They had all been given local clothing, which they were expected to wear for a dinner that would be held later, to mark the beginning of the annual celebrations of the fire and lights.
It was early evening, and they had just left for the village square. Sam and Martouf/Lantash were walking last in the group, and Lantash turned to speak to her.
"You look beautiful, Samantha." He smiled and looked at her with a somewhat naughty glint in his eyes, clearly enjoying how she was dressed.
Sam was wearing a long blue dress. It was tight-fitting at the top, following her curves nicely, and then widening out from her hips and down. A simple pattern was woven at the hem and along the neckline, using a thin, golden thread. She wore a dark blue sash tied around her waist, emphasizing it, and on her feet she had sandals made of thin, intricately braided leather bands.
"Thank you." She smiled at him. "It's very different from my usual dress-style, but it's actually soft and comfortable."
"Yes, it's very nice, Sam." Daniel looked back at her, having heard them speak. He then looked at Freya/Anise, who were wearing a similar dress, but in red instead of blue. "I think I like the fashion of this world." He gave Freya/Anise an appreciative smile.
"Well, to stay on the subject... I guess their male clothing isn't too bad either. Different, sure, but it actually looks good on all of you," Sam said, grinning and giving each of the men an appreciative look.
The men all wore a simple white shirt with a brown or black vest, and matching pants. Over that they had a cape, long enough to reach a bit under their knees. It was obvious that whomever had picked the colours had made sure it matched each man perfectly. On their feet they had short, soft boots.
They might look a little strange wearing the capes, but Sam found she liked it. She again smiled at Martouf and Lantash, who smiled back, warmly.
"I think we look ridiculous, but Daniel claimed we had to 'go native' - as usual," O'Neill grumbled.
Lantash gave control to Martouf, since they had now walked the short distance from their huts to the village, and it was probably safest not to let the locals know about the Tok'ra.
They soon arrived at the main square, where they were welcomed by the village leader, and shown to their seats. They all sat down and looked around. Everywhere there were flowers and green leaves decorating buildings and tables. Everybody wore their best clothing and most of the women, except for the youngest, all wore necklaces.
Everyone - men, women, and children - looked happy and smiling. It was obvious they were very much looking forward to the celebrations.
"Have you noticed? We seem to be dressed correctly for the occasion," Daniel pointed out to O'Neill, smirking a little.
"Yeah, well, that just means there are more people looking ridiculous..." O'Neill said, though he sounded a little happier now when he was convinced the locals had not just dressed them like this for the fun of it.
"Quiet! Their leader - Tinnok - is going to say something," Daniel told them all.
By now everyone seemed to have found their seats, and they looked to Tinnok who was the only one standing. He took a moment to look proudly at his people, before he started talking.
"Welcome, everyone, - and especially our guests from beyond the Ring! This year, 'the time of the fire and light' proves to be especially auspicious. The lights were already visible yesterday and the day before, and today, on the first day of the celebration, they are very strong." He pointed to the rapidly darkening sky where the coloured ribbons were even more intense than the evening before.
A man seated beside him rose. Judging from his clothes, he was possibly a priest. "It is true. While the lights did only today become strong enough for our world to enter seclusion, the lights have been very clear for two days already. This is a sign from the gods, and these visitors is further proof. This Time will yield great results."
Tinnok smiled, very pleased. "Thank you, high priest Sa'lohk. It is be a blessing. This is truly a time of blessing, and we - like all the other villages of this world - shall celebrate it like we have done since ages past." He took the cup standing in front of him and lifted it. "Now, please drink with me!"
Everyone at the tables took their cups as well, and drank from it.
"We should follow their lead, Jack," Daniel pointed out. "We don't want to insult our hosts - particularly if we hope to get that drug."
"Daniel Jackson is correct. They might be angry if we do not, and that would be most unfortunate. Particularly as it would seem we are forced to stay here for seven days. Remember, they took away our weapons, stating it was an insult to the gods to have them during the celebration," Teal'c said.
O'Neill sighed. "I suppose you're right." He picked up his cup as well, as did the other members of SG-1, and the Tok'ra.
Tinnok smiled to them as they drank deeply of the liquid. It tasted fruity and sweet, but not too sweet. It seemed to be lightly alcoholic.
Tinnok put down his cup and now continued speaking. "As we have now pledged on our lives to uphold the ancestral laws of the celebration and of its challenges and rewards in the coming days, it is time to enjoy the rich gifts of our world. Everyone, please - eat and drink!" He clapped a few times, and people started carrying large trays filled with food and drink to the table.
"Laws? What laws might that be? Daniel?" O'Neill looked decidedly less than happy.
"Uhh... I don't know, Jack. Probably just... we should follow local customs. It's likely just something they say - something ritualistic, left over from long ago, most likely. It's pretty common in many cultures, actually."
"I hope so! For all our sakes!" O'Neill exclaimed.
"Yeah, that stuff about 'challenges' got me a bit worried as well," Sam agreed.
"Don't forget he mentioned rewards, too," Daniel said, trying to placate them. "Besides, I talked quite a bit with some of the people here earlier. As far as I can tell, their culture have many hedonistic sides to it. Usually such cultures are quite relaxed and friendly. I'm sure we have nothing to worry about."
"Hm. 'Relaxed and friendly'." O'Neill looked at Daniel. "What? You look like you're wondering about something. I can see the little wheels turning in your head."
"Oh. Well, I just noticed something... I mean, I noticed it before, but it didn't register until now..."
"What?! Out with it!" O'Neill exclaimed.
"Don't you think it's strange there are so few women around? I mean, it looks like there's one woman for every three or four men," Daniel said.
"You're right." Sam frowned. "I wonder why?"
"Maybe only some of the women participate in the celebration? Could be only the married ones take part, or something, couldn't it? We've seen all kinds of societies," O'Neill pointed out.
Daniel nodded slowly. "Very true, but it's the same for the children. Look - there are quite few girls. Besides, I'm pretty sure those necklaces symbolize that the women are married."
"It is the changes Trivia made to their code of life," Freya said.
"But that was ages ago! And it was just an experiment. You don't think there's still fewer women in their society because of that?" O'Neill exclaimed.
Sam nodded. "Actually, that might explain it."
"Yes... and it looks like most of the women have several husbands," Daniel observed.
"Sensible, if there is a large surplus of men. This would help them avoid the men fighting for the available women," Freya said. "It seems to work well. Fascinating. While it is not uncommon among the Tok'ra to have several mates, it is something which rarely seems to work among humans."
"It's.. certainly interesting..." Daniel agreed.
"Well, there's no point in speculating about it now. Hopefully, we'll learn more tomorrow," O'Neill said. "Let's eat."
They agreed to hold off on any questions, and settled down to eat the delicious food.
They had not been eating for long, before a woman approached their table and placed a glass with some sort of liquid in front of both Sam and Freya/Anise.
"Here are your beatus potum, my ladies." She made a small bow and gave them a friendly smile.
"What is that? Why are we the only one's given it?" Sam asked, suspiciously.
"Directly translated it just means 'blessed drink'. I'm sure it's harmless," Daniel said.
"Of course it is harmless!" The woman looked horrified. "Women are a blessing - why would we harm a female?"
"So it's just a drink given to the women for this celebration?" Sam asked.
The woman nodded. "Yes, it is only for women. A blessing we receive."
Sam shrugged. "Okay, I guess." She looked at Freya/Anise.
"I agree," Freya said. "We will drink it."
Sam and Freya/Anise drank, emptying the glasses.
"It actually tastes good," Sam told the others.
"You will receive a glass each day for the celebrations. It is traditional." The woman bowed, and left.
"Weird - also, I think I'm a bit jealous," O'Neill said, grinning.
Sam rolled her eyes at him. "Right."
There were many dishes, and the dinner continued for several hours.
When it was finally over, they slowly walked back to their huts. Nothing unpleasant had happened during the dinner, even if some types of food had been a little strange.
They had been told to show up again at the town square the next morning, shortly before noon. At that time there would be a light lunch for everyone, but until then, they were required to fast.
After the lunch that day's challenges would begin - whatever that meant.