There was really only on thing
an Immortal could do when they were challenged and had not decided
to run, and that was to prepare. Richie would quite happily have
closed the dojo and spared with his twin all afternoon, but they
both knew he was no good as an opponent. Oh, it was a test of
ingenuity, speed and strength when they fought, but it was entirely
different when you could read your opponent's mind. That was why
when the young woman in a floppy hat, sunglasses, sweat pants
and a body suit, walked in she found her lover swapping blows
with Greg, using Bokens.
Several of the regulars sent
appreciative glances towards the new comer before they realised
that they'd seen her plenty of times before. Kari looked amazingly
different with her hair in a curly bob, and some didn't recognise
her until she threw herself on Chris and gave him a huge kiss.
"Wow," was all her
lover could say as he took in her new look for the first time.
"You look fantastic."
She whipped off the hat with
a giggle and did a girlish twirl. The hairdresser had done an
amazing job and there was a triangular shaved patch just in front
of either ear that flowed under a mass of blonde bangs that had
been shaped to accent her high cheekbones.
"Apparently it's all the
rage," she said with complete exuberance and kissed him again.
She was so happy that she really
didn't care what she was doing. She was newly Immortal and she
was excited, no matter what else might be going on. She knew there
was someone who wanted her lover's head, and she had made sure
she would not be seen alive until the threat was over, but that
couldn't dim her new zest for life.
between the patrons is frowned upon by the management," a
voice said from the office, much to the amusement of the regulars.
"Oops, we've upset the boss,"
Chris said with a grin.
He was quite glad for the break
in the battering he and Greg had been giving each other, and he
was more than a little impressed by his partner's new look. Richie
was standing in the doorway tapping his foot like a disapproving
father, even as his eyes glinted with mischief.
"Nah, he's just jealous,"
Kari shot back with a grin.
Her comment was greeted by a
warm laugh and some of the humour that had been missing from Richie's
eyes since the phone call came back. He'd never really considered
the challenge idea from quite this angle before and he was beginning
to realise that the waiting for the result was worse than the
"Amanda's upstairs if you
want a woman's opinion," the Immortal said lightly, which
of course they both knew, but it gave him something to say.
It was also a way to get Karina
out of the dojo before some of the customers fell over their tongues.
The newest Immortal knew she was the centre of attention, and
she quite liked the feeling, but she also knew she was a distraction.
She gave Chris one more passionate kiss, inciting more than one
whistle of approval, and then she hurried for the elevator.
"You are a lucky man,"
was all Greg said and brought his Boken back up for the fight.
Since Madi was also upstairs,
Duncan found the sudden need to be somewhere else as the two older
Immortal women looked at him hard and indicated they wanted some
time alone with the new recruit. He didn't need to be told twice
as the three females launched into light chatter about all things
trivial, which he suspected would turn into more very shortly.
As it was, Amanda and her normal
sparing companion kept up the idle banter for a good half hour.
Even Immortals had a weakness for clothes and all discussions
feminine. It was only after Madi had made them all coffee, they
had exhausted all hairdressing tales and were relaxing on Duncan's
sofa's that the oldest of them decided to change the subject.
"New image, new life,"
she said as the conversation waned. "When do you want to
start learning the noble art of the sword?"
It was a direct question, and
it caught Kari a little off guard. Just at the moment she had
other worries on her mind, and she hadn't really expected the
question of fighting to come up quite so quickly.
"Um, when do you suggest?"
she asked hesitantly.
"Well thanks to the modern
world and a woman's need to protect herself in it," Madi
took the discourse, "you're not a complete beginner. Have
you ever picked up a sword."
This was turning into a grass
"Only when I did a little
fencing at school," the new Immortal returned slowly. "I
was into all that dungeons and dragons stuff for a couple of years
and joined the club, but then boys happened and I sorta couldn't
fit it in anymore."
That caused grins all round.
"Well the sooner you start,
the sooner you'll learn," Amanda told her cheerfully, "but
you might want to take a few days first. Once you have your family
sorted out, we'll be quite happy to accommodate you."
It was really quite a profound
moment. These two Immortals were offering to teach Kari all they
knew out of a bond that went beyond friendship. All of a sudden,
the young woman quite tearful and had to blink back the wetness
that threatened to take her vision.
"Thanks," she said,
her voice slightly heavier than usual, "I ... um ... oh."
She couldn't help it, the mixture
of happiness and all the experiences of the last days just bubbled
up inside her. The tears would not be held back as kinship brought
comfort and emotions just became all mixed up.
"Hey, there's no need to
cry," Madi said lightly as the two older women made bee-lines
for the cushions either side of their friend, "we're not
Kari was laughing through her
tears, even as the women dissolved into a three way hug.
Time had a funny way of disappearing
as afternoon turned in to evening and the hour drew that much
closer to nine. Nerves had meant that Chris really didn't feel
like eating, but his twin and the Highlander had forced some dinner
down his throat. There had been little distance between Kari and
her lover since he'd stopped training and seen fit to inform her
of exact what would be happening that evening.
Greg and Madi had gone home,
and Beren had turned up after work as the company shuffled a little.
As the zero hours approached and Chris started to get ready to
leave, Amanda stayed in the loft, but everyone else ventured downstairs
in to the now empty dojo. Out of all of then, Duncan appeared
the calmest as he looked on with a mask made from experience.
The newest Immortal was not taking her lover's departure well,
but Beren was looking after her with true British stoicism. The
young English woman would have taken her back upstairs if she
had been able to pry her away from Chris. He himself was trying
to look nonchalant, but the anxiety was showing around the edges
as he checked his sword for the hundredth time. Strangely, however,
it was Richie who appeared the most agitated. The blond Immortal
didn't seem to be able to stand still and only his promise was
keeping him from trying to beat his twin to the challenge.
Little was said as Chris went
to leave, there were no adequate words, and he just kissed Kari
in silence as the others stood around. It was only as he finally
headed through the doors that the silence was broken.
"Don't loose you head,"
all the Immortals said at virtually the same time.
The comment drew a smile from
the departing man and even managed to invoke a slight grin from
"See you later," was
the return and then he was gone.
The four people he left behind
just stood there for a moment, unsure of what to do, but finally
"Come on, Kari," she
said as lightly as she could manage, "I don't know about
you, but I'm hitting Duncan's drinks cupboard."
There was no argument from her
female friend and the two headed for the elevator quickly. Their
male companions did not move to follow and they'd still barely
moved when the sound of the motor broke the ominous silence. They
looked at each other, well aware that they had similar feelings
of trepidation within themselves. Student and mentor, now in mutual
anxiety for another.
"I need to beat the crap
out of something," Richie said finally, "care to join
"I'll get my things,"
the Highlander replied as a knowing smile played at the sides
of his mouth.
The building site was large and
empty, a great plane in a multitude of dark offices and shops.
This area of town was a hive of activity during the day, but at
night it slept, leaving the life to the cultural hot spots of
the city. The ground had been cleared, but not yet dug for foundations,
and it seemed almost the perfect spot for a battle. It felt wrong
just to walk out into the emptiness, so Chris arrived and hung
back in the shadows beside the site hut. He did not have long
to wait, and the stirring of his soul announced the approach of
The figure that walked out into
the shadowy half light was ghost like with pale clothes and almost
invisible skin. He strode with a confident step and just about
all the other Immortal could see of his face were his eyes. The
only luminance came from the reflections of yellow street lamps
on the surrounding buildings, and for a moment Chris just took
in his opponent.
"I know you're there, child,"
the stranger said loudly, "I am M'boku Seleti, come and meet
Anger burned brightly in the
younger Immortal, but he quelled the flames with iron self control.
He had a role to play, and anger would just give away the truth
much sooner than he would like. Like an actor walking onto a stage
he fixed his features in a furious, but somehow lost expression
and stepped into the light.
"You already know my name,"
he said, using the memory of the previous night to bring a touch
of helplessness to his voice, "and you killed someone I care
about. For that I will make you pay."
His disclosure was greeted by
a laugh, but it did not stop his journey forward. Chris finally
halted only a few feet away from his adversary, and with a quick
flick of an arm he threw his coat to one side. Immortal faced
Immortal, swords in hands, spirits soaring at the impending battle.
"I've been doing this a
long time, little one," the ebony skinned man returned calmly,
"and your fire for revenge will not be enough."
"Why," the blond man
spat suddenly, a need to know this Immortal's reasons upon him,
"why did you do it?"
For once there was no humour
in the other's face, and there was a far away look in his opponent's
eyes. This was not the face Chris had seen smiling from the window
of a car, this was the real visage of Seleti. The other had been
part of the trap to ensnare his victim into the fight, now all
Chris could see was the warrior.
"Because it was the only
way to guarantee that it would be you who came to fight me,"
the dark skinned African returned evenly. "There are so many
Immortals in this city and one of your friends would have come
in your place, maybe even that brother of yours, and I wanted
you. The only way to assure that a man will fight is to give him
a reason, so I gave you yours. There can be only one, Mr Seaton,
and I intend it to be me."
Cool, calm logic, from a man
who had adapted to the Game. That was what had brought about Kari's
first death, and Chris realised that this warrior was doing what
he believed he needed to do to survive. The Gathering, the Game,
it took so many lives, and suddenly that made the younger Immortal
very, very angry. Seleti took the sudden flare of his opponents
eyes to mean that the blond man had given into his hate. He was
wrong and therefore he misjudged exactly how well Chris would
be thinking. Their swords met with a loud clang and battle was
They had fought a little, traded
a few blows and throws, but soon Richie had picked up his sword
for a kata. Duncan had offered to spar with blades, but his companion
was uneasy that when Chris began to fight he might loose his rationality.
The last thing he wanted was to wake up with Mac's blood on his
sword and having gone for the Highlander in any way, shape or
form. His friend had seen his need, and gallantly given him the
floor, retreating into the office where he could pretend to be
occupied, but still keep an eye on his companion.
Richie's arm was fully extended,
holding his sword up at shoulder height in the middle of a move,
when he suddenly just stopped. What Duncan saw, was his young
friend smoothly move into a forward thrust and then just freeze.
Chris had started to fight, and his current position and surroundings
were immediately unimportant to Richie. The warrior in the challenged
sibling had slipped into place and with it came his twin's undivided
attention. There was no sight in Richie's eyes as he stared blankly
ahead, he saw what his brother saw, heard what his brother heard,
and felt what his brother felt. His own body had little or no
meaning as he joined his cunning and skill with that of Chris,
both together in the one body.
Seleti had no idea that he was
fighting anymore than an Immortal a few months into his new life.
The news of twins had reached his ears months before and intrigued
him, but he did not see the happening as any more than a curiosity.
To him it just meant a new Immortal and a new target. The obvious
skill his opponent displayed as soon as the battle began was somewhat
of a surprise, but the aggressor did not let it phase him.
They were both skilled warriors
and they exchanged blows on more or less even terms, or so it
seemed. The sound of blades clashing filled the empty night and
if anyone had been watching they would have seen the buildings
light up as they were touched by blue fire. Neither opponent held
back when it came to landing strikes and sparks flew when the
swords joined and Immortals fought for their lives.
Only once did Chris' anger get
the better of him. Seleti almost reached past his defence and
it brought a bright smile onto the dark face. He looked so much
like he had done in the car that the cold flames that drove his
opponent roared with molten heat and for a moment the older Immortal
was driven back under a flurry of attacks. It was not a good strategy,
however, because Chris was doing very little thinking and a fault
in his style appeared almost immediately. The dark skinned warrior
did not need to see it twice and his sword took good advantage
of the opening. It was the burning pain of broken flesh that brought
Chris' rage under control and he drew back with a gash on his
torso for his foolishness.
The Highlander did not attempt
to touch his young friend, but it was difficult not to be fascinated
as he walked out of the office to get a closer look. A rapier
was a heavy blade and yet Richie was holding his at arms length
without the slightest sign that he was bothered by it. It was
like looking at a wax dummy, except for the fact that an almost
silent, slow breathing indicated that this man was alive. An eerie,
almost unreal feeling settled over Duncan as he watched his friend.
Caution kept him from interrupting whatever trance Richie had
fallen into, but he almost stepped forward as he saw a small red
patch begin to form on the younger Immortal's grey top.
of Part 15