* denotes thoughts or host/symbiote communication.

Chapter 3

It was mid afternoon, when a group of warriors entered the room outside their cell.

Knowing their prisoners would not understand them, they did not bother trying to explain, but just opened the door and grabbed Sam.

"Hey! Let go of me!" Sam exclaimed.

"Leave her alone!" O'Neill demanded. He and Teal'c took a few steps forward to try and help their friend, but some of the warriors immediately barred their way with spears.

They took Sam out of the cell and locked it after her, then pushed her forward, making her walk in the direction they wanted.

"Where are you taking me?" Sam asked, knowing full well they could not understand her - and most probably they would not have answered her, even if they did understand.

She sighed. She did feel sure Daniel and Martouf/Lantash had things well in hand... well, reasonably sure. She knew there was a limit to what they could do, if they had to obey local tradition, and with the number of guards and soldiers she had seen, that seemed to be the only choice.

Hopefully, the locals really did believe Lantash was their god Tonatiuh, and Daniel had been correct when he said that Lantash would get them all out of here, alive and well.

Pushing away the small fear that something would go wrong, and the locals realize Lantash was not their god, she allowed herself to be lead wherever her guards wanted her.

Sam froze as a large, white panther strolled over to her. She had been left on a small platform, and it had been obvious they wanted her to remain there. The guards had then withdrawn to the edge of the room.

The panther reached her, and took one look at her. It then head-butted her and rubbed against her, as it purred. She tentatively petted it, and it purred louder. Relieved, she continued caressing the panther for a little while, before it gave her a few licks, and then left to return to the priests and priestesses standing at the opposite end of the room.

They all seemed pleased, and started talking amongst themselves. Sam decided she had probably passed whatever test this was. She took a deep, relieved breath, very grateful the panther had not decided she looked like food.

The guards stepped up to her again, and she was pushed along again, as the they walked on through some corridors.

Sam followed without fighting them, and just hoped there would be no more tests.

They entered a colonnade, and through the openings to the right they could see into a very spacious, extravagantly decorated room, that was obviously a combined bathing and dressing room.

Sam gasped as she saw Martouf and Lantash sitting in a large pool, being bathed by beautiful handmaidens. She could not stop herself from looking, as they washed him, sliding their hands over his very attractive, naked body.

She swallowed, and felt a stab of jealousy at the sight. Telling herself she was an idiot, she was just about to look away, when Martouf - or more likely Lantash - turned his head and looked directly at her. She suddenly felt her heart beat faster, as he sent her a reassuring smile.

The guards behind her gave her a push, and she continued walking.

They soon reached another bathing room. It was no where near as lavish as the one Lantash was being bathed in, but it was still quite luxurious.

The guards gave some orders to a group of female servants, and then left. It did not sound as if they went further away than to wait just outside the room, though.

The servants approached Sam - and started removing her clothing.

"Hey! Stop!" She suddenly realized they probably just wanted her to bathe, and relaxed some. "Listen - I can do that by myself! You don't need to help me undress - and that includes the bathing too, thank you very much!" Sam told them. Unsurprisingly, they ignored her. "But you don't understand a word I say." She sighed, and let them remove her clothing, accepting that they would do what was obviously their job, and help her bathe.

The female servant walked up to the High Priest, Uetzcayotl and spoke at length. Uetzcayotl smiled, pleased, and when the servant had finished giving her report, he turned to Lantash, who sat at the throne.

"My Lord!" Uetzcayotl bowed deeply. "I have great tidings. The female chosen to be your bride has met Tlanextic, the holy white panther. He showed his appreciation for her, purring when she petted him. This is a glorious sign!"

"This information pleases me greatly!" Lantash said, secretly very relieved the panther had not harmed Sam - and more than a little angry they had endangered her life like that.

"I have additional good news." The High Priest smiled. "The female is untouched - a further proof she was sent here to become your bride. This is another sign that your marriage will bring us the best, most extraordinary harvest in the history of our people!"

Lantash only just managed to control his anger that they had subjected Sam to such a humiliating examination. If the situation had not been so serious, he would personally have punished the annoying priest that had ordered it!

He took a deep breath, and listened to Martouf's calming words, then managed a cold smile. "Perfect - and very fortunate for you, as the wedding is intended to take place early this evening. You would not have had time to find another one, had this woman turned out to be unsuitable... or would you have made me wait for my bride, perhaps?"

"No, my Lord! Of course not!" The High Priest looked horrified that their god might think that. "We are preparing everything right now, my Lord. I assure you, everything will be ready in time."

"Good. I have important things I need to take care of elsewhere, and cannot stay on this insignificant world for long."

"My Lord! If I may be so bold as to remind you... the marriage itself takes 5 days! First you and your bride must spend four days, separately, fasting and praying, before you consummate the marriage. Then, you shall both be bathed and blessed, before the marriage is complete!"

"I am your god!" Lantash exclaimed, flashing his eyes. "Who would you have me pray to? The marriage ritual will be completed tonight, so I can leave tomorrow! You will accommodate me!"

"Yes, my Lord. Of course, my Lord!" the high priest said, looking terrified.

One of the servants said something to Sam, but she had no idea what. Sam tried holding her hands in a gesture which - on Earth at least - meant she did not understand. For extra emphasis,she shook her head, too. She was already feeling less than friendly after the rather intimate examination they had forced her to endure after the bath.

Sam also felt a bit uncomfortable wearing the clothing they had given her. She felt fairly certain it was not traditional Aztec, though that was hardly surprising, she reminded herself. This place - like the in the Aztecs culture on Earth - had developed a culture based on what some Goa'uld had decreed. She reminded herself that on Earth they had had the opportunity to develop on their own for a long time after the Goa'uld had left, but that was not the case here. These people had probably only been free for a century or so.

It was clear the woman was unsure what to do, and she turned to one of the other servants. They spoke for a few moments, before shrugging. The first one left for a little while, but soon returned with a small vial that she held out to Sam. It was obvious they wanted her to drink it.

Sam shook her head emphatically and kept her lips firmly closed. The women who had bathed her did not take no for an answer, though, and eventually Sam gave in and drank - hoping it would just be some ritual drink and not anything dangerous. After all, she was to be the bride of their god, so it would not make sense for them to kill her, would it?

O'Neill complained loudly as he and Teal'c were pushed forward by several guards.

"They do not understand you, O'Neill," Teal'c reminded him.

"I know!"

"Why then do you insist on speaking to them?"

"What do you want me to do? Just accept it? At least I got to make them understand I'm not going willingly! And what's with this ridiculous loincloth!? Why didn't they at least give us something else? A pair of boots would have been great against all these rocks, but I'd even take sandals!"

"I believe they are restricted to people they consider to be more 'important', O'Neill."

"More important? You've got the golden mark of a First Prime, how much more important can it get?"

"Of an enemy First Prime," Teal'c pointed out.

Their guards said something in an angry tone and pushed them forward. They were lead out onto a large plaza, through a crowd of people, and then up the steps to a platform. There Lantash was sitting, wearing clothing similar to when he had arrived on the planet, but with much more jewelry, as well as a ridiculously large headdress, made out of feathers and gold.

Behind him stood Daniel, looking worriedly at O'Neill and Teal'c - and the guards accompanying them.

The guards gave O'Neill and Teal'c an order, and immediately hit them behind the knees to ensure they kneeled - in case they did not realize they were supposed to do that.

The High Priest, Uetzcayotl standing beside Lantash informed him in Goa'uld that the prisoners were a sacrifice to him.

Lantash nodded, satisfied. "Good, they look like strong slaves!"

"You wish them to live?"

"Yes! I already told you so earlier!" Lantash glared at Uetzcayotl.

"Understood." The High Priest looked unhappy for a moment, then bowed. "I shall place them in your bride's procession, as her relatives. Will this be acceptable?"

Lantash nodded. "That seems acceptable, yes. Do so."

"You can't be serious!" Sam exclaimed. "There's no way you'll be able to carry me!" She stared with disbelief at the older, but strong looking woman who clearly intended to carry Sam on her back.

The woman said something Sam did not understand, but it was obvious there would be no swaying her. It was clear this was a part of their marriage ritual.

Shaking her head, Sam gave in, deciding it was probably easier to just let them do what they wanted, and get all of this over with.

To her surprise, the woman managed to carry her, though it was obvious it was not an easy thing for her, as Sam was larger than the local women.

Sam dearly hoped they did not have to walk far in this manner, but she could hear the crowds outside, so she guessed they probably did not.

There was an open path through the mass of people, and the procession with Sam followed that, with people carrying torches on each side.

"They are carrying Carter?" O'Neill said, an incredulous look on his face.

He and Teal'c were walking at the end of the procession leading Sam to Lantash.

"Most likely this is how the bride is transported to her wedding in their culture," Teal'c observed, having seen many different traditions during his time as Apophis's First Prime.

O'Neill shook his head. "Craziness." He sighed. "I had hoped Daniel and Marty had come up with some excuse so we could avoid going through this whole marriage thing!"

"Most likely this is the safest solution. There is no reason to be concerned, O'Neill. Major Carter will be wed to Lantash, and then he can take her - and us - with him when he leaves the planet. It would seem to be quite a fortuitous arrangement."

"Yeah - particularly for Marty!" O'Neill grumbled in a low voice.

Chapter 4 >>