TITLE: Ring of Stone1 - Beginnings
SEASON/SEQUEL: Season 2/3
SUMMARY: A new team is going to explore the vastness of the stargate network
- and it's not going to depart from the SGC...
STATUS: Series - Part 1
Home: Stargate Atlantis Pandora
DISCLAIMER: Stargate SG-1 and its characters are the property of Showtime/Viacom, MGM/UA, Double Secret Productions, and Gekko Productions. We have written this story for entertainment purposes only and no money whatsoever has exchanged hands. No copyright infringement is intended. The
original characters, situations, and story are the property of the authors. Not to be archived without permission of the authors.
AUTHOR'S NOTES: Thanks to Karen Cafaro for beta-reading this and making it readable for the english speaking audience
Ring of Stone
"That's it! The seventh symbol! Herueeka!"
The count's eyes shone with inspiration and he began to pace the hall restlessly. His young apprentice, Igor, just stood there smiling. He knew that a wave of excitement had taken over his master's mind, leaving him completely unaware of his surroundings. This excitement was what he loved so much in his master. It was far better than his usual seriousness that seemed more of a deep depression at times.
"I'm here, master."
"Oh yes," the count, who wasn't older than thirty years, replied with a nervous tone in his voice. "Bring me something with which to write. I have to catch this thought before it flies away from me."
"Yes, my lord." Igor hurried and brought his master the items he needed - a few sheets of parchment and an inkpot with a quill. The count took them quickly and started writing with trembling hands.
The catacombs beneath the castle were sparsely lit, so Igor could not make out what his master was writing down. He told himself to be patient. As soon as the count got over his initial enthusiasm, he would introduce him to his latest insights.
After a while the scratching noise of the quill ended and the count gazed at his apprentice. "I think I found the answer." His voice was now a normal one, with only a slight hint of excitement left. Then he began a long and incomprehensible monologue, explaining what only he himself would ever truly understand. Igor heard something about six points that mark a specific point in space, and about a seventh point as point of origin. He wished his master would explain his thoughts with the help of some drawings, but that was a thought that would never cross the count's mind, as he was surely seeing the whole idea in all its clearness before his inner eye.
His explanations ended with the words " ... so the only thing we are still in need of is a lightning bolt." And with these words he pointed to the object that was occupying a large part of the big underground hall: a great ring of stone that was inscribed with strange symbols.
The climatic conditions in Xalviar were rough and malicious. The days were long and dark, and the nights were even longer and darker. The sun almost never shone and terrible storms were plaguing the land every other day. So Count Sebastian von Freund and his young apprentice did not have to wait long for their lightning bolt. A bright light illuminated the skies over the castle and the nearby village, and the bolt hit the highest tower, where it was caught by a long staff of metal and lead down to the ring of stone by a big metal chain. The ring gave a sound that was not from this earth and a short vibration was shaking the cavern. Then all was silent.
Cautious the count stepped up to the ring and touched it slightly with a fingertip. To his relief he found that the ring wasn't hot. His face full of triumph he turned to Igor. "It is exactly as I thought. The ring has absorbed the power of the lightning bolt. Hurry up, we have to turn it, before the power dissipates!"
Hastily they began to work on the wooden construction that turned the inner ring. Igor wasn't so sure of himself, but the count seemed to know exactly what he was doing. Turning the crank with one hand he was holding a parchment with a row of seven symbols in his other. When the first clamp was activated, he grunted with satisfaction. "Don't waste any time. Faster now, into the other direction!"
Igor threw himself at the crank and turned it as fast as possible. In this way they continued in their effort, until the seventh clamp was activated.
"So, and now there should ..."
The count never got any further, when a gigantic cloud of whirling energy broke out of the ring, missing them closely and consuming the counts standing-desk. Then it fell back into the ring and took on the shape of a shimmering blue surface that was bathing the underground hall and its inhabitants in a brilliant glow.
Igor came back to his senses first. Out of the corner of his eye he could see Harold, the old servant of the count. The poor man had just come through the door, when the energy vortex erupted. He was dead-white, the soup-tureen he had brought to serve lying by his feet - shattered into a thousand pieces.
Impatiently Igor was shaking his master, who had halted in the midst of his sentence and was staring with an open mouth at the wonder that was going on right there in front of him. "My lord?"
"It ... it just ate my standing-desk!"
"W - Why?"
"Maybe it's mad at us?"
"But why did it eat my standing-desk?"
"What?" The count was looking at his young apprentice as if he saw him for the first time in his life.
"What do we do now?" Igor had understood enough from the explanations of his master that this was a portal - to another world, far away from everything they had ever known. To the stars - where ever that might be. "Will we step through it?"
"No!" The count was coming to his senses now. "That is far to dangerous."
Cautiously he walked over to the blue surface and held out a finger to touch it. The finger entered the surface and disappeared in it. Then he felt a strange prickling and pulled back the finger - it wasn't hurt. Surely, the thought of it was tempting ...
"No! Let's just see if there is someone on the other side to answer us. Fast, get a chest! An empty one. From the attic!"
Igor went into a short sprint und just stopped when he passed the count's servant. "Harold, you're all right?"
The shock about what he has just witnessed was still haunting Harold, but in countless years of service to the count and his infamous ancestors he had seen worse. "I will do fine, boy, thank you. By Selket! I will have to get a broom and clean up this mess." He pointed to the shattered tureen. "And afterwards I will cook a new soup - a strong one!" With that he departed and left the field to the count and Igor.
When Igor came back with the chest, the count had written down a short note on one of the parchments. "A message for the people on the other side," he said with a twinkle of his eyes, putting the parchment into the chest and closing it firmly. Then he took it without any second thought and threw it through the surface of the stone ring, where it disappeared in an instant. He would have happily jumped right after it, but - for now - he held himself under control.
With a ripping noise the connection closed and for a short moment the count and his young apprentice had a feeling as if they were looking right into eternity, then there was only the light of the torches to illuminate the underground hall.
"Now all we can do is wait."
My world has been reduced to a black wooden table with a bottle of cheap wine on it and an empty glass. I glance down the glass and see myself, deep down encaged in the endless emptiness.
This sight is too much for me to bear, and so I start crying like a little boy. I don't give a damn about what the other customers of the tavern are thinking about me. There is no honor left in me to care about. For a moment I'm bathed in pain, helplessness and self-pity. Then I fill up the glass with a clumsy swing of the bottle and pour the wine down my throat in one go. The biting alcohol burns away my sadness and leaves nothing but mindless emptiness.
My world is a dark hole, in which the grim lady has closed me in to punish me for crimes I can't remember. The grim lady, yes! For a short happy moment of my life I thought I had escaped her. But it was an illusion. Everything is just an illusion! The grim lady swept down on me again and took everything I ever cared about, my wonderful Elena and my little Jakob. One day they were enjoying their happy unburdened lives, the next they lay dead and bloated in their beds, taken away by the lady. War, plague, misery - they are the world that's meant for me.
I don't know where I got the power to continue and stay alive. To deny the grim lady once more. Maybe it's this pride, this being unable to let loose and give it all up. But there's not much pride left now. Just enough to spend the rest of my money drinking and lay down in the gutter afterwards - to die.
Then my view clears up a little and I find myself in the tavern. A man enters by the door. He is old - very old. He's marching through the gathered villagers, who step out of his way respectfully. In his hand he is holding a parchment which he firmly attaches to the tavern's black board. Then he turns around and lets his gaze wander through the room - for a while it's resting on my poor appearance - frowns and leaves the establishment just a few moments later with as much dignity as he had entered it.
A strange feeling stirs my insides, as if my subconscious has taken over for the time being. I lift myself up and set myself into a staggering motion to reach the announcement. There I let the words slowly sink into my mind.
for a dangerous expedition.
Enlist until the 13th day
on Castle Freund
- Count Sebastian von Freund
Suddenly there was a young woman standing beside me and sending me a impudent look. "You don't really want to go there? In your condition? They'll just throw you out!"
I push her aside rudely and turn around to face the tavern's exit. One step after the other, somehow I will surely make it up to the castle. But after just three steps I have to give up my plan, as the world is spinning around me faster and faster and finally the floor hits me like a hammerfist.
Harold was frowning. Not only had the count been careless about his responsibilities as a member of the aristocracy, so that he, his trusted servant, was the only one to keep the inhabitants of the nearby village under control, now he was also planning this foolish voyage through that cursed artifact.
The announcement he had posted a few days ago was only answered by two people. And these two were exactly as dubious as he had expected.
He had noticed the man earlier in the tavern. He did not fit into the crowd of the customers there. He was big, brawny and armed with a vicious looking sword. The left side of his face was disfigured by ugly scars, and his left eye socket was hidden under a shabby brown patch. He surely was a veteran soldier, the father of the young count would have liked him. The figure of this guy reminded Harold of a big and heavy barrel of wine, and the scent of him made the mental picture even more credible.
The woman was younger than the man, but not by many years - Harold estimated her to be in her thirties. She was dainty, more than two heads smaller than the soldier, and wore the colourful clothes of the gipsys. With her long brown hair, that she had arranged to a lot of small plaits, and her elegant face she was beautiful to look at. Only Harold wasn't so sure if he should like it or become even more suspicious.
The two had arrived at the castle together, but did not really seem to belong to together. Or what else should he make out of the evil glances they threw at each other all the time? But all his thoughts were not necessary anyway, because the young count would throw them both out as soon as he saw them. On the other hand - the counts von Freund had never been famous for their good discernment.
And that was exactly what happend when he lead the strangers into the library, where the count was brooding over some books. His young master just looked up, asking the names of the arrivals - the man's name was Gundar Seiler, the woman answered to the exotic name of Carmen Selaro - and told Harold to lead them upstairs to their rooms. When Harold saw their grinning faces, he knew that they were absolutely sure of what he thought about all this. He wasn't happy at all!
They had gathered in the big underground hall. Igor was sitting silently on the steps, that led up to the ring of stone, Gundar had made himself comfortable in one of the corners and Carmen was sitting on the only chair the room had to offer. Harold was standing in the entrance, his face showing no expression - his anger was slowly dissipating. He had gotten angry when he hadn't found the visitors on their rooms and had to search the entire castle for them. A while later he had found Carmen in the dining-room, where she was inspecting the table-silver, while Gundar had found his way into the wine-cellar, to enjoy the taste of some of the count's best wines. This lack of respect made it even more clear than their dubious apperance - these people couldn't be trusted.
The count paced the room and seemed not to be very upset about the recent events: "I hear that you have made yourself familiar with your surroundings - fine, fine. Although I have to tell you that we are not going to stay here, but embark on a journey that will take us far away from here. You see this ring of stone?" He pointed towards the ring, which was impossible to overlook.
"Clear and plain," the ragged mercenary answered dryly.
"This ring is what we will pass through to face whatever there might be on the other side."
The woman gave the stony artifact a doubtful look. It looked quite interesting and enigmatic with those strange symbols engraved on it. But at the end of the day it was nothing else but a dead, cold piece of rock. "What is so special about stepping through a ring? Or is this some kind of dark magic?" She had lowered her tone enigmaticaly, but it was clear that she hadn't meant this seriously.
"No, no, no!" the count answered impatiently. "This is all hard science! My great-grandfather found this ring in an ancient ruin in Zowizio over eighty years ago and brought it here." He stopped for a moment, imagining the labour that was nessessary to transport the device with a weight of many tons the whole 1200 miles to this place - his great-grandfather's passion for collecting things had known no bounds. "After studying many ancient scripts, I found out that you can use the ring to travel to other worlds. We will fill it with the power of a lightning bolt to open up a portal. I did this two times last week, sending a message through it every time, without getting a reply. This time we will wait no longer but go there personally to have a look around and return soon after. Everyone who comes with me receives a payment of one hundred Taler. And maybe there will even be a small bonus. Any questions?"
Gundar, who really didn't care about anything anymore, asked the question out of pure routine. "Is it likely that we'll encounter enemy forces of some kind?"
"I honestly don't know. I hope this will not be the case. If we will run into some hostilities, we will have your sword. You know how to use it, don't you?"
The mercenary just nodded.
"One sword alone will not protect us." said Carmen resolutely. She did not believe in any of this nonsense about voyages to other worlds, but she would follow this eccentric count into his fantasies without hesitation - maybe there would be even more in it for her than the three silver forks she already had acquired.
"She is right," Harold said. The fear and apprehension in his voice was real and gave Carmen something to worry about. She had thought the old servant to be a rational person who wasn't disturbed by any weird fantasies. And now he said something like that? A numb feeling began to settle in her stomach.
"Yes, you're probably right. Igor, go and get me my fathers sword, and the chest with the duelling pistols. And maybe one of the daggers," he added with a side-look to Carmen. "You shouldn't be completely helpless."
The thief felt the words of opposition in her throat but went back to her chosen role fast enough. She gave the young count a bright smile. "Don't worry about me. No harm will befall me in such good company!"
"I don't think it would be a good idea to take her with us anyway," Gundar said. "I mean, she's a woman."
Now that was a little to much. "What do you mean?" she asked angryly. "That I'm worth less than an old dipsomaniac?"
Gundar stood up too and was about to answer with equal ferocity, when the count stepped between them. "Nonsense! I need both of you. So stop getting hostile with each other!"
Igor came back with the weapons and put an end to the dispute. Carmen and Gundar threw another evil glance at each other and let the discussion rest for the time being. The count took the sword from Igor. The weapon woke some not so nice memories about his father, who died in a senseless war that had brought nothing but pain to everyone. His father had always wanted him to become a warrior, but he had resisted all the time. Nevertheless he had had an extensive education in being a soldier, which could do him some good now. He quickly disposed of the memory. He would be ready to defend himself, but he would by no means provoke a fight, he swore to himself in this short
Then he grabbed the chest and took one of the precious duelling pistols out of it. "You take the other one!" he ordered the mercenary.
"You want to fight a duell with me?" Gundar asked promptly, but there was no humor in his voice. He took the other pistol and attached it to his belt. It's precious design did not fit at all with his otherwise rugged appearance.
Harold could only shake his head. He knew that he wasn't in the position to stop his master from doing something stupid. Nevertheless, he didn't feel comfortable with all this madness, and despite the brightness of the young count, he doubted that he was really aware of the risks.
A loud clap of thunder and a blinding flash interrupted him in his thoughts.
"Was that the ring?" asked Carmen after all was silent again. There was fear in her words.
"No, no, that was just the lightning bolt!" The count was already on his feet and running to the ring of stone, which was shining in a faint light now. "Quickly, give me a hand!"
Together they helped the count in his endeavors. The whole time Carmen and Gundar asked themselves what the hell was going on. Just before the seventh clamp was activated the count shouted a loud "Take cover!" His words did not stand for back talk and they all dived for the ground.
The energy washed over them like a flood, then the ring shone again with its bright enigmatic glow.
"By Selket!" Gundar cried out. He lay there leaning back on his arms looking up in surprise and disbelief. His heart was beating faster than ever and his adrenalin output was taking his breath away. He hadn't felt so alive in years! And at the same time he felt his own mortality again and cursed himself for having agreed with the plans of this crazy count so foolishly.
He hesitated for a moment, thinking about just turning around and going away. But where should he go? He was an old drunken bum with no money in his pockets. If he didn't take this chance, it was all over for him and the grim lady would get him at last. Cursing his fate, he walked towards his destiny.
A side-glance to the woman showed him that she felt just the same. He would show no fear in front of her, that much was clear. "Well, count, I will follow right behind you!" he said jovially.
"One moment!" the count answered him and took two big backpacks from another corner of the room. One of them he put on himself, the other he handed Gundar. Then he called Igor by his side and talked to him in a low whisper.
"You know, you don't have to do this, Igor."
"And let you have all the adventure and exitement for yourself? I cannot allow that, master!"
The count gave a pleased nod and exchanged a look with Harold, who was still standing in the entrance frowning. "You keep everything running here until I'm back!"
"Of course. Please be careful, my lord!" the old servant replied with an unusual soft tone.
"I promise!" With this the count took the hand of his apprentice and they stepped into the glowing surface - and were gone.
Carmen was still standing there motionless. Gundar wanted to put his arm around her shoulder reasuringly, but she shoved him aside. "You think I'm a weak coward. But I'm sturdier than you think. And I will show you right here and now!" And with that she stepped away from him and throw herself through the ring of stone.
Gundar frowned. "Well, that was not what I wanted to say ..." He shrugged with resignation and slowly stepped towards the blue glow, eliminating his fear with pure determination. He shoved his left arm into the light, then the right one, and finally he made a step forward. And right afterwards he had the weirdest experience of his whole life.