Chapter 7 summary: As night falls, Sam realises Martouf and Lantash are still being affected by the poison from the tree. They have bouts of hallucinations and mood swings, and all around them are the sounds from more of the man-eating trees. Sam needs to find a place for herself and Martouf/Lantash to hide - and soon!
[ 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 ]
Several more hours had passed, and the sun was beginning to set. Sam was feeling quite worried at the prospect of spending another night in this forest. She did not know if the trees only attacked during daytime, but she could not really see any reason why that would be the case. That meant they would either have to stay awake and on guard the whole night, or gamble one would be enough to defend against the trees and take turns sleeping.
She did not feel confident either of them could fight back the trees alone, and there was another problem as well. Martouf and Lantash were clearly still affected by the poison from the attack, though they claimed they were okay. The effects of the poison came and went. Periods of lucidity seemed interspersed with times of hallucinations, during which they - Lantash in particular - were paranoid and irritable. He had shot several normal trees, as well as one small deer which he had seemed to think was a Jaffa in disguise.
At least they had more food now, Sam reflected. She had insisted on cutting up the deer and bringing as much as they could carry. She hoped to be able to roast the meat before it went bad. Lantash had agreed, eventually, after long insisting it was a Jaffa and being horrified at her wanting to eat it. He was embarrassed when the hallucinations lifted, he got a good look at it, and had to admit it was indeed a deer.
One good thing came of it; he had to admit he could not control the effects of the poison, though both he and Martouf always had a somewhat foggy memory of the times during which they hallucinated. Lantash did remember he had yelled at Sam, and been angry at her, when he thought the deer was a Jaffa. It caused him some anguish, and he apologized profusely.
Sam sighed. That damn poison was potent! It was still affecting them now, many hours later. Worse, its effects seemed to be increasing, not diminishing. There was nothing to do except continue walking - and hoping the poison would burn itself out. She was not feeling confident it would happen soon enough.
The path was better now, and clearly used more. It was not an animal trail, so someone must be traveling in this forest. Sam idly wondered how they avoided the murderous trees. It was quite dark now, and the light from whatever moons and stars were shining had a hard time penetrating to the bottom of the forest.
They were getting very tired, when suddenly the forest began to thin and they came out into a large clearing. The sky was almost black, but the largest of the moons was shining and cast a silvery sheen over the place. The clearing was maybe 150 feet across, and almost as wide. It was covered with grass and several bushes, as well as a few small trees. In the middle stood a fairly large hut.
Sam felt weak with relief. She pointed at the shadowy building. "Let's see if we can stay there tonight. I'm guessing it'll keep the trees out."
Martouf nodded. "It sounds like a good idea, but...what if the inhabitants are conspiring with the trees? Or are Goa'uld?"
"I very much doubt either is the case." Sam rolled her eyes, then grabbed his arm and pulled him along. "Come."
"My sweet, forceful Samantha..." Martouf giggled. "Beloved...I will follow you anywhere."
She felt extremely grateful for the hut - it was more than obvious the poison was affecting both Martouf and Lantash to the point were they could not even take care of themselves!
They got to the door of the hut. There were no sounds or light, and somehow it felt abandoned. Sam knocked and waited for a moment. Nothing happened. She knocked harder. "Hello? Anyone in there?"
She turned around and looked towards the edge of the forest, in the direction they had arrived from. She was certain she saw movement - and she thought she could hear the trees.
"I don't think any one is home, beloved," Martouf observed. "I love you." He smiled. "Have I told you? Lantash says to tell you he loves you too."
"Yeah, I think I got that earlier." She hammered at the door, frustrated and getting more worried by the moment.
"You do not love us," Martouf sounded sullen. "You wish that tree had eaten us."
Sam turned to him. "Martouf, that's just not true! I saved you, remember? Listen, we really need to find a place to hide, so can we talk later?" When he did not answer, she shook her head and turned towards the door again, grabbing the handle and trying to open the door. It did not budge. "Locked. That figures..." She tried again.
"We're doomed. The accursed trees will get us. Who cares. The woman we love does not love us." Lantash said, morosely. He had apparently taken control while Sam tried to open the door.
She was fast getting very tired of his changing moods and hallucinations. She reminded herself he was not to blame - it was the poison making him behave that way. She felt a stab of guilt and compassion for him. She really wanted to hug him to her and tell him she loved him, but now was not the time, not if they wanted to live. She gave his arm a quick squeeze.
"I'll just walk 'round the house and see if there's any other way to get in. You stay here. Okay? And keep an eye on the treeline - yell if something comes closer."
He nodded, but did not answer. Sam threw him a concerned look, as he leaned against the door and slid down to sit on the reed mat that was lying before the entrance.
"Nothing. Everything is closed up tightly - no way in." Sam pulled out the zat'nik'tel as she turned the corner and walked towards where Martouf had been sitting. It was really dark there, and she could not see him. "I had really hoped to avoid using the zat to vaporize the door, but it seems we've got no choice. We'll just have to see if we can find something to barricade..." She gaped and just stared at the open door. "Martouf?"
"Here." He came out from the small hut. "I found the key under the mat, just a moment ago." He smiled, a little embarrassed. "I am sorry about my behaviour earlier."
"Don't worry about it - it's not your fault." Sam smiled, relieved that he seemed lucid. "Well, let's get inside, then!"
They picked up their bags and went inside, making sure to lock the door securely after them. The trees had not come closer, but that did not mean they would not do so later.
They made a quick overview of the place, checking out the rooms and cupboards. It was a fairly large hut.
"The place seems like it is quite defensible - and there is even a room with a water pump!" Sam exclaimed, happily.
"It makes sense to have it inside - it would not be safe to venture outside for water." Martouf said, opening the cupboards one at a time. They contained pots, pans, plates, and other utensils for use in a kitchen.
"I wonder who lives here? The place looks well kept, and it doesn't seem as if it's been very long since someone was here."
"A couple months, I would say." Martouf ran a finger over the dust on the table. "But I agree. Lantash thinks it may be sheepherders or hunters who use this place periodically."
"Sounds likely." Sam nodded.
They opened the door to a room at the back of the kitchen. It led down narrow stairs into a small room with walls covered by shelves on all sides. The place was full of various kinds of dry food stuffs, as well as ceramic jars with preserved food. From the roof hung some dried meat and a few sausages, and on the floor stood boxes with fruit, and various roots and tubers.
"We should be able to survive here for quite some time. Long enough for the effects of the poison to wear off," Martouf concluded.
"Perhaps by then the owners will have come by, and shown us how to get to the Stargate without becoming lunch to the local flora," Sam added, hopefully.
"Yes." Martouf nodded. "If only Zipacna does not decide we are worth sending his Jaffa into the woods for us, then it looks as if we will be fine."
"Martouf..." Sam gave him a concerned look.
"Don't worry, Samantha, I am not having an...an episode." He looked embarrassed. "It is not paranoia, just the very real risk of a vengeful Goa'uld deciding the lives of his Jaffa are his to throw away."
Sam sighed. "You're right. I do remember from Jolinar that Zipacna has that...quirk. Well, we won't starve, at least - and we have that deer meat also, which we had better roast or cook, or something."
They went back up to the kitchen, and built a fire in the oven. While it got ready for the meat, Sam and Martouf explored the rest of the hut. It had a small bedroom, two other small rooms, and a larger room that functioned as a kind of combined living room and dining room. There was even a washing room and a small composting toilet which was accessible from the inside. The latter had ventilation, which should keep it from smelling badly. Sam had to admit she was impressed with the inventiveness of these people, though the hungry plants waiting outside would probably have been a great motivator to get everything inside.
Each room had a small window, but only two of them were glazed, and they were each put together by several smaller glass panes. The others windows were covered by latticework, pasted over by some kind of thin animal hide, letting in the light despite not being transparent. Shutters covered all the windows, probably as protection against the trees as much as the elements.
Sam yawned mightily. It was getting very late, and they had not slept much the night before.
"You should rest. I will take first watch," Martouf said.
"Ah...no, I'm fine. I just need to sit down for a moment. You rest."
"Samantha, Lantash and I are fine right now. We will wake you if we feel we are beginning to become...confused."
"You won't know what's happening until it's too late, though," Sam pointed out.
Martouf sighed. "Perhaps not," he agreed. "But you can sleep for a few hours, at least. I promise you we will not do anything dangerous, like opening the door...and I doubt very much those trees are able to get in here, however smart they are."
Sam considered this. Martouf - and Lantash in particular - had become prone to paranoia each of the times the effect of the poison overtook them. They would almost certainly not risk letting the plants in. She finally nodded, reluctantly. "Okay. I'll just throw that deer meat in the oven, then I'll take a nap."
"I will take care of the meat. Go to sleep, Samantha. You need it more than I. Lantash increases my stamina and will keep both of us awake and alert until you are rested."
Sam woke up when the sun shone through the window to the bedroom. She had not thought to pull the curtain the evening before, not having expected to sleep for more than a few hours, at most. Suddenly afraid of what might have happened to Martouf, she jumped up and ran to find out.
She got no answer and quickly checked the rooms of the hut. She found Martouf sleeping on the floor in the kitchen, half-sitting against the - still closed - door out. She felt a wave of relief that he was safe.
He had clearly finished cooking the deer meat before he fell asleep, because the oven was no longer hot, which was reassuring. A log-fired oven might well have burned down the house if it was not kept under observation. Sam decided Martouf and Lantash probably needed the rest, and tip-toed out of the kitchen.
She went into the washing room and filled the huge cauldron there with water, then lit a fire under it. She stood there looking at it for a moment, then sighed and left to see if there were any clean clothing somewhere in the house. This was certainly a time when she missed her own bathroom, with all the warm water she could wish for, readily available. A hot shower would be wonderful right now, or - a slow bath in one of the Tok'ra pools. She thought back to one of the few times she had tried them, and remembered the wonderful feeling of sitting in the hot, fragrant water.
Suddenly, she had a memory flash, experiencing Rosha and Jolinar bathing in a pool, just returned after a long mission. They had been relaxing in the water and Martouf and Lantash had joined them in the bath, lovingly washing them, ecstatically happy to have their beloveds home again. Of course, one thing had led to another and the scene soon turned intensely erotic.
Sam blushed as she remembered the passionate mating that had followed. She always felt a little guilty - and often jealous - to have these glimpses into the intimate moments of the lives of Martouf/Lantash and Rosha/Jolinar.
Sam had finished washing, and had dressed in some clothing she had found in a closet. It was a plain, white dress, made of linen. It actually fit her surprisingly well, which was lucky. She reflected that the people who owned this place could as well have been half or twice her size. She had also found men's clothing, which looked as if it would fit Martouf. Sam hoped the owners would not become too angry when they showed up, but perhaps they could come back and pay them?
"You look very beautiful, Samantha."
She turned around to see Martouf standing in the door to the living room, smiling at her. He looked much better than he had last night.
Sam smiled back at him. "Thanks. I found some clean clothes for you, too." She pointed at the pile on the table. "And there's still hot water in the washing room, if you want to freshen up."
"That sounds very nice." He touched his chin, rubbing his hand against the stubble that was almost a beard. "Did you notice if there were any shaving utensils?"
Sam thought about it for a moment. "Yes...actually, I noticed some in a small cupboard in the washing room, so you should be able to shave." She looked at him, shaking her head a little.
"What is it?"
"I've just never seen you with a beard, and I had thought about it earlier. Actually, I've never seen any Tok'ra with a beard."
"There are some who have them, but most do not. They are unpopular among most of the Goa'uld, though there are some who make a statement by being different. To be honest, I do not know why it is so, but it also means it is rare among the Tok'ra, since we would not want to call attention to ourselves, while undercover. Also, Jolinar preferred me without a beard - saying I looked, ah, cuter." He blushed. "In any case, a symbiote can easily control hair growth, and I have never had to shave while being Lantash's host. This is from the period when I was alone." He looked pained as he touched the beard, clearly not enjoying the memory. "It is a reminder I do not want, and I would like to be rid of it as quickly as possible."
"I can well understand." Sam gave him a sympathetic look.
He rubbed the side of his neck. "Samantha, Lantash and I apologize for falling asleep. We did intend to wake you, but..." He looked embarrassed. "We do not remember precisely, but we have a vague recollection of coming to the decision that sitting against the door would keep out the trees. No, we are aware it does not make sense."
"Don't worry about it." She walked up to him and looked at him with concern as he touched his neck again. "Are you in pain?"
"Sleeping in the position we did is not advisable." He gave her a wry smile. "We are a little sore, but it will pass quickly. Lantash is taking care of it."
"Okay, go get washed - and shaved. I will see if I can make us some breakfast."
"This place seems to have almost everything needed for us to survive for more than a month without going outside." Sam observed. "Everything except enough firewood. I believe I saw some in a shed behind the house when I was looking for a way inside, yesterday."
"We should carry as much inside as we can. We could perhaps stack it in one of the two small rooms."
"Yes...I guess we've already screwed around with this place enough that we'll have to compensate the owners in some way, so carrying the firewood inside is not a bad idea."
"The Tok'ra will compensate them for any loss."
"OK, then." Sam looked out the window. "Well, I guess there's no time like the present. At least we'll be able to see any attacking trees during daytime."
They opened the door and carefully peered outside before stepping out. Martouf was wearing the hand device, as well as carrying a zat'nik'tel, and Sam had a zat'nik'tel and a knife. They stayed close to the door for several minutes before moving.
"Well, all seems quiet," Sam said.
Very much on alert, they walked around the house to the shed Sam had spotted the evening before. It was indeed full of dry firewood, and they began carrying armfuls of it inside, taking turns to be the one carrying and the one guarding.
Almost an hour passed by, and they had gotten enough inside to last them for several weeks, unless it suddenly became extremely cold, and the season did not seem to indicate that could happen anytime soon.
"Samantha..." Martouf pointed to the edge of the forest. "I saw something moving over there."
They stood still for a few moments, then Sam noticed it as well. There was definitely movement there. "It's those damn trees!" Sam groaned.
"Why are they not coming closer?" He looked around in the other directions, frowning. "They are everywhere around us, though..."
"Yes, we're surrounded, but you're right - they're staying where they are. I wonder why?"
"Perhaps they are waiting for something? Sundown, perhaps - or even more of their kind."
"That may be, though I don't see why they would want more to come. Surely they know it's only you and me in here, not...oh, what do I know...a big feast?" Sam sighed. "No, there must be some other reason. Could they be afraid because they know we'll kill a lot of them if they try?"
"That's a possibility," Martouf agreed.
"Wait..." Sam stared at the ground. It looked different from that in the rest of the forest. "What if it's the soil? Maybe there's something in it they don't like?" She kneeled and picked up a handful, letting it sift through her fingers. "There's ash in it, I think."
"Ash? That would make the soil alkaline. Perhaps the trees dislike this?" Martouf suggested.
"It would make sense - why else spread it over this area?" Sam looked somewhat enthusiastic, hopeful even. "Perhaps we're safe from the trees as long as we stay here!"
They returned to the hut, intending to keep an eye on the trees, in order to be able to tell if they really did not want to - or could not - walk on the soil around the building.
Chapter 8: Uncontrollable Emotions