Highlander: Who Wants to Live Forever?
by elle nora'
In the weeks that followed, Duncan accompanied Abigail everywhere... as if worried that whoever he'd felt that evening near the Place de Maubert might be around... might be stalking her. For her part, Abigail seemed pleased at his sudden attentions... but unaware of the dangers swirling about her.
"You cannot always be there to protect her Duncan," Darius told him sadly one night. "Eventually you must let her go... and let fate decide her life... or death." They'd continued chess games when the weather was poor... or in the evenings after Abigail had retired for the evening. "She is a bright light who I fear will burn all too briefly in our lives."
"And if she dies... becomes immortal... what then?" Duncan glared at Darius.
Darius gestured widely with his hands... "Then if it is here and she lets me... I shall guide her, teach her what she must know. But her choices must be her own."
"Would you teach her to fight?"
"If she wishes to learn... I know many immortals trustworthy enough to teach her." He shook his head sadly. "But I do not think she would embrace that path."
Duncan sighed. "I know... and that's what frightens me so."
And so Duncan had continued to watch over her, realizing his own feelings for Abigail were growing and changing and that just perhaps... so were hers for him. Her smile brightened when she saw him. She'd even dared to plant a kiss on his cheek recently and then drawn back... her face within her bonnet blushing and her eyes closed. He had raised one of her gloved hands to his lips and, turning it over, lightly kissed her wrist... blowing upon it ever so slightly. Duncan was beginning to fall in love with her... and she might be falling in love with him. If he wanted to remain with her... he'd have to tell her something... and risk her leaving him. As yet... he held his tongue.
He'd felt no further immortals in the area... and Darius had not mentioned seeing any... so Duncan was beginning to relax a bit.
"I have a meeting with some bankers this afternoon... it will be very long and very boring... Will you come?" Abigail dabbed her linen napkin at her lips and gazed at him across their luncheon table. Her dark eyes sparkled in amusement.
Duncan chuckled, "Perhaps I will see you there and then go see Darius. I haven't seen him in a few days. I could come back to collect you after a few hours if you think it will take so long."
"Duncan... don't be silly... go... play your silly chess game with Darius and don't worry. I'm certain my French is good enough to get me home safely. I promise," she continued above his objection, "to allow the bankers to call a cab for me. I will not wander the streets alone. Despite what you sometimes seem to feel... I am not a fool. In fact... why don't I just take a cab there."
Duncan grinned, "I think I shall ride over with you anyway... just to be certain you arrive. And I do wish you would wait for my return."
"Oh... very well," Abigail sipped her tea and smiled, a blush on her cheeks. "My knight in shining armor."
"Your servant," Duncan said with a slight bow and a toast of his own teacup. "Always... your servant."
Upon his arrival at St. Julien Duncan was surprised to see a rather flustered Darius. "Where is Abigail?' the priest asked.
"With the bankers... I just left her there... why..."
"I fear someone has noticed her... We need to get her quickly."
"Who?" Duncan grabbed at the priest's arm as he headed out of the church.
"Someone who may not have her best interests at heart... Now hurry!" Darius strode purposely off the grounds... paused a moment in the street and then hailed a cab. "Give them the address and tell them to hurry."
Duncan did so then climbed into the cab opposite his friend and stared at the face of the priest... pale and drained of color. He noticed that Darius had grabbed his cloak and was even now shrugging it about his shoulders and clasping it at the neck.
"Who is after Abigail, Darius?"
The elder immortal met his gaze and nodded. "An old student of mine... He has seen her with us... he has felt her latent ability. He came to me less than an hour ago to drop hints about her... wondering what sort of student she'd make."
"He'd kill her?"
Darius nodded. "I fear that may be his plan. Would she be so foolish as to leave the bankers without you?"
"She promised to wait," Duncan murmured.
"Then let us hope she does so." Darius leaned back in the seat and closed his eyes.
"Tell me about this Denis?" Duncan persisted.
"About a thousand years old. He's not an evil man, Duncan... he's just misguided. I taught him much of what I taught you... but when men came for him... to burn him at the stake... he lost his balance and now strikes out at men... or other immortals... who do evil."
"Why would he hurt Abigail?"
"I'm not certain he would. Perhaps he said these things to tempt me to protect her. He may very well wish me to stop him... to forsake what I am and what I stand for..."
"And would you?" Duncan felt a small tendril of jealousy for Abigail's friendship with Darius. Did his friend have feelings for her?
Darius smiled. "I would attempt to protect any of us Duncan... with my life. Let us just say that in some ways, Abigail reminds me of another one of us... one I failed to protect." There was a great sadness in his eyes and in his expression that made Duncan curious.
"Would you tell me about her?" he asked.
Darius' head snapped up as he stared bleakly at Duncan.
"Was she the one who wrote the letter you burned?" Duncan continued.
Darius lowered his head, closing his eyes. He seemed to shrink within his great black cloak. His head nodded briefly... hardly at all... but it nodded.
"I won't push... but someday... I do hope you tell me about her." Duncan glanced out the window of the cab, relieved that it had arrived at the banking district. "Wait here for me," he said and alighted even before the cab stopped moving to bound up the steps into the bank.
Deep in the cab Darius waited. He felt no one in the immediate area besides Duncan... and he was worried whether that was a good thing... or a bad thing.
Duncan flew past the intermediaries and flung wide the great carved doors to the banking president's inner office. There was neither sign nor sense of Abigail anywhere.
"Where is she?" Duncan grabbed one of the bankers by his lapels and propelled him against one of the walls to the consternation of the others in the meeting.
"I assure you, monsieur... Mademoiselle Martin is in good hands.
"Where is she?" Duncan's voice rose in intensity as he growled menacingly at the hapless banker.
"Pardon monsieur, one of our patrons, Monsieur Burgoyne has offered her a piece of real estate for her shelter for families. They have gone to see it."
Duncan let the man go and stepped back. "Monsieur Burgoyne?"
"Oui... He has had accounts with us for years. He was here when Mademoiselle Martin arrived and was quite taken with her ideas."
Duncan stared numbly about the room... at the old men who had no idea what they might have done. "What is the address they went to?"
One of the bankers opened a folder and wrote the address down, handing it to Duncan. "Apologies, monsieur... we did not know you did not wish the mademoiselle to go anywhere unescorted. Monsieur Burgoyne is one of our most illustrious clients. A true gentleman!" The banker sniffed as if indicating that Duncan's behavior in this matter was far from acceptable.
Duncan had no time to apologize or even consider that the banker was right, he strode forcefully out of the offices and returned to the cab, shouting the address at the driver.
Inside, Darius' pale face regarded him fearfully. "I take it she was not there."
"This Denis you spoke of... does he use the name Burgoyne?"
Darius' eyes widened and he nodded. "His church was in Burgoyne. He uses that name sometimes to remind himself of his hatred for the men who would have burned him."
"I've known immortals who were burned Darius! I've been burned. It's never pleasant... but we survive... why did this Denis fear this death."
Darius sat back and shivered in the shadows of the cab. "Burning is one of the most horrible of deaths we can suffer Duncan. Denis' first death was by fire. He fears it even now. The pain can drive one mad if it is severe enough." Once more Duncan heard a deep sadness in the priest's tone. "I fear it prevented his clear thinking at the time."
"What would he do to Abigail?"
Darius looked at him sadly. "I don't know. As I said earlier... he might only be trying to draw me out for his own reasons. He has never overtly threatened my life... He merely enjoys sharing with me tales of his battles... the immortals he's killed... how glorious and life-affirming he finds the experience. As if I could not remember it clearly enough for myself."
"Do you still remember them."
"All the ones I killed in my first four hundred years? Every one of them! Every face... both mortal and immortal. I remember them all. They are etched indelibly on my memory. I would not add another one to that count for any reason."
"Not even to save a life?"
Darius smiled. "What profit to save a life if I lose my soul."
"Not even Abigail's life?"
"I would not let him kill her... but I would find another way rather than killing him. How would he learn mercy... if I do not show mercy."
"I'm sorry... If he has harmed her in any way... I will kill him." Duncan met Darius' pained expression, refusing to let the priest's words sway his intentions."
"Then let us hope he had not harmed her."
Moments later the cab stopped at a deserted warehouse. Both men jumped out, Duncan hurriedly paid the driver and followed Darius into the building. Already they could sense an immortal.
In his hurry, Duncan passed Darius and raced into the cavernous warehouse... staring bleakly around at the empty room. He pulled his katana from its hiding place in his cloak and tossed Darius his walking stick. The priest caught it with a puzzled glance and then nodded as if he understood. He smiled... hiding his hands and the stick within his cape.
Assuming positions as familiar to him as walking or eating... Duncan carefully eased further into the room. "Abigail?" he called. His voice echoed in the empty room. Duncan closed his eyes... attempting to focus on the location of the buzz he could feel here... close-by.
A box shifted to his right. Duncan swung in that direction and paused... his eyes widened. "Abigail?" He raced forward to kneel at her side. She sat on the floor dazed... and clearly immortal.
Gazing at him in confusion, she whispered, "Duncan... what are you doing here? Where is Monsieur Burgoyne?"
Gently Duncan brushed the hair from her face and wiped a trickle of blood from her forehead. "At least you're all right... he won't get away with this." Duncan hardened his jaw... clenching his teeth. "Watch her," he snapped angrily at Darius as he stormed away... his katana flexing menacingly in his right hand... searching for Denis.
Darius knelt beside Abigail.
"What is he talking about Darius? Who is he after?"
"I fear he's after Monsieur Burgoyne for hurting you."
"Monsieur Burgoyne? Why would he hurt me? I tripped on something and hit my head. Monsieur Burgoyne said he was going for help. My head hurts... There is this horrible buzzing in it and I can't seem to make it stop."
Darius stared at Abigail and then looked vainly around for Duncan. "Quickly... can you stand? We must get to Duncan before he makes a terrible mistake."
"Mistake?" Abigail clutched at Darius' arm as she rose. "He wouldn't hurt him would he? Oh dear... he was carrying some kind of sword. Quickly Darius, we must stop him before he does something horrible."
The two exited the empty warehouse and gazed up and down the street. Darius closed his eyes a moment to focus... trying to recall the layout of this part of the city... Where would Denis go? "Le Cimetiere du St. Sulpice, " he breathed. "Follow me." With one hand Darius grasped Duncan's walking stick beneath his long black cape... and with the other guided and urged Abigail to hurry along. He feared they would be too late.
Several blocks later they came to the small overgrown cemetery. Abigail wailed at the sudden feel of two additional immortals. "You will be fine... come along," Darius urged gently. "I know it's distracting... but only you may be able to get through to Duncan before he makes a mistake, nor dare I leave you behind."
As they threaded their way amongst the weedy and tumbled stone graves, Darius tried vainly to see either Duncan or Denis. They were here... he could sense that... but where. They he saw them.
Abigail gasped at the sight.
Denis was on his knees as Duncan held a sword at his throat. All the while he was dragging the French immortal towards the edge of the cemetery, his voice rang clearly in the late afternoon air. "You will pay!"
"Duncan... no... you cannot do this!" Darius called out. His grip on Abigail's arm faltered as she twisted free. "This is holy ground, Duncan."
"Not forever," the Highlander snarled as he continued to drag Denis toward the boundaries.
"Duncan," cried Abigail running forward toward them. "What are you doing? Monsieur Burgoyne is a friend."
"He's a monster!"
"You are the monster... put that horrible thing down." Abigail reached to drag his arm down and away from Denis' neck Duncan attempted to shrug her off. Abigail tried once more to grab his arm.
"You cannot interfere!" yelled Duncan. "Darius... get her out of here!" Darius stepped forward and attempted to pull Abigail back.
By this time Duncan had pulled Denis off the cemetery property and was ready to deliver the coup de mort. "There can be only one!"
Abigail launched herself into the space between Duncan and Denis. "I most certainly will interfere Duncan MacLeod. You are acting like a madman!" ... but it was too late. The katana fell... its blade one of the most lethal killing machines ever created by the hand of man... propelled by the force and strength of a man determined to make another pay for having hurt the woman he loved. As the blade connected... Abigail stared uncomprehendingly into Duncan's eyes... and then her head fell to one side and the quickening began to rise like a fine mist.
Duncan staggered back. "No!" he screamed into the sky and attempted to flee... but the lightning caught him and plummeted into him. Blasting him with power. For a moment her gentleness and her dedication to helping others flowed through him... and he wept for all the people who now would die because she was not there to help them. Duncan fell to his knees as the quickening subsided.
Denis scrambled to his feet. He grabbed his own rapier from where it had fallen and considered taking the Scotsman's head.
Suddenly a rapier was at his throat.
"I cannot let you do that Denis. Leave now... before he recovers." Darius held the rapier from Duncan's walking stick expertly... as if he'd never given up arms.
Denis met his old teacher's eyes and nodded. "I didn't kill her. She was remarkable. I would have spent my life protecting her. She had such a gift."
Darius nodded. "I know. Now leave... and remember always her sacrifice to save you. Make certain your life from this moment on is worthy of her sacrifice."
Denis bowed his head and walked slowly away.
Darius bent over and pulled at Duncan's lax arm. "We need to go my friend... this was in daylight... within the city... people will come."
"I can't leave her here."
"You must for the moment. Come. We shall claim her body later... as her friends." Darius secured both weapons beneath his cloak and hurried Duncan away from the cemetery and into an alleyway where he let the Highlander weep in the shadows while the priest kept an eye on the activities about Le Cimetiere du St. Sulpice. Finally, when Duncan had fully recovered, and the crowd had lessened, Darius led Duncan out onto to the Rue du Four and back to St. Julien Le Pauvre.