Planet P4A-991 - Alexandria:
"Well, that went well," Jack commented, now that they were alone in Prokopios's audience chamber.
"So it seems..." Daniel replied.
"But you're not sure?" Jack raised his eyebrows, wrinkling his forehead.
"I don't know. It all depends on what this 'Ananeosy' means. I mean, I know that in Greek, it means 'renewal', but that's not an awful lot to go on. Renewal of what? And how?"
"I take your point, Daniel."
"Why don't we just ask, Sir," Sam chimed in. "They seem pretty friendly."
" 'Won't you come into my parlour', said the spider to the fly..." came the cynical response.
"I don't think they're cannibals, Jack. Considering the food they brought us, they could well be vegetarians. It's a pity Prokopios rushed off so suddenly before we had time to ask any questions."
"Perhaps that's why?" Jack replied.
"He did say we were free to go wherever we want in the city though, Sir."
"Yeah. A guide would be nice..."
As if on cue, the four young ladies reappeared, led by Roxana who was presumably the eldest.
"We will take you back to the small reception chamber and then show you to your guest rooms where you will find the rest of your belongings. The sun will soon set, but if you would like to look around a little before night falls, we will be glad to accompany you."
~ 'Accompany'? Well that doesn't sound particularly threatening ~ Daniel thought.
Jack was taking them up on the offer when Sam gave a significant cough.
"Oh yeah," he went on, "this feasting and - er - merriment. What's that all about?"
"It is in honour of the beneficence of our Sovereign Lord, Alexander," Roxana said brightly, "in sending you to us when our need is greatest."
"Yes, my lord."
"He stop by often then?"
"No, my lord, it is many years since he last returned."
"So... you're expecting him back any day now?"
"No, my lord. We never know when he will come."
Jack and Daniel exchanged glances, and Daniel took over the discussion.
"But you have seen him?" he asked.
"I have not, but our father has."
"Erm, may I ask what this 'Ananeosy' is?"
"I am sorry, my lord, it is not for the discourse of ladies. However," Roxana went on with a coy smile, "I may say that it will provide you with much pleasure, my lords."
Jack raised a very quizzical eyebrow.
It had been a pleasant evening. Roxana, Melantha, Philomena and Kalandra, had exerted themselves to please, and to ensure that their guests had felt welcome and at home. Jack had taken to calling them Mel, Phil, Kal, and Roxie, but failed signally to break them of the habit of calling him 'my lord' or 'Lord Jack', which latter seemed to amuse Sam immensely.
Now, having plied them with more food and sweet-water, and entertained them with music and song, they had left S.G.-1 in peace in the 'small' reception chamber where they had first rested.
"I hate to pour cold water on your enjoyment of this place, kids, but I can't help feeling there's a catch here somewhere," Jack said. "This is all so cosy, it's too good to be true. It has to be."
"I concur, O'Neill. That they have need of us they have not concealed, nor that they are expecting us to fulfil that need, yet they will not say what that need is."
"Yeah, and tomorrow night is going to be payback time..."
"I suggest we turn in now, Sir, then we can be up, fresh as a bird, first thing in the morning,"
"I agree, Carter, just so long as the bird isn't a Thanksgiving turkey!"
S.G.1 were up betimes the following day but not before their hosts, who were waiting for them in the reception chamber with more comestibles and the obvious intention of waiting on them again.
"After you have broken your fast, perhaps you would like to expand your knowledge of our city. We will be happy to accompany you until you are as familiar with it as with your own city," Roxana assured them.
Jack did a double-take at that.
"Whoa! Hang on there. How long do you think we're staying?"
"Until the need is met," Roxana replied, smiling.
"The... need? That would be the need you're not allowed to talk about, yes?"
"Yes, my lord."
"Could you give us some idea of how long that might take?"
This question caused some amusement to their hosts.
"That depends upon you, my lords," Philomena responded. Daniel could have sworn she smirked as she spoke.
"Well, we have to return fairly soon," he explained.
For some reason, this simple statement was greeted with stifled chuckles. Daniel's baffled expression only set them off again, making him feel a little uncomfortable. Jokes really aren't that much fun if you're not in on them.
"Actually," Jack cut in, "we'd quite like to explore on our own if that's O.K. with you. I think you've earned a little time off. You've been very good to us since we arrived - catered for all our needs, and"
He stopped as the girls exchanged speaking glances, showing a barely repressed urge to burst into laughter.
"What? What did I say?" he demanded, looking as mystified as Daniel.
It was too much for the girls' self-restraint...
"Oh, for crying out loud!"
Having managed to shake off their attendants, the team paired off for a recce of the city, Jack with Teal'c, and Sam with Daniel. The idea was to blend in with the natives and not attract attention to themselves.
This aim was doomed from the moment they left Prokopios's palace. Wherever they went, they attracted not only stares from the populace but bows from the men and curtseys from the women.
Teal'c, as a Jaffa warrior, was quite accustomed to the attention his appearance created wherever he went, though the looks he received from those who did not know him were usually strongly tinged with fear. Jack found all the interest distinctly unnerving. So much for covert operations...
Daniel, of course, was in his element, just as he had been that first time on Abydos. The two were quite similar but Deuteros was more advanced and there was a strong Greek influence overlaying the Egyptian, both in clothing and architecture. Sam was impressed by how clean and well-ordered everything was, and how smart and prosperous-looking the people were.
Almost inevitably, they found themselves in a temple complex. Unsurprisingly, it was dedicated to Alexander. The interior of the main building was a square hypostyle hall, the centre of which was taken up by a square inner sanctum. This had a single door with two hoplite guards at either side who, politely, denied them entrance.
"It is not permitted to enter the inner temple - on the decree of Alexander himself," the right-hand guard said stiffly.
"Um, we don't mean any disrespect to Alexander," Daniel said quietly. "We'd just like to take a look around, that's all."
"I understand, my lord, but only our Sovereign Lord may enter. I would not wish you to come to any harm within."
"You've never been inside then?" Sam asked.
"No, my lady. To do so would be to invite death, as all who live here know."
"But, Alexander's not here, is he?" Sam persisted.
"No, my lady, but he would know."
"Know? Know how?" Daniel asked.
"I do not know, my lord, nor do I wish to find out."
And that seemed to be the end of that. Nevertheless, Daniel continued scrutinizing the murals, hieroglyphics and hieratic inscriptions on the walls.
"I wouldn't mind betting that's where he keeps his sarcophagus," he murmured to Sam as soon as he felt they would not be overheard.
This took a while as they, too, were the subject of much interest to the locals, a number of whom had followed them into the temple.
"You know, Sam, this is very interesting. It's like a potted history of Deuteros, right here on these walls..." he went on excitedly.
Daniel looked around at the smiling Alexandrians and added in more restrained tones, "...but I guess I'd better save it till we get back to base."
Sam and Daniel returned to Prokopios's palace without any difficulty. Apart from the fact that it was the most conspicuous building in Alexandria after Alexander's temple, it appeared that any one of the townsfolk would have considered himself most honoured to provide any assistance they might need.
It was approaching midday, and the crowds had thinned a little. Sam thought there would probably have been a lot fewer people around ordinarily, when S.G.-1 weren't there to attract them like a travelling circus.
The sun blazed down, making them and their clothes feel sticky. The still air was uncomfortably hot and stifling. It held grains of dust and pollen, too, which irritated Daniel's allergies, so it was a relief to be back in their quarters. Here, the rooms were pleasantly cool and the chance to freshen up would be most welcome. Jack and Teal'c had arrived back some time earlier and Jack was looking troubled.
"You know, I can't help thinking we're missing something here - something significant," he began, but was forestalled by the entrance of their ever-present handmaidens.
He was beginning to find them a bit of an irritant, not in themselves for they were charming, but simply that it was difficult to get a moment's privacy.
"We have filled the baths in the guest chambers beyond your rooms so you may relax while the day is at its most fiery," Roxana informed them, "and we have provided you with fresh clothing so that your own may be laundered."
Sam at least had no fault to find with that. Kalandra stayed to wait upon her while three male attendants appeared on Roxana's summons to attend the men while they bathed.
The baths were quite a surprise - not the sort of tubs they were all accustomed to, but more like a small swimming pool set into the marble floor of each of the two bathchambers.
Sam was charmed to find that scented flower petals covered the water in the bath in the ladies' room. The pleasure of bathing there was exquisite.
~ Not a second holiday, huh? ~
By the sounds of echoing laughter coming from the men's bathroom, they, too, were enjoying this mission. Nor did the pleasure stop when Sam stepped out of the bath.
Kalandra led her to a high couch and summoned another young lady who arrived with a tray of jars and bottles. Between them, they anointed her with delicately perfumed oils, after which the other girl gave her a massage that was blissfully relaxing.
Then she had a rather disconcerting sense of déjà vu when Kalandra produced the clothing she was to wear. However, the elegant white dress was comfortable to wear and its soft drapery was much less constricting than that worn by the Shavadai women on Simarka. She wondered mischievously what the men would be wearing and how they would take to 'going native'.
The colonel, Daniel and Teal'c had already returned to the reception chamber when she arrived. They were reclining on the couches once more and the three sisters were passing round light snacks and cool sweet-water.
Jack and Daniel greeted her with what she thought were somewhat sexist comments about the length of time she had spent in the bath and being titivated by their hosts. She was not fooled. It was merely a diversionary tactic to focus attention away from themselves.
They seemed to be wearing short tunics, white and belted at the waist, with long, white robes over the top. She breathed in deeply, cast her eyes very slowly and deliberately over each of them in turn, and followed it with a knowing smile.
"My, you do smell nice, gentlemen," she grinned and was satisfied to see them looking a little abashed. "Very stylish - er - frocks, too..."
"Thank you, Carter, that will do," Colonel O'Neill frowned.
"Pulling rank, Jack?" Daniel asked wryly.
Once they'd all finished eating, Jack announced his intention to have a nap.
"That is an excellent idea, my lord," Roxana confirmed. "It will be well for you to conserve your energy for the evening. We will leave you to your rest."
After their attendant nymphs had retire gracefully and S.G.-1 had been left in peace, allegedly to sleep, Jack began a debriefing session.
"You first, Daniel," he said.
"Well, Jack, the walls of Alexander's temple were very illuminating. It was almost like a history text book from the year dot - and before" he enthused.
"He threw her out and sent his own Jaffa to show the people where they could hide if she ever tried it on again. That probably explains why they accepted Teal'c so readily. They also provided some means of misleading Renenutet's Jaffa should they try to come through in force again."
"Wow! that's very impressive, Daniel," Sam smiled. "How did you and Teal'c go on, Sir?".
"Not quite so well. Apparently, we could be stuck here for quite a few more days yet."
"That's bad, Sir?"
"Well, it's not good, Carter. I managed to have another chat with the Patriarch, Poppa-what's-his-name, not that I got much out of him. I told him we'd be leaving after the feast. He said we couldn't. I asked why not. He said because there are too many Jaffa around the gate..."
"What?!" Sam exclaimed.
"Could just be a ploy, Jack."
"Unfortunately not, DanielJackson." Teal'c responded, "The Patriarch took us to the roof of this building where he has a device like a telescope. I have seen them for myself. There were at least a hundred Jaffa. We could not fight our way past so many and it would be folly to try."
"I was anticipating a possible fire-fight, especially as the M.A.L.P. is a bit of a giveaway that we're here. However, and in view of what you said earlier, Daniel, we could well be safe from them here - for the time being at least. Pops certainly seemed to think so. No doubt he had his reasons..."
After the debriefing, S.G.-1 actually settled down for a little shut-eye. Perhaps it was the enervating heat of the afternoon, perhaps the soporific effect of the bathing session, or maybe something else entirely. Whatever, all the team were feeling pretty drowsy, and one by one, like the 'Lotus Eaters', they fell asleep.
The room was in darkness when Roxana and co. returned to prepare them for the feasting.
"What, like we are the Thanksgiving turkey?" Jack muttered sourly, as he, Daniel and Teal'c were led away by their sisterly consorts with the male attendants bringing up the rear. Sam remained behind with Kalandra.
"Do not feel left out, Lady Sam," she said, "You, also, will be an honoured guest at the celebration. Come, we will go to your chamber where I have laid out fresh raiment for you and will heighten your beauty."
Sam gave her a sideways look.
"You shall go to the ball, Cinderella," she murmured.
"I beg your pardon, my lady?"
She was finished well before the men, whose appearance, when they returned to the reception chamber, was more than eye-catching. It wasn't so much the crimson tunics and robes as the wreathes of vine-leaves on their heads...
Sam giggled; she couldn't help it.
"Oh, yes. It's you, Sir. It's definitely you," she said with a puckish smile.
"I look like a complete idiot," Jack muttered.
"Oh, I don't know, Sir. It - er - works for me!" she spluttered.
"Not another word, Carter, and that's an order!"
"And how about you, Sam," Daniel said as he took in her appearance, "you look stunning..."
"Yeah well, when you've finished with the mutual admiration society bit, let's go get our weapons. Must be somewhere in these damn' robes we can hide 'em."
"Is that necessary, Jack?"
"Has it, or has it not, occurred to you, that this is an ideal colour to hide blood - our blood?"
"Colonel O'Neill is correct, DanielJackson."
"I don't think the Deuterons pose any threat," Daniel said thoughtfully. "From what we've seen, they're a well-organized peace-loving agrarian society."
"And don't peace-loving agrarian societies ever make sacrifices to their gods?" Jack demanded.
"I didn't see any reference to anything like that on the temple walls"
"And you read them from cover to cover?"
"Exactly. We go armed."
Before they could act on the order, Prokopios himself appeared with a small escort of hoplites in ceremonial regalia.
"Esteemed lords and lady, please come with me and greet our guests," he said smiling benignly and holding out an imperious hand.
Jack gave Daniel a filthy look as they followed, willy-nilly, to a large, rectangular antechamber. It was filled with an exotic throng of the great and the good of Alexandria all tricked out in their smartest finery.
The processional party entered through a square doorway in one of the shorter walls, and were showered with flower petals by attractive young women as they passed through to receive the guests.
There was another doorway opposite and a larger entrance in one of the longer walls leading into a spectacular banqueting hall. The doorway in the fourth wall gave access to a moonlit courtyard.
Silence fell over the Alexandrians. Sam stole a glance at her team members. Jack looked tight-lipped and thunderous, Daniel interested, and Teal'c impassive, but then, she reflected, it took an awful lot to disturb the Jaffa's outwardly calm demeanour.
It seemed to take a long time for all the guests - a hundred or more - to be presented to S.G.-1. Sam noticed that, after presentation, the men went through to the banqueting hall while the women went through the doorway opposite the one by which she had entered.
"Don't the women get to eat?" she said quietly to Kalandra, who standing beside her.
"Oh yes, but the men and women eat separately. We will join them later. Ah, I need to ask - are you the wife of one of the lords?"
Sam was dumbfounded.
"No," she said at last.
Kalandra looked relieved.
"That is good," she said, "now come with us. We will join the rest of the ladies."
"Come, my lords, and eat," Prokopios said with a beaming smile as he guided Jack, Daniel and Teal'c away from Sam and into the banqueting hall. "You must build up your strength and then, at last, the Ananeosy will begin!"
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