A BIT OF WILD REMAINS
by Maxine Mayer, 10/19/97
[Searching the empty streets,
hoping we'll meet,
I notice the rough stone paving blocks,
the roughness of Paris overgrown
with homes and people,
churches and graves,
noises and noises,
visions undreamed of, in the old naves.]
[I miss the green fields,
tangled empty spaces.
I dream the quiet walks,
[Paris is a sewer overrun:
where my eyes rest,
no rest can come.
I've begun to search the night
(empty no more)
for your ancient hum.
So peaceful, secure -
a bit of quiet quality
in a restless noisy time.]
I felt his aura from a long way off. I wasn't distracted any longer by many things that had held my interest up until recently, so I noticed other things more. The sound of cranes laughing. No, not real cranes. Memories. The rush of the ocean kissing the beach. No, not a real ocean on a real beach. Memories. So when Methos approached my naked barge I felt his aura from a long way off, and was very glad. Then I thought, maybe Methos' aura is only a memory, too.
I put up a pot of water to boil for tea anyway, hoping I really sensed him, that it wasn't only a memory, and thinking he'd be disappointed that I didn't stock beer any longer. Then thinking he wouldn't care, beer or no. I stocked what he'd come to get. Me.
He really was here. He came into the barge and I went up the short flight of steps to the door to greet him, embrace him. My heart was numb but something in me was very happy to know he'd come. Very happy to see him. Memories.
"Love what you've done with the place, Duncan," he told me with a grin, then pulled away from me and went into the large empty space I'd made of my barge. "Now, I can not only eat off the floor, I can see my face in it. Divested, have we?"
"Yes." I smiled. He seemed just the same, Methos. I'd been gone a year, yet he showed no change at all.
"You look fit. A trifle thin, I grant you, and I suppose it'll be a while before your hair grows back," he prattled on, making the round of the barge, like a wide oval through the air, and I could almost see the places becoming real, when his body passed, where his feet stepped. "But of course you don't want to grow it back. You like it as it is." He glanced over at me from far off, near my bed, seeking confirmation of his remark. I nodded and he went on touring the room while he talked.
"Is there anything left over - a bit of wildness? No, I'm not asking for very much - not a wild animal!" he exclaimed, putting up his hand as if to deny he'd imagine a wild animal might still exist in this bare space of mine. "But perhaps - a wildflower?"
"Nobody changes, Methos. You know that. So there must be. Must be a bit of wildness here."
"Trick is to find it, eh? That the game?"
I moved my head back and forth a bit and rocked on my heels. "You said it," I replied.
"Don't suppose you've got any beer?"
"Water, then," he told me dismissively, and continued to stroll around the room, even put a hand out to touch the bare walls. Finally, he paused by my trunk and quickly squatted in front of it. "Found it!" he cried.
"I have tea, Methos, if you want."
"Sure," he said absently, slowly passing his hand from side to side across the top of my trunk, without actually resting his palm on the surface. He'd closed his eyes, like a magician trying to guess what object a member of the audience was holding up. "It's in here, isn't it? The wildness? All of it? Whatever remains?"
"Not much to show for four hundred-odd years, is there?" he taunted me with a quick grin.
"Enough. Maybe, too much. One thing too many."
I nodded and smiled. "It's in there," I said, indicating the trunk with a lift of my chin. "Joe insisted that I take it back. I couldn't say no."
I got his tea for him. He'd sat down on the floor with his back against the barge wall and I brought the tea to him there. He didn't take it, at first, so I just put the cup on the floor near him and sat close. I put out my hand and grasped his. Held it, without saying a word, like a magician attempting to mind-read a member of the audience by touch alone. I didn't want to say anything to him. There was nothing to say. I just wanted to sit there quietly, holding his hand.
"You've been sorely missed, Duncan MacLeod," he told me after a while. "And will be missed in the future."
"If you say so."
"But you won't rejoin the Game? Rather get your head lopped off?"
"I'll defend myself, if I have to." I smiled. "Unless you plan to do it for me."
"What, me? Oh no, no, no! You fight your own battles from here on out, Highlander! I've learned my lesson! Besides, I've enough to do fighting mine. All sorts of battles."
"Well, then, Methos, drink your tea and stop criticizing me." Gently, I took my hand out of his, and he picked up his cup.
"Not going to ask me why I've come?"
I frowned. "Same reason you always come. So we can be together."
"Ah, yes. Got my number, haven't you, Duncan?" He hunched over and blew on his tea, then sipped it. "Hot. But good. Indian?"
"Very nice." He stared at the cup for a bit then spoke to me seriously. "Mac, there's somebody you need to meet. Someone who's suffered as you have. She needs your help."
"Name's Calara - with a C."
"She's an Immortal."
"She recently lost her friend, the Immortal Godfrey Dupuis."
"Time, Methos. There's no help for loss but time. You know that. Why bring this to me?"
"Godfrey protected her from other Immortals. She needs a protector."
"Let her go to Holy Ground. She'll be safe there. When she's ready to get on with her life, she'll find someone new to protect her head. I don't want anything to do with this, Methos. I cannot have a woman with me."
"Not even Darius' woman?"
I was shocked, stunned. "Darius' woman!"
"She's more than three thousand years old, Mac. She and Darius were lovers for many centuries, during Roman times. Then, when his life changed, they parted. Not in anger or recrimination. In faith. In the hope that one day they might come together again, as good friends. It never happened. He became a monk, and never left that life. And she - eventually, Calara went on with her life. She was with Godfrey for a long time."
I remembered many stories that Darius told me about his past but nothing concerning a woman like Calara. A long term love. "Darius was considering leaving Holy Ground before he died. Some time before. He never came to a decision. Then - he was murdered."
"I know all that, Mac."
"Why can't she stay with you, Methos?"
"We've got a bit of history together. It's not good. She's never forgiven me for certain things I did when I was - when I was younger. She won't stay with me."
"But you care enough for her to saddle me with her?"
"Mac, do this for me. She's at risk in the Game, now that Godfrey's dead. And she's suffering enormously."
"Where's she now, Methos?"
"With a woman friend. It's her Watcher, but Calara doesn't know that."
"So that's how you heard about what happened to her protector?"
"Right. Amelia got in touch with me when Godfrey bought it. She's very concerned for Calara. Calara hasn't aged gracefully. Not like Rebecca or Amanda - or even Cass. She's kept herself from the modern world as much as she could. Never left their home - Godfrey's and hers - if she could help it. Hasn't moved along with the times."
"I see why you're concerned."
"You'll help me, then?" He looked at me hopefully, wearing his Adam Pierson sincere face. I hadn't seen that expression for a while. And I couldn't help wondering what game he was playing now, when he turned that look on me.
But I replied, "Yes, Methos, I'll help you."
He sighed in relief. "Thanks, Mac."
"On one condition."
"Yes?" He was alert and wary now.
"That you tell me what this is all about. Who is Calara? The truth, or you can be on your way."
"It's a long story, MacLeod," he said wearily. "You really don't need to know."
"This isn't a government mission, Methos. And I'm not a secret agent. You want me to take on a female Immortal, live with her, protect her - I shudder to think for how long - you gotta tell me why."
"First of all, she's a bit older than most."
"You mean, she was older when she achieved First Death?"
"That's right, Mac. She was closer to forty than twenty."
"Well, it's unusual for an older female Immortal to survive as long as your friend has - more than three thousand years - but not impossible. Both Kristin and Cassandra were on the wrong side of thirty when they became Immortal. If she trained hard, or took a protector, or used subterfuge and cleverness as weapons, it's possible."
"Yes, that's true. Those few women of our kind who survive past the Green Years are very clever. Usually, very beautiful as well."
"As you always say, Methos, we're none of us perfect. You and I both know the way to a man's heart is through his cock. What of it?"
"She's - she's a poet, MacLeod."
"Am I supposed to find that something bad?"
"With our history, it's no plus."
"Tell me more. Maybe she's an ugly hunchback with warts? Come on, Methos, make her attractive to me!" I demanded sarcastically.
"She's blind, Mac. That should get your chivalrous juices oozing!"
"That's right. Actually, now you've redecorated, your place is ideal for her - nothing to trip over, nothing at all. Hadn't thought of that."
"A blind Immortal? How?"
"She was injured as a pre-Immortal, before First Death. I - I don't remember all the details, if I ever knew them. Only that her sight didn't return when she became Immortal."
"I've never heard of anyone like that who survived," I told him bluntly. "Are you certain she's Immortal?"
"She's Immortal, all right, MacLeod. You can check her out with Dawson if you don't believe me."
"A blind, female, forty year old, three thousand year old Immortal poet. Have I got it all, now?" I walked away from him and poured myself more tea. He hadn't finished his. And he hadn't told me everything yet, I was sure.
"And bitter. And bereaved. And out of sync with the times," he added in a serious tone, without the usual humor or sarcasm I'd expect from Methos.
"Well, better and better. I know you wouldn't wish her on your worst enemy, Methos. But on your best friend - why not?" I already imagined my life for the next bit of unforeseeable future. Most likely, staying on my barge here in Paris with Calara was out, despite the lack of furniture. And going to my loft in Seacouver wouldn't work well either. Probably, the best thing would be to take the woman to my island. That was safest. She'd be sure to enjoy the quiet. Good place to write poetry, too.
"Oh God! What?"
"She's Calara, yes. Calara. She's also Raoul Lise, Laurence Cassidy, and John Lawson Lilienwald."
I wrinkled my forehead in disbelief. "You're telling me she's those three male poets?"
"Yes, Mac, she is. There were times when women weren't taken seriously as artists. She wrote - in different centuries - and published under those names. Her identity was protected by men who made certain that her work saw the light of day - under their names."
"The styles, Methos! It's impossible!"
"No, it isn't. Only in the last couple hundred years has she lagged behind. Before that, Calara was one of the most innovative, original and forward-thinking people on the planet. Made me look like a slug when it came to moving with the times, embracing and expressing the times in her work. She's always been a break-through artist."
"So - what name is she using now?"
"No name. She hasn't published in a long time. As I said, she's been lagging behind. Or maybe, she's lost her nerve. I dunno."
"Maybe, with all the new technology in this century, she's afraid she can't hide her identity with any real security, the way she used to do? That she can't give her work away, as in the past?"
"That's right. She believes she must publish as Calara or perish. But she hasn't tried to get her stuff published."
"Her work - is it still good, Methos?"
"I don't know. You can tell me, if she'll let you read any of it. I know she stopped involving her life with the lives of mortals a long time ago," he said with a shrug, "so I don't know what sort of poetry she could be writing. She resents the fame of the men who 'stole' her work." He ran his fingers through his hair, as if he couldn't explain what he meant. Methos, at a loss for words - that would be the day! "She - she's lost it, Mac. She believes the three men who lent her their names really stole her poetry, along with her place in world literature."
"She's right, of course."
"Yes, in a way."
"She's right," I repeated, insistent.
"It really doesn't matter, Mac. What matters is, can you handle it?"
"Now, you ask me! After dropping this story about a woman who needs my protection in my lap? I've got no choice!"
"Thanks, Mac. Amelia will bring her along. You meet her and decide what you'll do with her."
He got up to leave but I stopped him. "Is there anybody after her head this minute?"
"I don't think so. I don't know for sure. Possibly, the Immortal who took Godfrey's head. He might not know Calara can't avenge his death."
"But she can. Not in a conventional way. But if she identifies him and locates him, she can 'kill' him and then take his head."
"She's blind, MacLeod."
"But not stupid or incompetent. It's possible to do what I describe. She may want to do it. It's been done before."
"Well, I'm sure she'll get no help from you, Duncan."
I looked hard at Methos. Screeching cranes circled in my mind and then flew away. My peace was lost. "You running errands for Calara, Methos? Finding Godfrey's killer, to bring her his head? Is that why you can't take care of her?"
He smiled. "A year in a monastery and you think you're a Seer, MacLeod? I spent centuries in one - and I still can't see beyond the nose on my face. Don't get a swelled head, simply because you've got the cleanest floors in Paris!"
The Watcher Amelia brought the Immortal Calara to my barge later that day. I asked Amelia to stay for supper but she refused. I got the feeling she didn't like being around an Immortal who could see her face.
"Is there anything I should know? Medications Calara's gotta take? Does she need help dressing and undressing, getting around?" I asked Amelia when I walked her up on deck.
"Mr. MacLeod, please! Calara is thousands of years old! She's been blind most of that time. She gets around fine. She dresses herself fine. She doesn't take medication - she's not ill, she's Immortal! What's wrong with you?"
"I guess I'm just prejudiced and ignorant, Amelia. Forgive me."
"I hope you don't let your ignorance and prejudice get you off on the wrong foot with Calara, Mr. MacLeod. You'll regret it if you do."
"I'll try not to make that mistake, m'am," I said with a grin.
She relented and grinned in return. "I know you won't make such a mistake again. Adam thinks very highly of you, and I think very highly of him. He's the best Immortal I've ever known - Darius included. If he thinks you're the right person to help Calara now that Godfrey's dead - then you are the right one."
"I hope that's true. But you, Amelia, you knew Darius?"
"I was in touch. Calara didn't want to see him again but he kept tabs on her. Wrote to her. I read his letters aloud to her. I would have replied but she refused to permit it. But I visited him and spoke with him. He had hopes - well, you know how your kind are - he always said he could wait."
"And he would have waited, I'm sure."
"Well, that's all water under the bridge now. Go in and talk to Calara. Feed her dinner. Make her comfortable. She likes good music. I understand from Adam that you do, too. It's a point of contact. Use it, Mr. MacLeod. You'll need every advantage you can get."
"Amelia, I take it from all this, from Adam's interest in Calara, and Darius' and Godfrey's, that the woman's worth it?"
"She lives, she breathes, she struggles, she suffers, she loves. How can she not be worth it, Mr. MacLeod? But you must judge how much of yourself you're willing to sacrifice for her 'worth.'" The Watcher turned to go.
"One thing more, before you leave, Amelia. Is she still writing poetry?"
"I don't know."
"What'd you mean?"
"She might be writing poetry in her mind. She hasn't committed anything to paper in the twelve years I've known her. And there's nothing among her things. Not a word."
"Amelia's gone, is she?" the lady Calara asked, when I came back into the barge.
"Good riddance to bad rubbish!"
"She seems to care about you very much."
"And proves it by leaving me with a stranger! Very caring," she retorted with heavy sarcasm. "Some friend she's turned out to be!"
I came closer to where she sat, where Amelia'd deposited her half an hour previously, on a straight-backed chair I'd bought that afternoon when I learned I'd be having a guest. I had no other place for her to sit but the floor and cushions, now.
"Are you hungry?" I asked her.
"I'm famished," she replied. "Methos tells me you're a pretty good cook. But I suppose you're strictly vegetarian now."
"Well, I'm hungry. I suppose I'll eat whatever you prepare, under the circumstances."
"Good. Curried rice okay?"
"However you prefer. I like it all the way from bland through mild through killer spicy. Up to you."
"Mild, then. For starters. I want it to be palatable at least."
"Mild it is!" I replied.
She looked at me directly, perhaps sensing where I stood from the sound of my voice or the feel of my buzz. She took off her sunglasses. "Duncan MacLeod, I want to thank you for taking me in. I know the others have told you I'm irascible and bitter and bereaved and paranoid about my work. All that's quite true. But I'm not ungrateful to you. I know you've been through hard times these last couple years. I know you desire peace and serenity and solitude above all things now. That you've stripped yourself bare to achieve those things, at great personal cost. And that the last thing you need is a blind old lady to care for. But Methos asked you to help me. So you will help me. I'm grateful."
"It's all right, Calara -"
"I'm grateful, Duncan MacLeod. I may not show it, and I'll probably not repeat it. I just wanted you to know."
"You're welcome. In every sense of the word. Really. You're a great poet, Calara. If you never write another word, you'll always be a great poet, to me. I never thought I'd have a chance to repay Raoul Lise for his poems, or Laurence Cassidy, or John Lawson Lilienwald. Never. I'm happy to get that chance."
"Methos told you all of it, then."
"Not all of it. Just that much."
"He's always played it close to the vest, our Methos."
"Not close to the vest. Outright lies." I grinned.
Calara grinned too. "Yes, well, I see you know him pretty well."
"One or two of him, at any rate."
"Yes, that sums it up. I know about fifty of him, and still counting. He tell you I'm angry with him?"
"Yes, he said something like that."
"I'm not. Haven't been for a long time. But I tease him. You might even say, I torment him. He's a sensitive fellow. He believes I'm angry."
"But you're not?"
"Who could stay angry with Ocean-Heart?"
"Just an image. From a poem I'll never write. Gotta keep my hand in, though. When you get to be my age, you realize you might change your mind - a hundred years down the road - and decide you want to live, after all. So, it's best to store images, just in case."
I smiled. "A hundred years down the road? I hope you'll be writing poetry again before that, Calara!"
"Hmph!" she said, then changed the subject. "They tell me you're beautiful, Duncan MacLeod. That you make the ladies swoon. That you're a great and graceful swordsman. Is it true?"
"They also tell me you're a hero. Is that true?"
"No. But I wanted to be."
"Do they take women in that monastery of yours? Because it seems to have done you some good. Methos doesn't know you at all, any longer, does he?"
"He knows me better than I know myself, Calara. Not the facts, maybe. But the heart of me." I smiled. I heard the ocean in my memory. And the cranes laughing, too. "Ocean-Heart. That's good."
"Think so? You ain't heard nothin' yet."
Hold fast to darkness,
stretch your hand out far, to night.
Hum the meaningless tune
in time to the meaningless dance steps,
angling, jockeying (fingers wiggling, splayed)
toward Anguish, Crucified Son of the Father,
Redeemer of the proud damned.
Deny, with bleak blocks of neglect,
blandishments, blokes' bondcries,
bingo, bimbo, sweetmeats, sweatments, songs.
Avert your eyes against the taut thrill thrumming,
dark days coming. Avert your mind.
Search the black stream, heft the
cold wet stones, sensuous pebbles,
refreshed by sweetwater rondele.
Lapping waters of this openheart stream.
Bitter bites the dark Mouth of God.
Marooned, there, unconscious,
pillowed, gentled by the
Tongue of God.
His Mouth is dark, warm His Tongue,
hot His Breath, cold, the dark
night, when He finds you (startled
He is) in His Heart.
Methos phoned later that night, after Calara and I had eaten and she'd gone to the bathroom to shower.
"How's it going, Mac?"
"What did you tell her about me, Methos? She took to me like a duck to water. Couldn't have been nicer if I were her son."
"I didn't tell her much. I think Darius might have spoken of you to her, in his letters. That's the only explanation for it I can think of."
"So, you two are getting along okay?" he asked again.
"Yes. But you were right. She's decided not to write any more poetry."
"Well, we can wait."
"She's pretty philosophical about it, though. Not belligerent. Willing to consider that a hundred years from now she might change her mind."
"Really? That's great, Mac -"
"No, it's not. Maybe you can wait. But the world can't. I want her writing now. Tonight, if possible."
"MacLeod, do me a favor. Watch her head. Don't try to get inside it. You know what I always say -"
"You can't force the storyline. I know. But, Methos, she's got it all inside already. She's just being stubborn about putting it down on paper."
"You can't know that, Mac."
"I do know it. When's the last time you really talked to her?"
"I dunno. When Darius died, I think."
"Come visit us tomorrow, you'll see what I mean."
"I wasn't planning on visiting at all, Mac. Calara wouldn't want to talk to me."
"Calara loves you like a son, Methos. Maybe worse."
"What'd you mean?"
"What I said. Please visit her, Methos. She needs somebody who's been there, done that. Badly."
"What are you talking about?"
"Somebody she doesn't need to be polite to. Somebody who isn't a Green Boy. You."
"Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod - you've fallen in love with our Calara!"
"I'll visit, if you like. I never could say no to you, Duncan."
"Glad to hear it." I smiled, and the ocean waves pounded and rushed, making layer upon layer of memories. And another crane laughed, not outside my porthole but inside my heart. I felt something again. Something alive and young and lovely. Joy.
Calara slept in my bed and I slept on a mat on the floor in the middle of the barge. She'd brought a portable radio with her, which she tuned to a classical station and played all night. Not loud, but I still found the music very disturbing after the long silence I'd enjoyed in the monastery. I wondered whether I'd ever get accustomed to music again.
In the morning I did kata and tried to ignore the music. At last I went to the end table and shut off the radio. That woke Calara.
"Godfrey!" she shouted, starting up from the bed.
"It's Duncan MacLeod, Calara. Godfrey's not here. You're on my barge."
"Oh!" Then she dropped back down onto the bed and buried her head in the pillow. After a few moments she got out of bed and found her way to the bathroom without any apparent difficulty. When she came out she was dressed in the clothes she'd worn the day before but she hadn't put on her shoes. She exhibited no sign of her grief over Godfrey's death. She was truly an Old One.
"Ready for breakfast, Calara?"
"Do you think of nothing but food, MacLeod?" she asked with a smile.
I returned the smile. "When I'm hungry, yes. I'm making hot oatmeal. Care for some?"
"Oatmeal? Whatever happened to bacon and eggs?"
"Jeez, I think I'll take Methos' head! I could swear he advertised you as a good cook, if nothing else, the liar."
"I am a good cook. But I've got nothing much here. I've been away for many months and I don't eat western food any longer. But I'll shop this morning and if you'll come with me, we can pick up foods you like and I promise to cook them for you."
She sighed. "But I've gotta eat oatmeal now, or starve?"
"Bright girl!" I replied.
"Bring it on, then, MacLeod!"
While I prepared breakfast she sat in the straight-backed chair and stared at me with her blind eyes, following my every move as if she could see me. She asked, "What were you doing before you turned off the music, MacLeod? Praying?"
"No, I was doing kata. Just to keep in shape."
"Nonsense! You do it for your soul, not your body!"
"Okay, I'll compromise. You do it for both - your soul and your body."
"I'll go along with that," I said, and took her hand. "Here's the oatmeal. And a spoon."
"Thank you." She ate a little and complimented me on the taste. "I like honey."
"Honey. Honey. Mmm. Bloodless smooth skin, ancient honey eyes."
"I beg your pardon."
"Nothing. Just babbling."
"Calara, I've got a computer. You can write it down, type it. Or use a notebook. I've got a notebook if you don't have one with you -"
"Let it be, Duncan. I'm not writing poetry. I'm just babbling. Don't tell me Methos never bored you with his theory about the storyline - that you can't push it!"
"I'm not pushing. You're just pulling back," I said bluntly.
"Says who? Mr. Duncan Green Boy MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod?"
"We of all people shouldn't be prejudiced about age!"
"I never thought of that!" she exclaimed.
"Well - think about it!"
"I will." Then she didn't say anything more while she finished her oatmeal and scraped the bowl clean.
"Do you want some more?" I asked.
"No. That was just right. Hit the spot. Thanks, Duncan."
"Would you like to go shopping now? Later, we might have a visitor -"
"Who? A girlfriend of yours?" she teased.
"No. Just a friend. Methos."
"What did you say to him that would make him come here while I'm here?"
"Nothing special. Just that I wanted him to come."
"Does he always do everything you want him to do?"
"Pretty much," I replied with a laugh. "Except when he doesn't."
"How often is that?"
"Do you know Amanda?"
"Very well. You?"
"Yes, and I knew Rebecca, too. Amanda never listens. Rebecca used to complain all the time. Sometimes Methos - incarnates - in a way that reminds me of Amanda."
"Yes, that's one of him. Being like Amanda. Maybe he picked it up from her. Or she from him."
"He doesn't fool you anymore, does he, Duncan?"
"Things happened," I replied gruffly. "People from his past came. Killed his image before we killed them."
She was quiet for a moment. Then she told me, as if she was remembering something from thousands of years ago, "His soul was black as pitch. A bottomless ocean of darkness. But unbelievably large, that soul. The other Evil ones were nothing, compared to Methos, back then. All that great heart was Bad, Evil, enormously Evil. More frightening than anything I've encountered in all my centuries."
"What changed him, Calara? Do you know?"
"Nobody knows. Not even Methos. I've got a theory. That it was just Time. Nothing but Time. Like evolution itself. Quantity, quantity, quantity - then," she lifted her hands and clapped them together once, very loudly, "boom! Quality."
"I don't understand."
"I can't explain. Methos is like poetry, Duncan. He can't be explained. Only swallowed whole. As the Bible says, 'honey on the tongue, bitter in the belly.'"
"I think you're misquoting."
"Maybe I am."
She didn't speak for a while and I just looked at her. Her eyes weren't disfigured in any way, only sightless. And there was a small crescent-shaped scar at her left temple. She looked around forty. Her skin was pale and very smooth, as though it was oiled. Fine lines webbed off her eyes and the corners of her mouth. Grooves crossed the skin from her nose to the edges of her mouth, defining her age at First Death. There were a few strands of white in her long dark hair, at the temples. She wasn't young to look at nor was she elegant and beautiful like Cassandra or Rebecca. She wasn't a gamin type like Amanda, either. Nor warm like Tessa. Her face showed very little humor. But her voice was wonderful. And her bones were fine enough. She wasn't the sort of woman most men would call beautiful but I liked her face very much. It was a timeless face. She looked a lot like Methos in a female sort of way. Strong nose, very high cheekbones, small ears set close to the head. High forehead. She was a tall thin woman with very long fingers and long narrow feet. She had a great deal of poise. She wasn't graceful when she moved, only when she was still.
"Tell me what you know about him, Calara. What you understand about Methos."
"My theory is that he took it all in, everything he experienced over the years, the centuries. And finally the black ocean-heart had enough, more than it could take. And what he took in of life from that time forward changed the quality of the recipient. The pain of the world wrought a change in the quality of his heart."
"I won't try to tell you I understand what you're talking about."
"Not very helpful, is it? But that's my theory. Methos was so Evil that he couldn't be any more so. So he changed. If he'd died a moment sooner, a moment before the change, he'd have died Evil. But he survived. Time was permitted to him so he could change."
"I don't mean that in any religious sense. It wasn't - grace. It was simply - chance, I suppose. He survived. So he could change. And he did. Not everyone would."
"Kronos and Caspian and Silas didn't. Grayson and Kalas didn't. But Darius did."
"Yes. Darius and Methos did. For that matter, so did I."
I stared at her, a bit overwhelmed by the comparison she'd made. After all, from what I knew of Darius and Methos, it would be really something for a woman to be in their league, be so Evil, as they'd been before they'd changed. She wasn't implying one-on-one killing, such as Kristin or Felicia engaged in. She was talking mass murder, in Methos' case. A conquerer of worlds, in Darius'. I exclaimed without thinking, "You?"
Smiling, she nodded. "Yes, me. You're showing your age, Duncan MacLeod. Men don't have the monopoly on Evil, you know."
"I suppose not."
"And there are other ways of being Evil - doing Evil on a grand scale - than by wielding a sword."
I thought for a moment. "But why did they change? Why did you?"
She shrugged. "I don't claim to understand it, how it happens. Or why - all things being equal - some do and some don't. I've just got an old lady's theory."
I took a deep breath. I had to get some air. Get away from the images and memories our talk was bringing up for me. I'd been so quiet, so distant, for such a long time. Out of the Game. Thinking only of a Demon that was not of this world. I'd forgotten about the Demons our kind could be. Everything Calara'd said about Evil shocked me. I felt disoriented. I needed to get away from our conversation. I tried to pull myself together. "Let's go shopping now, Calara."
"Sure. But I warn you, Duncan, I'm very fond of greasy foods."
"I'm very fond of cooking greasy foods."
"A match made in heaven!"
"A match made by Methos," I corrected, my mood lightened again by her joke. "Frightening, isn't it?"
"I'm terrified," Calara rejoined, with a laugh. "Absolutely, positively terrified!"
Centuries of experience made Calara skilled and relaxed while walking with a companion by her side. Her confidence in me was total. She linked one arm in mine when we left the barge and from that moment she moved as if she could see, without a hint of fear she'd trip and fall, without any misgivings about walking through unfamiliar streets in an unfamiliar city. Though of course I didn't know for sure that Paris was an unfamiliar city to her.
I took her to an open-air market not far from the barge. It was a beautiful morning - crisp and cool. I tried to forget our talk and enjoy the moment. We strolled between the stalls and purchased quite a quantity of vegetables and fruits. At the fish vendor's stall we bought enough fish for several meals. Calara told me that fish didn't count - even to a vegetarian. We bought eggs, too, with the same rationale - they didn't count, if I weren't a vegan! She spoke a great deal of nonsense, but I knew I'd end by eating what I cooked for her. Somehow, that didn't seem so important to me any longer. It wasn't what I put into my mouth that mattered, but what came out of my heart. I saw that very clearly now.
Calara stiffened first, sensing the aura of an approaching Immortal nearly a minute before I did. Then, when I finally felt it, the buzz disappeared again suddenly, as if its owner had cut it off. When I sensed Immortal aura again, Methos had already pushed himself between Calara and me and thrown an arm across each of our shoulders.
"Methos!" I cried.
"Sorry I didn't catch up with the two of you earlier, but I followed the trail of breadcrumbs you left on the path and - voila! - here I am!"
"How'd you do that?" I asked, mystified. He'd always been odd about buzz, but this! To cut it off completely! It seemed impossible.
"How'd you think I avoided facing anyone for two hundred years, MacLeod?" he asked. "It's just a trick - Calara can do it, too. Can't you, my dear? Why don't you show Mac?"
"Stop it, Methos! Now!" she said sternly. "That's enough! The Boy will think we're insane!"
"Aren't we?" he replied, looking into her eyes as if she could see out of them. He was grinning madly. "Come on, Calara, my love! The Boy deserves a little magic for his troubles!"
"Methos, stop it!" she repeated. She really did seem angry with him.
When I moved away so Methos' arm wouldn't be resting on my shoulders, he dropped it to his side, but he kept his other arm around Calara, as if he didn't want her to feel unmoored.
"I'm glad you came, Methos," I said. "We're about done shopping here. I thought we'd find a cafe and get a cup of coffee. Will you join us?"
"If Calara wishes. Do you wish, Calara?"
"Sometimes I do."
"But - today - do you wish, today?" Methos asked her in an odd insistent sort of way, taunting and pleading at the same time.
Calara removed his arm from her shoulder but took his hand. "I wish I knew what you've planned for your friend and me, Methos."
"Take me out for coffee and pastry, and maybe you'll find out!" he cried gaily. "What'd you say?" For a moment, he sounded like Kronos, and I could see that Calara heard that challenge in his voice too.
She took a deep breath and dropped his hand, reaching out for mine. I quickly took her hand and squeezed it tightly. Finally, she said, "Very well. Come along, Methos! Duncan - he can come with."
"Hear that, Duncan? I can come with! Isn't that lovely? Charitable? Isn't that simply splendid?"
"It's all right, Mac," he told me, "we've been doing this for a very long time - no harm in it, is there, Calara?"
"No. No harm. Not anymore," she told him seriously, with a heavy sigh. She was still holding my hand.
"Will you take my arm, Calara?" Methos asked, making a small bow, which of course she couldn't see. But she did seem to see it, because she returned it. My head was spinning from their exchange.
"Very well. But no more nonsense, Methos. I don't want you fooling around with the very essence of our Immortality. Your friend's got problems enough without that. You're aware, I presume, that he's not carrying his sword."
I was stunned. How had she known that?
"I'm aware," Methos replied quietly, taking her arm and hooking it in his, then holding her hand with both his own. "But we'll fix that, won't we, love?"
"Yes, love, oh yes!" Calara replied grimly. "That's one thing we've gotta fix fast. Really fast. No time to lose. About that, we can't wait!"
We stopped for coffee in a cafe near the barge, and the two of them continued to tease and torment each other in a way that was difficult for an outsider like me to follow. But Methos and Calara were very quiet after we got back to my place. Methos actually stretched out on my bed, put on his Walkman and went to sleep, while Calara just sat down in the straight-backed chair she always opted for, even though she knew where the cushions were. She was utterly silent, following me with her sightless eyes as I moved about.
"What?" I asked her, when I'd finished putting away the groceries we'd bought.
"Nothing. Just thinking."
"Would you like to listen to some music? I can get my stereo and records out of storage. Amelia said you liked classical music."
"That's not necessary, Duncan. The radio will do for now. But don't turn it on, you'll wake Methos."
"If you're sure -"
"Are you hungry?" I asked, casting around for something else to say. Her silence, coupled with Methos' odd behavior - sleeping in the afternoon - made me feel nervous.
"Food again, MacLeod? We just had coffee and cake." She smiled. "No, I'm not hungry. But thanks for the thought."
I sighed heavily. "I'm gonna do some work on my computer now. Pay some bills. You sure you're all right?"
"I'm fine. But maybe - maybe you could give me that notebook you mentioned earlier, Duncan. And a pen."
My heart leaped. Would she write poetry again? Oh, how I hoped that! I kept my voice steady as I replied. "I've got one in my trunk. Wait a minute." I rummaged around until I found a pad and pen. "Here you go," I said, taking her hands and giving her the notebook and pen. "There's nothing written in it - you can start on the first page."
"Thanks." Then she was quiet for a long time, hands resting lightly in her lap, holding the notebook and pen. "Could you stop staring at me, MacLeod? Go on, go about your business - pay your bills! I'll be fine."
"Sorry, I didn't mean to stare."
"I know. And I didn't mean to snap. But we both did those things anyhow, didn't we?"
"You're so much like Methos, it's funny," I replied. "We're always quarreling. Like family."
"He's very fond of you, MacLeod," she answered. "So am I."
I chuckled. "He's like - a background hum to me. Every thought I have, everything I do, he's there. Whether we're together or not. Like cranes screeching, or the ocean's roar. Methos. He's just - there." I hesitated. Then I told her what had really been bothering me since I'd seen Methos again. "He doesn't approve of what I'm doing, Calara. That I won't carry my sword. I don't like it when he disapproves. He's so old - I always imagine he knows something I don't know. That he must know what's right - what the right thing to do is. Even if he won't do it himself." Lamely I added, "It makes no sense. It's silly. But it bothers me that he doesn't approve."
"It's not up to him, is it? Whether you rejoin the Game or stay out of it? He's your friend, not your Teacher, or your father. You must make your own decisions."
"I don't make them lightly."
She shifted gears. "However, I must say, I agree with Methos. What you're doing is beyond foolhardy. Well beyond. You must do more than defend yourself. You must fight for what you believe. Defend the weak, uphold what's right. You must."
"I've learned different. And it wasn't an easy lesson. I don't want to kill anymore."
"It's not simply killing. You fight for justice."
"Is there a difference?" I asked bitterly.
"Yes, there is!"
"Well, I can't see it. They're still dead. All of them. And I'm still sick and tired of the killing. The choosing - who should live, who should die. What gives me the right? I don't believe anymore that I'm the sort of man who should choose."
"You are that sort of man. Precisely because you don't like the killing, the deciding."
"I don't think so."
"MacLeod, it's who you are!"
I struck back. "And who are you, Calara? A poet? Or a woman who stopped writing poetry long ago?"
"It's different for me."
"No, it's not! If no poetry comes, fine. But it's not your decision to make! You can't decide to be somebody else, somebody who isn't a poet!"
"No, I suppose I can't." She smiled. "And you can't decide to be somebody else, somebody who isn't a hero!"
"Indeed." She took a deep breath. "Enough. Enough talking. Pay your bills, Duncan MacLeod. I've got a poem to write!"
I reach for him, my hand a liquid boneless frond,
fanning his long narrow frame.
I am a slave, laving his white cool skin
with my hot wet tongue.
I am alert to his silent awareness of my frightened touch.
If he should turn - a man of means, possessed of all rich things -
if he should turn and take his slave far into the wild trees,
to a place he alone knows,
shall I boneless go where he leads?
If he should turn and burn and answer all my needs,
in the evening, at his ease,
shall I know how to take the long slim cruciform limbs?
I reach for him, my heart in thrall to the whitecool bloodless skin,
accept from his fingers a single green/silver grape which has never been.
We spent the afternoon together, and the next afternoon.
Somehow, Methos didn't leave. For over a week, he slept next to Calara in my bed, and I continued to sleep on the floor. They quarreled and made up over and over again, hour after hour. Methos was so absorbed with Calara, he virtually ignored me. Left me to her, when they left off bickering. It was disorienting.
In the daytime we walked for miles, from one end of Paris to the other, Calara as indefatigable as Methos. I'd listen to them talk to each other for a while, then tune them out, content simply to move in their company, alongside them, their voices a background to my thoughts.
While we walked, day after day, I listened to the seagulls' songs, and the whistle of the fine light wind, and I was as happy as I ever remember being. I'd look at the other people we passed, look with hope, that they might be happy, as I was. I remember once I stooped to pick up a handful of pebbles. I rolled them around in my closed fist until they were warm. Then, when we were walking along the river for a stretch, I stopped and skipped them across the water. And I felt so happy, so peaceful, I could almost cry with the joy of it.
But after I'd skipped a few of the stones, I lost interest and dropped the rest of the pebbles into the river.
Catch the honey from your mouth,
the wild berries moist and blue,
take the warm open hand,
walk with me.
a clean imperative strides the air like fire from tinder born,
rendering scorched spirit warm.
Catch the honey from his sword,
a bit of wild remains - ancient man, ocean-heart - dashed to earth.
A bit of wild - ah sympathy, ah peace, ah ancient ocean-heart -
savior, warrior, or priest.
Cranes encircle my weary head,
oceans rush to meet the shore.
I walk along the timeless restless sea.
Take my hand, walk with me, you I adore.
In a spare and stoic service
(lingering berries wild and sweet)
something wild remains.
Honey-eyes always meet.
Won't you greet me, honey-love,
lamp aloft, in my hand?
I hear the circling seagulls' song,
telling me everything,
all the wonders time has shown.
We have known, we have flown,
and a bit of wild remains,
bitter sweet, honey-home.
At dusk one evening, after the three of us had walked for hours, my tiredness hit me hard, and I felt as though I couldn't walk another step. I lagged behind Methos and Calara - so far behind that at last they noticed and looked for me. They retraced their steps and joined me.
"You all right, Duncan?" Methos asked, very concerned. I imagine my face showed my fatigue.
"I'm very tired. Could we go home now?" I asked.
"Absolutely. Wait here and I'll find us a cab."
Suddenly, Calara's hand was on my arm again. She gripped my bicep hard. "Duncan! Duncan! Don't fade! We need you! Come back!"
"I'm fine. I'm just tired. It's been a long day. The two of you are better walkers than me. Guess you've spent more time in centuries where walking was the only way to get around, if you weren't rich enough to own a horse and cart."
"You were drifting, child!" Calara admonished. "You're not simply tired! You've worn yourself out! No wonder Methos foisted you on me! I knew there was something odd about it! Now I understand!"
"Do you? I don't. He told me you couldn't write poetry any more, but you are writing it, and you haven't shown it to him. He told me you needed a protector, but that you wouldn't want it to be him because you're angry with him. But anyone can see that's not true. That he's told me another one of his lies. The two of you - it's as if you never met at all - as if you've known each other for your whole lives! Like you were more than just old friends or even lovers! Like you were - brother and sister!"
"Brother and sister? But that's what we are, Duncan! Didn't Methos tell you?"
"How could you be his sister? You're only three thousand years old."
"Is that what Methos told you?"
"Yes. Well, no. He said you were more than three thousand years old," I replied, thinking hard, trying to remember his exact words. I was very tired.
"A lot more!" Calara said with a snort. "Two thousand years more!"
"You're - you're Methos' age?"
"Give or take a few years, yes."
"I don't understand."
"There's nothing to understand. Five thousand years ago, our clan found a little girl-child and took her in, made a fuss over her. That was me. Clara, our people called me. Seven summers later, they found a little boy-child and took him in, and made a fuss over him, too. That was Methos. We were raised together. I was the elder. I took care of him as if he was my own baby, my 'doll,' is how they'd put it, nowadays, I suppose. When he was little he couldn't say my name properly - Clara. The C and the L sounds together. So he called me Calara. That's how I got the name I've used ever since. Then, in Roman times, he adopted the surname Valerius, and so did I."
"Are you serious? Two of you? Your clan found two of you?"
"Yes. It's true. My people wandered over a virtually unpopulated stretch of countryside, following the herds, the seasons. There was really no one else around to find us, Methos and me. My father - the clansman who raised me - was very brave. I shall never forget him. Our people were very superstitious, of course. But my father was willing to risk the fear and anger of the others to take in another strange child who was white as chalk. He wouldn't leave a baby to die, no matter what might befall our tribe if he saved yet another child the spirits had cast away. Perhaps he thought Methos would be good company for me. If so, he was right."
"Tell me more, please."
"More? Very well. My gifts were strong for storytelling and seeing. Methos' genius was for counting and reasoning. We had great futures ahead of us, Methos and I, with our clan, our tribe, once they'd recognized our value and accepted us."
I was alert now, my mind reeling. "What happened to you?"
"What happens to anyone? I grew up. So did Methos. We were prized members of our people. I was permitted a great thing - not to mate, not to marry - after the man I'd loved was killed on a hunt, by a wild animal. When Methos' betrothal was arranged, I was permitted another great thing - to accompany him when he journeyed to the neighboring tribe - our sister tribe - so I could witness the joining of my brother and his bride. I was getting old. I hoped to see a child of Methos' loins, before I died."
"Nearly forty summers, then."
"But what happened to you? Methos said you were injured while you were still a pre-Immortal, but he didn't remember the details."
"I was injured. That's true. But he remembers the details. Yes, oh yes! Methos remembers."
In his innocence, airy beauty,
sweet lazy grace,
he stands a full day's hike from me,
tall and white
against the darkest night.
In the morning I begin my trek,
journeying one day only
to the feet of the final man.
When I arrive,
the sought-after moves away.
Patiently, next day I hike the space again.
I hear the sought-one call me clear,
just one day's hike from here.
In his joy, stolen motion, surreal languid pace,
he moves again a full day's hike from me,
foreshortened against the brightest night.
The cab Methos had gone to find drew up near us, with him in it. "Come on, you two! The cabbie doesn't have all night!"
I looked at Calara and said, "Don't -"
"I won't. For some reason, he didn't want you to know."
We got into the cab and were back at my barge very quickly. There was a terrible tightness in my chest and I had a splitting headache. Maybe it was caused by the power of their two buzzes combined, over an extended period of time, I don't know. After his little trick at the market that first day Calara was with us, Methos didn't do anything - unusual - with his Immortal aura again, didn't try to hide it. And I'd been together with him and Calara all day, every day, for weeks. Methos' buzz was very strong, and her presence was powerful, too. I wondered if they could use their auras as weapons, the way Cassandra and Kantos used their mesmerizing skills. I didn't know and I was afraid to find out.
I wanted to get away from them but I didn't know how to get rid of them. I wanted to get rid of them. I didn't want to know their story, now. Not anymore. It frightened me that Methos could lie to me about such a thing.
The intimacy he shared with Calara - suddenly, I found it repulsive, ugly. The two of them were beyond Immortal.
I remembered what Kronos had said of himself - that he was the End of Time. Maybe he'd really been the End of Time. Maybe I was being punished for killing him. Surely, Methos and Calara were the End of Time. Right now, that didn't seem like a very good thing. That they'd survived for so long. She'd called Methos' heart a dark ocean of Evil. Methos. Her brother. Right now, I couldn't believe he'd changed. That he wasn't the same monstrous murderer he'd been when he rode with the Horsemen. I felt sick, as if someone had submerged me into a vat of slime.
Brother and sister, and fifty centuries of killing and lies, to survive.
Ugly. Beyond endurance, such ugliness. So much killing, so many lies.
And I didn't even know the whole story. I didn't know what happened to destroy Calara's sight. But it seemed clear that in some way Methos must have been responsible. Thinking about that made me physically ill.
"I'll cook dinner, Mac, if you like," Methos told me when we got back to the barge. Quickly, he went to the kitchen and started supper. "Fish and chips tonight? What'd you say?"
Calara interrupted him. "Methos, your friend is ill. He won't be eating with us."
"Ill?" Methos repeated, coming over to where I was standing, in the middle of the barge. He took my arm. "Duncan?" I didn't respond. "Duncan?"
"What?" I asked dully.
"Are you ill?" Methos' voice was tense with concern.
"I'm - I'm feeling a bit tired. Dizzy. My stomach is bothering me."
"What are you talking about? Immortals don't become ill."
"Nonsense, brother! It's a sickness of the spirit - we all exhibit symptoms sometimes. They simply don't show up on Mortal instruments! It's like grief or sadness. Sometimes, the symptoms appear to be physical. This is one of those times, for Duncan."
"Calara -" I could hear the angry edge in his voice when he spoke her name.
"He was fine before you moved in here."
"Your idea, Methos, as I recall. Some devious plan of yours, not mine. I was perfectly content alone in the villa. Amelia would have visited me. Or stayed with me, if I'd asked her to. You wanted me to be here, with Duncan MacLeod. You insisted he needed me, and that I needed a protector."
"What have you done?"
"I've done nothing. He asked me a few questions and I answered them. Nothing more."
At first, I tried to block out their talk with meditation. I tried as hard as I knew how. But I couldn't. So I sank down on my mat and rolled myself into a ball, covering my ears with my hands and closing my eyes tightly. I couldn't hear their words, then, but I felt the roiling of their auras as they struggled and fought with each other. Methos' aura was particularly vivid, but then, I knew him best.
I began to retch where I lay but I didn't have the energy to get up and go to the bathroom. I vomited up everything I'd eaten and drunk during the day - the coffee, the toasted cheese sandwich I'd had for lunch. The ice cream we bought from a vendor near the Eiffel Tower. The fruit drink I'd taken last. All over my floor, I vomited, until there was no more food or drink left in me, and I just continued to dry-heave.
Methos was kneeling by my side, pressing my forehead with his hand, while I retched. Finally, I couldn't stand it any more. I thrust back at his ribs with my elbows, then turned and kicked at his legs with my feet. I scuttled across the floor, trying to get as far away from him and Calara as I could, and ended with my back to the barge wall.
"No! I don't want you here! I don't, I can't! I won't be like you! I won't be Immortal! I won't survive! I won't kill anymore! I won't carry a sword! Let me die! I won't be like you two - murderers! Old disgusting liars, no! No!"
"Oh my!" Calara said, and I heard her shoes shuffling on the wood floor as she backed away from me, though my eyes were closed and I'd turned my back on both of them. I covered my ears but the shrieking of cranes and the thunder of the sea filled my mind. I was so frightened and angry, but I couldn't get rid of them, I couldn't get them to go.
When I heard Methos' footsteps coming near me again I shrank farther away, as far as I could get, hunching my shoulders against his approach. But he kept coming.
"I'm sorry, Mac, but I need to do this." He bent over me and grabbed my shoulders, turning me towards him. Then he smashed me in the face with a blow that knocked me out cold. I hadn't realized it was coming and so I did nothing to defend myself from it.
When I revived I was on the floor of my shower, naked, with hot water streaming over me. Methos was kneeling next to me, fully clothed and drenching wet.
"Sorry, Mac. You were hysterical. I don't know what Calara told you - she refuses to admit she told you anything more than that I'd lied about her age. But clearly, something she said made you crazy. Whatever it was, forgive me for bringing her here. I thought - well - it doesn't matter what I thought. It was a mistake. I'll take her away. You'll be okay in a little while. I'll call Dawson to come and stay with you."
I stood and took a towel to dry myself off. Then I put on my robe. I was okay for now.
"Here," I told Methos, "take off those wet clothes, dry yourself off, and put this robe on." It was an old one I hadn't used for a while, that I'd left hanging behind the bathroom door for guests.
"Thanks, Mac." He stripped and dried himself, then put on the robe.
"Tell me why, Methos. Why'd you lie to me again? I don't get it. Why couldn't you tell me you grew up with the woman?"
He hung his head. "I don't know."
"Was she really a friend of Darius?"
"Yes! Yes! Everything else I told you was true!"
"She's really those poets - Lise, and Cassidy, and Lilienwald?"
"Yes! I swear it to you, Mac! I only lied about our past together - hers and mine. I didn't want you to know!"
"Know what? I don't understand."
"If she'd told you everything, you'd understand, all right," he said grimly. Then, "Can we leave the bathroom, now, MacLeod? This is not exactly an ideal spot for a heart-to-heart, is it?"
"I don't know. We gonna have a heart-to-heart? Or did you think up some more lies to tell me, while I was out cold?"
"That's not fair, MacLeod," he complained as he walked back into the living area.
I followed him. "Life's not fair, Methos - isn't that what you're always saying?"
"I've had my share of good luck - I can't complain."
"What the hell are you talking about?"
"The accident that took Calara's sight, killed me. First Death. At thirty."
"And - Calara was blinded."
So that was what he was hiding. He was there when Calara lost her sight. "Was the accident your fault?"
"No. Only what happened afterwards."
"Methos -" I tried to stop him from talking. I didn't want Calara overhearing.
He caught on immediately. "Calara's up on deck, enjoying the view, so to speak. She'll be all right for a bit. She took herself some leftovers to eat."
"So, put some clothes on, and I'll borrow some of yours. Then you can sit yourself down on your nice clean floor that I mopped for you, and listen to me for a minute."
"I'm listening," I told him, after we'd dressed. I settled myself against the barge wall a few feet away from where he sat. "Talk."
"I wanted to be the Leader, Mac. Of my tribe, and my clan. More than anything in the world."
"You? The Leader? Doesn't sound like you, Methos."
"Well, I've changed. But back then, I was different. I'd been teased and tormented from infancy. But I'd overcome everything they'd thrown at me - the elders, the other children. Met every challenge, physical and mental. I could have become the Leader. I was gifted beyond anyone in our clan. We both were."
"I can believe that."
"But Calara stood in my way."
"How'd she stand in your way?"
"It's difficult to explain. She was - my conscience. When I was about to cause a fatal 'accident' to another young warrior - a boy who was in line to be Leader - she stopped me with a look. When I chose a woman to marry for no other reason than the important position her kin held in our tribe, she talked me out of it. Then she chose my bride for me. One she thought was right for me. Until I achieved First Death - and Calara was blinded - she was my older sister, and she ruled my soul."
"She was seven years older than you and you loved her and listened to her, because she'd brought you up. Not an unusual relationship."
He shook his head. "Not when we were children, no. But later."
"You didn't outgrow it," I commented, the explanation leaping to mind.
"No. I didn't. But I resented it, hated her for the power she held over me. I hated her because I loved her."
"Then - oh Mac!" I thought he'd cry.
"Tell me and get it over with."
He sighed, pulling himself together. When he spoke again, he was calm. "We were on our way to another village. I was to be married. Calara walked with me to witness the joining. There was a storm, a terrible storm. We huddled together through the night. In the morning, the storm raged on and we tried to make it to a better place, a more sheltered place, before nightfall. We were separated from the others in our party. Calara and I found a small cave and went inside. During the night, probably due to the torrential rains, there was a cave-in. I was killed outright. When I revived, I found Calara unconscious. Finally, she came to. But she'd been struck on the head by rocks, she'd lost her sight."
"It wasn't your fault, Methos."
"No, the accident wasn't my fault. Her blindness wasn't my fault. That's true."
"So why'd you lie to me about her?" I still couldn't fathom the depths of his duplicity. Or the reasoning behind it. To me, it seemed like Methos didn't just lie when it was convenient or advantageous. Anyone might do that. He lied even when it hurt his cause. He lied all the time.
"As time went by - after the accident - I realized there was something strange about Calara. She emitted some kind of - buzz - that only I could sense. I'm a bright boy. I figured out that I'd died and revived. And that it might happen to her, too, if she was killed."
"You just - figured it out?"
"Not right away. When Calara regained consciousness I took her back home, instead of going on to the village where my betrothed awaited me. I never went through with that marriage. I didn't tell anybody I'd died and revived. I didn't tell Calara anything about it. I didn't know why it happened, and I was afraid."
"That's understandable," I said, remembering my first years as an Immortal. The fear and ignorance. The terror.
"Time passed. Three years. I saw myself - frozen in time. So much so, that others noticed. I watched Calara age - she was at that period in life when a woman begins to show her age on her face, her body. When the hair begins to go gray. And all that time, day after day, month after month, I felt that buzz -"
"Yes. Actually, stronger than most. Calara was always stronger, in every way, than most people. And I didn't do what I realized I should do - kill her while she was still young enough and strong enough to survive."
"Methos, you couldn't have understood all this. You're just talking from hindsight. Without another Immortal to show you the way, tell you about our kind, how could you have figured all this out? Five thousand years ago!"
"Damnit, MacLeod, I tell you I knew! I figured it out! I knew I did wrong, but at last I was stronger than Calara! At last the shoe was on the other foot - she needed me, depended on me! I didn't give her the chance to become Immortal. I waited and waited, seizing the power I craved, watching her grow old, while I stayed the same, stayed strong!"
"No, it isn't possible! You couldn't have known!"
"I knew! Mac, I knew!" Finally, I stopped trying to contradict him and just kept my mouth shut. At last he added in a low voice, "There's more."
"I know now that it wasn't true, but back then I believed it was. That if she died she'd revive with her sight restored. My conscience didn't bother me, though. I had no conscience! I lived perfectly happy, believing that I kept Calara not only from her Immortality, but from her sight!"
"But you were wrong, Methos - even if you'd killed her the instant after she lost her sight, it wouldn't have been restored to her!"
"I know that now, Mac, but I didn't know it then! And I was willing to let my own sister live as a blind woman - you can't know what that meant back then - rather than give her a chance to be more powerful than me!"
"Methos - it was five thousand years ago! It's over."
"Not for Calara!"
"It's no wonder you won't believe she's not angry with you."
"Calara is angry with me, MacLeod. It's a weak word for what she feels, but it's true."
"You're wrong, Methos! Did she ever call you Ocean-Heart, to your face?"
He frowned. "Ocean-Heart? What's that mean? No, she never called me that."
"Well, that's what she calls you now! Ocean-Heart! A heart as big as an ocean! Once, you were Evil, she told me. Then your heart changed. She told me that. She believes that. Calara loves you, Methos!"
"Sure, Mac, believe it, if you want to. You don't know her! You don't know her tricks and games! You can't know what devious is, until you know Calara!"
I started to laugh. "Methos - talk about the pot calling the kettle black!"
"You think so? Ask Dawson what happened to the Immortal who took Godfrey's head. How he was tortured before he was killed. Ask him for an exact tally of the number of pieces they found him in. But Joe won't be able to give you a figure, because the Watchers are still counting! Then come back and tell me I'm calling the kettle black!"
With that, he stalked out of the barge, and a few moments later Calara came back in. I stared at her for a minute, then shook my head. The ugliness of their relationship was vivid to me again, because Calara walked over to where I sat with my back against the wall, and stood tall in front of me. Her aura was strong and it tasted like metal. And it was very much like Methos'. But not exactly like. I was frightened.
"Duncan, wake up!"
"I don't know what you mean."
"Wake up! Believe! You're good at believing, aren't you! Believe what Methos tells you! I am angry at him. I am devious. I am Evil."
"No! I can't! He's just trying to make me believe terrible things about you, so he won't look so bad."
"Nonsense! He's telling you the truth about me! Duncan, do you know how long it's been since I was blind?"
"I asked you whether you've got any notion how long I've permitted Methos to believe I'm still blind."
"I don't understand."
"I haven't been blind since he killed me, three years after he achieved First Death and rose to Immortality. I regained my sight when he finally stuck a knife in my heart and I became Immortal. But I was so angry with him, I let him believe I was still blind. I've let him suffer with that guilt for five thousand years!"
"What I told you about Methos - about the change from Evil to Good happening simply as a function of Time? I wasn't just talking about him," she said bluntly. "I was talking about myself!"
I stood up. Walked away from her and didn't turn to face her again when I spoke. "Why have you admitted this to me, Calara?"
"Because I couldn't write poetry anymore until I came here. I hadn't written anything in two hundred years. Not even bad poetry."
"What's that got to do with it?"
"I've had a couple centuries to consider my life. Centuries when I lived without the luxury of hiding in my work., burying myself in my poems and my self-image as a poet."
"So?" I got myself some tea. I didn't offer Calara anything.
"So it occurred to me that I'd done Methos a wrong."
"Really," I replied sarcastically.
"That's right. Really. So you see, I'm only revealing the truth for selfish motives. I'm hoping I'll be able to continue writing poetry when Methos learns the truth. The way I've been doing these few weeks on your barge. I'm revealing the truth because I'm grateful to you. And because I hope it'll last - the poetry."
"Be careful, Calara. You might stop writing again until Methos forgives you - which might easily be another five thousand years! Don't count on my help in talking him over, either. What you've done - I can't forgive."
"Nonsense! You certainly can forgive me! I've twisted and distorted my own life! Methos is none the worse for wear! He's turned into a virtual saint! Maybe you've got the Watchers' vote for 'there can be Only One!' But you can't conceive how many of us - of our kind - consider Methos the best Immortal around! Legions of us! You're a poor runner-up in the contest, if we - the Old Ones - have any say in it!"
"I don't care about the Game! I care about Methos!"
"Yes, dear Boy, I know you do."
"When will you tell him the truth, Calara?"
"My dear Duncan, I have no intention of telling him anything at all! Why on earth do you think I've told you?" She came up behind me and put her hand on my back. "You'll save me the trouble, won't you? You'll tell him for me, won't you? You won't make me sorry I let you know how grateful I am that you took me in?"
"My God!" I said, turning and facing her. "I've a good mind to take your head!"
"Do you, now? Do you really?" She smiled. It was the sweetest, most enigmatic smile I'd ever seen, except for Methos' smile when we met.
"Yes!" I felt my hands itching to hold my katana, to swing it high over that deceitful Evil head, to slice that head from her neck, and wipe that lying smile from her mouth.
"Do you, now?"
"Well, good!" She walked around the kitchen counter to get herself a cup of tea. "Well, go on with you, Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod! Get your sword! I'm the very model of an Evil Immortal! Get your sword and kill me!"
"What - can't kill a woman? I've heard differently. I heard you killed a perfectly splendid woman - beautiful, too. Ingrid - wasn't that her name?"
"Well, if you won't take my head, will you accept my challenge?"
I stared at the woman, unable to believe my ears. "Your challenge?"
"Yes. I am Calara. I challenge you to Ritual Combat. That sort of challenge. Do you accept?" Her eyes blazed.
"If you'll fight, so will I." I wanted to destroy this woman who'd hurt Methos so much. I wanted her dead. Forever. "Have you a weapon?"
"Yes, among my things somewhere. A fine sword it is, too. And I've been practicing." She put down her cup and strolled over to her largest suitcase, opened it, and took out a sword in good condition, not rusted, gleaming. "Blindfolded. For five thousand years. I'm told I'm pretty good."
"Come up on deck and we'll see, woman!" I replied, taking my katana out of my trunk.
"You think Methos will let you take his sister's head?" she asked me with a wicked grin. She walked towards the steps leading out of the barge, though, while she spoke.
"Forget about Methos. He's not here to protect you. He's gone."
"No, he's not gone. He's just - quiet - shall we say. Yes, I think that's a good way of putting it. He's quiet."
I was horrified. "He's up on deck?"
"What, don't you sense his aura?" she asked, taunting me.
"You know I don't!"
"Well, he's there. I feel him perfectly well."
I pushed ahead of her and opened the barge door. "Go on, then. He'll have no say in our Ritual Battle. He can't interfere."
"Yes. And if you fight me, he'll know I'm not blind. So you won't have to tell him."
"I don't care! I don't care if you're blind or deaf or dumb or crippled! You're Evil! You'll die tonight!" I went up on deck and she followed. She was telling the truth about one thing, at least. Methos was on deck, at the end farthest from the door.
"Mac!" He focused on my katana immediately and started towards me. "What are you doing?"
"Don't try to stop me, don't interfere!"
"That's right, brother, don't interfere!" Calara echoed.
"You're challenging Calara?"
"She challenged me. I accepted." I turned towards Calara, taking up a fighting stance.
"But why, Mac? What's she done to you?" Methos asked.
"She's Evil. She deserves to die."
"That's it - the only reason? She's Evil and she deserves to die?"
"Right. That's it. It's enough," I replied grimly. I held my stance and waited for Calara to join the Battle.
But she didn't. She strolled over to the barge rail and handed her sword to Methos.
He exclaimed, "Calara! You did it!"
She smiled at him. "Of course I did it. That's what I came for, isn't it? Why you sent me to him?"
"What did she do, Methos?" I growled. I had a suspicion, and I was becoming angrier by the minute.
"She got you mad enough to take up your sword!"
"And I'll still be angry when I've taken her head, Methos! Keep up that kind of talk and you're next!"
He breathed a sigh of relief. There was pure joy in his voice when he told me, "A bit of wild remains, Mac. A bit of wild remains."
"What the hell are you talking about?"
"Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod - that's who I'm talking about! That sword belongs on your person, not in your trunk! Always! That's an order, Mac!"
"I'll get to you after, Methos! Just wait!"
"You're going to fight a blind woman, Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod?" Calara asked me with a lilt in her voice.
"You're not blind!" I shouted wildly.
"No? I'm not? Where'd you hear that?"
"You told me yourself, you're not blind! That you regained your sight when you achieved Immortality!"
"And you believed me? I think you've been taken in, Duncan MacLeod. I think so. Yes, I do," Calara said with a smile.
"You're still blind?" I didn't know what to think any longer.
"Of course I'm still blind! Immortality doesn't change what's happened to a person before First Death! You know that!"
"Yes, I know. It's hard, when two Old Ones like Methos and me gang up on a Green Boy! Sorry!"
"Methos - what have you done?"
"What I set out to do, Mac. Got you to take up your sword with the express intention of killing an Evil Immortal. What I set out to do at all costs. Even the price of you never speaking to me again. Come on, Calara, my flat isn't far. You'll be comfortable there." He took Calara's elbow and started toward the ramp leading off the barge. "We'll pick up her bags in the morning, Mac. Sleep well."
"What?" He stopped and looked at me over his shoulder.
"I - I'm not angry." I sighed. I wasn't angry.
"Right. You're not angry. And pigs fly." He started toward the ramp again.
"I'm not! Methos, Calara. I'm not angry. I understand. I'm just - hungry."
They both turned around when I said that. "Hungry?"
"Yes." When they didn't reply immediately, I added, "I missed dinner."
Calara snorted. "I think he's telling the truth, Methos. The man thinks of nothing but food - it was the very first thing I noticed about him!"
"She's right, Methos! I'll cook, if you'll join me for a late supper. Fish and chips, if you like!"
"Well, that's an irresistible offer if ever I heard one - fish and chips, indeed!"
"It's all I've got - all we bought - that you like. How about it, Methos?" I wheedled. "I'll cook. And there's beer. Warm beer." I'd picked a six-pack up for him and hidden it to keep as a surprise.
"Beer? You bought beer? I don't have to drink that awful black tea?"
"Never again, Ocean-Heart!" I told him. "I'll dump it into the sea, if you like! We'll go to Boston and I'll dump all the tea I've got into the ocean!"
"Maybe tomorrow, we'll go to Boston and dump the tea. Not tonight! As long as there's beer for me to drink tonight, I'm not going anywhere!"
~ ~ ~ The poems are by Calara Valerius ~ ~ ~
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