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
"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.
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
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.
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 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
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
"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
"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
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
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
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.
Chris, it's Chris and I tried
to kill him. The power, it's taking away the confusion, the terror;
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
"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
"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
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
"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
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
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
"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.
of Part 11