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 Thirteen
Duncan heard the voice of his old samurai teacher Hideo Koto as he readied himself to battle. His knees were bent, easily supporting his weight. He was balanced and drawing the strength of the earth. His replacement katana was an extension of his arm, a living breathing extension every bit as much alive as he was. Unfortunately, it still wasn’t the same as it should have been. Still the warrior makes the weapon.
Three steps away, Merlin faced him with an ancient longsword with distinct Viking heritage. Duncan recognized the stance from Connor’s teachings and knew Merlin’s opening gambit would likely be a sword fighting style of Scandinavia.
Methos barked from a chair just off the practice floor. “Begin!”
Merlin attacked immediately, coming in a high lunge. Duncan dropped back a step and readied a response, but was caught off guard as Merlin flowed into a low slice attack from southern Asia. His weapon wasn’t suited for it, but the magician completed the move so effortlessly, Duncan was impressed. He was also ready to break the magician’s attack.
Duncan engaged Merlin’s blade as it passed and forced it up and away. He then reversed his wrist and chopped inward towards Merlin’s exposed neck. The magician flowed away as if he were a bank of fog. Suddenly, he just wasn’t there, but out of Duncan’s reach.
“Fine response Highlander!” Merlin shouted.
Duncan responded with a feral grin and moved after the magician, feinting left and quickly snapping to an overhead chop. His katana moved so quickly the blade blurred. Merlin blocked easily and responded with a succession of high attacks, forcing Duncan backward. He recognized the magician’s attack had a rhythm to it and that was a weakness he would exploit.
The next attack hesitated a split second, then Merlin attacked low, faster than a strike of lightning. The sword slapped against Duncan’s calf. Merlin was laughing while looking at the blade of Duncan’s katana as it rested under his neck.
“Break!” cried Methos.
The combatants stepped back, Merlin grinning. Duncan smiled back and bowed.
“Felt the rhythm?”
Duncan nodded. “I knew what you were going to do, just not when. I figured it was better to go offensive.”
Merlin said, “Well, you win that round for sure.”
The magician gestured towards Methos and the bottled water near him. They moved off the practice floor and bowed towards it in unison. The floor was hardwood and not for swordplay really. It was a ballroom dancing floor, but Merlin rented the ballroom for the afternoon and bade the others join him for practice and sparring. The Game didn’t have any hard and fast rules for practice, but those Immortals that did not practice, usually didn’t live long.
Duncan tossed a bottle to Merlin and sat in a chair. As the others joined him, he opened his own water and drained it. It was good to lose himself in practice again. His bad humor from the morning was almost gone.
“It seems from your retelling of history that women were throwing themselves at you. First Morgan, then Nimue.”
Merlin laughed. “Ah, what a travesty modern times has made of a woman’s role in history. Women are to be treasured and protected, that much each time can agree on. However, it’s easier to get in a woman’s way nowadays than it was back then. Competition is the key.”
Methos stood up. “So true. Women in those times knew they had to get a certain type of man to be able to get out of conditions most of them were living in. Competition was fierce. However, the women of that time were by far stronger in character.”
“So how about a man’s need to brag?” asked Duncan.
Merlin chuckled again. “No bragging my friend. Both women did exactly what I told you they did. I was so careful to remember not to fall prey to magic. In essence, that’s exactly what happened.”
* * *
Travels of Merlin Book 8 Part 2
488 AD South of Edinburgh
Even Morgan could not have guessed how apt a student Nimue would be. She learned everything on the first try, making a mistake so seldom as to never have made one at all. Her thirst for knowledge outstripped my own. I taught her everything in that month, even things I had protected from Morgan. I trusted her and she proved on many occasions that the trust was well placed.
Our time together included so much more than just student and teacher. Before Morgan, I had never really known love. After Nimue, I knew what I had with Morgan was not love either. Everything about the young Immortal intoxicated me. In the space of a month I had lost much of my self and had it replaced by a sense of us. I wondered what I would tell Morgan when she returned.
I also lost track on what exactly I was supposed to be doing for Arthur as well. My studies of the camp were on a hiatus, because I told myself nothing would change while Morgan was gone. At least in that respect I was correct because nothing in camp changed.
Nimue lay beside me, lazily tracing mystical signs on my chest. It was near the end of the month where Morgan could be expected to return.
“Merlin, will you teach me a spell of binding?”
I was confused. “You already know several. Why do you need another?”
A look of anger crossed her eyes. “I need a powerful binding spell to lock away someone forever.”
I rolled on my elbow and looked down at her. “You are powerful in so many ways and yet you need more? Who could have you so frightened?”
I looked at her and saw true fear in her eyes. She needed more than a binding spell. She needed one to hold an Immortal. That required more power and more finesse. As I had known with the making of Excalibur, the drain would be enormous since the gift of immortality was strong already.
“Of course I shall teach you, my love. Just be sure for the binding spell I shall teach you is powerful beyond your knowledge. It is the singular most powerful spell I know. Once in place, nothing can remove it.”
She rested her head against my chest and whispered. “Thank you.”
All the next day we stayed in our cave. The cave we had found on our search for potion making. I taught her and again she responded with brilliance. She was truly the finest student ever. However, at the end of that day, I had to tell her the truly horrible part of what she asked.
“What do you mean, only an Immortal can cast this magic?”
I sighed heavily. “There are beings in this world that cannot die. We live forever, never succumbing to old age. I am one, as is Mordred.”
Her eyes flashed in anger. “Then why teach me at all if I cannot affect him? Damn you Merlin, I thought you would help protect me.”
“I have taught you all you need to know to protect yourself from anyone. You wanted the most powerful spell you could cast to protect you from Mordred and I have done that.”
Nimue almost snarled. “I’m not one of these Immortals so I can’t cast this magic.”
She stared daggers at me, but I remained silent. Minutes crawled by, seeming to take hours. After all the learning she had completed so easily, her ability to grasp her own gift still escaped her. Then her eyes went wide.
“Yes, my love.” I said.
Nimue fell to her knees. “But I age!”
I almost laughed. “As did I before I learned. You must perish the first time before the Gift is bestowed.”
Now I saw the fear she must have felt towards Mordred. “I have to die?”
I decided to be strong. I stood up, towering over her. I flushed all emotion from my thoughts and fixed her with my best level stare.
I said, “If you wish to cast this magic I have taught you, then first you must die to become truly Immortal. I do not tell you this lightly, nor do I expect you to make any decision now. However, this is the truth of the matter.”
She gathered herself quickly and strode to our table where implements of magic use were kept. Nimue picked up a ceremonial dagger and brought it to me.
“I cannot know if you lie to me; or for what purpose if you do. I asked you to teach and you have. I asked you to love and you have. I have asked so much of you and you have given it. Now I am asked to trust you with my life and my death. Trust in you I shall. Bring this immortal gift unto me my love, for then we can spend eternity together”
I felt the sting of tears in my eyes. I have killed many in my lifetime, mortals included and more than my fair share of Immortals. However, killing someone to bestow immortality upon them I had never done. She was my lover and friend.
Nimue gently arranged the dagger in my hands and wrapped her own hands around mine. “Please my love. Free me to be with you forever.”
I realized then I couldn’t do it. Love for her purity stayed me. “I cannot.”
“What of Mordred? How can I protect myself from him?”
I answered, “I will protect you from him.”
She leaned in to kiss me and whispered, “This is no longer your choice.”
She pulled herself forward, taking the dagger in her breast to the hilt. Her eyes looked into mine and I saw the love and trust in me before they faded to lifelessness. I felt as though she had killed me too. Something innocent had been taken for the promise of power. I had never made such an enormous error. I felt filthy.
Her body crashed to the floor of the cave and I stood over her, willing myself not to sob. I picked her up gently and laid her in a makeshift bed within the cave we had made a week before. Then I busied myself with mindless tasks.
* * *
The ballroom was silent as a tomb. Merlin looked at his water bottle, slowly turning it in his hand. His eyes were clear and Duncan was sure those eyes were hard enough to crack steel.
“I too know the sting you speak of. I was young and in love, killing my wife on our wedding day to bestow the Gift. What followed was lifetimes of hatred ended in senseless death.”
“Wife?!” asked Methos.
Duncan shushed the elder immortal with a curt hand. “Another day.”
Merlin managed a small smile. “Trust me my new friend, it gets much worse. Never in my life had I regretted the pursuit of magical power until Nimue.”
The persistent scratching interrupted them to find Methos busy scribbling notes. The mood was shattered and Merlin laughed. Even Duncan found himself smiling. However, in Methos’ eyes, Duncan saw something that the elder Immortal knew exactly what he was doing.
Merlin clapped Methos on the shoulder and bade Duncan to sit in the makeshift judge’s chair. The magician led Methos to the floor and challenged him to a practice round. Methos grinned and accepted, but still Duncan caught every glance thrown his way by the other Immortal. Duncan grimaced inwardly. He hated it when Methos tried to make his points.
“Begin!” He cried.