Duncan swirled the
Glenmorangie around in the Edinburgh Crystal and watched the light
dance around in the amber liquid. He was feeling lazy now the
day was over, and was looking forward to an evening of peace.
The whisky was a link to his heritage, and his mind wandered easily
over days long past in the Highlands. Even the smell of the malt
as he closed his eyes and savoured the sweet scent was a reminder
of the vibrant heather and the biting wind which whistled over
the craggy hills even in high summer. It was indulgent only to
recall the best of times from his origins, but that was human
nature. The Scot smiled to himself as the touch of bracken on
his legs came back to him, and he remembered an afternoon of warm
sunshine when he and his friends had entered into mock battles.
It was a joyful memory of comradeship and carefree fun, before
he had been a man, before the lightness of adolescence had gone.
Life had been difficult at times, but Highlanders were tough and
humorous people; they had enjoyed life.
MacLeod opened his
eyes to a slight feeling of want for the old days as he heard
the sound of the elevator. He raised the glass to his recollections
and took a swig before turning his attention to the rising machine.
Richie's presence was not difficult to conclude from the movement
in his soul, and he relaxed back into his seat as the youthful
form slid up the barrier between them.
the young man greeted, but his manner was not as easy as such
a light tone insinuated.
"Joe shed any
light on Hemar?" the Immortal mentor questioned, thinking
he knew exactly what was bothering his friend.
"Joe wasn't in,"
Richie answered, still trying to seem unconcerned; he was excited
about something, but the Highlander couldn't fathom what. "But
I did find some things out about him anyway."
The disclosure did
nothing to enlighten his comrade, and Richie took in a deep breath
as the look Mac gave him told him so. He had come right back to
where he'd been earlier that day, asking Duncan MacLeod for help.
'But this is different,'
he told himself before continuing.
the youth continued more formerly, "its not just me whose
head Hemar wants. I went to an address I found in the guy's jacket,
and I met some people, some Immortal people, and they need our
help. Actually, more your help; Hemar drove them out of their
home, and I was hoping you'd know somewhere for them to stay."
The teacher stood up
at the admission, and grinning, shook his head in disbelief; his
prodigy never ceased to amaze him. As he took the young man in
more fully, he noticed the hole in his shirt.
"That bullet hole,
if I'm not mistaken, have something to do with these people?"
the elder questioned with an amused grin.
"It's a long story,
Mac," Richie raised his hands in a dismissal of that side
of it, seemingly better at ease due to the reaction. "For
now, I'd really like you to meet Patrick and his family."
Duncan put down his
glass and went for his jacket and sword.
"Where are they?"
he asked in the resigned manner he used when events were out of
his relieved tutee breathed with a grin, "thanks."
Richie felt very comfortable
with Mac at his back as they walked up the stairs to his apartment;
the distance of earlier had made the young man more than a little
uneasy. The nature of the Game had made his colleague's manner
necessary, but it hadn't made the acceptance of such a situation
any gentler. It was a harsh world when it came down to the fact
that 'there can be only one'. It was good to have companions to
whom that rule was the last to apply, and the more experienced
Immortal was a reassuring presence in the problems at hand. The
youth may have stepped right into the centre of his present predicament,
but it didn't mean that Hemar didn't make him nervous, or that
he had much idea of how he was going to handle re- housing his
unusual guests. Ryan grinned wryly to himself as he pictured the
absurdity of all six of them cramped into his tiny home; immediate
sleeping arrangements were going to be a sight to see.
am I doing here?" came the slightly exasperated question
from behind as they turned up the last flight.
"It's a slight
housing problem," Richie disclosed in his usual fashion for
The glance Duncan received
from his young apprentice told him that there was more to it than
that; Richie had got himself into a fair range of mad schemes
before now, but this one was definitely the weirdest yet.
man pressed, wondering if he was going to regret becoming involved.
"It'll be better
if Patrick explains it first hand," the youth shrugged, his
Honest John face prevailing; in truth he hadn't the faintest if
Mac could help, or not, he was just hoping.
The Scot was about
to open his mouth to protest once more when he caught sight of
the door to the Ryan home; it was open. His eyes widened, and
his expression alerted his companion, who was centred on him.
Richie's face clouded as he too took in the portal, and he reacted
with the instincts of an Immortal. His sword was carefully concealed
under his jacket, swiftly he gripped the hilt and was running,
weapon wielded in seconds. What he gauged when he slammed through
his front entrance was not a happy sight.
A standing lamp was
on the floor, and the coffee table was smashed beyond repair.
Everything else was in place, but the carpet was stained with
blood. The life-giving fluid belonged to Patrick; the old soldier
was lying sprawled through where the wooden surface had been and
there was deep red staining most of the bulk of his stomach. Four
forms were close by his inert figure. Richie froze as both Garion
and Harold spun on him as their nature told them an Immortal was
present, and they displayed their dexterity with their guns as
they were levelled on him with dangerous speed. There was pain
in both sets of features, but there was also hatred in the younger
form. The youth centred his attention on the blond boy as it became
quite clear that trauma had hit him and he was ready to blame
his horror on the first adult Immortal he found. The street-punk
recognised the mixture of child and deadly Immortal that Patrick
had described, and he knew if he moved that he'd be lying on his
own floor as well. Reason was not very evident in the damp gaze
which was returned, only fear and loneliness, and loathing of
a power which had sentenced it to the confusion of eternal, immature
The buzz between the
Immortals slipped away, but Garion knew what was in his soul and
he abhorred it. Yet he received only the passive stare of understanding
in return. There was a moment of empathy between child and man
as Richard Ryan caught a glimpse of the turmoil that was Garion
King, and then very suddenly the boy's choice of action changed.
The elder saw his intention before it came; despair replaced the
repugnance in an instant, and the gun wavered from one destination
to another. With a cry of, 'No!', Richie swooped on the shivering
form as the pistol was levelled at its owner's skull. The bullet
headed for the ceiling as the young man wrapped himself around
the desperate creature and forced his weapon away. The boy screamed,
a child's sound of utter terror, and the gun fell from his grasp;
his fellow kept hold of the trembling form, overwhelmed by what
had just passed. It was a surprise to the stunned youth as he
slowly regained his sense of reality when he realised that his
young comrade had begun to cry. The sobs were worse than the loathing
of moments ago, but gently they evolved an unusual feeling in
the older Immortal. There was a protective side to most men, usually
directed at one's own head in the case of the supernatural race,
but Ryan's soul went out to the helpless boy in his over-powering
hold, and gradually he relaxed the desperate grip to a wrap of
comfort. Garion clutched back, his face buried into the torn shirt
of his enfolder. Unable to find any words, Richie just stood like
that and stared over the boy's head to where Tay and Naomi were
kneeling over their father.
It was Duncan who broke
the tension in the room; he had reached the door moments after
his comrade, but had chosen to stay back as he watched his young
student cope. This was a side to the green Immortal that his mentor
had not seen often. It had been clear that a lot of gut reaction
and not much else had fuelled the blond man's actions, that was
not unusual, Richie had grown up living on his wits, but what
fascinated the Scot was the man-of-words he knew so silent. Richard
Ryan was not insensitive to situations, but he generally liked
to cut through awkward atmosphere with his glib tongue; the Highlander
couldn't help feel a chill run up his spine as he took in the
depth of feeling which could reduce his friend to reticence. He'd
seen it when Tessa died, then caused by grief and a certain amount
of disbelief; now there was something else, an atmosphere between
a timeless child and the ageless man. It wasn't a comfortable
thing on which to intrude, but the urgency that was missing from
Richie was still with his fellow.
"What the hell
happened?" MacLeod questioned, a trace of an accent coming
through his concern.
There was no answer:
the tall boy stood beside his statuesque companion's, a magnum
hanging limp from his palm as he stared from the pair to the newcomer
and back again; the Asian child was knelt almost as still over
the body of the large man the Highlander deduced was Patrick;
the teenage girl was too busy attending to the temporarily deceased
to take any notice of what else was going on, she was making sounds
of distress that didn't sound too lucid. Duncan laid a gentle
hand on his counterpart's shoulder and tried once more, "Rich,
we need answers."
The young man blinked
as he glanced over his shoulder at the dark- haired figure; it
was like waking from a momentary daze as he took in the expression.
There were things to be done, these circumstances weren't right.
The shudder of recognition that ran through his being, and the
groan from the ex-corpse on the floor as he woke up pushed him
the rest of the way back to compus mentis. An arm still holding
his distraught charge protectively close, the youth turned his
attention to a recovering daughter; Patrick shifted and opened
his eyes, and some relief came out of the girl in the form of
tears, but there was more to her upset. As a hand gripped hers
in the pain of re-animation, she moaned fitfully, "He took
Annie, Papa, we couldn't stop him."
Richie glanced wildly
around the room, with all his attention on Garion, he had missed
the absence of his little friend.
he demanded insistently, kneeling down to the reviving creature
taking his ward with him.
The traumatised boy
found comfort in Naomi's embrace as she offered a more familiar
solace; Ryan grabbed hold of the old soldier and pulled him into
a sitting position. His face only inches away from the squinting,
slightly confused eyes, he charged, "Patrick, where's Annie?"
the Immortal responded, his voice distant as his wits recovered,
"he found us here. Wouldn't risk himself with the guns, so
he grabbed my little one. I tried to stop him."
"How long ago?"
Duncan sought an answer from Harry.
the teenager muttered, shock beginning to cloud over his eyes
The Highlander strode
swiftly towards the fire escape; the adversary had not passed
them on the way up, so he had to have taken the alternative route.
The alley below was
When MacLeod came back
in the way he had left, there was more activity in the apartment.
Both Richie and Patrick were on their feet and on their way out
of the door.
the Clansman called after his comrade.
The young man looked
back from his position just in the hall; his face was set with
the purpose of an Immortal, the perilous steel of the unnatural
race and Duncan recognised him. The Scot paused at the stare,
knowing that there was no request for assistance this time, no
need for a supportive word, only an independence that spoke of
challenge. This was a moment that had been reversed many a time
when the Highlander had left his companion to seek out a Quickening;
it was still strange to feel it the other way around.
"Look after them
for me, Mac," came the cool words from the poised form.
Then he was gone.
Ryan sat deliberately
in the passenger seat of the station wagon and waited for Patrick
to take the driver's position. There had been little said between
them, both men being ponderously silent on the way down to the
street, but enough had been voiced for the younger to gather that
Hemar had taken Annie for the sole purpose of baiting the elder
into his arena. Naomi had recognised German from the evil creature,
which the soldier had understood, but the more experienced Immortal
had refused to translate the directions given. His companion had
not said anything directly, but Richie knew that the seasoned
warrior would rather that he hadn't chosen to accompany him. The
stout man stood outside the car, paused in indecision about the
determination in his young friend.
"You know where
he is, Patrick," the youth challenged, his tone edged with
the sharpness of conviction, "let's go and get him."
Eventually, there was
a quiet, guilty response in the words, "This is not your
fight, Richard. Hemar wants me."
That made the young
form angry; he was worried about the innocent, who had been taken
from his apartment, a place that should have been safe, but for
his inability to finish a battle. His emotion came through his
manner, as swiftly he leant over and shoved open the door.
"You're not going
near him without me," the blond youth disclosed hotly, but
stopped short of voicing his opinion that there would be no contest
if he did. "Get in."
The soldier stared
down at his comrade and the reality that he was a stubborn individual,
who would not back down in this matter, began to show in his eyes.
Then, suddenly, the man was moving. Ryan sat back and stared straight
ahead as the driver took his position; his resolve may have been
strong, but his heart was beating fiercely as he considered facing
the large warrior once more. Yet this was not a time for fear,
a dear creature was in danger through no deed of her own, and
the responsibility lay partly with him. The challenge had to be
resolved, and he would free Annie, even if it meant that his Quickening
would be surrendered.
Firmly he gripped the
hilt of his rapier, his body taut and disciplined, his mind moving
through hours of training in preparation for a duel to the death.
The gate to the elevator
slid up and Duncan MacLeod guided four subdued youngsters into
his apartment. They looked around the place nervously, huddled
together in a protective group; they didn't know him from Adam,
but Richie had left them with him, and there was a tentative trust
beginning to show at least from the eldest girl. The Highlander
hadn't been able to get much out of them on the way over, even
names had not been offered as shock had set in, but he was glad
that he'd at least managed to steer them from the scene of their
The dark girl was holding
the middle boy close, still soothing the terror in his manner,
he was rigidly silent, his tears used up; the mixture of age and
youth in his eyes worried the Immortal. The bearded teenager seemed
more aware of the situation, and had taken charge of his youngest-looking
companion. He managed a nod of recognition and thanks as his host
waved them to the sofa. Mac watched as they slowly sat down; he
chose not to break their quiet, at least they were calmer than
when he'd first encountered them. Instead, he walked to the phone;
Gervace Hemar was not a name he knew, but he realised that he
was experienced enough to be dangerous. Staying behind and looking
after the children was not the Highlander's usual position, and
despite Richie's beseachment of earlier, and the decision to go
it alone, the Immortal was concerned. He wanted to know more about
this challenger, and he knew who could give him the information.
His fingers moved over the keypad in practised regularity as he
typed in Joe Dawson's number.
The road ahead was
dark, but Richie knew where they were going; the car was headed
up into the woods where he had first met Hemar, it seemed that
it had been no coincidence that the man had been walking there.
The night was still and humid, a sticky heat which even air- conditioning
in the car could not stifle. The youth wasn't sure if it was the
temperature, or his nerves which made his sweat, but there were
beads of perspiration running down his forehead and dampening
his shirt. Adrenaline was pumping through his veins everytime
he considered the task at hand, and his knuckles were white where
he grasped his sword. There had been silence since the journey
had begun almost an hour ago, and it was beginning to feel oppressive
to the normally talkative young man. However, unsure of how to
break the monotonous growl of the engine with human speech, the
Immortal glanced at his companion. There was no doubt as to what
was going through Patrick's mind; his face was set in a mixture
of grief, anger and guilt. Ryan responded to the emotion he saw
"Annie'll be okay,"
he intoned almost as if it were a mantra, it was something he
had been telling since getting in the car to still his own rage.
"We'll stop Hemar."
The sound was the catalyst
for the breaking of the soldier's dam of feeling. A hand which
had been gripping the wheel tightly came suddenly down on the
dash in a moment of torment, and he swore, "Dammit, Richard,
I shouldn't have let this happen, I should have left them in safety
with the nuns and led that bastard away. But I couldn't leave
The young man understood
the depth in the tone as the driver spoke of the child. There
was something about her, something magical and compelling; she
would need protecting for the rest of her days, and those her
spell touched, through whatever Immortal shell they kept around
them, were willing to give her that without condition. The helpless
creature was the centre of Patrick's life and she had been for
two hundred years, the possibility of losing her was painful to
Richie, and he considered how magnified it had to be in the eternal
man who had known her so much longer.
"You love her
very much," the younger observed, his own words sounding
lame to him as they failed to sum up what he saw.
There was indignation
in the gaze which swiftly rested on him; it insinuated, what-a-dumb-thing-to-say,
but as the older man recognised his comrade's own emotion, his
look softened and he returned his attention to the road, a sigh
on his lips. The rage dissipating away as he recalled the angelic
creature, leaving only anguish, the man disclosed, "My Penelope-Anne,
unique, my little Darling - I will die for her if I have to. She
is cursed, but also blessed, and Hemar must not be allowed to
remove her from this world. Sometimes, when she looks at me, the
world disappears and all I feel is love, her innocent trust and
her wonder at the world. I was old when I found her, not just
in years, but my mind was becoming set in its ways; I was a warrior
tired of battle and to me the Game was losing its appeal. I was
beginning to wonder if I would want to be the One left at the
end, whatever the Prize. When she ran into my arms, my life changed
completely, and I decided that I would continue living for her,
she became my Prize. I don't want there to be only one now, I
have a family, I want us all to survive, and I have tried to deny
the Gathering. As there are fewer of us born, we are becoming
more violent, I have seen friends turn on each other, and I know
that those of us, for whom the Game is everything, are hunting
the weaker ones. I will not let that happen to my children.
Harry may survive without
a protector, he is almost full grown and he could learn to use
a sword, and Naomi has chosen God as her protector, but the others
are just too weak. Richard, I have not known you more than a few
hours, but you have proven yourself a good friend. Annie has affected
you in the same way she did me, and I know you could never hurt
Naomi, but I would ask you something for all of them."
There was no doubt
in the youth's tone as Patrick paused for a moment and he promised,
"If I do not come
out of this," the man put up a hand to silence any protest
at his suggestion as he judged Richie correctly, "if,
I want you to find them somewhere safe, a place away from our
vicious Game, somewhere where people like Hemar will not reach
The young man stared
out front and took in the words. He was quite good at denial,
an optimist who wouldn't look at the worst case scenario, but
Patrick had forced him to see what could be. Hemar was a skilled
swordsman, a prepared Immortal, he was also holding an ace, the
odds weren't good for either of them. Slowly, he nodded and breathed
seriously, "I promise whatever happens to either of us, Annie
will be safe, and if we don't come out of this, Duncan MacLeod
will look after them."
The old soldier glanced
across at his comrade, a grim smile on his face, and a hidden
look in his eye. Richie was too focused on the moment to decipher
the message, but despite the gravity of the situation, he managed
a thin smile in return as the pact was formed.
The car managed a mile,
or so off road travel once the wilderness was around them, but
eventually the rough track became too pitted for the vehicle to
cope. With a breath of resignation, Patrick stopped the vehicle
and looked across to his passenger.
"It can't be far,"
he disclosed, releasing his seat-belt and climbing out of the
Richie followed suit
and paused by his own door, staring contemplatively up the night-time
track as his friend went to the trunk. The wilderness was about
him again and sent its peace to try and aid the focus within.
The Immortal absorbed the atmosphere of the forest; it was alive
even in the near silence of midnight. The supernatural spirit
was glad of the feelings the power sent through him. This may
have been Hemar's chosen battleground, but it was also his territory,
a wild place the savage side of his being. His mind and body steeled
as he meditated on the strength without, and the look in his eyes
spoke of the unusual, the Quickening he held within was almost
Then suddenly, his
eyes closed and the strength was gone. A sharp pain ripped through
his skull and with a groan, Richard Ryan collapsed, a crumple
of helpless flesh. Patrick stood over him, a regretful set to
his features, the heavy hilt of his sword covered with blood he
had drawn from his companion.
he breathed quietly, "this is my fight."
of Part 4