Unlike all the other buildings in the village thus far this building, this room isn’t lined with beds of wounded and it hasn’t been repurposed by the aftermath of the previous night’s battle. Instead it’s filled with rows and columns of simple, lightly-stained, oak, rectangular tables with equally simple matching chairs, a mess hall. At the center of either end of the room are large cooking fireplaces made out of large gray stones cut and stacked together like brickwork. More giant, cast iron, lidded cauldrons are hanging near the huge blazing fires built underneath their considerable girths.
The room is empty except for a man tending one cauldron, a woman tending to the other, both quietly going about their apparently daily work, and John Sheppard and his team sitting at a table in the middle of the room, eating sturdy Irish stew from their wooden bowls along with a fist-sized roll of homemade dark, honey wheat bread and silver tankards full of cool refreshing and refortifying clean, clear water. They eat silently as Daniel, carrying a large fat opened book in his hands and reading from it momentarily, walks in with Lieutenant Ursula Kenmore by his side. The team doesn’t look up at either of them until the pair was right at their tableside.
“So you’ve finally descended from on high, have you? Tell us, oh great She, what mystically secrets were revealed to you.”
Without a moment’s pause, Daniel reaches over and flicks Rodney harshly in the middle of his forehead. McKay yelps and starts rubbing his reddened forehead feeling the welt starting to form there as Kenmore looks over at Daniel.
“You didn’t have to do that, Daniel.”
“I know, but I wanted to,” Daniel smiles perkily at her, “I wasn’t defending you actually, I was just fed up with,” he looks down at Rodney, his perky smile becoming smug as hell, “him.”
Rodney glares at the archeologist, as if that’s a real science, bitterly still rubbing his reddened forehead and hoping he’s rubbing the welt away, “Like I said, did you find anything about the Ark of the Covenant?”
“Well actually yes and no,” Daniel answers.
The team looks up at him.
“‘Yes and no’,” Teyla repeats, confused by the unlikely combination of word choice.
“’Yes’ as in Merlin did leave a considerable amount of records here that do indeed detail his work with the Ark of the Covenant. And ‘no’ as in according to those records, the Ark of the Covenant is actually the term Merlin gave to the device we call an Ancient repository.”
Immediately Rodney, more so than Sheppard, and Sheppard too are bummed. The excited tension that had held everyone’s muscles a breath ago ebbs like an outrushing tide. Rodney stabs at his stew with his spoon with a frustrated sigh and for once he doesn’t think about eating. Sheppard’s spoon was already in his bowl so he chooses to shift it slowing and dispiritedly back and forth and watches the soft chunks of hot potato and meat with the clear dark brown broth swirling smoothly around with the current he was making. All of this, for nothing. Ronon eats a spoonful of stew piled high with potatoes and shrugs the news off by getting even more comfortable in his seat, he figured this might happen. It’s their usual. Always the same. They go hunting after Ancient technology and discover either that it’s not there, that it wasn’t what they thought or were hoping it was, or that someone got there first and it was already gone. So in this case, this Ark thing isn’t here and it wasn’t what they thought or were hoping it was and SG-1 had already gotten to it first. So they were, how does Sheppard put it, batting their average. Teyla as well goes back to her meal, again impressed that these people offered such plentiful food and again reminded her of her people and their world. And she was grateful that this powerful Ark was both not the powerful weapon her Earth friends and their companions had been thinking it was and that the Wraith could not ever get their hands on it. She eats a spoonful of stew.
“So the Ancient repository that you found with Merlin…,” Rodney frustratedly trails off, finally able to find his voice, and gesturing a ta-dah moment that he’s going to resent the hell out of.
“Yes,” Daniel nods, “that was in fact the Ark of the Covenant.”
Yep, resenting the hell out of it.
“Great,” Rodney goes back to stabbing the potatoes in his bowl. He looks down at his whole lunch, the bowl of meat and potato stew and a small whole wheat roll and wishes wholeheartedly that it was that whole chicken, big ass fantastic biscuit, and giant head of broccoli from this morning, and those potatoes not these ones, “So we came here for nothing.” After this he is going to tuck into an MRE, screw just getting a single bowl of stew and some tiny piddling roll.
“That’s not true either,” Daniel corrects him and smiling that smug grin he had had when he flicked Rodney in the forehead.
The team’s attentions turn up at them. The muscles in each of their bodies tightening up again. Shocked and waiting. This is why Daniel always loved to save the good news, the best, for last.
“Is that what your message you were having Keltoi deliver to the Lieutenant was about,” Teyla asks, such a short and concise message has continued to puzzle her. At first she thought that it was yet another Earth reference that she did not understand but that Rodney and John would, but when John also did not understand it, the message confounded her even further.
“Yes,” Daniel answers her.
“Did you find this Penniston Code whatever it is,” Sheppard asks. He’d never heard of that code before.
“But—,” Rodney starts, putting his spoon at Kenmore.
Daniel is already way ahead of him, “The Penniston Code was a specific set of binary code written down by a United States airman named Penniston which was transmitted to him as a thought after he touched a landed UFO in Rendlesham Forest in England. Now he and his fellow airman who encountered the UFO did tell their superiors about the encounter, but they also made and kept their own notes on it as a sort of backup in case the whole thing got hushed up, which, of course, it did. The vision of the binary code haunted Penniston for thirty years after the encounter, still does. But in two thousand ten, he handed the code over to a computer programmer for translation.”
“And,” Rodney leads. Not that the Wikipedia speech wasn’t informative but…
“The translation had a message that was written in a sort of shorthand, so the programmer had to infer a few things, and it also contained a set of coordinates.”
“What were the coordinates,” Sheppard asks. He’s pretty fascinated by this, airmen meeting up with a UFO on Earth. Why hadn’t he’d heard about this, why hadn’t the Air Force rumor mill got a hold of that thing and run it into the ground? But if their superiors hushed it up, maybe the rumor mill hadn’t gotten a hold of it because representatives of Stargate Command had gotten there first? Suddenly, genuinely, this is making a lot of sense.
Here Kenmore starts to beam proudly, more excitedly than Daniel is, “Hy-Brasyl.”
And the team has absolutely no clue what she’s talking about. They look around to each other to see if anyone else has any indications, but no, nothing. Complete loss. Then they look to Jackson and Kenmore for some guidance.
“Oh come on,” Kenmore whines, “None of you know what Hy-Brasyl is?” She points at Sheppard, “I know your education, it’s like mine. You should know this.”
“Hey, that was Roman History not alien encounters in British forests. And I studied Roman military history for just that, military history.”
“Oh how narrow-sighted of you,” she reprimands. Almost playfully, it sure isn’t hostile whatever it is.
Sheppard frowns at her. Again, almost playfully, definitely not hostile. One of the simpering ‘Oh ha-ha’ looks he gives Rodney whenever they have a spat.
Moving on, and especially the hell away from whatever brewing buddy-buddyness Sheppard and Kenmore have got going about their schooling now too, Ronon grits his teeth, turns glowering eyes up at her, and demands, “What is Hy-Brasyl?”
“The Second Atlantis.” She announces.
It’s wide eyes all around the table. Wait, what?! What Second Atlantis? When on Earth was there a Second Atlantis? Sure they’ve encountered other Ancient city-ships, that Tower place for one, but not anything that’s ever been commonly referred to as the Second Atlantis. By the communal shock, it’s clear that Teyla and Ronon have definitely never heard of a second Lost City of the Ancestors either. Now Sheppard’s really interested in this. He sits up and sits closer to Rodney, closer to Kenmore and Doctor Jackson. Closer to the info.
“Seriously,” she looks at the group’s faces again and again can’t believe the cluelessness that she’s seeing, especially from Sheppard and Doc McKay, “you two are from Earth and you didn’t know that there had been more than one Atlantis there? Are you freakin’ kidding me?”
Sheppard and Rodney look at each other. No.
Oh she so wants to slap her forehead right now.
“If there was another Atlantis on Earth, why haven’t you guys found it yet,” Ronon asks. Okay so Kenmore does have a point about Sheppard and McKay, but he also knows both men well, if there were another Atlantis on their planet or if there had been, then they would have found it by now. At least, with his limited experience with Stargate Command itself and its program on Earth when they had landed there months ago, those people would have definitely gone after any, any hints or rumors about another city of the Ancients. The IOA definitely.
“Well first, finding Atlantis even when we thought that it was still on Earth or at least in our galaxy was incredibly difficult,” Daniel knew that from personal experience; he had been the main seeker of the fabled place and the one who figured out the gate address for Atlantis while helping out Elizabeth Weir in Antarctica, “and second, we have found Hy-Brasyl on Earth…in a way.”
Ronon digs in and gets himself another spoonful of hearty stew. And there’s the catch. There’s always a catch. Always some hang up that hooks them where it hurts most and won’t let go. Typical. “‘In a way’,” he repeats cynically and eats the spoonful of lamb chunk, brown broth, and potato, then dunks some of his roll into the stew’s herb-infused broth and waits for Doctor Jackson to reply.
“Yes, see on Earth all that we’ve found of Hy-Brasyl is—“
“It’s an island,” Kenmore answers bluntly. Again no hostility.
The team looks at her.
“West of the southern tip of Ireland,” she adds, “Sort of out in the middle of nowhere. Tiny little island,” she gestures two fingers almost pinched together to show the rough estimate of how metaphorically small.
Actually, Ronon corrects himself, bigger catch.
“And you expected something that small to be able to hold up something as big as Atlantis,” he asks, gesturing with his soggy piece of bread at the Lieutenant before putting it in his mouth then dunking the rest of the piece of the roll back in his bowl’s broth.
“Actually the majority of the island is underwater,” Daniel amends.
“I take it that you’ve been actively looking into this,” John hopes from all the discussion about the subject.
Daniel spares an exchanging glance with Ursula before he reluctantly answers, Oh John sees so much bad news in that look, knows it from personal experience of doing the same thing with McKay, “Yes. After the Wraith destroyed our Ancient chair, we started looking more into Hy-Brasyl considering its long held archeological nickname of the Second Atlantis.”
“And what did you guys’ find?”
“On the surface there’s a couple of deteriorating stone pillars—“
Rodney snorts derisively, “Oh please, that could not possibly hint of anything even remotely Ancient much less anything like Atlantis.”
Daniel tries to say something, but McKay won’t give him the time, “No, I’m sorry, but that does not cut it. It just doesn’t.”
“He said that there’s more under the water, Doc,” Kenmore reminds him with harsh emphasis on the consonants of the word ‘Doc’.
“There was more under the surface of Antarctica too,” she points out.
That fouls Rodney up, but not for long, “There were no stone pillars on Antarctica’s surface. You had to dig down through an incredible amount of ice before you reached the Ancient outpost and still found no stone pillars.”
Kenmore isn’t about to back off for a moment, “Yeah and being submerged underwater for some ten thousand years wouldn’t mean that you’d have to dig down through an incredible amount of silt at all either,” she responds sarcastically then crosses her arms over her chest and dares him to dump on that.
He eyes her.
“You found something, didn’t you,” he accuses.
“No,” Daniel admits, putting a stop to that, but, “we haven’t been able to figure out a way to dig there that wouldn’t start arousing suspicions.”
“Well if you’re going to tell your people about the Stargate, wouldn’t that make it easier,” Ronon points out.
All the Earth-born humans look uncomfortable with Ronon’s mention of the contentious debate between them about that particular proposal. They really don’t want to have to go back and rehash that again. Or find something new within the subject to argue about to the point where they can’t stand to be in the same room with each other again, even though they’re all on the same side of the argument… So Daniel doesn’t go there.
“Actually, no, it probably wouldn’t,” he confesses. He remembers all too well when he’d gone with then-Major, recently promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel for his part in the recent crisis of the Wraith attacking Earth, Paul Davis to see the Russians. The whole encounter had left Daniel with a bad taste for handling negotiations like that ever again. The Cold War distrust between America and Russia had reared its ugly head and kept piling on petty problem after imaginary petty problem onto the table top making trade and compromise impossible. It wasn’t until it had been discovered that the Goa’uld had infiltrated the Russian military leadership that things progressed somewhat easier, if you could call the Americans rubbing the revealed Goa’uld incursion in the Russians’ faces, progress or making life easier for their alliance. It really wasn’t until the destruction of the Korolev when the Ori finally managed to break into the Milky Way Galaxy thru a Supergate that the Russians had finally gotten their due and the Americans had backed the hell off their backs about things including the Cold War. Even Jack had stopped making obnoxious comments underneath his breath or behind closed doors about them, another relic of the Cold War mentality. Daniel couldn’t help but feel that the sacrificial deaths of some two hundred men and women serving to protect their galaxy was a ridiculously high price to pay for respect, he personally believed that death should never have had to happen in order for his military friends to respect their Russian counterparts.
“Could you not try to beam down to the outpost if it is there,” Teyla kindly offers, trying to turn the conversation away from an uncomfortable part of the subject for her friends and their comrades. Daniel’s baby blue eyes smiled at her even if his mouth didn’t, silently thanking her for the respite.
“No they couldn’t,” this time Rodney had to be the bearer of bad news, “The Arctic outpost was too deep in the ice to do it without burrowing first and that means there’s a pretty good chance that this outpost might be buried too deep without digging also.”
Teyla nods and takes a sip of water from her tankard. She had tried.
“But you’re sure there’s something there,” Sheppard presses.
“From the deep scans we’ve gotten from sending satellites over the area, it looks like it. It seems to be the same size as the Arctic outpost and,” Daniel indicates the opened book in his hands, “Merlin’s records seem to confirm it.”
Okay, so this time might not have been a total attacked-throughout-the-night bust. Then…
“And what was the message?” Teyla asks after finishing a second sip of water. It still baffles her. Penniston Code…
Everyone looks at her.
“In the code, what was the shorthand message,” she asks again.
“After taking into account the possibility of errors and what’s referred to as ‘noise’, the message was Exploration ‘of’,” he lifted his free hand up to do a bunny fingers gesture to indicate the inferred or implied words that created an understandable sentence, “Humanity. Fifty-two degrees, zero nine minutes, forty-two point five three two seconds North by thirteen degrees, thirteen minutes, twelve point six nine seconds West. Conti ‘nuous’. For planetary advan ‘ce’,” Daniel answers her.
Teyla nods her thanks at him.
“You memorized the exact coordinates,” Sheppard squints at Daniel.
The archeologist shrugs at him, “Force of habit.”
John nods and quiet descends on his team while they take in the new intel.
“That sounds like an invasion,” Ronon says and takes a swig of water from his own tankard.
“It might not be, but we don’t know for sure. That’s all Penniston got. But considering that it comes with coordinates about a possible second Ancient city-ship on Earth, I don’t think it’s meant to be threatening,” Daniel posits.
“Yeah ‘cause Lord knows that Ancients living in two separate cities with no contact between each other just speaks of something so familiar. What was it, oh that’s right, the Ancients and the Ori. Yeah, that sounds good,” Kenmore snips.
Daniel looks over at her with a frown and the admonishing Professor look coming over the top of his glasses. But Sheppard catches onto something…
“How do you know they had no contact with each other,” he asks.
Kenmore bites her lower lip. Said too much and walked right into that one, didn’t she? But she has a savior.
“It was rumored that the Hy-Brasylians believed the European humans to be too primitive and just so utterly beneath them that the Hy-Brasylians wouldn’t have anything to do with them. Nothing at all,” Daniel tells him.
“Well my ancestors knew about them, just because the rest of Europe didn’t isn’t our problem.”
“Wait a minute, they talked to your people,” Sheppard points his empty spoon at the Lieutenant.
“Yes,” came U’dana’s voice from behind Daniel and Kenmore.
The two jump and the whole group looks over at the door. Somehow in utter silence U’dana had entered the room and had taking up position standing a few feet in front of the closed door. She’d even managed to close the door without any of them hearing it, and that’s a true feat considering Teyla and Ronon’s freakishly acute hearing.
“They are Taun’s people,” she adds.
“Taun? Who’s Taun?”
McKay may not know, but Kenmore does. “He is Taun. He is legend. He is memory turned myth,” she recites the saying that she’s known since little girl.
McKay looks at her, “What does that mean?”
U’dana smiles at Ursula, “Taun’s people were destroyed long ago, but he alone remains now.”
“Why did they leave Earth,” Daniel asks. It’s actually something he’s always wanted to know and now’s as good a time as any to ask.
Suddenly the elderly woman looks sad. The intensity of her pale eyes dimming considerably as she lowers them, the elegant lines of her shoulders slumping into a perfect arc. Her beauty becoming somber and gloomy in a grey overcast way.
“It was not their choice,” she says soberly, quietly.
“Score one for the Ori theory,” McKay mumbles under his breath into his bowl of stew, but he’s still clearly hearable for everyone.
John leans over and just as quietly, scolds, “Rodney.”
“The Cesair were destroyed by the power of their own intelligence and their own strength as well. Felled by both flood and sword. Taun was spared to remain alone and witness the destruction of all that he loved. All of his people and the golden towers that were his home.”
“How did he alone survive?”
“The Gods spared him, Teyla Emmagan, and granted him the ability to transform into beasts and birds in order to watch the pass of time upon the isle of Éireann on your Earth and until others of his blood, the blood of the people of Nemed, came to reclaim what was theirs.”
“The Fir-Bolg were the first,” Kenmore adds just as soberly as U’dana, “They divided the land into five provinces and declared a High King above all. The Nemed blood ran deepest in them. Then came us, the Tuatha Dé Danann.”
“Yes,” U’dana nods, “the Sky Riders. And our kin.”
It suddenly dawns on him, his shoulders jerk up, his eyes widen…“You’re the Cesair. You built Hy-Brasyl. You’re the Hy-Brasylians,” Daniel awes.
“We are the Cesair and we did indeed build Hy-Brasyl, but we were not her residents. Some of our kin chose to leave on her, they were the Hy-Brasylians, but we remained behind.”
“Do you know what happened to your kinsmen? How they were killed? How their city was destroyed?” Teyla asks the same question of the Elder as she had asked herself when her people had gone missing nearly two years ago, “Was it the Wraith?”
At this U’dana actually laughs a little. A sort of gentle little chuckle while looking with a far away gaze down at the wood floor as though she’s remembering something fondly from her past.
“The Wraith are no threat to us, child, and they have long since ceased to be one.”
Everyone sits forward. Waiting expectantly. Are they getting a bonus perhaps to the whole lose an Ark but gain a city-ship thing?
“Why,” Rodney blurts out, “I mean how?”
“They were quite simply the only reason that united the three races in war. Even with their excessive numbers, the Wraith were easily defeated by all of us. They tried coming back. Wave after wave of their many ship groups, but they never were a match for us. Eventually fewer and fewer of them came. Then none did. And they have not returned since. It has been thousands of years.”
To say they’re disappointed would be an understatement. Thinking they’d get one helluva cherry on top by finding out something here that would destroy the Wraith and all it came to was an incredible alliance between three very warrior races of Ancients… now that’s a bust. Sheppard’s team eases back into the dining positions, going back to playing with their food, Sheppard and Rodney, or eating it, Teyla and Ronon.
“Where are the Fir-Bolg,” Jackson asks out of the blue. Might as well ask that question too while he has the chance. After all, the Fir-Bolg had long since disappeared from Earth with absolutely no clues as to how or why. Like the Mayans. Just ‘poof’, vanished. Only theories about them prevailed now, the one with the most appeal to his fellow archeologists and anthropologists was that the Fir-Bolg lost a battle against the Fomorians and spread to the rest of the world where some of them became slaves in Greece. While other Fir-Bolg returned to Ireland only to suffer a great loss in battle to the Tuatha Dé Danann that time, but the Tuatha rewarded the Fir-Bolg’s spirit in battle and gave them a part of the island nation. All of this was origin stuff, nothing after.
“They left your isle of Éireann to the leadership of the Tuatha Dé Danann.”
“Yes,” that plugs a hole but not all of them, Daniel goes on, “but where did they go?”
“We hear from them from time to time, both from this galaxy as well as your own,” the SGC members suddenly stiffen; Sheppard drops his spoon into his bowl with an clanking splash, Rodney’s stew falls out of his mouth and thankfully back into his bowl, both Teyla and Ronon halt their spoons rises to their opened mouths and stare wide-eyed at U’dana, Kenmore’s frozen, and Daniel’s mind overloads with all the hundreds if not thousands of questions he wants to ask the old woman. U’dana continues her answer, “They have never told us where they are though. They simply wish to be left alone. Like the Tollans and the Nox, we have learned that our knowledge and the many things at our disposal are dangerous.” Again her disposition turns sad, but this time it’s so engulfing that Teyla can see the sadness of loss so deep in every fiber of her being and bones when she had thought her own people, the Athosians, had been taken from her and she from them. It was a display in a medical bed that had even frightened and caught John Sheppard off guard, he had never known the pain and fear and rage she had felt then but he had glimpsed it in that moment. “Even to ourselves,” U’dana goes on, “We could not possibly allow our own personal frailties to affect your people’s growth and development. The Fir-Bolg chose semi-exile. We have chosen to remain here and guard our Star geata and our skies. There are no more Riders here, but that may change,” she eyes Kenmore slyly, “And we usually trade with others and then send them quickly but not inhospitably on their way after. If they are Wraith worshippers, we simply return them to wherever they were coming from.”
“You let them go,” Ronon growls.
John glances at him, Ronon’s personal experience with Wraith worshippers is both very personal and very, very… John looks back at U’dana, yeah, please don’t bring that up.
The smile again comes to U’dana’s lips but there’s something else to it now, something dark and frankly scary, John feels the short hairs on the back of his neck raise. “Let me amend, we do not return them whole,” she says.
Ronon nods. That sounds better. He actually likes that. He contentedly goes back to the rest of his stew, roll, and drink. He really likes that answer.
“Truly, I am here to tell you that the Elders have talked again and we believe that you have not read all that you should have. Although you have the right book in your hands.”
“What do you mean,” Daniel eyes her. A suspicious edge to his furrowed brows.
U’dana walks forward, takes the book from his hand, flips through some pages, and stops on the one she’s looking for.
“You have overlooked the mark of the King, Doctor Jackson.”
She holds the book up for all to see. It shows a beautiful drawing, like a depiction of something on a beautifully crafted tapestry, of a golden red-haired man with chiseled, Adonis-like features and suntanned Caucasian skin dressed in glittering bronze, petal-plated armor. He’s holding a short sword crossed over his chest like some sort of proud salute. His arm holding the sword’s elaborately-designed bronze hilt has a bronze gauntlet woven with knotting lines painted of yellow, sky blue, and red. His other hand is holding on to the sword’s silver blade that’s etched with row on top of row of runes all the way to its tip. The blade-gripping hand bears a silver gauntlet, matte-finished, with woven strands of shining silver and gold decorating it. A part of the gauntlet going up onto the back of the hand by a small patch of woven interlocking silver that looks like an interpretation of a Bridget’s Cross. Embedded in the middle of the part on the back of his hand is a large round ruby stone.
Kenmore gasps. A squeak leaving her lips just before she covers her mouth with her hand. Never in a million years…
“The Silver Arm,” Daniel breathes.
Kenmore and Daniel gape at the image. Sheppard and his team are clueless.