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Dividing of The Ways by Tasha

This is the first in the Dividing series, the others may be found at:


Part 6

No-one measured the amount of time they were driving, the journey just became one turning after another in petrified silence. None of the passengers had any sense of direction at all, they could have been going around in circles for all they knew, and it never really occurred to them to try and figure it out. John had his arms around Angie, and she was leaning on his chest in total silence as the now quiet Beren stared into space, trying not to look at Richie's body on the floor. They couldn't avoid glancing their friend's way every now and then, however, because the seats they were occupying ran parallel to the van's sides. They were facing inwards, and half the time there was nowhere else to look. Their captors had said nothing to them since they had started to drive and no-one spoke, not even in whispers, it would almost have been sacrilegious to disturb the quiet.

That was why the shuddering breath and loud groan were so startling, and woke the three captives from their catatonia. Richie's eyes opened onto the half light of the single bulb in the van, and he curled slightly where his healing wounds pulled with shadows of the past pain. He'd experienced the ache of re-emergence before, but it consumed him even so, and it took a second or so to remember why it was present. His hands came up automatically at which point he saw and felt the handcuffs, and the assault came back to him in a sudden flash.

"Welcome back, Mr Ryan," the man who had shot him said as he turned at the sound, "you recover quickly, that will be good."

The young Immortal sat up rapidly ignoring the last of his recovery and came to his knees facing the cold visage of their captor. He'd noted his three aghast friends in a single glance, and his eyes shone with fury.

"What the hell's going on?" he demanded loudly, his voice a little hoarse from the not quite healed lung damage.

"You'll find out soon enough," his captor returned calmly and almost lost interest, "we are nearly at our destination."

Richie's fingers curled around the cage work, and he pulled himself up so they were nose to nose. The violence every Immortal carried inside them was very close to the surface, and a small spark of healing fire lit up the front of his shirt and almost made him a spectre from hell.

"Why are they here?" he asked angrily in respect to his companions, this was not good at all and there was no way he was going to let it go without a fight.

"To obtain your co-operation," the dark suited man returned, "play along and they will not be hurt. I doubt very much whether they'd prove to be as resilient to death as yourself."

"You bastard," was all the Immortal could verbalise, and if looks could have killed, the man in the front seat of the van would have been long dead in a myriad of gruesome and painful ways.

"Remove your fingers from the metal work, Mr Ryan," the man said in an infuriatingly reasonable voice, "and sit down. When we arrive you'll know about it, this conversation is over."

The only emotion in the individual was in his eyes, and Richie did not like what he saw, which was enough to make him swallow his own fury and obey quietly. He came face to face with three people who looked at him as if he had two heads and they weren't quite sure who the bad guys were anymore. He glanced down at his stained shirt regretfully and realised his relationship with these people had changed forever.

"I'm sorry," he said quietly, and looked from one disbelieving set of features to another, "you shouldn't be here."

He didn't know what else to say to them, or how to explain, he most certainly didn't want to try with three unfeeling brutes listening in on everything. He needed time to think, but he had no idea of how many minutes or hours he had left, and it filled him with conflicts. There wasn't long to wait however, as shortly thereafter the van rolled over some sort of grid work and Richie felt the presence of another Immortal for the second time.

"Please," he said as they drew to a halt, "do what they tell you no matter what you see. Do not get yourselves killed because of me."

Before he could say anymore the back doors of the van opened and fluorescent light filtered in on the motion less captive.

"Out," was the one instruction and Richie obeyed first even though his co-ordination appeared to be the slowest one of his motor activities to return and he was a little unstable.

He was conscious and vaguely capable of defending himself, but one of the guards had to catch him by the arm to prevent him falling as he stepped out into the garage area. The two gun shot wounds had been designed for maximum damage and although Immortals recovered fast it still took them some time. The other three followed him out of the van and they were lined up on the concrete like so many dolls in a shop window. One of the silent henchmen came round the side of the van carrying Richie's sword and it annoyed the Immortal so much that he forgot caution. He also hoped to make sure everyone's attention was on him and not his friends.

"Watch that," Richie said, a sarcastic edge to his voice, "didn't your mother ever tell you it's dangerous to play with sharp objects."

The man ignored him in the most infuriating manner.

"Your anger is understandable," Craven's calm voice commented as he walked out from behind the van, "but it is pointless to turn it on my subordinates. Keep it inside Ryan, you'll need everything you have for later and fury is such a useful emotion."

"Will you tell me what this is all about?" the young Immortal asked pointedly, he was in no mood for chit chat and he wanted answers.

"In time," the other returned evenly as his employee handed him Richie's blade. "A very nice weapon," the older Immortal commented as he tested the balance in his hand," and old too."

"A friend gave it to me," Richie replied acidly, hostility seeping from every pore.

In the bright light of the underground garage it was easier to see Manheim and the three captive mortals had their first real look at him. To their eyes he appeared to be in his mid thirties and he'd changed the black jacket Richie had holed earlier, for one of blood red. He was a frightening figure with silver blonde hair and archaic taste in clothes. He smiled blandly at his captive's previous comment and the acid in the tone.

"You know you should be honoured," he said with an unidentifiable accent slipping into his voice, "normally with one as young as yourself I would have finished the battle at the first encounter. It's only because I have a healthy respect for your sword arm that I am going about this the way I am. You convinced me not to risk direct confrontation in your case, you do your instructor no end of justice and you do have a reputation for surviving against all the odds. Quite an unusual ability in one with so short a time in the Game."

Most of this went straight over the heads of the three mortal captives and they stood in fascinated silence as the atmosphere in the underground space became electric. They knew they were missing most of the explanation for this incident, but what they were beginning to hear drew them in, even as it alienated them.

"Fine, I'm impressed," Ryan said coldly, his tone underlining that he really didn't give a damn, "but they should not be here."

He indicated his companions with a quick jerk of his cuffed wrists.

"They are not involved," he insisted earnestly, "they are not part of the Game and have nothing whatsoever to do with this."

A sharp bark of a laugh was the first answer he received and then Craven replied.

"Oh but they are players by association," the individual told him evenly, "well not really players, they're your friends and that makes them pawns. Your attachment to mortals is one of your weaknesses, I gave it up centuries ago. My associates are useful, but they are here only because I pay them, they are quite aware I have no feelings for them."

The Immortal walked towards his quarry and Richie found himself standing very still as Manheim held the sharp blade to his neck. The feeling of cold steel did a lot to steady the younger's balance, and he was motionless.

"The years haven't quite robbed me of every atom of honour I once held dear," the blond man said quietly, "which I'm sorry to say is my weakness. I can't quite bring myself to remove your head while you stand here, as much as I'd rather. You could of course surrender and save us both some time, but..."

The glare the cuffed individual gave him said everything, Richie was well on his way to being able to really hate this Immortal.

"No, well I thought not," Craven continued whimsically, "just an idea, but you're going to loose anyway. In a short time you'll be fully recovered and then we'll talk again, before the game begins in earnest. I suggest you take the time to explain what's happening to your friends, they appear to be a little confused. You have ten minutes, Ryan, then we play this out."

He indicated to his henchmen and they herded the prisoners towards a large grey door in the nearby wall. Before very long the four were locked behind it. Richie didn't even try to resist, there was no point, and it might just provoke Manheim into taking his head no matter what his principles told his conscience, so they were alone. The young Immortal watched the black suited man walk away through the slot in the door, and then he slowly turned to see three frightened and puzzled faces.

"You were dead, Richie," Angie said quietly with a look in her eyes that implied she was unsure of one of her oldest friends.

"Yes," the young Immortal replied honestly, "you could say that."

He moved across to the opposite side of the cell from his friends and slowly slid down the wall into a semi-comfortable sitting position. They were obviously uncomfortable with him, and he didn't want to put any more pressure on them than was already being exerted, so he stayed away from their group.

"Things have changed considerably since you last saw me, Ange," he said slowly in an attempt to begin an explanation, "I discovered a few things about myself and my relationship to the rest of the world."

A deep breath proved that his lung had healed, but he shifted uncomfortably at the slightly tender feeling under his ribs. Very soon there would be no sign he had ever been hurt, let alone died, and somehow he had to explain why to his companions.

"There is a race of men and women who live a lie," Richie started again, "they pretend to be like everyone else but they're not. We are Immortal, ignorant from birth of our heritage we grow and age normally until we die for the first time, then we join the Game. The Gathering pulls us together and we fight each other for the power of the Quickening, the sum total of our opponents energy, released when an Immortal's head leaves his or her body. That's the only was to kill our kind, separate the head from the body and we die, shoot us, stab us, burn us and we keep coming back. We all carry swords and we all battle our enemies whether we want to or not, some of us would rather not take part, but we don't argue when faced with another of our race wielding a sword."

He could see that his companions were not quite taking this all in so he decided to try again, a little more directly this time.

"I cannot die in any way but having my head sliced off," he told them bluntly to shake them out of their shocked stupor. "Any other injury can lay me out, but I will recover and start breathing again. You are here because Craven wants my head and he has some sick notion of honour for which he needs my co-operation. We're not in Kansas anymore, do you understand?"

They stared at him silently for a moment as the directness allowed the information to seep in. Finally Beren decided to speak, but there was still confusion in her eyes.

"You talk about cold blooded murder so calmly," she said quietly, unable to resolve this blood splattered individual with the man she loved.

"I am far from calm," he told her a little more gently, "and I don't like killing anymore than you do. Murder is an alien concept to many who live by rules that tell us There can be only one, it's simply survival."

The young English woman looked as if someone had just told her the world was about to end, and that hurt Richie more than any bullet could possibly do.

"Death becomes common to Immortals because they see so much of it," the young man said quietly. "Your father's Brother Darius wasn't a succession of different monks, he was the same man. He chose the church because holy ground is the only place we will never do battle, and he was cut down by mortals interfering where they had no business. Darius was two thousand years old, and if he had been the last of us the human race would have been safe from danger. If someone like Craven wins the prize, the culmination of the power of every Immortal who ever lived, mortals will see darkness as they have never imagined."

He laughed quietly to himself.

"It's highly unlikely that I will see even the last years of the Gathering," he admitted slowly, "I don't have enough experience, and one of my brethren will most probably get the better of me one day, although I am going to do my damnedest to make sure it's not Manheim. The hope of mankind lies in the hands of men like, MacLeod, good men who have a chance of winning and who'll leave mortals to find their own destiny even when he knows better."

"Then MacLeod got you into this," Angie said definitely, trying to rationalise all this her own way.

That made her old friend laugh a second time, she'd missed the point.

"Duncan acted as my protector," the Immortal explained in a semblance of calm, "his presence kept everybody's attention away from me. I've been in ..this..," he made a sweeping gesture with his bound hands, "since the day I was born, and Mac recognised me for what I was the moment I burgled his shop. Immortals sense each other and to him I stood out like a sore thumb, and therefore to every other of our kind in close proximity. I knew what he was when I left here, but I had no idea what I was, and he did his damnedest to make sure I wasn't thrown into the deep end. No-one gets into the Game, the lucky ones just find out the rules before they loose their heads."

After this John just looked devastated, after all Richie did break every physical law he'd come to hold dear. Through out their conversation the young Immortal had been examining the bonds which held his wrists about three inches apart, but as he finished speaking he gave up, the lock was very sure. There was a great divide between himself and his friends now and the fact that they were on one side of the room and he the other only went to underline the fact. They all looked absurdly out of place in their best clothes, huddled in a dingy cell and Richie's distracted mind stored it away as another peculiar observation. Part of his brain noted that he'd need a new shirt and trousers if he ever got out of this, even the best stain removers would not be able to shift the blood all over his current outfit, the rest of his mind was still working on the current problem.

"Craven as you may have noticed," the Immortal began eventually, realising that ten minutes was not long enough to explain everything but might just be long enough to convince his friends of how to stay alive, "is a little crazy. He's a good deal older than he looks and he's had many years to nurse his psychosis, so don't upset him. You may just be here as window dressing, and there's a good chance he'll let you go if he wins since her sees mortals as pretty irrelevant. Do not give him any excuse to hurt you. Do not go up against him on any account, you will loose."

He looked into each pair of eyes separately to make sure his message was clear, they had all understood him perfectly.

"Oh and if I don't make it go straight to MacLeod," he told them plainly, "and tell him everything, because I expect Manheim will be gunning for him next. Going to the police would just be a waste of their time and yours, Immortals cover their tracks, I know, I told Sergeant Powell all about sword wielding crazies and look where I ended up."

Richie was putting a brave face on it, but there was just that hint of fear in his eyes, he did not want to die. Immortality had its good points and its bad points, and this was one of the real lows. The young man really didn't think he had much chance of making it out of this one with his head in place. Beren saw this reflected in his gaze for just a moment as the frustration at the immovable handcuffs allowed the mask to slip, and she could no longer isolate herself from her feelings for him. Slowly she left the close proximity of the comforting presence of Angie and John, and walked over to where the young Immortal was sat. Her earlier tears had left streaks down her face and she wiped them away with one hand as she looked down at him. He gazed back silently for a few seconds unable to hide his love for her, for him nothing had changed, but she had an instinctive anxiety to deal with. They were no longer the same in her eyes, he was so vastly different that it frightened her, and yet she still felt for him.

"Would you have told me?" she asked quietly, not yet willing to touch him, after all her logical mind said he was still dead.

Richie blinked up at her a moment before answering.

"Yes," he replied truthfully, "I would have explained eventually. It's not something we do lightly and I hadn't decided how to tell you yet. I thought I would have more time."

With a childlike fascination she crouched down beside him and touched the deep red stain on his shirt just above the ragged hole in the cotton. It was such a hard idea to grasp, so much damage healed in so short a time, these outer indications were really all that was left of his injuries.

"Is Chris Immortal too?" the young English woman enquired, and felt the slight dampness on her fingers.

"He will be," her beau returned quietly, "but he isn't in the Game yet. Madelaine found him and adopted him because she realised what he would grow into. She's one of the good guys too."

He smiled at Beren a little sadly and took hold of her hand, there was so much he wanted to tell her and so little time.

"I feel the same as you," he said earnestly, "I'm not some creature from the seventh hell. I'm not going to turn into some grotesque monster with three heads and claws that tear victims to pieces. I cannot grow old and die, I cannot father children, and I have to look over my shoulder for men and woman with swords but that is it, I am no demon."

"No," his beautiful companion acknowledged quietly, "you're not are you."

It would probably have been easier on all of them if he had been some kind of thing, at least then they would have been able to despise him as not even human. The young woman released her fingers from his grasp and pressed her palm to his chest in an instinctive reaction to the words. His heart beat was strong and firm where not so long ago it had been non-existent, and he felt so alive.

"I love you as I have never loved another person on the face of this planet," Richie told her passionately. "I would do anything for you, anything in my power, and I knew that the moment I first saw you."

Finally the reality of the situation became belief in Beren's mind and the present was very clear. It didn't matter what Richie was or where he was going, she wanted to be there, and very soon she may loose him. With her free hand she grasped one of his and moved closer, aware only of him.

"I give you my heart, Richard Ryan," she said with definite certainty, the confusion gone and the plain facts her only guide, "and when we get out of this I want to spend the rest of my life with you."

With no hesitation he sat forward and they kissed as if it were their last act in this existence.

"I'll be there," he promised earnestly.


It seemed like only a heartbeat later that the door opened, and the grey suited man stood in the entrance waiting for them to react. He still presented a facade of no emotion, but his eyes gave away how much he enjoyed seeing these people squirm, and Richie made sure he was always between this mercenary and his friends. They were marched up a flight of steps close to the garage's well locked gates and into a round room with three doors, including the one through which they were guided. Two of the entrances were perfectly normal looking ways in to the room with solid oak doors on what appeared to be well built hinges, but the third was only small and was situated at the top of a metal ladder, about ten feet off the ground. The way they had entered closed behind them with a loud and very final bang and locked automatically with an audible click, Richie assumed it was for his benefit, the other's didn't take any notice of it.

"Put your ankle in that," their escort instructed Richie calmly and indicated a manacle on a short rod next to their entrance.

The Immortal did as he was told and the thing snapped shut automatically securing him to the wall very effectively and annoying him as it tightened the moment he moved. He was now fully recovered from his previous experience and everything he saw he remembered just in case there were weaknesses to be exploited. Once he was restrained, however, he had very little time to look around the room because the door opposite opened and Craven walked through, dressed now in what appeared to be a fencing suit. He walked more like a dancer than a warrior, and the young Immortal noted this for the second time that evening. Quite to Richie's surprise the older individual produced a key and efficiently removed the cuffs, so releasing his captive's hands. The young man rubbed his wrists to start the blood circulating properly again, and gave himself a moment to wonder what the hell was going on.

"I decided some time ago," Manheim began evenly, "that the Game needed to be a little more interesting, so I designed this place, or rather places like this one, as a sort of arena. It's surprisingly portable in essence, I have fitted this design to several different locations now, and you are the third to grace this ones corridors. There are three levels to this building and the idea is to find the way up to the control room where I will be waiting. If you make it to the end of the first level I will release your two attached friends, if you reach the end of the second I'll free your woman, and if you make it to the end of the third you'll find your sword and me. Of course there are traps and pitfalls between here and the top of the house, and I'll give you three lives. If you die for a third time you will not be given the luxury of ever waking up again and I shall take your head with no qualms. I have to warn you that neither of your predecessors made it past level two."

"They weren't me," Richie replied calmly and stared his captor straight in the eye.

This statement only succeeded in amusing the insane Immortal, and he laughed as he waved at his employee.

"Take them along," he instructed cheerfully, and the henchman herded the three mortals towards the door.

Remembering Richie's warning they moved off in obedient silence, and Beren sent one last look of love towards her beau before she disappeared from sight.

"When we are safely in the control room," Craven said as he turned to leave, "that restraint will release and the game will begin. Don't disappoint me, I would so hate to have to hurt or kill one of your friends to make you play along."

He smiled nastily, the madness of long isolation in his eyes, and then he was gone, leaving Richie to survey his surroundings. It was like some manic computer game only this wasn't virtual reality.

End of Part 6