The countryside was beautiful in the early
morning misty light, flat, sun-bleached, dramatic with the greyness
of the valley edges not as far away as they had been half an
hour ago. Yet, Richard Ryan was not too interested in the view
around him anymore. His face was creased with effort as he skidded
to a halt at the entrance to the gully that was his destination,
and, breathing hard, bent over, stretching the worked muscles
in his legs. His body was glistening with sweat and his once
light green vest was almost the colour of a wine bottle where
his perspiration stuck it to his chest. His companion slowed
more gradually, a look of ease on his face, and he continued
to jog on the spot. Michael was definitely a trained athlete,
and the speed at which he had led off with his long legs had
been a hefty pace for his shorter comrade. The run hadn't been
a bind, and the young Immortal had been expecting to work hard
from his judge of the youth the day before, but it left him
wondering if MacLeod's stride was really that bad. The blond
man's muscles flexed against his lose joggers, tingling with
the relief of the work down he was giving them. Richie grinned
amicably at his fellow and observed, "That is some drive
"When it's my best chance of getting
into college, I have a tendency to push it a bit," came
the reply that wasn't even sounding puffed.
"I thought MacLeod had long legs,"
the young man disclosed, straightening and beginning to unstrap
the two long leather pouches that he had fixed to his back for
"Your boss?" Michael clarified,
deciding that it was time to work down for a bit as well.
"More friend than boss," the Immortal
returned, "the job is more of a reason to stay around than
anything else; Mac took me in when I was seventeen. He caught
me breaking into his shop (he's also an antique's dealer), but
instead of sending me down, he gave me a job."
"Smart break!" the ebony-skinned
"You could say that Duncan's a bit
of a do-gooder, I was incredibly lucky," came the definite
nod of agreement.
"So you've come back to St John's to
do some good of your own," there was no mockery in the
tone at the observation.
Richie smiled to himself, the slight guilt
of the reality still with him, and he admitted honestly, "I
hate to say that the idea wasn't initially mine, but I think
now I'm here, I'll stick around a while."
The teenager grinned, his teeth showing
white against his lips and expressing an unspoken understanding
of the friendship offered in the words. Yet, his eyes shifted
to the ranch, a dark blob back on the past horizon, and there
was a longing in his face to be on the move once more, his spirit
needing the exercise that his colleague had halted. The elder
figure recognised the want, it was dedication with which he
empathised, there was something about your chosen discipline
that was compelling.
"Hope you don't mind going back alone,"
he gave the opportunity for dismissal casually, "but I
agreed to meet Harry here in..." he looked at his watch,
and laughed at his mis-estimation of the time it would take
them to reach the gully, "...twenty minutes."
"No problem, Man," the other answered
easily, and then disappeared at competition speed.
The Immortal took a few moments to watch
his elegant glide, awed by the grace and pose of such a young
athlete. There was promise in that one. Then he turned and descended
into the gully; the rest of the world disappeared and a peace
came over him that was totally unexpected. Even the vague breeze
that had been lifting the dust their feet caught was absent
in the mini universe. The young man came to a halt in the middle
of the protected space and took in the power he felt once more.
The effect of the holy ground had been fading as he became accustomed
to its presence, only making a gentle impact as he had woken
to it that morning, but as he stood, totally alone in the barren
arena, it came into his spirit. He had assumed it had been the
places distance that had created the recommendation by his comrade,
but the look in Harry's eyes as he had spoken of `his' trench
suddenly made sense. There was a focus here, a chance for pure
concentration to take a body to new heights; he felt the strength
of the Immortal run through him and it led the almost possessed
form to bend for his sword. It was time to put in some practise
of his own.
The sound of his blade being slid out of
its housing hung around the poised figure, as, eyes closed in
meditative calm, he readied himself for a kata. Life rushed
through him, touching his soul and bringing forth the warrior
aspect. The bright gaze which snapped open was centred on the
One, the end of a battle, the Game; with perfect leisure he
lifted the blade above his head and his muscles gleamed in equilibrated
composure. Only his breath, controlled hisses in tandem with
his movements, broke the still air, even his body shifting exquisitely
through it did not seem to disturb the serenity in every direction.
There was something obsessive about the
atmosphere, and it was only when it was broken that Richard
Ryan realised how far inwards it had taken him. The call of
his spirit was a sudden, jarring feeling which took him by surprise
and sent a shiver through his taut torso. Blinking wildly, the
youth turned rapidly, only holding onto his sword by instinct;
he was a savage creature as he greeted the dark figure of his
expected companion, his face illogically clouded at the intrusion
he should have remembered was coming. The emotion was gone in
a moment, but it was there long enough for the younger form
to see and understand; his reaction was to smile enigmatically
and observe, "You too."
There wasn't a way to describe the vigour
of the gully, but it was definitely mutual, and lingered even
after its solitary nature had been broken. Richie remained silent
and still as he waited for his fellow to join him in the miniature
valley. Only as the old eyes looked expectantly at him did he
really catch up with the promise made earlier, and with a mild
amusement on him at his slow response, the young man bent down
to prepare for the tutorial. In an attempt to repossess himself,
the Immortal began to speak.
"This one's a bit sharp for the first
lesson," he commented dryly, sliding the courtly blade
back into its protection and turning to the bag containing less
lethal sword sticks.
An hour later, the sun higher in the sky,
and his head protected by a bandanna, Richie strolled comfortably
back into the farm yard next to his satisfied companion. It
had been an interesting session; the older Immortal had been
a willing tutee, and his tutor had found the task enjoyable.
He knew he didn't have the four hundred year old grace of MacLeod,
but he felt that he'd passed on a good basic start as to how
to handle a sword. Harry had proved to be a fast learner, and
they had been parrying blows with some speed. There was still
a lot of concentration and poise to be learnt, but the raw will
and skill was there to be honed by further lessons. Ryan was
looking forward to moving into the more spiritual side of the
discipline with his comrade; it had been the side with which,
at first, he had had little patience, but the misunderstanding
of its meaning had soon come clear, and it had become the most
important edge. There was a satisfaction about bringing down
a slice, but its true power was lost if the mind did not flow
with the body. The Immortal hoped that his pupil would see it
that way very soon.
"Hit the showers, Glasshopper,"
Richie laughed, splitting his path and turning towards the bunk
house where his charges should have been rising from slumber.
Harry snorted and waved his goodbyes before
jogging towards his own rooms.
Inside, there were indeed some signs of
dopey activity, but it was still early in the morning and there
was not much sign of intelligence behind the reactive movements
that a wake up call from Jon had inspired. The Watcher was just
on his way out of the male room as the energetic youth trod
lightly through the door.
"Morning guys," he greeted brightly,
but there were only groans from under blankets, or looks of
`what-are-you-grinning-at?' from those who were on their way
out of sleep; Jon and Michael were the two people who gave him
welcome smiles and seemed to be enjoying the early hour.
"City kids," the Texan commented
dryly, his eyes twinkling, "takes `em a bit of time to
get used to the fact that there is life before seven thirty."
The young man laughed and patted the man
on his back as he left. The looks he received as he turned back
and headed for his own cot, were not amiable. There was no lowering
his high, however, and the glib side of his manner came out
as he observed warmly, "Oh come on, people, it's a beautiful
day outside. Get into the spirit!"
"This hour's not respectable,"
Luke complained sleepily, glancing at his watch.
"Nor are you!" Randy quipped and
received a pillow in his face for the trouble.
Activity started to speed up then as more
of the group decided that it was a good way to wake up. Richie
dumped his stuff on his bed and grabbed a towel, deciding it
was best to leave the suddenly energetic youths to wake themselves
up. He disappeared down the end of the room, skilfully dodging
the bodies that all headed over to the initiators, and took
possession of one of the three shower cubicles in the modest
The water was warm, its jets soothing as
they ran over his firm muscles, and Richie closed his eyes and
leant easily against the varnished wood that was the wall. His
body tingled gratefully as he wiped the soap over his flesh;
it had been a good work out, but the relaxing droplets were
welcome. There was something almost divine about the release
of tension after such intense exercise, and the mood possessed
the young man, taking him into his own world as he washed away
the hard-earned grime on his smooth skin. His energies had been
low despite his buoyant manner; the fresh drumming on his back
refilled his unusual soul and prepared him for the day ahead.
Steam rose and set up a barrier between the Immortal psyche
and the Mortal world outside and his thoughts walked over the
supernatural aspects of his life. Naomi and Annie were very
different creatures, but they floated around in his consideration
together, linked by the unspoken bond that the tiny child inspired
in all around her. One was amazingly beautiful and filled his
heart with thwarted passion, the other was a cherub, Eternally
exquisite in her innocence, but both inspired pain in his spirit.
Maybe there was always something bittersweet about his ageless
race, maybe they always saw and felt more deeply, maybe that
was an arrogant presumption that he could never truly believe
- whatever was the reason behind the pristine agony that he
experienced, Richard Ryan knew that it would never completely
disappear, only become less potent as the years moved on.
Annie's situation would never change, his
little darling would always be so, gentle and free of the guilt
of destruction with which each Immortal lived in their own way;
the revulsion at her curse was there for a reason, at the same
time as never meant to be, she was there, an error in the scheme
of things, who, none the less, was a boon to her fellows, as
she was also the unconscious thorn.
Naomi was the taboo broken, a would-be who
knew her future. The young man's spirit was set aflame as he
thought of her grace, her noble attraction; but, anger, which
had long since turned to frustrated hurt, which the girl's unavailability
gave him sliced through the perfect feelings she otherwise created
in his bosom. He could not destroy her calling, her strength
in the Immortal world that would, sooner, or later become hers.
Love would remain unfulfilled on both sides of their relationship.
Despite the pain, it was a warm feeling
that flowed through the sometimes sensitive youth as he finally
reached to turn off the shower and join reality once more. There
was so much that was good in his life, especially so close to
his loved ones, that melancholy could not intrude. Life was
full of contradictions, these were just two more to be used
to form his view of the universe.
There was a calmer atmosphere in the hut
as the cleansed figure gave up his haven to someone else. The
young men were more at ease with the hour and were sorting out
things for the new day ahead. They had settled into the communal
building with a surprising ease, and there was an embryonic
sense of brotherhood that the shared conditions inspired. The
conversation was still light-heartedly chiding at times, but
the excitement that had started the jubilant fight had dimmed
to right proportions, and was being channelled into sorting
Richie dressed silently, preferring to observe
the interactions of his charges than to join in; it was they
who were learning to work together, for whom this trip was meant,
and he felt that he was not one who would always be around.
There was a trust between the youngsters that made him smile,
they'd known each other for a good few years, and the mutual
situation seemed to strengthening those bonds. He was different,
but for once, the young man didn't consider it as to do with
his Immortal side, it was because these kids were his responsibility,
and he had to maintain a small distance for discipline's sake.
It felt good to know that not everything was built along the
lines of Immortal and Mortal.
Yet, the warrior became very aware of those
lines as he turned to tidying up the pouches that he had brought
in with him. Eyes drifted over to him as he picked them up and
placed them carefully on a peg under his jacket. They were not
meant to be intrusive, just curious about the ominous looking
leather holders about which they only suspected. The young man
had predicted the response, he remembered his own nose for the
possibly interesting and had prepared an explanation. His glance
was carefully nondescript as he surveyed the assembled company
and disclosed, "They're wooden sword sticks," he pulled
one part of the way out of the larger protective casing in demonstration,
"and they're off limits."
The looks he received said he'd been understood,
and turning back, the young man smiled to himself; he hoped
that curiosity settled, no one would look further. They weren't
to know that both sticks were in one bag and that the other
held his far more dangerous blade.
Ten minutes later, the risers were called
outside by the sound of a shrill whistle. The youngsters, who
rallied with enthusiasm, were a far cry from the hip street
urchins of the day before: as per their priest's wishes, there
wasn't a rip in sight on the hard wearing denim that covered
most legs and some backs; if not denim, then T-shirts and neck
scarves covered most torsos as common sense reigned; makeup
was still in place for those females who bothered with it, but
it was muted, especially in Mimi's case, as was her amount of
jewellery; hats, or head scarves were also in place on every
head; there was a definite air of effort from the young people.
Agatha and her team were standing together to greet her guests,
and she made note of their endeavours with a broad smile and
the words, "Well, I must say I'm impressed by your good
sense, I usually have to send at least one person back inside
to find something more suitable for our weather."
A murmur of pride ran through the assembled
company and Kathleen beamed at and patted those nearest to her
"Glad to see we have such good humour
this morning," Jon continued the discourse, another mischievous
sparkle in his visage. "You're going to need it. Now, our
life here is a little different to that back home; yes, we get
our milk delivered, same as you, but we have a few other concerns
before we pour it on our cereal. This is a running farm, we
have steer out on the ranch, to get to them, we use horses,
and we pride ourselves on producing our own eggs from our free-range
hens. The horses are kept in the stable," he pointed to
the larger of the two barns, "and they get their breakfast
before we do. The chickens are in the pen out back of the house
that you might not have noticed last night; they also need feeding
and the eggs need collecting before we can eat them.
So, there are a few chores to be divided
up. We have ten horses, so half of you will be meeting them
today and for most of you, taking your first horse ride. I have
those names here on my list," he waved a clip board at
the group with a grin, "you will be feeding them before
breakfast and then mucking them out and grooming them under
Harry's direction," there were a few groans at that idea
which received only a broad smile from the teenage Immortal.
"As for the rest of you, there are enough household and
farmyard chores to go around."
It had been made clear that rumbling stomachs
were not going to be filled until work was completed, and so
the youngsters dived into their chores with surprising enthusiasm.
Richie found himself as one of those who would be venturing
out onto the ranch in the seat of a saddle, and so he joined
the group of nine who were being shown the ropes. Harry seemed
quite glad that he could return the favour of passing on knowledge,
and he proved to be a good teacher. He spent some time introducing
every newcomer to the mount which would be theirs for the day,
and seemed to have a way of setting the humans at ease with
the new experience. All eight youngsters were going about the
feeding and watering with contented confidence by the time Richie,
accompanied by Annie, who had taken up her position close to
him very soon after the morning greeting, was led to the stall
in which his horse stood.
The animal was somehow larger than the young
man had expected as he stood to one side of her and was urged
to pat a gleaming, burgundy neck.
"She's beautiful," the youth breathed
as his senses experienced her presence.
There was a quality about the creature he
couldn't explain, a wildness to her spirit that spoke to his
own soul, a wonder in the way she snorted at his touch. She
knew he was different, unlike most of the novices that she took
out on the range, and there was a moment between the pair that
showed a little disquiet. The mare flicked her head up, away
from the unusual man's hand in instinctive knowledge of the
unusual, but she settled quickly as he spoke intuitively to
her. There was a familiarity about the strange affinity, she
felt it from her other two companions.
"Her name's Dusty," Harry disclosed,
pleased by the reaction of both man and horse.
"Hi, Dusty," the Immortal cooed
smoothly, running his hand over her sleek shoulder. "I'm
"Friends," Annie giggled brightly,
and there was a snort of reply from the animal.
"I think you're right," the young
man nodded with a smile at the diminutive form.
Breakfast was a hearty affair; everyone
crowded around the communal table once more and shared out bacon,
eggs, toast, porridge, cereal and anything else that they could
get their hands on. The work had been energetic, but fun, and
their chatter reflected the fun that the teenagers had gathered
from the unusual to them. Washing up was done by volunteers
which the growing team spirit inspired and then it was time
to part company. The eight staying at the farm were looking
forward to some tuition from Jon on the traditions and history
of his tribe among other skill lessons, while their comrades
went out on a tour of the pastures. Yet, all the group stayed
together as the horses were tacked up and brought out by their
riders; everyone wanted to watch the attempts of climbing into
the saddle. As the one-in-charge, and so an easy target, Richie
was singled out by his companions to be the first to make a
Dusty, it had been revealed, was so called
because she could be frisky and tended to kick up a lot of her
namesake, but in the young Immortal's hands, she seemed as placid
as the still air around them. Taking a deep breath, and with
a pat of `please-be-good' to his mount, the youth lifted one
boot into a stirrup. Holding on carefully to the saddle, the
group leader flexed his leg and swept himself with surprising
ease into the deep leather seat. There were cheers of support
from the street kids, and with a little relief, the young man
leant forward and patted the horse. He grinned down at the assembled
company, a sense of satisfaction in his manner. The day was
going extremely well.
The trek was enjoyable, and laughter floated
on the gentle breeze that danced across the flat grasslands.
Yet there was one face which was not smiling, and the bleak
set of her countenance worried her chaperone. Kim rode along
near the back of the pack, taking little interest in the events
around her; the horse knew where it was going from years of
such rides along the well trodden tracks, and she let it take
her without any interest. Her black eyes were focused inwards,
and her head drooped down, staring blindly at the brown saddle.
There seemed to be no consoling the young woman, she said little
and interacted even less. Only Emily noticed among the other
teenagers, their mood being too excited to really discern the
stillness of their comrade, but the caring creature did exchange
an anxious glance with her leader. Richie watched the girl unobtrusively
throughout the horse ride and then through the light lunch which
followed on their return. By the time it was finished, there
was a third person's eyes on the slender, ghostly form; Tay,
as ever, watched her with a philosophical consideration on his
visage. He was mainly ignored by the young people around him,
another quiet figure who didn't attempt to intrude on their
thrill, but his unwavering attention was eventually recognised
by its centre. There was no pleasure in her manner when she
finally did realise that her pain was being observed, and as
the meal was finishing, it led her to beg leave.
Probably for the first time since he had
been introduced, the young- looking Asian became known to his
companions once more as he stood and followed. He gave his colleague
a short glance to say that he had also taken in the young man's
concern, and then was gone. Along with a few others, the youth
turned and gazed out of the long window after the pair.
Kim stopped a little way from the veranda,
brought to a stop by a soft call so gentle that, to those inside
watching, it was only known by the boy-Immortal's lip movements.
The young figure walked across to the female, who towered over
him, and there was disdain on her face as she worded some dismissal.
Yet, a small hand took hold of hers and her eyes showed surprise
and disbelief at such gall from the `child' as she was forced
to take notice. Richie saw as the girl focused her furious attention
on the unusual creature and her manner changed. There was only
the view of the back of Tay's head, but the younger Immortal
knew what kind of depth must have been there to change a mind
so completely; Kim's eyes went from anger, through disquiet
to admission of pain in a few seconds, and the boy's kin all
realised that she had seen something that, although she couldn't
explain it, brought out her truth.
There were a few murmurs of surprise, as,
with a quick stare of reassurance to those who knew him, the
Asian Immortal gently led the crumbling girl away from public
"Tay's a good listener," Agatha
told the gathered company, and added quickly, "for his
"He's weird," was all the comment
that came from the youngsters, and that was from Biff, who decided
very quickly that, although it was the truth as she saw it,
maybe she shouldn't have said it.
Some glances slipped between Immortals,
but nothing more.
The conversation soon fell back into talk
of the events of the morning, none leading the discussion more
than Ranger, whose first horse trek had brought out more tales
of cowboys and injuns.
The adults decided to leave the animated
gathering to amuse themselves, and departed to the kitchen,
where they could still keep half an eye out for problems. Only
Annie joined them, still attached to her hero by the elastic
of adoration. The young man was more than content with her bonnie
company, and lifted her onto his lap as he sat at the smaller,
more intimate cook's table. Tay's quick response to the emotional
exit began the review of how the day was developing.
"That boy looks to be a fine counsellor,"
Kathleen observed with her usual light tone, "he's managed
something that in four weeks none of us have."
"Maybe its a similar ancestry that
gave them an affinity," Jon suggested with a shrug.
"Whatever, at least it looks like Kim's
begun to let it out," Richie continued, unwilling to stay
around the subject too much. "And that's not the only success
The young man smiled secretly at Naomi as
his diversion worked, and the bouncy woman took up the tack.
"They're all coming out of themselves
in ways I never thought possible," the chaperone gushed
with immense pride in her manner. "You're all amazing:
Martha didn't want to put down the paints you leant her, Agatha,
and that landscape she's started is exquisite; you've captured
Biff's heart with the archery course, but I think she'd rather
be Robin Hood than Maid Marion," a laugh responded to that
perception about which there could be no doubt.
"I think the trek made our budding
cowboy's decade," Agatha decided to join the conversation
as the youth in question's voice continued to drift animatedly
over to them from the next room.
"This whole trip is a dream come true,"
Richie breathed, a slightly lost look in his eyes as he recalled
his own teenage experiences; he was sincere as he continued,
"I know how I felt when Duncan and Tessa took me to Paris,
I don't think I stayed still for a week. As an ex- street kid,
I can say that this place is Eden, no gangs, no drugs, no hookers,
clean air, silence, friendship, a welcome."
"We do our best," the elder woman
took the compliment with a smile as she read more out of her
young friend's statement.
The Immortal was not just speaking for his
younger charges, Heaven Sent held depths for him of which he
was only vaguely aware. There was a calm here that could not
be found in the city, a similar feeling to that which Duncan's
mountain retreat inspired, and it was touching his soul. Richard
Ryan was a being that, despite his bright demeanour, had parts
of his spirit that were hidden and raw. However much he denied
them, they remained cold and dark in the centre of his substance
and his surroundings stilled his spirit enough to give them
a chance to come to the surface. Those feelings and thoughts
were painful, as yet, still kept back, but in time, there was
a instinct that told the youth that he would have to face them
and heal. The idea was frightening, half felt, half thought,
but obvious in his eyes to those who were looking. Agatha knew
more about her visitor than she had told, both Duncan and Naomi
had given her a brief description of the trauma that was the
ghost in his gaze, and she was old enough to recognise it as
"This place has always been a centre
of serenity," Jon nodded to himself as he caught the mood
in his companion's voice. "We've only been open for a few
years, and maybe that colours the statistics, but nearly all
our guests have left better for the experience."
"No, no," Kathleen continued emphatically,
"there aren't any fake statistics here. I've known these
kids for long enough to know that their attitudes have shifted
literally over night. I mean, it's not a big change, but there's
a start of something in that room," she pointed next door,
"that wasn't there before, and if that's as far as it goes,
then driving for two days was well worth it."
"With a recommendation like that, you
could open as a health resort," Richie recognised the atmosphere
building up around him, and it felt a little uncomfortable,
so he cut right through it with his glib tongue.
The laughter washed away the deeper side
to the discussion, and only Annie noticed. She stared up at
her holder, her eyes accusing him of something that she didn't
understand, but had felt in her heart. The little girl echoed
the young man's own conscience, he had recognised the edge in
his spirit and rejected it for the umpteenth time, and the truth
within nagged at him that such a rebuff was not healthy. The
young man glanced down at the hard stare, but was unable to
maintain the gaze as it told too much, instead, he looked back
up, across at his companions. He wasn't given a second chance
by the confused indictment, and was surprised when the small
body began to wriggle out of his hold. The angelic creature
said nothing, but her manner spoke as much as if she'd been
able to word all the concern and pain that was on her face.
Richie felt the guilt as acutely as if his actions had been
conscious, and his attention tracked the young body as she dashed
out of the back door. Yet, he did not follow, there was too
much waiting in the wings to him to face.
"Someone doesn't think that's such
a good idea," Kathleen observed, her buoyant mood unabated.
The young man was glad when his comrades
chose to continue the light manner, and smiled at the comment.
Naomi was discrete as she got to her feet and headed after the
tumult in miniature, and the conversation was not interrupted
again. Richie sat silent as the others talked, muted by the
butt he had become for such a short time. His soul as confused
as the stare from those bright eyes, he listened to the talk
with half an ear while his mind wandered. Afterwards, he had
little idea how far, or where it had travelled within his subconscious,
but there were ideas and images hovering at the back of his
mind that couldn't be pushed away with a thought anymore. When
the adults broke to rally their troops, the young man was a
little paler through the tan that was forming from the hot Texan
sun, and he had more things on his mind than just keeping an
eye on the youngsters as they enjoyed some undirected free time.
It took some effort, but Richard Ryan did
force away the musings with a will borne of the hard edged street
punk, who had survived seventeen years depending on himself
alone. The phantom behind his eyes could now be seen sometimes
by those who did not know to look for it. It had no form, no
emotion, just a darkness that nagged at the viewer, even as
the caster tried to refuse it. The kids had seen the weight
of memories before, many had grown up, if not understanding
such a position themselves, then knowing of someone whose eyes
held the same angst, and their new friend's condition did not
pass them by. Richie felt eyes on his back as he played an easy
game of basketball; maybe they were meant to be there, after
all, he was running with the ball, but still a sense told him
that their interest was not purely on the sport. Sometimes Ryan
wished that Duncan had not taught him to be so alert, so observant
of his fellow man. The need for the edge in battle now made
him uncomfortable as he read curious concern from many an eye.
Each time he paused, took breath, stopped concentrating solely
on the game, he knew that the pain was there for all to see,
and each time, he pushed it away with a frown and then a smile,
or one liner. Yet, he was glad for the end of the game, company
was becoming too close, stifling as his feelings beat at him
like the sun on his head; the bandanna around his soul had been
a lot thicker and more carefully placed than the red scarf on
his head, but the heat of truth was beginning to burn through.
A magnificent smile to his companions, and a few well chosen
quips about the state of play, and the young man turned rapidly
on his heel and walked to the first area free of youngsters
that he spotted. It happened to be the stable.
The interior was dry and dusty where the
hay residue hung thick in the heavy heat. The Immortal was tired,
not only by the physical exertions of the day, but by the weight
in his mind. Yet, the calm of the ranch flowed through the quiet
figure as he relaxed and admitted the fight. The young man smiled
oddly to himself, a feeling of unusual relief featuring dominantly
in his being as he dropped the charade of denial. There was
something inside him, a force which had lain there for months,
created by Gervace Hemar, buried by everyday life, and the power
of Heaven Sent was drawing it out of him inch by exquisitely
There was an empty stall at the end of the
barn, which was used for storing bales of hay brought down from
the loft above once a week; knowing that sleep was only a place
for dreams he didn't want, but at the same time not being able
to fight his weariness, Richie took refuge in the dim cubby
hole. His eyes were closed before he sat down into the prickly
grass, but the self-explorer hovered a little about the time
between waking and sleeping, his mind drifting in the currents
that his surroundings had set in motion. He saw the evil face,
he felt the terror and disgust once more, but Richard Ryan also
experienced a confrontation of the damage that had been done
and the healing that was beginning. An Immortal, a warrior,
a street-punk, a boy, a man, a sensitive soul, he slept and
The slumber was disturbed by a gentle urge
to leave the dreaming behind; Ryan had little idea why he relinquished
the images in his head, only a knowledge that they would wait
for him. The young man opened his eyes, but at first saw nothing
but the colours that had been floating in his brain moments
before, the shape of his thoughts as they had been. A momentary
pang caught his dozy mind, a concern of an Immortal as he recognised
two figures before him and knew that the movement of his soul
at the presence of his own kind was not the mechanism for his
waking. It had been two pairs of eyes on his defenceless form
that had dragged the spirit from his mental images, he knew
it as certainly as if someone had told him as his gaze met that
of his little angel. The angst that the warning system had been
somehow muted, drained away as the young man shifted a little
and took in the small form as he had once before. There was
the same insecurity in her gaze as she watched him watch her,
the uncertain wiggle of her torso as she considered the creature
she faced. It was her own reaction that noon which held Penelope-Anne
back from her trusted one. Yet, it did not last long. There
was a serenity in the air which the adult Immortal breathed
in deeply as he pushed the sleep from his body. As he stretched
away the immobility, a small smile of open contentment on his
face, his darling decided that her concern was unfounded. There
was the insight of the aged child in her mind, but the reaction
of the toddler as Annie grinned broadly and leapt at her companion.
Richie laughed in unison with a coy giggle as the girl landed
on top of him and they sank back into the hay in a reunion of
"Feel better," the young voice
disclosed, wrapping herself around Richie's neck and hugging
"Mm," was the only reply as the
youth let the warmth of her greeting brush away any drowsiness
that he had left.
Then, as he settled with the hug, the Immortal
chose to take in the second presence close by. The form was
also small, and more serious than his first companion, but then,
that was usual for Tay. Richie smiled silently at the boy-man
for a moment, but found an instinct inside to ask a question.
His tone was calm, his look intense as he enquired, "How
"The death of her grandfather affected
her greatly," the young voice began smoothly, "and
she had denied her grief through fear of what it might show
her. Now she has begun to move through her anger and pain; she
is releasing her feelings. It will take some time, but she is
learning to face the loss."
The younger Immortal merely nodded at the
disclosure as both men knew the double meaning behind the words.
Tay had not seen only one person's troubles.
Footsteps broke the moment that the three
unusual creatures shared. Richie's gaze shifted to the entrance
to the stall as a young body rounded the wooden barrier. The
young man's smile was welcoming as Jamie's hands found his hips
and he half frowned in the disapproving manner of youth.
"So this is where you are," the
boy chided without malice, "we've been looking for you
for half an hour."
The Immortal glanced at Tay at the disclosure;
it would not have been difficult for his kin to locate his slumber.
The small form merely shrugged and told him in his own serious
fashion, "We let you miss supper, but the others need someone
to drive them into town tonight, so we had to come find you."
"There's a dance that Naomi helped
organise with the local minister, and she's invited all of us
to go," the Mortal breathed excitedly, and for the first
time, Richie really noticed that he was dressed in unusually
pressed clothes. "There's half an hour before we have to
"Then I better motor," was the
reply, and the young man began to move himself from the hay.
End Of Part