WHERE NOBODY CAN SEE
by Maxine Mayer, 6/3/97
358. "Man is neither angel nor brute,
and the unfortunate thing is that
he who would act the angel acts the brute."
411. "Notwithstanding the sight of all our miseries,
which press upon us and take us by the throat,
we have an instinct which we cannot repress,
and which lifts us up."
- Blaise Pascal, "Pensees"
"A man of honor lives with what he does." - Highlander "Promises"
Conversation between Duncan MacLeod and Methos Valerius, on Duncan's barge in Paris, subsequent to the Highlander episode entitled "Archangel"
Methos - Don't worry, Mac, at your worst, you couldn't kill me!
Duncan - You saw it, you saw! I killed Richie, Methos - nobody's safe - I'm cursed. Dangerous to everyone I care about, anyone, even you!
Methos - That's not what I meant, Duncan. I meant - you couldn't take me - I'm better.
Duncan - You say. I won't take that risk - not with your life, Methos! Go away!
Methos - MacLeod, listen to me. We've only got a few minutes, while you're rational. Who can even guess how long. So listen closely. You're too important to lose! Are you listening?
Duncan - I hear you.
Methos - Good. Now, you know I don't believe in these - Demonic Legends - these Demons you're seeing.
Duncan - I know you don't. But if you experienced what I do, you'd believe. If you'd slaughtered me, like I did Richie, you'd believe!
Methos - No. I wouldn't. But that's not the point. You believe. So, I'm gonna act on the assumption they're real - he's real. The Demon. Okay - follow so far?
Duncan - Yeah, I follow. You'll humour me.
Methos - No, I will believe, for your sake. There's a difference. Now, assuming the Demon is real, then I'm with you for a reason.
Duncan - What reason? To get yourself killed?
Methos - No. I'm here with you, in your troubles, because I'm the oldest living Immortal.
Duncan - I hope you aren't going where I think you're going, Methos.
Methos - I'm going right there. Collect two hundred dollars. What better victory for the Demon? What more could he ask or desire, than that his tool, his fool, his weapon - you - kill us both, the youngest Immortal and the oldest?
Duncan - You think that's what he's after? Then he'll get it. You better leave now, Methos, while all your body parts are still attached.
Methos - No. Because if it's true - my theory - then you mustn't be alone here, it'll simply drag things out. If the Demon intends for you to go after me, I say, give him what he wants. Keep him happy. Go after me!
Duncan - You can't mean for real.
Methos - But I do. That's exactly what I mean, as Kronos would have said. Alone, you cannot defeat him. But that's the meaning of your life, MacLeod, you're never truly alone. You're carrying your "clan" - the weight of the world - with you, every step you take.
Duncan - I don't follow. How are we together, if I go after your head?
Methos - You'll see. Trust me, MacLeod. You've put your life in my hands before. Will you do it again?
Duncan - Yes. I will.
Methos - There's an old legend among my people -
Duncan - Your people!
Methos - Yes. I had a people, too, once. A tribe. Elders. Shaman. Healer. Family. The works. No different from your clan.
Duncan - I never thought - Joe said, you didn't remember. You said it was hazy -
Methos - How often must I tell you, the Watchers don't know everything. In my case, they know what I want them to know. And so do you.
Duncan - So, what is this legend your people tell?
Methos - They say, the Great Mountain asks little, but it wants what it asks for.
Duncan - How does that help me?
Methos - It's asking for me. Why not give it what it wants?
Duncan - No! Methos, no! I want you to live!
Methos - At what price? I've survived five thousand years. Don't you think I want to live? I still do. But - not at this price - your sanity. Maybe, your life. I haven't changed my mind, MacLeod. There's one thing I still believe. You're too important to lose!
Duncan - How many more that I love do you think I can lose - through my own actions - before my sanity is completely gone, Methos? How long after that do you imagine I'll survive? There's gotta be another way.
Methos - Maybe there is no other way. Maybe we should simply give the Demon what he wants.
Duncan - Think harder, boy-o! That's unacceptable. End of discussion.
Methos - Of course, we could trick him.
Duncan - How do you mean?
Methos - What if the Demon thinks you've killed me? He might be satisfied then, and leave you be, leave the world in peace, for another thousand years!
Duncan - How? What's your plan?
Methos - Hey, I made the suggestion. You're the hero - you make the plan!
"Amanda," I said, rising from my chair to greet the lovely old Immortal with a kiss on the cheek. "Thank you for coming." I'd asked her to join me for a meal at a posh restaurant in Lisbon. One step up from holy ground. I knew I'd need all the edge I could get, to pull this off.
"I owe you, Methos," she replied curtly, taking a seat. "I pay my debts. What do you want?"
"You look ravishing. Is that a knock-off, or vintage Dior?" I asked. Her dress was a stunning silk number, fashionable in the '50's, a swirling black and white print. It swathed her body tightly in all the right places. The low cut bodice did the rest.
"Must be something really big, to rate that kind of compliment. I'll do it, whatever it is, but then we're quits."
"Until next time! Don't be so suspicious, my love. This is simply an intimate dinner for two in a Lisbon restaurant. My favorite in the city. Order the steak. It's delicious. And champagne, as well. I broke into my own 'rainy day' stash. I'm flush. Everything's on me."
"Methos, I'm not up for champagne. Weren't you there? Don't you know?"
"I know, blossom, I know," I replied, taking a deep breath. She spoke of Richie's beheading. By MacLeod. I hadn't actually seen him do the deed, but I'd witnessed the Quickening fire and seen Richie's headless body. Refused Duncan's sword - I'm not sure if he meant me simply to take it away from him, or to take it and use it - on him.
"So - why are we in Lisbon instead of Paris - or wherever the hell Duncan's gone?" she asked in a fierce whisper, her fury held tightly in check in public. "You do know where he is, don't you?"
"Because I'm a male Immortal, cherry blossom. He won't let me near him. He won't let anyone he cares about near him. Not now. He's in mourning. Sloshing about in it."
"Methos - this isn't funny! He's got a right to be mourning! He raised that kid from a pup! Taught him everything a newly made Immortal needs to know, after First Death. Then he killed him! Don't you think he's got a right to suffer a little?"
"'Course I do. Not that I've got any say in it."
"I'm asking you for the last time, Methos - why are we in Lisbon? What do you want from me?"
"I know where he went. I want you to go there and bring him out of hiding. He can't delay any longer. Like Oedipus, he can go to whatever lengths he likes, but it won't prevent him killing his father. He can hide for as long as he likes, avoid his friends as best he can, but it won't prevent him fulfilling the Demon's will, won't stop Duncan from being the Warrior who must Battle this particular Demon, this particular Millennium, this time around. He's simply dragging it out."
"What makes you think Duncan will let me close enough to convince him? He cares about me."
"You're a woman. He's got enough faith, still, in his own nature, to trust himself not to kill a woman, mortal or Immortal. You'll get close."
The waiter came and we ordered. When he left, I looked at Amanda. "Well? Will you get him for me?"
"Hmm. Let's eat first. I'll think about it during dinner. I don't know if you remember, Methos, but I'm not the bravest skirt on the block. I want to keep my head. I don't relish the idea of losing it to anyone - especially not to MacLeod."
"Don't you trust me, girl?"
"I'm scared, Methos. If we leave him be, maybe the Demon will go away. If we push him around, manipulate him, maybe the Demon will take offense, turn on him. Kill him." Her eyes were wide with these speculations. Terrified.
"You speak about 'the Demon' as if you believed, Amanda. But I know you don't. Never did. Never will."
"I believe. After I found out how Richie met his end - I believed."
I was skeptical, and I let it show in my voice. "Sure you do! Do you remember when we met? When I claimed I was atoning for my sins. Do you remember what you said to me, back then?"
"I remember. I said that you couldn't believe all that crap - or words to that effect!" Amanda smiled. "I was a Green Girl, Methos. I remember, though."
"You haven't changed. Not in a mere eight hundred years. Unless it's to become even more of an unbeliever than you were then."
"Methos, okay, maybe I don't believe in a Demon. But something's making Duncan crazy! Something made him see Richie as an enemy - take his head! I'm scared to death of whatever that was, Demon or no."
I shook my head. "You're all alike, you unbelievers. Don't have the courage of your convictions. A little blood, a little gore, and you're scared. You scuttle away like insects - afraid of your own shadows. Duncan MacLeod is not seeing real Demons. He's lost it, Amanda. If we're to have a prayer in hell of bringing him back as he was - if that's still possible - we can't fall into the trap of believing in Demons! That's what happened to Richie - he thought there must be something to it!"
"You saying Duncan needs a psychiatrist, not an exorcist - is that it?" Amanda retorted.
"I'm saying, that old bugger of an archeologist pushed all MacLeod's buttons! Duncan's the 'only one' who can defeat the Demon! The end of the world is coming, and 'only Duncan' can prevent it! Look at the state the world is in - 'only Duncan' can save it! Cripes, the world's been in this state since the beginning of time! Wars, famine, pestilence, drought, fire, death! There's nothing new! But MacLeod wants to help - so he's helping! Look how well he's helping!"
"Methos - okay. Okay. I'll try to get him away from wherever he is and back to the land of the living. I'll get him back to Paris. Then what? What's your plan?"
"I'm gonna let him take my head, satisfy the Demon, and get on with his life," I replied calmly.
"You heard me," I said.
"No! I won't be a party to this! I want you to live, Methos! I love you, goddam you! Duncan loves you! Everybody loves you! What earthly use would it be for him to take your head? Just give him more crimes for his nightmares! Don't you think he's got enough?"
"This is my choice, Amanda. If he can't resolve this, to his satisfaction - his unconscious satisfaction - appease the Demon, give it the sacrifice it desires, he'll be lost to us. To all of us, mortals and Immortals alike. And Amanda, he's too important to lose!"
She sat there for a moment, calmly chewing her steak. She swallowed. Took a sip of champagne. She daintily patted her mouth with the linen napkin. Then she took her purse, raised an eyebrow, and stood, moving behind her chair. "The answer is no, Methos. Read my lips! N. O. Spells no. I love Duncan MacLeod. But you've been there for me longer. I stand with you, like you've always stood with me. And I'm not doing anything to speed your departure from this life, not even for his sake. Got it? Good." She left me speechless. And left the restaurant.
I took a deep breath and a sip of champagne. I ran my hand through my hair. Muttered a few choice curses in a long dead tongue. Signalled for the check. Paid. Left the restaurant.
Now, what am I to do? I thought. Amanda can approach him, and won't. I would approach him, if I could, but I can't. Damn! Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod - you are such a pain in the ass!
The moment Methos left my barge, after his try at making me go after his head, I stopped believing in his theories. While he stood in front of me, talked to me, his aura pulsing with urgency and love, I could believe. That the Demon was after him, that we could defeat the Demon by giving it a simple sacrifice - Methos' life. That what I've been seeing, living through, doing, was just a crazy dream. All of it. All of it. That's what Methos believes. While he's with me, I can't help being convinced - seduced - by his vision.
But the moment he left I knew he was wrong about all of it. It's true that the world's been a mess since time began. I know that. But a mess implies a mixture of Good and Evil. What the Demon wants is no mix. It's total control of all of us. So far, he hasn't gotten that. Not in millions of years. Because those who are good fight the Demon with all that is in their hearts. And now it's my turn to do my part. The Hermit said it about himself. I say it about myself. Maybe it's pride - I know Methos thinks that. Pride. To believe I can make a difference. But all that Evil needs to triumph, is for good men to do nothing. I believe that too.
I can't do nothing. I never could. I don't suppose I ever will. And more important, I don't want to do nothing. I want to help. I want to make a difference. If I'm a fool, or a dupe, or whatever Methos and Joe think I am - crazy - then I am. It doesn't matter. I've got to try.
I paced the barge while I thought about it all. The rampant pain which coursed through my heart and mind and my body - the pain of killing Richie - didn't let up while I thought. I knew it wouldn't let up. Not ever. The Epic of Gilgemesh isn't too strong, I realized. The grief of losing Richie is just that strength, that intensity. My guilt, the same.
But now was not the time to give in to the grief and the guilt. Live it. Live with it. If I survived, there'd be more than enough time, later. Now, I needed to find a way to fight the Demon.
I thought - thus far and no farther. If I needed to, I'd die in this fight. Maybe that was my destiny. Not to be the Only One, in the End, as some believed, or wished me to be. But simply to fight this one time, this one Battle against Evil. Live or die, win or lose, I had to try.
It wasn't easy to find the Hermit's cave. Everything had changed in the nearly four hundred years since I'd last been there. Everything except for the isolation of the Highlands in those hills. Even though I remembered the part of the forest, the terrain, and the hills nearby, I kicked about the woods for hours before I located the entrance to the cave.
Inside, it was damp and dark. I'd brought some camping gear, kerosene lamps, food and drink, with me. If necessary, I'd get more. But I didn't expect my vigil to be long or drawn out. A few days. A few years. The Millennium was upon us, as some would have it. I was cold with the knowledge of what I'd already done while hypnotized by the Demon. But I didn't believe there waas much more he could make me do - not here. Not while I was alone.
That was the problem. I wasn't going to remain alone for long. I'd contacted Connor, my kinsman, and asked him to meet me here. He'd been with me the night I first met Richie. I believe Connor understood, even then, the dangers that were ahead for all of us. He was never one to talk about what he was thinking. He kept his own counsel. But his wisdom belied his years, always. And Connor was always a solitary man, which somehow made his understanding of mortals and Immortals richer rather than poorer.
But most important, for me, at this time, was the trust I placed in him. Connor was kin. Centuries passed, and everything changed, but not that. He would always be kin. A fellow clansman. It made a difference. I remembered, when I saw the Hermit's bones in the cave, untouched in centuries, that he was a Scot, too. Perhaps not kin, but a Scot. One of us. A Highlander. Why? I'd have time to wonder and speculate, why the Hermit who claimed he'd done his part to fight the Demon a thousand years ago, was a Highlander, like me, like Connor. Plenty of time. Right now, I needed to set up some kind of camp in the cave, and wait for Connor to arrive. Plenty of time to think, to wonder, and to mourn, while I waited.
Been thinking about Methos. I miss him. I shake my head, awed when I remember my immediate response to Methos, when I first found him a couple years ago. Stupid stupid stupid. He was old. That had been enough, back then, to engage me so strongly. Older than Darius. Older than Grayson. Older than I'd ever thought any one of us could survive to become. Old. I shake my head again. Old doesn't mean wise. Old doesn't mean good. Old doesn't mean powerful. Old doesn't mean right.
I trusted him. And now I miss him. But he's all wrong for me. For this fight. This struggle against the Demon. All wrong. Because he thinks I'm crazy. Not that I'm certain I'm sane. I don't know if I am or not. But I've got to act as though I'm sane. With Methos around, that's impossible. Where he got his profoundly skeptical way of thinking, I don't know. But he's got it, in spades. It clashes so badly with what I must do, how I must think, to defeat the Demon, that I can't have him near me now.
And I miss him. And I miss Richie. And I miss Joe. God.
Joe must be grieving badly. So much grief and pain. I shake my head again. Nothing I can do, now. Nothing I'll ever be able to do. I killed Richie. Should I tell Joe, I'm sorry? Is that an answer that fits the crime? I don't think so.
Methos. I'm facing a Demon who wants to rule the world, and Methos is suggesting a sacrifice, a small blood sacrifice. His life. And if I'm not good with that - taking his head - if I'm not happy with that, then a trick. He doesn't see what I see. The Demon does the tricks, not us. The Demon fools us, we don't fool him. Methos doesn't understand.
The Battle between Good and Evil takes place where no one can see. I keep running over in my mind what Jason Landry said to me. What his granddaughter told me he believed. Good and Evil fighting over the fate of the world where nobody could see it. Maybe that's what we Immortals are doing. Maybe that's why, in the End there can be Only One. Why we struggle against the Evil Immortals - some of us - so the Demon won't be able to take over the world, in the End, through an Evil Immortal.
Jason Landry believed I was the person to stop the Demon, this time round. This Millennium. The Champion. The Warrior. I must stop him, I alone. It's not so far from what I believe about myself. Oh, I don't believe I'm the only one who does it - fights evil with everything he knows, the best he can. There are many. Darius was one. Connor is another. And Sean. Many others.
But this Cycle of Evil that comes to the earth every thousand years, that Jason Landry believed in, is different. I never knew how seriously I should have taken the Hermit's words. I was too young to understand what he was telling me. These Demonic Legends that come up every thousand years. Methos says he's never believed in the legends. He's been around a long long time. But I believe. And I must act on my belief. No matter what Methos thinks.
I draw a deep breath and move closer to the fire I've lighted. It's very cold in here. I haven't really slept for days. That makes me feel cold, too. And this agony of loss, Richie's death - I can't be surprised I feel cold.
Jason Landry was looking for me. Are you Duncan MacLeod? he asked me. The prophecy he brought, the legend he believed in, spoke of me. Not Connor MacLeod. Duncan MacLeod. Why not Connor? He's a greater Warrior. A better man. Better prepared to face Evil and defeat it, than I am.
No point to this speculation. If I accept part of Landry's story, I've got to accept this part. That I'm the Champion, not Connor. But that doesn't mean Connor can't help me. Just because the Hermit seems to have told me he'd done his part alone, doesn't mean I've got to be alone in this.
Just because Dawson and Methos don't believe, doesn't mean I've got to be alone. Connor will believe. That much I know.
Richie began to believe. Didn't want me to be alone in this fight. Got him killed. Outright. He didn't even raise his sword -
No! No! I mustn't let Richie's death do to me what the Demon wants it to do! Make me lose my faith in myself. Lose my courage to fight. Despair.
Despair is the enemy. It's wearing Richie's face now. Like it wore Richie's face when the Demon made me afraid. Made me believe in the re-animation of the dead - and the possession of the living. I believed. And I was afraid. Because of that, Richie's dead. Because I believed and was afraid.
I'm not afraid now. Whatever the Demon tries to do, to fool me into being afraid and despairing of my ability to do this thing, defeat him, I won't let it happen. I won't.
"Joe?" I gripped the phone so tightly my fingers hurt.
"Methos? How are you? Where are you?" Joe's concern warmed me again, as it always does. I'd stayed with him after we found MacLeod, and Richie's dead body. Stayed with Joe, to help him through it, instead of going after Duncan. I don't regret my choice. I'd caught up with Duncan later, on his barge. He'd been in one of his saner states. But now, I was sorry I'd left MacLeod at all.
"The question is, where's MacLeod?" I retorted bitterly. "If we ever needed a Watcher's special skills, Joe, this is the time."
"You've lost track of him?" Joe asked, horrified.
"Yes. But you know where he went - right? He was on his barge. Then I thought he'd go back to Seacouver. To the Indian holy ground. To mourn. But I checked it out with people I know back there. He's not there. He hasn't been seen in days. Dawson, tell me you know where he went."
"Sorry, pal. I thought you knew. That you were on his tail. You coming back home? For the funeral service? You better find Mac and bring him, if you are."
"Dawson, I don't know where he is! I can't leave Europe. He must be here someplace. See what you can discover, and get back to me. I may not be at a phone number you have, but I'll pick up my e-mail somehow, every couple hours."
"Methos - I asked you a question. You coming to the funeral? Richie's funeral. Is Amanda coming? There aren't that many. The boy was always on the road. Didn't make many permanent friends. Just a couple Immortals. Some of them are dead. You gotta be here."
"I'm not coming back without MacLeod. Without MacLeod, sane. Dawson, put Richie in the ground and we'll have a memorial service later. Right now, we've got more important things to do."
Joe was silent for a long time. I felt the tears in my eyes as well. How could I have said that - put Richie in the ground. Cripes. Colder than cold. Joe must hate me.
But he didn't.
"You're right, Methos. I'll bury him at St. John's By-The-Sea. Near the others of your kind. Then I'll take the first plane back to Paris. I'll e-mail you my flight. Meet it."
"Joe - thanks. I can't be alone in this. You're the only one who understands. Who saw -"
"She won't help. She's angry with me. I don't understand any of this. I just don't follow. Amanda - believes. Because she knows Duncan believes. She just can't help herself."
Joe chuckled. "Women are like that, Methos. Where you been the last fifty centuries, you didn't notice that? Tell her you understand. That you and I are gonna fix things with MacLeod. Help him. She won't be angry at you for long, after you tell her that. Just - don't tell her everything you're thinking."
"Joe, aren't you a bit young to be so smart?"
"Mebbe so. Mebbe so. We young 'uns have our moments, pal. I'll see you soon."
"Soon, Joe. Can't be too soon for me. I'm dying here. Just fading away. Keep trying to locate him. Somebody must know where he's gone."
"Somebody. I hope whoever could know, could guess, ain't dead yet," Joe concluded.
"Don't even think it, Joe. Bite your tongue. I'll see you soon."
I've been around a long time, as Joe took such delight in pointing out. Doesn't help a bit. Not an iota. I can't make myself into something I'm not - a believer. And as long as I'm a skeptic, I'm useless. I can't even imagine where Duncan would go, whose help he'd enlist. I'd shot my wad during his Dark Quickening, when I'd come up with the idea of getting his clan sword and colors, to bring him back to who he was. I understood then, at least a little, what he was experiencing. After all, overloading on evil isn't a completely new concept to me. Those of us who've survived a long time, the Older Immortals, talk about it sometimes. The possibilities. Our fears. The ways to prevent overloading. And so forth.
But this! Demons! Perhaps a prayer would help. I know lots of prayers, in every imaginable language. I know the Zoroastrian demonology pretty well, too. It's how to fight the Demon I'm a little weak on. Oh, I can read the tales. But only a believer can understand - make the leaps necessary to interpret the images and metaphors and allegories and stories in a way that's practical, useful, to defeat a Demon.
I'd asked Joe to find out where MacLeod went. I needed to know that. But it won't be of any use, any practical use, for me to know. I can't help him. If any person alive could, it surely isn't me. In my heart, I'll only be happy if I know where he is. That he's still alive, still fighting, still kicking against the pricks. Even insane. Even that, is better than dead. I have to know he's alive. For my own sake. Because I love him. Not for his sake at all.
Certainly, not for the world's sake. I don't give a damn about the world or anybody in it, except maybe Joe and Amanda and of course Duncan. All the stretch in me is gone. I've snapped back to where I was before I met MacLeod. I'm a survivor again. With a difference. I've extended my need to survive to include a few people - those three. Used to be four, while Richie lived. It's down to three, now. But nobody else. Couldn't care less for anybody else.
So - I'm useless in a Battle against Evil over the fate of the World, being fought where nobody can see, in Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod's heart. Useless.
No wonder Amanda walked away from me. If I could, I'd walk away from myself. I feel so small. And getting bigger, in this one area, is impossible for me. I can't change, in this. I'd always been small, about this kind of thing. Always would be.
Useless to Duncan. I don't know what hurts more. Richie's death - which I can afford to mourn for decades, once this mess is taken care of - or the fact that I am useless to the man I love above all others. No. I know which hurts more.
Why do I feel I deserve this pain?
"Methos, good to see you," Joe said, when I met his plane at Orly. "I've got some good news. I know who MacLeod got in touch with, after you left him."
"Connor MacLeod. His kinsman. Stands to reason, don't you think?"
"Joe, I haven't the foggiest clue what stands to reason. None of this makes any sense to me. Thanks for tracking the information down. Where's Connor now?"
"His Watcher says he booked a flight to Scotland. I arranged for someone at the other end to keep an eye on him until I get there."
"Until I get there, Joe," I corrected. "I'll meet Connor. Talk to him. You're out of this."
"Sure. Whatever you say, Methos."
I knew Dawson wasn't really agreeing to stay out of things. That he was lying to me. Didn't matter. Once we got to Scotland, I'd lose him. Find Connor on my own.
We booked flights and sat down at the airport bar to wait for our departure time. I hoped Joe wouldn't be drunk by the time we left. I was drinking hard liquor myself - had been, since Bordeaux. I didn't think now was the moment to switch back to beer.
"You do understand, Joe. MacLeod's not himself. He killed Richie. You could be next."
"I got it. MacLeod's doing battle over the fate of the world - at least, he thinks so - and I'm gonna stay outta it. Right."
"As long as you understand, Joe. This is not Watcher business. This is - my kind's business. What you can see, see. Observe, record. Don't interfere."
"That's enough, Methos. I got it. Duncan MacLeod's my friend, but I'm a Watcher. And I'm Mortal. It's none of my business." He was bitter. Angry. I didn't blame him. I would be, too, if anybody tried to tell me to stay out of it.
"It's your business, too, as his friend. I'm not telling you it's not. You simply cannot help. I don't know if anybody can. I'm going to try." I shrugged. "You know, Joe, this may be it. We may lose him, no matter what we do, how we try."
"Not if you have anything to say about it." Joe smiled. "I never lost my faith in you, Methos. Never. And I believe, in my heart, you'll come through this time, too."
"That's very comforting, Dawson," I replied wryly. "Fate of the world's not on Duncan's shoulders - it's on mine! Marvelous!"
"Gotta love it, Methos! We're raising chutzpah to a new level!"
I laughed. "Insofar as one schlemiel and one schlemazel can do so, we'll rescue the mishugenah! Is that your plan?"
"Nope. Yours." Joe laughed. "If I were a betting man - which I'm not - I'd lay odds on you, Methos. Any man who could survive five thousand years, well, let's just say, if anybody can help MacLeod, it's you!"
"I survived, Joe. Alone. Nobody left but me, from back then. I didn't bring my friends along with me."
"You never had any friends before, Methos. Now you do." He nodded. "You'll bring your friends along. Or you won't come. I don't think you're interested in partying alone, anymore."
I grinned. "You young 'uns - can't live with you, can't shoot you."
"Just do it, Methos. Get him past this - thing - with the 'Demon,'" Dawson ordered. "Just do it. I'll never forget. Your Chronicles will glow, pal. Like an exploding star. Do it for me."
"I'll do it for myself, if I can," I replied seriously. "And for you."
I watched in awe as the master Watcher, Joe Dawson, faded into the woodwork, cane and all, when we spotted Connor MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod disembarking from his flight. I don't know where his point of origin had been, but we beat him to Scotland by hours.
I walked towards Connor slowly, hands visible at my sides. He stopped for a moment, located my "feel," and then continued to approach me.
"I am Methos," I told him, when we were close. "Duncan's friend."
"I'm Connor MacLeod." He smiled. "Where can we talk?"
I led the way to my rental car, and we drove into the city. Scotland was rainy this time of year. Any time of year, I knew. Somehow, Connor's raincoat looked less out of place here than it would in other cities, during other seasons.
When we arrived in the heart of glorious downtown Edinburgh, I parked in a small street near a bar I knew. After we ordered drinks, I looked at Connor and smiled.
"What's so funny, Methos?" he asked.
"Nothing. It's simply - you're so different from Duncan. Your aura is - I guess the word I'm looking for is - mellow."
Connor smiled. "Not young and hot, like Duncan's?"
"No. Not like his." Connor's exploits - which were legendary, judging from his Chronicles - had led me to expect an intensity which was not there in his buzz. On the contrary, he was a relaxed, charming man. As Duncan appeared to be, if you didn't experience his aura. If there was one word I'd use to describe Connor's buzz, at the moment, it was "uncomplicated." I wondered how he'd achieved peace, so young.
"Tell me what's been happening, Methos. Duncan was - not very clear - on the phone. Just that he needed me, my help." He shrugged. "This is the first time he's asked for my help in decades. I was surprised."
"He's been seeing a Demon. He believes this is a Demon who resurfaces once every thousand years, with whom he must do Battle over the Fate of the World." I spoke in capital letters. "Apparently, the Demon wears the faces of those Duncan's killed - Mortal and Immortal. I saw him take the head of one of them, with my own eyes. An Immortal called Kronos. We disposed of his body together, Duncan and I. But Duncan sees those dead men. No one else does. They challenge him. He fights them. Finally, a few days ago, the Demon wore the face of someone alive, Duncan's student, Richie Ryan. Your kinsman took Richie's head, believing the boy to be a Demon."
Connor frowned. "That's bad. On top of everything, he will experience guilt and grief of extraordinary intensity." He took a breath. "I know where Duncan went. I hope to be able to find the spot, the cave. In the Highlands. Where Duncan took his first head. It was an Immortal Hermit who prophesied that Duncan would be the next Warrior to Battle the Demon at the Millennium."
"That's not a story Duncan ever told me. It's not in his Chronicles."
"He'd forgotten about it. Ignored the Hermit's Prophecy. Until now. I don't believe there was a Watcher there, at the time, to record it." Connor smiled wryly.
"No, probably not," I replied. I took a sip of my drink, drew a deep breath. "Connor, I'm going to ask you for your help to find the cave. Then, to stay out of it. Let me handle Duncan, the Demon. Everything."
"Why you? Duncan called on me because I'm kin. A fellow Highlander."
"Yes, and he turned me away because I don't believe in any of it. But Connor - you're too important to lose. If -" I stopped. I couldn't bear to repeat it. I'd been pretending it was nothing, just a phrase, not likely to happen. But I knew now, if there'd been a Prophecy nearly four hundred years ago - that Duncan MacLeod must fight a Demon over the Fate of the World - then the possibility of losing him in that fight was real.
Connor replied, "If Duncan is defeated, I must step in, in his place, and fight. I believe that. So you - Methos - you want to protect me, hold me in reserve. Is that what you want?"
"You're too important to lose, Connor." I was getting sick of the sound of my own voice, repeating that damn phrase. But I knew it was true. There were a few who believed the same of me. Amanda. Joe. Even Duncan himself, once upon a time. I knew better. Nobody would ever speak a Prophecy about me.
"You say you don't believe in Demons. Why would you want to risk your life to help Duncan? I know your history, Methos. You've survived thousands of years. Not by giving a damn about anybody but yourself, I think. No matter how important they were. What's so special about Duncan MacLeod, that you'd risk everything for him, now?"
I sighed. Knew I'd have to tell Connor, if I wanted his help. For a while I didn't reply, but finally I said, "I love him."
Connor nodded. Smiled. "I see. Pay the bill. I'll take you to him."
"Thank you," I said, relief flooding through me.
"Don't thank me, Methos. You're most likely gonna get yourself killed. And I'll need to fight, anyway, if that's my fate. But I don't stand in the way of love. Probably my only principle." He chuckled. "I see Duncan's still having all the fun and getting most of the best women. And men. That's okay. I'm used to it. He deserves it."
"You think so?" I grinned. "He is such a pain in the ass."
Connor smiled. "It's his gift."
"Well, I for one never look a gift horse in the mouth."
"There's always a first time, for everything. Life's full of surprises," Connor retorted.
"Well, we're none of us perfect."
"Speak for yourself, Methos!"
"I do. Only for myself." I started to say something more, then hesitated.
"What?" Connor asked, when we'd gotten into the rental car and he'd pointed out the road we needed to take. "Tell me."
"We're not going to lose you, either, Connor."
"Oh, you've got the inside track on that?" he asked, skeptical, his indefinable accent clashing strangely with his turn of phrase.
"Let's just say, when I'm right, I'm right."
I woke outside the cave, in a drenching rain, howling like a banchee. The nightmare that woke me faded fast, but I knew I'd dreamed about Richie, and the red glow that surrounded all the figures the Demon possessed. The red glow, like blood, the Hermit had warned me about.
Where was Connor? I knew it wasn't even three days since I'd called him. I knew how far away he was and that he'd needed to complete some details of his work before he could leave to answer my call. Somehow, alone here in the hills, in the pouring rain, with lightning piercing the night like Quickening fire, I couldn't believe he wouldn't fly to my side, to help me. That he'd let business keep him from this Battle.
The nightmare that woke me frightened me terribly. I went back into the cave, changed my clothes, and crouched near the fire, shivering and terrified, like a child. I stoked the fire, hoping to distract myself from my fears. But the bitter aftertaste of the ugly dream about a swollen-bellied red-eyed Demon wouldn't leave my mouth, even after I swallowed as much Scotch as I dared allow myself. I didn't want to lose my edge, such as it was.
But the Demon did not come to me while I was awake. Not here, in the cave. Here, he came only in my dreams. I wasn't sure what that meant but I was glad of the reprieve, if only for a few days. I clung to my sanity as hard as I could, and tried to pray for Richie, and for forgiveness.
No words would come. Only hideous memories. What I needed, the courage that comes from the knowledge that I lived a pure, just life, was gone. I wondered, for a moment, if the Prophecy took that into consideration. That the Duncan MacLeod who once was, was no more. A man of honor lives with what he does. Yes. But he's not the one you choose from among all others to fight a Demon over the Fate of the World. For that, you need somebody pure of heart.
Was I pure of heart, now?
I didn't think so.
I believe that Good wins over Evil. I'd believed it as a child. I guess I still believe it now, over four hundred years later. And I was no longer a Good Man. Not anymore.
If I survive this, I'll apologize to Methos, I thought. He didn't deserve what he got from me. The contempt. The abandonment. The betrayal. I don't know what I was thinking, back then. Or if I even was thinking. Or just feeling. Feeling sorry for myself, because he'd lied to me. Whatever he'd done, thirty centuries ago, he'd turned it around, made himself a good man. Changed. And I wouldn't give him the time of day. I hope he's more forgiving than I am. Hell, I know he is. The original good sport. How could I have caused him so much pain?
The aura was strong. I felt it from a long way off. Powerful. Old. Not Connor. Who the hell? Then I knew.
I grabbed my katana and went to the mouth of the cave to wait.
"Damn you, Methos! Where's Connor?"
"He brought me here. Then he said he had to go. Business, he said."
"Business! More important than this?" I cried. "More important than -"
"Than you? Your troubles? Guess so," Methos cut in, grinning. "You got a beer in there, or do I need to find a holy spring to drink from?"
"You mustn't be here. It's not safe. I'm not safe," I told him, my throat filling with fear for him, for all my friends, my loved ones, anyone I cared about.
"Well - thought you could use the company. You need a shave. What on earth did you do to your hair?" he said as he walked past me into the cave, pushing aside the hand holding my katana as if it were a curtain.
"I cut it."
"Yourself, it seems. Is that a mourning thing? Yes, of course it is. You've only got scotch? Mind if I take a swig? It's cold as hell out there."
I didn't reply. I followed him to the fire. He was already sitting, lounging, bottle in hand, looking as comfortable as if he were on the couch on my barge, and as relaxed. Like Adam Pierson of old. But totally without the fear Adam would have surely felt, in these circumstances. So, not Adam Pierson at all. Not anymore. Methos, now.
"Methos, I can't find my way. I've been - okay - here. While I've been alone. Now that you've come, I don't know what will happen."
"MacLeod, I've got it now."
I frowned. "Got what?"
"The answer. How to fight him - the Demon."
"Which you don't believe in."
"You know, I'm not so sure I don't. But, be that as it may," he went on, waving his hand around in dismissal, "the answer is Faith."
"In what?" I asked, in spite of myself. He had a way of drawing me to him, into his world, no matter what foolish story he concocted.
"Angels?" I was bewildered. "What kind of Angels?"
"Give you three guesses."
I took a stab at it. "Good ones?"
"Bright boy! Yes, I think we should get hold of a really top-of-the-line Angel. Perhaps, an Archangel." I could feel him warming to his theme. He sat straighter. "Yes. An Archangel will be just the thing. We'll enlist his aid. Get him on our side."
"Methos - you're crazy! You know that?"
"Which of us is seeing Demons? Crazy me or sane you?"
I made a face. "So - then what?"
"I think we've got to divest ourselves."
"Divest ourselves. As in, 'give all that you have to the poor, and follow me.' You remember, don't you?" Methos cocked an eyebrow. "Whatever we're hanging onto - that's holding us back from giving our lives to God - it's gotta go. Then, we'll latch onto an Archangel, and Demons will hold no dominion over us. Any of us. Not even the World." Then he slouched back again, clearly satisfied he'd made his point.
"We?" I had a little sense left. Yes, the suggestion appealed. To me. I'd been longing to "divest myself" of a lot of things for a long time. But Methos? He was already stripped bare of earthly goods, as far as I could tell. Traveled light. If that was all it took to make a saint, he'd be canonized already.
But the old man still had a surprise for me. What he meant by divesting, and what I meant, were not quite the same things.
Methos shrugged. "We - you - what's the difference? We're all carrying something that means more to us than the Fate of the World. You're carrying your sword. Which you wouldn't give up even for Darius, whom you loved beyond all men. I'm carrying you. Like some great beast of burden, I'm dragging around my attachment to you. If we want to defeat Demons - get an Archangel to do our dirty work - we've gotta each give up something. Don't you agree?"
In spite of myself, I smiled. Something. My identity. His heart. Gotta give up something. "You first," I said. "Leave me here. Alone."
"Below the belt, MacLeod. You first. Give me your sword."
"Sounds like a stalemate to me," I answered, grinning.
"That's where Faith and Prayer come in," Methos replied. Then, without further ado, he absolutely reinvented himself into a kneeling monk, hands outstretched, completely enclosed, as if he were in a cloister, in the most incredible concentration of prayer I'd ever seen.
"Methos?" He didn't respond. I called to him again. "Methos?" His eyes didn't open. His aura had gone blank. He didn't move.
I watched him for a long time. Hours. I remember he'd told me once that he'd spent a long time in a monastery, centuries ago. It showed. Maybe that's what wiped out the Horseman in him, I considered. Whatever it was, it was real, I could almost taste it, touch it.
Methos was praying. Praying for the grace to divest himself of his attachment - to me.
It was most certainly my turn.
I held my katana in my hands. The handle was so familiar, its every carved millimeter was part of me. I could feel it, even when I wasn't touching it. I loved that sword with all my heart. It stood between me and Death. Just looking at it gave me courage. Remembering who gave it to me, feeling the love my old Samurai Master felt for me, and I for him, so long ago, filled me with a sense of myself, of pride, of joy.
Methos was right. Even my love for Darius couldn't pry that sword from my grip. To retain it, I'd abandoned Darius. To retain it, I'd returned to the Game. How much did it mean to me? Was the Demon right? Did I want to save the World, or just myself?
I knew the Demon would let me go, let me be, if I didn't fight against him, over the Fate of the World. If I cared only for myself.
The irony didn't escape me. To defeat the Demon, I must leave the Game, give away my katana, accept the Path of Peace. That was what Methos was telling me. Calling me to.
This was not the first time I'd been called to the Path of Peace. Far from it.
Each time before, I'd told myself that my way was the Way of the Warrior. To fight for Justice. Die for Justice, if I must.
And Mercy and Peace was for other men. For Darius, for Paul, for another time, for later.
Not for me. Not now. Not yet.
The fear of loss was excruciating. A loss of self more frightening than any Battle against any Immortal.
If I am not a Warrior, I am nobody. Nothing.
I am Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod!
I am Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod!
I do Battle against Evil to protect the weak, who are my Clan!
If I am not that - who am I?
Lay down my sword and I become nothing in the eyes of men. In my own eyes. Less than nothing. A coward, a traitor, someone who betrays himself, his Clan, his homeland, his family.
How? How can I do it? How can Methos ask me to do this thing?
I don't even know if it's right.
I'd have to take it on Faith.
When I looked at Methos, his slim figure kneeling in prayer, his arms outstretched in the form of a cross, my Faith became conviction. I knew it was right.
And I was more frightened than ever.
What if Methos does what he believes he must do, to divest himself of all worldly things, whatever is left to him of worldly things? If he casts me off, throws away his love for me?
What would that be like? For me. To live as a monk on holy ground, with Methos visiting me, his aura a silent void, without love?
I can live without sex. Without any physical reassurance, from anyone. If I have to.
But - without love?
That's a price I didn't even consider, before, when I tried to live Darius' pacifism. Never imagined it.
The love of God surpasses all things.
Not for Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod.
Not for Methos, either.
A real sacrifice. It would be a real sacrifice, for both of us.
It was a true question, that the Demon asked me, through Jason Landry's granddaughter. Do I really want to save the World, or do I just want to save myself?
Clearly, Methos didn't have any trouble answering it. He really wanted to save the World. Even if his definition of the World is - Duncan MacLeod. Pretty limited, maybe. But - his World.
So - he'd give me up, to save me.
I lay my katana on the earth near the fire, not far from the spot where Methos was still kneeling in prayer. And I left the cave and walked into the Highland hills. I was soon drenched by the unceasing rain.
The Demon appeared to me again. With Horton's face. "You're a fool, Duncan MacLeod, an utter fool," he told me.
"Maybe I am," I replied, stopping where he'd appeared and standing still.
"I'll destroy you!" he shouted, raising his gun.
"Maybe you will," I answered, hands at my sides.
But the Horton-Demon didn't shoot at me. Instead, he disappeared, changing into Kronos again. Kronos, dressed in his wonderful Bronze Age armor, his unique sword in his hands, held by the hilt, pointing down to the earth. "You cannot kill me, MacLeod," he exclaimed, "not with your youth, nor your courage, nor your love! My Vision will endure through all Eternity!"
"You're already dead, Kronos. Don't you know when to lie down?"
Kronos' eyes glowed red and he came at me, raising his sword high above his head, ready to deliver the killing blow, which would take my head. I simply stood there, remembering Methos in prayer. Methos was willing to wipe his heart clean to save my life. Nothing Kronos could do to me would destroy that sacrifice, never.
Kronos disappeared in a wisp of red smoke.
Then Richie appeared, eyes glowing red. "You killed me, Mac. You were my friend, my Teacher, and you killed me. I didn't even raise my sword. I was only trying to help you, and you took my head. I didn't even get one lifetime! Immortality!"
"Forgive me, Richie. I didn't know what I was doing. I didn't mean to hurt you, ever. I never meant to kill you. Forgive me." I remembered what Enkidu said to Gilgemesh, in a vision.... "I am afraid that you will hate the friendship we have known because it did not last forever...."
The Vision of Richie was silent. I stared him down, but tears covered my face and I could hardly breathe.
At last, Richie's Demon Spectre disappeared and in his place a white-garbed figure appeared to me. He was taller than the tallest man, solid and real, standing in a swirling pool of white smoke, surrounded by silence.
"Who are you?" I asked.
"I am the Archangel Michael," he replied. "Duncan MacLeod - you relinquished your sword."
"I did," I affirmed, my voice stronger than I expected it to sound. The Archangel didn't tell me not to fear him. But I didn't fear him, not at all.
"Did you do this freely, willingly, with all your heart?" the Archangel asked.
"Never to take it up again?" the Archangel demanded. "However sweet the song that calls?"
"However sweet, I am done with it forever. I will Battle no more, I will kill no more," I said solemnly. "Till the end of time."
The Archangel smiled. I can't describe it. But the rains stopped suddenly and the sky glowed brightly white.
I watched the Archangel fade, disappear, and I heard his final words to me, like thunder coming out of the silence. "That is good, very good, Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod. Remember. Remember."
I didn't think it was likely I'd forget.
When I got back to the cave I found Methos still kneeling, arms outstretched in the form of a cross, totally concentrated in prayer. A contemplative monk. Who was he? How many men was he? Could he be? I'd never reach the end of him, of his stories, his faces, I knew.
"Methos," I said softly, standing near him, close to the dying fire. "Methos. Time to go."
I didn't think he'd heard me, but he had. Slowly, he lowered his arms, then opened his eyes. For a moment his expression was like someone coming back from very far away. Then he rubbed his shoulders and his arms.
"Cripes, MacLeod, I was just getting there!"
"Getting where, Methos?" I asked, astonished at his reaction.
"Getting close, you idiot! Where else?"
"Getting close?" I repeated, like a parrot.
"Yes, close!" he spat at me, standing and rubbing his knees. "As usual, your sense of timing is superb! Kalas was right - you're always a day late and a dollar short!" He was clearly furious with me.
"I'm sorry I interrupted you. I'm going now. You can stay here if you like. There's enough food and water for another few weeks."
"Don't be absurd! It's over now. I don't know when I'll ever get back there. I was so close!"
"To what?" I asked, bewildered.
"To Him, you idiot!" He seemed to have fixed on the word "idiot" to describe me, and wouldn't use another.
"Him! Him! God!" He shook his head, picked up his coat, then stopped in his tracks. "Never mind. How'd it go with you? Any progress?" He was Methos again.
"I think so," I said. "A little." Somehow, I felt I had to break it to him gently.
"So - where're we off to now?"
"Methos, there's a little place in France, not far from Paris, where our kind is welcome." I spoke tentatively. I was afraid to set him off again.
"Yes? You think the answer's there?"
"My answer is there, yes," I replied. "It's the Monastery of St. John of the Cross. Carmelites. I'm going there as soon as I can get my life in order. Tie up the loose ends. Say goodbye to my friends. Bury Richie properly. Within the week, Methos," I finished gently.
It was Methos' turn to looked dumbfounded. "Carmelites?"
"Yes. Carmelites." I couldn't help grinning. The expression on his face was priceless. Disbelief mixed with dismay.
"You did it, then? Finished the Demon off?"
"With the help of an Archangel. And you." I smiled.
"I really don't want to be a monk, MacLeod," Methos said firmly. "Not again."
"No one's asking you to, old man. I'm the one who's going there. You're the one who's divesting."
"I got close, MacLeod, really close. It can't be helped if I'm interrupted when I'm that close!"
"Tell me another, friend. It's over, now. All of it. For both of us. That life's over. Adam Pierson's dead. Duncan MacLeod's dead. Methos Valerius is dead. Find somebody else to be. Find somebody else to love. We're through." Not an expression I liked using, but I softened it with a smile and a gentle squeeze of his arm.
"I can't do it! Not yet!" he cried. My own tears didn't blind me to his. "Not yet!"
"Damn you, MacLeod!"
"Now. Help me pack up here, and douse the fire." I thought a little activity would do Methos some good.
"Douse the fire? You being sarcastic?" he asked, furious with me again.
"You're the sarcastic one. I'm the idiot. Remember?"
"Amanda isn't going to like this. Not one bit." He was casting about for a way to stop me from leaving him.
"Amanda has no say in it," I told him.
"You can't do it. Not for long. You'll be itching to get out of there before I can say Jack Robinson."
"My God, Methos! I haven't heard that expression in decades!" I laughed.
"Shut your mouth or I'll test your resolve," Methos replied, grabbing my katana. I made no move to stop him, or step out of his path.
He looked at me for a long time. Then he looked at my katana, which he held in a two-handed grip, point to the ground, his shoulders slumping as if the sword was too heavy for him to lift.
"Give it to Joe, for his Watcher collection, Methos. I don't want to touch it -" I choked up.
"MacLeod. You can't! Not this weapon! Not to those damn Watchers! Let me keep it for you!"
"No. Give it to the Watchers. It's a relic of the past, Methos. I won't need it back."
He turned away then, and began to sob. I went to him and held him, sobbing too.
At last, we stopped crying. "Well," Methos said, "I hope no Watchers saw that!"
"Oh, I don't think so, do you?"
"Let's get outta here. This place gives me the creeps."
"Does it? To me, it'll always be the place I first started believing in the possibility of miracles."
"What miracles?" he asked.
"Angels. And you, praying, where nobody could see," I said solemnly. I meant, in a contemplative state. The outside, I saw. The inside, from where he called the Archangel, nobody could see.
"Surprised you, did that?" Methos grinned.
"Knocked me right out of my boots, old man."
"Good. Meant to do that."
"I know you did. You succeeded. As Joe would say, you're one manipulative son of a bitch."
"Do my humble best."
"So you do. So you do."
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