Nephalim's Gate
By Elizabeth Carter

Chapter Twenty


"The stewardship of others has begun. You will turn into a fine Queen, Samantha. Noble purpose is always on the balance, it is not a walk that many can take. Few reach the other side; fewer still remain with their pure intent intact. See you lose not yours, Nephalim."

The words would not vanish with the fading light of the day as the small planet of Grigori revolved around its sun into the late afternoon. Already the faces of the twin moons could be seen on the northern horizon. More to the point, Samantha Carter, Nephalim of the Empire could not vanquish them but it became as a great mill wheel inside her mind. Nay not her mind but such a mill wheel lay heavy within the bosom of her heart, her soul, her Song.

You are young Samantha, you have dealt death but it is not yet a great mill wheel in your mind, age preserves it most fully as it grinds away the shell of life. To rise above the pull of the shadow you must first learn stewardship of others whose destiny hangs in the balance. This has always been fate of those who wish to turn base desire toward noble purpose. Anise has seen beyond the cycles to the greater purposes of life but she chooses to turn the wheel faster to further her greed. You are grist in her mill, Samantha but you are fated to grow again.

"These are parlous times for you Nephalim, the base and deceitful tool of the Diabolical has come to a greater power ever to exist in this age. We must unite our allies if we would see it fall. Samantha, daughter of my House, this new dark is unlike any you have ever encountered, including your Replicator Doppelganger though more alike than you to her."

Death might not be a mill wheel but the Stewardship of those was most definitely in the foreground of Samantha's every thought. Churning over and over the implications of just what it all meant to lead so vast a number of immortal and highly gifted and devastatingly talented people.

Sam hitched her breath when she felt the arms of her wife encircle her shoulders from behind. She had remained in the study long after Novalis had taken her leave. Janet had been gracious enough as the perfect hostess she always was and offered the Queen of the Malakim rooms in which to stay.

The now meditating potentate was not the physician's concern at the moment, a brooding and very pregnant wife was. "You want help with that?"

"With what?"

Janet found herself drawn into the dark blue eyes of her lover. When stressed, Sam's eyes took on the color of gray, of storm and brooding winds. If she were not careful it would have an effect on the minds of the ecomancers and like before the world of Grigori would be plunged into a climatic upheaval as it had nearly a year ago.

"The weight you're carrying. You're not Atlas, Sam you don't have to carry the weight of the world on your back."

"I could always share it with four elephants and a giant sea-turtle," Sam quibbled meekly.

"How about a Napoleonic powermonger?"

Sam shook her head, "I can't. Not right now I need to clear my head; I'm going for a walk." Using the armrests as leverage the blonde pushed her ungainly weight up but nearly toppled back down into the cushions.

"Oh no you're not." Janet objected and none-too-quietly. "You can barely waddle around without panting. Sam you are three weeks before your due date - you are not going for a walk!"

Sam scowled.

"Take Kha'antar with you."

The scowl softened.

"Sam, our daughter is due any day now. So no Umbra travel, or Gate travel I don't give a damn if Malakim and Jaffa women have used the gate when pregnant, none of them were carrying my daughter."

The scowl was gone.

"Thank you."

"Oh and don't go onto the balcony." Janet's voice took a warning tone.

Pale golden eyebrows arched into curiosity. "Why not?"

"You got squeamish around that super soldier autopsy you did without me and well there was the incident with Ducky and Schrödinger."

"Oh boy," Sam winced. "Don't tell me Fuzz-butt brought home another present!"

"Well remember that scene in The Godfather?"

"There's a horse's head on the balcony?" Sam scrunched up her face looking very much like Rebecca when told to eat her broccoli.

"A bit more than that, Kha'antar is a very successful hunter, and obviously he thinks you need proper food. I think it was a horse, could be an elk, hard to say, hell it could have been a rhino for all that's left of it."

Sam turned positively green. "This makes it what his tenth no, thirteenth in the past week?"

"Oh at least. He has brought little gifts that are not so little ever since you started to show."

"I know, just like Schrödinger with his presents. Why can't they understand a decapitated mouse or moose is not a gift? "Sam moaned at the thought of having to remove the carcass of a large grazing animal. Of course she couldn't punish Kha'antar for something that was deeply instinctual.

"Don't worry Razeal volunteered to get rid of it for us."

Sam sent a silent thank you to her guardian angelic warrior for taking the task on. Even the moment of frivolity was not enough to lighten her mood or the weight she felt from the Queen's deliberations. Even the spacious bastion was too enclosed for Sam's thoughts. She had to get out, to think to work off the agitation and aggression boiling so close to the surface. If she didn't go, she would say or do something that would no doubt harm her beloved ones.

Janet understood this, and respected it. Since the gestalt with Novalis, Sam's emotions were broader and tempered with greater passion. She was as much of a Malakim as Novalis was, perhaps more so. It didn't take the Nox bond to highlight just how much Sam was feeling.

Taut like a bowstring pulled too tight, the Nephalim could snap at any given moment, better to do it in the open and free of unintentional targets. With both the Blue Wing and Kha'antar at her wife's side, Janet was less inclined to worry. Still a wife does fret.

Kha'antar could already feel his Mistress's need to run, to fly, to feel the wind. And he was more than willing to oblige. He padded in from the great hall into the study waiting for the commands to take to the air, even though he was still a bit put out that Mistress had yet to partake of his kill after all he was taking care of the pride as he should be. Making sure the brooding mother and unborn cub had all they could feast upon. Well if she wasn't going to sup on the kill he would have to go and hunt down something again hopeful this time it would be something to her palate. Brooding Mothers were always so finicky.

The small-Mate stood posturing in front of him, before she took his massive thick head into her tiny hands. "Kha'antar you listen to me!" she demanded his attention, "There will be no racing, no dives and no steep climbs, no aerial acrobatics. Got it? Because you put one toe out of place you won't just come away with a Mohawk, when I get my hands on you. I'll make damn sure you are declawed and your teeth are filed down to nubs so you have to eat applesauce. That's my wife and daughter you're taking on your back, so no stunts. Sam wants to fly then you will fly slowly and I don't care how much she grumbles or uses the Song of Presence within your mind, you will not obey. No fancy crap, just glide"

Kha'antar knew the growls coming from Mistress's small-mate were not mere threats. No wonder Elladan was so benign around her, he dare not be more assertive least he be forced to sup on goo and go without claws and his magnificent mane. The threat was taken to heart.

It would be smooth flying all the way if not for the storm in Mistress's heart and mind.

Sam loved flying, but there were times when she wanted to move about as one of the mortals and not a member of a Wing. Given the advanced stage of her pregnancy however walking was out of the question, at least to everyone else's mind. So she rode the narrow winding streets on Kha'antar's broad back. His padded footfalls whispered echoes on hollowed paving-stones of the sun and shadow dappled snickelways of the great city of Kalevala. She perhaps now regretted giving to the naming of the city pathways, alleys, thoroughfares, byways and highways to the Blue Wing. Traveling down Nephalim's Head Alley was a little embarrassing. Carter's Yard left little to be desired, Coffee Yard was a little better though. Thornpot Lane, Black Horse Passage were other snickelways that Carter had this afternoon taken on her constitutional. These were never to be historic paths, just simply the way people would take to work, to market, to temples and sometimes on less virtuous pursuits. They lent their own perspective to the newly historic city of the Nephalim.

Unlike many of the cities if not all of the cities of the United States and many other countries, Kalevala wasn't laid out as a grid, but as a rabbit warren of "blocks." This of course lends to the development of many snickelways that emerge piecemeal from well-trodden paths some of which have become famous others so obscure that few not even the citizens of Kalevala know of their existence. This because the Malakim develop their cities to what is esthetically pleasing from the view of hundreds feet in the air at nice leisurely cruising speeds.

Needing to think, Sam had tried in all earnest to follow a path that used traffic-ridden streets as little as possible if at all. The Blue Wing which no doubt were following had to do so either on foot, for even the pathways were too narrow for many of them to slip through flying unless they did so several feet up, or travel in the Penumbra where the buildings were manifest as ghost-like constructions. They would have to slip into the building and out again owing to the off-chance of losing their quarry and ward.

So overhead they flew, knowing better than to interrupt the Nephalim's meditative meanderings. Even the brooding Kha'antar knew he best keep his low-timbered grumblings much to himself or risk the wrath of his Mistress and he come away from the scolding with the much threatened Mohawk. That simply would not do for the proud winged feline.

One of the reasons Sam chose her particular path was because a tiny well hidden hole in the wall of Precenkor's court which was cloistered away by hanging ivy behind a pub sign allowed her a magnificent view of Incarna Academy. No other street brought you so close to the sheer loftiness of those Academy towers. Samantha could only wonder yet again at the inspiration, dedication, craftsmanship and downright Malakim physical effort that had gone into the immense and beautiful building.

It was here that Carter allowed herself some time to linger and think long of what course lay ahead of her, of the assured and impending confrontation with the new Dark that Novalis had aided into being. How exactly the Queen had not said, only that she awoke it into consciousness.

Nearly lost in thought, Sam hadn't realized that her mount had decided to move on from the narrow street to Healer's Garden. This was no ginnel but its pleasant pathway had most of the attributes of a snickelway and so Kha'antar felt validated in taking it. The park slumbered quietly around the academy's library. He strolled along the tree-lined path that curved off to the left knowing his mistress would savor the peace, calm and dignity of this part of the academy close.

'Novalis had stated something about Anise... Anise had something to do with this new Dark.' Sam's mind spoke to her. "This has always been fate of those who wish to turn base desire toward noble purpose. Anise has seen beyond the cycles to the greater purposes of life but she chooses to turn the wheel faster to further her greed. You are grist in her mill, Samantha but you are fated to grow again."

Kha'antar was not sure if his mistress was speaking to him, or simply speaking. He could feel her unrest as she shifted in the saddle and she continued her mumblings. "'The base and deceitful tool of the Diabolical has come to a greater power ever to exist in this age. We must unite our allies if we would see it fall' Okay, I get that - so what allies do we look to? To whom do we call for aid? If this new dark is unlike any we've ever encountered, including RepliCarter and it's supposed to be more like me than my metal twin, then she must be another me!" Sam rolled her eyes. "I am getting so damn tired of all these copies of me turning up. It's getting old and overdone." To this Kha'antar knew she wasn't speaking to him but rather to The Great Song. "My mirror image, my Dark balance, indeed! I thought that was my replicate-self or hell even the essence left over by Jolinar. Gods I hated that! First its mirror me's then Harlan and Fifth take my face and consciousness, Jolinar takes my Song, then Novalis; now Anise has stolen my image and made an evil me! Fuck!"

Kha'antar knew any moment now his mistress would nudge his ribs commanding him to take lift and no doubt fly into neck-breaking speeds to quell her anger and frustration. Mistress loved to fly at magnificent speeds when her anger was on her. And the great beast was happy to oblige.

~I'm not going to obliterate my evil twin. ~ Mistress was now speaking in the tongue of the Malakim which the cat found much more appealing to his ears than the clumsy mortal-speak. ~I'm going to use Anise's innards for bootlaces! How dare she! And why in the name of Dark didn't Dad tell me? ~ Anger was red rain now clouding over what was typically a very rational mind ~ If Novalis gives no quarter to those who rise against the Empire, neither will I! If our very name is enough to quell many skirmishes and bring doom to a planet. I'll call upon the Malakim and wage war against that slimy-no-good-double-dealing snake-slut!~

Just as Kha'antar predicted Mistress did indeed give him a good kick in the ribs. Massive blue wings unfurled from white shoulders and flanks and took lift from the breeze. He was in the air in less than a minute gaining altitude with each passing second.

Still using the Malakim tongue and her Song of Presence, Samantha called out not to the Blue Wing but to those in flight about the towers of the Academy. ~To me Malakim! There is an enemy of the Nephalim that needs quelling! Her name is Anise of the Tok'ra, a Diabolical, find her and bring Malakim justice to her.~

The sky became black with hundreds of winged warriors.

Vibrations rang out through the World Symphony until the very sounds could be heard in the marrow of all awakened to hear its jarred notes. No not Discord but something akin to an orchestra of master musicians gathered to play but all playing different concertos without any regard to what their neighbor musician was playing. And while it may work for voices lifted in song it was a cacophony with instruments.

Far from the reaches of the Malakim Empire others felt the stirring of the jarring notes that were but not quite discordant with the Great Song. It was as if the Great Song itself was trying to realign itself to incorporate this new voice, this new vessel of music into the World Symphony.

Arian twitched for the fifth time during the council meeting of the Tok'ra. Her back muscles pulled at non-existent wings. Her hands continued to pull in and out of fists, her jaw working her teeth so hard that Jacob Carter host to Selmac became worried that his tall lover might actually break a tooth if not her aquiline jaw.

"What is going on with you?" he uttered under his breath though keeping his eyes on the proceedings.

"Forgive me," a simple return of words. Arian tried to still her movements but her agitation was growing steadily worse. Her shoulders twitched again as if to fan out phantom wings. Right now she has wished she hadn't gone to Anise to have them amputated.

"What troubles you so?" Now it was Selmac wanting an answer.

"Arian feels the World Symphony is in great distress." Xad had to answer for his host, Arian had no voice to give a reply. It was much like before when she and Garshaw discovered the hidden lab. Something was very very wrong.

Pain. Horror. Disgust. Remorse. Heartrending sorrow.

Anise had used clones of primta: larval symbiotes that had been preserved in High-tech storage canopic jars for some Frankensteinian design. Infant symbiotes had not all that had been uncovered; various forms of Samantha Carter mutated into abominable amalgamated things lay preserved as well in frozen states of mutation. It had been a horrific discovery made more so that one of the Tok'ra's own had been responsible for it.

Arian twitched her shoulders yet again, had she wings they would have unfurled in agitation, the feathers pluming to twice their size. With no wings Arian could only feel the scars that remained behind. Anise had further manipulated her creation by adding Malakim DNA, DNA that Arian had provided in the forms of her amputated wings. The blood in the flight feathers and air-sacs, marrow in the bones would have been more than enough for Anise to harvest.

Even after nine months the abominations was still a topic for discourse amongst the gathered High Council. Anise's unsanctioned experiments were a vain attempt to help the Tok'ra survive. Arien had explained months earlier that Anise had taken her viable subject and fled. And still it was a heated topic of debate. If Anise had done this for the Tok'ra why then had she fled the Tunnels as a criminal, unless she had no intent of sharing her harvested knowledge and constructs?

What lingered on the minds of the Council was who had been the donor of the Tok'ra DNA? Anise was a reasonable candidate, it would make the Blending with her new host all that more likely to succeed, if she had. It was clear Anise had used Samantha Carter's DNA, a fact that Jacob took as great offense. One he vowed to avenge.

No one abused his daughter and got away the offense. No one.

Arian spoke softly not to hide her words from the rest of the council but because of the guilt she felt within her. Anise may not have been inspired to tamper with Samantha Carter's DNA sample as well as her own had Arien not shown Anise just what the power of the Songs could behold. More to the point just what the Nephalim would be capable of. It was reasonable that Samantha had power over Songs she was not even aware of.

"'We are fighting a war for our very existence; we do not apologize or shrink from the means '. Evidently she found away to mesh the components together. These words had been used by Anise to justify the means to her end. By using Samantha Carter's DNA Anise had successfully bridged the gap between Symbiote and Tau'ri and even had been able to merge the Malakim DNA into the combination matrix."

What Arien failed to disclose perhaps on note of discretion was just how varied the Nephalim's Code of Life was from her fellow mortals.

Samantha carried the protein marker of a symbiote, naquada and of course the gestalt with the queen of the Malakim changed her DNA as well. Anise must have found a way for the gene manipulation to work. Anise had further committed atrocious sins by using the forbidden knowledge of just how the Kull Warriors had been crafted.

"Anise had convinced herself that even Egeria mother of all Tok'ra would approve of her desperate measures to ensure the survival of a dying race." Arien said, again her voice barely above a whisper. Her twitching was now noticed by the others of the council. Some would put it down to anger, others betrayal. It was neither and all, Arien could explain it to her self was the stirrings of the World Symphony in total flux.

The Great Song seemed to struggle to accept this new Song of the abomination. What if it did? What if the abomination had the ability to command Songs? What if she possessed the Nephalim's songs?

Great Song on High Notes!!

Even if for the moment the Council wasn't so convinced, Arian had a sick feeling that once they saw the prize host Anise had created they might change their minds about taking one of the creations on as hosts from themselves To have a powerful host was an almost instinctual force in the Symbiotes genes. The Nephalim was as close to the true source of power of the Great Song as one could be.

"We have been so far unsuccessful in finding Anise and her abomination," Garshaw said over the clamoring voices of the Council's opinions galvanized into even more heated debates by the former angelic's words. "Though we have every reason to believe she had taken flight to one of Nirrti's former laboratories. We have yet to search one location because it is in a section of space the Tok'ra have always given wide berth."

Seven faces turned to the still fidgeting Arien.

"Even wanting too, I cannot communicate with the Throne of the Empire. I have in their eyes become a Diabolical and they would sooner smote me then heed any word I utter."

"Yes but we can contact my kid," Jacob said.

"Make it so," came an order from Garshaw.

"That might not be necessary, Garshaw. "Again it was Arian who spoke out of turn and again gaining scathing expressions of reprove on the faces of the other council members.

"Pray tell, why is that?" Jarek one of the few remaining first elders of the council demanded.

"Because they are here."

Stillness washed over the council at the announcement. Surely Arian was mistaken. The close proximity alarms would have sounded if a ship had entered the atmosphere. Cloaked scout-ships orbited the planet would have sounded an alarm if they witnessed a ship coming out of hyper-space

Apparently the Malakim had the means in which to confound Tok'ra technology, for they were indeed closing in on the Tunnels' location.

"So this is why you were upset," Selmac reasoned.

Arian could only give slight head-nod. "Be mindful on how you address them, even detached from the World Symphony I can feel their anger. They are thick with it."

Behind Malakim anger hid the dragon.

The Dark is generous, and it is patient, and it always wins. It always wins because it is everywhere. It is in the wood that burns in your hearth, and in the kettle on the fire; it is under your chair and under your table and under the sheets on your bed. Walk in the midday and the dark is with you, attached to the soles of your feet.

The brightest light casts the darkest shadow.

Chimera lifted her head to the morning winds as if to catch the sound beyond the range of her ear's scope. Still she could hear them, entire flights of warriors heated, enraged, ensnared in lust with the directives of a voice so powerful she could feel it even to the salt of the marrow of her bones.

~To me Malakim! There is an enemy of the Nephalim that needs quelling! Her name is Anise of the Tok'ra, a Diabolical, find her and bring Malakim justice to her.~

The power of the words, the command beyond them carried a primal urge that Chimera could not ignore. This voice from beyond compelled her, urged to into actions that were not her own. Actions she wanted to fulfill if only to appease this Great Voice.

Anise. Wingless One. This voice wanted her. The Great Voice wanted vengeance. Chimera wanted freedom. The objectives did not seem solely autonomous of each other.

Shivering from her slipping from the Vale that separated the worlds of waking and the worlds of ethereal mist, Chimera felt her body solidify into the familiar corporeal. Here her ice blue gaze fell upon the one the Great Voice wanted.

"Why?" Chimera asked. In truth they were the first words spoken to Anise.

The Tok'ra must have misinterpreted her creature's quandary for she started to go into the needs of the Tok'ra to find new hosts if they wanted to avoid extinction.

"You are hunted. A Great Voice from the place in the Beyond wants you. Why? Why are you hunted?" Chimera went on with her inquest ignoring Anise's diction on the survival of the Tok'ra. "Answer."

Anise became mute. Perhaps it never occurred to her that she would be discovered. But only nine months ago the Queen of the Malakim herself had come and lifted Chimera out of the haze of mere life into consciousness and self-awareness.

"The Queen of the Malakim no doubt has reported your existence. We have to leave this place…"

"I do not think the Great Voice calling for justice will allow you to fly."

"Great voice?"

It was obvious from the blank expression on Anise's features that she was deaf to the Song of the Great Voice, and therefore had not heard its demands that Anise be shown Malakim Justice.

"The Voice of one so brilliant she commands thousands like myself. No not me, I am different, this I know. I can feel it. The Great Voice sings to those like She-who-gave-me-thought." Chimera explained. "She sings and they answer. Entire flights of Wings search the skies, the lands, worlds for you, Wingless One." Chimera smiled deeply.

It was an expression that terrified Anise. The creature's eyes were a cold feral blue, and they gleamed like those of a predator lurking beyond the fringe of firelight: insidious and filled with rage.

A wave of tingling started at the base of Chimera's skull and spread over her whole body in a slow-motion shockwave. The Song sung by the Great Voice in the Beyond had brought her to this new life. This new realization. This new revelation.

"This Great Voice as power," Chimera offered an appalling smile, "that power is mine. I can feel it. I can feel her. "

And she could feel the course of power surge through her. The command of the Nephalim; the Great Voice had vibrated the strings, the winds of the World Symphony: all who had ears to hear it, answered its beckoning. For a moment Chimera felt the place within her, a place briskly clean as ice on a mountaintop, cool and remote. She found that high place, and looked down within herself, to breathe that clean, icy air as she regarded the Dissonance, and Discord surrounding her. She would not deny them, but observe them. She took her horror in her hands and looked at it. Examined it as a phenomenon. Smelled it. Tasted it. Came to know it as only she could, for it was hers and it was precious.

Emotions all so new, all so raw, once remote and in hibernating in frozen distance now became more extravagantly, hotly intimate than she could have ever dreamed. Chimera handled her emotions, she dissected them, she reassembled them and pulled them apart again. She still felt them, if anything they burned hotter than before- but they no longer had power to cloud her mind.

The Great Voice had given her this final keen edge to her consciousness. Chimera knew at once she either must become one with this Great Voice or become the Great Voice. There would be no other alternatives.

"You Anise are not powerful enough to stop them. You are impotent. Therefore you can not be the Mistress of Creation. You were the means of life, nothing more. The Great Voice is all. She sings and the Music Beyond bends to her will. You can't do this, so you can not be superior to me. The Wings are relentless. When they come I will let them have you."

Arian had felt them coming.

She couldn't breathe.

She couldn't blink.

She sat frozen, even thought was impossible.

Seven Malakim warriors and all of them from a single Choir. All of them Grigori. Loyal to the Nephalim above all others even the queen herself.

"This bodes not well." Arian managed through her thick throat as she watched in her own terror

Single intent drove them, duty inspired them, desire to fulfill the wishes of the Nephalim fueled them. Seven clandestine warriors landed on the surface of the dusty planet chosen as the Tok'ra base. Shadows dripped and oozed color, weaving up and coiling desert rocks, slipping over stone rubble, spreading like so much spilled wine over the desert floor.

One stepped forth from the rest, her dark wings of blood red arched over her amber head, the song of her blade echoed by six others springing to life. "Resist us not, Fallen of the Diabolicals. I am Zegravius commander of the Obsidian Wing here by order of the Nephalim. Relinquish the snake who calls herself Anise."

Garshaw, Selmac, Arian and Jarek stood firm their ground they had come under the impression that the seven were quite outmatched given the dozen or so emerging Tok'ra from the hidden fox-holes in the earth which were now creating a circle around the winged intruders. Each Tok'ra armed not only with Jaffa Staff weapons but Zat guns as well. Energized bladed weapons were no match for long range plasma firearms.

"Surrender her now or fall with her. I will not ask again." The red-winged Grigori demanded.

"Even if she were here, we would not give up one of our own," Garshaw threw out in false bravado. Secretly she was worried of just what the seven could do.

A sheet of shimmering energy suddenly flared in front of the Tok'ra. Seven more Malakim warriors phased into view from some place beyond this layer of reality. Somehow Garshaw knew it hadn't been personal cloaking devices that had kept this new septet of winged soldiers from view.

"See one and there are three more you will never see until you're already dead." Jacob quoted his lover. The penumbra had shielded the others. If there were more hidden beyond the Veil-Between-Worlds they had opted to stay their position, probably to flank the Tok'ra already surrounding the original seven.

True to her word Zegravius commander of the Obsidian Wing had not asked a third time. Her wings twitched and resettled, the Obsidian Wing reacted instantly setting forth a chain of events almost too quick for Jacob to measure. Arian's silver eyes widened she knew what it was the commander had ordered. At once she tackled Jacob to the ground covering him with her own taller body and with her legs she kicked Garshaw's own from under her sending the Tok'ra high councilor to the dirt in a plume of dust. There was nothing Arian could do for Jarek, he was too far out of reach.

A smear of gold-flashing darkness hurtled from the folds to the warriors wings. Jarek's head bounced when it hit the sandy ground. Smoke curled from the neck, the body swayed before it fell along side its head. Zegravius twirled her golden blade so quick, so fast it was a fan of yellow light. It bucked and swayed in her hands as she deflected scores of staff-blasts zinging in the air.

For one more second there was only the scuttle of wings priming on fourteen warriors, one second after that, the ridge exploded into a firestorm.

Nine Malakim swirled their blades as protection for those who had lifted their heads in a song of echoing terror and beauty. Beneath the feet of Tok'ra standing in what they thought was defensive perimeter the earth grew soft as quicksand and just as deadly, resisting Tok'ra screamed to their brothers as the earth began to swallow them. One, now two gone forever as the desert devoured them.

Three angelic warriors had been unable to deflect all plasma bolts, two fell from the blast of a zat gun another flung into the air as a staff blast hit her between the wingblades on her back. That did not stop the determined Grigori Wings from their prey. The Nephalim gave them an order, it would be carried out until the last feather fell from the last standing Malakim.

Zegravius twitched her wings a second time, silently telling the Obsidian Wing to lift their voices to the air and command the elements to bend to Malakim Song. Lapis Wing under Ka'esaw command her team would hold cover deflecting all Tok'ra fire.

Seven more Tok'ra lost their footing to the quicksand, three of their brothers trying desperately to buy their freedom as they lay on their stomachs their staff weapons stretched out to pull the desperate free.

Arian rolled to her knees, crouching, watching for a moment as Tok'ra descended on Zegravius, firing zat'nic'tels blast after blast in a blinding hailstorm of blue lighting. Zegravius was no fool, to her fighting one Diabolical was like fighting any other she would not fall by such an overtly open attack. The ease with which she had taken command of the situation was frightening. More frightening was the fact them Malakim warriors fought in the name of the Nephalim and more devoted than any Jaffa. This day would not be won by the Tok'ra.

Gold flamed swords whirled parrying each blast from zat-guns and staff weapons blasts ricocheted off harmlessly on protruding boulders that seemed to grow out of the sands like the crystals used to grow caverns. Boulders grew into sharp jagged spears pinning three no five Tok'ra, impaling them as if Vlad Tepes himself had planted them on a stake of stone. The earth was under the control of enraged Malakim.

"Garshaw order surrender! NOW! We will fall this day. Surrender. WE surrender! Parlay! Parlay!" Arian pleaded. There was no way for the Tok'ra to defeat a direct attack from the ecomancers new weapon, the very earth they stood upon.

Garshaw seemed to hesitate. It was all too much to take in she had never seen sand rise up and swallow life on the whim of a song, nor rocks to heed the call of a voice, let alone the winged menace standing before her. Not even the Goa'uld held such power over nature.

Selmac didn't hesitate. She knew who the Nephalim was, and she knew the price was already too high to stand on Tok'ra pride. The Malakim would not stop, Samantha Carter had ordered them to bring Anise to her and they would do whatever it took to answer her commands even if it meant killing Jacob in the process to do the Nephalim's bidding. They were if anything more devoted than the Priors were to the Ori.

Jacob hated to lose a battle but he hated to lose because of foolishness even more. There was simply no way to battle both the earth and nine warriors who unquestionably had superior battle-experience. "Only a fool battles his foe in a house-fire. Garshaw we can not win this."

The Malakim warriors were relentless; there would be no stopping them until they fulfilled their duty to the Nephalim, the Great Voice of the World Symphony.

Even as the man spoke the fallen Malakim rose from the earth, the burns taken from staff blasts still marred their armor, flesh and feathers, crimson blood and dirt stained their garments and wings. They had been dead, Jacob was sure of it. Staff blasts taken in the heart, double shots of the Zat-gun and yet the five that had been neutralized by the Tok'ra rose once more ready for battle.

"We yield!" Garshaw bellowed above the scream of her dying comrades. She too had seen the dead resurrect themselves. If the Malakim were capable of this without a sarcophagus how could one hope to defeat them? They were quasi-invincible like the Kull Warriors. Of course the Tok'ra even with their vast network of Intelligence had not known the only true way to kill a Malakim was to pluck out both eight-chambered hearts. Arian had not betrayed her former people in this respect. They were still her kith and kin even if they refused to acknowledge her ties to them.

"Yield the snake Anise and we will take our leave," Zegravius ordered. Her wings fanned out broadly not in agitation but a silent command for her fellows to cease their battle. Parlay had been called. Rules of war must be heeded. The hostages would not be stricken until the Nephalim gave the order.

"She isn't with our number," Arian said over the would-be protests of Garshaw. She didn't know how long the code of Parlay would be held; better not risk their fortune on wagering the benevolence of the Obsidian Wing commander against the commands of the Nephalim and the primal urge to answer it.

"The words of the Fallen are not to be believed. You are a Diabolical."

~a fact that is irrelevant when I speak true. Heed me Commander of the Obsidian Wing. Anise is not here. In fact we were going to contact the Nephalim in order to 'beg' her leniency to allow one of our Hak'tars to enter Malakim space so we might conclude our search for her.~ Arian tried to sound as formal as she could, even going as far as to adapt to her mother-tongue.

~We will consult the Nephalim, until her words parole your state as hostages, you and your fellow Diabolicals are our prisoners.~ Zegravius announced. She would leave it to Arian to translate.

Part 21

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