The group decided that it would
be fun to go clubbing, and when they invited Madelaine and Duncan
the two Immortals were agreeable so they relied on Mac's knowledge
of the high life to point them in the right direction. Richie
and Chris decided it would be fun to confuse half the party by
wearing exactly the same outfits and so, as they set off, only
their Immortal friends could tell them apart, much to the consternation
of the other three. John as it turned out was a tall, blond, man,
who looked more like a jock than a doctor except for the pair
of spectacles he had clamped to the end of his nose. He fitted
into the party better than Angie could have hoped, he turned out
to be as mad as they were and much to the twins' delight kept
getting them the wrong way around.
By the end of the evening, however,
Beren was in no doubt as to which one was Richie, she found him
more than a little attractive and he made his similar feelings
quite clear. They were in one of the best night-clubs in town
and it was coming up to one o'clock in the morning when the young
Immortal made his move. The music had changed from the fast dance
beats to the slow smoochy songs for a mid evening difference of
pace, and the potential beau invited Beren onto the dance floor.
Chris had made it a point to flirt all evening, but as his brother
moved in, he was very happy to leave him to it.
When Richie went into these things
he tended to do so with all his heart, another trait he shared
with his mentor, and he now knew that the young English woman
meant a great deal to him. The Immortal had been attracted to
Beren the first moment he had laid eyes on her, and as he'd grown
to know her he'd quickly realised his feelings were running a
little deeper than that. Richie had been in love before and he
knew the emotion, but he was beginning to realise that even love
had degrees, and this was adding up very quickly. As his fascination
grew he finally glimpsed what Mac had felt for Tessa, and he wanted
to experience it in full.
"Young love," Madelaine
said quietly as Angie and John went to join the other two on the
dance floor and Chris wandered off to the men's room, "I
remember being that age."
"I seem to recall being
more worried about sword play then love," Duncan returned
evenly, "but then we were a warrior clan. I've never yet
met a barbarian who knew how to treat a woman, Conor civilised
The Immortal woman was watching
Richie closely as he finally bent his head and kissed Beren passionately.
"Why can't I shake the feeling
that there's something I should realise about him?" she asked
half to herself and half to Mac. "Everytime I see him a thought
occurs to me, but I can't quite catch it. It was the same with
Chris when I first found him, but over time I grew to ignore it."
"A part of you say don't
let this one out of your sight, they're important," Duncan
said, and the two knew they understood each other perfectly.
"Exactly," his companion
The Highlander sipped his drink
"Only one other person ever
evoked the same feeling in me," he elaborated calmly, "and
that was Darius. When he was killed it felt like the world would
"I only met him the once,"
Madelaine admitted regretfully, "but I have to concede I
believed he would be one of the last of us."
A sad smile played across Mac's
features as he thought about his old friend, killed what was for
an Immortal so short a time ago.
"His passion could have
saved the world," the four hundred year old man said with
certainty. "He was older than even his two thousand years,
he knew so much. How long do you think we have left on this earth?"
"The Gathering is here,"
the woman responded calmly, "but no-one ever told us how
long it would last. How many heads have you taken, Duncan, and
how many have you spared? How many are still walking the lands
of men? We could be here for centuries, slowly driven to seek
out those of our own kind and battle for their Quickenings. Are
there anymore like Chris, not yet born to the Game, and will they
remain hidden? The young ones seem to have so little time, but
can we be sure? There are too many questions, Highlander, too
many things we do not know. Forces gather around us that we do
not understand and we cling to a set of rules that define out
destiny, like children to their parents. Who can say where they
will lead us before the fight is done."
Duncan looked at his friend sideways,
it was quite a speech.
"I had no idea you were
such a philosopher, Madi," he said genuinely surprised.
"We women spend more time
thinking and less time scrapping," she replied with a mischievous
grin, "maybe you men should try it."
That cut straight through the
atmosphere and Mac just snorted, by the time Chris returned to
the table they were enjoying themselves again.
The next morning Richie meandered
into his friend's kitchen quite late and found the Scotsman eating
"You slept in as well then,"
the younger of the two commented and pulled up a chair on the
opposite side of the table.
He pinched a small piece of toast
from the rack and chewed on it contentedly.
"Well this old body does
like sleep occasionally," Mac returned between mouthfuls,
"and I didn't get to bed until three thirty."
The young Immortal grinned sheepishly,
the group would have returned to their respective residences if
it hadn't been for him standing on Beren's doorstep for half an
hour when they dropped her off first. There was obviously something
on his mind, because he began contemplating the half eaten piece
of toast before he spoke.
"Mac," he started,
a little unsure of how to go on, "what do you think of Beren?"
A sip of coffee seemed appropriate
"I think," the other
said after a thoughtful pause, "that she's very intelligent,
charming and extremely beautiful."
The approval made Richie smile
slightly, but that wasn't all he wanted to know.
"If I said I wanted to spend
the rest of my life with her, would you say I was rushing things?"
the young man enquired finally.
With anyone else Duncan may have
said yes at that point, but he knew what devotion was and he could
see it echoed in his friend's eyes.
"Richie," he began
slowly, "I believe you are in love as you have never been
before and if she feels the same way so much the better. Just
remember, however, that one day you will have to tell her what
you are before the Gathering makes it obvious. We no longer have
the luxury of time."
It was clear that the young man
had already considered this and he still had his doubts.
"I was thinking," he
said quietly, "that I may stay put for a while, no travelling
all over the place and no weird interludes. It'll give me time
to sort everything out."
"That may well be a good
idea," the Highlander replied, "and, Rich, I hope it
works out for you. She's a lovely woman."
"Thanks, Mac," the
young Immortal returned genuinely. "It means a lot to me."
Then he rose to his feet and
began to make himself a drink.
Over the next few days Chris,
Richie and Beren spent a lot of time together, and Chris proved
he knew exactly when to be around and when to vanish from the
scene, so they had a great time. Most days they partied the night
away since Madi and Chris were on vacation, and they spent a thoroughly
enjoyable couple of days; Angie and John joined them for usually
the beginning of the evenings. In the course of conversations
they heard a lot about the dig in the mountains and how it was
going, and since Beren wanted Richie to meet her father, and Mac
expressed an interest in the archaeology, the young English woman
organised a trip up there on the first Friday. So it was that
on a beautifully sunny afternoon the party of five set off for
the mountains with curiosity in their hearts and Richie becoming
ever more enamoured with the countryside.
Beren's father turned out to
be exactly like she was: animated, determined, and with a tendency
to talk about his subject unless steered onto other topics (Richie
already knew how a neural net worked, and was rapidly realising
that computers had a whole other world he had never imagined).
The introductions were rapid and friendly at which point the young
woman's father, who had been told about Richie previously, clamped
onto the young Immortal and dragged him all over the site whilst
plying him with questions. Ryan had never been the subject of
an English father's inquisition before, but he coped very well
and within half an hour he'd moved on from calling him Dr Danworth
to Paul, so he was in favour. The other's tagged along during
the whole episode and at that point Duncan began asking educated
questions of his own, rescuing his young friend from any more
grilling. Having lived in the area for quite a while the Highlander
knew a great deal about local folklore and legend, and soon had
Paul well off the subject of his daughter's new boyfriend.
As with all academic enterprises
the dig was short handed so much to their surprise everyone found
themselves roped in to help. Chris was dragged off by a pretty
young thing and found himself sieving sand very quickly.
By the end of the day they were
all slightly muddy but very happy with themselves, and Paul invited
them to his house for refreshments.
There were impressive amounts
of books on the shelves of the living room, and Duncan was browsing
them when Paul entered carrying a tray of steaming mugs.
"Excuse the crockery,"
he said as he put the drinks down, "but it was the library
or the best china in the packing cases, and the library won."
"I can understand that,"
MacLeod said seriously, "you have some beautiful volumes
here. Do you mind if I take a look ?"
"Be my guest," the
older looking man replied, and began to hand round the hot beverage.
"Most of them are to do with pet projects of mine."
One section of the book shelf
caught Duncan's eye as soon as he glanced crossed it, because
three of the books had the same monogram on the spine where the
author's name was positioned.
"Now those," Paul said
as he saw MacLeod pull one down, "are from a little study
I did a few years back now. Quite remarkable really," he
continued, unaware that he did not have the Highlander's remotest
attention. "There's been a scholarly monk of the same name
in the same order for nearly a thousand years. Those three books
were written at intervals of two hundred years, and yet the hand
is nearly the same. Seems that this order make sure that a Brother
Darius always resides at the same rectory, and I believe he's
also similar in appearance as well."
Richie nearly spilt liquid all
over his lap, and their host couldn't fail to notice the effect
the information had on his four guests.
"You appear to be familiar
with the name," Paul commented as those with Immortal experience
"We're familiar with the
order," Duncan put in smoothly before anyone else had to
answer awkward questions, "at least Richie and I are. There
is no Brother Darius now, he was a friend and he was killed some
time ago. In respect for his memory the order haven't instated
a new one."
"I'm sorry," the middle
aged mortal responded instantly, "that is a sad loss. I met
Darius once about twenty years ago when I was in Paris, he helped
me with a few of my investigations."
The Highlander smiled to himself
as he read the first page in the familiar scripted hand and flicked
to the middle, he wondered exactly how his old friend had helped
the historian. Duncan had had no idea that Darius had set his
ideas down on paper, let alone written three large volumes from
his unique point of view. The old monk had preferred word of mouth
in the times Mac had known him, putting down only what he considered
could not be taken by mortals and misused as so much of history's
knowledge had been. These books were from when he had first put
down the sword and they immediately fascinated MacLeod and brought
back old memories.
"Duncan, my friend,"
the ageless monk said in his calm easy manner, "there is
more to this life than just battle. Mortals fight for their freedom,
for their right to live and die as they choose, who are we to
intervene. We are not omnipotent, we cannot know who is truly
right and who is truly wrong as we walk from age to age, one man's
hero is another's devil. Peace is the only way mankind will ever
come to know itself fully."
"Ey, and meanwhile
dictators rule with an iron hand and kill their people to line
their own pockets," was the Highlander's response as he starred
at the chess board.
Darius smiled at his friends
stubbornness, how many times had they had this conversation and
both ended up on opposite sides of the lines.
"The older you get,"
he said quietly, "the more you will see that the only destiny
that we can truly be part of is our own. The Gathering will come
on us and our ranks will be cut down, but a phoenix will rise
from the ashes."
"Only if a man like
you claims the prize," MacLeod returned in his broad Scottish
accent and meant every word, "else it may not be a phoenix
but a hawk."
There was a faraway look
in the priest's eyes as he listened to his companion, and the
expression on his face was half sad.
"I will not be there
at the end," he affirmed calmly much to Duncan's horror,
"but you have more of a part to play than you realise."
"Been dreaming again,
Darius?" the Highlander said lightly, trying to laugh it
off, and received only an enigmatic smile in return.
The old man then played
his move and considered his next sentence carefully.
"Most of these aren't
new dreams, Duncan," he said gently, "these are things
I have known since before I came here. Once they made me afraid
and angered me, so I drove my armies across the known world, now
I just except them. One day you will believe me."
The Scotsman just snorted
as he realised the priest had just won the game, again.
"Darius wrote books?"
Richie asked quietly, still a little shocked that anyone else
had ever heard of the ancient monk.
The young Immortal's voice brought
MacLeod out of his reverie and he put the book back on the shelf.
"From what I gather, Darius
was always the scholar of his generation," Paul continued,
totally unaware that all the author's were one and the same person,
"so I suppose you could say yes."
Mac remembered a conversation
he had had with the priest only a few years ago when he had mentioned
an "enthusiastic young historian" and now the Immortals
could see his late friend's point. The discovery may have brought
up a slightly sore subject, but it provided a talking point and
in the end the group stayed for several hours.
"So what do you think of
my father?" Beren asked quietly as the others headed for
their means of transportation once the gathering was over.
"Quite a man," Richie
returned honestly, "I can see where you inherited your intelligence."
The young woman squeezed his
hand gently and took the compliment gracefully, it wasn't difficult
to see the adoration in the young Immortal's eyes.
"Do you think he approved
of me?" the young man asked tentatively, and nuzzled her
"Definitely," she returned
and pecked him on the cheek, "he let you in the house didn't
She locked her fingers in his
hair and drew his face towards hers and they kissed deeply for
the few moments before Paul came walking back up the path and
Richie said a very reluctant goodbye.
For once the principles of the
group were in bed before midnight, and the next day they had more
energy than ever. Beren, Richie and Chris spent their time together
as had become habitual and they met John and Angie for yet another
night out in the evening. Madelaine planned to go home on the
Monday and the Sunday night was reserved for a "family"
get together, so the youngsters had decided to make one last night
of it before things had to return to something like normal. Chris
had decided to stay for a while, but sooner or later life was
going to have to start revolving around work again. Mac and his
old friend had decided to spend a quiet evening at his home so
the five under twenty fives were on their own to party. It was
for this reason they ended up in the car park behind the Pizzazz
night-club at about one o'clock in the morning and the only person
who was totally sober was Beren because she had offered to do
the driving. They were all very happy and Richie almost forgot
what the heavy weight in his coat was as he pulled it out from
under the seat so no-one would step on it. Why he'd brought his
sword he wasn't quite sure but when instinct told him to do something
these days he did it even if his conscious brain didn't really
know it was doing it.
However as his brother stood
up and leant on the car to allow Angie to slip past him, Chris
patted his trouser pocket and grunted in a most annoyed fashion.
"Damn," he said loudly and spun slightly drunkenly on
the spot so he was facing back the way they had come, "I
left my keys on the counter of the coat booth. I'll see you in
"We'll give you five,"
Richie chortled happily, "then we'll send out the search
It had been a good evening and
all but the driver were fairly merry although they had avoided
becoming blind drunk, and they found the statement hysterical
even though it wasn't particularly funny. Even Beren laughed,
caught up in the moment and very comfortable with her beau's arm
around her shoulder's. It was a warm night so the group decided
not to climb into the vehicle just yet, and they waited for Chris
under the blaze of an orange street lamp. They were very involved
in themselves, and they could have been forgiven for not noticing
the two men approaching from either end of the parking lot, even
Richie paid them no mind. It wasn't until they were nearly up
to the four that the young Immortal noticed the nearest of the
two, and still he wasn't alarmed, the man looked like an ordinary
business man in a dark grey suit.
However it was as the man in
question reached into his jacket that a familiar feeling ran down
Richie's spine, and suddenly he was very aware of everything around
the group and the gun under the "business" man's clothing
became very obvious. The young man put himself between his friends
and the newcomer as his eyes snapped round to try and locate the
other Immortal he knew was very close. His hand went to the hilt
of his sword automatically. By the time the man in grey had withdrawn
his weapon from it's holster the entire group could see there
was something very wrong, but only Richie had any clue what was
going on and even he was a little confused. All three of his mortal
companion's froze as they saw the gun, and at a quick glance it
was obvious they were covered from both sides as the even less
obvious hood also waved the barrel of a semi automatic in their
direction. Richie's eyes still scanned the car park for the Immortal,
and finally he saw the shadowed figure slowly walking towards
the group. He had no doubt what-so-ever as to who's henchmen the
two mortals were as a young looking blonde man moved into the
light. This stranger was quite openly carrying a finely crafted
sabre, and it didn't take a genius to realise exactly what this
Immortal wanted especially when he raised the weapon in a salute.
"Craven Manheim," he
said in a deceptively gentle voice that belied the fiery spark
in his eyes.
He was tall, at least two inches
over Richie's height and he wore very stylised, almost old fashioned
clothes that hinted at a love of some past century. The frock
coat was of the finest quality, tailored to a supple figure in
a cloth as black as the night, which was starkly contrasted by
the snow white shirt and cravat, which spilled over the collar
and cuffs in elegant ruffles. He was handsome in a very classic
way, and yet there was an eeriness about him, from the closed
expression on his face to the supple leather of boots that made
no sound on the tarmac. It would set any woman's instincts on
"This would not seem to
be a good choice of location," Richie said reasonably much
to his companions' amazement, hand very much still on his sword
hilt, but unwilling to enter into anything here if he could talk
his way out of it.
"Too bad," Manheim
replied without even blinking, "Richard Ryan, consider yourself
"It's your head," the
young Immortal returned with more confidence than he felt.
Knowing that he had no choice
in this matter he discarded the coat that hid his own weapon.
Beren's startled gasp dug deep into his soul, but for now there
were more pressing matters on his mind as he brought the rapier
into a defensive position.
"Let them go," he said
as the two viewed each other warily, "they have no place
"Ah but I do so love an
audience," the challenger returned glibly, and then smiled
coldly, "but don't be too concerned I have no immediate plans
to harm them."
"Richie, what's going on?"
Angie asked in a very taught voice as the Immortals circled each
"Just stay out of it,"
was all her friend replied with no emotion, "no matter what
you see stay out of it."
A stab of fear had hit Chris
the moment he walked out of the night club, and he'd come round
the side of the building very slowly as instinct led him to be
very careful indeed. Hidden in the shadows his dark jacket almost
made him part of the wall and he watched in growing horror at
the spectacle which played itself out in front of him. Every fibre
in his twins being was trying to send him a message, but their
link was tenuous over the chasm of Immortality and all he could
feel was a faint urge to stay hidden. This was however a man who
was smart enough to heed the advice and even though his heart
screamed at him to help, his brain kept him hunched in the shadows
recording every detail of what he could see.
The first move came with no warning
at all as Manheim swung at his opponent in a sweeping arc, but
Duncan's coaching had done a great deal for Richie, and the young
Immortal was ready for the attack. He parried with a skill that
made it very plain to his friends he had done this before. Metal
crashed against metal, but perversely Ryan had the distinct impression
that his adversary was not really trying all that hard because
in no way was he stretching the comparatively young Immortal's
swordsmanship. Craven had a good few years behind him, that much
was plain even to Richie's relatively inexperienced eyes, and
yet the younger of the two found he could fend off his competitor's
attack with much less than his full ability, and then move into
the offensive easily. His assault was ferocious and two strokes
later he had beaten the blonde man backwards as sparks flew from
the clash of steel, but still he couldn't shake the felling that
Craven was not really trying, so he didn't push it too far. He
held back, waiting for the sudden flurry of movement which would
reveal the power that he could feel emanating from an Immortal
who he felt held at least as many years as MacLeod if not more.
Their weapons clashed a few more times, but it was obvious to
both combatants that neither of them was showing their true colours,
and Manheim grinned as they circled yet again.
"So young and yet not as
impulsive as I was led to believe," he commented as if he
knew a lot more about this situation than his opponent.
"You seem to have me at
a disadvantage," Richie replied coldly, he was annoyed but
he knew better than to let it cloud his judgement in this fight.
"Oh, I always make sure
I know everything about those I challenge," Craven told him,
and let fly another thrust which the younger of the two put aside
easily. "You keep improving at an incredible rate, maybe
I should have challenged you earlier. I've been away for a while
and when I got back this time I just couldn't resist the urge
to come find you, a sort of a spur of the moment idea."
the younger Immortal returned, aware by now that there was little
sanity left behind this man's blue eyes.
It was his turn now to produce
something his opponent wasn't expecting as his instincts found
a hole in Manhiem's current stance, and drove him to exploit it.
Richie didn't have the years of experience to help him in the
Game, but he had a gift for the fight which continually improved
and gave him what often appeared to be an almost psychic ability
to pre-empt his opponents moves. Duncan had noticed it, but he
had no intention of ever apprising his young friend of the fact,and
even as he used this uncanny feeling he was unaware of it. He
moved in rapidly and baited Craven with a quick flick to the right
and slipped in under the left side, gaining a strike on the older
man's arm before the other Immortal recovered and backed off.
"Very good, Ryan,"
Manheim said with genuine respect in his voice as he glanced at
the hole in his pristine jacket, "you live up to my expectations."
He smiled again in his distinctively
twisted way, and much to Richie's confusion he withdrew even further
as if he was no longer interested in the fight.
"I think I've seen enough,"
he said in a most unenlightening way, and his opponent heard the
movement behind him before he realised what was really happening.
The shot was just a dull thud
from the silenced gun, and the younger Immortal felt the pain
as he realised what that sound was whilst the bullet ripped through
his lung. He didn't fall immediately just swayed as all the air
left his body and glared at Manheim as his henchman came into
his line of view.
"That hurts," he said
perversely with what was left of his voice, and then Beren screamed
as the grey suited man raised his weapon again.
Richie made no move, there was
nothing he could do and he took his fate silently, collapsing
into a lifeless heap as the second projectile lanced through his
heart. His last thought was for his friends, and then there was
nothing except blackness.
Manheim made no move to stop
Beren as she ran, fell to her knees beside the man she loved,
and began to cry with the senselessness of it all. The murderer
picked up the fallen rapier and held it with a reverence his eyes
didn't mirror. It was then he found a woman's wrath aimed at him.
"Why," the young woman
screamed as all her anger and fear welled up at the same time
giving her a boldness that made the guns irrelevant.
The henchman ignored her pointedly,
and Craven just looked at her without comment as she turned her
eyes to him.
"Such a beautiful pawn,"
the Immortal said quietly, and then he also removed the question
from his mind. "Deal with this," he said to his aid,
and without another word turned and walked back the way he had
come, leaving behind him shock and horror on the faces of three
"Cuff him," the leading
assailant instructed his colleague and moved the distraught Beren
out of the way with the tip of the sword.
"But he's dead," Angie
exclaimed as the subordinate reached towards Richie's lifeless
body: the young woman was coming to the end of her endurance.
However for the first time their
assailant showed a little emotion, he smiled, and that silenced
anything else the hostages could have said.
"For now," he said
enigmatically and a black van pulled up beside the group. "Your
vehicle ladies and gentlemen."
The click of the handcuffs seemed
an absurdity to the three captives, but they had all come to the
same conclusion: their captor was as insane as his now absent
leader, so they huddled together in fear, afraid of what may happen
next. The driver of the van and the subordinate henchman loaded
Richie into the vehicle and then herded the other three into the
back after which they locked the rear door. The three strangers
then climbed into the cadged off cab and started the engine, wherever
their journey was to take them it had begun.
John detached himself from Angie
for long enough to make sure that their friend really was dead,
and to lay him out in a little more dignified a position, then
returned to his seat. His fiancee tried to comfort Beren who was
crying silently with little or no emotion on her face, but the
young English woman appeared to have cut herself off from the
real world. The events of the past few minutes were so incredible
as to be almost absurd and the victims held to each other for
Chris was sitting in the shadows
on the pavement having slid down the wall as he felt his brother
die. The reflected pain had gone as life had left Richie and the
shock was seeping through his twin's system as the consequences
of the momentary agony became clear. He had not been able to hear
anything said by the group across the carpark but he had watched
it all played out and he knew he had to do something. The death
of his twin, however, removed all coherence from his shocked brain
and for more than a few seconds he was lost in his own small world
of confusion. By the time a semblance of conscious thought returned
all he was left to see was the back of the van disappearing round
the corner and only one thought ran through his head. He climbed
to his feet as fast as he could and went for the only help of
which he could conceive, the same help Richie would have sought,
of Part 5