Chapter 6 summary: As they get further into the forest, it grows ever darker and more ominous. It is as if something is lurking there.
[ 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 ]
They had walked all night, with only a short break just before sunrise, to get something to eat. Now the sun was climbing in the sky, but down here among the trees it was still twilight and the air had barely started to warm.
Sam shuddered a little as she suddenly heard that noise again - the almost, but not quite, rustling of leaves in the wind. The sound had been absent for many hours, but now it was back.
Of course, the air was just as still as it had been the whole time, but that was not the only reason it unnerved her. It was the way the sound abruptly began and then stopped, as if the trees had moved, just a little. She would be very glad when they were out of this forest.
She sighed and pushed those gloomy thoughts aside. She was probably just imagining it. Sam stole a glance at the man walking beside her. She felt her heart beat faster as she again thought about Lantash's declaration of love for her. He loves her. As much as he loved Jolinar. She again felt a wave of regret for not telling him of her feelings. She had gotten a second chance to tell him. She should take it, but what if he no longer loved her? Or if he could not forgive her for not telling him then?
Sam felt divided. She really wanted to tell him, but was that the right thing to do? She did not want to lose the friendship she did have. She continued thinking about it, arguing back and forth with herself, as they walked on. Martouf seemed content to walk in silence, or perhaps he was talking to Lantash. Sam wondered if they were talking about her, then felt embarrassed at being so self-centered. She looked at Martouf again, then took a deep breath and made a decision.
He looked up. "Yes, Samantha?"
She swallowed. "On Revanna...Lantash...when you were in Elliot and we were stranded in the collapsed tunnels...I was trying to dig us out..."
Martouf bowed his head, giving Lantash control. He looked up. "Yes?" He studied her with a tense expression, obviously aware of where she was going with this, but not prepared to help her. It had hurt that she had been so casual and dismissive when she had learned of his feelings.
"I'm sorry...about how I behaved. I was freaked out by it all...and we were under attack...stranded...you and your host dying. Martouf was dead - or so I thought. I...I wasn't ready to...to accept what I felt. When I learned you love me - I mean, that's what Elliot said, I don't know, he could have misunderstood you, or..."
"He did not. I love you. As does Martouf," Lantash stated, matter of factly.
Sam blushed and just gaped at him for a moment. She had not expected him to say that! "You do? I love you, too!" She blurted out, immediately feeling like kicking herself.
Suddenly, she heard the ominous rustling of the leaves again, very close this time, and there was a movement, lightening fast. Lantash had been standing with his back to a large mass of plants. Sam watched in horror as what looked like a large, slim tree moved closer and two of its long, sinewy branches lashed out and grabbed Lantash, coiling closely around him like large snakes, and pulling him towards the trunk. He fought helplessly against them, but could not free himself. Another branch...or tentacle, came down from the tree's foliage and stung Lantash, making him cry out.
Terrified, Sam activated her zat'nik'tel and aimed it at the tree, but realised she would not be able to shoot it without affecting Lantash and Martouf as well. Would one shot even harm the tree? She could not fire more than once - that might kill Martouf and Lantash. She had a quick flash-back to the day when she had shot them as zatarcs.
She could not risk losing them, not again! Desperate, she ran to the tree, and began pulling at the vines keeping Lantash confined.
"Don't worry, I'll save you!"
Sam could not move the branches at all, and Lantash had a strange, far-away look in his eyes. The vines tightened around him, and Sam pulled out one of the fairly large knives they had stolen from the kitchen. She began sawing into the tentacle, trying to either cut it off or at least make the tree let go.
The bark was thin but very strong, and she could barely make a mark in it. She kept slashing at it, and was getting very frustrated, when all of a sudden the tree released Lantash. He sank to the ground beside her, moaning softly.
"Lantash!" Sam fell to her knees and was about to examine him, when something made her look up. The tentacles had noiselessly moved closer, and they - and the one that had stung Lantash - were hovering just beside Sam, ready to wrap around her before injecting her with whatever it was it used. She threw herself to the ground and pulled out her zat'nik'tel, activating it and firing quickly at the tree. The tendrils all withdrew, and Sam grabbed Lantash, trying to pull him to safety as quickly as possible.
"Sho...ot it...again." He stammered. "It'll...come for us...sentient..." He lost consciousness.
Not waiting to reflect whether or not it made sense the tree was sentient, Sam quickly shot it two more times, vaporizing it.
She looked around her, trying to determine if there were any more of the hostile plants. When she could not detect any, she put away the weapons and kneeled beside Lantash. She quickly checked him out. He had a nasty mark, almost as from fangs on his shoulder, but otherwise seemed unharmed.
Sam sat back, realising her hands were still shaking from the shock. She took a few calming breaths, then got up, intent on finding the safest way out of there. It was very likely there were more of the trees - she had, after all, heard them moving since sometime last night.
Lantash made a sound and moved a little, and she hurried back to him. He tried to sit up and she helped him.
"Are you all right?" She asked.
"I will be in a moment. It injected me with some kind of poison, which partially paralyzed me, but I am neutralizing its effect. We will be well again in a moment." He looked around, then seemed to relax when he did not spot the tree.
"Just take it easy for a few minutes. We're safe, at least for now. I shot the damned thing. Vaporized it."
Lantash nodded. "Good." He was quiet for several minutes, before giving control to Martouf, who looked up at Sam.
"Lantash is continuing to negate the toxin. If you are sure we are safe here, then it would be best if we could remain here for a while."
"I'm sure." Sam said, unconsciously touching her zat'nik'tel.
"Samantha...the plant was sentient - and definitely a hostile entity."
"Sentient? What did it want?"
"To eat us. It communicated with us, telepathically...or more correctly, it was going through our minds, looking for information. From what we understood, it learned the Jaffa was following us, and that pleased it. More food." He took a deep breath. "What we saw was really just...images. Very confusing images. It is very alien to us. Very different."
"I understand. It's amazing it could communicate with you at all. A sentient plant!"
Martouf nodded, tiredly. "I suppose, all though I can't say that I'm pleased about this. The small glimpse into its mind was...unpleasant. Very different from the mind of a human or a symbiote. Terrifying."
Sam gave his arm a sympathetic squeeze. "I understand. I'm not thrilled at the thought of a forest full of man-eating plants, either. Sentient, man-eating plants!"
"I am feeling much better now. Lantash says he has neutralized the paralysis completely." Martouf began to get up. "We should leave."
"I agree. I don't feel like hanging around waiting for the tree's angry friends and relatives to show up!" Sam laughed, a little nervously.
They had walked for maybe half an hour, Martouf reassuring Sam that he and Lantash were both all right, and that the poison was not affecting them anymore.
Now and then they heard the particular rustling of leaves these trees made, but none of them were close. They hurried on, very much on guard.
"Is it me, or are the sounds of those accursed plants coming closer?" Sam wondered.
"It is not you. They are coming closer, and there are more of them as well," Martouf answered, concerned.
"I know how crazy this sounds...but do you think that tree back there could have, you know...communicated to the others about us?"
"Normally I would find the idea ludicrous, but...yes, the same thought has appeared to Lantash and me. We very much fear they can communicate telepathically with each other, as well."
"I guess it makes sense...or as much sense as anything involving moving, telepathic, carnivorous, poisonous plants can make sense!"
"Moving..." Martouf repeated the word. "Do you think they can - ah - move themselves around? I mean, not just move those tentacles, but actually walk?" He stopped and looked around.
"God! I hope not!" Sam sounded horrified. "If that's the case, then we're really screwed!" She stopped walking as well.
"We better be prepared..." Martouf began putting on his hand device also, which was made more difficult by him insisting on holding the zat'nik'tel at the same time.
Sam looked at him, for a moment just staring at his clumsy attempt at putting on the ribbon device. He was not normally this helpless, but perhaps he was still affected by the poison?
She was about to say something - or offer to hold his zat'nik'tel, when they heard noises just behind them.
Turning, they saw several of the trees on the path where they had just been walking a moment ago.
"Well, that answers that! They can walk!" Sam exclaimed, disbelieving.
She quickly raised her zat'nik'tel and fired against the nearest tree. It paused for a moment, then kept walking towards her, slowly but surely.
Martouf had been staring in shock at the scenario, but now also fired at them. He hit one as well, and this time the reaction was even less. The tree barely slowed down at all.
It soon became apparent that even two shots did not harm the plants. Their nervous systems were obviously too different from the vertebrate ones the weapons had been designed to affect. Three shots still disintegrated them, of course, but there were a great many of the trees and it took time to hit them thrice each - time during which the trees kept coming closer, now from all directions.
Sam and Martouf had disintegrated maybe ten of the plants, but there were more than twice as many left and more kept coming. Suddenly - just as she was certain this was the end - the trees stopped. Before their surprised eyes, their enemies melted back into the forest, and except for a faint rustling of leaves, all was quiet.
For a few moments they just stood there, dumb-founded and very relieved, hardly daring to believe they were safe. For now, at least.
"It would seem they decided we were too costly to catch..." Martouf said.
Sam nodded. "Yes...well we better get away before they change their mind. There's no telling how many of those damned things there are in this forest."
"It's no wonder the Jaffa have not followed us in here," Martouf remarked. "They probably knew about the trees."
"Probably..." Sam sighed. "We're not yet half-way through this accursed forest - there's likely to be as many of those trees ahead of us as there are behind us, if not more. We can't go back. If the trees don't get us, the Jaffa will. Continuing on is no better. Sooner or later we'll have to rest. Even if one of us stands guard, that's probably not enough to defend against an attack - and I can't tell the difference between the murderous plants and the normal ones!"
"Neither can Lantash or I." Martouf looked unhappy. "We need to find a more efficient way of killing them."
Out of options, they decided to continue on in the direction they had been going - hoping they would find some way of defending themselves, or at least a safe place to hide.
The trees did not attack again, but they kept hearing a faint rustling. Either they were being followed, or the trees were spread out all over the forest. One thing was clear - the trees could both move around and communicate with each other, and they seemed to have informed all of their kind about the presence of delicious food in their territory.
"Those plants were probably made by Zipacna's scientists and put here," Martouf suddenly said.
Sam pondered this for a moment. It did not really seem likely, but on the other hand, it was possible. "Perhaps." She agreed.
"He must have done it just to complicate our escape, cursed, sneaky Goa'uld that he is!"
She looked at Martouf, surprised. "Eh...I don't think so, Martouf. Or...you don't mean to make life difficult for us particularly, do you? You mean to make it harder for his prisoners in general to escape?"
"No, this is a personal attack against Lantash and me! And you - because of what Jolinar did to him!"
"Martouf - I can't remember it clearly, but I do have a very strong feeling that these trees were here already when Jolinar was undercover with Zipacna. Certainly that there was a danger in these forests, and I can't believe it's a different danger." Sam looked at Martouf with some concern. He was not usually paranoid, and this was leaning towards crazy. "Besides, don't you think it'd have taken Zipacna more than a couple days to engineer these trees - and grow them to full size!"
Martouf bowed his head and gave Lantash control.
"Zipacna anticipated this, of course! It was the reason for the attack on Revanna! To capture us!" Lantash spat angrily.
Sam groaned softly. He was obviously losing it - well, both of them were, clearly. Could it be an aftereffect of the poison? He was obviously not receptive to reason. She decided to try something else. "Lantash...could you check out Martouf and yourself for any further effects of the poison? Who knows what Zipacna might have put into it. Perhaps it's very insidious and still affecting you...in ways you didn't notice before."
"That would be just like him! However, I'm sure I have negated all the harmful effects, or are you implying I am not taking care of my host?" His expression changed from anger, to arrogance, and back to anger.
She took a deep breath. "Of course not, I know you're one of the best of the Tok'ra at filtering out stuff...however, couldn't you check again anyway...more thoroughly? For me? Because...because I'm really worried for you." Sam said, looking at him with an imploring expression.
Lantash smiled widely, obviously pleased she was concerned for him. He stopped and took her hand, stroking it gently. "I will do so. I do not wish you to be worried for me, my Samantha."
She felt like rolling her eyes at his reaction - though it was exactly what she had hoped for.
A few moments passed. "Well?" She asked.
"There is some small, lingering effect on our systems, though I cannot precisely determine what it is. Worse, I cannot seem to counteract it. The remaining poison seems to resist my attempts at filtering it or neutralizing it." Lantash frowned. "It is disquieting. However, I believe it will break down on its own, and in any case it does not seem to be anything I cannot easily compensate for in the meantime, now when I know of it. You do not have to be concerned."
Sam nodded slowly, not truly convinced. "Good...listen, if you are feeling all right, we should probably leave. The sounds from those trees are increasing."
Chapter 7: Hallucinations