* TITLE: First Lessons
* AUTHOR: Redbyrd
* RATING: G
* CATEGORY: episode tag
* SUMMARY: Ry'ac learns some new things after receiving his primta—but is he taking them seriously enough?
* SPOILERS: S1 Bloodlines
* AUTHOR'S NOTE: For sg_fignewton, who said that Ry'ac was not a very distinct character to her.
* WARNINGS: None
The characters mentioned in this story are the property of Showtime and Gekko Film Corp. The Stargate, SG-I, the Goa'uld and all other characters who have appeared in the series STARGATE SG-1 together with the names, titles and backstory are the sole copyright property of MGM-UA Worldwide Television, Gekko Film Corp, Glassner/Wright Double Secret Productions and Stargate SG-I Prod. Ltd. Partnership. This fanfic is not intended as an infringement upon those rights and solely meant for entertainment. All other characters, the story idea and the story itself are the sole property of the author.
When Ry'ac opened his eyes, it was morning. He was back on his own mattress, in his own tent. He almost thought the weeks of sickness were a bad dream. Like one where his father came back and said…said…what? He'd been so tired, yesterday. But he remembered the priest…he shoved aside the blankets to look at his chest, and there it was, the smooth-edged flaps of a Jaffa pouch, not the faintly marked skin he'd had yesterday. He scrambled up and fumbled into a tunic before running outside. Today he didn't notice the threadbare tent that replaced the sturdy house they used to live in, or the firepit that his mother cooked flatbread over instead of baking fine risen bread in a stone oven.
"Ry'ac!" His mother turned away from the fire. "How do you feel?"
He shrugged off her cool hand on his forehead. "I am well, mother. I have a primta now!"
"Yes," his mother didn't look as happy and proud as he would have expected. "And you must learn now to kel'no'reem, or you will soon be sicker than you were yesterday." She turned to the fire. "Take your breakfast, Ry'ac, and then you must go see Master Bra'tac."
Ry'ac took a piece of warm bread where it rested on the stone by the fire, and bit into it hungrily. It was better with honey, but that was a luxury they had not had in some time. He swallowed. "I dreamed I saw Master Bra'tac when I was sick," he said. "And my father--" he broke off. They never talked about Father. Not since he was killed and they'd been driven from their home and become kreshta.
"You did not dream, he was here," Drey'auc said shortly.
"Father?" Ry'ac said in surprise. "He's alive? You said he died--I really saw him!" He looked around a bit wildly.
"I did not think he would return," Drey'auc said reluctantly. "So I thought it kinder to tell you he was dead. He and his friends left again. They wanted to stop you being implanted, but you were too sick."
Ry'ac frowned, confused and rather angry. His mother lied? And his father came and then left again? Not that it was unusual for Teal'c to be gone--most of Ry'ac's life he was away on the god's business. Finding out he was not dead but simply away seemed oddly more normal than the recent months of upheaval and sickness. "Why did he want to stop me being implanted?" Didn't his father know that Ry'ac was practically grown up? How could he become a warrior without a primta?
His mother pulled the pan off the fire, and set it down with a bang. "He was worried about you," she said tightly, in that way that said she was angry with his father but wasn't going to talk about it to him.
"Why didn't he stay?" Ry'ac asked.
His mother frowned. "Eat your bread."
Ry'ac hastily jammed the last of his bread into his mouth and took two more pieces before it was put away. "M'really hungry," he said.
His mother looked worried. "Yes, you'll need to have more to eat, now that you have a primta," she said.
Ry'ac had never thought of that. She must be worried about having enough food. They'd often been hungry, these last few months. He moved to put the bread back, but she gently closed her hand over his.
"Eat it, Ryac. You will need more food to remain strong now. You feed the primta as well as yourself."
Ryac swallowed the bread, feeling puzzled. He hadn't known that one needed more food with a primta. He looked at the meager pile of bread that would last them the whole day, unless his mother could barter for more grain. "Is that why Father--" he stopped, not sure what wanted to ask. Why wasn't his father here, helping them?
His mother met his eyes, her dark gaze thoughtful. "He asked me--us--to go with him, Ry'ac," she said. "Perhaps we should have--but it's bad enough being the next best thing to beggars here. I would not seek the charity of strangers, and take you away from your people and our home. And his friends do not carry primtas--mine will mature within the year. If we left Chulak, where would I get another? And where would you?"
"Where is Father?" Ry'ac asked. He tried to remember yesterday, but it was a blur of fever and discomfort. There were several other men, pale-skinned, wearing strange garb of dull green?
"He has gone away through the chappa'ai, with his friends the Tau'ri," she said. "Now go- Bra'tac is waiting for you."
Ry'ac licked the last crumbs of the warm flatbread from his fingers, then broke into a run along the riverbank, feeling the strength flow into his arms and legs. It was easy to forget how anxious he'd been about the implantation now it was over. He scooped up a rock and threw it as hard as he could out over the water, watching with delight as it cleared the opposite bank and crashed through the tree branches. He laughed with sheer pleasure. And his father tried to stop this? He would never be sick again, never be tired- he ran full on into a warm solid bulk and bounced off onto the ground before even his new reflexes could respond.
He would have scrambled to his feet, but the butt of Master Bra'tac's staff was poised about his throat, and he dared not move. "You are late, boy," the older man said.
Ry'ac flushed guiltily. His mother had only reminded him three times that morning that he was to spend the afternoon learning the discipline of kel'no'reem with Bra'tac. He thought resentfully that it was his father who should have taught him, if he hadn't run away and abandoned his family. The other boys taunted him, saying his father was a coward, and he had betrayed the god because he was afraid to face battle. Then he realized that he was the first of his age-mates to be implanted. None would be able to stand against him now.
"You shall not use your new strength against the other boys," Bra'tac said.
Ry'ac's eyes went wide with terror and all thoughts of childish revenge fled. Could the old Jaffa Master read minds?
Bra'tac looked down at him disapprovingly. "You must put aside childhood, and begin your training as a warrior." He moved the staff aside. "And your first lesson is that you must be aware of your surroundings. You should find your opponents by observation, not by running into them."
Ry'ac scrambled to his feet, at once aware that his tunic was dirty and ruffled. "Yes, Master Bra'tac."
"Come along," Bra'tac said.
The older man led him swiftly through the trees, to a clearing. A training ground, Ry'ac realized, seeing the log structures meant for staff drill and physical training. "Why do we not train at the village ground?" he asked, picturing himself going through staff drill while the other children watched- as he himself had so often watched the older boys.
"Your father wishes you to learn things that I taught him," Bra'tac said. "And some of these are best discussed privately." There were two meditation mats already spread on the ground. The older Jaffa gracefully sank down onto one, motioning Ry'ac onto the other.
Somewhat self-consciously, Ry'ac folded himself into the position for kel'no'reem, conscious that this was no longer play- his primta moved in its pouch. He squirmed under Bra'tac's scrutiny scrutiny. "My father ran away," he said, resentment in his tone. He left me.
Bra'tac said, "Your father had no choice- if he stayed Apophis would have killed him, and he would never see you again."
Ry'ac blinked. Bra'tac was speaking to him as if he were not a child. "I heard that the god thinks my father betrayed him. They call him shol'va."
Bra'tac was still watching him closely. "That is because Apophis knows that your father knows his secret. As do I. As your father wishes me to tell you."
Ry'ac straightened and looked expectant.
"Apophis is no god," Bra'tac continued. "He is a creature of another sort, a Goa'uld. He inhabits the body of a human. He destroys the mind and wears the body like a piece of clothing. When he is through, he will cast it off and take over the body of another."
Ry'ac felt a strange slithering in his chest--no, his pouch. "Will--will the primta do that to me?" he asked.
Bratac shook his head. "The Goa'uld do not use Jaffa in that way. Instead, we are their soldiers. We are brought up to believe they are gods--they are not. More than that, once we carry a primta, we can no longer live without it. We are dependent on them to provide another when the one we carry matures. They use our belief and our physical dependence to enslave us."
"We are not slaves!" Ry'ac protested. He had seen slaves in the grounds of the temple, or laboring in the fields. Weak pitiful creatures, fit only to serve their betters.
"Are we not?" Bra'tac asked seriously. "We fight at their order, or we are punished. We die at their command or our families suffer. We carry their children in our bodies for the health and strength it gives us--but we ever after, we are bound to them. We take pride in the honor of Jaffa, yet our honor is nothing when set against the whim of the least of the Goa'uld."
Ry'ac swallowed. Suddenly the primta that had filled him with pride an hour ago, felt more like a trap, now. He folded his hands over the pouch, feeling the symbiote move uneasily inside. He remembered Drey'auc telling him that his father had not wanted him implanted, that they had had to stay on Chulak because otherwise, they would die when they needed another symbiote. Did that mean his father would die, when he needed another symbiote? But Jaffa carried symbiotes- it was the way things were. Was it truly slavery? He remembered seeing a Jaffa executed in the city square, for failing in his duty to the gods. But surely that was not the same as laboring in the field. "But slaves are only humans!"
"Your father's friends are also human," Bra'tac said. "Tau'ri, from the First World. They banished Ra from their world centuries ago, and finally hunted him down and killed him. They now fight against Apophis and the other Goa'uld. Your father has joined them in the hope that one day, all Jaffa will be free."
Bra'tac never called them gods, Ry'ac realized. "That is why he left?" He looked at the gold brand on his forehead, so like Teal'c's. First Prime, as his father had been after him. Bra'tac and his father knew the gods better than any other Jaffa.
"Yes, that and because it is better than being dead," Bra'tac said. "He wished you to learn this about the Goa'uld. So that you can help him, when you are a warrior."
Ry'ac absorbed this. "But will not the gods--the Goa'uld--punish him if he is caught? What if they catch us? They must know--" The gods could see anything they wanted, couldn't they?
"Apophis does not know all," Bra'tac said, "He has devices." Bra'tac touched his staff weapon lightly. "These are tools. A tool does not make one a warrior. A true warrior will fight with sticks, with his hands and his mind. Without their tools, a Goa'uld is weaker than the least Jaffa. Because they do not train, do not strive."
This was a daring thought. Jaffa, better than the Goa'uld? The gods, helpless without their mysterious tools? It was certainly true that the God Apophis was very angry with his father--but his father had escaped! Truly, the gods could not be all powerful. His father's words floated back to him. 'I know the day will come when we will stand side by side in battle to free our people from the false gods. Remember, my son, remember.' He looked at Master Bra'tac. "And will you teach me to be a warrior, Master? Like my father? So I can help to fight the go--the Goa'uld?"
Bra'tac looked at him intently, and then gave him a slight smile. "I will, Ry'ac. And if you work hard, you will be a great warrior indeed." He shifted slightly on the mat. "But you must understand that few believe as we do. We must keep our beliefs a secret while we plan our actions."
"I can keep a secret!" Ry'ac promised.
Bra'tac said seriously, "You must. Or we could all die--you, me, your mother. This is very important, Ry'ac. You cannot speak to your friends of this, to anyone. You must be cautious and clever, always. The gods are not all-knowing, but they do watch us. And they have spies. This is warrior's business, not children's. I would not have chosen to teach you this yet, but your father insisted."
Ry'ac was simultaneously filled with pride at his father's confidence and determination to prove to Bra'tac that he was trustworthy. "I will tell no one!" he said. "I swear it."
Bra'tac nodded. "See that you remember." He looked critically at Ry'ac. "Now we will practice kel'no'reem," he announced. "Straighten your back, boy."
Ry'ac straightened his back and tried to subdue the whirl of thoughts that distracted him from Bra'tac's lesson. Already he felt older than he had just this morning. He would become a warrior, and stand beside his father in battle against false gods. Teal'c had said so.