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 Six
For a third time, Duncan walked the silent streets of Paris. The rain, which had begun to taper off, had revisited the City of Lights with renewed fervor. The dark grey clouds above were the perfect match for the Highlander’s mood.
There was a great truth in what Methos and Merlin had said about some things being more powerful than Immortals. There were times that Methos seemed as wise as his five thousand years would say he should be.
Still, asking Duncan to believe in magic. He simply couldn’t conceive magic as a discernable force of nature. It was simply preposterous. It wasn’t any religious ideal backing that thought up either. Duncan subscribed to no particular religion. Four hundred years of life would sour nearly anyone’s view of organized religion. However, he still followed some of the general precepts. One of those top five precepts was that magic does not exist.
Duncan believed more that religion was the same thing now that it had been in ancient times. Back then religion was a means to explain the unexplainable. A volcano would erupt and there would be the priests telling the frightened populace that an angry God had willed it to show them the error of their ways. In the present, religion was the method to let the populace know that their lives had an ultimate meaning. Comparing one’s self to the universe can make even the strong feel weak. Religion gives people the power to fight insignificance.
Science and the pursuit of measurable truth was what Duncan believed in. It was the third leg to the stool. Religion, Science, and Magic are the three forces fighting for belief of mortals and Immortals alike. Those concepts are the never-ending source of argument among the faithful.
Religion dictates to its followers what is to be believed and what is to be denounced. Science dictates that which is to be believed can be proved in quantified research. Magic dictates nothing in that it can change the perception of the truth. However, Magic’s voice is silenced by both Science and Religion.
Still, Methos had told a story of being there and a castle created while he slept. Methos was an Immortal gifted with the art of annoyance, but Duncan had never heard Methos stretch the truth to sheer fantasy.
If magic of the sort that Merlin claimed really existed, where were the signs of its use? If something exists within nature, surly more than a handful of people could use it. Perhaps the signs were all around and plainly visible, but incorrectly interpreted because in modern society, Science and Religion completely squelch Magic’s voice.
The clouds above him thinned a bit, allowing a brief interlude of light in the overall gloomy day. Duncan looked up in surprise and smiled when he saw where his wandering feet had taken him. He stood outside the wrought iron gates of a church, the same where Darius had done his great works when he was alive.
Duncan entered the gates and slowly walked the stone pathway, feeling the age of the place. There was also a discernable peace too; one Duncan greatly appreciated. Of its own, his mind had quieted a bit, allowing the peace of the gardens to give him brief rest. Divinity was magic for sure.
He looked up at the sky. “Well, my old friend, I’m back for your counsel once again.”
The sky didn’t answer, but the drizzle had lessened dramatically. The air itself didn’t seem quite as chilly as it had before either. Duncan could almost feel Darius beside him, nodding sagely as he had always done.
“As you can see, I’m back in the same argument as before. Do I save the world, or do I pass that task on to another?”
Silence was his answer, but Duncan didn’t notice. He did notice he’d begun pacing. He needed to find his center, focus on who we was. A church though, was no place to practice katas, at least, not this church.
“You remember Richie? He’s dead now, because I had to save the world. Can I wear the mantle of savior, yet not lose those closest to me?”
Another brief shower dropped out of the sky. The light from above dimmed considerably and a chill wind puffed across the courtyard. Duncan paused to examine the rain.
“Still, Richie’s dead and I have to move on. Now, Methos and Merlin want me to believe in magic.”
The rain paused again, as if the heavens had no comment.
“Merlin wants me to fight for him. As you know, I gave up being a mercenary. However, in this, Mordred may be invincible due to magic. I need your advice. Does magic such as this exist?”
Another dose of rain spattered against the stones of the walkways. A distant rumble of thunder echoed across the skies.
“Does it matter if magic exists if the tool to defeat the enemy is available? Must I have faith in magic, which I feel doesn’t exist?”
Another rumble of thunder crawled slowly across the skies. The earlier light was now completely gone. Sheets of rain pounded the streets outside the courtyard. Within the gates though, it was only a light drizzle.
Duncan smiled again. “I see. Belief in magic is irrelevant. As a warrior born, I must meet the challenge. If fate would cast me as the force to stop an enemy, who am I to deny it? You always talked to me of avoiding violence, my friend, but I don’t think it can be avoided this time. No doubt you would disagree and have a good philosophy for doing so, but I never had the peaceful heart you did.”
The rain stopped, but Duncan’s smile remained. Finally, he felt things were making sense to him. It was a very welcome feeling.
Duncan turned from the church and walked back to the gates. He stopped, turned again, and gazed at the building for a long time. Darius’ sanctuary would always be here. His words and wisdom would never leave, not as long as Duncan survived to remember them.
“Thank you my friend. As always, your counsel is invaluable. Even if it seems, you use the very nature of my confusion to teach me. I will miss that from you. Feel free to send me a sign to show me that my path is true now.”
The feeling of another Immortal being near crashed over him with an urgency beyond anything he’d ever felt in all his years. He dropped to a crouch as a sword whistled over him. The blade slammed into the iron bars of the fence and showered sparks in a near blinding explosion.
Duncan bolted to his left, running a short distance to give him space. He then whirled around, his katana in hand and ready.
Mordred jerked his flamberge free of the iron bars. “I see you remembered your weapon this time.”
Duncan replied, “I’ll give you a much closer look at it, if you want.”
His body was loose and ready. All his senses were on fire. After four hundred years, his soul still sang for battle. He was a warrior first and foremost. Perhaps Darius would never have understood that, but Duncan did.
Mordred cried out a challenge and charged. Once again, Duncan saw his opponent’s mistakes. He easily blocked the onslaught, giving only a little ground. Mordred’s grip was wrong, his stance was shaky, though marginally better than the last time he’d attacked. All this, Duncan filed away in the instant Mordred had rushed him.
After weathering the opening gambit, Duncan launched his own attack. He kept things simple, to judge his opponent. His attacks were flowing, with rhythm and the fluidity of a dancer. Mordred backpedaled into the street, blocking everything Duncan threw at him. His blocks were anything but strong. Duncan’s blade penetrated Mordred’s hasty defense, but the other Immortal twisted away, only suffering a cut to his coat.
Mordred attacked again, managing a combination that almost took Duncan by surprise. His footwork was impressive and a lot less random. The flamberge blurred through the air, whipping in from three directions in quick succession. Duncan grimaced. Mordred had been lulling him into a false sense of security. The trick had almost worked.
A wild swing at his head forced Duncan to duck. Before he could take advantage, Mordred reversed his grip, effectively this time, and brought his flamberge up and over his body and crashing down on the crouched Highlander. Duncan barely blocked in time. Was he getting faster too? Duncan forced himself to focus and find his center again. Mordred pulled his blade up to chop again and Duncan rolled forward under the other’s guard. He jumped up and sliced out at Mordred’s back. Again, the other danced away, but not before Duncan felt the shock of impact. Mordred showed no signs of injury. Duncan had only managed to cut another slice in the other’s coat.
With a roar of rage, Mordred attacked again, Duncan wove a curtain of steel, but still collected a number of small cuts. Mordred was getting much better. Duncan wondered how good the other Immortal really was. Mordred didn’t show any sign of holding back, yet each pass, each attack showed something new.
Duncan turned aside a lunge and rushed forward, slamming a shoulder into Mordred’s chest and smashing his off hand into Mordred’s face. The other Immortal staggered backward, his sword scraping on the hard pavement, leaving a groove.
MacLeod launched himself forward again, slinging his katana around for Mordred’s neck. The other Immortal tried, but couldn’t raise his flamberge quickly enough. He had lifted it only to his middle when the katana’s cutting edge hit his exposed neck.
The blade stopped cold. The shock traveled up his arms and Duncan nearly dropped his weapon. It had been as if he’d hit a wall. Did Mordred have a metal collar on? No, the collar was cleanly separated from Mordred’s coat. The remnant was fluttering by Duncan’s face. His concentration was suddenly gone. His focus was replaced by confusion.
The confusion was nothing compared to the pain that erupted in Duncan’s middle. Mordred drove his sword deep, ripping flesh and chipping bone. Sparks exploded in Duncan’s vision and his knees buckled. The scream that blasted through the rain deafened him. Had that come from him?
Inside his world of agony, Duncan’s instincts took over. He wrestled the pain away from his mind and took quick stock of his desperate situation. Mordred had let go of his sword, leaving it impaling Duncan. His laughter was harsh and grating. Apparently, he wanted to gloat.
Duncan lurched to his feet and turned. He tried to run, but his legs could only manage a slow staggering line. His breath was fire. His hand remained firmly on the hilt of his katana, but he refused to use it as a cane, that would be almost sacrilege. His other hand pressed hard against his own chest, trying vainly to quell the blood around the sword sticking from his body.
“Is that it Highlander? All the fame attached to you for that feeble performance? Of course, since I have the Methuselah stone, you can’t hurt me anyway, but you still should be a lot harder to kill.”
Mordred’s voice was fading in and out. Duncan was having trouble calming his ragged breathing. The pain had returned, no longer allowing itself to be ignored. He was nearly blinded by the white intensity of the pain. Still, his goal was close, only steps away.
“I will enjoy your Quickening MacLeod. Your experience in fighting blended to my own will make me much better, not that it will matter with the stone controlling my ability. I can live with that little concession. Can you live with that? Can you live at all?”
Duncan didn’t hear him. Blackness was weaving itself across his vision. He knew he was dying, one tantalizing step from salvation.
Mordred grabbed the hilt of his sword and ripped it out of Duncan’s body. MacLeod screamed again and spun around, but still managed to stop his fall. He wound up on his knees, facing Mordred. Blood trickled from his lips and a loud roaring filled his ears. He saw, rather than heard Mordred speak.
“Farewell MacLeod! I win!”
Mordred pulled his blade away to deliver that final blow.
Duncan managed a hoarse whisper. “Not today.”
He let himself fall backward. The blackness rose up over him and crushed him. His dead body flopped onto the stone walkway, just inside the iron gates. His hand slapped to the stone and opened, releasing his katana to clatter on the ground.
The sudden silence was shattered by Mordred’s cry. “NO!!”
Mordred lowered his sword and leaned forward, screaming all of his rage at MacLeod’s body. After two ragged breaths, he shoved his sword inside his coat and bent over to grab Duncan’s leg. He hauled once, moving the body only an inch or two.
The doors to the church opened and Mordred saw a man in a priest’s robe appear. He growled and dropped Duncan’s leg.
“So Highlander, you keep your pitiful head today, but I claim your katana as my prize.”
Mordred snatched the weapon off the stones. The rain returned in blinding sheets, accompanied with great flashes of light and violent thunder, which swallowed Mordred’s shrieks of laughter as he vanished in the gloom.