Pass the Seasoning
The Holy Ground Highlander Forum Midweek Challenge
Archivist’s Note: The stories and vignettes offered here from various 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
Springtime in Paris by Pat
The Return by Robin
Man to Man by Wain
Of Faith by Storie
The Hunt by Friend of Methos
Indian Spring by bookmom
Nightwing by Palladia
Words Tell the Story by Robin
Minutes and Millennia by vixen69
Bleak be the Winter by bookmom
MID-WEEK CHALLENGE: PASS THE SEASONING
Your challenge, should you choose to participate:
Write a scene, poem or short story involving one or more of the HL Immortals and the season of Spring.
You must include the two following items in some way: A meadow, and a memory.
Remember to put "MWC" in the subject line of your entry, if you wish to have it included in the archives.
MWC: Springtime in Paris
Posted By: Pat <Nutmeg9cat@aol.com>
Date: Tuesday, 23 April 2002, at 10:35 p.m.
This is a chapter in a larger story I am writing for the Highlander story contest. I have posted a couple of other chapters which comported with the MWC parameters. I hope nobody minds that they are pieces of a larger story.
To set the stage, Methos has been working on researching and translating an
obscure writing found in a cave, by using the resources of the University of
Paris, where he got his last doctorate. Amy Thomas, Joe's daughter, is studying
there, and her friend, and Methos' academic nemesis, Martin Guerre, is head of
the Linguistics Department.
Springtime in Paris (Part One)
Methos carefully packed yellowing notebooks, curling black & white photos, a few bound manuscripts, and reams of loose-leaf papers with notes scrawled in French, into a new file storage box. The contents of the box were the brief life's work of his old friend, one Michel LeGros, doctoral candidate (deceased 1940 at Dunkirk). The Immortal had been able to translate the hidden cave writings in only four weeks, by following Michel's lead. He'd still be working on the task without these resources, which had been moldering, since the 1940s, in the University's sub-sub-basement, known to every new generation of students as "the Dungeon". "You did good work, my friend.", he murmured as he sealed the box with packing tape.
He was loathe to send the box back to the Dungeon, but it was the property of the University, as that feeb Guerre had pointedly reminded him. Methos had wanted to take the materials back to his hotel room to work from relative comfort, but the Department head refused to sanction its removal. *As if the University was safeguarding Michel's stuff. They'd have rotted away before anyone would ever have found a use for them.* The materials had been uncatalogued; in library terms, lost in no-man's land. It was only because of his friendship with Michel and his familiarity with the University's storage practices back then, that Methos was aware of the work, and the possibility that it had survived the dead scholar. Methos grudgingly admitted to himself that he'd still have never found the materials without Guerre's influence. The feeb had made it known to the research librarians and the grim-faced guardian of the Dungeon (known as The Troll)that this project had his personal attention and approval. He had given Adam Pierson carte blanche access to anything the University had, so long as it never left the library.
As a result, Adam Pierson had more interaction with Martin Guerre in the last few weeks than he had cared to. It had been difficult to keep Adam's mild demeanor in place. Only centuries of self-control had allowed Methos to bite back the retorts engendered by the mortal's arrogance. There was an up side. He had more interaction with Amy Thomas as well. They had shared coffee, tea, candy bars, lunch, dinner, and the Paris facsimile of a pizza. Amy, a linguist in her own right, had been useful as a sounding board. She had offered several original ideas, which Methos hadn't considered, that proved helpful. Between Guerre's access and Amy's insights, the work had been manageable, even pleasant. He almost regretted that the translation was completed.
Methos hoisted the box under one arm, and his pack in the other. He nodded politely to the librarians at the desk, as he descended a wrought iron circular stair to the lower level. Two more levels down, he approached the Troll, whose counter and high stool were stationed at the end of a dimly lit hallway. It was Kafkaesque - his footsteps echoed ominously, his shadow furtively followed him.
The wizened old woman didn't look up for a few moments, until Methos shuffled his feet and cleared his throat. She gave him a disapproving stare over the half glasses perched on her nose. Her iron gray hair was skinned back in a bun so tight that it made Methos' scalp ache. Against all reason, she made him feel like a naughty child caught in the act. The act of what, he didn't know. The feeling irritated him. He didn't say anything, and the silence stretched.
"Oui?", she said finally, disapproval at his appearance, his parentage, and his presence in her domain were all contained in that one word.
"Uh, I'm Adam Pierson?" *Of course you are, you idiot!*
"Oui?", she repeated with disdain.
"Uh, that fee... I mean, Professor Guerre, said I should return this box to you?"
She shifted her gaze to the box. "That is not a University storage box."
"No, well, I threw that box out."
Her expression conveyed her settled opinion that he should have thrown his dim-witted self out with it.
"It was falling apart. The bottom was black with mildew. There were mice droppings in it!" Methos winced at the hint of a whine in his voice. *This is ridiculous. I am not intimidated by an old lady librarian, a tenth my age!* He was torn between unleashing his best Death on a Horse snarl and another Adam Pierson stammer. Suddenly, a third battle strategy popped into his head.
He set the box down. Methos turned on his warmest smile, leaned his forearms on the counter and relaxed into a languid pose. He looked at the Troll as if she were the loveliest incarnation of feminine beauty he had ever beheld. Deepening his voice, he inclined towards her.
"I'm sorry, Mam'selle. I thought I was being helpful.", he shrugged and smiled self-deprecatingly, as if to say how foolish he had been not to seek her expertise on this very serious matter. "What should I do now?"
Hot damn! The Duncan MacLeod Method was working like a charm! The Troll simultaneously pushed up her glasses, patted her hair, and smiled sweetly back.
"Adam, please.", he interjected.
"Alors,...Adam...you may leave the box with me. I will take care of it."
"But, it is rather heavy." His tone implied a delicate flower such as herself could not be expected to lift a book, much less a storage box.
"Non, non, it is quite all right. Do not concern yourself. My assistant will attend."
"You are most kind. How can I thank you?"
A blush rose in her lined cheeks. "Oh, non. It is just my job."
Methos gave her an admiring glance, to show that he appreciated her kindness, her favor and her presence gracing his life. She handed him a pen.
"Sign here, s'il vous plait, to show the box has been returned and the date." He followed her instructions. When he returned the pen, he smoothly took her wrinkled hand, and brushed it lightly with his lips. For a moment, he thought he had gone over the to with the charade, when she failed to pull her hand back. He looked up at her, puzzled. She had gone white, and was staring at him oddly.
"Mam'selle?" He was concerned.
She slowly retrieved her hand and looked at it With the other hand, she slowly stroked where he had kissed her. She recovered herself and smiled a little.
"I am sorry, Adam. You reminded me of someone I knew ... long ago."
Warning bells clanged in Methos' head. He looked at the name plate on the desk. "G. Montand" It meant nothing to him.
He reverted to Adam Pierson mode immediately. "Uh, may I get you something... a glass of water? Mam'selle Montand?
"Madame... Montand... that is, ...Genevieve."
*Genevieve!* He looked into her blue eyes, still youthful in her lined face. Centuries of control kept his poker face intact. *This is Genevieve DuFait.* His mind raced. *Montand must be her married name. Oh, Genevieve.* Genevieve of the merry eyes, and the dancer's body. Genevieve, who had spent a school year in his bed, waking him every morning with a kiss and cafe au lait. Genevieve, who had made passionate love to him in a haystack in a meadow of wildflowers. Genevieve, whom he had left without a word when the Maginot Line fell in May 1940. She must be nearly 85 now. She was looking searchingly at his face. *I have to get out of here.*
Genevieve shook her head. "Pardonnez-moi. You are really nothing like him. Nothing at all." She laughed at her foolishness. "I will take care of the box, Adam." She gave him a warm smile, slightly chagrined at her momentary lapse, and shrugged. The echo of the girl that she had been resonated in that gesture.
*How could I not see? I have to get out of here.* He forced himself to meet her eyes. "Merci beaucoup. Adieu, Genevieve." He walked down the long, dark hall, ascended the stairs to daylight, and exited the library.
He had been sitting for awhile on a bench under an apple tree, white and fragrant with blossoms, when he heard Amy call his name. He turned to her as she plopped down beside him.
"Adam, I called you three times before you heard me. Where were you?"
He closed his eyes briefly. When he reopened them, he no longer saw the skull beneath the skin. Just her face. Her young and lovely face. He managed a sardonic smile.
"Where was I? Springtime in Paris, where else?"
He listened to the lively recounting of her day as the refrain from an old song played over and over in his head:
Oh, Genevieve, sweet Genevieve,
The days may come,
The days may go.
But still the hand of memory weaves
The blissful dreams of long ago.
Hope you liked it.
MWC: The Return
Posted By: Robin <Catnature@yahoo.com>
Date: Wednesday, 24 April 2002, at 6:55 p.m.
He couldn't believe he was standing there again. The one place where his world had been reshaped. Spring had reclaimed the meadow and surrounding trees, so you would never know there was a Quickening there much less four. "Time heals all wounds."
Methos shook his dark head. He could feel Abigail's Quickening inside him. They were together forever now, but he would give almost everything to hear her laughter, her voice, to see the sunlight bounce off her long brown hair. He was over five thousand years old and had seen many deaths, had been Death and this one stayed with him. They had been together off and on for over four thousand years.
He took a deep breath and smelled the scent of old fashion roses and honeysuckle from Abigail's rose garden.
A hand gently laid on his arm and he turned.
"I miss her too." Jennifer whispered as she hugged him. He returned her embrace.
They stood there, Abigail's lover and Abigail's Watcher, taking comfort from each other as the birds sang and the sun shone.
MWC: Man to Man
"I want MacLeod to teach me." Kahani’s voice had the bossy self-assuredness of any eight-year-old boy’s.
Duncan poked at the fire with a green stick and winced. Kahani’s mother, Little Deer, shrugged her shoulders apologetically at her brother-in-law, Yellow Hawk, and his wife, Nahimana.
"Then MacLeod it is," Yellow Knife. "He made the new bow for you, so he should teach you how to use it. You’re sure it’s not too big for you?" he added with a grin, talking around his last bite of breakfast.
"I’m sure," Kahani answered gravely.
An hour later, Duncan and Kahani left the village and threaded their way through the aspens that bordered it. The boy had insisted on carrying the new bow and a quiver of arrows himself. He maneuvered along the forest path, careful not to damage the bow by banging it against tree trunks or overhanging branches.
Duncan carried only a leather bag with their lunch packed inside; the other burden he carried was invisible, but it weighed more and more with each step he took. Duncan had never relished the thought of asking a man for his daughter’s hand in marriage, but it suddenly seemed easy compared to asking a boy for his mother’s. Twice he tried to broach the topic, and twice he swallowed his words. He wouldn’t ask Little Deer what to say, wouldn’t bring up the subject of marriage until he knew Kahani’s heart. Little Deer’s he could see shining in her eyes.
Duncan silently asked Meginna, who was his adopted Sioux brother and Kahani’s late father, to suggest a way to bring up the subject. He even convinced himself to listen for Meginna in the birdsong and the sigh of the wind in the leaves, but he never heard an answer, only something that sounded like his late friend’s amused laughter.
Duncan and Kahani stepped from under the yellow-green forest canopy into the sudden brilliance of a meadow carpeted with late spring wildflowers. Duncan shaded his eyes with his hand, and Kahani copied the gesture.
"There it is," Duncan nodded to the target, old hides sewn together into a rough cylinder and stuffed with dried grasses. It was placed near the middle of the meadow, with clear sight lines in all directions to prevent unexpected injuries to anyone who happened onto shooting practice.
Together, they went to the target and inspected it. Kahani gave it a few shakes and thumps, then nodded his approval to Duncan. Backs to the target, they walked toward the sun, marking off fifteen paces followed by an about face. Kahani put his quiver down. Duncan walked to the tree line and hung the lunch bag on a branch in the shade.
"What do you do first, Kahani?" he asked.
Kahani ran his hands along the stave of the bow, then checked its wrappings and where the braided sinew bowstring looped over the bow nocks. He furrowed his brow as he worked, an unconscious imitation of the gesture of concentration Duncan made when performing the same inspection.
"It’s like your other bow but because it’s bigger, it will be much harder to draw. Be sure you keep your left elbow straight," Duncan advised.
The tip of his tongue between his lips, Kahani pulled back on the bowstring. He held his breath and sighted the target, then released his breath and the bowstring in the same instant.
Duncan nodded approval and took an arrow from the quiver. Kahani notched it against the bowstring. The tip of his tongue rested between his lips again. He let the arrow fly, and it landed short of the target and to the left.
The next shot was longer; the one after that overcorrected to the right. After ten or fifteen minutes, Duncan noticed Kahani’s arm grown tired, the elbow hyperextended. He stepped in and gently moved the boy’s arm into a better position. Kahani made another five shots before hitting the target.
As much to spell Kahani’s arms as his own back, Duncan suggested that they share the work of retrieving arrows. The morning stretched into a comfortable rhythm of shooting, adjusting, and retrieving arrows. When the sun was nearly straight overhead, Duncan asked if Kahani was hungry. Kahani notched another arrow against the bowstring and drew it back. He eyed the target and pulled the bowstring even more. His elbow shifted inward and before Duncan could speak, Kahani released the arrow and yelped.
He stared at the soft skin on his inner arm, where the bowstring had left a stinging, red welt. Duncan lifted Kahani’s arm and rubbed it, then patted it briskly. "Don’t worry. It’ll toughen up. Try it again after we eat, and keep your arm bent just a little bit out. "
Kahani’s stomach growled, and he raced for the bag that held their lunch.
They talked as they ate, but Duncan never found the right moment to bring up the topic of marriage to Kahani’s mother. The conversation strayed to the weather, to tracking techniques, and to Kahani’s little cousin Winonah, who shadowed him everywhere he went and pestered him to distraction. Duncan entertained Kahani with a story from his youth but declined an invitation to share songs his clan used to sing, claiming he would frighten the birds.
The walk to the meadow and the long morning of shooting combined with full stomachs and warm sunshine to lull them both to drowsiness. Kahani stretched out and rested his head on Duncan’s legs. Duncan patted his hair, hot and shining in the afternoon sun. Kahani wriggled suddenly and sat up, scratching his back. He flopped forward onto his stomach and pointed to something.
"I’ve never seen this plant before," Kahani said. "But my mother told me about it." He traced the flat rosette of thin, oval leaves and the tall stalk capped with a small brown, pellet-shaped cluster studded with miniscule white flowers. Inspection done, he nodded. "It’s White Man’s Footprint, isn’t it, MacLeod?"
Duncan frowned and looked at the plant and named it in English for Kahani. "Plantain."
Kahani looked at Duncan and mirrored the frown. "Is it a bad plant, MacLeod?"
"No, it isn’t," Duncan said. "It’s good for upset stomachs and coughs if you make the leaves into tea. And if you crush the leaves," he searched for two stones and ground a leaf to a paste between them, "they’re good for scrapes and bug bites."
Kahani looked at the sticky mass. Duncan dipped his finger in and swiped a trail of crushed plantain leaf along Kahani’s nose. Kahani returned the favor, and both laughed. Duncan wiped his nose clean with the back of his hand, and Kahani followed suit.
On his hands and knees, so close to the plant that he was nearly cross-eyed, Kahani asked, "Are white men’s feet shaped like that?"
In answer, Duncan stripped the moccasins from his feet and wiggled his toes under Kahani’s nose. The boy examined them thoughtfully, comparing them to the plant.
"The plants weren’t here last year," Kahani said.
"No, they weren’t."
"Does that mean the Blue Coats are coming?" Kahani’s voice held an edge of fear, and he pulled nervously at his lower lip. MacLeod wondered for a moment where he had seen the gesture before and had a sudden memory of Kahani in the weeks and months after his father’s death, the same fearful edge to his voice, the same nervous plucking at his lip.
Duncan gently took Kahani’s hand from his lip. "I won’t let them hurt you."
"You’ll stay in our tipi?" Kahani asked.
Kahani’s hand went to his lip again. Duncan leaned over and plucked the tall central stem of the plantain plant, reaching all the way to where it met the ground. He twirled it under the boy’s nose to get his attention. Then he bent the tail end of the stem into a loop, snugged it against the pellet-shaped top, and drew it tight. The flower popped off the stem and landed in Kahani’s lap.
For the next ten minutes, Duncan and Kahani scoured the meadow for plantain, shooting each other with the flower heads, the shooting giving way to throwing handfuls of grass and leaves. Duncan stumbled and rolled into the target, and Kahani crashed into him. They both sat against the target until they caught their breath, and Duncan pointed to it and asked, "Are you ready to try again?"
They changed their position to keep their backs to the sun, and Kahani took another twenty shots—two of them successful—before starting through the forest for home.
Duncan noticed that the end of Kahani’s bow drooped lower than it had on the trip to the meadow, knocking into saplings and striking the ground a few times. He took the quiver and the bow, and Kahani didn’t protest that he was big enough to carry his own weapon. Duncan listened to the wind in the leaves, silently answering the disapproving question he thought he heard there. I’ll talk to him later.
Without the bow and arrow to carry, Kahani stepped more lively and asked more questions. He begged time and again for Duncan to share a song from his boyhood.
Exasperated, Duncan tried an evasive maneuver. "You’re very good with the big bow," he said. "By next summer, you’ll need a bigger one."
Kahani stood straighter. "And you’ll make it for me?"
"And you’ll teach me?"
Duncan nodded again.
"What if you get married and live in another tipi?" Kahani asked.
They were approaching a stream, and stopped to drink. Duncan took advantage of the distraction to frame his argument.
Kahani wiped his mouth. "MacLeod?"
Duncan stopped drinking from his cupped hand.
"If you married my mother, then you’d always live in our tipi."
"Yes, " Duncan said, answering after what he hoped seemed a thoughtful pause. "I would."
Kahani gave a quick nod as if all were settled. He took the empty food bag from Duncan’s shoulder and slung it over his own, then started home.
Duncan followed him, asking, "Should you tell her or should I?"
Kahani started to skip over the leaf-strewn path. "I will!"
MWC: Of Faith
It wafted away on the wings of the morning
Radiance faded and gone with sunrise
The fragrance that followed the planets’ performing
Reflecting each turn of their dance in her eyes
Her perfume yet whispers both promise and warning
Of death on the dew although love never dies.
She lifted her face and her eyes and her laughter
Oblations more lovely than Solomon’s Song
The moment forbid hope for a morning after
An hour or an instant would ne’er be too long
Complete in her arms I found dream and disaster
Miraculous love fled the shattering wrong.
She left in an instant that transformed forever
Into one moment that refuses reprieve
Still I see the blood on the blade that did sever
The truth from the dream I desired to believe
And if I live always some things I will never
Cease to regret or forget or to grieve.
We danced through a day of joyous celebration
Enchantment and sweetness at my fingertips
Fell midnight and prophecy’s hot indignation
Erupting as terrified screams from her lips
My Death prefers Darkness an ill Revelation
For truth it reveals or belies or encrypts.
My life is a pattern that I can but follow
And although the outcome is my Fate to choose
Some wounds never heal and leave Destiny hollow
Love is to borrow and breathe in and lose
Contempt can not cancel my Faith in tomorrow
No longer beholden to yesterday’s dues.
The Gath’ring will end this cruel battle unending
Someday I’ll look back on Peace I now search for
Love is a redemption that heals her own rending
A bittersweet ecstatic ache to the core
I’ll ‘scape to the Heaven my memories are tending
Where Love lives Immaculate for ever more.
* * * * *
MWC --The Hunt
Posted By: Friend of Methos <email@example.com>
Date: Thursday, 25 April 2002, at 4:09 p.m.
Duncan and Merryll have gotten a head start on the rest of the crowd gathered for the weekend's festivities at Lord Welbourne's estate in England.
They've taken a few minutes to talk as they ride, remembering their encounter fourteen years earlier in New York.
Duncan wanted to pursue the other line of their conversation, but Merryll was speaking again. "...And unusual, isn't it? I mean, an estate this size, these days. Do you suppose all of this land is his?"
"Welbourne's? Yes, I believe it is. And yes, you're right. It is unusual. Heavy taxes and the changes in the economy over the last 40 or 50 years have forced the majority of large family estates to be divided up and sold off."
She looked at him quizzically. "I just said that, Duncan. " The dimple appeared. "Weren't you listening to me?"
"Yes. Yes, of course I was listening!"
Merryll bit her lip but could not completely hide her grin. "Such a shame," she shook her head and continued, "Progress isn't all they make it out to be, in my opinion."
"No? You'd prefer the titled folk keep their lands and rule over fiefdoms and own people, like in the old days?" Duncan was surprised.
"No. Not that exactly," Merryll replied hesitantly. "Although..."
"Although what?" Duncan asked, really curious.
"I just wish..." then Merryll laughed at herself, knowing the futility of her thoughts, "not that wishing does any good, but I just wish things were simpler and times were ...easier, more peaceful. Less turbulent and complicated."
She paused and pulled the Commodore to a halt. Duncan pulled his mare up as well, watching Merryll as she gazed all around the meadow, light green with spring grass and dotted with small yellow wildflowers. Then she closed her eyes and murmured, "Listen. Do you hear it?"
Duncan was a little puzzled, but he thought he knew where she was going on her train of thought. "What? I don't hear anything."
"Exactly," Merryll said softly, then opened her eyes and smiled at him. He was dazzled. "Peace. And quiet." She sighed again, then murmured, "I've often thought it, and I used to say, I must have been born in the wrong century."
Fairly amazed at her, Duncan said, "But why, Meredith? Times have never been easy. Life was...well, it was so much harder back then. People died so much more...well, medicine wasn't what it is today and...wait, you mean you think you don't belong in this time, this century?"
"No, I suppose...that is, I'm sure I'm right where I'm supposed to be. And you can keep all the necessities, that's for sure! I didn't mean to do away with all things modern. Just the cars, you know, to slow things down a bit. I think..." she turned to face him, "it seems to me, life goes by far too fast these days, Duncan. Don't you see what I'm saying?"
"Well, I..." Duncan paused, "I guess I do, at that." He smiled at her, struck by the simplicity of what she was saying and at the same time, feeling the impact of the irony of her words. She had no idea...A movement in the sky caught his eye and he pointed over her shoulder. She turned to see a jet making what appeared to be a straight vertical ascent, leaving behind it a long white trail of smoke in the sky.
Merryll turned back to Duncan with a shrug and a smile, "Yes, well, there is that. She rubbed her arms. "Umm, the sun feels good. I think it's warming up." Even as she spoke, the sun went behind a gray cloud and the breeze lifted the Commodore's mane.
"Yes," Duncan replied, "but it's not warm enough really." He glanced at the sky. "It's clouding up. Let's head back tow..."
"Oh! Was that a bee?" Merryll interrupted, surprised. "I didn't think it was all *that* warm!" She chuckled.
"A bee?" Duncan asked. "No, it's too cold yet for..."
"Oh! There's another one! It must be bees, Duncan. I heard them buzz right by me. Maybe we stirred up a hornet's next somewhere." Merryll half-turned and glanced over the ground behind them. "I don't see anything--"
"Meredith, it can't be--" Duncan interrupted her, then stopped mid-sentence.
She glanced up to see a shocked expression on his face. "Duncan?" What's the matter?" she asked, concerned. "Did it sting you?"
He clutched at his shoulder and gasped, "It's not a bee, Meredith--"
She felt a sting on her forehead, then, and reacting instinctively, Merryll pulled the reins up and slapped at the air. The riding helmet flew out of her hands and rolled over the ground and the Commodore snorted and tossed his head as she pulled at the reins. Merryll hated bee stings, and she was very allergic to yellow jackets. She swatted at her forehead, and when she drew her hand away, she was surprised to see blood on it.
Duncan gasped, "Meredith, get out of here!"
"What?" she turned back around to him. He was holding his left shoulder, grimacing in pain. "Duncan?" Instantly concerned, she leaned toward him, then saw a dark stain growing on the shoulder of his scarlet jacket. Merryll heard a buzz twice more, one on either side of her head.
Duncan spoke hoarsely, "Get out of here, Meredith. Run! Somebody's shooting at us!"
Shocked, Merryll asked, "What? Are you--" The Commodore squealed a whinny and half-reared. Shocked again, Merryll grabbed his mane and managed to hang on, gathering up the reins just in time to keep him from bolting out from under her. "Oh, God," she said, "oh, God." She saw blood on the black's neck just a couple of inches up from the pommel of her saddle. She stood in her stirrups and shouted with all her might, "Don't shoot!" then sat down hard when knife-like pain shot through her ribs. Suddenly her hands were full as the Commodore tried to lunge forward. Before he could, she wheeled him around on a tight rein, looking frantically around. All she could see was rolling meadows of bright green. Just as she turned, she saw Duncan leaning forward over his mare's neck. "Oh, God. Oh, God," she gasped. She guided the Commodore around Pandora's rump, then came up on Duncan's left side.
"Duncan? Duncan?" she called out.
He gasped, "Go! Get out of here! Leave me. Go on!" Then he groaned softly.
"Duncan, hang on. Hang on!" Merryll jerked the reins from his hand and pulled them over Pandora's head, then put her arm through Duncan's left arm, kicked the mare's side and said, "H'yah! Pandora!"
The mare jumped forward and the Commodore leapt into motion. In two strides, they were in sync, galloping headlong across the meadow. "No jumps, please, no jumps," Merryll gasped, hanging on to Duncan and struggling to stay seated on her own horse. It was impossible to crouch forward, so she just held on and rode. Duncan gasped, "Leave me, Meredith. Just go!" and began falling forward.
"No! Duncan, hang on!" Merryll yelled, dragging at him, pulling up on his arm. She loosened the reins, thinking, The Commodore knows where to go. She held Pandora's reins close, keeping her tight up against the Commodore's side so as to maintain her grasp on Duncan's arm. Her knee was just behind his as the horses hurtled across the meadow. She gasped, desperately, "Oh, God! Help us."
Moments passed, and suddenly Merryll realized she could not remember watching their path very carefully as she and Duncan had ridden and talked. And suddenly she realized she had not been guiding the Commodore. She looked frantically ahead and just as suddenly realized that nothing looked familiar. She saw wisps of fog lying silently across the meadow. Where had that come from, she wondered, and how could it possibly... It seemed darker to her and she realized then that the sun had long since disappeared behind clouds that were no longer white, but gray and darkening. In fact, the day looked quite dusky, as days in England often do just before the sun sets. She felt panic trying to rise inside her, a cold, gnawing feeling in her stomach as she wondered desperately where they were and what to do. In that same moment, Merryll remembered the fear she had felt as they approached the high rail fence, and the relief and confidence that surged up in her when the Commodore carried them both over it fearlessly and perfectly. Her memory flashed a picture of the dangerous area surrounding the fallen tree, and the thrill she had felt when the great horse ran effortlessly, missing the branches and scattered rocks, and leaped over the tree, so powerfully overcoming the hazardous obstacles. Feeling her desperation turn to calm, Merryll said, "Go home, Commodore, go home," and she gave the stallion his head.
Still hanging on to Duncan, she looked around, trying to find some landmark, some familiar thing to help her get her bearings, wondering how she could tell where they were. They were being swallowed up in gray clouds of fog. Dear God, where did that come from, she wondered, and how could it be everywhere so fast? It was there earlier, as she walked to the barn and at the paddock, but she thought it had disappeared as the sun rose in the sky. She raised her eyes and thought she saw trees up ahead. Where ARE we? she wondered. She had seen no woods other than the ones she had avoided, and she thought that they surely were in the other direction. Had she somehow gotten turned around? Merryll wondered, feeling almost frantic again. Had they covered so much ground so quickly? Merryll could not tell anymore. She had no inkling of how long they had been galloping. It seemed only a few moments, yet, she could not really say. She knew that the Commodore’s long stride could easily eat up the ground.
The fog billowed and swirled around them. She had lost all sense of direction and refused to think about where they might be headed. She thought, Stay together, stay in rhythm. She heard the words over and over in her head, Hide us, hide us, let us hide, running through her mind in time to the beat of the Commodore's hooves. And then, Duncan, Duncan, hang on Duncan!
A sudden thought struck her and she felt fear begin to gnaw at her insides again. This is so dangerous, riding like this. There are walls everywhere. Please, don't let us... "Duncan," she called his name, "stay with me, Duncan! Hang on!"
Merryll looked up. She could see only a few feet ahead. She felt the horses descending, while still galloping and she held on for her life, trying desperately to see ahead, her body tensing for what might be a wall in their path. Duncan felt incredibly heavy in her arms. Merryll suddenly felt a stab of pain and realized that her ribs were hurting and every breath had become excruciating. She felt as though her back would break if she could not change her position soon. Then, just as Merryll thought she could not bear it another moment, praying she would not lose her grip on Duncan, she felt the horses slow as they climbed a slight rise, then down they went into the fog swirling around them, and out of it straight into the woods.
The stallion's pace slowed, then slowed again and she pulled Pandora up as well. The Commodore did not stop, but walked ahead and Merryll let him go. She thought, The deeper in the better. Then, Yes, but not too deep. "Whoa, boy." The horses' hooves were softly muffled on the grassy floor of the woods. The black headed purposefully on, then finally slowed to a standstill. The mare took her cue from him and stopped as well. It appeared to Merryll that they were in a small opening, a glen of sorts. Here the fog was not as heavy. In fact, there was no fog at all; but the glen seemed shadowy to Merryll, almost dark. The trees were tall and thickly grown together, so that the sunlight filtered through heavily enmeshed branches. The day looked to Merryll more like twilight than the middle of a bright spring morning. It seemed secluded and Merryll thought they would surely be safe there. The only sounds she heard were the horses' movements, their breathing and her own ragged breaths.
Merryll felt frozen in place. She wondered how to keep Duncan from falling on his face to the ground. "Duncan," she said clearly, "Duncan!" He did not answer. She almost sobbed, "Oh, please..."
With aching back, and pain stabbing through her body with every breath, Merryll managed somehow to lean Duncan forward, balancing him over the mare's neck. She said, "Pandora, stay!" then muttered, "How stupid was that? She's not a dog!" But to Merryll's amazement, the mare stayed. She did not move a foot.
Now to get off this horse without falling on my own face, Merryll thought. She leaned one hand on the saddle, her elbow wobbling, and put a hand on the stallions' mane. He snorted, but stood still as she bent forward, struggling to lift her leg over his rump, then clambered weakly down, nearly falling to her knees at his feet. Gasping with pain and fighting for breath, she was able to hold on to the saddle and force her legs to stand. They shook badly and Merryll had to hang on to the horse to remain on her feet.
Instant tears stung her eyes as she gasped desperately, "God, how can I help Duncan if I can't even stand up? Please, help me!" She took a slow, deep breath, then another, and felt her legs straighten. Then she stood fully straight, and feeling himself free of her weight, the Commodore stepped ahead of her. She let go of the saddle as he moved out of her way, only to find Pandora's reins still in her hand, sliding over the Commodore's behind. Merryll took two steps forward and was beside Duncan.
He had made no move. How can I get him down? she wondered, he's so big. Just as she reached for him, Duncan began to slide forward. His foot! Merryll jerked his leg free of the stirrup, then put her arms around his shoulders, trying to ease him to the ground. His weight was too much for her in the end, and her legs buckled under her. In the process, she somehow remembered to release the reins, and Pandora moved away a few steps to stand near the Commodore. Merryll sat abruptly and Duncan landed in a crumpled heap with her, half in her lap.
Merryll held him, cradling him in her arms, calling his name. He was pale, and quite obviously still unconscious. She saw the blood on his coat and thought, Pressure on the wound...stop the bleeding...how?... what...? Merryll gasped. She could not swallow, something was choking her. The scarf! With fingers stiffly unyielding and bent as if still grasping reins, Merryll clawed frantically at the long silk scarf wound round and round her neck. At last it loosened and flowed into her hand. She jerked it off and bunching it up, slid it under Duncan's jacket to the wound. She pressed as hard as she could. "Duncan, wake up! Duncan, stay with me. Duncan! Oh, my God, please..." After a moment, Merryll withdrew her hand from beneath his jacket. She felt shock go over her like a wave when she saw the glove covered with blood. She tried to move, to lay Duncan flat on the ground, but she could not budge him. He was simply too heavy and she was virtually pinned under his weight.
She thought, Mouth to mouth...wait, he's still breathing, maybe he doesn't need...*is* he breathing? She could not tell. Merryll jerked at his shirt, once, twice, and it loosened. The gloves! Get the gloves off so she could feel a pulse. But what good would it do? she wondered. He was lying so still. "Duncan!"
She stuck her left thumb under the short glove, just at her right wrist and pulled across her palm. The bloody glove peeled off and she placed icy fingers on Duncan's warm neck, desperately trying to find a pulse. She could not find it. Where was it, for God's sake? There was very little blood on his skin. It must have soaked into his shirt, she thought. Merryll pulled the jacket back and the shirt with it, but it would not open very far. Then she wondered, Why did I do that? I don't want to see the wound. Wait...stop the bleeding. Of course, yes...
Merryll was sliding her hand over Duncan's chest again toward his shoulder when she saw the wound. It was small, and there was not really very much blood around it, not very much at all. It was right there in his chest. How had she not seen it before? Yes, he had a shoulder wound. She had pressed on that to stop the bleeding. But she could not believe her eyes. There was a hole, just a small one and ...oh! another one, on the other side of his breast bone. Right there, close, so close to his heart. No, not that close. Please! Duncan! Oh! oh...
Merryll gulped and gasped as suddenly, the glen faded from view and she saw white on a field of blue, then red and white stripes. She gasped for breath. It was the image of Marines in full dress uniform, folding an American flag, just as they had done at the funeral of her best friend's father. He had been a career officer, with a distinguished thirty year record. He had died suddenly and unexpectedly of a heart attack in February, and Merryll was there. The burial service was at Arlington and the day was cold and clear. Just like this morning, she thought, then pushed the thought away. No! It's not the same! This is different...
The chaplain of the corps had stood before them, solemn yet comforting. Merryll could hear his voice even now, reading from the New Testament book of St. John. She knew those words very well. They were included in the liturgy of funeral services around the world. She looked down at Duncan lying half across her lap, his strong, broad shoulders cradled in her slender left arm. His eyes were closed, dark lashes on his pale cheek. His muscular chest with the curling dark hair, so soft under her hand, lay utterly still, unmoving.
Merryll's vision blurred for a moment and just as at the funeral--she heard someone sobbing. No! This was different! It was not the funeral! "Duncan... Duncan!...dear God..." She felt something wet hit her hand. She blinked and saw clear droplets falling, splashing on her skin. Was it raining? She thought, Duncan should stay warm...shock and... Merryll pulled ineffectively at his jacket, then covered the two small holes in his chest with her hand. She gasped as she heard the words...was the chaplain in the woods with them...? "I am the Resurrection and the Life. He that believes in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live. And he that lives and believes in me shall never die."
Merryll heard that poor woman sob again and her heart hurt for her. Then, with an eerie feeling, and a chill running over her body, she suddenly realized that the sob, like the words, had come from her own mouth.
Dizziness swept over her. She looked up and the branches of the trees dipped and swayed and spun round and round. Merryll held tightly to Duncan, thinking, I'll hold on to Duncan. He's not going anywhere without me. "Dear God, please. Don't let him die. Let Duncan live," she gasped and sobbed, "Let him live!"
No sooner had she said the words, than Merryll felt his chest move. She gazed at him in wonder. He inhaled sharply, then opened his eyes. Duncan! She felt his heart beating under her hand. And she knew she had not felt it only a moment before. He had not been breathing, not at all. And now he was...Merryll fully believed he was alive again. "...Duncan!" the sound came from very far away.
Merryll looked up to see who had spoken and instead she saw the trees, dipping and swaying in a sort of mad dance above her...the earth was reeling beneath her... She felt the heat of the sun...it must have exploded...She heard it pounding in her ears...and burnt up all the oxygen...She could not breathe...everything around her was turning gray and white...The world was ending and they were all being swallowed up into blackness...
MWC Indian Spring
Posted By: bookmom <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Thursday, 25 April 2002, at 9:03 p.m.
Duncan tried to still the wild beating of his heart. He took yet another deep breath and wished his meditation would work its usual magic. He felt joy, inescapable joy. He was meeting Connor for the first time in 40 years! There was so much to tell him, so much to share so much to hear.
The long practiced movements held almost no sanctuary for him this evening. Every aspect of nature intruded into his thoughts reminding him of why he was so happy. The wind stirring the dark branches with their new buds called to him. The earthy smell of the forest wafted over him and into him carried on that same breeze. Even this far away, he could hear the rushing of the river swollen with springs’ bountiful gift. An abbreviated squeak and the flapping of wings told him that an owl had found dinner for its chicks.
Spring was a time of rebirth and he felt it keenly. After so many years of war and death, he felt reborn himself. Native American life was so like living with the Clan of his youth.
Duncan couldn’t keep the smile from his face as he decided to give up. Well perhaps he wouldn’t sleep this night. He hadn’t expected there to be a problem. He and Little Deer had made sweet love earlier. Their passion for one another had only grown since she had welcomed him to her bed, and tonight had been wonderful. With him leaving on this hunting trip, she had not wanted the loving to stop. He’d pleasured her with skills learned from centuries of loving bringing her to heights hitherto unknown. Finally, Little Deer had fallen asleep nestled in his arms, head tucked under his chin, her long dark hair flowing over his broad chest. Duncan was sure he would follow suit lulled by his lover’s warmth and softness. But it was not to be. Thoughts of Connor danced in his head. It had taken a full year of letter writing before he could convince the stubborn Scot to come west. Duncan wanted his kinsman to know the joy that he did. Life in the Pacific North West was simple and relatively peaceful.
He surveyed the scattered tipis and other signs of the Sioux settlement. Pure contentment washed over him. Everywhere he looked reminded him of his love and their son. That stump there was the place he had sat the first time Little Deer had combed out and plaited his hair. Her hands had been so gentle untangling all the knots. He remembered the closeness of her body and how her breasts had brushed against his back wiping all coherence from his thoughts.
A long dark shape drew his eye. There was the canoe he and Kahani had taken out just that morning. They had shared so many things. The boy’s incessant thirst for knowledge made him a joy to teach and he had a streak of devilment that Duncan secretly enjoyed. He would be honored to help this little brave grow into a great hunter. Perhaps one day Kahani would lead this tribe as he himself had been groomed to lead his all those years ago.
A warm hand on his shoulder brought him out of his musings.
“ I see the joy on your face Duncan, and know it is not the Blue Coats that
keep you awake tonight.”
Duncan turned into Little Deer’s embrace. “I think only of you and Kahani, Little Deer, and how much happiness you have brought me.” He didn’t want to think about the American Army just now.
He kissed her gently, his hands tangling in her dark silken strands. He could lose himself in her again.
Her eyes were still heavy with sleep. “Come back to bed, Duncan, you have a long journey ahead of you tomorrow. It would not do for a brave such as yourself to fall asleep on his horse,” teased little Deer.
He followed her inside their tipi still not sure whether he would be able to sleep.
Kahani, moving restlessly, cried out in his sleep. Little Deer looked at the dream catcher hanging on the cross pole and hoped it would do its job. The nightmare continued to plague the little boy so Duncan crawled under the furs beside him. He stroked the boy’s brow and murmured words of comfort in soothing tones. Duncan drew his arm around Kahani and he soon quieted. Little Deer snuggled up against Duncan’s back tucking her arm around both her men. Mentally and physically, peace and contentment enveloped Duncan. He slid quickly into sleep.
The forest was a contrast of dark green, black and white as the early morning
sun poked through the trees. Patches of snow still lay in gullies occasionally
blinding him as they caught the strengthening sun. Duncan slowed his horse to a
walk letting them both take a breather. The friendly chirp and call of the
birds was music to his ears. He took a swig of his water and wiped the back of
his sleeve across his mouth. Little Deer had sewn this jerkin and pants for him
from the stag he had brought down the first summer he had arrived. He
remembered the long winter nights when they had sat together with Mehina.
Little Deer had tried to hide her good-natured laughter behind her sewing as
Duncan stumbled over the difficult sounds of the Sioux dialect that Mehina was
He kicked his mount into a slow canter, eager to reach the falls before dusk.
It was brighter now and Duncan was awed at the meadow dotted with wild flowers that unfolded before him as he reached the edge of the forest. His stomach growled and he was grateful for the chance to take his afternoon meal surrounded by such beauty. Duncan spied a small bunch of rocks.
He slid off his horse and let her crop the tender new shoots growing amongst the dried golden stalks. Duncan stretched mightily, feeling his vertebrae crack. Little Deer had packed him some jerky, dried berries and bannock. He ate contentedly resting up against the warm granite. The hot sun beat down taking the chill from his bones. Soon he was nodding off, the previous nights’ activities finally catching up to him. He was startled awake by a soft nose gently prodding the pouch at his waist. He reached inside and offered up a few carrots to his horse.
The trek from the Sioux settlement to Big Chute waterfall took him until
late afternoon. He saw Connor before he felt him. His kinsman was resting against
a huge maple wrapped snugly in his long coat, his brown slouch hat pulled low
over his face. Connor had set up camp and the delicious smell of coffee reached
him on the light breeze.
Duncan smiled. That man could sleep anywhere at the drop of a hat. Duncan chuckled. “At the drop of ‘his’ hat,” he amended silently. That was one talent he was envious of.
Connor peered up from under the brim of his hat just enough to make sure it was Duncan he sensed. The elder MacLeod smiled to himself. Duncan looked more Indian than white. His hair was longer now than it had ever been and braids framed his tanned face. He wore a buckskin jerkin, breeches and moccasins. It was no great wonder that the tribe had welcomed him warmly. And knowing his kinsman’s flair for languages, no doubt the man spoke their tongue fluently.
Connor waited until one leather clad foot kicked him good- naturedly.
“Get up you lazy Scot!”
Connor pushed the brim of his hat slowly off his face.
“Moccasins don’t quite pack the same punch as boots, eh, Duncan?”
“Get up, Connor, or you’ll find out the hard way!”
“I doubt I’d be the one getting a good thrashing, Duncan, but let’s not fight until we’ve had some coffee.” He let Duncan pull him up and they embraced each other warmly.
All week long they hunted, skinned, cleaned, dried and talked.
“I’ll go and check the trap lines this morning, Connor,” Duncan offered.
“I’ll expect you back sometime after lunch then,” nodded his kinsman.
Duncan was pleased with what they had caught. He took a rabbit and skinned it for lunch. He was just biting into a haunch when an Immortal presence washed over him.
“Connor … ?”
In my next life, MacLeod decided tiredly, I'm going to be a locomotive. He could no longer quite feel the hand tucked into his belt, but he knew it was there, just as a hand clutched the twine around the waist of each of the six people behind him, save the last.
It was possible to walk while sleeping, he knew, and probably some in his little train had dozed off, but he had to stay awake to lead. They stumbled down the cow path that snaked off the mountain above the Potomac river. The cattle whose hoofs had worn this path were long since slaughtered, salted, and shipped off in casks by this spring of 1865, but their trails were still the easiest way down the mountainside, and MacLeod was sleepily grateful.
This one last mountain, across the river glittering in the waning moon, and then they'd be in Maryland, and safer. Another night's walk at this narrow part of the state would put them in Pennsylvania, and it was unlikely that anyone would bother the escaped slaves there. West Virginia was technically Union, and Maryland certainly was, but not all the residents were willing to turn a blind eye to them: it only took one person to compromise their safety.
The meadow at the river's edge was dew-silvered in the moonlight, and if they crossed it, they'd leave a track. Automatically, Duncan swung off into the woods at its edge, keeping to the shadows and dry leafy footing.
Something had been in the meadow, had made a dark path in the dew. At the same time his fatigued mind noted this, he heard, "uf-uf-uf-uf" ahead, and froze.
Frantically, he sorted through his catalog of sounds, trying to fit this to some past noise he'd heard. Would a cougar make that sound? A foraging bear? Finally, he remembered his own fingers digging into a horse's velvet nose, desperately trying to keep it from calling as Cumberland's troops rode past. Now, here he was, near a town in Maryland named for the Butcher of Culloden, wondering if he were hunter or prey this time. In this border state valley, who would still have a horse? Swept by Yanks and Rebels alike to mount their cavalries, this area had been on foot for some time.
Quietly, he reached back, loosened the hand at his belt, and squeezed it to bring the man to alertness. Duncan turned, put a finger to his own lips, and gestured, Down, lie down. Stay flat, wait. Tiredly, Enos nodded, turned to pass the message back.
MacLeod moved ahead, staring into the shadows, trying to convince himself that one was darker than the rest. Then he heard a grunt, several thumps, a rattling of old leaves, and smelled horse manure. Grinning, carrying his knife in his hand, he angled off into the woods until a shadow gelled up into a horse with someone standing by its head.
Sure enough, one hand held the halter, and the other clutched the horse's nostrils, trying to keep it quiet.
"Let him breathe," Duncan advised. "It's all right."
The horse shook his head and snorted as his nose was released, but he stood quietly, ears pricked forward, watching the stranger.
"I won't let you take him," the horse's companion promised. "We need him."
"I'm not after your horse, girl," he whispered back. "I have some people with me, and we need someplace to spend the day."
"You won't tell anyone he's here?"
"What are you doing out here alone, anyway?"
"I'm not alone. I'm with Nightwing," the whispered response informed him with some indignation. "Momma says after the war, he'll rebuild the farm for us. If we can just keep him."
Duncan smiled at the girl, rail-thin, not yet become a woman. "Is he a pretty good carpenter?"
"Of course not! His stud fees. All the other horses were taken, but we've hidden him. Momma stays at the farm, and I stay out here with him, up there."
Against the lightening sky, a dark cloud was pouring back toward a cliff face, into a cave he couldn't see, but which had to be there. The girl smiled fondly at the cloud. "He's named for the bats. He's by Lexington, and after the war. . . People are afraid of the bats, so we're safe here."
"How big is the cave?"
"Oh, pretty big. It has rooms. The one I stay in even has a sort of chimney, and his room has a little stream. I put up a bar to keep him in during the day."
Night people, night horse, Duncan thought. Right on the heels of that thought came another: would the girl let them stay at the cave, rest, be in safety for a few days? If he could get some sleep, instead of walking all night and trying to hunt during the day, he could easily get his companions on to Pennsylvania.
The girl looked at him sharply. "Momma would say, you've been rode hard and put up wet. You need some rest, or you'll be foundered."
Foundered, Duncan thought. That was about right. Not dead, but dead-tired.
"Momma says strangers should have a 'guesting.' Here, give me a hand up." She slipped the chain part of the lead shank into the horse's mouth, and bent her leg.
Automatically, Duncan cupped his hands under her knee and boosted her onto the horse's back.
"If you hold onto his tail," the girl said, "He'll help you up the hill."
"I need to get the rest of my people," MacLeod said. Nightwing snorted and sidled a little as the others rose slowly from the leaves, brushing themselves off. The youngest was sound asleep. Duncan gathered him up to carry, but Enos grinned, took his son, slung him over his shoulder like a grain sack, tucked his hand back into Duncan's belt for the climb back up the hill.
Sleepily, MacLeod caught up a good handful of the horse's tail, fine and silky. I've been demoted, he thought. It was wonderful not to have to keep his eyes open, just to follow the pull on his hand, listening to the steady rhythm of the horse's hoofs, climbing effortlessly. Today we will sleep in safety, for a change, under the protection of the bats. The merest sketch of a grin bent his mouth at the thought, but his eyes stayed shut.
MWC: Words Tell the Story (Part 1)
Posted By: Robin <Catnature@yahoo.com>
Date: Friday, 26 April 2002, at 11:40 a.m.
Walking into the climate controlled room she looked around her. The rows and rows of books spoke of another times, a time when they used something called paper and ink. Most felt the resources used to protect this stuff was misused, but she fought hard to keep those things safe.
She went to one of the shelves and carefully, tenderly take a book from its resting place. The symbol shown on the cover, it looked like an Aries horn in a circle. It dated back to the end of the 20th century. She carried it to the only table in the room and sat down in the chair.
Opening it she began to read the ancient language called English. She smiled and shook her head, it wasn't English it was what they spoke in a place called the United States of America. It was a mixture of several language with some new words added.
The book was written by a very interesting man named Joe Dawson. She liked reading his work. More of the books only gave you part of the story. Who fought whom, who loved whom and how and when the person died. Joe's writing brought the people to life. He made them human, where as some of the others made the Immortals sound like strange beings.
Adam Pierson was also an interesting one to read. Although not a Watcher, he was a researcher, his job was to found Methos the World's Oldest Immortal. Through Joe's writing Xezia discovered Adam was Methos and she laughed until she had tears in her tears at that one. That was when she fell in love with Methos.
"Xezia, are you in here?" a male voice called.
"Danre! Close that door." she snapped. She heard the pressure seals hiss as the door closed.
Danre walked over to her shaking his head, "Why am I not surprised."
She sighed. "I wish I could make you understand how important this is." holding the book up.
"It has been over three hundred years since the last Immortal was here. Most people have forgotten about them." he started.
"Exactly." she cut in.
He looked at her blankly.
"Did you understand? This is history. Real people in real places doing real things. They loved. They laughed. They felt sorrow. They died. They should not be forgotten." she said passionately.
"So read something to me. Make me understand." he sat in the only other chair.
'Thank you Methos and Joe' she thought as she open the book.
Re: MWC: Words Tell the Story (Part 2)
Posted By: Robin <Catnature@yahoo.com>
Date: Friday, 26 April 2002, at 12:50 p.m.
In Response To: MWC: Words Tell the Story (Part 1) (Robin)
"Mac, Methos and I just returned from the ballgame. Methos is out of sorts because he has to buy the beer. He met on the wrong team."
"I thought Watcher's didn't get involved with their Immortals." Danre cut in.
"Joe changed that. Now do you want to hear this or not?" Xezia asked.
She went back to the story, "We told him that the team wasn't ready, but he wouldn't listen. Of this is Methos the World's Oldest Been-There-Done-That Pain in the Ass.
"So we got to the field about 20 minutes before the game. It was a beautiful Spring day, prefect to play ball. We found our seats and because we could sit down we heard, 'Uncle Adam'.
"Methos had just time to turn before Mary bowled him over. They landed in a heap with Methos sprawled on his back and Mary on top of him.
"Duncan and I were laughing and Methos shot us a dirty look which made us laugh harder. Beware of eight years old. Mary got up and said 'Sorry.’ She was embarrassed. Good ol Uncle Adam laughed as he got to his feet and he hugged her to him.
"Immortals can't have children which is too bad, I think Methos would make a great Dad. Of course with his I've-done-it-all attitude his kids would probably kill him when they were teenagers.
"The game started as the scent of honeysuckle came from a near by meadow. Methos got pensive.
"What's wrong?' Mac asked.
"I knew. 'Abigail.' I answered.
"Methos nodded then turned his attention to the game.
"Mary's team tried, but lost. The other team had been playing together since Kindergarten and Mary's team started this year.
"Mac and I didn't tell Mary about the bet. It would just have hurt her.
"Uncle Adam treated the team to ice cream after the game. I guess that is why he is sore about having to buy the beer. Poor Old Man. It serves him right."
Xezia stopped reading.
"I assume there are more stories about these people." Danre said.
"And they will tell me who all these people are."
"Yes." she said sweetly.
"Okay. You win. Read me the rest of the stories."
Xezia laughed and turned the page.
MWC--Minutes and Millennia
Posted By: vixen69 <email@example.com>
Date: Sunday, 28 April 2002, at 4:53 p.m.
(The mood shifts kind of rapidly here--thought I'd warn you.)
From a distance, they simply looked like an extremely attractive couple, possibly in love. They weren't, actually. Oh, they * were* attractive, but not in love--old friends, actually, notwithstanding the age difference between them, which was about two thousand eight hundred years. It was a pretty tableau, really, the bright, warm spring sun, the faultless blue sky with only the type of white, fluffy cloud that most people would generally own to be their favorite type decorating it, the tall grass gently waving in the breeze, the two people, whom he knew quite well, and who saw him immediately, having been forewarned of his presence by the very nature of it. It was the sort of very nice spring day, he reflected, in the moments he had left to him to reflect before being pressed into speech, that could only be utterly ruined by history. He knew this to be true, because he had actually witnessed as many days like this and as much history as any one person possibly ever had.
He mentally added to his long record of personal experiences, a new dictum: Never crash a picnic unless one is certain of who will be in attendance.
"What is *he * doing here?" Methos rolled his eyes, but none-too-overtly, and then gamely strode forward. Once an entrance has been made in an open meadow, the only way to *un-make * the entrance is to rather publicly turn tail and run. This he could not do.
Of course, *hello * is the way most people start conversations. Cassandra did not start conversations with him in that way. She honestly didn't like to start conversations with him at all. She actually directed the question towards MacLeod, who looked suddenly as if he wondered what, in fact, he was doing there, and desperately wished to be elsewhere. He briefly recalled that he had mentioned that he was going to be going on a picnic and even giving the location, but it had never entered into his head that the old man's peripatetic mooching and generally failing to mind his own business would take him quite this far. It would have helped him to know that the favored strategy of the tactician was surprise.
"I was in the neighborhood...I hope I'm not interrupting anything," Methos offered.
Cassandra blinked. In the neighborhood? Not interrupting? She checked herself for signs of imminent explosion. She maintained that she was *not * going to. "You are," she said, in a civil-enough tone.
"Good seeing you as always, Cassandra. MacLeod," he nodded. His feet utterly failed to move him any further away from them. Duncan got to his feet, as did Cassandra.
"What brings you here, Methos?" Duncan asked. He didn't want to prolong the discomfort of being in the presence of both of them for any longer than he had to, but some small talk seemed necessary. Their relations were fabulously glacial, at best. Meat would keep indefinitely in a room where the two of them icily stared at one another.
Methos grinned (*smirked *, in Cassandra's opinion) and looked up at a cloud that resembled a baby hippopotamus. "Well, it occurred to me that I hadn't visited this park in some time and today seemed like a good day to get out. I'm a big fan of the outdoors, you know...running, hiking..."
"Horseback riding, pillaging," Cassandra added, her voice still civil, even if what she said wasn't exactly. In her point of view, however, there was no reason not to sacrifice a bit of correctness for accuracy.
"And of course, I understood you were having a picnic," he added, not dropping his grin. His eye fell on the picnic basket.
With a mild sense of absurdity, Duncan considered the image of his ancient friend as Yogi Bear. Then, with a dawning sense of something akin to horror, it occurred to him that Methos was, in fact standing on the possibility of being invited. It was only to be expected. After a few thousand years or so, the odd famine, etc., the man had developed something of a frugality that made the reputed thrift of the Scots seem like wild prodigality. If Methos used up a quarter tank of petrol to get here, he was angling for pie, at least, if not coleslaw and biscuits.
"You haven't exactly been invited," Cassandra pointed out.
"No, not exactly," Methos responded swiftly, catching the loophole neatly.
Sheer rudeness, of course, works on some people. Methos occasionally was one of them...just not always. Unfortunately, he and Cassandra were both extremely stubborn people. Stubbornness might well have been the reason for both of their incredible lifespans...but it was also ruining the picnic. With a hand on Methos' elbow, Duncan leaned in, and with a voice that one could grate cheese with, indicated that Methos could certainly excuse himself if he were so inclined. Methos indicated that he was not so inclined. Duncan gently asked what he might be able to do to incline him in that direction. Methos indicated not much. Duncan stopped short of implying that if Methos did not so incline himself, he would become reclined in an embarrassing and excessively physical fashion. And then Cassandra did the unthinkable. She knelt down.
"I suppose we have more food here than the two of us could eat." She made a show of picking through the contents of the basket.
Smiling, the old man brushed past Duncan and sat on the blanket. Duncan stared. They were doing this to make him insane, of course. And then it dawned on him--It was an overcompensation. They were now, awkwardly and uncomfortably, going to be deliberately polite at each other. He could only hope no one got killed in the process. Being painfully aware that even in the above-average warmth, Methos had on a long, albeit lightweight coat and that Cassandra had more than a change of clothes, a Walkman and some CD's in her duffel bag, he could only briefly guess what could happen when the politeness wore out.
Nonsense, he assured himself. These were completely sensible people. Just because Methos had been an unspeakably heinous person three thousand years ago and Cassandra had hated his guts for about that long was no reason to suspect unpleasantness.
"Thank you, Cassandra," Methos said. If he were startled by the sudden kindness, it would do no good to reveal it. He waved in Duncan's direction, indicating that he should take a load off. Still wary, he did. Methos then proceeded to reach into the basket, rummaging. He found a sandwich, unwrapped it, took a look between the dark pieces of multigrain bread (avocado, sprouts, thousand island dressing--not his usual fare) and began eating with what appeared to be relish. Cassandra looked over at MacLeod.
"I think I left my sunglasses in the car. You wouldn't mind getting them?" Methos looked over the edge of his sandwich at her, mouth full, but the calm on his face momentarily disturbed.
It worked that subtly. "Not at all," he replied. That she did not, in fact, have sunglasses in the car would only ensure that he would be awhile looking for them. Methos watched him depart, and began bracing himself. He wasn't entirely sure why he had insisted on crashing the picnic knowing full well he wasn't wanted. He swallowed, wishing there had been more dressing and less sprouts.
"Enjoying the sandwich?"
He managed a smile and a nod.” You made it?"
She nodded. "You get that bored being with yourself that you need to ruin other people's lunches?"
"I'm pretty selective about whose lunch I ruin. Besides, I wasn't aware that I had."
"Oh?" she began, angrily. She wanted to rail at his obliviousness, but changed her mind. Less angrily, she went on. "We are not going to be friends, Methos. He may believe you've changed--you may even believe that you've changed...but the past hasn't."
"We don't live in the past, Cassandra. We can't."
She looked down at her hands. Oh, really? If Methos wasn't living in the past right now, thinking he could just make his claims on her time...forcing his presence on her.
"What do you want from me?" she asked at length. She was not going to look at him. It would only make her too furious.
He looked off into the direction where MacLeod had disappeared over the hill. He didn't know what he wanted from her. Perhaps it was wrong to think that there could be forgiveness, even after so many years, but he couldn't help but feel the need to try. It wasn't that he just needed to hear that he wasn't too horrible to forgive. If the years could be taken back, if things could be done differently...
It was useless. He knew it. "I wish it wasn't like this," he said, softly.
"You wish..." She sighed. If wishes were horses, the Four Horsemen would ride again. As they did in her nightmares. "I wish I'd never laid eyes on you. I wish you never laid eyes on my village. I wish you told me that I was Immortal instead of letting me believe that you just...wanted me to live...when everyone that I had ever known or cared about was dead. What's it like to wish?"
The sunlight in her hair...like a prism. Glints of red and gold among the darker strands. Gods, she was lovely. That was what it had been when he decided she had to be his spoil, even if Kronos and his own instincts told him she could only spell trouble. An Immortal. The only survivor of a destroyed people--if she were a man she'd have been beheaded at once before she could have revenge. Only that fierce, strong beauty saved her, and what a fool he'd been to think it could ever have been owned.
"I know. If I could take any of it back, I would. But I'm only a man..."
She stared at him. It was always easier over the years to consider him and the rest monsters, not men. Monsters could be hated and feared. To have him in front of her now, improbably sprawling on a picnic blanket eating sprouts made him less fearsome than her memories, but that was how it had been back then, too. For moments at a time he would seem so human. And then there would be another cruelty. A slap in the face. A threat.
Only a man.
She looked down at her hands again. The other women had been made to serve in hundreds of ways, slaughtering goats for the meals, drawing water for the horses, but he held up her hand to his face. "Soft," he had said. "I'd rather keep them that way." That was how they stayed until she needed to put a sword in them.
The breeze picked up, lifting a napkin, disturbing the grass, blowing a leaf into her hair. As if by reflex, Methos lifted his hand to brush it out. She flinched, and he knew the look in her eyes so well. It hadn't changed at all in thousands of years. What had she thought he'd meant to do? He lowered his hand, surprised by the power of that look.
Sorry that over the years she had developed a kind of sixth sense that wasn't supernatural, but rather came from being trained to expect the blow to come? That she'd learned to read people from having to divine his mood from the least gesture? Sorry that she spent years living with her nerves outside of her skin?
"Just leave, Methos."
He couldn't stand looking into those eyes anymore (hurt, angry, but nonetheless, the envy of emeralds--priceless). He hastily folded the sandwich up in the wax paper and stood, shoving it into his coat pocket. He wasn't sure what he had believed that he would accomplish, but there was something that he'd gained, besides the sandwich.
"Cassandra...we will...run into one another again. The world's a small place for us...it's inevitable."
"It was thousands of years, before."
He nodded, turned, and walked away. That look. Over three thousand years, and it had not changed--fear, apprehension--and hatred. She had been right. She never loved him. There was compliance, acceptance, a balance achieved between them, but he knew. Even when it had felt good--he knew, when he got that look from her. When he had grown sickened of the life he knew with the Horsemen he needed that look of hatred and fear to remind himself of what he was. It pleased him then. Now, it reminded him of what he had been and hurt like hell.
He'd needed that.
MWC: Bleak Be The Winter
Posted By: bookmom, waving to all those who wanted more ...
Date: Monday, 29 April 2002, at 3:09 p.m.
Connor put the last of the dried meat in a pouch wrapping it securely. He surveyed the neat bundles stacked under their stone housings.
“Duncan’s tribe will surely welcome this bounty,” he thought putting it with the others.
Thinking of Duncan, Connor realized it was later than he thought. His kinsman should’ve been back by now. An irrational fear gripped him. They had gotten into a routine and whoever checked the trap lines always returned just after noon if they were full and Connor had expected them to be full.
“He’s probably just fallen asleep. Dinna fash yourself, Connor,” he admonished. But his words sounded hollow in the little clearing.
He hesitated to start another task just in case. “Just in case what … ?” his
little voice asked him. Just in case … he didn’t know, but something was
driving him to find out.
Connor quickly saddled his chestnut gelding and pointed his nose towards their secondary camp.
He slowed his mount as he entered the camp’s perimeter. Connor’s fear turned to dread. His instincts had been right. There was evidence of a scuffle. Duncan had been taken by surprise by somebody. A half- eaten rabbit still remained on the spit. Bones littered the ground and the billy can had been knocked over.
Connor studied the ground looking for clues. His kinsman had struggled with someone a lot bigger than himself. He could see Duncan’s soft imprints twisting and turning with large heavy booted ones. He picked up two coffee cups. It also appeared that this who ever it was had shared his meal!
And … dear God, his spear! Connor pulled it out of the ground grunting with the effort. The dread gripping his heart slid like a cold rock to the pit of his stomach.
“Who or what in God’s name would have driven him to hurl his spear with such force and then leave it here?” he wondered.
It took no great effort to see which way Duncan had gone. West. At a full
gallop. “Dear God,
no …” It came out as a harsh whisper. Connor slid the spear beside his sword and mounted up. He had heard talk of the U.S. Army routing out the Indians on his way out here, but this was so out in the middle of nowhere. He hoped he was wrong. He had to be wrong.
He urged his horse to give just a little bit more. The fifteen miles that had taken Duncan most of a day to travel at a leisurely pace took Connor less time than he thought. Some parts of the forest slowed him down and he cursed the low branches and fallen logs that appeared as if out of nowhere. He also had to take care he was following the right path. It wouldn’t do to get lost here.
Finally he reached the settlement. Duncan’s skewbald whickered a greeting. He slid off his horse in absolute shock leaving the reins trailing in the grass.
Bodies lay canted and broken everywhere. Young, old, they had all been brutally murdered. He was transported back just over a hundred years to another time and place where innocent people just trying to live their lives had also been brutally murdered. They too had suffered for who they were.
Connor remembered Duncan’s rage back then. He had slaughtered as many English as he could. God help the Blue Coats now. They had no idea who they were dealing with.
A lone figure rocked slowly back and forth, the body of a woman filled his arms. Tears stung Connor’s eyes and he wiped them away angrily. If he were to be of any use to Duncan he would have to be strong, but overwhelming grief and anger welled up inside him. He let the tears fall silently down his cheeks.
He cried for the tribe. He cried for the senseless waste of human life. But most of all he cried for Duncan. The man had been so undeniably happy. He had all the things he had ever wished for. Duncan had described it one night when all the work for the day had been done and they were lounging under the stars sipping from the fine bottle of single malt Connor had brought.
“Do you remember the wonderful feeling of being a part of the Clan, Connor? I don’t mean just the part where we all worked our asses off to bring in the harvest or tend the sheep. I mean the times when we all worked together to build a croft or rescue some errant sheep from a bog. Or the times when our mothers made soup for the sick or clothes for the new babes?”
Connor closed his eyes and remembered.
“Do you remember the Gatherings? Days and nights filled with laughter, singing and dancing?”
“You forgot the wine, women and fighting, Dhonnchaidh.” Connor passed the bottle back.
Duncan took another swig of whisky. “That’s what it’s like Connor. The language may be different. The land may be different, but ultimately it’s the same.”
“And this time, he has a wife and child,” added Connor silently. “Something fate has never gifted Duncan with before.”
A soft keening brought Connor back to the present. He wiped his eyes once more and took a deep breath. He walked slowly towards Duncan trying not to see the carnage all around him.
Connor knew Duncan was in a bad way when there was no reaction to his presence. “I’m here Duncan.” Connor didn’t know what else to say. He wasn’t sure Duncan was aware of him. He walked over and put his hand comfortingly on his kinsman’s neck and knelt down.
Duncan continued to rock his dead wife, and then said in a voice that was almost unrecognizable; “She knew all the name’s of the grasses … the wild flowers. The songs that told of where her people came from … how they lived … what they believed in.”
Duncan’s shoulders shook as he tried to contain his grief.
“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry,” said Connor leaning his head into Duncan’s.
It had been more than an hour and still Duncan gave no sign of giving up his burden.
“It will be dark soon, Dhonnchaidh. Let’s bury her. I’ll help you dig.”
“Pyre.” Connor didn’t know one word could hold such emotion.
He had to help Duncan stand. He had been kneeling in the same spot for hours now. Thank God for Immortal healing. He just wished it could do the same for his heart.
Duncan laid Little Deer gently on their pallet in what was left of their tipi.
“You prepare her, I’ll go and gather the wood,” offered Connor.
Their eyes met for the first time and Connor realized what Duncan still had to do. The pain he saw was almost too much to bear.
“I’ll stay with her,” whispered Connor.
It didn’t take long for Duncan to find Kahani. Mercifully he and the other boys playing by the stream had died a quick death. Duncan cradled his son to his breast and brought him home. Together they washed Duncan’s family and wrapped them in the softest doeskin.
Connor was glad that the work gave Duncan something to focus on. He hadn’t said more than those two words since his breakdown earlier, but Connor knew the cost of this tragedy was high. Duncan’s anger was growing steadily and another outburst might help to release his grief. But it was not to be. Tight lipped, Duncan chopped wood with a ferocity that almost scared his kinsman.
When the pyre was finished Connor stood by his brother. The flames were bright against the night sky. Connor hoped they wouldn’t bring the soldiers back.
“Do you think we ever lived like this,” he asked. “Like a tribe with a common language … a reason, a name for each living thing? Did our people once belong somewhere … a time … a place however briefly?”
There was no answer and Connor expected none.
In the cold light of dawn Duncan changed from his buckskins back into the clothes that had brought him here. It was with a ruthless precision that he pulled on his boots and gathered his meager belongings.
“I’ll go with you, Duncan.”
His kinsman fixed him with a frigid stare. “This is not your fight. Kern is mine.”
“At least let me help you track him.”
“No.” The word was said with a finality that sent shivers down Connor’s spine.
He watched the closest thing he had to family ride away in a cold fury. Kern was a dead man living on borrowed time.
A skewbald is a white horse with brown patches.
Dhonnchaidh: literally dark warrior or Duncan in Gaelic