For the next few 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
Duncan MacLeod sat across from Merlin, staring into the magician’s eyes and reading ages of history and experience in them. The hotel dining room was empty and completely quiet. Even graveyards in the dead of night were raucous compared to what could be heard in the vast room.
“Once again my friend, I ask you to believe. I ask you to quiet the part of your mind that requires proof and design. The impossible is ordinary where I travel. The preposterous is everyday in my world. Believe in me and believe in what I can show you.”
Duncan inwardly sighed. He was so tired. He was also at his last nerve. Duncan was so close to giving in and returning to Paris that it surprised even him. His honor was gone and unrecoverable. He had even thought about tanking his next fight just to end the shame. But then, Merlin had yet to fail him. At least it could be argued that the magician was still trying to help.
He closed his eyes and reached for his chi. “I believe.”
He felt Merlin’s hands touch the tops of his own. They were dry, and yet smooth. Duncan wondered briefly why the magician’s hands weren’t course like others of his kind, where sword fighting was more common than not.
“Let go of logic Duncan. Let go of the modern world. Believe.”
Duncan yanked his wandering thoughts back and doggedly suppressed them.
Merlin’s voice sounded subdued. “You saw the sword. You touched Excalibur. You saw magic. Believe.”
Duncan smiled. “I touched Excalibur. I believe.”
And then he did. All the logic and scientific needs flooded out of him like the biblical flood from the story of Noah. To replace it, the onrushing tide of stories and myths of magic and magical legends roared into him. He was suffused with life and energy. He was whole.
Duncan’s eyes snapped open, but Merlin was not there, nor was Methos, whose quiet presence had been behind Merlin when the exercise had begun. Even Joe’s lined face of concern was gone. There was a haze only. A subdued white fog permeated everything around him; his sight, his mind and his being.
Slowly the haze lifted; revealing hardwood floors and padded mats. Sounds leaked out of the distance and slowly grew in volume. Voices and other sounds from a gym surrounded him. Charlie’s gym opened before him, no Duncan Macleod’s own dojo. He smiled at what he saw. It would always be Charlie’s dojo.
Duncan took a step back in shock. It was Richie! Dressed in almost trademark jeans and white T-shirt, the younger Immortal looked fit and actually happy. Duncan felt sorrow tear at him. How could Richie be happy when he was dead? And he was dead by Duncan’s hand.
Other figures in the dojo finally became clear to him. They were all Immortal, and more importantly, they all died by his sword. There were others too that he did not recognize. The dojo was doing superb business.
Duncan allowed Richie to lead him to the office. The young dead Immortal closed the door and beckoned Duncan to take a chair. Duncan was sitting before he knew what happened. His eyes came to rest on the nameplate decorating the desk. It said in simple block letters: Richie Ryan.
“How is this possible?” croaked MacLeod.
Richie threw his arms up with a crooked grin and shrugged at the same time. “Who’s to say? You’re here, I’m here the rest of the gang is here though a good half are in Paris I think. You’ll be leaving, we won’t.”
“Richie. You’re…you are…”
Richie leaned back in the big chair and grinned widely. “Dead? Yeah, I know. It was a bummer at first, but I got over that. Consone saw to that. He could have been a preacher.”
The younger Immortal leaned forward. “Mac. You don’t have a whole lot of time here. You need to pull yourself together. We have a lot to talk about.”
“How can we be talking Richie? You’re dead!”
Richie sat back again, still smiling. “We’ve covered that.”
“Merlin’s playing mind games with me.”
Richie grew serious in a heartbeat. “No Mac. He’s giving you an opportunity to learn and grow. He’s giving you the tools you need to survive and thrive.”
“I don’t understand.”
“You don’t need to understand. Look, let me be more direct. When you take someone’s head, you receive all their knowledge and power, right?”
“This is it. Consider it your energies given life. We exist within you all the time. All our experiences, even those of us with relatively few, are now a part of you. Merlin has given you a chance to talk to us, and heal yourself.”
“You can’t heal me Richie. I cannot be healed. My honor is gone. I have none left because I did the most despicable thing imaginable. I killed my student and my friend. I murdered you.”
Richie nodded and clasped his hands in front of him. “I hope you find this as amusing as I do, but I think I now know more about honor than you. Finally, I get to teach you.”
Duncan cocked his head. “I’m sorry, but I don’t find that amusing at all.”
“Good to see you still have fire in your heart Mac. You’ll need it.”
“Then instruct me. Let’s get this farce over with.”
Richie furrowed his brow at Duncan’s comment. “Let me ask you a question. How many students have you had in your Immortal lifetime?”
“I don’t remember. There have been quite a few.”
“How many are left alive?”
Duncan shrugged. “I have no idea.”
Richie continued like a trial lawyer. “Are any left alive?”
“Ditto my previous answer.”
“Would it be safe to say that some are dead now?”
Duncan sighed. “Of course, you’re dead too.”
“Was their deaths your fault too?”
“I didn’t kill them. I killed you! They didn’t die because of me, you did!”
“Mac, I was your student. You taught, I learned. But aside from all of that, I was still my own person. I lived, laughed, and loved. I was even honored to become your friend. You were the single most important person in my life.”
Duncan felt tightness in his throat. The wound he kept so carefully locked and bandaged had been breached. The pain and despair rushed out of its prison and swarmed him. Seeing Richie sitting there, talking with him so much like when he was alive was so painful as to seem unbearable. He almost pushed it away, to imprison it again, but he couldn’t. He let the rage and anger wash over him.
“Why the Hell didn’t you stay where you were? Damn it Richie! The demon used Joe against me too! You had to have known.”
Richie shrugged again. “Maybe I did, maybe I didn’t. Doesn’t matter much now, does it?”
Duncan launched himself to his feet and slammed his big hands on the desk. “Everything would have worked out fine if you had just stayed the Hell away from me!”
“Why would I do that?”
“Damn you Richie. Because I told you to!”
Richie stood up slowly, actually matching Duncan’s intensity. He leaned on the desk himself and moved his head within inches of MacLeod’s.
“You are not my father.”
“I was your protector!”
“No you were not. You were my teacher and my friend. I saw an opportunity to help you and took it.”
Duncan stood up and looked at the ceiling. His cheeks were wet with tears. He could feel the heat of anger in his face and shoulders.
“I still killed you. I knew the demon dealt in lies, but let myself get sucked into his world. It doesn’t matter at all if it was my fault or not. I killed you, it was my sword. I should have had control. I lost my control, and with it, my honor.”
“You know what Mac? You sound just like the kid you always treated me like. I was a child when the gift was bestowed on me, but I grew up fast. You made me. You forced me to grow up and take responsibility for who and what I was. Now it’s you whining about stuff you couldn’t control.”
“I am not whining!”
Richie laughed, loudly. “Oh yes you are. Poor little MacLeod. Poor little Immortal that is so much more honorable than everyone else. I killed Richie so I’m not worthy. I killed my student, oh boo hoo. Cut the crap Mac, I’m not buying it.”
“Easy for you to say Richie. It wasn’t your honor to lose. You weren’t responsible for protecting everyone and being the savior to the world. I lost control and killed the only true friend I had left. Damn it Richie, it’s my fault you’re dead. It’s my fault my honor is gone. Why can’t you understand that?”
Richie rubbed his palms against his eyes briefly. “Because it ain’t true Mac.”
“Oh, so now I didn’t kill you?”
Richie came around the desk. “No, you most definitely killed me. I’m saying you’re not responsible for it.”
“Are you deaf? It was my hand on the sword that killed you! That makes it my fault!”
Richie stepped close to MacLeod and growled again. “Stop treating me like a child. You are not my father.”
Duncan pushed Richie away. “We’ve already covered that.”
Richie pushed back. “Not enough to get through your thick skull.”
“Honor demands that I be responsible for my actions. I killed you and in that moment, my responsibility to you was breached.”
“Bullshit. You didn’t know it was me. You can’t be held accountable for what you could not know.”
Duncan turned away. “But I did know. I knew the demon was lying, but I fought anyway. I should have known what could happen.”
Richie almost ran around to get into Duncan’s view again. “But I blundered in where I should not have been.”
“Which is the point where you died.”
“Mac, who’s responsibility was it that I was there?”
Duncan stopped. “What?”
“You trained me to fight. You trained me to be responsible for my actions.”
Duncan nodded. “Of course I did. It was my responsibility to train you and keep you as safe as I could until you were ready.”
“Was I ready?”
Duncan placed a hand on Richie’s shoulder. “You would have done well if it wasn’t for me. You were more than ready.”
Richie nodded as if he had made a point. “So, when would I be ready to be independently responsible for myself?”
“You already were. You were self sufficient and ready to be on your own.”
Richie gripped Duncan’s shoulder tighter and lightly shook him. “Right. So I was there on my responsibility. I was trying to help you. I took the responsibility to seek you out and try to help. Granted, it was a bad decision. Mac, it was my responsibility, it was my honor. It wasn’t yours.”
“What are you saying?”
“There comes a time when you have to allow someone their own honor. You have to allow others to be responsible for their selves. You can’t save everyone Duncan. You can’t assume the responsibility and honor for those no longer under your protection. I was there to help you of my own free will. I died. Your honor is not damaged because you do not control me anymore. Your honor is secure.”
“But I killed you!”
Richie shook Duncan again. “Yes! But your honor stayed intact. You went on without me and defeated the demon. You remember me. I did the most honorable thing I know of. I went to help a friend. You removed yourself from the fight after I died and gathered your strength and will to fight. My death led you to greater strength. I gave my life for you Duncan. Don’t tarnish my honor by denying your own.”
Duncan stood quietly for a long time. Finally, he stepped back and bowed to his former student. “My student becomes my teacher.”
Richie gave his trademark grin. “It was just a thought.”
Duncan lurched forward and drew Richie into a huge bear hug. “Gods I miss you Richie.”
The younger Immortal slapped him on the back. “I miss you too big guy. Even though I’m always with you, I miss our talks.”
Duncan stepped back and wiped away a tear. “You won this argument. You won it well.”
“So, what’s next?”
A visceral hatred enveloped Duncan before he realized it. “I have a score to settle with Mordred.”
“Good. You’ve got a little time left here, so let me show you around a bit. I also have a thought for Merlin if you want to pass it on.”
Richie gave Duncan another hearty slap on the back and guided him from the office of the dojo and out onto the floor.