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Innocence and Justice by Sophie
There is a sequel to this story which can be found at :
Heaven Sent

 

Part 3

Richie had not had much experience of children, but when he had had a chance to be with them, he had discovered a natural affinity with them. As she was still behaving like one, the young Immortal decided to treat Annie as a three year old. Gently, he took hold of her small hands and began to prise her fingers apart.

"Thanks," he whispered warmly to his aid, "but could we try another hold?"

The girl grinned broadly, and the lighting up of her face sent a comfortable feeling through the youth's heart. He was half bent over to reach the hands behind his knees, and so he found those same palms suddenly hooked around his neck. His response was instinctive; the toddler wanted to be picked up, so he straightened and swept the child into his hold.

"Wayhey," he called to her, and she screamed in joyous fun as, with the swing upwards, her grasp slipped and she found herself hooked carefully under one arm like a parcel.

The moment of comedy broke Patrick out of his silence and he laughed anew; Naomi paused a little way off, and she too was smiling at the giggling, squirming girl. Annie was not without her defences, and in retaliation, small fingers moved under the youth's jacket and tickled through the thin shirt.

"Won't do you any good," Richie bluffed, "I'm not tick-le-ish," but it became quite obvious that he was.

Once the fact was established, there was no saving the Immortal from his fate. He made various sounds of pleasurable discontent as, trying to stop the attack with his free hand, the youth headed rapidly up the hall. He was almost bent double with the play by the time he dived into one of the larger offices after Patrick. Laughing, he then pulled the small body from him and held her out at arms reach. She wriggled, but sword play had made his arms strong and her young frame was easy to keep out of reach. Chuckling still, the child protested, "Put down!"

"Promise not to tickle me again?" he spoke in mock sincerity.

There was only a nod and a grin in response.

"Promise?" Richie repeated, swinging her a little as his arms began to twinge at the stress.

"Yes!" she cried through her laughter.

"Okay," the captor agreed with an easy, lopsided smile, and lowered the young figure to the ground.

Giggling, Penelope-Anne dashed away from him and headed into a corner where there were a few toys scattered on the floor. She was compelling to watch as she settled down next to a half-finished, colourful wooden jigsaw and her eyes played over the scattered remaining pieces. She was a beautiful child, her face was shining and innocent, and she was a joy to watch. Yet as he followed her tiny hand picking up one of the puzzle sections, the pain and repulsion at her situation crept back into his being. He could never deny the fact that she was Immortal, his soul told him it over and over, and if he paused to consider her, it came back. The feeling was so strong that he had to turn away. Patrick saw his movement and recognised emotion.

"She affects us all in the same way," he admitted honestly. "I considered taking her head when I first found her, but I couldn't bring myself to do it. I just thank God that her mind protects her from her eternity, she will be forever a child."

"Unlike the others," Richie smiled sadly to himself, when he considered his early life, it made him cold to recall how close he had come to being trapped in a child's body for eternity.

"Harry is luckier than the his brothers, he reached sixteen before a knife took his life," Patrick shrugged, this was not a new issue for him, " and Tay has accepted his lot with the resignation of a philosopher, but Garion concerns me sometimes. They are all three a strange mixture of child and Immortal; nature left them in bodies not fit to cope with their eternities, and that holds them back sometimes. You saw how Garion reacted to me, that was no adult, but at other times, he is the most rational and sensible of us all. I cannot explain them, but I live to aid them."

Naomi remained silent, but flicked a switch on a Calor gas heater, and fired it into operation. The youth was glad to move over into the range of its heat; it may have been warm outside, but he was damp and cold from the dank atmosphere of the cellar. His host waved him to a sofa that had been dragged in from somewhere a long time ago, and he settled down. Comfort satisfied, curiosity came next.

"How do you all come to be together?" the young man questioned openly.

"Annie," was the one word answer which explained nothing; Patrick continued, "I was born in about 50 BC, and I was a warrior until two centuries ago when I was riding to an engagement in the north of England..."

...The horse was an elegant creature, long legged, glistening coat, fine lines, so was her rider; he was not overly tall, but he was well framed, fit, there was a purpose in his dark eyes and he was handsome, he was a soldier. The uniform was the red of the English, and his regalia told anyone who saw him that he was an officer. The day was warm and clear in the Yorkshire Dales, and Captain Patrick Lyonaise smiled to himself as he recalled the pretty face with whom he was keeping an assignation. Lazily he controlled his mount, letting her walk along the track as he enjoyed the view, there was plenty of time to make the last few miles. There was the crag of a hill up ahead, it would be pleasant to sit on its far side in the sunlight and enjoy a few moments rest. Without much effort, the soldier turned the beast towards his goal and closed his eyes against the lovely day for a moment.

The Immortal heard the terrified scream before he felt the stirring of his spirit. In sharp response, the man reigned in his horse and turned his body in the direction of the supernatural call. What he saw angered him; there were four men running down a small, wild form who was dashing towards him. The creature was a tangle of blond hair and torn rags, and it was a few seconds before the man could discern that it was in fact a she. The men pursuing her had grimaces of determined anger on their faces, and they were wielding rope and stick; the grimy face that was sometimes visible through the head of hair was showing absolute dread. It did not take the warrior long to decide his course of action.

Swiftly, Patrick urged his mare into movement towards the helpless flight. The child was glancing wildly behind her when her saviour descended upon her; the man bent down from his saddle and scooped the light figure over his animal. She screamed at the contact, but he held her tightly to him as he slowed the horse before he charged into the pack of hunters. His mount was not happy at so many in front of her, and she did an adequate job of preventing them from coming within several feet of the trio.

"Why do you hunt a child?" Patrick demanded, enraged by the idea.

"She's a witch, Sir," one man called in a thick accent, "she came back to life and she's cursed our village."

Years of self-discipline helped the Immortal curb his reaction to the thought that the helpless being in his hold was one of his own kind, and all that was visible was a sense of disbelief which could be interpreted as an educated man's response to backwoods witchcraft. The girl whimpered as he held her, and his heart went out to her plight; the soldier concluded that whatever the countrymen had in mind for the child, it wouldn't be pleasant, and she brought out the protective side of his nature.

"A child can no more curse a village than a pig can fly! Return to your homes, vermin," he bellowed, the air of command in his voice, "before I decide that you have cursed me!"

A soldier was a formidable sight on the ground, let alone on a hunter, and villagers were not about to defy him. The child was out of their hands, they turned and ran. Patrick watched them go, and then he proceeded to the crag he had chosen earlier. The form in his embrace did not move as she was carried to safety, but she could not stifle a whimper of terror as her saviour climbed off the horse.

"Hush, Little One," the Immortal soothed, his big voice as soft as treacle as he sat down and coaxed the shaking form down next to him. "I am Patrick, and I mean you no harm."

"Feel funny," was the only response he was given as the girl hunched herself into a ball.

"That is because I am like you," the man explained carefully, trying to catch the frightened child's eye. "What is your name?"

There was silence for a few moments, and wide eyes stared at him. There was a sniffle, and then came the answer, "Nairpie-An."

The soldier decided to leave the decryption until later, and was about to ask another question when a flood gate broke; suddenly, the warrior found himself with a young body gripping desperately to his and tears of horror came from the frightened soul. Slowly, the Immortal responded by engulfing the creature in a hug...

"...I took her on with me to the lady I was visiting, cleaned her up and got the rest of her story from her. She and the woman she called mother had been caught under a wall when it had fallen in a high wind, they had both been killed instantly. Of course, Annie woke up a few hours later and scared the living daylights out of the priest who was laying her out. Unusually at first, it was seen as a blessing, and the old man looked after her, but then normal things started to go wrong in the village and people started to blame it on unnatural causes. In the end, the old pastor could not protect her from them, and she ran.

I haven't taken a head since then. She reached into me and I knew that I had to help her and others like her. In those two hundred years, I have gathered my little family around me, and have done my best to help them protect themselves. I have never believed that any of them, except maybe Harry, could ever win a fight, so now they carry guns. I have taught them to shoot and run. Mercifully, until recently, we haven't had to do that."

Patrick's manner was discontented as he came back to the present, and he fell into melancholy silence once more. There was a large cloud hanging over the humour in this place, Richie could almost touch it as he watched his hosts brood. Yet, he didn't want to push for answers, Hemar had had an effect on him as well, and there was a nastiness about the man that staved off enquiry. Instead, the youth found his line of sight wandering across to Naomi, who was perched on the arm of her father's chair. There it was again, the knowing, the want, the unavailability, all came flooding back as the Immortal took in her wistful face; the girl was staring across at Annie, watching her play, trying to find contentment in the moment, but there was a fear in her eyes as her thoughts would not go away. Whatever had happened to these people, it had been traumatic and had forced them into their present situation. Patrick's attempt at a sword battle had been severe desperation, he knew he was no longer a fit man, that he had let himself go, but he had had to defend his children.

Suddenly, Richie was aware that he'd been staring again; her soft gaze came back round to the conversation, and she seemed a little startled when she realised that she was the subject of a very focused attention. His feelings inside were tumultuous as the young man considered how obvious he was being, and with a woman who was out of reach. That idea was reflected back at him from his Venus, and he wasn't sure whether he saw pleasure, or fear in her eyes. It was all very confusing; was her heritage mixing up the signals he had never before had any problems with, or was it that he'd never felt something for a Nun? The youth didn't know which, but he chose to move rapidly on as his heart began to pound.

"So," he began a little too sharply for comfort, "how did you join the family, Naomi?"

The young man snapped his gaze to his hands, trying to stifle the emerging chaos that was his soul, but even the sound of the Immortal- to-be's gentle tones slipping through the air sent his sense of proportion into orbit.

"I was an orphan," the young woman began, equally as unsteady, "I..I- "

"The family as we were then moved into the safety of a convent in New Jersey twenty years ago," Patrick cut in, aware of the disquiet between his two companions; his voice seemed to bring them both back to ground, and, pulling himself together, Richie returned a steady, passive gaze. "The Nuns let me have a farm house within their walls. They ran an orphanage, and there were others to camouflage my little ones. I have a strong belief in Fate, I follow my nose when it comes to finding my children, and, as usual, I was feeling that I was there for a purpose, but for once, there was no new sense of an Immortal. So we waited, and two years later, a bundle appeared on the doorstep. There was no note, no hint of parentage, but there Naomi was, only a few days old, and I knew from the first moment I saw her," a sad smile passed between the adoptive parent and his daughter, and he patted her hand supportively. "I was not going to tell her, it is best that we live our lives as mortals for at least as long as we can, but Annie was more forward. First, in bits and pieces, she revealed our nature to Naomi, until it was impossible to hide from her, and then, a year ago, Naomi came storming into my study in full knowledge of herself."

"My reaction wasn't exactly calm," the young woman admitted with a smile and a shrug, she seemed to have recovered herself, but she wouldn't look her opposite in the eye. "I didn't cope too well, and I was too angry with Patrick to let him advise me, so I went to the Mother Superior for help. With all that happened in those few months, I found God a little bit closer, and I decided to become a Nun."

Since he couldn't look at his companion's face without blushing, the young man chose to take in the object which she had been clutching to her after their first conversation. It was a simple wooden cross, but it symbolised so much for Richie that it was painful to see. He returned his attention gratefully to the old soldier as their explanation continued.

"We were happy at the convent, and safe, or so we thought, but just as everything was settling back down from our first hiccup of the year, an old acquaintance destroyed our peace. He appeared one day and began to disrupt the life of the school, scaring the children, threatening the nuns. We couldn't leave holy ground. In the end, we ran. And that is how you find us, Richard Ryan."

There was a slight guilt in the Immortal's eye as he finished the disclosure, an emotion Richie recognised.

"That is why I came at you, I thought you were someone else," the old-soldier sighed.

"You too," the youth shrugged, and putting two and two together asked, "Didn't happen to think I was a big blond German with a bad attitude?"

"Gervace Hemar?" the man returned, and received the affirmative. "You have come across him too?"

Once more, Ryan nodded grimly, and there was the steel of the Immortal in his eyes as he responded, "The first reason I'm having a bad day. I was up in the woods practising, and we came across each other, I had to push him off a cliff to get rid of him. I came here because this address was in his pocket."

A look of alarm passed between father and daughter.

"Who is this guy?" the younger Immortal asked, anxious at the amount of apprehension his disclosure caused.

"An old adversary from the centuries when I was more active," Patrick replied, and there was loathing in his voice. "The last time I met him, I gave him something by which to remember me..."

...Patrick stalked swiftly into the wood, his broad sword held ready; if the rumours were true, then he was going to need it. It had been at least a century since he'd heard the name Hemar, and the mention of it now in terrible rumours of torture and destruction sent his blood cold. He'd hoped never to meet the sadistic Immortal again, one experience of him had been enough to know he tainted all he touched, but, if it was him, he'd had a hundred years to refine his techniques, and if the stories were true, that was not a pleasant thought. The old soldier had heard tell of a youth who lived in the woods, almost wild since he'd been driven out of his village when he'd defied death; he was a figure of legend, who had not changed in twenty years, and now someone had come hunting him. The yokels had been worried, they saw their fairy as a source of good luck, even if he was to be kept at arms reach, and a ruthless, destructive Hun in their midst letting all know his intentions had not left them quiet. The word had spread to the nearby town, where Patrick had picked up on it; he'd met the wild Immortal, he was a simple creature with no idea about the Game, or how to use a sword, he was an easy target for evil.

The warrior was an impressive sight in his battered leather armour and strapped boots. His appearance was rough and old-fashioned in these civilised Tudor times, but then, he'd been in Ireland, fighting for King Henry for ten years, was it surprising he looked like one of the savages. Patrick was a soldier at heart, who kept little track of the centuries, the knife at his side was Saxon, the cross at his bosom was even older, but he did care for people. Hemar was his nemesis in that he had a fascination for mortals and Immortals alike that was not to their benefit. If he'd had the boy too long, the man feared for his already unstable sanity.

A scream of torment cut the air close by, and the soldier sped up his pace. The movement in his soul came quickly enough, and the Immortal charged out into a clearing to find Hemar and his captive. What he saw sickened him to the pit of his stomach. The scruffy youth was tied to a sturdy tree at the edge of the clearing, his head bowed and blood covering his torn clothing. There were three arrows set in his flesh at points along his body, the last having penetrated his heart. The adversary was standing tall in the centre of the arena, gloating over the pain he had caused. Hatred welled up inside the newcomer, and he bellowed a cry of rage at such misuse of power. The German's face blackened at an interruption, and he threw the bow aside, and went for his sword hilt.

"Lyonaise," the accusation spat back as recognition came to him, "you interfered with my dealings once before, never again."

"I am not helpless, animal," Patrick cried back, pain and horror in his voice, as he glanced at the still figure close by. "We will finish this."

Hemar was a corruption of the wealthiest civilisation and sadistic pleasure as he stood in the clearing. He was dressed in the best of the day, but there was blood, not his own, on the white cotton sleeve of his shirt. Yet, no matter what his outward appearance, there was evil in his gaze as he drew his sword. Patrick attacked with a vigour fuelled by his anger.

Swords clashed and nature rang with the sounds of war. Righteous indignation was with Patrick that day, and he beat at his adversary with a determination that was frightening to see. The German noble fell back from his onslaught, his face showing that he was aware that maybe he had taken on something that could end his days. Their previous meeting had been swift, when a new Immortal had not wished to risk his head, however, it was becoming obvious that a century had made little difference to the odds.

"You should have spent more time practising sword play, rather than torturing those weaker than yourself," Patrick sneered, and his blade sliced down towards a victory.

Hemar cried out in shock as he dodged the blow, but it still caught him at the base of his neck. He fell to the ground, his sword up in instinctive defence, and Patrick took another swipe. The blade fell and the soldier lifted his weapon for the final slice. The shift in his soul shuddered through him, and a cry cut his world. The man faltered and glanced over to the helpless boy, whose torment became very evident. The arrow was still in his heart, and in terror, he died once more.

Lyonaise turned back to his task, the boy would have to wait; he was in time to see a knife heading upwards towards his own heart. His instinctive reaction deflected the thrust, but the blade still landed in the flesh of his shoulder. The man grunted, it wasn't the first time he'd felt such pain, but he still fell away from his combatant. However, Gervace was not taking any chances with his head; after the omnipotent rage he'd witness, he chose flight as his best course. Patrick bellowed in thwarted rage as the figure showed a strength in his legs as he disappeared into the woodland, but he couldn't keep up with such long legs. Regretfully, the man pulled out the knife and turned to the more present matter of the captive, Hemar could wait until another century...

"...I released Jerome and took him to an Abbey near by where I could look after him. I did my best, and the monks there helped me, but his spirit was broken by Hemar's attentions. I wanted to teach him how to use a sword, but although he understood our ways once I'd explained, he did not want to leave holy ground. He turned to God for his comfort, and became a monk. He is still in God's service at a French Monastery. Hemar I did not see again until he attacked us. He knows I am no longer what I was, and he wants my head and anyone else he can take along the way," Patrick admitted sadly.

"Well, that now includes me," Richie returned, a resolve in his tone, "so I might as well involve myself even further. You can't stay here, Hemar knows the address. As an intermediate stop, I suggest my place, and then I'll go see a friend of mine, who might be able to help."

Patrick raised an eyebrow in his usual form of surprise, the offer was not expected. Naomi blinked beautifully at him, and in order to stop his heart skipping too obviously, the young man elaborated, "Look, how well do you think you can hold out against that asshole here, there are no locks and the place is falling down, at least there is a door between him and us if we leave. I don't know if you know the town, but it's been at least twenty years, so you need a guide anyway. Your priority must be finding somewhere else to put down roots, I know people who have contacts in places you wouldn't believe. And anyway, Annie's caught me for a sucker."

The youth grinned, hiding the fact that it wasn't just the child who influenced his offer.


An hour later, a crowded station wagon and one motor bike drew up outside Richie's apartment building. The younger Immortal pulled his helmet off, but remained on his ride, waiting for the tattered group to approach him. With an easy smile, he held out the keys to his home to Patrick and informed him, "Number's on the fob; help yourselves to the shower and any food in the refrigerator. I'll be back soon with a friend."

"Thank you," the soldier nodded respectfully; he still hadn't quite accepted the fact that the man he had tied up and threatened was now willing to help him in a fight that was not really his, the idea seemed to embarrass him a little.

With a ruffle of his tiny comrade's hair, which raised a coy giggle, and a goodbye to the rag-tag family, the youth fired up his bike and was gone.

End of Part 3