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Name-day
stillhouse
dbalthasar
How do the Wraith see themselves?  PG because, well, they're Wraith....

    It is a simple mission, and so they do not ask the Old One if they may take a little longer.  He knows the day, and would approve, but the Queen is young and still not entirely sure of herself, and the Old One is not as young and beautiful as her Consort should be.  But that is the way of it, in this strange time, too-soon-awakened:  things are not as they should be, as they have always been, and there is nothing to do but ride the wind.  So they do not ask, because they will not force anyone to say either yes or no. 

    They hunt carefully, cull as wisely as they can — leave more mature females, make sure not to take all the fierce young males — and feed deeply, so that hunger won’t lead them astray.  And then, the mission done, the cruiser departed, they flit through the gate, Darts following one on one like thoughts racing each other through a single mind.  They have been this way before, many times, the trees flickering past under the Darts’ wings, leaves rippling like water.  It is a dark day, heavy with cloud; the Darts murmur of storms to either side, air building to thunder, and the clevermen who fly them call back to them and to each other, rejoicing in the distant lightnings.

     They land at last in a familiar clearing, shields dissolving to release them into the stirring air of this world.  The one whose thoughts taste of the salt spray on a world of ink-dark seas lifts his head, the white mane rippling as he tests the wind.

    *The storms will be here soon.*  There is pleasure in the thought, a shivering delight in the wind that runs before the rain, hot and cold at the same time, when the clouds are heavy with electricity, blued-black with power.

    The other reflects the pleasure — he, too, knows the joy of storm — but turns his head, searching for the path.  It’s his name-token they have come seeking, and therefore his responsibility; he points, left-handed, the feeding hand decently at his side, and Salt nods, and they move together into the woods.

    This human lives alone, or did when last they met; the clevermen have caught the sense of a female once or twice, but never the same one, and they do not expect to find one now. They are not surprised:  as they move into the clearing, Salt deliberately breaks branches, and the human starts from his hut, bolting out with his gun in hand.  Salt shows his empty right hand — he is left-handed for feeding; the two clevermen are mirror-image in that as in everything else — and the other cleverman holds out his left, a gesture this human, at least, has learned to recognize.

    “You again,” he says, though he does not lower the gun.

    “Us again,” Salt agrees, and the other gives a soft snarl that is agreement.

    “We had a bargain.”  The human’s voice is high and sharp, reasonable fear.

    Salt gentles his voice.  “We have a bargain.”

    “What do you want?” the human demands.

    *Surely he knows,* Salt says, and the other reflects impatience for an instant before he tempers his own voice.

    “It has been a year.  We have come for the whiskey.”

    “Right.  All right.”  The human’s disbelief steams from him.  “I’ll get it.  Just — don’t move.”

    *Do we trust him?* Salt says. There’s something new in the human’s voice that he doesn’t like.

    The other glances from side to side, seeing nothing out of place. *He is not so alone as he was.  But there’s no one here now.*  He speaks then, the words clumsy and tasteless after the flicker of mind and mind.  “We will wait.”

    The human backs away, ducks into his house with the gun still leveled.  The clevermen exchange a glance that carries with it the shape of a plan, contingencies rattling into place like dice falling, and move so that they stand almost back to back.  Their weapons are within easy reach, and they are Wraith and strong.  Nonetheless, it is better not to take chances.

    The door swings back again, and the human appears, the gun still ready, the jar sealed in his other hand.  “I’ll put it down,” he says, “and then I’ll back away.  When I’m in the house, you can take it.”

    It’s the usual precaution, and Salt nods. “Very well.”

    They wait as the human sets the jar on the ground, and scurries back, never taking his eyes from them or his finger from the trigger.  When the door closes — gently — they step forward as one, and Salt stoops to lift the jar.  He holds it out, and the other cracks the seal, so that they can both smell the liquor it contains.  Salt shakes his head.

    *Very odd, really.  To have a human name.*

    *Probably better not to think too much about it,* the other says, with a flash of amusement like a blade.  He dips a finger in the clear liquid, tastes it, amazed that this is what he feels like, mind to mind, this thin sharp drink that burns his throat.  But the hive has agreed, and marveled with him, that this human thing carries his name.

    Salt laughs in his mind, mirroring the sensation, the sweet and bitter heat, and Whiskey smiles back, closes the jar tightly.  It is his name-day, and they have kept their bargain once again.

    Together they slip back into the woods, not bothering with the give and take of scoutcraft.  It is just luck that they hear the movement ahead of them in time, and with a quick touch of mind and mind slide away into the shadows of the trees.  The humans are ahead of them and to the right, four of them, armed and ready, moving through the woods toward the native human’s house.  Whiskey snarls at that, softly, knowing the native human has no reason to conceal their presence, and Salt lifts his head.

    *I know these humans.*

    *What?*

    *Know of them,* Salt amends.  *But look. The ones from the Ancient city — it has to be them.*

    Whiskey eases forward, his shoulder against the smooth bark of the tree, until he can peer through the leaves.   The humans are moving past them at an oblique angle, weapons ready — all except for one, who is holding his with less skill, and has his head up and his mouth open, his words floating on the wind.

    “— don’t know why we have to do this.  I already told you what he has, and it’s not all that interesting, not in the sense that, say, getting ambushed by the Wraith would be interesting —”

    The man behind him rolls his eyes, and the last man in the line, who has been walking half-backwards, covering the way they came, looks over his shoulder with a grin.

    “Rodney,” the leader says.

    “What?  I’m just saying that we need a ZPM more than we need this device.  A lot more.”

    “We said we’d help him,” the man behind him says.

    “And he said he had something to trade,” Rodney retorts.  “Which he doesn’t.  Not anything that we don’t already have.”

    “That’s not what you said before,” the leader points out.

    “That was before we scanned the planet.”  Rodney’s voice is rising.  “Look, there’s nothing here, nothing that we can use.  And plenty of signs that the Wraith come and go like it was — like it was a bus terminal.”

    “Which is interesting,” the leader says.  “Considering that the planet hasn’t been culled. I’d like to know why.”

    “So they’re Wraith worshipers,” Rodney says.  “All the more reason not to stick around.”

    Whiskey has eased forward to listen better, and now Salt’s mind touches his in warning.

    *No closer.*

    Whiskey bares teeth in answer, but freezes, a shadow against the trees.  There are too many to attack — even though they’re well-fed, these humans’ weapons will tear them to shreds before they can heal — and in any case there is useful information to be taken home to the Queen and the Old One.

    *What do you think your human has that they want?*  Salt asks.
 
   *Nothing,* Whiskey answers, with more assurance than is perhaps warranted.  Salt feels that, too, and wry amusement flickers in their minds.  *I’ve not felt any signs of our technology. Or of Ancient work. Just his still.*  He uses the human word perforce, having no other.

    *It’s the Consort,* Salt says.  *The leader here.  I’m sure of it.*
 
   Whiskey hesitates.  To attack the Consort — to wound him, perhaps even to kill him — that might be worth the sacrifice of their lives.  But no: the information he has overheard is more valuable.  The other one, Rodney, is still talking; the Consort abruptly waves him to silence, touching the thing he wears beside his ear.

    “Sheppard.”  He listens, and his face and hands tighten.  “Teyla’s sensing Wraith, people.   Lorne, Taylor —”

    Whiskey is no longer listening, concentrating instead on moving without sound, the warning blazing from his mind to Salt’s.  *They’ve spotted us.*

    *Back to the Darts.*

    They are withdrawing in order, making speed, but ready to cover each other if needed.  The trees are shelter and obstacle, low roots ready to catch at their feet, the trunks dark enough to hide their leathers.  Once they pause to listen, and Salt says, *Teyla.  That is the Queen-in-waiting.*

    *So the Old One has said.*  It isn’t fair, Whiskey thinks, that the humans should have both queen and heir, when the hive have only the one, and she has not yet proven herself fertile.  And that is a thought too close to treason, and he seals it away so that not even Salt can share it. *What’s more important is that they are short on power.*

    *You can’t assume that,* Salt says.  *Everyone wants more ZPMs.*

    *But it would explain a lot of their behavior,* Whiskey answers, and senses indecision. 

    And then Salt snarls.  *They’re coming,* he says, and the chase begins again.

    They reach the Darts as the rain begins to fall; the ships are ready, eager to be gone, and they fling themselves aboard and raise the Darts just as the first human burts from among the trees.  The clevermen fling their ships sideways, exposing the least vulnerable surfaces, and the Gate opens at their call.

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You know I love this just so much, don't you? Still do! *g*

This is the announcement community I mentioned -- http://community.livejournal.com/sga_noticeboard/profile -- you can see the headers they require, and then you link back to your own journal. I've found a lot of readers that way.

Thank you so much! And thanks for the link - I'll definitely head over there.

Here via artaxastra's rec. Wow! What a smart, fascinating little story! I love the alien perspective and the words they use for themselves. I really like the hints we get of Wraith society, particularly Whiskey's resentment that humans can have a queen and an heir. Very cool!

Thank you!! The Wraith are fascinating in canon, and I can't help wanting to figure out how that all works.

I like what you're doing with the Wraith here -- it's fascinating to try to figure out their culture, and neat to see the team through their eyes. (More please!)

Thank you! I'm glad you like it - and I think I'll probably be doing more Wraith stories over time!

Oh, wow, this is really fascinating, and such an original concept. I confess I'm still a little confused over a few details; guess I'll just have to read it a few more times!

Thanks! The Wraith really intrigue me (not sure what _that_ says about my personality, but let that pass... :-) It's hard balancing trying to get inside their heads and still being clear....

lots of people are more interested in the villains than in the heroes.

Well done. ^^ I especially liked the Queen/Queen-in-Waiting bit, the City being seen through alien eyes.

DragonLady

Thank you! Teyla makes a fairly decent queen, doesn't she? :-)

Love your story. Adds to Wraith story and I like your 2 Wraith and Teyla the Queen In Waiting interesting. Is there a story there?

Thanks! I'm hoping to do some more with all of this!

Here via artaxastra, and... wow. Just wow. Really good alien perspective, especially the taste of each other's minds leading to their names.

Thank you! I find the whole concept pretty fascinating - with luck I'll get some more done soon.

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