October was being its
traditional self the next morning, grey and threatening rain;
there was a calm over the city, only disturbed by the occasional
rumbling of the high, almost purple cloud, that, promised a downpour,
but kept hold of its water. Methos couldn't help wondering what
storm this strange peace heralded; there was a feeling in his
bones that it wasn't just the weather and the conversation he
and his oldest comrade had had the previous evening only went
to solidify the instinct. Still, it was a wonderful morning, powerful
to anyone with the ability to feel it, and the ancient chose not
to dwell on the future. Portents were Tomas' realm and all the
Watcher chose to deal with at the early hour, at which he took
a walk, was returning the sword which Richie had abandoned. That
was how he came to be leaning on the wall overlooking the river
and watching a comforting scene.
The dark man smiled
to himself, as he remained out of range of the activity he didn't
want to disturb. Two Immortals, opposites in many ways, one tall
and dark the other shorter and blond, one with age in his eyes,
the other still holding onto the vague naivete which came with
youth - they were stood a metre apart on the roof of the boat,
moving together in perfect tandem to a rhythm in the mind. Concentration
was complete, faces fixed in meditative calm, bodies relaxed,
but working to their full, as they moved through a kata. The exercises
were slow, perfecting balance and poise as well as working on
the strength required, but there was no doubt in the viewer's
mind of the lethal nature of the kicks and punches if need be.
He was aware of being in the presence of the warrior at his most
obvious, life and death rested on the skill in the trained bodies
and it was not only the specific moves, but the flow of mind and
flesh that made the beings below him dangerous.
Each man was inside
his own mind, but at the same time working to a beat felt by both
souls, the very nature of Immortal life, and Methos felt quite
invigorated just watching. He was happy to see the pair in union
once more, he had always noticed something about the way the two
Eternals treated each other - the student-tutor relationship was
always a special one, but there was more to this one, a spark
of youth against age which told him that these two were distinct
from the rest of their kind. The old man even caught himself wondering
if one of them would eventually take the Prize. The strength was
back in Ryan's eyes as he focused on the immediate, and Adam could
see no sign of the wild, uncontrolled creature he had met only
a few hours ago. In sweats, his lean body concentrated on the
exercise, there was no clue as to the trials suffered by the young
Immortal, and the Watcher recognised peace in his face as he closed
his eyes and relaxed into a knee bent, feet apart, well-balanced
stance. The two men became statues, the only movement a steady
deep breathing from the abdomen.
Methos let them have
their calm for a few minutes, but eventually he chose to disturb
the meditation. He was down on the dock, strolling easily towards
the barge when he felt the touch of the others. Then he was given
the briefest hint that Ryan was still only on the road to recovery.
His blue eyes snapped open and his survey of the area was sharper
and more alarmed than his elder companion's. His gaze settled
as he recognised the trench-coated visitor, and he shook his head
to himself as he bent to pick up a towel at his feet.
Gentlemen," Adam greeted with a grin as he set foot on the
gangplank, and then he made sure he met the youngest's gaze before
he disclosed, "Feeling saner today, Richie?"
The enquiry was earnest
and honestly concerned, and the youth nodded, but chose not to
elaborate, turning instead to awkwardly gaze at Duncan.
"Tomas will be
glad to hear that," the Fox added, but then turned swiftly
to the Scot, following the quiet youth's lead, aware that he was
making the young man feel awkward; he knew how unusual the previous
twenty four hours had been, even in his own experience, and now
was not the time to discuss them. "Got any breakfast to offer
a poor researcher?"
earlier and we'd have made you work for your food," the Highlander
laughed and waved him on board.
Methos just grinned,
he admired the passion in his friends, but took his own workouts
at a different pace. Richie made no reaction to the humour, and
the ancient began to realise that it wasn't just his manner which
was unsettling the youth. He'd forgotten how much Tomas had unnerved
him when they'd first met, even in a time when mystics were not
uncommon, and adding his own history to that plus the nightmare
of the last few months, the old man could not really blame the
young Immortal for his uncouth behaviour. He was therefore not
phased when the youth mumbled an excuse and headed for the other
end of the boat to that which his companions were headed. There
was worry in Duncan's eyes as he watched the young man retreat,
but he met an easy smile from his more detached comrade.
"Give him time,
Duncan," he disclosed smoothly, "I'm a shock at the
best of times. Tomas has a way of unnerving people too, between
us we're quite a lot to take."
"He was always
so forward, too forward," the Highlander mused, his
Adam chided with a pat on his back, "Yesterday he was a wreck,
I'd say he's improved a hundred fold."
The Scot just shrugged
and led the way into his home.
The water felt so good
running over his skin - it was a long time since Ryan has taken
the thought needed to appreciate the massage of a decent shower.
He'd been too tired to care the night before, but now the droplets
felt so pleasant on his worked muscles. The young man leant his
head against the wall and relaxed as the cascade tingled down
his spine. Yet the water couldn't wash away the dissatisfaction
with the way he had dealt with Methos. It wasn't that the man
himself made him uncomfortable, the Highlander was a legend in
Immortal circles as well; it wasn't even embarrassment at how
he had acted the day before, he was beyond regret for that; it
was the strangeness he's been feeling since Tomas had come into
his life, and Adam Pierson was a link to the wizened old man.
His rational mind was telling him that things weren't as they
seemed to his instinct, but still there was the touch on his soul
that said something had changed in his life yesterday, not something
related directly to anything that had gone before, something new
had begun. His psyche had altered in the months since the Dark
Quickening, he noticed the new edge to his persona that wasn't
going to be blunted as quickly as it had been sharpened, and it
was that raw edge which was telling him that Tomas was not a crank
and recognised the turn his path of life had taken.
The dream of the old
man's beheading still hung in his thoughts, muted by the rational
new day, but none-the-less worrying. He couldn't say why, after
all, his experience told him it was only a dream, a subconscious
formation of thoughts, but its impact remained. As his mind tumbled,
the young man came to the conclusion that there was still a lot
he had to sort out, the decision was a comfortable one, an admission
that was a healer in itself. There was a lot of thinking to be
done, alone and in company, but for now, he needed to do it alone.
The youth was feeling
more at ease with the idea of Tomas' mysticism once he'd admitted
to himself that he didn't have to rush his acceptance of it.
Adam was pleasantly
surprised to receive a smile of welcome from the blond youth when
he exited from the bathroom, presentable in both mind and body.
He recognised more of the man he had briefly known, and grinned
back as the young man joined them in the living room.
"Sorry for blanking
you," Richie apologised with no lack of directness, as he
took a seat, "It took Duncan two years to civilise me and
I've sorta regressed."
Methos laughed and
observed, "Blanking is better than a sword in the face any
Ryan gave him an apologetic
look that said butter wouldn't melt in his mouth, and raised another
chuckle, from Duncan this time as well.
"Talking of swords,"
the ancient continued, reaching down behind the sofa and picking
up the rapier he'd placed there, "I think this belongs to
Richie took the weapon
and held it up, gazing up and down its blade with a loving care
that all Immortals who wanted to survive had for their first line
he replied gratefully, "I feel kinda naked without this nearby."
Methos and Duncan just
looked at each other, they had no need to vocalise the similar
feelings they harboured.
old man glanced back over to the him as the youth lowered the
blade and pressed on, "I have to get going, thanks for letting
me crash here, Duncan."
The Scot stood up rapidly
as his guest got to his feet and his mouth opened to make a protest.
Adam just watched the two men, leaving them to this moment themselves.
He'd seen purpose in Richie's manner the moment he'd stepped into
view and he'd suspected something like this. Ryan was quicker
to more words than the Highlander and he argued, "Don't worry
Duncan, I'm not gonna disappear again, I just need to sort some
things out, practical as well as in my head - you should see my
laundry pile," he grinned, but only raised a dissatisfied
purse of the lips from Duncan; the young man continued, "I'll
phone you later, Mom, I promise."
The Watcher sniggered
at the sarcasm, but shut up as he received a glare from his host.
looked to Richie and shrugged, the young man smiled.
The healing Immortal
straightened quickly however and replied to the concern in his
"I'll be okay,
Mac," he breathed earnestly and let the elder see the vague
anxiety that still haunted him. "I just need to do some thinking."
There was a moment
when Methos wondered if the Highlander was about to object again,
but there was only a pause and then he nodded silently. Before
there was any chance for another response, Richie turned and grabbed
the bag he'd brought out of the bathroom with him. The rapier
slid easily into the hold-all and then, with one final, grateful
glance to both men, the young Eternal was gone.
Methos stood and patted
his comrade on the shoulder; MacLeod still had a worried frown
on his face.
"He can take care
of himself, MacLeod," the old man advised, with as much confidence
as possible, but he couldn't help his own pang of anxiety; the
storm was near to breaking.
There was plenty of
time to do everything and Ryan was taking life easy; he was enjoying
the lack of pace after so long living on the edge and he'd actually
enjoyed the mundane tasks of a visit to the laundrette and getting
a descent haircut. He'd returned to his hotel and done his best
to clean the dust off his jacket, and the brown leather had gone
from beige to its original rich chocolate with a touch of burgundy.
He'd made sure he'd eaten a decent midday meal and the afternoon
became the time for thinking. He'd just started walking, exploring
the city without much thought for where he was going and more
for the mental promenade which accompanied the physical exercise.
Tomas had made his
position in the scheme of things less than clear, he was The Savage,
that was all he knew, further than that, his role was a mystery.
The idea worried him a little now that he recognised the roller
coaster beginning to start. Idly, he wondered if Methos had felt
the same way when he'd first stepped onto the ride - it certainly
didn't seem to be bothering him at five thousand. Yet he'd already
been party to the air of mystery the old man liked to keep about
himself, whether he admitted it or not, and he felt a vague resignation
to discovering information when it was intended. Richard Ryan
was a practical creature by nature, as he'd once told MacLeod,
if he couldn't see it right there, it wasn't real, but that had
begun to change when Immortality had reared it's head, first as
MacLeod and then in himself. Now, he was more open to possibility
and he couldn't shake acceptance of the unusual qualities of the
pale mystic. He had very little grasp of what he'd unwittingly
become a part, but he felt it as keenly as if he'd known it all
along. He chose to push that thought to the back of his mind,
there were other considerations that had to be sorted first, before
he would even be capable of whatever Tomas had in mind.
Richie Ryan was a battered
amnesiac, and there was still very little clue as to his actions
in the missing months. Ideas, feelings flowed through his brain,
mostly extremes of emotion: hate - of what he was unsure, maybe
the parody of MacLeod the Dark Quickening had created; fear -
of his own kind, all of them, no matter what race, creed, gender,
age, all were associated with betrayal; pain - however he had
spent his time, there was physical as well as mental anguish,
the Quickenings had not come easy, and the young man was a little
grievous that he didn't even have a scar to give him a clue to
those battles. As he walked further into his psyche, the images
were becoming sharper, preparing to lead to actual recollections,
but the journey was slow and full of dead ends.
The young man was lost
both in the city and in his mind by the time he was brought swiftly
back to reality. Basic survival instinct nagged at his thought-lost
being and eventually brought him back to the real world with a
dagger of alarm. His eyes had been gazing ahead, but not really
seeing more than enough to stop him colliding with people and
objects. Yet, some part of him was still alert, watchful for danger,
and the sight three men apparently strolling nonchalantly ahead
of him and the instinct that there were more behind, was what
brought him back to the present. Adrenaline erupted into his system
as the situation became suspicious. He had wandered down a back
street, deserted until the three large hulks had moved past his
slow pace; that hadn't bothered, him, but their whispers and occasional
glances back at him, had begun to tweak his interest.
One of the trio looked
back again and recognised the youth's return to reality and the
hardening of his features. He tapped his comrade's shoulders,
and Ryan halted smartly as the threesome turned around. He was
passive as they approached, aware of them and two set of footfalls
behind him; his alert senses picked out a knife at one of the
men's belts, another slid a nunchaku from under his coat, the
third in his view was wearing a knuckle-duster.
"Anything I can
do for you gentlemen?" Ryan questioned, his tone icy cold,
his being poised for them.
They were large men,
none of them looked particularly intelligent and their bulk was
only partly muscle, these were thugs and it was obvious that their
intent was violence. They seemed over-confident, smiling in a
triumph that mis-assessment of their victim created. Their only
response to his enquiry was from the knife-bearer, who pulled
out the dirty blade and waved it in the young Immortal's direction.
Richie didn't even flinch, the first move wouldn't be coming from
that direction. The youth couldn't help the rush of excitement
that ran through his system - he was a warrior by nature and the
prospect of a fight was not altogether unpleasant. His eyes flashed
and his body tensed as he heard the movement behind him; he reacted
as soon as he felt the first attempt to grab him.
A hand grabbed his
right wrist, it was swiftly removed by a flick up of the elbow
a twist and then the weight of an arm coming down on the limb.
Ryan grinned despite himself as he heard the sickening crack of
bone and the howl of the unseen attacker. Yet, there was no time
to pause as the first hoodlum fell away, there was another lout
on his left shoulder. Now was the time that hours spent in repetitive
kata was rewarded, and his movement was smooth and precise as
he leant slightly forward, raised his left elbow and jabbed backwards.
A grunt and then he swung his fist downwards - this was not a
pretty situation and his attack was coldly efficient as the other
collapsed to his knees, the faint moan, that only comes with one
specific injury, on his lips. The young fighter was already half
leaning forward, so he leant a little further and twisted to bring
his leg up in a final kick to the face to finish the second opponent,
then he fell into a well aimed roll past the trio, who hadn't
even moved yet.
As he easily rolled
to his feet behind them, and the three men turned, their faces
told the combatant that they were reassessing their prey. He could
have run now, he was a lot lighter and easily faster than the
gang, but the youth was pissed at their sudden assault and far
more, he wanted to know why. The speed with which he'd dealt with
the two crumpled forms on the asphalt gave him enough confidence
to stand his ground. He stayed still where he stopped, feet slightly
apart, knees bent enough to flex at any skirmish, and he smiled
at the more wary oafs, the glint of conviction in his glare.
"Any of you Neanderthals
care to join your friends?" it was a big word for Richard
Ryan, he'd come a long way in four years and he liked the ability
to word play.
There was not a lot
of comprehension on the three faces, but the hulk with the nunchaku
eventually gathered that the delivery was an insult. His face
clouded and he flexed the nasty-looking chain.
"OOh, am I supposed
to be worried?" Richie baited very successfully.
He was quite glad that
they appeared to be attacking him one at a time, and was more
than ready for the charge of the leather-clad yob. It became quickly
obvious that the man's chosen weapon was for show rather than
because he was good with it, and a duck and a quick chop to his
ribs and the attacker staggered backwards. So far, Ryan had been
the only one to lay a punch. Yet, the youth stepped rapidly away
as the fallen's buddies decided that two on one would be fairer.
The knuckle-duster missed, but the young man grunted as the filthy
blade caught him across the stomach. He retaliated with a hefty
side-kick which sent the man to join his fake martial-artist comrade
in a mess on the ground. As they tried to untangle themselves,
the young Immortal gave his full attention to the last remaining
member of the assault team. Amusement had turned to focused anger
in the blond youth when his flesh had been sliced and there had
been the full power of anger in the blow - the oaf left on his
feet had fear in his eyes now and there was a dawning of reality
that he was facing more than just some punk kid.
The scruffy man took
a step back as Ryan paced towards him, but this was an alley,
and he found a wall behind him. The Eternal had fire in his eyes
as he grabbed the petrified creature by the throat and slammed
him into the brickwork. The large man was a good half-foot taller
and had quite some bulk on the athletic youth, but he cowered
at the steel in the visage which came close to his.
"Want to tell
me why it takes five of you to jump me?" the Immortal snarled
intensely, his voice low and menacing.
"Je ne comprends
pas!" the other gabbled weakly.
Ryan hissed nastily,
but didn't press the question, there were two men behind him still
mobile. He smacked the lout's head against the wall and spun on
the spot as he slid down the masonry. Knifeman and his buddy were
stood side by side and it didn't appear that they'd learnt their
lessons. The Eternal side-stepped the projectile which came at
him and smashed into the wall; Richie glanced down at the broken
knife and then back up at the now weaponless thrower a look of
disdain on his features.
"Either of you
two parlez Anglais?" he asked sharply, his patience for this
distraction running low.
"I do, Shitface,"
the battered nunchaku wielder spat.
"Oh what charm,"
Ryan responded the sarcasm heavy in his tone, he'd had enough
of this fight and these men were mortals, he didn't want to hurt
them too badly. "Well, Shakespeare, are you gonna
tell me what this is all about."
came the growled response.
Richie shook his head
and eyed the more wary men pityingly, there was no way five louts
would spend their time jumping a `kid' for his money.
"Oh please, guys,"
he returned pacing out away from them and the wall in case they
picked another moment to restart the assault, "I'm not stupid.
Who sent you?"
came from further up the shadowy street and the youth heard a
He turned rapidly to
the sound as something sharp penetrated his leg. The young man
recognised the face which was behind a silenced gun, it was one
of Tomas' men, but now there was no smile of support. The Immortal
glanced down at his leg, a little confused, it didn't feel like
a bullet - it wasn't. A dart had landed deep in his thigh and
Richie began to feel its contents shift into his system. Confusion
was the young man's first reaction, but then survival cut in and,
rapidly, he pulled out the foreign object and ran. He made it
to within a few metres of the main street before his leg gave
way and he fell to his knees. There were footfalls behind him
and the young man reached desperately up at the wall, trying to
find a hold to pull himself up, but his fingers refused to take
a hold. He couldn't find reason behind what was happening, why
was someone coming at him with drugs, this definitely wasn't the
Immortal way. Was Tomas involved, had he been betrayed again?
The world spun as a hand grabbed his collar and he struck out
in fury at the body behind him. This time he was dealing with
a trained man, he could feel it as his blow was effortlessly deflected
and his wrist caught. Ryan snarled more at the idea of another
betrayal than at the form that had a vice-like grip on his arm.
he slurred and tried to wriggle away, but his senses were failing
him too rapidly to make him any match for the strength in the
body holding him.
Richie was helpless
as the drug finally took full affect and his eyes rolled in his
Of Part 4