Myth prompt: Hugin and Munin
Disclaimer: Nothing is mine, etc.
Summary: It wasn’t hard to find the Wraith, he just had to follow the grisly trail of husks. Spoilers for "The Siege part III," takes place just prior to "The Runner."
Ford had chosen the planet at random, stepping out of the wormhole into snow. The crisp air was refreshing and he drew in a deep breath, watching it freeze as he exhaled, feeling like a kid again. He had seen snow plenty of times since being stationed at the SGC, but it seemed different; he could almost see the individual arms of each snowflake, even at dusk. The cold hardly bothered him, even though he was only in his uniform. A slight tremble ran through his body. A shiver maybe. Apprehension.
He made good time down a well-worn path, moving faster than he remembered, probably from the enzyme. The path promised civilization and with it, food. He could feel the hunger at the back of his mind, but not for food. He had enough enzyme to last him for a little while, but he would need to find Wraith soon.
Civilization promised Wraith.
“…the Wraith died quite suddenly and that Lieutenant Ford's system became flooded with it.”
“I'm fine, Doc, really. It's cool.”
“There's no way you could have known that, Carson, and it's better this than death.”
The words jumbled in Ford’s head and images invaded his mind as if carried on the wind. He was standing proud, having survived boot camp. His grandparents were there and Lara. She was smiling as proud as any sister would be. There was worry over joining the Atlantis expedition, leaving Earth and his grandparents and his cousin, maybe for good. He was thrilled to be chosen for the Stargate program, even though he was disappointed that he couldn’t tell his family. How proud they’d be to know he wasn’t protecting just America but the entire planet. He remembered his first kiss; Marissa’s lips had been so soft. The first time he had seen an alien. His first fight.
A bony face dwarfed all other memories, jarring Ford back to the present with a start. He shook his head, trying to dislodge the image of the Wraith. Somewhere in the distance, a raven croaked.
Ford smelled roasting meat before he saw the fires and his stomach rumbled. He had lost count of the number of Gates he had gone through since he left Atlantis, pausing long enough on a few planets for meager rations. For all he knew, McKay could pull addresses from the DHD crystals and track him down. This would at least slow them down, maybe even discourage them. He knew how things worked on Atlantis: they’d pursue him until the next big thing came along and then they’d deal with that, forgetting about him, hopefully until he was ready to find them.
It didn’t really matter if they forgot about him, either. He certainly wouldn’t forget about them. This was all for them, he reminded himself. The enzyme made him stronger, faster, more observant than ever before. They could gather intelligence on the Wraith and carry it back to Atlantis—or Earth—before the Wraith ever knew they were there.
He reached the perimeter of the village soon enough and grew even more cautious, slinking through the shadows like a wolf, afraid to reveal himself to the villagers. Even with the enzyme, he wasn’t sure if he could stand against an entire village if it chose to attack him and he couldn’t afford to be driven away, not after smelling the cooking. Besides, Atlantis in its need for exploration might discover this planet. The people here would surely remember him and Atlantis would of course track him down under the misguided premise of helping him.
Ford heard the raven croak again and remembered that ravens sometimes hunted with wolves in the winter. It was symbiotic. It was survival. He wondered if the raven was searching for him, pointing him out to wolves. He bared his teeth to the darkness. He could defeat Wraith; wolves would be no trouble at all.
He waited a short distance away until he was certain everyone had fallen asleep. Still wary of sentries, Ford slipped into the village. It was quiet, almost peaceful. He paused for a moment, savoring the silence. Even Atlantis, with its limited personnel, had never been this quiet.
He didn’t stay long at any house, taking bread from one house and warm clothes from another. He paused at each house, straining his better hearing, listening for the sounds of stirring. No one awoke. Ford took his spoils and escaped to the dark forest, cramming food into his mouth. He fumbled in the pockets of his uniform, finding the much-needed enzyme.
He didn’t understand Atlantis’ reluctance to use their enemy to defeat their enemy. It made sense, it was practical. Doctor Weir just didn’t understand. She was a practical woman though and she’d see the usefulness of the enzyme. He’d be the proof. Ford leaned back against an old tree, the snow-laden limbs above him creaking. One day, he’d return to Atlantis and show them his newfound strength and speed and then they’d have to admit that he had been right all along.
A buzzing noise reached Ford’s ears and he looked up in surprise, his heart hammering in his chest. It was the unmistakable sound of a dart heading for him. He scrambled to his feet, forgetting about the warm clothes and the last of his food as he sought a better hiding place, somewhere he could lay in wait for the creatures. He found a dead tree, the bark rotted off enough to form a hollow large enough to hide in.
They didn’t come for him, though. He heard the screams of villagers as they awakened to their worse nightmare. In the dark, he could see flames take hold, probably from a spilled lantern or the last embers on a hearth. People fled from their homes, half dressed, carrying children or trying to push through the crowd. Among them, like demonic wolves among sheep, were the Wraith, picking humans from the crowd and feeding on them. Ford tried to cover his ears, drown out their terrible screams, but it was impossible. There were too many Wraith around for him to kill just one and take its enzyme. He moved farther into the forest. The ravens now were silent.
When he killed the first Wraith, he wondered if it had a communication device on its body somewhere. He thought of Teyla and it took him a few minutes to figure out why. Then he remembered: the Wraith had some sort of telepathic communication. Teyla did too. Despite that unfortunate bit of genetics, she was a good person and a friend. She wasn’t a Wraith. He glanced down at the corpse at his feet. Did the Wraith know this one was dead?
The fleeing villagers made tracking the Wraiths easy; he just followed their tracks and the grisly trail of husks and he would inevitably find another Wraith. They put up a fight and it was exhilarating. But, none of them were expecting a human. They were used to the meek cows of this galaxy. Yet another reason to use the enzyme: the Wraith would not be expecting it!
Two were waiting for him, laying in wait in their own ambush. Ford hadn’t expected them to do that, not with more villagers hiding in the woods. It was cold, winter, and the humans wouldn’t survive long in the harsh, cold night. The Wraith would have to act fast to find the humans before they froze to death.
“Tag! You’re it!” Lara cried, slapping Aiden on the back.
“Ow! That hurt!”
“Oh, don’t be such a baby. Come on, Aiden. Now it’s your turn to tag me!” Lara stuck out her tongue and skipped away. Aiden hurried after her, trying to be silent. She glanced over her shoulder to see if he was following and shrieked in surprise when she saw that he was close enough to grab her hair. She took off running. Laughing, Aiden ran after her.
Ford’s knife slashed through the throat of one Wraith and he spun to keep out of reach of their hands. His chest still bore the scars of his transformation and he had no desire to add to them. Training, instinct and dumb luck were the only things that kept him from their grasp.
A child, lost and disoriented, darted into the middle of the fight. She froze like a rabbit caught in the sight of a wolf and turned to run away. The Wraith caught her by the hair and she screamed like a rabbit being skinned. Angered now, Ford’s knife ripped through the tendons of the Wraith’s wrist, causing it to howl in pain. He silenced it with a quick slash to the throat. The girl cowered in the snow, tears and snot running down her round face.
“Get out of here,” Ford said.
She looked up at him, at his eye that had no color, at his transformed face, and screamed, a high pitch keen that would surely alert the Wraith to his presence. He lunged at her, covering her mouth. “Shh! It’s okay. I’m a good guy.”
The child ran out of breath and seemed too tired to scream again. Ford quickly removed the enzyme from the Wraith, hiding his actions from the child. He turned back to her; she was still watching him with dead eyes. Something tugged at his heart to see a child so young give up already. He recognized the dead eyes now. She was expecting him to kill her.
“Follow me.” He didn’t offer her his hand, partly because he was certain she wouldn’t take it, but mostly because he wanted his hands free in case he ran into another Wraith. He led her back to his hiding place, back to the warm cloak and the remainder of the food, now nearly frozen. He wrapped the fur-lined cloak around the girl, ignoring her cringe as he did so and tucked her into the hollow.
Ford expected the Wraith to hunt him down, so he took refuge in a tree, ignoring the snow as it melting into his clothing. It wasn’t easy climbing an icy tree, but his knife had come in handy again. He felt the urge to hunt more Wraith. Something held him back.
“Don’t be greedy,” Gramma had cautioned Aiden one Thanksgiving.
“But the turkey’s really, really good!” he exclaimed, mouth full of white meat.
“Don’t talk with your mouth full either. Save some for other people and when you clean your plate, you can have more.”
Instead of hunting him down, like Ford expected, the Wraith left just after dawn. He heard the darts retreating and an eerie quiet settled over the forest. They must have been in a hurry and Ford wondered if they were on their way to Atlantis. He felt a pang of fear in his heart and a stab of regret over leaving Atlantis. He was the only one capable of standing up to the Wraith. That would change, though. He would change their minds.
Ford slid down the tree trunk and made his way toward the Gate. He wanted to leave the carnage behind. He passed the broken village, swinging through several homes that were still in one piece and taking more food.
“Stuff happens. We didn't mean for the wraith to show up they just did. That's why you're here.”
“Tag! You’re it!”
“Write to us if you can.”
He reached the DHD without incident and dialled another planet at random. The Gate connected and formed a wormhole, like dialling a gigantic phone. Some day, he’d use that gigantic phone to call home, but right now his work was too important. Right now, he had to save the Atlantis expedition from the Wraith. He stepped through the shimmering wormhole without a glance over his shoulder.
The new planet was bright and sunny, even in the late afternoon. Warm. Ford was glad he left the warm cloak with the kid. The sun beat down on his skin. Even with the enzyme, he’d have to find shelter from the sun. There didn’t seem to be signs of human civilization immediately around the Gate, but he’d travel a little farther from the Gate to make sure. If there were no humans, there would be no Wraith.
He needed a plan. The Wraith had come too close to stopping him that time. He needed a plan and people. If he had more people use the enzyme, he could prove beyond a shadow of a doubt to Atlantis, to Doctor Weir and to Major Sheppard that it was the best option to fight the Wraith.
In the distance, Ford thought he heard a raven croak.
I was given the prompt Hugin and Munin, thought and memory respectively, that were shown as ravens in Norse mythology. They would gather news in the morning and whisper into Odin’s ear at night. I tried to give the fic a northerly feel, hence the winter setting, the ravens and the mention of wolves (also featured prominently in Norse mythology). The title even comes from Norse mythology. Einherjar or einheriar (singular einheri) are the spirits of the warriors who had died bravely in battle. It is often interpreted as "outstanding fighter" (source), which is the interpretation I used in this fic, even if Ford isn't quite dead. As far as the actual fic goes, the prompt is the perfect prompt for a character study, so that’s what I tried to do. Despite what Ford ends up doing in the second season, he really has what he perceives to be Atlantis’ best interests at heart, even though he seems to walk the line between devotion and madness. I tried to capture that.