With little fanfare, Destiny dropped out of the brightly colored realm of FTL and glided toward the sole habitable planet that was the last destination of her current mission.
"Well, last time's the charm?" Daniel finally quipped, trying to lighten the somber spirits that had pervaded the crew since their last two stops.
"At least it's not a cliche." Rising from the control chair once he had confirmed Destiny's orders to achieve stealth orbit, Jack wandered over to his 2IC. "What have we got, Carter?"
Without looking up from interpreting the data from the sensor systems, Sam rattled off the dry facts she'd learned so far.
"Well, the planet is only slightly larger than Earth, with a 26 hour rotation. There are large salt seas covering most of the equatorial and temperate regions. Smaller landmasses near the poles are habitable, though desert-like..."
"Anybody living there?" Daniel asked quickly when Sam paused for breath, not really expecting much given the last three planets they'd visited.
"Actually, yes," Sam blinked and grinned briefly at the small cheer that reverberated around the control room at that announcement. "There's a...small city on one of the polar landmasses."
"The stargate?" Jack asked.
"It seems to be buried a few miles from the settlement," Sam began, before discovering something else. "Sir! I'm picking up significant quantities of naquadah near where the stargate is buried, as well as traces of advanced technology."
"Oh hell, don't tell me this is another '636," Jack muttered.
"They did bury their stargate," Daniel pointed out.
Sam, meanwhile, continued to skim through the sensor readings. "There's also a ring platform near the gate," she reported. "No people nearby. We can ring down and approach the settlement that way."
"Well that's new. Alrighty, campers, let's go say hi to our neighbors."
When the glow of the ring transporters died down, Destiny One and their entourage found themselves in an obviously deserted transport chamber.
"Somebody forgot to pay the utilities," Jack muttered, switching on a portable flashlight.
"Achoo--Ow," Daniel stumbled over a piece of debris on the ground and nearly crashed into a nearby wall. The sudden proximity of the wall, however, brought something to his attention. "Hey! The writing on these walls - it's Goa'uld!" Squinting to try and get a clear look at the writing, Daniel slowly began to follow the wall, not noticing as it curved away into another room...
"Abandoned Goa'uld building..." Jack continued to mutter under his breath. Just like '636. He quickly shunted the though away, not wanting another trip to the base psychologist when he returned.
"It looks like there hasn't been anyone here for thousands of years," Sam declared after examining the heavy layer of dust and sand on all the surfaces around them. She split her attention between her portable scanner and the unsteady ground. The information she obtained was disappointing, however. The installation was mainly stonework with some traces of naquadah in the walls. There were no power readings and hardly anything of technological worth other than the transporters. Her hopes of getting her hands on more Goa'uld technology fizzled away.
"Guys! Over here!" Came the excited call from their resident archaeologist.
"Oh, fercryinout--Daniel!" Jack stormed after the younger man, leaving the rest of the group hurrying to catch up. "Don't run off like that!"
"Sure, Jack," Daniel agreed absently, obviously not listening while his eyes roamed the walls.
"These look like stargate symbols," Sam murmured in wonder as her flashlight swept past the symbols etched on the walls.
"This must be one of the Goa'uld star maps," Daniel speculated in excitement, "a cartouche of their stargate addresses."
"Yeah, but we got a better one," Jack pointed out, not wanting to begrudge any credit to those murderous slavers. "C'mon kids, we've got better places to be than an abandoned snake pit."
Regardless of the protests coming from the archaeologist, Jack steadily ushered the group out of the Goa'uld structure and right into the blazing heat of the desert sun.
"Whoa--Achoo!" Daniel's wondering comment half-spoke for everyone else in the group as they beheld a vast desert landscape under clear blue skies that were decorated with three moons.
"Beautiful," Sam agreed.
"No trees," Jack couldn't help but comment.
In almost reverent silence, the group moved out into the desert. Sam took point, leading the way toward the human settlement. On their way there, they passed by the edge of a deep valley that sank into the ground.
"Huh, this doesn't look natural," Daniel stopped to note. He was confident of having seen enough deserts back on Earth know the difference.
"This is where the naquadah readings are from," Sam told him. "It must have been a mine a long time ago."
"A really long time ago," Daniel agreed as the group slowly walked on past the mine. "It's a good sign that they abandoned it since the Goa'uld left, right?"
"Maybe their story is closer to Earth's," guess Sam, following along with her fellow scientist's thoughts. "They rebelled against Ra and survived to tell about it."
"Exactly!" agreed Daniel, picking up one of his favorite topics with enthusiasm. "I wonder how they did it. Hell, I mean, I have to wonder how we did it. Earth circa 3000 BC isn't something you'd expect to win a rebellion against a space-faring race."
"Maybe they didn't have weaponry capable of orbital bombardment back then," Sam mused after a short, thoughtful pause. "I mean, the previous planets were we saw the results of their retribution all dated back about one thousand years. Earth freed itself from Ra four thousand years before that. It might not sound like much when you say it, but..."
"Four thousand years is a long time," Daniel finished for her. "I can buy that theory for Earth, but then that doesn't explain this place..."
"Kids," Jack's warning growl broke into the conversation that the two scientists had immersed themselves into. "Break it up. We've got movement."
Immediately, Sam and the two lieutenants who had accompanied their "away team" fell into battle ready positions. Their eyes scanned the horizon, and easily spotted the small trio of humans that rounded the top of a nearby dune.
"They're just kids!" Daniel noted, whirling around to the military men. "Jack--"
"At ease," Jack ordered before Daniel even finished his request, his hand falling away from his P-90. From their short distance to the dune, he could easily see the locals were lightly dressed and unarmed - hardly a threat. Still, he remained tensed for action, and was gratified to note that Sam and the two lieutenants had remained alert as well.
"Uh--" Daniel stumbled for a moment, before changing his request. "Jack, let me talk to them. They might be friendly."
"Friendly is good," Jack nodded at him, "so go talk." Once the archaeologist had a head start toward the natives, Jack motioned Sam and the rest of their group to follow, just in case Daniel did need rescuing.
He need not have worried, however. As it turned out, Daniel was already engaged in conversation with the natives.
"Abydos, is that the name of your world?" Daniel was asking.
"Yes," answered the young man who was apparently the spokesperson of the group. "Are you not of this world?"
"Are you sent by Ra?" asked one of the other boys timidly.
"Ra? No! No, we're not," Daniel hastened to assure them. "Our people--our world--rebelled from Ra's rule a long time ago."
"Where do you come from then?" challenged the leader of the boys.
"The planet we come from--we call it Earth. Or Terra." Seeing the blank looks all around, and remembering the name that the Sodan had known them by, Daniel added, "I think the Goa'uld called us...Tau'ri?"
"The First World!" gasped the boys in wonder.
"Daniel," Jack broke into the excitement with a slight trace of impatience.
"Oh, sorry." Daniel quickly made introductions between the Destiny team and the young natives. Their leader was a young man named Skaara.
"So, Skaara," Jack smiled wanly at the young man, "would you mind taking us to your leaders?"
As the boys flounced away, beckoning their visitors to follow, Jack turned turned an innocent look at the bemused looks he was receiving due to his word choice.
Later that evening
The Destiny team looked around in bemusement at the celebration being held in their honor. The hall was awash in the flickering light of oil lamps, and the sound of primitive musical instruments. The leader of the Abydonians, Elder Kasuf, sat at the head of the hall, while they were given a table to his right. Many other Abydonians were also present, some were better dressed and probably the local equivalent of nobility, while a great many young men and women of common garb were also present.
At one end of the honored guests table, Daniel was deeply immersed in conversation with the beautiful local scholar. Upon comparing writing systems over scraps of linen and using the liquor from his goblet as ink, he had quickly discovered that the Abydonians used the Ancient Egyptian - or rather Goa'uld - written language. That meant their spoken language was probably some dialect of Egyptian or Goa'uld as well. At that point, he had deactivated his translator, and was learning the local tongue at a dizzying speed.
"Tah-parief?" he asked, drawing another glyph on the linen.
Sha're giggled at his earnest look and shook her head. "Tah-pah-rief," she corrected him, pointing to the character as well. Then, she dipped a finger into his goblet and drew another symbol herself. "Neh-dah."
"Ned-jed," Daniel corrected her, then grinned himself. "Neh-dah."
"Tiu," Sha're replied, nodding at him.
Meanwhile, on Daniel's other side, Lt. Freeman gingerly picking up a piece of bread-like item. "You think we should be eating any of this?" he asked dubiously.
Seeing that their resident liaison was too busy to answer, Sam took a tentative bite of the bread and shrugged. "It tastes ok," she commented, "and we probably shouldn't offend them by refusing the food." She turned to confirm with her CO and nearly laughed out loud at the expression on his face as he stared at a plate of some armadillo-like creature placed before him.
Bristling at both the amused look from his XO and the anxious gaze he could feel from Elder Kasuf, Jack cursed the fact that as the leader of his people, he was being singled out for "honors" like this. Breaking off a piece of bread, he barely scraped off a piece of the meat before him and quickly swallowed it whole.
He turned a wooden smile at the waiting elder. "It, uh, tastes great," he lied through his teeth, then picked up a nearby goblet to avoid having to eat more of the meat. Unfortunately, that was the wrong move to make, and he barely registered the strong liquid taste against his throat before he spewed it out again and launched into a coughing fit.
The Abydonians roared in hoots and laughter. This time Sam couldn't hold in a giggle either, earning a baleful glare back.
"No giggling, Captain. That--oh God, that's some strong moonshine," Jack managed to croak out as the laughing died down.
Skaara approached his seat with a fire brand, intent to re-light the oil lamp that had been put out by his waterworks.
"No, no," Jack waved the boy off, "I got this." He took out a lighter from his pocket and proceeded to light the lamp with it.
There was an audible gasp from the younger attendees of the banquet. Skaara tossed away the fire brand and inched close to Jack's seat to stare in wonder at the lighter.
"Here, it's just a lighter - something used to start fires," Jack said, amused by the attention. He tossed the item to Skaara, who immediately scampered away to a group of youths who began to ooh and aah over the item.
"You smoke, sir?" Sam asked curiously. So far, despite having served closely with the man, especially on their current mission, she had found no signs of a smoking habit, and wondered if she was missing something.
"Nah, just used to," Jack shrugged off the question. Indeed, he'd pretty much quit after the first year into the Destiny Project, not having needed it to calm his nerves as he had in SpecOps, and due to Sarah's insistence on setting an example for their son. Trying to turn the topic away from himself, he shot a look at Daniel, who was still immersed in his conversation and hadn't even noticed the whole commotion. "You think our professor is gonna remember his job any time soon?" he asked rhetorically.
Sam chuckled again as she looked toward her fellow scientist. "Well, sir, apparently she is the daughter of the leader of these people. So I guess he is formulating relations with the locals."
"What is it with him and native princesses?" Jack asked exasperatedly.
His rhetorical question did not even register with the archaeologist, who had already progressed onto basic sentences without the use of the translator.
"When were your people brought here by the Goa'uld?" he asked.
"Many thousands of years ago, answered Sha're with a sad smile, "the false god Ra brought our ancestors here."
"You know he is a false god?" Daniel asked in surprise, wondering if the same thing on Earth had happened here. "Did you rebel?"
Sha're shook her head. "We thought he was God. He made the people work in the mines. He would come every few years and take our best youths. We were powerless."
"How did you get free from him? The mines are abandoned. You don't worship him anymore."
"Thor freed us from Ra..."
"Thor!" Daniel exclaimed, attracting the attention from the rest of his table. "The Asgard?"
Sha're shrugged in bemusement at his exclamation. "The old tales speak of a battle fought in the sky. Thor defeated Ra. He told our ancestors we were free to make our own path. We would no longer serve anyone."
"Oh, wow," Daniel murmured. "That's...amazing!" He would have said more, except for the low growling sound that came from his stomach.
Sha're laughed outright at his embarrassment. "You have talked so much that you have not eaten!" she teased him. Turned to beckon one of the servers over, she retrieved a plate of some kind of dried lizard and placed it in front of Daniel. "This is very filling."
Looking dubiously between the lizard and the eager young woman before him, Daniel finally resigned himself to picking up one of the pieces and popping it into his mouth. It was like eating a piece of jerky dipped in salt, and he could barely swallow it down. He would have reached for his goblet but for the unfortunate - or fortunate - fact that it was practically empty from being used as ink earlier. Instead, he quickly dug through the supplies that he had brought to retrieve a canteen of water. In his haste, a small rivulet of water trickled down from the corner of her mouth.
There was a gasp from Sha're and the Abydonians closest to them. Lowering the canteen, Daniel looked around in confusion at the surprised looks directed at him.
"You carry much water with you?" asked Skaara curiously. He had approached the table again and was offering Jack's lighter back to him.
"No, go ahead and keep it," Jack told him, waving off the lighter. "What's wrong with the water?" he asked.
"Not wrong," Sha're assured them quickly. "Water is very valuable here." So saying, she removed one of the sparkling crystal jewels from around her waist. On closer examination, it appeared that the crystal was actually a very delicately crafted glass vial of water.
"Oh wow!" Daniel whistled in admiration, "do you use water for status or for currency here?"
"I don't understand," Sha're blinked at him in confusion.
Realizing that he had spoken the words in English, Daniel quickly switched his translator on. "Uh, for trade. Do you use water for trade?"
"Yes, yes!" agreed the young woman.
"It must be tough to live here with water being that rare," Sam noted in sympathy.
Jack shrugged. "There's plenty of water where we come from," he told the exited room.
"That's right," Daniel jumped on the opening, "and our people would really love to trade water and things for the naquadah in those abandoned mines of yours."
Bemused, Sha're and Skaara looked toward Elder Kasuf for an answer to that. The hold man smiled benevolently.
"You are free to take as much as you can carry," he offered. "We would welcome any gifts you give us in return."
"Uh, that's not quite what we mean," Daniel amended. "We can't, ah, carry away enough of the mineral for the uses we need. We were hoping to, well, dig up the stargate again and use that to transport things between our world and here. Stargate...y'know, the gateway of the stars?"
Another commotion swept the room; this time it was less agreeable.
"Our old tales warned us not to uncover the Gateway of Heaven," Kasuf told them seriously. "It is the sign of Ra."
"But, I thought you're protected here by the Asgard," Daniel asked in confusion
Kasuf shrugged. "It is what the old stories warn."
"What if we help you secure it?" Sam offered. "We have a system back home where the gate is blocked off until we can be sure what's on the other side is friendly. We can do the same here."
They Abydonians, however, looked far from convinced.
"These old stories," Daniel finally tried, not wanting negotiations to fail at this point, "are there any exceptions or ways around them?"
"There is..." Sha're spoke up suddenly, almost hesitatingly, "...the Trial of Moljnor."
"Moljnor?" Daniel asked, perking up again at the Norse term.
"When Thor freed our world from Ra, he left things behind. One is the Moljnor, which is said to judge if we were ready."
"Ready? For what?"
"I don't know," Sha're admitted. "The tales were not clear, for there was much that Thor spoke of that our ancestors did not understand."
"So, you're saying if we find this...Mohair thing...you'll let us dig up the stargate?" Jack asked sceptically.
"It is agreed then," Kasuf announced, either not noticing or ignoring the sarcasm. "Tomorrow, we will let the Trial of Moljnor decide if we should pursue the course you suggest."
"I can take them to where the old ruins are," Skaara piped up as well. He grinned at the visitors. "I will witness their Trial."
"Wait a minute..." Daniel began to protest, but was cut off by the cheer of the crowd again. Helplessly, he exchanged frustrated looks with his companions.
"Aw, cripes," Jack muttered, resisting the urge to drop his head down onto the table.
The next day
After confirming their plans with Destiny and SGC, the Destiny team accompanied a small contingent of Abydonians out onto the sands. A short distance away from the abandoned naquadah mine, they were brought to a large monolith that was carved over with Asgard runes.
"According to the tales," Sha're told them, "the supplicants must place their hand over the gem." She pointed to a dark red orb that was embedded at head-height on the structure.
"That's interesting," Sam murmured as she observed her hand scanner. "I'm not picking up any power readings at all."
She tried to ignore the grumblings of her CO behind her. After a prolonged argument the previous evening, it was determined that only herself and Daniel would undertake the "trial". They had no idea what kind of "judgement" the artifact was capable of making, and it didn't make any sense to endanger the only person capable of flying Destiny home.
Jack wasn't happy about having to remain behind while his people went into possible danger, but even he had to admit that if this was an issue of diplomacy with whatever the Asgard left behind, it made more sense to send the two scientists. At least he was mollified that Sam was an excellent officer herself and could probably get them out of any sticky spots. Sucking up the unfairness of it all, he managed to give a salute off to his XO.
"Good luck, Captain."
Sam reflexively saluted back. "I'll make sure we get back safely, sir," she assured her CO.
Unaware of the byplay between the two military officers, Daniel took the initiative to walk up and place his hand over the red gem. Sam followed his motion and placed her hand beside his.
Skaara looked momentarily at Sam, before copying her salute to Jack, earning a reluctant grin and a salute back from the amused colonel. Then the Abydonian boy quickly ran over and placed his hand on top of the two scientists'.
"This stone feels warm," was all Daniel had time to note when it suddenly emitted a burst of heat and light.
When the light faded, Daniel found himself alone in an empty chamber. Before he could call out for his companions, there was the sound of a chimes, and a litter was born into the room. On top of the litter sat a young Egyptian boy.
"Uh...hello?" Daniel said cautiously, before jumping in startlement at the sudden glow in the young man's eyes. Although he had not personally met a Goa'uld yet, he could recognize the signs from the reports he had read.
"Bow to your god," said the creature before him.
"Ah, and, you are?" Daniel asked hesitantly, trying to buy for time while all the while feeling a sinking feeling that he knew who he was looking at.
"Kneel to Ra," commanded the Goa'uld again.
"I'm sorry," Daniel told the alien with as much calm as he could muster, "but you're not actually my god, or any of Earth's recognized gods, for thousands of years now."
The creature narrowed its eyes at the impertinent human. To some unseen command, several muscular members of his entourage suddenly surrounded Daniel. They were each holding a different kind of torture implement.
"Kneel to me, and you will be rewarded for your service," Ra told him imperiously for the third time. "Defy me, and know pain that does not end with death."
Daniel swallowed, knowing that the last bit was no idle threat. His knees were nearly buckling and he felt lightheaded. Yet, somehow, he heard himself defy the false god one more time. "No," he all but whispered.
The room seemed to fall away...or was it fade away? Ra seemed to drift back from him and a deep, wide chasm seemingly opened up between them. When Daniel looked up again in bewilderment, his heart skipped a bit to see Sam and Skaara tied up across the chasm from him, with Ra standing between them.
"Kneel! Or all those around you will be punished!" roared the Goa'uld one last time.
"No!" the denial burst from Daniel's mouth. "No! Punish me if you want instead!"
The Goa'uld stared at him for a long moment, and Daniel felt his heart beating rapidly in anticipation. To his dismay, however, Ra raised a dagger and placed it at Skaara's throat.
He suddenly found himself holding up the gun that Jack had trained him to use and insisted he carry -- when had he drawn it? But he didn't have any time to wonder as the dagger dug closer into Skaara's neck.
With surreal slow motion, Daniel saw his finger pull the trigger, and Ra's body jerk back with a blossom of blood. He felt blood rushing through his ears himself, and his vision grayed out...
Daniel jerked back into awareness with a gasp, and stared right into two concerned faces.
"Sam? Skaara?" he croaked. "You're alright," he laughed in giddy relief.
"We're fine," Sam assured him, though he noted that she was quite pale despite her reassurances.
"I think it was some kind of illusion," Sam told him. "It felt like some kind of hallucination, but I don't think anything we saw was real."
"Some...some kind of test, I guess?" Daniel offered.
"You have passed the tests of Courage and Sacrifice."
The new voice that suddenly intruded among them caused all three supplicants of the test to whirl around in surprise. However, there was no one that they could see and the voice seemed to come from all around them.
"You have begun the long journey toward Wisdom," continued the voice. As it spoke, the walls faded away to reveal a large chamber with runes and patterns scattered all across the walls. "Call to us in your times of need."
With that, the three humans were again engulfed in a bright flash. When the light faded, they found themselves gaping at the crowed that had seen them off. There was a short silence as the crowd saw their return. Finally, Jack was the first to reach the limit of his patience.
"Report!" he called out.
The familiar orders seemed to snap Sam out of her stupor. But before she could give her report, Skaara answered one step in front of her.
"They passed the test of the Asgard!" Skaara announced.
Cheers immediately erupted from the Abydonians at his words.
"Uh, yeah, the test of Courage and Sacrifice," Sam added, though her words were hardly heard among the commotion.
"You guys ok?" Jack asked in concern, having noted the pale and bewildered expressions that the three of them had worn when they had appeared.
"We're fine, sir," Sam hurried to assure him. "It wasn't a physical test, I don't think."
"Yeah... fine," Daniel murmured, feeling the pall of his memories fade away with the bright Abydonian sun and Sha're's proud smile.
Two Days Later
To the sounds of awed gasps and cheers, the stargate that the Destiny crew had finally dug up from it had been buried finished its dialing of Earth. Even Jack had to grin at the excited babble from Skaara standing next to him while he punched in the Destiny IDC and opened a radio channel.
"Stargate Command, this is Destiny One, do you read?"
"Destiny One, this is Stargate Command, confirming reception," came the voice of CMSgt Walter Harriman on the other end.
"Destiny, this is General Hammond," the familiar voice followed the initial response immediately. "What is your status?"
"Mission is a success," Jack reported with a grin. "We are calling in right now from the Abydos stargate. There's plenty of naquadah here that we're free to mine, as long as we provide them with a way of securing the gate and trading essentials like water."
"That's excellent news, Colonel," replied Hammond. "Once this communication terminates, SG-1 will be sent over with the necessary equipment to begin building a basic camp. We'll have the materials necessary for making another iris sent over as soon as possible. Once SG-1 is through, Destiny is to proceed back to Earth immediately."
"Sir?" The smile faded away from Jack's face at the last order given. "Is something wrong back home?"
There was a weary sigh over the channel. "Nothing wrong except politics, Colonel," replied the general. "I will need you to take over operation of the SGC temporarily while I'm delivering a report to Washington."
"Oh. Well, good luck with that, sir," Jack told his CO sympathetically. He didn't envy the general the political side of his job at all.
But before he could close the channel, however, Daniel suddenly spoke up to the comm. "Uh, General? Would it be possible for me to remain behind here with SG-1?"
"Dr. Jackson?" guessed the general. "What reason do you have for remaining behind?"
"They've got some artifacts here left behind by the Goa'uld and the Asgard, General," Jack quickly summarized before Daniel could launch into another lecture, "and the people here like him. It couldn't hurt to let him stay with them longer to cement relations."
"Very well, Colonel, Doctor," acquiesced Hammond. "Aside from Dr. Jackson, I'll be seeing the rest of you soon. SGC out."
Notes: 1. The 36 hour day that Abydos canonically had was too inconvenient for long term Earth human presence. So pretend that Ancient terraforming in these two timelines also adjusted the planet's rotation to approximate Earth's. As for the development of the Abydonians, that deviated in this timeline about 1000 years ago when they were placed under the Asgard Protected Planets Treaty. 2. Italics here refers to Abydonian dialect, mainly to contrast between when Daniel uses the translator and when it's off. The "modern" Goa'uld language is in bold. Thor's recording is also in Abydonian since it was programmed for the locals. 3. Although I thought about having the Abydonians mistake the Terrans for soldiers of Ra, I couldn't figure out how to fit the Eye of Ra into the plot. I would expect that SGC is already aware that the Eye is not just a decorative item, and it's probably locked up somewhere in Area 51. 4. The canon Hammer of Thor wouldn't have worked on Abydos since Ra didn't use Jaffa. So this Moljnor performs a Hall of Might type function instead.