Crown Infernal

The Lord of the Ring?

by guest author

Daisy Wheeyull-Printa

Part II - Daniel in the Dragon's Den (Cave Actually)


"Husband?"Daniel squawked. He and Jack exchanged stunned glances.

Daniel was wearing a distinctly deer-in-the-headlights look, much like the scarecrow, though the latter was not paying any attention to what was going on around him, being solely concerned about whether or not the fire was truly out.

"Déjà vu, Daniel?" Jack asked, trying the while to pry the scarecrow's arms from his own.

"Looks a bit like it," Daniel replied ruefully as the crew of the 'Heart of Gold' came ambling up.

"What's the bride's name?" Jack said, adding to the scarecrow, "Look, you're quite safe now, and if you did accidentally catch fire—" The scarecrow gave a terrified shriek and clung on more tightly. "—I'm sure Trillian will put you out. Right, Trillian?"

"Oh, sure," she smiled.

"So would you please let go of me. You're cutting off the blood to my arm!"

Daniel asked the lady her name.

"I am Brrrünnhilde," she said, waving her arm aloft in a proud flourish.

"That name rings a bell," Arthur said with furrowed brow. "Wasn't she the dizzy bint that worked in that pub on the Balls Pond Road?" Ford asked, clicking his fingers. "You know - the - the - The Goat and Compasses."

"No, that was Hildegarde, the music student from Bingen."


"Do you have The Ring?" Brünnhilde demanded.

"Er, ring...?" Daniel mentally ran through the Teutonic myths. "Ah, that wouldn't be the Ring of the Nibelungs, would it?"

"Yes, my husband, The Rrring!" Brünnhilde snapped.

"Um, no. Sorry."

"Then you must go and get it." Brünnhilde didn't seem like the patient type, nor one to suffer fools gladly.

Brunnhilde meets her match!

"Excuse me?" Daniel's voice had taken on a hard edge. "I suppose you want me to slay the dragon too?"

"But of course." Brünnhilde gave him a hard stare then looked around. "I presume one of your minions has Notung?"

"Minions?!" Jack and Zaphod said as one, then scowled at each other.

"Notung?" chorused everyone else except the scarecrow.

Daniel shrugged. "Magic sword."

He turned to Brünnhilde and growled. "No, I don't have Notung and I see no reason why I should kill Fafner. He hasn't done me any harm. That's the dragon," he added before anyone asked.

"But how else will you get The Ring?" she asked, less hectoring in her manner. Sam suspected she wasn't used to having anyone treat her arrogance with such disdain.

"I have no need of a sword," Daniel said in quelling tones, frowning.

Brünnhilde backed off a little. "Ah, so manly, so forceful— So virrrile," she sighed lustfully. "My Hero..."

Jack wouldn't have been surprised to see little bluebirds and winged hearts fluttering round her head and her eyes spinning round. Movement in his eye corner made him turn to the scarecrow. He was wrapping his arms around each other and wearing a similar sort of goo-goo expression, but without the lust.

"Ain't love grand," Sam said acidly.

"I am not your hero," Daniel scowled. "I'm not anybody's hero. Now where's the cave?"

"Cave?" Ford asked.

"Yes. Fafner lives in a cave. He was once a giant who built Valhalla with his brother, Fasolt. He turned himself into a dragon the better to guard the hoard of gold which includes the ring— "

"Whoa, whoa, whoa. Back up a bit there, Earthman," Zaphod broke in, eyes glittering like Brünnhilde's, but motivated by a different deadly sin. "Did you say go-old?"

The Rheinmaidens

Daniel sighed heavily. "Yes. It belongs to the Rheinmaidens."

"So?" Zaphod asked, not seeing the problem.

"So, it's stolen."

"What's your point, Earthman?"

"It's cursed. The first thing Fafner did, when Wotan paid them with the stolen Rheingold, was to club his brother to death so he could have all the gold for himself. And stop calling me Earthman. My name's Daniel."

He grunted as two sharp points dug into his back. Brünnhilde was trying to spoon up behind him. "Mmm, so masterful..." she purred.

Daniel moved carefully away from her. Jack looked at her breastplate and winced.

"She could have someone's eye out with those things," Ford grinned.

"Mm," Sam said, a speculative gleam in her eye.

"No, Carter. Not gonna happen."

"What isn't, sir?"

"You are not going to have one of... those things. You'll have kevlar like everyone else."

Sam gave him a sullen look that segued into calculating. "I could make one myself... with a little help from Sergeant Siler. I have some spare— "

"Just no, Carter."

"So, how about we go get the gold... " Zaphod cut in.

"Did you not hear what I just said? It. Is. Cursed. Nobody's going to touch the gold."

"But what about My Ring?" Brünnhilde wasn't giving up that easily either.

"Ye-es, the ring," Daniel mused. "I think we're going to have to do something about that. Okay, er - Wife - you'd better take me to the cave."

Brünnhilde led the group along a path through the woods. They'd only been walking some ten minutes when, somebody - the scarecrow? - asked, "Are we nearly there yet?"

Daniel stopped, raised one hand and turned around to face the motley crew. "I think you guys had better wait here while Brünnhilde and I go on ahead and get this thing done."

"Oh, no ya don't, Daniel. Not letting you out of my sight."

"Silence, Minion!" Brünnhilde bellowed."

Jack looked liked he'd been slapped in the face with a wet haddock.

Daniel winced. "Not right in my ear— er, Dear. The point is," he went on, "With all the racket you're making, we have approximately zero chance of sneaking up on Fafner— "

"Sneaking, Beloved?" Brünnhilde apparently thought that a true Hero would announce his presence with great bravado and as much noise as possible, then challenge the dragon to a fight to the death with a view to flashy sword play or hand-to-claw combat.

Daniel sighed. "Look, I told you. I am not a hero, but I can do this. Just trust me, okay?" Brünnhilde looked unconvinced.

"The rest of you, stay here. Ah! No Jack. You look after the scarecrow. Or are you trying to say that I need protecting more than he does? Think carefully before you answer..." He looked at the scarecrow. "It's a fire-breathing dragon, you know."

The scarecrow shrieked and threw himself into Jack's arms. While Jack was thus distracted, Daniel grabbed Brünnhilde's hand and disappeared into the trees followed by a despairing "Dammit, Daniel!"

O'Neill turned to Teal'c. "I don't suppose there's any chance of Thor turning up and fixing this?"

Teal'c shook his head. "Daniel Jackson says that Thor belongs to the Norse pantheon. The tale of the Rheinmaidens is Teutonic. Similar, but different."

Jack looked at him suspiciously. "You been taking lessons, T ?"

"Indeed, O'Neill. Daniel Jackson is a most interesting and accomplished teacher, as you would know if you listened now and again," Teal'c said severely.

"I do listen," Jack said, looking crushed.

It took about half an hour to reach the cave. Brünnhilde had set a blistering pace despite her large size.

"Wait here, um, Honey," Daniel said, getting a less than adoring look from Brünnhilde. "I'll be right back. Trust me."

As an afterthought, he added, "I'm a doctor," then crept into the cave.

"Teal'c, you're on," Jack said, reorganizing his scarecrow and removing a piece of straw from between his teeth.

Teal'c bowed sedately, then went about tracking Daniel's trail, or rather, Brünnhilde's; it was wider. The rest followed on in a long crocodile. Jack, with the apprehensive scarecrow hanging on his arm was, perforce watching Arthur Dent's six.

"Look, I keep telling you, there are no such things as dragons," he told the witless wonder. "Well, unless you count the komodo dragon. Which isn't really a dragon. Just a big lizard - and they do not breathe fire. They just have very bad breath..."

The scarecrow looked like he wanted to believe this but couldn't quite manage it.

"Oh, fer crying out loud," Jack grunted, fed up with the constant drag on his arm. He picked the scarecrow up, and threw him over his shoulder, fireman-style, then jogged after Arthur.

He caught up with the rest as they arrived outside the cave only a couple of minutes after Daniel had disappeared into it. Brünnhilde was staring into the inky darkness with a kind of manic eagerness that Sam found distinctly ghoulish.

"Looks like one of the «trichoteuses» doesn't she?" Trillian said.

"What?" Ford asked.

"The women who used to gather round the guillotine in the French Revolution and knit while they waited for the next aristo's head to drop into the basket."

"Nice," Zaphod murmured.

"They'd have to build a special guillotine for you," was Arthur's snide comment.

Jack did a quick head count and came up one light. "Okay, where's Daniel?"

"My hero?" Brünnhilde asked, not taking her eyes from the cave mouth. "He has gone to fight the—"

"Aht! Don't say the 'D' word!" Jack ordered, patting the scarecrow soothingly, he hoped, on the back... Butt.

"The 'D' word?" Brünnhilde looked puzzled for a moment. "Oh, you mean 'Dra—' "

A large chocolate-brown hand cut off the rest of the word.

"Thanks, T."

"You are welcome O'Nei—" His jaws clenched as Brünnhilde bit his hand. He was tempted for a moment to use the neck-breaking head-twist maneuver, but figured he'd never hear the end of it if he killed another of Daniel's wives.

A dull red glow came from the cave. Fortunately, as Jack was facing the cave, the scarecrow didn't see it. A flock of black creatures flew out in their hundreds a few seconds later.

"Holy Batcave, Robin!" Sam exclaimed.


There followed a multi-colored light show in red, yellow and blue from within, then the cave settled back into its usual dark, silent mode. The silence spread through the group congregated outside, all eyes focused on the entrance.

Daniel casually strolled out to the sound of a collective exhalation of breath. Brünnhilde broke away from Teal'c.

"Is the— " she eyed Teal'c warily. "Is Fafner dead?"

"Ah, not dead, exactly, but the dragon is no more."

"And have you got The Ring?"

In reply, Daniel stretched out his arm and opened his fingers to reveal a heavy gold ring.

Brünnhilde reached out for it, eyes alight, saying, "My Prrrecious..."

Daniel's fingers closed over the ring again. "Uh-uh. This is not for you, Sweetheart," he said, manipulating something that looked like many small gold rings all fastened together. Golden chain-mail? Then he disappeared in a fizz of sparks.

Uproar ensued. Everyone exclaimed in surprise. Everyone expressed wonder. Everyone wanted to know where he'd gone - and how he'd done it.

As the clamor died down, a discorporate voice said, "If I could have your attention please...?"

"Daniel? Dammit! Where are you?"

"Doesn't matter, Jack. I have a little job to do and I have to do it alone. Trust me."

"'Trust me.' He keeps saying 'Trust me'," Brünnhilde whined, "but The Ring - My Ring! Where is My Ring? I want My Ring - My Precious Ring! I wantsit." She stamped her foot. "I wants it now. Give me My Prrrecious!"

An immense roar cut her off in mid-tantrum. The ground shook beneath their feet, then shook again. And again.

"Uh-oh," Sam muttered. She'd been paying attention to Daniel's earlier lecture on Teutonic mythology.

"What's the matter Earthgirl?"

"Fafner isn't dead... 'but the dragon is no more—'"

"So?" Zaphod persisted.

"Weren't you listening? Fafner was originally a— Ohmygod !"

"A what?" He turned to see what Sam was looking at. The glass in his shades instantly turned opaque black.

As giants go, Fafner was a mighty specimen, at least fifteen feet tall and very probably more. He glared threateningly around then smote the ground with an immense club six or seven feet long and with a girth to match Brünnhilde's.

He opened his mouth and bellowed, "SOMEBODY STOLE MY PRECIOUSSSS— UNGHK...?!" then toppled slowly backward.

He hit the ground with a thud that probably rated at least six on the Richter scale. Fafner may have had loud a voice, but Jack's P90 had spoken louder.

Zaphod's shades reverted to normal. He looked at Jack, then at the fallen giant, then back to Jack again.

"Well, let's hear it for Jack the Giant-Killer!"

Brünnhilde gave him a long, scary stare. "My hero!"

"Oh no! No, no no! Not me." Jack backed away. "Come on, folks, spread out. We have to find Daniel before he does something really stupid."

"Yes, find Daniel," Brünnhilde agreed. "He has my— "

"And if the word 'precious' crosses your lips again, you'll be joining Frat-boy there. Capiche?"

Invisible or not, Daniel had still left a trail that Teal'c could follow. For half a mile, he had zigzagged through the trees, but then returned to the wide track of dead leaves which speeded up the march.

Forty minutes later, the track came out of the trees at the top of a low cliff, fringed by bushes, overlooking a wide flat-bottomed valley. Narrower paths ran along the edge of the cliff to left and right.

There, at the top of the cliff, Daniel's trail seemed to have come to an end. The party spread out and gazed across the valley below them.

It looked like it had been subjected to slash-and-burn clearances, and was covered with large, jagged, grey and black spoil heaps, with here and there, fiery plumes.

In the distance, at the head of the valley, smoke was issuing from a volcano, and feeding a large black cloud above it. Furthermore, the valley was swarming with armed and armored aliens. Fortunately they hadn't seemed to notice the interlopers.

Where the shadows lie?

Jack took out his 'scope and scanned the valley. On the plus side, the ugly-looking aliens were armed mostly with clubs and mediaeval weapons; the downside was that there had to be at least a thousand of them.

"Dammit, where's a cultural expert when you need on?"

"He hasn't been captured has he, sir?"

"If he has, I can't see him."

"We could not see him before, O'Neill."

"Well, that's all right then. If we can't see him, neither can they," Ford said.

"Can we go now?" Zaphod whined. "I'm getting hungry."

"Certainly not. Not without My Ri— " Brünnhilde gave Jack a sideways look. "Husband."

"We must come up with a plan, O'Neill."

"Yeah, Teal'c, but I'm clean out of ideas." He looked around his companions hoping someone might have something to contribute but came up empty.

"I know, why not go straight on to Plan B," Ford suggested. "Plan B always works."

Sam gave him a withering look. "Before you have a plan B, you have to have a plan A. Which we don't have."

Marvin suddenly found everyone staring at him. "Don't look at me. I'm a robot, not a miracle worker."

"Yes, but as you keep saying, you have a brain the size of a planet," Arthur pointed out. "All we're asking you to do is use it."

"I am still calculating the answer to your last question." Marvin replied in aggrieved tones.

"Well, it can't be that difficult, can it?" Zaphod said, wrapping an encouraging arm around the android.

"Yes it can. And it is."

"Ok, my mechanoid friend. So how long's it going to take?"

"You remember when you left me behind on Magrathea?"

"What? You have abandonment issues now?"

Marvin ploughed on. "And I waited for you for 976,000,000,000 years?"

Zaphod sighed. "Yeah."

"Longer than that."

Jack shivered suddenly and held his arm across his eyes as if to ward off something very unpleasant. The moment passed and he let his arm drop. He looked unnaturally pale.

"Are you all right, sir?"

"Didn't anybody else get that?" Jack asked slowly, looking round at his companions. "Apparently not," he concluded, taking in the blank looks.

"What was that, O'Neill?"

"A big... eye - fiery eye... Looking straight at me. Inside my mind... I think we're being watched. Somehow."

Jack pulled out his 'scope and scanned along the valley again. At the far end, black gates were opening in a black curtain wall around a sinister black building. Several riders were emerging therefrom and the creatures they were riding certainly weren't horses.

"What the—" he exclaimed as the beasts took to the air, flying straight towards them. "Looks like we've got company."

"Oh?" Zaphod said with apparent nonchalance.

"He means 'company' as in 'trouble,' Sam translated.

"Well, why didn't you say so?" he demanded, backing off into the trees. "Let's get out of here."

"Not without Daniel," Jack said.

"But we don't know where he is!" Zaphod protested.

"Yes, we do."

"Oh yeah? Where?" Zaphod made an exaggerated play of looking all around.

"Wherever there's trouble, he's usually right in the middle of it," Sam explained. "He's drawn to it like iron filings to a magnet."

Jack ground his teeth. "As a rule, he's right up to his neck in it," he said, taking cover behind a convenient boulder and levelling his P90 at the in-comers.

Everyone else took cover as the black riders, for want of a better description, flew rapidly down the valley towards them. However, before they were close enough to fire on, they turned abruptly and hurtled back the way they'd just come.

"Well that was... odd," Jack muttered, and 'scoped up the valley again. "Oh, shit!"

Before anyone could ask what the trouble was now, the volcano answered the question for them, spewing out fiery lava and belching out more smoke than ever. As the little group looked on in horror, the ugly-looking aliens dropped everything, took to their heels and fled in disarray.

"Oh god! I hope that thing doesn't produce pyroclastic flows," Sam said, horrified.

"Produce what?" asked Arthur. "Pyroclastic flows. A pyroclastic flow is a cloud of pulverized rock and hot gases - around five hundred degrees. It flows along the ground destroying everything in its path."

"Then we'd better get back to the ship, sharpish," Arthur said, eyes wide in terror.

"Too late for that," Trillian said, looking glum.

"What? Why? It's not that far away."

"Pyroclastic flows travel at over a hundred miles an hour and if there's also a nuée ardente - a cloud of super-heated gases - tagging along for the ride," Trillian continued relentlessly, "they can reach eight hundred degrees and three hundred miles an hour. So if we'd started running half an hour ago, we still wouldn't make it back to the ship in time..."

The scarecrow collapsed into a gibbering heap, clinging to Jack's ankles, and Zaphod's anti-panic glasses turned black again. The rest stared up the valley as if collective will-power alone could stave off disaster...

Part I - Wormhole Interrupted

Part III - A Hitch in Time

Part IV - Future Perfect?

Crown Infernal