The Ancient rings redeploy themselves as they had on the plain, but instead of rising from the ground, they appear one at a time descending from the ceiling with the same hum, ka-thum, and screech. The screaming molecular beam of light radiates down into the ring cage again as a brilliant overreaching flash of light. The mission group reassembles back to their original solid matter minds and bodies inside their naquadah cage. Then the rings once again systematically retreat back the way they’d come. When the light of the rings leaves with them, it also abandons the group in the near total darkness of the cavern the Ancient ring system has deposited them in.
Immediately they look around and assess the situation.
“I thought that was supposed to take us outside,” Rodney exclaims in his ‘Oh, come on!’ tone of voice.
The rest of his comrades break out their flashlights, flick them on, and start scanning the area with the small beams of light. They’re at a crossroads of three tunnels. The tunnels themselves are about twenty-feet tall, a good solid two-stories, with an equally as wide diameter. Light, weak and white, is coming from somewhere at the end of two of the tunnels while no light, merely deeper shadows are at the end of the third tunnel off to the group’s left. An indicator that that one most likely leads further into the ebony mountain. The team turns their attentions to the two tunnels that both look like they lead outside.
“Does anyone know which one to take,” Sheppard asks, confidently and comfortably back in commander mode.
Rodney reaches for the vest pocket he keeps his lifesigns detector in when rustling comes from the dark tunnel. The whole group turns. Weapons aimed and ready. Each trigger finger waiting. The shuffling keeps getting closer and closer. Their fingers poise over their triggers. Getting comfortable. The figure appears in their converged flashlight. A Fomorian… but there’s something wrong.
Ronon doesn’t hesitate to fire, but Kenmore shoves his arm and aim up in time. The Satedan’s energy blast shoots harmlessly into the air. Dissipating quietly against the stone of the intersection’s ceiling. He glares at her.
“Why did you do that,” Ronon snaps.
Kenmore doesn’t answer him. She keeps her eyes on the approaching Fomor. It’s how it’s moving… and then it starts to talk… well, try to talk. There is no heart racing battle cry. No overwhelming roar of defiance. No rage. It’s wispy sounding and babbling like a frail old man trying to speak but where the spirit is willing, the body is weak. Kenmore realizes that’s it. He’s an old man. He stumbles towards them, scuffling his feet across the rock floor, and waving his arms out in front of him. Not like the other Fomor they’ve fought against, but like…
“He’s blind,” Kenmore rushes forward as the old Fomorian trips on a slight jut of rock face on the floor. She catches the man in her arms. Daniel rushes to aid her.
He takes up one side of the old Fomorian, but the stumble’s forced the elder’s already weak body to give. His legs won’t support him any further, they guide his crumple as much as they can and carefully drag him the handful of feet over to the back wall of the intersection. They sit the Fomorian down and brace his back against the wall. Sheppard and his team gather around. John watches the Fomorian’s head wag from side to side in that sad helpless way that a sightless person trapped in a bed still tries desperately to see. John feels part of his heart ache for the enemy and it’s brought to the brink of breaking when the senior starts his feeble mumbling again, trying to talk to them. Teyla, heart sore, kneels down behind Daniel, maintaining a position beside the Fomorian’s feet. The compassionate woman placing a gentle, comforting hand on one of the black, stick thin, knobby knees. The elder Fomor stirs and Ursula puts a hand on his arm. As soon as her Silver Arm-bound hand encloses around the pitch-colored, spindly limb, the mythical gauntlet’s teardrop ruby glows brightly like the Goa’uld hand device’s gem about to unleash it’s God’s fury and a patch of the Fomorian’s black skin around where Ursula is touching him suddenly flees from her grasp like ocean water rushing away from the granular shore it had just rushed up over. Bleaching the flesh to as warm a peach hue as said sandy beach, the color of summer.
Kenmore gasps and yanks her hand away from the man. The ruby dims and the black tide washes back over to cover the peach. Ursula, slack-jawed and wide-eyed, gapes down at the gauntlet. The rest of them too.
“Rodney, how did that Ascension machine work,” Daniel interrupts Sheppard.
“It, uh, it manipulated its subjects body on a genetic level. Making specific changes to the genome in order to accelerate the human body’s evolution to make ascension easier.”
“Alright,” Daniel starts nodding his head, processing the information.
“But,” McKay has to stress, “it didn’t work. The thing didn’t take into account the mental component you need in order to ascend. It didn’t—“
“Ursula, do you remember what Lynn told you the Fomor looked like,” Daniel asks.
Kenmore looks at him and nods.
Daniel reaches out and takes her Silver Arm by the wrist. He slowly guides it back towards the elderly man. Ursula fights him for a moment, but Daniel puts that to ease, “Trust me. If I’m right, and I think I am, all you need to do is touch him and remember what your mother taught you.” God he hopes all the connections he made are right.
Urs lets Daniel finish guiding her Silver Arm back to the old Fomorian. He places her hand on the old man’s chest then his eyes go to hers. She feels the feeble heartbeat dab lightly against the skin of her palm. Daniel lets go of her. The ruby glows and the beach of peach is revealed by the ebb of black, but the tide only ebbs so far. Ursula takes that as her cue, she closes her eyes and thinks a single thought. What did the old Fomor really look like?
The Silver Arm’s contented hum charges up into a higher pitch. There’s a flare of red-orange hued light, but Ursula keeps her eyes closed and keeps repeating the thought in her mind as a mantra. The rest watch the ruby’s sudden burst of radiance coalesce into a single string of gold light. It coils around the old Fomorian’s body, wrapping around his body from his shoulder to his toes and back up again. The gold lightning bringing with its course the same influence Kenmore’s touch has. The black ebbs from the emerging peach. Well etched life lines and folds of skin are suddenly revealed. Joints that are engorged by a combination of shrinking skin and arthritis. The lightning makes a final turn around the aged head, showing baby blue eyes so filled with cataract they look like frosted glass, then the electric string of golden light returns to the energized gauntlet and its teardrop ruby. Hair suddenly begins growing from the aged bald head, ghost white and so thinned the strands are barely there. Kenmore opens her eyes while the gauntlet dims. The rich healthy peach tone of his skin dies away like the ruby’s light, taking on a pale translucent color. They all stare at the Fomorian, he’s decrepit and naked.
Amid their stunned silence, he stirs again. Most likely roused by the sudden lack of sound. He begins waving his arms in front of himself and mumbling again. Ursula instantly touches his arm, but this time the Silver Arm doesn’t react. His mumbling becomes intelligible…
“Ooh-uh…ooh-uh…on nuh…on nuh…”
“What’s he saying?”
Kenmore looks back up at McKay, “How the hell should I know?”
“Well, you’re the one going around here talking whatever to that old lady, so what’s this old man saying?”
“It’s not Gaelic, McKay. And seriously, how racist can you get?”
Rodney’s taken aback, “I am not racist,” he turns to Sheppard beside him, “Tell her I’m not racist.”
Sheppard nods at Kenmore, “He isn’t racist,” McKay’s pacified, “He’s just incredibly insulting and incredibly ignorant of anything and anyone that isn’t him,” Kenmore’s pacified and Rodney’s irate.
“I am—,” Sheppard looks at him as does Daniel, over the brim of his glasses. Rodney’s forced to acquiesce with a roll of his eyes and a dismissive wave of his hand; okay, he gets it, move along.
Daniel Jackson returns his attention to the elderly Fomorian, “Actually I think I do understand him. I think he’s trying to say Tuatha Dé Danann.”
Kenmore stares at her friend, he shifts his eyes to her.
“Anna, anna,” the old man wails, flailing even more.
Kenmore is about to open her mouth when she feels the shiver ripple through the emaciated frame. She looks down at him as does Daniel.
“We have to get him someplace else,” Jackson says.
“Uh-huh,” Kenmore nods.
Daniel gently wriggles one arm behind the man’s back…
“Anna, anna,” if the elderly Fomor writhes much harder, he’ll fall over.
“It’s alright. We’re trying to help you,” the Lieutenant tries to placate and succeeds. The old man calms down and Daniel gets his arm around the senior’s back and his other arm under the crook of the old man’s knees. Ursula helps tilt senior against Daniel’s chest as Daniel slowly rises to stand. He thought it was bad when he barely felt the old man leaning against him, it’s even worse when he realizes the man is a feather weight, literally the weight of a feather in his arms. Daniel knows he has journals that weigh more than the life he’s holding does. All at once he honestly believes like never before that he’ll never be able to watch Schindler’s List the same way ever again because he’s holding an alien ghost of the Holocaust in his arms. Daniel also has the overwhelming urge to visit and thank every veteran and survivor of World War II he could ever possibly find. He’ll check with the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and the Holocaust Survivors and Victims Resource Center. If he couldn’t anything from them, which he doubted, there’s always Jack he could go to and ask him to pull some strings for him and get the information he needed. Ursula gets to her feet with them and begins looking around, they all do. McKay starts for one of the lit tunnels.
“I don’t think taking him outside is going to be such a good idea,” Daniel interrupts.
“What? Why not? It’s warmer out there than it is in here, isn’t it? Why wouldn’t that help him?”
“He’s blind, Rodney, and I’m pretty sure it wasn’t a sudden condition. He’s probably been like how we first met the Fomorians for years, most likely all his life. If we take him out into the moonlight, it might traumatize his body more than he can handle. I could kill him.”
Rodney McKay looks the decrepit figure in Daniel’s arms over, Daniel doesn’t look like he’s even trying to hold the man up, isn’t breaking a sweat. Not even breathing hard, in fact, there’s no change in his breathing at all. Rodney nods, maybe the archeologist is right. The group turns and looks at the unlit tunnel. Rodney instinctively plucks his lifesigns detector from his tactical vest. He looks down at its bright display and wanted to say ‘Finally’ but went with business as usual instead.
“There’s a room about twenty feet from here down that way.”
Sheppard looks at the Canadian, “That thing working again?”
McKay, consulting the display illuminating his face in blue-tinted white light, nods.
John turns his head and tries to peer into the darkness well beyond the barrel of his rifle, “Schematic?”
“A big one and really detailed.”
“Good, what’s in the room?”
“A bed and some nightstands and things like that.”
Sheppard nods, “Anybody incoming?”
The Lieutenant Colonel assumes a tactical stance and moves to take point as usual. Teyla and Rodney fall in second-naturedly behind him, flanking him. Kenmore and Jackson slip into the middle of their diamond formation. And Ronon Dex takes to guarding their six. John quickly affixes his flashlight to his P-90’s barrel then leads his mission group into the darkness.
He isn’t sure what he’d been expecting to come at them in the sensor deprivating black of the unlit tunnel… that isn’t true. He knew exactly what he’d been expecting. Fomorians, not like the old man but the big, scary, hard to beat guys they’d run into when the village’d been attacked. Or their freakish flying buddies—for a moment his mind stutters at the mere thought of calling them freakish. He fights the urge to glance back at Kenmore. Am I ever going to get over that?
He scowls. God damn voice.
“Turn right up ahead five feet,” McKay orders.
John nods, his night eyes had already caught the subtlety of an ever so slightly darker slit of shadow in the right wall up ahead without Rodney pointing it out, but it is nice to know that that is the place they need to go.
“Clear,” Sheppard asks in hushed tones.
Good. Sheppard stalks up to the slit and enters. At his presence, a set of eight torches, two set into each wall of the small square room, burst to life. Although it isn’t much of a lighting setup. Even with eight of them, the room isn’t really thoroughly lit. He can see enough to know the room really is clear of enemies and that they haven’t walked straight into a trap. If it is a trap though, it is the crappiest dud of one John’s ever been in and that is saying a lot. A lot. Jackson quickly rushes into the empty room and lays his cargo down on the simple bed of mange-ridden animal furs and dirty woven blankets that look as old and tattered and haven’t seen the light of day as the old man. Daniel doesn’t like the feel of the unforgiving ‘mattress’ that brushes along his arms as he lays the elderly Fomor gingerly down on it, but it’s not like he has any other choice. Kenmore rushes over to them with the remnants of a blanket she’s found from her scavenging for something to cover their patient up in as soon as she’d entered the room. Daniel helps her tuck in the edges under the man as best they can where there’s enough blanket edge to actually tuck under.
Teyla looks around the room, she does not believe that that is going to be enough to warm the shriveled frame. She too had felt the aged man shiver, it had been deep and her natural Athosian demureness had evaporated when his skin had paled so much and the chill surged through his body. In that moment she did not care that he was completely naked, she cared that he was helpless and needed someone, anyone for help. The young Athosian leader pulls open one of the small two-drawer nightstands made from dead grey wood and finds a whole blanket. It looks as if it has not been touched in many years and its insect damage is considerably more minimal than she had been expecting it to be. Teyla takes it out and lets gravity unfold it as she hurries over to the Lieutenant, Doctor, and their foundling. The Lieutenant stands up from the primitive bed and steps aside for Teyla Emmagan to take her place. Together, the three of them wrap and tuck the new wool blanket over and around the man. He calms easily, shutting his foggy eyes and settling his head back on the hard bed. He doesn’t seem harmed by the tough surface. In fact he seems comforted by it. His head lulls to the side and he appears to drift off into a soothing sleep with a final mumble.
Teyla, Daniel, and Kenmore exchange looks. At least one part of this turn of events has alleviated. They look back at the rest of their group. What next?
Sheppard doesn’t know. He opens his mouth to ask Rodney but the scuffling sounds that come out of nowhere behind him capture his attention. John’s P-90 snaps up as Ronon’s blaster does after the Satedan jumps. That alone puts Sheppard instantly on edge. Ronon doesn’t jump at sudden sounds, he doesn’t. Nothing seems able to sneak up on the massive, formidable man. Nothing. But this something—John’s barrel flashlight’s beam locks onto the Fomorian staggering into the room—has.
Oddly, neither John nor Ronon fire. Maybe it was because of their ordeal with the old man or maybe it’s the fact that this Fomorian, while blatantly no old man, is feeling his way along the edge of the room’s entrance. Or perhaps it’s the second oddity in this scenario, his eyes are pale blue like the old man’s but not blinded with engulfing cataract. As soon as the younger Fomorian gets an eyeful of John’s flashlight, he looks away. Blinking, but absolutely refusing to let go of the wall to shield his eyes from the glare. John lowers his weapon without knowing why he is other than compassion, he was always taught by his mother it is impolite to blind someone who is looking for help.
“Do you,” Sheppard begins but gets promptly cut off.
“Tuatha De Danann,” the Fomorian says, his voice oddly pleasant to the ears while simultaneously sounding unused to use, “My father said the Tuatha De Danann was here.” The Fomorian coughs. Trying to get his voice back.
John exchanges looks with Ronon. Uh, um… Kenmore shoves past him to stand in between him and the younger Fomorian. Straight away his pale blue eyes latch onto the Silver Arm on Kenmore’s arm, he lunges at her. It isn’t a hostile move. The tears filling the Fomorian’s eyes made that plainly clear. Relief and salvation. It caught John off-guard when the same look came over an Afghani tribesman out in the middle of nowhere, tired of being brutalized, were thankful for a moment’s peace and that’s all it ever seemed to last, a moment. Kenmore catches him and again as soon as the Silver Arm comes into contact with his black skin, the flesh nearest it ebbs to reveal peach-tinted grey coloring. Kenmore locks eyes with him and, in shock, wonders what he really looks like. The gold lightning quickly gives her her answer. Suddenly a golden-haired man with the exact same build as Ronon and looking to be the same age too with peach-tinted grey skin is standing in front of her. As naked as his elder had been.
“Elathan,” Ursula breathes.
The Fomorian’s eyes quirk at her. As though he’s confused by the possible notion that he should know her.
“I,” he tries to begin, “I have not heard that name in a long time.” It is like the man is waking up from a horrible, mystifying dream, “You,” he peers at her, almost like he’s trying to peer into her eyes to literally see her soul, “are not Nuada.”
“No, I’m his descendant.”
He nods at her. Another look comes over his young lean face. It’s an odd mixture of concern and curiosity.
“Do you know my son Breas? He went to dwell with the others of our three tribes in Hy-Brasyl. If you are Nuada’s descendant, then you must know what happened to my son on Earth.”
Kenmore startles and she’s not the only one. Sheppard’s never heard any native in the Pegasus Galaxy ever refer to Earth as Earth before the members of the Atlantis Expedition had introduced themselves to them and struck up a close enough friendship for the Lantean emissaries to spill that particular bean.
“He ruled the Tuatha De Danann for a time after Nuada lost his kingship, but later Nuada regained it and Breas,” here Ursula isn’t sure how to go on so she opts to start over in a way, “Breas’s reign was not a good one.”
Elathan nods sagely at this, “Our ways are not yours. He was not a fit leader of your people, he should have stayed among our tribe.”
Kenmore nods, accepting the words, and as soon as her eyes dip down, she reacts, “Oh my god.” She immediately looks away.
Elathan looks down at himself and realizes his nudity, but he doesn’t know what to do about it. Rodney casually walks over with another blanket he’s pulled from the same drawer Teyla had gotten hers from and hands the Fomorian the item in the ensuing silence. Elathan nods a swift ‘thank you’ at the theoretical astrophysicist and wraps himself with the wool cover up as a sarong. His eyes catch sight of his father on the inhospitable bed and he makes his way jerkily over to him. Teyla quickly gets out of his way, retreating to Rodney’s side. Elathan fills her spot. They watch the Fomorian warrior gently pour over his elderly father, tenderly lifting wisps of thin white hair away from the closed eyes.
“I, I thought you went with Breas to Earth, you and your father, Delbaeth, King of the Fomor,” Ursula stammers.
The others stare at the old sleeping man.
Elathan shakes his head, still doting over the aged. “No, we did not. Our place is here, my son’s mother went with him to Earth,” he pauses then turns his head a little towards her to talk to the knowledgeable Lieutenant over his shoulder, “What became of Éri? What became of my wife?”
Eyes turn towards Kenmore.
Oh boy, this doesn’t get any easier, does it? “Uh, she, uh, she…”
Elathan looks away from her, his shoulders sinking. She knows that sink. All too familiarly.
“They are both gone,” he says soberly. Sadly. Certain.
Silently behind him, Ursula nods. Looking down at the ground. Everyone observes the moment of silence.
“It was believed on Earth that you were there with your son, you and your father, and that he and Éri joined you two before the Second Battle of Moy Tura.”
Daniel sees a slight smile tug at one corner of the Fomorian prince’s drawn mouth, “Then perhaps one day we will be united again in the Undying Lands. Perhaps we will one day prove your legend true,” something occurs to him. He turns to Kenmore, a furrowed expression on his incredibly handsome face, “Second Battle of Moy Tura? There has only been the First.”
Here, Teyla steps in, “Your people are waging war against the village at the crest of the hill from here. They are recreating what my companion here believes to be the Second Battle. Did you not know this?”
“No, my family has not ruled for some time. When Balor left on Hy-Brasyl, the Three Sisters agreed to take over his duties. We, we,” his confusion returns, “we have not ruled since then. I do not remember much since then. The Sisters took control.”
The mission unit exchange troubled and knowing looks between each other. That explains a lot, a very sinister and bad lot. The only time they’re given to think this over is the chance they take to look at each other, Elathan snaps himself out of his thoughts and them too, “You must go. Now. Stop this before there is a war.”
“We were trying to do that, but we got transported here instead,” Rodney complains.
“Transported? You have been to the beast’s room,” Elathan’s immediately disturbed.
“It’s alright,” Kenmore allays him, she waves the Silver Arm at him, “I kind of already took care of the Evil Eye.”
The Fomor prince keeps his heavy sigh of relief to himself. His people’s terror is over. They could begin again.
“It will take you too long to use the trail,” he tells them, “The path down the mountain is considerable. You must go on the dragons.”
Sheppard, Rodney, and Daniel’s heads snap to him at that.
“Dragons,” McKay repeats and John’s avid nodding seconds.
“Where are they,” Daniel and Ursula ask quickly.
“If you take the second of the two tunnels leading to the outside, it will take you there.”
“Thank you,” Ursula bows and starts to turn away for the entry…then stops herself. She looks back at him, “Delbaeth,” she begins.
Elathan turns his attention back to his father, again he pets back his father’s thinned hair from the wrinkled, age-worn forehead, “You cannot help, his time has been coming for a long time. At least he has been freed before the end. His last moments will be spent as they were before the darkness came. That is good.”
Ursula nods as does Teyla. They understand. The Silver Arm may be capable of great things, great healing in returning the Fomorian bodies to the way they once were, but there are some things that are inevitable and the fragility and entropy of human life is one of them.
“Thanks,” John adds quietly and starts to step back towards the entry.
His team, Kenmore, and Jackson take his cue. They hurry to his side, Daniel giving Elathan a swift squeeze on the shoulder, which the young man returns with a small considerate nod, before joining up with the rest of them. Not exactly feeling comfortable with this himself, John exits the room last. Watching a son’s final moments with his father… John wishes, is pained by the fact that he’d never gotten that chance too. John turns and runs after his people. His dad is dead and there isn’t going to be any of that for him ever. Just leave it behind.