A Friend Among Enemies

by Nix
(crimsonquills AT gmail DOT com)


Author's Notes: Author's Note : Thoth, in this story, isn't myself - he's the Egyptian god Thoth. I just chose "Thoth" as my pen name because he is the Egyptian god of writing. I did research Egyptian mythology for this story, but I'm not an expert and the myths conflict quite a bit, so please forgive any inaccuracies in the mythology. I also researched *Stargate : SG-1*, but if I missed anything please forgive those mistakes also.


Colonel Jack O'Neill strode down the hall toward the meeting room that looked out on the Stargate. He glanced over as Dr. Jackson joined him from a side passage, dressing as he went. "Daniel," O'Neill greeted him, "do you know why they hauled us out of bed at 2am?"

Daniel Jackson shook his head, "Just that there's something unexpected coming through the Stargate."

"It's a damn good thing we were going through tomorrow," Jack said, "Or we wouldn't have been here. We'd better hurry," O'Neill called the last over his shoulder as he broke into a jog. Daniel gave up on the button he'd been struggling with and broke into a run himself. They slid into the briefing room at the same time and saw immediately that the Stargate had only been active a couple of seconds.

"Sir, the iris is closed," Daniel exclaimed, before he could stop himself.

"Of course it is," the general replied, "this isn't a scheduled return. I'm still debating whether or not to open it at all."

"With all due respect, sir," Daniel said hurriedly, "that debate is going to become academic pretty soon."

"How many are coming through, sir?" O'Neill asked.

The general frowned, "Just two, colonel."

"Then I advise we surround the gate, target the travellers, and talk to them before they spread themselves over the iris like peanut butter. Sir."

"I agree, sir," Captain Carter said from the doorway. She ran her fingers through disarrayed hair before giving up and taking a seat at the briefing table.

"Very well," Hammond said briskly. He pressed an intercom button, "Open the iris and target the travellers." Daniel sighed in relief as the steel iris spiralled open. Only seconds later two travellers stepped out of the watery surface of the gate, which abruptly disappeared behind them. They'd barely taken two steps before the smaller, a woman, perceived the obvious danger of the soldiers surrounding the stargate and threw herself in front of her companion with a yell.

Up in the briefing room the general and SG-1, Teal'c having arrived, watched with no little amazement as the small woman, clad in nothing more than a white linen skirt, attempted to protect the Goauld she'd travelled with. The Goauld stood at least seven feet tall with the metal headpiece, fashioned in the shape of a bird with a wickedly curved beak. He placed on hand on the womanıs shoulder and gently moved her aside.

SG-1 waited tensely for the Goauld to lower the staff he held in one hand, or for any other sign of aggression. None came. The Goauld simply stood and waited. The general once again reached for the intercom button and said quietly, "Bring them to me, under guard." Moments later four of the soldiers in the room below moved forward, warily surrounding the two travellers. When they had taken their place the Goauld placed his free hand gently on the elbow of the woman and they began to walk.

Daniel watched them walk towards the stairs that led to the briefing room and was struck by the surreal quality of it. The two figures, straight out of ancient Egypt, walked surrounded by twentieth century American soldiers as if the men were an escort, not a guard. Daniel abruptly became aware that General Hammond had asked him a question. "Excuse me, sir?" he said.

"I said, Doctor, do you know who that Goauld represents?" Daniel could see the general was close to being irritated.

"Yes, sir. I'm inclined to believe that this is Thoth---"

"Who?" O'Neill interrupted.

"Thoth," Daniel repeated, ignoring Jack's quiet, drawn out okay'. "The Egyptian god of the moon and of wisdom, among other things."

"What do you mean, among other things'?" Carter asked.

"Well, Thoth was also the measurer of time, the supreme magician, the patron of intellectual pursuits, the recorder of the judgment rendered at death . . ."

"We get the picture, Dr.Jackson," General Hammond broke in. "What can we expect from him?"

"I honestly have no idea, General," Daniel said, raising his hands helplessly.

"Thoth is unlike any of the other gods - or Goauld - that we've met so far." He opened his mouth as if to go on, but the door to the briefing room opened, admitting the Goauld, and the General motioned for him to be silent.

The guards escorted the Goauld to stand before SG-1. There was a moment of silence, eventually broken by the woman that stood at the Goauld's side. "We search for the one known as Daniel Jackson." Before Colonel O'Neill or the General could restrain him, Daniel stepped forward.

"I'm Daniel Jackson," he said, adjusting his glasses nervously.

The Goauld nodded once. The woman drew a scrap of what looked to Daniel like papyrus out of the waistband of her skirt and handed it to him. Dr.Jackson opened it and found on it a single line of hieroglyphics. "I am Thoth'," he read aloud. As he finished speaking the Goauld slowly raised his hands and pressed two small buttons recessed into the ornate headpiece. With a few smooth, mechanical clicks the metal ibis head folded down into a collar around the Goauld's shoulders.

"We are pleased to see that the holy language has not entirely deserted this world," Thoth said, calmly. "We had heard that Ra had been driven from Abydos, and that the writings had returned there. I,"and Daniel realised that Thoth had been using we not as the royal plural, but rather to include the woman, "am glad to see my works regain life on that world."

"Excuse me," the General said, "would you please explain, Dr.Jackson?"

"Yes, sir," Daniel said, turning away from Thoth. "When Colonel O'Neill and I first went to Abydos, Ra had forbidden writing."

"The people couldn't record their history, or plan any resistance without it, sir," O'Neill broke in. "When Daniel attempted to write something in the dust for them they erased it, panicked."

"In any case," Daniel continued, "while I lived on Abydos, Sha're and I began teaching the people the hieroglyphics again. Thoth also created the hieroglyphics, and they were regarded as holy script."

"I was not pleased," Thoth interjected, "when Ra banned the holy script from Abydos. It was not his place to do so, nor did he consult with me on this action."

"Just why are you here?" O'Neill asked, a bit of an edge to his voice.

"My Lord Thoth," the woman answered, speaking for the first time, "and I are seeking refuge for a time. With Ra dead the balance of power is shifting in the heavens and the gods fear Thoth. What they fear, they seek to destroy." Thoth nodded again, confirming the womanıs statement.

"And just who are you?" Captain Carter asked, looking pointedly at the woman. "I am Maiti, novitiate of Thoth," The woman replied calmly.

"Please excuse us for a moment," the General said, a little stiffly. "Guards, escort Thoth and Maiti to guest quarters, but keep them under guard." Hammond waited until the guards has moved Thoth and Maiti out of the room before turning to Daniel and asking, "Where does Thoth stand in relation to the other Goauld?"

"Really all I have to go on, sir, are Egyptian myths. Thoth is said to be self-created, along with his consort, Ma'at. That would indicate he isn't subservient to any other god. Some myths claims he directed Ptah in the created of heaven and earth. He and Ma'at also produced eight children, who became the eight primordial deities of creation. So Thoth has considerable power among the Goauld, as well as among humans."

"Does it seem reasonable that the gods would be . . . menacing towards Thoth?"

Daniel thought for a moment, "I suppose so, sir. Again, I'm going on myth. Thoth acted against many of the gods in order to help two others, Geb and Nut. He also challenged Khons, another moon god, and won. It is said that the moon waxes and wanes because Thoth won some of Khons' light from him."

"The point being . . ." O'Neill prompted.

"The point," Dr.Jackson said, glancing at Jack, "is that Thoth is more likely to be peaceful than any other the other Goauld we've encountered. I'm not," he raised a hand to forestall Carterıs objection, "implying that we trust him. I remember Hathor, too." Everyone in the room, save Teal'c, winced a little at that memory. "But we should consider carefully before acting."

Abruptly, an alarm went off, startling everyone. "Sir!" a voice called through the intercom. "There's an object coming through the Stargate, general!" Hammond cursed, the iris was still open.

"What is it?" he barked through the intercom.

"I don't know, sir," the disembodied voice replied. "It's very complicated in structure, sir. Could be a bomb."

"Close the iris!" he called immediately. The steel shield spiralled shut and a few tense moments passed before a metallic clang echoed through the bay. Everyone exhaled in relief, then jumped as a muffled boom shook the room. The Stargate shivered dangerously on it's mountings, then settled as the echo died away.

The members of SG-1 crowded down the stairs and ran around the Stargate. The watery substance of the gate had disappeared, leaving them to stare at the backside of the iris. It was blackened and slightly dented at the centre. "Wow." O'Neill said.

"This," Carter said, motioning to the remnants of the explosion, "would seem to lend credence to Thoth's story."

"I don't know," O'Neill said, doubtful now. "That bomb wasn't powerful enough to ensure Thoth went along with it. I doubt it could have destroyed much more than this bay."

"Colonel," Teal'c said quietly.

"Yes, Teal'c?" O'Neill turned to regard the Jafar.

"Whoever sent that bomb may have intended only to trap Thoth on Earth. If there is indeed a power struggle occurring among the Goauld, it would have the same effect. Thoth would no longer exist as a threat." The others nodded at Teal'c's reasoning.

"Teal'c," Carter said after a moment, "if the intention was to destroy the Stargate, why hasn't it been destroyed? The bomb would seem to have been powerful enough. After all, the Stargate is made mostly of stone."

"The Stargate may be made of some kind of quartz," O'Neill answered for Teal'c, "but the iris is steel. To me, it looks like the iris deflected the blast somewhat, turning it back through the wormhole created by the gate. I'd hate to be on the other end when it came through."

"Colonel O'Neill, Dr.Jackson," General Hammond said decisively, "you will go and find out more from Thoth. I want to know who might have sent this bomb and how they got Earth's address."

"Yes, sir," O'Neill said crisply.

"Yes, sir," Daniel echoed. Together they turned and left the bay.

***

As they stepped into Thoth's quarters, Jack and Daniel allowed themselves a moment to study Thoth. Unlike many other Goauld, he was not shaven bald. His hair was thick and black, drawn into a tight braid which was woven with what appeared to be gold. His skin was bronze in colour and he was lean and well muscled. He wore only a long, white linen loincloth. It, too, was woven with designs of gold. On his feet Thoth wore gold-coloured sandals that were laced up his calves to just below his knees. His green eyes looked calmly at them out of a chiselled, triangular face.

"I understand you desire to disarm me," he said, nodding to guards that held his staff, "but I do not see the point of taking the Library." Daniel turned to the guard, puzzled, who held out what appeared to be wooden scroll wound with papyrus.

"Sir?" the guard asked O'Neill, who shook his head.

"We know very little of you," Daniel answered him, "it is best to be cautious."

"There is wisdom among you also," Thoth said, apparently pleased.

"Thoth," O'Neill broke in, "we need to know who might want you . . . out of the running." Thoth turned to the colonel and raised an eyebrow.

"For power," Dr. Jackson explained quickly.

"Nearly all the Goauld have reason to wish me gone," Thoth replied, "but I know of only one who could've found me here. The goddess Hathor," he paused as both SG-1 members stiffened and glanced at each other in alarm. "You have met her." It was a statement.

"Yes. She attempted to gain control on Earth by using Dr.Jackson and myself," O'Neill replied.

"Damn near succeeded, too," Daniel said under his breath.

"I hadn't thought to meet her again so soon," O'Neill commented.

"Now that Hathor has risen from her long slumber," Thoth continued, "she hungers for power. Without Ra to check her ambition, she is a great force among the Goauld. In the current struggle she is likely to win. I am the greatest threat to her power. I may have to take the struggle to her." Thoth looked regretful, and Daniel got the distinct impression he disliked the violence he knew would soon come.

"Can you take the fight to her?" O'Neill asked, eagerly. "We didn't get the address of whatever world she ran to."

"I know where her sanctuary is. But I do not want to fight her. I would rather wait, here, until the other have finished this struggle among themselves."

"Why did you come to Earth?" Daniel asked. "Why not another world?"

"Because you are here, Dr. Jackson," Maiti replied from the door to the bathroom. "In times of old you would've been a novitiate of Thoth. You seek out the stories buried in the past and bring them to life. You act first within your mind, and then within your body. You are a learned man. However, in these times, you are no novitiate. You are a scholar in your own right, of your own people."

"Just what is a novitiate?" O'Neill asked, returning to the subject at hand. "Is that like a Jafar?"

"No!" Thoth exclaimed, his eyes blazing. "The Jafar are a disgrace to my race. One's intellect is not free to expand with a symbiote dwelling within. There are other ways to incubate Goauld children."

"Do you see a womb in me?" Maiti asked, running a hand over her smooth, tanned abdomen.

"No, ma'am," O'Neill replied, one corner of his mouth turning up in reluctant appreciation. "You haven't answered the question. What, exactly, is a novitiate?"

"When Thoth wishes to pass some of his knowledge onto the people of a world, he asks for five young men and women to study with him. These people are received only if they and both their parents agree of their own free will, and without fear," Maiti began. "The five chosen study with Thoth for 15 years and are then returned to their people to pass what they have learned on. These are novitiates."

"Shouldn't you have returned to your people by now?" Daniel asked.

"I was given the choice of rejoining my people or of remaining with Thoth to continue to learn and to help him to survive." Maiti glanced fondly at Thoth before turning her gaze back on O'Neill and Jackson and raising her chin proudly.

"Help him to survive . . .?" Daniel let the sentence trail off into a question.

"Every five years," Thoth said, "I require a complicated ceremony to maintain this host. It can not be completed without a trustworthy assistant. Maiti returned to her people to receive permission to remain with me to fulfil this purpose."

Everyone was silent for a moment. Jack was just starting to stand to leave when Daniel spoke up with another question. "Thoth, I noticed, on your hand, what looks like the weapon other Goauld have used on us."

Thoth turned both his hands palm up. On one a gold spider web of metal secured the amber coloured weapon that the SG-1 members knew too well. On the other, a similar silver spider web held a similar blue-green jewel. "This," Thoth explained, closing his fist over the weapon and slowly extending the other, "is the real Library."

"What?" Daniel asked. "I thought . . ." he motioned to the scroll the guard held.

"That is the Library, but it has grown too brittle to be used. It is an artifact of historical value only. The scroll has been transformed into this," he motioned with one hand to the blue-green jewel. "It contains nearly everything the Goauld have learned." Thoth rippled his fingers a little and a projection two feet tall and a foot wide appeared. Hundreds of hieroglyphics appeared in the air as if written there in bright blue ink. Daniel leaned closer to read them, mesmerised, with a little sigh of awe.

"Daniel," O'Neill interrupted, breaking the spell, "we have to go report to the general." Reluctantly, Jackson stood and left with the colonel. "Well," Jack said after a moment, "I can't help but begin to believe him."

***

"Well, what have you got?" The General demanded. Teal'c and Captain Carter were already with him.

"Hathor, sir." O'Neill said bluntly. "Thoth thinks that she's the only one who could've found him. He also says that she's pretty power hungry, sir."

"As if we didn't know that," General Hammond muttered. "I was hoping she was out of our hair for a while. Damn! We should have gotten her before she went through the gate."

"With all due respect, sir," Daniel said, "it was only due to Captain Carter and the other women that we defeated her at all." All the men looked at little embarrassed, but Samantha smiled a little.

"Regardless, sir," O'Neill said impatiently, "Thoth can lead us to her sanctuary. She's a threat to us, sir. If we strike fast, we can get rid of her." Jack punctuated the statement by slapping one fist into his palm.

"You almost sound like you trust Thoth," the general observed, "are you sure his information is good?"

"Well, sir," O'Neill seemed a little taken aback by the general's statement, "I am. Sure about the information, that is. Thoth is very different from the other Goauld we've encountered. He's made no threatening moves, Maiti - the young woman - defends him vehemently, and he was very informative."

"He also expresses a great respect for human intelligence and seemed willing to share everything he knows with other races," Daniel added. "And, from everything we know from the myths, Thoth has always acted on the side of man. He is the patron of the intellect, and according to the myths he has done a lot to promote human learning."

The general listened as Daniel spoke, and seemed to come to a decision. "Dr.Jackson, I want you to go to Thoth to get Hathor's location from him. Colonel O'Neill, Captain Carter, Teal'c, you three get the team ready for a trip through the Stargate as soon as possible. Pack light, with lots of firepower! I want you in and out. We'll strike before she has another chance at us. Now go!"

They scattered.

***

SG-1 was assembled and ready two hours later in front of the stargate, minus Daniel. "Where is Dr.Jackson?² the general demanded, just as Daniel entered the bay at a run, Thoth and Maiti striding behind him.

"What is this?" The general demanded, gesturing at Goauld and novitiate.

"Sir!" he said, a little out of breath. "Thoth wants to come with us. He says if we're going to confront Hathor we'll need him. He also says that is is the responsibility of the Goauld to deal with their own, and that he won't give us the address unless he's with us."

"I refuse to compromise this mission!" the general said impatiently.

"Sir, there isn't a mission without that address," O'Neill called.

"I think he's on our side," Daniel said.

General Hammond paused to consider for an agonising moment. Finally, decisively, "Fine! Now go!" Thoth went to give the address to the technician, who punched it in. The iris retracted and the fluid surface of the wormhole flashed into existence. SG-1 walked slowly up to the stargate, pausing for a moment before stepping through. Thoth and Maiti followed, Thoth pausing only to extend his ibis-shaped helmet.

Jack O'Neill stepped out of the Stargate and into the most incredible heat. It instantly melted the frost that the freezing passage through the Stargate had created on his face and clothes. He gasped as he struggled to adjust to the change in temperature, but still managed to duck into the cover of some rock and scrub bushes near the gate.

Soon the others joined him. Daniel and Samantha were already sweating from the heat, but Teal'c, Thoth and Maiti seemed unaffected by it. "Where do you suppose she is?" Jack asked no one in particular.

"There," Teal'c answered. He was standing and pointing away from the horizon, just to Jack's left. O'Neill climbed to his feet, stripping off the jacket of his uniform as he did so. Squinting, he could see what appeared to be a city built of stone shimmering on the horizon like a mirage. Other than that, only rolling sandy dunes punctuated by piles of rock and brush spread before them.

Jack have a reluctant sigh, but strode out onto the sands, waving the others to follow.

***

The city was a tomb. Not a sign of life anywhere, just empty buildings built of blocks of dull yellow sandstone. Any other colour the residents of this city might have decorated their walls with had long been scoured away by sand storms. SG-1, Thoth and Maiti stood just inside the outskirts of the city, on a long, paved boulevard that led directly to what appeared to be a palace. The palace was built out of the same stone as the rest of the city, but it sat on a man-made hill and it was the only building that betrayed any sign of life. Even from this distance, Jack could pick out figures moving on the roof and walls.

"Um, do you think it's a good idea just to walk up there?" Daniel asked.

"They saw us coming a long time ago, Daniel," O'Neill answered. Still, he had SG-1 spread out to present less of a target. They walked close to the walls of the buildings adjacent to the street, taking whatever cover they came to.

It was almost an hour before they were within striking distance of the palace. As if they'd stepped over a marked line, the guards on the walls of the palace began lowering their staves and firing at SG-1. Everyone flattened themselves against the walls as Teal'c and Thoth raised their own weapons to return fire.

When Hathor's Jafar stopped firing to duck Teal'c's bolt of energy, the other three members of SG-1 hurried forward to get their own weapons in range. The rattle of machine guns soon joined the blasts of Teal'c's staff and the silent discharges from Thoth's palm. As they held down the defenders, O'Neill yelled,

"Teal'c! Thoth! The door!" Goauld and Jafar nodded in acknowledgement and turned their fire on the large, iron bound wood doors to the palace.

The doors gave way after three shots; Teal'c and Thoth ran inside under the cover fire the rest of SG-1 laid down. There was a brief respite for Jack, Captain Carter and Daniel when the last guard tumbled down off the roof of the palace. "Inside, now!" Jack yelled, waving his team and Maiti inside before more guards could man the walls. Just inside the gates Teal'c and Thoth had taken cover behind two pillars and were holding off more of Hathor's Jafar - three lay dead or stunned and five returned fire.

Jack assessed the odds as he and Maiti took cover with Thoth, Daniel and Samantha joining Teal'c. Five Jafar against the five with O'Neill, but Maiti was unarmed. That made it even . . . "Except we're professionals," O'Neill said to himself, with a little smile. The five Jafar went down quickly, and Jack led the way through the arch they'd been guarding.

The hall beyond was empty. Everything was gold, or edged in it. The room glittered with wealth : precious metals, jewels, and fine cloth dazzled on every surface. A dais stood at the far end of the hall, empty. Behind it was a double arch, whatever lay past it was obscured by length upon length of pure silk. The members of SG-1 kept their backs to the walls as they advanced on the dais. Slowly, the silk parted and Hathor stepped though, alone. For some inexplicable reason, no one fired on her. "Daniel," she said, almost purring. Then she caught sight of Captain Carter. Almost hissing, the goddess threw out one arm, palm open, and discharged her weapon.

Thoth stepped in front of the blast, and it seemed to bounce off the head of the ibis. "Thoth!" Hathor exclaimed, seeing him for the first time. "Have you come to join me?"

The ibis helmet retracted. "No," said Thoth simply, "I've come to challenge you."

"We would be very powerful," the goddess said persuasively.

"You have no power now," Thoth stated, gesturing at the SG-1 team, who surrounded the two Goauld. "And what you do have, you would never share. I am not Ra; I will never keep a serpent at my side."

Hathor backed off immediately, "Very well," she said coldly. Up came the weapon again, but Thoth just managed to duck the blast. Everyone in the room but the two Goauld dropped to the floor to avoid it.

Amber light flashed in the room, reflecting off all the precious metals and nearly blinding O'Neill. He couldn't tell if there was any sense to the battle the Goauld fought. All he could see was bolt after bolt of amber light. Then, suddenly, nothing. Jack squinted, trying to restore his sight, and finally made out Thoth. He stood over Hathor, looking almost sad.

More than a dozen Jafar rushed into the room at that moment, but they stopped and bent knee to Thoth when they saw Hathor, fallen. O'Neill, Daniel, Captain Carter, Teal'c and Maiti slowly came to their feet. Cautiously, the four members of SG-1 moved to stand in front of Thoth while Maiti stood at his side.

"I think it best that Maiti and I remain here," the god said. "I do not want to draw this fight to your world, but we still need sanctuary. This will do."

There was a moment of awkward silence. "Thanks," Jack finally said, "for helping with Hathor. And for being a friend among enemies." Thoth simply nodded. Shrugging, O'Neill turned to leave, SG-1 following him. He stopped at the archway to wait for Daniel, whom Thoth had detained with a touch on the arm. As the colonel watched, Thoth removed something from the waistband of his loincloth and handed it to Daniel. He glanced down at it in surprise, then clenched his fist around the object and ran to join Jack.

Jack managed to wait until they were back through the Stargate before he had to ask Daniel, "What did he give you?" Jackson opened his fist to reveal a tangle of silver wires and a large, blue-green gem. "The Library?" O'Neill asked in surprise.

"A copy of it," Daniel corrected. "He said it would take years to learn how to use it properly. He said it would not be right for him to take novitiates on Earth, but that I could teach them, once I'd learned myself."

They were silent a moment in respect. Then Jack grinned and slapped Daniel on the back, saying, "And if any of this is ever declassified!"

--End--