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Dividing of The Ways by Tasha

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

 

Part 10

Nobody even considered stopping until they were well away from the house, under the shelter of the bank where MacLeod had parked. They'd met Joe on the way out, and the doctor and his fiancee had taken an arm each to speed his progress back to safety once Duncan had acknowledged him. Two other vehicles were now also in the masked spot along with several of Craven's employees. All had guns. As soon as everybody stopped running the grey suited man, who now had a second gash from his tussle with Madi, rounded on what he considered the enemy, and made sure his gun was pointed at the mortals. At his action every other armed hireling, including the oriental Richie had finished off earlier, two women who had never been seen by anybody before, and the two men from the van, did the same.

"Put those away, all of you," Manheim snapped before the situation could go any further, "your services are no longer required."

All the mortals in the area looked quite astonished, but not one of their peculiar companions seemed particularly surprised, especially Chris who, now awake, helped MacLeod put his unconscious brother on the ground.

"Evans," Craven continued as his people hesitated, "did you hear what I said: any minute that building will be wiped off the face of this mountain and with it goes any need I have of you. All your wages will be paid for three months from now, but our professional relationship is over as of this moment. I expect you to make sure everyone gets the message, Evans, and I don't expect to ever see any of you again."

It was cold and emotionless, exactly as he had always dealt with his employees, and it had exactly the effect he desired. Each one was a mercenary after all and an order was an order: they were only in it for the money in their overseas bank accounts, so slightly confused, but obedient they dispersed down the mountain and out of their employer's life.

"What the hell's going on?" Angie demanded as the hirelings disappeared.

She wasn't sure who she was most mad at; Craven for what he had put them through, or Duncan who appeared to have forgotten that he and Manheim were enemies.

"Is this some twisted part of your Game," she almost shouted, "Richie didn't kill him so you're all suddenly best friends."

All the Immortals looked at each other; they weren't exactly sure why they weren't trying to hack Craven's head off either.

"No, that's not it," Madelaine finally said, "the only rule that applies now is all three of us can't attack him at once. What you just witnessed has never happened before, we're a little confused ourselves."

That stumped the auburn haired woman somewhat: she'd only found out about Immortals just under four hours ago, and to realise that not even they knew everything about themselves was quite a blow. The conversation was, however, halted for a moment as one hell of an explosion made everyone duck, and debris landed in the road around them.

"What did happen?" Dawson asked tentatively; all he had seen was what looked from the outside like a normal Quickening.

He had been most surprised when all the Immortals had emerged with their heads intact.

"We shared a Quickening," Duncan said quietly, still not quite sure how to explain it.

"But whose?" Madelaine added her own question.

"It's us you see," Chris said as he picked himself up off the ground, "Richie and me: we break the biggest rule we have. The first law of the Game is There can be only one and we can never be just one: we could never kill each other. I don't really understand what happened back there, I was a little busy dying, so all I can say is that we are the Immortal butterfly causing the hurricane."

Mac decided he had better explain few things for the bemused mortals.

"The energy was what we call a Quickening," he explained slowly for the benefit of those who didn't know, "I don't know how much Richie explained, but its the power we carry inside us, and it usually only ever happens to one of us at a time. This one changed us, and that includes Manheim. We don't know exactly how, but one thing is for sure, he's not mad anymore."

All eyes turned to the blond Immortal who appeared somewhere between apologetic and completely lost in remorse: it was easy to see this was not the same mad tyrant who had imprisoned half of them. Twenty minutes ago, that MacLeod would have even considered defending this man would have been incomprehensible, but since then the incomprehensible had happened and now no-one was sure what to think. Their reverie was disturbed by a scrambling behind them and they turned to find Richie stood up with sword in hand, staring at them wildly. His face was filled with confusion and fear, and he took a step backwards as they faced him.

"Richie, are you all right?" Duncan asked anxiously and made to go towards him, only to be stopped as the sword came up.

"Stay back, MacLeod," Chris said urgently, "he doesn't know you, and he'll go for your head."

For his part, the other twin didn't seem to comprehend anything that was being said and he waved the sword dangerously. Mac took the hint, but Chris did not seem to be heeding his own advice and stepped towards his brother.

"Be careful," Madelaine hissed as the confused Immortal took a defensive pose.

"Don't worry, Mother," her son returned calmly, and put his hands out in a show of friendship to his bewildered twin, "he can't kill me."

None of the others were so sure about that statement, but they didn't interfere, Chris sounded so confident. However, as he approached, Richie did not seem to share the same opinion: he gave an incoherent cry as the sense of his brothers presence became unavoidable, and aimed a blow directly at his sibling's neck. Milliseconds turned to hours as all saw the blade descend towards the newest Immortal's one vulnerable point, and no-one was close enough to stop it. Madi shouted and moved, but her son seemed totally calm even as death came towards him and then a hairs breadth from his brother's throat, Richie's sword sparked and stopped. Energy rippled down the weapon and up the twin's arm and he folded into an untidy heap a foot away from where he had been before. Everyone stunned, that is except Chris who had been unsure of the method, but absolutely positive that his sibling could not remove his head, ever. He bent down slowly and picked up the fallen sword from his brothers limp hand.

"Sorry, Rich," he said quietly, "but you need the sleep."

"Let's get out of here," Madelaine said suddenly before her brain could be total shocked into stasis. "This place will be crawling with police and fire crews very shortly."

"Point taken," Duncan returned with the emotionless practicality Immortals seemed to be able to invoke when the situation required it. "My place: everybody."

He looked at Craven pointedly.

"I know where it is," he said quietly.

"Beren, Chris and Richie in my car," the Highlander decided quickly, "Angie, John and Joe with Madelaine in one of those Discoveries and Manheim in the other."

Nobody chose to argue.

Beren had made no comment on anything since her rescue, all she was really concerned about at the moment was Richie and she laid his head in her lap gently, inside the car. Chris and Duncan climbed into the front seats, and then they were on their way.

"I knew something was going to happen the moment Evans shot Richie," the newest Immortal said suddenly after a few moments contemplative silence. "I wanted to tell you about it since the car park, but I just couldn't. Richie'll be fine when he wakes up: he just needed grounding."

These few words were said with such complete certainty that Mac didn't really know what to say to the man sitting next to him: it was so strange, even for an Immortal.

"Beren," he chose to share his attention between driving and the young English woman instead, "are you all right?"

"I'll be fine," she replied with unusual calm, "Craven didn't do anything to us, just Richie. He was going to let us go, we were only there to make Richie play the game. It was like a lethal crystal maze: all traps and puzzles with no way out.

He was completely insane wasn't he, and that... Quickening cured him."

There was a moments silence as Mac considered his reply.

"The man I challenged," he began slowly, "and the man who walked out of that building are not the same person, I'd swear to it. I don't know why, but inside I feel something happened to him a long time ago and it made him the man you met, but the power brought back the original. I can't say I would trust him, but I know the man in that car is not evil."

"I believe you," the graduate responded quietly, "I watched the lightening take him: he changed."

It was quite a statement for a woman who had been through considerable trauma only a few short minutes before, and it left Duncan lost for words a second time. That didn't bother Beren, however, she had resolved everything within herself in her own way, and reconciled her fear with her current attitude to everything. Her life would never be the same, it had changed the moment Richie had fallen to the tarmac in a night-club car park, and was irreversibly different, but the feeling of love in her heart wiped away all else. She had seen more of the Immortal's soul that night than she could ever have otherwise, and strangely she did not regret it. So long as her love came back to her, and soon, she didn't care what it meant for her unplanned life.

=====================================================================

Everyone contemplated their own thoughts until the convoy drew up outside the dojo.

Chris gently hoisted his brother onto his back when they reached their destination, and then everybody headed towards the building. The one person they were not expecting to meet was stood in the porch of the dojo, and it brought everyone to a halt.

"Daddy," Beren said, probably the most surprised to see her father waiting for them outside the martial arts studio, "what are you doing here?"

She was uncomfortably aware that she was holding a sword: in fact the only one who seemed to have hidden his weapon was Duncan, nobody else had bothered.

"I have something to discus with your knew friends," he replied, and eyed the blades as if they would reach out and strike him at any minute.

He didn't seem to be quite sure whether he should be hostile or not, and it was causing emotions to travel straight across his face in a rapid torrent.

"Then you'd better come in," MacLeod said evenly: the man obviously had something important to say and no mater what else was on his mind, Duncan knew Paul Danworth was not going to go away.

Something in the way he looked at them as Mac opened the door told most of those who had seen it before, exactly what was going on.

"How did you find out?" MacLeod asked quite calmly as he switched on the lights and led everyone to the elevator.

"Darius," the historian replied nervously, and gained a very startled look from his host. "He sent me a peculiar letter several years ago: half of it was in a language I had never seen before. Tonight I sat down on a whim and it's linguistics were obvious: I translated it with no problem at all." He paused and viewed them all as they reached the upper floor. "How many of you are the Immortals he wrote about?"

The group looked at each other and exchanged glances in a slow concord of agreement.

"Me, Richie, Chris, Madelaine and this is Craven," Mac admitted smoothly, "and if Darius told you about us he had a very good reason."

His brother was getting heavy, and as the older man nodded and slowly fished in his pocket, Chris took Richie towards the bed on Duncan's indication, closely trailed by Beren. Much to the Highlander's surprise Paul pulled a small leather bound book out of his coat and handed it to him with a resigned frown.

"With the letter came this," the older looking said quietly, "and the English part told me to keep it safe, in trust for a history I would never believe. The second half explained about you and that I was to give it to you."

The hand written document appeared to be very old and Duncan flicked a few pages as soon as he touched it, but he looked up a little confused.

"I tried to decipher it once," Paul admitted, "but I had no success. I wasn't supposed to was I?"

"With Darius," MacLeod returned honestly, "you never could tell. He was one of the wisest of us, the most peaceful by far, and he always knew more than he told anyone."

Various members of the group filtered into the room and found places to sit as Beren and Chris carefully removed Richie's footwear and put him to bed. Duncan took a moment to really study the old book carefully; mildly surprised at the sturdy state of the pages, but there was one problem he could not get over. A crease started forming on his brow as he read, or rather, tried to read the cursive script, but the slightly browning ink words were as incomprehensible to the Immortal as they were to Paul. This was one language Darius had never tried to teach his one time pupil: in fact, inside was an added note in the ancient Immortal's hand formed runes, that plainly said he had only been able to partly translate it himself.

"I can't read this," the Highlander admitted, after a few moments. "The only thing I understand is the old man's note which, by the way, is addressed to me."

He passed the document to Madelaine who had a little history in ancient languages from youthful study, but she shook her head as well.

"Craven," MacLeod said at the two failures, "have you met anything like this."

After all Manheim was the oldest Immortal in the room so it was a valid enquiry. He stood up and walked over, at which point Paul noticed the large blood stain on his outfit.

"What have you people been doing?" the middle aged man asked: somewhat shocked.

"Fighting," Chris enlightened him honestly as the older Immortal flicked through the book. "We were enemies a very short time ago and none of us know exactly what happened to change that. I've been Immortal for all of forty five minutes, but I'm not the only one who is as confused as hell."

Craven handed the volume back to MacLeod with and apologetic shrug.

"I'm sorry," he confessed in a gentle voice that belied all that the others had seen of him, "it means nothing to me."

The last ditch attempt was Joe, but the Watchers wide experience did not include the strange script.

"Darius wasn't the type to do something like this without being sure," the bearded man said as he gave up trying to read the manuscript, "we must be missing something."

"This makes about as much sense as the rest of this morning," the Highlander said, at a loss. "Maybe one of his dreams didn't come true."

They'd all had just about as much as they could take and Mac abandoned the book to the table, and flung the one of his cabinet wide to reveal rows of bottles.

"Who wants a drink?" he asked pointedly, and stood aside so his companions could see the selection: no-one said no.

There were feeling cursing through Beren that both frightened and excited her, and she would not leave Richie's side. She ran her fingers gently through his hair and traced the lines of his smile on his face. Suddenly her mind was full of him and she had to fight down the urge to tear the rest of his clothes off: she wanted him and soon. It was the most intense sexual desire she had ever felt and it took effort to ignore it. Beren's experience in this area was not large and the strength of her hormones' pull took her by surprise. The young English woman had a simple rule by which she lived: her upbringing (some would call it old fashioned) dictated that she keep her virginity intact until there was a ring on her finger, and she figured this was a good plan unless she had a very good reason to do otherwise. Quite simply, up until now she had never met anyone to whom she had wanted to give up her maidenhood, but Richie was a different matter entirely. Her heart beat seemed to pound through her entire body, and to ease her desire she kissed his unresponsive lips and tried to push her hormones to a manageable level.

"Do any of you have an inkling as to what happened today?" Dawson decide it was his place to try and break some of the Immortals' confusion once they all had their drinks.

"When I died," Chris gave them his interpretation of events, "something clicked into place: something that's been waiting to happen for a long time. A Quickening came through Richie and it took us all. It joined us together."

Duncan nodded his agreement.

"In four hundred years I've never felt anything like it," he continued the description from an older point of view. "The power gave us something, but it also dragged it out of us, and I for one could now tell you exactly where every Immortal is sitting in this room, and who they are, without looking. The buzz of their Immortality isn't the same anymore: it's personal."

"I agree," Madi put in to back up her old friend, "it's as if I can suddenly see them as individuals rather than just Immortals."

"On the way here I tried to remember what it was like to want to kill you all," Craven admitted quietly, since they were trying to collate information, "I couldn't. It wasn't just as if the desire had come from another person, it was just inconceivable, but when I considered a few other Immortals of my acquaintance the thoughts were still there."

All eyes were on him, and there was silence for a moment.

"I tried a similar thing," MacLeod admitted almost guiltily, "my rational brain told me I should want to remove your head, Craven, so I tried to work myself up to it after the event. No matter what thoughts went through my mind I just couldn't think of you as an enemy, and the warrior in me really tried, hard."

"What about others," Joe asked; fascinated by the situation, "can you conceive of taking any of your old enemies heads?"

For a moment the Highlander ran images through his mind's eye of those Immortals he had met in the past and parted on bad terms.

"No problem," he said eventually: the fighter in him was in no way gone.

"Incredible," the Watcher said, unable to hide his enthusiasm, "I'm sitting with a group of Immortals who can't bring themselves to kill each other."

It was such an amazing idea that it seemed almost absurd: killing each other was what Immortals did, sometimes when they'd been friends for centuries.

They threw ideas around for almost an hour before they realised that not one of them knew any more than the others, and the mortals were beginning to look a little confused. Duncan filled up everyone's glasses and then decided to change the subject.

"Craven," he said calmly to the man he was having difficulty not thinking of as a friend, "if you don't mind me asking, what made you into the man we met earlier?"

The gentle voiced Immortal looked a little awkward: he seemed to find the person he had been impossible to reconcile with who he was now.

"I owe you at least that much," he said after taking a large swig of whiskey. "I was travelling in Eastern Europe about two months before my three hundredth birthday when my life changed. I come from warrior stock, but I tended to avoid the Game as much as I could: I was more interested in beautiful things and how to record them. In the end this was my down fall: I was hired by a noble man to paint his daughter in her maiden glory, it took rather a long time and we became friends. It was a very backward place; brutal, and she was such a gentle woman: we fell in love and planned to run away. Unfortunately her father found out: a servant sold our secret for a piece of gold and the old man decided I should disappear. I was walking in the hills one day and his hirelings found me, a stab to the heart finished me off before I even had time to draw a blade.

I had a tendency to throw myself into everything fully without considering the outcome and I was love sick: when I woke up I was afraid for my Sabina and I went back to the keep in a rage you would not believe. Quite frankly I was a complete idiot: I stormed straight through the gates and into the great hall, sword in hand. I must have looked like a demon from hell; I'd been laying in a mud pit and there was blood everywhere. Well the local hill priest denounced me as a sorcerer in league with the devil, and every man in the place set upon me. I killed four, but there were too many of them and they eventually chained me in the cells below the keep, at which point the Lord decided to revenge himself upon me. He and the priest decided to punish me for my pact with Satan by torturing me to death. Of course I came back ... and came back ... and came back and they couldn't work out how to kill me.

I died six times in a variety of gruesome ways, including fire, before they decided that decapitation was the only was forward. I vaguely remember escaping from my chains and killing the headsman before fleeing with my life. I spent three months living in the hills like an animal before I even came remotely to my senses, at which time I was the madman you met. Revenge was the only thing on my mind and I wiped out that castle's male population: it took me weeks but I killed every last man one by one. Sabina had already been sent away: her father had found her a husband and I never could find her. Maybe if she'd been there she could have stopped the killing, brought me back from the insanity into which I had fallen, but my love was gone, and any semblance of the artist who I had been went with her.

I was obsessed with wiping out my enemies and never being the weaker again and it didn't take me long to shift my ideas to the Game. I took everything I could carry in gold and fled, at which point I hired my first mortal mercenaries, and set up traps for other Immortals. My delusions became more intricate as I grew older and I built my initial arena in nineteen hundred, just outside Berlin. I added to it year by year and ignored the rest of the world until a British bomb blew up my play ground during the second world war. I moved across the Atlantic in 1947 and have had a presence here ever since, tracking Immortals and killing them on both sides of the pond. I'd found out about Watchers when my hireling found mine in 1899, so whenever I found them I killed them.

Richie came to my attention soon after he was killed for the first time, and he seemed like a soft target until I researched a little deeper and found that he seemed to survive rather too well. I decided to go after easier prey until last week, when his name came to the top of my list again, since I was in this country, and I sent out my hirelings to find him. What I don't understand is why they never mentioned you."

He looked straight at Chris, Evans at least had known the details of an Immortal's life and he should have realised what a shock the twins should have been.

"I thought the same myself," Joe said quietly.

Angie took the opportunity to ask a question from her growing list.

"What's a Watcher?" she asked, since she had not been formally introduced to Dawson.

"Mortals who keep track of Immortals," the oldish man explained without trying to hold back, "we're a secret society that goes back centuries."

"Occasionally useful," Mac put in without accent, "but usually a pain in the arse."

Joe smiled at the comment, maybe Duncan and he could put their differences behind them after tonight, he missed their friendship, but Mac had switched back to Manheim before he could catch his eye.

"Quite a reason to go mad," the Highlander commented, "how is it we always end up in trouble because of the opposite sex?"

He smiled at Craven, it was either that or get terminally depressed, and much to his pleasure the other grinned back.

"I've always had a weakness for a pretty face," he shot back deliberately.

"Huh, men!" Madelaine commented, taking up the tone of the conversation perfectly.

The look on Duncan's face was a picture.

"Men, indeed," he said with mock offence in his voice, "any more comments like that an I'll enlighten your son as to why I had to break you out of a London jail in February 1895."

The female Immortal's cheeks coloured and her eyes flashed.

"You dare," she said menacingly.

"My mother, the law abiding citizen was in jail?" Chris said and sat forward, interested and amused.

"Oh, yes," MacLeod began jovially, "you see there was this young gentleman from Oxfordshire..."

"Highlander," his female friend almost yelled, "I may just be able to convince myself that you head is worth the inner battle."

Duncan laughed, but he hadn't quite teased her enough.

"He was shall we say, of dubious background ..." he continued smoothly and Madelaine had had enough.

She gave a little screech of outrage and set about her old friend with a cushion: well it stopped him telling the story. It looked like a scene from an old school movie, but it was just what they needed to release the tension of the last six hours, and Chris joined in with Angie who was always up for a fight. The others took to egging on their friends and the four ended up in a heap in the middle of the room, giggling helplessly. Even Beren was laughing from where she sat on the bed, and it was almost as if they were having a party. Eventually, however, they pulled each other off the carpet and tried to straighten their attire, at which point Angie started yawning noticeably. As usual the phenomenon was catching and suddenly everyone realised how tired they really were.

"Time to sleep," Duncan said calmly, "we can continue this some other time. Anyone who wants to stay is welcome, but I'll run anyone home who needs a lift."

Angie and John took up the latter offer; Chris, Madi and Beren decided to stay; Paul chose to go home as did Joe; and Craven had a house not so far away and chose to go there.

As people left, blankets came out of cupboards and sleeping arrangements were made: Beren took the other half of the bed; Madi was given one of the couches; Chris volunteered to take the floor so Duncan took the other piece of furniture. It didn't take them long to find that slumber was very easy to come by.

End of Part 10