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Chapter 5. The Challenges


 

Next day, SG-1 had again walked to the Stargate to wait for Stargate Command to contact them. The wormhole had activated, but only for a moment, and no signal had come through. Clearly, the solar disturbances were now at a level that made any communication with Earth or other planets impossible.

Everyone had gathered on the main town square for breakfast, and they had enjoyed a simple, but satisfying meal. Afterwards, Tinnok got up and began speaking, like he seemed to do a lot for these occasions.

"Good citizens of Kareka! Our honoured visitors! Everyone! Welcome to this first day of the challenges of this year's Time of the Fire and Lights!"

"We are honoured!" everyone called to him, and SG-1 and the Tok'ra quickly repeated it.

Tinnok smiled, pleased. "As you all have noticed, the lights in the sky are very strong this year, promising growth and fertility to our village and beyond. Not only this, but we are also blessed with visitors from beyond the Ring! Two... no three of their women are seeking mates in the games, and several of their men are competing. We all look forward to learning of their skills and abilities." Tinnok smiled happily at SG-1 and the Tok'ra, and then at everyone else. He bowed deeply for the high priest who sat in the seat beside him.

The priest rose. "Today's challenges will be in swiftness, command of fire, and control of water."

Tinnok bowed his head to him, and continued speaking. "As usual, points will be awarded according to the placement of the competitor. When all four days of the games are concluded, the winner will be the one with the highest score. Good luck."

"May the creators of the lights help you," the high priest said.

Everyone clapped and cheered him, and then they all drank a glass of a 'sacred liquid' - some sort of fruit wine, which was very low in alcohol-content.

It was now time to go to the plains just outside the city, where the first of the challenges was to take place.

The men were first taken to a hut where they all changed into clothing more suitable for the games; shoes, leggings, and a shirt - nothing that would easily catch the wind or otherwise obstruct them. The clothing was unicoloured, with all those competing for a specific woman wearing the same colour clothing.

Freya/Anise were also given clothing of this type, and her colour had been assigned to be red. That meant all the men competing for her wore red.

The men trying to win Sam were wearing blue, but the clothes were otherwise identical.

There would be one separate heat for each of the women, in which all the men who desired her would compete.

In Sam's case, 6 local men, Martouf/Lantash, Daniel, and O'Neill were competing, making a total of 9 competitors. According to the rules, there was then a possibility of winning at most 8 points in each of the competitions, as you got 1 point for each person who finished after you. Since Martouf and Lantash shared their body, they would compete together and share the points.

All or most of the competitions had been designed to test the skills of the men in the skills usually needed in the village.

The first competition was in 'swiftness' and this turned out to mean running. The track was just over half a mile long, with a slight inclining upwards towards the end.

The winner of this round was one of the local men, followed by another local man, followed by Martouf/Lantash. O'Neill came in fifth, and Daniel last.

Anise and Freya competed against the seven men vying for her hand. They all turned out to be good runners, but so were Freya and Anise. The result was that Freya/Anise came in third, and so got 5 points.

The next competition was 'command of fire', and simply meant the men had to show how quickly they could start a fire, using only what they could find in the area around them.

The local men had all tried this before, and while the Tok'ra and the members of SG-1 had some experience in it as well, it was not as much - since they would almost always have more modern fire-starting tools available when they were on missions.

Freya/Anise placed last in this event, and in Sam's group, Martouf/Lantash, Daniel, and O'Neill took the three last places.

The third event that day would be 'control of water', and that would take up the remainder of the day. The men would each have to construct a water-lift and show it could reliably transport water to an irrigation canal. If two had constructed their water-lift equally well, more points would go to the one who had done the job fastest.

This challenge was not too difficult for the villagers, who had all helped with the local irrigation systems before. O'Neill, on the other hand, had absolutely no experience with irrigation, so he came in last - though he did manage to fashion something that worked, eventually.

Martouf hailed from one of the worlds that had been quite advanced before the Goa'uld retook it, and he only had what knowledge about irrigation he had read about in books, or seen in museums. Fortunately, Lantash's first host had been from a planet that used primitive irrigation systems like water-lifts, and they thus succeeded in constructing a functional water-lift relatively fast, coming in on a 6th place.

Daniel had extensive theoretical knowledge about water-lifts, and he had seen them at work both on his travels on Earth, and elsewhere. He had no practical knowledge of them, but he eventually managed to get something working as well - placing him 8th.

Freya/Anise had theoretical knowledge of water-lifts, just like Daniel, but no practical experience, and came in last.

With the challenges of the first day over, they could only conclude that it was not going so well for any of the members of SG-1 or the Tok'ra. They were all feeling somewhat subdued for the evenings celebrations, but hopeful that it would go better the next day.


Next day - their fifth day on the planet, and third as guests in the village - started much as the other days had. After a short - futile - trip to the Stargate, SG-1 and the Tok'ra joined the villagers for a communal meal on the town square. The weather was still nice and balmy, and the breakfast was eaten outside, like all the other meals they had shared with the locals until now.

At the end of the meal, Tinnok rose to give the status of the games and proclaim the challenges that would happen that day.

"Friends! The first day of the games was exciting! I know you have all followed them closely, but tradition demands that I begin by reciting the score of the competing men..."

"Jeez! Please don't!" O'Neill exclaimed, though he kept his voice down enough that Tinnok ignored him.

"All is not lost. Only the first day of challenges has passed, and we will surely do better today," Martouf said, throwing a worried glance at Sam.

"I know you're doing your best." Sam smiled at him, and then at Daniel and O'Neill. "I just really wish we hadn't ended up in this whole mess!"

"...Martouf and Lantash on a shared sixth place with Rhoak, each having 11 points, followed by Jack O'Neill, four points, and Daniel Jackson, 2 points," Tinnok said.

"Crap!" O'Neill grabbed the jug of light fruit-wine and filled his cup, then washed it down in one big gulp.

"I should have known I would lose," Daniel grumbled.

"You have not yet lost, Daniel Jackson. There are still three quarters of the games left," Teal'c told him.

"Please be quiet. I wish to hear the scores for my group!" Freya said.

"...And in fifth place, Jaol, with seven points. Sionan is in sixth place, with six points, followed by Freya and Anise with five points, and Juun with two points." Tinnok raised his cup. "Let us all drink for these competent men - and women - who are making these games one of the best ever!"

Everyone drank a cup, and cheered the competitors.

"What now? What are the 'challenges' today?" Daniel asked.

"He hasn't said yet! Quiet, or we won't hear it!" O'Neill told him, sounding irritated.

"Today's competitions will be: hunting skills and repair-work. Good luck to you all!" Tinnok said, smiling.


The first challenge was intended to show the contestants skills as hunters. The goal was to catch either a hare or a bird, using only the weapons provided - namely bow and arrow, spear, and a knife. In addition, they were allowed to make traps if they wanted, but anything needed for those would have to be found in nature.

They could use as much time as they wanted for this hunt, as long as they returned before sunset. Of course, they would be judged on speed as well - returning early would give them two points, whereas returning late would only give them one point. Not catching anything meant zero points. In addition, the second test would start about two hours before sunset, so if they were late for that, they would likely lose points in that competition as well, as it had to be completed before night had fallen.

Both Martouf/Lantash and O'Neill did well in the first competition, and returned as number three and number two, respectively. That meant they both got two points for this test.

Daniel was one of the last to return - and he had not caught anything, which meant a score of zero. He had decided to return in time for the start of the day's second competition - hoping that would turn out better.

This ended up being a wise choice, as the second test required them to repair a piece of lattice work for a fence. That was something Daniel had tried on Abydos, and he finished quickly - earning him six points.

Freya had hunted with her brothers when she was a child, and was very skilled at it. She and Anise were the second in her group to return, having caught a large hare, and got 2 points. They also did well in the second test, and got 5 points for their repair work.

It was now almost dark, and the sky was ablaze with colours - the polar lights were easily the strongest any of the members of SG-1 or the Tok'ra had ever seen.

With the competitions over for that day, everyone went for a quick bath, after which there would be a late dinner on the town square.


"Well, things went a little better today, at least," Sam said, trying to be positive about it.

"Not much. I've still got the lowest score in your group!" Daniel grumbled.

"We all do. Marty is the only one that's even close to the score the locals got - and he's still got less than them," O'Neill complained. "We need a different plan."

"Like what?" Daniel asked. "We can't get off the planet, we have no weapons, and we're under orders to make friends with the locals so we can get that damn healing drug!"

"There are two more days of tests - you must not despair yet," Teal'c reminded them.

Martouf took Sam's hand, and squeezed it gently. "Samantha, Lantash and I will not allow any of the locals to claim you as their mate. If we do not win the challenge for you - and I am in no way ready to concede that - then we will find another way."

"Thank you." She smiled at him.

"The same for you, of course, Freya and Anise - if you don't win yourself, I mean," Daniel said.

"Thank you, but I intend to win," Freya told him, then smiled at him.

The food was served, and it was both delicious and filling, just as it had been the other days. Also just as the other days, Sam, Freya/Anise, and the other women got a glass of the beatus potum.

Sam sighed as she emptied her glass. "They sure got a lot of traditions and rituals on this world!"

"It is fairly common in agricultural societies like this," Daniel said. "The rituals are intended to ensure a good harvest, and things like that."

"I know, you told me. I just wish they didn't insist on marrying me off to whomever wins a damn game! That's pretty insulting!" Sam exclaimed.

"I don't believe they see it that way. Rather that it's an honour, and ensures that you get the best possible mate, and thus that your offspring gets the best chances," Daniel said.

Sam snorted, and picked up the half-eaten piece of pie on her plate. She looked at it for a moment, then put it down again. "I think I'm full. What about the rest of you?"


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