Up, defence, twist
and cover the back with the sword; round, slice down. The razor-sharp
blade glinted in the sun and reflected rays off glistening, taut
muscles. The movement was fluid and controlled as pure concentration
marked the set of Richard Ryan's features. The blond youth's cropped,
grey T-shirt was several shades darker in many places and stuck
to his sweat-drenched torso, creating not unattractive lines to
his athletic body. His gaze was fixed ahead as he swung the weapon
with practised ease, testing his skills against an opponent in
his mind. Muscles flexed, breath hissed from between his teeth,
clenched in focused application; this was his element since MacLeod
had taught him in the tradition of the mentor, and there was a
sense of strong pleasure being taken from each, self- possessed
It had been quite some
time since the young Immortal had had a chance to really practice
his fighting techniques, and he bristled with the dangerous edge
that all his kind had when a blade was held in the hand. Yet,
here, with the protection of trees all around, in the bright,
warm sunshine of a summer day in the wilderness, he was safe from
prying eyes which could be unnerved by the steel in his gaze and
in his palm. This was the creature that only others of his race
saw, centred, determined, capable of taking a Quickening; he was
almost ageless, no sign of the youth coming through the calm resolve.
The Richie most knew, a funny man, a little naive, always ready
with a one-liner, he was buried beneath the warrior, only to appear
once the training session was over.
There was power being
Up, back, protect -
and then, the final, fatal, swift horizontal slice was accompanied
by a sound almost like a growl which escaped the fixated being's
pursed lips. Eyes sparkled with satisfaction as they followed
what could have been a death blow. Then he froze, a few moments
of still after the exertion of the exercise; the blade poised,
hovering at shoulder height, glittering and menacing. Then the
time was over; Richie took in a long, relaxing breath and, lowering
his heels, eased his frame into an upright position. Lids covered
his gaze for a second, and when he saw again, there was less steel
and more humour to be seen. The youth smiled to himself as he
began to walk in looser steps over to where he had placed his
carry- all under the shade of one of the magnificent trees. He
was pleased with the session, he felt invigorated by the intense
nature of the shadow-joust, and his body sang with life at the
exercise. He was tired, but it was a good weariness, comfortable
and in recognition of time well spent.
Reaching blindly for
a towel in his bag, the handsome figure let the fatigue in, and
settled himself down on the hillock overlooked by the mighty forest.
Wiping the dampness from his face and hands, Richie took in the
clean air and surveyed the peace of his surroundings. A city kid,
he'd never had much opportunity to experience the open spaces
of the country, and more and more he was finding that he liked
the solitude. He'd always been alone in the town, but it was a
different kind of isolation, one imposed by the indifference of
modern life; here he chose to separate himself from the world
in the timeless glory of nature. MacLeod had known this place
for many lifetimes, and as he gazed calmly out at it, the younger
Immortal hoped that he would too.
Richie allowed himself
a few minutes contemplation, before choosing to pack up his things.
He still had energy left, and the youthful creature decided that
he was going to expend it in a run through the shady tracks. A
quick return to his bike to secure his belongings and he would
be off to explore.
If there was one thing
Mac had taught his pupil, it was to look after his blade. With
a deep respect for the elegant weapon, the young man took a cloth
and wiped along the shining metal. He dried the hilt which was
damp with his own perspiration and checked along the cutting edge
for any sign of wear that he might have caused. The styled sword
was clear. Satisfied that the arm was unscathed, its bearer prepared
to return it to its protection. Scabbard ready and sword in hand,
the Immortal froze.
His soul spoke to him
in words only the undying race could understand, and Richie recognised
the presence of another. The feeling was unexpected, and the shiver
that ran down the young man's spine brought him bolt upright like
a startled jack-rabbit. Alert eyes scanned quickly around him,
as his muscles tightened once more with the knowledge of the possible
threat. Duncan was busy at the dojo, it couldn't be him, could
it? If not, then who would be out here? The immediate possibilities
flowed through the poised form's mind and produced the familiar
nerves that the buzz always brought. The blond youth's eyes flicked
over to a corner of the clearing as the snap of a twig gave him
the direction of his intruder. The Immortal's face set once more
as his gaze fell on a stranger.
The man, looking to
be in his late twenties, was tall and thick set and almost white
blond hair fell across a high forehead. Dark eyes looked back
across at a potential opponent with calculated consideration.
He was dressed in loose jeans and black shirt, and a leather jacket
was hung over one arm. His grin was confident and smug as he seemed
to assess his smaller, scowling companion.
the newcomer introduced himself with a nod of the head.
was the barked return as the stiff form considered his options.
"I did not expect
to find anyone out here," the calmer man smiled unconvincingly,
and took a few steps forward, "let alone one of us."
"Well, we agree
on one thing," Richie retorted with an edge to his voice;
he had taken an instant, instinctive dislike to the self- assured
stranger. "What now?"
The youth was almost
sure of the answer as his intuition screamed at him that this
was not a nice guy, yet still he was startled by the reply. Gervace's
gait was smooth, strong and powerful as he strode more fully into
the clearing; this was definitely not a passive Immortal. His
tone was almost indifferent as he disclosed, "This is rather
Richie took an involuntary
step back as the other threw his jacket off onto the grass and
revealed a solid-looking. two-handed broad sword. He steadied
himself as the other's mouth kept working, "...I am always
ready for an easy Quickening."
Ryan quickly assessed
his options. This was an experienced fighter a lot older than
he looked, a battle would be more than a little risky. Could he
outrun him? The form was large, but not enough bulk to slow him
down; this was a powerful man, with strong, long legs, so the
answer was probably not. Then again, the youth noticed a scar
on his challenger's neck, so he had come near to losing his head
before. Unsure, the young man glanced once past his rival's shoulder,
the bike was on the wrong side of him, then he stared resolutely
back at Hemar's unwavering gaze.
"Nowhere to run?"
the antagonist sneered, victory in his manner.
Richie didn't bother
to reply, just stepped off his vantage point onto the flat of
the pasture and raised his sword. The warrior returned to possess
him as all his training came into play; gaze grew harder, muscles
flexed through light clothing, danger threatened his opponent.
The young form fixed his combatant and he waited. A raised eyebrow
was the only response to the defiant pose that the youth assumed;
maybe this pompous asshole's over-confidence would be his down
fall - well Ryan hoped so.
Immortal faced Immortal
in momentary pause as each readied himself for the fight; one
smiled condescendingly, the other gathered up all the strength
and training he could muster. One second Hemar stood still, looking
a little too relaxed, his manner aloof, the next he swung, his
visage changing from ease to lethal intent. The street- punk-turned-fighter
was ready, and chose his move wisely. He was swifter than this
bulk in the short term at least, and so he dodged the blow, darting
away from the blade and towards the open side of his opponent.
Gervace was round on him before he could bring in any cut that
could reach flesh and steel clashed with the familiar, jarring
sound. Adrenaline rushed through Richie's veins, pumping excitement
to every nerve in his body; the hint of fear in his soul did nothing
to dim the call of his race to combat, and, teeth gritted, he
sunk all his energy into it.
A few strokes and Gervace
was grinning once more; the younger being parried and blocked,
finding himself quickly on the defensive - he had exerted a lot
of energy already, his adversary was fresh to the battle. He steeled
his muscles as they ached, telling him mercilessly that they'd
had enough for one day, but still he had to take several steps
backward away from the opportunity the other form was creating.
Another swipe, the
young man drew in rapid, ragged breath as his avoidance failed
and the heavy weapon caught him a glancing blow on the hip. His
oppressor laughed as he staggered backwards in momentary shock.
The sound was mocking, loathsome, it caught Richie's temper. What
right had this stranger to judge him, deride his being? Anger
flared in Ryan's eyes, if the intention had been to bait him,
it had apparently succeeded. Hemar saw the fish take his hook
and moved rapidly in on what he assessed to be a less coherent
competitor. He could never have been more wrong; Mac was a careful
tutor, and he had drummed one of the most important rules well
and truly into his tutee. Richie didn't lose it that easy anymore.
There was a hardness
to his gaze as swords met and locked and he stared into his rival's
soul. He was a solid wall against the large form which was unready
for the coolness he received, but a barricade which flexed almost
instantly and thrust away his adversary. The newcomer's look was
of mild surprise as he stumbled away, his weapon swinging uncontrolled
for a few seconds. Macleod's pupil strode after his antagonist
and lunged for the torso. The other was not so unsettled that
his blow did any great damage, but he returned a flesh wound on
his arm. Gervace's gaze was not so confident now as he quickly
reassessed the easy Quickening, and his demeanour was more
serious as he parried a slice.
The sounds of ringing
blades cut the wilderness, the tone of supernatural selection.
There was fight in the young being as he harnessed any anger and
dislike he felt for the stranger who challenged him. This was
his turf, and he was damned if he was going to give in easily
to the obnoxious, condescending, pompous,....the adjectives flowed
in Richie's thoughts as his cut and thrust. The strength of the
wild, the will within that he felt in this place powered through
him; Hemar moved gradually backwards.
It was his knowledge
of the area that gave Ryan his edge.
There were shrubs all
around the edge of the clearing, and the woodland around seemed
sure enough. However, the view was deceptive; only a few feet
from the bracken to which the fighter's moved, there lay a cliff.
The youth was not so arrogant as to believe that in his present
state he could fend off his opponent for ever, he was tiring even
as he put every last effort into aiming for the chasm, instead,
his sharp mind had already chosen an alternative to finishing
the battle. Richard Ryan had grown up with a devious streak to
his character when he needed it. He smiled to himself as his adversary
took a final step onto the disguised drop. Thrust, lock, push
- Hemar's face clouded with rage as his heel slipped and his balance
left him. The glare he gave his wily companion was one which promised
vengeance as, arms flailing, he fell.
Richard Ryan!" he screamed, maddened by the fact that he
had been out-smarted.
Richie grinned in some relief after the disappearing form, then
muttered more seriously, "but maybe tomorrow. I think I need
some background on this creep."
The young man backed
away from the drop, and turned to face his, once again, peaceful
world. Yet, his eyes spotted something alien to that place, which
could prove useful; Hemar had thrown his jacket aside onto the
grass at the edge of the clearing, Richie quickly moved to pick
it up for a search. Picking pockets of even an enemy was not something
that the ex-thief felt good about now, Mac had done enough philosophising
to cure him through boredom, if nothing else , but there was necessity
in his actions as he rifled the pockets of the expensive leather.
Names could mean very little in the Immortal world, even if they
were used so frequently, and the anxious opponent wanted something
else to mark his adversary into his background. With practised
efficiency, the youth flipped open a wallet that was hidden in
the inside pocket and ruffled through it. There was cash, a lot
of it in large bills, a driving licence, probably German by the
Richie's assessment of the writing, and a crumpled piece of paper.
That didn't fit with the rest of the plush interior, and drew
the searcher's expert attention. It took little time to find out
that it was a wharf-side address, and the lead for which the young
Immortal had been hoping. Gervace Hemar would become clearer.
The wallet replaced,
and the jacket slung over the cliff at approximately the same
place, trainee bade farewell to his tutorial grounds, and headed
home. Yet, there was angst nagging at him, making his mood black,
and as he cruised into the city, Richard Ryan decided it was an
appropriate time to seek out some advice.
Duncan MacLeod put
down the phone and relaxed back into his chair with an air of
satisfaction about him. He been winding up the tail end problems
of a charity auction some of his students at the university had
convinced him was a good idea; it was a worthwhile cause, but
finding donators had been hard work. That call had been the last
lot sorted, a beautiful, jewel-encrusted dress-sword, the prize
item at the benefit sale; the Immortal had pulled in a lot of
old, very old, favours to secure some of the antiques that were
due to raise an expected three million for the chosen Brainhill
Trust for disabled youngsters. It had been a long afternoon, but
the Highlander was well pleased with himself. It was time to relax
and reward himself with a good scotch.
The man was half on
his feet when his soul shivered; after so long, his reaction was
immediate, his muscles tensed, he was stood tall, his hand reaching
for the katana sat innocently on his desk, and his dark eyes scanned
Richie did his best
to stem the pang of concern that the buzz gave him as he strode
into the dojo, but despite knowing that, almost certainly, Mac
was the source, his instincts couldn't help themselves, and put
him even more on edge; it was times like these, when even friendship
made him cautious, that he wished that Immortality had never been
his. The young man's mood was obviously not happy as he came into
view of his mentor. However, Duncan was feeling slightly buoyant
at the closure of his task, and his first thought was amusement
as he took in a slightly dishevelled form. A large slice out of
Richie's grey joggers, and the blood stain around them seemed
adequate enough reason for his frown, and Mac decided to try and
raise his companion's humour.
he grinned light-heartedly, indicating to the long-healed wound.
The look he got told
the Immortal that his protege was in a far more serious frame
of mind, and he'd known Richie long enough to realise that something
was up. His gaze straightened and he waited. The younger was still
more than a little jumpy, and an awkwardness was creeping over
him; he hovered a little way off from the office door at which
his friend was stood and wondered why, at the first sign of trouble,
he had come running back to Mac again. Still, he was here now,
and so he began, "Ever heard of an asshole called Gervace
Hemar, could be German?"
"Not off hand,"
came the response after a moment's thought, and more seriously,
tutor enquired of tutee, "What happened?"
"I pushed him
off a cliff," Richie admitted sheepishly.
Mac snorted, it wasn't
exactly against the rules, but only Richie would have come up
with such a tactic. The youth didn't find his companion's reaction
funny, and continued in justification, "I'd been training
for two hours, and I was spent, he didn't seem to be the kind
of guy to let me get my breath, so I sorta delayed things for
"So he's coming
back?" Duncan clarified calmly.
Ryan scowled, his temper
not improving with the disclosures, his comrade's reaction was
apparently unconcerned for him; their relationship had changed,
he was no longer automatically under his mentor's protection,
his skills were better, his experience was greater. To stand alone
was frightening, but exhilarating at the same time; yet he still
missed earlier days. On the surface, Duncan MacLeod may have been
calm and separate, but within, he fought the urge to move into
action for his less experienced friend. He had never heard of
Hemar, but Richie's mood and the tear in his clothing adequately
described the unknown adversary. He'd been through this with other
friends, and his experience told him that he had to let go sometimes.
It was always the same with the first few years, and, sink, or
swim, Duncan knew he couldn't interfere.
"He made that
very clear," the blond figure nodded, choosing a hardened
stare over the angst he was feeling.
There was a slightly
lost look about Richie, and Duncan suddenly remembered how young
he really was. Sometimes it felt like they'd known each other
several lifetimes, and at others, the difference between their
experiences was so obvious. MacLeod only had one suggestion.
"Maybe Joe can
give you some information about him," the Scot advised with
what he hoped was a reassuring smile.
The statement hadn't
been meant as a dismissal, but his companion chose to take it
as such. There was nothing Mac could do, why had he come here
in the first place - sympathy, defence? The youth was still feeling
slightly awkward about his instinct to dump his problems on the
Highlander, the infamous Immortal. If he had really been looking
for information, Joe was the first logical choice.
the younger nodded in resignation. "I'll go change and then
drop round his place."
Richie wasn't good
at hiding his feelings, and his angst was written all over his
face as he turned to leave. Mentor couldn't let his protege leave
feeling so lonely.
called after him, and waited 'til he was being watched once more,
"if you want some practice, I'm here."
The young man managed
a grateful smile, there was a lot more conveyed in Duncan's look
that wasn't vocalised; understanding, concern, friendship, whatever
happened, Richie knew he wasn't alone.
The bar was closed.
Richie sat down heavily
on his bike, and stared down at the helmet in his hands. What
to do now? He was feeling a mixture of anxiety and impatience;
Hemar was a strong opponent, that much had been obvious from their
previous encounter, and the youth wanted as much information on
him as possible before he came after him. He'd been pursued before,
but the uneasiness and lack of control the idea fed his spirit
did not get any better. There was an aspect of being hunted about
the threat that the German had issued, and knowledge about the
Immortal would have helped soothe the feeling of being prey that
edged up on the uncomfortable young man everytime he relaxed a
little. Street-kid, or not, Richard Ryan had always been in charge
of his own destiny as much as possible, but at that time, he had
a bad feeling that the inopportune incident was going to swiftly
leave his control. The thought was disconcerting, and almost made
him angry; it wasn't good to lose it, especially now, and the
young Immortal chose to combat his emotions with action.
There was an address
in his pocket; not a home, but some kind of warehouse judging
by the area listed, maybe, if Joe wasn't around to provide some
answers then an investigation of the wharf would. With a new determination
blocking out his worry, Ryan started up the roar of the machine.
of Part 1