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Teyla's Story in Death Game

A reader asks, "Does Teyla's story in Death Game have anything to do with the Legacy series?"

Yes, it does! While Death Game is set early second season and isn't part of the Legacy series properly, there are a bunch of things in Death Game that do. This is one of them. Teyla and John have been captured, and to pass the time sitting in the cell she says she'll tell the story of his choosing. John asks her to tell him about the ruined city they saw across the water on Athos in the very first episode, The Rising.

Once and away there was a city called Emege. Once, when the Ancestors ruled, it was a city like any other. People lived in it and worked and raised families and grew old, all under the protection of the Ancestors. And the Ancestors gave to the people of Emege great treasures, and for a while some dwelled there, shedding their grace on their children.

But shadows come, as shadows always do, and the Dark Bird stirred. One by one the Ancestors went from Emege, drawn by troubles far away. "It will not affect you," they promised. "It is only that we have a war to fight, one you cannot understand."

You are thinking now, John, that this story is true. I did not know whether it was or not, until I came to Atlantis, but now I think it is. I think it has a seed of truth, the kernel of that long ago war between the Ancients and the Wraith, as the Ancients were pushed back and back, until all they held was Atlantis.

You see, then the Wraith came. Their cruisers swept over the planet and their vast hive ships, Culling and Culling and Culling. The people of Athos were food for the great armada that besieged Atlantis.

Emege held for a very long time. The Ancestors had given to the people of Emege a great and powerful gift, and beneath the virtue of its power many refugees crowded into the city, the last, safe place on our world. A year and a day, the poets say, Emege held against the Wraith, but at last the virtue was gone from the gift and the city fell. Queen Death stalked the streets and she slew for the love of it, men, women and children alike. Her men dined on the children of Emege, that it might never rise again.

And we cried out to the Ancestors, "Why have you abandoned us? We are your children! We are the daughters and sons of your house! Why do you not come through the Ring with your weapons and your ships? Why have you left us?"

There was no answer. There was never any answer, only the sweep of black wings as the Wraith hunted and hunted. In their wake starvation walked, abandoned markets and abandoned fields scoured by frail scarecrows in rags, gleaning half spoiled food by night. It hardly mattered that the Wraith came less and less. There was nothing left to destroy.

And then in the ruins of Emege a young man came up, and his name was Arda. "I have been their prisoner," he said. "I have stood in the feeding pens of the Great Armada, and have returned to tell of it. Death was slain by the power of the Ancestors, but in doing so it has taken all their power and virtue from The World That Is. They are gone, and they will never return. It is of no use to plead for them. We speak to a dead gate, and the waves that reached up and consumed Death have also swallowed them. We are alone, the last children, all that is left."

"I have stood in the feeding pens," he said, "and they have released us, for they are glutted on our brothers. They have put us out to pasture, as a man will let his flocks run loose to forage when their fodder is too expensive, knowing that he can always round them up again later, when he is hungry. What use to keep us aboard their ships, more than their chambers can hold, when left to ourselves we will forage? We can always be hunted at will."

And at that the Last wept, knowing they were the last people in the world, and in time they too would be hunted.

"Do not despair," Arda said. "They will not come here again for a long time, for even evil must sleep, and when they do we will be ready for them. The Ancestors are gone, and their magic and virtue. Now we live in the world of men. But men will not prove so weak as the Wraith may think."

And they said to him, "If the Ancestors could not prevail, with their might and wisdom, surely we have nothing? Surely we are kine who will be harvested in our time."

Arda spoke again, and his words were hard and true. "Does it not come to every man, that in time his mother is gone from him? When we are children we cling to her skirts and seek her for every good thing. She is our happiness, and without her we will starve or die of cold. Every man is born of woman, and we need her with all our strength. But to each of us comes a time, late or soon, when his mother is gone. Sometimes it is that death takes her soon, leaving us mewling and weak, hoping that some other will take us in and care for us. Sometimes it is that death waits, and our grandchildren sit on her knees when, honored, she passes into that night with her century. But sooner or later, every man stands alone. Sooner or later, his mother cannot save him. The Ancestors are gone, as a mother from us all. We must stand like men, like men and women of good age who are bereft but not cowed. We are not infants who will die without her touch! We are not crawling children, who do not know right from wrong! We are youths, perhaps, who should have known her wisdom and care for many years, but who must stand as men even before our time. And stand we shall."

And so we did. In time, the towers of Emege again pointed to the sky. In time, her streets lived again, and lights blossomed behind the windows of her houses. The Wraith slept. Two generations passed before they came again, and then three before the next time. Sometimes as much as a century passes between Cullings. Sometimes it is only a few years. Sometimes the Cullings are light, a Dart or two through the Ring, a dozen people lost. Sometimes thousands die, cities falling in flame and sorrow.

But always we know this -- this is the age of men. We live, and living hope. Our mothers cannot save us. The Ancestors will never return. The world is what we make of it.

And in that some of us find nothing. That which will be, will be. There is little point in striving, if our efforts will be brought to nothing. And some of us find instead hope. We are not weaker than the Wraith, nor stupider. In time, we will find a way, for everything there is under the sun changes.

That is the story as I learned it, but now I will tell you another. Stories are truth. Stories are life. This is the story Elizabeth Weir told me, and in it she adds another thread to the loom.

Once there were a beleaguered people, forced back and back and back by the Wraith, their warships lost, their numbers trimmed to the bone. Once, the Ancestors submerged their city beneath the sea, that they might stand a little while longer as the last of their kind.

Once, they listened to the last of their transports destroyed, their kin screaming their last breaths into vacuum, and they knew they were alone. They could not save their children. They could not save themselves.

Their story ends, as stories do, in the blue flare of a gate. They left their city to sleep beneath the sea and walked through a gate with their children and their bundles, with their parents and foodstuffs for the journey. They walked through a gate.

They walked into your world, into the light of your sun, with their children and their bundles, their parents and their stories. They came to places familiar and strange, and they walked the lands of your world as the last of their kind, the elder children of time.
And where they went, stories followed them. They taught men to build and taught them to govern, and here and there they left something else, for they were not so different from us. They left their cast of face, the shape of their hands, a river of blue-black hair, a pair of green eyes. They dwindled and they vanished, leaving mystery behind.

The story begins, as all stories begin, in the blue fire of a gate. There was a chair beneath the ice, and she woke at her son's touch. There was a city beneath the sea, and she came to life when her son called her. All that ever was, still is. All that may be, yet may be.

As orphans separated by tragedy and war seek each other across the decades, so we seek each other now, your people and mine, brothers and sisters, children of the Ancestors.
So I believe.

Silence fell, all the darker for the visions conjured by her voice. For a moment John had almost seen it, the Giza gate open in hot sun, the Ancients stepping through with their parcels and their sleeping infants, glancing behind as though they could see what they left. They stood in his world, not at the end of their story, but at the beginning of his history.
Once, in the Neolithic, some farmers along the Nile became what we call the Nagada culture. The first line in the textbook, the first slide in the presentation, the opening credits of the documentary.

They came from this gateroom, walked through his gate, leaving Elizabeth to cover the consoles carefully with plastic, and walked into his world as exiles. They left the systems on standby, powered down instead of destroying the city, because like Teyla's people they hoped.

They hoped that sometime their children would walk back through that door.

"Hope is the White Bird," Teyla said. "And her wings beat with unbearable strength."

"Yeah," John said, and squeezed her hand in the dark. White snowfields of Antarctica and the chair glittering like polished glass, a tossed coin rising in the air and flashing as it fell. He had no words for this thing. He was not like Teyla or Elizabeth, who could conjure visions in the dark, make people believe the impossible. But he saw it. He understood, her warm hand clasped in his. "The apple doesn't fall far from the tree," John said, and hoped that made sense.

"No," she said. "It never does."