Part II Summary: Martouf has business away from home and rides out early the morning after Lantash/Justin arrive. He is uneasy about their revelations and believes that they should be taking precautions When a message from home is delivered by a hurt and exhausted retainer, Martouf heads for home, knowing in his heart that he is already too late to do anything to help them. He is appalled at what he finds.
Coronaus – Crowns Hossek – An Animal very much like our Horses. Mulsek – Similar to a Burro, or Donkey.
The weather was mild for the season of the year, even though the sun was shining brightly. It was coming on the ending of the growing season, and normally, it would be much hotter than this. This was, indeed, quite pleasant. The entire day, so far, had been surprisingly beautiful.
In the pre-dawn morning, when he rode out on his hossek, the dew had lain heavy on the land. Wisps of mist, all that remained of the nighttime fog, had floated across the fields, leaving grass, trees, animals, and farmland alike, drenched in its freshness.
It had sparkled on the winnow’s webs like diamonds in the streaks of sunlight that soon played across the land. Now, in the early hours after the mid-day tolling, the sun warmed and kissed, but it did not scorch or burn.
He sat tall in his saddle, riding as if born on the animal’s back, or connected to it in some way. As he rode, his thoughts wandered. His betrothed, Mareena, would be at table with them tonight. It would be nice to see her again for it had been over two weeks since last they had lain together. No doubt, they would make time this night to spend some of their time mating, though they were not yet joined.
Neither of them were young or innocent any longer, so they had dispensed with the traditional ‘saving of first taste’ until after the joining ceremony and agreed instead to be sure they would be sexually compatible.
It was one of the things he liked most about his future mate. She was not afraid to tackle any subject with him and see it to a conclusion. Sex and their compatibility had been one she wanted to be assured of before they said their vows, not after. It was accepted that they had ‘tasted’ of each other.
They both agreed that, though neither of them had a burning passion for the other, their matings were enjoyable enough to look forward to them. It had been a pleasant surprise, and they had happily accepted that they would indeed be compatible in all ways.
He sighed, wishing he did not feel so unsettled today, and wondered how he could be on such a lovely day. There was nothing to make him uneasy. He frowned as he immediately rethought that because there was something that made him very anxious, when he allowed himself to think of it. One of the Tok’Ra had tried to warn them of an impending Goa’uld attack, and his brothers had shrugged it off. The Goa’uld barely knew that this world existed.
There was little here for them; why would they bother them, or so his father had asked. Nevertheless, Martouf could tell that he was quite troubled by the information. Perhaps he would do as he assured the Tok’Ra yesterday evening and think on it. He just hoped that he would see the truth in their words and set the troops on alert, after all.
He should have put off today’s work and talked to him again this morning. Unfortunately, he had already postponed these things several times, and there were decisions that must be made.
If the Tok’Ra was correct, then they had another day, and he would be home this evening and talk to his father again. He truly believed what the Tok’Ra told them, for otherwise, they would not have stopped here and advised them of it.
Without actually saying as much, the Tok’Ra indicated that they had been betrayed by someone close to them all. His father had said nothing aloud, but it had been obvious to Martouf that he did not find that hard to believe at all. His eldest brother had a very smug look on his face as he left the room. That, he realized, was what was making him uneasy.
Not only did he believe that the Tok’Ra was telling the truth, he believed his brother Mikelin was somehow involved. His frown deepened before he sighed in exasperation. Whatever Mikelin had done, it was too late to stop it now. There was nothing he could do about it if his brother had contacted the Goa’uld and tried to treat with them.
Nothing, that is, other than move his mother and sisters to a safer place. Perhaps he would suggest it to his father this evening. He had tried to discuss it with him last evening, but his father had been very tired. He was becoming ever frailer. It worried him, for when his father died, their world would lose a great and good governor, a kind King that had done well by his people.
His father was getting much too old to handle the affaires of state, though. Soon, his brother would have to assume the throne. It would be a sad day for their world when he did, in his opinion. His father, too, did not believe his eldest son worthy or capable of running the government. All he could do would be to disinherit him, and he knew his father was loath to do so.
There was no doubt that it would be better for their world. He sighed as he thought of the consequences of his brother coming to power. It would not be good, that much he felt to be very true. Even his mate was disliked, not only by the family but also by the populace in general.
Well, there was no point in dwelling on any of it for the time being. He had business to finish, and then he would go back to the Palace, and perhaps talk to his father instead of waiting until later. Going back now would make no difference in the time he and Mareena were able to spend alone, but he might be able to accomplish the other matters. His time with her would not come until later this night.
He turned his hossek toward the manor house. He had only a few more things to attend to before heading back. They would not take long. The ride back would take longer than the completion of his tasks. It was just as well for he was beginning to have a feeling of urgency when he thought of returning.
The sun glinted off his sun-streaked hair. He had inherited the best of both his parents. He was tall and strong like his father, and he held himself straight and proud, but not stiff. He was very graceful for all that his posture was military, also like his father’s. His smile was as his father’s was. Full and cheerful, making one wish to smile or even laugh in return, from the laughter one sensed within it. The cleft in his chin was also from his father.
His softly waved light brown hair, streaked with gold from long hours in the sun, and the blue-grey eyes and long thick lashes were from his mother. He was graced with his mother's cheekbones and beautifully sculpted lips.
His strong jaw line, proclaiming his stubbornness and determination, he could claim from his father. He was not extremely broad of chest, but he was well proportioned, lean, and a great deal stronger than he at first appeared. Even with his mother’s features, he appeared to resemble his father, who was a very handsome man, as was this youngest of his sons.
Most important of all, though, he had inherited and been taught to be honest, kind, cheerful, and gentle. True to his teachings, his heart was soft and easily wounded, but his strength of character would, should the time ever come that he needed it, pull him through whatever befell him. He was well-loved by all who knew him, for his disposition was kind and often sweet and gentle, although many knew that withal he was also strong willed and could be ruthless when the need arose.
Although untested, there was within him a control and wisdom that his age belied. He would fight to the bitter end for any cause he believed in, as long as there was hope, for a core of steel dwelled within him beneath the tender heart that beat there.
As he entered the home field, he saw that there was some disturbance at the manor, so he continued onward toward the house. As he rode up to the group that had gathered, he saw one of the servants from the Palace. He was injured and covered in blood. Martouf’s own blood ran cold at the sight of him. He dismounted and ran to the man, kneeling down beside him. It was Martius, the steward.
“What has happened, Martius? What has occurred that you are in this condition?”
“Jaffa,” the man gasped. “So many of them, Highness. We had no chance. Your father sent me to find you, to tell you. He bids you go to the mountains. See if the Tok’Ra has truly left, and if not, then ask him to take what people escape and leave this world. If all else fails, take any survivors and attempt to go through the Portal of the Stars.”
His voice gave out for a moment. Pulling himself together, he began again, “He said to tell you not to come; it is too late. By the time you could arrive, they will all be dead. He said to tell you that he is sorry he did not listen to you and the Tok’Ra. His last request was that you leave this world, if you can. Go with the Tok’Ra. You are a good soldier, and you can do no more here.”
The elderly man’s voice broke, but he continued to relate his king’s last message to his son. His only surviving son, now. “You are all that is left of the royal house. You must go. Save yourself, so that someday, perhaps you, or your children, can return and slay the Goa’uld. He said to tell you it is, as the Tok’Ra said, Arawn, God of the Underworld, Terror, Revenge, and War.”
“Highness, he said to tell you that...” But, here the old retainer choked on his next words, for he had been in service to the family all of his life and held them in much affection.
They had treated him as one of them from the earliest he could remember. He had grown up with the son’s father, as first a playmate, and then a friend, as well as an employer. They had been close all of their lives.
He tried again to pass on the father’s message to the son, “He said to tell you—that he has always been proud of you and loved you well, no matter that he rarely voiced his feelings; they were always there in his heart.” Tears streaked the blood drying on the old man’s face.
Martouf knelt by the man, stunned that his father would have sent such a message. His death must have truly been imminent for him to do so. Though they were a demonstrative family in many ways, words were rarely how his father expressed himself. A pat on the back, a joking cuffing, a quick squeeze of the shoulders, those were the language of his father’s pride and love.
Of course, at this time, all he had was words to convey his feelings to his son, and the ones he had sent meant more to Martouf than any others he had ever heard from him.
He grappled with his emotions and managed to push them down before he answered, “I must go, Martius. I cannot save myself without first being sure there is no one left alive at the Palace. I will not allow them to become the slaves of a beast.”
“No, my Lord, please, do not go. You will be killed. You must not allow that to happen.”
“I will be fine.” Martouf looked around and spotted a young boy, no more than fourteen. One of the stable lads, but responsible, a hard worker. “Corrin, would you be afraid to ride to Arsennia?”
“No, my lord. I will go and tell them that they are to do whatever you decree, and to go wherever you tell us to go.”
Martouf nodded, relief in his heart. He could not leave without knowing if any of his family had survived. Neither could he leave his mother’s parents, his grandparents, his aunts, uncles, and cousins, to die at these monster’s hands if it could be prevented. He could not leave his mother’s people to be slaughtered anymore than he could leave his people here on the largest of the Avery’en estates to be slaughtered.
“Word must be spread across the land. Everyone is to go to the Old Temple in the Valley of the Light. Tell them to leave no sign of their passing and…well, stay until I explain all to you, and then ride hard and fast. Take Magik for he is fast, strong, and has much stamina.”
“If the Jaffa are already there when you arrive, then do not try to circumvent them, simply turn back for the Valley. You would be able to do nothing for anyone, I am quite sure.”
The young boy nodded, “Yes, my lord. I will do as you say, I promise you.”
“Good. Now, this is what everyone must do. The remainder of you—you must gather only what will aid you most. Gather arms from the Manor. In fact, take anything you wish from the Manor. Be sure to take the coin that is in the desk in the library. Martius, open the inner sanctum and empty the coffers. There will not be a great deal there, but there should be some. You must have something with which to start anew.”
“Use the hosseks. They will carry you into the mountains. Take as little time to gather what you need as you can, for you must all go quickly. Use the mulseks as pack animals, for they are used to taking supplies into the mountains. Take grains for planting, for it will be needed whether you cross the mountains or leave by the Ancient’s Portal.”
“Take only what you will not be able to make on your own. Take the things you would need if you were never going to be able to leave there and must have what it takes to clothe and feed yourself and others. You must all help one another.”
“Those of you that have a trade or talent apart from your duties here, if they are something that may be needed, take whatever tools you will need. You will be starting over, and everything you use will need to be made by someone in order to replace it.
“Travel down the Old Willow’s stream so there will be no trail to follow. If you walk, be sure to leave behind no footstep or so much as a piece of cloth to point your way. Those from the outlying lands will have to choose their own way for only they will know which would be best for them.”
“If I can, I will meet you at the Old Temple. I will send anyone I find still alive to join you. You must not fall into their hands. Do you all understand? Be constantly alert and prepared to use your arms against the Jaffa. They may send only small scouting parties at first, and you may well be able to protect yourselves from them.”
“The younger ones have gone to fight, my Lord. There are only those that are too old or young to fight, or those caring for youngsters or the elderly left,” Martius said sadly.
“Then the elder of you must take the younger and lead them into the mountains, as I said. If I do not come, and the Jaffa do not leave the Portal unattended, you must push on into the passes, and go to the other side. It is not as fertile as it is here, but you can live there.
“Corrin, you will tell all of the people the same, if you are in time to alert them. Have someone pass word to the outlying areas.”
“I doubt the Jaffa will bother to go so far afield as the other side of the mountains. Do not allow the young ones to fall prey to the monstrous thing that has invaded our lands. Do not allow them to be taken.”
“Keep watch. Should they ever leave the Portal unguarded, then you must go there and allow it to send you to Arystalis. Several of you know the address. It is a good world, clean and safe, at least for now. Let none of the Jaffa learn of it, whatever you do. Keep it from them at all costs.”
“Take things of great value from the manor. Jewels and gold, so that if you are able to leave here, you will have means of support. Distribute and divide it amongst all of you, down to the youngest babe if any survive the carnage and then the trek into the mountains.”
Nodding toward the bloodied man lying on the ground he said quietly, “Take care of him and take him with you. Although there appears to be a great deal of blood, I do not believe that his injuries are life threatening. I do not believe that all of the blood is his. I will see if the priestesses yet live, and if they are in their sanctuary, I will send them to the old Temple, as well.”
Corrin nodded his agreement before turning to race towards the stable. He would ride to Arsennia, and he would save their Lord’s family, if he could. Then, he would go farther to the next land and the next, until he could do no more. He would not fail the young Lord who had always treated him so well.
Many did not treat him well, for he had only his frail fragile mother and his small, much younger sister. They were poor, but they were honest, unlike his father had been. Many mistrusted him because of his father, but not the young Lord. Never him.
The young scion had always tipped him when he helped him, even though it was not necessary. He was always polite and kind. What was even more wonderful was that he never failed to ask about his mother and then his little sister, as well.
One time he had caught a much larger boy taking his food and beating him up. He had him arrested, and he had been sent to a correction center for a year before coming back. At least, that is where they all believed he was, but he never really spoke of it. When he returned, he was like a different boy. The two of them became fast friends, for it seemed that the young Lord had talked to him often while he was away. Whatever he told him during those talks made a very lasting impression on him, of that there was no doubt.
Now, he needed to talk to Dreckon, for he would need to gather both of their belongings together, and take them to the Temple. He would not have time to do so, before he left for Arsennia, and before he returned the Jaffa could be here on Avery’en. He looked back toward the group and saw his friend coming toward him.
Dreckon ran toward him and grabbed the hossek’s bridle. “You must take a zat’nik’tel with you, Corrin. His Highness sent me after you to tell you to gather arms from the manor house before you leave.”
“Do not worry about things here. I will gather your things and take them to the Temple with mine. I will see what I can find of value as well. And I will be sure to take grains for planting.”
“I shall also help your mother and sister. Cook Ana said she will help, also. Your mother is to ride, as are some of the elderly that cannot walk so far. You must go. Do not worry; I will take care of things here.”
“Thank you, Dreck. I will meet you at the Temple, but,” the boy paused before bringing himself to say, “Dreck, if I do not return, take care of them for me?”
“You will return, Corrin.” He held up his hand as his friend started to speak. “But, yes, as well. If you do not return, I will see to it that they are well taken care of, I promise you.”
The two clasped hands for a moment, and then Corrin turned, riding to the manor house for arms, before he set out on his way. Dreckon watched him ride away before returning to the group around the young man who was now their leader.
At the nods of agreement from his people, Martouf mounted, and then turned back toward them. “Take care of the elderly, the young, and also Corrin’s mother and sister. They are good people, please treat them well.”
Cook Ana stepped forward, saying, “We will take care of them, Sire, do not worry about us or them. You just be sure that you join us at the Temple in the Valley of the Light.”
Martouf bowed his head to her, “I will do my best, Ana.” Then he turned the hossek toward the city.
Setting him at a steady lope, he began to think of what he had with him. His weapon, a knife, and a sword. His bow was across his back as was the quiver with his arrows. So, he had weapons. Some better than others. They would be nothing against a staff blast if it came straight at him, he knew, but he did have his zat’nik’tel with him.
He wondered what he would find when he reached the Palace. While he did not want the Jaffa to spread out across his world, neither did he want them all in the Palace. It would be much harder to avoid them, if they were still massed there. Too many of them, and he would not be able to enter there at all.
Nightfall would not be upon him any time soon. He would reach the Palace around dusk. That would help. Luckily, the Palace was not in the city proper. It sat upon a large tract of land, surrounded by gardens and forests. He would be able to get very close to it before taking a chance on being seen, if he kept to the trees. On the down side of that, it would be farther than going straight down the roadway.
He would take the trees. He would be able to do nothing if he was caught and/or killed. He would not wait for full dark. That was too many hours away. Twilight on his world, at this time of the year, was long.
If the Jaffa completed the annihilation of the people in the Palace, they would then spread into the city to subdue it as well. No doubt, they were already doing so. His father would have sent messengers to tell the people to flee to the mountains and sanctuary.
Unfortunately, he believed that those able to fight would rally, not realizing that they had no chance against such a formidable foe. Only the old and young would leave for the Old Temple.
As Martouf slipped unobserved into the Palace, he saw his eldest brother on the floor in the foyer at the bottom of the grand staircase. The look of frozen surprise and fear told its own story.
He betrayed his family, and the Goa’uld, in turn, betrayed his brother. Mikelin had always been a greedy, power hungry, selfish libertine. His father knew it full well but he had been torn as to what to do about him. In the end, Mikelin was the downfall of their family, their house, and their throne, just as Martouf felt his father always believed he would be.
After seeing him, and hearing the speech of the Goa’uld being spoken in an antechamber, he realized there were still Jaffa nearby and probably throughout the Palace.
However, he knew his way around the rambling structure, and they did not. He could avoid them for the most part, unless he stumbled upon one by accident. That was possible for there were numerous twists and turns, hallways and chambers. He decided to take one of the back stairways to the upper stories.
Martouf pulled his hand away from his side and looked down at the dead Jaffa. This was the second one he had literally almost run into. The first one had managed to stab him in the shoulder before he managed to kill him. This one had just stabbed him in the side. He was fortunate that there were no others close enough to hear the conflict between them.
He felt that he had been lucky so far, as those two were the only ones that he had come upon unexpectedly. He had avoided several of them. Most were staying on the first floor of the Palace now that they’d killed everyone here.
He had to make a bandage or he would bleed to death before he found his family. He needed to know what their fate had been and whether any of them had been captured and taken rather than killed. He doubted it, but still, he must know for sure.
He sat down and used his knife to cut away some material from one of the maid’s long aprons. It was Poltera, one of the kitchen maids. She was lying on one of the landings of the stairs that led up from the wine cellars and then continued all the way to the fourth floor. The apron made long strips and thick pads. He used what was left of it to cover her.
He now had both wounds under pressure bandages. He pulled himself to his feet using the railing along the stairs and began his ascent after disposing of the second Jaffa’s body.
He found his father and other brothers on the second floor. He thought he would throw up, but something inside him came to the surface, and he walked quietly to where his father’s body leaned over the state dining table, his head resting on a platter beyond it, his face serene.
He had made his request to the goddess, then. They had beheaded his father and all of his brothers except for Mikelin. Him, they had killed with staff weapons and then walked on his body to enter the Palace proper.
Martouf went swiftly to a large ornate sideboard and opening it, he withdrew several large linen and lace table coverings. Taking them with him back to the table, he covered first his father and then each of his brothers. The last thing he did, before leaving the room, was offer their spirits up unto the Goddess of the Mysts of Time, that they might be reborn and live again.
In his father’s library, he opened the coffer and withdrew all of the gold, as well as some other valuable items, within it. It was a goodly amount. He placed all of it into a large satchel that was kept in the room for transporting valuables. If any of his people survived, perhaps there would be enough to give each of them a small start on the new world where he would take them. He hoped that those he left behind at the Manor House had followed his instructions and taken valuable items and coin from there. It, too, would help them all.
He had often traveled through the Ancient’s Portal, and he would lead those of his people that survived to it and through it, if he could. If he could not, the others knew where to go, as he had told them.
Once he had his people settled, then—then, he would find the Tok’Ra and join them in their fight against the System Lords. He had not needed his father’s words to set him on this course. As soon as Martius had begun to tell him what had occurred he had taken that decision.
They did not know the Tok’Ra closely, but they knew of them and had dealings with them. Their High Councilor was a good friend of his father’s, and he liked him well. Often, they came here for supplies. He had never met the one that was here last night though. He wished now that he had asked him where to find them when he left. At least then, he would already know where they were. If, that is, the Tok’Ra Justin and Lantash, felt that they could trust him with the information.
Now he would have to find them and that could prove difficult. The Tok’Ra did not want to be found. They worked through stealth and secrecy in amongst the System Lords. If he survived his wounds, he would begin hunting for them soon.
Taking the satchel and throwing it over his uninjured shoulder, he returned to his search. He had yet to find his mother, sisters, and betrothed. Although doubtful, he would hope, until proven otherwise, that they had escaped.
He found his sisters in their bedchambers on the third floor. They were dead, and again he wished to empty his stomach. At least they had not been abused before they were executed, and they had not beheaded them as they had the men of his family.
He hoped they had died quickly, and it appeared that they had. They had fought, as had his brothers and father, all to no avail, of course, but they had died as warriors, all but Mikelin.
This time, he wrapped them in silken sheets, laid them each on their bed, and covered them with their comforters made of winnow’s silk and swans down. Then he offered their spirits up unto the Goddess of the Mysts of Time. Last, he covered their faces, as he called for her to come for them. It was all there was left that he could do for them.
They had been so young and beautiful. Twins, they had long, golden hair and blue-gray eyes. Both were betrothed, and both were happy and carefree, neither having yet seen their twenty-first year.
Although many years younger than he was, they had still been close. They often confided in and questioned him about things that they could not ask others. He would miss them. One more reason to add to the long list against the Goa’uld System Lords.
He found his mother on the floor in her sitting room. She was alive, but barely. She smiled slightly when he knelt beside her, though it was obvious that she was in much pain. No doubt, the Jaffa either thought her dead or knew that she would soon die.
“Martouf! You are—alive. I was so afraid that they would find you. Why are you here? You, you must flee. Go to the mountains and take care of, of our people. Find Mareena. She took a sword and—left to look for you. Please, go, my son.”
“Let me get you something for the pain, my mother. Then I will take you, and we will go to the mountains, I promise you. But, first, I must give you something.”
She shook her head weakly. “No. No time. I am dying—Martouf.” Tears filled her eyes. “They killed them all. Your father, your brothers, your sisters. All gone. I—am joining them.”
“You will take with you the—joining set. You must take it as well as your father’s rings. Take the coronaus, both his and mine. Promise me that you will do this—if you can get to him. Remember, that I loved you,” she smiled slightly, “more than I should have. The most favored of my sons.”
“I have them. I will take the set as well, but first I must care for you.”
She reached up and placed her hand on the side of his face, loving him with her touch. “No. Listen. This is—important.” She drew as deep a breath as she could and pulled on an inner strength. She must tell him this. “You are a beautiful person, both inside—and outside. You are special. That you have been spared proves the words spoken by the priestess, when you were born.”
“Mother, please, lie still and let me get you something for the pain and then…”
Her eyes bore into his. “No, you must listen. I am—almost out of time.” Again, she drew as deep a breath as her injuries would allow before continuing, “You have a special destiny in the universe, most beloved of my sons. You will—join with another completely, and you shall become a warrior against the—darkness, the evil, that covers not only this, but—many other lands and enslaves the many peoples of the Universe.
She shook her head as he tried to speak to her, placing her fingers over his lips. “It was foretold at your birth. You are a scion of this house, and—your destiny is as I have told you. Your name—Martouf Destinyon means Warrior of the Light. It was given you by the priestess the moment you—left my womb, for she foresaw that which you would become.”
She shook her head slightly, still not allowing him to speak. “Take with you the most— important things in this life and in your character. Honor, truth, justice—strength, determination, and love. You have much of each of these—within you, my Martouf. You will give much and you will receive much—in return. You will have both agony of the heart, and indescribable—joy of the heart. Your mates will love you deeply unto eternity.”
She smiled one last time as she caressed his face. “My dear, gentle, Martouf. Always kind and loving—yet so strong, intelligent, and brave. You will learn more wisdom as easily as—you learned to give love, for it is a part of your nature—your character. I loved you well and—truly.”
With a last breath, she told him softly, “know that you—take with you my love. Let it light your way and ease your heart, as yours will light mine. Now,” she whispered, as her voice and her life eased away, “It is time for me to go. Goodbye, my beloved son.”
“Mother, no, don’t, don’t go. I love you. I will care for you. Please.” He sat next to her, stunned at her passing. She was gone and with her the last of his family. Leaning down he kissed her gently before standing and going to the armoire in the hall and finding her satin sheets and a winnow’s silk comforter. He knelt beside her once more, covering her as he had his sisters, his father, and his brothers before offering her spirit to the Goddess as well.
Martouf stood from where he knelt beside his mother, his head bowed down with sorrow. He had loved her very much. She was the one that had been gentle, kind, and loving. Always thinking of others, she had given those gifts to him. She had also been a strong, intelligent, and wise woman. If he was all of the things she said of him, then it was because she had taught him well.
As he stood looking down at her, from somewhere deep inside, he pulled forth the strength that she had assured him he had. He straightened and turned away.
He had reached the age of majority many years ago, but today he had fully become a man. He knew it, felt it with every fiber of his being. Nothing would ever be the same. Youth and youthful things were truly finished, gone. He could look back on the boy, but he saw him, now, through the shadowed eyes of the man.
Pulling in a jerky breath, he forced himself to move forward without looking back. That way lay despair, and he had no time for that now.
His mother said that Mareena had attempted to go after and find him. He must look for her. She was not on the back stairs. Had she escaped? He would check the chambers up here incase she never managed to leave the Palace, and his mother had not known.
He found her in the bedchamber she used when she stayed with them. It was next to his own apartments. She, too, was alive, but barely. He knelt beside her. “Corthay? Is that you, my love?” She whispered.
With those few words, Martouf realized that like he, she had deeply loved another at some time in her life. One that she loved still. The reason she had reached her age without already being joined. He could give her this, at least. Leaning over her, he said quietly, with no hesitation at all, “It is I, my beloved. I am here with you.”
“Have you come to take me over with you then? Is that why you are here?”
“Yes. Come, take my hand and we will cross into the Mysts together. Would you like that, beloved?”
Her smile was beautiful. “Oh, yes, Corthay. I have waited so long for you to come for me.”
“Then come, my love, and be my own. We shall forever be together now.”
Martouf watched as her eyes closed and she breathed her last words with her last breath, “I love you until the end of life and beyond, Corthay.”
“I know, beloved. As I love you.” Then, she, too, was gone and once again, Martouf performed what had become a ritual of sorts, even though not exactly done according to their rites. He wrapped her in satin, before laying her on the bed and covering her with a winnow’s silk comforter.
Then he turned and entered his chambers, gathering what he felt was necessary. With one last look around it, he left his chambers…and everything familiar that he had ever known.
His mind and attention on what he needed to do next, he did not hear the Jaffa coming down the hall, until it was almost too late. The battle was swift and decisive. The Jaffa lay dead upon the floor. Martouf clasped his hand to his side again, for he had re-opened the wound, and it was bleeding heavily. He made his way back down the stairs and from the Palace to the relative safety of the forest.
The temple was not far away, and he must check on the priestesses. If he walked swiftly, he could be there within a very short time.
Straightening his back one more time, he stepped forward into whatever the future might hold. If, that is, he even had a future at all. After the last Jaffa, he was beginning to have his doubts, although he felt confident that if he could find the priestesses they would be able to help him enough that he would survive. Perhaps.
Martouf stepped cautiously into the temple. It was almost dark inside, though the long twilight would still linger for quite some time outside. He made his way, slowly and painfully, toward the back of the temple to the panel that he knew allowed admittance to the sanctuary, if you knew the right combination of symbols to press.
He allowed himself a moment to gather his failing strength before he opened the sanctuary door. Once inside he made sure that it closed behind him.
He looked up at the sound of a feminine tread and smiled at the young woman who came to stand in front of him. She gasped as she came close enough to see him. “Highness. We feared that all of the family was lost. Those heading into the mountains claimed that all of the family were killed. Executed.”
Martouf nodded briefly. “Yes. All of them. Are the healing priestesses here? I have need of them, if I am not to join my family. In fact, I suspect it may be coming on too late even for them to do anything for me.”
The young woman in front of him looked as if she would cry. “I am sorry, my lord, but they accompanied the survivors into the mountains. Many were injured. They needed them.”
“We were told to leave the sanctuary only after we knew that the Jaffa were no longer close to us. Then we are to make our way after them. We were to send all survivors that came here to the Old Temple in the Valley of the Light. We have only had one couple come since they left and now you.”
He nodded his understanding and tried to smile to reassure her, but his vision was growing fuzzy. Gazing at her with kindness, he said softly, “It is no matter that they are not here. I am beginning to believe that they could not have helped. I have lost too much blood. I must ask you to help me back out into the temple, please, as I am quite sure that you do not want a body in here with you.”
“No, my lord, you must lie down and let us look. We have some small abilities and perhaps we can help you. Please, let me help you to the cot that is over there.”
He walked, leaning upon her heavily, until they reached the cot, and then he collapsed upon it. “I believe that I am going to join my family. Do not waste your time on trying to heal me; there may be others who will need your energy and strength.”
The last thing he heard was an old woman’s voice, saying sternly, “You are not going to die. I forbid it. You will rest, and we will take you to the priestesses in the Old Temple.”
A small smile tilted the corners of his lips. He did not know her, but she sounded exactly as his nanny had when he was a very young child. She, too, was always forbidding him to do things. Perhaps he would listen to her. Then, he was neither listening nor thinking, for he had passed into unconsciousness.
The first thing he heard on regaining consciousness some time later was the old woman’s voice. She still sounded like his nanny. “My Lord, Highness, please, you must, and you will rest quietly. You cannot help anyone if you do not regain your health and strength. You must be our first concern. There are few of us left. Only those of us that can move into the hills and mountains, and that is few enough.”
“Hush, now, and listen to me. Your family is gone. The Jaffa are not hunting you, for they believe you died in the Palace along with your brothers. We must allow them to continue to believe that. They will come for you if we do not.”
“We are safe for the moment, as are you. You will remain quiet and hidden. Now, stop thrashing around so, and calm yourself. You are causing your wounds to begin to bleed again. Listen to me. You will rest now.”
“Hiber, give me the tea. We must help him to rest for he is having night-terrors when he sleeps. The tea the priestesses gave us for him will allow him to rest more comfortably. He has lost too much blood. I believe he is becoming weaker, and I am afraid for him.”
“You should be, Anola. You know as well as I that without recourse to the healers, he cannot survive his wounds. The young priestesses did what they could before we left to hide him, but that is little enough. They told you that they did not think he could survive. Only you are stubborn enough to believe that we can succeed where they could not. Old fool.”
“Old fool, I may be, but he is the last of our royal family. They were good to us, Hiber. Perhaps they were too good to us, for now that this world has fallen to the Goa’uld, we are unprepared to become slaves and suffer hardship. That is why so many fight and die.”
“Only those of us too young or too old will have escaped to the mountains and hills. He must survive, or indeed all is lost to us. Without him, we may as well give up and become that which they wish us to become.”
The old man rested his hand on her shoulder. He knew, as well as she, that she was holding onto this young scion to keep her fear tamped down, and her hope alive.
If they could not leave this world, they were as good as dead anyway. The old would be slaughtered and the young would become slaves. He would allow her the dream if only to keep her moving onward, up into the mountain passes. If they could pass through, perhaps they could survive on the other side, but it would be hard, very hard.
The young heir said there was a world to which they could go and people at the Temple would know how to get there. He told them that when he had awakened for a short time earlier. He hoped that he was not simply confusing reality with a dream.
“There. He has quieted. Come, Hiber, we must go on and take him as far as we can before we rest for the night. I will not leave him here alone to be found and killed by those animals. Come, we must push on.”
The old man nodded, bending over to grasp the makeshift stretcher. Before he could pick it up, he heard a sound behind him and turned in time to see another man fall to the ground.
He did not recognize him, but he recognized the kind of clothing he was wearing. It was obviously of the court. Who was he? Had someone else from the palace actually survived the attack? Anola was kneeling beside him before he could take a step toward him.
“He must be looking for his lord, Hiber. Perhaps he is even of the Heir’s household and the priestesses told him where we were heading. Do you think he followed us? We have been careful to leave no trail.”
“I do not know. How badly is he hurt?”
There was no immediate answer, but he could tell from her face that it was not good. “He is—severely injured. I do not see how we can take him with us as well. If there were others, then we could make another…”
The man on the ground moaned and then rolled over, pushing himself first to his knees and then to his feet. “I will walk, thank you. I appreciate the thought, however. Where are you headed? Are there others?”
“Yes, my Lord. They will be in the mountains. We are going there.”
He nodded. “I am sorry I cannot help you to carry your burden, but I will not add more to your already-heavy load. I will walk; I assure you. Until I can go no farther, anyway.”
“Sir, you are badly wounded. It is coming on for night, the twilight almost gone.”
“Nonetheless, I will manage on my own; I promise you.”
“There is an old shepherd’s cottage not far from here. Perhaps a half hour’s walk as slowly as we go. We were hoping to get to that place for the night.”
The man nodded. “Then, let us not tarry longer. Please, lead the way for…me.”
Nodding their acquiescence, the old couple turned back, lifted their burden, and began once again to walk forward into the deepening dusk.
The gentleman followed slowly. It was not much farther, now. Hiber had not known that Anola meant to stay there for this night, but it would work out well. It was far enough away from the city that they would not be found tonight.
By tomorrow, they would have no one to take care of but themselves. He was sure that both of their companions would be dead long before first light. However, Anola would feel that she did everything she could for the young heir. It would have to be enough to allow her peace of mind, for they could do no more.
Almost a half hour later, the sheepherder’s cottage came into view. They lowered their burden onto one of the cots before beginning to take stock of what was available to them.
There was not much, but they had some food with them and there was plenty of water. Hiber was sent to get some, while Anola checked on the two men. Neither looked as if they would survive the next few hours, let alone the night.
She and Hiber ate but, though they offered food, the man refused it. Their young lord was either unconscious or sleeping. She could not tell which. She checked on him one last time, tears springing to her eyes, and fear to her heart. After sending a heartfelt plea to the Goddess of the Mysts of Time, she covered him and turned back to her mate.
Since neither their young Lord, nor the other man wanted or needed anything, she moved to the other side of the hut and lay down on the cot by her mate. Neither of them paid any further attention to the two men across the hut. She had done all she could for the moment, and she needed rest.
Perhaps fate would step in and find a way to save their young leader. Her eyes were heavy, though, as was her heart, and she was tired. She would check on them later. Yes, after she had rested some, she would check them again.
Martouf roused slightly as she covered him, but he did not alert her to the fact that he was awake. It would make her stay next to him, and she was old and worn out with carrying him so far. No matter what he had said, when he regained consciousness, they would not leave him to die in the temple. Thus, they had carried him, these two dear old souls who could barely carry themselves.
At least they would not have to carry him tomorrow, for he felt sure that he would pass before the night was ended. He had told them earlier of the world though he suspected that they thought he was dreaming and confused. Perhaps even feverish. He was not, of course, but they had no way to know that. He also made them promise to carry his satchel to the Temple and divide the gold and jewelry amongst those that were there.
They had agreed only after Anola had chastised him for talking as if he was dying. She refused to believe that he would not survive. He hoped he did not truly disappoint her, and that she would someday forgive him for leaving them alone to face the future. He thought she would.
He could feel the blackness reaching for him again, and he greeted it with relief, for it would take him from the pain of his injuries. He called upon the Goddess before he slipped completely away, and a small smile graced the serenity of his face.
He did not see the other man move to his cot and look into his face. Nor did he see the smile that came over his face along with a look of relief. They knew who he was, and at least one of them expected to have his last request fulfilled.
This was the vision of Lantash’s new host, no longer a blurred image in Justin’s mind. Seeing him now, it brought him into sharp relief. He wondered why he had not realized it last evening. It did not matter that he had not done so, however, for it was clear to him now.
This was Lantash’s new Lifemate, the one who would love him, deeply and purely, into eternity. The one that would share his next Heartmate, and the one who would share in the love of the Soulmate, when she finally came into their lives. Oh, yes, this man was Lantash’s eternal Lifemate, and their Soulmate, when she finally came to them, would bind the three of them together forever. Et Aevum. Into Eternity.
TBC in: Take With You My Love; Lantash, Justin, and Martouf – The Blending - Part III