DISCLAIMER: The Highlander characters do not belong to me, more's the pity!:):) Hee! Darius and Duncan MacLeod belong to Panzer/Davis. The Kurgan belongs to Gregory Widen, et al! I am only borrowing them for this story and will return them unharmed. I promise! Please don't sue me! This a work of fan fiction and is not intended for the purpose of making money in any way, shape, form, or fashion nohow~!
Father Darius watched as the tall leather-clad man reached out his gloved hand and began extinguishing the votive candles with glee, one by one. For a moment he was so shocked that he didn't recognize the offender. And then, of course, he did recognize him and wasn't shocked at all. The Kurgan. The ancient Immortal took his seat on a pew and continued sucking on the slowly melting fudgesickle he held.
"I see you're as diplomatic as ever, my old friend," the Immortal priest laughed as he watched a parishioner depart in hasty fear. "You haven't changed a great deal since our last meeting."
The Immortal warrior hoisted his feet onto the back of the pew and crossed his ankles. For a moment Darius feared from the feral gleam in his eye that The Kurgan would make some biting comment or an irreverent display of disdain. But after a moment the leather clad man leaned back and closed his eyes.
"You have... " he said, scowling but fell silent thereafter.
Darius chuckled. "I suppose I have," he admitted with a twinkle of his sea green eyes. "It's been a long time since we set ablaze the seven hills of Rome, you, Alaric and I... " The Kurgan saluted his old comrade-in-arms with a sharp gesture of his outstretched hand and snorted.
"Too long," the giant admitted.
"We beat those Roman dogs to heel!" The Kurgan said, smiling in pleasant reminiscence. "Alaric and I brought the walls of that great City crashing down around their ears and watered our horses on the blood of their dead Legionaries!" When he spied the look on Darius' face he snarled, "You were there too, priest! You and your Goths dragged the Vestal Virgins from their temple and raped them in the street. And then you slit their throats!" Anger sparked in The Kurganís eyes and Darius' face lost all expression. Numberless faces flashed before his minds eye, all of them dead by his hand and drenched in blood. The Jesuit sighed. God had forgiven him long ago but he himself had not so easily accepted all the agony of his past. It was painful to be so baldly reminded of it. Still, there was no escaping it.
"And how many of them did you kill?" he asked calmly. "Can you remember?"
The Kurgan stared into the stained glass of a window in the church nave as if it could absorb the fury radiating from his now chilly eyes.
"Seven," he sneered. "I never forget a good scream ... but I didn't need a dagger to kill them ... " he smiled.
Darius winced at the image. "You were never one for half measures were you, Victor?" He gusted a sigh and The Kurgan smiled.
"No point," the Immortal killer said.
"Victor... " the cleric began.
"Don't call me that!" his companion snapped. "It's not my name. I don't have one. I-am-Kurgan!" he said proudly and thumped his broad chest for emphasis.
Darius nodded. "Yes you are, " he agreed. "You will always be Kurgan ... the last of your tribe. " The priest closed his eyes and quoted:
"Out of the night that covers me,
The other man's laugh echoed through the hidden spaces in the wide sepulchral spaces of the ancient church, made for the utterance of prayer and Darius could have sworn it blew back the hanging curtains of the sacristy and set the candles to blinking in their silver holders, moving the deepening shadows about eerily.
"Who wrote that?" The Kurgan demanded.
"A man who was very much like you at heart. His name was William Ernst Henley," Darius chuckled in his turn. "You'd have liked him, I think. He wrote it over a hundred years ago. It's called "Invictus"... that's Latin; it meansÖ"
"I know what it means," the tall Immortal cut him off impatiently.
Darius frowned. **How many languages do you speak** he wondered? **And how many other things am I likely never to know about you, old friend?**
"Unconquered," The Kurgan murmured. "It means 'unconquered'," he said. He seemed to shake himself out of his thoughts after a moment and smiled in memory. "But I *did* conquer those Roman sheep."
Restlessly he stirred on his pew and the leather of his jacket creaked ominously. Darius looked on as The Kurgan tossed his denuded popsickle stick into a nearby font and scanned his surroundings. Through the always open door of St. Julien le Pauvre peeked the welcome sight and sound of children at play. Some wrestling had just launched into full swing and the big man was watching with interest while two small but brave warriors sparred. Darius slapped The Kurgan smartly on the back.
"Why don't you join them?" he chuckled. "You might enjoy it. You were always a good teacher." He smiled indulgently. "But you must be gentle with the children. If I remember rightly, it was playing games like that with you that left me bereft of more than a few of my best warriors when we marched on Rome."
The Kurgan looked away swiftly. "And look at you now!" he spat. "An old woman in a skirt!"
The priest smoothed the plain brown homespun of his cassock. "Times change, my friend; people change."
"Not me," The Kurgan snarled. "I haven't changed." Huge hands struck his broad chest again, a pointed blow. Darius buried his hands in the sleeves of his voluminous robes to keep himself from touching his former comrade in sympathy.
"No," he said almost sadly, "youíre still much the same, it's true." He paused. Silence hung like a raindrop on the edge of a rose petal, waiting to fall. Darius searched the face of The Kurgan for some sign of contentment some show of pleasure in the present. But, as ever, those eyes were an impenetrable barrier through which no one was allowed to pass.
"Tell me one thing," the former Gothic Chieftain turned Servant Of God asked. When his surly companion made no sign of refusal Darius lowered his tonsured head.
"Are you happy?" he wanted to know. The Kurgan's sardonic answering smile was wide indeed but almost totally mirthless.
"I'm always happy!" he said. "I like myself just fine; it's the rest of the world that doesn't much care for me."
The ancient priest threw back his ginger colored head sallying forth musical laughter until his eyes leaked tears...
"No," he sputtered, wiping his streaming eyes, "You haven't changed at all! Still trying to defeat the world and doing a fine job of it!" When the laughter left hold of him Darius leaned forward. He wondered why his former ally had so graced him with this visit. Could it be that The Kurgan was unsure of himself? Just a bit nostalgic and time lost in this modern world that did not understand him and forces or events that had shaped his life? And had sought out his oldest surviving companion to share a brief moment of remembrance? Darius eyes softened.
"So, my tall friend where are you bound?" The priest watched The Kurgan's restless seeking eyes probing the church's many shadowed depths for sight of an enemy some foe to occupy him and sighed. "You were always on your way somewhere else, it seems," he observed ruefully.
Grinning, The Kurgan began humming a raspy version of "New York, New York" and replied, "I'm invading America! New York City here I come!" The big man barked a growling laugh and launched a quick fusillade of mock blows at the air.
The former conquering general couldn't help but smile. He saw The Kurgan grow distant for a moment even before he felt the familiar buzz signaling the approach of another of their kind. From the corner of his eye Darius spotted Duncan MacLeod's dark head at the side door of the church. Suddenly wary in the presence of an Immortal he didn't know, The Highlander paused and stood very still, waiting, instinctively sizing up the situation before moving or speaking. The Kurganís eyes narrowed and the smile that twisted his lips was an unpleasant sight. Without thinking, Darius grabbed The Kurgan's wrist.
"This is Holy Ground," he whispered urgently. "Holy Ground!"
The Kurgan stared pointedly at Darius' hand still clutching his own, those remarkable dark blue eyes glittering like twin chips of gunmetal. Quickly Darius released his hold on the other Immortal.
"Let him be," the priest pleaded softly, "He's of no interest to you... "
The great Immortal scowled. For a moment he watched the Scot silently, appraising him like a wolf sniffing at its prey. "He's strong ." he hissed, licking his lips in anticipation. "Be a glorius fight..."
Darius tensed and his concern must have spilled over into his face for when The Kurgan turned his gaze once again to his companion he studied him carefully.
"He's important to you?" he asked slowly. Darius drew a deep breath and nodded.
"Yes," the cleric answered tightly, "Very important... " Holding his breath now, Darius waited. Duncan still had not moved. Something flickered across The Kurganís face then struggling to find expression. Suddenly he seemed to relax and his smile was almost genuine this time.
"Then I give him to you," he said quietly. Relief flooded the Holy Man. Almost immediately The Kurgan regained his former brashness.
"He can wait," the Immortal warrior pronounced. "I'm hunting bigger game. He'll keep until later. Gives me something to look forward to!"
The Highlander was still there, silent but watchful. Rising to leave, Darius held out his hand to the Kurgan who clasped it midway to the elbow in companionable silence.
"I have to see a man about a man of chess," Darius claimed lightly. "It was good to see you again, my old friend."
The Kurgan smiled at that. "Still playing that damned Persian game?" he sneered. "It's for wimps and old women, so I suppose it suits you these days... "
With a rueful shake of his head in exasperation, Darius added his other hand to the comradely jumble.
"God be with you, my friend," he said and tightened his grip on his former ally.
"Don't need Him," The Kurgan growled, returning the squeeze. But he was smiling.
"I know," admitted Darius, "But he is with you nonetheless."
The Kurgan rose in dismissal. Darius chest tightened in regret as he watched the Immortal warrior make his sullen way to the great carved oaken doors and his exit. He turned to go about his business when that great booming voice, made, it seemed, for rising above the cacophony of a battlefield, called out:
Startled the priest turned once more to face his eldest surviving friend. Wordlessly he stared into arctic blue eyes that sparkled this once with warmth that lurked just behind the shadows where all the secrets hid.
"I don't believe in your God, priest, but if he exists and he listens to you... Give him a message for me."
"I'd like that, old friend," Darius said softly.
The Kurgan stretched his lips in a wide smile as if at some private merriment and spun on his heel.
"I have something to say," he shouted. "It's better to burn out than fade away!"
And just as quickly as that, as if he'd never been there at all, The Kurgan was gone, leaving many tremulous echoes and great fear in his wake.
Darius sat down on a vacant pew and began to laugh slowly until he was clutching his belly, rocking back and forth to comfort himself.
"Pain and terror, Victor," he whispered to his now absent friend. "What an incredible joke on the world... "
Afterwards, he was never sure exactly when the laughter turned to tears.
Peace be with you, Dannell!
|The Book of Darius
(This page last updated 11/28/2002)