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.
he whispered warmly to his aid, "but could we try another
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
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,
"Promise not to
tickle me again?" he spoke in mock sincerity.
There was only a nod
and a grin in response.
Richie repeated, swinging her a little as his arms began to twinge
at the stress.
cried through her laughter.
captor agreed with an easy, lopsided smile, and lowered the young
figure to the ground.
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.
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
...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.
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."
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.
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
"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
"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
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?"
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..."
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.
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
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
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...
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
"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
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
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
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.
of Part 3