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
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
"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
"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
"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
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
"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
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
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
"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
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
"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
"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
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
"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
"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
"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.
of Part 6