From Here to Eternity
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.
MID-WEEK CHALLENGE: From Here to Eternity
Posted by Leah CWPack on 9/14/2000, 6:35 am
Your challenge, should you decide to participate:
Create a scene/story/poem...your choice. You may use any HIGHLANDER characters.
The setting: A beach
Use *three* of the following elements within your work: seaweed, ice cream, a letter, the odor of jasmine, dog tags, nail polish, a child's block, a laptop computer, a prayer.
Here it is, then... a poem.. ..
Posted by Lovie MacFru on 9/14/2000, 10:18 am, in reply to "MID-WEEK CHALLENGE: From Here to Eternity"
A poem from Highlander Endgame.. (with elements of the midweek challenge...)
Tell me where the sky ends, where the sea begins
Blue on blue, they blend
here, anchored to this pure white sand
I see only where lands end.
Scattered round me, flotsam from the day
A letter, crumpled, fisted hard from pain
An empty cup filled half with sand
Stranded seaweed salty crisp, begging now for rain
The sun reclines, red shimmers off the glare
Seagulls surf the balmy evening air
Bonds that held us, shredded now beyond repair
Your name escapes my lips, a prayer.
Kate, with shining eyes and smile
You stole my heart, my love, entire
And while I wished us one immortal
I did not share my heart's desire
Forgive me, Kate, for love so cruel
It took you form my side
forgive me, Kate, I should have known
The heart of you, my bride.
Instead of love immortal and unchanged
Your heart was filled with scorn
Our love will have to wait, my Kate,
Until we are reborn.
I weep for what we might have had
And now it cannot be
For all the years that I must live
You are a part of me
Posted by angeleyes on 9/14/2000, 11:11 am, in reply to "MID-WEEK CHALLENGE: From Here to Eternity"
He sat listening to the soothing rhythms of the waves..................
Though brittle with age the letter still gave off her scent - Jasmine.
Like fine wine the memories swirled around him and he saw it all again.
The Love, Laughter and Joy that had been his for such a short season.
Duncan wondered what had changed him into what he was today but Connor
knew it was the power and loss of that one perfect, pure love that had
finally robbed him of all hope!
Answer to MWC: not my usual stuff, please read & enjoy
Posted by Viking Lass CWPackChief MCR MV on 9/14/2000, 11:20 am
OK, I get a gold star for using 3 characters I have never used before. Here's a beach scene: I used "seaweed, ice cream and nail polish."
"When is she gonna get here, mom?" Mary asked her mother.
"Soon," Anne smiled at her 6 year old daughter.
"Yeah!" Mary replied and went back to work on her sand castle on the slope leading to the ocean's edge.
Dr. Anne Lindsay had rented a beach house for a week's vacation. Mary had been looking forward to the trip for weeks now and to the special guest Mary wanted to see, Amanda. So Anne had contacted Joe to find out how to get in touch with Amanda to invite her. Ever since Anne and Amanda had met when Anne was pregnant with Mary, Amanda played the role of "courtesy aunt" to Mary. So for birthdays and Christmases Mary would receive presents from Amanda. Anne and Amanda common bond was their love of Duncan MacLeod, that plus shopping. :-)
Anne looked out to the ocean and saw her daughter look past her and yell, "Amanda's here!" Anne turned and saw that Amanda was on the steps leading from the rented beach house to the beach. Mary ran to Amanda and hugged her. Anne got up and went to Amanda and hugged her too. It had been over a year since they had seen each other.
"Thanks for coming."
"Thanks for inviting me. I can't believe how big she's getting," and Amanda looked down at the little girl and smiled.
"Amanda, mom, come see the sand castle I built," and Mary ran to her castle.
When the two adult women were giving Mary their full attention she began telling about her castle.
"And this is the moat, and the draw bridge and I used seaweed for the flags on the towers and it's the ivy growing up the side…."
"Oh and Amanda, look at my nails," Mary thrust her hands toward Amanda, "mom painted my nails last night with nail polish."
"Beautiful, dah-ling," Amanda said to the little one with hot pink nails.
"I'm gonna play in the waves now." Mary declared and off she went.
Amanda and Anne sat down together and had some lemonade.
"Are you still dating Matthew?" Amanda asked.
"Yes, and I have some happy news," Anne said enthusiastically "he asked me to marry him."
"That's wonderful, Anne." Amanda leaned over and hugged Anne.
But then Anne fell silent and seemed to be choosing words. After a bit she said,
"Amanda, do you think that Duncan will come to the wedding? Joe said it's been a rough couple of years, Richie's….." She trailed off.
Amanda looked a bit upset and shook her head. "It…has been a hard few years for Mac. But I know that he'll come to your wedding…..he still cares about you."
Anne smiled at that last part and Amanda took Anne's hand and repeated it. "He does care about you and Mary. And he certainly doesn't forget the women he's loved." Anne smiled at Amanda.
They were silent for a while as they watched Mary splash in the waves. Raucous gulls fought over some french fries in the sand and a beach comber used a metal detector to find hidden treasures. It was just a typical day at a beach.
"She's gotten so big," Amanda said.
"Yes, time flies," Anne said and looked at Amanda. They both smiled knowingly, yet in a sad way.
"It does," the 1200+ year old Amanda said.
"Someday she'll be all grown up." Anne said the statement billions of mothers have said as they've watch their young children frolic.
Soon a wet Mary came running to her mother and said, "Can we have ice cream later?"
Amanda pulled the wet girl down to the sand in a hug and said, "How about, pizza for dinner, ice cream for desert, and then some rides at the boardwalk?"
"Yippee!" Mary cried and off she went to the ocean again.
And so began their vacation week of sun and fun.
MWC: Will You Still Love Me . . ?
Posted by HonorH on 9/14/2000, 7:29 pm
(Note: this is again using my characters and my milieu. Methos is currently Matthew Adamson and is married to one Robin Wecks Adamson, and they have adopted a little girl named Claire. Robin, though not Immortal, does know about Immies.)
Amanda snagged the chilled bottle of Nestea as it flew through the air. "Thanks, Robin."
Robin Wecks Adamson smiled at her friend, then turned to her husband, who was sitting in a beach chair. "Hope you didn't want another beer while I was at the cooler. I forgot to ask." She winked at Amanda.
Methos sighed. "She keeps trying to cut down my beer consumption."
"Serves you right," declared Duncan. "You were starting to get a beer gut."
Methos yanked the edge of his shirt out of his shorts and eyed his well-toned belly critically. "Was not."
"It's every wife's prerogative to do battle with the baser side of her husband's nature," Robin said daintily. "Although--and I find this as strange as the rest of you--I have started to find beer breath sexy. Pavlovian response, I guess."
"Okay, I didn't want to hear that," said Amanda.
Duncan, meanwhile, had been observing Methos contemplating his wife's nicely-upholstered thigh. He flipped some sand at the ancient Immortal.
"What?" squawked Methos, mightily offended.
"You. Looking at that poor woman like you were going to take a bite out of her."
"There's an idea." Methos looked up to see his wife's blush. She thwapped him mock-sternly, but anyone could see how much she enjoyed her husband's flirtation.
The jingle of a dog's tags drew the group's attention. A five-month-old Bernese puppy lumbered up, followed closely by a blond-haired five-year-old girl in a bright pink bathing suit. The dog suddenly turned and jumped up on the girl, trying to lick her face.
"Down, Gil," Claire Adamson chided (the puppy, on account of Methos' warped sense of humor, bore the unfortunate moniker of Gilgamesh).
Duncan leapt up. "A princess being attacked by a fierce beast! I'll save you, Princess!"
He scooped Claire off the ground, whirling her high into the air as the puppy went bonkers around his feet. Claire shrieked in joy.
"I'll be very amused if she throws up her entire lunch on him," Methos said just loud enough for Duncan to hear him.
Duncan turned a baleful eye on him. "I beg your pardon. Her Royal Highness does not throw up."
"Yes I do!" Claire protested. "I had the flu and threw up all over Daddy. But that was when I was four."
"And you're so much older now," Duncan noted.
"Yeah. I'm five today."
"I heard about that." Duncan set her down and she immediately ran over to Amanda.
"'Manda, all the polish came off my nail. See?" Claire extended her hands for Amanda's inspection. The pink polish Amanda had applied the previous night had come off one nail entirely, but saltwater, sand, and an overenthusiastic puppy hadn't left the others in great shape, either.
"Ooh, well, I'll just have to paint your nails again tonight."
"Good!" Claire jumped up from where she'd (briefly) sat beside Amanda and grabbed Duncan's hand. "Come help me with my sand castle, Uncle Mac!"
"Yes, Your Highness!" Duncan allowed himself to be dragged off. The puppy followed, yapping.
Amanda watched him go with great affection. "Mac's so good with children. It's a pity . . ." She trailed off.
"Yes. It is," agreed Robin quietly. She reached out a hand to her husband. "I feel like a walk."
Methos kissed her hand as he rose. "As Your Majesty wishes."
Robin giggled. "When did I get the promotion?"
"Didn't you hear? Our daughter's a princess, so you must be the Queen, and I the foul-tempered tyrant you brought low with your beauty and gentleness."
"I think that's my cue to leave you two to your own devices." Amanda stood, dusted off her tight-fitting shorts, and started making her way over to where Duncan and Claire were laboring over a sand castle.
Methos and Robin started walking down the beach. It was a perfect Oregon fall day, with high clouds, a salty breeze (not too strong) blowing off the ocean, and just enough of a nip in the air to make one want to cuddle. For a time, the two just walked, listening to the lonely cry of gulls and the timeless, patient sounds of waves washing in and out on the beach.
"Five years," Methos said suddenly. "Claire's five years old today, which makes tomorrow the five-year anniversary of the day we met."
"Imagine," Robin murmured. "It's been a heartbeat. Just a heartbeat."
Methos wrapped an arm around her shoulders, drawing her closer. They continued walking, each with their thoughts. After a few minutes, Methos became aware that his wife was humming a vaguely familiar tune.
"What's that song?"
Robin pulled away, folding her arms around herself. Methos stopped. His wife looked at him, a little sad and vaguely abashed, then looked out toward the ocean and sang, very softly:
"Will you still love me, will you still need me, when I'm 64?"
Her shoulders sagged a little. "I know it's silly, but . . . I look at Duncan and Amanda, and they know they'll never change. You'll never change. I, on the other hand, found a gray hair yesterday."
Methos knew well the complications of loving a mortal. In another five years, he and Robin would have to move. A little doctoring of computer records would shave enough years off his age that he could pass for Robin's younger spouse. She would have to cut off all contact with her family and friends, or see them sans spouse. Another ten years after that and they'd have to leave the country and change their identities altogether. Another ten years after that and they would be getting into the area of a) saying he was a younger relative of her husband, b) finding someplace isolated for just the two of them, or c) splitting up. The last option was out already.
"It's worth it. You're worth it," Methos said, speaking to those thoughts. "I love you. I still will when you're 64."
Robin walked into his embrace and they kissed softly. A noise suddenly grabbed their attention.
They turned toward where Duncan and Amanda had been helping Claire with her sand castle. Amanda had just shoved a handful of wet sand down Duncan's back, and he, in turn, had slung her over his shoulder and was carrying her toward the ocean. She was putting up as much of a fuss as a 5'11", very athletic woman could. Just as Duncan dumped her off his shoulder, her legs shot out, entangling his, and both went down. Claire was shrieking with laughter.
Robin laughed, watching them, and felt her husband embrace her from behind. He swept her hair back and kissed the side of her neck, enjoying the little shiver that ran through her.
"Theirs isn't a mortal love, Robin," he said, again speaking to her thoughts. "Few Immortals can stay together forever, and it's not just that we're a contrary bunch. You remind me to stay in the moment, my love. You make my days new again."
Robin turned to face him. "You make me beautiful."
They kissed again, then wandered back toward their daughter and where Duncan and Amanda were wading free of the ocean. A piece of kelp clung to Duncan's head and was hanging ridiculously between his eyes.
"You call this setting an example for the younger ones?" Methos asked.
"We fell in," Duncan offered lamely.
At that moment, Gilgamesh blundered into the sand castle. Claire was mightily distressed. So was Duncan.
"Great! We spend half the afternoon on that thing and it's all ruined on account of your dog's a klutz," the Highlander muttered in disgust.
Robin went to sooth her indignant daughter. "Calm down, sweetie. We'll all help you build it again, and it'll be even bigger than before. Okay?"
"Okay," Claire agreed. She hugged Gilgamesh to make sure he knew she still loved him, and then all of them got to work.
(My story "New Beginnings" tells of Robin and Methos' first meeting and subsequent courtship and marriage, if you're interested.)
Link: Hall of HonorH
MWC...here it is..
Posted by T Rose/Tikasmom on 9/15/2000, 1:30 pm
Petulantly Methos kicked the child’s block out his path as he strode down the street. He tossed the crumpled letter into the trash can, muttering to himself.
"In the name of all that's holy, and considering all the ones they did have, just why couldn't Ben and Jerry develop a beer flavored ice cream?"
luv and warm purple methosian (hic) fuzzies
Mid-week challenge poem
Posted by Ysanne on 9/16/2000, 10:17 am
out to sea
Letter clutched in chilly hand
Only a memory now
Duncan prays for Amanda
(I decided to use the tanka form we did earlier here)
Just under the wire....my attempt at the MWC.......
Posted by Harmony on 9/19/2000, 9:34 am
Methos stood on the beach and extended his arm out, palm facing upward. From her sandy seat, Alexa looked up at him, squinting her eyes against the sun, which silhouetted his lean, muscular body.
The noisy waves crashed against the rocks and slowly crept inland, lapping at her bare toes like a puppy's tongue. She reached up and took Adam's hand, allowing him to pull her to her feet.
Yet again, Methos was astonished at how light and frail she had become. It wouldn't be long now. The hem of her thin cotton skirt billowed slightly in the breeze, allowing Methos to get a glimpse of her emaciated legs. The same legs that had wrapped around him in such a delicious fashion just a few short weeks ago. All of that was in the past now, although the ecstasy of that feeling would stay with him for however long his life lasted; be it five minutes, five years or five thousand more.
"Are you hungry?" he asked, knowing the answer would be the same as it had been for days now. The disease had robbed her of more than just time. But she surprised him.
"I could go for an ice cream cone," she replied.
Methos' face lit up. This was the first time in weeks she had actually expressed a desire for a certain food. Ice cream it would be then, no matter what.
"What flavor?" he wanted to know.
"I don't care, as long as it's cold and creamy and sweet."
"You don't care?" Methos said with mock incredulity. "How on Earth can you not care?"
"Adam," Alexa laughed. "It's just ice cream."
"Exactly. Ice Cream. Food of the Gods," he teased.
They walked slowly back to the car, the warm sand squishing between their toes. Methos looked down, noting how the sand clung to her damp feet. For some unexplainable reason this saddened him almost beyond reason. He loved her feet, tickling them until she begged him to stop, taking them in his strong hands and rubbing the aches away after they had spent the day sightseeing, playing footsie with them under the table at an elegant restaurant, the stuffy staff and snooty patrons none the wiser.
When they reached the car, he opened the door for her.
"Your chariot awaits, ma'dam," he said in his best exaggerated English accent while bowing low.
Alexa laughed at him as she climbed in, her eyes still sparkling in spite of the pain he knew she felt. The tightness in his chest increased and he had to quickly close the car door and turn away, lest she notice his expression.
He stood by his car door for a minute to regain his composure. It seemed to take him longer and longer each time now.
"What's taking you so long, slowpoke?" Alexa teased.
He opened the door and slid into the driver's seat.
"Try to be a little patient, will you?" he said in a joking fashion. " I'm not getting any younger you know," regretting the words the moment they left his lips.
Alexa's smile faded and she looked down into her lap.
"I know. None of us are," she replied.
He cursed himself for his feeble attempt at levity.
"I'm sorry," he quickly said. "Sometimes I'm so thoughtless."
He reached over and pulled her to him, his arm encasing her shoulder. He kissed the top of her hair, breathing in the faint smell of Jasmine left there by her shampoo. The smell transported him back in time for just an instant, reminding him of another's hair that smelled just so. Another love in a distant life, so very long ago.
The guilt he thought he had abandoned millennia ago quickly seized him and he hastily threw off the thoughts of anyone other than the slim beauty enclosed in his embrace. At this moment in time, she was all that mattered in his protracted life. For months now, he had lived only to catch a glimpse of her smile or hear the musical laughter that she often couldn't suppress. He tilted her face up to his and gently kissed her.
"I love you," he murmured softly in her ear.
"I know you do," she replied.
They sat in the car holding each other for a long time, watching the sun slowly sink on the horizon as it became one with the ocean. The glorious colors sprayed across the sky filling them both with awe. No matter how many sunsets he had seen in countless lifetimes, he never tired of the splendor. But even the magnitude of God's handiwork paled in comparison to his feeling for this extraordinary woman.
They sat in harmonious silence watching the seagulls circle above the pristine water as the sky continued to darken, the ice cream all but forgotten now.
Methos rested his cheek against the top of her head, again inhaling the sweet Jasmine scent.
When he whispered her name, it was a prayer.
Here it is for real this time......
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 to 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.
“After the War” by Ghost Cat
When most people hear “holidays on the beach” they think of California, Bermuda, Bahamas. Only Stephen would call Normandy Beach in June a dream vacation. Then again, history and the military were his bread and butter; spending the anniversary of D-Day at the place where it all began had been a lifelong ambition. He looked down once more at the faded envelope in his hand, its faint scent of Jasmine struggling to compete with the salt tang in the air. Now he had another reason to be here, a genuine mystery.
§ § §
Stephen’s plane had landed in late May, so he could make Caen by June 6 without a rush. He wasn’t completely immune to the romance of Paris, even though he spent more time in bookstores than at the little cafes. It was in just such a store, Shakespeare and Co., famous for housing so many authors, that the mystery had begun. Stephen got along with the gentleman bookseller immediately; he and Joe seemed to share the same love of history.
When the old man heard about the planned D-Day pilgrimage, he took the young man aside. “What’s your interest in this? I know you’re not old enough to have lived it yourself. Are you here out of love, or are you just another History Channel junkie?”
He brought himself up into perfect attention; “Savage, Stephen J.; Calgary Highlanders. I did my duty, gave up one of my knees and left with an insatiable thirst for history. I may not have been there for D-Day, but I still have gunpowder in my blood.”
Dawson’s indulgent smile turned a bit sour, “Consider yourself lucky, I left both my legs in a Vietnam swamp.” When he saw that Stephen neither cringed nor pitied him, he knew he liked the Canadian. “I’ve got something special for you.” Stephen followed the old man to the back of the store. “Anyone can read about history, but this,” he pulled down an old leather-bound volume, “this IS a piece of history. It just came in from the estate of a veteran who had settled in Paris after the war.” The cover was battered, its title hard to read; “This copy of A Farewell to Arms is probably as well-traveled as you or I, carried on the battlefields and read in quick snatches. You interested?”
Stephen could hardly speak; this was an incredible find. He bought the book immediately; it would be the perfect way to set the mood for the next stage of his voyage. Rushing back to his hotel room with his prize, he was shocked when a scrap of paper fluttered to the floor. He feared that the old book was losing its binding; but no, it was a faded pink envelope. The dusty odor of age could not completely hide the faint scent of Jasmine. It was written to Private Mac Connor, with the kind of vague, hopeful address that made it a miracle any soldier got a letter from home.
This letter was open though, unsealed gently and carefully put back each time it was re-read. With great curiosity, he scanned the perfumed page. Dearest Mac, I know you are doing something that you truly believe in, but I fear that I may never see you again. Fight well, and fight honorably; but when it is all over, please come home to me. I cannot imagine my world without you. I shall love you always, Diana.
Stephen smiled as he put down the page, Private Connor was a very lucky man, or was he?
Flashback: June 6, 1944
Private Mac Connor, born many lifetimes ago as Connor MacLeod, carefully folded the letter and slipped it into his pack. The landing could come at any time; he and the rest of the boys had to be ready. He sighed, “boys”; most of the eager troops crowded into the small transport were barely more than children and some might never see their next birthday. War was an ugly thing, and getting uglier all the time. Connor felt superstitiously lucky though; what could go wrong when they were scheduled to land on a beach code-named Sword?
§ § §
Stephen pulled out his laptop; plugged the modem into the hotel’s phone jack. Old Paris was beautiful, but he still loved his toys. The search for Pvt. Mac Connor was difficult, even for someone who knew the Web. Official records were strangely elusive. Finally he found a single reference to a boat running aground on a hidden mine trap, everyone on-board lost. Pvt. Connor was one of a long list of soldiers missing, presumed dead; which usually meant that there were just enough body parts to count, but too many to identify.
If Mac Connor, beloved of Diana, never made it to French soil, then how did his letter end up in the Paris library of a veteran who died peacefully over 50 years later? Things were getting stranger and stranger; Stephen took it as a personal challenge. He shut down the computer; this was going to require research the old fashioned way. Phoning the old bookseller again, he told Dawson the whole story: finding the letter, Pvt. Mac Connor, the search for his records, everything. “I know I won’t rest until I’ve got this figured out. I was wondering if you had the name of the man who left you those books?”
On the other end of the line, Dawson sighed, silently cursing whoever had put the wrong book in the wrong box. He cursed himself for not paying better attention. He kept his voice pleasant but firm, “I don’t have the records right here in front of me, but I might be able to find out. Can I call you back?” The man said he would be leaving for Caen the next day; Joe dutifully wrote down the hotel where he’d be staying. As he hung up the phone, he remembered the man’s earlier words: Stephen J. Savage, of the Calgary Highlanders. He wondered if he would ever have trouble that didn’t involve a Highlander in one way or another. Quickly, he dialed another number, “Mac, I think we may have a problem…”
Stubborn curiosity more than anything else had led him to the coast of Normandy and a strip of beach once named Sword. He held the letter like a talisman as he tried to imagine what the scene must have been that fateful day. He closed his eyes and saw the tiny boats crowded with soldiers, the larger craft carrying vehicles and machines; he could almost smell the smoke in the air and hear the chaos as the two sides clashed over one small piece of sand; the sound of—laughter?
The moment lost, he opened his eyes, looking down into the smiling face of a little girl. Her fingers and toes painted in bright polish, she looked like a princess, an effect not even spoiled by the ice cream cone held tight in one tiny fist. “Erin, come back dear,” she tottered eagerly away in response to the parental call. On the way she wandered too close to the water and, slipping in the wet sand, watched horrified as her precious treat plopped into the surf, dissolving instantly. Filling her lungs, she shrieked out her rage in a voice only a child could achieve…
The landing had begun and the noise was already deafening; Connor knew the officers were shouting orders only because he could see their lips moving. Something had gone wrong; a Sergeant was pointing out at the beach and shouting at the boat pilot, who shook his head frantically and shouted back. The German defenses were much closer to shore than anyone had expected and there was nowhere to beach their small craft. The Sergeant, outraged at being questioned, grabbed the controls himself, plowing them straight into the beach. The bow of the boat hit something much harder than sand; Connor had no time to warn the others. He leapt over the side just as the explosion hit the force of it sending him flying. The body that hit the ground was in one piece, barely; it landed in a crumpled heap and didn’t move.
As he felt the first shock of life surge into him once more, Connor knew what it was like to wake up in Hell. He was caught in a tangle of wreckage that he realized had once been human beings. The ruins of the landing craft were strewn like blocks scattered by an angry child. Looking around at the bodies, he whispered a prayer for lost companions: for Sean, who could perform miracles with a radio; for Dean, who talked too much; for Dave, the quiet one, always sharpening his knives; for Ron, the storyteller. The battle itself had passed him by, the men of the South Lancashire sweeping forward to take Caen.
Connor wished them well, but he would not be joining them. Private Mac Connor was dead, and would stay that way. A savage jerk broke the chain on his dog tags; he held them for a moment in his hand before throwing them into the sea. Turning his back on the past, he set about the grisly task of finding a new identity.
§ § §
Stephen wasn’t sure what had led him to one particular spot: instinct, fate, or serendipity. Nevertheless, he couldn’t shake the feeling that there was something important nearby, something that wanted to be found. Stripped to his trunks, he dove under the water again and again, not knowing what he was looking for. Finally he saw it, tangled in a strand of seaweed. It was covered in grime, rusted to the same red-brown color of the kelp, but no soldier could ever fail to recognize a set of dog tags.
He held his prize in one fist as he struggled back to shore. He was still half-blind, rubbing sand and salt out of his eyes, when he heard an unfamiliar voice, “Towel?” After everything that had happened in the last few days, a tall stranger offering him a towel seemed par for the course; so did a trench coat on the beach. “It looks to me like you just found something you should have left alone.”
Stephen calmly returned the stranger’s cool stare, “I think I found the truth.”
“Didn’t anyone ever tell you that digging up the past can stir up some nasty ghosts?”
As his fingers rubbed against the surface of the tags, he grew more certain he was right. “It’s hard to disturb the ghost of someone who didn’t die. Or should I say, someone who never existed.” He looked the dark-haired stranger straight in the eye, unflinching “Who are you?”
“I’m Duncan MacLeod, and I’m here to tell you to back off. While you still can.” The man’s voice was perfectly calm, but also deadly serious.
Stephen bristled at the implied threat. He had spent most of his adult life in one uniform or another, and he had always been confident he could out-intimidate almost anyone. One look into those dark, battle-hardened eyes, though, and his challenging gaze dropped sooner than he wished. He found himself looking down at the words on the tag for the first time: Connor, Pvt. Mac L.— Mac Connor; Mac L. Connor; Connor, Mac L.… He spoke out loud, “Connor MacLeod.” He could hardly believe it, even as he said it. Of course, it was starting to make sense. But why didn’t he fight under his own name, and why did he change identities in the middle of the battle? Too many questions; questions leading to more questions, he shook his head to clear his thoughts. He looked up at the man confronting him; “Kin of yours?”
Duncan nodded slowly, an odd, sad look in his eyes. “This has already gone too far, don’t make me do something we’ll both regret. Just walk away, and forget this ever happened.”
“You should have told me this was about kin; that I can understand. You can have the tags, the letter too; but I can’t turn my back on the truth. Not when I’m this close.”
Duncan sighed deeply; this would be so much easier if the man would just back down. First Horton, now this. He turned around slowly; the least he could do would be to not let him see it coming. MacLeod was reaching reluctantly into his coat when he saw Dawson in the distance, waving him down; he made no attempt to disguise his relief. “Mac,” Joe panted as soon as he got close, “let me talk to him.”
Mac suddenly realised what the old man had in mind, “Are you sure that’s a good idea?”
“He loves history and he’s willing to fight for the truth. We need his type, to make up for all Horton’s men.”
Duncan stepped aside, still uncertain but glad at least to be saved from an unpleasant task. As he walked away, the tags in one hand, letter in the other, he heard Joe begin his pitch.
“So, Stephen, you love history as much as I do. How would you like to be able to record history in the making?”