|The Spaces Between My Worlds
by Maxine Mayer
Theres an old ritual I perform sometimes, when the night looms long and dark, and time asserts itself as endless, opaque and terrifying. I examine the worlds Ive lived in, my memories, as many as possible, and I search very carefully for the spaces - the spaces between my worlds.
It is there, in those spaces between lives full of joy and adventure, that the growing occurs. There, in those spaces, that I achieve Immortality. The remainder of time, those years of action, conflict and love, are my Mortality, my humanity. My deaths.
Duncan MacLeod is facing the spaces between his worlds right now. He is going through the motions of Mortal life, but a deep stillness and a vast timelessness have invaded his spirit. Were out of phase, of course. I am astride my Mortality while he has dismounted and walks Immortal through an unimaginable glass kingdom .
Already twice since weve known one another hes tipped the glass and the wine of Immortality poured out over his life, drenching him in its sweet textured liquid, so very like blood, yet not.
His time of the Dark Quickening nearly destroyed his Mortality entirely. His clash with the Horsemen seeped him in time, unbalanced him utterly, called forth his Immortality. And its not over yet.
He walks between the spaces of his worlds, dazed and afraid, clinging to every shred of familiar territory, familiar friends, familiar things - in terror of time.
An Old Immortal. He does not wish to be an Old Immortal. But he is one now. He now must learn how to be.
He never asks where Amanda goes when she leaves him. He never asks where I go. He doesnt wish to know. This time, he will find out and cry aloud.
"Why dont you go after her, MacLeod? I know you miss her. Yet you never look for her. Try to bring her back."
"Amandas life is her own. When shes ready, shell come back. She always does."
"You chase your Mortal women - Tessa, Anne - youre the aggressor. You bind them to you." I was afraid Id said too much, but he didnt react. He simply replied.
"Its different, Methos. Amanda is one of us. Her time - her time is her own to do what she wants. Mortals have no time. If I want to be with a Mortal woman, Ive gotta seize the moment. Theres no time to lose. No time to play games. Before I turn around, they might be gone."
"And Amandas different?"
"Methos - youre being blind on purpose!"
"Maybe I am. I simply dont see the difference. Shes a woman. She loves you. Why dont you behave as though you love her in return. You do love her, dont you?"
"Of course I do! She knows that!"
"I think," I drawled slowly, as I made my way from the couch to the refrigerator, grabbed another beer, and returned to the couch, "I think you should look for Amanda. Dont you miss her?"
MacLeod stretched out his hands on the kitchen counter and leaned his body forward on them. "Yes, I do. As a matter of fact. If you must know."
"So, nothing." Then, changing his tactics, he said, "I wouldnt even begin to know how to find her, where shes gone. Last time she left, she was headed for Paris, I think. But shes not there now."
"Joe could find her."
"Im sure he could."
"What - are you afraid shes with someone else, another man?"
"Maybe," he replied, with a grin. "Maybe I am."
"Shed come back with you in a minute, you know that."
"Maybe she would - and maybe she wouldnt thank me for interrupting whatever love affair shes pursuing. Amandas her own person, Methos. I cant simply drop in on her. Shes Immortal."
"For goodness sake, MacLeod, what on earth does that mean - shes Immortal? That shes unavailable? That she wouldnt appreciate a wake-up call from Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod?"
"Whats your game, Methos? Why are you telling me this, saying these things?"
I was surprised itd taken him this long before he asked me that. "No game, MacLeod. I miss Amanda. We have fun together, when shes with us. Alone with you, its boring."
"Nobodys chained you to a radiator here, Methos - you dont need to stay if youre bored. Why dont you find Amanda yourself, if you miss her so much?"
This was not a serious suggestion on MacLeods part, I knew. He was rarely jealous of anyone, but Amanda usually managed to flick that switch in him, whenever she wished to do so. "I dont go looking for her because shes not in love with me. Shes in love with you."
"Thats a bit strong, Methos. She loves me. I love her. Weve known each other a long time. You can pretty much get used to anybody, after so many years. But - in love? I dont think so."
"If you dont believe me, ask anybody - Joe, Richie, the cop on the beat -"
Mac pushed away from the kitchen counter. "Okay. Ill do it. You twisted my arm. Im gonna go to Joes and ask him to tell me where she is. Im gonna follow her to wherever that is, grab her by the hair, and drag her back here! You satisfied, Methos!"
I grinned, took a sip of my beer, and said, "Perfectly."
I knew where Amanda was, else I wouldnt have goaded MacLeod into finding her. He would not be interfering with any love affair, when he arrived there. Amanda was on one of the Greek Islands, a tiny one. She had a small cottage there. She was laying on a beach, soaking up sun. She was studying several disciplines: the ancient game called "Go;" the language called Hindi; a phenomenal martial art derivative Id invented and entitled "Subterfuge;" the poetry of Blake; and the history of Scotland. She was walking slowly and very carefully in a fragile glass kingdom, examining the spaces between her worlds.
And a small part of her, no larger than the diamond stud in her nose, was missing Mortality, missing Duncan MacLeod. It was time to take his hand and walk more quickly in the glass kingdom, bond with him there, achieving Immortality once more. Not the first time, for Amanda. But a real first, for MacLeod.
We three - Joe Dawson, who is our Mortal Watcher, MacLeod, and I - left together the next evening, on a long flight to Greece, with three changes of plane. Joe was tickled to be along. He told me that, the last time hed taken a vacation was when he was invalided out of the service. Duncan was beginning to get into the mood of the trip. Hed bought some colorful shirts and shorts for the warmer climate, and a new pair of sandals. I was expecting to find everything I needed at Amandas, where Id left my hot-climate clothes last time Id borrowed her cottage for a short time, to check out my own not inconsiderable spaces. Not with Alexa. We two had traveled first class all the way.
We were tired by the time we changed planes in London. But when we landed in Greece, we perked up. You cant beat the sun out there, you know. Its exhilarating, energizing and enervating, all at the same time. Makes you want to eat and drink and sleep and fuck and swim and laze about on the beach. Makes you want to sing and dance all night, like a fool. Like a Mortal.
I watched Dawson bloom in the sunshine, as he tanned and the white in his hair and beard was bleached even whiter. I watched MacLeods slow grin simply take him over, in minutes, after we landed. For almost all the rest of the trip, he wore that grin. They tell me I grinned a bit too. Dont I know it!
When she saw the three of us coming up the beach from the landing dock, dragging our sandal-shod feet through the sand, Amanda jumped out of her chair with a laugh and ran to us. She squealed, "MacLeod!" and hugged him and twirled him around. She kissed Joes cheek, hugging him too. Me, she just looked at, and shook her head. "Methos, you devil! Howd you know I was ready? I was fine till this morning!"
"I knew. Isnt that enough?"
"You betcha!" She kissed me too, but it was more formal, as befits our relationship, which has changed so much since we decided it should. "You all right, Methos? Sleeping?"
"Mostly. I hang onto MacLeod." I shrugged. "Seems to work."
"Yeah, I know what you mean. He can bore you to death. Greatest sleeping potion since morphine!"
"Hey, hey, you two! Enough whispering. Arent you going to show us your house, Amanda?" MacLeod asked. "I could use a drink."
We walked up to the house slowly, for Joes sake. Amandas liquor cabinet was enviable, as always. We ate, drank, and talked half the night, and depleted her liquor supply as best we could.
Duncan couldnt get enough of Amanda. His eyes were never off her, and he took every opportunity to touch her. For a while there, I thought wed wasted the trip, that hed squeeze past the glass kingdom yet again, and walk straight back into Mortality, through the doorway of Pleasure, dragging Amanda after him. The way I was feeling about her myself, I wouldnt blame him. The woman looked good!
But Amanda was moody. Happy, but moody. Id taken her by surprise, and she sensed I had plans for us. I didnt know why Id wangled an invite for Dawson, except for the very fact of who he was: MacLeods Watcher. It seemed appropriate that he should be there, when the action went down.
In the morning, while Mac and Joe prepared breakfast and drank fruit juice, I took Amanda for a walk on the beach. She was tense, wary, and excited.
"What evil scheme are you concocting now, Methos? Playing games with Mac is fools work, you know."
"No games, Amanda. Time to take him up, to the next level, I replied evenly."
"No. Not yet. Hes too young!"
"Youve been saying that for years, Amanda. Hes no Green Boy any longer."
"Green Boy or not, hes too young, Methos! Hes enjoying himself. Hes still - working things out. Figuring things out. Treading the Mortal road. You cant just grab him and force him to leap," she replied earnestly. "Come on, Methos, give him another few decades, at least." She was wheedling. Almost, she could wheedle even me out of my plans, so effectively did she do wheedle, our Amanda. But not this time.
"Too late, my love, the wheels are turning, the others are on their way, even as we speak."
"No! Methos, no!" Then, a huge breath, and a sigh. "Who? Whod you ask to come?"
"Let it be a surprise, even for you, love."
"Methos! You know I hate surprises! They frighten me!"
"This one will turn your head round, like in The Exorcist. As you once told me, have a little faith! Itll work out perfectly. I promise you."
Amanda walked on ahead of me for a bit, scuffing her bare toes in the sand, her head down, her neck a delicious target, sweet and slender in the morning sun, her hands behind her back, fingers twined together, utterly without fear of me. That was a heady sight, I admit. It frightens me to know how very much I care for Amanda, and how very happy it makes me to know she doesnt fear me.
Finally, she turned and asked, "Why did you bring Joe? He cant be allowed to see the glass kingdom, to walk in the glass city, towards Immortality. Hes Mortal. Itd most likely kill him - the Light."
"Im not so sure. Joes MacLeods Watcher. He has the right to observe. What he makes of it all is up to him. Frankly, I think itll go right over his head. Theyre blind to it - same as they dont sense us coming."
"Hmm, that could be true. Nothing in the Chronicles about it?"
"None of them. Nothing Ive read in all the years Ive been a Watcher - before, and now. Stands to reason, some of the Watchers must have witnessed the Walk. None speak of it. Either they cant see it, or their memories get wiped, somehow."
"Methos - its not too late. Lets go home. To Duncans flat. Forget this. For now. Please, Methos."
I grasped her shoulders firmly. "Are you sure, Amanda? Sure thats what you want - to throw this chance away? His last chance for God only knows how long - before hes ready again? You sure of that?" I do serious well. Slightly over the top, I grant you, but effective.
She looked into my eyes, then away. Then she murmured, "Youre right, I suppose. But hes gonna hate it, hate you for it. Youll be giving him up for God only knows how long. Are you ready for that?"
"No. Im not. But its time." I shrugged, took my hands off her shoulders. "Who ever said I was meant for happiness, anyway? Did you read it in a book somewhere?"
"This is nothing to joke about, Methos. Youre worth something, too. Your happiness is worth something."
"Not anymore. I wouldnt give two cents for my happiness now."
We were both silent for a few moments. Then Amanda put her arms around me, offering a comfort that wasnt mine to take, of course, so I didnt take it. But God, was I tempted!
"Listen, child," I told her, "just for tonight, try to be less physical. Distance yourself from him, just a little. Lets take a stab at making this work."
"Youre a pain in the ass, Methos Valerius, you know that?"
I stared at her. "No ones called me that for years. Im surprised you remember."
"Darius always did."
"Darius is gone."
"Hes gone, Amanda. If he werent, we could let MacLeod play his Mortal games for another century or two. But we lost Darius. Theres nothing I can do to bring him back. So -"
"Okay." She put her hands on my chest and lightly pushed me away. I stumbled backwards a few steps in the sand. "Okay."
She went all determined and serious on me, possibly the sexiest thing Amanda does. I paid careful attention to what she said and did next. She lies very well, and has no conscience. I didnt want her to fool me, not now, not this time.
Reading my thoughts, Amanda said, "I promise I wont interfere."
I shook my head. "Youve got to do more than that, my girl."
"I promise Ill go along."
"More than that."
"Damn you, Methos - I promise Ill walk the glass city, through the whole goddam glass kingdom, with Duncan MacLeod of the damn Clan MacLeod, and take him to the next level! Is that good enough for you!"
"Yes. Yes, it is. Thank you, Amanda."
"Youre welcome, Methos Valerius, old friend."
"Still, old friend, even now?"
"Always." It wasnt her biggest grin. Fact is, it was sickly. But she grinned. Then she giggled. "Ah, hell! Maybe itll be fun!"
"And maybe bears dont piss in the forest! Fun it wont be."
"Depends whos coming. Old ones?"
"Two. And a young one."
"Can I guess?"
"Sweetie, youll never guess!"
She lifted an eyebrow, grabbed my hand and dragged me towards the water. "Then tell me! Or I swear Ill throw you in!"
"I cant tell you - you know that!"
"Youre going in, Methos! Youre gonna drown! You know how you hate the water!" She continued to drag me toward the sea, and I hadnt the heart to stop her. Just thinking of what was ahead for her, for all of us, made me weak.
"Youre going in, old buddy! Last chance! Tell me whos coming, or youre sopping wet, your lungs filling with water! Ill hold your head under - I swear it!" Shed already brought us both up to our waists into the sea. "Meth-os - tell!"
I grabbed her and dunked us both, holding her under and holding my breath. Finally, I let us up, and she came up sputtering and fighting. But she knew I wouldnt tell. So she floated on the water, squinting into the sun. This time I didnt try to resist. I kissed her lightly on her mouth. She turned over lazily and put her arms around me, treading water. "Methos, Duncan will see. You dont want him to see, do you?" she asked wickedly.
"Frankly, my dear, I dont give a damn," I replied, kissing her again.
"Oh, but you do. You do give a damn! And so do I."
She pushed off and away and swam back to the shore. I watched her walk up the beach, away from me, as shed done over and over again, for a millenium. I rubbed my nose, shook the water from my hair, shrugged.
"If its worth having, its worth waiting for," I muttered. "But - ten centuries? Isnt that slightly absurd?"
We passed the day quietly. Mac and I went down to the village and picked up supplies, while Amanda showed Joe all her souvenirs - the ones she kept with her wherever she went. Later, before supper, Joe told me he was impressed. "Shes got a really old edition of Marcus Aurelius Meditations, Methos! And whats more, shes read it! Who would have believed it!"
"Theres more to Amanda than meets the eye, Joe. Simply because she likes a little romance and excitement in her life, doesnt mean thats all she needs or knows. Dont forget, she was Rebeccas student."
"Yeah, I shouldnt be so surprised. Ive been studying you guys all my life, and there aint one of you who isnt more than he looks to be."
"Must be the age," I said, laughing.
"Yeah. Theres that. But its something else." Joe shook his head and took another sip of his Scotch.
"Whatd you mean?"
He shrugged. "I dunno. Macs pretty straightforward. Oh, hes got his pensive moments. Hes older than he looks, I grant you that. But hes not the best example of what I mean."
"No. You Old Ones, somethings different about you guys. I dont know so many of you. But even just the two of you - Amanda, you - somethings not right."
"You mean - were Immortal?" I grinned.
"I think thats exactly what I mean. Youre Immortal. Youre - timeless. Youre not like Mac. Maybe youre just too old. Like us. Like Mortals. When we get old. We dont care the same way, anymore, about anything. Cant get all worked up and passionate, the way young people do. You two, you talk a good game. But you seem to be - not in it - not out of it, but not in it, either."
"Youre one perceptive man, Joe Dawson. I gotta hand it to you."
"Not in it. Were not in it, not the same way MacLeods in it. I dont think theres any other way to put it except - were old, Joe. Really really old."
He looked at me, and smiled. "You dont look it. Neither does Amanda."
"It takes a lot to jump-start us, Joe. More than you can imagine. Youve seen it in some of the others - the ones who go down the Evil Path. The killers. The ones who embrace perversion. Lots of us do that. Immortality can take the heart out of a man. The spaces between our worlds can become very dreary, very dreary indeed."
"But you and Amanda - youre okay with it?" Joes concern - you couldnt put a price to it.
"We stick with MacLeod. Before him, Darius. The live ones. Keeps us alive, keeps us going."
Joe was quiet for a few minutes. Then he said, "Thanks, Methos. Thanks for telling me. Its a privilege to know you. Cant buy it, cant steal it. Gotta get it as a gift. I want you to know, I do appreciate it, buddy."
"Its good to be able to trust somebody, Joe. A real gift." I hesitated, and Joe noticed.
"Theres something more, something going on. What is it? Trouble? Let me help. Please."
I shook my head. "Its not like that, Dawson."
"MacLeod. Hes in danger."
"No. Not like you mean."
"Somethings going on with him. Somethings happening to him. These - terrible times - the Dark Quickening, the Horsemen, Tessas death, Annes leaving him, Darius murder -"
"Something like that." But it wasnt all. He didnt mention what was worst for MacLeod. Killing the Old Ones, the old Immortals. Thats what had made MacLeod an old Immortal before his time. Thats what was wrong, what needed fixing. But I couldnt, mustnt explain that to Joe.
Dawson looked at me, imploring me with his eyes to tell him everything. "I cant explain, Joe. But youll be here. I dont know how much youll see, or understand, or remember. But youll be here with MacLeod. Whatever you can do to help, youll be permitted to do."
"Permitted?" He thought for a minute. "Its some kind of ceremony, an initiation, isnt it?"
"Joe, thats enough." I stood, put my drink down, and walked to the door. "MacLeods an old Immortal now, Joe -"
Dawson finished my sentence. " - And hes gotta accept that."
I turned, my eyes wide. "Thats right."
"Okay, old friend. I got it. Ill help. Much as I can." I didnt answer him. "Whatever the price," he added. I nodded. Hed gotten it, all right. Only too right. For the first time since Id set things in motion, I really began to worry. If we Immortals paid a price, that was our business. But Joe wasnt part of this. It wasnt his fight. Hes Mortal. The price he pays could be his life. I didnt like thinking about that. But I couldnt push the thought away.
Then I heard the helicopter land, and I knew it was too late to stop what Id started. And much too late to send Joe Dawson home.
Quentin of York. Lamartin of Bordeaux. Those names mean anything to you? Theyre not their real names, of course, though they used them for hundreds of years. They arent even the names they use today. Long ago, they were called by different names. The records some of us Immortals keep among ourselves are a little vague about the old days. But on one thing theyre clear. On one thing, the records all agree. Methos Valerius is most certainly not the oldest living Immortal. Quentin of York is, and Lamartin of Bordeaux follows close behind. Six thousand years - give or take - a piece. Sixty centuries each. Thats a long time. Im a Green Boy to Quentin. Lamartin persists in calling me mi figlio, the equivalent of sonny, you might say. Honestly, I wasnt sure theyd come when I asked. But Id underestimated the rumors about MacLeod. I must give over doing that - underestimating anything about Duncan MacLeod. Will I never learn?
Youll want to know what they look like, Quentin and Lamartin. They look young. Fit. They both made First Death very young. When they were still Mortal, people didnt live to a ripe old age. A man of forty was an Elder. Quentin looks like an adolescent, a beautiful blonde youth of seventeen. He appears to be younger than Richie. Lamartin is bigger, beefier - a real Latino type. Looks about twenty-five. It takes a real effort not to let their looks deceive me. Until I feel their ancient "buzz."
Before today, I hadnt seen them for more than fifty years. Theyd come out of retirement to fight in the Second World War. At the time, I found their enthusiasm incredible. Now, Im not so sure they werent right to take sides. Be that as it may, only God knows how many times they each died in that conflict, or to what lengths they went in order to continue fighting - their Immortality undetected - to the bitter end. I do know they watched each others backs to keep their secret from Mortals. It was an episode in their Chronicles they permitted me to write. They have no real Watchers.
If youre surprised to have found out that Im just a guy, then those two would floor you. Even Amanda couldnt quite get her mind around their modernity. Theyre like no other Immortals Ive ever known. Absolutely without any sign of age. Absolutely fearless, as if they were on drugs. Always high. Always up. When I spoke of their retirement, I realized it might put some people in mind either of an old age home or a monastery. I merely meant, they were as far out of the Game as they could place themselves. They lived for Pleasure, and I do mean with a capital P. Rich as Croesus, they were modern to a fault. In their minds, they lived in the twenty-fourth century, and thats a minimal estimate. Youve got to appreciate the cunning, the cleverness of those two, to survive so long. But they didnt spend all their time surviving. They invented things - no, not themselves, not simply themselves. Real inventions. Real technology. Some they sold. Some they gave away. I suspect, some they kept for themselves. They once told me that they crammed their Mortality with so much activity that Immortality seemed like a dream to them. A nightmare they avoided at all cost. They walked in the spaces between their worlds as infrequently as possible. They walked the glass kingdom only when they must.
From this youll gather, itd take a lot more than my fancy footwork to convince them they must. Yet they agreed to come, quite gaily, when Id gotten in touch. "Absolutely, old sod," Quentin sang into the speaker phone. "Just tell me your coordinates, Val, Ive got pen and paper in hand," Lamartin seconded. I gulped and responded. But I couldnt have been more astounded had they each grown two heads!
Goes to show! Lifes a wonder, when even I can be surprised!
"Inviting anybody else, Methos?" Quentin had asked. When I told him wed be staying with Amanda, he seemed quite pleased. When I told him who else was coming, I could hear the frown in his voice. Nonetheless, despite their misgivings about the other Immortal Id invited, they accepted with pleasure. "Wouldnt miss it, my boy!" Quentin said. "Absolutely marvelous fun, Im sure," Lamartin agreed, his turn of phrase clashing with his slight European accent.
And now they were here, getting out of a helicopter, being greeted by Amanda and MacLeod. I hung back. Stayed in the house with Joe.
"Whats up, Methos?" he wondered aloud. "Whos that in the copter?"
"Just old friends. Ill introduce you," I muttered.
"If I didnt know you better, Id say you look like youre afraid of them," Joe said, joking.
"I am afraid of them."
He struggled out of his chair and started for a window. "No! Come on. Youre pulling my leg! Look at them! Couldnt be older than Richie! Whats there to be afraid of?"
"Theyre older than Richie, Joe. Trust me. Theyre really really old guys." I couldnt bring myself to shatter all Dawsons illusions, so I didnt tell him theyre older than me. A mans gotta keep some secrets.
Joe bit his lip. "They know Im here?"
"By now, they probably did their homework. Im pretty sure they know."
"That gonna be a problem, Methos? Ill leave, if you want me to."
"Okay, then. Id like to meet them."
"You will. Oh, you will." He did.
Amanda assigned two tiny upstairs guestrooms to Quentin and Lamartin. The old Immortals sauntered down to dinner dressed to the nines in white linen summer suits. They managed to look both elegant and out of fashion at the same time. We were all wearing shorts, shirts and sandals. Quentin and Lamartin carried their swords in plain sight, casually laying them on an empty chair near the sideboard before joining the four of us at the large round dinner table.
MacLeod stared at them. While his own katana was within easy reach on the sideboard, I think he found the fact that they were carrying theirs openly somehow rude. Id put my sword out of sight under the table earlier. I wasnt sure where Amanda kept hers. Still, Mac seemed put out that the old men hadnt left their weapons in their rooms.
"Dont look so surprised, Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod," Quentin said. "This idyllic time may be a vacation for Mr. Dawson, but death never takes a holiday. And neither do Immortals."
"Im sorry you feel that way," Mac replied evenly, with a great deal of dignity. "For me, any friend of Methos is a friend of mine."
"Until proved otherwise," I chimed in.
"Well said, MacLeod," Quentin admitted. "But we mustnt lie to ourselves, or to each other. Ritual Combat is what we do, the spine of who we are. Wed be foolish if we werent prepared."
I felt nervous, as though Id brought a friend to meet my parents. Felt responsible for Duncan, somehow. Anxious for him to make a good impression. It was foolishness, I grant you, but thats how I felt. I tried to change the subject, but ended up putting my foot in it. "Our last guest should be arriving in the morning. Then our party will be complete."
"Just who else is coming, Methos?" MacLeod asked.
"Its a surprise," Amanda said quickly, saving my neck. "Dont you just love surprises?" She turned to Lamartin, who hadnt said a word so far, but was studying Amandas charms with undisguised admiration. "Lamartin, how about you? Do you like surprises?"
"Im sure I would, but nothing surprises me anymore, Im afraid, mi figlia." Oily continental charm. Pity he was so attractive.
"Just how long have you been around, Mr. Lamartin," Dawson asked. "Most of the Immortals Ive met still find life full of surprises. Even Methos here."
I always anticipate that Quentin and Lamartin will be contemptuous of Mortals. Theyve distanced themselves so thoroughly, that I forget what theyre like when I dont see them for a long time.
Lamartin replied, "Youre right. One thing persists in surprising me. Mortals. What they do, how they think, how they love - so passionate, so urgent. I do not mean to insult you in any way, Mr. Dawson, but with time, youll be the same as we are. Disengaged. Disconnected."
Joe laughed. "I dont think Ive got that kind of time."
"Perhaps not," Quentin said seriously. "Nor is it in your nature to be disengaged. I think you are a passionate man, Joe Dawson."
"No doubt about that! Maybe too much so, for my own good."
"That could never be. Never." Quentin spoke decidedly, with authority that ill befitted his youthful looks. But his voice was low and strong. Nobody seemed put out with his pronouncement.
MacLeod asked, "Whats your line of work, Mr. Quentin? And you, Mr. Lamartin?"
"Please call us Quentin and Lamartin, Mr. MacLeod."
Duncan nodded. "Same here - Duncans fine."
"Were inventors. Thats our work, our study, and our business as well. Right now, its computers. Were working on various possibilities for viewing ones partner in a conversation on the internet."
"Dont forget spacecraft, Quentin. Its really hush hush, for now. But down the road - if were granted the time - well have something valuable to offer, I believe," Lamartin added.
"Methos tells me youre older than you look," Joe said, smiling. "So you must be survivors extraordinaire. But you both seem pretty uncertain how much time youll have, pretty sure deaths just around the corner. How come?"
"Dawson -" I interrupted.
"No, let me reply," Quentin stopped me with a gesture. He picked up his glass of wine. "Look at this wine, Mr. Dawson."
"Joe. Call me Joe, please."
"Very well. Joe. Look at this wine. Such a lovely color, delicate flavor - a delicious wine, which will only improve with age. What could go wrong with it? Yet we know careless storage could ruin the rest of the case. And a moments bad weather could ruin next years vines. The wine grower knows. Every farmer lives in dread of bad weather, which is death to his crop. We Old Ones are the same. Were lovely, we improve with age, but were very delicate, very vulnerable. One stroke of the sword can destroy us forever. How could we not be aware of that fact of our existence? Immortal or no, death is always present to us. Were less likely to forget it or avoid thinking about it than you Mortals, I believe."
"When you put it that way, I can see where youre coming from. Just how old are you two?" Joe asked curiously.
"Methos - shall I?" Quentin asked.
"Round figures will do," I replied.
"Very well. Fifty centuries, more or less. Each."
"Wow! Id no idea there were others like him," Joe said, waving in my direction. "I kinda thought he was the only really old guy still around."
I glanced at MacLeod. He was studying his wine glass, determined to avoid my eyes.
"Boys, boys," Amanda finally broke the silence. "Cant we talk about something less gloomy than old age and death? MacLeods an antique dealer. That ought to interest you, Lamartin. Methos told me you love beautiful things."
"I am interested in beautiful things, antiquities. But my passion is people. In our partnership, I am the salesman; Quentin the scientist. I travel widely. Weve collected a great many objets dart over the centuries, fine things, but mainly our own personal belongings, which turn into antiquities as time passes."
"Ive noticed that myself," MacLeod said, for the first time that evening lightening up a bit. I breathed a sigh of relief. Maybe it would be all right. He never took to Immortals easily. Mortals, yes. Hes a sucker for Mortals. But hes got a suspicion of Immortals that wont let go. I prayed my two old friends would sense that and try to put MacLeod at his ease. Otherwise, God alone could say in what terrible ways my plan would be ruined.
We talked a bit longer, over coffee. I had a couple of beers, and so did Joe. MacLeod stuck with the wine. Finally, he said he was tired, and went up to bed. Dawson soon followed. The four of us - Amanda, Quentin, Lamartin and I - were finally alone.
"Methos, this isnt going to work! You can see that, cant you?" Amanda whispered urgently.
"It does seem - premature - Val," Quentin added, and Lamartin nodded.
"Youre wrong. Its time. I was never more certain of anything in my life."
"However do you retain such enthusiasm, such passion, Val?" Quentin asked, his unlined face a study in disbelief. "If I didnt know better, Id think you were a Green Boy still."
"Not retain," I muttered, for the hundredth time in a hundred days, or so it seemed to me. "Not retain, redeem!" I was angry.
"Whats that mean, Methos?" Quentin asked. "Quibbling over a word?"
"Words are who we are. They define us. The Word was made Flesh, and dwelt among us. In the beginning was the Word. When I say Im redeemed, Im not quibbling, Im damn near praying!" I sighed. Then I shrugged. "Youll see. In the blink of an eye, youll see MacLeod for what and who he is - and youll know Im right. That its time."
Lamartin leaned towards me and placed a hand on my shoulder. He spoke quietly, gently. "Methos, its all very well to admire the man, even to love him, but that wont change the fact that hes only four hundred years old. Hes a Green Boy. Ask anyone. Hes fairly quivering with Mortality, still. Hes virtually indistinguishable from Dawson, spiritually. Hes a child, Val. Its not time. Pray believe me, not yet."
"Im not deluded. Youve made my point for me. Yes, I agree. Hes as Mortal as Joe. Hes also as Immortal as Quentin or you. Or me. Its time." The angry edge to my voice simply emphasized the conviction I felt. These men had read the private Chronicles Id prepared over the past couple years. But reading about Dark Quickenings and the Horsemen and the death of MacLeods friends was one thing. Living through it was another. Experiencing the difference in MacLeod from when I first met him until today was something I couldnt pass along the line.
At last I spoke into the vast silence the others maintained. "Okay, guys, just humor me. Lets simply give it a whirl. Our last guest will arrive in the morning. Tomorrow night well start. Amanda will start," I amended. "We can stop at any point along the way, if you all agree thats the right way to go. Or we can continue on into the glass kingdom. All Im asking is that you trust me. Ive been around a long time. Granted, I may be wrong. Yes, I may be deluded by friendship. Yes, Duncan MacLeod is a very charming man. So, yes, I may be deluded by love. But Im not. I know it. And youll all know it, in a few days."
Amanda, Quentin and Lamartin exchanged glances. I hoped theyd decide in my favor. After all, they were here, werent they? But I hadnt realized I had so little faith in their judgment. Id grown accustomed to MacLeod. To Dawson. To their unerring morality, their incredible instincts. Id forgotten what life was like when you hung around with dispassionate Old Ones. I seemed to have lost the knack of distancing myself from my lives, and that realization disconcerted me. But I kept my mouth shut until they nodded their agreement to try. Then I said goodnight, grabbed my sword, and went up to bed. I didnt know Id been holding my breath until I closed the door to my room and let it out.
"Whered you find those two, Methos? In a home for the emotionally challenged?" Duncan asked. "Talk about the dead leading the utterly deceased!" he said, mocking me.
I switched on the light. He was sitting in a rocking chair near the window, his katana across his knees, a can of beer in one hand, a glass of wine in the other. The house was so full of "buzz," I hadnt noticed how near he was.
"Close your mouth old friend - youll catch flies," he told me. Then he laughed out loud. "Come on, Methos, dont look so surprised. Here - have a beer."
I tried to regain my composure. "You shouldnt be here, MacLeod."
"Really? Since when do you tell me where to go and who to see?"
"Thats not what I meant. You should be with Amanda. Or Joe."
"Why? Why one friend rather than another?" When I didnt reply, Mac stood up, and put down his wineglass. His katana held in a loose grip in his left hand, he walked to the window, moved the curtain aside, and looked out. Then he looked at me again. "You gonna tell me whats going on, Methos, why were here?"
"Just a holiday, thats all, MacLeod. Friends greeting friends." I smiled up at him from the easy chair Id flopped into. "Why so suspicious?"
"Those two men are your friends? Is that what youre trying to tell me? So why are you so scared of them that even Joe noticed? Whys Amanda scared? Whats going on, Methos? Whyd you bring me here?"
"Its not fear. Its respect. Cant you tell the difference?"
"No. I cannot! It smells like fear to me!" Then, before I could move, hed crossed the small bedroom, swiveled his katana in a wide arc, and sliced downwards towards my throat, holding the edge of his blade an inch from my Adams apple. His voice was low and raspy, his face a study in hot anger. "Respect? Tell me, Methos. Tell me now. Why are we here? Whos coming tomorrow? Whatre you planning? Now, or youre dead!"
I stretched my hands out, as if to push his body away. Hunching my shoulders, pulling my head as far away from the blade at my throat as I could, I answered the easiest question first. "Connors coming. Ive asked Connor." If I thought that would be enough to save me, I was wrong.
"Its a long story, MacLeod -"
"Then youre lucky Im Immortal, arent you? Ive got lots of time to hear it. Give over, Methos. I want to know."
"Its for older Immortals - a kind of - spiritual quest - a way to center oneself. We call it, a walk in the glass kingdom. Its not a bad thing. Really."
He kept his blade at my throat. "Whos it for, this time? You? Amanda? Or Connor? Is that why youve asked Joe and me - for moral support for one of you in this - quest?"
"MacLeod, take your blade away from my neck, and Ill tell you."
"No. Youll tell me now, Methos."
"Its not for Amanda, or Connor, or me. Its for you, MacLeod."
"But you said, older Immortals." He sounded bewildered. "Im not in that ballpark. Not even in the league."
"I think you are."
I shook my head. "No, Im not. But get in line. The others agree with you."
MacLeod whisked his katana away from my throat and went to the rocker. He sat down again and lay his sword across his knees. He picked up his glass and took another sip of wine.
I adjusted myself in the easy chair, put one knee up, and started to search around for my beer. Then I noticed my hands were shaking, so I just sat quietly, waiting for his next question, and his next. What a mess!
"And Connor? Whyd you invite him? I didnt know youd even met him."
"As moral support?"
"As a kind of - Second - like in a medieval duel."
"I thought you said you believe Chivalry is dead. Trendy in my youth, you called it."
"This is from long before the Age of Chivalry. I do eclectic pretty well."
MacLeod put his head in his hands. "Im not an old Immortal, Methos. Not even close. Youre way off, here." Then he lifted his eyes to look at me. "Besides, how could you bring those two - strangers - to something so - personal? If we met them at Joes, we wouldnt give them the time of day!"
"The Ritual calls for four - a Companion on the Walk, Amanda - a Sponsor - thats me - and a Judge, Quentin -" I broke off.
"And - and. Whats the fourth for? Whys Lamartin here?"
"An Opponent, a Challenger. Call it what you will!" I saw his incredulous look. "Look, MacLeod, theres a lot of history here. This isnt something I thought up on my own. This was around long before I became Immortal. Its been a source of strength and peace for Immortals for - millennia." When he didnt reply, I asked anxiously, "You do understand, MacLeod? This is a good thing. Quentin and Lamartin would never have joined us in the first place, if they hadnt known enough about you to think you were ready."
"Whered they get their information, Methos? From you? You been doctoring the Chronicles? Because theres nothing in my life so far which isnt ordinary, for an Immortal. Im no different from others my age, even older. Fitzcairn never went through this Quest, did he?"
"No. Too young."
"Right. And Id have known, wouldnt I? You, or somebody like you, would have called me to be his Second." Contempt dripped from his voice. "Connor?"
"Not yet. But Amandas walked the glass kingdom, MacLeod. Shes all right. She survived."
"So whys she pushing me away, as if shes already saying goodbye to me. As if I were as good as dead."
I shook my head. "Thats my doing."
"Your doing? I dont get it."
"Readiness is a fragile thing. You can slip into your time of Mortality again, in the blink of an eye. Particularly if you - imbibe - enough Pleasure. I asked her to distance herself. Shes an old friend. She agreed."
"Amanda? Amanda agreed to distance herself from me for the sake of some game youre playing? I dont believe it!"
"I know. The Amanda you love wouldnt consider such a thing for a moment. But the Amanda we love - I love - is an old Immortal. She knows the ropes. She wasnt happy about it, but she went along."
"Thats why you asked Dawson to come to Greece with us? Because hes my Watcher?"
"He has the right to see whatever he can see. It cant be much." I shrugged. "Theres no mention of the walk in any Chronicle Ive ever read."
"I see." MacLeod stood. "And this walk, is it a one time deal?"
"No. We renew when we must." I shrugged. "There can only be one first time, sure."
"And youre certain Im ready. No matter what the others think." MacLeod spoke thoughtfully.
"Okay. I wont fight you on this. Ill try it. I think its crazy. But Ill try."
"You wont fight me?" I squinted at him. "Whats the catch? What do you want in return?"
MacLeod looked at me, one hand on the doorknob of my room, ready to leave. "No catch, Methos. I dont want anything. Ive trusted you with my life before, several times. You always came through. By the skin of your teeth - but you always came through. Youre my friend. So Ill trust you again."
I could hardly speak. I croaked out, "Thanks, MacLeod."
"Besides, somebodys gotta watch your back with those two ghouls around," he said with a smile. "You may not have noticed, but theyre after your head." Then he left.
I muttered to his back, "Yeah, I noticed. Big surprise. What else is new?"
But I was very happy. Not because my plan could go forward. Not because of that. Because MacLeod trusted me. Called me his friend. Like I was worthy of trust. Like I was good, the way Joe was good. Nobodyd trusted me without question for so long - no Immortal - not even Amanda. Trusted me first, before Id proved myself innocent. Maybe Im sentimental, but just the thought of such trust made me want to cry. Oh, I was well astride my Mortality, no question. Completely out of phase. In that moment, I was happier than I could ever remember being.
I couldnt have been more vulnerable if I worked at it.
I woke at dawn, dressed quickly and went to the kitchen. Sipping a fruit juice, I looked out at the beach. In the distance, up the coastline, MacLeod was doing morning exercises, his sword on the sand nearby. Amanda was still asleep - Id checked her room, opening the door quietly. Joes too. I didnt know where Quentin and Lamartin had gone, but they werent in the house - Id sense their buzzes anywhere. Probably went for a walk together. Or doing their own exercises and meditations, at another spot on the shore.
Sure enough, when I went outside and stood on the porch, sword in one hand, juice in the other, they came walking slowly along the beach towards the cottage. This time, they were dressed in swimsuits, and they were wet.
"Been for a swim, Methos," Quentin called out to me. "Waters cold, but bracing. You should go in."
"I will. Later. When its hot." Something felt wrong inside me. I felt almost sick. It couldnt be physical, of course. I couldnt put my finger on it. But I was sweating strangely, a cold sweat, unlike anything Id ever experienced before. I decided that Id talk to Joe, when he came down for breakfast. "Connor should be here soon," I told the other Immortals. "Hes due in at noon."
"Very well, Methos. Well begin tonight, after dinner." Quentin squinted at me. "Are you well?"
"Im okay. Too much to drink last night."
"Youre up early. Maybe you should lie down again," Lamartin suggested.
"No. Im okay." Suddenly, I needed to get away from them. I pushed past them off the porch. "Im gonna see what Macs up to. Help yourself to breakfast."
I put my glass down on the porch railing and walked across the sand towards the shady place under a few trees where Duncan was working out. The sun was already blinding, but I felt chilled. Dizzy. Despite the heat of the early morning sun on my skin, I felt clammy, sweaty. Strange. I tried to shake it off. "Youre Immortal, you idiot," I muttered to myself, trying to keep focused on MacLeods figure in the distance. "You cant be sick. You cant be dizzy." I reached for Macs buzz. Grabbed hold with my own. Then the next thing I remember, I was lying on a couch in Amandas living room, concerned faces everywhere I glanced.
"Methos, you all right?" Joe asked. He held a basin of water. Amanda was washing my face with a wet cloth. Duncan stood just behind her. He looked frightened to death. Quentin and Lamartins faces were hovering portraits of anxiety and puzzlement.
"What happened?" I asked.
"You - fainted. On the beach. I carried you back here," MacLeod replied.
"Youre putting me on. I dont do faint, I said. "Thats absurd."
"Absurd or not, good buddy, you fainted," Joe said with a smile. "Been out a good twenty minutes or more. I didnt think Immortals could get sick."
"We cant," I muttered automatically.
"Well, my boy, if its surprises you were after giving us, this was a gift without price!" Quentin answered. "Ive never seen anything quite like it. Not in - fifty centuries!"
"Val, tell me. Whats it like? Being sick?" Lamartin is a ghoul - Macs right.
"Hey, boys, thats enough questions. You two, clear out of here. Leave us alone with Methos for a while. He needs air." This was Amanda.
Quentin and Lamartin left the room without a word. Immediately, I felt better. I could breathe better too.
MacLeod nodded to Joe and Amanda, and they left us alone.
"Whats going on, Methos?" Mac asked.
"Beats me," I croaked, with a sickly grin. "Something I ate?"
"Youre really sick. I dont understand this at all." His dark eyes were serious. Fear pulsed in his aura, making me dizzy again.
I tried to make a joke. "Hey, Im not alone. Thats whats important. If I die, I die. Better than a swift stroke to the neck! Food poisoning! Who would have imagined it?"
"I dont think its food poisoning, Methos."
"Whatd you mean? Were vulnerable to drugs, drink, poison. We just - revive again."
Mac was quiet for a minute, thinking, his aura vigorous, intense. It shook me. I felt nauseated. Then he said, "This quest, this Walk - what did it do to you, when you took it?"
"Nothing. I mean, it accomplished its purpose, centered me." I shrugged. "Whatd you mean?"
"When was the last time you did this - for yourself?"
"Oh - what day are we - 1997? Six centuries ago. Darius was my Second. It was lovely."
"Seems like a long time between walks."
"Does it? Maybe so. Havent felt the need, living the quiet life Ive been."
"Not so quiet lately, Methos."
Instantly I saw what he was getting at. "Oh no, dont even go there, MacLeod! Ive gone a thousand years without a walk in my time! I dont need one!"
He smiled. "Dont you? Could have fooled me!"
"No. Mac, no."
"Ill be your Second. Connor can help too. Joes with us, hes a good man. Hes your friend. You wont be alone." He grinned. "Not out here." He lightly touched my chest. "Not in there."
"No fair, MacLeod! When did you become a lawyer, using my own words against me!"
He grew serious again. "Somethings wrong, Methos. Youre my friend. I cant just watch you sicken and die like a Mortal! Im counting on you to be around a long time. I wont let you go without a fight."
"You were ready enough to take my head, last night," I joked.
I sat up, pushing him away. "So. It was me all along." I shook my head. "Survivor. Planner. Idiot! Im an idiot!"
"No, youre just an old Immortal, in need of a fix. Peace. Serenity. Centering. You should train more. Then maybe you could go longer without."
"Dont start. Youre not my mother!"
"No. Im your friend. And Im asking you - friend to friend - will you take this walk with us? Without holding back - without reservation?"
"I dont know if Amanda can do it with me."
"Shell do it. Shes tougher than she looks."
"And Im weaker than I think."
MacLeod patted my shoulder. "Well have you fit and ready to slay dragons before you know it, old friend!"
"I dont want to slay dragons! Ive avoided dragons all my life!"
"Really? You could have fooled me."
Connor MacLeod. Connor MacLeod. An old soul if ever I met one. From the moment I set eyes on him, striding across the sand looking ridiculous in a long tan raincoat and white sneakers, I knew Id be well. This one was a cynic, and a comic, and as serious as Death. A born loner. Nothing like as emotional as Duncan. A most delicate aura. A good man to have with you on a quest, for certain.
"You must be the infamous Methos, the oldest Immortal," he said, gripping my hand strongly.
"And you must be the famous Connor MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod," I replied, smiling widely. "Im afraid Ive got bad news for you."
"What might that be?" he asked, returning my smile.
"Theres been a change of plans. I hope you wont be too disappointed."
He stared at me, piercing blue eyes deeply recessed under a high broad brow. "What sort of change?" He had a strange accent which I couldnt place.
"The subject of our little adventure."
"I thought Duncan was a little young for a walk in the glass kingdom. Who will it be instead?"
"Me." I bit my lip. "Seems Ive been through one too many exciting escapades of late. Everyone agrees, Im the one who needs anchoring."
"I was surprised you thought he did. Or that he was ready for it. Duncan anchors himself. Besides he doesnt need magic."
I thought back to the Dark Quickening and the Holy Spring. Everyone needs magic sometimes. But I didnt contradict Connor. "Well, if you dont want to turn right round and go home, Id be grateful for your support. I can use all the friends I can get."
"It would be an honor, Methos. Duncans spoken of you often. He couldnt admire you more."
"Admire me? Thats odd. Weve been through a bit together. Seemed to have come out the other end okay. Survived."
"He told me. A little. Youre a brave soul, for a man whos survived five thousand years."
"Think so? Brave? Wouldnt be the word Id use myself. At any rate, come up to the house and meet the others. Let me warn you, weve got two really old guys, one middle-aged female, and a Mortal. Not counting MacLeod and me."
"Bouillabaisse. Always loved it," Connor said with a quick grin.
"Really? Always hated fish myself. Reminds me of the sea."
During lunch, Quentin and Lamartin were civility itself to Connor. Apparently, his reputation preceded him. Amanda flirted dreadfully, casting glances from Connor to Duncan, as if she were trying to compare the two Clansmen. Duncan himself looked like the cat whod eaten the canary. He was awfully pleased Connord arrived. He must have been terrified for me, poor child. I was frightened, myself, but tried not to advertise it. Too much truth can bring down the house of cards we call a life.
I thought Id have more time, that wed begin the walk that night. But soon after lunch Quentin and Lamartin took charge. I had no say whatsoever, from then on.
"Very well, friends," Quentin said, "we begin now. Joe, please try not to worry. Amanda, stand straight. Duncan, be alert. Connor, be cautious. Lamartin, be strong. Methos Valerius, be yourself!"
Quentin shepherded us across the sand to the shoreline. We must have been a strange sight to Dawson - six Immortals carrying swords, striding purposefully towards the water, to perform some ancient Ritual never mentioned in the Chronicles. He followed us slowly, his cane in one hand, a bottle of Scotch in the other. Duncan carried a beach chair for Joe. We Immortals would sit on the ground, when we sat.
I stood in the center of the circle the others made. I was frightened and anxious, my stomach still ached, and my skin was cold and clammy. Quentin intoned the simple opening words of the Ritual, which hed translated thousands of years ago from the original tongue:
"We are here for Methos Valerius, Immortal. We beg the Spirits to guide him. We beg the Spirits to help him. We beg the Spirits to grant him a redemptive walk in the glass kingdom."
Then he introduced our company to the Spirits, in the words of the Ritual. Hes really quite fine, Quentin. Hits the nail on the head every time.
"May the Spirits favor Amanda, who joins the walk with Methos.
"May the Spirits favor Lamartin of Bordeaux, who fights Methos demons.
"May the Spirits favor the MacLeods, who Second Methos journey.
"May the Spirits favor Quentin of York, who Judges the fight.
"And may the Spirits favor the Mortal, who observes and records and will not interfere."
Joe lifted his bottle of Scotch a few inches, to acknowledge the admonition.
Quentin produced a small vial from his pocket and offered it to me. "Methos - drink!" This was the acid test. To accept an unknown concoction from a fellow Immortal, knowing full well it would render me unconscious, vulnerable, and weak.
I hesitated. Amanda took my hand. "Take it, Methos. Drink." she said urgently. "Courage. Courage."
I felt Duncan place his hand on my back. It burned like fire. "Im here," he said quietly. "Whatever happens, youll get through this. I wont let you come to harm. I promise."
I looked around. Each face radiated encouragement, except Lamartins, whose demeanor remained serious. Dawson nodded and smiled at me, as if to say, "What can it hurt?"
It can hurt. Very badly. Not the potion. The walk. Id lied to MacLeod. Its never lovely, not while youre going through it. Not afterwards.
I took a deep breath. Then I put out my hand and grabbed the vial from Quentin. I took out the stopper, gulped down the vile tasting liquid, and threw the glass into the sea.
From then on, as I know from assisting at other Immortals walks, I appeared to be unconscious. Those whose buzzes are strong enough, can walk with me. I would feel their auras, and they would comfort me. Someone like Dawson - a Mortal - would need to be an empath or a psychic or a telepath, to experience anything other than one Immortal laying on the ground - to all intents and purposes, out cold - with his friends standing around him looking serious.
At least, so I thought. But when I woke in the glass city, and stepped into the glass kingdom, the first face I saw was Joes. Quentin was controlling every thread of the walk expertly, guiding my searching, picking up on my thoughts. Judging what questions in my mind were best to explore, what questions better to leave be. Unerringly, Quentin knew that Joes gifts were vital to my well-being.
Joe spoke to me quietly - of Alexa, her beauty, her goodness, and her pain. He told me about all the letters shed written to him while we traveled, and how hed been surprised by what shed said about me. How shed written of her fear of dying. And how Id made her forget death. How shed fallen in love with me, in spite of herself. He told me Alexa worried about me, that Id be crushed when she finally went away forever. And she told him the strangest thing of all - that she believed Id live forever.
Then Joe seemed to fade away, and for the first time in my walk, I noticed my sword in my hand, and Amanda by my side. I took courage from her presence. Her aura was stronger than it ever seemed to be, in life.
We walked further into the glass kingdom, it seemed to be miles. For a time, I saw no one but Amanda. The glass surrounded us. It was everywhere, even underfoot. We stepped on a road made up of glass squares. The trees were formed of twisted sculpted glass. There were glass castles and glass flowers. There was no color to anything. It was neither light nor dark, neither opaque nor transparent. It was simply - there.
But Amanda and I were not truly walking - we were searching, with our swords at the ready, turning and seeking, waiting for a challenge, waiting for an opponent. With Amanda guarding my back, I felt secure. Her wily temperament matched my own, and her skill with a sword is rare. I was deeply satisfied, having Amanda with me.
Finally, Amanda and I came to a crossroads. To the left, Lamartins dark face confronted me. He held his sword high above his head, in a two-handed grip. Instinctively, I raised my own sword.
Then, to the right, I saw two Knights approaching us on horseback, as if from a long way off. One was fair, one was dark. Their auras were hot, young, vigorous. They held their swords high. As they came closer, I could hear the steady beat of their horses hooves, and a wild primitive yelling. Lamartin turned from me and ran towards them, brandishing his sword, screaming a fierce challenge!
They reined their horses in and dismounted quickly, the fair one behind, the dark one in front. Lamartin raised his sword high, sent it crashing against Duncans sword. I was pulled from my reverie and amazement by the sound of the clash.
"You cannot fight my battles for me, MacLeod!" I shouted.
"Nor you for me!" Duncan responded, his Scots accent thicker than Id ever heard it.
"Ive never tried to do that," I protested.
Amanda said, "Yes, you have, Methos. Over and over again."
Lamartin raised his sword again, clashed it down against Duncans with all the power of his years. "Let the Highlander struggle, he will die in the end!"
"No! Your battle is with me, Lamartin! Its my head you want! Leave MacLeod be!"
"Dont do it, Methos! You cant fight Duncans battles for him! Youll die if you try!" Amanda said, pulling me back with all her old strength.
Connor added, "Why do you do this, Methos? This man challenged Duncan, not you! Its not your place to interfere!"
"Im not interfering. Lamartins after me. Let him come for me. I wont permit him to go through Duncan to reach me!"
"No!" Lamartin insisted, "Its the Highlander I want! His head, his young blood, his strength and courage!"
"Come and get it, then, Lamartin!" Duncan answered with a grin. He raised his sword high.
I despaired. "You mustnt! They mustnt! Amanda - stop them! Theyll kill him! Then where will we be? Hes too important to lose!" I collapsed on the ground, my sword fell from my hand and chipped a glass square. I couldnt watch the battle.
"Look, Methos, look!" Amanda grabbed my face with both hands. "Look at it! Have a little faith! Hell survive - he always does!"
"No. I wont look," I said, pushing her hands away. "Im sick of watching him fight, worrying, despairing, crying. Im sick of the anguish. I tell you, I wont watch!"
"If you wont look," Quentin of York finally interrupted my tirade, "youll never see, never learn. You cant protect him from everything. And you cant protect yourself."
Duncan and Lamartins battle raged on. The air was rife with the deafening clang of their swords. Connor stood quietly, holding the horses reins, without giving a sign that he was interested in the outcome of the battle.
I shouted at Connor. "How can you do it? How can you bear it? I know you love him! How can you watch?"
"Its what we do, Methos. Its the price we pay. We lose beloved Mortals. We lose beloved Immortals. We lose time itself, for as long as we live," Connor replied.
Quentin continued, "If you wish to have a heart, to come as close to Mortality as that - then you must take the pain and the fear as well, Methos."
"I cannot. Its too much! I cannot." I sank to my knees and sobbed.
"Then give up love, damn you, for once and for all!" Amanda cried. "Give it up now! Join the Old Ones and die!"
I lifted my head. I watched for some time, as Duncan and Lamartin fought bitterly, to the death, the way we do. I tried to be indifferent. I tried not to care. I couldnt manage either. So I closed my eyes.
Then, for an instant, Joes face swam in my mind. I could barely hear his words, something about, "This is what it takes, what its like, to be Mortal." Then, another phrase, "Its worth it." Definitive. Final. I had only to agree, and Id be whole again.
But I couldnt agree! Not while the ones I loved were in danger. It wasnt worth it! Nothing was worth it! Id rather be like Quentin or Lamartin - not caring for anybody. Anything, to stop the pain!
The moment I thought that, Quentin put up his hand and the battle between Lamartin and Duncan ceased. They each lowered their swords and stepped away from each other.
"How dare you, Methos Valerius? How dare you imply for an instant that Lamartin and I care for nothing, for no one! How dare you?" Quentins anger was fierce. I didnt know he had so much anger left.
"You dont, do you?" I shrugged. "Better I should be like you, wear white linen suits, and walk along the beach. I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each. I do not think that they will sing to me."
"We do care. For each other. For you. For many others, whose names and faces you do not know. Were old. Thats true. But were not dead, Val," Lamartin added, his voice a deep baritone bouncing off the glass. "You mustnt think we are. It gives you a whole wrong picture of what Immortals are about. Why we exist at all."
"Why do we exist?" I asked bitterly. "For this?" I gestured around me. "To fight, to kill, to watch those we love die? Over and over again. Forever."
"No, Methos," Duncan said quietly, "we exist so that we can love, so that we can do, so that we can care, when those we love die. So that we can remember them. Carry them in our hearts, for as long as we survive. You know that. Weve both learned that. Why do you doubt now?"
Good question. Why did I doubt now, rather than before, or later? I looked around, slowly taking in the place where I was - a glass kingdom, a glass city, whose only life was in the people who stood near me. There were no books in this glass kingdom. No beer. No cars or planes or railway trains or subways. Only glass and people. Did I truly prefer the glass? Did I really want to be left alone in a glass city, walking a glass kingdom, with no people in it?
Did I truly need to make a choice? Hadnt I already made my choice?
I didnt like living with fear. But living without love had to be worse. Even a fool like me knew that.
When I woke I was laying on my back on the beach. Amanda had my head nestled in her lap. It was dark except for a kerosene lamp set in the sand nearby.
I sat up quickly, ran my fingers through my hair, touched my neck. I was exhausted but no longer dizzy, nauseated, or sweating. Then I noticed how late it was and felt my face redden. "Sorry. Didnt mean to keep you all so long."
"Dont apologize, Methos. It took as long as it took," MacLeod said.
Joe asked, "You all right, good buddy? You look a little pale."
I took a deep breath, then let it out. "Yeah, Im okay." I looked at Dawson. "You see anything? Remember anything?"
Quentin laughed. "Always the scholar, Methos. Why must you know?"
"Cause I must, is why," I answered angrily. "Joe, tell me."
"A little. Its vague. Like a dream. Its fading fast. I doubt Ill be able to write much about it, for the Chronicles." I could only imagine that one of the others - Quentin, probably - had managed to pull Joe into the walk with his superior empathic powers. I myself have all the empathic capabilities of a doorknob, so I knew it wasnt any of my doing.
"Even if you remember everything, Dawson, I ask you not to write of this for your Watcher Society," Quentin said. "Its private business."
"Whatever Methos says, Ill do," Joe replied. "He wants it in, its in. He wants it out, its out."
"I want it out, Joe. All of it. Unless you want to write a passage about visiting Amanda in Greece."
"Okay by me," Joe said cheerfully. "Whatever you say."
Duncan helped me up to the house, and the others followed. He offered me a beer but I refused. "Im tired, MacLeod. Im going to bed."
"Tomorrow, when the others leave, lets the four of us go island hopping, get some sun," MacLeod said hopefully. "Give Amanda the run of the shops with my credit cards."
"Yeah, you all deserve a little holiday, after what Ive put you through." I spoke softly, scarcely able to get the words out. I was exhausted.
"Good!" MacLeod patted my back, then squeezed my shoulder, not too hard. "Good. You sleep now, old friend. Ill watch your door. Wouldnt want the Old Ones to get you while youre down, would we?"
"Not funny, MacLeod," I said bitterly. "But - thanks for the thought. Good night."
Theres one last thing that happened to me, although it had nothing to do with the spaces between my worlds. It was more about my Mortality than my Immortality. Yes, you might put it that way.
In the night, Amanda came into my room and watched while I slept. Id tested her loyalty pretty severely, I guess. But she was game, our Amanda. She always is. When I woke the next morning and found myself in her arms, I was tempted once more, to try for her love. Clearly, I was fit again. Even for that.
"Not a word, Methos," she said, placing a finger on my lips. "Not a single word."
"We wont live forever - you dont know what youre missing! Five thousand years of tricks!"
"Were Immortal, remember? Itll wait another day."
Im sorry to tell you, Im still waiting.