"Hurry up!" O'Neill yelled at the others, "They're coming!"
"We're right behind you!" Sam shouted back, running as fast as she could towards the open wormhole.
SG-1 and Martouf/Lantash had been on a mission to the planet P3X-458, to study the ruins there. Everything had gone well for the first three days. Daniel had been excited over the many inscriptions, and Sam had found an almost intact alien laboratory, which even still contained machines and equipment. Martouf and Lantash had divided their time between helping Daniel with the translations, and helping Sam study the alien science. O'Neill and Teal'c had patrolled the area, and found the place boring, but peaceful.
Then a large contingent of Jaffa had shown up, and SG-1 had been hopelessly out-gunned. They had been forced to flee without being able to take anything from the ruins, and the Jaffa had managed to get their hands on a piece of alien weaponry which Sam and Martouf/Lantash had been studying. Unfortunately, they had all been at the campsite when the Jaffa arrived. If only they had been at the laboratory, things might have looked very different. The alien weaponry appeared to be quite powerful, and might well have been enough to fight off the Jaffa.
As it was, their enemies had the weapon now, and were currently firing at them as they ran. The only thing saving them was that it had not been calibrated correctly, yet, and so the Jaffa were not able to hit small targets with it. Of course, it still sent out powerful blasts that exploded all around them, and the decision to attempt to flee through the Stargate had been easy to make. The Jaffa might get in a lucky shot anytime.
Now a connection to Earth had been established, the IDC had been sent, and Daniel had just gone through. O'Neill and Teal'c were standing beside the gate, holding the wormhole open and waiting for Martouf/Lantash who were helping Sam, who had sprained her ankle.
Sam looked back over her shoulder, seeing the Jaffa come out of the forest surrounding the Stargate. They were no more than maybe 100 feet away, and aiming the alien weapon. Ahead of her, the open wormhole beckoned.
Teal'c went through the Stargate, and O'Neill nodded at her and Martouf, seeing that they would make it. He jumped through.
Only moments later, Sam and Martouf/Lantash reached the Stargate and threw themselves into the event horizon while powerful blasts zipped past them and hit the Stargate itself. Fortunately, it did not seem to sustain any damage.
Martouf landed hard on top of Sam, who made a sound as the air was knocked out of her.
He quickly rolled off her and they both turned to look as the wormhole shut down behind them, one last shot passing harmlessly over their heads. They had made it!
"Why is the iris not closing?" Sam looked around her. "And...what's happened to the gateroom?"
"I...don't think we are at Stargate Command." Martouf said slowly.
"Also...where are Daniel, Teal'c, and the Colonel?" Sam frowned as she sat up, groaning a little. "Did Daniel enter a wrong address? Did you see which chevrons were on?"
"No...we need to go to another planet...quickly!" Martouf jumped up and ran to the DHD, starting to dial out.
"You're right!" Sam slowly scrambled to her legs, trying not to put too much weight on the sprained ankle. "If he dialed the wrong address, the Jaffa could be coming here - they may have seen this address!"
Martouf hit the centre button on the DHD and the Stargate powered down with a disappointing sound, all the lights going off. He tried again, but with the same result. "It is not locking on."
"Try another address." Sam suggested, getting nervous.
Martouf nodded. "I will." He dialed a different world, then another. None of them connected. "I believe the problem is with the chaapa'ai - or perhaps even the entire network..." He frowned, kneeling beside the DHD. He opened a panel in the side of it and looked at the crystals inside.
"Is anything wrong with it?"
"I don't know - nothing is burned out, and it all looks normal, but I do not have the necessary tools to run a diagnostic of it."
"The 'Ring of the Gods' does not allow for travel during the time of the festivals." Someone said behind them, in heavily accented standard.
Sam and Martouf/Lantash turned to see a small group of people, led by a man who seemed to be in his mid-fifties.
"We just came through it." Martouf pointed out.
The man nodded. "Yes, we observed your arrival. The festival times have only just begun, but you should not have been able to travel through the Ring regardless. You have clearly been sent by the Gods."
"Ah...I don't think so." Sam tried smiling friendly at him. "Listen, have you seen others dressed like us?" She indicated the green BDUs both she and Martouf wore.
"No, never. Also, we observed the activation of the Ring, and no one but yourselves were sent through it."
Sam frowned, turning to Martouf. "That's worrisome."
He nodded. "Yes...though I suppose the chaapa'ai could have malfunctioned, due to the very powerful weapons-fire hitting it just as we went through. We may have been sent to a different planet than the others. Lantash has experienced this once before."
"He has?" Sam looked surprised. "It happened to SG-1 too - a couple years ago!" She wrinkled her brow. "That may actually be what's happened - and then the others should be fine, and safely on Earth." She shook her head at the low probability of something like this affecting people - and people who had experienced it before, no less.
"I apologize, but since you are clearly stranded here - in whatever manner this has come to be - may we invite you to our Spring festival?" The leader of the small group of locals asked. "I am Wihnek - a member of the local Council of elders." He bowed.
"Eh..." Sam looked uncertain. She gazed at Martouf, who seemed to confer with Lantash.
"We are honoured to accept your kind invitation," Martouf finally said, making the small half-bow the Tok'ra used for more formal greetings. "I am Martouf, and this is Samantha."
"Major Samantha Carter of Earth...eh, the Tau'ri," Sam added.
"You are very welcome." Wihnek bowed again. "Please, follow me."
They had walked for maybe twenty minutes when they reached the village. Martouf had supported Sam now and then, but she insisted on walking on her own most of they way, limping a little from the pain in her foot. It had been early evening when they arrived, and the sky was darkening, so many lights had been lit in the buildings and outside, probably because of the celebration.
The light conditions seemed a little strange here, and Sam looked up at the sky. She gasped, "Wow!"
Martouf looked up as well, admiring the strong and very colourful aurora that were flashing across the sky, the ribbons flowing up and down. "Very beautiful," He sounded suitably impressed. "I believe this may explain why the chaapa'ai does not permit travel during this time of the year."
"Of course!" Sam agreed. "It must be some sort of localized astronomical phenomenon, which only happens during a certain period each year, and which would endanger the travellers or something."
"Yes, like strong solar eruptions and flares, or perhaps from the planet passing through a cloud of ionized particles, on its journey around its sun," Martouf suggested.
"Wow." Sam stared at him.
"What is it?"
"Nothing, it's just...what you said...that would usually be my line...when I'm with the rest of SG-1, I mean."
"Friends...come this way," Wihnek, the Council member from before called after them. "There is still time for you to join the evening's celebration, but you must change into different clothing first. These will help you." He indicated a group of women approaching. "Also, our chief healer will take care of your foot, Samantha. It is important that you are able to move freely and without pain for the celebration. Anything else would surely bring bad luck."
"Eh, okay, sounds good, I guess. Listen, when does this, ah, festival, end?" Sam wanted to know.
"This day sennight." Wihnek said.
"Wait..." Sam thought for a moment. "In, ah, seven days?" She frowned. "You're going to keep us here for seven days?"
Wihnek turned to another man who joined their group. He was dressed in a long white dress-like garment, with a robe around his shoulders. The robe shone in all the colours of an aurora, which was most likely the intention. He wore a strange headdress, which somehow reminded Sam of Zipacna. He had a stern expression.
The newcomer talked with Wihnek for a while, in a language Sam did not understand, before Wihnek turned back to them, smiling a little ashamed.
"This is our high priest, Zohnek. He wanted to know what the problem was. He wishes me to tell you that leaving during the festival would be an insult to the gods, and would bring us bad luck for this year's harvest. The seeds will be planted after the celebrations have ended, and it is a time were we must do our best for the gods to look upon us with benevolence, or the people will starve."
"Bad luck?" Sam looked strangely at him.
"In any case, you could not leave here earlier even if it did not cause bad luck," Wihnek said, sounding apologetic. "The Ring will simply not engage during the Spring festival. Please follow Tenka and the other women, they will make sure you are properly dressed."
Sam nodded, sighing deeply, while Martouf did not seem overly concerned. They politely followed the group of women, who led them to a hut that always stood ready for any visitors that might arrive, and which Sam and Martouf/Lantash would stay in while being the guests of the village.
It turned out Tenka was the only one of them which understood anything, but the local tongue - which neither Martouf nor Lantash had ever heard before. It was not a problem, though, as the clothing they were given was not difficult to put on. They were soon deemed acceptable for the festival.
Sam and Martouf sat down beside each other in the seats appointed to them by the locals. They had been placed just beside the members of the Village Council of Elders, as they were honoured guests. Sam did not feel precisely comfortable, sitting in such a prominent position, especially with all the locals smiling at them now and then, looking at them with almost a kind of worship.
Earlier, a healer had examined Sam's foot, touching it and twisting it a little for a few moments. Then he had put some sort of ointment on it, and the pain had disappeared almost instantly. Sam was intrigued, and hoped they would somehow find a way to get a sample to take back home.
She looked down at the clothes she now wore, a little unhappily. Their uniforms had been deemed unsuitable for the celebrations and had been taken from them. They were now both dressed in local clothing - identical long white robes, with no decoration, held together with a black sash. On their feet they wore soft, brown leather sandals. As native clothing went, it was not bad, particularly when compared to what she had sometimes had to wear on certain missions.
Nevertheless, she was getting a bad feeling about all this, especially since neither she nor Martouf/Lantash could speak with more than a hand-full of the locals, who had been the ones to do business with any traders that arrived on the planet.
She sighed deeply and looked out over the mass of people, who all seemed to be having a good time, laughing and talking. The weather was nice and the air was still warm, so tables and benches had been placed on a large square in the middle of the village. The aurora was picking up in strength, and would have illuminated the place on its own, even if the locals had not decorated with a multitude of coloured lamps and lanterns. They were not the only decoration - flower garlands hung everywhere, emitting a pleasant fragrance that filled the air.
"You are concerned?" Martouf said, picking up on her mood.
"Yes...I mean, I realise everyone here seems happy enough, and I'm very grateful for what the healer did to my foot, but I've had bad experiences with people who insisted I 'go native' and follow local tradition. Besides, I didn't like that priest. He seemed a bit too..."
"...dedicated? Fanatical?" Martouf nodded. "I agree, and he concerns me as well. As for following local tradition? It is often a requirement, when you wish to 'blend in' with an alien culture, and it is always the respectful thing to do when visiting."
Sam sighed. "True, I just have a bad feeling about it all. Not in the least because people are looking at us with some sort of reverence. I wonder why? I hope they're not expecting us to do some kind of magic that will give them a bumper harvest - or something."
Martouf frowned. "Very true, though apparently we somehow symbolize good luck for them, as we came through the chaapa'ai at this time. Let us hope they expect nothing else from us than our presence."
"Never mind. They're bringing out the food now. It looks delicious, and I'm starving!" Sam looked happily at the abundance of food being carried out.
Large platters and bowls full of food were placed on the tables. On each were a large, spit-roasted deer. There were also plenty of whole roasted fowl of some kind, with a spicy, fragrant gravy. In addition, there were platters containing whole baked fish, with a savory sauce, several kinds of pies filled with meat and vegetables, spicy chicken soup, cold meats of various kinds, as well as plenty of roasted tubers, roots, and various kinds of cabbages. Well, any type of vegetable, really, as long as it was something which it had been possible to store over the winter, since there were no fresh ones at this time of the year.
Along with all this was served freshly baked bread, which was arranged in large baskets. No one would go hungry tonight, that was for sure! To drink with this feast, were large pitchers full of fruit juice, as alcohol would not be consumed until the third day of the festival.
When people had eaten for some time, Wihnek rose. An old man beside him got up as well, and spoke at length in the the local language.
Then Wihnek began talking. "I am going to speak on behalf of the Council of elders, and the honoured priests, as I speak the tongue of our guests. High leader Lohkak says to wish you a warm welcome, and that we are honoured by your presence. You arrived through the Ring, which is a very good omen. It is a powerful symbol of fertility, and so, by extension, are you! Your presence will undoubtedly double our harvest next year, at least...something which would very much be needed. The weather is dryer and hotter each year compared to the one before it. The harvest meager. Your arrival will no doubt be what turns this around..."
He droned on, for quite some time, making first Lantash, then Sam, then finally Martouf bored. Eventually, he finished, but they were not allowed to start eating yet. First the priests and priestesses needed to say several blessings, so that the meal would bring good luck for the harvest. Sam groaned silently and tried not to focus on her empty stomach.
Eventually, the various religious rites had apparently been satisfactorily completed, and people dug into the food.
"Is the food to your satisfaction, honoured guests?" Wihnek questioned.
"Yes, thank you. Very much so," Martouf said.
Sam nodded. "It's very good. Delicious!"
Wihnek looked pleased. "That is good. The gods are pleased!" He turned to the man beside him and listened for a little while, before looking towards Sam and Martouf again. "I am to tell you that tomorrow's celebration starts at sundown, and that you are welcome to explore the village and its surroundings during the day, as long as you are back early enough to be cleansed in the ritual baths before the dinner."
"Of course, we will make sure to do that." Martouf answered.
"Have you and your lovely mate any plans for tomorrow? Otherwise we can give you suggestions for interesting things to do. There is a small forest nearby, which is very lovely at this time of the year, with pale green leaves on the trees and the colourful spring flowers everywhere. It is a good place for a romantic lunch, which might put you in the right mood."
"Ah..." Martouf glanced quickly at Sam, not sure what to say.
"We're not...exactly mates." Sam said. "More like...ah, colleagues? Friends?"
Wihnek looked surprised - and somewhat alarmed. "You are not mated?"
"Not yet, at least," Martouf hurriedly said, recognizing a potential danger when he saw one. "We are...on a journey to get to know each other better..." He put a hand on Sam's, smiling at her.
She took the hint and remained quiet, though her eyes told him they would talk more about this later.
"I see." Wihnek frowned.
Sam and Martouf/Lantash had assured Wihnek they would take a 'romantic lunch' in the nearby forest the next day, and he had then allowed them to retire to their hut. It was clear he was not happy.
Sam shook her head and sighed. "I wonder why they reacted like that? I mean, thinking we're mates? That's crazy!"
"I believe it has to do with their Spring festival, and the fact that we arrived through the chaapa'ai at this exact time. The Tok'ra have met several cultures who consider the chaapa'ai a symbol of fertility, usually because the event horizon resembles water. We came through the chaapa'ai - clearly by accident - and just around the time where it starts to block passage for travellers. The locals took this to mean we have been sent by their gods."
"As a symbol of fertility and good luck for their harvest." Sam groaned. "I get it...they're probably also not used to a man and a woman travelling on their own together, unless they're a pair, so that's why they thought we were, ah, together."
"Perhaps, though I doubt that is the case. They do not seem to mind letting us share a hut, despite not being mated, and I believe they would have if they thought it strange to have an unmated man and woman travel alone together."
They had now reached the hut and after entering it, Lantash took control. He had stayed hidden during the time they had been here, since the locals might react badly to him, thinking he was a Goa'uld.
"Samantha, it is my belief that the people here subscribes to the idea that ritual mating around the time of planting increases the fertility of the fields and so the probability of a bountiful harvest. Since we have now become a symbol of fertility and good luck, it has become imperative for them that we mate. I believe that is the reason for Wihnek's unhappiness, upon learning we are not a couple."
"Well, he'll just have to be unhappy then! I'm not sleeping with anyone just to make some superstitious villagers happy!" Sam snorted.
"I assume 'to sleep with' is a Tau'ri euphemism for mating?" Lantash said, lifting an eyebrow. Sam rolled her eyes at him and he nodded, his suspicion confirmed. "Do not be concerned, Samantha. Martouf and I would never force you to do something you do not want, however much...the people of this planet may desire it..."
"Good. Now, where do you want to sleep? The bed or the floor?" She followed him into the bedroom.
"The bed is wide enough for both of us. You do not have to fear I will ravish you." His eyes sparkled in amusement. "Are you perhaps afraid of sharing the bed with me and Martouf?"
"Afraid? Of course not!" Sam scoffed. "I'm sleeping in this side." She patted the bed. "See to it you're not stealing my pillow or blanket!"
"Samantha!" Lantash pretended to be shocked. "I would never do such a thing!"
"Ah, is that the food and other stuff for our picnic?" Sam wondered, pointing at the basket and blanket Martouf was carrying. He had left to pick up some food for them, while Sam bathed and got dressed.
"Yes." Martouf nodded. "They even gave us two large bottles of some sort of sparkling fruit wine, saying it was permissible for us to drink this early in the festival, since we were...honoured guests."
Sam rolled her eyes. "I'm honoured."
Martouf grinned wryly. "They do seem somewhat...enthusiastic about us."
They began to walk towards the forest.
*I suspect the locals hope the wine will make Samantha more open to, ah, our advances,* Lantash suggested.
*I agree. They did make me promise to increase my attempts at wooing Samantha...* He sighed. *I would be more than happy to do as they wish, but I very much fear Samantha is not open to the idea.*
*Perhaps this time we are stranded here with her will help us determine if she might be interested - and maybe even make her come to accept the possibility of a relationship with us. We have only been here for one day, there is still time to try to convince her.*
"Martouf - have you noticed the sun? It was too late in the day yesterday to notice it, but...it seems awfully bright - and not the colour you would expect from a solar-type star..." Sam frowned.
Martouf looked at the sun. "I agree. It is whiter, hotter, than the majority of the stars that have planets with chaapa'ai's on them."
"I guess it could be a heavier star...it could still have planets, but they would probably not survive long enough for life to develop..."
"They do not need to. Many, if not most, of the planets with chaapa'ai have been changed to accommodate life as we know it."
"True," Sam agreed. She wrinkled her brow. "If it's a heavier star...that's perhaps at the end of it's time on the main sequence..."
"Starting to use up it's hydrogen and going on to burn helium."
"Ah." Martouf nodded. "Though it would have become redder if that was the case."
"In any case, nearing the end of it's time on the main sequence..." She glared at him, daring him to contradict her. "Then it could, perhaps, have become somewhat unstable...and have yearly eruptions causing these aurorae..."
"They said the weather had become hotter and drier...because their star is getting warmer, perhaps?"
"Perhaps...or part of a more localized phenomenon, limited to the planet." Sam sighed. "It's no use speculating - we just don't know enough."
Martouf opened the first bottle of the fruit wine they had been given and took out the two glasses. He poured some wine into one of them, then looked expectantly at Sam. "Would you like to try the fruit wine as well, Samantha?"
Sam shrugged. "Why not?" She sighed. "Since we're not going to be able to leave this place for the next week, I guess we can just as well relax and look at it as a vacation. I don't remember when the last time was I had one of those."
Martouf nodded. "That would seem like a good idea. The food is good and this place is both peaceful and pleasant." He took a small sip from the wine. "And this is excellent."
"The Tok'ra take vacations?" Sam sounded surprised.
"We do. If we are not undercover or otherwise unable to, most Tok'ra take at least a week or more off every year. It is beneficial for the moral, as well as sometimes necessary after hard missions."
"Mm, sounds sensible. Do you have parties too? So, when did you last take a vacation? I'll bet it's been longer than since I took one?"
"We do have parties, while it is not often. If our life was only hard work and danger, it would not truly be a life, would it? As for Lantash and I? We have not felt much interest in social life or taking a vacation since...since Jolinar and Rosha died." He looked sad.
Sam looked down, ashamed of herself. "Sorry."
"Do not be sorry. Lantash and I both enjoy being here with you. We hope this will give us a chance to get to know you better. Usually we only ever meet when there is a crisis."
"True." Sam smiled. "You're right!" She touched her glass to his. "To life! Cheers!" She took a large drink.
Martouf smiled. "To life." He emptied the glass and refilled both his own and hers.
Sam giggled a little. This stuff was strong. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. The air was already warm here in the small sheltered clearing where they sat. The sun was burning hot for it being this early in the year. The birds were singing, and the trees were covered in pale green leaves. She took another deep breath, enjoying the soft fragrance from the spring flowers. Life was good, and she had almost a whole week off. Nothing to do...and a handsome man to spend the time with. Men, she corrected herself. She had to admit she was looking forward to getting to know Martouf and Lantash better. Perhaps she would even be able to sort out her feelings?
She looked at him, and he gave her one of his most charming smiles. She felt her heart beat faster. She definitely felt something for him, but was it her or Jolinar who felt it? Did it even matter? She decided she would not worry about it right now. She took another drink from her glass, then scooted closer to Martouf, putting her hand on his leg.
"So, tell me about Tok'ra parties..."
They had talked and laughed and had fun, and Sam was still a little drunk when they finally headed back towards their hut, wanting to make sure they were back early enough for that 'ritual cleansing' that was apparently required before today's dinner.
This turned out to mean bathing in a hot, natural spring. The water bubbled out of the ground in several places, and formed a large pool. A large bath house had been built around the natural pool, both to allow bathing inside in bad weather, and to allow for gender segregation - something which was strange to Martouf and Lantash, since the Tok'ra communal pools were used by males and females together.
Sam found the water to be very pleasant, though it smelled a bit of sulphur, which she knew was not unusual for hot springs. She was a little uncomfortable with bathing naked together with so many strangers, but she quickly forgot about it and allowed herself to soak and enjoy the water.
The bath was concluded with a quick - and cold - bath, which was at least refreshing, if nothing else. Shivering, Sam rubbed herself dry with the soft cloth she was given, then dressed in the clothes that had been put out for her. They were similar to what they had worn yesterday, with the exception of the colour. The clothing had been white yesterday, this was a deep red. The sash was still black, though. Sam looked at herself in the polished piece of metal that served as a mirror. She thought it looked better than the white had done, but the red was a bit too dark to go well with her complexion. Knowing that everyone - with the exception of the priests - wore the same, she just shrugged and left to find Martouf.
This was easier said than done, she realised, as she looked out over the sea of people, all wearing identical red robes. She was about to despair, when she spotted a man with dark-blond hair, and hurried to him, waving at him. She reflected it was lucky they both had lighter hair than what was the norm here, or it might have taken even longer to find him.
"Martouf!" She caught up to him, and he turned towards her, smiling.
"Samantha. I apologize for not waiting for you outside the bath house, but Wihnek insisted on talking to me."
Sam looked at Wihnek, who immediately inclined his head, smiling politely at her. "Samantha Carter. You look well. I trust the lunch excursion was to your satisfaction? Martouf tells me you did not return until shortly before it was time for the bath."
"Thanks, it was nice, yeah. I can see why you like that place - very peaceful." Sam looked at him, then Martouf, somewhat suspiciously. She would have to ask later what they had talked about.
Before they could say anything more, a large gong sounded. It was time for the day's ceremonial dinner.
"Interestingly, the red colour symbolizes purity here. I believe I have only met one culture where it has that meaning before - it was a world ruled by one of Kali's underlings," Martouf said. "As well as it being the main colour of the aurora today, of course."
"You're right - I hadn't noticed." Sam looked up. There really was a lot of red in the sky's light display this evening. She sighed. "Listen, Martouf...I realise it's probably none of my business, and if it isn't, then just tell me so, but...what did you and Wihnek talk about before I came?"
He was quiet for a moment, then nodded. "There is no reason why I should not tell you. It certainly concerns you as well. Among other things, he wanted to know if I could report any, ah, progress, in my courtship of you." He smiled shyly at her.
"Your courtship! I wasn't aware you were courting me!"
"Well, I did not tell him I was, but since they seem very inclined that we should become mates, I decided it was better to, ah, not dissuade him from his belief."
"You allowed him to think we went on a romantic picnic, so you could court me." Sam sighed. "Well, I guess it doesn't hurt, and if it will keep them happy, then by all means, let's pretend."
"I believe that would be a prudent measure."
The dinner was not as lavish as the one the day before, nor as long, as there would be a celebration at sunrise the next morning. The food was still very good, though. It consisted of a meat and vegetable stew, served with freshly baked bread. The dessert was fruit - pears and apples. Water was the only drink permitted this evening.
However, if the food was less varied, then the decorations were more so. The main colour of the garlands today was red, matching the robes everyone wore, but it was interspersed with flowers of white and yellow, as well as fresh leaves. There were vases overflowing with flowers on all the tables, and the multicoloured paper lamps from the day before had been exchanged for torches and candles. Sam actually felt a little nervous that all these open flames should lead to accidents, but nothing untoward happened.
When the dinner was over, Wihnek told them they were expected to participate in the ritual hunt the next day. As honoured guests it was considered good luck, and Sam and Martouf/Lantash somewhat reluctantly agreed to participate. They would be hunting wild boar, for eating during the celebration in the evening.
Sam slowly woke up. The air outside the blanket was chilly, but she felt pleasantly warm, and did not really feel like getting up. She considered going back to sleep, but remembered they had to go on that damn hunt today. Besides, she was starting to get hungry, and she did not want to miss the common breakfast in the city square, and that would start early today.
She yawned and stretched, then froze as she felt another body beside her. She opened her eyes and immediately realised what the source of the pleasant warmth was. Martouf! During the night she had moved so that she now lay very close to him, pressed against his side, with her arm partially flung over his chest.
The thin curtains allowed a diffuse sunlight to filter into the room, and she could see the still sleeping man clearly. She had to admit he felt nice against her, and she did not move away as quickly as she told herself she should have. She allowed herself a moment to look at him first, and she felt her heart beat faster. He looked cute like this, but also very, very attractive.
She had a sudden memory flash of Jolinar lying like this, admiring her sleeping mates. Of course, she had kissed him, wakening him, which had led to them making passionate love.
Part of Sam felt jealous, and she felt a strong desire to kiss him. It would be so easy...
She immediately scolded herself. What was she thinking? The reasons why it was a bad idea to initiate anything with Martouf, were too many to think about, beginning with the fact that he probably was only interested in her because of Jolinar.
Sam sighed, then slowly slid away from him, trying not to wake him up. She had almost gotten out of bed, when he moved a little and made a soft sound, almost a sigh. He turned over on his side, facing her, then mumbled something that sounded suspiciously like Samantha.
She shook her head, certain she must have heard him wrong. She quickly got up and grabbed her clothes, then managed to trip over one of her own sandals. She stumbled, but did not quite fall, though the sound was enough to wake up Martouf.
"Mpfh?" He opened his eyes. "Samantha." He smiled sleepily at her.
Sam quickly smoothed out her short nightgown. "Good morning, Martouf." She smiled at him.
"Good morning." He continued looking at her for a moment longer, clearing enjoying the fact that she was wearing much less than what she usually did. Her nightgown was made of a thin material and only reached to her mid-thighs. Where she was standing right now, with her back to the sunlit window, he could see her figure almost as if the clothing was not there. He smiled wider, as Lantash woke up and commented on the fact.
Sam felt self-conscious. "Listen, I'm feeling kinda hungry. I don't want to miss the breakfast."
"Of course." Martouf nodded, sitting up in the bed. "We should hurry."
After breakfast, the villagers prepared to go on the ritual boar hunt. From what Sam and Martouf/Lantash had been explained, there were normally three couples picked who would compete to be the first to kill a wild boar. This year, Sam and Martouf/Lantash had been chosen to take part as well, which meant there were four couples. The villagers seemed to have high hopes for a particularly good hunt. Apparently, the boars that were shot during the hunt would be eaten at the dinner tonight, and if no boars were shot during the six hour long hunt, then it meant bad luck for the entire village and for the harvest that year. Of course, it also meant no roast boars for the evenings feast.
"It would seem there's a lot of things that means bad luck here!" Sam observed. "Perhaps we should bring our MP5's? I can use a bow, but I'm not that good at it."
"Bringing our own weapons is a good idea in any case. Wild boars are very dangerous, and I do not wish to rely on a bow and arrow to kill it - and a spear if it gets too close." He frowned. "We should ask to be allowed to use our own weapons."
The locals had no problems with Sam and Martouf/Lantash using different weapons - it actually seemed they considered it a special honour that was being bestowed upon them, and the hunting party left.
Sam had her MP5 set for single-shot, and was aiming at the wild boar standing about 400 feet away. She squeezed the trigger, and moments later the boar fell to the ground, dead.
The local people participating in the hunt all jumped in surprise from the sound of the shot, but there now came a gasp from all of them, followed by awed whispers.
"Nice shot, Samantha," Martouf said.
Wihnek finally found his voice, "That...was beyond belief. I would not have thought it possible! Using our best bows, our very best hunters can shoot a deer at 220-230 feet, a boar at perhaps a little less." He shook his head. "You, and your magical weapons are truly sent by the gods!"
After the boar had been fetched and they continued on the hunt, Sam leaned in to whisper in Martouf's ear, "Now, perhaps, they'll leave us alone - seeing what we can do!"
"Perhaps," Martouf answered, suspecting it would only make the locals more determined. Of course, it depended on what the purpose of this hunt was, but he strongly suspected it was a way of choosing one of the couples, for something - and not just a ritual hunt intended to bring food and good luck for the festival. Lantash agreed with him, but they kept quiet. Nothing would change anyway, and they could not risk Sam - or Martouf - saying something that would antagonize the locals. Not when they were trapped here on the planet.
Sam shot another boar, and a man from one of the other couples shot one as well. The hunt had been the most successful in many years, and there would be much food for the celebration tonight. Everyone congratulated Sam - and Martouf - as winners of the hunt.
Smiling and happy, the participants went to take a bath, before dressing in robes in today's colour, which turned out to be orange. While they relaxed until dinner-time, the boars would be roasted and prepared with the rest of the food.
Sam sighed, touching her orange robe. "I can't say I would ever have chosen this colour - it makes me look very washed-out. Looks really good on the locals, though, with their black hair."
"I believe the colour of the day's dress is chosen to match the dominating colour in the aurora that day," Martouf observed. "I doubt it matters to the population of this world whether it 'looks good' or not." He smiled. "Though I must admit I do think it looks good on you."
"Thanks." Sam looked out over the place, seeing Wihnek wave at them, signalling the should join him. "Seems we get seats of honour today as well."
They went to sit at the table with Wihnek and the other Council members, as well as the priests, just as they had the other days.
The feast was lavish that evening, like it had been the first day, but with the wild boars now being the main course. There was also various kinds of fowl, bread, roast tubers and vegetables, as well as pies for dessert. A very good, and not too sweat fruit juice was served with the food, which complemented the rest nicely. When people got to the dessert, the glasses were filled with a crisp, sparkling fruit wine, which tasted very good together with the sweet pies filled with apples and pears.
The dinner was over, and it was almost time for people to go home, when the head priest, Zohnek rose, and signalled the man standing at the gong. He struck the instrument once, producing a deep. reverberating tone. Everyone grew quiet, and the priest began to speak.
Sam and Martouf/Lantash understood nothing, of course, but they started to worry as the speech became longer, and people around them got very pleased expressions and smiled, almost reverently at them. When they looked towards Wihnek, he shook his head and put a finger to his mouth, making it clear that it was not permissible for anyone else to talk while Zohnek spoke. They resigned themselves to wait.
Finally, the head priest said something to Wihnek, and he answered him, nodding. Then Wihnek turned towards Sam and Martouf/Lantash and told them to stand up, which they did, feeling somewhat ill at ease. The priest again said something, and the population cheered loudly. Then Sam and Martouf were allowed to sit down, and shortly after people began to leave.
Turning to Wihnek, they both gave him stern looks.
"Well? What was that all about?" Sam demanded.
"I apologize," He said. "It is not permissible for anyone to speak while the head priest talks, and especially not at such an auspicious time as this." He sighed. "The priests and priestesses have had a meeting today, and come to the conclusion that you represent the god and goddess who once ruled this world, and that your presence here is a powerful symbol for this year's planting season. The fact that you shot the first boar - and at such a long distance - only confirmed it. Your joining was decided by the gods, and your mating will ensure the best harvest in our history! You will be the chosen couple!"
"Ah, wait just a minute..." Sam began. "I don't think so!"
"It is a great honour! There is always one couple chosen during the festival each year, a couple who will increase the fertility of the lands by being ceremonially joined, and then mating. It guarantees the fertility of the seeds we plant in the fields, when the male of the chosen pair places his seed in the chosen female. However, never before have we had a mate-pair that was chosen directly by the gods! To have their representatives carry out this ritual...it is a dream come true!"
"Whoa! Hold it right there!" Sam shook her head, still not believing what she had just heard.
"You wish us to perform some sort of ritual coupling?" Martouf looked shocked as well. "Publicly?"
"No, of course not!" Wihnek looked insulted.
"I'm not having sex with anyone, just because you guys think you'll get a better harvest! You're crazy!" Sam exclaimed.
"I am afraid I will have to insist." Wihnek said. "It is of utmost importance for the survival of our people!"
"Could you not just chose another couple?" Martouf wondered, trying to reason with Wihnek. "You would have picked one even if we had not arrived."
"Do you not understand? This choice was made by the gods! For us to then pick another couple? The gods would be so angry they would likely not grant us any harvest at all this year! We would starve to death! We cannot allow that to happen. Surely, you do not wish this fate on us? What have we done to you, to make you wish for this?"
The head priest and a few of his minions had been studying the exchange, and now joined them. He talked quickly to Wihnek, who looked embarrassed, but explained what had been said. The priest got a very stern expression, and turned to Sam and Martouf/Lantash. He spoke for several minutes, his tone making it clear he was both angry and disappointed. Then he turned and left, the other priests following.
"What did he say?" Martouf asked, somewhat apprehensively.
"He said...that if you will not do your duty for our people, then you will be punished."
"Punished?" Sam frowned, looking unhappy.
"What does that entail, exactly?" Martouf looked vary.
"It will be determined by the gods, but I fear the punishment will be harsh. Our gods were very hard, and did not accept any failings from their people, which they of course should not."
Martouf sighed. "How will this be determined? It was my understanding the, ah, gods were no longer here?"
"They are always here in spirit, and the priests speak for them, but it has been almost 600 cycles since they lived with us, and at least 500 cycles since their servants came for tributes. We believe we have disappointed them, since the climate has grown steadily harsher."
"Do these gods have names?" Sam asked, realising they were almost certainly Goa'uld.
"Not ones that are for mere mortals to speak. They are the gods." Wihnek wringed his hands, nervously. "You must agree to become mates!"
"May Samantha and I speak in private about this?" Martouf said quickly, when he saw Sam was about to say something in anger.
"There is nothing to discuss. You cannot possibly want the punishment." Wihnek sighed. "Regardless. Speak with her. Come to an agreement so we will not have an unfortunate situation which will cause all of us distress. We will speak tomorrow." He left.
"Are these people insane?" Sam exclaimed. "How can they expect us to do this? How can you be so accepting of this?"
"What would you have me do? If the chaapa'ai does not work, we cannot leave." He sighed. "We should go and determine if that is still the case, of course."
"You're right! Let's go there immediately - I wouldn't put it beyond these people to lie to us!"
They began walking towards the Stargate. No one came to stop them, and the roads were in fact quite empty of people. Everyone in the village had already returned home in order to go to sleep early. The celebrations would continue until late night for each of the next four days, so it was a good idea to catch up on sleep now.
"Samantha. We should prepare for the eventuality that the chaapa'ai does in fact not work."
"Well, we have weapons. We both have an MP5 and a zat, I doubt they can defend themselves against that."
Martouf nodded. "Probably not, though I would rather not have to kill anyone. We may have to, though, if we hope to stay safe for another four days, if we go that route."
Sam sighed. "You're right, and I don't want to do that either. What about Lantash? Could he pretend to be a Goa'uld? This planet seems to have been ruled by some of them once."
"I believe so as well, though I think they are unlikely to react favourably. Why would he not have shown himself earlier, if he is a god?"
"Perhaps he was testing them?" Sam suggested. "They'd believe that, I'm sure!"
Martouf bowed his head, giving control to Lantash.
"They may, though even if they believe I am a 'god', they may not believe I am their god - especially since I don't even know which Goa'uld ruled here. I am not certain how they would react, and I would prefer not to risk it. Besides, I do not enjoy pretending to be a Goa'uld - and certainly not play someone's 'god' - unless there is no other option."
"Then what? We do as they say?" Sam looked taken aback.
"I would never force you to mate with me, Samantha. Something like that should be a willing choice from all of us." He sighed. "I will not let them force you to do something you do not wish. I will pretend to be a Goa'uld, if it ends up being necessary, but I would prefer trying other options first."
"Okay. Yeah, but what other options are there?"
"Martouf claim you as his mate, and you pretend to do as they wish. There would be no public coupling, so they would be none the wiser."
Sam thought about it for a while. "I guess that could work..."
They had reached the Stargate and dialed Earth. After three attempts at connecting to Earth, and two tries for other planets, they had to admit the locals had told the truth.
"So, we're stuck. Which means we'll try the 'pretend to be mates' solution." She sighed.
"Is that thought really so repulsive to you?" Lantash said, anger - and pain - clear in his voice.
Sam looked at him, surprised. "No. No, of course not. Lantash...it's not that...I mean, I like you. Both of you. I really do."
She looked at him, the bands of light weaving across the sky illuminating his face. He looked tense...angry...pained. She felt a stab in her heart, realising it was her fault. Liked them? Oh, yeah, she liked them...loved them, would probably be more correct, but she was not so sure she was ready to tell them. Because...how did they feel? Did they feel anything for her, or was it all because she had carried Jolinar? Because their dead mate left behind feelings for them? She sighed. No, she could not tell them that a large part of her - a part that was constantly getting bigger now when she was spending more time with them - really wanted them to be her mates. For real.
"Good, then this should be manageable for you." Lantash still sounded hurt.
"Listen, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to sound like that before. I find you very attractive." Attractive? More like the most gorgeous man she had ever met! She smiled at him, putting a hand on his left arm.
Lantash sighed deeply. "I apologize, Samantha. As much as both Martouf and I appreciate the opportunity to spend time with you, the situation on this planet is stressful. We do not know what the locals might do to us if we disobey them, and the thought of any danger to you is making us forget our manners."
"You have nothing to apologize for." Sam squeezed his arm. "Let's forget about it - and the people of this planet - just for a short time, and enjoy the evening. The air is almost warm, and the aurora is beautiful."
Lantash smiled. "It is a very pleasant evening, and the lights are indeed beautiful. I would very much enjoy walking with you for a little while."
"I'd like that very much, too."