"I'm sorry Mac," Richie sighed, giving his comrade the familiar hands on
hips, resigned shake of the head. "She was a mess, and I thought a woman's
touch would be better than me - I didn't think Altea would...." the young
man trailed off a little guiltily as he admitted his lover's unsuitability
for the task, and he almost mumbled his last statement. "Amanda was the
only one left."
Duncan loosened his elegant white tie and glanced wistfully at the
expensive wrap that his partner had discarded on the back of the sofa at
the unexpected arrival. The pair had been about to head out to a late-
night, out-door opera, when Richie had walked into the barge carrying the
petrified bundle of dirty clothes. Amanda had put on the charm and coaxed
a silent creature into the bathroom to clean up. As The Highlander
recalled the terror in young face half-hidden under tousled blond locks,
the opera seemed somewhat indulgent, and the vague peevishness he'd
immediately felt at the ruination of his plans struck him as selfish. He
patted his friend on the shoulder and smiled reassuringly.
"You did the right thing," he answered, and then continued on a different
tack, "Where did you find her?"
"The cemetery," the younger man seemed reticent as he made the admission,
his tone tentative as he explained, "I went to visit Tessa."
The dark man stifled the momentary pang of grief he felt at the reminder,
but he knew his companion saw the thought cross his eyes. Richie pressed
swiftly on with an explanation, "She came at me, screaming, first thing I
knew about the dagger she was carrying was when she sliced me with it."
Both men looked down at the slash across Ryan's T-shirt, the only evidence
remaining of the heated attack.
"She was hysterical, collapsed at my feet once I'd gotten the knife away
from her," the young man showed his amazement at the bizarre nature of the
meeting. "I tried talking to her, but she wouldn't say anything even when I
picked her up and then she just sat in front of me on the bike all the way
back here. I hope Amanda has better luck."
"And she has," the woman's silky tones drifted across to them, as her
comrades turned to the words, she introduced, "Duncan, Richie, this is
The figure who appeared from the bathroom close after the willowy woman was
much more obviously a bonnie child of just pre-teenage years. Long blond
hair was damp and tied back from a thin, but pretty face, in a ponytail.
The grime-covered clothes of earlier had been replaced by some of Amanda's
casual clothes, a mini-skirt came to the girl's knees and a sweater had the
sleeves rolled up. Yet, she was a good deal more presentable, and although
her stare was nervous, it was more even than the closed-in fear of earlier.
"How are you feeling?" Duncan filled the silence that fell as Richie and
their guest reassessed each other.
"Better, thank you," the girl spoke in a clipped, aristocratic English
accent, a subtle continental twang gave the diminutive speaker a depth that
was far from childlike. Then she laid her full attention on her original
saviour. "I must apologise for my behaviour this evening, it has been a
trying few days."
"No problem," Ryan shot his friendliest grin at the formality in the small
Amanda steered her charge towards the sofa, and sat her down, Richie leant
on the wall and Duncan grabbed a chair - it was pow wow time. Emily looked
round at her new companions, strain in her eyes as she kept up the starched
front which seemed to be a defence. MacLeod was working out how to go
about the task of quizzing his visitor tactfully when his youngest comrade
chose a direct approach.
"What were you doing in the cemetery?" he asked simply.
"Running," the girl returned, surprisingly calm, "I've been running for
"Who from?" MacLeod decided the direct route seemed to be working and took
over from Richie.
"My friends," Emily murmured, and this time there was a waver in her voice.
The girl hid it with a tiny sigh, but her gaze met the floor, unable to
maintain the strength which fast disappeared from her grey demeanour.
Despite her weariness, the small figure sat with surprising elegance for
such a young frame, and Duncan recognised age in his guest. The small
pause was only enough for the girl to collect her thoughts, and she
continued, "a viper has turned them against me. I do not know if you have
met my kind before, we tend to perish early in our lives, but I am not a
child, nor have I been for nigh on eight hundred years."
"We'd guessed as much," Amanda cajoled, slipping leisurely into the spare
place beside the child-like woman; the dark woman smiled winsomely at their
guest, but Duncan saw the pain in her eyes that Kenny had left.
"You're not the first of your kind we've met," Richie added with a shrug.
Emily merely nodded as she took in this information, and went on with her
recount, "Until a few days ago, I was not alone, there were eleven of us
living and working together to survive."
"Eleven?!" Duncan could not contain his surprise.
"I had best start from the beginning," the girl managed a weak smile at
some recollection which passed across her face. "I was born in England in
1132. My life, and my death were ultimately tied up in the civil war
between Matilda and Stephen. I was fortunate that a rich family took me in
as their own, but I was orphaned at eight years old, my family were killed
by Matilda's people. My only surviving relative a self-ingratiating bishop
by the name of Fredrick, and he was quite willing to use me as a bargaining
chip to make his alliances. Fredrick came into a lot of money from my
adoptive father, but he couldn't get his hands on all of it until I was
'safely' married off, so from the time I went to live with him, he was
entertaining my suitors.
I was twelve when he found a match suitable for his pocket and political
alliances. John was a good man, he treated me well, willing to wait for me
to mature to consummate our union, but he sided with Matilda, and with a
few months the whole family was claimed by the war when Matilda fled
According to my guardian, I had had a second wondrous escape which could
only be attributed to a miracle because God wished me for himself. In fact
he had no wish for me to return to his house, he was enjoying my father's
money far too much, and so I was married to God rather than another man.
I was happy at the convent; we were well off and I enjoyed the solitude,
but in a few short years it became clear that something about me was
unnatural. I hadn't aged a day since arriving at the convent, and my
sisters were beginning to worry. I made a visit to my guardian's home on
pretence of visiting my parent's graves, then I stole back from him what I
could and ran to France with a trusted servant.
There I stayed, hidden in a big chateau in what became Alsace, only my
friend's descendants truly aware of my existence. I had no idea I was not
alone in what I was and I hid from the legends that the locals told about
me. I would have been like that to this day had it not been for Marcus
Grief appeared in Emily's drawn face as she recalled the name, and her gaze
"Marcus had heard the legends about a fairy child who never aged hidden in
the crumbling castle, and in 1753 he knocked on my door. He was a good
man, trapped like I was in a child's body. Younger than me by several
centuries, I found him so much wiser from where he had embraced life. He
told me about Immortals and showed me the wonder it was to be able to see
so many things in one lifetime, and I accepted him into my home. He was
not alone, he brought with him another one of us, Roderick," the grief
remained in the child-woman's face, but there was also a light there as she
mentioned this second companion. "He is my eternal," she murmured quietly.
However, Emily's reverie did not last long, and her face blackened as she
continued, "We lived well on our mutual fortunes, gathering others into the
castle which we turned into a haven for our kind. But then the beast
arrived at our gates.
He came in our form, appearing deceptively vulnerable, a sweet-faced blond
boy, and we took him in. He was running, like many of us had been when we
Marcus had pulled us together, and he acted like a child. None of us
suspected what was happening when he befriended Paulo Phillipe, a popular
member of our family and Marcus' second in command. Everything happened so
fast, I has never known anyone turn people so quickly. He persuaded Paulo
to push his position, and he has us all taking sides in a few short weeks.
Marcus has always been a man of peace, he wanted no contact with adults of
our kind, we were safer that way, but many of us had come to the group with
grievances against others who had hunted us because we could not defend
ourselves. He worked on that, dividing us. In the end only Roderick and I
stood with Marcus; Roderick was too gentle to contemplate fighting, it was
so against his nature, and I had no axe to grind against anyone. Even so,
none of us expected what happened last week--Paulo challenged Marcus and
took his head. He took over as leader with that evil snake whispering in
Emily was seething as she hissed the last few words and her manner had
begun a creeping chill up MacLeod's spine. Alarm bells had begun to ring
at the simple mention of a blond child. The Highlander knew his suspicions
were illogical, there could be hundreds of blond, child-faced Immortals in
the world, but the viciousness Emily described brought only one to mind.
He glanced at Richie and saw an unsure frown which told him he was not
alone. And then he looked at Amanda. The woman had a sadness in her eyes
that was only conjured by one person in her past. The urge was
irresistible, he had to voice the suspicion, and he breathed coldly,
The solidification of Richie's dark stare confirmed MacLeod's intuition
that he had been thinking the same thing, but Amanda showed surprise as her
conscious thoughts obviously caught up with unconscious sadness. Emily
also showed her surprise, and she asked, "You know of him?"
Duncan rarely saw his lover so cowed by guilt, but the dark woman said
nothing as he filled the silence that followed with, "Yes, we know him."
"He tricks people out of their heads," Ryan cut in, and his bitterness at
his own near miss sounded in his tone.
"He would have tried for mine if I had not run," Emily admitted and a ghost
of terror in which she had been on arrival crept back into her features.
FLASHBACK: ALSACE 4 DAYS EARLIER
This part of the chateau was dark and crumbling. No-one had been up here
in years, not since gas had been put in the 1800's in the other wings, but
now it was her only haven, and Emily hoped it was where Roderick has chosen
as well. The woman didn't dare even turn on the torch she was carrying,
and she chided herself for her fear, but she had never been so intimidated
in her own house before and Marcus' death had left them all reeling, even
Paulo. So instead, she stumbled through the fallen masonry in search of
the small glow of candlelight she had seen from the ground.
Indeed the woman had guessed right, and curled into a corner of one of the
front rooms was her beloved. She paused at the door, watching his young
face as it was lit by the flickering candle stump which he must have
filched from the kitchen drawers; his gaze was so earnest as he poured over
a book in the difficult light, chewing idly at his left thumbnail as she
had often seen him do, oblivious to everything but the words on the page.
The slender form had always been like that since the day she had met him
and known that she must love his lack of malice and hatred for the world.
His peace that he found in his poetry had calmed her own fiery temper and
she had found her love returned.
Now the troubled woman needed some of that tenderness, a kind word, a
gentle touch; Kenny didn't like her, she argued too much, and she knew she
had made life dangerous for herself, but her temper had been frayed beyond
measure by his loathsome manner. Emily finally took the step into
Roderick's world which broke his reverie; she always regretted that moment
when he stared around, shocked by the Immortal touch which disturbed him.
Yet, his gaze found her and immediately a hand was held out to her, and
with a sob the woman ran into his embrace.
Emily clung to her companion for a while, her head buried in his slim
shoulder. He didn't ever start their conversations, and the boy-man waited
until his darling was ready to talk to him.
"I can't believe it," Emily moaned at last, "Marcus is dead and that
bastard is running our lives. He wants us to go out and kill other
Immortals as a team."
Roderick shivered, and the woman held onto him more tightly, offering what
comfort she could as the idea cut into her sensitive soulmate.
"Kenny is very dangerous," the poet's gentle tones sighed regretfully, "he
has seen so much horror it has made him what he is."
"We've all had our trials," Emily snapped sitting up away from her friend,
peeved at how understanding he could be even now; she wanted him to be
angry like she was, to shout and complain, but he never did, he always
watched life go by, quiet and reserved.
Roderick looked hurt by her anger, and so she settled again, always
unwilling to cause him that pain, but she always did.
"What are we going to do?" she asked him quietly, frightened by the
upheaval she saw coming.
"We must talk with Paulo, make him change his mind about Kenny," Emily was
surprised by the definite note in Roderick's voice, he usually reacted not
acted. "We can never return to what we were, but maybe we can get him to
leave us alone. Not everyone wants to follow Kenny, they just know how
dangerous he is. Maybe they'll leave us behind when they go."
The woman seriously doubted Kenny would leave anyone behind who could tell
tales on him, but she stayed silent, glad for the small comfort her beloved
was trying to offer. She laid a hand on his and gripped his fingers
"Together," she breathed.
"Together," he smiled and murmured the pact back at her.
Yet both child forms started as they heard a body hitting stone. An
expletive cut the night that could only come from one of their family, Mark
Quinn. He was one of Kenny's supporters, hunted by their adult
counterparts for fifty years before reaching the safety of the chateau, and
there was no doubt in Emily's mind as to whom he would tell his tales.
"We have to go, now," she decided rapidly, pulling her companion to his
feet. "Kenny will kill us."
"We made it out of that wing, but they were waiting for us. I managed to
get away, but the last I saw of Roderick, he had a sword at his throat,"
Emily finished her tale, and she was almost in tears.
The exhausted creature broke down as Amanda wrapped her in a hug, stroking
her hair and kissing her scalp; Duncan was amazed by the mother instinct
that showed itself so rapidly in his long-time friend. The Highlander
looked at Richie, and in one glance he knew that there was no question of
them not helping this girl.