have to take every advantage we can."

Another volley came screaming over their heads. Daniel had his friends' full attention. "When Men'thu sends in his forces, he's going to send them all in at once. We're probably looking at one big push from him. He's going to have to try to breach the walls himself to get in here and kill Kasuf. You have to keep his troops busy enough for long enough so I can deal with Men'thu. Okay?"

Jack had to keep telling himself that this was Dan'yer, son of Kasuf. Not Daniel Jackson, archaeologist. He was the "general" in charge. "Any suggestions how we do that?"

Another volley of arrows flew overhead.

"The militia commanders will use every trick they know. Use whatever else you can think of. You've got to hold them off."

Sam saw the look of resolve shining from Daniel's eyes. There was more going on here than she had first supposed. Could it be that it all boiled down to Daniel fighting Men'thu? She didn't understand many Abydonian customs, especially not the ones concerning the ruling family, but she knew Daniel. She knew that nothing would stop him from protecting Kasuf.

"Give the word, Doctor Jackson," Hammond said. Even he knew who was in charge.

"Father, you have to return to the Council Chambers until this is over. I'm sure Vadiahan would feel safer knowing you were there. General, Jack, all of you need to get to your positions. Buy us as much time as you can. This battle could be over in a matter of hours. Once Men'thu is out of the picture, the soldiers would fall like a house of cards. And I'm only going to get one shot at stopping him."

*******************

Short, fast battle.

One shot.

Only one chance if Daniel was correct.

Hammond stood at his post on the battlement, Commander Baewah beside him. He knew his task was to assist the commander, not lead the battle, and he was quite comfortable with that role -- if one could be comfortable in a battle. The Abydonians may not have been precision military, but they did know how to work together. They had helped defeat Ra's forces. All Hammond had to do was watch for openings the commander might not see and coordinate the battle via the radio. Kasuf had said that Daniel and Men'thu could almost read each other's minds, and Daniel was the one deciding that the enemy would make the initial attack with all troops advancing. Not wise, but then again, that's why Daniel had yelled the insult. Men'thu had to attack swiftly and decisively to save face with his army.

And it was the quick stroke that usually went astray.

~~~

Sam also stood at her post. Daniel had asked her take the east wall because he knew that Commander Sedehan had no qualms about listening to advice from a woman -- the others might have. Many of the soldiers were not much older than children, but, she reminded herself, adulthood came sooner on Abydos. These so-called children had greater responsibilities thrust upon them earlier than children she knew. They had to carve their lives out of the desert sands. The desert was an unforgiving place and forced a rigid discipline on its inhabitants. People had to grow up fast or not at all. Then again, when she had visited Abydos before, these same soldiers were playing games in the streets -- just like children although they had proven themselves to be much more during the first battle. This was going to be a difficult battle. If not for them, then for her.

~~~

Teal'c had known many battles such as this. Seeing people defending their homes against impossible odds wasn't surprising. As First Prime, he'd seen the same scenario played out endless times. People with little or no battle experience would fire on Apophis' Jaffa. And he'd fired back. Apophis demanded victory. Such memories were not helpful except to strengthen his resolve that few Nagadans would die that day.

~~~

Jack's mind flashed back on another fight years earlier. Sha'uri and Skaara had organized the resistance against Ra, and Kasuf had led the Abydonians against the Jaffa. A group of untrained villagers had helped topple the almighty Goa'uld. Surprisingly enough, he and Daniel had been the ones to go down in Goa'uld history as the Tau'ri that defeated him. There was no mention of the Abydonians. Jack was grateful for small favors. The last thing the Abydonians needed was a fleet of ha'taks coming to Abydos to wipe them out. No, they had beaten Ra then. They would beat the Tah'tutiu now. There was no other choice.

~~~

Daniel stood beside Skaara above the city gates. He considered his options, his preparations. He had a few tricks up his sleeve, but they were geared to get Men'thu angry as well as stop the Tah'tutiu. If he could get Men'thu to focus his energies on him, to go after Daniel instead of trying to just breach the walls and gain entrance to the city, then they had a better chance of stopping the attackers. He noticed the soldiers under his command crouched behind the battlement walls. The one true advantage the Nagadans had was that Men'thu didn't know how many people would be defending the city or exactly what their defenses were -- and that was one advantage Daniel was going to exploit. He had one trick in particular up his sleeve. Knowing that Men'thu would want to try to take the city intact initially, there were a few defenses that Daniel could use against a few attacks meant to achieve exactly that. The one command he had given secretly was for some of the women to start boiling spoiled mastadge milk downwind of Men'thu's position. It was more of a device to anger the Tah'tutiu despite some valuable uses...

Jack would have a fit if Daniel had to order the use of the boiling spoiled mastadge milk.

They watched as the Tah'tutiu formed ranks. Men'thu had obviously learned about sectioning his forces from somewhere. The enemy was grouped into divisions of three squads each. All were easily discernible as the divisions equally spaced themselves around Nagada's walls. The divisional soldiers were armed with badiks and ladders while the archers stood behind the divisions, ready to cover their comrades with fire tipped arrows.

The battering ram was dragged into position. It looked heavy, solid. It was big enough to knock through the city walls if given enough time. The gates had been reinforced and barricaded during the night, but would the barricade hold?

And Men'thu?

He stood at the side of the battering ram.

"Mid'cha!" Men'thu commanded his troop's attention. "Sege!" The Abydonian word for attack rang across the desert.

Daniel keyed his mike. "Get ready. Here they come!"

The archers fired volley after volley of arrows into the city, creating mass confusion and setting fires to items that hadn't been cleared from the streets. The volleys were followed by the simultaneous charge of troops, the soldiers yelling blood-curdling rage-filled screams. The archers kept up a heavy fire, trying to clear off the parapets. The Abydonians refused to be moved.

"Everyone stay down!" Daniel ordered the troop under his command. He waited, bided his time. He had to make a decisive move. He had to get Men'thu angrier, get his attention focused on him and not the city.

~~~~~

Hammond, like the people around him, had sheltered as best he could from the initial onslaught from the archers. Commander Baewah had ordered everyone to stay behind what little protection the walls afforded and to wait until they heard the approaching yells of the charging Tah'tutiu.

Baewah indicated Hammond's badik. "That is Dan'yer's, is it not?"

The general held up the knife, and said, "Yes. He gave it to me earlier. He said I might need it."

Baewah apparently approved. "He trusts you. He would not have given you his badik if he didn't. He worked forging it for many days." With a quick nod of his head toward the Tah'tutiu, he said, "This wall is not as high as the others. The enemy will try to climb over the walls here first. We must not let that happen. Should one do so, he must be killed. We are not seeking to take prisoners. Not yet. If the Council wishes prisoners, there will be other opportunities for them to do so. Do you understand?"

Wholesale killing without taking any prisoners at all? By the Council's orders? "No prisoners at all?"

"We do not have enough guards to watch any prisoners. All of our people are being used to defend the city. It would be too dangerous to take prisoners right now."

Not enough people to guard prisoners. Kill the enemy no matter what.

Another chorus of yells were heard, closer than before. Wooden thuds echoed as the lead troops placed ladders against the city walls and attempted to climb them.

Baewah and his troops stood by some unspoken command and began firing arrows and throwing rocks on the Tah'tutiu. Some were knocked off their ladders, some jumped to avoid being hurt worse. Hammond joined the Nagadans at the wall to see if there was anything he could do to help. One Tah'tutiu soldier slammed a ladder beneath Hammond's position and several began to climb. Hammond took the badik and hooked it under the topmost rung of the ladder and pushed. The ladder fell, the soldiers fell, and a generous round of Abydonian cursing could be heard from them. There was something almost comical in the way the soldiers were sprawled underneath the ladder, so comical in fact that several other Nagadans performed the same trick -- much to the dismay and mounting anger of the Tah'tutiu.

Baewah didn't stop his troops from laughing at the sight. He joined in himself. "Very good, Hammond. We'll make an Abydonian out of you yet!"

It was only a temporary reprieve. There'd be no way to keep them all away for long, but Daniel had said they needed to buy time. If they could keep the army out long enough for Daniel to do whatever it was he was planning to do...

~~~~~

An arrow barely missed Sam and skewered the grain sack right next to her. Arrows. She was fighting an enemy armed with arrows, knives and spears. It was almost like stepping into a movie set in medieval times. No, correction. It was like stepping into a movie set in Cleopatra's time. She felt a little awkward with her P-90 held at the ready while most of the people around her were armed with badiks and staff weapons and only a few AK-47s. The guns were to be used as a last resort. The ammo wouldn't last otherwise.

Commander Sedehan pointed to the troops charging their position. They were carrying torches and filled sacks. "They cannot breach these walls. They will try to use smoke to force us back. We cannot allow that."

"What's in the sacks?" Sam asked him.

"Dulfras leaves and mastadge dung. The mastadge dung will let the fires burn long, but the leaves burn quickly. The stench will be short lasting but long enough to turn us away."

Of course. A stink bomb. And since there wasn't much wood to use as fuel, they had to burn mastadge dung.

The Nagadan archers began firing into the oncoming troops, their arrows stopping only a portion of the Tah'tutiu.

"Can we put out the fires once they're set?" Sam asked Sedehan.

"We cannot spare the water, and I don't believe we have gathered enough sand to smother it."

Sam thought quickly. Daniel had asked them to stall the Tah'tutiu, to buy him time. They couldn't stop all of them, couldn't stop all the sacks from burning, but maybe they could redirect the smoke back towards the enemy?

Her mike suddenly demanded her attention. "Listen up, folks," Jack's voice came over the speakers. "Little problem here. Something about burning dulfras leaves and mastadge dung and no way to put out the fires. Any suggestions?"

"We're facing the same problem, sir," Sam answered quickly. "Perhaps we could --"

"There's a way," Daniel suddenly interrupted. "Hold on, I've got some problems to deal with here."

~~~~~

The soldiers began moving the battering ram toward the city gates -- Men'thu taking the lead position. They just had to get a little closer...just a little closer...closer...closer...

Daniel notched an arrow into his bow, pointed it over the wall and toward the ropes near Men'thu's position. "Now!" Daniel shouted to his soldiers. "Up!"

His troops rose up from behind the rampart wall, their arrows at the ready. Some had been lit by torches, others ready to pierce skin and bone.

"Fire!" Daniel commanded.

He and his soldiers fired simultaneously at the battering ram. Arrows flew, hitting their marks, setting fire to the dry wood and scattering the Tah'tutiu from the smoldering battering ram.

All but Men'thu.

He stood his ground, his direct stare never leaving Daniel's face.

He lifted his hooked arm-badik toward Daniel and yelled, "Tol sati!" before retreating to a new position.

"He's coming for you," Skaara said. "He'll try another way inside."

"I know. This was too easy," Daniel mumbled. "He just walked away...what's he...the battering ram was just a feint. He's planning something..." But what?

Skaara saw the other Nagadans defending their positions, driving the Tah'tutiu back from the front gate. Their first run hadn't gained them any ground. The Tah'tutiu weren't known for retreating. Yet they retreated. They weren't afraid of anything, not even death, but they were fleeing the onslaught of Nagadan arrows. Even now, Skaara could see through the kicked-up dust to see them regrouping. Dan'yer was right. They should have made a full-scale attack and not retreat. What was Men'thu planning? "He knows you can guess his moves. Perhaps he's doing something unexpected?"

Daniel considered the option, but quickly dismissed it. "No. He wouldn't do that. His troops don't even sneeze unless he allows it. If he did something that broke training, the Tah'tutiu wouldn't know what to do..." Daniel's mind raced through the options. Attack, retreat -- complete opposite to Tah'tutiu procedure. Men'thu repositioning himself -- not typical for someone who likes to be in the front of the line. Only one battering ram -- Men'thu was smart enough to form contingency plans and being well supplied before any war. Why not two? The Tah'tutiu were trying to set smoke bombs all around the city -- not quite their style. A second charge being prepared -- Men'thu not in the lead.

Men'thu not in the lead?

Things just became clear.

"Skaara, I need you to take command here. I know what Men'thu's trying to do. Keep them from the front gates, okay?"

"We will stop them, Dan'yer."

As Daniel climbed down the steps to the ground, he grabbed up his mike again. The great dulfras leaves/mastadge dung problem still existed. "Jack, the dulfras leaves will burn quickly and the stink will drive everyone back. They'll be able to get over the walls. Tell the commanders to start a milk line. They'll know what that means. That'll buy you time."

"A milk line?" Sam's voice crackled over the fighting.

"Boiling spoiled mastadge milk. Remember the boiling oil routine used during castle sieges? Same principle. It'll put out the dulfras leaves and kill the stench. Besides, they don't want to get scalded with boiling milk. You burn them, and they'll have to be pulled from the battle."

Sheesh. Daniel was actually talking about hurting someone? One day, he'd have to get Dan'yer in a fight against the Goa'uld, not Daniel. Wonder what would happen then? "What about us?" Jack asked. "Won't the milk stink too?"

Daniel could only chuckle as he made his way back toward the far side of the city. "Not nearly as bad as dulfras leaves. Trust me, Jack. You'll survive."

~~~~~

Jack just stared at his radio. He'll survive? Okay. He didn't even ask any more questions. He'd already seen a lot of Tah'tutiu end up on the wrong side of an arrow. So far, they hadn't had to use their guns, but if there were another attack like the one they just went through...there wouldn't be enough ammo. They should have brought the ammo for the militia with them when they first arrived, but no. It was all crated up at the SGC and coming with the rest of the wedding presents.

And now they were supposed to pour boiling spoiled mastadge milk on the bad guys. Sure. Why not? Simple enough plan.

Simple. Archaic. Old-fashioned.

It might even work. The Nagadans definitely thought it would. The moment the commanders heard Daniel's order over the Tau'ri's radio, there was a flurry of activity. They had been expecting the command. Women came running with buckets full of boiling milk which they poured over the walls directly onto the troops below. The fires that had been set were put out, and the screams of the Tah'tutiu whose flesh became the unlucky recipients of third degree burns rent the battlefield. They began retreating, their expressions seeming to indicate that they hadn't expected such an organized resistance.

Damn, Jack thought to himself. It really was going to be the simple defenses that worked best.

~~~~~

Teal'c watched in keen admiration as the Tah'tutiu beat a hasty retreat from the milk line. An ingenious idea, simple in the making and execution, resulting in a brief respite from the battle. The wounded inside the city were seen to -- gratefully, there weren't many. Only a few Nagadans had been fatally struck by arrows, but many more Tah'tutiu bodies littered the battlefield. The return volleys of arrows had hit many of their targets.

Commander Zihstrah watched all from his secure location. He took note of the many holes blasted by Teal'c's staff weapon. Such precision. None of the Nagadan fighters could aim their staff weapons with such dexterity. Word was already circulating that his troops, with the help of Teal'c, killed more Tah'tutiu than any other division.

Not something to be proud of, but it was proof to any disbelievers that the Tah'tutiu were not invincible.

"They are regrouping," Teal'c said aloud.

"Yes. I do not know what they have planned, but we must be ready for any movement from them." Zihstrah saw the enemy troops shift. Something was happening, but he didn't know what. A horn was blown somewhere in the distance, a command shouted -- he couldn't hear what it was.

"Teal'c," he said, "perhaps you should tell Dan'yer what we are seeing."

~~~~~

"Daniel Jackson," Teal'c's voice said. "The Tah'tutiu are repositioning themselves."

Daniel ran up to a rampart to see what he could. They were moving, changing tactics again?

Then Daniel saw the movement in his peripheral vision. What were they doing? A large number of Tah'tutiu were moving, splitting and advancing. What -- Men'thu was too smart to divide his forces like that.

And where was he?

He should be --

Uh, oh.

Daniel grabbed his mike and yelled, "They're making it look like they're wanting to breach the south wall. It's another feint. They're trying to draw our fighters over to that side so they can storm the west wall. That'll leave everywhere else vulnerable. Teal'c, Jack, Can you guys handle it with the people you've got?"

A short burst of static sounded followed with Jack's "Yeah. I see what you mean. We're gonna be outnumbered about 4 to 1 over here. You know this guy. What do you wanna do?"

"This is where you being a colonel comes in, Jack. Just fight the best way you can. Remember, keep them busy for a little while longer."

"Any suggestions?" Jack's sarcastic comment was heard by everyone nearby.

"Yeah. This will be an all-out attack. They won't be holding anything back. Some will get into the city. I wish it was catch 'em if you can, kill 'em if you have to, but it won't be. You're going to have to stop them any way you can."

"Gotcha. Watch your six. This is gonna get hairy."

Hammond's spoke next. "How concentrated will the attacks be on my and Major Carter's positions?"

Concentrating attacks on positions? When did Daniel even start thinking in those terms? He'd been hanging around Jack too long. "I don't know, sir. If Men'thu's doing what I think he's doing, maybe I can stop him before it gets too bad, but you should have more than enough Tah'tutiu soldiers to keep you busy."

"Understood. Hammond out."

Daniel didn't stop to think about how strange the situation was. Bona fide, certified, battle-experienced Air Force officers were taking orders from him!

He had to reach the far side of the city, the far corner. He knew Men'thu. He knew what he was planning. The Council was safely tucked away in the Council chambers, but if Men'thu and his soldiers got in, there would be no safe place. Kasuf was the prime target. He wouldn't lose another member of his family. Not Kasuf. Not Skaara. Not himself.

He had to hurry.

Daniel took off at a dead run, hoping to reach the other end of the city before -- explosions! On all sides!

Rocks bombarded the streets as explosions from outside blasted the walls into pieces.

No. That sound was too distinctive. The Tah'tutiu had staff weapons! They must have been holding them in reserve.

Jack's voice verified Daniel's suspicions. "Heads up, gang. They're bringing up staff weapons. They've -- shit! They've got a whole damn armory!"

"Same here, Colonel," Sam answered. "I don't know how long we can hold them off. They've got more weapons than we do. We need a miracle."

More explosions. More screams. More sudden silence.

"We've got holes in the walls over here!" Jack yelled. "They'll be coming in!"

"They already are, Colonel!" Hammond's voice sounded. "They're advancing."

"Dammit!" Jack cursed loudly. "You heard Daniel. We've just entered the kill-'em-if-you-have-to stage. We can't let them get to the Council." Or the ruling family, he almost added. No way in hell was he letting them get near Daniel, Skaara or Kasuf.

Shots rang out. P-90s. AK-47s. Staff weapons returned fire. No holds barred.

People were running. Dying. Explosions were everywhere. Chunks of rock were scattering over their heads, breaking loose and shattering bone. As Daniel kept going, he saw several Tah'tutiu climbing the rubble of a destroyed section in the wall. They were armed with badiks, and they were thirsty for blood. They were met by some of the townspeople and were refused further access to the city. Permanently.

The utter madness of it all made no sense to Daniel. Didn't the Tah'tutiu realize the strength of the Nagadans? Many had to have witnessed Ra's defeat. If seeing what they did to Ra's Jaffa was any indication of righteous indignation, what was left of the invading Tah'tutiu soldiers proved exactly how protective the Nagadans could be.

Daniel hurried faster. He knew -- he knew -- that Men'thu was using the attack as a diversion. He was coming. He'd enter the city somehow, and Daniel knew the best place to cross was the one place that wouldn't be as heavily guarded -- the area where the militia quartered. If Men'thu had done his homework, he knew that the militia quarters was a tall building reaching almost to the top of the wall -- the highest point of the city. At first glance, it would seem impenetrable. Daniel should have thought to reinforce the guards near that one area, but even he thought that it was the last place anyone would attack. And if everyone's attention was directed elsewhere, Men'thu could easily gain entrance by scaling the walls on an area no one was looking at. He wouldn't let anyone else do his job, and as far as Men'thu was concerned, killing Daniel was his job.

Some people just couldn't let go of grudges.

Daniel turned down the last street, his mind fully focused on reaching the militia quarters. He didn't hear the Tah'tutiu soldier hiding on the roof above him. He didn't see him until it was too late. With a blood-curdling yell that would put Hammond's "Yee-ha!" to shame, the Tah'tutiu jumped from the roof and onto Daniel, knocking them both off their feet. Daniel rolled quickly, regained his feet only to be tackled by the soldier.

"Not again." Daniel rammed his elbow into his attacker's nose, driving him back with a painful yell.

Daniel sprang to his feet, whirled around as he grabbed his poisoned-bladed badik and faced his enemy. "Look, I really don't have time for this. Can we reschedule? Tomorrow maybe?"

The soldier pulled his own greenish-tainted badik slowly from its sheath, his eyes locked on Daniel.

Who was this guy?

The two men slowly circled each other, each sizing up his opponent. The soldier was well trained, an expert with a blade. Daniel was quicker but only knew enough to be dangerous.

Well matched?

Not a chance.

"Guess not," Daniel answered his own question. The fellow wasn't very talkative.

"Daniel!" Jack's voice screamed over the mike, distracting him.

That was all the soldier needed. He lunged forward, knife tip aimed at Daniel's heart. Daniel's momentary lapse gave the Tah'tutiu an advantage. Could he keep it?

Daniel blocked the lunge by using his badik to intercept the blade. Knives locked, they stared at each other, each trying to make the other stand down when a rush of fleeing Nagadans ran past them, knocking them down in their flight from the invaders.

"Daniel!" Jack's voice yelled again over the radio. "Our lines are failing! They're getting in. I don't know how much longer we can hold them. How are you doing?"

Daniel dodged another badik thrust, this time trapping the Tah'tutiu's arm beneath his own. The soldier shoved Daniel away, his blade slicing through Daniel's forearm and midsection. A poisoned blade.

Daniel realized he didn't have time to think. He turned quickly and buried his knife in the soldier's stomach. Either the blade or the poison would kill the soldier. A curse, a gasp and a gurgle passed the dying man's lips before he fell to the ground, dead.

Daniel paused for only a moment to catch his breath. The poison was already in his system. He didn't have the time to wait. The fever would start, then the dizziness and weakness. He had little time before the symptoms incapacitated him. No time. He heard the commotion of more explosions up ahead. They were coming from the militia quarters. Men'thu had to already be in the city. He pulled the sword from the folds of his robe. Badiks were no match. Daniel had learned that years before. And he knew how to use a sword.

He just wished he wasn't alone. There were so many of them, and he was weakening.

**********************

The explosions could be heard within the Council Chambers. Vadiahan, both as the daughter and widowed wife of a Chief Elder, knew the dangers of being born and married into a position of privilege. She had learned to control her facial expressions in dangerous times, but the fear was there nonetheless. She watched the Council and her father discuss options as they sent and received messages from the commanders. There wasn't much more that could be done. Kasuf's good son had planned the defense well.

Kasuf had included her in the battle sessions, something her former husband had never done. He hadn't believed that women could possible contribute anything to a battle. Kasuf was the opposite. He valued her opinion -- just as he had when they were younger. Yes, he was older, but he had not changed in essentials. He was still the good, fair man he always had been.

Now, they only had to survive the battle.

But that was what worried her. If they were victorious, there would be no need for a marriage alliance. Would Kasuf still want her? She wasn't young anymore, wasn't as pretty. She could no longer bear children. Would Kasuf want a wife merely for companionship? Most men being pressured into an arranged marriage usually need some incentive, either politically or physically. The only political value she held was as Marenkeh's daughter. Her father would be able to legally cede the Eldership to Kasuf if they were married. But if the Tah'tutiu were defeated, even that might no longer be necessary if Marenkeh could use the victory as a means to stop the rival house trying to steal his Eldership.

She was so entrenched in her own thoughts that she didn't know Kasuf had joined her until he sat down next to her.

"Are you all right?" he asked.

Vadiahan felt her heart flutter. Kasuf's gentle eyes were the same, just as caring, just as concerned. "Yes. A little scared, but I've heard about your sons and their friends. We have a chance. We will be fine."

"Yes, they are brave boys. I have been very lucky."

Vadiahan could see that. She wasn't close with her own children. Arakeem only accompanied her to Nagada because he was expected to, not because he wanted to. Perhaps if she and Kasuf had married and had children years ago...perhaps...

It did no good dwelling on the past. There was only the present. "I like Dan'yer. He reminds me a great deal of you."

Kasuf considered it for a moment before agreeing. "Others have told me that, but I do not know if that's a good comparison. No matter, he is the son of my heart. I could not love him more had I sired him myself."

"Kasuf, may I --"

The door exploded inward with a mighty blast. The cacophony of staff weapon fire rumbled into the Chamber. Kasuf pushed Vadiahan backwards away from the door as Tah'tutiu soldiers rushed in armed for battle. The Council may have been following the custom to remain in seclusion during the battle, but that didn't mean they didn't know how to fight!

**********************

Men'thu hurried purposefully through the clutter and rubble of the city streets. Crossing the perimeter at the militia quarters had been a stroke of brilliance. Better yet, sending Dharef inside first to find Dan'yer and wound him with a poisoned blade had been utter genius.

He would defeat Dan'yer, son of Kasuf. His mortal enemy. There would be no room for mistakes during this battle.

He'd already dispatched scouts throughout the city to find the Elder and the Council as well as the Simbelian leadership. He would display their rotting corpses above the city gates as a warning to all others of what would happen to those who dared defy him.

But Dan'yer was his to destroy.

Knowing that the search would take time, he proceeded to assist his soldiers in decimating all Nagadans who crossed his path in a no-holds-barred killing spree. Dan'yer would be before him shortly, on his knees, begging for mercy -- mercy that wouldn't exist. He would use the arm-badik to take Dan'yer's head from his body after he had removed his arms and legs. He would hear him scream -- Men'thu was eagerly looking forward to hearing Dan'yer scream. Soon. He might as well amuse himself until then.

~~~

No time. No time. No time.

The mantra kept running through Daniel's mind as he raced down the streets toward Men'thu. He could clearly see his adversary for the first time. Yes, Men'thu had learned to swing a blade, but he was no swordsman.

Still too far away to intervene, Daniel could only watch in abject horror as Men'thu sliced a fleeing woman in half. He could see the arm swinging viciously, wounding, maiming, killing anyone who stood in his way.

No time. No time. No time.

Daniel sped toward the fracas as fast as his feverish body would allow. He dodged fleeing citizens, jumped over the dead and wounded bodies scattered on the ground. Men'thu was too involved in the slaughter to notice him; none of his lieutenants were seeing anything more than the victims falling before them. Daniel had a chance. Surprise was on his side...

He ran faster...

He pushed escaping Nagadans from his path...

He ran...

He ran...

With a mighty leap, he crashed down on Men'thu, knocking him from his feet. Daniel did a quick tuck and roll and sprang upright again. The dizziness was getting worse, his breath was becoming short and shallow, he could feel his own strength starting to ebb...NO! He wouldn't give in. There was too much to lose.

He'd collapse later.

Men'thu quickly recovered both his senses and his feet. He whipped his head back and forth trying to find his attacker and found Daniel standing there. Waiting. Watching.

"You should have killed me last time, Dan'yer," Men'thu hissed through clenched teeth.

"I gave you a chance. I won't make the same mistake this time," Daniel told him. Another knife fight. Third one in as many days. This was getting old.

The two men slowly circled each other, sizing each other up, waiting...watching...

Men'thu lunged forward, slicing his armblade down. Daniel easily blocked the stroke, countered the move then stepped back.

Again, Men'thu lunged forward. The stroke traveled up, aimed for Daniel's neck. Another easy block.

Men'thu stabbed.

Daniel sidestepped.

Upward stroke. Downward stroke. Another two easy blocks.

Daniel easily held the defensive position. His weakened state didn't allow him to take the offensive, but Men'thu was getting annoyed.

"Stand and fight me, coward!" Men'thu demanded.

"Fight you?" Daniel asked, trying to make his voice sound stronger than he felt. "I don't think so. You're not worth the effort. I'm going to stop you."

In a defiant rage, Men'thu made a tremendous sweep of his arm. Daniel ducked, but the fever had slowed his reflexes. The sharp edge of the armblade cut into his left shoulder.

"I have drawn blood," Men'thu muttered. "I --"

Daniel couldn't hear him. The fever, the pain, the exertion on his already overtaxed system all worked in unison to distract him from the fight. He could see Men'thu's mouth moving, but the words were garbled. Just noise over the battle.

He couldn't hear Men'thu, but he could see him. See him coming in for the killing blow. His arm raised up...his blade started its downward path...Daniel's sword came up to block the stroke...he sidestepped...turned...swung around with all his might and -----

**********

The sounds of the battle were deafening. The explosions, the gunfire, the muted gasps of people dying, the screams of the wounded...who could hear a single voice above the din?

Some heard.

Some stopped fighting.

Then others heard the voice.

Others stopped fighting.

The single voice, tired, weak but with an authority was unmistakable sounded over the maelstrom.

A single word.

"Mid'cha!"

It was the call to attention.

"Mid'cha!"

Jack knew that tone particular tone in that particular voice. He'd heard it when staring down the wrong end of a gun in a destroyed storeroom when the realization of what was happening dawned on Daniel. It was a mixture of exhaustion and pain and desperation.

Like everyone else, Jack searched out the source of the voice. There, walking slowly towards them, was Daniel. He held what looked like a hooked sword in one hand. Was that Men'thu's arm-badik?

Jack knew he was about to see a rare occurrence. He was about to see Dan'yer in action, not Daniel Jackson. The archaeologist had taken a back seat to the heir of the Eldership of Nagada.

"Mid'cha!" Daniel yelled again. "I am Dan'yer. Son of Kasuf, elder of Nagada."

Skaara moved over the Jack. "The fight is over, O'Neill. We've won."

"Huh?" The sudden lack of action around him had already made him uncomfortable. Battles don't just...end. There's usually some sort of...finality. "How do you know? They're still -- "

"Watch," was all Skaara would say.

Daniel started to walk even more slowly until he spotted Kasuf, then he walked a little faster. Every eye watched him. Every ear heard him. "Your leader fell to me. I claim leadership of the Tah'tutiu!"

Daniel lifted his arm to show the fighters what he held in his hand.

O'Neill looked over the soldiers to find his own people. Hammond stood nearby, a badik held tightly in his hand. Teal'c was on a parapet, his staff weapon smoking from all the firing. Carter was nearby, her eyes mirroring her disbelief. It was over? And Daniel had dealt with Men'thu? This wasn't the Daniel they knew.

This was Dan'yer. Son of Kasuf, Elder of Nagada. Prince of Abydos.

This was the man even Jack never wanted to cross.

"Uh, Skaara, explanation please?" Jack asked.

"According to the law, when a member of one tribe kills the leader of another, he may claim the leadership of the defeated tribe. Dan'yer has taken more than Men'thu's arm-badik in battle. They cannot deny Dan'yer's victory. But watch what he does now."

Daniel limped over to Kasuf. The soldiers parted, making a path through their ranks. Tah'tutiu soldiers dropped their weapons and allowed themselves to be taken prisoner. Without their leader, they had lost their direction, their purpose.

As Daniel had said, once Men'thu was out of the picture, the soldiers would fall like a house of cards.

Daniel reached his father and kneeled before him. Kasuf could see how worn and ill his son was. His shirt was torn, the skin around the wounds showing signs of poison. Both had taken their toll on his son, but they had to play their parts in the little drama. He would get Daniel to a healer immediately after.

In as loud a voice as Daniel could muster, he said, "Father," he held up Men'thu's arm-badik, "I offer the weapon of the enemy as proof of your victory."

"Kasuf's victory?" Jack asked Skaara.

"Kasuf may be Elder, but he is the head of our House. He --"

"Takes responsibility for every member of his House. Daniel's victory is Kasuf's victory," Jack finished for him. "Kasuf can take command of the Tah'tutiu."

"Yes," Skaara agreed.

"Now what's happening?" Jack wanted to know.

They could see Daniel pointing to the tallest rampart in the city. High above them, two men erected a pike with a head perched atop of it. Men'thu's head hung there, his eyes open, his mouth forming the silent scream he never had the chance to utter.

From where they were, they could see Daniel symbolically give Kasuf Men'thu's head. Kasuf held his hands high, as if symbolically taking the head, and they could hear his voice carry in the silence.

"Ju'iu!"

The roar of triumph from the Abydonians was as deafening as the battle had been.

~~~

The cheers were unending as Kasuf helped Daniel to his feet. "Good son?"

Daniel shook off his father's hand. "I'll be fine. Don't worry about me. You have to be with the people now."

"No, I must --"

"It's part of your job, father," Daniel's voice became weaker.

Daniel started walking away amidst cheers and slaps on the back and hugs. He reached the far end of the street before the dizziness took hold of him full force. He reached out for a doorway to steady himself only to find Kasuf's arm there. Hadn't Kasuf been behind him?

"Come." Kasuf took one of Daniel's arms and led him away from the building. "I've sent for a healer. We will take you to your home. You may rest there."

"We?" Daniel asked. Why was it so hard to think?

Another wave of dizziness would have brought him to his knees if Kasuf didn't have a firm grip on one arm and Jack on the other.

Jack? When did he show up?

"How bad is this, Kasuf?" Daniel could hear the worry in Jack's voice.

"The poison can be fatal. Many of our people have already died from this poison today. I do not know if Davaris can help him. The bitrot root..."

Daniel's hearing must have been playing tricks on him because Kasuf's voice faded away. So did his sense of touch. So did the light...

Daniel passed out.

**********

The Toldah Sandstorm wailed relentlessly outside the little house, the maelstrom howling just enough to vibrate the walls. Jack could still see touches of Daniel and Sha'uri in the small dwelling. Some things were quintessentially Daniel. Little useless trinkets that had some archaeological value were still kept lovingly on a small shelf, scrolls of notes, some sketches of a beautiful young Abydonian woman that had opened the heart of one lonely, stubborn Tau'ri.

Daniel had been happy there, and the SGC had helped rip it all away from him.

Jack stood still, waiting for something to happen. Daniel's breathing had changed, becoming labored, even before they could get him back to the house. He could exhale, but there was an audible hitch when he inhaled -- and the inhalation was weak and shallow. Jack thought that Daniel could breathe a little easier if he weren't lying flat, but Davaris didn't seem worried about his breathing -- but his condition...

With all the dead, dying, wounded and poisoned in the city and even more outside the city walls, Davaris was rushing through Daniel's examination. Luckily, this type of poisoning was one emergency the healer didn't have to guess about. The facts were simple and straightforward. The results were a matter of conditions. No real guesswork was involved.

Davaris completed binding the new poultice around Daniel's arms and midsection. He checked the injured man's pulse, placed his palm against Daniel's forehead to gauge the fever burning inside him. He placed a wet cloth on his forehead knowing it was futile. No, Davaris didn't have to guess. Daniel was sick. Very sick. Most likely deathly ill.

The poison had no known cure. Unless the poultice could draw out enough of the poison...unless the patient was strong enough...

Kasuf was going to have to officiate over too many funerals. He had already buried his daughter. If he had to bury Daniel as well...

Davaris glanced over at Kasuf and O'Neill. Both were waiting expectantly, both were hoping for good news. Finally, he stood and walked over to them. "I've done all I can," he whispered. "The poultice will need to be changed every few hours. It may be able to draw out enough of the poison. If he survives until morning, he'll live."

Kasuf accepted the diagnosis silently, but Jack didn't. He couldn't. "What are his chances?" he asked.

Chances? Davaris thought about his answer. "He may have waited too long to be treated, but I have no treatments that would be effective against the poison. We've never found a cure for it. That is why the Tah'tutiu used it." Davaris saw the realization in O'Neill's expression. He understood that his friend may have risked his own life to save the innocents sheltered within the city walls. "He is unconscious and has a fever. The fever dreams will start very soon. I wish there was something more I could do for him, but I have done all I can. Dan'yer is strong, O'Neill. He won't die without a fight."

He had to leave the two men alone with his patient. Davaris and the other healers were going to be exceptionally busy over the next few days. Many were maimed and scarred by the Tah'tutiu attack. Hundreds were suffering just as Daniel was. One patient was every bit as important as the next, but Davaris wondered if anyone truly realized the importance of this one poisoning victim. If the Abydonians lost Dan'yer, no, if Kasuf lost Dan'yer...

Davaris, still lost in thought, braved his way through the sandstorm to his next patient.

Kasuf knew he had to go, he had to be visible for the people, but he sat next to Daniel. He needed to be a father for a few moments before he had to act like the Chief Elder. He could feel the heat pouring off Daniel, could hear the hitch in his breathing. He reached out and touched Daniel's wrist and could feel the rapid, weak heartbeat. He could feel it racing, trying to keep his heart-child alive.

Kasuf was scared.

Jack couldn't listen to that painful hitch anymore. He reached under Daniel's shoulders, lifted him up and leaned the unconscious man against him. The half-reclining position eased his breathing. Nothing was going to help with the fever.

Jack hated waiting games. He didn't know what to do except sit there helplessly. Hammond, Teal'c and Carter were undoubtedly helping with the wounded for the moment-- they needed his help as well -- but he wasn't leaving Daniel alone. Someone needed to be there with him, and no one else was available.

Daniel began to weakly thrash around. Kasuf and Jack tried to keep him still but pulled back slightly when Daniel started muttering. "No...look...Mom...Dad...the rope..."

Jack could only sit there holding his friend as Daniel was tossed in the throes of a fever induced hallucination. He knew this one, though. Only it was no hallucination. It was a memory -- a very bad memory.

"It's moving...Mom...NO!"

Jack grabbed hold of Daniel as his body tried to fight its way free of the hands restraining it. "Daniel, it's okay. It's just a bad dream. Everything's all right." Jack knew that his words weren't registering with the ailing man.

Kasuf dipped the cloth back into the cool water and brought it back up to Daniel's forehead. Nothing was going to help to bring the fever down, but Kasuf had to do something. "Once before," Kasuf said as he wiped the sweat off Daniel's face, "he was very ill. We have a sickness that affects us all. It is a dangerous fever. If a very young child contracts the sickness, it does not survive. When Dan'yer fell ill with the sickness, his fever was very high for several days. He should have died, but he is too stubborn."

Jack smiled at that. He'd gone up against Daniel's stubbornness one too many times.

"When the fever was greatest upon him, he spoke his fever-dreams out loud. It was the same as these he is speaking now. Once he recovered, he told me of the death of his parents. That he was a witness to their deaths. For one so young to see such tragedy, he will always relive that moment in his fever-dreams."

Jack knew all too well about being haunted by memories. Sometimes at night, he'd awaken thinking that Charlie had called for him. For a moment, his precious little boy was still alive and in the bedroom just down the hallway. He knew that Daniel would think that he had heard Sha'uri's voice. He wondered if Kasuf still heard his wife and daughter when the night winds whistled down the mountains.

"I wish there was something else we could do," Jack hoped that Kasuf might have some idea other than just waiting.

"As do I, O'Neill. But it is as Davaris has told us. We must replace the poultice and hope. I have prayed that my good son will recover, and the others that have been hurt during this attack. I should be thinking of all my people, but this is my son."

"No one would blame you for worrying," Jack assured him.

"But I must do my duty. I must be out there with the others."

"Uh, Kasuf, there's a sandstorm blowing. No one would see you." Jack wondered if anyone else had thought of that.

"It is no matter. I must go to the Council Chambers first, then the temple and the buildings where the healers are working." He stood, looked down at a quieted Daniel for a moment and placed his hand on the overly warm forehead. The fever was so bad, and there was nothing he could do. "I will return soon. You will stay with him?"

"Of course," Jack volunteered quickly. "Someone has to stay with him, right?"

"Yes. Even Skaara is occupied with tending to our people. At least he wasn't injured."

"Skaara's turning out to be a good soldier and a very good man," Jack praised Kasuf's youngest.

"Yes. I am proud of both my boys." Kasuf took one last glance at Daniel and then left the little house traveling into the storm. He didn't want to think about having to bury Daniel. His good son was the son of his heart, the son he would have been proud to sire had circumstances dictated otherwise. He had already lost his wife and daughter. He didn't want to consider losing either of his sons.

~~~

Daniel was quiet for the rest of the morning. There was the occasional hallucination and calling out, but there was no real lucidity in his words or actions. Jack sat there holding Daniel's head up a little to help his breathing. He'd changed the bandage twice, already seeing how much poison the poultices were drawing out. If that much poison was in his system, how was he still alive?

Finally, Daniel started moving again, only his movements were far less animated. "Jack...promise me..." Daniel's voice was weaker than before.

"Anything, Danny. Just ask." Jack would promise him anything from a new computer to Fort Knox if it gave him the strength to stay alive.

"Help me...help me find...Sha'uri..."

Jack didn't know what to say to that. The one thing he wanted was the one thing Jack couldn't give him. Getting Daniel the universe would be a great deal easier, but if it gave Daniel the strength he needed to stay alive..."I'll help you. You know I will. We'll find her. I promise. Pretty soon, you two will be together again, living in this little house. I've got to tell you that it's gonna be a little small when you two have kids." Ouch. That one hurt to say, but Daniel was listening to him! "You're either going to have to move in a few years or add on to the place. You've only got this big room here and that small bedroom in the back. Not enough room for a growing family if you and Sha'uri want to have some privacy." Daniel was still listening, but was he aware at all? "Daniel, tell me what a typical day is for you two."

Daniel was quiet, didn't move.

"Danny?"

"Wake up...we have two mastadges...Kasuf's brother gave them to us as a...wedding present. Bull and a cow. Have to feed them, milk the cow, clean the stalls...Sha'uri makes breakfast...good food...a lot of times we have a dish like oatmeal, only better..." Daniel's voice trailed off.

"And then what? What do you do after breakfast, Daniel?"

"Map room. We go to the map room. She's helping me...learn...study it. I'm teaching her to read...Skaara comes to. Sometimes Kasuf...Have lunch at the map room...Then come back here to teach at school."

"School?" Jack didn't get a response. "Daniel, you built a school here?"

"Not built...just taught. Everyone wanted to learn to read and write...I had lots of classes...not everyone could come every day. Small classes..."

"Bet you were a good teacher," Jack said. "Then what?

"Supper...sometimes at home, sometimes at Kasuf's, sometimes they'd come to our house...just a simple little family...gathering. Never had that before...I want it back."

Jack could hear the cry almost wrenching itself free from Daniel's throat. His home. His family. What Daniel would have never taken for granted had been stolen in a moment of unthinking confusion. "Then what?"

Daniel waited a moment, "Bedtime."

Jack didn't press that point. He didn't have to. He had no doubt that Daniel and Sha'uri had had a healthy, loving physical relationship. "We'll get it back, Daniel. We'll help you find Sha'uri, okay? You just have to hang on. Will you do that?"

Jack felt rather than saw Daniel nod his head. "Good. I like it when you follow orders."

"Not a...soldier," Daniel whispered before he fell asleep again.

"Danny-boy, after seeing you in action here, I wouldn't say that. I'm just glad you know when to be a soldier and when to be yourself."

~~~

The clean-up activity was still in full swing by early afternoon, not that Jack was a witness to it. He'd been busy caring for Daniel during bouts of sometimes violent hallucinations. He felt so damn useless! Davaris had visited only once, left some more poultices and informed Jack that Daniel was lucky compared to others who had been poisoned. His wound was only a cut, not a stab. If the knife had gone any deeper, Daniel would have died quickly. There was a chance that Daniel would live if someone tended him nonstop -- slim, but a chance nonetheless. Jack had already decided that not even an attacking Goa'uld would force him to leave Daniel's side.

He didn't think he could ever leave a mortally wounded Daniel behind ever again, no matter what the personal cost.

Mid-afternoon came and went with no let-up in the sandstorm. A sudden spike in Daniel's temperature was the only change Jack could note. He continued to rave feverishly about things even Jack had never guessed about -- dangers on expeditions, fights for survival in hostile territories, collapsing archaeological digs, childhood bullies, beatings, loneliness, fears that only children can understand.

Daniel had led a busy life even before joining the SGC.

A knock at the door brought Jack from his worried musings as he motioned for Hammond and his team to enter. They posed an odd sight. Seeing Teal'c and Carter in borrowed Abydonian robes to help protect them from the blowing sand was interesting enough. Seeing Hammond all wrapped up in one of Kasuf's robe was, well, very unexpected (and humorous -- not that Jack would even smile at the picture).

"How is he?" Hammond asked concerned.

"He's still alive. That's about all anyone can say. How are things going out there?"

"Slowly, sir," Carter told him sadly. "According to Kasuf and the Council, this sandstorm is hampering a lot of recovery teams. There are a lot of wounded people trapped under debris or in buildings, but there's little chance of getting to them at the moment. Most of the wounded are suffering from broken bones and lacerations, but there are some who have been poisoned just like Daniel. Most of those haven't survived."

Teal'c approached Daniel's bedside. His friend's features were pale and drawn. Teal'c had already witnessed almost a dozen deaths by Tah'tutiu poison. He did not wish to think that Daniel would die such a horrific and painful death. "High Councilor Ammar is thankful that the Nagadans survived the attack as well as they did. He has expressed his gratitude for our assistance."

"We didn't do very much," Jack stated tiredly. "Daniel did most of the planning. We just helped a little."

"I must disagree, O'Neill," Teal'c reasoned quietly, not wanting to disturb Daniel. "We are outsiders who aided them in resisting a greater enemy. The Abydonians view our actions as selfless given that we have no claim on Nagada nor its territories or interests. Such assistance is regarded as heroic, as were your and Daniel Jackson's efforts against Ra."

Jack considered this...wait a minute...did Teal'c just say what Jack thought he did? "So, Teal'c, you're saying that the three of you have joined the ranks of local heroes that Daniel and I already belong to?"

"Indeed."

Oh. Teal'c just got a little taste of hero worship from the locals, huh? Must be a new feeling for the former First Prime of Apophis who probably didn't get a lot of friendly looks before, let alone a hearty thank you for all his help. Daniel had said it was embarrassing, that if it hadn't been for Sha'uri...well, that was an argument for another time. "Feels good, huh?"

"It is most gratifying to know that we have helped innocents when there is no personal interest save friendship." Teal'c always could cut right through to the truth, couldn't he?

Jack glanced over at Sam. "What's the casualty count? Does anyone know?"

"Not as bad as it would have been if Daniel hadn't stopped Men'thu when he did. The death toll may only be in the hundreds. There are a great deal more wounded."

Hammond sat down on a low stool for just a moment. He'd been doing anything and everything he could to help bring the wounded to safe places so the healers could do their job and, like everyone else, he was more than a little tired. "As soon as the sandstorm is over, I'll have the SGC send over medical supplies and personnel. Kasuf said that the storm should be over before nightfall. They'll be running short of ready supplies by then." Hammond was truly amazed at the ingenuity of the Abydonians. They had managed to set up temporary camps throughout the city to care for the wounded as soon as the first sign of a sandstorm was noticed. Davaris and the other healers had spent the majority of the day going from camp to camp caring for the wounded, both Nagadan and Tah'tutiu. As odd as the sudden stop in the fighting had been, it was even stranger to realize that there had been no revolt or resistance once Kasuf had declared the victory.

Kasuf's victory. Hammond still had difficulty realizing that a man that had served in his command for several years, a man he thought he knew, was capable of fighting in hand-to-hand combat, emerging victorious, and then give the enemy's weapon to another leader. Yes, Daniel had given Kasuf the victory in order to better solidify Kasuf's position in the community and the Council. Hammond had to correct himself. It wasn't Daniel that had done those deeds. No, indeed. It was Dan'yer, son of Kasuf that had performed that act. Jack had been right. Daniel became someone else the moment he stepped on Abydonian sands.

The voices continued on, their low, melodious cadence reaching deep into the recesses of Daniel's fever induced mind. He followed the voices, but there was one voice he could hear over the others. One he hadn't heard in a very long time. She was speaking to him, calling him, beckoning to him in her sweet, gentle voice. He could hear other voices as well, Hammond's, Jack's, but it was hers that brought him out of the darkness.

"My Dan'yel."

Daniel's eyes opened suddenly. The blue orbs were a brilliant fever-bright. He could see her. She was so beautiful with her dark hair shining in the afternoon sun. She was holding out her arms to him, motioning him to come to her. "Jack...can you see her?" his voice was barely a whisper.

Jack looked around the room. Sam was the only "her" in the room, but Daniel wasn't looking at her. His eyes were focused on the door.

"See who, Daniel?" Jack asked.

Daniel tried to sit up but couldn't. Jack helped him by easing his shoulders up a bit, elevating his head. "Sha'uri. She's here. Don't you see her?"

Daniel kept staring at the entrance. Jack felt Daniel's forehead. The fever was higher. He was almost too hot to touch. He shared a worried look with his friends. "Yeah, Daniel. I see her."

"You found her?" Daniel asked him.

Hammond was nearest to the bed and quickly walked over. He tried to help Jack lay Daniel back down, but Daniel was fighting them. He alone could see his wife, and he didn't want anyone disrupting his view.

"Sha'uri..." Daniel's voice almost whimpered. "You're..."

His eyes started darting around the room. He was seeing things the others weren't. "Mom? Dad? You're here?"

"Jack," Hammond said quietly, "Davaris is nearby."

"Even Davaris said there's nothing he can do. It's all up to Daniel. And right now, I think we're losing him." Jack put another wet cloth on Daniel's forehead. "Who'd you rather be with? The parents you lost and the wife you loved or a bunch of soldiers who give you a hard time?"

Good point. All they could do was sit and wait. Hammond had a prayer that he reserved for times like this, for times when brave soldiers were fighting for their lives. That prayer crept into his thoughts more than once that day.

~~~

The sandstorm finally ended barely two hours before sunset.

The moment the winds had died down, Hammond ordered Sam and Teal'c to the pyramid to contact the SGC. The Abydonians needed medical supplies and personnel as well as extra hands to help the recovery and rescue mission. Tools and manpower would be necessary to help rebuild.

The shadows of early dusk shone onto the sandy floor. Jack watched as the light stream lengthened along with the shadows. He watched the creeping light as he measured the passing time minute by minute...by minute...by minute...

Davaris had stopped by again to check on Daniel. He was still burning with the fever, but the healer believed that his poultices might work. He hoped they would work. It was all he had.

Jack hoped that Janet could help. Carter should have made it to the Stargate. It wouldn't take too long to bring Janet and her crew to Abydos. There were so many wounded and not enough healers...Janet and the medical personnel could make a difference and maybe, just maybe, Janet could do something for Daniel.

Jack took the damp cloth off Daniel's forehead and dipped it into the water bowl. After squeezing out the excess, he placed it back on Daniel's forehead -- for all the good it would do. He kept repeating what he knew. The poison was supposed to be fatal, but only a small amount had gotten into his blood stream. During Davaris' previous visit, Jack had asked him again how long it would take for Daniel to get better. Davaris didn't know. He did know that the poison had to break down, but sometimes survival depended on the strength of the patient.

Jack knew Daniel was strong. He just hoped he was strong enough.

"How is he?" Kasuf hurried into the house and went immediately to his son's side. "Has he awakened?"

"Not yet. He stopped hallucinating a little while ago. He's been quiet ever since. I don't know if that's a good thing or not."

Kasuf pinched the bridge of his nose -- a habit Jack knew he picked up from Daniel. "He should get better now that the fever dreams have passed."

Jack could hear the relief in Kasuf's voice, and why not? Kasuf wouldn't have to bury a second child. Jack had met a lot of people in his life, but he'd met very few like Kasuf. This man would sacrifice all he had to protect his people and, despite his rather standoffish persona, had a heart big enough to care for the entire world. He'd taken a homeless, jobless, penniless archaeologist into his home and family. For the first time in Daniel's life, he belonged somewhere, he belonged with someone -- and a great deal of that good fortune could be contributed to the good-hearted acceptance of the very important man who was now crouching beside his good son.

Kasuf was a most surprising individual.

"Hammond sent Carter and Teal'c back to the Stargate to bring some more help. I think a few more medics would be useful."

"Your Doctor Fraiser will come?" Kasuf asked.

Jack nodded his head. "Definitely. She's in charge of the medical crew."

Kasuf looked down at Daniel. "Will she be able to help Dan'yer?"

Oh. Kasuf was more worried about Daniel than about everyone else? Maybe not officially, certainly not in public, but the father in him was definitely showing in private. "I hope so. But if he's already on the mend --"

"Nothing is certain, O'Neill," Kasuf told him. "This poison is...very few who have been poisoned have survived this day."

"Daniel will," Jack stated his belief as a certainty. "He's survived everything else, he'll survive this." Yeah, he survived watching his parents die, his grandfather rejecting him, countless foster families, academic suicide, the loss of security he finally found on Abydos, even his wife's death. He was tough.

But Kasuf, he was as much a workaholic as Daniel was. This entire adventure was proof of it. "Kasuf, you haven't had any rest since this started. When Daniel wakes up, the last thing he's going to want to hear is that you ran yourself ragged trying to get everything in order around here. Why don't you get a few hours sleep? Now that the sandstorm's over, maybe --"

"I cannot. I have too much to do."

"Right," Jack didn't sound convinced. This wasn't Kasuf's first visit to see if Daniel was improving. He kept running into the house every time he got a spare moment, each time looking more haggard than the time before. "When was the last time you got any sleep?"

Kasuf just shook his head. "That does not matter. I --"

"You know, I'd be willing to bet that you haven't had a decent night's sleep since Hafas took you before the Council or since Marenkeh asked you to marry one of his daughters. Am I right?"

Kasuf nodded his head. "Yes. There has been too much upset of late."

"I figured as much." Jack grabbed Kasuf by the arm and pulled him over to a pile of furs that was on the far side of the room. When the Elder tried to protest, Jack just held up his hand. "Uh, uh. You're tired. And when you're tired, you can't make decisions. Now lie down and get some sleep. I'll wake you if Daniel comes to or if anyone comes looking for you. I don't think anyone's gonna care if you get a few hours shut eye."

"Shut eye?"

Ack. Metaphors, euphemisms and slang terms weren't easily transferable from one culture to another. Jack always had to remind himself of that. "Sorry. It means sleep. You need to get some while you can. I'll keep watch for you."

Kasuf was tired, and he did want to be near Daniel. Skaara was handling some of the more involved problems that were cropping up, but he was young and had gotten some sleep recently. O'Neill was right. A few hours sleep would be just what he needed. "Very well, but you must not let me sleep for more than two hours. I have much to do. I can sleep when this is over with."

Jack understood all too well the rigors of command. "Two hours. Gotcha."

Within moments, Kasuf was sound asleep.

~~~

He wanted water.

Cold, clear water.

He was hot.

He was thirsty.

Wait, if he was thirsty, then he was awake. And if he was awake, then he was alive.

That was a good thing, wasn't it?

With a great deal of effort, Daniel opened his eyes. The shadows indicated it was nearly nighttime...but the noises...these were definite signs of a movement outside. He was too weak to try to sit up, but he knew he had a fever. He felt awful. He...

Wait...where was he? He seemed to remember...

His house.

Jack and Kasuf had taken him to his house, but everything after that was a blur. He had vague impressions of floating, flying, of someone nearby...his mom, his dad, Sha'uri...he remembered seeing her standing in the doorway. He remembered her smiling at him.

He missed her so much.

"Daniel?"

Daniel looked over as Janet walked to him and gently took hold of his wrist at the pulse point. "Can you tell me how you feel?"

Daniel thought for a moment. "Thi -" His voice was cracking. He tried again. "Thirsty. Hot."

Janet brought up a drinking bowl quickly. It must have been sitting by the bed. She helped hold up his head as he drank all the water. "You'll have to make do with this. We didn't bring any cups with us."

After drinking all of the water, he was still thirsty. "More?"

Janet brought up a pitcher and poured more water into it. "Davaris said that you need to drink all the water you can. This poison dehydrates its victim, among other things."

Daniel gratefully drank every drop of water and still wanted more. Janet seemed to know this and kept filling the drinking bowl. Before he took the next sip, he asked, "What's happening?" Was his voice really that weak?

"Basically, my team and four SG teams came here about an hour ago. I've got my medics scattered all around the city helping the healers. The SG teams are assisting in the ongoing search and rescue mission. It's nighttime, and we're trying to get as many people that can rest to do so."

That was all? "Kasuf? Skaara? Jack and the others? They're all right?"

"They're all fine. Kasuf is sound asleep on the other side of the room; Skaara, General Hammond and the rest of your team are helping outside; and I sent Colonel O'Neill away for a little while. He hasn't left your side since you were poisoned. At the very least, I told him to get something to eat. There's a sweet little lady that's set up a soup line of sorts. She's trying to feed everyone. I think the Colonel went there."

The water was good. Very good. Daniel was right. Abydonian water was better than water back on Earth. That, plus the fact he was very thirsty.

"How are the people?" he asked. When did he lose his steady voice?

Janet sighed. "There were a lot of casualties, but not nearly as many as there could have been. A lot of wounded. Some were poisoned."

"Could you help them?"

"The poison was beyond anything I've ever seen before. I couldn't cure it, and there wasn't enough time to get a sample back to the lab, so all I could really do is treat the symptoms. It's helped in some cases, like yours. Davaris was here a few minutes ago and told me that almost one fourth of the poisoning victims would survive."

One fourth was better than none. Daniel could feel his eyes closing again. He was so tired.

"Just sleep for now, Daniel. Colonel O'Neill will be back in a few minutes, then I can go help Davaris." Janet let her voice take on that low, subtle tone that always put patients to sleep. Given Daniel's weakness, fever and exhaustion, it didn't take much.

She looked over at Kasuf. He was practically unconscious. She should have woken him up the moment she saw Daniel's eyes flutter open, but she knew that a quake wouldn't have disturbed the Elder. So much had happened in the past few days. They deserved a few hours of uninterrupted rest.

There would be a great deal to face when they woke.

~~~

Morning had never looked so beautiful.

Daniel squinted his still sleep-filled eyes against the early morning light. He was awake. That meant he was alive. Wait, he'd already had that conversation with himself. He realized he was alive earlier when Janet had been there to give him water. Regardless of the old saying, he really didn't believe that yesterday was a good day to die. He moved a little, pulled the blanket covering him away from him. He didn't mean to groan, but he was sore. He could feel every muscle, and every one of them hurt.

"Daniel?" Jack's voice sounded somewhere in the room. Daniel was too tired to even think about moving his head. Luckily, Jack walked into view with a cup in his hands. Without asking, he helped Daniel sit up and hold the cup of water as the now conscious man drank the contents. "Drink slow. You don't want it to make a reappearance." Daniel tried, but he was still so thirsty! He took smaller sips to try to compensate. "Want more?" Jack asked after the last drop of water was swallowed.

Daniel nodded his head, and Sam walked over and handed Jack another cup of water. Daniel didn't protest as Jack held the cup again. He never felt so weak before. When Jack pulled the cup away, Daniel finally realized what he was drinking out of. Standard field issue SGC drinking mugs.

"Cups?" he asked.

Jack was grinning as Sam refilled the cup from a pitcher. Daniel started feeling a little stronger and could help hold the cup as Jack explained. "Yeah, we were having a little problem with water dribbling out of the drinking bowls and that meant that the water would be splashing all over our dress uniforms. You know how spiffy Hammond likes to keep his dress blues. So Carter ordered these earlier this morning. Siler must have thought we were nuts asking for ten thousand drinking cups."

"Ten thousand?" Daniel managed to croak out.

"Ten thousand," Sam said as she sat down on the edge of the bed. "We told the SGC that they were some of the wedding presents we were giving Kasuf. The General didn't think the accounting department would write them off as an entertainment expense if we told them that the Abydonians considered drinking cups the latest fad and everyone had to have one."

Before Daniel could comment, he was interrupted by some new arrivals. Kasuf and Skaara entered the house with Hammond and Teal'c following close behind. Sam moved back so Kasuf could sit by Daniel, Skaara hovering nearby.

"You are well," he said, the relief evident in his voice.

"I'll live," Daniel answered, wishing his voice didn't sound so weak. "Is the damage bad?"

Kasuf was delighted to be able to tell him some good news. "Not as bad as we first feared. At sunrise, General Hammond sent for even more of his soldiers to help us rebuild. With their help, our stonemasons are repairing the city walls and the damaged buildings more quickly than we could have hoped. Doctor Fraiser and her medics are assisting our healers with the wounded. Our dead...some were killed, and they are being buried now. The number of our losses was not as great as they might have been had it not been for you and the Tau'ri."

"That's us," Jack commented. "Always ready, willing to serve."

"Colonel," Hammond admonished him jokingly, "we do help out our allies."

Jack readily agreed. "Yes, sir. Always. We're ready. Just say the word, and we're there. We've always been willing. To protect and to serve, that is."

"That's the police, Jack," Daniel interrupted. "We weren't exactly arresting people over here."

"Arresting?" Skaara wasn't familiar with that term.

"Taking someone prisoner in order to stand before the Council for judgment," Daniel told him. "Speaking of arresting, what's happening with the Tah'tutiu?"

"They are our prisoners," Skaara said quickly. "Once Men'thu was dead, they knew they had lost their battle. They started surrendering when they saw you carrying his arm-badik."

Skaara was proud of his brother. Kasuf was as well, but Daniel couldn't say that killing Men'thu was one of his best moments. There should have been another way.

"You did well, good son," Kasuf told him. He refused to allow Daniel to wallow in guilt over defeating an enemy bent on destroying them. "Because of you, the battle was ended before many casualties mounted on either side. Many Saqqarans forced into the Tah'tutiu army were spared."

"Saqqarans?" Daniel hadn't considered that Men'thu had forced innocent people to fight in the battle. He wouldn't have been able to trust them. "They wouldn't have willingly allied themselves with the Tah'tutiu. What's happened to them?"

General Hammond cleared his throat, a behavioral request for water. Abydos was a very dry planet. As he took a cup of water from Major Carter, he said, "Men'thu forced them by threatening their families. They started fighting against some of the Tah'tutiu soldiers when they realized you had killed Men'thu. They've been freed from the Tah'tutiu and are helping the Nagadans with the repairs and the wounded. Kasuf's keeping them in a certain area of the city, and SG-5 is keeping an eye on them. No one seems worried about their loyalties, but for my peace of mind, I've asked that they be watched."

"And they're not angry about that?"

"Yes, but they seem to understand," Skaara was actually smiling. "Once we've cleared the mountain pass, we can send them home. We'll also be sending a diplomatic party with them to demand the surrender of any Tah'tutiu that are still in Saqqara." Skaara got that look on his face that meant he was about to talk Daniel into doing or saying something that he might not ordinarily do or say. "Father and Hammond have discussed the problems with the pass with the Council. They've decided that clearing it can wait until the repairs to Nagada are finished, so that means that the pass won't be cleared for some weeks. That also means the Simbelian wedding party will have to stay here in Nagada."

"Well, that's not really a problem, is it?" Daniel asked, knowing exactly what his little brother was up to. "We get along well with them, and Father's been able to renew an old acquaintance."

Skaara was in complete agreement. "And Marenkeh has been more than apologetic for what happened in the past. I believe he wishes to be friends."

"The only question is that without the threat of the Tah'tutiu, does he still want to be friends. I doubt if the rival House will be trying to take over the eldership of Abu Simbel after all of this. Marenkeh can go back home a hero."

Jack had watched this little interchange, and now he understood why Kasuf had never been able to win an argument when the two of them united against him. They were sneaky!

"Boys," Kasuf, the eternal parent interrupted them before they could double-team too badly, "the threats are gone. There are no reasons for any of them to stay."

"I can think of one reason for Vadiahan to stay," Daniel told him plainly. "You two were separated when you were young. No one can tell either one of you what to do now. Your situations are completely different."

"I'm an old man, Dan'yer. What right do I have --"

"You are not old. Neither is Vadiahan, and she'd be the first to tell you that. You and your wife were lucky. You were happy together. There's no law that says you can only be happy once in your life. You're getting another chance. Don't let it get away from you."

The impassioned plea couldn't fail to move everyone in that room. Daniel was talking from experience. The one chance life had given him at happiness was taken away and was now lying in a grave outside the city. Perhaps he would get another chance, but that was by no means certain. Kasuf was getting that chance for himself, and Daniel didn't want to see him miss it.

"Perhaps you are right, but that is a discussion for another time. We will celebrate our victory tonight. The people have decided to hold a small feast in your honor."

Feast? The thought of food made Daniel's stomach flip-flop. "Food?" he almost groaned.

Kasuf would have smiled at Daniel's discomfort if he had become queasy for any reason other than recovering from Tah'tutiu poison. "The feast will be in your honor, but O'Neill and the others may attend in your stead. You are to stay here and rest today. I won't have my son suffering a relapse because of too much celebrating."

There was a look that passed between Daniel and Kasuf, one that Jack could recognize as a silent agreement that a parent and child share. Daniel wouldn't argue about getting out of bed, and Kasuf would make sure that no one said one word against Daniel for not going to a celebration in his honor.

"I can do that," Daniel said smugly. "If you promise to think about marrying Vadiahan."

"That's blackmail, Dan'yer," Kasuf almost sounded like he was scolding.

Skaara stepped in. "No, it isn't, Father. And blackmail is such a strong word to use."

"Very strong," Daniel agreed aloud. "We prefer extortion."

Kasuf could only jerk his head from one son to another. Extortion, pure and simple. They had him. If just considering marrying Vadiahan would keep Daniel in bed, then he would think about it.

The problem was that the more he thought about it, the more he liked the idea.

**********

Never again. Never, never, ever again.

Oh, even that hurt. The whispers were echoing through his skull. Loud? Very. Loud as thunder? No, it was much, much worse. Maybe thunder wasn't the best description to use in comparison? Louder than a sonic boom? No, that wasn't right either. A sonic boom wouldn't even place in the top ten. Louder than a heavy metal rock concert? That's better. His kids dragged him to one of those once. Once. It took three days for his hearing to get back to normal. That description was a little closer to how loud the whispers were screaming. Amidst the mental noise, George Hammond cautiously opened one eye, and then slammed it shut when he decided that he really didn't need bright lights battering into his corneas and hammering around his skull. The noise was bad enough. His head hurt far too much already to be abused by that kind of torture.

Okay, George. Get yourself together. Try it again.

Turning his head, he noticed the other people in the small room in various stages of unconsciousness. Colonel O'Neill was lying on the floor by a high pallet on the other side of the room, snoring quietly. Major Carter was sitting at a small table, her head lying comfortably on her crossed arms. Teal'c was sitting next to the wall -- no, sitting and leaning against the wall for support in a state that George was positive wasn't kel-noreem. Doctor Jackson...

Where was Doctor Jackson?

He should have been on the pallet by Colonel O'Neill. He was too weak to move under his own power. In fact, he was too weak to do much of anything without assistance. O'Neill hadn't left Jackson's side for hours, not during the fever, not during the hallucinations...

Hammond wasn't able to rise from the floor. His head was pounding in excruciating pain. He couldn't move any further so he had no way of knowing if Doctor Jackson was in the room with them. Low sounds from outside the small room started echoing inside Hammond's head. He clamped his hands over his ears to block out the noise.

Then, the producer of the aforementioned noise entered the small house. Doctor Jackson was on his feet, rather unsteady and definitely moving with a weakened gait, but he was on his feet. He was trying to be very quiet and was succeeding until he noticed Hammond was awake. "How are you feeling, sir?" he asked.

Hammond tried to respond in a somewhat dignified manner but had to say, "Very hung-over."

"That moonshine does have a bit of kick to it," Daniel said smiling. "You have to be careful celebrating around here."

Hammond noticed that Daniel was holding a large water cask. He thought that maybe his stomach could handle a little water. Daniel had found some clean cups nearby and filled one from the contents of the cask which he then handed to Hammond.

"This will help. It's the Abydonian version of hair-of-the-dog." Daniel had to stifle a laugh as he watched Hammond sniff at the drink and make a face at the smell. "It smells worse than it tastes. Try it. It'll make you feel better."

Hammond took a deep breath and held it as he swallowed a small sample of the concoction. True, it tasted better than it smelled, but it didn't taste all that good either. It reminded him of diluted stale coffee. After a few moments, his stomach did settle down and his head wasn't pounding as loudly. "Amazing," he said as he took a bigger taste and found himself feeling even less hung-over. "Do I want to know what's in this?"

"No, sir," Daniel explained. "It's better if you don't, but there's nothing bad in there. Trust me."

Daniel sat down next to the cook fire, his energy almost spent. "I thought all of you might need this. Even Teal'c got a little drunk last night. And with the wedding this afternoon, this will get you on your feet faster." Daniel's head fell forward to his chest, the exhaustion he felt betrayed by his voice.

"Wedding?"

"Yes," Daniel answered weakly. "Kasuf and Vadiahan decided that getting married was a good idea."

Hammond moved to the cook fire himself and placed a hand on Daniel's shoulder. "How are you this morning?"

"Fine. Just tired. I feel like I could sleep for a week." Daniel had closed his eyes for only a moment, almost as if that week were about to start. "But I can sleep after the wedding. Skaara and I have to stand up with Kasuf."

"Like the best man?"

"More or less. We don't really have to contribute anything to the ceremony. It's mostly just the custom that sons and daughters stand up with the parent who's getting remarried. It's a way of showing that we accept the marriage. I think I can do that without falling over and embarrassing Kasuf."

"I don't think you could embarrass Kasuf. He's very proud of you." Without even an afterthought, Hammond added, "And so am I."

Daniel's head popped up at that statement. "Sir?"

"I've seen a lot of soldiers in my years in the Air Force. Some good, some bad, some like Colonel O'Neill, but I have to tell you how impressed I was with your actions here. For someone who's not military, you showed yourself to be a very good soldier during this crisis. Because of everything you did, the enemy was defeated with minimal loss of your own troops. You won a decisive victory. Because of you, these people are still here to enjoy this wedding, and Kasuf has been congratulated by a great many people on the good fortune of having a son such as you. He's very proud of you."

He'd made Kasuf proud. He'd even made Hammond proud of him. He had done a good thing. "When I first came to Abydos, they wanted to learn everything they could about Earth history. Every night, I was telling stories about Hannibal, Sula, Attila the Hun, the Khans, Julius Caesar, Spartacus. They wanted to hear tales of the Crusades and quests for the Holy Grail. Robin Hood and King Arthur were some of their favorites. When the militia commanders began organized training, they used those stories to develop battle tactics. Some worked, some didn't, but they knew more than Ra had ever let them know before. They were developing new strategies, but keeping with the old customs. That's what Men'thu was going to use against us. He knew that no matter how organized we were, the old rules about killing the enemy's leader would still be followed."

"You stopped him because you knew how he thought," Hammond commented.

"Kasuf always said I could read Men'thu's mind. The truth is that I understood him. I'd dealt with people like him before." Seeing Hammond's interested look, Daniel said quickly, "Not all of those excavations I went on could be considered safe. There were a few times we had to fight to survive. If you can use the desert against your enemy, it can be your greatest ally in a battle. That's all I did here. I forced Men'thu's hand before he was ready to fight, and we got lucky."

"You did a great deal, son," Hammond explained. "We do extreme things in serious circumstances. You went far above and beyond the call of duty. You should be proud of yourself."

Daniel wasn't going to pat himself on the back for his victory. He'd even go so far as to downplay his own role in the battle, but the Nagadans wouldn't. They would remember his actions for a long time to come. Already, there were drawings depicting their victory over the Tah'tutiu and Daniel's great sacrifices to bring it about.

"So, the wedding's on?" Jack's very sleepy, very hung-over voice dragged itself over to them.

"For this afternoon," Daniel answered. "Think you'll be up for it?"

"Yeah. Sure. As soon as the floor stops tilting and the planet stops spinning so fast. I'll be there with bells on."

Right.

"I think Colonel O'Neill can use a little of your hangover cure, Doctor Jackson," Hammond suggested happily. At any other time, Hammond would have been laughing at the sight the colonel made as he tried to clumsily get to his feet in a drunken stupor. Oh, yes, there would be hangovers a-plenty. He wondered if Daniel had brought enough of the cure. They were certainly going to need it.

**********

A storybook ending?

Perhaps.

Two people separated when they were young by a power hungry patriarch, kept apart by time, distance and circumstance. Now, having survived a war and finding each other again after so long...

A storybook ending?

Could it be?

The late afternoon suns were beginning to set behind the mountains, casting long shadows over the newly repaired pavilion. The crowd stood around the tent quietly watching the event that was no longer needed to secure an alliance but wanted by two people who had discovered that providence could occasionally grant second chances.

Kasuf and Vadiahan stood before the congregation as the high priest spoke the words binding them in marriage. Daniel and Skaara stood behind Kasuf, the younger man holding on to his brother's arm should Daniel's strength falter. Vadiahan's son, Arakeem, stood behind his mother, his obvious disdain and distrust of his new relatives gone. He had learned that having a bona fide hero for a stepbrother had its advantages.

Even Marenkeh seemed happy.

Standing nearby and very grateful for the shade was a group of hangover-recovering Tau'ri. Amazing stuff, that hangover cure. Jack had tried to finagle the recipe out of Daniel but found that it was a closely guarded secret. Not that Jack wanted to patent a sure-fire hangover cure...not that he wanted a quick fix so certain individuals could party all night and still work the next day...

No, Jack wasn't thinking that.

Not exactly.

The Tau'ri present watched the ceremony without understanding the words. The only way they knew it was over was when the crowd started shouting happily and the newly wedded couple began to walk back toward the city.

"I take it that's the end of the wedding?" Hammond asked Teal'c as they waited their turn to follow the procession.

"No, General. Abydonian weddings take place over three days. This was merely the formal ritual. Next will be a great feast that will last until the third day. The festivities afterwards will continue on for another five days following."

"Festivities?" Hammond was almost worried.

"Yes, sir," Sam said, a smile trying to break free. "Dancing, singing, eating, drinking, and we're invited."

Drinking. Homemade moonshine. Hammond could only imagine how he would feel in the morning. Two hangovers in as many days? His head was never going to forgive him.

Yet, seeing Kasuf and Vadiahan, seeing that small family happy, seeing Daniel smile was worth it.

A storybook ending? No one could say, but it was so tempting to utter those immortal words and they lived happily ever after.

 

 

The End

 

 

 

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