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[personal profile] marzipan77
"Making a Soul"
By [personal profile] marzipan77
GEN
Rated T
Set after The Other Side, Season 4
Warnings: A little torture, a little pain. Just enough.
Written for the 2016 Halloween Challenge on The Fifth Race Facebook page

“Do you not see how necessary a world of pains and troubles is to school an intelligence and make it a soul?”
― John Keats, Letters of John Keats



The bells were ringing again.

At first, as they'd walked down the steps from the Stargate, the sound had seemed clear and welcoming, the deep, warm tones of the bells reverberating deep in Daniel's chest. The solid walls of the city had echoed with the sound, creating a lingering harmony that awoke memories of Paris. Of Vienna. Old cities, old walls of cathedrals and Doms, a rich tapestry of belief and faith weaving in and out of the deep-seated history.

The people had been cheerful, happy to see them, sharing bread and wine and laughing at Daniel's accented German. He'd smiled, internally blaming Nick for that appalling Dutch pronunciation. Daniel had never been able to shake it. Jack had liked the beer, Sam the pastries, and, for once, Teal'c wasn't regarded suspiciously, but treated just the same as the rest of them, Jaffa tattoo and all.

His head bowed over clasped hands, Daniel couldn't help going over it all again. Straining for the puzzle pieces he should have seen. The hints and clues and glaring evidence that should have had him - had them all - running home. Or at least taking any precautions against what was to come. He'd missed it. Exhausted, still reeling from the team stress after the ill-fated visit to Alar's world, Daniel had been relieved to find friends on the other side of the Stargate, not deceptive enemies.

Even after all the years traveling through the Stargate, cultural bias still tripped them up. Wide paved streets, stone churches, smiling choristers singing about mercy and healing - the familiar sights of old Europe and the Western world had eased their worries and soothed even the prickly suspicion that Jack packed in on every mission. Especially now, when he was doubting himself the most. When he needed Daniel and the team to keep him level.

P4R-982 was only the fourth world visited by SG teams that had an obvious tie to Earth's Judeo-Christian faith. A Goa'uld-warped faith, twisted and dark, seething with blood and suffering. In this world, the leadership, the church, was ruled by winged figures with flaming swords that resembled the angels of the Bible. Erzengel. Archangels. Eyes squeezed shut against the pain, Daniel remembered Jack's raised eyebrows, Sam's curious expression, and Teal'c's sudden stillness at the villagers' descriptions.

"Angels are good," Jack had commented, shrugging, gaze flicking towards Daniel in an obvious question. "Aren't they?"

"Yeah, angels are good," Daniel muttered now in his cell, laying his aching forehead on his chained hands. "Supernatural creatures with a charge from their Almighty to keep order and punish the wicked. That couldn't end badly, could it?"

The deep toll of the bells had masked the armored footsteps in the town square. By the time the seven 'Erzengels' had rounded the corner, swords aflame, it was too late. Too late to flee, too late to fight. Too late to take a stand.

Jaffa.

The smiling villagers had been so happy for them. Happily taking their weapons, urging them towards the metal-clad figures with glowing crystal eyes. Young children watching wide-eyed from behind their mothers' legs like it was a parade. Older men and women touching them, offering blessings and safety on their Way to Paradise.


They shouldn’t have been so surprised. After all, they'd met Satan - Sokar. They'd seen his Unas acting as Satan, torturing the people of Simon and Mary's world under the thumb of a petty man pretending righteousness. The advanced armor of Ra's Jaffa had convinced the people of Abydos that they were supernatural beings - jackal and bird headed. Apophis had his Serpent Guard. Why not wings?

Daniel turned his head, keeping the bloody knot on the right side from scraping against wood or metal. He swayed, lightheaded, within his bonds. His stomach empty from their purging agent, wounded, in pain, glasses lost somewhere along the way, Daniel wasn't sure he was up to much clear thinking let alone clear sight. He shivered. The soft cotton shirt and pants weren't much help against the cold, but at least they laid lightly across the welts on his back and shoulders. The wounds left from the knotted whip could have been worse. The men and women in the Holy Hall had enough practice, apparently, to cause pain without breaking the skin, without hurting the penitent so much that he couldn't endure any more.

Under the glowing eyes of the armored Erzengels, those who did the bidding of this world's 'god' were convinced that the Way to Paradise was through suffering. Why else would penitents come here from other worlds, leave homes and families and lives, but to make pilgrimages, to become Holy? To be considered worthy of service in the god's house?

Nothing Daniel or Jack or Sam said had convinced the villagers otherwise. They'd been marched to the wide-halled Dom - built along strange lines that tried to mesh Egyptian hypostyle halls with medieval gothic architecture. While Jack and Daniel had argued, trying to reach the men and women wearing monk's robes, cowled and sashed in an obvious hierarchy, the silent Jaffa kept them moving towards their 'reward.'

The men and women chanted, languages garbled, German, Egyptian, even Hebrew, words and grammar jammed together in the unnatural way the Goa'uld demanded, taking native dialects and forcing them to fit their own shapes. Daniel's mind had skittered along the edges, diving in to reach for meaning as they were hurried along. When he finally had it, he'd nearly stumbled, Teal'c's steady shoulder holding him upright.

"Purge me with hyssop and I shall be clean; cleanse me and I will be whiter than snow." He'd turned to Teal'c, appalled. "They're using the Bible," he'd murmured.

Teal'c's brows barely twitched. "Then so shall you, DanielJackson."

"Yeah, no pressure," Daniel had muttered in response, his mind working, searching, thumbing through the pages, looking for anything that would help, that would get through to these people. That would communicate the real meaning of those words, not the Goa'uld's self-serving arrogance.

The hands on his body and the constant threats of violence didn't exactly make it easy to concentrate.

The stripping was done in private rooms - nice touch, that. Dressed in a penitent's thin white robe, they'd each been handed a bowl smelling strongly of herbs. Hyssop, they'd been told. Of course. Daniel nodded, drinking, even as Jack began to struggle. One touch of the flaming sword against his friend's back had been enough to stop even Jack's fight. Daniel's stomach churned, remembering the smell of seared flesh. Less than an hour later, even Teal'c had succumbed to the strong purging agent. Stomachs well and truly empty, they'd been led back to the open Hall.

The Jaffa must have understood Jack well enough to know who was in charge of the team, comprehended that Jack and Sam were the military leaders, even with the evidence of Teal'c's warrior status out there for everybody to see. They'd moved Daniel and Teal'c to the side, forcing them to kneel, before strapping Sam and Jack to upright crosses, tearing away the backs of their robes, and beginning. Sam had gone silent at the third stroke. Jack - well, Jack O'Neill was an original. He'd mocked. Cursed. Laughed. Urged them 'a little to the left,' or ridiculed them: 'Is that all you've got?'

Daniel had locked eyes with a tall, dark-haired woman standing beside the Jaffa. She'd frowned, her well-creased face stamped with confusion and uncertainty. Jack was making sure they knew he was no penitent, that he didn't feel the least bit unworthy or in need of the purging of sin. She didn't understand. Daniel could use that.

"'Do ye indeed speak righteousness, O congregation? Do ye judge uprightly, O ye sons of men? Yea, in heart ye work wickedness; ye weigh the violence of your hands in the earth.'"

Her bright gaze had snapped to his as he began to speak, her eyes narrowing. He hadn't gotten all of the strange language right, but she knew what he was saying.

"'The wicked are estranged from the womb, they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies. Their poison is like the poison of a serpent." Daniel hissed the verses, trying to get the meaning through to her. Surely someone had seen these Jaffa out of their armor? Someone must know they were dealing with snakes. "'They are like the deaf adder that stoppeth the ear, which will not hearken to the voice of wisdom.'"

The Jaffa hadn't liked that one. Daniel's head had exploded with pain, the hilt of the Jaffa's flaming sword cracking against his skull. Blinking away blood and pain, he'd been forced to take Sam's place on the cross, tied belly down against the smooth wood, his robe torn away. Next to him, Teal'c murmured. "This too shall pass, DanielJackson."

Funny. "That's not in the Bible, Teal'c," he'd groaned, trying to twist around to find the robed woman again. He caught a glimpse of her crimson robe as she'd moved closer. He dredged up another verse. "'The Lord is with me, I will not be afraid. What can mere man do to me?'"

Too little, too late. His words had fled as he'd taken the beating, just like Jack and Sam. Like Teal'c. "One for all and all for one," he'd moaned.

The tolling of the bells stopped and Daniel tensed in the cold cell. The rhythmic pealing had lost all beauty, leaving him heartsick now that he knew. Now that he knew that the massive iron bells were tolling out pain and suffering, calling penitents to the Dom to cleanse them, to torture them, to hurry them along the Way to Paradise. Into the service of whatever Goa'uld had left them all here who knew how long ago. "Not Jack and Sam," he sighed. "Please. Not again." They hadn't come back for him, not this time. They'd left him here, chained hand and foot to this twisted version of a prie-dieu, a prayer desk, fitted with stocks, an ankle board, and chains tight enough to keep his back bent and his head bowed. He didn't mind sending up a prayer to any true god listening that they wouldn't hurt his teammates.

"Why did you come?"

Daniel's head snapped up, pain making him wince and his vision going from blurred to black for a moment.

"Hello? I can't -" He hadn't heard the solid wood door open or close. Whoever had entered the small dark room stood behind him where he could not turn to see. Was it the woman? The one he'd tried to reach? Maybe his stumbling efforts had actually worked?

A cowled figure, slim and slight, moved to the edge of the light thrown off by the single candle. "Why did you come?"

She - he? - spoke clear English. Daniel let his aching forehead fall back against his folded hands. He should try the peaceful explorer speech again. One more time. Forget the theology, he'd never been good at that. And it had been proven centuries ago that you couldn't argue someone away from their beliefs, you had to show them. Like Teal'c. Like Kasuf. Like Jack. Jack was a 'show me' kind of guy. Even on Kheb, he'd needed the evidence of alien interference before he'd believed.

Daniel sighed, exhausted. Communicate, Team Communicator, he told himself. Huh. Maybe the team just needed someone smarter.

"Does it matter?" Daniel finally murmured. "You won't listen."

"I listen. I wait."

Blinking, Daniel tried to peer through the gloom, to get a sense of this person. The voice wasn't old or young, didn't seem angry or gloating or compassionate, for that matter. Just … waiting.

"We came to make friends. To trade. To learn about your culture and to offer our help if you are in need. We did not come to join in your religious ceremonies or to offer any kind of service to your gods."

"They are not gods," the figure answered, simple and confident.

Daniel lifted his head again. "No. No they're not. How do you know that?"

"I know. The Erzengels are warriors. Not of this world. They are afraid."

What? "The - what? The Jaffa - the Erzengels are afraid? Why do you say that?" Damn it, he wished he could turn or stand or move at all. "Why do you think they're afraid?"

The cowl was deep, the monk's face completely shadowed as the figure stepped closer. "I say it because it is true. They continue the rituals out of fear. There are few of them. Many of the people."

"So you're saying they're afraid the people will realize they don't have to do what the Jaffa - the Erzengels - say? Just how few of them are there?"

Delicate hands were drawn from the sleeves of the robe to gesture. "Seven. Only seven."

Daniel's brows rose. "Seven? That's all?" That's all that he'd seen, but he'd just assumed there were more. A lot more. "And the Goa'uld? Their god? Where is he, or she?"

The figure hesitated. "Gone. Gone many lifetimes."

"Dead?"

The head tilted. "Gone. Never to return."

For some reason, Daniel didn't doubt her knowledge. "It wouldn't be the first time we'd come across a culture that had been abandoned." He rattled the chains, fought against the block of wood that held his arms down on the prayer desk. "If you could let me out, show me where they put our weapons. Please. We can help your people."

"You were sent here to help?"

"Yes!" Daniel nodded, nearly sending him back to that loopy, dizzy unconsciousness again. "Yes. Please. My friends and I only want to help."

The figure seemed to glow in the candlelight, its outline wavering, brightening. Time slowed, expanded, the darkness all around him even deeper as she became more radiant. He saw a different room all around them, its walls lined with silk, written over with wisdom. A candle light. Fire.

A long silence held them motionless. Finally, the figure reached up and set the cowl back, away from her face. Not the female monk from the Hall. This woman was little more than a child. A teen. Long honey-colored hair falling straight down her back. "Yes. You are the one. You will help."

Daniel laid his head down and was asleep in seconds.

"Hey! Laying down on the job? Let's go!"

"Jack?" Daniel opened his eyes, a familiar set of brown eyes and silvering hair hovering over him. "What?" He took the hand that reached down for him and sat up on the cold stone floor. "Where?" The bundle of wood and chains to his left was all that was left of the prayer desk. He raised one hand to his head - his non-aching, non-bloody head. "What the hell -"

"Don't ask." Jack shoved a bundle of cloth and metal into his hands. "Get dressed. We're blowing this popsicle stand."

Clothes. Pack. Weapon. "Ah - okay." Daniel scrambled up from the floor and got dressed.

It didn't take long to find the Hall. To take out of the seven Jaffa - winged armor and all. The flaming swords seemed to have run out of gas, sputtering and flaring for a second before they fizzled. The Jaffa practically ran into their bullets, the villagers and monks huddling at one end of the Hall, watching with mouths open and eyes wide.

When it was all over, Teal'c stood over one crumpled guard and felt around for the switch. The armor contracted, revealing the tattooed face of the man within. "These are not holy beings," he intoned. "They are Jaffa. Servants of the serpent within them." He reached down and plucked the squirming symbiote from the Jaffa's pouch and flung it to the floor. "These were not your guardians, but your jailers. Your torturers. Evil." He spat and ground the symbiote beneath his boot. "As DanielJackson stated, they are wicked, estranged from the womb. They speak lies and their poison is the poison of a serpent."

Slowly, the monks came closer, examining the bodies. The symbiotes. They listened as Daniel and Teal'c spoke, explaining how the Goa'uld worked, twisting beliefs for their own benefits. None argued. None challenged them. There were questions, but no tears. Curiosity, but no anger. The dark-haired woman touched his hand and thanked him.

Nowhere did he see the young woman who had come to him in his cell.

Jeansa, the dark-haired woman, turned out to be the Abbess. The one left in charge. While Jack and Sam made their way to the Stargate to check in, Daniel and Teal'c met with her and her counselors.

"You have freed us from fear. From suffering," the woman said. "We do not fully understand, but we thank you."

Daniel couldn't get over her serenity. Her acceptance. "I guess I'm a little confused. How did you know? I mean, I'm happy that you believe us, but why?" He shook his head. "I'm concerned that you're just exchanging one belief system for another, without any real understanding."

"You were different. From the beginning, I knew this. And, of course, there was the vision."

"'Vision?'" Teal'c's eyebrow rose.

She tilted her head. "Come."

Jeansa led Daniel and Teal'c from the wide Hall to the main entrance of the Dom. They'd been led inside by a different route, a side door. This entryway stood just inside the massive bronze doors, its curved ceiling rising towards a central medallion. Head tilted back, Daniel gazed up at the portrait in the center of a young, beautiful girl with honey-colored hair. The figure from his cell.

"She appeared to us all, standing in the center of the Holy Hall. She spoke to us, declaring your worthiness, your friendship. She told us not to fight."

"And the Jaffa did nothing?" Teal'c frowned.

Jeansa laughed. "They did not see or hear. Only we heard."

Daniel shook his head. "Who is she?"

"We call her First Mother. She who birthed us. Who set us here so that we could learn how to serve. She who sinned, who set herself in league with the serpent, who was driven out. She learned her repentance, rejected evil, and found her soul. She was taken up to glory."

Daniel met Teal'c's eyes. "An ascended being?"

"Who was once a Goa'uld? That seems unlikely, DanielJackson." Teal'c's eyes were hooded, shadowed.

Daniel remembered the monk on Kheb. His quiet insistence that Bratac and Teal'c could not achieve enlightenment. "But, maybe it's possible. If she gave up her symbiote?"

"I have learned," Teal'c inclined his head, "that, by your side, anything is possible."

Daniel smiled. "Is she - does she appear to you often?"

"It is written," Jeansa stated, "that she will never abandon her people. That she will come in times of need. That she will lend wisdom if we are willing to hear."

Destruction. Wisdom. Healing. Daniel shrugged his shoulders, feeling no pain, as if the beating had not happened. They were all a part of Oma Desala's powers. It made a kind of sense. If this Goa'uld had managed to overpower her symbiote, to come to regret her past, the horrors of her actions, could she have willingly given up her symbiote? Her life? And could the Ascended Beings have accepted her as one of their own?

A warm thrum of acceptance, of friendship encompassed Daniel. He closed his eyes, seeing that cowled figure once again before him, one hand raised in blessing. "Does she have a name?" he whispered.

"Eua."

Behind his closed eyes, Daniel nodded to the glowing being. "Eve," he translated. "Thank you."

A tendril of power brushed against his face. "Thank you, Daniel Jackson. We will meet again when you are ready."

The vision disappeared and Daniel turned towards his friend. "I think it's time to go home."
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