He didn't want to
wake up, it was not time to face reality once more. Yet, there
was the tumult still around, playing inside his being as well
as pushing on his senses outside. His body hurt, ached and burnt
at the same time and an unconscious wish for the lack of feeling
to return was what brought the young Immortal from senselessness.
What opened its eyes was more than just a battered Eternal,
and as he sat up, Richard Ryan knew there was something with
him that had forced his damaged body from healing sleep. As
he scanned the room, there was a force behind him that saw as
well, that took in Annie's toys scattered across the floor,
that registered the half open door and heard the low conversation
which drifted through it. There was also a purpose in his mind,
a knowledge of the reason behind the terrible storm which was
still shattering the night - the evil had not been removed from
The youth's body
complained as he shifted off the bed where he had been placed;
his movements were slow, still dazed and awed by what he vaguely
recalled. Absently as he wandered to the window, Richie glanced
down at the wreck that was his clothing; his clothes were covered
in dust, but what caused him a moment's angst was the brown
scorch marks in places across his jeans and shirt. Yet, there
was no time to deal with such considerations, there was an urgency
in his brain that he had not placed there, a need to free the
sacred surroundings of its adversary. The Immortal saw something
in his mind, a picture of what had to be a human being, a pathetic
form curled around itself into a protective crouch, hiding in
terror more from the storm than the lights which passed him
by. It was a passing thought that came and went with a clap
of thunder which deafened the valley, but the message was clear
enough for the Eternal.
Ryan's eyes set with
the hard edge of the hunter and he headed for the nearest exit,
the window. What he saw outside was surveyed by the unusual
guest in his head and kept him in the shadows; there were three
police cars out front, and the silent figure that was no more
than a moving piece of the night settled himself down on the
porch within feet of an officer stood at the kitchen door. Mortals
were merely an inconvenience to the poised form as he waited
for some kind of distraction to cover his exit. The Immortal
was working in tandem with the power that hung around and within,
and the storm howled within seconds of his need. He moved with
a speed that defied the tingling in his renewing limbs, crossing
the yard away from the house under direction of his visitor.
His strides were
silent, even against the still of the tumult in between its
rage, breath so controlled that it escaped his lips without
a sound, muscles trained to almost glide the body over the ground
between the hunter and his quarry. The Immortal was a dangerous
sight as he found the track he wanted and increased his intent.
Was it the storm reflecting in his eyes as it ran its omnipotent
course, or did the fire in his eyes come from within?
Distance was irrelevant
to the possessed being, and he crossed ditch, hillock, stream
without a cut in his stride - he knew exactly where to find
his prey. Hill was only made aware of his pursuer by the deliberate
skid into which he moved to bring himself to a stop at the bottom
of the bank where the convict was hiding. The Mortal started
in terror as two angers were lit by a strike of lightening in
the distance. There was no doubt as to the purpose in the ageless
figure and there was hazard in his eyes. The man cried out his
fear, standing and waving the sword he still clutched to him;
yet, he was not any kind of menace now, broken by the savagery
of the tumult which spoke to his murderous soul. The shout which
came in return to his attempt at defence was enraged and rang
with the harmony of the storm as the athletic form charged his
Richie went straight
under the weak swipe which tried to keep him back, and the elegant
rapier glittered as it flew through the air away from the tussle.
The men slammed into the ground; Hill scrabbled desperately
against his opponent, but there was power in the Eternal being
that was not his own. The Mortal stilled, petrified as the moon
broke the clouds and lit the maddened visage only inches from
his own. The Immortal held him firmly by the shirt and it was
the anger in the youth which thudded the shivering body into
the bank a couple of times in satisfied retribution.
a man in cold blood," the young man screamed, "you
had no reason except jealousy."
Hill didn't attempt
to deny the statement, only a whimper escaped his lips, a ghost
of the man that had been destroyed by what he had witnessed.
a holy place," the guest shrieked through its host.
It seemed that for
the first time, the Mortal understood the lore which he had
broken. The tempest had finally shown him the power of the lands
and it had wrecked his will.
"You are going
to pay for everything," Richie spat and the man's eyes
widened in abject dread at the threat. "And you're damned
lucky we're still on holy ground, or you'd be in pieces."
The disclosure did
not offer any boon to the fallen creature, he just cowered away
from the harsh grip and listened.
"You are going
down for this, you will offer no defence for what you've done,
you will confess that you killed a man and you will make no
mention of what you think you know about us," the youth
shook his quarry and forced terrified eyes to meet his before
he finished, "You will do all this, Hill, or you
will spend the rest of your pathetically short Mortal existence
looking over your shoulder for this face, exactly this face.
I have plenty of time to donate some of it to destroying you,
and your end will not be pleasant. Pray you stay in prison for
the rest of your life."
There was no denying
the horror in the Mortal eyes at the cold vow that was made.
Richard Ryan knew his words had rung true as he held the glare
for a few moments. The loathing in his eyes was obvious and
it made him powerful. There was no resistance as he hauled the
trembling body off the ground.
There were voices
calling his name as the Immortal marched his charge into the
area lit by the main house. His eyes were steel as they surveyed
the faces which fell on him, Naomi, Agatha, Jon, policemen he
didn't recognise. With the rest of his anger, he threw the hunched
form onto the ground in front of the surprised officers and
ordered with pain in his voice, "Get that animal off this
The men didn't need
a second offer, and the young man watched with his second self
as the submissive Mortal was picked up and shoved towards a
car. There was an agony in his heart, caused by the hatred that
the average-looking figure inspired, but it was easing with
every moment. The lands knew they would soon be free, but they
watched with the statuesque Immortal, waiting to see their task
complete. As the car moved off, the storm began to die down.
Richie looked up to the sky and felt his guest leave; it wasn't
a definite touch, only part of his own being which settled once
A hand touched his
arm, and suddenly tired eyes returned to earth. Naomi's face
was concerned as she took in the exhaustion that returned with
a finality that weakened the youth's knees. He groaned as he
felt himself falling and he couldn't stop his descent.
his small helper called for aid as she struggled to keep his
larger form from the ground.
Richie was absolutely
no help as he felt several pairs of hand grab him before he
fell. He could barely find the strength to breathe, let alone
move his limbs as he leant heavily into the capable form of
his saviour. The Native American's face was smiling as he hoisted
the failing body into his hold. The young man complained at
his inability, but his words came out like a strangled whine.
the dark-skinned man soothed, as he and Naomi between them walked
their charge to the house. "The spirits have taken their
toll, let us do the rest."
The Immortal had
little choice as the weariness reached his brain and he gave
in to blackness.
Waking up the next
time was a gentler affair; Richie opened his eyes with the strength
of renewal in his body. Gentle light of early morning streamed
in through the window, and the young man was glad to see a clear
sky outside. He lay still a moment and let the returned serenity
wash over his being; he smiled as he recognised the power around
him. Heaven Sent was calm once more, and as usual, it reached
into the depths of his soul. The youth sighed quietly as he
felt the familiar touch, there was peace without, but now the
consequences of Hill's intrusion into the ranch's life came
to the forefront of his mind. The possibilities that entered
the young mans brain broke his own calm and he sat up.
He was back in Naomi's
room, but this time in the bed. He looked over to the smaller
bed close by and smiled at the scene before him; both his Immortal
darlings lay together, the elder beauty wrapped protectively
around her little sister, and they were twice as warming to
his heart in the serenity of sleep. The youth did not want to
disturb the exhausted slumber.
Richie left the house
quiet in the early morning and headed out onto the prairie;
there were things he needed to consider alone.
The figure was calm,
unmoving without, a statue of a handsome man, rough at the edges
where events had overtaken appearance, but still an attractive
creature, knelt before an equally well crafted sword its point
set into the ground. Only a gentle breeze moving his blond locks,
and the almost invisible rise and fall of his chest told the
world that Richard Ryan was more than a carved figure. He had
no idea how long he'd been prostrate before the powers of the
land, his eyes were closed, focused inwards as were all his
senses; minutes, hours, time didn't matter as he moved over
the events of the previous day in his mind and chose his course
of action. He was Immortal, there were rules about letting Mortals
know of the unnatural existence - most of them had been broken
by Hill, but the dilemma was whether to break the rest. That
which had been witnessed could not be swept away, but there
was more to be told if the telling was right. Yet, would knowledge
serve any purpose, would knowledge of the Game change his friends'
lives? There was another course of action that could be taken,
it pained the youth to consider it, but it was the thought in
his mind as his contemplations were disturbed.
Richie breathed in
deeply and opened his eyes as his soul moved and his spine tingled.
He surveyed the immediate area, stifling the momentary panic
that the feeling caused him. The youth relaxed and smiled in
welcome as he fixed on his beloved. Naomi's face was a mixture
of concern and annoyance that he'd chosen to disappear again,
but there was also a gentle understanding in her manner as she
found her quarry. She skidded down the dry slope as an arm was
held out to her, and there was a body on his knees in moments.
The young man wrapped his hands around the slender waist and
breathed in the sweet scent of his lover. The girl's adorable
face lost focus as she leant forward and kissed him, all her
worry coming through the passion with which she pressed close.
Richie was only too glad for the warm touch and embraced with
equal fire. Naomi was a boon in the midst of his solitary considerations.
Yet, as the girl
drew away from the kiss, she saw his sadness through the love
in his eyes. Her smile straightened and she brushed at his unkempt
hair soothingly as she observed, "Now we face the aftermath."
"I can't explain
Us to them," the Immortal sighed, disliking the idea he
held in his head.
"So what will
you do?" the girl was matter-of-fact in her question, holding
back her own opinions and feelings for the sake of the conscience
of her lover.
"I have to leave,
disappear from their lives," Richie admitted to himself
as much as to his companion, "then, hopefully this will
all eventually blow over."
Naomi raised an eyebrow
at the optimism, and it only echoed the dissatisfaction in her
here, Agatha may be able to smooth things over," the young
His kin did not look
convinced, but she didn't argue with the unhappy gaze which
met hers. She was silent as she laid a peck on his nose and
then wriggled out of his embrace. The young woman paused a moment
as he placed an arm around her legs when she stood; she held
his head close to her body, her grasp trying to offer comfort,
but feeling like a desperate sadness. She moved so fast to try
and hide her own hurt at the decision, but there was no concealing
the emotion in her tone as she murmured, "I love you -
come back soon."
The Immortal kissed
the heavy material of the girl's jeans and clung back for a
few moments, unable to give reply to her pain that was echoed
in his own heart. He didn't want to leave his goddess, not so
soon after their initial encounter, but circumstances had overtaken
them. Reluctantly he loosened his hold; Naomi ran. Richie sat
still once more, letting his emotions run through him unabated.
There were tears in his eyes as his gaze came to rest on the
symbol of his Immortality - the rapier, and at that moment he
cursed the florid curves of its hilt and the deadly blade.
It was breakfast
time when Richie crept back into the farmyard. He was as silent
as he could be as he headed to the deserted bunk house to collect
his things. The man was a mess, stubble on his chin, clothes
torn and battered, hair in tangles, but there was the edge of
the Immortal in his movements. It was the only way Richard Ryan
could cope with the decision he had made. Running away was not
an option he liked: he felt for his new friends, and had enjoyed
his role as chaperone, and the new part of his life was crumbling
around his ears with every furtive step he took. Yet, not every
eye missed his return, someone whose mood was not on food saw
the scruffy figure slip into the building, and followed.
The carryall was
not difficult to fill, a handful of clothes out of the cupboard
by the bed and it was packed. The high-pitched slice of the
zip as he pulled it closed cut at Richie's ears through the
secretive silence and it cut his calm facade. The youth sat
down heavily on the bed and stared at his possessions; sadly
he considered what he was throwing away.
soon?" a voice edged with contained anger daggered into
The young man glanced
guiltily up at the form of Kathleen in the doorway; there was
no smile on her face this time and he didn't like the extra
depth to her gaze that Hill's revelations had put there. Richie
was silent, his glance bleak.
to desert us were you?" the woman's tone was caustic. "You
want to destroy those kids?"
The look the woman
received was shocked and wondering at the accusation. Kathleen
saw the pain in the young eyes and her manner softened a little
as she explained more coherently, "They've just suffered
a major trauma, but at the moment they're coping, if anything,
they're pulling closer together, but if you walk out on them
it'll tear them apart. You know what its like for them, `everyone
walks out on street kids, they can't trust anyone'. Yet, they
put their trust in you. You want to ruin years of work in getting
them to even consider trust?"
Richie had no answer,
he was dealing with too many conflicting arguments to provide
a rational response to the disclosure. The young man just stared
at the floor. His companion was not going to let it rest there
however, and her final words were clear, "Get yourself
cleaned up and into the main house. I don't care if you lie
through your teeth about whatever happened yesterday, but you're
going to tell those kids something plausible to give them a
reason for what happened. Then you can do what the hell you
The figure who walked
into the dining room half an hour later was a serious creature,
neatly dressed, carrying a jacket, his eyes unreadable. Breakfast
was a quiet affair, the youngsters subdued by the trauma so
recently past, but even the quiet murmurs that were passing
between the eaters stopped dead at the entry. Agatha's gaze
was barely hidden alarm as she considered what kind of decision
had brought Richard Ryan back into her house; Jon seemed pleasantly
surprised to see his friend; Harry held firm hold of Annie,
who wanted to run over to her protector, as he registered his
comrade's manner; Garion and Tay regarded him with a vague angst
as they failed to gauge his mood; Kathleen was calm, stood at
the far end of the table, waiting; the teenagers were uncertain,
and there was an unconscious fear in their eyes; Naomi rose
from her seat and walked around to greet her lover, understanding
in her gentle features.
The Immortal had
chosen to confront the trepidation he knew would be in the room,
and his break of the silence was dramatic. There were a few
gasps of shock as he slung his jacket aside and laid its hidden
contents on the table. The young man had cleaned the gore from
off the rapier's blade, but it was still a daunting sight as
it was placed reverently before the Mortals. The gesture was
obvious, and there was a mixture of uncertainty and truth in
the youth's eyes as he spoke, "What you all saw and heard
yesterday is knowledge that you shouldn't have. I can't give
you any more, and I can't promise that you'll come away from
this any the wiser than you already are, but I will try to answer
any questions you want to ask."
There was silence
for a few moments, but there was a want to discover heavy in
the air, and it did not take long for someone to begin. Jake
saw his role as leader, and chose to act on it, he looked directly
at his mysterious companion as he asked, "What was it between
you and Tarant, some kind of secret society?"
Richie began carefully, "secret, yes, but society as in
race. It wasn't some club I joined, I was born part of it."
"You carry that
thing `cause of your race?" Randy sounded disbelieving
as he pointed awkwardly to the rapier.
"Is that all
you were born to do, kill each other?" Emily cut in, her
tone cold as the fear she had suffered clouded her mood.
The young man was
glad for the hand in his and the body by his side as he tried
to meet the accusation.
have to be like that," he countered quietly. "Yes,
there are some of us who hunt the others, so we learn to defend
ourselves, but for the rest of us, we just get on with our lives."
His manner was emphatic
and his word seemed to be taken. It was Biff who continued the
conversation. She's seen the difference in his eyes more than
most, and her question reflected a curiosity about it.
"How did you
recognised Tarant as `one of you'," she asked tentatively.
"We have our
ways," was the enigmatic response and it was clear that
there would be no definite answer.
Eyes narrowed at
the evasion, but there was no ground given, only an opening
for another question. Jake tried again, aware of the halting
nature of the conversation.
"So you grew
up learning how to fight?" he sounded flatly.
Richie shook his
head and smiled sadly as he remembered his awakening to the
Gathering, "I was a foster kid, I never knew my parents.
I found out a few years ago."
MacLeod took you in," Martha made a connection and her
insinuation was obvious.
"No, not then,"
the youth answered quickly, "later than that."
"Is he one of
you?" Pog pressed, the interrogation beginning to gather
Richie raised his hands and evaded once more, "we live
our lives just like you. I grew up on the same streets as you,
probably got up to the same mischief. I bleed red, I'm not some
kind of alien - apart from the sword thing, I'm as ordinary
as..."he paused for a moment and with a flash on inspiration
disclosed, "...as Father Macey."
one of you?" a bright spark in Michael received a `don't
even think that' look.
"My father was
`one of them'," Naomi decided to adeptly redirect the conversation
and she wrapped her arm around her lover's waist in a sign of
unity. "That's how I met Richie."
"Did you challenge
him?" Emily was still wary and her tone suggested disgusted
young man smiled at her, trying to offer some reassurance, "as
I said, most of us don't generally go around doing that. No,
I was challenged by a man who was also involved with Patrick."
kill Patrick?" it was Kathleen who asked.
Both young Immortals
nodded and there was grief in their eyes.
us," Harry took his kin's part as words failed them for
"You took the
other guy out," Luke made a statement, not a question,
and the set of Richie's features gave nothing but confirmation;
his past loathing showed in his eyes as he recalled the sadist.
There was concern
among all the gathered company at the admission; from his manner
it had been obvious the previous evening that the youth was
capable of fighting with a sword, but the actual thought of
an ability to kill was another matter.
"Hemar was a
bastard," Harry's voice was cold as his eyes showed recall
of the pain the man had caused. "He would have come after
us as well. He used Annie as bait for my father, if Richie hadn't
been there, she'd be dead too."
The young form let
his sister go, and she dashed off his lap towards her `big brother'.
Richie swept the child into his arms and the warmth in his manner
was clear. There was the same mixture of age and innocence in
the angel eyes that gazed into his, the young man's face was
unreadable to most as he experienced those feelings that were
so familiar to any Immortal close to the unusual child. The
protector showed in his manner as he comforted the new and old
angst in the toddler with a reassuring smile and a brush of
her golden locks. They had all seen the closeness before, everytime
the youth had spent time with his cherub, but its advent in
that moment spoke far greater than any words. The exchange cut
through the disquiet, more than merely a justification for events
past, a tribute to character as well.
Yet the interview
was not over, there were still questions obvious in many a face.
However, Annie's presence at the head of the table halted the
flow, her infant naiveté making the interrogation more awkward
than it already was. In her own unique way, the tiny girl sensed
the reality of her situation, and it was adult eyes which looked
up one last time into her compatriot's; they told him of her
understanding and offered a supportive smile in return for the
abatement of her momentary distress. Naomi was close enough
to see the look pass between the Immortals, and as the girl
wriggled out of a loosening embrace, the beauty offered her
own arms out to the bonnie figure.
Once Annie was safely
in another's clasp, Richie looked up and out at the faces opposite
him, and waited again. There was a pause as the courage for
another enquiry was formed. It came from Biff as she still chewed
over the unusual.
"If you're so
normal, what happened last night?" the girl challenged.
The Immortal was
ready for that, and he came back with a shrug and honesty, "I
don't know, I think Jon might be better at explaining that than
me. I have never experienced anything like that before. Yes,
we have a lore about fighting on holy ground, but it was a lot
more than that."
The young man looked
to the Indian for support; there was a faraway look in the elder
man's eyes as he agreed, "The spirits are powerful here,
they did not like Hill."
It felt good to have
a little bit of the mystique taken away from him and Richie
smiled at the disclosure.
"So you don't
know why you freaked out?" Ranger was just making sure
as he levelled the check.
The young man just
shrugged again, beginning to feel easier with the conversation
at last. However, the hair on the back of his neck stood on
end as he was reminded of events prior to the invasion.
"But you do
know why you freaked out earlier," Mary moved the questioning
Richie laughed, a
quiet, mournful sound and he stared down at the table as he
admitted, "This is hard to talk about."
There was a pregnant
pause as the youth worked over the emotions that the enquiry
had inspired, and they were obvious as they ran across his face.
No one disturbed the moment, it was clear that no amount of
pushing would work the disclosure any faster. The young man
eventually looked around at every face - he saw a mixture of
regret at bringing up the subject, sympathy, curiosity. He took
a deep breath and disclosed, "The cellar gave me a nasty
shock by reminding me of something I didn't want to remember.
Gervace Hemar caught me off guard when I got between him and
Annie, and he had some unusual ideas about our code.
The guy was a viscious son of a bitch. He had a cellar
- and toys. The entertainment value went strictly his way."
The honesty in the
admission went further to building back the bridges that had
been crumbling than anything that had gone before. It was an
intimate thing to admit, as the pain and ghost of suffering
showed in the young features. The youth looked around at the
silent faces, unsure of himself. The atmosphere around was touching
him again, removing his normal controls which hid his memories
from even his own conscious, and the emotions within were welling
up. There was not much more that could have been told, he had
revealed all he was going to, and he did not know how to cross
the silence that had fallen. There was only one more thing to
be said, as it came to the young man, so he said it, emphatic,
hurt, he disclosed quietly, "Some of us are evil."
Then he turned on
his heel and left.
Richie sat in the
bunk house, staring once more at his packed bags. He hadn't
the energy to decided whether to pick them up and escape his
feelings, or to begin to unpack once more. The manner in which
he was disturbed this time was more peaceful. A polite cough
brought his attention slowly round to a figure in the doorway,
the figure was unexpected, it was Kim. She smiled, the sadness
of her own grief in her manner. The girl did not receive much
encouragement, but then it became apparent that she did not
need it. She walked a way into the room, stopping a few feet
from the bed.
"You were leaving?"
she questioned, but there was an instinct in her that had already
considered the conclusion; she of all the teenagers had seen
the good side of that which Immortality brought.
the youth replied flatly.
"You are like
Tay," the girl observed, "both you and Tarant - ageless."
"Only in body,"
Richie answered, taking a little more interest as the teenager's
more accurate knowledge became clear.
much older than you look," was Kim's next perception, and
she knew the truth of it as her gaze was met.
The Immortal could
not read the small smile that still sat on the girl's features,
her presence made no sense, and he voiced his confusion, "What
do you want?"
a bit more after you left, and we all wanted someone
to come find you," the teenager shrugged and sat down on
the bed next to him, "I volunteered. We were worried when
you left like that - do you do that a lot?"
The young man blinked
back surprise, he had not expected the trust which he read from
her face once more as a hand was laid on his arm, and the humour
took him unawares. The action was light, reserved, but held
all the feeling that the youth needed. The consideration warmed
the part of him that had gone cold thanks to Hill's meddling
and he smiled. There was still an air of past angst about the
Immortal, but he returned the gesture and disclosed openly,
"No. I'll be okay. Tell the others I have to unpack, I'll
be out later."
Kim nodded and stood;
her piece finished, she recognised the request for a few more
Richie sat a while
longer once she was gone, but there was a life to get on with.
As he stood to begin his task, he decided something - it was
time to lay old ghosts once and for all.
Duncan climbed out
of the hire car and gazed around at the ranch he hadn't seen
in twenty years. He smiled to himself as the air of serenity
filled him once more, and made him wonder why he ever left the
native ways behind. Then his gaze fell on an old friend who
came out of the kitchen covered in flour as she was alerted
by the shift in her soul; Agatha's face lit up when she recognised
her comrade and she ran like a girl.
she called, over-joyed by the surprise.
the Scot greeted, wrapping his companion in a warm hug, "it's
been too long. When my new friend here," he waved at the
form of Macey appearing from the passenger seat of the car,
"phoned and told me my employee was staying on here an
extra week, we decided to fly down together and find out what
you've all been up to."
The woman laughed
and walked round to offer a warm shake of the hand to the priest
she had met only through phone calls.
of you," she breathed happily.
It had been three
days since Hill's unwanted interference, and things had gradually
begun to heal. The teenagers had found their spirits returning,
and Heaven Sent was working its usual magic to help along the
process. Agatha had seen the speedy recovery and offered another
week's lodging to the young adventurers to keep the mending
going. No one had objected.
There were shouts
of pleasure and bodies running towards the vehicle as those
youngsters not out on the morning trek recognised their friend.
The father was surrounded by teenagers in seconds and Duncan
smiled to himself as he watched the scene. He liked his new
associate, there was something inherently generous about the
reverend which he had registered immediately on meeting him.
They had talked incessantly on the flight over, finding parallels
of interest in all aspects of their lives. A topic of conversation
which had come up more than once was Richie, and the youth came
to mind as the elder Immortal leant on the car.
Agatha walked across
to him once more and joined him as an observer. They were silent
for a moment, the comfortable contemplations of old friends.
Yet, Duncan knew the details of the events which had led to
the extension of the stay, and he was compelled to ask, eventually,
"How is the recovery going?"
"Well, all things
considered," was the reply, "you know kids, they're
bouncing back fast."
Duncan turned to his companion and looked into her face.
"Still a little
shaken," was the honest reply, "in all my years I
have never felt anything like the storm we had here. The place
was almost alive. If ever I meet that scum off holy ground,
he won't last long."
There was vehemence
in the woman's eyes, and a vague vulnerability as she considered
the invasion of her land. Yet, the look was gone almost as soon
as the statement finished, and a smile returned.
be glad to see you," she observed, "he took the brunt
of it all."
"Where is he?"
the Clansman questioned, surveying the immediate area but seeing
Agatha's face was
slightly amused, a little sad as she returned, "Well, he
offered to go down into the cellar and fetch me some apples
about half an hour ago, and he hasn't come back up yet."
The insinuation was
clear, and with a nod, the elder Immortal disclosed, "About
time someone went to find him."
Richie was sat on
the cellar steps, his arms wrapped around the pillar support
and staring blankly into the centre of the room. Everything
was running around inside him, the pictures, the feelings, the
hurt that had been caused in the room's doppleganger. All of
it, the young man let in and he brought each image to the front
of his mind, facing the emotion it conjured, trying to make
sense of it. He was focused inwards, but the call of his body
brought him out.
The youth glanced
behind him as footsteps cut his silence; his stare was momentarily
bleak, still caught up in the nightmares, but as soon as recognition
touched him, the familiar smile caught his features.
he greeted warmly, and waved him down.
The Scot grinned
back, and shaking his head in mock disdain observed, "What
is it with you and trouble? I leave you alone for a few days
and..." he did not need to finish the sentence.
Richie laughed, but
it was a short sound and died as his friend sat down beside
him. There was a silence as the youth looked back into his recollections.
At that moment Duncan felt an opportunity for which he had been
waiting for ten months; his tone was full of concern as he asked
carefully, "Richie, you okay?"
The glance he received
told him of many of the thoughts that were going through the
young soul. There was a closeness between tutor and pupil, and
it strengthened further as the young man admitted, "I didn't
think this still affected me so badly."
There was a touch
of disbelief in the protege's voice as his own feeling still
did not make complete sense.
"Want to talk
about it?" the elder offered sincerely.
The waiting was over,
and it made the Clansman feel safer inside as his tutee responded.
Richie sighed, but there was healing in his tone. The reply
held an air of relief, an end to a hidden tension, a circle
finally closed. The young Immortal's answer was simple, but
held release for both men.
"Yea, Mac, yea,
I think I do."