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
The rain clouds were back, matching the general mood of the rental car as it sped across the countryside of England. From the outskirts of London, no one had said a word, each lost in their own worlds. Morgan was dead. They all had issues with her when she was alive. None of the surviving Immortals enjoyed killing, preferring to live and let live. Morgan had brought it on herself, but the regrets and in Duncan’s case, the guilt, kept piling on.
The Game was a tireless one. Those that succumbed to fatigue often gave their lives soon after. Duncan himself had retreated to Holy Ground on more than one occasion to escape The Game and learned that you cannot run away. Sooner or later it catches up with you. Still, a little time away to refresh in peace was a boon.
Every Immortal dealt with guilt and regrets, even those that were considered evil. It was spiritually draining to continue to hunt others with the express purpose of ending their lives, even if you were competing for some ultimate prize. The Kurgan, as described by Connor dealt with those issues by being crazy as a loon and overwhelmingly intimidating.
As the kilometers passed, Duncan began to open up to himself. He carefully examined the wound left in him by Richie’s death and tried to deal with it, at least nominally. He had done this all his Immortal life, healing himself incrementally.
Why had Richie died? The answer was obvious in its simplicity. Duncan had cut his head off. Duncan winced in the back seat of the car. Brutally honest with himself, he sometimes was so much so he injured himself further. This was one of those times. Guilt pressed in on him again. Morgan had forced the issue and had died, albeit by Merlin’s hand, but Duncan had been there.
Richie had been forced into the situation created by Ahriman’s control. Again, even though Duncan was under the demon’s influence, he was still there when his student had died, so like Morgan’s death, Duncan was ultimately responsible for the killing of his student. The blade that took Richie’s head was wielded by Duncan. No excuse or justification would ever change that simple fact.
The pain rushed up and overwhelmed Duncan. He did as before, balled it all up and forced it away. It was too much and way to fresh for him to handle. He missed his young friend, so much more than he thought was possible. The Game claimed its victims without a care and usually Duncan was able to handle the consequences of who and what he was. Richie was special though, more than just a student. He had occupied a very important place in Duncan’s life. He was a friend and almost a sidekick. Richie had done a lot on his own, away from Duncan, but could always be counted on to return. He wouldn’t return ever again.
Duncan closed his eyes and forced himself to breathe. He concentrated on that sole aspect of his being. Within his mind’s eye he started his katas again, each flowing into the next until once again he had the images of the kata he used to defeat Ahriman. Duncan felt his calmness suffuse his body. His heart rate evened out and his building stress peaked and even began to regress a bit.
As Duncan concentrated, his mind cleared and he came close to being one with himself, as so many of his eastern teachers had taught him. He finished his kata in his mind and took a deep cleansing breath. It would help him deal with Richie’s loss. When his mind processed that thought, all the despair came crashing back in, but Duncan’s mind cushioned it enough. He would deal with it, he would survive.
“Where did you put it?” Duncan asked, shattering the monotonous silence.
Merlin chuckled. “Where every mortal knew I would. Or at least where every modern day mortal would think I would. Granted, it is artfully concealed and no one, Immortals included could find it without me, but it is ridiculously easy to guess.”
Methos said nothing, just kept scratching away at his notebook. Duncan saw the hint of a smile riding the elder Immortal’s lips and knew Methos knew the location.
Duncan sat back and thought. He’d been in England so many times in his life, trying so hard to fight for Scotland’s right to exist, free of the yoke of a foreign ruler. He had traveled the country in its entirety several times over as well. Lastly, he’d gotten to know the legendary magician pretty well over the short time he’d known him. Merlin appeared to have an innate sense of history and humor. He would place Excalibur in the easiest spot to find. He would hide it in plain sight where everyone would expect to find such a linchpin to history. Where would the sword that made England a country be hidden? It would be in the same place that marked England as a country of history and legend.
Duncan took a deep breath and smiled. “Stonehenge.”
Merlin actually giggled, which shocked Duncan. “That was ridiculously simple, now wasn’t it?”
Duncan shared in the laughter because it made perfect sense. The legend of King Arthur and his magical sword is so important to what England is as a country; couple that to the legends and mystery that shrouds Stonehenge like the massive fogs that cover London. It was such an absurd risk to hide the sword of Arthur in such an obvious place, except for the magic that cloaked it.
Methos looked up from his writing. “Isn’t that a bit dangerous?”
Merlin looked at Methos like the elder Immortal had grown a horn on his nose. “It’s worked for 1500 years. I think that stands the test of time.”
Methos nodded. The magician’s point was taken. Then Methos laughed too.
“You would think all the times I deferred to your decisions because you were right would teach me to just trust you now.”
Merlin nodded. “Yes my dear friend, sage advice. Just trust me. Everything is going to work out just fine.”
* * *
Rain was heavy in the air, as if the dark grey clouds above could barely hold it. The rest of the drive to mystic Stonehenge had been pleasant, though only marginally more talkative.
Duncan stepped from the vehicle and heard the distant rumble of thunder. There was energy in the air. He could feel vibrations in the air and knew them to be energy from other living things. He felt aware of all things. It was humbling and intoxicating at the same time. Electricity danced upon the air, only seen sometimes as flashes of lightning in the distance, but it was in the air. History was waiting. Destiny called.
Merlin stepped out next, followed by a nearly reverent Methos. The eldest Immortal looked out over the ancient construct and openly worshipped. He was clearly amazed. Duncan felt it too, it was Holy Ground, if for nothing else than the sheer history of the place. He felt like taking a knee in reverence.
The large stone slabs of the place were by no means perfectly shaped. There was little symmetry left, but the overall impression left on Duncan was awe. Each rough hewn rectangular block placed exactly was humbling because of the massive size. Duncan had seen television shows that depicted how Stonehenge may have been built, but the majesty of being there always rocked him.
Merlin swept by Duncan and proceeded directly into the structure. There was such purpose to his steps that Duncan began to feel actual nervousness. Still, he followed the magician without words. Methos fell in with him.
“You sure?” The elder Immortal asked quietly.
Duncan paused a bit. “Hell of a time to ask that Methos. Like I told Joe, my beliefs don’t matter if something exists to help me in my tasks. I’m ready for anything, as long as Merlin delivers.”
Methos smiled. “He’s never let me down. Not even when we parted so many years ago.”
The astounding majesty of the place silenced them as they entered the perimeter. Merlin did not pause. He headed straight for the pilot stone. His gaze was locked on it. Duncan stopped, closed his eyes and tried to reach his center within the boundaries of this holy historical spot. He was astonished at how easy it was. Duncan was the center of everything. All was right, he was ready.
Duncan opened his eyes and finished the distance to where Merlin stood. The magician had his hand on the stone, eyes half open and an ever so small smile on his lips. He appeared thankful.
“Years of searching and I found you. Years of preparation and all is ready. From the time I created this sword, it has been used to unite a country and hold together a legend. Now it will be used for something it was never created for. I am saddened in part that this has occurred but rejoice in knowing what I created so long ago can now avert tragedy.”
Duncan examined the rock, curious at why he saw nothing. He was like Methos had been though, willing to trust the magician. Merlin sighed and took his hand away from the stone. With a quick glance to verify no one else was at the site, Merlin turned to Duncan.
“Now, my new friend. I have to ask you to do something against your very nature.”
Duncan let his head tilt slightly to the side. He knew what was coming.
Merlin continued, “To pierce the veil, you must learn to believe in the old magics. There was a very good reason I brought the sword here. This spot is ancient and brings out belief from everyone who sees it. It was true then, it remains true now. Seeing the immensity of this place, people are willing to believe nearly anything. It does not matter whether there is truth in the belief or not.”
Duncan said, “You want me to believe in magic.”
Merlin shook his head. “No, you already do. I want you to accept magic as a natural force of this earth. It is equal to religion or faith. It is equal to science.”
The Highlander mirrored the magician’s head shake. “I can’t. I do not believe in what I can’t see. I feel foolish saying it, but it is true.”
Methos appeared next to Duncan. “Morgan worked her magics on you and you did not see those.”
“She worked magic on me because I saw her and believed that she could do whatever she wants. With as beautiful as she was, there is no chance that could be argued.”
Merlin pursed his lips. “Were you to find something you could not see, would that further open your mind to the impossible?”
“Maybe. I cannot answer that without knowing what you mean.”
“Are you willing to try?”
Duncan smiled. “My mind has been more than opened after meeting you Merlin. My heart trusts you so I feel that you speak true. I am willing to trust that you can indeed show me wonders I think are impossible.”
“Give me your hand Highlander.”
Duncan raised his hand to Merlin and the magician placed his own over Duncan’s. He guided Duncan’s hand to the stone. To his astonishment, he felt etchings in the rock. He put his other hand to the stone and felt those etchings. They were words.
“I moved everything. I removed the inscription from the first and added it to this. I figured Arthur wouldn’t mind.”
He who draws forth this blade, shall be King of England.
Duncan felt his breath catch. All the history and legend crashed in on him and he was awash in sudden emotion. His eyes searched out Merlin and saw the answer in the older Immortal’s eyes.
“Yes Duncan. It is all true.”
Duncan almost stammered. “Somehow, inside of me, I thought it was all a story. You had the sword hidden somewhere or something like that. The inscription was part of the legend. But it’s all true.”
Methos placed a hand on Duncan’s shoulder. “Now you know how I felt when I drew it. You are at the center of history MacLeod. Unfortunately, this history will likely never be known.”
Duncan closed his eyes and felt the words again, shaking his head in disbelief. “You have shown me something I cannot see.”
Merlin’s hand took Duncan’s shoulder opposite of Methos’. “You can see Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod. Open your eyes and accept that magic can do things as well as science or even your own hands. You feel the writing; you know and accept that it is there. Now accept that you can see them and open your eyes.”
Duncan did as the magician asked and nearly cried out. The gasp that came out of him was not for the words that blazed in front of him, even in the low light let through the clouds. Above the writing his eyes locked on impossibility. The hilt of a sword jutted from the rock. The handle was beautiful in words he could not think of. The unique and detailed artistry on the pommel was unmatched by anything Duncan had ever seen. His logical mind was further subdued by knowing by sight that the intricacy on display before him could barely be matched in the modern age, much less when the sword was said to have been created.
Duncan whispered. “My God.”
“This coming from a markedly non-religious Immortal.” Said Methos.
The quip was somewhat half-hearted though as Methos was drinking in the sight of the sword as well.
“I have missed this blade. It took me until now to know it.”
Duncan stepped back. “It was yours, created for you and this land. Don’t tell me you can’t because I know you Methos. I know you, Arthur. It is yours. Take it again.”
Methos didn’t argue. He stepped forward and grasped the hilt reverently. He breathed out and pulled. Nothing happened. The elder Immortal stepped back, tears running down his face.
“My time with this sword is done. My service to this country was complete. The sword must be passed on to the next. Duncan, you are that Immortal. Take Excalibur and let’s put an end to Mordred.”
Duncan’s heart cried out for Methos. The loss must have crushed the elder Immortal. However, his eyes still locked on the blade and Duncan felt the reverence. Methos was still captivated by the ideal behind the sword, the reason it was created.
Then Duncan stepped forward and reached for the hilt. As his skin touched the artwork his hand tingled. Methos had been right, it was like a battery, full of power. Suddenly, Duncan felt complete and whole. Even the completeness he had felt moments before was nothing compared to how right it felt to have this weapon. Mordred wouldn’t stand a chance.
He pulled on the blade, head bowed in the same reverence that Methos had showed. He looked up at the blade and the shock hit him. It hadn’t moved. He tugged again and the blade remained firm in the stone. Duncan turned his shocked gaze to Merlin.
Merlin whispered, “Gods of heaven and earth. Now what do we do?”