The Holyground Highlander Forum Midweek Challenge
Archivist’s Note: The stories and vignettes offered here from various Holyground Forumlanders have not been edited or changed other than having a spell-check performed and being reformatted for this website.
The Challenge by Leah CWPack
Mysteries of the 2,100-year-old Time Capsule by vixen69
Buried Treasure by Wain
Blast from the Past by bookmom
The Treasure Box by SBO
The Lesson by Ysanne
The Treasure Chest by MissyD
A Life Lost and Found by Celedon
Photographic Memories by SwingGirl
Shades of Meaning by Pat
The Treasure Chest by USTADAWN
Time in a Bottle by Ghost Cat
MID-WEEK CHALLENGE: BOXING DAY
Your assignment, should you decide to participate:
Your challenge, should you feel compelled to participate:
Write a short story or scene about one or more Immortals and a 'time capsule'...either a box or some other preserved collection of mementos. Stretch your imagination!
Remember to put "MWC" on the subject line of your submission if you would like to have your work archived.
MWC--Mysteries of the 2,100-Year-old Time Capsule
Posted By: vixen69 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Monday, 8 October 2001, at 7:48 p.m.
Duncan considered that it only made sense that a 5,000-year-old man wouldn’t find much in the way of “must-see TV.”—after all, Methos had practically seen everything already. He showed a distressing lack of interest in football—even World Cup (“It’s not like I have any money riding on it, MacLeod”) and generally wasn’t interested in sitcoms (“I didn’t even particularly love Lucy”). As a result, he was a little surprised when Methos appeared to be completely absorbed in a Discovery channel documentary, to the point of “shush-ing” conversation and making a distinct protective gesture over the remote control when it was suggested that “Casablanca” was being re-aired on Channel 42. Becoming a little intrigued himself, Duncan sat down to see what had the man so fascinated.
“Buried under the shifting sands, preserved over the millennia, this package has sat, undisturbed, waiting for us to consider its many mysteries—as a time capsule, if you will. Archeologists have learned a great deal from this recent find, but questions remain—who left this here? Could it have been a traveler who came to an untimely end—and if so, why haven’t human remains been found? Or was it intended as exactly what it appears to be—an artifact left to teach a lesson of the past…”
Methos snorted rolled his eyes. “Sure. We had nothing better to do than leave relics around for people to dig up as history lessons.”
“From the University of Pennsylvania, Professor Doris Argue…”
“What we have here is a group of finds that give us plenty of clues about how people lived—you can see from this chemical assay that the bronze bowl that was found had a high copper content, which tells us good bit about when it was made, and you can see that it’s pitted in places. I feel it’s likely that it was used as both an eating and drinking vessel…it would have been cleaned out with sand, but we could actually locate nearly microscopic residues of vegetable material…”
“It’s hard to wash up on the run,” Methos commented.
“Wait…are you saying you * recognize * some of these things?” Duncan asked, incredulously.
“Shhhhhh,” he was warned.
“This knife is actually surprisingly old, about 26 cm in length…we found actually a higher tin content, and zinc…and have to consider that it may be as much as two to three hundred years older than the bowl, and it’s clear that it bears more resemblance to bronze pieces we’ve found in Central Asian digs—quite a unique experience to see something like this so far west. Also, you can see that the handle is nearly intact…”
“Could you get me a beer, MacLeod?”
Duncan was out of his seat and nearly to the refrigerator before it dawned on him that he had forgotten to tell Methos to get it himself. Being already up, he pulled two bottles from the fridge, and handed one over just as a commercial was coming on. Deciding it was probably safe to ask at that point, he started again.
“Any of that familiar?”
The old man shrugged. “If any of it was mine, it was in better condition when I had it.”
He smirked. “It gets more interesting—I’ve actually seen this program before.”
“And you didn’t tape it.”
He received a very dirty look for that comment, and sat back down to enjoy a few soft drink commercials. The documentary returned, with an expert on languages.
“One of the larger mysteries are these fragments of sheepskin scrolls…in poorer condition than those found at Qumran, but what is more fascinating—there are several languages presented…the person who made out these was obviously a learned individual—there is some information here about herbal medicine in Sanskrit…a description of a surgery in Aramaic…in Greek, a philosophical commentary about nonviolence, and in a Phoenician dialect, some information about shipping and industry.
“This person…he may have been a noble person or politician, but more likely was some kind of scholar or scribe…”
Another roll of the eyes and a snort. Instead of asking any further questions, Duncan found himself absorbed by what otherwise would have been a fairly boring documentary by considering that he *knew * the mystery they were trying to solve—and it was drinking beer on his couch. The remaining half-hour of the program seemed to speed by.
“What is known is that these things were very carefully packed together…very orderly, very efficiently. I feel it is like a record…of a time and place. Clearly, it speaks to us from across the ages. The assemblage of items were important to the individual who laid them here…”
“Well, yeah…it was my *stuff *,” Methos muttered.
“But the mystery remains—the artifacts tell us much about a great many things, but they do not tell us who left them behind. Who was the scholar—the traveler—the person who put these together where they lay for all of those years? Perhaps we will never know, but he has left us something very valuable…”
At this, Methos switched off the television with a very deliberate click of the remote. “Mysteries of the 2,100 Year old Time Capsule,” he intoned, sounding almost wry. “You’d think no one ever lost their bloody luggage before.”
MWC: Buried Treasure
Wayne Jefferson surveyed the small group of graduate and undergraduate archaeology students who were working under the steadily hotter and more intense sun. He would have to call an early meal and an extra-long afternoon rest. Rubbing at the scratchy beginnings of the beard he always grew on digs, he turned a full circle to look at his surroundings.
Even after five days on the site, his mouth dropped open in awed appreciation. The broad, sandy valley of the semi-desert was bordered on the north by a low ridge of limestone pocked with overhangs. Beyond them, just out of sight and hearing, was a small river, dry enough at this time of year to wade across in places, to jump across in others. Several kilometers to the south was a high, flat-topped ridge that dwarfed the one where Jefferson’s students worked. It seemed to begin where the sun rose and tumbled to an abrupt end several kilometers to the south of where Jefferson stood. At night and in the early morning, without the soft sounds of conversation and the slight scraping of metal tools against rock, it was the quietest place the archaeologist had ever been.
He began to count his charges, who were tucked into the overhangs of the boulders, his index finger dipping up and down as his mouth moved silently. He frowned and began to count again when he heard a voice.
"Dr. Jefferson!" A young woman emerged from behind a massive stone. "Look at this!" She was bouncing up and down on the balls of her feet, beaming. Jefferson began to walk in her direction, then picked up his pace, and her bouncing grew more rapid.
She led him past the other students and through a narrow opening in the ridge. On the other side, she turned left and walked until they came to what appeared to be the mouth of a cave. When Jefferson let out a low whistle, she started to talk. "I know the north side wasn’t going to be part of this summer’s project, but I was hot and wanted to dip my feet in the river, and . . . "
Jefferson stopped her explanation with a wave of his hand. "Beth, this is . . . I don’t know what this is yet." With his chest pressed against the hot stone, he was at eye level with the floor of what was not a cave at all, but a shallow scoop in the rock face where perhaps four or five people could find shelter. He examined the rock face, found worn places for his hands and feet, and hauled himself up, lowering a hand for Beth to follow him.
A smile spread across his face. The soft, sandy floor of the hollow was punctuated by a flat piece of stone. Along one side wall, nearly to the back, was a vertical groove a half a meter long. Surrounding it was a series of rusty marks. Jefferson stopped tracing the groove with his fingers and turned away, placing his back against it, closed one eye, and sighted the horizon beyond the nearly vertical far wall of the hollow. He smiled again, broadly this time, and nodded his head.
"What is it, Dr. Jefferson?"
"To be absolutely sure, we’ll have to get up while it’s still dark for the next few days, Beth, but I’m willing to bet that line marks the shadow the rising sun makes on the summer solstice. You’ve stumbled into what was obviously the center of worship for the people who lived in this valley."
Beth’s voice was a reverent whisper. "Cool!"
As soon as the old woman told him that his neyah, his daughter, had run off after being taunted by the other girls, he knew where he would find her. He walked through a narrow cleft low ridge that sheltered his people’s village, the very bones of the earth thrust up against the sky to guard them from the wind and from the few time in a life span that the river overflowed its banks.
On the other side of the cleft, he turned toward the setting sun and walked a few dozen paces. The handholds and stepping places in the rock were marked by deep blue shadows, but he could have found them on a moonless night. He lifted his wiry body up to his thinking place and found his neyah was there.
He lifted her from the smooth, flat stone she was sitting on, sat there himself, and snuggled her into his lap. Her pretty, round face was streaked with tears; her nose was running; smears marked where she had tried to wipe both eyes and nose with a dirty hand.
"The Grandmother says that the girls made you cry," he said in his soft, reedy voice.
Her throat convulsed as she tried to speak, choking off the words she wanted to say. He stroked his neyah’s hair and waited, rocking her gently.
Finally she spoke. "They say I don’t have a birthday and I don’t have real parents."
"Shall I tell you the story of when you were a baby?" he asked. She nodded. He settled her more comfortably on his lap.
"It was a hot day, the hottest day that had been for many, many seasons. My beautiful wife went to the river to cool her beautiful feet. From our tent, our small striped tent, above the noise, yes, even above the noise of our village, of its men and women, of its children, of its animals, I heard my beautiful wife’s beautiful voice."
The girl began to relax against man’s chest, her sniffles growing fewer, her fists unclenching.
"In her beautiful voice, she was singing a song of thanks. Her beautiful feet carried her through the soft, slippery sand back to our small, striped tent. In her beautiful arms she held a beautiful baby."
"That was me," the girl interrupted.
He smiled down at her. "Yes, it was you, clever girl. And so it was that you became our neyah, and my beautiful wife became a beautiful mother, and I became a father."
Contented, she rested her head rested against his shoulder. After a moment, she sat up again.
"I don’t have a birthday."
He lifted one of her hands and twined his long, thin fingers through her soft, dimpled ones. "I do not know your birthday. I thought you might pick one for yourself on the day you join the ranks of the women. But we can pick one now. You shared your mother’s name, neyah. Would you like to share my birthday? It would be close to the day you came into the world."
She smiled and nodded, hair swinging against her cheeks.
He reached to the side wall of the rock that sheltered them and used his neyah’s finger to trace a line there. "This line shows the shadow the sun casts on the morning of the longest day of the year. That is the day I was born. From today it is your birthday, too. Now you have your father’s birthday and your mother’s beautiful name."
"I miss her," the girl said, her voice catching in her throat. "I’ll miss her forever."
"You won’t miss her long," her father said. "I won’t, either. We’ll love her forever, but we’ll only miss her for the short time it takes until we see her in the life that comes after this one."
"Look closely at these marks, Beth." Robert’s voice was louder and he enunciated more carefully; he had slipped into lecture mode.
Beth obediently moved closer to the red-orange marks that flanked the summer solstice marker. Viewed from a short distance with squinted eyes, the blurred lines resolved themselves into two human figures, one on each side of the vertical line, with marks that surrounded them.
"These," Jefferson said, "are plainly deities. The one on the left is surrounded by stars and a sun." He pointed to a large spiral and smaller dots.
"Father Sky," Beth said.
"Just so," Jefferson said. He moved his fingers over the second figure, careful not to touch it. "Notice that there are no celestial bodies on this side of the line, only scrubby grass or, perhaps, small stones and rocks."
"Mother Earth," Beth reasoned.
His neyah was a very clever girl. The next day, he found her in his special thinking place—their special thinking place—holding a small dish filled with earth and animal fat, drawing on the rock wall, her index finger red-orange up to the knuckle. She had drawn two figures, one on each side of the birthday line, and was grinning at her father.
"The birthday line wants to belong to both of us," she explained. "You." She motioned toward the larger figure, then turned to the smaller one. "And me."
"Eight times since you have been my neyah the sun has risen on that line. If it called you to mark it, then that day must truly be the day you were born." He nodded at her work, smiling, but raised his eyebrows as she started to wipe her index finger on her dress. She gave a small shrug and went back to the wall, cleaning the paint from her finger by wiping it in a spiral over the head of one figure, then in dots she placed with care. Finally, she scrubbed the last bits of it off near the feet of the second figure.
"Will you play with me, Father?" she asked.
In answer, he moved to the sitting stone and lifted it. Underneath was a small space he had hollowed out of the rock as a boy. He took out six carved spheres of animal bone, the one that was larger than the rest being only one he had left from his father; the other five he had shaped himself.
His neyah sat opposite him, took her three bone marbles, and arranged them in the small depressions in the rock. He set his own pieces, and they began to move the bones carefully around the game field, their knit eyebrows the only sign of fierce competition, until the girl let out a squeal of delight announcing that she had won.
Beth stood up, shaking and unsteady from excitement, and walked to the flat stone.
"I can’t believe I found that," she said. "How old do you think it is?"
"Four to six thousand BCE," Jefferson answered. "Probably as old as the artifacts on the other side of the ridge. We’ll take a small sample for carbon dating."
Beth sat down hard on the stone. It rocked to one side when she landed. Jefferson’ head jerked up at the sound, and he shooed her away from her seat. Hands on either side of the stone, knees bent against what it might weigh, he lifted it and set it to one side.
Carefully, he examined the contents.
When the announcement was made that Jehannah would marry Petran, the man knew where he would find his daughter. Hoisting himself up the toeholds and handholds to their special thinking place, careful of the knee that had begun to hurt him in the last few seasons, he called out to her.
"Neyah," he called.
She didn’t answer but didn’t send him away. He sat next to her and put his arm around her. She was too big now to fit on his lap. "I know you care for Petran, but he and Jehannah were promised in marriage before you were born, before even they were born," he explained. "You’ll marry one day soon. The sun has risen on your birthday line fourteen times; you’re old enough to take a husband."
She sniffed in defiance. "If I can’t have Petran and bear his children, I’ll never marry anyone."
"Marry and have children if you wish. Or finish learning what I can teach you. You would become the parent of the whole village and care for all of the people as I do."
He dried her eyes with the hem of his sleeve and asked, "Is a woman old enough to consider marriage too old to go to the wide part of the river with her father to skip stones?" He withdrew a small pile of flat stones from his pocket and shook them, making an inviting noise.
She picked up one of the stones. It was different from the others, a deep green color, smooth, flat, and heavy, fitting comfortably in the palm of her hand.
"Father, may I keep this one, or do you think the river wants it back?"
He said, "I think the river wants you to keep that one."
She put the green stone with the bone gaming pieces, scrambled down the rock face, and ran to the river, calling for her father to follow.
Jefferson whistled under his breath. "A celestial map, Beth. It’s a celestial map. There’s a journal article here, maybe a whole book!" He pointed to the bone marbles. "Look at this one, the biggest one, obviously the sun. The others would be the moon and the planets visible to the naked eye."
"And these depressions?" Beth asked.
"The spheres would have been moved from one depression to another corresponding to changes in the night sky." His finger stroked a smooth green stone. "This is Mother Earth."
Beth noticed a few small, smooth ovals and rolled them around with her index finger.
"The seeds of date palms," Jefferson said.
She heard her father coming up the rock face. He was far from old, but it took him longer to climb than it did when she was a child. She tried to count how many times the sun had risen on their birthday line since she decided to forgo marriage and become a healer, but she wasn’t sure how long it had been.
She moved from the flat stone to sit on the sand. Her father sat with a small groan. Nearly every day, they came to their special thinking place to talk about the complicated aspects of her training, now nearly complete.
"What were we talking about yesterday, neyah?" he asked.
"What to do if a broken bone came through the skin, Father," she answered. She held out a handful of dates, and he smiled.
"My beautiful mother knew that my handsome father loved dates best of all," she said. "My handsome father’s neyah knows it, too."
He accepted them gratefully and began the day’s lesson.
"Why would there be food here?" Beth asked.
"Ancient peoples made food offerings to their gods periodically as well as during difficult times. They also made offerings to people who were sacrificed to their gods." Jefferson stretched his leg, which had been cramped against the wall, and shifted the flat stone to its original location. He lay down, his cheek against the stone, facing the wall paintings, a look of recognition in his eyes.
"See how my head fits perfectly here?" he asked. "This stone could only have been for placing the head of a tribal member destined to be sacrificed."
"I don’t see any traces of blood," Beth said.
"You wouldn’t." He was speaking quickly now, his eyes glittering. "Strangulation. When the appropriate date for sacrifice had arrived, it would be noted on the celestial calendar under the stone, then the victim would be given a symbolic last meal of dates to sweeten his journey. Then, facing the celestial gods painted on the wall, he or she—perhaps the tribal priestess-virgin—would be strangled or suffocated here.
Beth’s eyes grew wide.
Loud voices drew their attention from the day’s lesson. They were calling to her before they could even see her, calling for her father, her hijad.
A woman’s face peered into the hollow in the rock. "Petran’s brother has hurt his arm. Come quickly!" Her message delivered, the woman ran back in the direction of the village.
"This time, I will watch and you will heal," he said.
"I’m ready, Hijad," she said. "But what if it’s a break and the bone has gone through the skin?"
"You will remember better by doing rather than by hearing. If you need help, I will help you, my neyah," he answered quietly. "But you won’t. Your talents will soon surpass such poor skills as I have, and you will care for our people for many, many years."
"Beth, get the camera," Jefferson said. "Do you think you’re ready to pick a topic for your masters’ thesis from this?" He waved his hand around the artifacts they had uncovered.
"There’s enough for a thesis here?" she asked.
"Beth, entire careers have been made on less than this," he crowed.
The sun had risen on the birthday line a hundred times before Cassandra visited the special thinking place she had shared with her hijad. She watched the sun rise that summer solstice morning, the drawing she had made of herself bright in the morning light, her father’s image in the shadow. She kissed her fingertips and pressed them to the shadowed figure.
She lifted the sitting stone, caressed the bone marbles and green stone that had been hidden away beneath it. From the pocket of her dress, she withdrew a few dates and ate them, carefully placing the seeds next to the bone marbles.
"My beautiful mother and I know that my handsome hijad loves dates best of all. I’ll love you forever. I’ll miss for a very, very long time."
She replaced the sitting stone, climbed down the rock face, and walked away, never to return.
MWC: Blast From the Past
Posted By: bookmom <email@example.com>
Date: Tuesday, 9 October 2001, at 3:15 p.m.
Cory Raines as he was now known, flipped the National Geographic to the appropriate page and gasped. He read the first few lines of the article.
“Strange find in Sherwood Forest” Strong winds brought down this thousand
year old tree as well as unearthed a time capsule so to speak. A strong box was
buried at the foot old giant. The items inside present many questions. Who
buried this box, and why. Why choose these items?
There they were: the tree and the box. Cory stared at the page, his eyes unseeing.
Sherwood Forest 1301
The hunting party slowed their mounts as they entered the forest. The hounds bayed loudly in confusion. The fox had run them a merry chase and gone to ground somewhere here in the forest.
Corwin a’Green and his men were not choosy and knew an opportunity when they saw one. They surrounded the small hunting party of two men and two women easily. With the sound of the whippoorwill signal call still hanging in the air, Cory led the attack. They pulled the men and women from their horses and had them tied before any weapons could be drawn.
The older woman, presumably the mother, screamed. Her daughter looked at Corwin as he bowed low with a flourish and addressed them. “My beautiful ladies, we are not here to hurt you, just to relieve you of your money and jewels. Boys, if you will,” he nodded toward the men. “You know the routine. I’ll see to the ladies myself.” Turning toward the mother the jaunty thief said, “If you promise to be quiet, I’ll forgo the gags.” He winked good naturedly at her daughter.
While his cohorts were gagging and robbing the men, Corwin a’Green began his spiel. “Take this as a compliment fine sirs. Your wealth and status dictate that you have much to share with the poor. Think of me as your middle man. You have naught to do but sit here and co-operate. In the very near future, my men and I will distribute your kind offerings to those in need.”
He turned back to the ladies and began removing their jewelry. Corwin’s fingers brushed the daughter’s hair off her neck gently and undid the necklace’s clasp. She shivered then giggled. “It’s not every day my family is robbed by a dashing thief,” she tittered.
“To accept such adventure so willingly means you must enjoy life tremendously,” he returned. And he bowed again. Corwin then pulled down the green scarf that insured his anonymity, and kissed the young woman lingeringly. “You don’t mind giving up those lovely earrings to a good cause do you?” he asked against her lips. She shook her head and whispered, “Take me with you. I’ve nothing to look forward to with them. I’m being married off next month to some foreign Prince whose name I can’t even pronounce!”
“Mary Elizabeth Hennley!” yelled her mother. “You stop that whispering this instant! And YOU, you dirty little thief! Take your hands off my daughter. You will NOT sully her innocence!”
Corwin considered the daughter’s request as he collected the mother’s diamond brooch and earrings. He left her wedding band in good faith. He glanced over to the husband’s hand to make sure his men had done the same. There were some memories you just couldn’t replace.
If he was just an ordinary thief, then yes, he would take her, but his Immortality made life just that much harder. Traveling from town to town exposed him to so many challenges. And, he thought ruefully, how long would she be happy living her life on the lamb before she wanted to settle down and have a passel of kids. Something he would never be able to give her.
Corwin repeated his elegant bow and said, “I bid you all a fond farewell. I’m sure you will escape your bonds sometime soon. Do not try and follow us. We did not threaten your lives now, but I will not make any promises for later.” He mouthed, “I’m sorry” to Mary and he and his men melted into the forest.
Cory closed the magazine and sighed. He had looked endlessly for that very tree. Obviously he hadn’t marked it as well as he had thought, and now somebody else had his treasure. He had taken his Teacher Matthew McCormick’s words to heart and had filled that box with enough money and other necessities to insure his survival if by chance he died publicly. Well, that eventually had happened and Corwin a’Green was no more.
He mentally reviewed the contents. Twenty-five gold ducats, twenty-five silver coins, his favorite leather handled throwing knife, enough feathers to fletch a bag of arrows, a small flask of brandy, and of course Mary’s matching diamond necklace and earrings. He never could bring himself to sell those. In the back of his mind, he imagined he would give them to the love of his life, if he ever found her.
Thinking of that raven haired beauty from long ago stirred memories of a more recently met beauty with the same colored hair. He wondered if the box resided at the Geographic’s headquarters in Washington. He got out his laptop and sent off an e-mail.
Where are you? Have I got a job for you! It’ll be just like old times.
MWC: The Treasure Box
Posted By: SBO, feeling really sappy right now <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Tuesday, 9 October 2001, at 3:35 p.m.
There were a couple of episodes of Highlander that showed Duncan looking into a small box that held small items that apparently had belonged to Tessa. I think there were more things in there than that and so did my muse. Blame her for the choices made for the "loves" of Duncan MacLeod mentioned here--your mileage may vary.
Be gentle--I usually go for the silly and the serious is quite a bit more
difficult for me!
The Treasure Box
He gently traced his finger over the inscription on the locket—even though it was several hundred years old now—the engraving looked almost new. “Forever” it said. The memory of the events surrounding the small piece of gold washed over him. He remembered the joy in his new wife’s eyes as he presented it to her and could still see the flash of it on her breast as they shared the first of what he’d hoped would be a forever of nights of love.
Then the locket had been surrounded in blood—her blood—as she became immortal, and finally it flashed once more before his eyes as she recoiled in horror and fled from him and the life he’d forced on her.
The locket sat in his hand as he thought of something a friend said not so long ago—“One of a thousand regrets.” Being Immortal, one has more than his fair share of regrets, he thought wearily. But there had been joyous times with her, finding someone at last to share in his life as only she could, the whirlwind courtship and the celebration of their wedding surrounded by family and friends. There had been great love and joy, and though fleeting, was a memory to treasure.
Something stopped him before putting the locket into the small wooden box. He gingerly pulled out another gold object meant for another love—a diamond ring, purchased with great joy, but never given, never worn on the slim, elegant finger of the woman he considered his soul mate. This loss above all others was almost more than he could bear. A life and a love cut short—those thirteen years of his four hundred had to be the happiest. Nearly removed from the Game, he led an almost normal life with a woman of great beauty and passion. Their loving relationship was the closest thing to a true family he’d had since he’d lived with his father and mother so many long years ago. A photograph was nestled close to the ring. Her smiling eyes looked at him and his mouth curved upward reflexively. It had taken several years after her passing for him to be able to look at an image of her and smile again. “But I do still miss you every day, more than anyone, you know” he murmured.
The box also contained gifts given to him through the years. He gently lifted a noble lady’s handkerchief, crafted of the finest lace from Spain. There was no photograph that captured her, but he could still picture her, defiantly standing up to her father and another suitor who was bent not only on taking him out of her life, but out of the Game. To save him she’d given her word to marry the other man. In doing so, she most likely signed her own death warrant, although it was never proven that her demise was her jealous husband’s hand. Even though her death haunted him into the present when he finally avenged her, he was still glad of her unquestioning love for him.
There had been another very brief chance at a family represented by bright beads strung for a woman’s braids and used in special tribal ceremonies. Accepted into the Lakota, he was to have been united with a beautiful woman and adopted her son as his own—this was almost like living with a clan again. Being Immortal made it difficult to open up to others and many years had passed since he’d felt so close to two people. It was the boy who had helped him put the beads together as a gift for his mother while they talked of hunting and fishing and the prowess needed to become a great warrior. The possibilities for a happy life seemed endless until the day they were so ruthlessly taken from him. To lose his love was painful enough, but to be denied a son and the family he so desperately wanted had nearly cost him his soul.
Smooth stones sat at the bottom of the box. He’d had these longest of any of his small treasures. They had come from Loch Shiel one bright summer’s day when the air was redolent with the scent of blooming heather. It was just this type of stone that he’d taught her how to throw so that it would skip across the surface of the water. Hers was the memory he’d held the longest—his first love—a bonny lass with fiery red hair and a love for him to match. But he could still see them as children together wading barefoot in the loch, innocent and unaware of what was to come. He picked one up and studied it, and heard her voice as if she were standing with him now. “Look at this one. Is it no’ beautiful? Look at the way it sparkles, much to beautiful to throw back. Will ye keep it for me forever?” “Aye,” he replied, “I’ll keep it for ye, forever, if that’s what ye want.” It was the start of the tradition he smiled.
And so, he had kept the stones, beads, handkerchief, and ring. They were reminders of loss, but more importantly they also spoke of the most fulfilling, rich, and joyous periods of his long life and that’s the real reason he could never part with them. He carefully replaced the items back into the box and then added the locket. The top was lowered into place and securely latched.
“I love you all, and always will. You have made me what I am today. Thank you for the lessons you taught and joy that you brought me,” Duncan whispered as he slipped the box back in its place on the shelf.
MWC: The Lesson
The books were obviously very old, but they had been lovingly cared for. The frayed bindings were carefully wrapped with plain paper dust jackets, and they rested in a tightly covered box to keep them from dust, light, and insects. The young girl reached into the box and gently lifted out all seven of the precious books, one at a time, and spread them out on the table. She looked up at her teacher for permission, her blue eyes sparkling, and he looked back with a smile.
“Okay, Jenny, choose one and we’ll read it together. If there are words you don’t know, I’ll help you.”
Reassured, the girl opened first one volume then another until she found the perfect one for reading on a rainy, chill day in October.
“Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is a good one,” said her teacher. “If I remember correctly, there used to be several sequels, but I have only the first one. If you’re interested, perhaps we could write more adventures for Harry and his friends later.”
“Oh, yes!” exclaimed Jenny. “I love to read, but writing is even better. It’s like dreaming when you’re awake.”
She thought her teacher looked sad as he nodded solemnly in agreement.
“We all need our dreams,” he said. “Now, are you ready?”
The two heads bent close over the book, one blond and one dark, and the hour went very quickly. Soon it was time for Jenny to help store the books away. She put them back into the box, but her teacher always put the box away after she left. He said it was better for her not to know exactly where he kept them, and Jenny understood. It was enough that he had taught her to read, and to write, both of which were against the law. She knew the importance of secrecy because her mother had emphasized it every day since she was old enough to comprehend the restrictions of their lives.
“Mr. MacLeod,” she said, impatiently stuffing her curly hair back under her scarf, “why can’t girls go to school like the boys do? Why? My brother gets to go until he’s fourteen!”
“A long time ago, here in America, they could, Jenny,” he said, “but then there many years of great wars throughout the world, and everything changed. People became afraid of many things, and slowly they convinced themselves that safety was better than knowledge. It’s hard to explain now, but then people had seen so many terrible things, witnessed so much destruction, that they just wanted to stay home, to hide away. Women became very important because so many had been killed or made sterile during the wars, so they were kept apart to protect them. And those in charge began to realize that if these women were kept ignorant, it was easier to convince them to stay safe. That’s how it all began, anyway, two hundred years ago. It’s a long, complicated story. Let’s save the rest for another lesson time, shall we?”
“Okay,” Jenny agreed reluctantly. “I’ll see you next week, Mr. MacLeod.”
Smiling her thanks, Jenny climbed up the steep, secret stairs to the tiny hidden room where her mother was waiting along with another mother and daughter. Their male escorts, oblivious to their real mission, stood guard outside the women’s public rest area. Jenny met the smiling eyes through the small screen in her mother’s loose robe and grinned back, sharing the silent happiness of lesson time.
MWC - The Treasure Chest
Tessa sighed and blew a lock of hair out of her face. She couldn’t believe the changes that had occurred in her life over the last two years. First, she met Duncan. Then they became lovers and moved in together. And only six months before she had graduated from the Sorbonne. Now she was preparing to move to the United States with Duncan.
While Duncan was off finalizing the shipping plans for some of the antiques they were taking with them to open Duncan’s antique store, Tessa was busy doing some packing – starting with the bedroom closet.
“How can two people accumulate so much junk?” She wondered aloud. “Of course it doesn’t help that one of those people is nearly four centuries old.” She still had trouble grasping the vast concept of the life her lover had led. She couldn’t imagine the horror and the happiness Duncan had seen in all that time. And the memories he’d collected. Tessa grinned at the thought as she stretched to reach the corner of a linen cloth that was dangling from the top shelf of the bedroom closet.
She gave the piece of cloth a slight, but it didn’t budge. She tugged harder. The piece of linen had been wrapped around something bulky and heavy. One more hard tug, and the cloth and its contents fell into her arms. Tessa grunted at the impact of the weight against her chest, but easily bore its weight. Years of working with clay and metal as a sculptor had provided her with plenty of upper body strength.
Tessa quickly carried her bundle over to the bed. She quickly unwrapped the length of linen to reveal an old fashioned treasure chest. The chest was about two feet in length and about that high at the top of its rounded lid. It was wooded with metal braces around the corners and a miniature padlock. She hurried over to her dressing table and picked up her metal nail file. The pointed tip would be perfect to pick the lock.
Moments later she held her breath as she eased open the lid. The old hinges gave a slight squeal, but opened easily. Inside she found another square of linen wrapped around what appeared to be a man’s wedding band. There was a strange-looking bag made out of some leather-like material and beads. A dagger. An ancient copy of MACBETH by William Shakespeare was so worn that Tessa could hardly read the title on the spine.
Tessa was so engrossed in the treasures contained in the chest that she didn’t hear Duncan approach the bed. She jumped, startled when he placed a hand on her shoulder.
“What’ve you got there?” He asked, knowing all too well the answer to his question. His chest of memories – some good, some not so good, but all things he could not bear to part with.
Tessa became slightly nervous about having snooped into something that Duncan had obviously wanted to keep hidden. “I . . . found this in the closet. I was trying to clean it out so we could pack some of the stuff up in boxes.” She glanced up at Duncan. His face had a wistful expression – one she had only seen a few times.
Duncan sat down on the bed. The chest and the removed contents were between the two people. “And I supposed it just happened to come open?” He grinned.
Tessa shifted to hide the nail file, although she was sure he’d already spotted it. She nodded, not trusting her voice not to give her away.
Duncan picked up the beaded bag. “I haven’t seen this stuff in years.” He sat the bag aside and reached for the book. He gently opened the front cover and flipped through the pages.
“Will you tell me about the memories?”
Duncan smiled and held up the book. “I learned to read using this book. Another immortal, named Timmons, taught me. I had gone to a monastery to meet a friend, but I had missed him. A monk there, Brother Paul, had made the place into a sort of safe house for immortals – someplace where we could rest and regain our perspective on the world without having to worry about the secret of our immortality.”
He put the book aside and picked up the beaded bag. “This belonged to a young Sioux boy. Kahani. I was going to marry his mother, Little Deer, and adopt Kahani as my own. I gave the pouch to him one day while we were fishing. He and Little Deer and the rest of their tribe were killed by white soldiers less than a week later.”
Placing the medicine pouch gently back into the chest. He took the next item from Tessa – the linen handkerchief and the ring.
“Whose ring was that, Duncan?”
“Mine,” he replied over the lump in his throat.
“I didn’t know you had been married.”
Duncan wrapped the handkerchief back around the ring and placed in back in the chest. Several seconds passed in tense silence until he looked up at Tessa.
“I wasn’t, not really.”
“What do you mean ‘not really’? Either you were or you weren’t.”
Duncan looked at Tessa. She could see the tears gathering in his eyes. She didn’t know if it was the effects of all the memories brought back by the treasures in the chest or just the memory invoked by the sight of the square of linen and the ring.
“I’d rather not talk about it, if you don’t mind.”
Tessa nodded. Respecting his wish to remain mysteriously silent about his “not really” marriage, she scooted across the bed until she could lean against Duncan’s hard, muscular chest. The treasure chest was in front of them. She picked up another treasured item.
Duncan and Tessa stayed that way until the early hours of the morning. Sharing the memories that had accumulated over nearly four hundred years of Duncan’s life.
MWC: A Life Lost and Found
Posted By: Celedon <email@example.com>
Date: Wednesday, 10 October 2001, at 12:40 a.m.
Alone. Angry. Lost. Grieving. Abandoned. That is what I'm feeling as I pull the boxes out of my van. So much ahead of this guy that was snuffed out in a moment of what had to be misplaced trust and love. I can't otherwise explain to myself what I saw the aftermath of.
I still can't believe it--it simply is implausible, impossible--too horrifying to comprehend! And now it is just me to take care of things as I always do. It's what I do and a part of my job. After all, I'm a Watcher.
Going upstairs is slow going for me. I silently curse each and every step but before long I stand in front of the apartment door. Reaching out to unlock the door, I find that my hands are shaking and the lump in my throat feels as if it is choking me. I lean my forehead upon the coolness of the door's wood and close my eyes. "Oh God, he was so young!" A bevy of questions begin to stir in my brain again--questions that had no easy answers to them or might not even have answers!
With a creak, the door swung open to reveal a typical bachelor's apartment. Dirty clothes are heaped in a pile in one corner; the sink still holds the remnants of his last quick meal here. So many memories here but yet this is the first time I have been here. Sure, I'd been invited to drop by but I never did because I didn't want to set a bad example to his own Watcher. Getting reported didn't bother me, especially after Galanti's vendetta and the Tribunal's kangaroo court's indictment of me.
I don't know--it must be the atmosphere around this joint. My eyes are tearing up--Richie could've used a good cleaning around this place of his. My allergies must be kicking up again to make them tear up so badly! At least, that sounds like a good excuse for them to behave so, I hope.
Scanning the walls of CD's, books, Indonesian batik wall coverings I wonder where I should start first. I drop the two boxes I'm holding and head over to start grabbing the CD's he has upon a large rack. Idly, I glance at the names of the bands and singers...Pearl Jam, Billie Holliday, Nirvana...quite a eclectic collection. Must have been Mac's influence on him. But at least there's no opera in all of this.
The thought makes me grin through the pain I'm feeling. MacLeod...wonder what's happened to him and how he is? It just can't be, I tell myself again. Not Mac--he loved the boy so! But my heart tells me that it is so; the truth plunges my heart back into an aching hole where it used to be in my chest.
After awhile, I've gotten both boxes filled and head over to remove the Indonesian batik wall hanging that is tacked to the wall. With a quick jerk on the cloth, it tumbles down into my arms and reveals another set of shelves that were behind it.
I rummage about the shelves that are now seeing the light of day in what seems to be a long time judging from the amount of dust on them. A lone cigar box that is frayed about its edges draws my attention and I carefully pull it out so that it doesn't get torn even more.
Some of the sides are held together by yellowed scotch tape I notice and scratched upon the box top is an inscription. It's hard to read it through all the doodling that has been done to the face on the box but I finally managed to do so once I get over to the window for a better amount of light in which to read it.
Much to my surprise, I find that it has my name on it, not Richie's. What the hell? I go grab a kitchen chair and sit down. Whatever is in it, it rattles and has weight. Gingerly, I open it and find some loose change, some keys on a key ring, and a long flat envelope that looks incongruously fresh compared to the box.
"Richie, what is this?" I ask the walls before pulling out a small sheaf of papers from the envelope and begin to read.
In case you find this, I want you to know that I understand that you're doing your duty as a Watcher to be at my place and going through my things. It's your job, after all, isn't it?
Tell Mac when you see him, thanks for giving me a second chance and showing me another life that I might not have otherwise experienced if it hadn't been for him. Tell him...well, you know, or at least I think you do, the other things as well. He is to get the set of keys here in the box--it was my first set of bike keys to a bike of my very own that wasn't stolen. That bike I'm talking about was given to me by Mac and Tessa for my 18th birthday--it was such a unexpected surprise!
Give Methos the loose change and tell him to think of me when he uses it to buy a round for himself. I think it is my turn to buy, if I remember right. Oh yes, tell him that he was a pain in the ass too and I thank him for being so!
You'll find a package on the shelf too for you. I meant to give it to you ages ago, but there was always something that came up and I kept forgetting to get it to you. Sorry about that! You've been a good friend and a great listener. I wanted to say thanks for everything. It's truly meant a lot to me.
Guess that sums it up for now. Remember me not as I am now but as I was. I know that it sounds hokey but I mean it. Don't worry, we'll meet up sometime, somewhere.
Oh yeah, one last thing. Take my bike and sell it. I want the money from it given to Darius' church in his memory, OK?
Thanks, Joe. You're the best!
I wipe at my eyes as I put the letter down. "Damn it Richie, I can almost feel and hear you here in this room right now!" I shake my head in sorrow then begin to hum a hymn I hadn't sang since childhood. Somehow, it felt so right in doing so!
A thought struck me and I walked back over to the box that held the CD's. I grab one, stick it into the CD player and crank the music up as high as possible. Richie was right--he should be celebrated for what he was, not mourned for what he was now. His was a life that had been both lost and found. And, in finding his things as I did, it helped me to find a new way of life too.
Good going Richie, wherever you are and thanks, guy!
And his music played on...
MWC: Photographic Memories
Posted By: SwingGirl MacSlow <SwingGirl3@yahoo.com>
Date: Wednesday, 10 October 2001, at 1:02 a.m.
My current MWC response is a continuation of a previous one that I did. The new one will make more sense if you read this first, so wanted to repost it.
Duncan sat alone on the deserted beach, an envelope in his hand. Methos had given it to him, said that Joe wanted him to have it. The funeral had been a week ago, but he still hadn't opened it. He had left Seacouver right after, wanting to get away from the memories there. Duncan had known the day would come when he would have to say goodbye, had known it since the day they had met, all those years ago. Still, that knowledge didn't make it any easier to take. He had been alive for almost four and a half centuries and had seen many friends and lovers pass, but Joe's death had hit him harder than most.
"This is silly," he said to himself as he stared at the envelope in his hands. "Joe wanted me to have whatever is in here, so I should just open it."
With new found resolve, Duncan opened the envelope and as he did something fell out into the sand. He picked it up and found a chain. As he looked closer he realized that it was dog tags -- Joe's, from his time in Vietnam. There was also a letter in the envelope. Now Duncan took it out and began to read it.
If you're reading this, then I guess my time has come. It's alright. I'm ready. I've lived a long life, a good life, but we both know that the last year has been hard for me, since I got sick. I know some people might be upset, depressed, or just plain pissed off at you for living hundreds or maybe even thousands of years while they're dying, but not me. I don't envy you that at all my friend, quite the contrary. I don't know how you take it, seeing those you care for die again and again. Like I said, I'm ready to go.
And in case you were wondering about the dog tags, I want you to have them. I know it may sound strange to someone who wasn't there, but something good did come out of that war and that was the friendships. When you put your life on the line for others and they do the same for you, you get as close as two people can be. This is how I felt about us as well, although in this case, it was you doing the fighting, instead of me. It was hard, all those times I watched you fighting another Immortal, not knowing whether it would be the last time. I tried to tell you this many times, but could never find the words. I hope you understand.
Take care my friend and watch your head.
Duncan put the letter back into the envelope and placed the chain around his neck. Then, he bowed his head and said a prayer, a last goodbye for his friend.
Duncan stood on the porch of the house. He was leaning against the railing, putting off what he didn't want to do. He had spent the last two weeks at his cabin. Now he was back home and he knew what had to be done. The day of the funeral, Amy had asked him if he would mind clearing the house of her father’s belongings. She had wanted to take care of it herself, but just couldn’t bring herself to do it. For many years, Amy had not known that Joe was her father. She only found out when she became a Watcher, like Joe. Although their relationship was somewhat strained at first, the two eventually become very close. It was hard for Duncan, but he knew that it would even more difficult for Amy, so he had agreed.
Just then, Duncan felt the presence of another Immortal. He looked around out of habit, but saw Methos, as he expected. "Thanks for coming, Methos. I don’t think I could do this alone."
Methos didn’t say anything, just nodded. He walked past Duncan and through the front door. He rubbed a hand over his face with a sigh. Then, as Duncan joined him in the house, he asked, "What are we supposed to do with everything?"
“Well, Amy told me that she has already taken some things and that everything in the will has been given to the right people. She said if we find anything we want we can have it. Everything else can be given to charity.”
"Right. Where do we start then?"
"How about the kitchen? We can start there and work our way to the back of the house."
"Okay." Methos headed toward the kitchen and Duncan followed. They finished there, and then moved through the living room, the bathroom, and the spare bedroom. There was only one room left and it was the one that neither of them wanted to face.
The two men turned toward the doorway behind them and looked into what had been Joe's bedroom. As in any house, there were special touches of owner throughout, but this room seemed to be the most personal of all. There were many photographs hanging on the walls and sitting on the dresser. They were pictures of Joe, his family, and his friends. One of his guitars sat on a stand by the bed. There was a small stereo on the shelf in one corner. It was surrounded by a large collection of CDs, consisting mainly of blues and oldies music.
After standing there for a few moments, they went into the room and got to work. Duncan went to the dresser and began taking the clothes out and placing them into piles on the bed. Methos went into the walk-in closet. As he began to take boxes down from the shelf, he heard Duncan chuckling. “What’s so funny?”
Still laughing, Duncan answered him. “Get a load of this."
Methos peeked around the doorframe and saw what Duncan was talking about. As he saw what he was holding, he moved towards him. “Oh, God! You mean to tell me he actually kept that hideous thing.”
“I guess so. I really don’t know what Richie was thinking when he bought this for Joe’s birthday. I mean, I don’t think that Joe was the type to wear a hot pink and lime green polka dot tie.”
Methos shuddered and shrank back in mock horror as the offending article of clothing was offered to him. “Obviously, he wasn’t thinking when he bought that for Joe’s birthday.”
Duncan laughed again and then continued to go through the drawer. Methos was about to go back to the closet, when he heard Duncan say something quietly to himself.
"What was that?"
"I think that this is for us." He showed Methos the cardboard box that he had found.
Methos noticed that both his and Duncan's names were printed on the lid in Joe's handwriting. Duncan pulled open the lid. Inside were more photos. He went through them, stopping to look more closely at those with people he recognized. "I never realized that Joe was such a shutterbug. There's got to be at least a couple hundred pictures in here. There are pictures from practically every part of his life. Vietnam, pictures of us, Richie, Amanda, family, Amy. This looks like the Watcher Academy."
He stopped then and Methos looked at the photograph he held in his hand. It was a snapshot of Alexa. The Eiffel Tower was visible behind her. She had a smile on her face and she had been waving at the camera as the picture was taken.
Methos smiled and took it from Duncan. "That was Alexa's idea. She wanted to take these for Joe. He loved her like she was his own daughter. We both knew it was hard on Joe when we left." He picked up some more of the photographs that sat in front of him. "We sent him pictures from every where we went. I'm sure it wasn't the same as having her here, but Joe told me later how much he looked forward to the letters and pictures. He also told me that he was glad that we had gone. I know he understood why we had to."
"He was a good man."
"One of the best I've ever known, mortal or Immortal." Methos put the photos back into the box, except for the ones of Alexa. "I think I'll keep these. I don't think Joe would mind."
"No, I'm sure he wouldn't," Duncan agreed. There were some things that they had decided to keep that were sitting to one side of the room. Duncan added the box to the other items. Then he turned to Methos. "What do you say we get back to work?"
"Good idea. We don't want to be at this until the end of the year."
And with that they did go back to work, talking about Joe and sharing memories of the man who was gone from their lives, definitely not forgotten. Never forgotten.
MWC: Shades of Meaning
Posted By: Pat <Nutmeg9cat@aol.com>
Date: Thursday, 11 October 2001, at 3:45 p.m.
This is a chapter in a larger story that I hope to finish someday. I previously posted the description of the artwork here. To set the scene, it's 2 years since "Endgame". Duncan has re-established a life for himself in Seacouver. He has received a request to loan a work of Tessa Noel's to the local museum.
Shades of Meaning
The rain had stopped, and the clouds were breaking up. Dust rose in the air as Duncan raised the overhead door on a self-storage unit in a sprawling parking lot on the outskirts of town. The space was small, about 10 by 20, and not very full. There were mostly heavy cardboard boxes, some furniture, tools and a motorcycle. In his 22 years on planet Earth, Richie Ryan had been a vagabond, not a packrat.
After Richie's death, Joe Dawson had taken care of things. As he once said to Duncan, "somebody had to". He had put Richie's few possessions in storage. Last year, he had given Duncan the key. But Duncan had never been here before.
Mac opened the first box, and sneezed as dust motes swirled around his head. The box was packed with clothes. He closed it up again, and moved on to the next one, and then the next. Eventually, he found the sculpture, carefully packed with excelsior in a wooden crate. It was one of Tessa's smaller works, meant to be displayed on a tabletop or pedestal. He uncrated it with care and set it on top of a stack of boxes. It had been a long time since he had seen it, and he was struck anew by the artistry of his lover.
The piece, while somewhat abstract, was less so than Tessa's usual work. It was carved from a solid piece of mostly white stone, swirled with hues of brown and gray. She had left the base rough, forming shapes from the stone, as if they were morphing from the marble. It was a technique of Rodin's she had particularly admired. As the eye traveled up from the base, the figures became more and more refined. Two hands formed the base, cupping a smaller figure of a youth within them. The hands were life-size, but the male figure was on a much smaller scale. On close examination, one saw that the hands weren't matched. The right hand was a man's, strong and calloused. The left was a woman's, the fingers long and elegant. The figure of the young man was on one knee, within the bowl formed by the hands, but poised in the act of rising and pivoting, his upturned face outward, his own hand reaching out and up to an unseen objective. The face was without detail, but polished and smoother than the rest of the sculpture, reflecting the light. Even in the late afternoon sunlight slanting in to the storage unit, the effect was as if the face was lit from within. Tessa had titled it "Always". She had presented it to Richie on his 19th birthday. Once the stunned young man had recovered his voice, he had teasingly redubbed it "Allstate". The sculpture had been prominently displayed in Richie's bedroom, in the apartment behind the antique store, the contrast of its gleaming, carefully dusted surface with the chaos that was Richie's room was a source of never-ending amusement to Duncan. He had helped Richie safely secure the sculpture in this same packing crate when they had moved out. He hadn't seen it since.
Duncan carefully re-crated the sculpture. He continued opening boxes and assessing what was here. Mostly clothes and odds and ends from Richie's Seacouver apartment days. He decided to donate these items to the Youth Center where Richie had spent his adolescence between foster homes. He'd sell the motorcycle and donate the proceeds to the same Center. He opened a smaller metal box, which had been nestled in a larger cardboard box of clothing, indistinguishable from the rest. There was an envelope on top, with "Mac" scrawled across the front in Joe's handwriting. There was a note inside:
I hope you read this someday, and that I'm not writing to a dead man about a dead man. I've taken care of Richie. He's buried in Paris, near Tessa, with his sword.
These are the things I found on him.
Mac's vision blurred, and he wiped at his eyes. Under the note was Richie's well worn wallet, watch, pen knife, comb, Metro tokens, keys and a small packet wrapped in tissues. He looked in the wallet. There were the usual ID, cards, some money, a condom, and a creased photo of a laughing Tessa, Richie and Duncan. It had been cut down from a larger photo to fit in the wallet. Duncan remembered the occasion - it had been taken on Tessa's last birthday, using the automatic setting on her new camera. It had taken Richie several attempts to get the setup right, finally practically throwing himself in their arms as he raced the timing sequence. Oh, how they had laughed at his antics. It had been a good day, and Duncan smiled at the memory. He pulled out his own wallet, and carefully tucked the photo inside. He returned to the contents of the metal box. He unwrapped the little bundle of tissue, revealing a small etched stone, set in engraved silver and dangling from a sturdy chain. Memory flashed.
FLASHBACK - PARIS 1992
Even before he accompanied Tessa to Paris, Richie had been fascinated by the ancient stone runes which Darius had sent, paradoxically, by Fed Ex to Duncan, warning of Grayson's arrival. Duncan, distracted by the imminent confrontation, had given the young man only a rudimentary lesson in reading the runes. But it was Darius who had really schooled Rich in the symbols, and how to combine them and display them in surprisingly complex messages, just as he had taught the arcane language to Duncan over a century before. Soon, the runes turned up everywhere around the barge. Even Tessa could interpret the simplest meanings - "gone to market", "back at dark", "out of food", "taking a walk", although Duncan had to translate anything more complicated than these simple "scribbles". Duncan himself puzzled over the more intricate messages, letting out a loud whoop of laughter one night when he deciphered "tape Baywatch". But it was Tessa who had noticed that Richie always carried one particular rune with him. She had found it in his pants pocket one day, and asked Duncan what it meant. Duncan recognizes it as the symbol that Darius had always used for the Highlander. He explained that it could mean many things, including "Warrior" or "Protector" or any of a dozen variations on the theme, but that in the private lexicon that Darius had taught him, it always referred to himself. Intrigued, she asked him to show her the symbols they used for Darius, Richie and herself. Instead, he explained some of the symbols' general meaning, and challenged her to choose the generic symbol and match it to the specific individual. Not surprisingly, his lover correctly correlated the symbol for "Magic" or "Holiness" to Darius, and the stylized image of a rising sun meaning "Youth" or "Beginning" to Richie. But she was stumped when it came to her own personal symbol. "It's this one", he said, holding it up to the light. "But that's the fertility symbol", she protested, "that wouldn't be me". "Tess, it has many nuances. All of the runes do. It also means, let me see, ...home and hearth... warmth... comfort...abundance... mother. Richie picked this one for you." "Oh, Mac", she breathed and hugged him close. Soon after, she nonchalantly presented a delighted Richie with the pendant and chain, "so that he wouldn't lose his good luck charm". He had worn it often in those days.
BACK TO PRESENT
Duncan gripped the pendant tightly. He thought hard. He could not remember ever seeing Richie wear the pendant after the events of the Dark Quickening. Yet here it was, according to Joe, found on Richie on the night he died. He shut his eyes. Unbidden, other variations of meaning of this rune, his rune, invaded his thoughts. "Strength"..."Master" ..."Chief"..."Guardian" ..."Father".
After a moment, he pocketed the pendant, locked up the storage unit, and loaded the crated sculpture in his car. He watched the sunset for awhile, and then drove home.
MWC: October 31st
Posted By: USTADAWN <USTADAWN@aol.com>
Date: Saturday, 13 October 2001, at 12:03 p.m.
The wind was blowing and there was a chill in the air. Perfect makings for a night of Halloween fright. Last year Methos was away from Paris and couldn’t join in on the fun, but this year he promised to stop by and help with all the festivities. Even after centuries of life, nothing comes close to the beautiful faces of children laughing and playing during the trials of Halloween fun. The only tiring thing about this anticipated event was getting all the decorations in order.
Duncan surveys the stash exhumed from the storage unit. Let’s see, here’s the pumpkin lights,.......... and there’s Tessa’s broom. Here’s Richie’s bloody,... hairy,....... thingy. Oh here it is, the cauldron. If the kids only knew that this is the real thing. Why Amanda even kept a thing like this, I’ll never know. Me, I’d rather forget the Salem Witch hunt myself. ........Let’s see,................. what’s this.....?
Tessa approaches Duncan. Hey Sweetie, how’s it coming.....Oh, there’s my broom. I’ve been looking for this thing. The kids are going to have a ball this.......Duncan, what’s the matter? You look like you’ve seen a ghost, no pun intended.................................... Honey, are you alright?
Hey Tess...............just going through this stuff, that’s all. Duncan quickly hides something under the masses of Halloween rubble.
You just look a little pale and upset about something.................are you sure nothing is wrong?
No, I’m fine. Did you need something?
I just came to gather my broom and cauldron. I have to get started on my brew if it’s going to be ready by sundown, you know. See you back at the barge, Tessa leans in to give Duncan a well needed kiss.
About that time, Methos came straggling down to where Duncan and Tessa were and announced that he was ready to take his place as the decomposing Roman Soldier guarding the barge of horrors for the night. How close to the truth this staged scene was, although baring the decomposing part that is. Methos had taken his rightful place as palace guard many, many years ago during the times of the Caesars. The part was a shoe in for the old man.
Hey Mac, ........good to see you Tessa, Methos gives Tessa a gratuitous kiss on the cheek as she leaves, heading back to boil her brew.
About this Roman Guard thing, you know if I had a real horse, then I could.......Methos stops mid sentence and gazes at what Duncan had just recovered from under some old papers. Ah...........the ol’ box still haunts even today. You know, Darius was right when he said that we would never escape our past. That it would haunt us forever; never letting us forget what we are, what we’ve done and what will happen in the future, but I never expected it to be in the form of a damned box.
You know Methos, in my hands, I hold all my pains and sorrows ........... But, no matter how hard I try to get rid of this thing, it just keeps showing up. As mysteriously as the whole concept of our existence itself.
Methos somberly replies, I know, .........I know. For me, it’s more pain than anything else. I tend to ignore it when ever I can...... at least that is always my intent. I just don’t understand why I feel so compelled to open it when I know how much it will hurt after I do so.
Duncan holds the tattered box as if it were a baby, tender and fragile with the propensity to crumble if handled roughly and without care. Unintentionally, Duncan lifts the lid, as if drawn to do so by the whole universe itself. His mind is flooded with memories he had long hoped were forgotten. The pain of the memories was always so hard to endure, but this time, it was different. The pain seemed to subside and make way for warmer feelings. Had he finally completed his passage of sorrow. Darius had told Duncan that the box holds different journeys for each immortal. Paths of sorrow and paths of joy. Maybe Duncan had finally came to the end of the path of sorrow, for now he sees Little Deer, not lying dead in his arms, but alive with happiness and the warmth of the sun glowing from her face. He sees his homeland, not riddled with the dead from wars of long ago, but embraced by the clans that made the land strong and fertile working together in peace and love. Methos, surprised by what he sees calls to Duncan in an attempt to break the spell that appears to be consuming his friend.
Mac!.......Mac!.........Hey, where did you go man? Wherever it was, you seemed like you didn’t want to come back. Was it that hard this time?
No,.....no Methos, it was different this time........It was nice...........finally, no pain.
Intrigued by what he had just heard, Methos takes the box from Duncan’s hands and wishfully opens the lid. Throughout his lifetime, all 5,000 years as an immortal, Methos has never opened this box without feeling the pain that it housed inside. If for just one time, he could feel some comfort, the past pains would all be worth it. As the old immortal gazes at the box’s inner world, memories of Alexis swell in his heart. His lungs begin to fill with fluid and his breathing becomes very labored. The eyes of Alexis are staring right into his soul pleading with him to help her, to save her, but he can not. He tries to turn away from the box, but the hold is too strong. He sees the faces of the tribesmen screaming as he rides through the villages, killing and stealing his way through them. As he is entering the gates of Rome, being dragged by the horses of the centurion guard, hot blood is running down his face blinding him and then, Tessa gently shakes his arm. Methos drops the box with the look of terror on his face and again re-enters the world of the living.
Methos?.......What is going on here, first Duncan is acting strange and now you? Is something going on that I should know about?
Duncan rises and takes Tessa in his arms. I guess it’s just the ghosts of Halloween paying us a visit reminding us that this is only a game and that we better put on a damned good party for the kids tonight or else....... Duncan ravenously kisses Tessa’s neck and turns her towards the barge.
With a concerned look back, Duncan calls to Methos. Are you coming old man? Methos, visibly shaken, but completely released from his bondage meets up with Duncan. You know, I think I’ve changed my mind about tonight......Rome leaves a bad taste in my mouth...........I think I’ll be a horseman....... Duncan flashes a stern but curious look at his old friend. Methos subtly replies...After all, I do have the costume for it......we all have to pay for past mistakes, and reliving them at times affords restitution.
Of course, this banter between Duncan and Methos blows right over the head of Tessa as she excuses herself for a moment.
I’ll meet you guys back at the barge; I forgot to get something from storage. Tessa goes back to the house of stored treasures and finds the box lying at the feet where Methos had just stood moments ago. She picks up the box, almost afraid to look into it. She had seen Duncan earlier with it, just before he tried to hide it from her, and then saw the terror in Methos’ eyes as he held it too. Just what was in this box.....? Curiosity and fright both danced in Tessa’s head as she slowly began to open the box ........................................................................................................................................... nothing, an empty box........ Now what was so frightening about an empty box?.............
MWC: "Time in a Bottle"
Duncan MacLeod sat in Deb’s small apartment and watched her work, in the same way he used to watch Tessa in her studio. There was something about witnessing the creative process in action that was a soothing antidote to the violence and death of an Immortal lifestyle. His cool observation noticed her stopping suddenly, getting up to check the wall calendar, and picking up a red pen in her right hand, and boldly circling a date. None of this would be especially noteworthy, but for the fact that the young author was left-handed. Proudly Sinister, as she liked to say. “Deb, you okay?” he asked, cautiously, in case it was really nothing.
She didn’t turn around, kept staring at the calendar. “I need to go to England,” she said, as if the statement surprised even her. “It’s very important…” her voice faded away, and she frowned slightly in confusion. She looked at the pen in her right hand; her frown deepened, and she idly transferred it.
Duncan stood up and crossed the room to her side, becoming more and more concerned. “Are you sure you want to do that? Remember what happened to you in New York.” The dreamy look in her eyes disappeared; she shivered. “You just had to remind me about that didn’t you? You know, it’s a good thing you stay in shape. Otherwise you might hurt yourself when you put your foot in your mouth like that.” Duncan wasn’t quite sure how to respond, but he pushed on, carefully. “Do you know where you’re going, or even why?”
“What’s the matter; after everything we’ve been through, you still don’t trust me?” There was something in the tone of voice, in the phrasing, that wasn’t quite right. In a flash he recognized it. “Fitzcairn, you English ass! Why can’t you just leave the woman alone?”
“At last we’re making some progress,” spoke a voice that was subtly not Debra’s. “You’ve stopped calling her a girl at least. Ya hill-bred fool, you won’t even take what’s right in front of your eyes!”
“Oh no, you’re not going to twist this into something about me. What are you planning?”
“I’m hurt. You know I wouldn’t do anything to hurt the lass. There’s something I promised to do, that’s all. If you don’t trust me, you can come along.” The expression on Deb’s face changed and Duncan knew that she was back. She seemed to have no knowledge that the conversation had continued without her. “I don’t know why it’s important, I just know that I need to do… something.”
She stopped, a tiny frown creasing her brow. “This is his doing isn’t it?” MacLeod nodded, trying to look sympathetic; she sighed. “How did you ever keep from strangling the man?” she asked.
“Truth?” Duncan said with a smile. “A couple of times, I did. You’re not going to go through with this, are you?”
“It’s just going to get worse until I give in, and apparently there’s a deadline. If we just get it over with, I can get back to more important deadlines. Besides, if you’re really worried, you can go with me.” MacLeod was almost relieved, until the author repeated the Englishman almost word for word. There was no turning back now; all he could do was to tag along to keep the two of them out of trouble. The two of them: now there was a frightening concept.
§ § §
Once the decision was made, it was acted upon with speed and efficiency. Booking the flight was simple; in these stressful times, no one was traveling. The hard part was trying to get their blades through the increased security. With great difficulty, a pair of collectors managed to get their wares into the belly of the plane; the gods themselves wouldn’t have been able to sneak live steel in as carry on. Never had the prospect of lost luggage been so serious, or so dangerous.
Landing in London, Duncan booked them into a hotel and convinced an increasingly agitated Debra/Fitzcairn to sleep off the jet lag so they could start fresh in the morning. The young author managed to convey the idea that they were looking for something, a time capsule, or a secret stash, buried a hundred years ago. They were both surprised. “This doesn’t sound like the Fitz I knew,” MacLeod chuckled. “I never saw him plan ahead for anything.” Deb shrugged; “Don’t ask me, I’m just the messenger.” The Highlander rolled his eyes. “It’s not the message I’m worried about, it’s the source. Let’s just get some sleep.”
The next day was, if anything, worse than their first. London was a big place, and the weather wasn’t helping much. The city fogged in and chilly, in other words, completely normal. Instead of allowing the more experienced Scotsman to lead, they were forced to follow the uncertain direction of Deb and her unseen guide. As they walked the streets, the young Immortal became more confused and agitated. At one point she stopped in the middle of the road, spinning round and round in search of something ‘she’ recognized. “They’re not here!” Her voice held a note of desperation; “None of the landmarks he’s giving me are here anymore, and he won’t stop. Please, make him stop.” Duncan quickly ran to her side; he put an arm over her shoulders, both to reassure her and to hide her from the stares she was attracting from the locals.
They slipped quietly into a nearby public house; if there was anything that could calm down an irate Englishman, it was a nice long visit to the corner pub. Her entire manner changed when they stepped into the dimly lit common room. "Get me a pint old boy, Guinness is fine. I must prepare me a smoke," Fitz/Deb said pulling out a pipe from her purse. Duncan grumbled and went to the bartender to order their drinks. Duncan ordered and found the table Fitz/Deb had selected. "You can have your Guinness, but you'll not pollute the lady's lungs. You know smoking is a nasty habit, old boy," Duncan said, teasing. A very Fitzcairn grin spread across her/his face; "An it harm none. She's Immortal laddie."
Duncan scowled. "All right spill, you daft Englishman. Why are we here?"
“I made a promise. Don’t look at me that way, I do occasionally make promises I intend to keep. I buried a box full of memories in this city, just before the world started to go crazy—that whole War to End All Wars thing and the mess in Tsarist Russia. I told myself I’d come back a hundred years later and get it back. Who knew I wouldn’t be around to do it myself?”
Duncan frowned; “So what’s the problem? You forgot where you put it, and now you’re taking it out on her?”
He/she scowled in response; "I didn't forget, the landmarks just disappeared. I never imagined how much things could change in so short a time. This lovely body of my host is going to help me try and find the rest of the markings."
“Not so short a time, when things are changing so quickly now. The next War to End All Wars took down quite a few buildings. Are there any clues you can give me without driving a young woman half-mad in the process?” A long nailed finger began tracing lines in the moisture on the table; a pattern started to evolve. Duncan looked down at the table and sighed at what he saw. “You English fop, don’t you see it?” He tapped the tabletop angrily. “Does every fool scheme you drag me into have to involve the Westminster Abbey?”
“Well, you have to admit, it is easy to remember. Really, lad, I don’t know why I didn’t see it right away…”
“I don’t care how old you were when you died” Duncan growled, “stop calling me lad; especially when you’re in that body.”
“Would ye rather I called you a daft Scot and a Boy Scout?”
“If I wasn’t such a Boy Scout, as you say, I wouldn’t be helping you right now, would I?” By now there were quite a few glasses lined up on the table, and MacLeod had a fairly good idea of Deb’s capacity. “I think it’s time for us to go now. From the looks of this, she’s going to hate you in the morning.”
§ § §
The next day, getting into (or in this case under) the Abbey was much simpler than Deb would have imagined. “It’s a damned good thing we’re not Terrorists” she quipped, immediately regretting her words. She had a horrible headache that had nothing to do with being so close to Duncan and was not in the best, or most consistent, of moods. The catacombs were dimly lit and smelled awful, but at least they had flashlights. She couldn’t imagine what the place would be like by torchlight. They got to a certain corridor and Deb began counting stones; she tried not to think about what was buried behind each of those stones. When they got to the right number (Deb mentally teased Fitz that it wasn’t a very big number) it took both of them to push aside the covering. Thankfully the crypt was not occupied, but it did contain a large wooden box. “Eureka, it’s here MacLeod.” Deb’s own voice immediately reasserted itself, “Get back Fitzy, you’ll get your turn.”
They didn’t need Fitzcairn’s unwelcome interference as they tried to get the old chest out of the abbey. From the way they skillfully dodged guards Deb decided that Duncan had learned a thing or two from all his years with Amanda. Unable to return to their hotel, they opened the box in an old subway station, on a line that had been closed years ago. It didn’t take much to open the box; there was no real lock and the clasp practically disintegrated at a touch. MacLeod lifted the lid and whistled softly at the silk and lace he saw within. “I knew he was a bit of a dandy, but I never suspected….”
“Have a little respect for the dead!” she snapped, this time the words were her own. “You don’t understand what this is.” Never had Fitzcairn’s memories been so vividly intense; before she even reached into the box, she knew every item inside as intimately as if her (his?) own hands had placed them there. Carefully, she lifted out the remains of a beautiful dress; her voice was a strained whisper as she spoke. “This belonged to a woman named Angela, and in this dress she was truly a vision from Heaven. Her father was a Lord and he refused to allow a Fitz-anyone near her angel, for fear of scandal or ruined bloodlines. It didn’t matter that the man in question could no more ruin a bloodline than he could contribute to one; Father would object on principles alone.
“If this had been just another tryst, Fitzcairn would have had the perfect excuse, but the irony was, this time, it was true love. Fitz told her everything and she took it amazingly well. Except for her being an incurable romantic. In her mind, she dreamed of sharing eternity with an Immortal lover. Angela took her own life, certain that she and her beloved were the same and that she would live forever. She—wasn’t.” Deb’s hands trembled as she put the treasure aside and chose another.
With an effort, she lifted out a long slim blade, wrapped in heavy felt. It was a clearly a woman’s sword, but by no means was it decorative. She gasped at the memories it evoked, but continued anyway, in hushed tones. “Diana. She was an Immortal, but not an enemy. She was the type of woman who could tame Hugh Fitzcairn, and for the first time, it seemed like our Fitz was willing to be tamed. But love is meant to aspire to forever, not to achieve it, and it didn’t take long for their relationship to sour. They fought, and then they Fought, and he was forced to—oh God!” She dropped the steel as if it had stung her; the sound as it hit the concrete echoing loudly in the tunnels. It took her several deep breaths to calm herself enough to approach the box of memories.
Trembling hands dipped into the box once more, and this time the images evoked made her smile. It was an antique nurse’s cap, faded and worn. “A young Italian lady, being raised in England by her father, with dreams of saving lives as a nurse; our own Fitzcairn fostered those dreams. He accompanied her on a tour of the hospitals of Europe; dreadfully dull from his point of view, but for her he would do anything. He even convinced her to go to a nursing school when she turned thirty, even though it was in Egypt. She was too curious, and too intelligent, for him to stay for long, but he liked to keep track of her progress. The last he had heard, she had just come back from the Crimea and was founding a school of her own. The woman’s name was—“
“Nightingale,” it was the first time he had spoken, and his voice echoed loudly in the tunnel, “Florence Nightingale.” She could hear the mix of awe and disbelief in his voice; somehow she gained a perverse sense of pleasure from surprising the Highlander. Or maybe the feeling wasn’t quite her own. She quirked a smile; “Didn’t think he had it in him, did you?”
One last time she reached into the treasure chest, knowing exactly what she’d find. She lifted the old glass bottle as gently as if it were a baby; “Now this is the reason for the deadline.” She sighed at a memory that wasn’t her own, “Ah, Rosalind. Her family had a vineyard, a small one. She had known Hugh Fitzcairn almost her whole life; first as an eccentric traveling uncle, later as a trusted friend and finally as an ‘uncle’ to her own children and grandchildren. I think it was the closest he had ever come to fatherhood. No matter where he went or what he was doing, Fitz always came back to Rosalind. He was at her side when, as the silver-haired matron of a successful wine family, Dame Rosa left this world after a full century. He made a promise at her deathbed, that he would toast her memory once every hundred years.” She held out the bottle for MacLeod’s inspection; “Do you think this would be appropriate?”
When he touched the cork it nearly disintegrated; he gave a cautious sniff. “Phew! Maybe with a salad. This stuff went to vinegar decades ago.” Deb chuckled in answer; “That sounds like our Fitz all right! Let’s go; I’m sure we can find something. Just don’t let him overdo it this time; he never stays around for the hangover.”
§ § §
The quest was over, and it seemed that the seeking was more important than the treasure. After their quiet tribute to the memories of great ladies past, they still had the box itself to deal with. Deb composed a note and Duncan made an anonymous phone call; and that was all the arrangement necessary. A drop-off was made at a seemingly abandoned warehouse, to be taken to a secret museum somewhere, never to be seen again. Most of the items anyway, Deb had insisted they liberate some of the objects from the hands of the Watchers.
Back home in the Northlands, the young author sat before a bottle of undrinkable wine, gazing without really seeing it. An old song drifted through her mind. “If I could save time in a bottle/The first thing that I'd like to do/Is to save every day/Till Eternity passes away/Just to spend them with you.” Her voice faded away, for those were the only words she knew, but she felt a warm hand on her shoulder and a new voice took up the tune.
“If I had a box just for wishes/And dreams that had never come true/The box would be empty/Except for the memory/Of how they were answered by you.” She looked up into the face of Duncan MacLeod. “You did a good thing,” he said to her. “I know,” she whispered, “You’re not the only one who thinks so.” Her soft smile turned into a quirky grin; “Now if I could just get him to stop pestering me about taking up golf….”