Champions Gate
By Elizabeth Carter

Chapter Twenty-Two

Death Comes Suddenly

Sam had gained the freedom of her lover and wife. The freedom of their first child and her friends. Somewhere in the peripheral distance of her mind she envisioned she could feel the coolness of the Fading slipping in. She wasn't afraid, she was beyond terror now. Her eyes were wild, desperate, and feral.

Janet had seen that _expression once before. In the caves of the Fallen's Temple were the Exiles Gate had been tucked and hidden away from all others. Sam had been pulled from death by none other than the petite doctor, only to turn on her friends with the Ribbon Device. She had thought the others of SG1 to be Calabim hunting her wife. Sam had in her delusions nearly slain Jack, Teal'c and Daniel. That same malice was in Sam now. It was the Shadow of the Fading. Janet didn't know what terrified her the most. The image of her wife three months ago that fell into the trap of her own waking nightmares and would sit shuddering as if she were a wounded animal, unable to cope with the idea of Janet out of her view, or this calm perfectly poised woman now before her. The doctor inwardly shuddered at the residual ice wafting from within Sam. For the moment, they were sitting side by side, yet miles and miles apart. Samantha was deliberately blocking their empathic Bond.

"Sam...." Janet uttered the name as if a prayer.

"Usiel, we're going now." Sam demanded, taking command of the situation.

"Sam?" Janet tried to rise to her feet but the torment of the Ribbon Device had left her body weak. It was as if her muscles had atrophied on her. No matter how much or how hard she tried she would be completely unable to hold her wife back.

"My, aren't we the anxious little bunny." Usiel gleamed.

"Get it over with." Sam ordered.

Usiel flinched. Not because of fear or excitement, but for a very brief moment, a molecule of time, he had felt the supreme will of the Nephalim barring down upon him. Shifting pools of light flittered across his inner Song causing Usiel to become disorientated. It was in this moment of wavering control the Vale of the Penumbra parted, leaving Usiel momentarily stunned as he tried to scour his brain for the exact moment he'd lost control of his hostages. Of course, there was the old adage that a hostage had more power over the terrorist because the terrorist always had to keep vigil thus he was always on edge and the hostage merely had to stay alive.

Usiel's mind became snagged on the barbed-wire of the Harrowing. How, he could not tell. Further still, he could not fathom how it was, but it was the Nephalim's mind that had thrust both of them into the Vale. The Penumbra was eerily still and quiet without the usual massed harmonies of the World Symphony. The Vale never seemed so dark.

Here in the swirling mists of the Shadow between Worlds, Samantha Carter stood rooted before Usiel making her last stand against the invading forces. From the crevices of that shadow, Angelics came from above and below snatching up the hostages and winging them to safety. Usiel no longer had the power over the Nephalim. Her blue eyes glowed in pure malice. She was a woman at the end of her rope, protecting her beloved family with all the inner strength she possessed and then some.

Daniel had taken Anubis on when he was still ascended and attempted to use the world Symphony against the System Lord without success. Now similarly Colonel Samantha Carter stood before the First Fallen of the Malakim, a darker evil than Anubis himself.

The blonde warrior stood proudly garbed in the shimmering blue-silver armor of the Malakim Empire, the ignited sun sword humming into life. "Surrender now, or fall forever," hissed the Nephalim.

No quibble, no gibe, no word was spoke from Usiel. He had no breath in which to utter his defiance. He could not long hold his baleful gaze upon the Nephalim. Around her the quintessence of the Great Song ebbed and flowed marvelously over the warrior. It appeared to the eye that she was wrapped in static and shifting plasma lights. Lightning crackled around her as if this quasi-mortal creature was a necromancer. The World Symphony was hers to conduct, bending easily to her will.

Usiel took an unsure step back. He had long prepared himself to slay the Nephalim, never in his fantasies had he dreamt just how powerful she would be. He was reeking of sweat and musk, frantically trying to undo the probabilities with his terrible glamour.

All through the Penumbra were the terrible sounds of Malakim Choirs lifting up their voices giving their music their Song to the Nephalim.

'I think perhaps there was a slight miscalculation upon my part...' he said watching as Samantha's feet consumed the distance between them. 'Nevertheless I've gained what I wanted, the Nephalim. Oh how terrific an irony to spend eternity locked in the Fading with her....crap!'

Further in this night of the Vale, in a direction that could not be named or pointed to, there was a sound like a great voice slowly rising in pitch, as older, darker, more powerful presences began to wake, to defend the Nephalim. They stirred in ancient ethereal vaults, or long-forgotten pockets of reality, creatures and beings of power and legend. Some of them were almost as old as the Malakim, and dreadful.

The Penumbra was an old old place.

"What is this?" Usiel wailed terrified now. "What are you doing?"

The air was full of the stresses of great forces clashing like icebergs grinding together in the night sea. Usiel regretted ever getting involved. He now knew he was out of his depth. There were powers abroad in the Vale now that could crush both of the combatants like insects and never even notice.

"What have you summoned!?" Usiel roared.

The shadows danced and leaped around the pair.

"You. Will. Never. Threaten. My wife. My Children. Again. Until Kingdom come I will take you down." Samantha snarled

"Newsflash! Kingdom Come? It's already here!" Usiel's useless black wings flared out, his arms spread eagle. "Just look at what you've done! You purposely summoned the Harrowing! Dark take me, but I think you actually WANT TO FADE!"

"I will do anything to save those I love." Samantha's voice dripped with ice.

Moving with the grace and beauty of a stalking jungle cat, Sam refused to allow Usiel to disrupt her concentration. With incredible skill, she wove the sun sword around her body in a tapestry of supreme mastery. The sword was no longer a separate form but extensions of her limbs and the air quivered with the force of her blows.

Usiel ducked and weaved the blows coming at him, the Nephalim was a force of nature. Not in the clichéd banal description of a warrior with a sword, but in truth. The power of the Great Song brilliantly shown around her, giving her power no mortal could ever contain. Her armor sparked with lightning, her eyes blazed with indigo flames, each step she took quaked the earth, the wind blowing with the fury of her own Song.

Samantha called up the memories of the Anitink Armbands, the power and speed she held at the time. Here in this place between worlds she felt the familiar stirring, the familiar burning within her core. Sam knew here, right now, in this place, she could once more wield the Song of the Anitink.

Moving faster than sight, she lashed out with the sun sword, aiming at Usiel's throat. The Fallen must have seen it coming, with a slight twist of his torso; he turned slightly to the side, avoiding the blow by scant centimeters. Needing no urging, Sam whipped the sword up and then down in a lighting-fast strike at the male's other shoulder. This time she connected.

Usiel screeched as the blade clashed down angrily upon his broken wing. His black eyes wept slow, mystified tears, unable to understand how he had faulted. The tattered appendage now lay before him at his booted feet. Rage broke him from his pain filled haze. He lashed out using his own ignited blade, but the missing wing now unbalanced him, his counter lunge was easily deflected by Sam spinning around, escaping the blow. Her blade would clash again, not on the beam of another sun sword but upon the hard bone of the remaining wing.

Usiel screamed his pain, his black eyes falling upon the second ebony wing. He could not fathom how the Nephalim gained such speed, such force, such power. She defied the Song of the Mortals and rose above it. But she was Nephalim, and Usiel now knew the futility of battling the ancient being of an ancient tale. Though her face was flushed from exertion, the Nephalim was otherwise unharmed. Not once had she been touched by the sun sword of her enemy.

Usiel's gaunt face became painfully thin, gaining an unhealthy paleness, all dark hollows and fever bright eyes. His voice was low, controlled, and almost ghostly. "This is unpleasant...You are supposed to be the one writhing in pain."

"No. I am the one supposed to kill you." Sam said with her own detached voice. She had every intention of razing Usiel to the ground; nothing now would save the Fallen from utter annihilation. Her body tense like a coiled spring.

Usiel once had poise and style and vicious charm, an aristocratic disdain for small-minded things like ethics or morality, good or evil. He was what he was, and delighted in it. Single minded and self centered, not caring if he had the power as long as no one else had it either. This was why he had sought to destroy the Nephalim. He was the embodiment of the oxymoron of being lawfully chaotic.

Funny thing chaos, it's completely uncontrollable and it has no master. A butterfly beats its wings in Africa and you have a hurricane in the south of Florida. Even as Usiel summoned the strings of the Song of Chaos, the Nephalim began to glow, a light so bright it seemed to come from another place entirely. It felt like a storm coming. It felt like thunder in the blood, and lightning in the soul.

"I know thy name Usiel." Samantha edged nearer to her fallen pray. "Thy name kept secret from the dawn of your creation..."

"What blatherskite is this?" Usiel's upper lip beaded in sweat as he tried in vain to rise to his feet, the pain in his back was excruciating and his legs gave out from underneath him. He fell hard, once more upon his knees.

"I need only to speak it back to front..." Sam hissed, "and you are unmade."

"How can you...? You can't possibly know!" Usiel defied, his voice cracking under his wail of disbelief.

"It came to me in the wind. The Queen knows such things. I know her essence, the command of her will over the World Symphony. I have touched the Great Song, Usiel. It whispered to me your true name."

Usiel hobbled backwards in a near comical crab-walk. He looked up and saw Grigori circled overhead in a narrowing gyre, riding the night skies of the Penumbra on widespread wings, closing in remorselessly as Samantha Carter stalked ever nearer.

"Usiel do you really want to play with me? You threatened my wife, my daughters, my people, and my Choir, do you really want to play? Do you really think you can win? I am not talking about you or I living or dying Usiel, I'm talking about you winning. Do you really think you can?"

For an instant Usiel was petrified. It was refuted in lore that the Nephalim could summon up a power so old that not even the Wisdoms were in existence when it came into being. The power to rip someone apart down to the molecular level, while still keeping her victim alive and awake, screaming horribly. She had to be stopped of course; this essence of power was merely a single reason why.

Inhuman voices rose in rage and frustration around the combatants. The sound was pure and primal and painfully loud. The force of the Nephalim swept down and slammed together with Usiel's own, the sound like mountains crashing. The earth shook underfoot, and the air trembled. Flashes of blinding light flared like lightning going to war. While above it all, the sound of giant wings beat furiously. The air was heavy with significance, with the feeling of vital matters being decided by forces far above Humanity.

The Fallen swallowed hard, half expecting the Malakim warriors flying overhead to swoop down and snatch him up from the mystic 'floor' of the Umbrian realm and tear him asunder. His black eyes rolled back to the Nephalim and became even more terrified. Her figure pulsed suddenly with a bright and brilliant light, pushing back the Dark. For one instant it appeared as if she had widespread wings blazing like the sun. She was the Nephalim, mortal born with all the power of the Malakim. Behind him the winged figures disappeared inside a sea of darkness that roiled slowly through the Umbra towards them. A complete and unrelenting shadow, far darker than the mere absence of light could ever be; with unbearable light ahead and merciless dark behind. The Nephalim hadn't called the Harrowing. She was the Harrowing!

Janet, Cassandra and the others had no concept of what happened, it was if someone had collectively pushed their heads under the waters and shifted the position of the Earth by the time they surfaced. The team members were no long in the sickbay of the Samantha Carter, yet a near identical setting of the sickbay on the Gwishir.

Janet managed to find her feet and looked like she was about to have a fit. Her fists clenched, her teeth clenched, and she actually shuddered for a moment with frustration and outrage. "Go back there right now! Sam needs us!" She demanded of everyone, anyone who would listen to her.

The Gwishir's chief medical officer approached his counterpart, touching her shoulder gently. "Liege Healer, The queen herself has taken three Wings with her to retrieve the Nephalim. Even now the Crimson Wing wages war against the Fallen."

"That's fine, I don't care, we are talking about ten Kull Warriors, Anubis super soldiers, get my meaning? Sam is in the thick of it." Janet rebuked. "People get killed when in the middle of things, trust me I should know."

"Liege Healer, you must trust the Queen in this matter." Rakrir said.

"No, you must trust me. The only one to pull Sam back from where she's going now is me. Look I understand as long as Novalis lives Sam lives. But my Wife is Fading you got me fly boy? That thing you all hate? Well it's happing to my wife, and the only thing, the only one to pull her back is me. She needs me." Janet roared.

Zaire stepped forward, gripping Janet by the arm, her eyes filled with deep sorrow and remorse. "I know this pain, Liege. I will take you." The young Malakim had recently lost her wife. Turel was dead, and she had no will to live. She would not rush into Death's Wind with the safety of the Consort in her care, but once safely delivered to the Nephalim then everything else would be left to the winds desecration.

Novalis breathed deeply of her spirit mates Song. Since the moment Samantha Carter pulled the Queen back from death, back from the Fading she was bonded to the enigmatic human. As long as Novalis lived so to did the Mortal, and when the Fading crept closer to the Nephalim, Novalis was felt the sting of it. The intrepid queen was terrified as she felt the Harrowing, the precursor to the Shattering.

The Shattering had broken the tide of the Malakim long before when the first war of the Heaves broke out. Now Samantha threatened to bring another. Her un-daunting devotion to her wife, to her family was so overwhelming that now she stood before the darkest minion of evil the Malakim had ever known, including the vile creatures known as the Wraiths.

In all these centuries, eons passed and none had been able to fell Usiel. The closest that any warrior had come was to send him into the Abyss of the Fading. Not even that had lasted more than ten thousand years. Usiel was now utterly insane.

The absurdity lay in the battle playing out Usiel, for once in all the time of his existence he was more than petrified, beyond terrified. The Umbra was rank with the stink of his terror, and it was generated by one thing, one being, the Nephalim.

The World Symphony wavered, shuddering in notes it had never known before. This was the Opus of the Nephalim!

"Think Nephalim! You can not destroy me! I will always exist. Spinning, turning weaving, it's there always. How can you defeat me, when you haven't embraced the totality of the Dark! To defeat your enemies you must first defeat yourself. You must know your enemy and to do that you have to get inside their heads! You have to know yourself. You can't know yourself unless you embrace the evil inside of you. I know you have darkness in you Nephalim! I can smell it."

Novalis heard the guttural snarls of Usiel as he tormented Samantha. "I've faced my demons, Usiel. The love of my wife gave me the power to stand before them, face them. I've beaten my demons."

"Have you? Then why do you carry guilt? Guilt over slaying Seth, guilt over Jolinar, Narim. Guilt for nearly destroying a planet with a bomb you were ordered to create, next by turning their sky red." Usiel snapped.

"I carry it, so I don't forget it. It is my penance, my redemption." Sam answered. Her voice was cold, determined and steady.

Novalis could hear the notes of Darkness trying to pull the Nephalim down into the Abyss, it had worked on so many others, until they were so wrapped up into the web of chaos they didn't know which way was up anymore. When they lost their way the fell into the Fading. In the Dark you belong to the Abyss and the Abyss belongs to you. The Queen could feel the Fallen's desperation, and she knew why. She too could feel the terror rise until she was faced with the mists of the Harrowing.

"WHAT ARE YOU?" Usiel screamed.

"I am the Nephalim. I thought you knew that." Sam's voice was so remote, it didn't even sound like her. "Don't you remember what you did to me you bastard?"

Suspicions were vague, and uncertain. It was like the feeling one got in the dead of night, when you hear a thumping outside your window and you know you are all alone. You know there isn't supposed to be anything out there, but that sound still echoes. Novalis had reached the combatants but was so overwhelmed by the ambiance of the new notes of the Great Song that she couldn't move. She fell to her knees, her wings drooping uselessly as if severed.

"You asked me what was real. You played with my mind until I lost all sense of what was imagined, dreamt or real." Sam growled. "What you did to my wife was worse."

"That Featherling? I didn't even touch her!" Usiel wailed.

"You sent a Kull Warrior after her," something loomed around the Nephalim that could not be seen but could only be described as a presence. "You sent death to her."

"So what? I sent death to a lot of creatures! That small thing..."

Novalis was paralyzed as she watched Samantha grab the Fallen around his neck with her left hand. The Ribbon Device she wore on her right hand that could only now be seen, flared to life. The Queen could not fathom the words now falling from clenched teeth of the golden maned warrior. "The only true way to slay a Malakim is to remove their heart. What if I burn a hole through your chest and rip that withered thing out?"

'Samantha....' Novalis begged, trying to find her own voice.

Sam felt herself floating. The sensation was not unpleasant. The dream shimmered around her, threatening to pop and disappear. Part of her didn't want it to, even as another part of her knew she needed to be somewhere else, do something important.

'Protect Janet. Sweet gentle Janet. Keep her safe. She died once....PX3-666. 666 the number of all that is evil.' Sam's blue eyes blazed the near gold of a Goa'uld. 'Evil...I have it now before me, fallen. This evil wants Janet! It wants to take Janet away from me! It wants to kill her because it failed on that fucking planet!' The Ribbon Device flared brighter until its glow turned a blinding white.

Usiel screamed, not even Osiris's attempts of hurting him with her own weapon had ever felt like this.

"YOU WILL NEVER HAVE HER!" Samantha roared above Usiel's cries. "I will speak your name and unmake you!"

Novalis could feel the Fading being summoned. Never in any tale had it been told the Nephalim could summon the Harrowing much less control it. It coursed around her, through her and into the weapon coiled like a serpent around her right wrist and hand.

The First of the Fallen, screamed as he felt the Nephalim enter his mind, his eyes closed as his heart became still. He was slipping into Torpor, forced into the dark sleep by the unforgiving malice of the Nephalim. She would not stop. Her anger, her vengeance, was overwhelming. Her terror over Janet coming to the precipice of death had consumed this woman until all she felt was the power of the Great Song ebbing throughout her soul.

The Queen was desperate. She could feel the Nephalim's hunger, her lust to slay the Fallen. She would send him into oblivion even if it took her with it. "Samantha! Pull back! You must pull back!" Novalis wept over and over, until her voice was so hoarse she could no longer speak. "Samantha," the sound now raw and harsh as blood tricked from the queen's mouth from the torment of her throat.

"Samantha Marie Carter!" Janet cried out gaining Sam's attention above the cacophony of death's hymn.

Around them voices lifted in song, lifted in a harmony so perfect it was inhuman. The Darkness had its own voice, spreading slowly across the Umbra dissident and disturbing but still inhumanly perfect. Dark and Light battling for supremacy over the composition of the World Symphony.

Sam turned and saw her wife, felt the touch of her hand upon her back. So gentle, so soft was Janet's hand as it covered the blonde's own. "Samantha, come back to me."

The colonel shuddered but did not relent.

"Sammy... I need you." The tiny woman whispered.

"Janet?" Sam's voice faltered in the clutched of despair. Blue eyes stared haggard and remorseful, filled with tears of unfathomable sorrow.

Janet caressed her wife's cheek bringing warmth were there was coldness. "You will come back to me lover. My Sammy-bear."

"Janet." The word was a payer, a plea of mercy. "I think I am falling."

"No lover, I promised I would never let you fall, now come with me." The doctor urged.

Sam faltered and her strangle hold on the unconscious Usiel loosened and she dropped the wingless body to the mist hewn earth of the Umbra.

"I love you." Sam admitted.

"I know, Honey. I love you too. That's why I can't let you do this."

"I have to make sure you're safe. Our babies are safe."

"They are Lover. They are safe. I'm safe. Now come with me. You have to protect me, but not here. Come with me. You have to let that thing go though, okay?"

Sam looked down not understanding what her beloved wife was referring to, some how it all seemed familiar, as if she had done this before. She watched with a detached feeling of self as Janet slipped the Ribbon Device from her right hand and dropped it near the body of Usiel.

Sam looked at still glowing Ribbon Device endowed by the essence of the Harrowing, to the bloody body of the wingless fallen Malakim and back to her wife. The weight of everything consumed her until she sank to her knees. Her body shivered against Janet's as the smaller woman embraced her lover, her wife. Her lips brushed against Sam's brow, expressing the love she held for the blonde colonel.

Novalis found her strength, her power and her feet. She moved as a ghost to the mortals, and spread wide her wings. Her sun sword ignited. "Let us be done with it at last."

The whole world seemed to shudder, as reality shifted and changed...and where a void in the room once existed, now stood three ladies. Samantha, Janet and Novalis.

Now in the corporeal world safe from the Darkness of the Harrowing, with inevitability Novalis let go of what she held in her left hand; the twin hearts of Usiel.

The Sanguinary tide passed over the Wings of Malakim warriors, over the soldiers of SG1 over Janet Fraiser and Samantha Carter. Janet's strong spirit had not let go of her wife, nor would it ever. Her hand stroked back Samantha's blood streaked hair from blue eyes. Only two nights ago, she had regarded the possibility of her wife's willingness to believe herself the Nephalim with extreme apprehension. She had dreaded facing the inevitability of what that acceptance would mean to their lives. She kissed her wife soundly, laughing inwardly at her foolish fears.

Samantha Carter was many things, Colonel, Nephalim, scientist, daughter, warrior, mother, and champion. She was Janet's wife, her soul belonged to Janet. For only this petite woman could ever bring the Nephalim back from the Abyss of the Fading and stop the tsunami of the Harrowing, all by the essence of her love for her wife. Yes, things had forever changed. For all eternity and for once Janet fully welcomed it.

Her Sammy-bear was safe.

The End

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