The figure who climbed
off the motor bike was ageless; a young face gazed around at the
collection of wooden buildings that were his destination, but
there was a composure in his eyes that defied the placement of
years. Rich had settled his concern for the moment, using a natural
curiosity in its place, and the form who scanned the vicinity
for danger was the Immortal once more. Richard Ryan was far from
the boy he had been when Duncan had taken him in; he still wore
jeans, but now they were black and less than two years old; his
jacket and boots were leather and a white shirt set them off with
a style that would have never matched the street-punk. A healthy
interest in keeping his own head had sured the fighter's nerves,
and he was ready if his opponent showed himself.
There was no one around,
this wharf was deserted; the high-pitched slice of metal being
slid out of its protection cut against the soft rumble of the
water close by, and marked the production of the elegant weapon.
His body taut, his instincts honed for the search, the young Immortal
headed slowly towards his goal.
The address was a large
wooden storehouse, which, from the outside, looked like it could
do with a lot of renovation before it could hold any goods. The
side door was hanging half off its hinges, and the name of the
company which owned it was illegible where decades old paint had
peeled off the wood. At first glance, there were absolutely no
signs of life. The wary creature was not convinced, so he chose
to make a perimeter sweep. He was a few feet away from turning
the corner to the back of the premises, when his supernature froze
him. The world shifted, and he knew. His body tingling,
Richie regained his being quickly and skidded around the corner,
weapon at the ready. Yet, the Immortal he had felt was gone, as
a back door slammed shut.
"Not like you
to run away, Gervace," he muttered, steeling his soul to
There was the edge,
the shard of excitement that ran through his spirit, urging him
to battle. It was time to finish the confrontation. The warrior
reached for the door handle, every fibre of his being singing
with the thought of the clash of wills, and the Game made itself
The entrance opened
onto a corridor of offices at the back of the warehouse; yet a
door opposite, leading to the open space within was still moving.
Without hesitation, Richie followed the trail. Adrenaline pumping
through his system, his features set in a grimace of determination,
Ryan was a formidable sight. His sword held lightly in his palm,
the Immortal surveyed the battle ground. The room was totally
empty, except for a couple of pillars holding up a roof which,
in places, let in streams of sunshine. That was the only illumination,
the windows were covered in grime, and electric light had long
since ceased to function. The area was grey to the vision, and
if someone was out there, the youth couldn't see them. The Immortal
adversary was well hidden. The slim figure stalked purposefully
further into the room and chose to make his own challenge.
and we can finish this!" he yelled coolly to anyone listening.
The buzz, and Ryan
spun on the spot as he sensed a body flying towards him. Raising
his sword in instinctive defence, the young man felt the jar of
blades touching and his vision momentarily caught up. A grunt
came from his opponent as he pushed him away, and with some surprise,
the young man realised that this was not Hemar. The Immortal a
few feet away from him preparing for another strike was about
his height and dark-haired. He looked like he had been in his
thirties when he had died, but he was quite stout and was handling
his sword with a lack of practice. The weapon was two handed and
looked quite heavy, and the man was putting some effort into wielding
it. The young man's surprise nearly cost him a bad slice to his
arm, but instinct took over and he dodged. The stranger stumbled
and his blade hit ground, with him almost falling onto it. Richie
was unsure of himself; his instinct was to raise his sword and
take this man's head, but it was so obvious that the attacker's
sword play was weaker and almost desperate. Instead of moving,
the youth just watched as the form struggled to right himself.
Still he raised his weapon as his combatant turned on his again.
His arm above his head, side on, trying to decide what to do,
the young man backed out of reach of a surprisingly steady slice
to his ribs. There was a sign of old strength and skill in the
man's fight as he swung again and again, and Richie deflected
the blows, but there was no contest. The young Immortal wasn't
sure how to call a truce once a fight had begun; with Mac, it
took only a look to say give it a rest, but the stranger didn't
seem to be taking any notice of his lack of gusto.
with me, boy," the rotund fighter growled angrily with a
European accent, "fight me."
Ryan wasn't sure if
he was dealing with a madman, but the figure was raining down
blows which could have been lethal, so he chose to comply.
say, Bub," he muttered, and moved into action.
Physique hardened once
more, and power flowed through his muscles as he brought his training
into effect. The change was visible, and his opponent recognised
it. The rapier and its owner moved with greater speed and agility
than the broader pair and who became the defender was not an issue.
Teeth clenched and mind focused on the strikes, the younger form
sliced at the other weapon. He wasn't intending to kill, this
hapless fighter was not his quarry, but he needed to disarm. A
nick on the man's huge belly was a distraction, then came a quick
shove at the bulk and the form was on the floor. Richie stood
over the fallen man and stared into his eyes; sword raised, he
questioned calmly, "Had enough?"
He remained poised
to make a point, but his gaze said that he wasn't meaning to take
a Quickening. There was a moment's pause as the message was conveyed.
That was long enough for the tables to be turned.
a female shriek from the shadows, and it was quickly followed
by the sharp crack of a gun.
Richie felt the bullet
before his eyes found the gun's owner, and he staggered backwards
in shock. Pain, sharp, ripping, ran out from his chest and he
knew that the shot was fatal. His confused gaze locked with that
of a girl of no more than eighteen; she was scruffy, her dark
hair scraped back in a rough bun, her clothes covered in grime,
a lethal magnum held in shaking palms, but she was an angel. Dying
did something strange to the brain, Richie could attest to that,
and this time, his harbinger of doom took on the form of a beautiful
creature. Biblical images of God's messengers filled his head
as his heart gave up. Death came quickly, and with a groan, the
young man's eyes rolled in his head and he collapsed.
The image of his lovely
murderer still in his mind, Richie drew in a new breath. The memory
of the agony of death caught him with a familiar sick feeling
in the pit of his stomach, and he coughed back heat in a dry throat.
As his eyes gradually focused and the memory dimmed, the youth
groaned as his gaze fell on his chest. There was a large hole
in his shirt and it was covered in his own blood.
"This is not
my wardrobe's day," he moaned, and rolled his eyes to the
It was then he saw
his hands; they were tied above him over a hefty looking pipe.
The young man moaned again as he took in the fact that he was
propped up against a wall with his wrists bound. He wiggled his
fingers and they tingled nastily; it had been some time since
he had been fixed in position. At least he was still in one piece.
The discomfort of the
reawakening ebbed away slowly, but the pins and needles in his
arms replaced it. The youth shifted as much as he could and pulled
at his bonds; neither the rope, nor the pipe budged, even swinging
from his wrists wouldn't even strain the well-chosen hold. His
flesh stinging where the rough braid cut at it, the helpless Immortal
decided it was best to give up and wait for his captors to return.
They hadn't looked very professional, so he hoped that they weren't
after his head. The young man closed his eyes and rested his head
against the back wall; it had been a long day.
Without vision, hearing
began to play a greater role in the world that Richie sensed;
he could hear boats and sea-birds, but most of all there was the
sound of water lapping up against stone. The wall was damp, and
the closeness of the sound told him that the dingy room in which
he was being held was, at least, partly below the water level.
The conclusion didn't make him feel any more comfortable. Weariness
and boredom together helped the youth into a light doze.
The Immortal drew in
a sharp breath, and his eyes snapped open once more as his unusual
senses alerted him to another of his kind. He was vigilant and
shivering involuntarily partly from damp cold, partly from the
walk over his grave, as the door opposite him creaked open. He
was angry, and he set his visage to tell the entrant so. Yet,
as a body appeared, lit by light coming down the stairs, his jaw
went slack. Richie had felt physical pain, and his emotions had
been torn at times, but what he felt when a tiny form peeped around
the door nearly brought him instantaneously to tears. The person
before him was Immortal, he knew that without a doubt, and for
the first time he considered that it could be a curse. The face
that looked at him was of a girl, and she could have been no more
than three, or four when she died; blues eyes blinked curiously
at him, and blond curls danced around a pudgy, open aspect. The
young man couldn't take his eyes off the tiny form as she grinned
and bounced into the room. He took in the bonnie green dress she
wore and the small, short fingers which held tightly to a wooden
doll which showed its age even if she didn't; he felt revulsion.
It wasn't an emotion directed at the child, but at the power which
had left her trapped in such a young, helpless body for eternity.
It was a horrible feeling, and the youth shuddered anew.
His visitor stopped
a little way off and stared openly at the bound form before her.
Richie stared right back. She seemed so innocent, without a care,
the young man wondered if the trial life had given her had sent
her mad. The girl shifted on her spot, showing her insecurity
of the stranger, but there was curiosity in her gaze, and she
was going to follow it up.
she began, her sound the incomplete form of early childhood.
uncomfortable associate responded with a brief smile; despite
himself, he couldn't help but wonder at the sweetness of her countenance.
"Pol says, you
like us," came the next disclosure, and the girl held out
the doll in reference.
The captive glanced
at the figure which had long since lost its dress and painted
hair, and wondered if Pol marked the eternal-child's age. Then
he returned his sight to the painful form.
answered, at a loss for anything else to say.
That seemed to settle
one thing in the 'young' mind, and the youth tensed as her form
moved quickly on him. Richie didn't know what to expect, his visitor
didn't appear to be carrying any sort of weapon, but he wondered
if she could hide a knife in a large pocket on her skirts. He
was mildly surprised, and relieved when she merely sat down hard
on his legs. Wincing, he remained a statue as her face was turned
up to him, and she grinned.
"You too big,"
she observed with a shrug.
"'Spose I am huge
to a three-year-old," the helpless form shrugged, and relaxed
The child was bringing
out a sense of ease in him without apparently trying, and despite
that instantaneous reaction to her, the young man couldn't help
liking her. He smiled as she ignored his statement completely,
turning instead to her doll. He watched her silently as she played
with the clothes-peg arms for a while, fascinated by her toddler
game. The quiet didn't last long, as his companion drew a conclusion.
"Like Dada an'
Hawee," the young mind told him.
"And who are you?"
came out of the girl's mouth.
the Immortal finished the unusual exchange of names.
his attendant tried, but the second syllable came out more like
a sneeze than anything else.
Her bearer just laughed,
and she grinned once more. There their conversation ended; both
Immortal's heads turned towards the door as footsteps told them
of a newcomer. There was no buzz, but something else spoke to
Richie's soul. It was the owner of the gun who strode into the
room, and then the young man knew that she was one of them,
but she had not yet died. The young woman was not carrying a pistol
this time, instead, she was holding her captive's rapier. Light
from above lit her outline from behind, and the youth had to admit
to himself that he found her more than a little attractive. However,
now was not the time to follow his libido, and so, for once, Richard
Ryan clamped down on his hormones and set his features to passive
coolness. The Immortal-to-be's expression widened as her eyes
adjusted to the gloom and she recognised the child.
she called quickly, concern on her face, "come over here."
The girl looked up
apologetically at her chair, as if embarrassed by rudeness.
"I think you orta
do as she says, she's got the sword," he grinned easily;
with the youngster present, despite his bonds, the young man couldn't
work up any worry.
as if he had said something with the wisdom of the gods and then
stood up smartly and marched over to her other companion.
"Go get Dada for
me, please, Annie," the teenager softened, smiling down at
the small form.
Her face hardened once
more as the child disappeared and her attention returned to her
prisoner. She held out the sword and walked forward, anger blazing
in her eyes; the blade settled on Richie's shoulder.
"You nearly took
my father's head," she hissed dangerously.
Ryan looked up at her
and responded calmly, "And if you were going to take mine,
you'd have done it already."
The attempt to intimidate
a failure, the girl paused, her manner still angry. Her captive
merely stared back, he wasn't about to provoke anything, there
was a foetal look of danger in his holder's gaze; idly he found
his brain wondering if he had had the same hidden side to his
nature when Duncan had 'adopted' him. Richie found something compelling
about the creature before him, maybe it was the affinity between
them, maybe it was the far more basic instinct of a man to a woman,
he didn't know which, but he felt a pull in body and soul all
the same. His emotion must have been evident in his manner, because
there was a reaction. The young woman snorted and turned away,
trying to hide a pain that the recognition gave her. Her voice
was sharp as she spoke next, but the blade of her tone was marked
with hurt rather than animosity.
"Why do you all
look at me like that?" she spat with venom. "As if I'm
some sort of taboo, but fascinating at the same time."
The youth raised an
eyebrow, prior knowledge of Immortality was something that was
a serious grey area in the rules of the Game. He was chastised
with a glance of razors as his surprise was gauged, and a remark
thrown at him.
"Yes, I know;
Annie has the tongue of a child, she speaks as she sees it."
"I had noticed,"
the Immortal smiled, deciding to pull the conversation away from
an obviously painful point.
The sword, whose point
had settled on the ground came back up again; Richie decided that
this one was defensive to the extreme. She was scared, tense,
and his apparent confidence was disquieting her even more. He
took in a sharp breath as the blade honed by his own care hovered
in front of his face. This was not a time for professional fronts,
truth seemed a better option.
"Can you please
put my sword down," he requested, frowning anxiously, "blades
too close to my neck make me nervous."
The admission caused
a momentary smile of satisfaction on the crafted face, but the
weapon was withdrawn. The young man relaxed again and sighed,
closing his eyes for a second, this was not a situation in which
he found himself everyday, and it was trying his nerves. Yet,
he was staring back at his companion with a compulsion he couldn't
explain very quickly. There was a gentle frown of confusion on
her face, and she voiced it.
"I expected more
indignation," she disclosed with a new sweetness to her tone,
nodding at his predicament.
Richie laughed lightly,
his mood did seem a little ludicrous considering his position,
but he couldn't help it. There was such a mixture of thought and
feeling running through him at the same time; there was his natural,
healthy angst about his helplessness, there was the strange calm
his little visitor had inspired, there was the coolness of the
Immortal, there was the undeniable pain that Annie caused in his
soul, there was the attraction to his associate, but there was
none of the anger that had been waiting for his captors to show
themselves - once more, Penelope-Anne had dissolved it. His thoughts
were mainly incoherent, or unrepeatable. There was one train of
thought that was explainable, however, there was a vague guilt
at having challenged an Immortal with whom he had had no business.
"I thought your
father was someone else," the youth admitted more seriously.
"I have no quarrel with him, or you, and it's my fault I
The girl looked sheepish
at the reminder of her actions, it was clear that she was au fait
with the rules of the Game, and she knew she had seriously bent
them by interfering in a fight. There was a short, awkward silence
as Richie let himself take in the gentle pout of her lips and
the deepness of her eyes; his companion wasn't sure how to continue.
She was aware that he was staring at her with more than just a
lack of manners, but the raven-haired beauty seemed uncomfortable
with any other connotation. A dirty hand went to something hidden
in the folds of her baseball jacket and clutched it tightly.
"I'm a Nun,"
she muttered, almost in defence of his penetrating gaze.
That was a shock, and
the young man's jaw dropped and his heart-beat sky-rocketed. Then
the Immortal felt disappointment and he knew that there was
a human side to his fascination with his companion. The idea was
so alien as he took in the loveliness that came through the grime
that covered his focus, and he would have denied it himself had
not there been an interruption. His skull sang and his spirit
shivered as race ability spoke to him. Ryan's eyes snapped to
the stairway as it was filled with the large silhouette of his
"A novice, anyway,"
a deep voice no longer cut with frustration breathed smoothly;
the news did not soothe the youth's chagrin.
The bound creature
forced his attention to rest on the newcomer, using his presence
to push away the revealing, vulnerable emotions he had been feeling.
he informed the bulk, wary for any sign of hostility.
was the amiable reply, and the Immortal bowed formerly to his
captive. "This is my daughter, Naomi. I trust you are well
"Oh, I'm fine,
just having a really bad day," Richie retorted with a frustrated
nod of his head, a little of his displeasure returning, more from
the recent news than any resentment towards his holders.
Patrick laughed, a
full, easy sound, but his captive tensed as the man took hold
of the rapier. There was no sign of enmity in the older man's
face, but the blade descended towards the helpless figure even
so. The youth was a statue as the image of being beheaded by his
own weapon flashed through his mind. Yet, he was not going to
shrink from the thought; he was an Immortal, this time would have
come sooner or later, and he had hoped he had prepared for the
possibility. Life had been so short, he had so much more to do,
his time seemed so fleeting as he considered it. The young man
drew in his final breath, as deep and meaningful as possible.
Richie breathed out
heavily and his hands collapsed by his sides as the rope disintegrated
at the brush of his blade. He stared down at the remaining pieces
of cord, a little dazed to still be alive, then he glanced wildly
up at Lyonaise. There was a smile waiting for his startled soul.
"Did you think
I would attack a defenceless man?" the Immortal questioned
jovially, offering a hand to pull his companion from the floor.
Slowly, the youth accepted
the help and disclosed with a relieved grin, "Well, the way
today's been going..."
There was no need to
end the sentence, the meaning was understood. The youth lurched
upwards as the stout man revealed his strength. Richie couldn't
stop himself, out came a quip, "Geez, why didn't you just
wrestle my head off?"
He coughed loudly as
his breath was forced from his lungs by a hefty slap on the back.
He tumbled on into the far wall as he failed to combat his momentum.
"There was a time
when I would have taken your head with one hand behind by back!"
Patrick bellowed, sounding embarrassed by his lack of skill.
The sword was waggled
at him, but there was no menace in the meaning. Still, the young
man felt ashamed at having upset the portly gentleman, and returned,
"I don't doubt it."
There was a sharp nod
of acceptance of his reply, and then Lyonaise headed rapidly up
the way he had come. The younger glanced at Naomi, and with a
polite smile, indicated for her to go before him. Pulling at the
loosened knots on his wrists, the free man plodded up after them.
He was feeling damp and uncomfortable, but most of all relieved
that the day was ending better than the afternoon had promised.
A friendly Immortal and his companions was better than Hemar any
What he had experienced
already made Richie consider that he was ready for anything; however,
the preternatural instinct that hit him as he rounded the top
of the stairs caught him by surprise. His soul lurched, his head
felt as if someone was trying to drill his teeth; this was more
than just Penelope-Anne. On edge, wide eyed, the youth scanned
the immediate vicinity. He had come out in the same hallway through
which he had stepped earlier that day, but this time it was crowded.
There were four bodies stood in the corridor waiting for the trio,
and three of them were under four foot tall. Annie peeped round
at her new friend from behind the legs of the only form that was
of adult height; he looked maybe fifteen, or sixteen behind a
light brown, close cut beard that covered half his face, but there
was age in his green, hostile eyes. Richie's gaze dropped about
a foot as he moved from the first face to the second; a blond
boy, at first-sight just approaching the teenage years, his thin
face was also grave. The last figure was Asian, and his size was
small to compare with his origins; the dark boy's face was passive,
his eyes revealed nothing of what he was feeling as he stared
at the stranger to him - he could have been at most ten years
old. The trio were anxious, that much was apparent from their
stance, but what worried the young man more was the sight of holsters
and guns at their belts.
are my sons, Lin Tay," he indicated to the youngest form,
"Garion King," the middle boy, "and Harold Gascoine,"
the eldest in appearance, "and you have met my daughter Penelope-Anne."
the astounded individual hissed under his breath; he was uncertain
how to approach this situation - Kenny had been one thing, but
four childlike beings of his race in one place was disconcerting.
His comment was overheard,
and Patrick nodded knowingly, a sad smile on his face.
"Not many of our
kind have met our little family," he told the stunned youth
calmly, "but your reaction was not uncommon amongst those
who have. Not many have ever considered the possibility that a
child would survive."
"Oh I have,"
Richie's manner was cynical in the extreme as he responded, "the
little creep nearly took my head when my back was turned."
The older man raised
an eyebrow, but it was not him who responded, but Garion. The
child's voice was cold and cut with an age that did not fit the
"A .45 is a much
more effect defence," he disclosed in a public- school accent,
and swift hands levelled his gun on his adversary.
the young man snorted, raising his hands in bafflement at the
situation; he was not scared of another bullet, and the hostility
was making him angry. "So what you gonna do? I get another
hole to go with the first?"
Richie glared at the
young form, really not caring if another shot was fired; maybe
Garion reminded him too much of Kenny, a young, innocent face
surrounded by blond hair, but eyes which showed so much more.
Were all Immortals trapped in young bodies so bitter? It became
apparent that they were not.
"No!" a young
voice screamed, and Annie ran forward.
The youth grabbed the
stairs as a small projectile hurtled into him and pinned herself
around his legs. Her hold was tight and protective as her round
face stared back at her brothers.
she commanded hotly, her eyes blazing in defence of her friend.
The reaction was almost
instantaneous, as the child got in the way, the weapon was lowered
with a speed which spoke of the blond boy's love for her. He blinked
wildly, a very childlike reaction to a consideration of what he
had nearly done, and then it was gone, replaced with uncertainty.
"I think Annie
has made our position very clear," Patrick came in on the
conversation once more, but he was glaring at his son.
The look which passed
between them chastised the boy, and he bowed his head guiltily.
Richie shook his head as he took in the relationship; the boy
was definitely older than he looked, yet he accepted the scold
as if he were still the child.
"I apologise for
my son, Richard," the stout figure breathed, "he may
be over three hundred years old, but he has the manners of an
The small form's cheeks
burnt with the chide, and then he ran; more of the child came
through as the Immortal being turned on his heel and disappeared
into one of the offices. The father frowned after his child; another
parental look passed from him to his other two sons and, with
a pair of formal nods of farewell, they too spun and followed
their sibling. Lyonaise then turned to his guest.
"Garion is the
oldest of my wards," he explained with a small sigh, "and
he does not like other Immortals. He spent over a century in fear
of us, the first man he met tried to take his head; it took me
three years of coaxing to make him see that I meant him no harm,
but he still does not trust others."
There was nothing to
be said to that; the admission saddened the man to silence. Naomi
came in on his behalf.
"If you follow
me, we have a heater in the far room where you can dry off, and
we will explain ourselves," she invited and moved on down
of Part 2