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To Live Again by Sophie
Soph's take on the resolution of the problem's caused by Macleod's Dark Quickening.


Part 5/6

A growl, low, menacing, demonstrating discomfort was the first reaction to returning to consciousness. Then a hand slapped him round the face and Richie snarled and tensed towards his unseen attacker, the memory of his capture still fresh. Yet, the aggressive Immortal found his hands tied behind him and he slammed back into solid metal as the owner of the hand shoved him away. The same palm pushed him easily into the wall of the van which slowly came into focus along with the face of his assailant. It wasn't who he was expecting, and momentarily, the remnants of Immortal presence on his soul caught up with his dazed brain. The visage before him was olive-skinned and dark-eyed, and white-teeth showed in a wide, nasty, triumphant grin. The Eternal was well-dressed, his suit was expensive, and it didn't look like he was used to doing his own dirty work. The man seemed amused by the feral nature to his captive's awakening and there was a disdainful twinkle in his eye as he glanced over his shoulder at the figure the youth had expected to see.

"Well, well, Dimitri," the stranger breathed to his obvious subordinate in a heavy Italian accent, "it appears that you were not exaggerating when you called him The Savage - Tomas had a way with descriptions."

The second seemed completely disinterested, and looked away to the front of the van and the driver. Ryan, however, was less than comfortable facing another of his kind bound and helpless and that made him angry.

"Who the hell are you?" he demanded through gritted teeth.

The captor returned his attention to his feisty prisoner and rings dug through the youth's T-shirt into his chest as he was forced harder against the bowing side of the vehicle.

"I, Savage, am, Garret Kildaire and, in Tomas' words, The Heir," he answered as though condescending to address a child.

"Heir to what, bad-taste?" Richie spat back and suffered for the quip with the back of a hand across his face.

The young Eternal was too mad to take the assault passively and he kicked out at his abductor a cry of rage on his lips. The other fell away, not expecting the retaliation, but Dimitri was quickly in his place. The man was large and well-trained and the youth smashed back into his seat, firmly pinned to the wall. He complained wordlessly and flexed against the grip, but was sensible enough to realise that he was fighting a battle he could not win.

"Sit still, Savage!" Kildaire ordered hotly, his temper beginning to show, "or Dimitri here will teach you a lesson your body may forget, but your mind will not."

The captive was hissing dangerously under his breath, but only his holder was near enough to hear, in Garret's eyes he relaxed and merely glared intensely at him.

"You are a pawn, Boy, if Boy you really are," the Latino told him, settling onto the other side of the van and adjusting the line of his suit, "and I have decided to use you instead of Tomas. You see, the old man and I go back a long way, and it is finally time for his damn path to crumble under his feet."

There was a vehemence in the other's voice which caused Richie no little consternation; he saw the same, victorious smile on the other's lips, but it did not reach his eyes, they only displayed a dangerous hate.

"You are my key, Savage, my way into that house of his," Kildaire explained easily.

"You'll get no help from me," Ryan swore quickly.

"I don't need any help," the other shook his head and gave the abductee a disdainful glance, "your presence is all I need."

Richie growled again, he couldn't stop the sound that seemed so natural to his present psyche, but he didn't like the amusement it once more raised in his captor. Yet, he was sensible enough to heed the warning he had been given, and he merely glared at the other Immortal as he produced a mobile phone. Dimitri seemed to recognise the submission in his captive and sat back, keeping a careful eye on his mood, but otherwise content to let the youth have space to breath more comfortably.

Kildaire appeared to like the sound of his own voice, and continued as he tapped the buttons on the dial, "You see, Methos has a strange affection for all those who fall into Tomas' little net of `destiny', and as well as the old man's head, I want his. You are simultaneously bait and the reason for that shrivelled annoyance's legion of body guards letting me through. Dimitri here was kind enough to furnish me with the details of your arrival - you know, I've waited two hundred years to find a good mole."

He was still grinning at Ryan's clouded face as he put the phone to his ear and waited for an answer.

The phone was an unexpected annoyance - Methos had just sunk himself into a very interesting manuscript which was bringing back all sorts of memories about Rome at its height, and the distraction was most inconvenient. He'd been daydreaming about a young lady of a professional nature and the annoying ring had cut right through a very pleasant moment when he'd finally made it into her boudoir. His tone was therefore clipped as he picked up the receiver and spoke, "Adam Pierson, this better be good."

"Methos," the voice at the other end greeted, but it was a harsh sound and sent bad feelings running through the ancient Immortal

"Garret," he was almost swearing the recognition made him feel so uncomfortable, but he was his usual collected self as he responded with irony, "What a delightful surprise, what trouble do you want to cause this time?"

"This time the old fart isn't one step ahead of me, Methos," came the threat, "I hold the ace this time and if you're smart you'll be at Tomas' fortress in half an hour."

"And why is that?" the dark man asked, holding onto his temper well considering his history with the annoyance at the other end of the line.

Kildaire had been known to him as `The Heir', Tomas' successor if the Gathering took him. The man had been a new-fledged Immortal on the streets of Rome going by the name of Gipetto when he'd been found six hundred years ago, and Tomas had taken him in. He'd been schooled in everything from mysticism (which out of Tomas' company he had sneered at) to sword play and the old man had tried to teach him a humility that just didn't come easily to the brash Italian. He'd lasted four hundred years in the loose circle of Immortals that the ancient kept about him, but then his patience had run out. In his eyes, he'd been promised an inheritance that it was time for Tomas to relinquish and he'd come a-hunting. Methos had been in the way, his last battle, and it had been one which had turned him away from the sword. They'd been well matched and had taken chunks out of each other, yet age had won through and he'd been faced with the task of removing the other's head. Gipetto, long since renamed Garret, was still the Heir, and the old Immortal had known that destroying him would mean loosing the path, so he had let him go. Since then, he'd been an annoyance who turned up every few decades to try and make another attempt on Tomas' Quickening, yet there had always been warnings that he would arrive and preparation were made.

Now the old man understood the edgy feelings he'd been having all day.

"Because Tomas may be a little put out if I remove one of his player from his game prematurely," was almost shouted down the phone.

Richie was still glaring at Kildaire as the object was held out towards him and the order was given, "Hit him, hard!"

Dimitri glanced once into his victim's eyes and the youth couldn't read the expression; then his vision danced and breath flew out of his lungs. The young man groaned and doubled over as a solid fist landed in his stomach, but it was a small sound.

"Again, till he screams," the response to his breathless cough came.

The mortal warrior seemed to gather that another smack was not going to raise the volume his employer wanted. Instead of a fist, his hand went rapidly to the bound creature's groin and he squeezed. Ryan resisted the need to scream as the pressure began, but as it increased, he had to let out the sound. His cry came out more a strangled shout than anything else, but it was loud, full of pain and it satisfied Dimitri - the man released him to crumple sideways as his world faded in and out.

"Recognise your Savage?" Kildaire lorded down the phone.

Methos wore to himself, but kept it low and out of range of the technology, instead, his voice defying the rage that Richie's pained scream had aroused, the old man answered, "I'll be there."

The phone went dead and he slammed down the receiver.

Methos was walking under a storm cloud, that much was very obvious to Duncan MacLeod as he watched him approach the barge. The Highlander stood from the damage limitation on the spread of rust that had been his afternoon task. He'd been worrying about Richie, he knew the young man was not right with himself yet, and wandering off was not something he thought advisable - that, coupled with a nasty foreboding that hung around him and the Scot has decided that it was time for some mundane distraction. Yet, the considerations had just gone round and round in his head, nagging at him; the sight of his friend striding hotly towards his boat, no sign of his usual decorum, set off alarm bells.

"What's happened?" he demanded, meeting the vehement presence half way down the gangplank.

"An old enemy had turned up, he grabbed Richie and he wants to meet me at Tomas' house in twenty minutes," the ancient seethed, "he's quite capable of using our young friend to get to Tomas' head, and mine, but he doesn't seem to know about you."

"I'll get my sword," the Warrior responded.

The world had stopped dancing with little bright spots a long time since, but Richie stayed lying down; it wasn't particularly comfortable, but it kept Kildaire's attention off him and that suited them both. He was angry, mad at an Immortal who was working his way round the rules, there was nothing about kidnapping in his lore, but Kristov's fate was running in the front of the young Eternal's mind. If he ever freed himself from the tight rope on his wrists, the Latino would regret he'd ever heard of the Savage.

Dimitri glanced at him occasionally, mainly his look was passive unreadability, but occasionally the youth caught a warning in his stare. The man didn't appear to appreciate the orders his employer had given, but then, his victim couldn't have given a damn about what the other's feelings were - mortal or not, he'd go down hard.

The bound form found himself thinking very unsavoury thoughts about both his captors as he was jolted out of them by the halting of the van. Only as they stopped did Kildaire take any more notice of his prisoner. He was grinning again, the same unconvincing smirk that he'd used before. Ryan couldn't help the chill that ran down his spine - it wasn't so much the man before him, but for what he stood. There was something unpalatable about him, an essence that was speaking to the instinct now alive in the youth. Kildaire brought out the feral in him, the side he could not shake now it had surfaced. The other seemed to sense something of what was in his captive and he responded with an elegant light-bladed rapier to the immobile figure's neck.

"Don't try anything, Savage," he warned with quiet threat, "Dimitri will have your own sword to your neck, and if he fails, your throat will be within easy reach of my blade."

Richie remained silent and still, resisting the urge to retaliate with either voice or body - he didn't like steel near his neck. He merely watched as Garret climbed out of the van, his eyes afire with the rage in his belly. He struggled a little as his mortal captor took hold of him, but with his hands trapped behind his back he was no match for the large man. The young man stumbled out of the vehicle, his balance controlled completely by the hand on his collar. He swore loudly at Kildaire's subordinate, but there was no response from the self-present man save for the raising of his own blade to his neck. The other Immortal was already striding across the deserted street to the familiar door and the prisoner was pushed after him. Dimitri was close behind him, keeping him well covered with the blade somewhat large for its current task. He had some advice for his maddened captive.

"Shut up, stay close and when I tell you, get out of the way," the mortal told him in a whisper.

Richie nearly fell up the steps as the words took him by surprise; he glanced once back at the man, the confusion in his eyes, his only response was a rough shove up the stone flight. Kildaire was waiting for them in the hallway and he was staring up the internal stairs to two figures, Methos and his ancient friend at the top. Ryan felt the strange shift in his soul that Tomas inspired and all the uncertainty and wayward emotion that his contact with the unusual Immortal had inspired came flooding back. He stilled in Dimitri's hold and his eyes showed the vivid recollection of his dream - in the presence of the old man once more, what was logical didn't make sense, a nightmare was not just that and his future worried him. Garret took his reaction to be submission, and laughed.

"Bring him forward," the Eternal waved at his employee to display his prize.

Dimitri obeyed, and they strode a few paces ahead of the hot-blooded Italian to the foot of the stairs.

"Your Savage has lost his teeth, Tomas," Kildaire gloated, but neither prisoner or mystic were listening.

The youth met the ancient's gaze and his world froze in the moment inside his head. He swung his sword again at again at the defenceless neck and he denied it.

"No Tomas!" he yelled at the diminutive figure who merely gazed at him.

Kildaire laughed at him, misreading the message.

"First you, Methos, my old friend and then the old man to whom you play lap dog," he challenged, "then maybe the Boy as well, and if you don't face me now, Fox, the Boy goes first."

"Oh I don't think so," a voice cut through the man's triumph and there was the slightest touch of a Scot's accent in the deep tones.

Richie glanced round as he felt another Immortal touch; Duncan walked in through the front door, an easy, misleading smile on his lips and his katana nestled carefully against his arm.

"Your man outside will have a nasty headache when he wakes up," the Highlander continued, "I am Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod and for what you have done to my friend, you face me first."

"Dimitri, his head!" the Latino ordered.

The large man shook his head and pushed at his prisoner's back as he removed the sword form his neck. They stumbled rapidly up the stairs out of range of an angry lunge.

Duncan stood passively at the door, watching the clumsy miss and waiting for a more skilled attack that would inevitably come at him. Methos had told him this creature's history, he was an expert swordsman, trained well by Tomas' people, and he was no little threat. His advantage was focus, Kildaire was hot-bloodied and his temper had made him weak before. He took a deep, calming breath and raised his sword smoothly as the body came slowly round to face him. There was rage in the Latino's eyes, and he grimaced nastily at his opponent as the challenge was accepted.

"You die now, Duncan MacLeod," the man swore.

"You have to beat me first," the Scot responded, feigning a vague amusement.

His ploy worked, as the elder Immortal flared at the apparent disrespect and swung poorly. The Highlander brought his blade round easily and the first clash of steel rang through the room.

Richie went where he was pushed by his holder, lost in his own mind. He was propelled rapidly up the stairs and after the other two Immortals into the safety of Tomas' sanctum by a concerned Dimitri. He was passive as he was brought to a stop and his bonds were cut by his own razor-sharp weapon.

"I am sorry for earlier," Dimitri spoke to him, taking the coolness in him for distrust, "but it had to be convincing."

"Dimitri was only working in our best interests," Tomas spoke softly to his statuesque visitor.

The Savage looked up and across at the old man, his movements slow and his gaze icy. His body was tense, his hands in fists, his teeth gritted and there was danger in his eyes. Yet, the passion was not aimed at the wizened mystic, but the task the path wanted from him.

"No," he breathed, his voice quiet but deadly.

Tomas raised a hand to him, his wrinkled features kind and concerned, Richie backed off.

"No!" he screamed this time, wild at the idea in his head, "I won't do it!"

The bent old figure followed after him, his arms out to the distress that was so apparent, but his young player walked rapidly away more into the room. Tomas knew exactly what he was talking about, and there was sympathy in his eyes. He stopped a few feet away from the wild-eyed youth.

"Richie, I am asking you to," the mystic spoke again, and the request was in his eyes.

Ryan turned rapidly away from the hypnotic gaze and answered with pain in his voice, "I can't take your head."

The young man glanced wildly at Dimitri as the man made an exclamation of shock, but Methos was nearby and laid a hand on the mortal's shoulder. There was grief in the ancient Immortal's face as he spoke wordlessly to his comrade.

"You knew as well?" Richie demanded of the dark man.

"Tomas told me yesterday," Adam responded his voice low and subdued.

"This isn't cut and dried!" the youth objected hotly, feeling the prickle of tears at the back of his eyes as he felt the situation running away from him, "You don't have to die, Tomas."

"I want to, Richie," the simple words brought the young man to stillness and silent dread; he stared questioningly at the source. "I was born blind, Richie, into a world where such deformities were dealt with a birth. Yet, my tribe recognised mystics and the Shaman pronounced me a seer. I was raised by him and he taught me to read my dreams. I knew from a very young age of our kind, and I knew I was not like the rest of us and that my path would not be the same. I was destined to die an old man and remain so for many thousands of years. You have no idea what that is like, to be feeble in body but not in spirit and depend on others for protection, but I was to lead others along my path to this moment."

"To do what? - dying doesn't help anyone," Richie spat, horrified by the sincerity of his willing victim.

"Yes it does," Tomas argued so eloquently it was frightening, "I am decrepit, Richie, I cannot fight, I cannot be the last, but I can help a youngling survive beyond his first few years in the Game. I have come to the end of my path, but yours is only just beginning. There is hope for Immortals in The Fox, The Warrior and The Savage, my new heir. There is something greater than the Game, beyond the Gathering that I cannot see, but you three will lead the way. One from a distant time, wise in his years and caring, the second like many of our kind, counting his experience in centuries, and the third, a young one, rare as our members decline. I have been given the chance to be part of this Richard. I can live again through you. I can help you heal and I can use my strength to fortify."

The Savage stared at the small form, at a loss for what to do or say.

The lighter blade slid down the majestic steel of the katana and they were almost nose to nose. Duncan stared into the fury that his opponent had become and smiled; as with all warrior's the thrill of battle was attractive and strangely compulsive, the Highlander was enjoying this match of skill. Kildaire was a worthy opponent, skilled with his chosen weapon and he had made a dangerous slice or two, but he was impulsive and could not control the streak of intensity in his being. Both men were bloodied, but the wounds had healed quickly, being only vague surface cuts, and they did not interfere with the course of the clash. A cry of excitement on his lips, the Clansman saw a break in the concentration of his competitor and used it. He flexed and pushed his combatant away; the dark Italian stumbled backward, flailing his arms to try and regain his balance and MacLeod advanced. He was angry, he felt the rage that Kildaire's use of his pupil had inspired, he felt the slight twinge of fear that accompanied the thought of losing, but the emotion was centred, used to strengthen his fire, not spill out and distract as it did in his rival. The difference between the two warriors was so evident as one moved on the other.

Tomas stood before his executioner, his blind eyes wide and seeing more than any natural vision; Ryan could feel his presence like an electricity already around him reaching out, prickling his skin, working away at his horror.

"Don't do this," the young man begged, recognising the compulsion that was building around him and shying away from the deep gaze.

"Look at me, Richard," the man breathed, his tone smooth and suggestive.

"No," he moaned, swaying a little and he pleaded, "Methos, stop him."

Yet, the ancient Immortal did not move from his place beside Dimitri, both men stood away from the intensity, outside it, only playing a minor role as the mortal handed the rapier to his captivating master. Richie fought the power that was being brought to bear, but he began to lose.

Methos watched as the young man slowly began to turn and face the master of mystery; the ancient had never seen his friend invoke so much energy, but he could sense it even outside it's range. Tomas had already laid his argument at the researcher's feet and Adam had regretfully agreed to let him go through with what the wizened creature saw as the culmination of his long journey. Ordinarily, the dark man would have fought against the idea as hard as he recognised his young comrade so doing, but he'd felt the unusual nature of the arrival of The Savage, and he'd known his old friend too long to doubt his sight. He held back the pain in his own heart, there was enough evident in the struggling youth.

There was fear in the blond young man's eyes as he finally came round to face the immense call in the pale features. There was no more fight in him, argument and influence both adding to the knowledge in his being that he would take a head. Those white irises could have swallowed him then, taken his will altogether and moved him like a puppet, but the youth relaxed as the old man blinked. There would be no more compulsion, the mystic had made his point, and he merely held out the fine blade to his Savage.

The power was still around him, a solace to the revulsion he felt and then the young Immortal saw the path again. It was not so much a vision as a feeling and it made little sense, only a mess of promise and hope. It was calming and a steady hand reached out for the hilt.

"Thank you," Tomas murmured, a smile on his tired face and he bowed.

Richie watched as the old man struggled to his knees and placed his hands together in front of his chest. He held his head up and closed his blank eyes for the last time. The youth had never been more certain of a chosen moment than as he raised the sword - a cry escaped his lips as he brought the blade round; it spoke of the regret in his being for the loss of such a gentle man, it spoke of the future and it spoke of his need to heal the pain left inside.

Both fighters heard the cry dagger through the building, and knowledge of what had happened swept through them like fire through ice. Kildaire's scream replaced the momentary cry that should have been followed by absolute silence, there was no calm before this storm, and he chose to vent his rage on Duncan. The Highlander was ready for the strike which came at him, and he deflected the over-stretched blow with ease; his rival was out of control. Another swing, a stumble and then the Clansman sliced at the body which was left open. Garret's beserker cry cut out in shock and he looked down at his chest; he stared across at the poised Immortal, his face uncomprehending of the imminent end to the battle, and then he collapsed onto his hands and knees. The final blow was swift and decisive.

The Savage stared across at Methos and the sword fell out his hand; there was so much guilt in his young features, but all the ancient could do was wait. Tomas had promised the boy would not hate himself for his actions and he prayed he had not be wrong. There was a stillness in the room, the time familiar to all Immortals before the Quickening is freed. This time, it was not the long second of expectation, it was the aeon of self- loathing. Adam wanted the healing to begin.

End of Part 5