It never rains but it pours
All publicly recognisable characters and places are the property of MGM, World Gekko Corp and Double Secret Productions. This piece of fan fiction was created for entertainment not monetary purposes and no infringement on copyrights or trademarks was intended. Previously unrecognised characters and places, and this story, are copyrighted to the author. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.
Category: Missing scene, some humour
Series: Number 19 in Scribe's Shower Scene Series
Season/spoilers: Set during Prodigy but no spoilers
Warnings: Nudity and sexual references
Summary: What was Daniel getting up to while the rest of SG-1 were scientist sitting
Author's Notes: The blame for this story lies solely with The Economist magazine who printed an obituary for a real-life African queen who was claimed to have the power to make it rain. For anyone who is interested it has been proven that seeding clouds with certain chemical does in deed produce rain. Unfortunately when the UK's Ministry of Defence tried it back in the 1950s they apparently created a downpour that resulted in a 12 foot tidal wave sweeping through a small village. Don't you just love research. (PS. My thanks to my beta readers who pored over the first part of this story for me. Love you all)
"You don't believe me?"
Uh-oh. Daniel could almost feel the heat of the Queen's glare. He quickly bowed his head, aware that not only his fate but that of SG-11 rested on his reply.
"Forgive me, your majesty. I did not mean to..."
Daniel ducked his head even further, wondering if it would help if he actually touched his forehead to the red soil on which he was kneeling. He still couldn't quite believe the speed with which this mission had gone pear-shaped. Less than an hour ago he'd been enjoying a thoroughly pleasant lunch of stewed lizard and alpi roots in the company of the village elder, a man who had warmly welcomed both Daniel and SG-11 into his small farming community. And now look - his hands were going numb thanks to being tied way too tightly behind his back and his muscles were complaining, loud and clear, that they'd had enough of kneeling, thank you very much.
Come to think of it, resting his forehead on the ground was definitely beginning to appeal. After all, what harm could another few inches do, other than making it easier for the Queen's machete-wielding honour guard to remove his head from his shoulders. At that thought Daniel immediately straightened his back. That big warrior - what was it he'd been addressed as? Shaky...Shirley... no Shalakos. Yes that was it. Shalakos had given him the distinct impression he would like nothing better than to add Daniel's vertebrae to the impressive collection of bleached white trophies he was wearing round his neck.
A pair of dark-skinned feet moved into Daniel's line of sight. A woman's feet from their size; the Queen's judging from their age. Damn, he hadn't heard a thing. How could somebody dressed in dried grass and dripping with animal bone bracelets and necklaces manage to sneak up on him like that?
A gnarled hand suddenly gripped his chin. His head was pulled upright, his hiss of pain barely escaping his lips thanks to the tight grip to the right and left of his jawbone. He found himself looking straight into Queen Malamba's eyes, the irises so dark they were almost black.
She scrutinised him for a long moment, a frown deepening the lines of her leathered skin. "I see the doubt in your eyes."
His jaw still held fast in her grip, Daniel could neither respond nor escape the full force of her halitosis. Charming. He made a mental note to introduce the woman to the wonders of the modern toothbrush - assuming of course she let him live long enough to offer such a gift.
Since he couldn't move his head, he tried at least to lower his gaze as a show of respect. It didn't work. Malamba barked a torrent of words that Daniel couldn't quite translate in its entirety but, judging from the raucous laughter from her honour guard was a derogatory assessment of his manhood, before releasing him with a flick of her wrist. Damn, but the woman was strong. The action sent him tumbling backwards, landing awkwardly on his bound hands. He choked back a cry of pain, determined not to give her any more ammunition with which to insult him.
As he straightened up, he saw the four members of SG-11 shoot him expectant looks. They too were tied up and were kneeling in a row to one side, their backs to the left-hand wall of the hut. If they thought he was going to get them out of this, they'd better think again. The sudden arrival of Malamba and her entourage had clearly taken the locals by surprise, and Daniel hadn't had a chance to prepare for the complex rituals involved in addressing Insu royalty. As a result he'd managed to get himself and his temporary team deeper and deeper into trouble with every badly articulated sentence.
Major Edwards caught his gaze and mouthed something at him before nodding towards the pile of SGC weaponry at Malamba's feet. Daniel frowned, unable to decipher the major's urgent demand. He surely couldn't be suggesting Daniel try to get hold of a grenade? What did he think he was going to do? Pull the pin out with his teeth? Besides, now was hardly the time for the major to start giving orders. The speed with which Edwards had agreed with Malamba's henchmen that, yes, Daniel was in the one in charge, still rankled. Jack would never have done that - not even on an archaeological mission like this where, technically speaking at least, Daniel was the one calling the shots.
He decided to ignore Edwards' fish impressions. Cautiously he resumed his kneeling position and once again ventured an apology.
"Your majesty, I humbly beg your forgiveness. It was not my..." He hesitated, struggling to get his tongue round the unfamiliar words. African languages weren't his strong point, but this one seemed to bear more than a striking resemblance to Kanuri, a dialect he'd come across one long summer spent travelling through Nigeria.
Malamba clicked her tongue impatiently and favoured him with another of her skin-flailing glares. It was all he could do not to flinch. Much to his relief, though, the glare was just the impetus he needed for the missing word to pop in his mind.
"It was not my intention to offend. Nor to doubt you. My own world has many tales of rainmakers. The Hopi tribe of Arizona, by the way that's one of our desert regions and therefore very dry, believe that the kachina - the spirits of the gods - come down from the mountains each year to bring them..."
"Enough!" Malamba cut him off again. "Your words are nothing but babble. Tales of rainmakers? Am I a tale that one might use to soothe a child to sleep?"
Daniel ducked his head again. "No, your majesty."
He waited for several moments before looking up. Malamba had returned the intricate wickerwork chair that served as a mobile throne. Shalakos was bending over her, whispering confidentially into her ear while his eyes bored into Daniel. As Daniel tried to distract himself from the hostile scrutiny by calculating just how tall Shalakos was - six-ten? seven feet? - it suddenly dawned on him what the name meant. Of course, Shalakos, that was Giant Courier of the Rainmaker. Courier - messenger. Yes, that made sense for the Queen's right-hand man. Daniel realised he'd been on the right track when he'd mentioned the Hopi. Right culture, wrong tribe. Shalakos, if he remembered correctly, came from the tribal legends of the Zuni.
Incredible! The culture here was obviously a cross-pollination of African and Native American. That explained the unusual artwork in the caves he'd been exploring. Now if he could just separate the ancient earth myths from the bizarre mish-mash of goa'uld legend...
Daniel's attention was yanked back to the here and now as Shalakos straightened up and gave him a distinctly chilling smirk. Malamba also rose to her feet, her agility and speed belying her apparently senior age. Two strides brought her in front of Daniel. She stood hands on hips, eyes blazing. She raised her hand, and this time Daniel did flinch. He was sure his jawline was already sporting finger-shaped bruises. He really didn't want a repeat demonstration of the strength of her grip.
To his relief, she merely tilted his chin upwards and leaned towards him, her nose barely six inches from his.
Malamba's mouth stretched into a smile heavy with dark promises. "I have decided to drive your doubts from you, Daniel Jackson."
Oh God. Being on the receiving end of that breath was likely to drive more than doubt from him.
"Really, that isn't necessary..." Daniel began, his stomach threatening to rebel at both the implied threat and the stench.
Malamba ignored him, turning to Shalakos to bark an order. "Take him to the place of the Powamu."
Daniel was immediately hoisted to his feet and dragged towards the door of the hut.
"Wait!" He struggled in Shalakos' grip, earning himself a set of finger-shaped bruises. "What about my team? They've done nothing wrong."
Malamba didn't even bother to glance in SG-11's direction. "They can go free... if you succeed in pleasing me."
This was not good. Not good at all.
Daniel had been half-dragged through a labyrinth of underground tunnels by Shalakos for what seemed like an eternity. With his hands still tied behind his back and the light from Shalakos' torch throwing out warped shadows, he'd managed to stumble and fall more times than he cared to think about. He was sure the knees of both his pant legs were torn to shreds, and he didn't dare begin to acknowledge the stinging pain from numerous patches of abraded skin. He could still feel the warm trickle of blood flowing down his cheek from where Shalakos had, with apparent indifference, allowed him to collide eyebrow first with a low hanging shelf of rock.
Worse still, the whole trip was giving him nightmare flashbacks to his time with Chaka. It was all he could do to convince his over-active imagination that he couldn't hear guttural roars in the distance. Then again, with Queen Malamba's ominous presence barely a stride behind him, he was rapidly reconsidering the idea that being the main course for an Unas banquet was the worse thing that could happen to him.
He stumbled again as the path suddenly took on a steep incline. Arrggghh! This time he couldn't silence his tortured cry. His abused knees collided with solid rock again and something sharp scraped along his right bicep as he curled and rolled to prevent his nose from meeting the ground. Malamba chittered over his head, her voice like automatic fire. Daniel caught the single word 'enough', before Shalakos growled something inaudible in reply. Two huge hands folded into the back of his tee-shirt, causing him to almost be garrotted by its neckline as he was pulled to his feet.
Daniel had barely found his balance before one of Shalakos's hands shifted from his tee-shirt to his shoulder, spinning him round and pushing his face to the damp rock wall. Memory flared. Pain along his cheek. The threat of death. Chaka's eyes - dark, brooding.
"No! God, no!"
The protest escaped his lips before his brain registered that Shalakos' intention was far removed from that of Chaka. There was a whisper of metal sweeping through air. The ropes around his wrists tightened almost unbearably and then - Daniel suddenly realised he was free. Cautiously he eased his arms forward, hissing as his muscles protested. Even more cautiously he turned, resting his back against the solid rock behind him. Both Shalakos and Malamba were watching him, their expressions unreadable.
Daniel rubbed at his wrists, flexing his fingers as an acute case of pins and needles preceded the return of blood flow.
"Ummmm...." He licked his lips, tasting salt. "Thank you."
Malamba gave a brief nod of her head and waved him forward.
Wearily Daniel pushed himself away from the rock face and stepped back in line.
Ten minutes later he was sweating freely and labouring for breath. In front of him, Shalakos climbed easily, his long legs striding at a pace Daniel found hard to match. Unbelievably, Malamba also seemed to find the ascent easy. She clucked along behind Daniel, chiding him for being no stronger than an infant.
Daniel was just contemplating introducing his companions to the novel concept of rest, when he caught sight of natural light up ahead. Spurred on by the prospect of reaching their destination - even though he wasn't keen to discover what fate might befall him there - he gritted his teeth, ducked his head down and slogged on.
The sudden opening onto wide grassy outcrop took him completely by surprise. One moment he was wondering how on earth he was going to find the energy to walk another step, the next he was on the flat, a strong cooling breeze making his teeth chatter as it licked away the sweat from his bare arms and face.
Malamba's hand in the small of his back, urging him forward, made him realise he'd come to a dead stop. Wrapping his arms across his chest in defence against the sudden chill he submitted to her guidance.
Roughly 100 paces in front of him the ground came to an abrupt halt. A sheer drop of several hundred feet was poised in all its dizziness-inducing glory before him. Daniel pulled in a sharp intake of breath and backed away from the edge.
"Is it not beautiful?" Malamba had moved to his side, her dark gaze drinking in the majestic vista before them.
Daniel nodded, barely able to catch his breath in the fierce wind that swept up the cliff face. He couldn't even start to get his head around the natural forces that would be required to create such a geographical anomaly. He was standing high above the head of a narrow gorge which clearly acted as a wind tunnel. Far below he could just about make out the silvery ribbon of the river that had cut through the rock over thousands of years. He turned, wary of having the sheer drop behind him, and risked looking upwards. The cliff face loomed above him, stretching up like a vast, natural skyscraper.
"It's incredible," he finally whispered.
For the first time since they had met, Malamba smiled at him, revealing two rows of dark yellow teeth. "Here we will make rain."
Daniel's eyes widened, a dozen questions battling for supremacy over his vocal chords. Before he could speak, though, Malamba moved in front of him and placed a dirt-encrusted finger to his lips. "Do not ask. Experience."
What? Despite himself, Daniel opened his mouth. At her warning look, he shut his jaws with an audible click. Behind Malamba he saw Shalakos disappear into the cave mouth from which they had just exited, apparently happy to leave his Queen alone with a stranger. A shiver of unease skittered across Daniel's shoulders, as his mind suddenly went into overdrive, supplying him with endless snippets of information. Rainmaking. In many cultures the practise was intertwined with celebrating the changing season and... Oh God. Fertility rites.
Malamba moved back to the edge of the precipice, spread her arms wide and shouted into the wind. Daniel strained to hear her words, but they were snatched away before they reached him.
Moments later she was back at his side. "The gods await our sacrifice," she said as she casually began to remove her clothes and jewellery.
Daniel's jaw dropped open again. She was expecting him to...? Oh no. She really couldn't want him to...? His stomach lurched. She was 75 years old if she was a day. He tried to mask his horror as she stripped off something that could be loosely described as a vest and revealed a pair of breasts that had given up the battle with gravity at least twenty years ago. No way could he... and that was before he even considered her breath!
She was watching him, amusement in her eyes. "Remove your clothes, young one."
Oh no. Absolutely not. Daniel suddenly felt very attached to his SGC uniform.
The amusement faded, replaced by a steely glint of determination. "Must I remind you that your friends lives are in my hands?"
Daniel swallowed hard. For a moment he'd completely forgotten about SG-11. He met Malamba's gaze and immediately knew she wouldn't hesitate to kill them all if she was angered. The woman was used to total and absolute obedience. But, oh dear God. How on earth was he going to... What was he meant to do? Just lie back and think of America?
Malamba moved towards him, eyeing his leather belt with greedy expectation. "Perhaps you require assistance?"
"No!" Daniel all but jumped backwards. "I can... ummmm... I mean... ummmm.... thank you, but really I..."
She laughed, but left him alone, concentrating instead on stripping off her remaining jewellery, her grass skirt and what seemed like an unnecessarily large number of roughly woven petticoats.
Naked except for a small pouch that hung on her left hip from a single strand of leather, she stood, legs akimbo, hands on hips, watching Daniel undress.
He could feel the heat flaming his cheeks as he wriggled out of his sweat-dampened tee-shirt, stalling for time by folding it meticulously before putting it on the ground. So help him God, the moment he got back to the SGC, he was going to turn Jack loose on Major Edwards. Next off were his boots and socks, the latter stuffed into the former for safe-keeping.
He glanced at Malamba. "You know I'd feel better if you..." Daniel made a small circular motion with one finger, trying to indicate Malamba should turn her back. He sighed as she looked at his hand with a bemused expression. "Right... ummm... never mind."
He dropped his hand, feeling foolish, and risked turning his back to her. Trying not to think too hard about what he was doing he unbuckled his belt, pulled down his zipper and stepped out of his pants. The wind ripped across his newly bared skin, setting his teeth chattering again. Glancing down he peered ruefully at his badly abraded and bruised knees. Great, he hadn't lost that much skin since he was six years old. A quick look at his right bicep revealed a spectacular gouge and a copious amount of dried blood. Peachy. Just peachy. That was probably going to need stitching. Perhaps he could set Janet on Major Edwards' case too.
He was stalling and he knew it. Oh God. He really didn't want to do this. His fingers folded into the waistband of his boxers. Closing his eyes as if he could somehow blot out the reality, he yanked the material downwards and stepped out of them in one fluid move.
The wind immediately made its presence known to bits of him that really shouldn't be getting an airing. Daniel sucked in a sharp breath. Well, that probably sealed his fate. Even if he was able to summon up the will to do what Malamba wanted the chill air pretty much guaranteed he was not going to deliver a 'pleasing' performance.
"Your modesty will anger the gods," Malamba hissed angrily behind him.
Please, yes! Strike me down with a bolt of lightening. He sent a look of appeal heavenward, but the gods refused to act. Guess they knew there were far better ways to punish his lack of reverence. Nothing for it then... Perhaps if he concentrated on something else while doing it... Or someone else. Sha're perhaps. No, not Sha're - his memories of her were too special to be tainted by this. Who then? Sam? Yikes, no. Sorry, Sam, not that you aren't a beautiful woman, but... C'mon, Daniel, think. Janet then? Janet unbuttoning her blouse, writhing and moaning that she's hot...
Malamba's chiding voice sliced through his musings.
Reluctantly, Daniel turned round.
Malamba scrutinised him from head to toe and back up again. She gave a brief nod that Daniel hoped was approval then, without a word, she turned away and moved to the edge of the precipice, leaving Daniel resisting the urgent desire to cover himself up with his hands.
Glancing back, she beckoned him and he reluctantly joined her. As soon as he was close enough, she snatched up his left hand in her right, and lifted her arms into the air. She nodded towards his lowered right arm.
Okay, he could get that up. Feeling more than a bit self-conscious, Daniel stood on the cliff edge, both arms raised, the wind flailing his naked skin. Besides him Malamba began to chant.
Snatches of words and phrases flowed over Daniel. Despite his situation he couldn't stop his enthusiasm bubbling up at the fact he really was experiencing living breathing folklore. To his dismay, for every word he caught and translated, a dozen whistled past him, riding the updraft and dispersing in the thin atmosphere at the top of the cliff.
As the minutes past, Daniel forgot his embarrassment. He became caught up in the rhythmic intonation of Malamba's chant, the occasional stamp of her foot, the warmth of her hand holding his, the harsh pressure of the wind against his flesh.
Abruptly Malamba let go of his hand. She turned towards him, her wrinkled face split by wide yellow smile. "The gods are ready."
Oh crap. The gods might be, but he most definitely wasn't. He opened his mouth, desperately trying to summon words that might appease her while explaining why he couldn't do.... this. He never got a chance to speak.
Malamba turned away from him, thrust her hand into the pouch at her hip and scattered a handful of bright yellow dust into the wind. It whipped up and away, vanishing from sight in an instant. She gave an earthy laugh, clearly delighted. Snatching up Daniel's hand, she plunged it into the pouch, encouraging him to copy her.
Daniel felt the dust against his fingertips, smooth like talcum powder. He pulled out a handful and tossed it into the wind, futilely trying to watch its path as it raced upwards. Curious he lifted his fingers to his nose; they smelt acrid - like one of Janet's many potions. Beside him Malamba loosed a second handful, then a third. Within seconds, the pouch was empty.
He was aware of her gaze again. "So... now what?"
Yellow teeth flashed. "Now... we wait."
"We wait?" Daniel felt a rush of relief. Waiting was good. Waiting was definitely good.
Malamba had turned away again, her attention focused upwards. Daniel followed her gaze, but all he could see was a few wisps of cloud that had been there the entire time they'd been on the outcrop.
Shivering, he nodded hopefully towards his clothes. "Could we..."
"No!" Malamba's voice was sharp. "Rainmaking is a gift. We have yet to show our gratitude to the gods."
"Gratitude?" Daniel winced, and decided he really couldn't keep quiet any longer. "Look... about this whole communing with nature thing, I mean... well, what I'm trying to say is... while I've gained a whole new respect for nudists, I need you to understand..."
"SShhhhh!" Malamba silenced him with a gesture. She turned her face skywards again, her tone triumphant. "Look!"
For a moment he couldn't see anything unusual, but then.... Incredibly the wisps of cloud were drifting together. Even as he watched, other puffs of white were appearing against the azure blue. His eyes widened and he turned to Malamba.
"You did that?"
She gave him a withering look. "Of course. I am the rainmaker."
The wispy trails had grown into huge billowing clouds of white and grey, pregnant with rain, with incredible speed. Throughout it all, Malamba had sat cross-legged, chanting softly to herself and refusing to allow Daniel to engage in her conversation. Defeated, Daniel had finally settled next to her and concentrated on translating what she was saying. Almost immediately he wished he'd got his tape recorder with him. Malamba was working her way through a genealogy, which every now and again would include some fascinating titbit of information. Each time, Daniel would beg to be allowed to ask a question only to be silenced by a gesture or a sharp slap to his bare thigh.
Now, as the first heavy drop splashed onto the outcrop, Malamba suddenly came alive. She leapt to her feet, then leaned over Daniel to snatch up his hand and give him an unwelcome reminder that her breath smelled like a rancid yak.
"It is time!"
Daniel allowed himself to be pulled to his feet. "Time to go?" he asked hopefully, wiping his face as an enormous raindrop exploded on his forehead.
"Time to show our gratitude to the gods!" Malamba contradicted. "Come!"
If only I could, Daniel complained to himself as she dragged him towards the cliff edge.
Once again they stood perilously close to the sheer drop, legs braced against the ferocious updraft, arms raised.
Malamba turned her head towards him, the wind whipping long strands of grey hair across her face. "Do you trust me?" she shouted.
"Do you trust me?"
Dumb question. Daniel shook his head. "No."
Malamba laughed. "I like your honesty, young one. Don't be afraid."
Don't be afraid? He was standing stark naked, five hundred feet above a sheer drop with a woman old enough to be his grandmother. A woman who would kill an entire team of SGC soldiers if he didn't please her in some bizarre fertility rite. Sure - he wasn't afraid. Afraid didn't come anywhere close to what he was feeling.
Straining to hear Malamba's words, Daniel caught odd phrases of thanks and respect, then what sounded like an invitation. He was just trying to figure out exactly what he'd heard when Malamba abruptly let go of his hand. His head turned towards her and then... what the hell? It was as though the wind slammed into his chest with its full force, knocking the breath from his lungs. He staggered backwards, opened his mouth to exclaim and realised with horror he was no longer in full control of his body.
Something or someone was inside him. Panic surged. He tried to run, but his legs were locked. Then suddenly the alien presence began to soothe him, stealing away his fear. Despite the cold wind and the heavy droplets of rain splashing on his bare shoulders, Daniel felt his body was being wrapped in a blanket of warmth. Part of him warned that he should fight the soporific effects creeping over him, but another part, the much louder part was relishing the warmth and comfort. As his shock lessened, it dawned on Daniel that this strange union was actually rather pleasant; he was somehow floating, in his body and yet, at the same time, an outside observer.
It was raining steadily now. Daniel felt Malamba's hand on his arm. Her grey hair was already plastered to her head, making her look even older, almost skeletal, but the sight no longer repulsed him. It was as though he could see beyond the outer covering of wrinkled, sagging flesh. There were a strange duality about her - almost as though he was sensing two people.
Moving in front of him, she linked the fingers of both her hands with his and drew him to the centre of the outcrop. Slowly she began to trace a series of graceful arcs in the air, his trapped fingers making his arms move to mirror her actions. It was a dance. Daniel felt a strange joy bubble up inside his chest. It was all so new, so different, yet so familiar.
The rain fell harder. The pace of the dance increased. Feet began to tap a rhythm, heel, toe, a stamp. The alien presence within him guided his body, sometimes in harmony, sometimes in counterpoint. As he spun and twisted, the cold and his physical discomforts long forgotten, he became lost in the ancient ritual, both experiencing and observing. His senses filled with sound and scent, with the rhythm and touch of the rain, with the benign presence of the alien being, desiring only a fleeting taste of human form.
The moves became faster and ever more complex. Sweat glistened on his skin. Rain drops skittered along his shoulders before racing in tiny rivers down the broad sweep of his back. His pulse quickened. His breath came in short gasps of cooling air. He felt... incredibly, utterly, overwhelmingly... alive.
He woke with a start.
Where the hell was he? And what was that weight on his bladder?
Clear blue sky above. A vast cliff looming above him. And, oh God. Malamba asleep with her head on his bare stomach.
He was about to bolt away when he realised that would result in her head coming into rapid contact with the hard ground beneath them. He'd already moved enough to make her stir, though. As her head lifted, he scrambled to his feet and dashed to his clothes. Oh great. Everything was soaked through from the rain.
Struggling to coax the damp material of his boxers over his skin, he desperately tried to remember what had happened. He remembered stripping and... oh boy, he remembered fretting over the fertility dance. Dance! That was it. He'd been on the edge of the cliff and something, some benign presence, had taken him over. That was why his muscles ached like he'd run a marathon. He'd been dancing for... he had no idea how long. All he could remember was the beginning. After that, his memory was pretty fuzzy.
He picked up his pants and carefully began to pull them up and over his sore knees. Malamba had moved to his side now and was tugging on her copious petticoats, humming as she did so. Daniel shot her a quick look under lowered lashes. The humming was presumably a good sign. She seemed to be in a cheerful mood.
Oh God. Daniel felt heat rise up his face at the thought of just why that might be. He licked his lips nervously, trying to get his brain back into gear to handle her language.
"So..." he began cautiously. "My...ummm.... friends. Did I..." He shot her a look of nervous appeal. "ummm.... please you?"
Yellow teeth showed in her wide grin. "Yes, young one. You pleased me greatly."
"Oh. Good," Daniel said slowly. He eased his sopping pants over his hips. Oh crap. It was no use. He had to know. "So I was just wondering if... this dance thing we did... see, I can't really... my memory is a bit... what I mean is... did we...?"
"Your majesty." A male voice cut across Daniel's. He whipped his head round to see Shalakos standing in the cave opening.
"Come Shalakos." Malamba beckoned him.
Three strides carried the huge warrior to Malamba. He bowed low. "Your majesty. I have consulted the bones. It is a good day for travel."
She patted his shoulder. "It is indeed a good day." She turned to Daniel. "Shalakos will escort you back to your people. You are all welcome to stay with the Insu as long as you wish."
"Ummm..." Daniel's eyebrows danced as he considered her offer. "Thank you. But about..."
She stepped forward and pressed her finger to his lips. "Shhhh. I have what I desired from you."
"Right." Daniel sighed heavily, guessing from her expression he would get no further answer from her.
At a loss as to what else to do, he bowed to Malamba. Cold, damp material pressed against his stomach. Realising he hadn't fastened his pants, he pulled up his zip and... No belt. He frowned and peered at his waistline. Definitely no belt. He nudged at his tee-shirt with his bare toes, then bent and picked it up. No, his belt definitely wasn't hiding under there.
Mystified he pulled his shirt over his head, grimacing at the feel of it, and tugged on his damp socks and boots. Shalakos was watching him, impatience on his face.
"I seem to have lost..." He spun on the spot, eyes to the ground. Where the hell could it have... Suddenly he spotted the missing item. Uh-oh. His belt was buckled over Malamba's outer skirt.
She shot him a challenging look, yet there was amusement in her expression too.
"Right." Daniel repeated, as much to himself as to her. His fingers drifted back to his waistband and he slipped the button of his pants through its hole. Bowing his head in farewell to Malamba, he took the first step towards home.
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