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Where the Waters Meet There Find Magic

Part 3


Scene 2 4

Richie's eyes opened a slit, peering out from under his lashes to see if he was alone. {Yay. No witch woman, no Mac, no nuthin'.} He slid out of the bed and rummaged through the closet till he found some jeans and sweaters he recognised. He dressed hastily, and turned for the door.

{Pile up the bed, make them think you're still there. That won't fool them, they're all Immortals. It might fool them, better than not even trying, and it might even be a mortal that comes along first. Okay, I'm piling, I'm piling. Sheesh, give me a break. When you deserve one. Now move it Richard.} Richie pulled a face, but found shoes, a coat and slipped out of his room and down the stairs.

{How am I supposed to know where I'm going?} he thought irritatedly as his feet took him confidently down the stairs through a dark passage, into a large warm room that had to be the kitchen.

{I'll worry about that.}

{Like, that's a real comfort man. I'm just brimming with enthusiasm here.} Richie paused at the doorway to the kitchen and peeked around the jamb. There was no one there, by some good chance.

{Good chance nothing. I've been organising this for centuries. A little detail like shifting extras out the way isn't a problem.}

"Man would you stop that," Richie winced, hissing at the voice in his head. "I've been here already, you know, and while I appreciate..."

{Out the door and left.}

"Thanks, I appreciate that you're not some kind of demon, at least I hope not, and it doesn't hurt the way Ahri--"

{Don't name him!}

"Calm down, Mac killed him."

{No, he returned him to the place he came from.}

"The nether planes, or Hell or something?"

"{Or something,} the voice replied dryly.

"Anyway, like I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted..."

{Wait a moment. Look around the corner of this building. There should be a barn backing on to the house.}

Richie leaned against the soft-stone wall, and cautiously did as he was told. "Clear." He whispered.

{I can see that.}

Richie lifted his hands in annoyance, "Hey, who's helping who here? And did you just say Ahri--whosis isn't dead? Does that mean he can come back again?"

{If you're silly enough to call his name, yes. He'll come all right, especially one marked by him as his own.}

"Jeeze, great, now I get to worry about that all over again."

{It'll be another millennium before he can work up the energy to try it though, so there's no immediate problem.}

"Immediate? Hell, you could've told me that first off. I won't even be here in a thousand years.}

{No?} the voice paused, then resumed. {You need to get inside. The main door is over here."

"'S not locked." Richie pushed it wide, and crept inside the large barn, musty with old straw and banded with light through cracks in the walls. He looked around, for once there was no commentary from 'his friend' as he noted the door at the far end, the table just in front of it, and the chairs set out in curved lines before it, for all the world like a church.

"Is this some kind of chapel?"

{Some of the Immortals here would like to think so. There should be a box on the table. Open it.}

Richie wove his way through the seats to the plain wooden table. It was old, and slightly rickety looking, and marred with gouges. He ran his finger over one, and was surprised wen a splinter ran into his finger.

"Ow!" he yelped, and sucked at it. With the other hand he touched the metal box on the roughened surface. There was an indentation on one side. He leaned in to look more closely at it, then felt the other side, forgetful for the moment of the sliver of wood embedded in his index finger. He found a second indentation, and grinned.

"You know, if all the places had been this easy, I'd've been rich before I ever tried robbing Mac," he commented as he arranged his fingers.

{I knew there was a reason I needed you.} The voice was dry enough to choke on.

"Thanks. Love you too." Richie jibed back absently, pushing both sides simultaneously. There was a soft click, and the lid sprang open. He paused for a moment, reaching for the blade inside and caught up short by the unexpected intervention of a glass cover. It was the work of a moment to find the catch and lever it open.

"Okay, now what?"

{What do you think, Richard? I hardly went to all this trouble to just to look at the thing then walk away. Pick it up.}

"But... It's old," Richie peered closely at it. He'd not seen anything like it. His own sword was nowhere near as old, perhaps Methos' sword was the nearest match for it, but where Methos' short blade was nicked and dull, worn with time and battles, this one was gleaming, the edges shining wickedly in the light that seeped through the cracks in the wooden walls. The nicks and bruises looked fresh, every inch of it polished and honed within an inch of its life. Carefully he reached in and lifted it by the hilt. It had an odd balance, and seemed heavier than he had expected.

{I made that out of starstone, and tempered it long before the barbarians of the west 'discovered' the art. Short in the blade, but that was the style of the times. I wanted to make a longer blade, but he insisted, and I had to do as he asked. He was, after all, in charge. In theory.} Myrddin was almost chatty as Richie hefted the weapon twisting it, then making a few passes, stepping out into the area between the table and the chairs to have a go at it.

"Can I keep it?" Richie wondered out loud, certain of the answer.

"No. You know what I need you to do.}

"All right. It just, I don't know. It just seems a shame, you know? But--"

{Sshhh!"} Richie froze, then dived to the back of the barn as he heard the scrape of feet in the gravel by the main entrance. It was no good, he could feel more Immortals.

"Now would be a really good time for some help," he whispered urgently.

{Go through the door.}

"But those guys are there."

{Do as I say!}


Scene 2 5

Amanda hurried back to the lean-to. The yard had been deserted, but even so it provided plenty of breathing space for a sneak thief in need of cover. Methos was waiting where she'd left him.

"Well?" he asked laconically.

In answer she held up a couple of wires.

"A woman of many talents, and some of them even useful."

"Oh, all of them are useful. But you just won't get to find that out."

"Frankly I'm relieved."

"More like jealous."

Methos just tilted an eyebrow. "Are we going to leave or discuss this?"

"I'm not the one yakking on and on--"

"Shut up."

"That's the second timmmph!"

"Listen."

Somewhere behind them, the far side of the lean-to, there was a voice. It appeared to be holding a conversation, but the other person was speaking far too quietly to be heard. More importantly they could feel the growing swell of an Immortal approaching.

"The car." Methos stated firmly, not even bothering to look back.

"The car." Amanda agreed, and they both slipped out of the shelter of the rickety building and towards the red land-rover in the middle of the yard. Methos scrambled into the driver's seat, and leaned under for a moment. The engine coughed and turned over.

"Move it!" Amanda glanced into the road ahead and gasped. "Stop! Adam, stop! It's Richie."

Sure enough the boy was standing in the path of the car, and before Methos could bring the brakes fully to bear, there was a dull thud and an unpleasant lurch as the front wheel rolled over his body. In an instant Amanda was out of the car and dragging Richie out from under the car. A little slower to rush to the rescue Methos opened the door and walked around the car. {Much more of this and Mac'll just take my head to save himself the hassle of wondering who to blame this time.}

Richie was unconscious and bloodied. A couple of ribs were probably fractured, maybe even puncturing the lung by the tyre tracks on the sweater and the blood seeping from his lips. Methos made an odd sound, almost as if he had been punched in the gut, and involuntarily leaned down.

"Give me a hand here," Amanda said impatiently when the arm made no move to touch the young Immortal.

"I'll be damned." He touched a finger to the sword even yet clutched in a grip of iron in Richie's hand. "I thought I got rid of this..."


Scene 2 6

Duncan had found the keys and decided to drop in on Richie, when he was forestalled by Cedric and Vivian. They caught him just outside his room, and moved in so close that he instinctively backed into the small guest room, hand moving automatically to hilt.

"I'm sorry to crowd you Duncan," Cedric began, "But I, that is, my family and I, have some things to tell you."

"We were hoping to ask for your help, actually," Vivian burst in eagerly, as if she couldn't contain herself. Duncan looked narrowly at her, trying to reconcile the coolly competent woman of earlier with this simpering idiot.

"Why would you need my help? I owe ye thanks for helping us out, and I'll do what I can, within the limits of my honour, but you seem well provided for."

The two looked at each other then back at Duncan, by mutual, unspoken consent, Vivian went on. "It's like this Duncan MacLeod, of the Clan MacLeod. Where most things are concerned we are well found. We rarely go off our land though, and so we," she smiled sadly at him, indicating herself and Cedric, "have very little reason to fight. I fear a time is coming--"

"The accident with your young friend makes it clear--"

"And we will need help against the other Immortals, those who do not understand our philosophy. Our plans."

"Plans?" Duncan looked from one to the other. {Not again,} he thought tiredly.

Vivian nodded at Cedric, who led the three of them down the stairs, away from Richie's room, to Duncan's mild annoyance.

"Please, make yourself comfortable." Cedric leaned against the mantelpiece and waited until Vivian and Duncan had sat down. "We, Vivian and I, have lived here for, oh, about fifteen hundred years. He could see Duncan working the dates out.

he nodded. "The Dark Ages were very dark," he shook his head sadly, eyes half closed as if remembering. "So many deaths, and all to no purpose."

"We tried, as best we could," Vivian took over the story, "to direct things, people, towards a better way of life..."

"Better, how?" Duncan asked warily. He'd seen honey traps like this before, more times than he could recall.

"Safer, more organised," she shrugged, as if unable to explain precisely what she meant. "Just, better"

{For whom?} Duncan wondered. It must have shown on his face, because they both looked worried, and Cedric stepped away from the hearth, closer to MacLeod.

"what we're trying to say is that war is not the answer. Everything has a reason, but war s too cruel, too terrible to let it go on forever. We'd like to end it. We've tried, so many times in the last millennium, but," he shrugged, "it never seems to work. Not completely. Still, we've seen some amazing things."

Duncan nodded quietly, thinking of the horror of killing that still seized him from time to time, despite it being his life. "I understand. Fighting's not the answer. I don't suppose the message got far when you started."

Vivian nodded, a brief smile stretching her features. "They make such great strides when they have to."

Duncan nodded again. "Why here? And what's the thing with the lake got to do with all this?"

they exchanged a glance. "The lake's... a local story." Vivian sounded like she wanted it to be a final answer to his question.

"Myths? I don't remember any from around this area. I lived near the borders for a while. I don't remember any..." he frowned, he did remember water myths, kelpies, horse headed water spirits that drowned the unwary. But that was just fancy. But Richie had been in the water...

"You mean like kelpies and sich?" he said incredulously before he could go too many times around he circle, and was pleased, if embarrassed, to see his hosts attempting to restrain grins.

"No, no. Just, well, ghosts, and stories of men drowning when there was no cause, no reason."

"Someone said something about 'him under the water'." Duncan remarked and was startled to see the momentary fury that crossed Vivian's face.

"Some old story about a man trapped under the lake. Ridiculous. Probably the results of grief after a drowning, the body never recovered. That sort of story is a comfort to the family." Cedric intervened.

Duncan blinked slightly. He'd heard of a lot of coping mechanisms for grief - god knew he'd had cause to use a lot of them himself. But this. He shook his head for a moment, losing his thread.

Vivian smiled at him. "Mr MacLeod, basically we try to look after the human race, helping them to their full potential through the chaos. It may not look like much here, but you might be surprised at what we can achieve--"

"A little money, a helping hand. We pick and choose our people, and the things we want them to do, very carefully."

Duncan's eyebrows lifted slightly. "Just what are we talking about here?"

"Research - medical, some other areas. Helping bright students. Fixing problems before they become disasters... It's mostly seeing that the right people are in the right place at the right time. It doesn't always work," she shrugged. "People are people after all. Some events are random. Some are," she paused for a fraction of a second, "arrangeable."

Duncan frowned, his distaste growing more evident.

"Oh, nothing harmful," she hastened to add, and Duncan met the clear hazel eyes, and tried to read them. "From what we've heard of your reputation, it's the sort of thing you do yourself - helping out the odd mortal, and pre-Immortal, from a distance." He could discern nothing from them, and reluctantly decided to give her the benefit of the doubt. Almost as if she saw the acceptance in his face, she smiled up at him again.

"In fact, it's maybe even something you would like to do yourself? You've seen the pointlessness of the mortal lives wasted for want of care and attention. We try to prevent that."

"How? It all sounds good, but you've not said anything concrete. And how do you run things if you never leave here?"

"We do go abroad occasionally. But mostly we bring people here, train them, and once they're loyal, we let them run things. We get regular reports... I'm boring you I'm sure," he stopped abruptly.

"No, no, do go on," Mac was torn between boredom and curiosity, but stayed polite. "So you, what, back research, that kind of thing?"

"Generally," Cedric lied. "Sometimes it's a little more hands on, working with the homeless, the poor. You know. helping them to help themselves." He was careful not to meet Vivian's eyes. {Just as well we didn't let Simon come along, he'd have laughed or done something equally stupid by now, otherwise,} he thought scornfully.

{Helping them to help themselves, indeed, Cedric. I've taught you well,} Vivian thought from her corner of the room, her eyes narrowing a little. {Perhaps I'd do well to keep an eye on now. This close, I can't afford you suddenly starting to think.}

"The best way is to start from the beginning," Cedric said suddenly. "Come with me, I want to show you something."

"I'll just check in on Richie first, if--"

"I'll get someone to do that for you. your young friend's sleeping," Cedric said confidently of the sleeping draught that Richie had been slipped in the warm tea Duncan had made him drink. Vivian had liked that, a nice ironic touch, and one she had used to lethal effect on others before them. He smiled at her and she nodded back, acknowledging his unspoken compliment. "Yes, I checked in on him myself a little while back," Vivian added. "But certainly, if you want to look--"

Duncan shook his head, "He needs the sleep more. If I go charging in he'll wake up. Where did you want to go?"

"Just downstairs." Cedric tucked an arm familiarly in Duncan's and Vivian watched, amused as MacLeod drew himself away.


Scene 2 7

"Here." Cedric pulled open the barn door, and gestured Duncan inside. "We've been here a long time."

"I can see that." Mac replied, looking around the room. The structure was the kind that he had only ever seen in history books, heavy beams criss-crossed across the roof, holding up a woven roof of branches. From the outside it had been covered in corrugated iron, presumably a concession to the ever-present rain. He shook his head briefly, and smiled. "At least eighth century?"

"Spot on!" Cedric said delightedly. "Now, I have someone to appreciate history, finally," he added with a mock stern look at the red headed woman who stood waiting at the door way.

"If you don't mind, I'm going to get on with some chores, check up on Simon, that sort of thing," she answered, and pushed her shoulders away from the door and walked away, back towards the house.

Cedric sat in one of the chairs, and waved Mac to another. Duncan stayed on his feet, taking in the large barn.

"Anyway. This is part of what I wanted to show you. We're a big organisation these days, but back at the start, it was pretty much what you can see, without the furniture.

"I suppose I should start at the very beginning... I was born in France, when it was art of the Roman Empire. Then it was the Gaulish empire, the Roman empire, the Frankish empire... I died aged eighteen, run through by some soldier. He wore imperial red, but that was what they all wore. God knows who he was fighting for, or maybe he just thought I'd have money on me, god knows why, Caesar had taxed it all out of us for the wars. I left for Britain, where the tribes had pretty much driven out the empire. As I arrived the fourth legion were being recalled to Rome." He shrugged, "Not that it made much difference. Darius was halfway across Europe by then, and was at the gates of Paris fifty years later. All I knew was that I kept getting killed by people whose language I didn't recognise, and lumped them all in together. Britain was going to have no Romans, and by definition would be 'better'." He laughed, and Duncan nodded.

"It never is, though," he said, anticipating the direction this was taking.

Cedric nodded ruefully. "I know that now, know to reach the symptoms by attacking the root cause, but then, I didn't even know what I was. I didn't meet an Immortal in twenty years, was too poor to have a mirror... I never stayed anywhere long enough to have my miraculous youth remarked on.

"So, here I am, and what happens? Someone invades. Naturally. They came down from Scandinavia, Jutes, Saxons, Danes... wave after wave of them." He sighed and met MacLeod's eyes, which were curious, and sympathetic.

"It must have been hard?"

Cedric nodded. "Very. Around then I met Felix Longivus..."

"Subtle name." Duncan's eyebrow lifted in question.

"Subtle as an axe. Couple of hundred years in the game, a foot soldier with Trajan... " he shook his head reminiscently. "I've since learned that every old campaigner sounds like Felix did, but back then he was like a father and general and miracle worker all rolled into one, and the stories he could tell. Well, camp fire was never boring. He told me all about Immortals, right there, in front of the men, who called him the biggest liar in the Hesperides: he used to be proud of the title even."

"So I join the campaigns against the Saxon, and fairly soon, it becomes obvious we're going to need more man power. I'm no politician, back then I let others work at the tough stuff, I just fought with Longivus, and felt like I was helping."

"Then there was a big battle." Cedric paused and seemed lost in recollection. After long moments he started speaking again, overwhelming anger in his voice. "The commander in chief was betrayed by his bodyguard, a self-serving, ambitious Immortal called Bedfyr. There was a chance for us to win, there at Bath, but whatever we gained that day... even though we won the battle, the war was lost with the king. It could have been salvaged, even then, but the same man, together with another Immortal conspired to destroy everything. They threw the king's sword into the lake, without it there could be no heir." His shoulders slumped. "Whoever carried the sword led the troops. Simple as that. No sword, no way to decide who was to take charge, and it all fell apart."

"I never wanted to see it happen again." He rose to his feet and moved towards the back of the barn, pausing momentarily at the buzz of at least one immortal nearby, before remembering the coffins out the back. They must be in sensing range. He saw Duncan pause as he followed him, and said, "Just Vivian or Simon. Don't worry about it." Duncan nodded, and walked after him.

He glanced backwards at Duncan as he reached for the casing on the High Table. "To remind myself, and as a symbol of what I decided to do, I got the sword back out of the water." He opened the case by touch as Duncan came up next to him. "There," he said, and gasped in horror. It was gone.


Scene 2 8

Amanda scooped up the sword that had fallen from Richie's hand, and dropped it on the back seat with him.

"Carefully," Methos mocked, "You don't know where he's been." Amanda ignored him, leaning under the steering wheel again instead.

"Accelerator."

Methos pushed lightly at the pedal, and was surprised by a roar of engine as the spark caught.

"What are you waiting for," Amanda asked as she pulled herself back into an upright position into the front passenger seat. "Move it!"

Methos threw a sardonic look at her but refrained from answering. "What am I? Your chauffeur?"

"No, if you were at least I could have the pleasure of firing you."

"Perhaps we should find out some more about this..." Methos turned to look back at the house.

Amanda interrupted. "It's broad daylight, and we're stealing one of their cars. If you want to 'explore' then I suggest you come back later. Right now, you don't even know where you are." She was leaning forward in her seat, stretching to see all around.

"Yes, I do."

"What was that again?"

Methos turned back in his seat and released the handbrake. "I think I know where we are."

"Where?"

"In trouble."

He jerked his head towards the barn they had all just come out of. Another figure, tall, with dirty blond hair was rushing out. Methos slipped the clutch and the tyres spun for a moment on the gravel before finding a purchase and pulling away. The Immortal ran after them, and over the sound of the engine she could hear, "Come back! I saw you! Bring it back! Stop him, kill them if you have to. They're taken it! They've taken it!"

Amanda was looking back, half an eye on Richie, and saw the house empty of people in a great swarm. They milled about for a moment, then seemed to find direction. In the middle of the crowd, moving with the gestures and look of authority, was Duncan MacLeod.

"Oops." she mumbled.

Methos glanced at her. "Define 'oops'."

"Um, you know that crowd back there? Well, we seem to have really pissed them off."

"I'm not surprised. I think I saw Cedric lurking around there."

"Um, well, I'm glad he's a friend of yours, because MacLeod's with him."

Methos groaned, covering his eyes briefly with one hand as the car lurched down the bumpy track. "Of course he's there. He's probably buying into their 'greater good of mankind' speech even as we speak." The car lurched more than before into a huge rut, and Amanda fell across Methos. From behind them there was a thud.

Methos ignored it, still muttering darkly.

"Oops," Amanda said, taking a peek over Methos' shoulder into the back. Richie had rolled off the seat, and his torso was wedged between the front and back seats, his head swaying alarmingly with every motion of the car, and thumping quite hard up against the passenger door.

Methos made an interrogative sound, then added on second thoughts, "Do I want to know?"

"Richie fell off the seat,."

"Mac's not here to hold his hand, of course he fell off the seat." Methos said sourly. "Have a look and see if they're catching us."

Not so far as I - oof- can see." Another pot hole threw her half way into the back of the car. Thus it was when Richie finally came to, he was nose to nose with Amanda. He blinked slightly, and Amanda watched with amusement as a smirk crossed his face, only to obliterated by a jolt which knocked his nose hard on her teeth, before letting his head slam backwards onto the floor.

"Ow! Who's driving this thing?" There was an undignified scramble, and Amanda managed to jerk herself back into her seat. Richie's head appeared seconds later, and he met Methos' eyes in the rear view mirror, and groaned, covering his eyes. "Amanda, tell me that the oldest driver in the world hasn't got control of this?"

Amanda sniggered, looking carefully at Methos' hands on the wheel. "You're right, he hasn't."

The hand lifted for a moment, and a pair of light blue eyes examined the evidence, and were covered up again. "You're right. He may be behind the wheel, but he's not in c-control," he stuttered over a particularly large bump. He winced as the gears ground, and the car was manhandled around a sharp right. Then, blissful, impossible smoothness. {Tarmac! Thank you!} Richie thought fervently.

{Nothing to do with me,} Myrddin replied with amusement.

"I wasn't talking to you" Richie snapped back.

The two in the front glanced at each other, and then back at Richie. "Uh, weren't talking to whom?" Methos asked mildly.

"Shit." {That about covers it,} a small voice commented.


Scene 2 9

Heedless of Duncan, Cedric rushed to a door that had been almost hidden in the darkness at the back of the barn. He narrowed his eyes, expecting the bright sunlight to pour in, but there was no change for a moment. There was a wail of rage, "No!" and as Duncan hurried after, another door was flung wide, revealing the tiny back room with two upright, empty coffins in it. He frowned, more and more concerned by the whole thing, and followed Cedric out through the small door into the yard.

There he found twenty or thirty people milling about, and Cedric yelling at them.

"Stop them!" He pointed towards a car accelerating away through the gates, literally, through them, and Duncan froze for a second - it was his car.

"The thieves are in it?" he asked rhetorically.

Someone turned, "Yes, they've taken it... Was it your car?" he added, recognising the stranger from the night before.

"Yes," growled Duncan, who ran to a second car. "Keys!" he roared.

Heads snapped round and Cedric suddenly was there, "Yes, yes, here, of course you'll help us, they've taken your property too. Will you help us? You've got to help us MacLeod, the sword... it's gone..." he babbled.

Duncan scowled and snatched the keys out of the distraught man's hand. "Give me that." He turned and asked generally, "Did anyone see who it was?" There was an awkward silence, and then someone volunteered,

"It was a man and a woman, dark haired, perhaps late twenties, early thirties. There was another one, the kid you brought in this morning," the young woman accused Duncan.

"That's not possible, he--"

"I saw him carrying the sword. They nearly ran him over, and then they picked him up, put him in the car, and left." She turned to face Cedric, "I tried to stop them, but I couldn't keep up." She looked like she was about to burst into tears, and Cedric dropped a hand onto her shoulder briefly to comfort her.

"Don't worry, we'll get them back," he said softly, viciously.

"Richie? How can Richie be involved? You assured me he was safe in bed. Did you even bother to check? First you tell me he's delirious and needs his sleep, and now he's running around?" he glared accusingly at Cedric, who turned towards Vivian expectantly.

"He should have been asleep," she said darkly. "You might find he's not quite the Richie you remember when we find him."

Duncan paused as he slid into the driver's seat. "What the hell's that supposed to mean?"

Vivian shoved Cedric towards the car and got in herself. "He fell in the lake," she said simply, as if this should make all plain.

"What is it about the bloody lake," he snapped, pushing the accelerator to the floor, and scattering the crowd around them as he drove furiously out of the compound.

"I told you - it's magic." Cedric reminded him, equally simply.

"Magic?" he said sceptically, gripping the steering wheel ferociously to keep from lurching forwards and out through the windscreen as the car bumped it's way down the long rutted lane to the main road.

"Whether you believe us or not, MacLeod, what's important is the effect. Would he do something like this normally?"

MacLeod drove. {Not without a damn good reason,} he thought, clenching his jaw to keep the words in, more and more unconvinced by the whole thing.


Scene 3 0

"So, you're hearing voices?" Methos said calmly.

"Not hearing as such, more like, um, and there's only one. It's not voices." Richie glanced up from his examination of his jeans and then dropped his eyes again as the two elder Immortals continued to just watch him, curiously, as if he was some cute animal that had done an interesting trick, and, if they waited long enough, might do it again.

"So what would you call it?"

"Reminders. Sort of remembering what I was going to do when I got to this point, and then what next, and so on and so on."

"And getting you to steal swords that are a couple of thousand years old." Methos said neutrally.

Richie looked shamefaced, and twisted said sword awkwardly in his hands.

"Where are we going?" he asked a moment later.

Methos nodded towards the water. "I think I would like to get away from there first."

"What good will that do? He'll still be inside my head." Richie said without thinking, then cried out as his skull seemed to implode with pain.

The car screeched to a halt and Methos turned around fully in the seat. He grasped Richie's chin and forced his head up. Blue eyes met brown and Methos' lips tightened.

"I know you," he said quietly, and let go. "There's a place near by we can discuss this." He glanced back down the road to see another car pulling out of the farm turning. It was a fair bet it was the other Immortals, maybe Duncan too. He restarted the stalled engine, and headed towards the northerly end of the valley.


Scene 3 1

"Come on!" Richie was virtually dancing in impatience around the ancient Immortal as the three of them toiled upwards. He'd quickly recovered form the spasm of pain in the car, and once they had parked, had rushed up the hill when Methos told him that there was a good view down to the lake from the top, and somewhere safe to talk.

"Why did I bother?" Amanda sighed, a good twenty metres behind them. She looked over her shoulder down the hill. They'd abandoned a perfectly good car because Richie was hearing voices, and Methos wanted to say hello. She shook her head in bemusement. Live she never so long, she'd never figure them out. {Like father, like son, that's the only way to describe it. MacLeod is always pulling stunts like this, and what do I do? I tag along for the good of my health.}

"If I wanted to explain everything to you, I'd pick somewhere more comfortable," Methos snapped as Richie started in on the "Aw but" 's again.

"How'll I learn if you guys won't teach me?"

"If you'd learnt anything at all, it should have kept you out of the water."

""I wasn't to know there'd be resident psychopaths in it!"

"Why are we here?" Amanda called up towards them. She caught up to the two men, and stopped. The sun was low in the sky, but the clear blue reached all around, hazing out the hills and mountains. Below she could see a stream, the long thin water reaching down towards Thirlmere, a silver streak in the distance. A caravan park marred the view, but it was mostly deserted this time of year, and those few hardy souls who were staying there were off walking. But the thing that caught her attention was the stone circle. Not much more than boulders sticking up, pear shaped from the ground, crudely hewn and looking almost as though they had grown there, shouldering their way up through the grass.

Slowly she walked around it. She reached the two largest stones, clearly a gateway, and paused, uncertain. She glanced back. "Do you think...?" her voice trailed off.

"I don't know. What do you think?" Methos replied helpfully.

Amanda stared at him for a moment, as if she had never seen him, then touched the stone. "Warm."

"Sunny day."

She nodded, and lifted her hand away.

Richie waited.

"What do you want, Death?" he asked, finally. Methos' eyes narrowed minutely, the barest indication that the remark was of any interest.

"Did Mac tell you about this really freaky Quickening he and I experienced a year or so back?" he asked instead.

Richie shook his head, and spread his hands helplessly as his mouth opened. "Don't be obtuse. The boy's not running things. I am."

The dark haired Immortal nodded in agreement. "Of course it is. I'd been wondering where you got to." He took a couple of paces forwards into the circle. "Care to join us?"

"Not really. I might separate me further than the six degrees."

"Interesting choice of words."

"I'm trapped, not ignorant."

"Would someone mind not playing the stupid word games and just say something," Amanda stalked up to glare at the two men.

"It's quite simple. A friend of his trapped him a long time ago. Every now and then, he tries to get out, with minimal success I might add."

"I've never had you around."

"You haven't, have you? I wonder why that is?" Methos agreed sweetly. Amanda winced inwardly. "Leave the boy alone."

"No. He's got lots of gaps in his mind - that Demon left an awful mess. I wonder that you didn't try to help."

"Not my style, Myrddin. He was healing quite nicely until you poked around in that slush he calls a brain."

"I suppose it's not you, to help out. Why don't you just look the other way, and I'll get on with it."

"With what? Methos, is Richie all right? What's he talking about?" Amanda demanded.

"Get him inside the circle." Methos suggested. Richie began to back away, very slowly, and Amanda gaped.

"I don't believe this," she snapped. "Come here." With a quick move Richie was tugged over the boundary of the circle. "See. Nothing happened," she said triumphantly as Richie fell to his knees, hands clasped to his head. "Rich?"

"Did you have to?" he said weakly. "Ow. He was going to go."

"He was lying, trust me." Methos crouched a little distance away from him.

"As far as I could throw you, grandpops." Richie jibed. He frowned for a moment. "Why did they trap him?"

Methos sat down and sighed. "Because he was unpredictable, and more powerful than any of them. It was a lot easier to keep him out of the loop."

"But he agrees with them. He thinks the world would be better off for chaos and violence, just like they do."

"What makes you think that?" Methos asked mildly, smiling at Richie's odd ideas. "Cedric is a petty mercenary who thought that he should have been a king. He sincerely believes in the supremacy of Immortals, and of himself among Immortals. He's spent a thousand years up here, waiting for the world to come to him, cap in hand." He shook his head and leaned back against a stone. "It's not going to happen."

"Why would such an out of the way crew have a state of the art military operation going in the Pyrennees?" Amanda asked suddenly. "I mean, how come we're here."

"Did you get a look inside that cave at all? No?" he went on as Amanda shook her head. "Pity. You'd've liked it. State of the art computer kits, to match the goons. A satellite station in the heart of France. They'd be furious if they found out. I imagine it's part of the grand scheme."

"To..."

"To take over the world," Richie said wearily, rolling over onto his stomach from where he had been sitting in the damp grass. "What else do these guys ever want? That or to take mine or Mac's heads."

"I imagine he's been running their thoughts for centuries? I reckon Cedric is no longer capable of independent thought, if he ever was."

"Between him and Vivian, I'm not surprised," Richie remarked, then had to cover a yawn, "Sorry, didn't get much rest when I was sleeping. Bad dreams."

"I'm not surprised with that witch there," Methos said, then hit himself, realising what he'd said. "Of course she's there. Where else would she be. I knew she'd have to stay nearby when she trapped him."

"You didn't tell her that though, did you, Bedfyr?" another voice sliced through the quiet. "I've been trapped here just as much as she is."

"I know. It was worth the sacrifice. I quite liked Myrddin, but letting you fester in your dumb plotting, watching you stale with boredom and anger, that was worth it." Methos got to his feet slowly and walked towards the edge of the circle.

"Come out. Come out and try me," Cedric snarled.

"Don't try it, Methos." The Highlander hurried up to join the rest of them, barely breaking a sweat, Methos noticed, even after rushing up the hill.

"Duncan. How nice of you to join us." Methos rubbed both hands over his face. "How unexpected."

"Give me back the sword, Richie," Duncan said quietly, walking towards his young friend, and holding out one hand, wholly untroubled by the circle Simon was taking such pains to stay outside of.

"Sorry Mac. No can do." Richie smiled at him, and let the antique iron sword rest across his lap.

"I've got your own sword here." Cedric offered, holding it out temptingly to the younger man. Richie shook his head stubbornly.

"Don't need it. I like this one for now."

"Richie, you promised you wouldn't steal." Duncan this time.

Richie pulled a disgusted face at him. "I didn't steal it," he protested. "If anyone stole it, he did. It was supposed to stay in the lake, so along he comes and insists on diving for it. No respect." He shook his head in reproof, and let his hands close a little more tightly over the metal.

Duncan waved towards Cedric and Simon, prowling outside the circle. "They let me come ahead to talk to you. They know," he glanced at them momentarily, and a look of distaste passed over his face, "They know you've not been feeling well, and they'll, um overlook this."

"No." Richie said flatly, sliding his hand to rest on the hilt.

"Duncan, where's the other one?" Methos asked urgently.

"Sorry?" Duncan half turned to look at him, surprised. "Who, Vivian? Back at the farm house. Why?"

"Because they've always worked that way, one works while the others distract." His face tightened with something that might almost be worry, then the expression smoothed away, leaving Duncan to wonder if he had imagined it. He shrugged, starting to wonder himself.

"What's the other one up to?" Methos repeated.


Scene 3 2

Vivian stared at the computer screen. She yawned hugely, and then sighed. "I ought to go into business for myself," she said as she covered her mouth. She loved this, persuading the machines to sit up and dance to her tune. "This week the Pentagon, tomorrow the world," she grinned, then laughed. "Why bother with that any more," she wondered, but nonetheless coaxed it into obedience.

She reached without looking for the can of beer sitting on the mouse mat, and frowned as her hand closed around a warm, empty tin. "Kate! Beer!"

"Get your own, Vivian Faye," a woman's voice rang back through the intercom.

"Aw Katie babe. I'm almost dying here, and I won't be much longer, and I'll love you forever..."

"Stop whining!" But she was laughing, so she knew she'd gotten her way again.

The beer appeared a moment later. Kate knew better than to linger, and was closing the door silently when Vivian called to her.

"Where's Cedric? I ought to show him this."

"They've all gone after the thief with Cedric and the visitor."

"Oh. Okay. What thief?" she feigned ignorance..

Kate wandered back in and perched on the edge of the desk, her back to the computer screen. "The kid that was you were helping with this morning? The one with the hypothermia? He took that sword of Cedric's."

Vivian began laughing. "Well, what do you know. Bet that got him going. Let me guess, total panic?" {Time for us to get out, but I'm not telling them that. Best to cut loose. That way I shouldn't have more than a few losses overall, even if we are driven out of here.} She thought sadly of the long years she had spent putting it all together, and somehow, by agreeing to help MacLeod, it had all fallen apart. First the boy in the water, then the sword. "You think we've been defeated here?"

Kate nodded reluctantly.

"Hey, don't worry. We'll be just fine, sword or no sword." She waved at the screen. "This is much better than a sharp pointy piece of metal."

Kate turned and watched the screen, a countdown racing towards completion. "What's it doing?" she asked nervously.

"That?" She grinned up at her. "Oh, just waiting for Cedric to say the word. Then we buy and sell, sell and buy."

"What?"

"Anything we want to." She smirked maliciously at the screen. "Anything we want."


Scene 3 3

"Come out of the circle, boy." Cedric challenged Richie again.

"Don't feel like it," he replied brattily.

"Richie..." Duncan glared at him. "Give him the sword back."

"It's not his. He stole it. Didn't he?" he turned to Methos, and stopped. The man was gone. He looked around, and spotted him at the foot of the hill, diving into a car. "Great. Stick around why don't you," he muttered, then met Cedric's eyes. "Is this holy ground too then?"

"Come out here."

Richie stood, slowly, and walked to the edge of the circle. He hesitated for a moment, then stepped out, raising the unfamiliar sword.

"Use this," Cedric offered Richie's own blade, hilt first, and Richie shook his head, lifting the sword and taking his stance a few feet away.

Cedric looked around beseechingly, "He can't use that, it's not right. I can't win, it's not a fair fight..."

"Are you going to just yak about it, or are we going to fight?" Richie snapped, stalking closer.

"Fight." Cedric swung Richie's sword round and up, launching his attack without warning. Richie stepped hastily back, warding off the overhead blows. The swords rang as they struck each other, and Duncan slowly backed away, out of range of the combatants. {Not my fight...} he was leaning on his katana, not quite sure when it had made its way into his hands. Richie held his own.

Duncan watched approvingly as the kid's shoulders strained, and forced the other away, following up with quick strikes towards Cedric's left side, unguarded for a moment. First blood. Cedric looked appalled, not so much at the injury, Duncan realised suddenly, as that it was his precious myth making, king borne sword that had sliced him open.

He stood gaping far too long, a second, maybe two. It was as easy as that. The sword swung, and his head toppled from his shoulders, the rest of his body following a moment later, gravity taking over from suddenly lax muscles.

The Quickening gathered, that otherwise windy place suddenly turning still and preternaturally quiet. Almost like a storm across the lake ripples gathered in the distance, moving slowly. Around Richie the grass bent low pushed down by a breeze that touched nothing else, except Richie's hair, pushing the short strands wildly across his face as his eyes closed painfully.

Thunder rumbled softly around the hills, as the lightening snapped between Cedric's body and Richie's. Duncan caught a movement out of the corner of his eyes, and saw Simon circling towards the kid as he knelt, exhausted, holding a short sword low and dangerous.

"No, Simon, don't!" Duncan tried to protest, Amanda glanced up, startled, and Simon took his chance, running the dark haired Immortal clean through.

"Amanda!" he was within feet of her body in a flash, staggering as gusts tried to push him from his feet. Simon held a sword over her neck.

"You know her? You care what happens to her? Good. Leave me alone Highlander," he growled. Duncan took a hesitant step closer, and swore. {I can't interfere...} as he watched, Amanda's eyes opened, and she smiled painfully at him, then winked. Simon was raising the sword for the final strike, when Amanda's hand moved, snapping down then up, and something glinted briefly as it crossed the short space between the two.

Simon stared at the dagger protruding through his breast bone, and screamed with pure rage. He lifted his arms again, but his hands betrayed him, loosening around the hilt of his sword until it dropped, too heavy to carry.

Richie was still on the ground, leaning heavily on his hands, trying to catch his breath. He heard the noise, a woman's scream. Duncan's shout - "Amanda, no!". His eyes opened and he saw the other Immortal man fall, joining his partner in crime in death. Amanda was kneeling, still gripping one shoulder of the decapitated man, the head fallen between them. She let go and closed her eyes, letting the second Quickening rip through her, opening her arms and eyes in a feral grin, laughing wildly as the power poured through her. Moments later it was over and Duncan picked her up.

"What the hell did you do that for? He didn't harm you!"

"He did. It was him - or one of his friends, that had us killed and brought here. I think they planned to simply wait till you had gone again, and then tie us up and execute us." she said sharply, too tired to pretty up the words. "Where's Richie?"

"Here." The younger Immortal walked slowly towards them. "What was that? It was like he didn't even try to fight me." He turned the sword in the setting sunlight. "Do you think..."

"No." Amanda and Mac said as one.

"Mmm." He left the thought unfinished. "Where's the old guy?"

"I thought..." Duncan looked round.

"I saw him sneak off earlier," Amanda volunteered. "He was talking about the third one of them. Vivian, was that the name?"

Duncan nodded, about to speak when another, wholly unexpected voice spoke.

"They hunt in packs." The three immortal turned sharply to see the speaker. An old man stood there, short steel grey hair, pale grey eyes, bone structure sharp enough to cut with.

"They always did."


Scene 3 4

THIRLMERE FARM

Methos jogged from the car through the buildings slowly, waiting to find the last Immortal. The farm was still swarming with people, but no one had noticed him as he slipped from one shadow to another. He paused for a moment and glanced up along the roof lines at a sudden thought. There.

He picked up his pace and was at the building in seconds. Another communications place by the look of the aerials and satellite dishes. He could feel her presence now.

He drew his sword as he heard a chair scrape inside.

"Cedric? That you?"

He waited by the door until it opened then slammed it back, forcing her into the room.

"Bedfyr. Well, you took your time getting here. I expected you about a week after he took that damn sword out the lake," she said coolly, ignoring the sword at her throat and backing into the room.

"It was only a sword, and I could neutralise it," he shrugged.

Vivian nodded. "I was impressed. You buried that story for nearly four hundred years. I don't think Cedric's ever forgiven you."

"He thinks I killed him. Owein Ddantgwyn that is. The dragon," he added absently, staring at the computer banks behind Vivian. "Would you like to explain that?" he pointed with his sword towards the screens, as the clock slowly flicked through another minute.

"Oh, just a little something."

Methos sighed, a combination of irritation and boredom on his face. "Are you going to turn it off, or shall I? I didn't enjoy killing Felix, and I'm sure I won't enjoy killing you, but I can always make exceptions."

"No thanks, I think I'll let it run. Put the sword down." She said deeply, and waited expectantly.

Methos just laughed. "It doesn't work on me, I wonder why. Could it be I'm actually brighter than you thought? Beeswax is such an old trick." He lifted his sword. "Do or die."

"Then die, old man." Vivian threw a glass of beer in his face, but Methos ducked, quickly wiping the residue away, moving before she had brought her sword out completely to slap the blade away. "Turn it off," he asked her gently, pinning her wrist to the table with the sword edge.

She spat at him., and reached with her other hand for the keyboard. He hit her, hard, and she tumbled to the floor unconscious. He picked her up and dropped her onto a chair, torso over the seat, head dangling off one side. He raised his sword for the final blow, and hesitated. He couldn't do it here. Too many people to get through, and moreover, he had a nagging feeling that this was Holy Ground - it would be very like Cedric to come up with a dim idea like dousing the boundaries with holy water, and think that made it Holy Ground. With his luck, it might even be true. He lifted the sword again, telling himself it probably wasn't... but if it was... He frowned, and heaved her up over one shoulder, hurrying for the car.

He was in luck, the place seemed deserted now, no one saw them, or at least, did nothing about it if they did. Five minutes later they were well away from the farm.

He parked on the roadside, and unceremoniously yanked her out of the car, heaving her over the wall separating the road from the lakeside. She moaned, and he pulled her head up to find her eyes flickering open.

"Fair fight or get on with it?" he mused as he vaulted the wall to join her. She heard, that much was plain. Her eyes widened, and she tried to scramble away from him. She almost made it to her feet, and then had to stop herself, arms windmilling, eyes wide with fear, as she nearly tumbled into the water.

"No, wait there." He shoved her away, hard, and as she fell, landing on hands and knees, facing towards the water, his sword re-appeared.

"No, MacLeod's the romantic," he decided. "I'm the pragmatist."

"Think of her as a present from me, Myrddin..." he added as the blade swung down.


Scene 3 5

The old man walked closer, and Richie edged backwards, a little behind Duncan and Amanda.

"Don't be silly. I just came for the sword." He held out a hand. "I wanted to thank you for fetching it."

"I don't remember doing that." Richie said aggressively, holding the sword across his body. "Why should I believe you?"

Myrddin shrugged. "Don't then. As you wish." He began walking away, and Richie hurried after him.

"Just like that? You'll regret it."

"Possibly." The old man shrugged. "However, I can afford to wait."

"Tell me, Fyanon," Methos said casually. "Did you ever break that spell of Vivian's?"

The old man smiled at him, only Methos spotting, with long centuries of practice with this man, the lie. "She was a good student, but not that good."

"You're bound here," Methos waved towards the lake. "Bound to the cave. How long can you stay out for?" he began to smile viciously. "I'll bet you'd love to be out, making sure they're not letting their little plots stray too far from your plans."

"I don't know what you mean."

Richie looked at him oddly. "You said they were your friends, that they were your hands and eyes. I don't get it --"

"Don't you?" Methos lifted an eyebrow at Duncan.

Duncan nodded slowly, "Double cross. He's using both ends against the middle. Why?"

"For the same purpose he ever wanted. Chaos. If there's chaos, then order has to struggle to survive, and Fyanon - Myrddin - whatever you want to call yourself these days, believes that is the way to create a stronger race."

"But --why" Richie asked finally, looking questioning from one face to the other. It was Fyanon who answered, oddly enough. "Because that's what I believe. For order to exist there must be chaos, for chaos, order. If you like, it's survival of the fittest."

"But you shouldn't be choosing who you think are and are not fit," Methos said as gently as Duncan had ever heard him. "That's always been your flaw, believing that you can create the pattern, or make it change to fit your world view."

"You killed her, didn't you?" Amanda asked Methos quietly. "The woman Immortal?" Methos looked at her for a moment.

"Yes."

"What were they going to do?"

Methos shrugged. "I don't know. I just stopped it."

"How?" Duncan asked, "If you didn't know what they were doing?"

Methos grinned. "I used my cosmic powers to locate the off switch." Richie snorted with laughter then looked around.

"Where's he gone, now?" he asked exasperatedly, gesturing to the space where the old man had been a moment ago.

"Celebrating I expect. When her body went into Thirlmere it started to break the binding. He won't be free for a while though."

"Do we want him free?" Duncan asked.

"Probably not. Tell you what, Richie, you can do what I tried to do. Chuck that sword into the lake."

"Me? but why? Don't you want to?"

Methos shrugged again. "You'll enjoy it more."

Duncan looked as though he wanted to ask more, but Methos shook his head almost imperceptibly, and mouthed, "Later."

"Okay, so, shall we do it like now?" Richie said, bouncing slightly. All three older Immortals groaned.

"I think I'd like a meal and a good night's sleep first, if you don't mind." Amanda said sharply. "Keswick's just down the road from here. We should be able to find somewhere that'll take you all." Her tome successfully implied that she would have no trouble obtaining a room under any circumstances, and that they might consider themselves lucky to be with her, and therefore able to benefit from this when any normal hotel would throw them out on sight. The three men exchanged glances, and wisely kept silent as they all started back for the cars.


Scene 3 6

TWELVE HOURS LATER, THIRLMERE WATER

The three immortals met again at the foot of the hill, by the lake.

"Well, did you find him?" Duncan demanded as Methos joined them.

He shrugged. "Gone."

"Dead gone, or gone gone?" Richie asked. Methos smiled faintly.

"As far as I know, not being psychic, just gone. If he's dead, then he's dead. If he's alive, he's well hidden or elsewhere."

There was a long silence, then Richie drew the sword that had caused so much aggravation. "In there?" he jerked with his thumb towards the lake.

"Yeah. If you can, make it near the clear still place in the middle. It's deeper there." Methos suggested.

Duncan rowed slowly, pulling the oars back through the water. At the front of the boat, Richie sat, huddled in a thick sweater and heavy leather jacket. The only sound in the pre-dawn greyness was the water, splashing against the little dingy, swirling around the blades of the oars.

Richie shivered. Duncan glanced up.

"You don't have to do this," he said softly, trying not to disrupt the quiet. Almost imperceptibly, Richie's head shook.

"No. It's, you know, right." He lifted the sword for a moment, then dropped it again onto his lap. "Do you..."

"Hmm?" Duncan encouraged.

"Do you think I was really hearing Myrddin? Or did I just dream him up?"

"I saw him too," Duncan reminded him.

"Well, was he an Immortal?"

Duncan shrugged. "Does it matter?"

Richie started to answer, and then paused. "I thought it did, but... " he shrugged, then smiled deprecatingly at himself. "I couldn't use it, even if it were true." He pulled a face, "I get a great idea for a story about the Arthurian romances, and I can't use it because it would endanger my whole life." He paused thoughtfully, waiting for Duncan to say something, but nothing was forthcoming.

"Will he come back for it?" he asked softly, as he stood in the precariously rocking boat.

"I hope not," Duncan said finally. "I hope not." He rested the oars in the rowlocks, and waited. Richie hefted the sword, once, twice, then brought it back over his shoulder and snapped his arm forwards. The weapon whistled as it arced through the air. Far out, it hit the grey mirror of still water, and vanished. The two Immortals watched for long minutes, Richie still standing, Duncan turned on the seat to watch, but nothing happened.

"I feel like an idiot for expecting something to happen."

"A hand in white samite rising from the waters?" he was teased. Then Duncan's face lost it's smile. "No, I know what you mean." He shrugged. "Perhaps it wasn't magic."

"Pity." Richie sat down, and Duncan bent to the oars again.

On the shore, a man with sharper eyes than theirs watched too. Methos stood hunched in a heavy black overcoat, hands jammed deep into pockets. He watched as the sword dipped into the water, and vanished. Somewhere between the waves he could almost see the glint of movement that bespoke a human body. He nodded slowly, as though receiving news he expected, and had no wish to hear.

"Welcome back, Fyanon. It's been... instructive."

The End


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