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We have a total of 23 episodes, and they're all available if you follow the HFS link.

 

 
 
Part 1

Scene 1

His entire body ached and someone had filled his head with cold porridge. Awareness slowly seeped through it-- he wasn't lying dead in a parking lot--that he knew by the scent of old leather and the sprawl of his body. Something soft supported his head and back but the odd angle of his legs pressed their sockets painfully against his thighs.

{Forget that--where the hell am I?}

Nothing but silence answered. Joe slowly opened one eye. His cane was the first thing he noticed; it rested on the arm of the tan leather chair on which he sprawled. He was in a room paneled in oiled wood and roofed with hand-hewed rafters centuries old. One wall was stout wooden shutters, all closed; the wall opposite held trophy heads of elk, bison, and extinct European animals, their eyes gleaming yellow from the wrought iron sconces and candles set among them. At the far corner of the room, beyond an arrangement of carved tables and squat leather chairs on a turkey red carpet, a rack of high-powered rifles and a stainless steel counter and stove proved that he still occupied the twentieth century.

The silence held and no living creatures were in sight so Joe opened his left eye. Another leather chair sat empty between him and a poster bed hung with ornate damask curtains and covered with a spread of thick white fur. On the fur lay Callie Hodges. Her shoes and purse sat on the floor by the bed as if she were taking a short nap but her head lolled toward Joe and the dark hand prints on her throat explained her stillness.

Cold shivers spread from the clot of fear in his heart.

{Why kill an old woman then lay her out like a queen on ermine? Why bring me here, too? Why aren't I dead in that parking lot?}

"You are awake. Good."

The voice came from behind him. Joe raised himself and twisted to see over the back of the chair. The speaker was male, approximately Joe's age and height but no gray showed in either his thick moustache or short- cropped hair. Khaki pants with a military cut and a sweater knit of thick cream wool clothed him. He stood with feet apart and hands clasped behind his back. The at-ease position did not diminish his authority as he regarded Joe with disdain.

"You can cook, yes?"

"What am I doing here? What did you do to Miss Hodges?"

The man's eyes narrowed. "You are here for me to decide whether you live or not. Can you cook?"

Joe nodded.

The man glanced at Joe's legs before resuming his stare.

"Can you clean?"

Joe swallowed once then met the man's icy gaze. He held it long enough to show that he wasn't cowed before answering that he could.

"Good. Then you live--for now. As to Mrs. Ayles, you must wait. The answer will cause you to forget your predicament."

The man walked to the empty chair and sat down. He rested his head on the leather cushion and closed his eyes. He did not relax; his body stayed taut as if he waited for something which was expected but could not be seen.

A fresh chill ran through Joe that had nothing to do with the breeze from his captor's passing. He leaned forward to examine the woman on the bed. Perhaps it was only the power of suggestion, but the marks on her throat appeared faded and smaller.

Instinctively, Joe shook his left arm to settle his shirt cuff low on his wrist. A quote from his training came back to him: "Keep the secret; stay alive. If only one is possible--keep the secret." He'd done both once with Duncan MacLeod but the icy man seated before him didn't seem the friendly type.

Too many questions and fears tangled in Joe's brain to allow answers or calm to emerge. At best, he was being held captive by a murderous madman. At worst, he was a Watcher caught between an Immortal and his new, possibly unwilling Student.

{Great-I'd rather be stuck between a mother grizzly and her cubs.}

With that cheery thought, Joe settled back to wait and Watch, just in case Callie Hodges did come back from the dead.


Scene 2

{. . . one thousand twenty-eight, one thousand twenty- nine, one thousand thir--}

The man before him straightened in his chair then leaned forward. A second later, Callie Hodges gasped for breath and shivered. Her eyelids opened and her hands gripped the fur beneath her as she grimaced and shook her head.

Excitement overrode Joe's fear. Watchers seldom witnessed this inexplicable act; they usually saw beheadings, not "temporary" deaths. Since Duncan MacLeod had entered his life, Joe had seen Immortals return to life lots of times--hell, both Mac and Richie had used that ability to save his life and he their lives--but the thrill it prompted still overwhelmed all other emotions.

That he was watching a new brand-new Immortal made it that much more special and important. Damn few Chronicles started before an Immortal took his first head. The chance to record how a Teacher explained the facts of Immortal life to his Student was an opportunity most Watchers would die for.

Joe winced. {Poor choice of metaphors--this one just might come true.}

"Good morning, Mrs. Ayles."

Callie fixed her attention on the man who leaned close to her. Joe sat up but stayed quiet, his Watcher-trained memory and senses ready to record and remember every word and action without attracting either Immortal's attention.

"Who are you?" she asked. Her voice had a Midwest rasp that was softened by a slight Jamaican lilt.

The man bowed his head as if greeting royalty.

"I am Nadir Kuli. It is my pleasure and honor to welcome you to Immortality. You are now a princess of the Universe."

Callie placed her hands on the fur spread and shoved herself to a sitting position. She tipped her head to one side and stared down at Kuli.

"'Immortal?' 'Princess?' You have the wrong woman, Mr. Nah-deer Koo-lee. I'm too arthritic to be exulted and I'm too old to buy any line of bullsh--"

She stopped suddenly and raised her right hand before her face.

"My fingers don't ache anymore.

She next checked the rest of her body, wiggling toes and shifting joints until every part had been bent or prodded.

"Nothing hurts. What did you do to me?"

Kuli chuckled softly. "I did nothing but find you, my dear Callie. Some infidel had taken your life and left you like garbage in the gutter. I recognized your greatness and brought you here for your safety and instruction."

She stared at him with eyes wide with disbelief. "So you're not kidding an old lady. You really meant to say 'Immortal?'"

Kuli nodded. "A very few special people are meant to rule this world. To them Allah gave the wondrous gift of Immortality. You are one of the elect, chosen to enjoy the fruits of long life and the wealth of the ages. I have the immense privilege of instructing you in the ways of Immortality."

"Why should I believe you?"

Joe wished that he could see Kuli's expression. In his mind, he matched the smoothness of his voice and the inclination of his head with a confident smile and a piercing gaze, just like an eagle eyeing a fish clasped in its talons.

{Hell--Immortality is not a gift, not from Allah or any other god. If anything, it's a burden--more pain than pleasure. That's what Kuli should be telling you, not some crap about ruling the universe.}

Kuli left his chair and walked across the room. Callie's gaze followed him then she glanced at Joe. Her eyes widened in recognition but Kuli returned before she spoke. In his hands he carried a kitchen towel and a chef's knife, its ten-inch blade pointed to the floor.

He stood at the foot of the bed. Joe could see both him and Callie in profile.

"I am Nadir Kuli and I am Immortal. I will not age and no mortal wound can kill me."

He drew the edge of the knife down the length of his forearm. Joe faked surprised in case Kuli glanced his way.

Callie paled as the blood flowed down his arm then she gasped at the immediate and complete healing of the deep slice. Kuli wiped the blood away with the towel and tossed it to the floor by Joe's chair.

He offered the knife to Callie. "Would you like to test it for yourself?"

Callie took the knife from him but she ignored his extended arm. Instead, she pricked her wrist with the point of the knife. The shallow cut barely bled before it closed.

"Damn--you aren't fooling."

"No, my princess; I am not. I am Immortal and I am 213 years old. I was raised by herdsmen who found me along the caravan route between Tabriz and Bakhtaran. Because my intelligence, my spirit, and my prowess was evident from my earliest years, they named me for Nadir Shah, the greatest warrior-king of Persia.

"When I was forty-four, I died my first death at the hands of a rival clan. They attacked our camp and left no one alive--or so they thought. I tracked the raiding party down and slaughtered them then I took back both our goods and flocks and theirs."

He pointed the knife at a rug beneath his feet. "This carpet was woven from the hair of their camels. It reminds me that it is better to be victorious than to be defeated."

Callie started to interrupt but Kuli held up his empty hand.

"Hear me out. Soon after I had avenged my family, a woman rode into my camp. I felt the same sensation that you felt as you awoke. The woman acted like no female I had ever met--she held herself with great dignity and authority and I felt awe in her presence. When I demanded to know her name and reason for being in my camp, she ordered me to be quiet. Such was her power that, without thinking, I obeyed.

"She told me that the sensation that I felt was how Immortals recognized one another. She also explained that I had been chosen by Allah to rule mortals and to strive in combat for the lordship of all Immortals."

"'Combat?' I have to fight?"

Callie tensed and her voice squeaked the question. Kuli sat down and took her hand.

"Immortal combat is for men only. Your place is to rule and inspire."

Joe kept his disgust from showing on his face. {Oh, you're slick, Kuli. You've answered all her questions and told her damn little truth.}

Callie relaxed but her head shook from side to side. "It's unbelievable but I can't explain it any other way. I guess I have to buy it."

"Test everything that I tell you, Callie. You'll soon see that I tell you only the truth."

"Okay--then who is that?"

She pointed at Joe. Kuli glanced over his shoulder and shrugged.

"A mere mortal. He is our servant while we are here."

"Where's here?"

"My chalet in the southeast of France. After I have instructed you in the ways of Immortals, we will travel to more suitable accommodations--a palace with the finest of furnishings and servants for your every want. Until then, this one will do."

Kuli stood and bowed to Callie. "Please excuse me while I show this mortal his quarters. I will return to your presence in a short while."

He pointed to the towel on the floor. "Pick that up and come with me."

Joe grabbed his cane and struggled to his feet. Kuli made no move to help him and Callie watched with stunned fascination as he used the chair arm to support himself while he snagged the bloody towel with the tip of his cane.

When he had the towel in hand, Kuli walked off. Joe turned and followed, noting that a matching poster bed stood behind where he had been seated. Between the two beds was an open door that led to a bathroom.

Outside, the sun shone high in the eastern sky although the breeze blew down glacier-cold from the mountains above. The ground was sloppy, a mixture of thawing snow and soggy meadow loam. A black Mercedes was parked by the cabin door; behind the auto, a rickety silver travel trailer balanced on two flat tires and a pillar of stones.

Joe set his cane in the mud and hoped he could stand upright in the slop. He looked about him but saw no signs of civilization or hope of rescue from the mountains that ringed the cabin.

Kuli turned and stared dispassionately at Joe. All his warmth and charm had been left inside with his new Student.

"You weren't as surprised as I thought you would be."

Joe stared back just as coldly. "You weren't as honest as I think you should be."

Kuli raised an eyebrow. "You know about Immortals?'

Joe bristled at the belittling tone in Kuli's voice but training and pure Dawson stubbornness kept him from losing his cool.

"Yeah. I've a friend who happens to be both Immortal and one hell of a lot more honest than you."

Kuli's mouth curved upward but the motion brought no joy to his face. He clasped his hands behind him and rocked slightly on his heels.

"So you think that I am telling lies to Mrs. Ayles? Why would I act so dastardly towards such a fine woman?"

Joe sighed. That question had no apparent answer.

"All I know is that you're not telling her the whole truth."

"Do you think that she would believe you more than she will me?"

"It's bad enough that she has to be Immortal. Seeing you tell her lies is disgusting."

Kuli's disdain burst forth at Joe's answer. As the Immortal laughed, Joe shook with suppressed fury.

"Tell you what, mortal. I will tell Mrs. Ayles my truth and you may tell her yours. May the best man win."

Joe met Kuli's steady gaze and ignored his smirk. Well aware that he was not only breaking his Watcher oath but also betting all hope of his own survival, he agreed with a sharp nod of his head.

"Now that this is settled, tell me--can you walk ten kilometers to the nearest village?"

Joe snorted. "Do I look like a mountain goat?"

"Then I won't worry about your escaping. If you tried, I would track you down and kill you before you lost sight of this chalet."

Joe suppressed a flinch while he wondered if Kuli would run him through with his sword or merely shoot him from the cabin window.

Kuli waved his hand at the trailer. "You will sleep there. Your coat is hung by the door but I understand that the oil lantern inside provides sufficient heat and light. If you wish to complain, remember that I could have waited until your attacker had finished with you before I rescued Mrs. Ayles. Although I chose to save your life yesterday, I see no reason to repeat the favor. You would not be the first mortal killed by me."

"So I heard."

Kuli ignored Joe's jibe. "I expect you to cook and clean and serve Mrs. Ayles's every whim. The well is beyond the trailer; rinse out that towel then wait by the door until one of us calls for you."

His orders completed, Kuli returned to the warmth of the cabin. A moment later, a shutter by the door opened. The glass reflected the clear mountain sky but Joe knew the scenic view did not interest Nadir Kuli.

{You won't see me trying to escape. The world doesn't need another evil Immortal, if that's what you're after. If you have other plans for Callie Hodges then you'll have to go through me. She deserves honest answers and I don't care what it takes--I'll see that she gets them.}

Shaking with anger and fear but strengthened by his vow, Joe pivoted on his right leg and headed toward the well.


Scene 3

Joe spent the next few hours by the cabin door, trying to stay both out of the wind and in what little warmth the sun brought. From inside came the sounds of conversation but the voices were too faint for him to hear what was said.

At mid-afternoon, Kuli ordered him in to prepare supper. Joe chose a simple meal: steak, baked potatoes, tossed greens, and a fruit crisp. Both Immortals had dressed for the meal, Kuli in black tie, Callie in a copper-colored gown that turned her eyes to gold.

While he served and cleared, Callie tried several times to catch his attention but he studiously ignored her. Careful consideration of the problem during the hours of waiting outside had convinced him not to discuss Immortality in Kuli's presence.

{Why give him the chance to shoot whatever I say about Immortality full of holes? I'll grab the first chance I can to talk to her in private.}

That opportunity came after supper. Kuli asked Callie's permission to retire outside "so that he could exercise without disturbing her" then he left. Joe noticed Callie watching him intently as he cleared the table but she said nothing until he had began washing the dishes.

"You were at the nightclub last night, weren't you?"

She made it sound like an accusation. Joe sighed as he considered the problems of Kuli's unheard lies. He had no idea what the Immortal had said about him.

A bit of bartender lore came to mind--women love to tell men their life stories. If he started Callie talking about herself then he might get the opening that he needed.

"Yeah, I was there. The music sure wasn't up to any thing you ever did."

She stared open-mouthed at him for a moment. "You heard of me?"

"I saw you perform in Chicago 'long about '61 or '62. Man, you were great."

Callie's astonished expression melted into a wistful smile.

"April, 1961--so long ago, might as well be someone else's history."

"Oh?"

"I gave up performing that winter. Want to know why?"

Joe turned from the sink filled with dishes and propped himself against the counter.

"Yeah--tell me."

"I met a man. I know--a singer's supposed to devote her life to her audience and not get distracted by love but I couldn't help myself. There was something about Caleb; he was the handsomest man I'd ever seen and he promised me the world if'n I'd leave the stage and go with him."

"Love 'em and leave 'em. It's an age-old story."

Callie's laugh caught him by surprise.

"Honey," she said, "you got the wrong tale. I'm telling the 'happily ever after' one. Caleb Ayles was in his last year at the seminary. A church in Jamaica was supporting him until he got his degree. He asked me to marry him and go with him when he graduated."

Joe grinned sheepishly at his mistake. "And you went?"

"And I never once looked back. We joked about how he preached and I teached since I turned into a pretty good grade school teacher. We were perfectly happy for thirty-five years."

Her joyous smile shrank. It looked as if she were biting the inside of her cheek as she stared into the distance.

"Caleb died last year. All the life left our home with him. I just couldn't stand the emptiness so I decided to take some of our savings and come to France. I always wanted to see the places where Josephine Baker performed. That's why I was at that club last night."

She paused a moment then said, "You were right--that band surely stunk."

Joe's chuckle matched her own. They laughed together for a few moments then fell into a silent but comfortable camaraderie. Joe weighed his options but Callie spoke first.

"Nadir says you're an expert on Immortals."

His comfort vanished. {Great--they're on a first- name basis already.}

"Not an expert. I've had the chance to observe a few Immortals close-up. You look long enough, you learn things."

Callie left the table and walked over to Joe. He noted how her bearing and attitude had changed over the past day. At the club, she had appeared confident, a woman happy with herself despite age and aches. Now, Callie held herself aloof and superior, as if Immortality truly had placed her in the company of the gods.

She stopped an arm's length from him.

"How did it feel when you found out that you weren't the top of the heap, that we get to rule while you get to die? Nadir says that you sounded mighty jealous to him."

"Jealous?" Joe loaded the word with scorn. "I've seen the baggage carried by Immortals, the grief, the guilt, the boredom from years and years and years of living. Hell, lady--there's enough pain in my life; why in God's name would I want centuries' more of it?"

"What about the wealth, the power, the authority?"

"What about the hiding, the nightmares, the complete loneliness? How can you make friends when you have to kill your own kind and you can't trust anyone else with your secret?"

"Nadir said we can't be killed!"

"All it takes is a stroke of a sword. Once your head leaves your shoulders, all the fun is over."

Callie's hands went to her throat. "Nadir said that the first time is the only time. Once our Immortality is triggered, we are safe forever."

Joe swung around and stuck his face into hers. Only his need to keep a grip on the counter's edge kept him from grabbing her and giving her a good shake.

"Kuli is lying to you. Immortals don't rule the universe. They aren't all-powerful. Beheading will kill you. Immortals are part of a game--kill or be killed until there is only one left. There's no honor or glory or any fancy throne--anything Kuli says about that crap is a lie."

Callie drew back from his vehemence.

"Why would he lie to me?"

Joe took in a deep breath and let it out slowly. "I don't know."

She seemed to take courage from his admission. "Then why should I believe you and not him? Maybe you have some other reason beside jealousy for wanting to fool me."

For an instant, he considered telling her about the Watchers, how mortals had gathered centuries' worth of information about Immortals. He couldn't risk it; she might tell Kuli and Kuli would use it against him.

"Callie," he pleaded, "I have no reason to deceive you. I'm not Immortal. I can't ever be Immortal. Nothing I can do will stop you from being Immortal. Everything I tell you is the truth; I've no reason to lie."

The proud smile returned to her lips. "I guess I'll see about that. When you finish with the dishes, that will be all."

With that, she marched into the bathroom and closed the door behind her.

Joe slammed his fist onto the counter. {Damn--now I don't dare slip up about anything. One mistake or contradiction and she's smart enough to catch it.}


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