When Chris had reached MacLeod's
place he had been babbling incoherently as if his rationality
had taken the night off. It took Madelaine a good ten minutes
to calm him down enough to find out what had happened, and Mac
had to do a lot of interpreting as well. The Highlander gathered
that Richie had been attacked and was in human terms dead, but
not where this had occurred, or for that matter when. Now that
the link between the twins was half back in place it appeared
to have a profound effect on the way Chris reacted to his brother's
state of health. His sibling's death had apparently unhinged the
young man's reason, and only slowly was it returning as his mother
and her friend tried to talk to him.
The world was a very peculiar
place for the potential Immortal at that time, and everything
seemed somehow dreamlike as his mind tried desperately to locate
a brother who could not answer. A desperate need to help overwhelmed
all other thoughts in Chris's brain and it was difficult to concentrate
on the details of what had happened, but he tried frantically.
It had taken the young man quite some time to half run, half walk
across town, and as his brothers recovery became closer so did
his. By the time his mother had retrieved her sword from her hire
car, he was almost normal.
"We were, um, in the carpark
behind the Pizzazz," he explained slowly, "I had to
go back for my keys. When I came back out ..I felt danger. There
were three of them .. two with guns, one with a sword, and they
had surrounded the others. Richie and the other guy fought.. but
not as if they were really trying to kill each other. I couldn't
hear what they were saying but suddenly they stopped the fight
and .. and one of the other men shot Richie. I lost it for a bit
and when I came back to myself a van was speeding away, and I
couldn't see the licence plate."
His mind kept reliving the experience
and he was finding it difficult to vocalise.
"I felt him die, I felt
Richie's pain, and I felt the life leave him," he continued
as well as he could. "All I kept saying to myself was Find
MacLeod . I think it was Richie's last thought."
Chris was in considerable distress
but he was trying desperately to stay coherent, and Madelaine
put an arm around his shoulders comfortingly. Neither of the Immortals
could possible understand what he was going through, but they
were no less angry than him. Mac's face was stormy and getting
darker by the second, he objected violently to Immortals who used
back stabbing methods to challenge others, and he was furious.
He whirled into the other room and came back carrying his sword
in his hand as if he was ready to tear apart anyone who got in
"We're going to the car
park," he said firmly and pulled on his jacket quickly.
There were no objections from
the other two and all three left the house quickly, heading straight
for the Highlander's car, they were in quite a hurry. It was as
they reached the black vehicle that Chris gasped and almost bent
double at which point Duncan grabbed him to prevent him hitting
the tarmac. By the time he stood up again he looked much better
and the colour had returned to his face even though his eyes were
"He's back," he said
quietly, and the Highlander patted him on the back reassuringly.
In the time it had taken his
so called opponent to reach his control room, Richie had removed
his jacket and surveyed the entire room several times with his
eyes. The over garment may have offered some protection from the
promised traps, but the young Immortal suspected he was going
to need speed more than an extra layer, and the tailored top coat
was restricting. As far as he could tell there were no hidden
doors in the circular wall, and he surmised he was definitely
supposed to use one of the obvious exits so neatly and probably,
in one case, lethally provided. He'd spotted the camera in the
ceiling very quickly and it did not come as a surprise that he
would be watched all the way, in fact he suspected it was less
Craven's honour, than his love of the spectacle, which drove him
to kidnap his victims.
The shackle released with no
warning and the young Immortal's adrenaline shot up immediately
as the game began and his innate sense of danger kicked in with
full force, bringing all his senses to their sharpest. MacLeod
would have been proud of his pupil had he been there to see the
way he set about the task in front of him. He no- longer dwelt
on the fear inside, he just converted it to excited energy and
he drew all his faculties about him to warn of any threat. The
obvious option was to walk to the door on the level and leave
the same way Manheim had, but Richie's instincts screamed at him
as he approached.
"Oh that would be so disappointing,"
his captor said to everyone in general as they watched the large
screen from chairs arranged before it at the top of the house.
"They all go for the first door, I thought it was obvious
The control room consisted of
the viewing panel, three comfortable chairs arranged in front
of it, and a control board at which Craven was seated and anxiously
awaiting his captive's first move.
Despite what his hunch told him
the young Immortal almost reached out to take the handle of the
door, after all what could it hurt to just try it, but he stopped
half way. He couldn't convince himself to just act on impulse
and ignore the door, his rational mind was still too much in control,
but with half his senses trying to warn him something had to get
through. Instead of gripping the catch he just touched it with
the back of his hand and a spark arched from the metal as electricity
tried to ground itself through his body. The charge pushed him
backwards and there was a distinct thud where his torso would
have been in front of the wooden frame. Had he gabbed the door
handle he would have been paralysed by the current, and the arrow
that was protruding out of the oak panel would have been in his
back. He made a mental note to check all exits before using them,
and began to climb the ladder.
Chris rubbed the back of his
hand absently as they stood in the empty car park next to Beren's
still open hire car, and a shiver ran through him. He knew his
brother was in danger, but the feeling was indistinct and couldn't
tell him any details. It was like a timer inside his head, as
if something were counting down to an event, and he didn't know
what it was or what would happen when the clock reached zero.
Something caught the corner of his eye and he turned to see what
it was whilst Duncan examined the tyre marks on the tarmac, but
there was nothing there. The feeling of being watched settled
neatly between his shoulder blades, almost as if the eyes of the
universe had just fixed on him, and it gave him the most eerie
feeling. He almost tried to tell Mac that he felt something, that
there was something going on here he did not understand, but he
couldn't find the words.
"This vehicle has off road
tyres," the Highlander said and shook the young man out of
his contemplation, "and there's mud in the tracks. Whoever
took Richie and the others is not a city dweller, they come from
out of town."
"But where out of town?"
Madelaine asked rhetorically, and the three unusual people looked
at each other silently.
Richie's coat had still been
on the ground when the three had arrived, no-one had checked the
carpark after the incident and no-one had removed anything from
the scene, it was almost as if everyone knew that coming anywhere
near would mean trouble.
"There's just too much ground
to cover," MacLeod said with a fierce pummel of the ground,
and then he stood up.
Not even all his experience and
knowledge could help him now, there just wasn't enough information.
"I think it's time to call
in some favours," he said slowly and looked from Madelaine
to Chris and back again. "I think I know someone who will
know more about the Immortal's in the area than we do."
Both his companions looked surprised,
most Immortals considered themselves the best source of information
wherever they were, self- reliance was a must in their world.
"There's another Immortal
in the city that knows it better than you?" Madi questioned
curiously, MacLeod was known for being one of the most fastidious
of their kind.
"No," Duncan replied
evenly, "Dawson is mortal but he makes it his business to
know all about us."
His two companions looked rather
shocked, most Immortals considered themselves unobserved.
"He's a Watcher," the
Highlander elaborated slowly, "they've been observing us
for centuries. It wasn't until some of them went rogue and decided
to prevent the Gathering we found out about them, they were the
ones who killed Darius. Dawson has been a help in the past. If
there are other Immortal's in the area he'll know, or be able
to find out. Let's find a phone and I'll call him."
It was against Madelaine's principles
to rely on a mortal, especially one who's business it was to spy
on Immortals, but she was willing to do anything to get her son's
brother back. She didn't acknowledge the feeling consciously but
Richie brought out the mother in her just as Chris did, and she
was not a woman to come up against if you had crossed her.
The hatch at the top of the ladder,
as it turned out, lead into the same corridor as the electrified
one, and once he'd opened it cautiously, Richie jumped down into
an empty hallway. He heard the click as he landed and instead
of standing up, he rolled, which saved him from another arrow.
Craven obviously liked projectiles because this second one stuck
out from the exactly opposite position in the panel to the first.
In fact it was just where the young Immortal's chest would have
been had he risen to his feet as he had originally planned.
"He's good," Manheim
commented in his deranged fashion, as the next camera recorded
Richie's evasion tactics, "so unlike other young ones. Now
we'll see if he's intelligent as well as agile, if he is he may
even make the third level. That would be so entertaining."
Every nerve in Ryan's body was
on edge, and every fibre of his being was dedicated to surviving
at all costs. At every stage there appeared to be a choice of
routes to take, and once again there were two ways out. One of
these exits was a perfectly normal looking door, and the other
was a crawl way, both of which were in the end wall, and both
of which looked totally innocent. Logic said the door would be
booby-trapped and the hole would be safe if the more difficult
route, but Richie didn't trust logic, especially where Craven
was concerned. The older Immortal wasn't the methodical type,
in fact he was the artistic genius type, which suggested nothing
would be that predictable and for all Rich knew both exits were
Of course the ways out weren't
his first problem, before he would even get close to them, there
was the hallway itself, and the black and white chess board like
tiles made the young Immortal very nervous. The squares began
a quarter of the way down the corridor and ended at the same distance
from the other end, a distance the captive couldn't jump. On the
wall were inscribed the words "Darkness Falls" which
drew Richie to a halt, but didn't help much as he stared at them.
He had a sneaking suspicion that if he stepped on the wrong tiles
something nasty would happen, he'd played enough arcade games
in his time, and so he decided it best to test out this theory
before continuing. He fished his keys out of his pocket, quite
deliberately threw them at the chequered floor and waited, he
wasn't disappointed. As the metal objects landed on the middle
white square three jets of flame shot out of the wall and incinerated
the empty space where his body would have been, had he joined
his possessions on the board.
"Brain, Ryan," he told
himself quietly, "not brawn."
Quite a few Immortals played
chess, it was one game of which they never seemed to tire, and
Richie knew this, so he decided to focus on that idea since it
was the obvious one. He wasn't the greatest player in the world,
but with MacLeod as a mentor he could hardly have failed to pick
up the game, but this wasn't an evening in front of the fire with
the Highlander's board and pieces. The solution had to have something
to do with the inscription, but the young Immortal had never heard
a reference like it, and for a while it gave him no clues, that
was until he decided to try lateral thinking. Then a smile slowly
spread across his face as the meaning suddenly became clear.
"Very good, Manheim,"
he said aloud, "'Darkness Falls'... Knight Moves."
He walked to the edge of the
tiles and stood for a moment, sending up a silent prayer that
this wasn't just one of his opponents sick jokes, and then he
stepped onto the left knight's square. There was absolutely no
reaction from the flame throwers in the wall and so he took his
life in his hands and stepped two up and one to the right in his
first move. He held his breath, ready to leap out of the way if
anything happened but his educated guess had been right and he
was safe. Three more rapid moves took him to the other side of
the chess board, and with great relief he left the flames behind
him and took a moment to enjoy the small success.
Back in the viewing gallery Craven
smiled appreciatively, he may have been insane, but he liked to
see his system challenged. Richie was proving more entertainment
than the older Immortal had had in years.
The feeling of triumph lasted
only a few seconds, for once Ryan was not about to get cocky with
his situation, this was too important. Where a fool may have rushed
in sure that Craven, meant to make the way forward as difficult
as possible, this Immortal chose to check first. Sometimes the
young man may have been impetuous but he was definitely no fool.
One habit Richie had picked up as a child was collecting junk
in his pockets, and he'd never grown out of it. He had several
pieces of useless stuff in his trousers, even though he had just
been out for the evening. His pockets were somewhat like a black
hole, there was more matter in them than anyone would ever see,
and this time he fished out a small Koosch ball that just happened
to be nearest the top. With a flick of his wrist he propelled
the small rubber toy into the crawl space and waited.
The ball came to a halt quickly
about halfway down the little passage towards the hatch at its
end, and nothing untoward happened, but an instinct held Richie
back and he waited. A very powerful feeling ran through the young
Immortal as his eyes fixed on the projectile telling him there
was something wrong here, but still he was beginning to feel a
little stupid as the five second mark ticked past and he still
hadn't moved. Mind almost overcame heart, and then quite without
warning three evil looking metal spikes shot out of the grill
work in the crawl space to vindicate his caution. One came from
beneath and two from the upper diagonals, and had he been in the
tunnel they would have done the young Immortal some serious damage.
This trap had been on a delayed action, Richie just wondered how
long it would be before the sensors became more sophisticated
and ceased to trigger unless a living body was in the way. Now
the door way the only possible exit and so as the spikes withdrew
back into their sheaths he traversed the short distance to the
wall beside it.
Not wishing to find his life
extinguished by over confidence he flattened himself against the
paint-work and brushed the handle with the back of his hand, just
to make sure Manheim hadn't decided to boobytrap both ways out.
A trapdoor in the high ceiling above the centre of the chess board
opened at the contact, but nothing lethal entered the room, only
a key dropped on a short string. It dangled at that point in space
just high enough so Richie would have to jump for it and he had
a sinking feeling. He turned the handle and pushed, the door didn't
move, it was locked.
However the young Immortal didn't
fancy playing dodge the flames if he jumped and came down on the
wrong square, not to mention the fact that the rules could have
changed from this end, so he peered at the lock dubiously. He
fished in his pocket for the third time and pulled out what looked
like an ordinary penknife which wasn't a regular Swiss army at
all. He flicked it open and revealed several large, all purpose
skeleton keys and slipped the first one into the lock. It took
him a couple of seconds, but in under a minute the door swung
open and the next room was revealed.
"Never mess with a burglar,"
the young Immortal whispered to himself almost silently.
Earlier he'd really wished he
brought along the keys little brothers, but now he was glad he'd
brought any at all.
The little escapade, however,
did not please Craven, bypassing the challenges was not in his
idea of this game and he didn't like it at all. He hit a button
on the control panel viciously.
"Leave the skeleton keys,"
he said coldly, "they're against the rules."
He sounded like a spoilt child
having a tantrum, but that didn't change the fact that he was
holding Richie's friends, so reluctantly the Immortal placed them
on the floor.
"I didn't realise there
were any," he said to the world in general knowing that he
would be heard, but the dialogue was over.
The next room had a low ceiling
and very odd looking walls which did not bode well for Ryan, and
he entered very cautiously, this was going to be a very long night.
There were traps within traps,
puzzles and genuinely evil things ahead of the young Immortal,
but with senses peeled, a sharp instinct and genuine intelligence
he proceeded with only minor mishaps. He gained cuts and grazes,
scrapes and bruises but nothing that injured him adversely or
slowed him down, and he proceed through level one with cautious
speed. There was only one almost fatal mistake before the last
room of the first phase and that occurred three open rooms and
one two corridors after the chessboard. The challenge in the centre
of the chamber had been one of dexterity rather than intelligence
to do with beams and swinging axes which Richie had crossed easily.
He'd thanked MacLeod silently many times for drilling him in numerous
disciplines, and that was just one example.
It had been as he chose his exit
he had nearly come to the second sad end that night when he picked
the left not the right door, and tried to open it. None of his
careful testing had showed him the micro- switch in the door lock,
and as he'd walked through, a machine gun had started spraying
bullets in his direction. His quick reflexes had saved him and
allowed him to leap out of the way with only a flesh wound to
his leg. He'd seen the weapon before it began to fire and had
literally flung himself sideways in self preserving abandon, so
only a wayward limb had been anywhere near the firing line. Although
the wound hurt like hell it began to heal quickly in true Immortal
style and although he was limping for a while, by the time he
entered the last room with a large flight of stairs and two visible
doors announcing the next stage, he'd almost forgotten the small
groove in his flesh.
of Part 7