Next day SG-1 went to the Stargate, since Hammond would contact them, as agreed on the day before. He did, but there were so many disturbances from electrical particles from the sun, that it was almost impossible to hear what he said. They did get that Stargate Command would make another attempt the next day, and that SG-1 and the Tok'ra were under orders to acquire the healing drug - and that they were to do anything within their power to appease the locals.
The weather was just as nice as it had been the day before, and the lunch was again served in the town square. They ate a light meal consisting of bread, cheese, and fruit, and drank a refreshing drink made from local berries.
When everyone had eaten their fill, Tinnok rose to speak.
"My blessed friends, it is time for the challenges to begin. This year there are eleven local girls ready to become women, in our village. We also have two joining from beyond the Ring. All thirteen will step up one at a time, and then those who wish to attempt the challenges to win that woman will declare themselves. Begin!"
As the first of the young women stepped up on a small platform, Sam quickly went over to Tinnok, followed by Freya/Anise. The rest of SG-1, Martouf/Lantash, and Aldwin/Gerim went with them.
"Tinnok, I hope you're not thinking that Freya and An... and I are joining these little games of yours! Because we're not - we are not going to be the prizes of any challenge!" Sam stated firmly.
"Agreed," Freya said, with finality in her voice.
"But you took the pledge! You have all promised on your life to follow the laws of our celebration! We all heard it! I thought you knew what it entailed!"
"How could we? We've never been here before!" O'Neill exclaimed.
"Why must Samantha and Freya join in this? All the others seem to be no more than eighteen or nineteen," Martouf said, forcing himself to be calm and try diplomacy, despite Lantash yelling obscenities at Tinnok from inside their head.
"That is the normal age of mating in our culture, yes. We have long suffered from a population deficit, caused by the rarity of women among our kind. While it is no longer as bad as it was just after the gods left, we still cannot allow any female to go unjoined. Because you have neglected to marry the women in your company - we were informed of this deplorable situation yesterday, as you will remember - we are law-bound to rectify this as quickly as possible. So you see, you must take part!" He looked imploringly at Sam and Freya.
Martouf took a deep breath and told Lantash to stop distracting him. "They cannot become the mates of any of the men here. They have duties elsewhere, and as soon as the chaapa'ai - the Ring if the Ancestors - is working again, they will have to leave," he said, attempting to reason with Tinnok.
"If that is so, then you are welcome to join in the challenges in order to win them. They would then be able to leave with you, without leaving their mates. There is no other solution, as you are now bound by our law," Tinnok insisted.
"Then we will do that!" O'Neill exclaimed, angrily. "Don't worry, Carter. We can beat these... savages any day!"
"And what about me? Will you not compete for me as well?" Freya looked at him, an unhappy expression on her face.
"Of course they will! Don't worry." Sam looked intently at Daniel and O'Neill.
"Yes, of course we will," Daniel assured her.
O'Neill sighed. "Sure, we'll win you too."
While they had been talking, the local women had all been up on the platform, one at a time, and each of them now had several challengers. It was now Sam's turn to step up.
As she did so, she reflected that she felt a little like those animals she had seen being paraded about for sale at a fair she had attended as a small child.
It did not take long before several local men had joined the challenge to win Sam. She looked unhappily at them. There was a total of six. Three of them were at most eighteen, while the rest were maybe in their early twenties. They all looked at her with obvious lust.
Unfortunately, they all seemed to be in excellent shape, meaning they could easily win against most people she knew, in the majority of physical events, probably. If that was indeed how they determined the winner, which was by no means certain.
Sam sighed. They were not unattractive, but aside from being very young, she knew nothing about them, and there was also the problem of them almost certainly wanting her to stay on this world. She would never agree to that! It would probably be possible to extract her with force, of course, but not without alienating the people of this world completely - and also not without spilling a lot of blood.
She turned to look at Daniel, O'Neill, and Martouf/Lantash, who had all now stepped up to compete for her as well.
"Don't worry, Carter," O'Neill called to her. "As I said before, we'll beat those youngsters easily... well, maybe not easily, but we will win." He gave the very fit looking locals a worried glance.
"Yeah, you can count on us, Sam... I just hope some of the tests are mental instead of physical. I'm afraid I'm not worth much otherwise, especially against those..." Daniel nodded in the direction of the young men from the village. "I'm not sure there is even much point in me competing if it's purely physical tests. Teal'c would be a much better choice."
"Well, he and Aldwin are competing for Anise and Freya. Don't let me down now!" Sam admonished.
"We will not 'let you down', Samantha," Martouf assured her. "I promise you that."
After Sam had agreed - reluctantly - that she accepted all the men as challengers, Freya/Anise took her place on the platform.
She looked unhappily at the local men who immediately flocked there - and sent a sad glance in the direction of O'Neill and Daniel, who both had joined the challenge to win Sam.
*I do not want to belong to any of those...* Freya complained. *Though I shall admit some of them are quite attractive... and with magnificent bodies. None as much as those two over there, though, but they are competing for Samantha.*
*Only because she went up on the platform first,* Anise told her, soothingly. *I also do not wish to belong to any of the local men that are competing for us, but that is not likely to happen either. It is very improbable that a Tok'ra and a Jaffa can lose against a group of humans. At least I hope so.*
*I wish there was a chance for O'Neill to win us...*
*Or those two over there. I think they are brothers...* Freya told her.
*Yes, you mentioned them a moment ago. I have not forgotten...* Anise sounded amused.
*So? Will you insist that you do not find them attractive?*
*Not at all. I do, as you well know.* Anise was quiet for a moment. *I wonder if we can get out of all of this by explaining that we are not one, but two...* she mused.
*Maybe, but that would be dangerous. If they remember who the Goa'uld are, or if they are just superstitious...*
*Very true, and normally I would never suggest it, but I still suggest we try.*
Freya considered it for a moment. *Very well. I agree. You should take control.*
Anise did so, and turned to look at Tinnok. When she had caught his attention, she flashed her eyes briefly. He gasped, and made a small jump. Before he could say anything, Anise started to explain, using the familiar flanged voice of a symbiote.
"Do not be concerned. The glowing eyes and difference in my voice is merely a sign that I, Anise, is currently in control. I am not your enemy any more than Freya is, but we are two beings sharing this body."
Tinnok composed himself surprisingly quickly, and nodded. "I understand. We have legends of beings who speak thus, and have the ability to allow their eyes to flare. It is true that the stories tell us these people were evil, but you have not shown yourself to be so. The stories also tell us that those beings are unable to hide their evilness and thirst for power. You have shown neither. In addition, the beings of legend never spoke with a normal voice, nor did they claim to be two beings, so I believe you are not like them."
"Thank you for trusting me. I assure you, I am not like them... at least not in the ways that matter. My kind share the body, and we are two beings in this body. I hope you understand that - and I assume this also means we cannot take part of this competition."
"I understand and accept that you are two - however, this means nothing in regards to the games... only that you now need at least two men, as each woman must have at least one. Preferably more than one, but one is acceptable."
*Damnation!* Anise felt despair. *We allowed detection for nothing!* She sighed. "Are there no other options? What if a woman does not want any of the men competing for her?"
"Why would she not? Are our men not good enough for you?" Tinnok asked, annoyed.
"That was not what I mean, of course!" Anise hurriedly said. "I just meant... what if she wants someone else?"
"Normally she would then have taken him as her mate before the games, if he was amenable to it. However, there is an ancient rite which may help you. A woman may choose to join the competition herself, against the men vying for her. If she win, she may chose any of the losing men, even those who competed for another woman."
Anise conferred shortly with Freya. "We would like to do that."
"As you wish." Tinnok turned to the men waiting before the platform. "Do any of the competing men wish to withdraw from this challenge for the women Anise and Freya?"
None of the local men stepped back - they all still wanted to compete, no doubt feeling certain they could win, and could convince this alluring, strange woman - who was really two women - that they would be a good mate for them.
Aldwin and Teal'c politely withdrew, to increase Freya/Anise's chance of winning. They would be considered 'losing competitors', but that was not something they cared about. This left seven men vying for Freya/Anise's favour.
The high priest, Sa'lohk, had been observing all of this, and now stepped forward. "Before we end this call-out for competitors, I believe we need to know if any other of our visitors are like Freya and Anise. That is, if any are really two people."
"I am," Aldwin said, "I am host to Gerim, so we are two."
"Anyone else?" Sa'lohk asked.
After a short internal discussion, Martouf dipped his head, giving Lantash control.
He stepped closer to the platform. "I am Lantash, and I am sharing the body with Martouf."
Tinnok reacted only minimally to the distorted voice, and quickly recovered. He nodded again. "Greetings. You are also competing for Samantha Carter?"
"I am, yes."
"Good. That pleases me. It is better for women to have two men than just one."
All the unmarried women had now been assigned competitors, but the actual challenges would not start until the day after. There would be an early dinner, and then everyone would retire for the evening.
The food was just as good and plentiful as it had been the day before - and there was again a special drink for Sam and Freya/Anise. Since it had seemed to be harmless, and only of ritual significance, they drank it without suspicion.
Tomorrow the competitions would begin. They would last for four full days, followed by a huge celebration, and a joining ceremony for the unmarried women and the men who had won them.