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
He is immortal. Born 400 years ago in the Highlands of Scotland, he is not alone. There are others like him, some good, some evil. He cannot die, unless you take his head, and with it, his power. In the end, there can be only one. He is Duncan MacLeod, The Highlander.
His body moved in a smooth flowing rhythm. Each block was precise, each step sure and strong. A glistening coat of sweat covered his body, though a look of sublime peace etched his face. His eyes were closed, visualizing his opponents, their movements, and their attacks. Each threat was accepted, measured, and then neutralized in quick succession. In his mind’s eye, he was never touched.
Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod moved through his kata slowly. The point of his exercise was to reach his innermost self, his chi. This time, he achieved that state easily, and held it throughout his exercise. The steps he used were mirror images of the ones he used to defeat Ahriman. Duncan found it far easier to achieve peace through his katas these days.
Since defeating the demon, a heavy weight no longer pressed against his soul. The world was safe from a terrible beast. But, with his victory, came a heavier price. He had taken the head of his student, and would never forgive himself for that action. However, within the confines of his exercise, his was at peace with himself. Duncan was one with the universe and nothing could invade that.
Except for one thing.
A presence invaded his mind, ripping him from his exercise with the slightly nauseous attack he knew all to well. Another of his kind was near. Duncan’s kata ended abruptly and he turned in place, gauging where the presence was. His eyes came to rest on a trunk near his exercise mat. His weapon lay within the trunk, the dragon hilt katana that had become an extension of his being. The blade had rested in the trunk ever since Richie’s death.
Duncan’s oneness in his chi was long gone. Richie had died at his hand. He could never allow that to happen again. Still, the Game was played and Duncan was very aware of that. He wrenched the lid open and pulled the katana free of the oilskin cloth that cared for it. Without a pause to admire the steel, he turned for the door and the deck of his barge.
The other stood at the other end of the gangplank. There was no sword, no aura of threat. The other Immortal’s hands were stuffed deep in the pockets of his trench coat. He didn’t look ready to fight. In fact, the Immortal looked downright miserable in the cold, light rain that had been falling on Paris for three days. Then again, Methos always looked miserable.
Duncan tucked his katana up behind his arm. “What do you want?”
Methos replied with his ever present smirk. “Nice to see you still carry it now and then.”
Rather than argue, Duncan turned back for his door and went inside.
“MacLeod!” cried Methos, scrambling up the gangway.
Duncan stood from replacing his sword in its cloth when Methos entered. He watched the elder Immortal shuck off his coat and splatter water all over Duncan’s floor.
“Yes, you’re bothering me. Yes, I want you to leave. No, I don’t want to go to the bar. Have I missed anything?”
“That hurts MacLeod. Am I really such a bother to you?”
“Right now, yes.” Said Duncan.
Methos grinned, obviously pleased with something and plopped his wiry frame down onto Duncan’s couch. “Good, it’s nice to know I can still irritate after all these years.”
Duncan sighed. “Okay then, what do you want?”
“Oh, I don’t know. Maybe to see how you’re doing. Maybe I’d try to cheer you up or something.”
“I’m fine and I don’t need any of your cheer. Now will you go away?”
Methos’ grin vanished. “Pretty defensive stance you have there. Still feeling responsible for Richie’s death?”
Duncan threw up his hands in disgust and walked a few steps away. There just wasn’t enough boat to get away from the other Immortal. “I killed him Methos. There’s nothing more to say.”
The older Immortal shifted on the couch to get more comfortable. “As I recall MacLeod, we’ve covered this ground. It happens to us Immortals all the time. We fight and we win, or lose. Richie knew the rules and since you were his teacher, he could probably quote line and verse of the rule book.”
Duncan wasn’t quite sure what had happened, but he was talking about what he didn’t want to talk about. “What happened to Richie wasn’t a fight. It wasn’t an accident. It was an execution. I took his head Methos. Ahriman played his game with me and Richie died.”
Methos stood up. “Exactly MacLeod! The demon killed Richie. It might have been your blade, but it was the demon that killed him.”
“Get off my boat.”
The other Immortal didn’t move. Methos wasn’t done yet. “You remember the Dark Quickening? Were you responsible for attacking Richie then?”
“Damn it Methos! That was completely different! Whatever that darkness was, it was controlling me.”
Then Duncan stopped. The sudden silence on the barge was palpable. It stretched for some time before Methos broke it.
“Two for two MacLeod. Want to try for the bonus round?”
Duncan glanced at the trunk that held his sword and then looked again at Methos. The other Immortal was unfazed. Either the threat wasn’t read, or Duncan really didn’t mean it. The most annoying thing about Methos was his was insufferably right so often it was depressing.
Methos’ demeanor changed, softened with real sympathy. “You got through the Dark Quickening. There was senseless death then too, but you got through it. You have to carry on MacLeod. I know since it was Richie everything changes for you, but ultimately, it is the same thing.”
Duncan sighed again, a deep cleansing breath. He placed his hands on his hips and stared at the floor for a long time. “You came all the way over here to tell me that?”
Methos grinned, “No, but it seemed like a good idea at the time.”
“He deserved so much better. I had thought he would do well in The Game.”
“I liked him too MacLeod. Richie was a rare one, even amongst us. But this new MacLeod full of regrets and guilt is no fun. I want the old MacLeod, full of doubts and questions of honor.”
Duncan looked at Methos again, his eyes as hard as the steel of his katana. “I won’t let anyone die because of me again.”
“Fine, can we get through lunch though?”
Duncan decided giving in was the better course. “Let me shower.”
* * *
As much as he enjoyed a hot shower where he could escape Methos’ logic, Duncan knew he had to come out sometime. Maybe the other Immortal was right. Maybe Duncan had changed far more than he was willing to admit. Just the thought of staying the shower to avoid someone was new for him.
Duncan finished his shower and toweled off quickly. He changed into a comfortable black sweater and even more comfortable black jeans. He wrapped the towel around his head and moved to the refrigerator in the kitchen. Ignoring Methos’ cute little wave, MacLeod grabbed two pears and tossed one to the other Immortal. Methos caught it deftly, seemed to study it a while, and then bit into it with gusto.
Even as Duncan turned back to the refrigerator, the feeling swept over him again. Another Immortal was near. He turned, closing the refrigerator quietly. Methos was on his feet as well.
Duncan asked, “Did you invite Amanda too?”
Rather than answer, Methos headed towards the shower himself.
“Where are you going?”
Methos paused only briefly. “You once told Joe I was a myth. Since most Immortals still believe that about me, I think I’ll keep that illusion a while longer. Don’t lose your head.”
Duncan nodded. “Whatever.”
For the second time, Duncan opened the trunk and retrieved his katana. The cool grip and weight was a comfort. Somehow, with sword in hand, Duncan felt more complete. He still wondered if that was how he was supposed to feel.
A single knock sounded at his door, loud and firm.
Duncan moved away from the trunk and readied himself mentally. “It’s open.”
The door opened. A light drizzle floated in past the tall figure. The man was older than Duncan had ever seen for an immortal. He must have been around sixty when he died his first death. His hair was long, swept back and gathered into a neat ponytail like Duncan had worn. It was the man’s eyes that caught Duncan. His eyes were a deep grey and held in them something Duncan couldn’t begin to guess at. They weren’t hypnotic, just commanding.
“Are you Duncan MacLeod?” His voice was the same as his eyes, deep, with a timbre of authority.
“I am, of the Clan MacLeod.”
Then the man grinned, which surprised the Highlander. “Thank the Gods! I’ve been looking for you for a very long time. Please, put away your sword, I’m not here to fight.”
Duncan didn’t move. He stayed in place and ready. Of all the Immortals he’d met, every one had a trick. “Who are you then, and why are you here?”
“I’m here because I have a need of an honorable man. Actually, I need an honorable Immortal. Your cousin, or is that clansman, suggested you.”
Duncan tilted his head a fraction. “Connor sent you?”
The man nodded. “He said you are a man most restricted by your honor. That sounded like what I needed to see, so I sought you out. What exactly does the towel around your head signify?”
Duncan lowered his blade and removed the towel with his free hand. He kept an eye on the man, but began to feel he was not threatening.
Duncan heard Methos and made his decision.
“Please, come in and have a seat.”
The man removed his coat with a minimum of movement and hung it next to Methos’ coat. Duncan saw the measured glance. The man knew there was another with MacLeod. Duncan knew this was a dangerous Immortal.
Duncan asked, “Who are you?”
Methos entered the room in a stroll. “I didn’t here any clashing of blades or Quickenings. Is it anyone I know?”
The stranger looked at Methos and studied him for a long time. The other Immortal stared back with curiosity. Duncan watched the two of them, wondering if he should break the moment or not.
Suddenly, Methos’ jaw dropped a fraction as recognition hit him. “Merlin?”
Duncan was shocked. He mouthed the name slowly.
Merlin grinned. “Arthur!”
The two Immortals grabbed each other and hugged fiercely, leaving Duncan staring.