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Part 3

Scene 1 1

She looked as if she'd died in her early twenties, but those eyes were far too old for her face. Worn jeans and a T-shirt covered a well-muscled body. This one didn't rely on charm to win her battles. Nothing in her face gave any sign of her intentions. Then again, it didn't have to. The drawn sword was a sign a blind man could read.

"I didn't come here to fight you," he tried again.

"Then why did you come here?" Her words held a soft lilt, a trace of an accent, possibly French or Belgian.

"I came to talk." He edged back a step. If need be, he could leave to avoid an awkward battle. She wouldn't pursue him out into the street with a drawn sword. Would she?

"I don't know you. I have nothing to say to you, and you have nothing I want to hear."

He glanced around the shop. "A Quickening in here would be very bad for the furnishings. You'd be sweeping up glass for the next two months."

A corner of her mouth quirked. "There is that."

"Not to mention the block-wide blackout," he continued, still edging backwards.

"That old, are you?" she asked pleasantly.

Oh, wonderful now she thought he was really worth killing. She wasn't going to pass on this one.

"Just familiar with the wiring used in this section of town. You can't have a lamp and a radio plugged into the same outlet without blowing the fuses."

She laughed then, bright and clear, and lowered the sword. "I won't bid you welcome, stranger, but you may leave here with your head."

"I'm Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod."

She raised a delicate eyebrow. "And a long way from home, Highlander."

Was it tattooed on his forehead? "As are you...?"

She raised her chin a fraction. "I'm called Tethys, now."

"And Jean, on occasion?" he hazarded.

"Very rare occasions." The ice was back in her voice and her grip on the sword hilt shifted ever so slightly.

"The occasions when you go to St. Michael's?"

Her pale eyes narrowed and she hefted her sword again. "You don't recognize an exit cue when you hear one, do you?"

"Is that a yes or a no?"

"First, it's truly none of your business. Second...I can afford to have the place re-wired." She edged forward, settling into a defensive stance, watching him.

He raised his hands again, but the gesture didn't placate her. "I need to know, Tethys. People have been hurt. I need to know if you saw anything that day-"

"Ah, part of the neighborhood watch, are you? Sorry, I see nothing." Her features tightened. "Now it's my turn for a question: MacLeod...are you by chance old enough to have been among the Clans at Drummoisse?"

The question came from beyond left field. Duncan stared at her, aware he appeared gapingly incredulous. What, in sweet Christ's name, did Culloden have to do with anything? The French hadn't involved themselves overmuch with the Rising. Not enough for this woman to bear a grudge against any surviving Jacobite supporters.

"Aye, I went to war with the Clan." No shame behind that fact, only in the slaughter that followed. The Clan had trusted him, and he'd failed. Richie had trusted him, and-- {Dear God, give nothing more into my keeping.}

A feral smile twisted her lips. "So you fought and killed in the name of the Papist Pretender."

Old political disputes never really died among Immortals. Had Tethys had a husband killed at Culloden? Or had she been one of the bare handful of women who'd followed their men, disguised, onto the field of slaughter? That might explain her current actions.

"I fought for Scotland, not for the name of any man."

"Half of your own country's population refused to fight for the House of Stuart. That told you nothing?"

"That was long ago, Tethys. Why are you concerned now?" He watched her closely. Any sword wielder betrayed an attack with the eyes, first...

"The repetitious theme concerns me, Highlander." Her pale eyes flickered to the left and Duncan tensed, preparing for whatever defense he could make.

The bell over the shop door tinkled, heralding the arrival of a new customer. Tethys straightened, holding her sword behind her. "Your luck holds, today, Highlander," she hissed at him. "But it will run out eventually. Get out of my shop and don't shadow my steps again, or I'll have your head."

Her eyes gleamed fever-bright, as intense as Annie Devlin's when she'd told him she was coming for Richie's head. He'd never understood fanaticism, how one cause alone could so consume a mind and soul, burning it up as a fever ravaged a mortal body, until there was nothing left.

"Go!" she hissed at him.

Duncan backed away. He didn't trust even a mortal's presence to prevent Tethys from attacking him once his back was turned. The new customer, young enough to be a University student, watched curiously as Duncan passed him. Reaching behind him, Duncan groped for and found the door handle, pulled it open, and escaped to the sunlit safety of the street. It seemed even brighter now after the gloom of the shop. Looking through the glass, he saw Tethys turn to greet her new customer. But she watched him, her eyes never leaving him until at last he walked away.


Scene 1 2

Figures, the one time Joe wanted Mac to call in for information, and the Highlander was out gallivanting around the city. Joe tried to concentrate on the bar's ledgers, but the desk phone hovered just at the edge of his vision, teasing him with its silence. Joe gave a snort of exasperation and shoved the ledger away. He'd try one more time. The Watcher reached out and put a hand on the receiver.

The phone rang under his hand and Joe started in surprise. {The Serendipity Serpent strikes,} he thought, and picked up the line. "Joe's."

"Dawson, it's MacLeod. I've got some more details. The shop is called The Coral Reef, the sword is a Charles V Nickel, and the woman calls herself-"

"Tethys," Joe interrupted, eyeing a slender volume bound in dove gray leather.

Mac paused. Static crackled. "You know."

"I've got something here you should see, Mac."

"Can't you tell me now?"

"Are you on the cell phone?" Joe asked. At MacLeod's affirmative, Joe continued, "I don't want to take the chance of this being picked up by someone's scanner. Come by work, and see what I've come up with."

MacLeod sighed. "All right, I should get there in a few minutes. See you then."

Joe hung up and reached for the thin book. An odd mixture of reverence, awe, and anticipation swirled through him. Finds like this were what Watchers lived for. And this one had been filed away, forgotten, when it should have been as proudly displayed as Rebecca's crystals had been. He touched the cover with his fingertips, and settled back to wait for MacLeod.


Scene 1 3

Stress had crept back into Mac's face, stresses his friends had worked hard to alleve. Joe silently poured out a measure of whiskey for them both, his concerns solidifying when Mac tossed it back without tasting it.

"What've you found?"

Joe produced the book. Duncan took it, turning it over in his hands, noting the absence of the Watcher insignia. "Another Chronicle?"

Joe grinned. "Better yet. One of her own journals."

Duncan raised his head and stared at him. Dawson hastened to explain. "Her Watcher found it, left behind in the boarding house she was staying in. She had to leave in something of a hurry, apparently."

Duncan opened the book. "It's in French," he said unnecessarily.

"Yeah, and two hundred years behind what I learned in college. Took me a while to work through it."

"Is this all you found?"

{What, that's not enough?} Joe hid his irritation. Mac could be as single-minded as a hungry bear when he had something on his mind, and there was no point in feeling slighted about it. Half the time, the Scot didn't even realize he was being insulting or ungrateful.

"I tried the usual database search, but the search field was too wide. Then I got a hunch, and did a check on Special Projects, and there she was." Joe sat back, rather proud of himself. May of his Research skills had gotten rusty over the years. Like many field agents, he'd depended on the straight Researchers to do most of his legwork. This would have been a challenge, even for them, and he was quite proud of what he'd accomplished.

"So what did you find?"

No thanks, no 'good job, Joe', sigh. One day, he was going to casually mention the Watchers had a working alchemists' formula for turning lead into gold, just to see what the Scot would do.

"Jeanne-Claire Dobbs, died in the mid 1500's...she's a few years older than you. First death was a public execution where she was hanged as a witch, charges brought by a woman believed to be her husband's mistress. Denied Christian burial, etc." Joe wa ved a hand in dismissal of old prejudices. "Made her way back to her parents' village, but they'd heard of the trial, and she died again, stoned by the villagers."

Duncan winced. The rabid superstitions of his birth-years were not something he felt proud of. "Then what?"

Joe shrugged. "She surfaced in Bath a few years later, as the student of a fellow named Giovanni. For an Immortal she's pretty quiet. Just one thing." Joe waited, drawing out the bait.

"What?!" Duncan demanded.

"As far as our records indicate, Jeanne-Claire Dobbs-or Tethys, as she calls herself now, never took sanctuary on Holy Ground."

"Never?" Duncan looked skeptical. "Even for mortal women, the Church was a place of safety."

"The Church condemned her to die, Mac," Joe reminded him gently. "What kind of sanctuary would she have found there?"

The Scot frowned and turned to the last entry. His French was better suited to the reading than Joe's modern vocabulary, but the task wasn't made easier by the watery ink and poor handwriting. The crabbed letters crowded across the page, almost too small to be read in places. He was two pages into it before he realized what he was reading. He looked up at Joe, disbelieving.

"This is about the theft of the relics of St. Devote!"

St. Devote, one of the most beloved saints of the people of Monaco. The tale of how the saint's martyred remains came to the shores of the small Christian community then living in the area was celebrated annually with a gorgeous fireworks display in Monaco.

Joe nodded slowly. "Mm. Looks like she paid a man-what's his name?"

Duncan scanned the entries, then shook his head. "She doesn't name him, just gives initials. Common for the time, actually."

"Right. Anyway, she paid him to front for her. He wanted to sell the relics, Tethys-"

"Tethys wanted them destroyed." Duncan closed the book and stared into the distance, resting the slim volume against his knee. "I don't like this, Joe."

{Words of doom.} Joe leaned back in his chair. "What do you mean?"

"By her own words, " Duncan lifted the journal for emphasis, "she's committed sacrilege, planned worse."

"Mac, if Immortals shouldn't get involved in politics, shouldn't that rule extend to religious disputes as well?" Joe asked mildly.

The Highlander had the grace to blush. "It's not that, Joe...I haven't formally observed the religion I was raised for two hundred years. Being Immortal forces you to acknowledge other holy places, other faiths. A bit difficult to carry on a jihad when you might need to seek sanctuary from the very people you thought you despised."

"But Tethys doesn't go to Holy Ground," Joe hazarded. "She...doesn't respect it."

"No. She doesn't." Duncan stood up.

"What?" Joe looked confused.

The Scot held up the journal. "She kept a journal once. She might still keep one. Mind if I hold on to this?"

Joe grimaced. "Don't spill anything on it," he said sourly "And get I back to me before noon tomorrow if you can."

"Right." Duncan nodded and walked out, tucking the book under his jacket.

"You're welcome," Joe said to the empty room.


Scene 1 4

Duncan finished reading the journal a little before sunset. He know knew a bit more about Jeanne-Claire Dobbs than he had before, but the essential element was still missing. Why had she taken up arms against the church? There was only one way to find out.

The apartment over The Coral Reef was dark, but he didn't need lights to tell him no one was home, either in the shop or the dwelling above it. The lock on the stairwell door was a good one, but Duncan hadn't spent so many years with Amanda without learning a thing or two. Outside of bed, too. The raven-haired thief would have gotten in a lot quicker and more quietly than he had, but the lock mechanism yielded after fifteen minutes of work.

The stairs creaked alarmingly in places, and Duncan made note of each one. The small landing at the top was dark, the overhead light was either turned off or had burned out. Only one door at the top, and unsurprisingly, this one was locked, too. This one stretched his limited skills, and his hands were sweating by the time the mechanism finally clicked under his fingers. He pushed the door open and cautiously looked in.

A reasonably sized studio apartment, with large, separate rooms for kitchen and-presumably-the bath. The main room stretched out in front of him. Tethys appeared to spend most of her money on locks instead of furnishings. In the dim light rising up from the street, he could make out what might be a low sofa and a table, two chairs. Duncan produced the flashlight he'd brought with him and switched it on.

The powerful beam swept over the room. A futon couch, magazine strewn table...and an overflowing bookcase. He moved towards it. He could see no other place she might keep a journal. This might not even be her main residence, judging by the sparse furnishings. She just might keep it to crash or for appearances. A small shop owner couldn't live too well, after all.

He didn't find a journal, lots of books, but no journal. Frustrated, he began to turn away. She must keep it-if she kept it-at her main residence. A pair of wall shelves caught his eye. On the top shelf rested a set of scrapbooks, the kind where you actually had to paste items in, not the newer ones with plastic page covers and self- adhesive coating. Duncan pulled one down and opened it at random.

Newspaper clippings, dating back to the late seventies. He flipped through it, noting the articles on one religious scandal after another. She didn't appear to focus on any particular denomination. Legitimate faith or quirky cult, they all came under Tethys' ban. Near the back of the book, he found the flyers. The quality varied, from blurry mimeographs to faded dot-matrix print-outs, to expensive typeset copy. And all of them oozed hate, no matter how prettily they worded it. He recognized a hand- out from Values First.

Had Tethys started these organizations? No...most of them espoused some kind of faith, twisted as it might be. A phrase he'd read in the Frenchwoman's journal returned to him in chillingly new perspective.

'By Fate, or by Decree, I have been cast out of Heaven. A life of Faith has earned me nothing but Heaven's scorn. And if the Righteous are denied, if the guilty will masquerade as God's anointed, if His true followers will not denounce them...it is up to me to see all become aware of their crimes. If I am refused Heaven, so shall they be...and may we all be judged equally on Resurrection Morning.'

Duncan pulled down the remaining scrapbooks and settled down cross- legged on the hardwood floor. The remaining books revealed little more. The clippings in the previous books were older, some of them even replicas of the broadsheets of his youth-no. He took a closer look. Not replicas. Originals. Witch trials, the majority of them. He fingered the edge of the page and shivered.

He'd been hanged, more than once, but he'd known he'd revive. To be dragged through a mob howling for your life, to die condemned but knowing you were innocent...and then to wake up and face it all over again. Joe'd said it had been a few years before Tethys has surfaced in Bath with a teacher. How long had she been alone, ignorant of her nature?

The scrapbooks showed the progression of the woman's rage. At first, it seemed she'd been content to simply collect information of wayward clergy, attend their trials-and sometimes their executions. The backs of the flyers had handwritten notes, the writing similar to what had filled the journal Joe had given him. The cold feeling in his gut increased as he read them, squinting to make out the words in the glare of the flashlight beam.

In the past two decades, she'd taken to active vandalism-but never without a group like Values First to take the fall. And then she'd moved on into straight desecration. On the back of the Values First brochure, he found a chemical notation. He didn't recognize it, but was willing to bet it was whatever had sickened the people at St. Michael's.

Duncan shuddered and closed the book. Deep inside, he felt the faint stirrings of Ingrid's presence, remembered her soft, tear-choked voice pleading with him before he struck. She had begun out of guilt over the failure of Valkyrie, Tethys had begun out of anger at the injustice done her and countless others. And in the end, both women were the same. Ingrid had, he believed, wanted to be stopped at the end. Did Tethys?

Cold shivered up his spine, and his head snapped up. Immortal. Damn! He got to his feet, even as the door swung wide.

"Come to fight this time, Highlander?" Tethys asked, her voice as cold as the North Sea.


Scene 1 5

Duncan flashed the light into her eyes, blinding her. Tethys recoiled. Duncan used the time to surge forward, intending to disarm her. She heard him coming and swung the broadsword in a murderous flat arc. Duncan dropped to the floor and rolled. The sword hummed through the space he'd just occupied. If she'd connected, she'd have gutted him or certain.

Duncan scrambled to his feet, cursing himself, and pulled out his sword. He was too late, Tethys closed in and with one stroke sent the Katana flying across the room. There would be no interruptions to distract her this time.

{'Unarmed is not helpless.'} Mei-Ling Shen had taught him that. Mei- Ling had been caught unarmed, in a totally vulnerable position. He had no sword, but some defense was possible. And he would not shame her memory by going sheep-like to his death while he could still fight.

He hooked one foot behind her ankle and yanked. Tethys stumbled, one hand thrown out to catch herself. With a grunt of effort, Duncan twisted and extended himself into a snap kick that caught her hard in the side of the head. Tethys abruptly straightened, spun around under the force of the blow, and crashed into the bookshelves. The broadsword slipped from her slackened grasp and clattered on the hardwood floor. The lower shelf gave way and dumped books everywhere. Duncan rose to a half-crouch even as Tethys recovered enough to turn around.

The broadsword lay on the floor, gleaming in the beam of the fallen flashlight, waiting for one of the Immortals to claim it.

Tethys scooped up one of the fallen books up off the floor and hurled it at him. Books, while not very aerodynamic, make surprisingly good short-range projectile weapons. Duncan threw himself to one side to avoid being hit and Tethys swooped down and reclaimed her sword. Back where they started, only worse.

Duncan scrambled for the kitchen. There had to be something there he could use-he'd settle for a chair at this point. Behind him, he heard the hissing slash of a descending sword and threw himself forward. He didn't quite make it..

The razor keen blade sliced through his jacket and shirt, into his flesh, scoring a fiery trail from his left shoulder blade to just over his right hip. Duncan staggered and caught himself against the door jamb. Tethys hissed in satisfaction. First blood.

Duncan lurched into the kitchen and got his back against the wall. Just in time-Tethys lunged forward, but her thrust missed by a good four inches. But Duncan was in trouble. Literally cornered, it would just take a simple pivot for her to take his head.

Suicidal timing. He waited until she had committed herself to the attack, then dropped into a crouch and pushed off the wall. He tackled her around the waist and sent them both crashing into the far wall. The air left her lungs in a woosh.

Duncan dug his fingers into the tendons of her wrist. "Drop it," he hissed. "Drop. It."

She hadn't gotten her wind back yet, but shook her head 'no', wisps of dark hair falling into her eyes. He hated hurting women. It went against everything he'd been taught. Methos' voice rolled out of memory: { "You keep letting her walk away, and one day she takes your head, yes!"}

So he twisted her wrist, wrenching it back at an angle Nature had never intended. Small bones crunched like popcorn. Tethys screamed. The sword dropped. Duncan delivered a swift rabbit punch and the Immortal woman dropped to the floor. She crawled a half-foot away and went still. He caught up the sword, the hilt still warm from her hand. He turned to face her, not quite en garde.

"Will you stop?" he asked.

She shook her head, dark hair whispering over her shoulders. "I can't."

Was that regret he heard? But it wasn't enough, not enough to stop her, to keep innocents safe from her vengeance.

"I'm sorry." He stepped forward.

Tethys settled onto her knees, cradling her broken wrist. "We'll finish this in the next world, Highlander."

"I don't think they allow fighting in Heaven."

She gave him an ironic look "Who says we go to Heaven?"

It would be cruel to draw this out. Duncan swung. The clean sweep of the blade, the shock of impact, the odd, half-choking sound they all made-and the too-familiar sound of a body falling. He moved into the center of the room and waited.

The silvery mist rose up and reached for him. It felt icy cold against his skin, like the clammy fog that hung over new graves. Again, he smelled the faint saline tang of the sea. The wind sprang up, yanking at his hair and clothes. Distantly, he heard glass shatter, exploding outward at the abrupt change in pressure. Then the lightening arced out, twisting up from the crumpled body on the floor. Blue-white arms snaked towards him, wrapping around him, squeezing tight, while the dead woman's personality crashed down upon him.

{A howling mob...a rope...stones...cold mud and stagnant ditch water. The bright flame of certainty, and the dry thirst of justice...}

"The heretic is not she who burns in the fire, but he who builds it.'

As abruptly as it began, the wind died, and the light faded. His knees gave out, and he crashed to the floor. The sword dropped from his numbed fingers to make a hollow clang on the floor. The air seemed too thin and weak, and blue and red after-images blotted out his vision.

And then he could see again, and he was alone, except for the dead and the whispering wind.


Scene 1 6

"The Tethys Chronicle is closed," Joe said, pouring a hot drink for his early-morning visitor. He'd been soundly asleep when MacLeod came to his door, but one look at the Scot's face and Joe had let him in with no questions asked. The bloody tear in the back of the man's shirt gave him an idea of what had gone on that evening. "The termination report was filed three hours ago."

"I know." Duncan put the tattered remains of his jacket on his friend's breakfast table and unwrapped what he concealed: a nickel Charles V boradsword.

"I see," Joe said after a moment. "So she was the vandal." It wasn't a question.

Duncan nodded. "And the poisoner. I found her bits of plants and such...after. Lucretcia Borgia had nothing over this woman." Duncan nodded at the untouched bag on the floor. "I brought her scrapbooks and things...didn't know what you might consider important."

Joe sat back, stunned. How often did the Watchers get a hold of an Immortals personal effects? Tethys was about to jump from relative obscurity to one of the best documented Immortals on record.

"Thanks, Mac," he said at last.

Duncan put his mug aside, untouched. "What else could I have done, Joe? She thought she was killing other heretics, as she'd been killed. Like Ingrid, killing hate-mongers, or Annie Devlin killing the Sassenachs. And like them, her target field grew too broad. What is it? Why does Immortality do this to us?"

"Mac," Joe sighed. "I'm not your father confessor. I can't tell you whether you did the right thing or not. I can't judge your motivations in this. But I can tell you to stop doubting yourself and your actions. There's too much at stake now for you to harbor the luxury of hesitancy."

Duncan stared at the table, silent for so long that Joe feared he'd gone too far. Then Duncan raised his head, and his dark eyes were tired, but some of the torment had faded. Not enough, no, but it was a start.

"Mind if I take this?" he asked, touching Tethys' sword.

"Bit small for you, isn't it?"

A humorless smile crossed Duncan's face. "No. I've found it to be just the right size."

Joe shrugged, covering the chill that raced through him. "Go ahead. We have enough of the things at HQ as it is, waiting to be catalogued."

Duncan nodded and stood up, wrapping up the sword again. "Where are you off to now?" Joe asked.

"To find a father confessor. Or a sister." {Then Back to Paris,} he added as only a thought.

St. Michael's was close by. Outside, he looked up. The sky was as cold and dull as granite. Another rainy Seacouver morning.

"I hope you found Heaven, Tethys."

No-one should lose it twice.

The End

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