Niebos, Greece 2003
The cove was much as she remembered it. The small white sand beach, a tiny crescent against the rock face, sparkled at low tide. When the tide was high, there was no beach... the waves crashed against the cliffs with a roar. But now, they broke further out. Eleanor could see the spot where the surf crashed on the submerged rocks before flowing about them in the ebb tide. In the sea-spray, she could see the small sparkling rainbows that danced in the afternoon sun. Two thousand years ago... it must have been awe-inspiring to the superstitious pilgrims of that day.
By now she had reached the beach. Phillip dropped the backpack and spread wide his arms, slowly circling in an almost eerie reverie. He had been a boy in this place... for him, this was home... this was where the gods had once seemed to live. But the beach itself was not holy ground!
Beside her, Methos shrugged and shook his head, but said nothing. They were here... but for what purpose? What game was Phillip planning now?
Phillip waded into the surf a few inches, and then he turned around and beckoned to Eleanor to join him. She waded hesitantly into the water.
Phillip turned her to face the Aegean. He stood behind her... both of his hands lightly on her shoulders. He whispered, "Do this for me Little Sister. Walk out to the ledge. Please..." His voice drifted off, but she had heard the sadness in it.
It was the ledge that was holy ground. Not the beach... not the path... not the temple complex above. No... Eleanor knew... it was the submerged ledge of rock. She had never gone there. She had never dared! When she had been here before... she had known better than to attempt it. In later years... after she had regained some control... she still had felt uneasy. The grove in Paris had at long last finally felt safe again... but here... never here.
Phillip squeezed her shoulders... "Please Eleanor... I need for you to do this for me." She saw tears brimming in her old teacher's eyes. The sorrow of Carlo's loss was still with him after all. For all the easy banter of the last day... he was suffering... he needed this... perhaps more than he had ever needed anything from her. Eleanor gazed back at the surf. She took a deep breath and waded out onto the sandy spit and stepped lightly onto the rock ledge. She crossed to the far side of it... just where the waves crashed.
She felt the earth beneath her murmur at her presence... but there were no upheavals. Eleanor lifted her arms in the sea spray and laughed at the sheer joy of the power of the ocean. Around her, the waves crashed and the rainbows danced accompaniment. Beneath her, the earth whispered gently as once it had whispered to her in the hidden grove in Paris. She spun around to face the shore once more. Within her... Aja stirred, but said nothing.
Phillip fell to his knees at the edge of the water and lifted his arms in supplication. His voice, speaking in the ancient Greek of his boyhood called out his question.
"Why?" He must have thought long and hard in the past few months... he must have spent days here... waiting for her to come... days to consider what his question would be. But Eleanor had no answers. Why? Why what? Why had Carlo died? Why were we immortal? Why?
Then, her eyes caught sight of the sparkling drops of seawater in the sunlight. She recognized their dancing and she knew what they were telling her.
She threw back her head and in a voice pitched to reach him above the sound of the surf replied in the same Greek, "Love endures! Love remembers!"
Phillip dropped his arms and settled back still kneeling... he covered his face with his hands and his shoulders shook from the force of his sobs.
Eleanor glanced at Methos. The old immortal looked at her with a question in his eyes, then also stepped forward into the water. But it was not a question he asked.
In a language she had never before heard, he called out to her, "el nor' alan mah ha re' tre..." But she knew what he was saying. It was her true name... all of it. The name the Lady had always whispered to her for as long as she could remember! The meaning of the last two patterns of the dance!
"Then and now and for all time... all that is or was or ever will be... all are one."
Eleanor threw her hands once more into the air and for a moment the
power of the moment crackled about her. "Thou hast said it, Scholar!" she
replied in the same ancient tongue! And within her Aja smiled.
Eleanor awaited Darius' return eagerly. She had so much to tell him... so much to show her ancient friend. Her trip to the New World had been very rewarding. They had barely had time to say hello before some emergency had pulled him reluctantly away.
"Wait for me here, I will return shortly." His gentle smile had made her feel warm inside. She had missed him while she was away, and it surprised her just how much she had missed him.
Her trip to the Americas had lasted twenty years. For some people that was nearly a lifetime. But for them, it was little more than a moment. Still, she had eagerly looked forward to this day. Sitting in Darius' cell, among his many treasures, she felt at home... more at home than she had anywhere since before she had first died and had been ushered roughly into this immortal life.
She adjusted the smoked lenses she still wore. Her eyes were still, even after all this time, still sensitive to light. Edward and Phillip had each commented on the length of time that it had taken her to fully heal. She had merely shrugged and indicated that well... there had been a great deal of physical damage.
"Some of us take longer than others!" Edward had said, giving her a pensive look, but then he had changed the subject and that had been that. For the remainder of their trip... they simply had not mentioned her grotesque appearance...
She looked down at herself. She was carefully clothed in her favorite colors, dark gray and green. Her dark green gown, in the latest style of the day, was still hidden beneath her thin dark gray coat, which was banded at the hem with ribbons of dark green silk. Her bonnet of the same dark gray was lined with matching green silk so that it framed her face and showed nothing of her hair. She wanted to surprise him, so she was carefully covered. She had removed her gloves when checking on the kettle heating on the brazier. Ahh... it was heating nicely!
She had just started to tell Darius about the wonderful concoction the South American jungle natives called "chocolat" that she had brought for him, when he had been called away. Now she waited patiently for him to return. She had so much to tell him... so much to show him... but she could wait.
She sensed his return and straightened in her chair. He was coming! But when she turned to smile... it was someone else! Someone she thought looked vaguely familiar.
The immortal hesitated at the door... obviously as confused by her presence as she was at his. He looked around, then smiled and stepped forward, "I'm Duncan MacLeod... Where's Brother Darius?"
Eleanor looked down and began to chuckle... a chuckle she tried to control. She slowly began to replace her gloves and button the small jet buttons. "Almost two hundred years and he still announces his name to every immortal he meets!" she thought. Plus... he obviously did not recognize her. This was just too rich! She had to get out of here before she revealed too much about herself. Before she broke out into laughter.
In what she hoped was a gracious and stately manner, befitting the lady she might once have been, Eleanor rose to make her way out of Darius' cell. She would have to return later when her fellow Scot was not here. Hearing the brogue in his voice, she was afraid her own would betray her origins. She seldom used it, she had long ago stopped even thinking in Gaelic... but hearing it brought so much back to her... no best to leave without saying a word.
Suddenly he reached out to her, his grasp touching her elbow oh so slightly. "Who are you...?"
Startled, she lashed out without thinking! Phillip's and Edward's training took over. She clasped her hand around his offending one, lifted it from her elbow and swiftly bent it back... back... back until she heard bones snap.
"Owww... there was no cause for that!" He cradled his hand but she knew the bones were likely already beginning to heal. Below her, she could sense the earth slightly reminding her where she was.
"I have to get out of here now!" she thought and backed away trembling. She was powerless here... it wasn't safe... holy ground was never truly safe... she had to leave. "Never turn your back on an opponent..." Edward had taught her long ago... so she backed away from him... then once inside the church proper she turned to hurry out. Already she could sense Darius on the far side of the door. He would stop the stranger. She had to go... anywhere else she could meet him... fight him... she could protect herself but not here.
By the time she had reached the door... Darius was there. Instantly he seemed to assess the situation.
"Tell your friend I am sorry... he startled me." Eleanor whispered to him.
"What did you do?"
"... Broke his hand!" she shook her head in apology, " I will be at home... come see me later if you wish. I do not think I will come back here while he is here."
"I think you can trust him..."
"I trust no one... not Edward... not Phillip... not even you sometimes. Why would I trust someone I do not know?"
"Nevertheless... I do not think he would hurt you. If you ever needed help... I think he would offer it."
"Perhaps... but I have to go... I have to get out of here now. Enjoy the chocolat." With that she left. Once back on the street, she made a circuitous way back to her rooms. She never went straight away... and she was always careful. Finally, she decided that no Watcher was following. By that time, she was calm once more.
She slipped into the covered passageway and unlocked the iron gate to the grove re-locking it behind her and pocketing the key. She was safe here. On this holy ground she was safe! Nothing bad could happen to her here. The gate was locked... no one was here but her... she was home and she was safe! She let out a long slow breath.
Slowly she climbed the hidden stairs to her rooms... the only rooms in what looked to the outside world like a three-story building with many windows. Other than the ground floor apartments that faced the street, and her own rooms above them, they were only walls meant to protect the grove with its bubbling spring... a spring to which she had reluctantly become one of its guardians.
Within her mind, the voice of her Lady whispered, "Home... one of the centers. Find the others... seek the answers... learn the truth." Eleanor sighed, "I only just got here... I'm not ready to leave yet. Please... not yet." And the voice was silent.
Darius slipped over after dark. She sensed him down by the spring and came down to greet him. He was sitting on the stones and letting some of the water splash over his hand. He glanced up at her, obviously pleased to see her.
"How is your friend?" Eleanor asked meekly as she approached him.
"He is fine... he also liked the chocolat... as did I! Most unusual... perhaps you will make some for me another time. I do not know if I did it quite right."
Eleanor settled onto the stones beside him. She had earlier removed her hat, coat, and eyewear. She sat there in her green silk dress close enough for him to see she looked as she always looked. "He ruined my plans! I wanted to surprise you! I finally healed."
"Of course you did... we all do... I still wonder why it took so long." Darius brushed her cheek softly smiling gently.
Eleanor shrugged, "It is different for all of us, I suppose. It was only my second death, you know."
"I had forgotten that... Come over tomorrow and meet my student Duncan properly! He comes most afternoons for lessons and chess."
His eyes twinkled in merriment.
She grinned and leaned against his shoulder. His arm encircled her and clasped her gently. It felt so right to be here. Eleanor sighed, "No... I think not. I have much to do here. I need to catalogue and arrange all the artifacts and writings I brought back for you to study from this trip. Ooh Darius... you should have come with us. The New World is a vast untamed wilderness. One can travel for days without meeting another human being... much less one of us. It was just all so wonderful." She could not help but wish he had left here and come with them.
His other hand reached around her and he gave her a hug and sighed, "I am glad you got to go... although I missed you here."
"Did you? I missed you more... you are my dearest friend... I depend on you. You keep me honest... around you I am a better person." She reached up to give him a peck on the cheek.
Darius threw back his head and laughed. "Oh Eleanor... the things you say... the things you do." He regarded her solemnly. "I need to go... I have things to attend to... I will see you soon... come see me."
Eleanor smiled teasingly, "No... You come see me sometime. Or stay tonight..."
He kissed her forehead and then released her sadly. "I have other obligations... the world does not stop when you come to see me... although I sometimes wish it could." He nodded to the hidden door and was gone.
She sat by the spring for a long time after he left wondering just why
it was this man always knew what to say to her to make her feel so at peace.
"You are an enigma old one... that you are." Then she went up the stairs
to her rooms and settled in for the night.
Close Another Door
Eleanor could never remember being in so much pain. It was unending! Everything hurt! Everything was torture! Every touch! Every breath! Everything! She wanted to scream but her throat hurt too much! She wanted to cry... but even that was beyond her now... she wanted to die... and never be reborn! She wanted an end to this!
From a distance she could hear Darius, "You will heal Eleanor... you will heal... give it time. We all heal."
But she only wanted the pain to end!
Day became night and night became day... and still she wanted to scream and could not! She was thirsty, but no water could she swallow... nor food. And she could not close her eyes! Yet, at last she could sip water, she could tolerate the touch of the bed beneath her. But the pain nearly drove her mad.
Once more day became night, and night became day. Finally she pushed herself up off the bed and glanced around her room. Darius was not here... she had heard the bell tolling so she knew he had gone to perform mass for his congregation... perhaps it was Sunday already?
Carefully she swung her legs off the bed and stared at the still mutilated flesh. Burning to death was not a way anyone should ever have to go... nor return to. It was her immortality that was creating this torture. She should be dead!
She looked at her hands and saw still blackened claws. She raised them to her face. Once more, she felt only patches of scab and scar tissue. And she could not close her eyes. She had no eyelids left. She ran one hand over her scalp... her hair had also burned away in the blaze.
She should be healing faster Darius had said. But there was so much damage... perhaps that was what was taking so long. Even the water from the spring had not seemed to help. Perhaps it only worked on mortals. Carefully she stood up... her legs wanted to curl up but she forced herself upward. A small weak cry tortured its way from her throat. Tissue cracked and flaked away on her legs. Beneath the scabs were signs of new skin. Yes... she was healing. But even the healing was torture!
Gingerly she picked up her shawl and wrapped it loosely around her, shuddering at the feel of the cloth on the tortured and raw nerve endings. Eleanor went to sit in the chair by the window. She could see the church from here. She could see Darius when he came to the door after services. The light was almost too much for her. She covered her eyes with her hands and waited. She whimpered... and her throat wanted to scream its protest.
"Ahh... you are up... are you feeling any better?" Darius said as he came in. His concern was clearly evident in his voice.
"Be careful... someone will ask who you are visiting," she managed to say.
"I will tell them the marchioness requested my presence!" he laughed and she ventured a smile in return, instantly regretting the movement. It was one of their cover stories if he were seen coming out of the building.
"Better be careful Darius or that old mad woman will be the death of you!" she tried to smile this time, afraid to laugh just yet. The words came a little easier this time.
"Ahh... but she might be worth it." Suddenly serious, Darius placed the basket of food on the table near the chair. "I brought you some things. One of my parishioners still thinks the marchioness is secretly wealthy and will one day die and leave all her wealth to the kind woman who sends her baskets of food." He smiled and shrugged. "Let me see how you are managing."
She let him remove the shawl and examine her. She winced at his touch. He shook his head, then he carefully recovered her. "This is taking far too long. I do not know what the reason is. But you are healing."
Eleanor suddenly covered her face with her hands and wanted to weep. "Don't look at me! I'm a monster now!"
"Never!" he said gently and sat on the edge of the vacant bed. "As soon as you are able though, you will need to leave this place. Time for a new life once more." He smiled at her warmly. She saw no disgust or pity in his face... only concern.
She tried once more to smile. "I did have a letter from Phillip last week. He suggested we three or four," she emphasized the last word, "should sail to the New World and check it out. He and Edward have been there before... but not in some time. I have never been. Phillip wrote that he heard there was much going on there. I wasn't going to go... it's not a wake... just an adventure... a chance for him to show me a part of the world I have never seen. He thought he might convince Edward to go also... I wasn't going because of this Watcher business... but now... I suppose I should." She was surprised she had strung together so many words. Already the rawness in her throat was finally fading away.
Darius nodded thoughtfully. "Yes, it would not do for the Watchers to suddenly see you up and about, not after dying in such a spectacular fashion. Whatever made you run in to that inferno?"
"I heard children crying! Did any get out?"
"Not that I am aware of." Darius shook his head sadly.
"Then it was for nothing?"
"It would have been for nothing if you had not tried. It is never for nothing when we act from the heart for the benefit of others. However... you do tend to go charging in without carefully considering the consequences of your actions. You simply react to the perils about you. But that is what makes you so very special. Your heart is always in the right place. Perhaps..." he smiled gently, " that is why you are such a terrible chess player. You just move the pieces but never understand or consider what will happen next."
"Perhaps..." She nodded slightly... already exhausted by the conversation.
"Well then," Darius said slapping his palms to his thighs. "It is settled. I will contact Phillip for you and we will set everything in motion for you to travel with him to the Americas. Perhaps Edward will join you after all."
He rose to leave, then turned and smiled, "But I will miss you Eleanor... I will miss you more than I can say."
"Ahh... but old one, I will miss you more!" This time, her smile did
Who Watches the Watchers?
Eleanor slipped through the shadows of the Paris night, in a hurry to get back to Darius' church. She had to tell him what she had just seen... what she had just learned... he was likely no longer safe in Paris. He needed to leave this place... he needed to vanish and start a new life somewhere else! If he still persisted in being a pacifist, no matter... she would go with him and protect him. But he needed to be aware of what was going on.
She glanced around carefully as she came close to the church. She paused just inside the sphere of acknowledgment that let him know an immortal was close by... yes he was there. She had been concerned he might be out on one of his occasional jaunts about the city... the ones he sometimes took at night. But he was here.
She breathed a sigh of relief. Now to be certain no one was following her! Once she was certain...she crossed the street and entered the darkened church.
"Is something wrong Eleanor?" He met her at the door to his cell and then stepped back to admit her. She brushed past him and began to pace.
"People know about us... I need to get you to safety!"
"People?... Us? What are you saying?"
I don't know... but... " She took a deep breath and began to explain.
"I was over on the Rue Madame, near the Luxembourg Gardens, I needed to finish up some things down there... I still had some loose ends." She shrugged.
"You should not have gone... remember you are "dead" to them there."
" I didn't die and you know it. I was careful... besides... I don't look as I did then." She smiled wanly, shaking her once again dark hair falling thickly over her shoulders. "Anyway... I heard swords. I went to observe... I was still far enough way..." she continued over his objection. "A mortal pulled me into a dark doorway... I restrained the urge to attack him." she smiled sheepishly, "I didn't want the others to know I was there. The mortal shushed me and continued to watch the others."
"Did you recognize them?"
"I think one was your old friend Grayson."
Darius sadly shook his head. He settled himself in one of the chairs. He seemed almost fearful what she would say next.
"No... old one... he survived... I didn't really get a look at the other one."
"I still hope one day he will move beyond his hatred... beyond his need for revenge." Eleanor could hear the pain in his voice. She was likely the only one he had ever opened up to about Grayson. She knew what they had been to one another and how much it still pained him that they had parted on such bad terms. What was it Edward had taught her once? Ahh... yes... "Student kills teacher... or teacher kills student." Yes... that was where Darius and Grayson had parted ways... before that could happen.
"The mortal, Darius... he saw the quickening. And I think he's seen them before."
"Likely a Watcher." Darius shrugged.
"A Watcher... an old organization of mortals whose members watch and record our lives. Have I never mentioned them?"
Eleanor shook her head. Darius rose and rummaged through a drawer. He pulled out a medallion and tossed it to her.
"When you see a mortal with one of those... he is a Watcher."
Eleanor turned the old medallion over in her hands. The strange symbol was not one she had ever seen before... but she would remember it. She tossed it back to him.
She settled herself in the chair while Darius heated some water for tea and explained the Watchers to her. Long ago a few mortals had become aware of the immortals among them and had begun to watch them, recording all that they saw. They were sworn to secrecy, they would not interfere, they were of no danger to the immortals that they watched.
Eleanor shook her head, "Anyone can be a danger if they know how to kill us! You should leave here! You are far too visible and accessible!"
"Why would they come for me? I am no threat to any of them! Besides, I am on holy ground!"
"In my experience... mortals do not necessarily respect holy ground..." she shuddered recalling the events, which had led to her own rape and first death. "It is only from one of us you are safe here."
"Would it matter so much if I did die?" he remarked thoughtfully. Then smiled at the thought as though he were remembering something, "All of us die, even we immortals... everyone dies when the task is complete." He glanced up at her and she wondered if the ancient within were speaking through him again.
"I couldn't bear it! I would miss you!"
"Ahh... Eleanor... I would miss you more." And Darius smiled. For a moment they sipped the tea and all was quiet.
"So old one..." she said brightly, breaking the silence, " what do I do now... watch for people following me?"
"Actually... I do not think they have noticed you yet... they usually don't until you have taken a quickening and entered the game. And you haven't... have you? Oh they may make notes about you here through the centuries... but you change your appearance and disappear from here so often... I do not think they have yet put it together."
"Would there be a way to find out?"
Darius leaned thoughtfully back in the chair. "Perhaps... did the Watcher you met seem to know you? What did he say?"
"He told me to forget what I had seen. I pretended it was an angel fighting a demon..." she shrugged, "or some such nonsense. He gave me an address and told me if I had questions to come talk to him there." She removed the slip of paper from her small cloth bag and handed it to Darius.
Darius thoughtfully read the address. "Yes, that is one of their gathering places. They have a number of what they call "Chronicles" there, histories of us."
"You have been there, then?"
"Not I... they know my face... it would not be a good idea... They would likely move again to another area. But you...?" He gazed directly at her as if pondering a plan. "Perhaps you could get inside their ranks... perhaps you could become my Watcher."
"Brother Bernard who died yesterday was one."
"Yes... for many years. Did you never wonder why I often sent him on errands when I knew you were lurking about?" He smiled. "He was a good friend. I enjoyed his company."
"But... I only know the one..."
"They are missing many of their members now. The Revolution has so taken many lives and their ranks are depleted. I believe the Watcher you met may be trying to recruit you into their organization. Let him. Find out what they know... you can be my eyes and ears inside their walls."
"Even if I was recruited, why would they let me Watch you?"
"Because you, or the new you will be a member of my congregation. A valued parishioner as have been others before you! Perhaps they will let you stay on here without too much training since you are already here." He smiled archly. "Yes... that might work... you and I could write a Chronicle for them that would last forever." He nodded as if talking to someone she could not here, "Yes, that just might work."
"So who shall I be?"
"Why not your young friend Rachelle Brunot..."
Eleanor started... yes that might work. She and Rachelle looked enough
alike that it might just work. She had not yet had a chance to inform Rachelle's
family of the girl's fate. She smiled and leaned forward to help plan their
next move. She was eager to know these new Watchers and find out their
secrets. This would be interesting.
The Power of Sacrifice
The angry mob swept past Eleanor with a vengeance. When the mob ruled Paris, only chaos reigned. Eleanor pressed herself against the wall to keep from being pulled along with them. The last thing she needed was to end up wherever they were going. She had other concerns and other duties. Both of which did not include this madness which seemed to have taken over the city.
Granted, the people had ample reason to be angry and to expect change... but this was a violence that seemed to have no end and no restraint. And... they were getting entirely too free with that monstrosity called the guillotine. To anyone it was a horror... to an immortal who could only die by being beheaded... it was a terror. She feared what would happen to any immortal too near "Madame la Guillotine" if another of their kind were caught in its embrace! She definitely wished to stay far away from the Place de la Grève!
Once they had passed her by, Eleanor checked in both directions and made her way into the side street where the room she was currently using for a while was located. She had found it easier to stay down here some of the time so that she was not always crossing from one end of Paris to the other.
Here she was Marie-Claudette... a midwife and healer to the prostitutes of this sector. They came to her when they needed help... when they needed money... when they needed a place to stay. They knew she would look out for them. She had dyed her hair gray beneath her dust cap so that most of the pimps would not give her a second glance... thinking she was too old for their attentions... and if they bothered her... well she dealt with them. She was never without her knife.
As she reached her room, she saw the young prostitute Rachelle Brunot waiting. This one was a country girl. She had come to Paris a few months back hoping to find work and a more exciting life than the one in her country village. What she had found was life on the street. Eleanor was still trying to convince her to get off the streets. She was already teaching her to read and write a bit so that if she could get her out of this place... the girl would have some learning that she could use to better herself. Rachelle was still pretty... and she had not yet lost all of her girlish charm.
"Bonjour, Rachelle!" Eleanor offered as she unlocked her door to admit the dark-haired young woman. "And how are we today?"
"C'est la vie," the girl shrugged. "One day is much like another for me."
"Would you care for some tea? I have some herb mixtures here that are quite good. I will be making some for myself."
The girl shrugged as she removed her hat and shawl. "If it is no bother." Something was on her mind.
"Speak, cherie... whatever it is... perhaps I can help."
Eleanor sat down across from the girl who was trembling slightly. "It's Courleché." she finally said. "He is angry at me for spending time with you instead of working. He says he will kill you."
Eleanor shrugged, "He can try... I am a bit more formidable than I appear." She smiled at the girl, then went to remove the kettle from the fire. She casually steeped the tea and poured two cups... one for her and one for the girl. "Do not let it trouble you. Here, drink this."
"But Madame... he is a very dangerous man and he has many friends!"
Eleanor was touched by the young woman's concern. "He will not kill me," she said. "Many have tried and many have failed." She reached over and tucked a lock of the girl's dark hair that had fallen over her eyes behind her ear. She was such an innocent!
Their talk turned then to the riots and finally to the task at hand. She handed Voltaire's Candide to the girl and suggested they start on today's lesson. She listened to the girl haltingly read a brief passage aloud. She was improving. Then as always, she stopped and they discussed it. Rachelle had a quick mind and an eagerness to understand that Eleanor only vaguely remembered from her own past.
A few hours later, the girl left and Eleanor settled in for the night... she ate some hard cheese and some old bread... wishing she had some fruit... but with the riots... little produce was coming into Paris. She might have to take a small journey to the countryside soon and replenish some supplies. She removed her hidden knife and placed it under the pillow, at hand in case she needed it, then lay down still clothed on her small pallet to sleep.
Several hours later Eleanor was awakened by the sound of beating on her door! "Madame... Madame!" It was Rachelle. Eleanor quickly rose and opened the door to admit the frightened girl. "He is coming for you Madame... you must go!" The girl pulled her out of the room and shoved her before her. "Find somewhere to go!"
Eleanor reached for her knife but immediately realized it was not there. She had inadvertently left it beneath the pillow. She turned to go back for it.
Rachelle blocked the way, "You must go... Madame, please!" Then she looked fearfully behind Eleanor and drew in a sharp breath.
Eleanor glanced behind her to see Courleché and his gang of ruffians. They leered at both the women and swung their cudgels. Eleanor turned and readied herself. She could just let them do what they wanted... wait and heal... but she feared what they might do to the girl if she failed to protect her. No... she would have to fight them... her bare hands against their cudgels. She was not certain she could manage that. But she would try!
She focused on the biggest of the men... the one who seemed the most eager to attack. Courleché hung back, as if he were there only to observe. She waited for the big man to commit himself to an attack, then she deftly countered, relieving him of his cudgel and swinging it at his head. Thus armed... she smiled and turned her attention to her other attackers. This could be fun!
Soon she thought it was over. Wiping the blood from her mouth with an almost absent motion she yelled curses at the men as they ran stumbling and disarmed away from her. Satisfied she turned to see Rachelle lying in a heap on the pavement.
Instantly her satisfied mood evaporated. Eleanor dropped the cudgel and ran to kneel beside the fallen girl. Rachelle's skull was bloodied and one eye was blood red and nearly swollen shut. Blood dripped from her ears. She had clearly received a deathblow during the altercation.
Eleanor could do nothing for her, but ease her passage. She held the girl gently and murmured into Rachelle's ear, hoping she could still hear her. "Ahh...cherie..."
Rachelle opened her one good eye. As she spoke, dark blood dribbled from her mouth, "You are well then... I did rightly... I saved you..." She closed her good eye.
Eleanor whispered, "You did well, ma fille... sleep and rest now... dors, ma fille. You need no longer suffer. Shh..."
"I should have liked to have finished Candide... to have written my parents a letter... to have made a good life... this is better... I have saved your life." The girl's voice drifted away and Eleanor knew she was gone.
Standing at the girl's unmarked grave in the cemetery near Darius' church... Eleanor could not help but feel the guilt. "It was my fault she died. Mine that she never had even a single lifetime. Whatever do I tell her parents?"
"Granted she did not know you were an immortal, but do not lessen her death just because it was needless. As far as she was concerned, your life was infinitely more precious to her than her own. She needed to believe she had saved you... that her sacrifice had meaning."
"But it was for nothing..." Eleanor shook her head. "Now she lies here and her family will never see her grow old or bear children or have even a simple life."
"No... but perhaps in her death she found a purpose in life."
Eleanor glanced up at her teacher's words. There was an undercurrent there that she did not understand. Then she sighed heavily. "I suppose I shall have to invent a story for her... so that her family never learns what life she had here. I fear they would neither approve nor understand."
"As you think best," Darius replied.
The two then walked slowly through the small cemetery. At the door to his church, he gave her a brief hug, then entered.
Eleanor watched him go with a heavy heart. She was still struggling with his words. Perhaps it was the ancient within him speaking again. Sometimes she saw glimpses of the old one in some of the things he did and said. Her own inner voice sometimes said some of the same words that his said... as if they were old truths those two old ones had once shared. The voice of her Lady whispered, "Ahh... that boy always surprised me!"
Eleanor shrugged. There were other things she needed to do this night...
plans to make to begin a new life in another part of town. She must be
about her task. With a lighter step she headed out into the street and
off to another part of Paris.
|The Book of Darius
(This page last updated 08/10/2003)