Chapter 1: Put us down!
Woodland, late summer
"You dare lay hands on our royal person?"
The 107 pounds of dead weight Daniel had been lugging over his shoulder for the past nine klicks suddenly became very much alive as Princess Ro'Pita regained consciousness. The repeated sharp blows of tiny fists of fury over his left kidney accompanied her cry of indignation. He anticipated bruises forming, echoing the ones that the butt of an enemy weapon had painted across his ribcage during their capture.
"My humble apologies, Highness," Daniel offered through gritted teeth. "It's kinda hard to carry you without actually touching you."
For the first time since he'd met her three weeks earlier, Daniel was starting to see why Jack claimed the Princess' name suited her so admirably.
"She's a Royal Pain in the Ass, that's what she is!" Jack had declared on several occasions, though never within her hearing of course.
Right now, she was causing a pain slightly higher up, as she continued to pummel Daniel's kidney and berate him loudly. She would probably have been kicking him too if his hold on the back of her knees hadn't prevented it.
"This is most undignified and we are most uncomfortable. Put us down, at once!"
I'd love to, Daniel thought, wincing at yet another well placed blow. If only I could.
Daniel had discovered that the pluralis majestatis was a common convention in many cultures throughout the galaxy though - curiously enough – he hadn't yet managed to trace it back to the Goa'uld. Whilst the seventeen-year-old Princess was certainly not overly heavy for her five foot two inch frame, after well over an hour of trudging through the uneven ground of the woodland it was starting to feel like he really was carrying two people. It didn't help that she was in her 'traveling clothes'; a full length, long-sleeved, high-waisted purple velvet dress over at least half a dozen petticoats, topped off with a heavyweight double breasted coat of the same rich hue in something that resembled camel hair. Her feet were encased in jet-black knee-high boots adorned with tiny buttons and fine laces, and three-inch heels. It was winter where they'd come from and she wouldn't leave the palace in anything less than her warmest apparel. Here on what Daniel assumed was their captors' home world, the climate was considerably more balmy and he was feeling very warm in his OD green uniform. The princess must be roasting.
"Forgive my presumption, Highness, but I believe your ankle to be broken. It would be discourteous of me to let you put your weight on it." Daniel had learned how the Princess liked people to speak to her - when she tolerated it at all - it had become second nature to him. She had something the SGC wanted, so Jack had ordered him to 'play nice' with her. Daniel had finally won her round with what Jack teased him was 'his natural charm' but which he personally attributed to simple patience and a willingness to appease her whims. This morning, Ro'Pita had agreed to go back to Cheyenne Mountain with them to share her gift.
Yeah, see how well that worked out!
"Besides," Daniel added ruefully, "our captors have ordered me to carry you, Highness - and they're the ones with the weapons."
"You mean you have not rescued us?" Ro'Pita thumped him again for good measure.
"Not yet I fear, Highness," Daniel admitted.
"Less talk, more walking!" ordered the tall, dark and ugly guy on the magnificent black stallion.
Daniel assumed him to be the leader by virtue of the fact that everyone else was on foot.
Ratface, as Daniel had mentally christened the unknown assailant, tugged sharply on the rope that was attached to the pommel of his ornate leather saddle. It nearly pulled Daniel to his knees, since the other end formed a noose around his neck. He stumbled and barely managed to stay upright, coughing as the slack rope chafed, choking him.
The shift in position caused the princess to squeal loudly. "Careful, Idiot! You nearly dropped us!"
"Shut that Pa'tuch up!" snarled the marauder whom Daniel believed to be second in command. He resembled tall-dark-and-ugly so closely that he was almost certainly a younger brother. He'd been ordered to bring up the rear of their party, to make sure that Daniel and the princess didn't try to escape.
As if there was any possibility of that!
Daniel was reminded of the futility of any such thoughts as he was prodded in the back by an energy weapon to get him marching faster again. It wasn't anything like a zat gun to look at, but it packed just as powerful a punch, judging by the effect it had on the King and his bodyguards back on Salverit, Ro'Pita's home planet.
Five other goons - similarly armed - flanked them closely on all sides. They appeared in every sense of the word a tight-knit military unit. Making a run for it was not on the cards.
"How dare you refer to us so rudely?"
Daniel could tell by the slight arching of her back that Ro'Pita had lifted her head - no doubt to glare at the guard. Having witnessed her displeasure several times – usually aimed at Jack - Daniel would attest that if looks could indeed kill, the guard would have dropped dead on the spot. Of course, were that the case, their escape would have been reasonably easy to engineer. Daniel sighed.
Daniel recognized the word Pa'tuch as one that was often used of the princess in her absence. These people obviously shared a common language with the Salveritans. The nearest translation he could attribute to it was 'annoying brat' which, though at times apt, had hitherto seemed somewhat harsh to Daniel.
Her outburst earned Daniel another jab in the back from Ugly Junior's weapon and a hissed command in his ear. "Stop her looking at me like that!"
Daniel responded by making a request to alter the way he was carrying her.
The guard looked at them both and considered a moment, then nodded. "Don't try anything," he warned.
"With your permission, Highness, might I move you to a more comfortable position?"
Ro'Pita paused to contemplate. "Proceed," she decided.
With the rope around his neck, it would not be an easy maneuver.
"I'll need to stop a minute," Daniel stated reasonably.
"We stop on my command," growled Ratface, turning in his saddle, the thick hide of his dark brown breeches creaking against the seat. "Keep moving."
"A little help here, then, maybe?" Daniel asked nervously.
"So that you can take our weapons? Not likely, we're not stupid," came the response from the heavy-set hijacker on Daniel's left, who was nursing a grazed upper arm where one of Sam's bullets had creased him during their initial attack.
Sadly, Daniel had to agree with that assessment. The kidnapping had obviously been planned with precision and was almost flawless in its execution. They had clearly underestimated SG-1's firepower - as evidenced by the colleagues they'd left for dead – but, other than that, so far things had gone pretty much their way.
Surprisingly, it was Ratface Junior who came to Daniel's aid and facilitated the operation. "Best slow down for a minute at least, Valton," he addressed his brother with the confidence of one accustomed to having his views considered. "If he drops her now and she breaks her neck, she'll be useless to us."
Daniel noticed that nobody seemed to care if he fell and broke his neck.
"I suppose you have a point, Folcan. Very well, but we have a deadline to meet. Any time lost now must be made up." Valton was clearly not happy about having his leadership decisions challenged so openly, but he couldn't fault his sibling's logic.
They all paused and - with a little ingenuity - Daniel managed to get the princess lying across his chest, her arms around his neck, knees crooked over his right arm. At least now his kidneys were out of the firing line.
Daniel was glad not to have the added weight of his backpack to carry, or to be encumbered by the extra bulk. On the other hand, he really wished that his supplies and weapons hadn't been confiscated - along with his watch, which had fascinated Valton. Their captors seemed to be a curious mix of advanced technology and late medieval appearance, as if two cultures had collided. In fact, given their arboreal surroundings and the uniform of dull green or brown leather jerkins, trousers and sturdy boots they all wore, Daniel couldn't help but mentally equate them with Robin Hood and his not-so merry men. These were a dour bunch.
Valton now wore Daniel's watch and his zat gun was nestled in the saddlebag alongside his sidearm. The rest had been left behind in the clearing by the Stargate where the firefight had separated him from the rest of the team. Last he'd seen of Jack, Sam and Teal'c, they'd been trapped inside some sort of force field that held them prisoner and prevented them from helping him and the unconscious princess.
They still had all their gear, though. So, when Jack yelled, "Hang in there, Daniel. Soon as we get outta here, we'll come get you!" Daniel had been reassured that Sam would shut down the force field in no time flat and they would all soon be safely on their way home.
Thus far however, whenever he'd managed to steal a glance over his shoulder, there had been no sign of his friends or of rescue. All he could do for now was to stumble his way forward, leaving deep footprints and broken foliage as best he could for Teal'c to track him by. Always one to look for a silver lining, Daniel kept telling himself that the added weight of the princess would make his tracks distinctive and easy to spot. He tried to remain alert so that when his friends caught up and sprung an ambush; he was ready to do his part. This would most likely entail keeping the willful princess out of the crossfire.