For the next several weeks, I’ll be posting chapters of a novel I wrote in homage to Highlander: The Series.
I will add this disclaimer every week as well…
I do not own the characters for this novel. I am not receiving monetary reimbursement of any type for this piece of fiction.
Oh, most importantly…enjoy.
Highlander: The King and I Chapter Five
The rain came back with a bit more insistence. The steady precipitation looked to go on for at least another day. Duncan didn’t care that he was soaked. He walked back to the barge in the cold rain, feeling it somewhat fitting punishment for going out without his weapon. He had sworn never to let anyone die because of his errors again, yet he could very well have lost his own head this time. The Game didn’t care if you made mistakes.
As he came across the bridge, Duncan looked over at the barge, expecting to see Methos waiting for him again. The deck was clear of everything, but rain spattered water. At least there were small comforts on a day like he was having.
Then the feeling came back again. Had Mordred managed to follow him? Duncan turned, scanning the area around him and found Merlin, standing within arm’s reach. He still showed no weapon, other than his disarming smile. Duncan took a step back, confused and a little bit fearful.
Merlin spread his hands. “Greetings.”
Duncan blinked water out of his eyes. He watched the magician carefully, but chose not to reply. Merlin appeared to acknowledge that.
The other Immortal turned and strolled away slowly. “Of course, you’re wondering how I got so close to you without you knowing it.”
Once Merlin crossed enough space, Duncan began to trail after. “It crossed my mind.”
“Truth is, you did feel it, though you didn’t recognize it. Consider it magic, though you would more likely call it misdirection.”
Duncan chose not to speak again. There was still an alarm going off in his head and he was being very cautious. Something was wrong.
Merlin continued, “You see, in today’s day and age, magic is all distraction. The hand is quicker than the eye. It isn’t real. There I agree with you. However, there are other magics that are real. Have you seen what mortal religious leaders can sometimes do by just talking to those in their flock?”
Duncan nodded, even though Merlin still hadn’t looked at him. “Yes, but that’s nothing more than giving attention to someone who needs it. They feel they’ve connected, and then they’re magically healed. It’s no more real than distraction.”
Merlin laughed softly. “True, but the magic is in the belief. Whether or not there was any intent to do anything, the magic is in the person believing something occurred.”
Upon reaching the gangplank to the barge, Merlin turned to Duncan. “There is real magic MacLeod. It exists. There are things in this world more powerful than us.”
Duncan smiled and pointed a long finger at the magician. “You almost had me, until you said that. It’s the same thing Methos said. I can’t say I believe it any more now than I did then.”
A voice behind him said, “It still remains true MacLeod.”
Duncan whirled around to find Methos standing closer than Merlin had been before. There had been no warning.
Merlin said, “Magic.”
Methos dropped a hand on Duncan’s shoulder. “Shall we continue my story anyway? I mean, even if you’re not going to believe it, the story’s good. We still have to cover the steamy bedroom scene!”
Feeling insecure was not something that Duncan was used to. That humor actually helped this time, not that Duncan would ever let the older Immortal know that. Still, the thought was almost overwhelming, that another Immortal could get so close as to strike for the Prize without warning.
* * *
Chronicles of Methos Book Sixteen Part Four
484 AD Northwest of London
The next morning, when I awoke, my breath was taken in awe, and no small amount of fear. There, on the large hill behind where we’d camped, was a huge castle, glowing golden in the morning sun. The air was chill, but amazingly clear, all but magnifying the view. Everything was perfect, from the battlements to the towers. Never in my time had a fortress and seat of power looked so wondrous. Not even the mighty works of the Egyptians could eclipse the sight before me. It was beautiful, and frightening in the fact it hadn’t been there the night before.
The road leading up to the closed portcullis gate appeared to have always been there, including wagon ruts of well-worn use. The only obstacle was a large boulder, half-buried in the middle of the road. If the castle on the hill was breathtaking in its immensity, the sword in the stone was astonishing in its simplicity. Words were chiseled into the stone, just beneath where the blade entered the rock. Words glittered gold in the morning sun with the same intensity as the castle walls beyond.
Of Merlin, there was no sign. I felt as though I was the only person on the face of the earth. The moment was frozen in time in its stark perfection. I knew then what Merlin had meant about the sword being a symbol. I knew what the words would say before I read them.
He who draws forth this blade, shall be King of England.
I knew only I could draw it. How I knew this was a mystery, but that didn’t matter. Others would come, to see the castle. They would then see the sword. They would try to draw it and fail, where I would succeed and bind these mortals to a common destiny.
What truly amazed me, as if everything up to that point hadn’t, was that I never questioned how Merlin had done it. He said he would and then he did. Somehow, that was enough for me. I was nervous that he had vanished, but I knew he would return. That was my first taste of what would be known as the old magics.
My wait wasn’t long. The first forces arrived within an hour. I say forces, because only a fool traveled this land without an escort or an army following. Nervousness blossomed again, for I was a fool that didn’t have an army. But I forced myself to trust in Merlin’s work.
They came, they saw, they all tried the sword. Lords, even if self-proclaimed, did not allow their underlings to try until they themselves had failed. Mortals would always be predictable that way.
More armies arrived, until the hills were black with them. The tension was thick, but there was an undercurrent of unspoken truce, as if everyone had been drawn here and the rules were understood.
I watched quietly, waiting for the right moment. As the last arrivals made their camps I decided the time was right. I moved toward the stone and felt the presence. With a sigh of relief, I turned to Merlin, but it wasn’t him. It was an Immortal on a horse, leading the last faction to arrive. He was tall, evident even with him being on a horse. He was wiry thin too, with blonde hair spilling almost to his waist.
Needless to say, I stopped walking towards the stone and watched him. He dropped from his charger and strode quickly to the stone himself. He never even glanced at me. I felt the seed of fear growing, but again, pushed it aside and trusted Merlin. I knew he had anticipated this, but we hadn’t talked about it as a possibility.
The Immortal read the words in the stone and laughed briefly, then he turned to the assembled armies. His face was drawn in anger. I felt he was probably in a perpetual rage; a dangerous opponent if he became one.
“I Mordred, claim this weapon and all of England!” He cried, grasping the hilt firmly.
A hush fell over the crowd, an almost spiritual silence broken only by the exploding gasp of surprise from Mordred when he couldn’t draw the weapon. The silence lasted a little longer, finally broken by loud guffaws and more laughter.
The moment could not have been better if Merlin had scripted it, perhaps he had. I walked slowly to the stone and waited patiently for Mordred to finally give up. When he noticed me, and the laughter behind me, his anger swelled again. He was definitely a dangerous Immortal. He stepped aside though, with a flourish of his hand for me to try.
Again, a supernatural calm descended as I grasped the hilt. I could feel the power. It was there, waiting to be released, wanting to be released. Oh what a weapon Merlin had forged. The blade that showed from the stone was unmarred, a mirror without flaw. The blood ditch running along the center of the blade was a perfect crescent. I took a ragged breath and tugged.
I expected resistance. I expected a loud scraping of steel on rock. What happened was completely different. The sword came free of the stone with a whisper that everyone heard. The whisper was of God’s own breath that told the universe to open. I wasn’t sure what to do next, but the sword told me, sweeping upward to point at the sky. I’m sure my face registered the surprise, but no one saw it, except of course, for Mordred.
The sun, which was now setting, struck the raised blade and reflected out over the soldiers gathered, brighter by a hundredfold. An almost imperceptible singing filled the air, a choir of soft angelic voices. It was a powerful moment, created entirely of the old magics.
Then the amazing happened. As one, the assembled host knelt to me, except for Mordred. They bowed their heads and swore fealty to me. I felt a small pang of regret, for it was the point I stressed to Merlin. I didn’t want anyone forced into service. I decided then to once again, trust Merlin.
The moment faded, as did the unearthly light. Mordred leaned in close to me. “I will come back for you.”
Just like that, he left. I suppose I should’ve done something, but I didn’t. I noticed everyone had gotten up again. They waited patiently for me to speak. I was almost overwhelmed.
“I am Arthur.” I cried out so everyone could hear. “I am Arthur, King of England. Welcome to Camelot, where you will serve me and this bright new country. The time for conquest is over. The time for fighting amongst yourselves is over. As tomorrow’s dawn lights this land, you are reborn! Rejoice! A Kingdom unlike any other in history is born with you! Today you came in guarded numbers. Tonight we shall feast and dance as brothers. Tomorrow, we shall bury our dead and our mistrust.”
I wish Merlin could have been there to see it.