Tessa stayed, Aaron had hoped she would, but hadn't expected her too, if anything he expected to have the door to the flat busted down with scientists and the government ready to take him and Duncan into custody to experiment. But Tessa had stayed, she was quiet for the few days that followed as Duncan and Aaron, mainly Duncan took turns explaining their immortality.
Aaron had been ready for Duncan to explain to Tessa how Aaron's immortality had been triggered, but Duncan had let Aaron tell it, in fact he had been insistent about it. Aaron had been reluctant, but had given in and with Tessa's face contorting into not just fear, but pain and even anger, he explained his first death to her as quickly and briefly as possible.
She couldn't understand 'that was how it was, it was the times' as both father and son tried to explain, she couldn't, almost wouldn't understand how a child could be shot by soldiers and then left to die hanging from a tree. Though Aaron insisted that he had instigating the whole thing that didn't soften Tessa's anger directed at two soldiers who had been dead for nearly three hundred years.
Aaron did notice that Duncan only brushed upon the game itself, the gathering, and the fact that other immortals brandishing swords would be knocking down their front door to challenge one of the two MacLeod's to a fight to the death. Aaron knew his father could only avoid that subject for a limited time, but knew he would do so for as long as possible, the rest of Tessa's life with them if need be.
Tessa asked a few questions, reasonable ones from Aaron's point of view, such as how many others were like them, did they know how the immortality came to be, things of that nature. Most of her questions were things that neither immortal could answer and luckily she didn't ask one question Aaron expected…why.
Aaron rounded the corner and nearly skidded on a loose cobblestone as he raced through the Parisians streets towards St. Joseph's. He regained his footing easily and darted across the square, the church was in sight and he literally had two minutes before Darius would wonder where he was for his lessons. The sense of another immortal stopped Aaron in his tracks he felt his heart pick up speed, he didn't recognize the buzz, knew it wasn't Darius he was still to far to sense the old priest this had to be someone else.
The early morning street was deserted, not a soul or car was around, not unusual as it was still a little bit before six, still Aaron looked around cautiously, waiting for movement or abnormal noise.
Keeping an ear open for the sound of feet shuffling, Aaron knelt down to the sidewalk and from his backpack extracted his short sword. He stood up leaving his backpack on the ground next to him, there was still no sign of the immortal. A shuffle of rubber on dusty cobblestone caught Aaron's attention and he looked towards the sound, just across the street from the church.
The owner of the noise came as a bigger shock, a woman thirty, maybe early forties sword out and ready and staring at him in just as much shock.
"I'm Aaron MacLeod, of the Clan MacLe-." Aaron started
"I'm not here for you boy." The woman snapped interrupting "I'm here for the old General, the one hiding in that church."
Aaron couldn't help but chuckle
"Hate to break it to you lady, but you're just about fifteen hundred years to late." Aaron shot back
"Oh he's there all right, no one has taken the old man's head. I saw him just yesterday tending to a flower bed, dressed as a monk, a moronic disguise."
"I didn't say he wasn't here, but the man you are looking for and the man that is in that church are not the same person any longer. General Darius as you call him has been dead since the sixth century the man that is in that church is Father Darius a priest who has turned away from violence and the game."
"I don't believe you. Your only purpose in this game is to stay alive for as long as your pathetic attempt allows you, that is a child's purpose in this game, my purpose and the rest of the contenders is to gain as much as possible and be the last one standing. You know nothing of the game." She growled at him moving towards the church. Aaron read this move and darted across the street standing in front of the entrance to the church, sword still drawn.
"I know more than you think and I also know enough to know that you are wasting your time here."
"His head will be mine even if I have to wait a hundred years he will come out of that church."
"Then you are going to be waiting a hundred years, two hundred, a thousand, because Father Darius hasn't left the grounds of that church for nearly two decades and never stays off it for long. And I don't think he'll change his mind just 'cause you've shown up on his doorstep." Aaron replied "unless you're planning on desecrating the rule of Holy Ground." He paused and slipped off his jacket "'cause if you are you're going to have to get through me first."
"Why are you so keen on dying kid?"
"Why are you so keen on killing Darius?"
"He's one of the oldest of us, imagine his quickening." She paused and her face contorted into a smile that sent a chill up Aaron's back "after I take care of the General, Methos is next." Now Aaron burst out laughing "you find that funny kid?"
"As a matter of fact I do, seriously Methos, the oldest living immortal? Yeah right Aren't you a little to old to believe in fairy tales?"
"He's not a fairy tale, don't you know kid many believe that he's a fairy tale?" she hissed nodding her sword the church. "An immortal who could've been one of the greatest rulers of the world hiding out on Holy Ground for all eternity, I think is a fairy tale, I also think it's a hoax and a ploy, I think he's hiding because he's no longer the general he once was, he's afraid to fight."
"He's not afraid lady, he has a different purpose in eternal life, he will not leave Holy Ground and I will not let you have a shot at him, leave now while you still have your head."
"Kid I said it before my fight is not with a puny weakling now step aside."
"I will ask you one more time and then I will kill you take your pathetic quickening and then the general is mine."
Aaron rolled his eyes
"you do realize that I'm probably older than you right?"
"I am eighty."
Aaron snorted back a laugh
"Aw, just a baby. I'll be 350, next December."
"Yeah right, that's impossible."
"Why don't you fight me and find out."
"For the last time you kid are a waste of my time and a waste of space. I should just get rid of you now."
Aaron's body tensed as he readied himself for her attack, at first there was nothing then without warning she lunged at him slashing as she went.
To be perfectly honest with himself this was the last thing Aaron had expected, he thought her to be all talk…not to mention she was the first woman immortal who had picked a fight with him at least aggressively like this.
The last woman he had fought had been in Florence in the early 70s, she hadn't attacked him like this, but she hadn't backed down either, then again she was young…much younger then this lady, both physically and years as an immortal, she had been in her early twenties and had only been in the game less than a decade, but she was arrogant and quickening hungry.
Aaron wasn't sure what this lady's excuse was though, but if she was after Darius she'd have to get through Aaron first.
Aaron easily defended himself against her blows as she bared down on him with all her power. Their swords echoed through the empty streets and Aaron was surprised they hadn't attracted any attention yet.
Except for one soul, Aaron felt Darius's presence as he emerged from the church, horrified by the sight before him.
"Aaron!" he shouted
"Darius stay in the church, its you she's after!" Aaron warned as the lady swung her sword nearly missing Aaron's chest.
"Its about time you came out old man, you let kids fight your battles now? Let the weak and inexperienced die first, is he just your pawn?"
Aaron rolled his eyes and dove at her pushing her back to the street and away from the church. She slashed at him again and managed to slice through his tee-shirt inflicting the wound deep to his chest. Aaron yelped at the sharp pain, but maintained his stance as blood began oozing out of the fresh wound, Aaron knew he couldn't stop he had to protect Darius, by any means.
"Aaron stop I cant let you-"
"I'm fine Darius, its my fight." Aaron shouted back. Darius moved towards the gate swiftly he was going to leave holy ground to not only stop the fight, but to protect Aaron. Aaron could see his mentor's decision it was written all over his face, Aaron knew he had to finish this before he did that, the moment Darius was off of holy ground he was at this crazy lady's mercy and even if he was unarmed she wouldn't hesitate to kill.
Realizing she was distracted by Darius Aaron took a deep breath and caught her sword on the hilt of his own, he twisted the blades together and sent hers flying down the street. She was quicker then he expected however as she pushed him to the ground and dove onto her sword.
In one swift move she was back on her feet and charging towards the church and Darius who was just about to step onto the street, everything seemed like it was moving in slow motion and Aaron didn't hesitate as he flung his own sword at the charging woman, it imbedded itself deep in her back bringing her to her knees.
Quickly Aaron scrambled to his feet, ignoring the blood that began to flow more profusely from the wound he felt lightheaded and knew he was losing far to much blood, this had to be ended now before he passed out…or died. He darted over to the downed woman she was trying to stand and reach for the short sword imbedded in her back.
Aaron yanked his sword from her back and put the blade up to her neck, kicking her own sword away.
"Now…I introduced myself, may I have the pleasure of your name?"
"I'll see you in hell brat!"
Aaron sighed and looked at Darius
"I have to Darius, she'll only be back…she was willing to desecrate Holy Ground to get at you I can't allow her another shot like that."
"Do it, if you don't you and the general are dead where you stand. This is only the beginning." The woman hissed, catching Aaron's attention quickly
"Did someone send you?" Aaron asked, his voice shaking, the blade nicked her neck drawing some blood as she looked up at him a psychotic grin on her face.
"No one sent me I work for no one, but I wont be the last. Times are changing kid, a new generation is coming and the rules of the old do not apply to us. You and the General will have your last breath soon, especially if you continue to believe that those worthless rules will protect you. The end is coming for you soon, hell is waiting."
"You go first." Aaron replied softly, he closed his eyes and swung his sword into the air, bringing it down severing her head in one clean stroke. The air grew heavy as her essence entered their surrounding, Aaron's sword clattered to the cobblestone and he backed away from the church Darius watched his young pupil, still dumbfounded by what had just happened.
The quickening began swiftly and lasted only a minute or so as the energy engulfed Aaron, tearing into his body and forcing him to bite back his screams and tears of pain. When it was finally over, Aaron collapsed to the ground, his body felt like a lead weight and his legs buckled under him, refusing to support his weight. He reached for his sword his fingers curling around the hilt as he winced in pain, remembering his wound. He tried to stand, but had lost to much blood for his legs to support his weight as he collapsed again, passing out on the streets of Paris just outside of St. Joseph's Church.
It took Aaron only a few seconds to remember what had happened as life returned to his body forcing him awake. He winced as he sat up and looked around, he was in his old room, just upstairs from the rectory, in his old bed.
Carefully, Aaron lifted up his shirt and surveyed his chest, free from any signs of his fight, the wound had healed perfectly and the only thing left behind from his wound was the four inch long slice mark through his tee shirt and the blood stain.
Slipping off the bed, Aaron wandered over to the trap door on the floor and made his way down to the church. Darius was in the rectory reading, he looked up when his young pupil entered.
"Aaron, are you all right?" he asked standing up and quickly moving to the boy
"Of course," Aaron started to say, before he put his head down "I'm sorry Darius."
"Sorry for what Aaron?"
"I know how you feel about…" his voice trailed off, but both knew what Aaron was talking about. "She would've killed you she was out for blood and out for your head. She claimed she would wait for you to leave Holy Ground, but the minute she saw you that changed Darius, the desire to kill no matter the cost was in her eyes, trust me I know what that looks like and when someone has that look in their eyes they wont follow any creed other than kill."
Darius took a deep breath and thought that over, he was older than the young highlander, but there were certain times when he was reminded that the wisdom of a child could overshadow many wisdoms of a grown up, no matter how old that grown up or child truly was.
"I am sorry that you had to face her Aaron, it is not your job to protect-"
"Yes it is Darius. I owe you more than you realize and that was just one way to continue to return what I owe you." Darius sighed and patted Aaron's shoulder "'sides anything happens to you where am I gonna run too when I need advice on surviving Dad's love life,"
Darius hooted with laughter at that one and Aaron joined him for a brief second as he remembered a major detail from his fight earlier
"Aaron, what it is?"
"The body…what happened to the body?"
"I took care of it." Darius also nodded towards the long wooden table where two swords lay, Aaron's own and hers.
"It was my fight, my responsibility to clean up," Aaron replied, he chewed on his thumb a bit a nervous habit that had followed him since early childhood. "where is she now?"
"under a tarp behind the church, I will bury her later tonight after evening mass." Aaron shook his head
"No, I'll do it." he argued and Darius nodded
"Did you recognize her at all Aaron?"
"Not at all,"
"Did she say anything to you before she attacked? Anything that might have stood out?"
"As a matter of fact," Aaron started "for one thing she called you General, but when she told me her age she was only eighty, so I'm not sure why she called you that." Aaron paused, he had a pretty good memory, especially for details many would over look, and found he could recall the entire conversation with ease and from that recall the main thing that stood out was the woman's mention of something Aaron hadn't expected
"Aaron?" Darius called, bringing Aaron back to the real world "what is it my boy?"
"Methos." Aaron said softly looking at Darius's globe "she said that after she had taken your quickening, Methos was next, she got real angry when I laughed at that. She really believed he exists and I asked if she wasn't a little to old to believe in fairy tales." Darius rubbed his chin thoughtfully and moved towards his bookshelf "I mean it is isnt it? Methos cant be real, he has to be a myth."
"Can you really be so sure Aaron?"
"No of course not, but five thousand years is a long time for a man to stay alive and stay out of sight and off radar. It may be impossible for me to say no he doesn't exist, but on the same side its impossible for another to say with certain that he does. I personally choose not to believe in him."
"You know Aaron, two thousand is not that far behind five I am nearly at that point you remember." Darius pointed out
"Of course I remember, but Darius its different, you've devoted your immortality to this, to Holy ground and helping others, we are talking about an immortal who has been alive since before the birth of Christ who has been fighting and taking heads since then. Wouldn't such a long life drive someone mad? I met this one immortal in Egypt, he was nearly two thousand and his sanity was just hanging on by a string, he had seen too much, lost too much and the death of his sixtieth wife was the blade that weakened that string, he was challenged three days after I met him and he didn't even try to fight, he allowed the other to defeat him without once raising his sword."
"That is unfortunate Aaron, but not always typical. Take for example Connor MacLeod's teacher."
"Ramirez?" Aaron asked raising an eyebrow "the Spanish peacock?" he added remember Connor's description of the immortal who first taught Connor the game, the rules, and was his good friend.
"An apt description of him. I had the pleasure of meeting Ramirez once, when he was passing through on his way north to Scotland."
Aaron blinked and sat down near the chess board.
"Heading to Scotland?" Aaron repeated "when was this?"
"Summer of 1541 I believe." Quickly Aaron did the math in his head
"He was heading to Connor!"
"Exactly, he had heard a rumor as had I regarding a new immortal barely eighteen whom the Kurgan had his sights on."
"What exactly is a Kurgan? Connor mentioned him once or twice but I never pressed. And what did he want with Connor?"
Darius took a deep breath and sat opposite Aaron he picked up one of the pieces and examined it carefully before returning it to its space.
"To describe the Kurgan would be to describe the direct representation of pure evil, your friend Robert as cruel and even evil as he may be could never come close to the evil that has consumed Kurgan. It is because of the Kurgan Connor MacLeod's immortality was triggered, it was also because of the Kurgan Ramirez's two thousand years came to an abrupt end."
"What did this Kurgan want with Connor, I mean his immortality had just been triggered."
"Exactly, the Kurgan had been traveling all over Europe pinpointing potential immortals and triggering their immortality while they were still young and inexperienced. He would then behead them immediately afterwards." Aaron's eyes went wide "it was his determination to eradicate an entire generation of new immortals as quickly as possible, he wanted the Gathering to occur right then."
"And Connor was on his list."
"Yes. However Connor was very lucky, one of his clansmen was looking out for him during the battle and the clan prevented the Kurgan from beheading Connor."
"Do you think this woman was trying the same thing? Only to get rid of all the ancients first?"
"Perhaps we may never know Aaron what her ambitions were. You said she had no desire to challenge you."
"She wouldn't even introduce herself, she said I wasn't worth her time." Aaron laughed a bit "I love it when they think that." He paused and took a deep breath "I am sorry that she had to die and that she wouldn't back down, but I'm not sorry I fought and beat her Darius."
"Aaron you did what you felt was necessary, we both have a different part to play with the immortal life we were given you are the son of a warrior and it is how you were raised I chose not to follow the life I began." Darius paused and patted Aaron's shoulder "it is part of the reason you and I are such good friends. We have different views, but we are very passionate about those views."
"'cept when I beat you in chess."
"My young friend that was one game out of how many?" To answer that Aaron pushed out one of his pawns, daring his teacher to counter. "I suppose your Latin lesson is to be put on hold?"
"only for a bit Darius, come on one game. I win no lessons today you win, whatever you feel the need to teach, math, Latin, religion." Darius chuckled
"Oh…we don't tell dad 'bout this morning." Now Darius frowned
"Aaron you know I cannot promise that." Aaron started to reply "and no it cannot be considered a confession because it was not." Darius paused "I will not tell him unless he asks, if he asks I will not lie to your father."
Aaron sighed and leaned back in his chair
"Dad still doesn't think I can handle myself with a sword at least in a real fight. He knows I can but he refuses to accept it and I can't for the life of me figure out why he doesn't trust me, why he's liable to panic if he finds out I fought and took the quickening of someone today."
"Your father is protective of everyone around him, that streams from how he was raised. Don't forget Aaron your father was raised to not only be a warrior, but also a chieftain, he knew that someday he would have an entire clan to look after and that knowledge has not faded." Darius paused again "and my other point, you are his only son, his only child, his only link to Rebecca McDonaldson, you and he were separated for so long I expected him to lose hope even though Connor, myself, and others told him not to. Then in 1816, just a year after your father and I met, Connor contacted him, letting us know he had news of where in the country you were. I saw hope renewed in your father as he left Europe to America. Of course you had moved on by the time he reached the Americas"
Aaron put his head down
"I didn't know…I, I had mixed feelings 'bout fighting in the War of 1812, if I didn't I felt as if I was betraying a promise to Samuel Adams and if I did I was betraying the Cherokee. I only lasted a year, before I fled back into the forest I felt I had done my part. If I had known dad was looking for me and was so close I would've stayed put."
"Aaron you had no way of knowing, none of us had a way to know where you were or how to find you. Your father, Connor, myself and many others attempted to find you by any means possible. Even your father's friend Fitzcairin went searching for you, I heard even Amanda did some searching while robbing most of the continent." Aaron chuckled at that.
"I didn't realize…dad said that he was following any lead he could, but I didn't know how many people were-" his voice trailed off.
"Every piece of news about you was a reassurance you were alive. They might not have approached you, but from the time you arrived in the Americas you had friends looking out for you, whether they were immortal." Darius smiled "or mortal." He moved his knight out meeting Aaron's pawn. "You are important to many of our kind Aaron, whether you realize it or not whether you believe it or not. Your survival in this game is a sign of hope to the rest of our kind and whether you like it or not you have a large group out in the world more than willing to protect and defend you."
"Where is this coming from Darius? I'm no different then anyone else, I'm fighting to survive just like everyone else. Just like Connor, dad, Amanda, everyone. Why would you say that people want to protect me, Connor hinted at it too."
"Aaron, that woman called you a pawn, but if you were to look at the chess board do you know which piece you actually represent?" Aaron shook his head, very confused where Darius was taking this conversation. Carefully Darius cleared the chess board of all pieces, once the board was divulged of all signs of the army, he placed a single knight on the board "your father, a powerful piece, key in protecting the army and defending the king."
"Darius if you are going where I think your going with this I am not a king and I don't want to be." Darius shook his head
"The king is a weak piece Aaron you know that, you've been playing this game long enough to know the power of each piece. No the King represents humanity and humans as a whole, that also includes us Immortals individually we are the King a weak piece unable to make more than one move per turn." He picked up the king and put it in the center of the board "the king believes himself to be the most powerful, the game after all would be lost if he were to topple." Now Darius picked up a pawn, a Rook, and a Bishop and placed them around the king and then lined the black Pawns up opposing the small army and the black King behind them. "Looking at this board who has the favor to win?"
"White. There are more powerful pieces and all the black king has is pawns to defend, there's no way he can win the game is over."
"Is it?" Darius asked. In one sweep of his robe covered arm Darius removed all the white pieces from the board, he leaned over and picked up the king once more and placed it back in its original spot "Now who has the potential to win?"
Aaron understood Darius's meaning, but still didn't understand how it applied to him or even immortals in general
"Well, black now, but that's only because the king is in irreversible check mate. He could move around the board for months and would still lose regardless."
"Exactly, with pieces on a chess board as in life itself we are essentially losing by focusing on just one piece. You are not the king Aaron, nor are you the queen you are the chess board itself, without you there would be no game, there would be no outcome. All the pieces that make up a chess board are in place for the sole purpose of protecting the board, not the king, the king is only one part of the army and is defending the board as much as the lowliest pawn is."
"Darius I kind of get what your trying to explain, but I just don't see why me. I don't want body guards, I don't need an army to protect me I live as the rest of our kind does and try to keep on living, why should I be singled out?"
"One word Aaron: Hope."
"Hope?" Aaron repeated
"Do you realize how quickly news of your birth spread?"
"I'm not entirely sure how anyone found out, perhaps the same way that Ramirez and I both had heard of Connor's immortality and how the Kurgan knew exactly where and who to look for. In the time it took your father to get you out of Scotland and down to Italy when you became sick the first time, whispers had infiltrated each immortal that one of our own had fathered a child, a child that was born completely healthy and had survived birth while the mother had not. And when your immortality was trigged, the rumors resurfaced, the immortality had been passed from parent to child and perhaps we did have a history, perhaps we were not foundlings without a past as many of us had assumed. But of course, you are completely one of a kind Aaron no other immortal has experienced what your father was blessed to experience and that alone makes you very important to our kind Aaron. Many believe there has to be a reason you were born and that gives many of us hope for your future, whether it is subconscious or not, to allow the hope that you represent to continue to survive we defend and protect you."
Aaron lowered his head
"What if I don't want this…'cause I don't, I told Connor the same thing if I'm meant to win so be it, but I'm not setting my goals that high, I just want to survive and live as long as possible. Just because I was born…why should I be automatically be elected all Immortal's Golden Donkey Boy of Hope?" He paused and crossed his arms "this is going to sound selfish, but why me… why should I?"
"Whether you want to accept it or not is entirely up to you Aaron, but this is how things are. Regardless of that fact, many of us just want to protect you because we care about you and your father, just accept that fact at least."
Aaron sighed and picked up the pieces from the floor and the table, he didn't reply for a second or two as he set the pieces up
"I'll think about it." he finally replied and Darius let out a laugh "what?"
"All you MacLeod's…you are so stubborn, it has to be the name."
Aaron gave a half grin as he nodded
"Heard that one too, stubborn, prideful,"
Darius took a deep breath
"But loyal as well, I would never advise anyone to insult or harm a friend of a MacLeod."
Aaron nodded his grin widening
"Many opponents have learned that lesson the hard way and many friends have also learned it as well." Aaron paused as he took Darius's Bishop "Darius, if Dad must know 'bout the fight this morning, can we never bring up the whole chess board thing ever again?"
Darius chuckled and nodded
"That my young friend I can promise, though it is something you will eventually have to accept."
"Ask me again fifty years and then I'll let you know"