Chapter 11 summary: The Jaffa are searching the forest, looking for the escaped prisoners. What happens when they encounter the tikvi trees?
[ Chapter 1: Pain, Sorrow, and Joy | Chapter 2: Escape and Rescue | Chapter 3: A Pleasant Surprise | Chapter 4: Escaping Together | Chapter 5: Waiting for News | Chapter 6: Lurking Danger | Chapter 7: Hallucinations | Chapter 8: Uncontrollable Emotions | Chapter 9: Happier Times | Chapter 10: They are not Gods | Chapter 11: The Trees of the Forest | Chapter 12: Collision Course | Chapter 13: Travel | Chapter 14: Enemies at the Gate and Land of the Light | Chapter 15: Another Option | Chapter 16: Undercover | Chapter 17: Going Home ]
"I cannot say I feel completely at ease in this forest, despite the size of our force," Kha'vok said to his fellow Jaffa, looking uneasily at the trees around them.
"I must admit to some trepidation as well." Thoka'll admitted. "However, we are a large group, as you say, and do we truly know of anyone who has been attacked in here?"
"Well, it is a rare Jaffa who ventures far into these woods on his own, so it would not be a common occurrence, regardless. According to the stories, the, ah, walking flesh-eating trees live deeper inside the forest. At least a full day's march," He lowered his voice and threw nervous looks around him as he said that.
"We are a full day's march into the forest. More, even. We have not seen anything out of the ordinary, though I shall readily admit this place is getting creepier by the minute."
"I have heard that the humans walk freely in the forest, but how could they do so, if anything so dangerous lived in here?" Hulok wondered. He had been listening to his two friends talking for some time, and was getting uneasy.
"True," Kha'vok sighed. "Regardless, I do not believe it would be wise to wander off on your own..."
Sam looked out the small window in the kitchen, keeping an eye on the tikvi trees. They were still hanging around near the edge of the clearing, though she thought there were fewer of them today. Had they begun to give up? Perhaps they had decided it was too dangerous, after she had killed one of them yesterday?
Or, perhaps, it was a sign that the Jaffa were near, and the trees had decided it was worth leaving the few people barricaded inside the hut, which sat in the middle of a clearing they could not safely walk across, in order to hunt this larger, and more easily attained, group.
She did not know if it was a good sign or not, if the reason turned out to be the latter one. As long as there were any trees at all, they could not safely leave the area, and it would be dangerous for her to try to get the ingredients for both the repellent and the antidote. On the other hand, they could not wait out the trees, not if the Jaffa were coming closer. She had to go out for the ingredients today, she knew.
"Dinna, these ingredients I need for the repellent and the antidote - can I get all of them here in the clearing? I mean, except for the tikvi-poison, of course?" Sam wondered.
"Most of them, but unfortunately not all of them." Dinna looked apologetic. "For the repellent you need kava moss, redberry leaves, sweet-smell leaves, tova root, and bark from bitterbush trees. In addition to that, you will need raw tikvi poison and vihda-tubers for the antidote. We have made sure as many of the needed plants as possible are here, but neither the kava moss nor the vihda-tubers can be grown in this clearing - the soil treatment which keeps the tikvi trees away, unfortunately also makes the ground unsuitable for them."
"You need wild strawberries also," Willat said.
"Strawberries!" Sam exclaimed. "But...it's not the season for that, how am I going to get strawberries?"
"You do not need them." Dinna threw her husband a sharp look. "Willat likes me to add it to the repellent. It is quite bitter, and the strawberries sweetens it."
"'Quite bitter'," Willat scoffed. "That is an understatement!"
"OK - never mind. Can you show me how these plants look?" Sam said, smiling a little at their scuffle.
"Of course, my dear. I will help you find the ones here in the clearing, then I will describe where you can find the others and how they look." She frowned. "Really, it should be Willat and I going - we already have taken the repellent, so we will be safe..."
"But not from the Jaffa, and they could well be near," Martouf pointed out. "A large group of Jaffa, who have been searching for their 'prey' for several days, possibly amid attacks from the...tikvi trees, are not someone you wish to meet. They will be angry, and may not be so discriminate in who they kill - aside from the fact that they will simply be nervous and may shoot at anything that moves, thinking it is the trees. No, it is not safe for you out there."
"Grandmother - did you tell them about the illusions?" Ellik asked with concern, having just wandered into the room. "No one is ever completely safe from those - and there really are a lot of tikvis out there!"
Dinna sighed. "That is true. However, if you are on your guard, the illusions will not be able to fool you, and I doubt there are many trees in the nearby forest, except for here, so it would only be an issue going out of and in to the clearing. You could easily avoid the temptations there."
"Which illusions are those?" Martouf asked, looking less than pleased. He bowed his head, giving control to Lantash.
"How much more can these trees do?" Lantash complained. "Please, we need to know - all of it!"
"The tikvis can make you see things. They take it from your mind, and show it to you. Things you wish to see - or things you would rather not, depending on what would suit them. The suggestions are not strong unless you touch them - or there are many of them. If you know about it, you can watch out for it. In any case, the repellent will keep the trees away from you, unless they are very intent on going after people. Which they may be right now, I suppose, but the repellent is a strong discouragement for them. Normally, no one using it would be at risk." Willat told them.
"That - and the Jaffa - is why I would rather my grandparents do not leave this clearing until it is safer again," Ellik said.
"No problem," Sam said. "We'll handle it."
"This is why I hate surprises!" Lantash exclaimed.
Sam grinned. "Well, you have something in common with Colonel O'Neill, then. Who would have thought!"
"You do not have to insult me, Samantha." Lantash looked hurt, then he got agitated again. "I just knew there would be more bad news about those damn things!"
"Sorry." She squeezed his arm. Then she gave him a concerned look, realising he was starting to fall under the effects of the poison again. She smiled at him, trying to calm him down. "You know, Lantash - why don't you go lie down for a while, then you can go with me. Guard me, perhaps?"
"I will be happy to guard you, my Samantha." Lantash smiled, then gave control to Martouf.
"I will come too, of course," He said.
"Thanks, Martouf." Sam frowned a little at him, and the absurdity of the situation. "That's, ah, kind of you."
"Oh, and I don't need any rest - I'll help you immediately!"
"Thanks, but you don't have to." Sam smiled at him. "We're just going to find the plants that grow here in the clearing."
He seemed to consider this, then nodded. "All right, but I will follow you when you go to get those further away. You cannot both harvest these ingredients and guard against those murderous trees!"
They quickly finished harvesting the leaves, roots, and bark they could find locally, and returned to the hut with them. Dinna then explained in as much detail as she could, how the kava moss and the vihda plant looked. It turned out that Lantash recognized them from the descriptions, though he knew them under other names.
They decided to wait until later before they attempted to incapacitate one of the tikva trees - there was no reason to antagonize the plants further just before they had to walk past them and then through the forest for some distance.
The sheepherders started a fire just at the edge of the clearing, which made the trees move aside a few feet. Ellik would keep it burning until Sam and Martouf/Lantash returned, keeping a way open for them. They threw ash on the path around the entrance as well, helping to make it unpleasant for the tikvis to stay.
Sam and Martouf/Lantash were each armed with a zat'nik'tel and a knife, and in addition to that, Martouf/Lantash had the hand device as well. They very much hoped this would be a quick expedition; not only would they be in constant danger from the admittedly slow moving trees - but it was only a matter of time before Martouf and Lantash would start to hallucinate, and that might jeopardize the mission.
Sam shuddered, throwing a glance over her shoulder at the tikvi trees who were just beginning to turn, and were perhaps going to come after them.
"The kava moss should grow not far from here, in another, much smaller clearing some half mile in that direction." Sam pointed. "Let's go get that first."
"Sounds reasonable," Martouf agreed, and they hurried on, making sure to keep on guard both for moving trees and for Jaffa.
It had not been a problem finding the kava moss, and they had then walked to the nearby valley to look for vihda plants. This was where the sheepherders kept the sheep, and the place was partially fenced in the places where the sheep would otherwise have been able to escape. Though with the amount of lush grass covering the hillsides, it would probably be a while before the sheep had any wish to try to escape.
Martouf quickly spotted a large vihda plant, and Sam began digging to get to its roots.
"Samantha...please hurry..." Martouf said, concern lacing his voice.
"It will only be a moment...I have reached the roots, so I just need to cut a couple of large pieces free." She continued working, not looking up.
Another couple minutes passed. "Samantha!"
"Yeah, yeah, I got them. Don't fret!" She looked up, only to see two tikva trees coming towards them.
Martouf had fired at the nearest twice with his zat'nik'tel, but it had of course not responded. Spotting a third tree, he decided it would take too long to kill them this way, and instead raised his ribbon device, hoping it would work better.
He focused and fired a strong shock wave against the nearest tikva. The blast slammed into it, and actually threw it some distance before it fell. It stayed down, and Martouf quickly sent off two similar shock waves at the two other trees. By the time all three were lying on the ground, the first had slowly started to move a little, but it was clear that getting up again would be something of a problem for it.
"It worked!" He looked at them, surprised.
"Beautiful!" Sam said, throwing the bag with the roots and moss over her shoulder, grabbing Martouf's hand, and pulling him after her. "Come, let's get out of here before those things figure out how to get up again - or more show up."
"So you think a tikva can be incapacitated for long enough to get some of their poison?" Willat asked, looking with some trepidation at Martouf wearing a hand device. He had only ever seen those on Zipacna or one of his underlings, and they scared the living daylight out of him. He had always thought they were magical and only used by the evil gods.
Martouf nodded. "Yes, I believe I can knock out one of them for long enough to allow Samantha to extract some of the poison - and hopefully also keep the others from coming close enough to harm her. It would also seem that several more have left while we were gone."
"Yes, there are probably no more than half the number left, compared to how many were here yesterday," Sam agreed. "I don't know if I should be happy, or worried. What if it means the Jaffa are getting close, and the trees have left to attack them?"
"If that is the case, I wish the trees good luck." Martouf smiled wryly. "We should probably do this as soon as possible."
"Yes." Sam gave him a concerned look. "Let's get started."
Earlier, they had just made it back in time before he had another bout of hallucinations. She had managed to pull him into the hut, and get him to relax until it passed. It was now late afternoon, and he had been lucid for about an hour. If things followed the usual pattern, he should remain himself for at least another two hours, but she did not want to gamble.
Lantash took over control, as he was better able to use the hand device while expending as little energy as possible. If they were to be able to keep the other tikvas away from Sam, they would probably have to fire a great many shock waves, and it would not do for them to become exhausted before Sam had finished tapping the poison.
"Damn, it's harder to drill through this wood than any I have ever tried before," Sam complained, trying to get through to the tikvis reservoir of poison. "I really wish I had an electric drill and some kind of syringe, instead of this!" She indicated the brace and the small spout she had been given.
"Do you wish me to try?" Lantash took a step towards her.
"No! Stay there - keep those murderous plants away from me. I can't use the ribbon device anywhere near as well as you can."
Lantash nodded and returned to his patient - and very observant - waiting.
After another maybe five minutes, Sam had managed to drill through to the poison, but the tree was by now really trying to get up, and had also recovered enough to begin lifting and extending the stinger, though it could not yet aim it.
"Samantha - get away. I'll give it another blast," Lantash said, holding out his arm, the crystal in the center of the hand device glowing.
"Getting out of the way." Sam quickly jumped aside, and Lantash gave the tree another shot, fairly soft compared to the first. They did not want the tree to roll over and the poison leaking out.
Several of the other trees had gotten up, and were again approaching, together with a few more that had come to their assistance. Lantash had more than enough work keeping them occupied, while Sam hurried back to the tree she had been working on, to hammer in the spout and tap some of the raw poison that slowly seeped out.
The tree soon began to move its tentacles a little again.
"Okay, I've got enough." Sam jumped aside and hurried back to the clearing.
Lantash sent off another shock wave against the nearest trees, and then retreated together with Sam. He looked exhausted, but smiled at her. He gave her a kiss, put an arm around her, and they returned to the hut.
He looked forward to taking a nap, while Sam prepared the antidote. He decided to grab some of the left-over deer meat before sleeping, though. He felt ravenously hungry after using the hand device this much. He looked at Sam, and he and Martouf agreed that some food and a nap would be more than enough for them to recover - they wanted to make certain they had the energy to enjoy being with their lovely mate tonight!
Feeling refreshed, Martouf/Lantash came out into the kitchen, where Dinna was helping Sam make the antidote and the repellent.
"Martouf..." Sam half-turned and smiled at him. "The antidote is almost finished, it should be ready this evening before you go to bed. The repellent needs to sit for another two days before it can be filtered and used, though."
"It will take that long for the antidote to take full effect anyway, so he could not take the repellent earlier even if it was ready," Dinna said.
"The antidote does not work immediately?" Martouf asked, looking disappointed.
"No, not in a human, but to be honest, I do not know how long it will take for it to work on you - or if it will take longer for, ah, you or your symbiote - if you understand what I mean."
"I do." He smiled. "No matter. I am pleased there is an antidote. I would not have enjoyed suffering from this for months!"
"You probably would not have been affected that long. Since you are already getting better, and since the hallucinations are interchanged with lucid periods, I am guessing it would only have taken 1-2 weeks more before you had gotten well on your own," Dinna said.
Martouf nodded. "Lantash agrees with you, though even that amount of time would have been unpleasant - for all of us. Besides, the Jaffa would presumably long since have captured us by then."
"I'm very worried that will happen soon anyway." Sam looked concerned. "We can't leave for another 2 days, and the Jaffa could very well be here by then."
"You should really wait at least half a day after taking the repellent. It takes that long to reach full effect," Dinna pointed out.
Sam sighed. "We'll have to hope those damn tikvi trees really slow the Jaffa down a lot!"
"Where are you going?" Kha'vok wondered.
He and the other Jaffa had made camp for the evening, and they were now sitting around small campfires, cooking dinner.
"I heard something," a Jaffa named Ulliod answered. "I will go and check it out. Perhaps it is the human renegade."
"You should not go anywhere alone," Thoka'll said, but Ulliod had already disappeared among the trees.
"We better go after him and make sure the fool does not get himself killed." Kha'vok got up and looked down at his friends.
Thoka'll nodded, "I agree."
He and Hulok got up and together with Kha'vok, they followed the path Ulliod had taken. The forest around them quickly got thicker and it was completely dark, except for the torch they had brought.
Thoka'll, who was leading their small party, slowed his steps. "Now where did the idiot go?" He looked around, nervously.
"I cannot see anything in this damn darkness!" Hulok swore. "Ulliod!" He called out.
"Ulliod!" Kha'vok repeated, lowering his voice, when he suddenly heard a noise, as if leaves rattling. But there was no wind. "Are you out there?"
"The sound came from over there!" Thoka'll pushed through the branches and stepped away from the path, the others following, all feeling very uneasy.
"It's the prisoner!" Kha'vok suddenly called out. "Look! He is just over there!" He stared at what appeared to be Martouf, standing with his back against a tree, looking relaxed.
Suddenly, the image of Martouf appeared to notice them, and desperately looked around him for somewhere to flee, then darted off in a direction away from the Jaffa.
"Get him!" Hulok yelled, seeing him also.
He and Kha'vok started running after him, while Thoka'll hurried back to report to the others. The prisoner had been seen - and he was not far away! Perhaps they would soon complete this job successfully and return without meeting whatever evil was lurking in this forest!
Meanwhile, no more than 15 feet from where the three Jaffa had been standing, Ulliod had been captured by one of the tikvi trees. It was holding him in a strangle-hold, and injecting him several times with the poison.
Slowly, the tree released its tentacles, not having the strength to hold on for long. The Jaffa sank to the ground, falling over and staying down. He did not make a sound.
Ulliod was alive. The world around him was peaceful. He faintly remembered he had been afraid, but he was not afraid anymore. The sun was shining and the birds were singing. He was lying on his back in a peaceful meadow, and he could not be bothered to try to move. He felt that if he tried, he would panic. Yes, there was danger outside this place, but not in here...
The tree moved a little bit towards him, covering him with its branches and leaves, so he would not be seen. Using its tentacles, it slowly began shuffling dirt over him. Soon, he would suffocate. The tree still enjoyed the feeling of fear and desperation it had sensed from the Jaffa, before he reacted to the poison. It almost wished to leave him alive and wait for the bouts of paranoia, fear, and other emotions to course through the being, but the thought of eating meat again was stronger. The tree began the process of producing the enzymes that it needed to spray over its prey, anticipating the time when it could begin metabolizing the Jaffa...
Hulok stopped in his track, just gaping at what happened before him. Out of nowhere, one of the trees sent out long thin branches and grabbed Kha'vok, pulling him towards it with lightening speed. Kha'vok fought against it, trying to get free, but obviously to no avail.
Before Hulok had time to do anything, another thin tentacle moved towards Kha'vok, then suddenly stabbed him. It only took a few more moments before Kha'vok stopped trying to get loose, and just hung there, looking into nothing with a blank expression on his face.
Shaking himself out of his shock, Hulok activated his staff weapon. "Kha'vok! I will save you!" He aimed and fired at the tree, taking care not to hit his friend.
The tree staggered a little, but did not let go of the Jaffa, nor did the blast leave more than a small scratch, and very superficial burning on its trunk. Hulok was about to fire again, when he suddenly felt tentacles grab him from behind. Another tree had snuck up and now had him in its clutches! He screamed, shortly, before feeling a sharp pain as he, too, was stung.
Thoka'll had roused the other Jaffa, telling them of having seen Martouf. They quickly started their pursuit, enthusiastic at the prospect of capturing the renegade and soon going back to their village.
"Wait - did you hear that?" One of the Jaffa wondered. "It sounded like one of ours."
"He screamed with a fear no Jaffa would ever show. No, it must be the prisoner. Come!" His leader answered.
A group of the Jaffa took off in the direction the scream had come from, and soon came upon the place where Hulok and Kha'vok were captured.
"What is this devilry? A trap set by the prisoner, no doubt!" The Jaffa leader motioned at a couple of his men. "Free them, immediately! The rest of you continue looking for the renegade. He cannot be far away!"
The Jaffa set about working to free their captured comrades, but found it a hard and difficult work. They had only just succeeded, when several other trees around them started moving, and from the screams they heard further away, several more Jaffa had been attacked. They started firing, and soon there was a regular battle raging, with more and more trees appearing, as if out of nowhere.
Chapter 12: Collision Course