Cold Comfort

The Holy Ground Highlander Forum Midweek Challenge

Archivist’s Note: The stories and vignettes offered here from various Rysher Forumlanders have not been edited or changed other than having a spell-check performed and being reformatted for this website.

Contents

The Challenge by Leah CWPack
Shear Inspiration by Ysanne
Colder Than Ice by vixen69
Under Stress by Ghost Cat
Cold by Lovie MacFru
The Other Raven by Wain
Cold Comfort by Ysanne
Prayers to Mercury by Titania

MID-WEEK CHALLENGE: COLD COMFORT

Posted By: Leah CWPack <Bizarro7@aol.com>
(IP: 208.24.179.208)
Date:
Tuesday, 2 January 2001, at 1:02 p.m.

At the unwise suggestion of several Forumlanders, here is your challenge, should you wish to participate.

Write a story, scene, vignette or limerick featuring extremely cold weather, and how one or more Immortals are forced to deal with it. Any combination will do, as well as any mood.

If you feel it necessary to carry your tale into an R rating or beyond for the purposes of storytelling, you may, but please post it
elsewhere with a link (and an appropriate warning), or else distribute it *on request* via private email.

Good luck!

MWC: Shear Inspiration

Posted By: Ysanne
(IP: dhcp065-024-105-229.columbus.rr.com)
Date:
Tuesday, 2 January 2001, at 4:52 p.m.

There once was a mighty cold Scot
Who shivered and shook as he fought.
The wind gusted low from the snow down below,
Getting right up the kilt he had bought.

His feet were both covered in slush,
The socks on his ankles were mush;
His shapely knees knocked and the icicles flocked,
Dripping down from his blue, frozen tush.

The other fun parts near that bum
Were starting to get very numb....
Mac parried the blows and wiped his cold nose,
As he dreaded just what was to come.

When his enemies scattered and ran,
Our Scotsman came up with a plan.
Wet wood wouldn't go and a fire would be slow,
So he'd use something else close at hand.

He scouted around the white hill,
His nether parts feeling quite nil,
Til under a gorse he found -- not a horse --
But a critter he bent to his will.

He sank down upon the thick fur
With a sound that was close to a purr.
The wool of a sheep is really quite deep...
An idea had started to stir!

Because of that cold winter day
MacLeods now all fight the same way:
They sit on their sheep, their bums buried deep,
And they don't give a damn what you say!

I know. Baaaad Ysanne.

MWC--Colder than Ice

Posted By: vixen69 <mcvixen_69@hotmail.com>
(IP: spider-ta021.proxy.aol.com)
Date:
Wednesday, 3 January 2001, at 1:25 a.m.

Disclaimer: I never wanted Anath-Sin to be a part of the MWC experience. She is not like Genevieve--she isn't easily accessible. This happens in *her* world--which is not a nice place to be. I'm adding the link to her tales because she isn't always the way she's depicted here--yes, she's an OFC. But she's...uh...(Okay, she scares *me*, all right? And I made her up.)

Colder than Ice

“Keep moving, idiot! To slow down now would make you die of cold!” she barked, turning her head only slightly that he might hear her words. How quickly over the last few years she had come to show him more and more disrespect—strange to think he once considered her his prize.

Caspian snarled in answer, “You said nothing would kill us—but losing our heads!”

She turned, then, with the suddenness of a snake snapping fast on its prey. She yanked the hood of her cloak back that he might take note of her eyes—they were pale and green, icy as the wind. She fixed him in them, before raising her hand. She unwrapped it from the rags she’d wrapped around the fingers, exposing the skin.

“Not final death—but painful death! Hold out your hand!” she demanded. He acquiesced, placing his hand in hers. Her grip was hard and claw-like; she gripped him all the harder for her digits being numb. His own hands were burning with pain, and she lifted his hand before him. “Behold the leprosy of cold—white like snow, and flakes the same,” she said, emotionlessly, running her thumb against his flesh. In horror, he saw the surface of his own skin pull away. She grimaced then. “This is still what we are—men. Winter may still stop your heart. It will again beat—but the mourning-song it will beat to is the saddest of all.”

She turned away, and wrapped her hands back up as she trudged forward. Anna—who knew her age? With every day and every mile they traveled she seemed yet older, more distant, stranger, and colder. And in this grim trip she seemed, even stranger for her—crueler. She never seemed a monster before.

“To rub your hands together now would be foolish—simply wrap them. We may find a cave, or cleft in the rock, to rest ourselves. Or else, find what I seek.”

“You are certain you’ll find this…Methos…here, in these mountains?” he inquired.

“I know him!” was her only answer. He noted, with bitterness, that her feet knew their way over mountain rocks even as well as his own. She pointed at a place in the distance. “There—if I know the ways of goats and caribou…”

He shook his head. A precipice dangerous and difficult to climb—obviously the sort of thing she would consider a safe place to seek rest. He stood still, staring. And then he felt the tug at his arm. First, he knew her as a warrior—her arm was still that strong.

“Move!” she demanded.

Not as a man or woman, but a thing known only to itself, he thought, watching her rest against the rock surface. From the time he realized she did not bleed like others, from the time she showed him that he himself was not as other men, she slowly let it be known that she held all weak things in disdain. At the moment, her anger stemmed from holding herself close to that—having shown a weakness.

“Better we should have set forth for this range two moons in advance; then we should not have met up with such cold. I was betrayed by a wet summer and easy autumn. But they—the tribe I believe he stays with—they are nomads, and would still be traveling. It should be better to search out their campfires this way.”

She pounded the rock with a small hand, then drew the hand up to look at it. Caspian intuitively reached for it, snatching it between his own. The nail-beds were blue, and her skin now seemed white. She looked into his eyes. Both knew it was not well—they were freezing. She began to speak, but he spoke in her place.

“The tribe with which he stays—the ones that consider him a god—tell me about them.”

Speak, she commended herself. Stay awake and focused. Tell a tale, and add moments to your life. She knew to sleep was to die—to remain awake, the better to live. She pulled her hand away from his grasp, and motioned to him to stand further back, towards the wall, and then she crouched down. She peered about, part snow-blind, and part concerned-—such a small crevice as a mountain goat might be comfortable in, but she was none such, nor was Caspian. The cold still reached them, and the winds could still be heard—fierce and unfriendly. But if they must freeze to death, here was as secluded and fine a place as any other.

“They ride the horse—the thing you say can not be done,” she said, with amusement. “But they do—they have, for a time, and will, forever, I believe. It is natural to them. A more…natural people I scarce know.”

She sighed. A young one was always limited by what he’d seen. He had little experience of handling of creatures—as his people kept dogs and sheep, but the nature of the rider was something he’d never known. It would make as little sense to him as his people’s methods of consuming the dead would to Methos.

“Horses are swift,” she went on. “And the people are sturdy. Men ride, women—they are made content to carry. They have but few who ride—and when the beast is finished, he is…properly treated. Eaten. As they are nomadic, they take little, leave little. And they stay to these…ranges. Methos prefers to stay close to this people as…” She paused, thinking of him, and smiled. “He has learned my lessons better than I myself know them. Better to have a people, than be alone.”

“And this is why I am no longer a part of my people?” Caspian looked at her, then glanced away.

“They weren’t,” she said, in the patient voice of one who has explained a thing a thousand times before—in other words, with a trace of impatience. “They would know what you are soon enough—have you learned nothing by being with me?”

He made a sound at that. She shrugged. “I am your people. You are…more like myself than like any one of them. Recall what they were. Think of what you are now.”

Caspian thought on that. His village, they knew no way of the sword, but had spears. They were complacent, content to stay as they were—which was why it was so simple for Anna and her warriors to come down the plain and attack. If not for fate—he might well have been her prize—not she, his. He now did see himself different from them—superior. He had what they did not—knowledge, and his long life to look forward to.

“I am your husband,” he answered. He smiled at her, lewdly. She returned his look, with pride.

“My student, thanks to a stone blade. You will say no such things in front of Methos.” She looked in the direction of the strange light—strange, in that the cold made the sun cast dark shadows on all things. Time itself was bent by such a bitter cold—she could not tell what time of day it was.

“He is what to you?” Caspian demanded. “Another of your students?”

Anna stood. She regarded the * young * man before her. Methos was her student, but older than this boy. She had known Methos long—and wondered at times if he were strong as—if not stronger than—herself. He had less compassion, less conscience.

“He is the god of that people. If I am not a woman—he is not a man. If he tells them you are to die—it will be as he says.”

Caspian regarded her in disbelief. Again, association with her could earn him death. She, oblivious to his concern, went on.

“I seek him out as I know full well he would never bring death to me. You—I have little choice about.”

Little choice. Sitting in the cold, seeing Anna close her eyes, Caspian considered what little choice she’d given him. If he had not cared for her—a foreigner, a demon, and a bad omen, his people might not have chosen them for sacrifice. And yet—it was she who begged them to plunge their blades into their bellies, and not sever head and neck. And she had seen him through the early running, surviving, teaching him what he was. But still he wondered if she were not every bit as much a burden as a gift. Just as his immortality was a burden and a gift. He slid himself along the floor of the cave to be closer to her, but she was still—cold.

“Tell me more,” he asked. His voice surprised him, harsh and thick. Even the sound of his voice was affected by the cold.

She opened an eye. Sleepiness was overtaking her, but she knew the cold was doing that. Most of the time, she fought sleep, and required few hours of rest—but now she seemed to feel the weight of her eyelids most profoundly. “Tell you of Methos?”

“Yes.”

Her mind wandered. Where to begin? Once, she had been told a teacher makes the man, but she dared not think she’d made him. He was the student that outstripped the teacher—challenged her as no one else ever had. She feared him because he was possibly stronger of mind than herself. And yet, there was something to him—beyond any cruelty he could show. Beyond any of the hardness he’d learned from her. Beyond any killing, any control, any power he’d been shown—

He could appear most human. He had the skill of being, as she was, two things—a man and a god. That made him twice as dangerous. But it would do no good to try and explain all of that to Caspian—simple being that he still was. Caspian, having come from a simple people, would have to make the choice—monster or man. If he were to live long—monster would be easier—the man in him would not survive. To answer his question, though, she fixed on Methos in her mind’s eye. The appearance made her smile—it pleased her. She realized she was losing her sanity in the cold.

“He is not blue—he merely paints himself so,” she said, and then laughed at her own statement. It should not have seemed so funny to her, were she not conscious of losing consciousness. “He is tall. He might be taller than you. And he’s…as would please me,” she said.

“A warrior?” Caspian suggested.

“And that, too. A warrior, and pleasing to me.” The ways in which she found him pleasing suddenly seemed too intimate for her to voice. Instead of speaking of those virtues, she found herself saying, “He is very intelligent. Wise in the way of men, and keen in skills. I don’t believe he would kill you right away—if he were of such a mind.”

Such a cozy cave—almost like the one she’d first died in, and like a number she’d seen in her time. She knew it was snowing, and under snow a person could find warmth—it might not be a bad idea to seek her way out to the snow. The cave seemed, moment by moment, less snug, more close, as she considered that. It was a bad thought. No—better to be here—imagine that it were warm…

Caspian tugged at her shoulder. Her eyes had closed again. She was close to dozing, but then she recalled her thought.

“He has a taste for hurting—I think it came from me.”

Anna’s skin was still warm—it was all that was warm in the world, or so Caspian imagined as he drew her tighter. She yielded, at first, and then stiffened.

“Woman, I have need of you,” he whispered, and his voice was definitely thicker, deeper, full of need and urgency.

Her eyes opened. What need did he have of her? What need did she expect, but the usual? And yet, no part of her was willing. She found that he was pressed against her, and she could feel all of him—his full weight, near her. Her arms, without thought, wrapped around him. His ear was cold against her face—but her face seemed cold against his cheek. Who was colder? She couldn’t determine.

“No,” was all she could manage, a half-hearted whisper. “We’re only dying, is all. Don’t fight it—feel it.”

She managed her cold, numb hand up to his face. Their eyes met. She had shown him death before—but what was she asking, now?

“Not this—just…close your eyes. I’ll hold you—but that is all.”

She’d lost sense of feet and legs some time before—how long she wasn’t certain. He held her, and it seemed suffocating, but she wasn’t sure of where his arms were—or what he imagined they might do. Now it seemed clear—they had one choice. And spring would come—eventually. But in this instant, he might see what she had seen about this awful passage—could she let someone know this?

“Accept the dark—and you’ll see something like a light,” she began, slowly. “It’s something we face all the time.”

He clutched her tighter. “No…I want…” His movement against her made his desire clear.

She knew what he imagined he wanted, and she also knew it was not her Caspian, but a madman in her arms. She wrestled herself from his all-enclosing grip…and once her arms were free, she reached to her thigh, where she always carried a knife. She did not wish this last indignity to mar her drifting into sleep—and she knew full well he would not recall her act on waking. She plunged it deep—and his throes took but an instant before he was still.

She regarded his face—it was peaceful. He seemed peaceful in death as he did not when awake. She thought to draw her dagger out—but did not. When she awoke, she would gently pull it lose, and let him know that she did it out of respect…but to draw it out now would be to risk his early waking, to die again of bitter cold, and that she did not desire. Thinking of how she best would wake him, she drifted into the sleep of death—and froze to something colder than ice.

****

Of all ways to awake, a sandal to the throat is the least pleasant, and yet Anna was in no position to highly resent it—waking being waking, as far as she was concerned.

“You always find one, Anna,” the voice of her new god said, in deep, insinuating tones. The voice was familiar, and then she thought to look up. Even in the dark/light glow suffusing the cave, she knew Methos’ face. He was irritated with her, and had a sword within her viewing. This was not an unusual situation for her—so much as uncomfortable and strange. It took her a moment to recall how she came to be in this spot. One—so he said. One, what?

She turned, ever so slightly. Caspian. Still with a knife in the chest. Poor thing. A terrible introduction. Methos usually was not so terrible to know, but in this particular way. Being his captive was not good.

“I found him much as I found you,” she whispered. Both were her students—perhaps Methos would take pity on the woman who first taught him to hate. The sandal was brought away from her throat, and a long arm lifted her up to her feet. Unsteadily, she swayed, wondering what the strange sensation she felt could be. It was warmth. She smelled something like grass on the air. Shocked, she looked down at herself—a sight. And she was wet with condensation, and also certain unpleasant side-effects of long-term death-like sleep.

He grasped her in his arms, firmly, yet with an air of something approaching anger. “Who is he?”

“He is called Caspian—a student of mine…and we…came to find * you *,” she managed, through aching lungs and throat.

“I should leave him here to starve…and you to rot,” Methos replied, voice choked. She breathed deeply, trying to sped her own recovery, and caressed his face.

“No…draw the dagger out, and learn his worth—what student of mine could be worthless?’

She bent down—Methos making no motion, and drew the blade out. Caspian convulsed, coughed, sputtered. The older Immortals looked on the display, Anna’s arm around Methos’ waist, and his arms around her. She pressed her lips to his neck for good measure.

“See? At the very least—consider that he might make a fine slave, even as I…have been?” she offered.

Methos looked away. She knew the very words to turn his stomach if not his heart.

“You will come with me...he will serve. I…”

Her lips found him once again. They still seemed cold. But he recalled all that she was to him. He returned her embrace, as Caspian looked on. Unimaginable, that she could cling to such a man as that—and offer himself as a slave, and in so few moments.

The woman was colder than ice. Yet over the years, she had certainly learned to be.

And so a temporary family was made. For fifty years they rode--until Anna ventured south--to seek more temperate fortune. Caspian also went his way--yet Methos did not change.

Anath-Sin

MWC: Under Stress

Posted By: Ghost Cat <ghost_cat@hotmail.com>
(IP: cf-02-cgy.nucleus.com)
Date:
Wednesday, 3 January 2001, at 11:18 p.m.


Well, I originally wrote this for the snow challenge last week, but I think it applies equally to both MWC's. Besides, I *really* need a break.

Under Stress

After the third day of the storm, Deb was ready to run screaming into the snow rather than stay a moment longer. It hadn't take long for the idea of staying in a small cabin with Duncan MacLeod to change from dream come true to a waking nightmare. Most series fans understood the Buzz, a natural warning that kept an Immortal from ambush. Only the Immortals themselves knew that the Buzz continued, at some level, as long as they remained within range. Her best advantage, a Q sensitivity that could pinpoint an enemy to within a few feet, shredded her nerves simply because it would not stop.

It was planned as a winter vacation, a trip to the Rockies; the young Canadian had laughed and joked, assuring the Highlander that Alberta was more than a mere prairie. "If you keep complaining about missing the mountains," she had grinned, "I could drop you off in Saskatchewan, which is about as Lowland as you can get. They say that on a clear day, you can see the back of your own head." The relaxed, easygoing mood continued as they traveled by rail. It was cheaper than flying, and more pleasant than the highways. The idea of a rail voyage was perfect for both of them: nostalgic to the elder, exciting to the younger. As an unexpected bonus, the train was large enough that they could get away from each other for a while; neither one of them realized that such privacy would soon become a luxury.

§ § §

Duncan at least, could still meditate; all her favorite relaxation methods were impossible. A single deck of cards would have given her something to take her mind off the situation. She craved a book, a magazine, a newspaper-anything. But the last straw was yesterday, when she used up her last scrap of clean paper. The level of tension in the tiny cabin was given vivid form by two blades lined up down the center of the room.

The constant ache in the back of her skull rose to a new level and the frustrated writer literally snarled. "You said that you were going to stay on your side, MacLeod." She had never used his full name before, a fact that worried him greatly now. Barely controlled tension crept into his own voice as he answered; "I did, for both our sakes. But the hearth is in between and we are running out of heat. Or doesn't a city-girl notice that kind of thing?"

Deb snarled again, an irritating habit. "You don't have to tell a Northlander how to deal with the cold. I've waited half an hour for Transit in weather worse than this!"

"Excuse me? Did you say a Northlander? Don't you even think about comparing homelands with me Young Lady."

"That's another problem, you still think of me as a child. I died ten years older than Richie did, and although I may not have had much practical experience in my life, I'm intelligent and I learn fast. I am no one's pet project and I will never be anyone's pet."

The words were vaguely familiar, but he couldn't quite place them; instead, he turned to the practical task of stoking the fire from their dwindling supply of wood. She just needed some time to think, they both did; time alone. It was beginning to look like the only time they would be alone was when one of them died. He shook his head roughly to clear it; those kinds of thoughts wouldn't help either of them.

§ § §

Duncan lay on the bed, staring at the ceiling. He had taken the bed the first day, before the meltdown, and now both of them refused to even mention sleeping arrangements. He wondered about those strange words that Deb had thrown at him in anger: "I am no one's pet project and I will never be anyone's pet." There was something familiar, and very unpleasant, about that particular phrase. He had only known the girl for about two years, less if you considered that she had spent a year alone with Cassandra; what did it mean?

He closed his eyes; heard a voice--the ruins of a voice--"So you're MacLeod's new pet project. Or should I say his pet?" The Halloween party... how could he forget? He remembered that night, that moment when she stood there, facing his enemy, while he could only watch and wonder if she would survive. But she had survived... "Only I will remain, and thus will I prove that I am stronger." Maybe she was right; maybe he was underestimating her, treating her like a child. Her talents and experiences went beyond her years; her imagination and conviction could take her places he might never see. If she survived the next few days physically and emotionally intact. Even now he could feel her, faintly, at the edge of his awareness; what was she going through, her senses bombarded constantly, with no rest and no chance to be alone?

The next morning Deb announced that she was going to have a soak. She had discovered, quite by accident, that submerging in water up to her nose seemed to blunt the Buzz somewhat, letting her feel almost human. The day of her first bath Duncan had also discovered something; the universal truth that no matter how long a woman stays alone in a bath, even if it's hours, a man should never, ever go in to see if she has drowned. Ever after, she had carefully switched the word "soak" for "bath."

She stepped out of the tiny bathroom humming a jaunty tune; Duncan took this as a good sign until the song itself bothered him. "Debra," he asked carefully, trying to seem casual, "where'd you hear that music?" For once she didn't snap at him in irritation; "It's just a tune stuck in my brain. The kind you never know where it came from and you can't seem to get rid of it."

The answer seemed to worry him a bit. "It's an old English drinking song." She shrugged at this, smiling, until he added "over 200 years old." The smile seemed to freeze on her face. There was a long silence before she quipped, a little too briskly, "Must have picked it up at that Immie Party, the Gods know there was enough drinking that night." Instantly she wished she could have taken back the words.

"What else happened that night?"

Memories haunted her eyes--[I'm as real as you make me, Child]--"I don't want to talk about it."

"You're a storyteller, you talk about everything."

[My lady, you look as if you've seen a ghost] "Not... everything."

Duncan took a guess, a stab in the dark so to speak; "Kalas' words could always wound deeper than his blade. You know he loved to mess with people's minds." From across the room he could see her flinch, a very palpable hit.

"I also know he worked best when he used the truth." She looked at him warily; "What am I to you, truly? A friend, an ally, a lost child? A stray you picked up at the morgue and now feel obligated to care for? Am I just another... pet project?"

He hesitated, choosing his words carefully. His clan once believed that a Bard could see the truth in a man's soul. "Truthfully? I'm not sure. You are... a fresh perspective on life; a reminder that an Immortal can create as well as destroy. You're something new and special and...beautiful; something-no, someone-I wouldn't want to lose."

She tried to say something, stopped; looked at him as if reading his soul. She nodded once, slowly, then turned away. It was the longest conversation they'd had in days. There was a sense of something unfinished, but at least it had been a start. As if their mood and the weather had been feeding off each other, the storm broke during the night. The next morning, Duncan found her curled catlike in a beam of sunlight; settled in a nest of blankets and reading the only thing available: her own stories. She had needed to take down the steel barrier to do it, and their two blades leaning side by side in a corner seemed like an unspoken peace treaty.

She waved her hand at the view outside; "I think I'd almost forgotten the sun." The light sparkling off the unbroken snow was a breathtaking sight, and the air itself seemed crystal clear. Their ordeal wasn't over yet; the air out there was cold enough to freeze your lungs and they both knew it. "On a day like today you can understand why Canadians have a love/hate relationship with Winter."

"Oh, and I wouldn't know anything about winter."

"Please, no more stories about how you spent two generations wandering the Highland wilds, with nothing but a pile of furs and whatever you could carry on a horse."

"In a kilt!"

She rolled her eyes dramatically, "In a kilt."

MWC: Cold

Posted By: Lovie MacFru <bethking@swbell.net>
(IP: adsl-64-216-143-144.dsl.kscymo.swbell.net)
Date:
Thursday, 4 January 2001, at 5:58 p.m.

I haven't done this for a while, so bear with me please..

*************************************************

Kate moved closer to the hearth, drawn by the flickering flames as they danced their destruction on the dwindling hard wood log. Her long slim arms wrapped tightly about herself as though that empty embrace might bring some warmth into her shuttering body. Her hands worked nervously up and down her arms creating an illusion of heat from the friction.

The cold seeped in through the cracks around the tightly shuttered windows, but it wasn’t the cold in the room that Kate responded to. Her eyes, once bright with laughter were as cold as the windowpanes. She rocked gently in the old chair, a slow swaying back and forth that made the old wood groan as she moved.

Four months, she thought, I’ve survived four months.

Her hand moved unconsciously to her breast. It was there that the knife had sliced into her tender flesh. Every moment since had carved the wound deeper. She sighed heavily and stood slowly, moving with the stiffness of an old woman.

Not long ago her body had danced lightly about the room. She had danced in anticipation of her wedding, laughed happily at the idea of spending long loving moments in the arms of her handsome, caramel-eyed husband. It was here that she had spun her dreams of being a wife and mother. Her heart had beat with love and a longing that she was sure would be fulfilled on her wedding day.

She moved slowly to the chest near the bed, wondering why she felt drawn to the one object in the room that caused her the most pain. But drawn she was, once again compelled to open the chest and draw out the night dress that still bore the stains of her blood. As she lifted the filmy gown from it’s resting place she felt the soft folds of material flutter about her arms and she buried her face in the lace and ribbons that had made her feel like the princess in a fairy tale, a breathless, beautiful princess waiting for her prince. Each stitch she had sewn with hopes and plans for a wonderful life with her one true love. Now the bedraggled garment lay limp and graying in her hands, a soiled vessel of betrayal and pain. It was as lifeless as she felt, as torn and frayed as her own heart.

Kate clutched the fabric tightly in her fists as if wringing from it a vision of the love she had known. But it was not to be. The heart that once beat only for the love of Duncan MacLeod lay as stone in her chest. The warmth that memories should have brought was absent not only from the tired garment but from the room itself.

She crushed the gown into the chest and let the lid fall back into place. The loud crash of wood on wood echoed in the silent room. The log on the fire shifted and threw sparks up the chimney toward the dark cold sky. What little heat there was in the room faded with the dying fire, but Kate didn’t notice.

MWC: Here's a little antifreeze for those who are cold this week.

Posted By: Wain <wamba@fast.net>
(IP: maxtnt08-abe-205.fast.net)
Date:
Thursday, 4 January 2001, at 1:33 p.m.

I invited the Muse in and served her some leftover cassata alla siciliana from the New Year’s Eve party. I asked very kindly for a slightly bawdy limerick starring a handsome Immortal seeking refuge from the cold at my house. Instead she insisted, really insisted on a homage to Edgar Allan Poe instead. Don’t worry that the homage will be anywhere near as long as the original, because the demands of rhyme and meter are positively diabolical.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The Other Raven, with apologies to Edgar Allan Poe

Once upon a midnight frozen, ‘Manda wondered why she’d chosen
Solitude, because to sleep alone is such a dreadful bore.
For her Scotsman she was yearning, felt that she was fairly burning
With desire as she was turning, turning knob on Duncan’s door.
“You’ve a visitor,” she murmured, “tapping on your chamber door.
Let me in; I want some more.”

Then the dazzling miniskirted Raven with her lover flirted,
Begging him with eyes and mouth some wondrous pleasures to explore.
Louder now her heart was beating, now their hungry lips were meeting,
Thoughts of weather now were fleeting, fleeting as he crossed the floor,
Shot the bolt and turned the lights down, lay her on the bedroom floor.
“Are you sure you want some more?”

First he gently kissed each finger, at her silken throat did linger,
Breathed the ghost of perfume that she’d always worn for him before.
Hands along his strong back trailing; clothing gone, their skin unveiling;
Sensual seas they soon were sailing, sailing them the whole world o’er.
And he told her, “Stay with me and let me love you o’er and o’er.”
Quoth the Raven, “Ever more!”

In the cold night he embraced her, warmed her, and did touch and taste her,
Traveling through passion’s waters to desire’s wildest shore.
Moonlight silvered Duncan’s shoulder, in his arms he did enfold her,
His caresses growing bolder, bolder than she’d known before.
Whispered Duncan, “Will you leave me as you’ve always left before?”
Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore!”

MWC: Cold Comfort

Posted By: Ysanne
(IP: dhcp065-024-105-229.columbus.rr.com)
Date:
Thursday, 4 January 2001, at 12:26 p.m.

Looking at him over the rim of the steaming mug, she took a tiny sip of the contents, then smiled and licked the melted marshmallow from her upper lip.

"It's delicious, Mac! Tell me what the 'secret ingredient' is."

"If I told, it wouldn't be a secret, now would it?" her companion taunted smugly.

Tessa took another few sips of her hot cocoa before setting it carefully on the nightstand. She turned back the bedcovers and looked up at her lover with mischievous eyes.

"Well, whatever it is, it won't keep me as warm as having someone to snuggle with. Aren't you coming to bed yet? It's freezing!"

MacLeod sat on the edge of the bed and tucked the covers up around Tessa's shoulders, then leaned down to rub his cold nose on her warm cheek.

"Not quite yet. I have to check the doors and windows. And it's a lot colder than freezing, Tess. I don't think Paris has ever been this cold so late in the winter."

"Well, you would know, Mr. I've-seen-it-all," teased his lover. "But I watched you check those doors and windows not an hour ago; surely they haven't unlocked themselves! Come to bed, Duncan."

"But I really should...."

"Come to bed," interrupted Tessa gently but firmly. "You can't lock the world out forever, Duncan. I don't need extra locks or alarm systems or armed guards, I just need you," she insisted, sitting up and making him meet her eyes.

"Tessa, I just want to keep you safe. Being with me puts you in danger, you know that. You're not even safe in our own home! Remember Slan?"

"I could hardly forget him. But you did keep me safe, Mac. You always keep me safe, and warm, and feeling very loved. And don't get that sick, guilty look on your face," she chided, not letting him pull away. "I don't expect our lives to be easy, but being together is worth anything we might have to face. Don't you think so?"

"You know I do. But I couldn't face it if something happened to you, Tess." Mac's dark eyes were intense, and Tessa felt the tension in his body as she stroked his arms and clasped his big hands.

"Yes, you could face it!" Tessa contradicted, her eyes flashing. "You could face it just as I could face it if....if something happened to you. We're so lucky to have found each other, Mac! Do you know how many people never have this love, this incredible closeness? Whatever happens, we have had something so wonderful, something so rare, that it will sustain us through anything. Anything! Never forget that, Duncan."

MacLeod nodded, his throat tight and his eyes suspiciously bright. He gentled his grip on Tessa's strong, artist's hands and lifted each one to his lips to kiss the palm.

"All right, Sweetheart, all right. You win," he conceded with a smile, standing to pull off his clothes. "I hope you're ready to share your bed with a tall block of ice."

With that warning, he yanked off Tessa' blankets and pounced on her, his chilly feet making her scream.

Much later Tessa lay spooned against her bedmate, the radiating heat of his body warming her like a living blanket. Mac was asleep, but Tessa lay awake, her thoughts drifting lazily. If it weren't so cold she would get up and go to her workshop and work on that sketch of the lovers. She had drawn the torsos but there was something missing in the lines. A feeling was growing inside her now, though, and if she could just remember it tomorrow, it might be the key to making the sculpture come alive. She turned in Mac's arms, speaking softly into his ear.

"Duncan? Are you awake?"

"Hmmm?"

"What's another word for 'lover'?"

"Mmm. Inamorata," Mac slurred, his Italian accent nearly perfect, as was his French.

"Know-it-all," Tessa whispered affectionately, nipping his cool earlobe, then kissing it.

She pulled the covers up over both of them so that only the top of their heads were showing, and drifted off to sleep. She was sure that Mac could make her studio warm enough to work in tomorrow. He could do anything.

Ysanne

MWC "Prayers to Mercury"

Posted By: Titania <rthogan@gte.net>
(IP: lokar.dynacom.net)
Date:
Thursday, 4 January 2001, at 2:27 a.m.

After this one, my muses are getting a raise! I hope you like it Annie. It’s a lot more than three paragraphs. :)
Items of note:
Tacitus was an actual Roman historian who lived with the Germanic peoples during the time of the flashback. I just felt is worked for him to be Methos.
Tandree is not Germanic, it’s the name of my daughter’s dragon figurine, a name that she made up, but I figured it worked too.
This story takes place after the Greece trip in “Postcards From Alexa” in “An Evening at Joe’s”. In this story Methos tells Alexa all about being immortal. I’ve taken liberty with that and also had Methos divulge some of his past lives, i.e. Dr. Adams.
Very Special thanks to my Methos muse. I’ve discovered that amazing things happen when I play Sarah McLachlan’s “Mirrorball” CD for him.
One last thing. I wrote this in one sitting and haven’t proofed it yet, so if parts don’t make sense, please point them out and I’ll correct them. Thanks.
Enjoy.

Prayers to Mercury

Methos checked the cord of wood by the fireplace. It looked to be about the right amount to sustain himself and Alexa through the night. He was a little concerned, though he would never let Alexa let on. The perfectly sunny winter morning had turned into a dark overcast afternoon. He was concerned that the clouds were getting heavier and the sky was getting darker. “It’s too early for it to be this dark,” he thought to himself. The coo-coo clock on the mantle read 2 o’clock confirming his suspicion and fear. A huge snowstorm was on the way. Possibly a blizzard.

* * * * * * *

“Adam, let’s rent a chalet.” Alexa’s soft voice broke into Methos’ reverie.

“Hmm, rent a what?” Came the absent-minded response.

“Adam, I swear, sometimes your in your own little world more than this one.” Alexa gently chided him. “I said, ‘Let’s rent a chalet.’”

“Sorry. I was thinking about the last time I was here. It’s changed so much and at the same time it hasn’t changed at all. This highway, the cars, everything is so different. And yet the mountains and the snow, they are the same as I remember. Especially the snow.” he half muttered to himself.

“Come on, we’re in Switzerland. The sky is blue, the mountains are huge and I just want to play in that snow with you.” She slid a little closer to him in the rental car. “Besides,” she continued in a purr, “there’s always the fun of snuggling under a thick quilt afterwards.”

Methos stopped at the next town.

* * * *

Methos took advantage of the little light that was left and cut firewood. As many cords as he could split. Which to Alexa seemed like a mountain, but Methos knew he could do more, should do more, but he was so damn tired. Even immortal muscles need to rest once in a while. “Too much modern living” he muttered to himself. He knew he had gone a little soft over the years, but he had no idea how soft until he was forced to face Mother Nature in her element. He remembered how cruel she could be. Especially here.

* * * * *

160 A.D. The Germanic Kingdoms

Methos stumbled through the blinding white fury that the Tungrians seemed to regard as normal, but to a man who had recently been a citizen of the holy city Rome herself it was hell. Pure white hell.

“Tacitus,” the large burly guide called to Methos “By Mercury we are almost there! Over this rise you shall find who you seek, the king of us all, Ansovald!”

Methos did not hide his relief as well as he thought because the guide, Drogo, laughed. “Come, soon you will be before a large fire and, Mercury willing, a large woman.” Drogo laughed again at his own joke. Methos joined in. Together they climbed the last hill before paradise.

* * * * *

“Adam, what are you doing?” Alexa gently chided him. “You’ve been preparing for something all afternoon, and I don’t think it’s for my birthday.” She smiled weakly at the joke. “ Adam I know something is going on. Please tell me.”

The look in her eyes stopped him cold. He’d been making jokes all afternoon about how much fun it would be to be stranded up here, just the two of them until springtime, but as the snow began to fall he had stopped joking and just concentrated on making preparations. Only when he looked at her did he realize how unfair he had been to her.

He was trying to prepare them for a storm that he was unprepared for. He had alienated the one person he was trying to protect. He knew that she was in danger if the storm lasted too long or turned into a blizzard. She was growing weaker every day and he knew his time with her was limited. Truly limited. And he would be damned if he would lose her to this damn mountains because he hadn’t been prepared.

Methos looked directly into her eyes and began to speak, “Alexa, the snow is going to start falling harder and soon the wind will start to blow. Blow harder than anything you have ever experienced. It will blow so hard that the chalet will seem to be surrounded by demons from hell. I’m trying to prepare us in anyway that I can, but I’m afraid that we’re not as prepared as we should be. We could be stranded up here for two days or two weeks with only a fireplace for heat and a very limited food supply. If you should, ” he stumbled on the next words “need any medical attention during the time we’re stranded up here, I’m all you’ve got.”

She took it better than he thought she would. “Well, Dr. Adams, I guess we better hurry up and finish.”

* * * *

Methos had spent the rest of the season as the guest of Ansovald, the king. He had spent most of the cold nights writing about the history of the area as well as the customs of the people. In the spring he would travel with Ansovald as he traveled among the cantons of his people. Methos thought these people strange. Their love of the cold was only the beginning of their oddities. He had seen how fierce this warriors had fought in a battle on the way to see Ansovald, yet they had remained idle all winter long, spending the time gambling in the king’s hall or drinking. The only exercise they indulged in, besides wrestling with their wives, was the hunt for game. The idleness was a trial for Methos and he had found few other pursuits beyond his writing. He kept in his heart the thought that perhaps, with the help of his written history of this people; he could again be in the good graces of the Roman emperor.

One of the few pursuits he had found was an enchanting beauty by the name of Veleda, the king’s sister who was named after a great woman of their history. She was considered small for one of her kind, but would have easily looked over the head of the tallest woman in Rome. Her hair was the color of flame with a temper to match. Her brother had taken to calling her tandree or “little dragon” when they were young. Now her steely blue eyes could match the king’s flash for stubborn flash. Methos took great delight in watching them spar over what each considered the best way of accomplishing their goal, uniting all the kings under one high king. Methos was not so taken with her body as he was with her mind. Finding an intellectual equal was always a challenge for him. Finding one who was beautiful as well caused him to join in prayers to Mercury.

* * * *

Adam would not let Alexa bring in more than three logs at a time. She knew he was trying to save her strength, but it was infuriating to her. Finally she thought “The hell with this,” and started bringing in six and seven logs at a time. That lasted exactly two trips. She started to wheeze instead of breath. That little bit of stubbornness got her a dirty look and an order to sit on the couch and stay there. She knew he was right but she would be damned if she was going to sit there and be a wilting lily or whatever the saying was. She was going to do something to help them prepare for the storm and Adam could just shove that into his woodpile.

When Methos was finally satisfied with their wood supply he came inside to find Alexa in the little pantry with pen and paper in hand. He watched her frail hand shake as she wrote the contents of the pantry onto the paper. Her skin was so pale that he could see the blue veins clearly in the fragile light. She was concentrating so hard that her jaw was set and her eyes were straight ahead. He realized to late that she wasn’t concentrating. She was in a fury. The shaking hand was not from her illness but from her barely controlled rage. As he opened his mouth to congratulate her on her inventory idea, she opened hers and unleashed all the anger that had been building since the firewood incident.’

“HOW DARE YOU?!” she shouted. “How dare you put on your macho persona and prepare to save the day, leaving me behind like some DAMN FRAGILE FEMALE?” You don’t have to take care of me, you know. I can take care of myself. Have been for a bloody long time before I meet you!” She threw the pen at the floor in front of him. It bounced up and hit his shin. She continued to unleash at him as she walked toward him. This maneuver caused him to back up into the wall and her entire 5’5’’ frame loomed over him. “How dare you not tell me about the storm? Stop trying to protect me from everything. I can handle it! I can handle it!” She sobs swallowed the last part of her anger and she collapsed into his arms.

It was all so damn unfair. He knew he had been unfair to her and he knew she was stronger than he gave her credit for. He held her and soothed her. Apologizing over and over for his stubbornness and male pride. She finally giggled when he told her that she could dunk him into the nearest snowdrift as soon as the storm was over. “What makes you think you’ll last that long?” She asked him through the giggles and the tears. He smiled and somberly said “Your love for me.”

* * * * *

Methos had worked hard for two seasons to convince Ansovald that he would make a suitable husband for Veleda. His argument was based on the fact that he was from Rome and that ties with Rome could be better strengthened through the union. It would also be beneficial to the peace of the land because no one kingdom would hold favor as the marriage kin of the king. Ansovald was hesitant until Veleda made her own wants and desires known. What she wanted was the unity of the kings to hold. What she desired was to be Tacitus’ wife. Once she made up her mind Ansovald didn’t have any choice but to welcome their union with a happy heart.

It took Methos another season to find Ansovald all the gifts suitable to give to a king as a wedding dowry. Veleda honored Methos with a fine weapon of the Tungrian’s making. She also honored him with a fine cloak made from the soft, white pelt of the local deer species. The biggest honor she gave him was herself, which she freely gave the night of their wedding.

As was custom, the newly joined couple journeyed to the canton’s wedding hut a distance from the village. It was set on the side of a hill so that the newly joined could come out each morning together and look at the beauty of the world all around them. Custom dictated that they would have from new moon to new moon to spend together in this place, apart from prying and meddling eyes. A time to grow together. A time to work out the differences two different people always seem to have. A time, Mercury willing, to start a family. Their time together was bliss until full moon.

The winter season was soon to come, but Methos was still ignorant of the ways of this land. Winter would come when she chose, not when she was supposed to or expected. The day started out cold and clear. The sky was so blue that it hurt to look at it. The woodpile was running low and Methos was planning on chopping and splitting more today. However the beauty of the day and the beauty of his bride caused him to set down the ax and return inside to the pleasures of his wife. By midday the sky was black and the snow had started.

* * *

Methos held Alexa in the warmth of the bed. They had pulled the mattress from the bedroom and brought it before the fireplace. The chalet had come with a bounty of winter supplies and Methos prayed that it was enough. He prayed that the storm would be short. He prayed that Alexa would not need more than his limited medical knowledge.

As they snuggled under the pile of quilts Alexa began to shiver. Methos found this odd and a little alarming because she had on three layers of clothing and the chalet was still holding most of it’s warmth. “Alexa, is everything all right? Are you cold? Can I get you something?” he tried to keep the worried tone out of his voice, but wasn’t very successful.

“Adam, I’m fine.”

“You’re a terrible liar, you know that. If you are so “fine” than why are you shaking?” his enquiry came out brusquer than he had intended.

“Promise not to laugh?”

“Promise.”

“I’m scared of the wind.”

The howling wind had started about 10 minutes before and his description was accurate. It sounded like every demon from Hades had come outside their door just to cool off.

“Shh, it’s only the wind.” He tried a weak attempt at comfort and to his surprise she laughed.

“My dad used to say that when we’d go camping. He took us to a place like this once and an unexpected storm came up. He had mom take stock of supplies while I helped him carry in firewood. He let me bring in four logs at a time.” Methos smiled at the jab and nodded his head in acquiescence. Alexa continued, “ So we camped in front of the fire, like we’re doing now and when the wind started to howl, I started to cry. My dad was so great. He just held me and told me funny stories about him and mom and mom would correct him when he got something wrong. We got through the storm just fine. It was the last time we were all together. I was ten.” The soberness of her voice bit into the darkness. “Adam, please don’t let the wind take me away.”

* * * *
Methos held Veleda under their marriage quilt. The small fire was beginning to turn into embers. There was nothing with which to build it up again. The howl of the wind died down for a moment and then crashed down upon the hut. “Tacitus, when the Banshee comes for me, please don’t let her take me away."

“Shhh, my love, it’s only the wind.”

“Tacitus, please don’t let the wind take me away.”

Methos held her tighter under the quilt. He gave her the only thing that he could. The warmth of his body. He sang her a lullaby he learned while in Rome. She began to relax and he kissed her. He knew she was succumbing to the cold. The fire had died a few moments ago and the hut did not retain the heat. He whispered to her his love and devotion and wished her well on her journey. In a way he was grateful that she was dying this way. At least he could comfort her and hold her until his temporary death claimed him. Which it did all to soon.

* * * *

The wind howled outside the chalet all night. Methos kept Alexa awake by telling her funny stories like the time he and MacLeod had played marriage counselor to the Valdecourts. She would laugh every time he got up to put wood on the fire because he would hop up and down on the cold wood floor, making large gestures and loud noises. Finally around the early hours of morning Alexa yawned and snuggled deeper into their cocoon. “Thank you Adam. You didn’t let the wind take me.” She smiled and went to sleep.

Methos stayed awake watching her sleep. He knew that they would be all right. The wind was starting to die down and the snow seemed to be slowing down as well. He finally relaxed and let himself sleep.

They awoke to a brilliant white landscape. The sun glittered like diamonds. Alexa blew on the windowpane and traced a heart. “Now about that snowdrift…”

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