By noon, they had reached the ruins of the temple complex of Poseidon. This was where the priests, the priestesses and the oracle had lived. This was where they had accepted the offerings from the penitents before they descended to the sandy beach. This was where Phillip had lived as a boy. This was not holy ground... that lay below in the sacred cove.
Phillip passed another of the canteens of water around while Methos and Eleanor looked out on the spectacular view. It had been two hundred years since she had climbed up here, but little had changed, except everything looked older... more weathered. The ruins after all this time were little more than chunks of quarried stone in lines that might once have been walls. The occasional pillar lay overgrown with verdant green.
From this height, the view of the Aegean was as always a turquoise silk upon which the jewel that was Niebos rested.
"Great view!" Methos said passing her a pear from the lunch Phillip had passed. "I'd never been up here before." He seemed relaxed and not nearly so distant, as though the climb alone had relaxed him.
"Never?" asked Eleanor biting into the sweet sugary pear.
"Last time I was here, I was with Alexa... I feared the climb might be too much for her. We went 'round to the cove by the beach path. She liked the cove."
"And that first time... when we were all here before?"
"I was in a hurry to see how you were... I didn't take the time. Perhaps I should have."
"Perhaps..." Eleanor finished the pear. She even ate the core and spit out the seeds into the palm of her hand. She tossed them to the ground and prayed they would grow... or offer sustenance to birds. Suddenly she was hungry. The climb had taken more out of her than she had anticipated. She crossed over to Phillip sitting quietly on the remains of a stone wall lost in thought, while chewing on one of the sandwiches.
She rummaged through the pack and lifted out a cheese sandwich. She unwrapped it and ate hungrily. Then she grabbed a handful of grapes. Phillip smiled at her but said nothing.
Eating the grapes one by one, Eleanor returned to Methos' side and offered him some. He shook his head.
"How many times do you suppose," he asked her, "has he made this climb since Carlo died."
Eleanor glanced over at Phillip. "Probably every day. Carlo used to love to come up here before he got so sick. He would sketch the horizons and paint the seascapes."
"Yes... some of those murals were scenes he could only have seen from up here." Methos agreed. Then he glanced back at Phillip. "He seems quieter than I have ever known him to be."
"Carlo became his whole life. I don't think he ever cared for any of his other companions the way he did for him. Why is it the ones we love die so young."
"The mortals you mean..."
Eleanor nodded. "They really have so little time, and yet... have you ever noticed that in their one lifetime... they get it. We who have many seem to keep making the same mistakes... over and over... and over again. How long do you think we live before we finally get it?"
"Longer than I've been alive..." he chuckled, shaking his head. "I'm still trying to figure it all out. Every time I think I know what's going on... the wheel turns and I'm right back where I began."
"Well that's reassuring... five thousand years and you're still as lost as any of us." She laughed. Time was, they might have kissed at this point... but not now. Not this time. Perhaps they would another day. The tones of their conversation had begun to reflect the ease they had once known.
"Hey, you two, time to move on. The tide will not wait." Phillip had packed up the remnants of the meal and re-shouldered the backpack. He was already on his way.
"Our task-master awaits!" smirked Methos sarcastically and followed
Phillip down the backside of the mountain. Eleanor followed closely behind.
The trip down would be swift and headlong as she well remembered. And the
cove was waiting.
To Regain Trust
Eleanor tucked her damp and sandy skirts under her and concentrated on her letter to Darius. About her the surf pounded on the tiny beach and not far away, Lorenzo was reciting some of his latest poetry to Phillip. She liked Lorenzo... as with so many of Phillip's companions, he was an artist. In this case a poet. He was not a very good poet. But that didn't seem to matter to Phillip for a change. He seemed to just enjoy his friend's efforts for what they were... an appreciation of life!
"The island is beautiful. I am much calmer. The storms are still with me." Eleanor paused and looked up. She hated writing letters. But Phillip had promised Darius that she would write. She tried once more, "I wish you had come. I am so sorry. I should have listened to you." Within her head, Kae Dhun began to laugh. "Yes... bring him here... we can kill him then... you and I!"
Eleanor dropped the pen and began to wring her hands and rock gently. "Shut up... shut up... shut up..." she raised her hands to her head and shook with the effort. She did not like this new voice! Where was her old one... why was the Lady so silent? And the others... why couldn't she hear them. Since that first brief introduction, they had settled into silence and it was only Kae Dhun she now heard. She had once known O ro' dred and Nin! She had often wondered what had happened to them... now all they had been was a part of her! She was their murderer... and then there was Kritis... this ancient wanted only to be buried in the earth and left in peace! She needed Darius to help her deal with the ancient. How had he managed all his years? She needed him!
Eleanor took a sudden sharp breath. Another immortal was coming! She glanced up. Phillip too was looking around. Who was here? Who knew they were here? Eleanor stood, flexing her bare toes in the sand. Perhaps Darius had come after all... She knew he would! He was coming! Eleanor saw a familiar figure on the beach path. She ran eagerly to meet him.
But it wasn't Darius... it was Edward... Yet somehow... it didn't matter... she trusted Edward... she ran into his arms and clung to him. He held her tightly and murmured her first name in her ear.
"I'm here Aella, I'm here!"
"Help me!" she sobbed. "I am so lost... help me... I trust you... only
Lost in the Darkness
Eleanor tore strips of cloth into bandages. She feared there would never be enough bandages to offset the carnage she knew was coming. These children had no concept of what they were doing! But they were right in what they believed! How could she not help! How could she not try to save any that might survive the onslaught she knew would surely come.
Their weapons were few and the armée had more than enough to spare. Not to mention ammunition! Did they really think they could hold off the armée? She shook her head but continued to tear the cloth.
There were few females left here now, most had been sent away. But she had no fear of what would happen to her... she could take care of herself.
A sudden volley rang out from the barricade. It was starting again.
Eleanor crouched behind the overturned table... not from any fear of being shot... but from a desire to be ready to help one of the students as they fell. And they would fall.
An answering volley sounded from the armée and one of the boys... Luc, she thought... fell backward. Swiftly Eleanor ran to retrieve him, dodging the ricocheting shots. He was alive... but bleeding badly. She slipped her arms under him and dragged him back to safety. He groaned.
"Can't be helped!" she thought, realizing that if she didn't get him to safety, he would die anyway. Once behind the table she went to work. He was breathing so she concentrated on stopping his bleeding. She could worry about getting the bullet out and repairing the damage later.
Even as she worked, she felt that sudden sense of a presence nearby. She had no time for that now! She ignored it and continued to work. Luc was more important, and whoever was there was still on the far side of the barricade! Whoever it was would have to wait. Finally, her sense of the other faded. He or she must have backed off... perhaps deciding to wait until the slaughter was over... or looking for another way in. Either way... Eleanor knew her time on this barricade was now limited.
Eleanor glanced up at the use of the name she was using in this life.
"We have no more linen to tear for bandages. What should we do now."
"Pray!" and Eleanor returned to working on Luc.
Once more, the confrontation turned into a waiting game. Perhaps under cover of darkness a few of the wounded could be transported out of here. Eleanor moved between them, checking bandages, assessing wounds, smiling and offering courage. It was all she could do.
When she felt the approach of another immortal, she backed off into an unlit corner and waited. A man dressed as a French peasant from the last century halted near where she was and looked about.
Eleanor reached out and grabbed Darius into the shadows.
"What are you doing here, mon ami?"
"I came to see if you were all right. There is an immortal out there... and I think he is hunting."
"I know... he was near here earlier. But if that is so this is the last place you need to be. How did you get here?" At his glance to the street, she understood. He was traveling the catacombs and the sewers again. "Well go back the way you came. Everyone here will die tomorrow."
"Then come with me... this immortal seems to be with the armée or the police. He would use the opportunity to end your life."
"I'm not like you, mon ami. I cannot just sit by and let the world come to me. I have to help. Wasn't it you that taught me that once? Now go home!"
Another volley rang out. Eleanor watched as another of the students fell. She raced out to gather him up. But this time, one of the shots also found her. She felt the fire of the bullet pierce her side and she whirled in the force of the blow. The last thing she saw was Darius reaching for her and calling her name.
Eleanor came to in an eerie darkness. When she drew that first breath she gagged at the smell of the sewage. Around her she noticed the pale phosphorescent glow that covered patches on the walls of the sewer.
She sat up, still holding her side. It hurt... horribly. She had never been shot before. It was only her third death.
"We have to keep moving!" Darius crouched beside her and urged her to get up and moving.
"He is coming... the other one... I think he followed us down here."
Eleanor nodded and rose. Her sodden skirt clung clammily to her bare legs. She'd given the petticoat for bandages.
"Are you armed?" Darius asked.
"My knife... I fear my sword is likely still on the barricade unless you found my cape...? she grinned. "Are you?"
"Of course not... We need to go. Let's see if I can remember the best way to get us out of here."
Darius knew the sewers like the back of his hand. He had used them for centuries as a way to travel to distant parts of Paris. It was how he would lose his Watchers occasionally. Of course... he would always re-surface at the church as if he had never left. She had never told anyone. She never would. But he was right, ... if the other was hunting for them... they needed to put additional distance between themselves and him. He clasped her hand and pulled her along behind him.
They splashed through the water as they turned left for a short distance, then right, then left again. Darius would feel the walls occasionally, as if searching for notches or markings that helped him find his way in the darkness.
Eleanor could still feel the barest sense of another following them. She felt for the knife that was always with her. A woman could get by carrying a knife, a sword was sometimes difficult... but she knew much about fighting with a knife. Never against an immortal with a sword... but Phillip and Edward had both told her she needed to be ready to do so if the need arose. Right now... she thought it might. It would be her duty to protect her friend. She must make certain he got back to holy ground... at this point... any holy ground.
The following presence faded for a moment. Darius also stopped and whispered. "There are some catacombs off to the right. Should we chance those and hope he misses us?"
Eleanor agreed. She needed him on holy ground so she would be free to do what she might need to do. She had a feeling there was no way out of it this time. The ground rose beneath their feet and they finally climbed out of the murky water for a time. Soon they were in a small chamber set off from the sewer proper. It looked like a flood had at one time broken down the wall between the catacomb and the sewer so that one could pass from one into the other.
As soon as Darius set foot in the safety of the ancient burial site, Eleanor held up and backed away a step.
"Eleanor... where are you going?" she heard Darius say.
"I'll lead him away... stay still for now... I'll be back later." Then impulsively she leaned in and kissed him full on the mouth. For a moment he responded then he held her tightly and whispered.
"Stay here with me...here where we will both be safe... trust me to take care of this."
"No... you must trust me to take care of this... I can you know... I can."
Eleanor pulled loose then turned and ran back to where the water still covered the way. She slipped into it as quietly as she could, then moved to the far side. From faraway grates and access points, enough pale daylight was still coming through to pierce the darkness at certain points and give her a frame of reference. She waited until she could sense the other more strongly, then slowly began to draw him away from Darius, after her.
It seemed to be working. Gradually she could see a light in the darkness. The fool had a torch! He would be an easy target if need be. She felt for her knife, once more grateful for its comforting presence.
The torchlight hesitated, then turned and went to the right. He must have sensed Darius!
"Damn!" said Eleanor; she should have expected that. She splashed in the water, trying to make enough noise to draw him back to her. But, as if he knew the one he wanted, the hunting immortal made his way straight for Darius' hiding place.
Eleanor had no choice but to follow. She would have to be careful. He likely knew she was behind him in the darkness. Ahead she heard voices. Then she turned a corner and in the torchlight she could see them both.
"Come out thief... you stole my sword... but as you can see... I have it back. Your head is mine."
"I do not know you..."
"But you know my sword!" The immortal lifted a sword that seemed strangely familiar to Eleanor... but not one she had ever seen in Darius' possession. He had told her that he had given his own sword away a long time ago. Yet she knew this sword... she was certain. No matter... it would come to her... where she had seen it... or it would not.
In the torchlight Darius stared at the sword and nodded. "Then it was you in that barrow... buried in the earth."
"It was I who killed Kritis, first born of the ancients. His sword is mine by right! And so are you! And... your little friend back there!"
Eleanor no longer seemed to have a choice! She leapt quickly out of the darkness and threw her knife solidly into the man's back. The knife hit its target! The immortal roared and turned on her as she came at him. He shifted suddenly, a move she did not expect and lashed out at her, not with the sword, but with his other arm. He tangled her hair in his hand and forced her to the ground. The sword came sweeping to her neck... then halted, just barely touching her skin.
He laughed then. "What's it to be thief. Do you stay where you are and watch me kill her? Or, do you come out of there and face me?"
Darius' face was filled with sadness. "I will come... but first let her go."
"No... you come... then she can stand where you stand now and she can watch me take your head."
Eleanor forced herself to entirely relax. She must gather her strength! She could still stop this, but she had to seem utterly submissive to this. She whimpered slightly as the immortal tugged at her hair. "Stay where you are Darius," she thought, "Stay where you are." She did not dare to speak aloud.
Darius nodded, "I will come." He spread his arms wide and Eleanor saw a look of utter acceptance and peace on his face, as though he had played this scene before... only the last time, she knew it had been he with the sword and another ancient who had sacrificed himself.
She would not let this happen! Not this time! "No!" she yelled!
She took a deep breath and twisted, lashing out with one foot so that she solidly connected with the immortal's gut. The momentary pain as hair was ripped from her head was nothing compared to the satisfaction she felt as he doubled over. She leaped into the air and kicked with the other foot to disarm him in one of Phillip's patented moves. The sword flew into the air, turned and came down pommel first into her waiting hand.
As soon as she touched it... she knew where she had seen this sword before, and despite its length as compared to the type she usually preferred, she knew just how to wield it. She flipped it around and with both hands slashed with all her might at the immortal's neck. And this time... this time... she did not stop! This time the blade went all the way through.
She could hear Darius cry out, "No Eleanor!" But it was already done.
The immortal fell to his knees, for a moment his eyes regarded her curiously, then the head lopped off to one side and in the great darkness... she saw the beginning of the quickening approach her. She saw Darius move back away from her onto the holy ground of the catacomb. His eyes were closed.
Then she felt the first lick of the power. She focused on it, drawing it in as a dry sponge does water. She was so very depleted. She had always stopped before, never giving the deathblow... this was her first time. She knew from witnessing others that she had to draw in as much as she could. What she couldn't contain would lash out around them, and down here, if too much escaped, the storm might bring down the sewer roof and all that was built upon it.
Within her the rising whirlwind screamed his name "Kae Dhun" and she pulled him in, embracing all that he was, all that he had been. With him she killed the ancient known as Kritis with his own sword and brought the mountain down. With him she lay in the darkness until that sword was ripped from his grasp! But she could find the thief! She knew him! But first the sword! She found it in the keeping of O ro' dred and Nin. With a single stroke it was she who killed them both and roared into the whirlwind. Their voices were also part of the rising chorus! Now the life of the thief would be hers. She had him now! He would join his voice to theirs and be lost in the whirlwind! And all the while, she kept drawing in the quickening until she felt like a wineskin overfilled and ready to burst
And still she pulled him in! She must not let the ceiling fall or they would be trapped in the earth again. Kritis was desperate to keep them all trapped in the earth... buried alive forever! She could hear him screaming to shut down and let the earth swallow them once more. About her she began to be aware of flashes of light and thunder as the leftover quickening began to lash out at the sewer walls and burst into flames. She made one final effort to pull it all in... she was so parched... and the quickening was like water in the desert! O ro' dred, Nin, Kae Dhun, Kritis were one! Power was hers! She was complete! Finally the storm subsided and she fell to the ground, her face buried in the muck.
In the silence that followed, she heard laughter within her head... laughter that drove away all sense. Slowly she sat up, gasping for air.
Darius leaned over her, "Eleanor... are you all right?" He reached to touch her.
Eleanor scrambled away. The voice inside screamed "Kill him! Kill him now! Make him one of us!"
"Nooo!" she answered. But the voice of Kae Dhun continued! He roared through her mind and it was as though she were being raped once more... but this time it was not her physical body, but her mind and soul that was the victim of the unrelenting assault!
She scrambled to her feet and backed away from Darius to stand flush with a wall. In her empty hands she could feel the slimy phosphorescent growth that covered it. She took several deep breaths, trying to regain her equilibrium.
Darius slowly took a step toward her, concern cross his face.
She turned to face the wall, still trying to control the urge to pick up the sword and do as Kae Dhun begged. "Kill him! Kill him now!"
She put her hands to her head and moaned, "Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!" She had to get out of here now! She had to get out of the earth! Eleanor turned and ran, slipping on the wet stones, and into the waters. She ran into the darkness screaming!
Hours later she found her way out and wandered through the darkened streets of a Paris still under lock down from the revolt. Most Parisians huddled in their homes. Of the few who were out, she saw mainly members of the armée or the police. No one dared approach her. If they had she would have made them sorry. Oh yes... many would be sorry now. Eleanor smiled and cackled. The whirlwind in her mind laughed with her. "We make a good pair, you and I!" Kae Dhun said. The others agreed! He was in control! He was the strongest!
It was dark when she found Darius' church... she smiled! The thief was there. She could sense him... she would make him pay. She hesitated... her right hand clutched convulsively... she had no sword... no matter. She would simply rip his head off. She lowered her head and peered out under her gathered brows. She would have him now!
Like a hurricane she stormed into the church and felt the ground roll as it churned against her intent. She was not welcome here! Holy ground was not for her! She stormed through the church refusing to heed the warning, and beat on the thief's door screaming. "Come to me! Come to me now!" She scratched at the door like a cat. Splinters dug into her fingers. Then she beat on it once more.
Darius opened the door and stood looking at her with such pain and sadness in his eyes that for a moment she was herself again... but only for a moment. She reached for him... he did not resist. The ground shook harder! She looked around! She clasped one hand on his throat and then some sense of herself once more came back to her. "No!" said the soft voice of the Lady!
Eleanor dropped her hand and Kae Dhun laughed, once more in control! She grabbed hold of Darius' hand and pulled him behind her through the dark church! They would leave this place. Then she could kill him. He did not struggle. He came. Near the door, she became aware of another.
Out of the shadows stepped Phillip. "Let him go Little Sister! Let him go!" Phillip's voice was soft. There was no laughter there now. She could not beat Phillip... she had tried. She dropped Darius' hand and backed away from them both.
She felt drunk... drunk on the quickening! She staggered, she looked at both her friends, "Help me! I am so lost!"
Phillip came to her and wrapped her in a cloak. "I'm taking you back with me to Niebos. You'll be safe there. I won't let anyone harm you."
Eleanor turned to the priest, "Darius?" She reached for him. "I need you... Come with me..."
But Darius closed his eyes and turned away. She let Phillip lead her
out of the church and into a gray dawn.
|The Book of Darius
(This page last updated 08/10/2003)