Guide to pronouncing the names:
Shahnam Saqi: Sha-nam Sa-kee
If Jack had known what a three-week long mission with a team of archaeologists and a team of scientists would be like, he might have opted to stay back at the SGC. As it was he and Teal'c got a lot of one-on-one time, which consisted of silence, interrupted every thirty minutes by a rhetorical question with a three-word answer. Sam and her team spread out, checking in every few hours by radio. Daniel and his team congregated around the ruins of the temple. They taped off the large hole in the ground, pulled out their ropes and harnesses and tools, and began to study not only the ruins, but the burial chamber as well. Daniel had to leave most of the work to his team because of his hands– he couldn't hold a tool; but he didn't entirely mind, as it meant he could spend his time translating the writing on the temple wall.
After their third day there, while they sat around their respective campfires and ate supper, Jack glanced around at the groups of people talking and laughing and had to smile. Taking his dinner with him, Jack sought out Daniel's fire– where he sat with Teal'c– and sat down across from him.
"So," he said. "Figured out who's down there?" he pointed his thumb over his shoulder at the hole.
Daniel nodded, swallowing a mouthful of food. "Royalty." He said, putting down his plate. "This is where they buried the royal families. I think this is only one of many chambers, though. There's only about a dozen coffins down there, and if what's written on that temple wall is any indication, there should be more."
"Kings and queens?"
"And a couple princes and princesses, I think."
Teal'c, who had been listening quietly, now turned. "Do their writings on the wall indicate how they came here?"
Daniel's eyes squinted, as they usually did when he was thinking hard. "If I interpreted correctly, their ancestors were taken from their homes by an evil being– it doesn't say who, just that his eyes glowed– and that some of them banded together and managed to escape to this place, which they made their home."
Teal'c nodded, then turned and gazed thoughtfully into the fire.
"Figured out what that backwards stone in the wall is?" Jack asked, taking another bite of food.
For the next week the team studied the people in the coffins. Daniel went back and forth, sometimes helping in the burial chamber, other times staying up top translating the wall. On their tenth day on the planet, while Jack took a cozy nap in a patch of sun, there was suddenly a barrage of shouts amongst Daniel's team. Sitting up Jack pushed his baseball cap up from his face and got to his feet, his senses on high alert. What he saw were several very excited archaeologists around the hole, pulling an even more excited archaeologist from the hole, who then proceeded to run to Daniel– who was examining the rock that had been put in backwards. Jack couldn't tell what was said, but he had never seen Daniel jump up and run so fast. Strapping on a rope and harness Daniel disappeared into the hole, followed by the archaeologist. The rest of the team leaned over, bumping into each other as they tried to see what was going on.
Teal'c appeared at Jack's side. "What has happened?" he asked.
"Don't know." Jack said, head tipped to one side. "Let's check it out."
The archaeology team glanced up as they approached, and made room for them. On his hands and knees Jack peered into the hole and the chamber beneath, which was lit by several lanterns. "Daniel?"
"Jack!" Daniel's voice echoed up, sounding muffled. "You are not going to believe this!"
"What is it?"
Daniel suddenly appeared, seeming to come out of the wall directly under them. His upturned face was smudged with red dirt, his eyes wide with excitement. "There's another chamber! Another burial chamber with just one coffin in it, but it's different than this room; the walls are covered from floor to ceiling in writing and pictures, and the coffin– I think there's two people in it! Not one!"
Jack glanced at the light falling out of the wall Daniel had just come out of. Someone must have turned on a lantern in the small chamber. "Cool." He said, not entirely understanding the significance but appreciating that it obviously meant a lot to Daniel.
The next day Daniel and his team spent their time in the small chamber. Jack and Teal'c stayed up top, sharing stories about bringing up young boys. Jack was pleased to find that while Teal'c seemed reserved and unaffected by most things, being a parent was not one of them. Apparently Jaffa children could be just as wonderful– and just as nerve-wracking– as kids on Earth.
That night Daniel came to them, unusually quiet, and crouched by their fire.
"Hey Daniel." Jack greeted him. "What's up?"
Daniel looked up at them, his face solemn. The firelight flickered in his eyes. "I want to show you guys something."
Daniel took them down into the burial chamber. There was no light, save for the orange glow of several lanterns that spilled out of a small doorway. Jack and Teal'c followed Daniel in, and then stared in amazement. The walls were covered in a strange, flowing script, interrupted ever foot or so by pictures painted in bright colors, illustrating whatever story the writing told. In the center of the room was a large coffin, seven feet long and four feet wide. It was made of dark wood with carved lettering and inlaid gold, and it was open, with the inside lined with white stone. The lid lay on the floor beside it, and was also white stone. It too had carved lettering, only this lettering was inlaid with gold, and it also had painted pictures on it, all of the same two people– a man and a woman. In the center was a large picture, of a man in red robes, and his eyes were made of amber. Beside him was a beautiful woman, also dressed in red with amber eyes. It looked like a portrait.
Daniel stood at the end of the coffin, his gloved hands resting on the sides. "It's amazing, isn't it?" he said. Then he tipped his chin at the inside of the coffin.
Jack and Teal'c moved closer, until they were standing beside it. Inside were two mummies, but they were the most amazing mummies Jack had ever seen. They were hardly dried out or shrunken at all, almost perfectly preserved. A man and a woman, in their late forties, dressed in scarlet robes and wearing a lot of gold and jewels. They lay on their sides, facing each other, their hands clasped together.
"Daryas and Shaii." Daniel said quietly, his eyes moving across them. "Their names were carved on the coffin lid. This whole room is about them. All this writing on the walls, all the pictures– is about them. And this, how they are laid together in the same coffin in such an intimate position, holding hands– it's so unusual. You never, ever see this."
Jack took off his cap, and stared at the couple. He didn't have to be an archaeologist to be amazed by the sight before him. "Wow."
"Who are they?" Teal'c asked, his voice low and full of respect.
"All I know is they were a king and queen," Daniel answered. "And that they obviously loved each other very much."
Over the next four days Daniel spent all of his time in the small chamber, taking photos and video recordings, copying the writing and pictures in his journals, and translating as much as he could. At the end of the week Sam returned with her team, laden with samples of every kind.
"You're done already?" Jack asked with surprise.
"No, sir." Sam said. "We've taken all the samples we can, but there's still some tests to run. How're things here?"
Her eyes grew large as Jack related all that Daniel had found. As soon as Daniel found out she was back he took her down to the chamber, with Jack and Teal'c tagging along, and showed her everything. As she gazed at the couple in the coffin her expression grew soft, and she stayed there for a long time, just gazing at them.
That night Daniel, Jack, Sam, and Teal'c all congregated around the same fire. Sam recounted what she and her team had found, the different minerals and plants that could be helpful to Earth, the confirmation she had found about the planet being a source of naquada. Then the conversation turned to the couple in the burial chamber.
"So, why weren't they buried with the rest?" Sam asked.
"I don't know yet." Daniel said, pulling out his journal, "But I have translated at least the beginning of their story. Daryas, it seems, was the son of the–" he checked his notes. "'First king of the Fourth Reign of Aihura.' Aihura– that's the name of this place. He became king– I think when he was twenty. Now, Shaii was a young woman– the daughter of one of the historians, so she knew how to read and was educated. They were childhood playmates, but as they grew up they drifted apart for a little while. When they saw each other again he had become a man, and king, and she had become a beautiful young woman. In fact, the text describes her as 'the most beautiful of all women, like a jewel among stones.' They wrote letters to each other, and would meet and take walks together. Long and short of it, they fell in love."
"That's beautiful." Sam said, sitting cross-legged, with her arms on her knees.
Daniel raised his finger. "Ah, but there was a problem. There was a certain advisor– Huachtenoch– who wanted his own daughter to marry Daryas, and so become queen. So he started following them everywhere, trying to find something to use against them. And he started speaking of the importance in finding a wife of stature, someone who knew the ways of the nobility and who would fit right in with life at the royal house. People began to get stirred up, one way or another. A year went by, and Daryas still refused to choose a wife, so Huachtenoch started to follow Shaii and make threats, hoping to scare her away."
Teal'c head tipped slightly, a frown on his face. Jack stabbed at the fire with a stick.
"That's horrible!" Sam said.
"Listen to this," Daniel said, opening his journal and flipping through the pages. When he found the one he wanted, he started to read out loud. " 'Tho Huachtenoch continued in his threats, Shaii's fear did not overcome her, and they remained faithful to one another. So Huachtenoch went to her himself, and as she walked along a remote path to her home he found her, and hit her, and tore her cloak, and place his hands upon her neck, intending to kill her. Then Daryas appeared on his horse, with ten riders coming behind, for he had been hunting. And he was filled with rage, and struck Huachtenoch so that he fell. And Huachtenoch was bound and taken into the city. Daryas carried Shaii to his own house, and had his healers and servant women tend to her until she was well. But Huachtenoch's evil nature had been revealed to all, and for his treason he was hanged.' "
"Good." Jack declared. "Serves him right."
"It was a fitting punishment." Teal'c agreed.
Sam leaned over, looking at Daniel's notes. "Anything else?" she asked.
"Yeah, uh–" Daniel squinted, scanning and flipping pages. "With Huachtenoch out of the way Daryas asked Shaii to marry him– aha! Here it is. This is their wedding day: 'And the veil was taken from the face of Shaii, and her outer robe removed, so that her beauty was revealed to all. And she was dressed in crimson cloth woven with gold, and gold and jewels were upon her hands and feet and hung from her neck, and her hair was also set with gold and precious jewels, and her eyes were painted black, and her mouth with red paint. All who saw her were amazed. Daryas, the second king of the Fourth Reign, was so moved that he wept, and clasped her hands in his. And he proclaimed, before all, "You overwhelm me like wine, Shaii. Even your name is like perfume poured out, like honey on my tongue. For these years I feared losing you, as a man who has found a priceless treasure. You are the crowing jewel, and if all else were taken from me, still I would be a man most blessed." And so saying he kissed her. Then they went up the hill to the temple, and were wed.' It goes on to describe their reign together, how under their wisdom and guidance the people flourished, and how their love became legendary. They had– three children. Ashad, their eldest son, Shahnam Saqi, their daughter, and Reias, the youngest son." With a nod he closed his journal and set it in his lap, then looked up.
Jack waited a beat. "That's it?" he finally said.
"No, I haven't translated the rest."
"Well get with it!"
Daniel eyed him with amusement. "I thought you didn't like this kind of stuff, Jack."
Jack raised a finger. "Rocks. I don't like rocks. A good love story is something else."
"I did not realize you were sentimental, O'Neil." Teal'c said.
Sam and Daniel hid twin smiles as Jack turned a glare onto the Jaffa.
"How're your hands holding up?" Sam asked Daniel as Jack went into a long explanation as to why he was not sentimental.
"Okay." Daniel held one hand up, flexing the fingers. "I think they'll be entirely healed by the time we go back to the SGC."
The next five days went by in a blur as each team tried to finish, gathering as much information as possible before they had to leave. The night before their departure Sam, Teal'c, and Jack sat around the fire talking quietly. The air was cool with a soft breeze, the fire throwing sparks into the air like mini fireflies. The sun sank below the horizon, and the sky deepened to a blue so dark it was almost black as the stars came out one by one, sparkling, looking like someone had taken a handful of diamonds and thrown them into the sky.
"Hey," Sam said during a lull in the conversation. "Where's Daniel?"
The teammates looked around, scanning the other fires and groups of people. "Aw, heck." Jack said. "He's probably still in that chamber."
Sam thought for a moment. "Let's take him some food." She suggested.
Carefully lowering themselves down the hole, they crept to the doorway of the smaller burial chamber. The lid to the coffin had been replaced, to protect Daryas and Shaii from the elements. Daniel was standing in front of the final wall, arms crossed, staring at the flowing script. His journals and pen lay forgotten on the floor by his feet. Jack paused next to him.
Blue eyes glanced at him, then back at the wall. "Hi guys."
"Sam brought you some supper." Jack noted the almost sad expression on his friend's face, and followed his gaze to a painting of what appeared to be a funeral procession.
"I know what happened." Daniel whispered. "I know why they left."
"They left?" Sam came up behind him, arms wrapped around the thermos of hot soup she'd brought, hugging to herself. Teal'c stood beside her, waiting.
"Yeah." Daniel pointed at a section of writing to his left. "There was a drought, or a famine, as they called it. They waited it out the first year, hoping that rain would come. But it didn't." He cleared his throat, and began to read.
"'In the seventh month of the second year of famine, I, Ashad, first son and heir, record the death of our Father and Mother, Daryas, second king of the Fourth Reign, and Shaii, second queen of the Fourth Reign. Four days ago they were lost in a storm of lightning, thunder, and violent winds, but no rain. When the skies cleared and the sun shown, and still they had not returned from their evening ride, I, Ashad, and Reias, my brother and second son to our Father and Mother, went forth with three dozen of the best men into the mountains. When the sun had reached its peak the following day we found them, lying together with clasped hands, upon a ledge below the cliff of Denyun. Of their horses we found no trace. We lowered a rope and I and Reias went down, and found them dead. We bore their bodies back to Aihura, and there was great crying and gnashing of teeth. Our sister, Shahnam Saqi, wailed and rent her clothes, and covered her head with ashes. We wept together, yet we take comfort in the knowledge that they were together when they passed.
It is now forty days and nights since the death of our Father and Mother, Daryas, second king of the Fourth Reign, and Shaii, second queen of the Fourth Reign. Our healers have prepared them for burial, preserving the bodies and dressing them in their wedding garments, setting them with gold and jewels. A single coffin has been made by our finest masons and carpenters, crafted from the hardest wood and stone, for they are to be laid together, as is fitting. A separate chamber has been created for them, set aside as a resting place for them, for they are to be honored more than any for their goodness and wisdom, and for their love. Finaias, our greatest artist, has recorded their history on the walls of their burial chamber and upon the lid of their coffin, and now records this, my final dictation.
It is now three days after the burial of our Father and Mother, Daryas, second king of the Fourth Reign, and Shaii, second queen of the Fourth Reign. For three days all of Aihura went into mourning, and on the third day we laid them in the tomb. May they rest in peace.
It is now ten days since the burial of Daryas, second king of the Fourth Reign, and Shaii, second queen of the Fourth Reign. I, Ashad, first son, third king of the Fourth Reign, write this before the rising of the sun. My heart is heavy as I now record the passing of my people. It is the eighth month of the second year of famine. My people grow weak with hunger and faint with thirst. I have consulted with Reias, my brother, and Shahnam Saqi, my sister, and their counsel is wise. We must leave Aihura through the Stone Gate, and seek other lands where we might live. We have consulted the ancient records and have found a land where we might settle and prosper. It is empty of people, its land rich and fertile. We leave today, before the sun reaches its peak. On the Wall of Records Finaias has recorded the symbols of this land, and hidden it in plain sight, so that if any are left behind they might join us, and if any friends seek us, and they may read our writing and language, they might find us, but if an enemy seeks us, we may be hidden from them.
Peace be to all.
Ashad, Third King of the Fourth Reign.'"
There was silence. The implication of what Daniel had just read was enormous.
"Daniel," Jack said. "Are you saying you can figure out where they went?"
Daniel didn't look at him. "I already have."
Sam's eyes grew large. She shifted her weight; one could see her mind racing. "You found the Gate address?"
Without a word, Daniel bent down and picked up a stone lying next to the wall. It was the stone that had been put in backwards, in the wall of the ruins. On the side that had been hidden were seven symbols, clearly painted in black.
Continued In: A Silken Thread
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