The Highlander Holy Ground 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.
The Challenge by Leah CWPack
Shelter From the Storm by vixen69
In Duncan’s Cabin by Ysanne
Snow Problem by Wain
Snow by Jeanne Rose
Frozen in Time by celticangel
MID-WEEK CHALLENGE: S'NOW PROBLEM
Your challenge, should you decide to participate:
Write a story, scene or poem. The theme should center around a blizzard, and include at least one Immortal character. Any mood will do.
MWC--Shelter from the Storm
Posted By: vixen69 <email@example.com>
Date: Wednesday, 27 December 2000, at 11:28 p.m.
Dark little mood I'm in of late. Sense of humor's back, though. Enjoy. Horsemen story--so, violence implied. Boys behaving badly, you know.
MWC—Shelter from the Storm
The storm almost seemed to come out of a clear sky—it happened so quickly. The day had been cold, yet clear, with not even a cloud to tell the tale, but Silas had squinted up at the moon the night before and claimed there was a ring around it—certainly sign of a rough one on the way. The others had scoffed, and now found themselves eating their words—or rather, Methos and Kronos ate their words—Caspian had the last bit of the horsemeat, which the others were in no way inclined towards. It had been rather good—some days before, but lacking for salt…safe to say, improperly jerked horsemeat is not a thing one needs to go into detail about. Between complaints about the taste, and continued chewing, Caspian made guesses as to which part of Silas’ anatomy the storm was pulled out of as they hastened in the direction Methos had pointed. He claimed to know this terrain well enough to know there were caves in what seemed like an anomalous rock outcropping in the midst of the plain. And so they were struggling across the whitening field as the sun crept down on the slim faith that the man actually knew what he was talking about. However, it beat the alternative—pitching camp as the winds swirled around them and the snow threatened to bury them.
This had not been a particularly good winter.
“There—you can see the opening, it’s a short drop down—or I think it was,” Methos offered.
“And exactly * how * long ago was it you’d last been here, Brother?” Kronos inquired, making conversation being preferable to listening to his teeth chatter.
Methos paused, closed his eyes, and turned his face skywards. The sun was in the sign of the bull, and it was not four, five years past the eclipse that preceded the samana infestation, so that had to have been…
“About three hundred years ago—I think. This used to be a burial place for the Kirmani.”
“What happened to them?” Caspian asked.
“Wasn’t anyone left to bury them…after I got here.” He peeked into opening—and threw in a fistful of horse bones, listening. No rustle of animal feet answered, nor any other unpleasant sound. He smiled. “This should be fine.”
“I’m not staying the night in a tomb,” Silas said, resolutely.
“They didn’t really bury the bodies in the caves—they just saved…certain parts.” This got Caspian’s attention. Not caring to go into detail about the burial habits of a long-dead people, Methos entered the cave, kicking stones out of his way, and then, they heard a loud, startled sound.
“Yes, there * was * a short drop down…”
A fire was lit, and then the others paused to get a good look at their surroundings—the walls of the cave were decorated with some figures of what seemed to be warriors facing a battle against a large, oddly-shaped enemy. Methos shrugged. “Not exactly the quality of the artisans of Jericho.” He reached into a pouch until he found what he was looking for—an alabaster vial of woad. He picked a twig up from near the fire and proceeded to add large genitalia and horns to the figures. Kronos smiled, and after surveying Methos’ handiwork for awhile, handed over the kohl he used for his own war-paint.
“The Horsemen were here—should we add that?”
Methos shook his head. “There would be an interesting posterity.”
Caspian lost interest in the drawings after a short look about, and then sat himself by the fire. He took out a stone, and proceeded to sharpen his sword. Silas, bored, curled up in a corner, and drifted to sleep. And, not long after, began to snore, loudly, and with some murmuring noises. Caspian stared at him, at first merely irritated, but the irritation was growing with every breath.
“I imagine the rest of us won’t see any rest with that racket.”
Kronos glimpsed over, having barely noticed the sound until just then. “He’ll stop.” He went back to creating a picturesque scene involving a warrior and a stag and a spear…and then he really listened. It was irritating and loud. What if he did want some sleep? After all, they would be traveling again on the morrow, weather permitting. “Kick him. Roll him over.” He shrugged.
Caspian continued glaring. He did not feel that he necessarily needed to kick the man to make him stop—but he desperately wanted to. He rose, after a careful deliberation of where he should kick him, and then delivered a boot to Silas’ rear. There was one great * honk * of breath, some smacking noises—and silence. He didn’t wake, but he no longer snored. There was relief.
“I imagine we should retire, ourselves. Perhaps our storm-predictor has the right idea,” Kronos then suggested.
Methos sighed. “Perhaps. I do recall, just mere miles further on, there had been a village—untouched. We may find a place to ride out the remainder of this wretched season. Build our resources—plan our next move.” The idea of arriving at a village and spending a peaceful few months did not seem like such a horrible idea compared to the wanderings they experienced recently. And he was also beginning to feel sleepy, and in need of rest. “I just want to finish this.” He gestured to a very rough scene—of four men on horseback. Kronos nodded, and then took a place by the fire. He leaned back, watching, but soon turned to watch the fire, and let the flames lull him to sleep.
Once they all had laid themselves to rest, the snoring began anew. Kronos woke first, and stared across the somewhat lowered flames at the peaceful figure of Silas, making a horrendous din. The others seemed to sleep on—and that was a thing not to be borne. He hissed, in no particular direction.
“Does no one else hear that?”
Caspian popped open one eye—“That? That seems to have gone on long enough.” He shifted position, from laying to sitting. “What do you say—Methos?”
Methos rolled over. He considered his options. He could pretend to still be deeply asleep—so asleep he was in no way inclined to wake, thus showing his lack of concern about the whole snoring issue. He could inform them that their talking was far more irritating than the snoring, which would only create an argument, which he had no interest in. Or he could do what he then did. He sat up, and turned to look at Silas. Despite being truly loud, he appeared quite peaceful. “I have no idea what to do about it.”
“I do,” Kronos then announced, gruffly, pulling himself to his feet. Caspian followed. Each took an end of the large man, and just gently enough so as not to wake him, but with some considerable force, they lifted him. “Are you helping?”
Methos shook his head. Poor Silas. The man simply was a hard sleeper—but he had it coming.
They managed to lift him over the bump, and guided him out the opening, and then Methos’ eye couldn’t track exactly where they dragged him—he heard the man wake. There was a yell, but then, silence. And smiling, the two others returned.
“He * will * wake up, you know,” Methos said, not daring to contemplate what they actually did.
“No, he won’t,” Kronos responded, with a very familiar twinkle in his eye.
What had happened dawned on Methos then, and he responded. “Well, he won’t be especially happy when he…thaws out.”
“No, he won’t,” Kronos answered. He lay down again, quite satisfied.
“Whatever happened to never raising a sword against one another?” Methos asked then.
“I used a * knife * , Brother—it wasn’t a sword.”
Methos considered the statement. Well, it was true. And it did make for a much more peaceful sleeping environment, with him outside. He looked up to see the flakes still coming down, lit by the moon.
There would be a * time * digging him out of the snow in the morning.
MWC: In Duncan's Cabin
Posted By: Ysanne
Date: Thursday, 28 December 2000, at 4:03 p.m.
(To the tune of "Let It Snow")
Oh the weather outside is awful,
So I guess I'll make a waffle.
Oops, where did the power go?
Must be snow, all that snow, lovely snow.
It doesn't show signs of stopping,
And I've got some corn for popping,
But the generator's way too low...
Must be snow, drifting snow, too much snow.
Why don't I simply say goodnight?
Well, the blanket's electrical, too,
And Amanda's with Nick tonight,
So my little toes would turn blue.
Now the fire is slowly waning
And I wish it were just raining!
Oh, why won't the blizzard go?
Stop the snow! Lousy snow! Stupid snow!
MWC: Snow Problem
Posted By: Wain (who's learned the muse doesn't like sofa beds
Date: Friday, 29 December 2000, at 6:55 p.m.
The elevator to the loft ground to a start and the presence of another immortal snapped Duncan MacLeod to attention. He relaxed as he recognized Richie’s hair, face, torso, and legs rise beyond the wooden slats of the elevator door, and turned back to setting plates and glasses on the low wooden table.
“I closed the dojo up early, Mac,” Richie announced. “Everybody went home anyway because of the snow. I’ll finish up the books tomorrow. I couldn’t finish them today. Spent the whole afternoon mopping up the foyer. You won’t believe how much stuff those guys tracked in.” Duncan smiled to himself as he straightened two linen napkins and adjusted silverware. He was pleased who Richie had grown into maturity that would compel him to mop up without being told, when such a short time ago Richie himself would have been the one leaving wet, muddy footprints on the floor.
Richie opened the doors of an antique wardrobe to expose the television inside and rooted around for the remote control before flopping himself on the leather couch and propping his sneakers on the armrest. “Shoes,” MacLeod scolded, and Richie scrunched further down the couch to dangle his feet off the end of the armrest. Well, he’s still only twenty-one; there’s lots of time to smooth out the rough edges, Duncan thought.
“Look at that snow!” Richie pointed to the screen with the remote. “They say this is the biggest blizzard in twenty years. Man, I hate snow.”
“Hungry, Rich?” the older Immortal asked.
Richie never took his eyes from the television. “Starved. Thanks for asking.”
At the clink of a third place being set on the low table, Richie asked, “So who’s coming for dinner, and what’s to eat?”
“Amanda. And I don’t know.” Duncan answered as he pulled a third cushion up to the table.
Now Richie sat up and faced his teacher with a look of concern. “Mac, you’re not like, actually gonna let her cook, are you?”
A squeal from the young blonde television reporter drew both of them back to the live weather report.
“Look, Mac, her eyes are watering and her scarf is frozen to her hair. I wonder what that feels like,” mused Richie.
Exasperated, Duncan replied, “Why sit inside and watch it on TV when you can go outside and experience it?”
Richie’s answer was interrupted by the sensation of another Immortal. The outside door banged open and Amanda caroled, “I’m back with dinner. I love it when it snows!”
The howling wind blew snow in around her and her coat was dusted with flakes that melted and sparkled like diamonds. She dropped a suspiciously empty-looking plastic grocery bag on the counter, and a bag of marshmallows slithered out. She shed her coat and unzipped her boots.
“You went to the grocery store in a blizzard dressed like that.” Richie eyed her miniskirt.
It wasn’t a question, but Amanda answered anyway. “The better to talk someone into letting me have the last loaf of bread or gallon of milk in the store, my dear.”
“Did you?” asked Duncan.
Amanda pouted. “No. Some old grump grabbed the last two gallons and sprinted for the cashier. So there’s no hot chocolate, but,” she brightened, “we can toast marshmallows.”
The lights and television flickered and went out. Duncan moved through the darkened room effortlessly and rooted for matches in a kitchen drawer. He began to light candles, and Richie groaned, “Man, I hate when it snows!”
Duncan reminded Amanda, “There’s no fireplace here, and we’re fresh out of green sticks. How are we going to toast marshmallows?”
“With candles and coat hangers.” She flashed him a brilliant smile. “Pretty please?”
The grump in the grocery store may have been immune to Amanda’s charms, but Duncan was not. He sighed and went off to rummage for coat hangers and something to cut them with. When he returned, Richie and Amanda were seated on the cushions surrounding the low table, and Amanda was serving marshmallows with a flourish.
The three immortals threaded marshmallows onto their coat hanger skewers and began to toast them over the flames.
“Is this what it was like in the old days?” Richie asked, “Candles and no TV and sitting around? I guess it’s supposed to be kind of romantic or something.”
“Except for the smell,” Amanda said. “They sewed you into your underwear in November and left you that way until spring.”
“Ew!” Richie exclaimed. He stopped twirling his marshmallows and added, “Please tell me you guys are kidding.” Duncan and Amanda shared a conspiratorial smile.
“And everyone ate cabbage and onions and salted meat,” Duncan said, “and the lamps burned tallow . . . animal fat, Rich . . . which stinks like nobody’s business. But you could hardly tell, because nobody ever really took a bath more than once or twice a year.”
“Here’s to hot running water!” Amanda raised her marshmallows in a toast.
“And then there’s always freezing to death.” Duncan grinned; he was warming up to the topic now.
“Been there, done that.” Amanda chimed in.
Richie’s jaw dropped. “You mean frozen, like frozen solid? Until you thawed out, at least you’d be safe from some other Immortal, unless he got hold of some sort of giant Ginzu knife.” Richie paused, then added, “I don’t get it, Amanda. No hot water back then, no heat. How come you like this weather so much, and what good could snow possibly have been before the invention of, you know, school and snow days and stuff?”
Amanda stared into the flame of the candle and lost herself in memories. In point of fact, Amanda hadn’t liked winter at all during her mortal life. Being without home and family wasn’t too hard in the warm weather, but winter brought chilblains and the grippe and, as the harvest stores were eventually depleted, hunger. The need to survive had driven her to theft and even to trade her body for food and a warm place to sleep. Standing in the courtyard of Rebecca’s castle, the memory of those desperate measures made Amanda shiver even more than the penetrating winter wind did. Maybe if the men had been handsome or kind she wouldn’t have minded so much, but Amanda knew that it would take far more than food and shelter to drive her to those ends again. She would much rather steal.
Since Rebecca found her and became her teacher, such thoughts had been far from Amanda’s mind. In the past three years, Rebecca had taught her how to act like a lady, how to fight, how to read letters and words and whole books, how to coax her recalcitrant fingers around a quill and master writing. And Amanda had accepted the difficult challenges of her new life more joyfully that she had ever imagined possible.
It wasn’t until yesterday that Amanda began to remember her mortal existence and its crushing misery. Yesterday, when Rebecca told her it was time to leave. Amanda had stood before her disbelieving, winded and breathing hard but not from their training session, and protested that she could not go. Rebecca had been insistent.
But today, Amanda’s hopes soared as she look at the lowering sky to the west and caught the faint metallic scent of snow in the air. She rushed inside and searched out her teacher.
“It’s going to snow!” Amanda told her breathlessly. “Perhaps today is not a good day to begin my journey after all. I could stay until spring, and then the weather will be better!”
Rebecca smiled and chided Amanda gently. “If you wait for all the signs to be right, then you will begin nothing in life. Today is the day for you to begin this part of your journey, dear.”
Amanda knew that there was no postponing her departure. After three years together, she could sense the strength behind Rebecca’s gentle demeanor. To have survived this long in the game, Rebecca had to be strong, even had to kill, although Amanda doubted she herself ever could. When the time to leave came, Amanda tried to sit tall and elegant on her horse the way Rebecca did and headed down the road to Paris, a good large town for her to begin her new life. She pulled her cloak tighter against the wind, turning to wave farewell to Rebecca. As she did so, she felt the crystal necklace resting against her chest. Rebecca had given her some clothing, a horse, supplies, and a few coins to help Amanda start a new life and the crystal to remind her of the time they had spent together.
Paris was a larger town than Amanda had ever seen before. She moved into an inn and set about meeting people and establishing her new life. In her mortal life, she had been alone and homeless. Now she might become a weaver or a baker. In a few more lifetimes, she might even be a fine lady like Rebecca.
Her hopes for a new life ended abruptly one market day with the piercing sensation of another Immortal’s presence. Putting her basket aside, she searched the crowd, her eyes resting on those of a tall man across the market square. Brief recognition flared there, then he broke into a mirthless predatory grin. Amanda felt under her cloak for her sword; it was there, but could she fight this massive man?
A horse passed between them, blocking their view of each other, and Amanda turned and ran. She stopped at the inn only long enough to change into riding breeches and collect her horse. Without further thought, she fled toward the safety of Rebecca’s castle. She rode as long as she dared, hiding in thickets and woods when the horse tired, yet always the other Immortal found her. Rebecca had told her that Immortals could always sense each other’s presence. It frightened Amanda to think that this strange Immortal might possess stronger powers than hers and sense her over a greater distance.
She rode through the night, the full moon’s light blocked by clouds that drifted a light coating of snow on the countryside. Thankfully, the wind scattered the snow so that Amanda left little trail behind her. When she arrived at Rebecca’s, exhausted and frightened, she spilled out her story and was shocked to be denied sanctuary.
“Will you always run away?” Rebecca had demanded, and she looked down at Amanda’s pursuer, clad in a Norman helmet and chain mail. Then her voice softened as she counseled Amanda to choose her ground and fight. “You’re more than good enough,” were her last words of advice.
Time seemed to slow down as Amanda met the chain-mailed warrior on a grassy slope just outside the castle wall. She had never fought any Immortal before except Rebecca, and then only for practice. Her opponent had the advantage of height and longer arms. How can I fight someone bigger than me? she asked herself. Rebecca’s lessons echoed in her mind and guided her movements: Because you’re lighter and quicker and far more clever. Put your left hand on the unsharpened part of the blade over the hilt, here, and spin inside his guard. But a tiny voice inside her asked whether she really could fight this warrior. The two Immortals fought furiously for a few minutes, Amanda striving to hear Rebecca’s voice and not her own doubting one, and then the helmeted man cuffed her with the pommel of his sword. Dizzy, Amanda fought for balance and staggered back against the castle wall. Doubt and fear crowded her thoughts. I was foolish to think I could kill anyone, especially a warrior like this one.
Amanda thought of how sad her teacher would be to see her die here, and reached up to touch the crystal at her neck. The Immortal man saw Amanda’s hand graze her neck, and he grinned. Amanda’s sword hung at her side, but he didn’t bother to knock it away; his was so much longer, and he stood just outside her reach. Again that predatory smile, and his pupils dilated as he idly whipped the tip of his sword against her left arm, then her right, droplets of blood splattering the wall behind her in wide arcs. Amanda risked a glance up the castle wall to where Rebecca stood and whispered her name and an apology.
For the first time, Amanda heard her opponent speak as he lifted her chin with the tip of his sword and laughed. “When I’m done with you, I’ll have . . . what was her name? . . . Rebecca, too.” Warrior? I thought this was a warrior? He’s a contemptible bully. And I’ve wasted all that Rebecca gave me by allowing doubt to win the battle for him. He raised his sword for the killing blow, stopped to laugh at her once again and, suddenly, slipped and fell to the ground, his sword clattering down to the base of the wall.
Amanda’s hand tightened on the hilt of her sword, and the realization dawned on her. She had stolen to survive; she had prostituted herself to survive; she had picked up the remnants of her mortal life and remade herself to survive; she knew now that she could kill to survive--and to protect.
“You leave Rebecca alone!” she shrieked, and struck the Immortal warrior’s head from his shoulders.
“So, Amanda, what happened?” Richie asked her for a second time.
Amanda blinked, shook herself slightly, and made a fuss of worrying a bit of marshmallow clinging to her coat hanger. “He slipped on a the snow and fell,” she answered with a flat, somber voice.
Amanda distracted herself by retrieving the plastic bag of groceries on the kitchen counter. She almost succeeded in banishing her memories, but the set of her shoulders told Duncan that she had not. She returned and emptied the bag on the table: crackers, a wedge of brie cheese, and a jar of caviar.
Richie looked up, stunned, and asked, “This is it? I thought you were going to take care of dinner!”
“I did, silly boy,” Amanda reproved him. “You didn’t think I was going to cook, did you?”
MWC - "Snow"
Posted By: Jeanne Rose
Date: Thursday, 28 December 2000, at 2:15 p.m.
Some of you may recognize this as something I started a long time ago. When I saw Leah's challenge, I tried to think of another direction to go with a blizzard, but this one kept coming back to me. So perhaps I will try to finish it!
* * *
Connor was losing track of how many times he had frozen to death. His brain was much too cold to count past twenty. At least the blizzard winds that kept hurling stinging snow in his face and filling his ears with their unearthly howling had finally died down again.
He'd been miserably cold plenty of times before and had always thought that dying of it would be pretty simple. You just got colder and colder until finally your blood froze, and you died. But as it turned out, there was a fascinating sequence of events that came before the blood-freezing part. For instance, now he was starting to feel sleepy and absurdly happy. Soon the hallucinations would begin.
This time he hoped it wouldn't be bears. Or the sensation that his clothes were filled with rocks, weighing him down. The first time he had revived nearly naked in the snow, and had to follow his own trail backwards to retrieve all of his clothes. After that he's had spent half a morning tying the strings around his clothes and furs and boots into impossible knots so that he wouldn't be able to take them off. But he would still prefer that over bears.
And in spite of his precautions, he'd lost his sword about three deaths ago. It had just seemed too heavy to carry, and he'd left it lying in the snow somewhere. When he came back to life he had tried to go back and look for it, but another blizzard had come up and made the search impossible.
The loss bothered him terribly, although occasionally he couldn't remember why. Roddy Kesler was doubtless just as lost in this winter hell as he was. And maybe it was better this way. After another twenty deaths like this he might be tempted to take his own head.
Stubbornly he made himself put one foot in front of the other, even though he hardly knew where he was going. It was still snowing too thickly to see more than a few yards ahead, let alone what part of the sky the sun was in. He had no idea where he was, unless you counted what continent he was on, but he hadn't worried much about it for quite some time. Unless he had wandered all the way to Alaska or the world had plunged into another ice age, spring would eventually return and melt this snow into submission. If he just kept going, somehow he would find a way to get warm again.
The tree in front of him refused to budge. He tried to move around it, but it was hemmed in too close to the next one, and the next one as well. Finally he realized it wasn't a thicket. It was a cabin.
He found a door, and a latch. It was dark inside, and not much warmer than outside, but all at once he determined that he had frozen to death for the last time.
* * *
A spark glowed in the tinder, and he blew on it carefully until a tiny flame licked out. He placed it in the nest he had built in the belly of the stove, and fed it blessedly dry little splinters, then sticks, and finally a small branch or two. The heat spread over his hands and face, as welcome as a lover's touch. Then his head filled with the rushing sense of another immortal.
Maybe Roddy wasn't lost after all.
He didn't have a sword, but there was only one door. He crept up beside it and heard someone lift the latch. He didn't have much strength left – he probably only had one chance.
A shapeless bundle of a man moved cautiously through the door, and a sword glinted with reflected firelight. Connor lunged at the man, forcing the sword away from him, but an arm hooked around his neck and he was dragged backward, gasping.
"Who are you?" a voice rasped in his ear. Not Roddy. He knew at once that he should recognize it, but it took a moment before a name came to his cracked lips.
His clansman loosed him abruptly, and he staggered as his head swam. The light of his new little fire flickered across Duncan's astonished face.
"Connor? What are ye' doing here?"
The tentative map in Connor's head did an astonishing flip-flop. This was Duncan's cabin? Just what range of mountains had he come over?
"Trying not to die again," he answered finally. "I hope you don't mind."
Duncan lowered his sword. At least he was carrying it. "But the path is unmarked. How did ye' get here?"
Connor cocked his head back toward the peaks he had come from. "The long way."
"Are you crazy? With these blizzards howling like a hundred wolves?"
"Believe me, it wasn't on purpose. Would you please close that door – it took me a lot of work to get this fire lit."
Duncan closed the door and began shedding his furs and bundles. From the look of them Connor guessed that he had been out hunting. He turned back to the stove to make sure his fire would survive the disturbance, and then picked up Duncan's sword and began using it on the hopeless knots in his outer clothing.
Duncan looked at him sharply. "Where's your sword?"
"I lost it in the snow somewhere. I'll have to go back and look for it when the weather clears."
Duncan snorted. "You may be here for a while then." If he remembered Connor's long-ago, oft-repeated lectures about the fate of an immortal foolish enough to misplace his sword, he gave no sign.
The stove quickly warmed the small cabin, and Connor found himself shivering violently as warmth finally began to seep back into his bones. Duncan eyed him wordlessly and threw him a thick wool blanket. He wrapped it gratefully around his shoulders.
As soon as he began to get warm Connor realized that he was terribly hungry. He had exhausted his supplies some time ago and had only avoided starving to death because the cold always got him first. Duncan heated water for tea and handed him a chunk of smoked venison and some hard tack. It tasted as good as anything he had ever eaten.
With the comfort of warmth and nourishment he began to shake off the lethargy of weeks of mindless wandering and dying. He looked around the cabin with newly awakened curiosity. It had been Duncan's home for nearly a year now – his personal refuge from the killing, from the game, built on holy ground. Connor's eye picked up a few relics of Little Deer and her people, the only hints of color or beauty in the room.
Duncan's vulnerable eyes intercepted his gaze.
Connor cleared his throat. "It looks like you're doing well here."
"I have everything I need."
He turned away, and Connor let the matter rest. He had no intention of opening up that argument again – not yet. But he noticed for the first time that though Duncan was speaking English, his Scottish brogue was as thick as ever. Probably the result of so much time alone, with only himself and the woods to talk to.
That might change very soon, if Roddy had kept his bearing better than Connor had, or at least had the good sense to hole up somewhere when the blizzards struck. But perhaps this was not the best time to tell Duncan about it.
Connor spent the evening respecting Duncan's silence and sitting as close to the stove as he could. He kept the fire burning bright and hot, adding another log every time it threatened to settle down to embers, until Duncan began to glare at him. No doubt he was thinking of the effort it had taken to chop it all.
Connor shrugged and promised himself he'd replenish the supply. He never wanted to be cold again. He wondered if he might enjoy living in the Sahara for a while, or maybe the jungles of Africa. Or perhaps the south of France?
He started out of a doze when Duncan tossed a pile of furs on the floor next to him. "Ye can sleep there, if ye like. Just try to keep from catching fire. Burning to death is quicker than freezing, but it hurts a lot more."
Connor nodded and crawled into the soft heap with a sigh at the blessed luxury of sleeping warm and dry and fed, surrendering peacefully to the darkness for the first time he could remember in weeks.
To be continued . . .
Connor dreamed of snow. Soft, deep, cold, smothering snow, in drifts so high he floundered trying to dig his way through them. Roddy was getting away, his snowshoes leaving wide impressions in the drifts. Connor dug faster, but no matter how hard he tried, he couldn't keep up. Then Roddy's sword flashed in the air, and Connor looked up to see Duncan fall headless in the snow . . .
He awoke in a tangle of furs. Thin lines of light from the banked coals escaped from the hinges of the stove beside him. He remembered where he was. He took a few shaky breaths and began to untangle himself.
"Connor? S'that you?" Duncan's sleepy voice drifted from the bed.
"It's all right. I was just dreaming."
"‘Bout what? Being attacked by bears?"
Connor grunted, still fighting with the furs. At least it hadn't been that. "Just snow," he said. "Lots and lots of snow. I guess I died in it a few too many times lately."
Duncan grunted understanding, and his pallet creaked as he rolled over and settled in to sleep again.
Connor lay awake for some time. He had learned to pay attention to dreams - they often suggested possibilities he might otherwise have overlooked. Why had he dreamed that Roddy had killed Duncan instead of him?
Then he remembered just why he had been stalking Roddy Kesler, and felt the hair on his neck stand up. Roddy had already killed another of Connor's students - a mere boy not yet ready to fight. Confronted by an older immortal, Paul had taken refuge in a secluded cemetery. From what Connor had been able to piece together, it appeared that Roddy had shot him from a distance, dragged his body from holy ground, and taken his head.
To Connor's knowledge, no immortal had ever taken another's head on holy ground. But what Roddy had done came hair-splittingly close. Connor had no intention of allowing him to live. But what if he had unwittingly lead Roddy to Duncan's sanctuary?
He should probably tell Duncan first thing in the morning. But he seemed none too pleased that Connor had unwittingly invaded his self-imposed exile from the game. Finding out that Connor had lead another immortal to his sanctuary wasn't likely to improve Duncan's temper. Besides, Roddy was not Duncan's responsibility. If Connor could find Roddy and take his head, Duncan need never know.
Connor made himself stare into the darkness until he had a plan, and some hope that it would work. Then he closed his eyes again and let darkness take him.
* * *
The morning dawned clear. Connor stepped out of the cabin to answer nature's call into air glittering with tiny frozen particles under a pale, sharp sky. The cold froze his breath in his lungs and invaded his clothes like a relentless enemy. He finished his business as fast as was physically possible and hurried back into the cabin. Stirring up the fire to ward off the chill, Connor nearly abandoned his plans.
But he had learned a long time ago that there were worse things than dying.
He turned to his clansman. "Duncan, I need to ask a favor of you."
Duncan had ducked out to fill the kettle with snow and was setting it on the stove. "What?"
"I need to borrow your sword."
At that Duncan turned abruptly. "Why? This is holy ground. You'll be safe here."
"But I need to go out and look for mine. I don't want to go unprotected."
"In this cold? Have you lost your mind? The weather will turn soon enough. You can stay as long as need be."
"It's not that. I just - I feel naked without it. You know how it is."
"Connor, there aren't any other immortals or even any mortals for miles around here. Trust me, I've had a whole year to scout it out."
"Probably so, but they always seem to turn up unexpectedly."
Connor hesitated, realizing that if he pushed any further, Duncan might catch on that he was only telling part of the truth. But abruptly Duncan tired of the argument and thrust the hilt of his katana in Connor's direction.
"Go freeze a few more times then, if you've a mind to."
Connor took the hilt, bowing properly over it as if they were in Japan instead of this uncivilized wilderness, and Duncan, surprised, acknowledged the gesture grudgingly.
"And don't lose it like you lost yours," he added.
Connor couldn't help grinning slightly Duncan's parental tone. "I won't."
The snow had melted and soon the water began to boil in the kettle. Duncan dug into his tea canister, and Connor drank two cups to fortify him against the cold. He stuffed all the hardtack and venison that Duncan offered him into his satchel, not knowing how long he would be gone. Duncan said not a word more to him, but sat down with a pile of skins he was cutting into strips.
Wearily, before the lure of the cozy cabin got the better of him, Connor put on all his layers of clothing and furs again and stepped out into the bitter cold.
* * *
He spent the better part of the day scouting a perimeter around the cabin, wide enough to give him some warning if he saw that it had been crossed, but small enough that he could get around it in an hour or so, once he'd broken the trail. A thin wisp of smoke was visible at times from the cabin, though it was hard to distinguish from the high, windswept clouds.
Everywhere he went the virgin snow was unmarked by human footprints. It was waist deep and more in drifts between the trees, and the memory of his snowy nightmare hovered uneasily at the edges of Connor's mind. But the knowledge that food and fire and walls against the wind were only an hour or so away steeled him considerably against the wolf of winter in the air. He wondered how many times in his wandering he'd died for no other reason than that he simply gave up.
Hope didn't ward off frostbite, however, and his toes and fingers ached smartly by the time he met up with his own trail again.
The sun had nearly completed its low arch by the time he returned to the cabin. Stew bubbled from a large pot on the stove, its aroma enough to set Connor's stomach growling. Duncan was cooking biscuits on sticks over the coals.
After a few perfunctory questions about Connor's search, Duncan ladled the stew into bowls, and they ate together in silence.
Connor broke it, casually. "I remember when we first met. On the moors, in Scotland. You had the most insatiable appetite for conversation I'd ever seen. I didn't think you'd ever stop talking."
Duncan looked up at him. "What'd you expect? I'd been wandering alone for almost five years, no clan, no family. I didn't even know what I was."
Connor paused, looking around. "Well, now it looks like you've mastered the art of solitude."
Duncan looked away. "I've had three hundred years to learn."
"But you don't seem to have mastered peace."
There was a weighted silence. Connor waited, watching Duncan struggle with this presumptuous judgment.
Finally he sighed. "Connor, leave it alone. You're not my teacher any more. I have to work this out myself."
"I don't want to be your teacher. But I'm still your clansman, still your friend. Time doesn't heal everything. You should know that by now."
Duncan sighed again, his eyes deep and weary, shadowed with grief. "Time. Three hundred years. I've seen generations of men born, grow old, and die. I've seen wars, hatred, death - so much death. I feel like an old man, at the end of a long journey."
"But you're not at the end. Unless someone takes your head." Connor continued in a deadpan tone. "I suppose I could do it for you, if you want."
Duncan eyed him sharply. Connor grinned briefly, pleased.
"And what if you live four hundred years, or five hundred? Or a thousand? Do you want to spend them here, all alone with the past, with the ghosts of the people you've loved?"
There was a long silence before Duncan finally answered. "I don't know."
After supper Duncan sat beside the stove, melting bits of lead in a long spoon over the coals and pouring them into his bullet mold. Soon he had a row of shiny new bullets to put into his pouch. Then he cleaned his rifle, and greased his traps, and filled his powder horn. He left the rifle loaded on twin pegs beside the door.
Connor, who had no rifle or traps or even a sword to sharpen, spent the evening going through the half a dozen well-worn books he found stacked in a corner. Only one of them was new to him, written by a Frenchman who had apparently run off as a young man to seek his fortunes in the Congo.
After fifty pages Connor reconsidered the jungles of Africa as possible refuge from colder climates. Being immortal didn't help much if you were caught among headhunters.
He put the book down with a sigh and looked over at Duncan, who was now carving something out of a twisted piece of wood with a large knife, to all appearances perfectly content with the silence. It was a beautiful, knotted chunk of heartwood - but despite the shower of tiny shavings in Duncan's lap, Connor couldn't tell yet what kind of figure was supposed to be emerging. He withdrew his gaze before it drew his clansman's attention and threw a few more blocks of kindling into the stove. He sat back and sighed, remembering.
Duncan had been a fine student. And more than a student - a friend, a partner, almost a brother. Connor looked back at himself as he must have seemed to Duncan when they met - the grim, lone wolf, with enough decades under his belt to have accepted the loneliness of immortality. And Duncan, disowned and wandering but still a MacLeod in his heart - so young, naive, headstrong, full of life. Their years together had awakened something in Connor he'd thought dead with his mortality, or perhaps with Heather - the ability to laugh, to trust, to believe that the pleasure of living was worth the inevitable pain.
But their paths had diverged a great deal since then. Looking back he realized that Little Deer's death had been more to Duncan than just the loss of one more lover. When Connor had happened on him kneeling in the midst of his slaughtered tribe, rocking back and forth with her body in his arms, too stricken even for tears, he had remembered his own losses and thought he understood his kinsman's pain. But it was not like Duncan to retreat like this, to turn his back on his responsibility to the Game. Something had broken in him, leaving him drifting, hiding in this unpopulated wilderness.
Connor wished he could somehow give back the gift that Duncan had once given him - but he had to admit that he didn't have the first idea how to do it. Duncan was probably right. He'd have work it out on his own.
At length Duncan set the carving on the mantle, swept the shavings into the fire, and blew out the lantern. Connor settled himself again on his pile of furs beside the stove and found himself hoping that it wouldn't be long before he ran into Roddy Kesler.
* * *
But the next morning as he went around his perimeter, the surrounding snow was still unbroken. What if Roddy never came?
He knew it was still far too early to abandon his vigil. After a month, maybe two, he might start to feel more confident. He grunted with exertion in the biting cold and wondered if he could keep Duncan in the dark for that long.
Now that the path was broken, it only took till midmorning get around it. Satisfied that Roddy wasn't close enough to reach the cabin while he was gone, Connor set out to look for any trace of Roddy, and hopeless though it was, any trace of his sword.
He wasn't sure exactly which direction he had come from, since he hadn't known where he was at the time. But he had to have come over those craggy mountain peaks to the east, and there was only one likely-looking break that might form a pass - he headed toward it.
All traces of his passage were gone, of course, leaving him to break a new path through the deep, crusted snow. He could only guess at landmarks his blizzard-weary mind had managed to register – trees, slopes, pockets of meadow. He came on an enormous slab of rock thrust up from the ground – surely he would have remembered it, if he had seen it, but what if he had missed it by a hundred yards, or even ten, in the blowing storm?
Just when he was beginning to think he was on a hopeless quest, he found the breathtaking spectacle of a series of frozen waterfalls which he was certain he could not have crossed without dying memorably. The deep blue in the depths of the ice and the ponderous columns of falling water frozen in time made him stare in wonder for several minutes before he brought himself back to his task. The water falls would form a northern boundary for his search. Climbing up alongside it was exhausting, dangerous work, but some distance up he was rewarded with a clear view of the open space in which Duncan's cabin was nestled. Nothing whatsoever stirred in the snow-covered landscape.
But the bitter cold was settling into his bones again, burning his feet and hands and face, and he remembered quite clearly how relentlessly it would turn to the illusion of warmth and then to hallucinations and death. He made his way back to the cabin as quickly as he could, retracing his path through the snow-covered woods. Inside, he stirred up the fire and sat as close as he could to the stove without being burned, shivering again until warmth finally made its way through him. Duncan eyed him more than once or twice as if seriously questioning his good sense, but offered no commentary.
Connor slept in the afternoon and awoke restless. Duncan was busy stretching furs onto frames to dry, and once again looked quite capable of keeping himself busy into the candlelight hours. But there was still sunlight left, and the indoor woodpile was looking a little too lean for Connor's taste. He looked around for an axe.
Duncan nodded distractedly when Connor announced his intentions and went outside again. The woodpile lined the northern wall of the cabin, and was covered in snow drifts. Connor set to work on the end where the wind had blown away more of the snow, hauling blocks from the pile and splitting them into wedges.
He hadn't gotten far, however, before he discovered a hollow place between the blocks of wood. Had squirrels made a nest here? He pulled off a few more logs. An entire clan of squirrels, it would have to be. And then he saw a whole lot of brown, shaggy fur, and a paw with claws the size of . . . .
Quick as a wink he was back inside the cabin, heart pounding.
"Duncan, there's a bear in your woodpile!"
The first trace of amusement Connor had seen stole across Duncan's face. "That's Tsatcha. It was too warm for her in the cabin, so I made her a place in the wood pile."
Connor couldn't believe his ears. "You let a bear in your cabin?"
"She's just a yearling. Her mother was dead in a trap. I couldn't just leave her. What? It's not like she's going to tear my head off."
"Remember I told you I don't know if limbs grow back. Are you going to let her stay until she's grown?"
"Nah, I expect she'll wander off come spring."
Connor shook his head. It figured. A master of solitude indeed. Let Duncan retreat into the wilderness with no one else around for miles, and he started making friends with bears.
He went back outside and gingerly replaced the logs he had removed. It didn't look as if the bear had been disturbed. Hopefully it would stay that way.
He didn't much feel like splitting logs, but could hardly go back in and admit he was afraid of a hibernating yearling she-bear. By the time he finished, the wood pile inside the cabin was stacked to the rafters.
Duncan had heated the rest of the stew, and they ate together again in silence. It seemed more comfortable than it had before, and this time Connor made no attempt to break it with conversation.
After supper Duncan sat on the floor again with his carving, and he didn't seem to mind that Connor, having nothing better to do, sat by the stove and watched him. Tiny curled shavings collected one by one in Duncan's lap, and gradually the shape of a canoe emerged from a wooden pool of water, with a crude figure inside dipping his paddle into the swells. By the proportions, he guessed that it was a young man, or perhaps a boy. Even with only the rough outlines, however, Connor could sense the peace, the inner stillness of the figure in the canoe, at home and at one with the river and sky.
"You're very good," Connor observed finally.
Duncan shrugged. "All it takes is practice."
Connor rather doubted it. He looked around for more evidence of Duncan's earlier work, and didn't see any. But Duncan had apparently finished for the evening, for he stood and brushed the shavings into the fire, then laid the piece on the mantel. He banked the coals in the stove and turned out the lantern.
"Good night, Duncan."
Despite the comfort of furs and warm and darkness, Connor lay awake for a long time.
He awoke the next morning to find that Duncan had gone, taking his sword and rifle. Presumably he had gone out to hunt again. Forced into inactivity, Connor realized he had almost been looking forward to his daily trek through the snowy woodland.
But he had hardly roused the fire and heated water for tea when the sound of a rifle shot echoed sharply through the brittle air. Within half a minute the door swung open and Duncan ducked inside. "I've shot a moose. Come help me skin it and cut it up before it freezes."
Hurriedly Connor drank his tea and put on all his wraps. He followed Duncan for perhaps a quarter mile before he saw it. An enormous brown moose lay at the bottom of a slope. Duncan plowed through the deep snow on the edge of the slope, pulling out his knife. Connor hurried to his side, and pulled the skin back with gloved hands as Duncan sliced hurriedly sliced along the carcass.
"With this cold it will be a good, thick pelt," Connor noted.
Duncan nodded, and glanced around. "Have an eye out for wolves and foxes."
Steam curled off the carcass as the hide came away. The moose's blood froze
where it pooled in the snow - before long the meat would freeze solid as well.
It took both of them to get the hide out from under it, and then Duncan began
hastily scraping it while Connor cut away chunks of
meat and set them in the snow to freeze. Both of them glanced up every few seconds, half-expecting to see a hungry predator slinking over the ridge, attracted to the scent of their kill.
"You want the entrails?" Connor asked, when he'd taken all of the meat he could conveniently get.
Duncan looked back at the remaining moose parts. "Leave them for the scavengers," he said reluctantly. "We'll have all we can carry without them."
They loaded the chunks of meat on the hide and bound it to a straight young tree. They slung the ends of the pole over their shoulders and staggered to the top of the slope. Connor's hackles rose constantly as they made their way back to the cabin, certain that every thicket and snow drift hid a predator about to spring, but they arrived without incident..
Duncan lead the way to a small lean-to at the side of the cabin, where he hung the meat on pegs where it would freeze solid and stay fresh until he needed it. Then they dragged the huge, shaggy hide inside and stretched it out to dry.
Duncan surveyed it with satisfaction. "There. I'll wager you wouldn't freeze to death even in a blizzard with that on your back."
Connor had to agree. "As long you don't fall in a river and drown under the weight of it."
The moose had been hungry work, and Duncan set out some dried apples and hardtack and smoked venison, which they ate together in companionable silence. Then Connor took the sword and rifle and went out to make his own rounds.
He followed his perimeter quickly, then set out toward the pass. He didn't get too far past the waterfall when the waning light forced him to turn back. He began to rethink his decision to try to find Roddy on his own. Perhaps it would be best to simply wait at the cabin for spring. Working with Duncan on the moose had reestablished a fragile sense of camaraderie between them, like a ghost of their time in Scotland. Perhaps it would last a few months.
That night as Duncan scraped more tiny shavings from his carving, Connor was startled when his clansman suddenly asked him a question.
"Connor, have you ever met any of the really old immortals?"
Connor considered. "A few. Ramirez never told me how old he really was, but he was born in Egypt. I've crossed blades with one or two that might've taken my head but for a dose of good luck or the grace of God."
"Did you ever meet one named Darius?" There was something in Duncan's tone that sharpened Connor's attention. This was more than idle conversation.
"The priest who lives in Paris?" Duncan nodded. "I've heard of him. I've also heard some strange tales about him."
"The legends say he was a warrior until he took the head of a holy man," Duncan supplied. "Since then he has lived on holy ground, dedicated his life to peace."
"You know him?"
Duncan nodded. "He believes that killing is wrong."
"All killing? Even the game?"
"But peace at all costs means slavery or death. You know that. And what about protecting the lives of others?"
Duncan gestured absently with his carving knife. "I don't know. His words have such power. The kind of power truth has, if you can muster the faith to believe it."
"And you wanted to believe it. Is that why you came here, lived with the Lakota?"
Duncan nodded. "I was at peace with them. A kind of peace I've never known before. And then they were slaughtered like sheep."
Like the Scots at Culloden, Connor suddenly realized. This wasn't a new grief for Duncan.
"And I wanted to kill him, the man who lead the soldiers to them."
"But you didn't?"
"No. Another one found me. Another immortal, a man of peace. He took away the hatred, the anger . . . "
But not the pain, Connor thought. He considered his words carefully. "Sometimes, to stop the killing, you have to kill the killers. It's the way the world is."
"But not the way the world should be."
For that, Connor had no answer.
* * *
The door swung open and Duncan stalked in and stood, with snow melting on him. Connor stared at him wonderingly.
"You lied to me. You haven't been looking for your sword. You've been guarding me. Why?"
Connor looked up, startled. "What?" He thought he was prepared for Duncan's discovery of his subterfuge, but the raw anger in Duncan's voice took him by surprise.
"I saw your perimeter. Don't try to deny it. Who is it?"
"His name is Roddy Kesler. I was tracking him when I got caught in the blizzard."
"And you didn't think I could face him?"
"Duncan, I'm the one who lead him here. He's my responsibility."
"So you've been hunting him? I suppose he's one of the killers you were talking about. But if you kill him, what makes you any different?"
Connor allowed some of the ache in his heart to leak into his voice. "He killed a young man I knew. One of us. Shot him, dragged him from holy ground, took his head."
Duncan looked shocked in spite of himself. "Your student?" he asked.
"But, on holy ground . . . it's not possible."
"I wouldn't have said so either. But if such a man took the prize . . ."
"So you're going to kill him."
MWC - "Snow" part, uh, 5, sort of.
Posted By: Jeanne Rose
Date: Friday, 29 December 2000, at 6:20 p.m.
In Response To: MWC - "Snow" part 4 (Jeanne Rose)
There's just one piece of this that is just not coming to me. So rather than make you all suffer, here is the end.
Somehow or other, Roddy does show up at the cabin. He threatens to burn it down around them unless Connor comes off of holy ground to fight him. He has Connor's sword. Duncan isn't too pleased about it, but Connor goes.
* * *
The first few exchanges were cautious, both of them testing each other's skill and the uncertain terrain. Roddy's sword was an older, heavy, two-edged weapon - it took more energy to use and was less capable of finesse, but the impact jarred Connor's arms every time he parried a blow.
He managed a jab that drew blood from Roddy's shoulder.
Then the snow betrayed him. His foot slipped as he blocked a cut, and he felt the tip of Roddy's blade slide past his own and slice down his ribs and into the soft flesh of his belly. He felt warmth against his skin, and looked down expecting to see his guts spilling out, but so far there was only blood - a lot of it. He brought his sword up just in time to deflect a blow that would have taken off his head, and felt metal bite into his shoulder down to bone.
He cried out in pain and felt himself slipping into shock. He wasn't sure he could defend himself until wounds this deep could heal. Connor parried the next few blows with difficulty, feeling his head begin to swim from loss of blood. Then Roddy slipped past his guard and thrust the point of his sword between Connor's ribs.
He gasped and saw the snowy ground come up to meet him. He knew he didn't have the strength to rise but he tried anyway, seeing Duncan's horrified face floating against the snow-covered pines. After the quickening Duncan would have an advantage, if he took it. Would his clansman overcome his aversion to killing to avenge his teacher's death?
Then a strange chanting drifted into his ears, unexpected and ghostly. It was a lot like the hallucinations he'd had while freezing to death - but then he thought he saw Duncan standing in the snow, arms raised, eyes closed, swaying a little as if to a drum beat. He stared, wondering if it was real, but then his vision wavered. Snow burned against his face, and he choked on the blood filling his lungs. In a wash of agony, he felt his sword wrenched from his grasp and closed his eyes, waiting for the fatal blow.
Instead an unearthly roar shattered the stillness of the woods. Connor thought perhaps he was hallucinating again, but seconds passed and his head remained attached to his shoulders, so finally he forced his eyes open.
Something brown and shaggy and very large was bearing down on him - no, on Roddy Kesler. The big man had dropped Connor's sword and was running for his rifle. With the same certainty that he knew that he was about to die, Connor knew that Roddy wouldn't make it. The bear was almost on top of him. The rifle went off once, the report sharp in Connor's ears, but then the world went black, and he felt his heart falter, and stop.
* * *
Air seared into his lungs as his heart started again with a jolt and life flooded back through his icy limbs. For a moment there was only pain, astonishing and overwhelming, but then it began to fade, and he remembered who he was - Connor MacLeod, an immortal, an outcast, wandering through centuries, eternally locked in a struggle for the prize.
He opened his eyes and tried to sit up, wincing at the sharp protest from his still-healing chest and stomach. A strong arm helped him up. His vision blurred and then settled, and he realized that he was inside the cabin, lying on Duncan's bed. Bleeding all over Duncan's bed, in fact. Well, not bleeding any more. But the furs beneath him were crusty with drying blood. How long had he been dead?
"What happened?" His voice came out dry and hoarse, and Duncan handed him a tin cup filled with water. He sipped it gratefully.
"What did you see?" Duncan asked with a measured tone that made Connor look at him sharply. He sifted through hazy memories.
"I was about to lose my head when a bear came for Roddy. I suppose I could have been imagining things, but I'm still alive so something must have happened."
"You did see a bear. It was Tsatcha."
Connor looked at Duncan sideways. "That didn't look like a yearling she-bear to me. Besides, I thought you said she was hibernating."
"She still is. I checked the wood pile myself."
Connor shook his head, trying to clear his brain. "What are you saying? Was she there or not?"
"Yes and no."
Connor gave up. "Well, one way or another she saved my head." He chuckled a little. "I guess she doesn't know the rules of the game."
"Maybe not. But the Old Ones do. Roddy threatened us on Holy Ground. They have their ways of defending it."
Suddenly Connor realized what Duncan was driving at. And he remembered something else. "I heard chanting."
Duncan nodded calmly. "A prayer to the Old Ones. I guess they heard me."
Connor swung his feet to the ground very carefully - he felt only a twinge in his stomach. "What about Roddy?"
Duncan shrugged. "Last I saw he was high-tailing it back into the mountains with an angry bear on his heels. She may have killed him, but I doubt she took his head. But I don't think he'll be back, either. And maybe he's learned a lesson or two."
Connor stood up. Even the twinge was gone. "And maybe he hasn't. Duncan, I have to follow him."
Duncan turned to where Connor's sword lay on his work bench, cleaned and polished and sharpened. He bowed and held it out to Connor. "I know."
Connor bowed and accepted it wordlessly. He curled both hands around the hilt and suddenly felt whole again.
"And you'll need some new clothes, and food for the journey." Connor turned and saw a whole pile of winter necessities laid out neatly at the foot of the bed. "Fortunately we're pretty much the same size," Duncan added, while Connor stared in silence at the offering.
The trail would be cold by morning, and besides, Connor hated long leave-takings. He started stripping off his blood-crusted clothing. "And I thought you were getting used to my company."
"You're welcome any time, Connor. You know that."
Connor nodded. "I know."
Duncan nodded toward the woodpile. "At least you took your turn with the axe - and without you throwing another block on every five minutes, it ought to last at least a month."
Connor stopped in the act of pulling on a boot. "Have you ever frozen to death twenty times in a row?"
"I've never been dumb enough to try and track another immortal through a blizzard." Duncan grinned. "You know, I was afraid you were going to burn the cabin to the ground that first night."
Connor finished packing the supplies that Duncan had provided. He looked around again before going to the door. The unfinished carving on the mantel, a blue beaded necklace hanging over the bed, and outside, covered by snow but carved into immortal stone, the signs of the Old Ones. Suddenly he remembered them as clear as if he were looking right at them. And without asking why, he knew that Duncan would be all right. Somehow he would find peace, or at least the courage to keep living in hopes of finding it.
"Thank the Old Ones for me," he said.
He stepped out again into the snow.
MWC- Frozen in Time
Posted By: celticangel <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Sunday, 31 December 2000, at 7:35 p.m.
This is set in my universe but there is a brief description at the beginning.
Frozen in Time
Duncan paced around the living room once again looking out the large windows at the driveway. The snow was coming down harder. There was already at least six inches of snow on the ground with another dozen expected before morning. Sometimes he regretted moving to the east coast. It had its advantages, but blizzards had been less a problem in Seattle. At least here he was closer to Connor, Rachel and now Amanda.
He reminded himself that it was a fresh start for them all. They didn't have to deal with questions about Richie's amnesia. He had a new career as a college professor. Richie was doing well in with his studies- soaking up history and archaeology like a sponge. Why not, the young immortal often joked, his primary sources lived with him. Adam/Methos was obviously enjoying practicing medicine again. True he was only a medical student at the university hospital, but Duncan loved the gleam in his eyes when he came home with another story about amazing the residents and doctors with his diagnostic skills. He was chomping at the bit to practice full scale medicine again.
Duncan's thoughts were interrupted when Amanda came up behind him wrapping her arms around him, laying her head against his back. "There's one good thing about them not being home yet."
"Oh and what would that be?" Duncan turned around appraising the close fitting black sweater and designer jeans she'd slipped into. "Amanda? I'm shocked. Jeans?"
"Well, not just any jeans. I bought them in Paris. They cost $300.00 American dollars."
"Amanda they're jeans." Duncan turned her around recognizing the label. "It's the same pair they sell at Macy's for $100.00 and Wal-Mart for $30.00. They just put different labels on them."
"Obviously you have no fashion sense. Now, do you want to hear my idea or not? I know I can keep you from worrying." She let her finger nails trace little patterns on each side of his chest as he wrapped his arms low around her waist.
"And just as soon as we get started they'll show up."
"Then you'll have nothing to worry about." Amanda stretched up and kissed him. "Oh, come on, Duncan, that was weak. They're big boys, okay? They're big immortal boys. So they get stuck in a snow drift? We'll dig them out, sit them next to the fire place and they'll thaw out in time for Christmas dinner."
"Amanda your feminine charms wow me again. What if someone else finds them first? Then it's time to move again, and I'm tired of moving. Or if they've run into another immortal there won't be anything left to thaw out. Or..." Duncan stopped when he felt the presence of approaching immortals. He and Amanda both turned to look out the windows at the SUV plodding up the drive.
"See, there's always one way to get at least one of them to show up." Amanda smiled sweetly.
"That should be both of them. Though I could swear there's three."
"Well, see they just ran into an old friend."
Sure enough when Duncan opened the front door, three immortals burst in with the cold blast of wind and snow. Despite the coats, hats, scarves, gloves, jeans, fur, - fur? Duncan watched as two of the three unveiled themselves. Richie was the first to rip his scarf and hat off grinning excitedly. His face bright frozen red against the big blue eyes.
"Mac, you are never going to guess what we found. Check it out."
Richie gestured excitedly at the fur covered immortal. "Isn't he the coolest? You've got to say we can keep him. Adam said he could stay with him in the cottage if you don't want him in the house."
"Richard, isn't this a person?" Amanda pointed curiously and tried to peer beneath the fur.
"Sort of." Adam shook out of his coat with the same excited grin. "In all my five thousand years, I have never seen anything this cool, MacLeod! This is so exciting." Methos grabbed Amanda and kissed her on the cheek. Amanda smiled excitedly but was captured by Richie for another kiss.
"Will someone please tell me what’s under the fur?" Duncan demanded trying to ignore the puddles of water, discarded coats, boots and gloves that were hitting the floor as fast as Methos and Richie could undress.
"We don't know yet. It doesn't talk." Richie slowly took the fur covered immortal by the arm and pulled him along. "We think he's a cave man."
"What?" Duncan and Amanda stopped and stared as the immortals advanced into the gathering room.
"This is so awesome." Adam waved to them to follow. "Richie, called me over because he thought he'd felt another immortal. We start exploring the building, cause by this time we're sure, right? Seems a refrigerator went out cause the university lost most of its power due to the wind. We find Conan the Barbarian thawing out in the basement. We don't know how long he's been on ice, or where they got him from and there's no one around to ask, thank God, or we'd be trying to explain why we knew he was alive and why he's alive. The refrigerator was real old- like one of the first if I remember right…."
"Methos!" Duncan interrupted. "Slow down. You aren't making any sense. Richie, you try."
"Well, it's just like he said, Mac. This is like somebody's forgotten science project. It looks like they found him buried in a block of ice. There was still some of the ice and a huge puddle, like if the power had been on we probably would have fried, kind of puddle."
"He's been frozen all this time?" Duncan watched the new immortal crouch down next to the fireplace feeling the warmth of the flames. His hands were badly frost bitten but already starting to repair themselves as he held them out. He didn't seem to fear them, but he turned slightly as Duncan moved closer.
Amanda stood with her arms folded, one hand over her mouth, tears in her eyes, biting her lip as she watched him.
"Thaw them out next to fire, huh?" Duncan shook his head and knelt next to the cave man.
"Isn't this the coolest?" Adam bounced excitedly giving Richie a high five over the top of Duncan and the strange creature. "Some one who's finally older than me!"
"Don't get your hopes up." Duncan carefully pulled the fur off the immortal's head. The stranger watched him closely. His hair was long and tangled. A matted beard was loosening itself from the fur coat he was wearing. Duncan spoke in a language none of them had ever heard. The creature looked at him cautiously and nodded.
"What did you say to him?" Richie almost squealed. "When did you learn to speak Neanderthal?"
Duncan smiled. "He's not a Neanderthal. He's an Inuit- an Eskimo if you will."
"Oh, damn!" Adam turned around in a full circle.
"Adam, I'm surprised you didn't know."
"I've never been that far north on this continent. Well, I can see his clothes better now that the ice and snow are off. A cave man wouldn't be quite so modern, would it?"
"Can we still keep it?" Richie asked excitedly. "How old do you think it is?"
"He, guys, okay? He's not an it. I'd say he's about 150 if this was the result of his first death." Duncan asked him a few more questions.
The immortal had a hard time hearing and understanding at first. It was as though the words had almost been forgotten. Slowly he began to speak , pausing often to remember a word. As he got warmer he allowed Duncan to take the fur blanket he was wearing.
"What's he saying, Mac?" Adam asked excitedly.
"I asked him the name of his people. What can he remember? What happened to him."
"And?" Richie plopped down on the hearth next to him. "What's his name?"
"It sounds something like Nate."
"Cool. So what happened to him?"
"He was hunting when a blizzard started. He got separated from his people. He fell into an opening in the snow. He was knocked unconscious. I imagine he died, but he doesn't understand that."
"That's all he remembers?"
"He remembers being awake again. There were bright lights. People talking. Strange looking white people. He couldn't move because of the ice. He wanted to ask for help, but the lights went out. He fell asleep. The next thing he remembers is seeing the two of you in the room."
"Oh my God," Adam's mouth fell open. "He must have awakened when they were putting him in the freezer. Mac, from the looks of the place that was probably eighty years ago."
"Yes, and then the two of you came along and helped him."
"He understands that?" Richie smiled the big grin Duncan couldn't resist. "So does this mean we can keep him?"
"Richie, he's not a puppy."
"No, but he'll need a teacher. He has to learn about immortals and fighting. He doesn't know about immortals, right?"
Duncan asked him a few more questions. Nate's speaking was starting to loosen up a bit. The words were coming out more freely as he once again used his native tongue.
"What's he saying?" Amanda had crawled up on the couch with her feet under her.
"He doesn't understand what an immortal is, and I don't think I have the vocabulary to tell him all of it." Duncan took in a deep breath. "I've got to call Joe."
"Joe speaks Inuit?" Adam asked unbelievingly.
"Yeah, Adam, and Portuguese and ancient Greek." Duncan smiled sarcastically. "I used to know another Inuit immortal. I lost track of him about fifty years ago. If Joe can find him perhaps we could have him come out."
"You're going to give him away, aren't you?" Richie asked in disgust.
"You know for a history student, you should know that people haven't been able to buy and sell humans legally for a good 130 years." Duncan scolded gently. "Besides I've got my hands full with immortals right now. Now why don't you go make some hot chocolate and some soup? He'll need something light to start with."
"Sure." Richie left the room muttering.
Duncan went to the phone, but found that it was dead. "The lines must be down. Which probably means the power will go out soon. I'll try the cell phone."
Duncan was finally able to get through to Joe Dawson. Joe thought the call a prank at first, but finally agreed to search the Watcher database in an effort to find Duncan's old friend.
"I think you're going to have to make him a little more human." Amanda fanned her hand in front of her face. "He needs a haircut and a bath."
Adam gave a distant smile. "I froze to death once."
"I think we all have at our ages, sweetie." Amanda extracted her feet out from under her and stood with feline grace. "Is this a particular happy memory?"
"No. Just thinking how lucky I was that Kronos found me in a few days. I can't imagine being frozen 150 years. Of course it might have kept me away from Kronos."
Duncan frowned. "I don't think you'd have much to think about frozen. Let's say we get him upstairs and cleaned up before we lose our power."
"I'll go help Richie," Amanda suggested. "I think this is a guy thing."
It took a great deal of patience and coaxing, but Duncan and Adam were finally able to get "Nate" as they had nick named him upstairs and into the bathroom. He was quite reluctant until he began to notice the progress in the bathroom mirror. Now that the heavy fur clothes, wild hair and beard were gone, Nate was revealed to be a fairly handsome young man. Duncan had guessed he was in his early twenties the first time he died. The fact that he had now died several times was a concept Duncan could not make the young immortal understand. He insisted he only fell asleep each time.
"He's going to be in for a real shock when he sees how much the world has changed." Richie pointed out.
"Compared to what?" Methos asked. "If he was never away from his people he might not realize that the things he's seeing weren't available 150 years ago. As far as he knows we're just a different culture with different "stuff."
Between Richie and Adam they were able to come up with clothes that actually fit their new friend. After managing to hold down a cup of hot chocolate, Nate was easily convinced that a warm bath would feel even better.
"I wonder if he's ever had a bath before?" Richie wore a serious expression on his face. Duncan had left the room for a phone call, so he couldn't ask him to translate.
"Hard to say. I'm sure they had some way of keeping clean. In my day we just used sand and water. There was no soap. Come to think of it there wasn't even tissue or- "
"Oooh, Adam, that's too much history." Richie winced as he poured a pitcher of water through Nate's now short hair.
Duncan stepped back into the bathroom closing his cell phone. "That was Joe. He found Frank. I've called him and he'll take the first plane out as soon as the weather clears."
"Oh, that was too easy." Richie groaned.
"Well, Richie, think about it. As soon as Winter break is over someone's going to notice the big frozen block in the basement melted and a certain artifact has walked away. Then we suddenly have a visiting Inuit friend who can't speak English and knows nothing about modern technology. Someone might get a bit suspicious. Nate here has a lot to learn. Not just about being an immortal, but about life in the 21st century. I think it would be best if someone of his own cultural background helps him bridge those gaps, don't you?"
"Yeah, I guess. He completely missed the 1900's didn't he?"
"Lucky guy." Adam smiled.
"So you've got probably a week to teach him about, computers, video games , TV, radio- and- " Duncan stammered as the lights went out. "Okay- he has a week to teach you how five people can live in one room around a fireplace in the dark and cold."
A collective groan was heard in the dark, quickly followed by a scream as Adam yelped. "Mac, get off my foot!"