He turned to look, and saw his sister. "Joana." He slowed down a little, allowing her to catch up.
"What is wrong? You left immediately after blessing - you usually stay and talk for a little while." Joana looked a little insulted at him.
"I need to return to my work. We have traders visiting, and they are buying large quantities of wheat - hundreds of sacks!"
"Yes, I know, silly! Everyone does! They were at Apophis praise yesterday. Besides, you greeted them, while I was standing beside you." She frowned. "I do not know why they were not there for worship and blessing today."
"I am sure they have their reasons. They are in a hurry to return to their people."
"Hurry? You cannot be in too much of a hurry for your god!" Joana scoffed. "They should be careful. Their behaviour has been noticed."
"What? Listen, Joana, they are nice people. Not heretics!"
"That is not what Silmon says. He also noticed they were only pretending to say the praises. He says he told the priests!"
"Silmon? I care not for anything that fool says or does!" Aldwin scoffed.
"Because he is interested in Peeta." Joana smiled. "He is a good choice, too. He is attractive... and his family is rich and important..."
"You are married. You have a child! Stop that talk! And leave me alone!" Aldwin quickly said a silent prayer to Apophis that Peeta would chose him.
"You are afraid Peeta will prefer Silmon!" Joana grinned. "That is why you were in such a hurry today. Silmon was sitting with Peeta!"
"I do not understand why you all like him so much! He is not a good choice. You know what he does to the servant girls!"
"You will stop that slander immediately!" Joana said, her voice suddenly hard.
"It is not slander. It is the truth," Aldwin murmured, but he kept his voice too low for Joana to hear.
"If you really want Peeta, you should be more direct! Otherwise she will never be yours!"
"I will. Soon. I just need to..."
Joana interrupted him, shaking her head. "Aldwin, you are almost 28! I know of no one else who has not married by that age!"
"I will not discuss this now. Joana, I will visit later today, but now I need to get to work." He waved at her, and started walking faster.
Joana did not follow, but just shouted after him. "Tell those foreign traders not to miss the praise tomorrow, if they are still here! It is an insult, and it could bring down Apophis's wrath on all our heads!"
"I believe we are ready to return now, Malek," Tavin said. "Aldwin just told me the last of the wheat has been bagged and is ready for transport."
"Good. I cannot wait to get away from here. The people of this world is fervently religious, and praises Apophis all the time! It is too much for comfort!"
"How can any amount of Apophis-worship not be too much for comfort?" Tavin grinned.
"Very true, but that is not quite what I meant. This place is dangerous. If someone should even suspect us, they would not hesitate to report us."
"Aldwin seems nice enough..." Tavin smiled. "Cute, too, though Gerim thinks his sister is more attractive. He is wrong. She has a look in her eyes I do not trust."
"That is not usually part of determining attractiveness," Malek said, smiling briefly. "Nor are we here to ogle the locals."
"Aw, come on! I am just looking! You are always much too serious! You must allow yourself to relax, now and then!" Tavin gave Malek a friendly push. "So, tell me. What do you think of Aldwin - and his sister?"
"We are here to work!" Malek shook his head, but then he smiled. "If we must talk of this... I think you are both correct. If the situation was different... I would not turn away either of them."
Tavin laughed. "Malek! Admitting to an interest in something not related to your duty! How shocking! Perhaps you are a living being after all! The others at the base will..."
They were interrupted by Aldwin suddenly rushing into the room they were in. "Tavin! Johan! You must leave. Immediately! Apophis's Jaffa have come!"
"What?" Tavin exclaimed.
Malek quickly transferred control to his host, Johan. "Through the... ring of the gods?"
Aldwin nodded. "Yes..." He got an embarrassed expression. "I fear someone from my village has reported you... for only pretending to praise Apophis."
"Lies!" Johan exclaimed, hurriedly. "No one worships Apophis more than we!"
"As I thought, but you must come quickly!" Aldwin said, looking nervously towards the door.
"I am not so sure this was a good idea," Malek whispered, nervously looking up towards the hatch above their heads.
"What other choice did we have?" Tavin said. "The route to the chaapa'ai was blocked, and the population is firmly convinced Apophis is a god!"
They heard a shout from upstairs, and then noise, as if a door was being broken. Then someone cried out. Moments later there were sounds just over their heads.
"It was definitely not a good idea!" Malek moaned. He quickly looked around the small room, searching for something that could be used as a weapon.
"Nothing!" Tavin said, having thought of the same. "Why did we not bring zat'nik'tels?"
"You know that would have been too dangerous. If anyone here should happen to see them, they would have reported us immediately. Only 'gods' and Jaffa may carry such weapons."
"It seems we got reported anyway. If we get out of this, we should buy our wheat somewhere else!" Tavin grabbed a broom. It was not a particularly good weapon, but it was better than nothing.
"I agree. I will talk to Garshaw - should we live." Malek looked grimly at the hatch. He could hear sounds like someone moving the table on top of it aside. Looking around, he decided on a large jar to use for a weapon.
The hatch above them opened, and a Jaffa gazed down. Malek threw the jar against the Jaffa's head, as hard as he could, and had the satisfaction of seeing the Jaffa lose his balance and fall down into the room below.
Tavin immediately hit the Jaffa over the head with the broom, knocking him unconscious.
The victory was short-lived, though, as several more Jaffa appeared above them a moment later.
Tavin groaned as he woke up. "Where are we?" He gently touched a sore spot on the back of his head. Feeling something sticky, he looked at his hand. There was blood on it.
"In a room in a storage facility of some sort, belonging to the man who sold us the wheat. He is dead, by the way. Killed by the Jaffa. His assistant, Aldwin, is over there." Malek nodded. "Unconscious."
"So he will suffer the consequences of helping us." Tavin looked unhappy. "How are you?"
"Johan and I are both reasonably well. We have some bruising, and a bump on the head, but not as bad as yours. Johan is awake also. How is Gerim?"
Tavin was quiet for a moment, searching for his symbiote. He frowned. "Unconscious."
"That is what I feared. You were hit very hard on the lower back of your head." Malek looked worried. "You should rest - for as long as they will let us. I will attempt to find a way out of here."
"There is probably not one. We are doomed." Tavin looked miserable.
"I am not yet willing to give up," Malek said, getting up and starting to search first the door, then the walls, methodically.
He had only gotten half-way when the door opened. Outside stood a group of angry looking Jaffa.
"Come with us! Now! All of you!" one of them ordered. "Bring the unconscious one!"
Johan/Malek and Tavin/Gerim did as they were told, and carried Aldwin between them. Ahead of them walked three Jaffa, and behind them another four. They were all armed and very much on guard, so there was no way to overtake them.
Aldwin was starting to wake up when they reached the living room in the house that had formerly belonged to the local trader. The Jaffa leader had claimed the place as his, for as long as he was on the planet. He was currently sitting in a comfortable chair in the middle of the room.
*It looks like the idiot is picturing himself a Goa'uld lord or something!* Gerim observed, dryly.
*Gerim! You are awake!* Tavin almost shouted aloud with relief.
*Yes, I am. My head is hurting terribly, though - as is yours I am afraid. I will do my best to heal us as quickly as possible. I fear we shall need our strength very soon.*
*Unfortunately, I must agree.' Tavin groaned as one of the Jaffa hit him behind the legs and forced him to kneel before the Jaffa leader.
Beside him, Malek and Aldwin had been forced to kneel as well.
"I was told you are heretics!" the Jaffa leader snarled at them.
"That is a lie! No one is more dedicated to Apophis than I am!" Johan insisted.
It was extremely important the Jaffa did not learn of the presence of Malek and Gerim. That would only prove they were Tok'ra, and that would mean they would be given to Apophis. At his hands they would suffer endless cycles of torture to the death and revival. Not to mention the risk they would give up information that could endanger the rest of the Tok'ra.
"A lie? I doubt that! I heard it from a very reliable source. Besides, why did you hide from my men if you were innocent?" The Jaffa leader grabbed a painstick that had been lying on a nearby table. "I think you are rebels. Heretics! You have come here only to cause dissent and doubt among the true believers!"
"No! I am innocent!" Aldwin screamed, terrified. "Please, I swear by Apophis!"
"Innocent? You hid these criminals!" the Jaffa leader pressed the painstick against Aldwin's neck and activated it. "And now you dare swear by our great Lord Apophis, even though you are unworthy of even mentioning his name! Suffer the consequences!"
Light shone from Aldwin's eyes and mouth, and he let out a terrifying scream. Malek and Tavin winced involuntarily, knowing how painful it was.
"Aldwin is innocent. Please, let him go," Tavin said. "He truly did nothing, except trade is the wheat."
"Shut up, traitor!" the Jaffa leader gave Tavin a hard blow with the painstick, making him fall forward on his face.
"Um, Fohk'r, maybe we should wait until Teal'c arrives..." one of the Jaffa said, nervously.
"Why? I can interrogate this heretic scum as well as he can, and if we learn something now, we may get rewarded by Apophis for once!" the leader, Fohk'r, insisted hotly. "If they die, no one will miss them!"
"But... Teal'c has ordered..."
"Shut up, Uh'kar!"
"Yes, master Fohk'r." Uh'kar bowed his head and stepped back.
No one else interfered as Fohk'r grinned maliciously before jabbing the painstick against the neck of Tavin, who was still on all fours after the blow he had been given a moment ago.
Tavin cried out, then slumped forward, unconscious. Fohk'r threw the whip aside and grabbed the painstick, prodding Tavin with it, before giving him a hard kick that rolled him over on his back. He hit him again, and suddenly Gerim involuntarily flared his eyes, unable to suppress the reaction now when he had been thrust into control. Until then, he had stayed back and worked hard to suppress the pain from Tavin. He now whimpered, then fell unconscious as his host.
Fohk'r and the nearest of his Jaffa gave a gasp when they saw their victim's eyes glow.
"He is a Goa'uld!" one of them whispered, terrified.
"Why would he let you do this?" Uh'kar said, sounding shocked.
"We are doomed!" a third Jaffa exclaimed, taking several steps back.
"He is a Tok'ra, of course!" Fohk'r said, trying to bolster his own courage. "They are... fallen gods."
"We should leave. Immediately, before anyone finds out," Uh'kar insisted. "All I know about Tok'ra is that only Goa'uld are allowed to interrogate them."
Fohk'r nodded slowly, looking at the three still figures on the ground. "True, but we cannot let them live. If anyone learns of this, we are as good as dead!"
"You cannot kill a god! Even a fallen one!" Uh'kar exclaimed, horrified.
"Of course I can. If he can be tortured, he can die... yet..." Fohk'r voice was unsteady. "Apophis... Apophis must want it! That is why! He is a stronger god than this one!" He activated his staff weapon and shot Gerim in the back.
The other Jaffa fled, except for Uh'kar, Fohk'r's second in command. "Come," he insisted, grabbing hold of Fohk'r and dragging him away. "The humans will soon die from their wounds anyway."
Fohk'r frowned, but followed. Moments later the Jaffa were all gone.
On the floor, Malek, only half-conscious, forced himself awake enough to crawl closer to Tavin/Gerim. "Gerim!" he whispered. "Tavin!"
"H... how is he?" Aldwin croaked, having only just regained consciousness.
"Dying, I fear," Malek said, no longer caring if Aldwin knew who he was.
Aldwin gasped and just stared at them.
*It is dangerous. Revealing your true nature!" Johan sounded terrifed.
*He is badly injured, and will probably die before he can tell anyone.* Malek sat up.
"You... you are a god! How?" Aldwin shook his head. "Can you not save Tavin?"
"Why not. Forgive me, but why? Has he not been a good enough servant?"
"I cannot save him because I am not a god!" Malek flashed his eyes, angrily.
"But you are a god!" Aldwin insisted. "It is obvious!"
Gerim moaned. "Malek..."
"Yes, Gerim. I am here." Malek turned to his friend.
"Tavin... Tavin wishes that his family back on Nutta... shall have... the little figurine... the owl," Gerim managed.
"Gerim..." Malek began, intending to assure Gerim that he and Tavin would live. Then he realized nothing short of a sarcophagus would probably save Tavin, and he nodded. "I will take care of it."
"He is a god too!" Aldwin tried to get up, but he was too badly wounded to move much. "Forgive me! You are testing me, and I am failing!" He coughed, and blood dribbled from his mouth.
*He could be Gerim's new host. He is badly injured, but not too bad for Gerim to heal.* Johan suggested.
*He thinks we are gods! He will never agree!*
*He might - if you tell him that is how the gods wish him to serve.*
*Johan! That would be wrong - in so many ways! How can you even suggest it!*
*Then say something else. I do not care what. Talk to him. Quickly. I think Gerim is unconscious again.*
Malek sighed, and started to explain - fast, and in words Aldwin would hopefully understand. "We are not gods. We... are part of a group who fight for those who are oppressed. We are the same species as the Goa'uld, though, and we need hosts. Gerim needs a host. Gerim is Tavin's... friend. He shares his body."
"The rumours tell... that the gods use human bodies!" Aldwin said, giving up on trying to sit up.
"The Goa'uld use hosts, yes, and so do we. Biologically... we are the same, but not philosophically." Malek groaned to himself, seeing he was failing to make Aldwin understand. "Tavin is too badly injured for Gerim to save, and so both will die. Unless someone else will be Gerim's host."
Aldwin frowned. "I... I would gladly help a god thus, but I too am injured. I fear I shall not survive my wounds."
"Gerim can heal you, but you must chose quickly."
Aldwin looked frightened and unsure. "I must pray to Apophis for guidance. Please, give me a moment."
Malek groaned inwardly, almost regretting trying to convince the man. "Then do so, but do it quickly."
Aldwin nodded, and closed his eyes. Minutes passed, with Gerim's laboured breathing the only sound.
"Yes. I will be... Gerim's host," Aldwin finally said.
*Yes!* Johan mentally 'slapped' Malek on the back.
Malek took a deep breath, then nodded, relief flooding him. "Thank you."
He looked at the distance between Tavin/Gerim and Aldwin. It was perhaps 10 feet. Much too far for Gerim to crawl outside a host, but Aldwin was too wounded to move much on his own. Malek would have to help. He gathered all his strength and got up on all fours, then slowly stood, leaning against the wall. Supporting himself against it, he walked the short distance to Aldwin.
Aldwin looked up at him, then made another attempt at getting up. He got as far as raising his head, before his eyes rolled back in his eyes and he almost fainted. After a moment, he gasped. "I... cannot..."
Malek sighed and kneeled clumsily beside him. "Do not worry. I will move you. Somehow..."
He frowned, then took hold of Aldwin's arms and pulled. They got maybe 2-3 feet before Aldwin's hands slipped from Malek's grip, and the Tok'ra fell backwards. Aldwin gave a low cry, clearly in pain.
Gerim woke again from the noise. "Wh... what is going on?"
"I am getting you a host," Malek said, getting up on all fours. "He... Aldwin, has volunteered."
"There... is no need." Gerim took a deep breath. "I do not wish it... I will die... with my beloved Tavin."
"Stop being dramatic! Tavin would not want that!" Malek said.
"More Jaffa... can come. This Teal'c they mentioned..." Gerim continued.
"Gerim! Be quiet! The Tok'ra need you - and I am saving you!" Malek insisted.
Somehow, as much to his own surprise as anyone else's, Malek succeeded in dragging Aldwin the rest of the way to Gerim.
"What... do I do?" Aldwin wondered. He looked scared, and as if he was reconsidering whether death was preferable to an unknown creature taking him as host.
"Nothing. Just turn a little on your side if you can, and open your mouth. Gerim and I will handle the rest," Malek said.
Aldwin did as he was told, and Malek helped Gerim do the same. Moments later, Gerim slid out of Tavin's mouth, and in a flash he jumped into Aldwin.
"Goodbye... Tavin..." Gerim said, in control of his new host, then fell unconscious.
"Gerim!" Malek exclaimed, worried.
*He is probably just exhausted - and has to use all his energy to heal his new host quickly,* Johan reminded Malek.
*Very true. It is still unnerving - as is changing hosts in a place like this!* Malek looked worriedly towards the door. *Do you think more Jaffa will arrive?*
*How should I know? Hopefully not, but I would feel better if we had some sort of weapon.*
*Agreed.* Malek sighed. *I see nothing in here that could be used.* His gaze fell on the dead Tavin. *Poor Tavin... and Gerim. He will miss Tavin terribly.*
*I already miss Tavin. He was always a happy and friendly person. Always ready to help.*
*Very true. We will all grieve his death.*
They were quiet for some time, before Johan observed. *We should rest for a little while. Then we will be better able to help Gerim.*
It was perhaps an hour later, when Malek roused from a sleep he had not intended to fall into. He had heard someone or something.
Seconds later, a young man peeked into the room. Seeing the three figures on the floor, the blood, and the general chaos, he gasped. "What has happened in here?" He entered, followed by a young woman.
Malek raised his head and tried to shake the grogginess from his head. Johan was still asleep. "The Jaffa..." he said, using Johan's voice. "They killed my friend, Tavin. Then they hurt Aldwin and myself. I do not know why. I believe... it was a misunderstanding."
"The Jaffa serve our god Apophis. How could there be a misunderstanding?" the woman asked, suspiciously.
"Maybe... someone lied to them," Malek suggested, desperate.
"That would be a grave crime!" the man said.
"Very true." Malek quickly agreed. "Yet, are there not those who would do such a thing? Even among your people?"
"Is it not much more likely that Aldwin has worked with foreign, heretic traders, and that the Jaffa learned of your heresy?" the woman said.
"Be quiet, Rhina!" the man whispered. "We do not know that!"
She shrugged. "Do you know where my father is? He is the owner of this shop." She got a proud expression. "I am Rhina, daughter of Visket."
Malek pondered what to say. Visket, the trader that had owned the place they were now in, had been killed by the Jaffa. He tried to remember where he had seen the corpse. "I am sorry," he finally said. "I... fear the Jaffa had been told lies about him as well. I think they took him... to one of the other rooms, to be interrogated."
"No! That cannot be true! He is a good man, and a loyal worshipper of Apophis!" Rhina exclaimed. "You are lying! Come, Tuan, we must look for my father!"
"I am sorry, we have to leave for now," Tuan said. "We will be back later, to help you."
They both hurried out of the room, and Malek looked after them for a moment. It was not long before he heard a scream, proving to him Rhina had found her father, killed.
Rhina and Tuan had left quickly, with Rhina crying loudly, and Tuan carrying her dead father. Tuan had again assured Malek they would be back soon to help, but Malek doubted it.
It was several hours later when Aldwin/Gerim started to wake. Malek had again drifted off to sleep, joining his host in slumber, despite the possible danger, should Jaffa come back.
Regardless, they had no weapons, and Johan/Malek desperately needed to rest, heal, and regain their strength.
It was almost completely dark in the room. The only light came from a pale moon - one of two the planet had - shining through a window.
"Malek?" Gerim asked.
"Yes, I am here, Gerim!" Malek said, sounding very relieved.
"Aldwin and I have talked a little bit, and we are well enough to move now."
"Then we should leave quickly," Malek said, getting up. "I am much recovered as well."
Gerim rose, then almost immediately gave Aldwin control.
"I, uh, I am Aldwin... but you already know this." He shook his head, disgusted with himself. "You must think I am a fool."
"Hello again, Aldwin. Why would I think you a fool? I am very grateful to you. What you did, saving Gerim, that was very brave, and the Tok'ra thank you for it."
"I thought the Goa'uld were gods. I worshipped Apophis. That is why I am a fool! Among other reasons," Aldwin said, bitterly.
"You are no fool. You merely had no way of knowing differently," Malek insisted. "We should leave before anyone returns."
"Yes... Gerim wish to bring Tavin's body, so he can be given a funeral."
"Of course. Let us find something we can use to create a stretcher, then."
*Do you think Aldwin will agree to leave this planet, now when he is host to Gerim?* Johan wondered, as they were searching the place.
Malek thought it over. *Yes, I think he will. He will understand he cannot stay on a world where people are as dedicated to Apophis as they are here - not as host to a Tok'ra. Besides, what Rhina said sounded very much like the people here have already judged Aldwin - and us - and decided we are heretics. He cannot live here.*
Johan pondered this for a moment, then agreed. *Yes, that is true. In fact, we had better hurry, before the locals decides to capture us and give us to the Jaffa!*
It was early morning when Aldwin/Gerim and Johan/Malek stood by the Stargate. Just like they had feared, and even Aldwin's family had behaved coldly and mistrusting towards him.
*I feel guilty - it is unlikely Aldwin can even visit his family and former friends now. They all think he is a traitor and a heretic.
*Unfortunately, that is so, Johan. I am sure Gerim is feeling even more guilty. We can only hope Aldwin will become happy among the Tok'ra.*
*We will do our best to make that happen.*
*Yes, we will.* Malek dialled the Stargate.
Aldwin had control as they walked through, and he stopped and threw a quick look back at his world before leaving it. He very much suspected it would be the last time he saw it. He would be starting a completely new life, and as scary a thought as that was, he at least had Gerim to help him. They were getting along well, and he had a feeling they would become very good friends.
With a sigh, he took a better grip on the stretcher with Tavin's body, nodded at Malek, and they walked through.