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Duncan walked through the cold mist, the stone arch of the bridge
deepened the gloom, but it was nothing to the gloom in his mind.
Richie's voice echoed in his head:
"What are you doing, Mac?" cold sweat broke on the young Immortal's head
as he parried desperately.. MacLeod pressed his attack with a vicious
flurry of fleches and slashes, pushing the younger man back over the
Easing back he felt a slow smile creep across his face, "You're a smart
boy, you work it out." The dark joy of battle and the impending pleasure
of the kill rose within.
He stopped and leant against the wall, blinking back the tears in his
old eyes, he had been so careful and it had all gone so wrong. "Y'know
I used lie awake at night, thinking that there had to be some reason;
something I had to do because I was Immortal. And I had some
Illusion; that because you were my teacher that you would show me."
He winced at the memory of the confused anger on his friends face "well
you did. There can be, only one. Thanks teach!" after months of work
trying to put right the damage he had done in the grip of the dark
Quickening, the darkness had come. He had felt his blade bite deep into
flesh and bone and when the mist cleared the body lying at his feet was
Richie's. Even though he learned the deception he still couldn't chase
that image from his mind and he knew Richie wouldn't either. Twice he
had seen his friend and mentor raise a sword against him. Duncan tried
to imagine how he would feel staring down Connor's blade before the
"Duncan MacLeod," the smooth voice interrupted his reverie, "it's been a
"Kafir?" Duncan stared in shock at the handsome black Immortal striding
languidly towards him.
"I prefer to use the name Kieffer, now," a smile played around his lips
as bowed with a flourish, the expensively tailored trenchcoat sweeping
out behind him, "Kieffer Strachan, at your service."
Under the hot Jamican sun the markets were a riot of colour and noise.
Traders hawked fresh fruit and livestock at hugely inflated prices to
the starving seamen. Many rich cargoes arrived at Montego bay, the
crews of traders and privateers, paid off after months of salt pork,
maggoty biscuits and brackish water the sailors would pay any price for
every pleasure. The markets were full of fruit, and the taverns with
wine and doxies, every time a ship docked was a carnival. Two sailors,
privateers by the look of them strode between the garish stall. The
taller man was a handsome European dressed in a fine blue coat, cotton
breeches and brown leather boots, a Scottish broadsword hung at his side
and a broad rimmed hat shielded his face from the hot sun. MacLeod's
companion was a smooth black man dressed in a purple coat, black leather
breeches and boots. A brocaded silk sash around his middle bore a
Spanish rapier and two duelling pistols and his head was wrapped in a
red silk scarf.
"So, MacLeod, what do you think of my home from home. It's not the
Alhambra, but it has a certain vitality."
"Well, it's certainly lively," the Highlander frowned "What is a
Spaniard doing on an English Privateer?" He picked up a mango from a
nearby stall and tossed the holder a coin.
"What is a Scot doing on one?" Kafir laughed, "I was born in Marakesh,
but my adopted family moved to Seville. The Cid drove them out, but I
saw that coming."
Wiping the sticky juice from his mouth with a lace handkerchief, MacLeod
turned to face the older Immortal, "I'm sorry. What happened."
"Nothing earth-shattering," amusement flickered across the Immortal's
features, "I rode North before they arrived. I took the Eucharist and
in return for my lands, took up my sword and marched with the Cid."
"Against your own people?" MacLeod was visibly shocked, nothing mattered
more than Clan to the Highlander.
"They weren't my people, we are freaks to them, and they are toys to
us," the Moor stopped, "only one thing matters... power and wealth."
"And the Gathering," cold hostility was evident in the Scot's voice.
"Any time, any place," the black man flashed his killer smile, "Remember
one thing boy, Kafir doesn't lose, not ever, I've lived for nearly nine
hundred years and it's not a habit I intend to break."
"Then I suggest you stay out of my way in future," the Scot smiled
grimly, "You'll pardon me but I think I will seek more pleasant company
this evening." The Moor's name was Arabic, it meant the faithless one,
right now MacLeod couldn't think of a more apt epithet.
As he departed he heard Kafir's riposte, "For a Privateer Captain you
have an over-developed sense of morality, MacLeod."
The man calling himself Kieffer Strachan swept up from the bow an
elegant broadsword in his hand, "Time to die, MacLeod."
While keeping his eyes on the other man, MacLeod was listening out,
everything he had heard of the man told him he was a snake. Sure enough
he heard a soft footfall behind him. Spinning on his heel he slammed
the heel of his boot into his unseen assailant's solar plexus. Wind
rushed from the assassins' lungs as he jack-knifed to the ground.
As MacLeod's Katana wheeled out from under the voluminous coat, a second
gunman raised his weapon. Ducking forward under a hastily aimed round
he slapped the heavy automatic to one side with his sword and rammed the
heel of his other hand under the man's chin. The thug was slammed back
into the rough brickwork of the tunnel senseless.
Wheeling back to the other Immortal he saw Kieffer almost on top of him
whirling his in a silver web of steel. "Why here, why now?" MacLeod
panted as he fended off the furious assault.
"Let's just say, I got religion!" snarled his adversary, "Under normal
circumstances we'd invite you in, but your association with Methos,
makes you unsuitable." Kieffer fell back fighting a desperate defence.
MacLeod pressed his advantage as the blades clashed and sparked. Almost
too late he realised that Kieffer was feeding him a feint, the Moor
dropped to one knee and lunged under MacLeod's defence with a vicious
slice which opened the flesh of the Highlanders thigh.
Stumbling back, with pain ripping through his leg, MacLeod set his other
leg and kept his blade fully extended to keep the other man at bay.
"You've been practising, Kieffer, you know one day you could be a
passable swordsman." The quip was hollow and Duncan knew it. The other
man was at the very least an even match. A split second before he heard
the crack of gunfire he felt pain rip into his back, staring blankly at
the ragged hole in his chest, he realised one of the gunmen had
recovered his senses. Stumbling to the quayside he struggled to raise
Kieffer lunged, impaling MacLeod through the abdomen. The agonising
pain of digestive juices spilling out into his body was sharpened by a
savage twisting of the sword. Kieffer pulled the blade free and MacLeod
slumped forward onto his knees, one hand supporting him the other
clutching at his ragged wound in his midriff. His vision swum as he
fought to retain consciousness as the other man raised his blade. With
his last ounce of failing strength the Highlander toppled into the black
waters of the Seine. Kieffer's blade missed it's mark by less than an
inch. Cursing he peered into the inky waters but there was no sign of
his adversary. Gathering up the fallen Katana he motioned for his men
to follow him.
Methos sits cross-legged in a cold circle of light. Something lies
before him wrapped in calfskin and fastened with a red silk cord. While
his body is in the cellar of the bookshop, his mind is definitely
elsewhere. He stares blindly into space, across the centuries. Leaning
forward he lifts the bundle into his lap. A tiny tear glistens in the
corner of his eye. His hands slowly pull away the loops of silk.
Reverently he unrolls the calf skin. Lying on the leather is an
elegantly curved sword. It's hilt it a simple affair, ebony grips worn
smooth by centuries of use and short brass quillions.
The chamber was dark and smoky despite the bright Mediterranean sun
outside. Such light as spilled though the open doorway is swallowed by
the darkness. Robed figures moved among each other, some drinking
others eating and still others smoking hashish in long-stemmed pipes.
Some of the men were armoured and wore swords at their sides. A small
group of them were clustered around an unlikely figure. He was dressed
like an Egyptian but his feature were clearly Caucasian. His dark eyes
and sardonic smile entranced his audience almost as much as his words.
"Whatever the Caliph says, the Christians will come south."
"But why should they?" the speaker was a youth who tried to look older
by a misguided and wispy attempt at a beard, "there are easier pickings
in Anatolia and they have fought the Seljuk for longer than us."
"Saladin is a wiley commander, he grasps something the Caliph does not.
The Christians' Messiah was born in Palestine and martyred in Jerusalem,
it is as important to them as Mecca is to us," Methos lied easily. He
admired the tolerance of the Islamic state he was no more a Moslem
himself than he was a Christian. He believed in one thing: Methos.
"They will wish to retake Jerusalem and if they take it they will seek
vengeance on us."
"But who will lead us North to join Saladin, will you?" this from an
older warrior who saw the wisdom of the Immortal's words.
My days of leading armies are over, thought Methos, "No, my friend, I am
a Minister, I have responsibilities here." He felt that familiar
vertiginous rush of an approaching Immortal. No. Two Immortals.
"I will lead you" the newcomer was not especially tall, though even
under his loose robes, a well, muscled body was evident. He wore a
simple Scimitar at his side and a dagger was thrust into his sash.
Behind him stood a tall fair-haired slave warrior dressed like his
master in Arabic style.
"And you are?" Methos was polite but wary, the other man was unlikely to
start anything in here but, sooner or later he would have an opportunity
if that was what he sought.
"Haresh Clay," the other man smiled inscrutably and this is my servant
"Carter. You are Adam Kane? A Christian name, if I got it right."
"What's in a name?" how much did the other man know, "Although your
reputation precedes you." This was worrying, the Shi'ite was no more
than two centuries old, yet already he had an impressive list of kills
including two or three old Immortals. Added to which his reputation as
a capable and honourable leader would seem to qualify him.
Clay leaned in close, "We were destined to meet, Methos," he whispered,
"Beneath the Pharos, at dusk." Turning to the assembled warriors he
declared that he was tired and must seek lodgings but that they should
meet here tomorrow after morning prayers.
Making his excuses Methos eased past the other Immortal, "You're
confident," he whispered.
"Not at all, My friend, but If you can beat me, you are more than
qualified to lead them"
Methos slowly raises the blade high above his head, and rises smoothly
to his feet. Moving slowly almost balletically he moves around the
room, battling some unseen foe. In his mind's eye he sees the dark
mocking figure of Kokabiel.
The sun burned a fierce red as it sunk into the Nile delta. The
limestone edifice was already cooling and the fires were being lit in
the tower by the Guard. Methos leant against the white stone and
remembered Alexander's engineers labouring to erect the magnificent
lighthouse. A frown crossed his face as he caught a glimpse of the
bathhouse. Once it had contained the greatest library ever known.
Burned to provide baths for a thousand invading soldiers. Again came
the wave of nausea and disorientation that heralded an Immortal.
"It was a great shame," the Warrior said, as if reading the other's
thoughts, "they say you are a legend. Few people believe you ever
existed, much less that you still live."
Methos smiled sardonically, "You don't seem perturbed by the fact I am
still alive?" the mans easy assurance and pent up vitality worried the
"I am a warrior," the other replied simply, "I am good at it. The only
way to be the best is by fighting the best. If I fall to you then I
shall fall to the better man. What more can any of us ask?"
"I have a few Ideas," muttered Methos, nevertheless his blade came
easily to hand.
Haresh uttered a shrill ululation before whirling forward like a demonic
cyclone his sword a glittering shower of deadly steel. Off balance,
Methos desperately wove his blade in front of him to fend away the
furious assault. Diving to the left, he let Clay's impetus carry him
forward before spinning on his heel and delivering a vicious kick to the
other mans kidneys.
Screaming in pain Haresh staggered forward, but turned the stagger into
a roll which brought him to his feet facing the older man. Laying about
him exuberantly with no apparent plan or style he advanced again, but
Methos realised this had to be a feint and danced around the other man
sending in the occasional flickering thrust but keeping his distance.
Haresh kept turning to face his opponent, so Methos feinted left before
checking his progress. It appeared to work Haresh overcompensated and
kept wheeling clockwise. Methos lunged right to catch the other's back,
but Haresh had accelerated and counterfeinted smashing the other man's
blade away. The Ancient Immortal stumbled back onto his backside.
Was this it? All over, after 4,000 years. Haresh raised his blade with
an easy smile, and then with a flourish knelt in a victory prayer.
Methos looked at the man in bewilderment. Haresh raised his face, a
twinkle in his eye, "You fought well, `Ben Adar', I do not kill except
at need. If you wish it you may walk away."
"What about the Gathering?" in all his days Methos had never seen a
challenge between Immortals end any way but death.
"That, is many years away, I would rather wait with living friends than
dead foes. You are a survivor. You fight well, but with so much
experience this is to be expected."
"I can see a `but' springing into the conversation here,"
"You lack aggression, my friend," the Arab stroked the hilt of his
sword, "to defeat a great warrior you need three things, a fine sword,
skill and the will to succeed. Not just to survive, to win." Methos
found himself reddening at this lecture. Haresh saw this and smiled,
"Ah, so it is there still. Good. You must learn to use it when you
Secreting the Scimitar in the folds of his coat, Methos climbs the
steps. The sword, the skill and the will. I hope you were right, old
friend, or we may meet again. Very soon.
Cold water was running down the walls of the old warehouse, cracked
whitewash reflecting candlelight in a strange rhapsody of ancient and
modern. Robed figures slowly filed down the steps through a rusty steel
door. The empty building was dominated by a large altar draped with
blood-red velvet. Arranged over it, dressed in a simple white shift lay
the body of Maria Sanchez. The covering was soaked with blood. The
tallest figure, moved forward, another at his side, while the others
flowed into a circle.
"In the Dawn, Jahweh set the Watchers upon the Earth, for his own ends,"
Kokabiel's voice echoed in the still air, "but if they were his
creatures, they had his pride and a measure of his power. We came and
we did not as we were bid, but as was right. And we brought forth
children. Who is the father?"
"Kokabiel" a thunderous intonation.
"Who is the mother?"
"I am the Mother," the figure at Kokabiel's side pulled back the hood,
to reveal Martin's pale features.
"We are of raw elemental power, and the elements affect us not,"
Kokabiel uttered the chant with passion, "Bring forth a flame." All
present could feel Maria's Quickening strengthening as she returned to
She gasped suddenly as if unused to breathing. Terror was evident in
her eyes. "Where am I?" she screamed.
"With your God," Kokabiel voice was deep and low "You are my Immortal
child, you cannot die unless I will it." A robed figure strode forth and
held out a burning torch. Taking it he paused, staring reflectively
into the flames. Then he turned and thrust the torch against her face.
In spite of himself Martin cried out, gagging against the smell of
burning flesh and hair. He ran forward to hold her as she fell to the
ground screaming in agony. She lashed out raking his face with her
nails. "Bastardo, Hijo de Puha..." she unleashed torrent of agonised
abuse. In time the pain faded, but the fear remained. Helping her to
her feet, he pointed her to a mirror in Kokabiel's hands. She wouldn't
look, the pain was terrible, and though it had stopped she couldn't face
the horrible disfigurement. But the hands that held her where
insistent. "No!" she cried, but caught sight of her unburned unmarred
face, "Madre de dios... ...how?"
"She passes the test of Fire," chorused the assembled cultists.
Two hooded figures advance holding a huge gold vessel filled with water.
"This vessel was made for Solomon as a gift from his Father-in-law
Rameses. Now it is the vessel of the second test, the test of water."
Kokabiel seized Maria at the back of her neck and while she bit and
struggled and fought he forced her head into the vessel. Holding her
until she ceased to move. After two minutes of silence he pulled her
free and laid her reverently back on the altar. Seconds passed while he
reached into his robe and withdrew a dull metallic cylinder. With a
jerking ragged inhalation she awoke, clutching her throat in panic.
Martin supported her as she vomited water onto the cold stone floor.
"She passes the test of Water," again the low rumble of the cultists.
Still weak she was supported by two cultists who shouldered Martin out
of the way. Kokabiel advanced again. As Maria struggled she tore free
one of the hoods, to reveal a battered old gas mask, "NO!" she screamed,
but Kokabiel broke the cylinder in his hands. Thick yellow gas sprayed
out into her face and she gagged at the bitter sweet taste. "Can't
bre.., must, no... god, almonds?" slowly she was choked onto her knees
and then face down on the floor.
Kokabiel flashed Martin a conspiratorial smile, "Hydrogen Cyanide, not
exactly Air, but so much more civilised than strangulation."
Kneeling by his fallen love, Martin frowned in half-forgotten memory,
"You used Zyclon B on me. Why the change?"
"Martin, I had an easy supply in those days, now, for certain reasons of
conscience and stigma it is no longer made, and thus less readily
available." The ancient Immortal smiled at the memory of the little
mortal he met in the trenches of the Ardennes. He had been eager to
listen and seemed quite promising. Alas, he was unstable, and wanted so
terribly to be loved. He had had to be replaced by a more subtle evil.
Once again Maria gasped into life.
"No, no more!" Maria, leapt up, snarling defiance, "no more of your
"You are my child, you will join with me," the sonorous voice oozed
seduction, "come to your God, Maria, Amante"
The honeyed words were wasted on the furious Spaniard, "Amante?, hah"
she spat at the tall Immortal, his followers stood in stunned silence,
"Estas mal de la cabeza!" she slapped at her forehead derisively. Then
she spun on her heel and made to leave.
As if by magic, Kokabiel's sword appeared from under his robes, an
ancient, leaf bladed bronze longsword, with a demonic head for a pommel
and clawed quillons, "Very well, you have chosen!" he sprung forward his
sword raised. Maria froze half-turned as fear regained control at the
sight of the descending blade.
Sparks flew as a steel broadsword parried the blow. Martin leapt to his
lover's aid. He had to choose and had made a fatal decision, but at
least Maria might survive. "Maria, go, now, get as far away from here
as you can, find a church." Interposing himself between Maria and the
enraged "God" he raised his broadsword in defiance, "Good Spanish steel,
Kokabiel, best swords in Europe," he mocked, though inside he felt far
from sanguine. He knew he was going to die. Herod Agrippa once said,
that fear may kill a man, if he believes he will die, he will usually
find a way of making it happen. Maybe if he had been less timorous he
might of won. As Maria fled from the building tears in her eye, she saw
her first Quickening. One stroke smashed the blade from Martin's hand,
and the return sliced through his neck as he screamed her name.
Duncan found his wet footsteps taking him to the door of the old church
in St Germaine. He marvelled that nearly five years after the old
priests death, he still came here when lost or confused. A sentimental
dream perhaps, but somehow he felt that Darius was in some way still
here in the Church he had built. His Quickening was never taken,
because he was slain by James Horton and his watcher renegades. He felt
an echo of Darius' Quickening whenever he entered. He had once believed
Darius the oldest living Immortal, before he had met the Enigmatic
Methos. A wave of vertigo washed over the tall Scot as he pushed the
"Been swimming MacLeod? Bit cold for my tastes, in the Seine this time
of year." Despite his levity, tension was evident in Methos' voice.
"Yeah well, I found the experience quite, invigorating," his friend
quipped, "Met an old friend, in who you have a mutual acquaintance,
Methos frowned, "Never heard of him, one of Kokabiel's, little
fanatics?" then he remembered his conversation in the synagogue,
"Kieffer, Kokabiel sent him after a friend of mine."
"Yeah, nearly got him too," muttered MacLeod.
"Not you," Methos grumbled with ill-grace, "You know what I mean. Did
you get him?"
"No, he cheated" replied MacLeod sourly.
"It's only cheating if it doesn't work," said Methos almost to himself.
He drew the Scimitar from his coat, "Kokabiel is mine."
MacLeod stared in shock at the blade in Methos' hand, "Where did you get
"It was bequeathed to me by an old friend of mine, I believe you met?"
the older Immortal's voice was carefully neutral.
MacLeod closed his eyes and saw the blade slashing down through Graham
Ashe's neck. Remembered thrusting it into Haresh Clay's body, and the
Dark Immortal's dying words, "it's what we do..."
"Haresh Clay, your friend? The more I find out about your friends the
more I worry what that makes me?" MacLeod scrambled for understanding,
Methos must still have contacts in the Watchers, he wondered if the
Ancient Immortal had watched the fight from afar.
"He was twice the man Grahame Ashe was," snapped Methos with
uncharacteristic passion, "But you can't see that because he unmanned
you, well let's all bow down before the mighty MacLeod's gargantuan
Duncan winced at the other man's scathing assault. It began to
reinforce his own suspicions about the rights and wrongs of his whole
feud with Haresh Clay. He forced the Issue out of his head, time for
that later, more important things to think about now, "I'm sorry, What's
done is done."
"Yes, you're right," answered Methos wearily, "I meant what I said, I'm
going to take Kokabiel"
"I'm better than you, I should face him." MacLeod's instinct to protect
overrode his doubts about Methos, as usual, he thought grimly.
"It isn't about who's best, MacLeod, you don't even know him," Methos
rounded angrily, "I've lived twelve times as long as you, I don't need
your protection, I can fight my own battles."
"So had Kronos, I killed him," now it was MacLeod's turn to be angry,
"you should remember. You arranged it! But, this isn't about that"
Methos drew a sharp breath, then grabbed MacLeod's dripping clothes,
"You're right," the ancient was white with rage, visibly shaking, "It
isn't about any of that, it's about anger, vengeance and death, blood
calling out for blood, and maybe," he paused and drew a calming breath,
"maybe, it's about redemption and reparation. I need this, MacLeod, and
the only way you can stop me is to take my head."
"First come, first served," argued MacLeod, "You want him, get in line."
He calmed slightly, "Anyway it's academic: we don't have the first
idea where he is."
Suddenly both men fell silent as the familiar sensation of an
approaching Immortal washed over them. Their gazes settled on the door
as the bedraggled and terrified figure of a young woman stumbled through
it and collapsed.
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