This story is a work of Highlander fan-fiction, a non-profit, amateur piece done without the permission of Rysher Entertainment. It is in no way intended to infringe upon Rysher's rights to their world or characters. I would like to thank Kiralee B McCauley and Carolyn F Shettle for their editorial assistance in the creation of this story.
I can be contacted via email if you would like to comment on my writing or just discuss Highlander. You may make a hard copy of this story or send a copy to a few friends as long as the disclaimer and copyright information are included and the story is left intact. Please notify me before publishing it elsewhere, whether electronically or in print. Updates on my other work are available on my fiction page.
The quiet, brown-haired man with twinkling green eyes locked up his cobbler's shop. Approaching a local farm stand, he began to pick out something for his supper. He paid no attention to the beautiful young woman with the auburn hair cascading over her shoulders who always seemed to do her own shopping about the same time he did his.
At the moment, the woman was chatting pleasantly with a visitor to the town who had stopped to admire her gold medallion. Blue enamel marked out a trefoil surrounded by twin circles and the space between the circles was dotted by tiny sapphires. It wasn't quite standard issue, but Cathryn of Waverly felt that the medallion better befit her status outside the organization.
As soon as Dorran Cobbler finished his shopping, Cathryn bid the traveler farewell. Picking up her own purchases, she followed the Immortal shoe-maker at a discrete distance. After arriving safely at home, Dorran began to prepare the wood for his kitchen fire. Reluctantly, Cathryn had to admit that Dorran's life was the same dull routine today as it had been on every other day since she started observing him.
The young Watcher sighed as she turned to leave. An assignment who never did anything interesting was part of the price of living in a remote town with only a single Immortal in it. Cathryn had considered moving to London, but didn't want to leave Halwende behind and couldn't ask him to go with her, especially not now.
Cathryn wasn't certain exactly when it was that she had started wanting more from Halwende than companionship for her evening meal, but she was certain that he felt the same way. It was a week ago that Cathryn had told Halwende about her involvement in the Watchers, hoping that sharing her secret would bring them closer together. At the time, Cathryn had been pleasantly surprised by how easily Halwende had seemed to accept the existence of Immortals. However, ever since then Halwende had been acting oddly around her and Cathryn worried that the revelation was driving them apart instead.
In spite of his obvious uneasiness, Halwende was attempting to continue on as if everything was the same as before. In many ways the uncertainty was worse than if Halwende had decided to leave. Cathryn wished that he would make a decision one way or the other. As she approached her house, Cathryn wavered between the hope that Halwende had finally resolved whatever was bothering him and the fear that he would not be there to greet her.
It had been almost a year since Cathryn had decided that the invitations she gave Halwende to dine with her were frequent enough that she just gave him a standing invitation. While he had not made it to dinner every night in that time, he usually warned her ahead of time if he had other plans for the evening. Cathryn entered the building and went immediately to the sitting room. She released the breath she hadn't realized she had been holding at the sight of the dark-haired young man waiting patiently for her there.
A smile lit Halwende's face as he rose to greet her and she responded in kind. The nervous young man Selwyn of Waverly had employed to keep an eye on his elder daughter had heard the sound of the door opening and now fidgeted uncertainly in the hall behind Cathryn. She smiled reassuringly at Gervase while handing him the basket of goods she carried, but it was a wasted effort. "Whenever dinner is ready will be fine."
"Yes, m'lady." Gervase bowed hastily and hurried off to the kitchen.
Cathryn sighed helplessly and gave Halwende an apologetic look.
He gave her his own look of apologetic helplessness. "If I knew how to convince him to relax, you know I'd tell you."
"Get married and move back to Waverly Manor where I belong," she said jokingly, but somehow it didn't sound as funny as it used to. Cathryn looked away. "That's why father really sent him here, after all."
Halwende gently responded, "Joscelyne married. He could allow her husband to inherit as you asked."
Cathryn sighed as she turned back to him. "I'm his favorite. Father can't understand that when I vowed not to marry I meant it." Cathryn faced the wall to hide the uncertainty of her expression, but her voice no longer carried the force of conviction.
"I know." Halwende's tone was neutral, but there was longing in his eyes.
"It would have been different if at least one of my suitors had actually wanted me, but all they were interested in was father's estate. They weren't even after something as superficial as my appearance." Cathryn shook her head sadly. "I could never live with a husband who considered me incidental to the marriage. I can't understand how Joscelyne does."
"Maybe two people can learn to love each other," Halwende suggested.
Cathryn sighed at the double meaning she read into his words. For all that her sister was married, Cathryn probably spent more time with Halwende than Joscelyne did with Kendrik.
Not getting a response, Halwende averted his gaze from Cathryn's back and let his eyes wander the room.
After a few minutes, Gervase broke the uncomfortable silence with the announcement that if they wished to be seated, their first course could be served.
They managed some pleasant small-talk over dinner, but soon drifted off into silence again. Cathryn caught Halwende staring at her medallion for what was probably the tenth time since she had told him what it meant and he looked guiltily away.
Cathryn considered asking Halwende outright what was bothering him. Afraid that forcing him to talk about it before he was ready would push him farther away from her, she decided to say nothing.
Gervase interrupted their dining, carrying in a sealed letter. "This just came for you, m'lady."
"Thank you, Gervase." Cathryn accepted the note and started to open it, then noticing the servant waiting nervously, gave him a pleasant smile. "If I need you for anything else, I'll let you know."
Gervase gave a quick nod. "Yes, m'lady. Thank you, m'lady." He gave a slight bow and hastily exited.
The seal belonged to Montgomery Mercer, the man who had recruited Cathryn to the Watchers. Halwende had seen it before on various other secret messages that Cathryn had received. "It's from the Watchers?" he asked.
Cathryn nodded absently as she read. "There's an Immortal named Vincenzio Donatelli heading in this direction and they want me to keep an eye out in case he comes here. Medium height, but heavy. Mostly muscle, not fat though. Black hair and beard. Uses a two-handed sword," she muttered mostly to herself.
Busy building a mental picture of the Immortal described, Cathryn missed her dining companion's start of recognition. Halwende's voice was perfectly calm and just a touch curious as he asked, "Do they say anything else?"
Cathryn shook her head and looked up. "Not much to speak of, just that Vincenzio enjoys killing, especially other Immortals." A look of concern crossed her face as she stared non-seeing at the far wall. "I hope he doesn't go after Dorran. I've seen him polish his sword lovingly, but he always leaves it at home."
"Are you going to warn him?"
The beautiful Watcher looked at Halwende, startled. The wistful look that entered Cathryn's eyes indicated that she was sorely tempted, but she shook her head. "I took an oath to watch and not interfere and never to reveal myself to an Immortal under any circumstance. However much I may want to, I can't break that oath." A thought occurred to her and Cathryn stared intently into Halwende's eyes. "Promise that you won't break it for me."
When Halwende hesitated, Cathryn gently touched his hand where it rested on the table. "I know it's frustrating to sit by and do nothing when someone's life is in danger. I feel it too, but it has to be this way. Dorran may seem like a nice person, but we have no way to predict how he'd use the information or who he'd pass it along to if he knew about the Watchers. If the wrong Immortal gained access to the data we've collected it could change the Game forever and if our existence became well known, we would cease to be effective. Please don't warn Dorran."
Cathryn missed the flicker of relief in Halwende's eyes as he said sincerely, "I promise not to warn Dorran."
Sitting on a chair in his own dwelling, Halwende held a bronze medallion, gently tracing the engraved pattern with his finger. It was less extravagant and centuries older than the one that Cathryn wore, but the symbol and the meaning were the same. It reminded Halwende, as Cathryn's did, of both his guilt at continuing to hide his own secret from Cathryn and his fear that once he shared it, she would never speak to him again. That was why he couldn't help but stare at her medallion, even though, at his age, he really knew better than to be so obvious about it.
Halwende knew that he had been lucky to be able to escape the trap Cathryn had unwittingly placed him in earlier that evening. Without realizing it, Cathryn had asked him to make a promise he had already broken, when the very giving of his word would be yet another violation of it. Already feeling badly enough about lying to Cathryn, Halwende had found that he couldn't do that to her.
The incident further illustrated that their current situation could not continue for long. Halwende knew that he ought to tell Cathryn the truth about who and what he was, but he also knew how important the Watcher oath was to her. Halwende couldn't bear the thought of never seeing Cathryn again, but the stress of not telling her was tearing them apart.
Was it possible that Halwende could convince Cathryn that the preservation of Immortal history was as important to him as it was to her? Would it make a difference? In some ways, Halwende's being an Immortal without telling Cathryn could be considered the ultimate betrayal of the trust that had grown between them. The fact that Halwende had recognized the medallion Cathryn wore from their very first meeting was more likely to exasperate the problem than it was to ease it.
Vincenzio added yet another complication to the problem. Halwende wanted to warn Cathryn that Vincenzio knew about the Watchers, but that would require explaining how he had figured it out when the Watchers themselves hadn't. Under another identity, in another life, Halwende had had a friend named Audwine who had been Vincenzio's Watcher. Audwine had died violently while on assignment and while the implication was that Vincenzio had done it, the Watchers dismissed it as an unfortunate occurrence with no long term implications.
Mortal Watchers had short memories, so they failed to make the connection when, twenty years later, a Watcher and Immortal in a remote town had both disappeared shortly after a Watcher in the nearest city saw Vincenzio heading in their direction. There were a dozen similar cases since then that Halwende knew of. Unfortunately, most of them had insufficient evidence to officially blame Vincenzio.
Circumstantial evidence rarely was considered worth mentioning in the Chronicles and the theories on Vincenzio were almost exclusively recorded in those of his victims. To find the full story on Vincenzio one either had to have been there or do a search so dilligent, one would have to already suspect the answer. This made the trail one only an Immortal Watcher could follow.
Halwende probably should have taken Vincenzio out himself, but he had never had an opportunity to do so. Disliking killing and preferring to remain out of the Game whenever possible, Halwende had not made the effort to track him down. Using Watcher resources to hunt down an Immortal didn't feel right in any case, even if Vincenzio was a Watcher-killer.
Halwende hoped that Vincenzio would pass them by, but if he did come here, Halwende wanted to be near Cathryn to make sure no harm came to her. Hiding her medallion might not be enough to escape Vincenzio's notice. He would most likely kill anyone he found close enough to have witnessed the Quickening when he took Dorran's head. Halwende couldn't offer Cathryn his protection if she threw him out, asking never to see him again.
Giving a sigh, the Immortal stood up and placed his medallion in its hiding place next to the journals he kept for himself. For the moment, Cathryn's life was more important than their relationship. Halwende's decision could wait until he was sure she was safe.
Cathryn stayed late at Dorran's tonight as she had last night and the night before. Just like every other night she had stayed late, the Watcher saw him eat dinner and afterwards, remove his sword from its hiding place in the closet and begin his nightly polishing ritual.
It frustrated Cathryn that Dorran was still leaving his sword at home when his life was in danger now. From what little information the Watchers had given her on Vincenzio, she would not put it past him to attack an unarmed man. Of course, Dorran had no way of knowing that there was any reason to alter his boring routine and Cathryn couldn't tell him otherwise. The beautiful Watcher let out a sigh and pulled away from the window, hoping that there was no need to worry, that Vincenzio would pass them by. It was the only thing she could do.
Cathryn set off towards home, hoping that Halwende would be waiting for her. Their mutual frustration at not being able to advert Dorran's potential fate was not helping the already stressed relationship. Cathryn was certain that there must be something she could do to resolve things between them, but couldn't guess what it might be. She passed a dusty traveler in the street, a black-haired but clean-shaven, solidly built man. Lost in her own thoughts, Cathryn paid him no attention.
Only a few blocks from her house, Cathryn felt the sharp touch of cold metal against her neck as an arm roughly grabbed her from behind. "I don't like people following me," a gruff voice sounded in her ear as the man pressed his chin against her cheek.
"I wasn't following you," she said, bewildered.
"Then what's the medallion for?"
"My medallion?" It was the symbol of the Watchers, an organization dedicated to following Immortals, like Dorran or... "Vincenzio Donatelli!"
"So you were following me." Vincenzio chuckled evilly.
"No, I never even saw..." Suddenly the image of the man she had passed on the street connected to the feel of skin against her cheek. "But you had a beard!"
Vincenzio let out a laugh. "Haven't you heard of razors? Now, if you weren't following me, you must be assigned to someone else, so where is he?"
"I'll die before I betray my oath," Cathryn said defiantly.
"We'll see about that." He started to walk, pushing her forward as he went.
Halwende waited in Cathryn's sitting room, his normal patience eroded by the fear that her life might be in danger. She had been late the past two nights as well, as worried about Dorran as Halwende was about her. The Immortal pulled out his pocket watch. He normally considered it an odd device, tracking such fleeting moments of time, but right now the two hours Cathryn had been delayed felt like an eternity.
In the three days since the letter had arrived, there hadn't been a moment when Halwende didn't think about the potential disaster and what he might be able to do to avert it. The fact that he could protect Cathryn more effectively if he didn't have to hide what he was weighed constantly on Halwende's mind, never quite winning out over the thought that he couldn't protect her at all if she made him leave. The knowledge that not telling her anything right now didn't solve things in the long run nagged at him, but Halwende was still no closer to a decision than he had been ten days ago.
Halwende sighed and checked his pocket watch again. Only five minutes had passed since he had last looked at it. He sighed again, not used to being impatient. Deciding that this was an emotion he hadn't missed didn't make his situation any easier to bear. Cathryn wasn't here yet and there wasn't anything he could do about it.
She was probably just worrying excessively about the young cobbler, but if this kept up it wouldn't be long before she'd start spending the entire night watching over him. Even though Cathryn was probably fine, the thought that Vincenzio had caught up to her just wouldn't go away. Unfortunately, Halwende had no idea where to look for them.
Suddenly it occurred to him that he knew the location of the shelf in the library where Cathryn kept her Watcher Chronicles. Halwende had never tried to read them, and from what Cathryn had said about Dorran's boring life, it was probably just as well, but they would contain his home address. Even though it would be considered rude for him to wander about the house uninvited, Gervase was unlikely to try to stop him. Halwende rose and headed for the library.
Vincenzio steered Cathryn towards a pasture at one of the farms just outside the town borders. Once they were far enough away from any building not to be overseen or overheard, Vincenzio threw his captive to the ground.
The young woman recovered from the sprawling position she had landed in as Vincenzio knelt beside her. Cathryn considered running, but knew the older man was too strong and fast for her to escape. She tried to keep the fear from her face as she looked at him.
The Immortal twirled his knife in front of her face, the moonlight glinting off the blade. "Now, you're certain you can't tell me the location of your Chronicles or the other Watchers and Immortals in this town."
Cathryn nodded as firmly as she could.
Vincenzio continued playing with his knife. "It seems a shame to waste such a beautiful woman." A depraved smile crossed his face as if an idea was just occurring to him. "But if you can't provide me with a Quickening, there's no reason we can't have a little fun before you die." Keeping the knife in his right hand, Vincenzio reached out with his left and began to caress her breast.
Cathryn trembled and closed her eyes as she felt Vincenzio touching her in a way she had permitted no man to touch her before. There was only one man she wanted to touch her like that and it wasn't this centuries old murderer. Cathryn wished that Halwende were here instead. While she had never really thought about it before, she would welcome his gentle, mortal touch. Cathryn knew she could trust him not to push farther than she was ready for, unlike the blood-thirsty Immortal who had worked his way down her leg and was beginning to lift the hem of her skirt. Knowing what was to follow, Cathryn whispered, "Stop. Please stop."
Giving a malignant laugh, the Immortal started his hand back up Cathryn's leg, this time beneath the skirt. "Why would I do that?"
The young woman swallowed and prayed that Dorran was a much better swordsman than she thought he was. "I'll lead you to Dorran Cobbler."
Vincenzio had a smug look on his face as he grabbed Cathryn's arm and jerked her to her feet.
Halwende sensed another Immortal as he approached Dorran's residence. Walking slowly around the building, he saw no sign of Cathryn, so it wasn't concern for her assignment that had delayed her. While she wouldn't necessarily be visible while on duty, the young Watcher had no reason to hide from Halwende, at least not as long as he kept lying to her.
Completing the circle, Halwende stood near the door, wondering if he ought to knock. Dorran certainly wouldn't know where Cathryn was and was highly unlikely to still have his head if he had run into Vincenzio. On the other hand, the cobbler must have detected the presence of the older Immortal and was probably wondering why he was there.
The decision was taken out of Halwende's hands as he felt the approach of yet a third Immortal. Listening carefully, he heard footsteps coming towards him, but the tread seemed wrong. Slowly turning in that direction, Halwende discovered why, but managed to conceal his reaction to the sight of the frightened woman Vincenzio held firmly as he pushed her along, knife to her throat.
Vincenzio smiled sinisterly as he spotted Halwende. Tossing Cathryn aside, he sheathed the knife, freeing his hands for the sword strapped across his back. "Now don't go away," he instructed Cathryn with a villainous laugh. "After all, you'll want to record my victory."
Now that Cathryn could no longer be used as a ready hostage, Halwende allowed the concern into his expression. "Are you all right?"
As Cathryn brought herself to a sitting position and nodded a shaky confirmation, Vincenzio chuckled. "You know your assignment? Now this is amusing." The heavy sword gleamed wickedly as he stepped towards Halwende.
"But he's not..." Cathryn's protest trailed off as she took in the moonlight reflecting off the sword in Halwende's own grasp and the confidence with which he wielded it.
"These are residences." Halwende indicated the surrounding buildings. "We should move this somewhere more private."
Vincenzio nodded. "Just as long as you don't try to run."
"I won't run," Halwende promised. "I've been waiting three hundred years for this moment." He tried to ignore Cathryn's gasp at his first official admission of guilt.
Cathryn's heart raced. Could Halwende really be more than three hundred years old? As a Watcher, she couldn't be friends with an Immortal. Cathryn hoped that Halwende was lying. She was unable to think of a logical reason for him to do so, but it was the only acceptible answer.
Halwende moved slowly, careful never to fully turn his back on Vincenzio as he led the way across town. Recognizing deserted shops as well as the next man, Vincenzio tried for a preemptive strike as soon as they were clear of the well-traveled areas, but Halwende dodged nimbly out of the way. Taking a defensive stance, Halwende raised his sword in preparation for his opponent's next move.
Cathryn had trailed the two men more out of concern for Halwende's well-being than her own Watcher duty. She saw the sparks fly from their blades as the duel began in earnest. Living in such a remote area, Cathryn had never witnessed this aspect of the Game before and now watched it with both horror and fascination.
Starting on the defensive, Halwende studied his aggressive opponent's fighting style. The younger Immortal was stronger, but less agile and not as skilled, apparently used to taking out other Immortals mostly by brute force. Halwende's superior experience should give him the upper hand, but only if he was careful.
The young Watcher viewing the scene tried to reconcile what she knew about Halwende with the event taking place before her. Few mortals would be foolish enough to think they could effectively challenge a swordsmaster centuries older than themselves. On the other hand, Halwende was probably trying to protect Cathryn. Unfortunately, while he had successfully fended off all his opponent's attacks, Halwende had yet to manage any of his own, so it did not look good.
Halwende parried one of Vincenzio's blows then darted in for a quick jab at his leg before the younger man could block it. Taking a limping step backwards, Vincenzio tried an upper swing. Halwende brought his blade up in time to protect his head, but the force of the blow pushed Halwende's sword back enough for the heavier weapon to bite into his left shoulder.
As long as Halwende continued fighting one-handed, this was a non-critical injury and the adrenaline that flowed through his system enabled him to ignore the pain. Besides, it wasn't just his own life he was fighting for. Halwende could see Cathryn where she stood gaping in the middle of the street, forgetting that she was supposed to observe without being spotted herself.
Her eyes went wide at the sight of blood seeping into Halwende's shirt where the sword had been. The blow had come uncomfortably close to his neck. Cathryn knew that beheading would kill a mortal as easily as it would an Immortal. The lovely Watcher suspected that, disappointed by the lack of a Quickening, Vincenzio would likely return his attentions to herself, but she was paralyzed by the display unfolding before her.
Halwende wanted to end this quickly. As the older, more powerful, Immortal, he should, in theory, have more stamina, but there were too many other factors involved to count on it and Vincenzio appeared to be more physically fit on the mundane level. Halwende tried to calculate what would allow him to disable his opponent for long enough to get in the fatal blow as sparks continued to be given off by successful parries.
Cathryn numbly watched the bi-directional rain of death not quite connecting as the graceful man she didn't want to believe was Immortal danced around his stronger, more aggressive opponent. In spite of the shoulder injury, he appeared to be doing better now that he was actually fighting back. Cathryn knew barely enough about swordplay to realize that they were nearly evenly matched, but not enough to be able to compare their skills with those of mortal warriors.
Trying a desperate ploy, Halwende allowed Vincenzio's blade to slice open his boot, drawing blood from the foot beneath, as he plunged his own sword into the younger man's stomach. The tactic paid off as Vincenzio doubled over in pain, dropping his weapon before it could do any serious damage. His opponent's head now unprotected, Halwende raised his arms for the killing stroke, ignoring the protests of his still healing left shoulder.
Vincenzio's body crumpled to the ground and the life force it could no longer contain began to spill out of it. The released energy hit the remaining Immortal with all the fury that Halwende remembered from his previous kills.
Even through the heart of the energy storm, Halwende thought he could feel Cathryn's gaze burning into his back. Halwende had known from the instant he saw Vincenzio that the lies were over, but he still wished that he could have spared Cathryn this sight.
When the Quickening died away, it left the impression that the moon was dimmer and night quieter than they had been before the fight began. A young Watcher stood exposed in the street, able to deny the truth no longer. "You're an Immortal," she said numbly.
Halwende sheathed his sword and nodded as he turned towards her. "I wanted to tell you, but..."
Cathryn's hand drifted unconsciously towards the medallion hanging from her neck as a look of horror crossed her face.
Halwende gave her a gentle smile. "Don't worry. You only told me one thing I didn't already know." He indicated the decapitated body. "He'd been killing Watchers for at least three centuries. I couldn't allow him to kill you as well."
Still in shock, Cathryn said nothing. Not getting a response, Halwende sighed. "May I ask one favor before I leave?"
Cathryn nodded mutely.
"When you write your report on me, use my real name."
The Watcher's face creased with puzzlement. "Your real name..." she echoed.
"Is Methos," he finished. Without another word, the ancient Immortal turned and slowly walked away, only slightly favoring the injured foot.
Methos! Cathryn's mind whirled as the name of the legendary oldest Immortal reverberated through it. No wonder the Watchers found Methos nearly impossible to track. The already elusive Immortal knew about them! Montgomery had once told Cathryn that he would sell his soul for the opportunity to record just one page on Methos and she had enough material for an entire Chronicle. But then realization sunk in. If she wanted to write it, she could never see him again. "Wait!"
At the sound of Cathryn's cry, Methos paused, listening to the quick paced footsteps coming up behind him. As he turned to face her, the young woman slowed to a stop. "Take me with you."
Something bothered Methos about her appearance, but it took him a few seconds to realize what it was. The Watcher medallion he had never seen her without was missing from around her neck. Lowering his eyes, Methos spotted the chain swinging slightly as it dangled from the object concealed by Cathryn's clenched fist and realized where the medallion had gone.
"I'll resign." As the Immortal met her eyes, Cathryn added, "Effective immediately."
Methos wasn't certain he believed his ears. "You'd do that?"
She nodded again.
"But you have to file a report on Vincenzio's death and request a replacement before we drop out of sight."
Cathryn hesitated as it penetrated that Methos actually did want her to notify the Watchers, then nodded her agreement.
Methos smiled. "Then I have just one more question." He stepped forward, reaching for her hands. "May I ask for your hand in marriage?"
Cathryn didn't answer. She didn't need to. The light in her eyes as she used Methos's offered hands to pull him closer and the passionate kiss that followed said it all.
Cindy's Home Page
Sky Elf's Fiction Page