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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 11

It was well into the afternoon when Richie opened his eyes to find an arm wound around his middle: Beren had started on the other side of the bed, but hadn't stayed there long. It felt so right to have her lying next to him that he didn't want to move and just lay there for a moment savouring the smell of her. She'd borrowed one of Mac's T- shirts to sleep in, but it had rolled up under the covers and there was a tantalising amount of flesh in contact with his and he had to curb his reaction. Eventually, however, he managed to fight down the urge to ravish her there and then, and climbed out of bed slowly so as not to wake her. He found the bathroom quickly, dumped his face in cold water and then climbed into the shower before anyone else could wake up and claim it. He'd just dumped his clothes in the trash and borrowed a pair of Duncan's old jeans when he padded past the table and noticed the old book Darius had sent. His mind jumped, as if he was about to remember something, but no details came and he reached out to pick up the small volume, the fact that he'd been about to find a shirt lost from his thoughts. He did not remember his first confused awakening after the Quickening, and since he knew how tired he had felt before it, he did not try and wake the others. He knew whose power had gone through him into all of them, but he could wait to tell them, and the book took all of his attention. With the manuscript in hand he curled up in an available chair and without pausing for thought began to read: it never occurred to him that he'd never seen this language in his short life.

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

Amanda had been driving since shortly after she'd been woken by the most peculiar feeling she'd ever felt, and she parked outside MacLeod's place shortly after three o'clock in the afternoon. Why she'd come here she wasn't quite sure, but she wanted to know if Duncan had felt the same thing, and if he knew what it had been. She didn't expect to find the sight that met her as she stepped out of the elevator, or the feeling of so many Immortals. She noted the strange woman in Mac's bed; the equally unknown female on the farthest couch; the pile of blankets on the floor that had a man under them somewhere, judging from the area of naked torso she could see; Richie in the chair, apparently ignoring her; and Duncan emerging from sleep at the sense of a new Immortal.

"Had a party, MacLeod?" she asked as he sat up, and Madi stirred as the buzz reached her dreams.

"Amanda," he said, somewhat surprised, "what are you doing here?"

"I felt something happen last night," she said, a little annoyed at having missed whatever fun the others had been having, "I was wondering if you knew what it was, but I see you were rather busy."

She was more than a little peeved by the fact that the other totally awake Immortal had not yet even had the decency to say hello.

"Afternoon, Rich," she said loudly and caused Mac to follow her line of sight.

"Um," was all she received in reply, and he turned a page.

"Aren't you going to introduce me?" the older Immortal then asked as Madelaine sat up as well.

There was time for MacLeod to either be amazed that Richie was reading the book no-one else seemed to understand, or prevent Amanda from getting the wrong idea: he chose the later.

"Amanda, Madelaine," he said quickly, "Madelaine, Amanda."

"The Madelaine of the theatre?" the tall woman asked more brightly as she remembered tales of Mac's long past promise.

"That's me," Madi returned with a smile, "and you have to be THE Amanda."

The ex-thief grinned.

"I suspect so," she said, her annoyance swept away.

On the floor Chris groaned: he hadn't woken on her entrance because his twin had registered no alarm, but all the noise was getting to him.

"Whoever you are," his voice came from under the blankets, "you can have my head later, but please go away now, I don't want to wake up yet."

"That's Chris, Madi's adopted son," Mac said, and considered telling her more, but decided he wanted to see her face if the young man ever emerged from under the covers.

The only one who seemed to be oblivious to the activity was Beren who was sleeping quite contentedly with no signs of waking.

"Beren," the owner of the property said before Amanda could ask, "Richie's new love life, and before I explain why she's in my bed I think I need a cup of coffee."

"Good idea," Madi agreed and stood up, revealing that she was wearing a shirt that was way too big for her, and not a lot else.

The concept of caffeine was also enough to draw Chris out from the pile of blankets and as he sat up, rubbing his eyes, Amanda sat down very hard.

"Mac," she said in a strangled type of voice, "they're ... they're ..."

"Twins," the Highlander finished off for her, glad he had waited: to get one up on Amanda was gratifying. "The alcohol is in the usual place."

Chris smiled at her with an all too familiar grin and the female Immortal almost took up the offer.

"What ... how ... when," she couldn't decide what question to ask first, and glared at Mac as he put the kettle on.

"We found out earlier this week," the Scotsman chose to explain, "we're not quite sure how this happened, and the event you felt last night was Chris dying for the first time and a Quickening like you'd never believe."

"Whose Quickening," Amanda could not believe that anyone's power, even one of the ancients, could be felt across hundreds of miles.

"We don't know," Madi told her calmly, having come to terms with it, "no-one lost their head, but the energy took five of us at the same time."

That just made a hundred and one more questions pile up in the new comer's brain and she was stunned. Trying to work them out in her mind she stood up and walked over to where Richie was reading and peered over his shoulder without receiving any reaction.

"When did he take up ancient languages?" she asked Mac since she decided she wasn't going to get anything out of the younger Immortal.

"Today," the Highlander returned shortly, he was not going to try and explain anything until he was awake enough to ask a few of his own.

Chris stared at his twin across the room, his eyes narrow in contemplation and then he broke the growing silence.

"Rich, snap out of it," he said loudly, and sent a mental shove in the others direction.

The young Immortal looked up sharply and seemed to notice the rest of the room for the first time.

"Ah, afternoon," he said sheepishly, a little embarrassed that he had only just realised anyone was talking to him.

"Did you have to do that, Chris," Madi said playfully, "it was quiet."

Richie's voice made an impression on Beren where no-one else's had and as Mac served hot drinks she woke and was introduced to Amanda. That most of the group were only half dressed didn't seem to bother anyone, and shortly they were all sat around nursing a beverage. It was crunch time.

"What's the book about?" Duncan asked calmly.

It hadn't occurred to Richie that the others hadn't also read the book, just like he still didn't know that they couldn't understand it.

"It's an autobiography," he replied, a little confused, "of a man named Iltyd, mostly, but there's something about dreams as well that I haven't reached yet. Where did it come from, and how come you haven't read it?"

"Darius sent it via Paul," Mac returned quickly, "and just look at it. Look at what you're reading."

Richie glanced back at the page he held open with a couple of fingers and then he really saw the writing for what it was.

"It's," he began quietly, "it's in ... What is it written in?"

"We don't know," the Highlander told him evenly, "you're the only one who can read it: even Darius couldn't translate it properly."

"Oh," was the unsure reply.

The young Immortal's eyes narrowed in thought as his mind recalled the few seconds before Chris had died, in minute detail. Wispy faces passed behind his eyes in a much slowed repeat of the turbulent inrush that had happened on his twins first death and one of them caught his attention.

"He was there," the blond man said eventually, much to everyone's delight since they were beginning to think he had drifted off again.

"Where?" Mac's and Madi's voices blended in the same question.

"Last night," Richie told them with realisation, "Iltyd was one of Quickenings."

"Explain," was all MacLeod said after that: it was obvious Richie knew a lot more about what had occurred early that morning than anyone else.

"The Quickening we shared," the younger man began slowly, "was that of all of our kind who died outside the Game. The ones the hunters killed; Immortals beheaded in mortal conflicts; all of the ones who died without another to take their power: Iltyd was one of them. Yes, Darius as well," he put in before the Highlander could voice the question in his eyes. "They were waiting; waiting for the time when their energy could pass back into the Game."

This Quickening seemed to have passed on more than warrior skill as well: Richie seemed to have gained more than a little knowledge as well.

"Rich," Chris began gently as he realised there was more going on his brother's head then even he believed, "do you remember the first time you woke up."

If there were other memories in the Immortal's head it could explain his peculiar reaction. For a moment the young man looked confused and then with a mental nudge from his twin the short episode can flooding back:

The confusion rose in him like a wave as personalities that were not his own clashed and drove his psyche into hiding, there was nothing he could do to stop them. Memories that he could not have, spiralled and dwarfed his own experiences, drawing out his fears and his anxieties. There were other Immortals here: Would they take his head?; Was that why all the voices screamed at him to save himself?; Who was the one coming towards him?

Question and more questions, fear upon fear: kill or be killed.

No!

Chris, it's Chris and I tried to kill him. The power, it's taking away the confusion, the terror; I understand.

He came back to himself staring into his brother's eyes, and they both knew he had remembered. Their link was back in place and although it was not as intimate and open as when they had been children it went far beyond anything other Immortal's possessed.

[I remember,] Richie's voice said in his sibling's mind.

Some other things had come back with the memory and certain things occurred to him.

"You shared the Quickening," he said calmly, and looked from one to the other, "you should be able to read this as well."

"Quickenings don't always work like that," Mac pointed out: it was only rarely that an Immortal received more than an idea of the person whose power they received let alone a distinct skill.

Energy, speed, stamina, these things could go down the generations, but too much and the older personality could take over the younger, an example being Darius and the ancient he had killed.

"Give me your hand," Richie said calmly, and held out his own to the Highlander.

Duncan wasn't quite sure what the younger was up to, but he did as he was told, and his friend's grip was strong. The blond man's gaze became very intense, and suddenly a spark jumped from his arm to Mac's, after which the young man looked thoroughly wiped.

"Now look," he said quietly, and handed his mentor the book.

MacLeod's eyes opened in shock as the text resolved itself into words he could understand: it was incredible.

"Jesus, that was difficult," the younger said and sat back in his chair to find a very worried looking Beren by his side.

Amanda had her mouth open: this was just too weird.

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

Half an hour later and the female Immortal had made them explain everything they knew to her, and they had agreed to wait until the other witnesses arrived to read the peculiar book. A few phone calls and a meeting was arranged for seven in the evening, giving all time to dress and eat: everyone was ravenous.

"Might have known you'd be able to read it," Angie said lightly after all had been introduced, and sat down for the big moment.

Since even after the bolt, Duncan did not seem to be a fluent with the script as Richie, the younger had been nominated to do the telling of a story he had finished reading that afternoon.

"I'll begin with the introduction," the curly haired Immortal said as everyone made themselves comfortable, "it explains who wrote this."

Beren snuggled up to him where they sat on the couch, and he took a deep breath before starting.

"My name is Iltyd Ximenes," he began to read slowly, but with no difficulty at all, "but most know me as Iltyd the old: although I swear I don't look a day over forty. I am nearly fifteen hundred years old and I write this in the language of my birth because that is the way I am sure I'm supposed to do it. Most of the volume will be taken up by my vanity; in that I am taken by a desire to record my life, but the rest is my dreams. We are in the second year of the reign of the Roman Emperor Titus, not that I take much notice of these mortal Empires. I was quite happy with my wandering existence as a travelling wise man until just a few years ago when I began to notice the young ones. I had not realised how many had come into the world or how warlike they had become.

They all speak of the Game and almost seem to relish it in all its barbarity; some are even convinced that the Gathering will be upon us any minute. That they are mistaken, I am sure, for that time is far off, in a world I see in my dreams, but do not understand. So few still believe in the truths that we perceive as our minds sleep, but I am one of them, and I alone will act on mine. However, before I take the action which is the only road I can envisage, I wish to put down on paper all that I am. This is but the flight of fancy, but it pleases me to do so.

Now he goes into his life history," Richie told his audience. "Very interesting as it was, I don't think we really need to hear it now. We're interested in the section labelled dreams."

Without hesitating long he flicked to the page he had already marked and licked his lips in nervous apprehension.

"So now at last I come to the part which explains why the notion of this book ever entered my head," the young man continued. "I have had dreams of things to come since I was a boy, but never any quite like those which have brought me to this point. These visions of the future come in many guises, but they all have the same core and tell the same story:

I see a world where the Gathering has begun; a place where men and women fly in craft, and great metal ships sail the oceans. There are dangers there for Immortals that most now could not imagine; for our mortal brothers and sisters have truly begun to grow up. Into this world is born one of us who lives twice and in his duality he breaks the first law to which we cling."

The twins looked at each other as they heard themselves described.

"One of the halves will be guarded and nurtured by a woman of our kind," Richie did not pause, "kept safe in a dangerous world, and familiar with the secrets of Immortals. The other I call the searcher; for he will come to knowledge late, barely before he crossed the divide, and I see him continually looking for what he has lost. It gladdens me to see that some of our race will still be good at heart, even when battle is their nature, and I see great power in the one who rescues the searcher.

The exact details of how and where the next events I describe take place always change as if they are not decided, so I shall just describe what I foresee:

In a land I do not know the two existences of the twice born will come together, one Immortal, and one still on the other side. About them draw others of our kind, but who and why are never the same, and then the second dies for the first time. The power of every one of our kin lost over the centuries passes through the searcher and then out into all close to them, joining them as no Immortals have ever been joined before.

From then on, theirs is the power to break the Gathering: they share the parts of the prize they hold, and in a way they are one making the needs of instinct satisfied. I cannot say if theirs is the path that will succeed, but I do recognise two destinies for our kind. The Gathering may still triumph with one the taker of the prize, for there will still be battles to be fought. With the new joining there is an alternative: a council of Immortals; all sharing the joint power of every one of us ever to have lived, existing in peace with the prize, which I have to admit is still a mystery to me. There does not seem to be a limit on the number who may be part of this, in fact I often see it grow from only five to over thirty as years go by.

Some would put this down as the ramblings of an ancient who's brain had been in the sun too long, but I am sure of my knowledge. I intend to be there at the moment this comes to pass, and yet I fear I can never be there in body. Once I put this pen down I shall hide this book where I know it will eventually be found, and I will go to my death. I have a few friends who will carry out my wishes, even to the extent of removing my head for me and burning this old body: so I am not alone. I will not allow myself to strengthen one of the young so that they may shape the future in a different way. For too long I have lain down the sword, I am no warrior, I will die now and return later.

Farewell reader, I hope you understand and believe enough not to think me a stupid old fool."

No-one spoke as Richie lowered the book, they just looked at each other, a little awed that they had rewritten Immortal destiny.

"Do I understand this right," Angie asked eventually, "a man who lived during the Roman Empire saw all of you in his dreams and because of this went out and killed himself?"

"Some man," Craven said with deep respect in his voice, "to be that confident. Can the ancients really see the future?"

That caused Duncan to laugh ironically.

"Darius always believed he could," the Highlander said with a catch of remembered conversation in his tone, "I never really thought anything of it until he died."

Ice rattled in glasses as everyone waited for someone else to continue the conversation.

"What I don't understand," were the first words passed Madi's lips, "is, if we are the five, how do we increase in number? Chris' death started all this, but none of us are mortal so what happens?"

"You'll know what to do when it happens," Richie said with complete certainty, "when someone wants to join us."

"So how do we decide who joins us?" Craven voiced the question that was on all their minds, "and will it bring everyone around like it did me?"

It was an interesting problem, they weren't sure what had happened to Manheim, let alone what would occur if someone who was naturally inclined to evil came into contact with them. Richie decided it was up to him again, for whatever reason he seemed to see a little more of the big picture than any of his friends.

"It's as Iltyd said," he began slowly, but no-one was particularly surprised he'd spoken up, "the battles aren't over. Some Immortals will want to join us and any who come asking must be admitted, but others will want to destroy us. Some will be afraid of what we represent, of what we are, and they will try to eliminate the threat to the original Gathering. If we are challenged, all the normal rules apply," he told them what he believed, what he knew to be true without knowing how, "but if we are victorious we cannot conscript our opponents forcefully. They can be offered a choice, or we can take their heads, but only if they do not express a preference for death do we make them one of us. A Quickening will benefit us all, the loss of one of our number will diminish us by the power the individual possessed before entering the group. Until everyone of us is dead there is this path open to our race and some Immortals are not going to like it at all, if this gets out to too many ears we will be over run. I suggest we only tell our friends."

It was a simple, plain explanation and just like the other rules it left choices, but that still didn't explain exactly what had happened to Craven.

"There's good and bad in all of us," Richie added as he saw his old adversaries face, "I believe this joining finds it. We can still kill each other, but just try making yourself want to."

He had to smile because just like Duncan, it had occurred to him to try and hate Manheim, and he just hadn't been able to.

"That's what you meant by a choice last night, then," MacLeod concluded as his companion stopped speaking, and the young man nodded.

"Then Quickening would have taken any Immortal in range," Richie confirmed matter-of-factly, "for us there was no decision."

"We were born for this," Chris put in calmly, "the rest of you weren't, and some people resent having their destiny dragged off the rails."

He delivered the whole line with a grin on his face, and Beren found the irreverence hysterical. She leant back on the cushions and laughed, half because of Chris, and half because she needed to.

"God, what a bunch," she said as she finally managed to bring her giggles under control, "nobody knows whether to laugh or cry. Five completely flabbergasted mortals, and five equally stunned Immortals with one who probably thinks this is crazy: we wouldn't win any Nobel prizes chaps."

For the first time that evening Angie smiled.

"Richie Ryan," she said shaking her head, "I knew you were trouble the first time I ever saw you. I should have let the Maguires take you and kept my nose out of it."

"Ah, but then would your life have been half as interesting," the young Immortal shot back, and had to dodge a flying cushion.

End of Part 11

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