Part Five: Sword of Denial
He teaches to deny that faintly prays.Francis Quarles, A Feast for Worms
From Rue St. Jacques, Eleanor could hear the sounds of voices raised in hymns of praise. She smiled. Evidently the Easter service at St. Julien Le Pauvre was going well. It sounded as if Darius had a full house.
She'd returned to Paris only in the last week, and had been busy setting up a household and beginning a new life. The young poet she'd met on the boat over to France was charming and dancing attendance on her as if she were the love of his life… and the muse of his inspiration. He'd stopped by each evening to her salon… leaving his card… and mailed her letters filled with poetry sometimes three times a day. Eleanor was quite amused… determining to relax in this life… and see what it had to offer.
But first… she wanted to deal with the old life.
Dressed as she was in the fashion of the day, the hooped skirt and corset… climbing into the sewers did not seem to be a good idea. So she'd waited until she knew Darius would be busy… that people would be around… to gather her key.
She slipped quietly into the vestibule, noting she'd arrived just as he'd begun his sermon. She could hear chairs shift on the stone floor and slight coughs from congregants as he spoke of the miracle of resurrection and the glory of new life. Amused at the duality of his words, she smiled beneath her dark veil… and stepped slowly to the small apse and stood waiting until no one was watching. He could feel her… as she could feel him… and he would know that it was she…
Once Eleanor was certain no one was paying attention to the small woman dressed in dark gray and green in the back of the church… she reached behind the saint's statue and tapped on the stone to retrieve her key. Closing the stone… she secured the key in her muff and slowly made her way out. The usher at the door bowed to her… although she could see questions in his eyes as to why she'd come so late and was leaving so quickly.
Eleanor had never felt comfortable here. She couldn't begin to explain to this mortal what being here felt like… how even now she thought she could hear rumbles deep in the earth. Her last time here had not been a good one. Even now she could see and feel what it would be like to kill a friend… tear him limb from limb and rejoice in his death.
"Clear your mind and focus!" Edward's words came back to her… so she focused, and continued on her way… "down the street… across the street… around the block." The litany of tactics helped her to focus, "Return… check for Watchers." Finally she entered the covered arched passage between the two dwellings that made up the ground floor of the building which hid the grove… and the spring.
Eagerly she turned the key in the lock and opened the grilled iron gate, stepping at last on the velvety green carpet of grass. She closed her eyes and breathed in the mossy scent of the grove. A dozen trees… stunted a bit, provided a shady canopy over her. Four stone walls rose three stories about her; the upper levels filled with windows that stared blankly on the surrounding world. She could hear the water bubbling at the spring and the sounds of insects and birds all about her.
Eleanor closed the gate and moved toward the spring… smiling in the welcome she felt. This was one of the old holy places… one that had been holy long ago… one of the few she'd found which did not frighten her. Darius had built the walls to protect the spring. He'd asked her to help him guard it long ago. "Keep it safe!" he'd begged. "Tell no one." She never had… and she never would.
Even through the sessions with Edward and Phillip where she'd unburdened her soul about many things in an effort to come to grips with the force of personality of Kae Dhun, the immortal whose quickening she'd taken, she had never spoken of this place.
A whisper sounded in her mind like an itch she couldn't scratch.
Blinking, she shook her head to clear her thoughts… thinking only good thoughts… quiet thoughts. She needed to meet with Darius and apologize for wanting to kill him. It wasn't she who wanted him dead… but the voice within her that she had not yet fully integrated into her personality.
"Perhaps living so long without entering the game caused this," Edward had suggested. "You have to face his personality and deal with each thought he throws at you. You have to hold true to yourself when you do so." His strong hands had rested lightly on her shoulders as he'd stood behind her… forcing her to concentrate and center herself.
Phillip had agreed, "I'd have had you start with someone not quite so old and powerful, if I'd known. We were never meant to live without the game." He was crouched near her… as much a guard as a guardian to prevent her from giving in to the chaos in her mind. Together they worked with her. Together they kept her in this world by reminding her of all the things the three of them had done over the centuries, and of the bonds of friendship which transcended even the game.
Even so, neither of them understood, not really. She'd not entered the game for the first few hundred years of her life because it hadn't felt right. If she could slip back on the perimeter and just watch and observe… she'd shrugged and been willing to. Oh she'd known she'd have to kill… but if she could avoid it… she did. Then she'd met Darius. His words of peace had echoed strangely in her soul… as if they were words she'd heard before in some other life and had ignored.
And then he'd kissed her. Oh… he'd never admitted that it was him behind the mask that night. And he never had again in all their time together… not like that… but he'd laughed and joked… and been her friend for all the years she was here. He'd held her when she grieved for the deaths of those around her… he'd walked the night with her and danced sometimes at bonfires about the city. And she'd given up hoping for anything more. She'd been content in the easy way they had with one another… two old friends who loved one another… but had chosen other paths for their lives.
It didn't matter. Perhaps it was better to have a friend… than another lover. "Immortal relationships are complicated enough," she thought. At least hers with Edward was. They were lovers… but only now and then. She'd learned a long time ago his eye would wander and he'd leave her to move on. She had no problems with that. After all… they weren't married anymore… not really. She never stopped him and she was never jealous. Eleanor was determined not to hold onto him in any way. To hold onto him meant she cared about him. To be jealous meant she was hurt by his sometimes callous ways… and she denied that she felt either emotion. Besides… if they were apart… then she didn't have to worry about killing him… or about him killing her. His words from long ago remained a mantra in her mind even more than the ones he'd taught her these last thirty years. "Lovers kill lovers!" Despite it all… they persisted in an on-again off-again relationship.
This last time, he'd taken her places and shown her civilizations around the world… ones she'd never before seen. They'd descended through Africa and sailed to India. From there they'd journeyed to the Orient and then down through Southeast Asia into Australia. It was there, one balmy evening, that his eye was caught by a lovely, blue-eyed blonde passing through the square. He'd followed her movements and sighed. Then he'd glanced at Eleanor guiltily. She'd smirked and shrugged and traveled on without him… leaving him to his new mortal love. He was his own man, as he always was. And Eleanor had needed to be certain she could manage on her own. She hadn't been entirely alone since Phillip had taken her to Niebos in 1832. It was past time for her to see if what her friends had taught her could help her live her life as she always had. And… it was time to face Darius once more.
The long Pacific voyage had brought her again to South America, and it was there that she'd begun to think of Paris again as she'd stared at old ruins hidden beneath the creeping growth of the jungle. Once thoughts of Paris and Darius crossed her mind… she'd closed her eyes and felt him… She knew exactly where he was… and what he was doing. She could see him sweep the stone floor of the church and glance around, as if feeling her. Then he'd shake his head and continue his duties.
The moment had been short and swift. But she'd made rubbings of the stones… letting the ancient symbols of some long dead people appear in charcoal on the thin paper. She'd rolled the papers into a tube and stowed it to bring home with all the other things she'd found on this her latest journey. It was the word home that decided it for her. Eleanor made her way to the coast and via the Caribbean… came home.
She'd met Charles on the Atlantic voyage. He was transfixed on her green eyes… and mesmerized by her secretive and aloof nature. He'd followed about the promenade of the schooner… spouting poetry. Quite good poetry! There was a chance there for something, perhaps. So she'd set up a household in one of the better neighborhoods of Paris, fully determined to throw herself into a new life without strings which tied her to the old ones… and see what would happen.
But first… Eleanor had to sever one last tie. She had the artifacts bundled and crated and ready to ship to Darius… but wanted one last meeting with him. Here… on the only holy ground she'd ever felt safe on… she wanted to bid him adieu.
As she approached the spring, the whisper of something sinister and insistent grew louder. The itch in her mind became a burning as something begged for her to pay attention. Eleanor settled on the rocks, removed her gloves, and leaned over to dip one hand into the water to refresh herself.
And that was when she saw it.
Beneath the surface of the water was Kae Dhun's sword… gleaming redly in the filtered light of day. "Use me!" it seemed to whisper.
Eleanor stared at it hungrily and then backed away, terrified. Within her the voice of Kae Dhun crowed triumphantly. "Take it! Use it! The sword is ours! Kill the thief!"
"Noooo!" Eleanor's hands rose to her head as she stumbled back… away from the spring. "How could you bring that thing here?" Her voice broke in sobs. She had to get out of here… She had to leave before he came. She still needed to see him… but not today… not here… not now!"
Dropping the key to the grass Eleanor turned and fled back into the safety of the surrounding crowds milling about the streets of Paris on this Easter Sunday. It would be a week before she was fully in control of her thoughts again. It would be another month before she wrote Darius and shipped him the artifacts. And it would be July before she dared to arrange a meeting with him… face to face… publicly… in the Luxembourg Gardens… where there was no danger of hurting him. And it would be fifty years before she dared to enter the grove again.
Paris, 13 April, 1912
"Confession is good for the soul," mused Darius as he sat back in the dark stuffy booth and fingered the silk fringe of his purple confessional stole. He was bored. The sins of his parishioners had long ago ceased to be entertaining or even new. Darius sighed. Perhaps, Eleanor was right, it was time for him to move on. "What real good do I do here any more," he grumbled under his breath.
Thankfully the last one had left and there appeared to be a pause. He leaned back and closed his eyes. He hadn't slept well last night. He'd had a nightmare in which the terrified screams of the dying had surrounded him. It had been many years since the last time he'd dreamed of his former life. Although this dream had been steeped in images he'd failed to understand.
He was standing on a surface that had gradually tilted as if it were a hillside while around him people had fallen and attempted to hold on and crawl upward to the night. All around was darkness. He'd climbed the surface easily while all about him slid as if falling into the depths of hell. When he'd reached the apex… he was aware only of the screams in the darkness… and the knowledge that the surface was sliding inexorably downward into the mouth of hell. Not all of his good works… not all of the atonement he'd focused on for three times the amount of time he'd spent as a murderer… would save him. The cold, wet darkness rushed toward him and closed over his head. He breathed in salt water… and died.
Upon awakening… he'd felt only a great sense of sorrow and his duties this day had not lessened that feeling.
"I should have gone with you," he whispered to the dark of the confessional. He opened his copy of Les Miserables and in the dim light through the screen he began to read… letting his memories of another time and another place… when life had still held promise… even in the face of chaos and depression.
Darius looked up as Madame Breton entered at a fast clip, crying out urgently for him. Closing the book, Darius opened the door of the booth and called out to her.
Madame crossed herself and genuflected in the aisle quickly before crossing into the confessional area. "Per Darius it is most horrible!"
"Calm down Madame," he said with a broad smile and reached out to reassure her. "Tell me what has happened."
My son, Gaston… you remember Gaston… such a good boy."
"Has something happened to Gaston?"
"Non, Per." Madame shook her head, raising one hand to her brow. "He works at the docks in Calais."
Darius nodded and waited.
"The ship has gone down."
For a moment the cold hand of his dream reached out and clutched at Darius' heart. "What ship?"
"Oh…" Madame covered her mouth with both hands. "The English ship… Titanic." She began to sob. "Gaston helped load that ship just a few days ago. So big it was… so grand."
"Glacier! Iceberg!" she said horrified.
Darius stared at her. At the door of the church more were coming. They came at times of great death… as if to assuage their guilt at escaping catastrophe. They came to seek comfort in one another. They came to gather in community and wail at the fates. "How many?" he asked Madame Breton fearfully.
She shook her head. "Some say all… some say a few were saved. It is said over fifteen hundred drowned."
Darius closed his eyes. As in the dream… he could hear the fifteen hundred souls about him in the darkness… screaming as the Titanic slipped with a shudder into the icy cold waters of the ocean. Once more he felt the cold wet grab him by the throat and he tasted the brine as he breathed it in.
"Per… you are all right?"
Darius opened his eyes. "We will say a mass for the dead. Excuse me, Madame Breton. I must prepare." The immortal priest withdrew to his quarters and closed the door. He crossed to his desk and laid his head in his hands as he forced himself to relieve the dream one more time… each step of it… each sensation… each sound… each prayer lifted to a god who did not seem to hear. His shoulders sagged in the overwhelming sorrow that filled him to overflowing. "So much life… so much waste," he whispered softly… wondering how it was that such things still happened in this world.
He'd walked the earth for almost nineteen hundred years, still a youngster compared to some he knew, but he doubted even they would have answers. He lowered his hands and forced himself to clear his mind. Despair was a useless emotion. His parishioners needed hope and guidance… and somehow he had to find it within himself.
He'd risen to change into vestments when his eyes fell on the envelope Eleanor had left him last week before she left.
"It's a ticket, silly."
"A ticket to what?"
"You are going back then?" She'd only returned to France about two years before from America, where she'd been since the late 1870's, having gone initially with Phillip in an eagerness to get away from Paris. She'd been here only about eight years that time… and he'd seen her twice in those eight years. When she'd returned two years ago… he'd found her on one of the benches in the small cemetery attached to the old church.
"I missed you," he'd teased as he settled beside her.
"I missed you more." There was a calm about her he'd not noticed the last time… as if her demons finally slept.
"So… where have you been all this time?"
"With Edward." She smiled and laughed. "I left him this time."
Darius had raised an eyebrow. "One of you always leaves."
Eleanor shrugged. "One of us always knows when the time comes. It's part of our unspoken agreement over the centuries."
"Perhaps one day neither of you will leave."
She'd laughed… and Darius could hear the tinkling bells of her laughter… a sound which brought peace to his heart.
"Do you need the key?"
She looked at him sadly and shook her head. "I can't."
She'd met his gaze and seen the fear there. "It's… you…" she closed her eyes and shook her head.
"Eleanor I cannot help you if you don't explain."
Rising she leaned over and kissed his cheek. "I can't… not yet. I have to go." She'd turned and swiftly left without a backward glance, leaving him to wonder.
Over the two years before she'd left last week… she'd stopped by the garden and spoken with him there… refusing to enter either the church or to meet him at the grove… perhaps a dozen times. Each time she stayed only minutes… and had said little.
The last time… last week… he'd found her laying flowers on Rachelle Brunot's grave. "She should have live a long life Darius. She died… saving my life."
"You dealt with this centuries ago, Eleanor. It does no good to live in the past. You must move on."
She'd met his gaze with a knowing smile. "You're right of course. Here." She handed him the envelope.
"A ticket to America?" he'd asked laughing. "What would I do with that?"
"Come with me."
He slipped the ticket back into the envelope without looking at it. "We have had this discussion before. My place is here." He tried to hand it back to her.
She refused to take it, shaking her head. "I bought it for you. I'm not asking you to be with me… but just to go with me. I cannot stay here in Paris. There's just too many memories. Every street… every building… every garden path… everywhere I look… I feel you here. And the fear I carry that I will end your life if you stay here terrifies me."
"All the more reason I should stay," he'd tried to tease her.
She shook her head. "You'll die if you stay. Use the ticket Darius. Come with me to America. Take the chance. See all the parts of the world your heart desires. Leave this life. It's past time you did so."
Darius had closed his eyes and shaken his head. He did not clearly know how to explain. He was here because when he'd killed the Ancient Immortal at the gates of Paris and taken his quickening, he'd accepted the Ancient One's mission to be a beacon of peace. He was here because he wanted to solve the clues of the past… understand what it was that the ancients had done that had set the game in motion. He wanted to end the game. Eighty years ago he'd been ready to accept the destiny lain on his shoulders to unite the ancients. That had failed. The only path he still saw open in that regard, was the one he most feared… He feared that in killing him… Eleanor would be lost to madness. If he left with her… it would happen… and Eleanor would be lost in the overwhelming guilt that would follow. "Trust me… I can't go."
"I've bought the ticket. I'll meet you there… on the docks… in Calais." She'd turned and left. As she'd left the church grounds, she'd looked over her shoulder and flashed him a smile. "Hurry… I'll miss you." Then, with a little wave and a blown kiss, she was gone.
Now in his cell… in the aftermath of the Titanic's sinking, Darius held the envelope in his hand and turned it over… slowly drawing the ticket out and opening it up. "H.M.S. Titanic," it read. He closed his eyes as once more… the screams of the dying surrounded him.
Dressed in his woolen trousers and coat over his linen shirt, the peaked hat pulled low over his eyes, Darius had dared to be out and about Paris in daylight. The names of Titanic's dead were being posted at the newspaper office… as were the names of the rescued. He forced his way through the milling crowd to peer at the list… seeking a familiar name.
With a sudden realization he was uncertain what name she'd be using. His ticket had been Second Class and he assumed hers would have been as well. Swiftly he ran his finger down the list of names indicating Second Class Passengers… Female… survivors. He saw no name that he recognized. Fearfully he turned to the other sheets of foolscap… the ones with the list of the lost. Most of those names were in Third Class. He moved past those and found the much shorter list of names of those lost in Second Class… he still saw no name that he knew for certain. "What name did you use?" he thought desperately as he stepped back… his eyes taking in at a glance the enormity of over fifteen hundred names of the dead.
He'd drowned once. It was his second death. He'd been trapped in the cold depths of the Black Sea for four years once, before his body had floated free of the wreck, and he'd revived. Time had meant nothing to him except that when he'd returned to the village on the shores and learned how much time he'd lost, he'd lashed out at the people there. He'd focused his rage and anger at having lost four years of life on innocents who'd had no part in the storm that had sunk the ship. He could still see the faces of each of them as he'd killed them… every living soul in a village of sixty-seven. Even the infants. He'd killed them all and set fire to the buildings until nothing remained. Perhaps if he'd been older… he wouldn't have lashed out at them for having lived the last four years that had been denied to him.
"Were you aboard?" he wondered as he pulled back and let others in the crowd close in to read the names on the sheets of paper. He wondered idly… and a bit uncharitably… if they knew anyone aboard… or if they were merely curious.
Turning away, he slipped his hands into the deep pockets of his trousers so that he slumped slightly as he walked away. He needed to get back… and yet he found himself crossing the Pont St. Michel to the Isle de la Cit… and Notre Dame. He stood on the square where once long ago the bonfires had been lit… and the workers and gypsies had danced in celebration… where he'd once almost changed his destiny.
"She will be back," he told himself. "It may take years. But she'll find a way." Eventually, as evening fell, he crossed back over the pont… and slipped into the sewers in the gathering gloom. That night… and for the next several… he lit a candle for Eleanor… that she might find her way out of the darkness… and return home.
22 April, 1912
Darius had found the last week wearying. His parishioners had moved through their grief and disbelief… none of them had actually known any of the drowned passengers… and were once more focused on their daily lives. Darius, naturally, had made no mention of his own loss. After all, he was not certain Eleanor had drowned… but he believed it. If she had been among the survivors… she'd have sent word somehow. The survivors had been taken to America… but he'd read in the paper how many had cabled relatives in Great Britain… or on the continent.
The majority of the dead had been third class passengers. They'd likely been crowded into the bowels of the ship… even so grand a ship as the Titanic… and had been trapped when the ship had sunk. He'd sent one of the altar boys to buy papers each day and scoured through the stories.
Darius'd had no further dreams… but the more he read… the more certain he was that his dream had been of the disaster. Somehow he'd been on that ship… and had seen its final moments… and felt the Atlantic close over his head as he'd been drawn into her depths. It had been too real and too specific. Nor was it the first time he'd had visions. There were moments in his life when he'd had the barest sensation of events in other parts of the world… or events that had not happened. He'd always had them… even when he'd been very small. Was that why Anya… Aja… had selected him and given him the sword? Was that why Havron had elected to die? Darius shook his head. The Ancients made comments sometimes… but seldom did they ever truly explain anything. And on this subject… they remained silent.
He'd finished up for the day and once darkness fell and the church was closed for the night… he'd slipped over to the grove and sat at the well. He had no interest in the artifacts upstairs this night. He had no interest in much of anything. "I should have gone with you," he whispered to the darkness. "I should have been with you when you died." That she would be back he knew… but how long… how long?
Feeling an immortal and hearing the lock turn in the gate, and the creak of the hinges as the gate opened… Darius held his breath. Then he saw her small dark figure… barely a shadow in the darkness… and he rose eagerly to embrace her as she fled into his arms.
Darius rolled over on his back and forced his breathing to calm the throbbing in his body. He couldn't do this. Not here! Not now!
Eleanor sat up to lean over him curiously. "Why did you stop? You want this… I know it! And so do I."
He closed his eyes. He could fell her hand on his chest… already easing once more through his opened cassock to reach his skin. Darius clasped her hand… held it up and kissed it. "No," he said once more.
She pulled her hand from his. "Why not? It's long past time you left here. This life you persist in makes no sense to any of us. What is here that you cannot find elsewhere?" she asked… turning his words to her from long ago. Tears burned in her eyes. Her voice broke in a sob. "Why can't we go somewhere else and have a chance for a real life together."
Darius sat up and let out a great sigh as he adjusted his garments. It had been so fast and so unexpected… that sudden kiss and then he'd eased her to the ground and in that moment had been fully focused on loving her. Her lips had latched onto his and her hands had torn at his clothes even as his had torn at hers. Just as suddenly… he'd realized this had to stop and had rolled away. "Trust me, Eleanor. I have to remain here. And if I remain… I have to be true and honest in the rules of the life I live. I can't live two lives… it would destroy me… Saying one thing… presenting one face to the world while hiding away…"
"You do that anyway," she cried. "You always know more about what is going on here than you let anyone know. You hide behind masks and costumes. Isn't this…" she lifted one cuff of sleeve, "… just one more?"
"Perhaps. But until the time is right… here I am and here I stay."
"Eleanor, you have to trust me. My leaving here with you is not a good idea."
"I'm better. I love you."
Darius shook his head. "Now who is lying."
Eleanor turned away.
He continued. "Desire and love are different things. Love is a complex emotion that requires loss of self and submission to another. Can you do that?"
"I love you," she insisted once more.
He lay one hand on her dark hair… noting its tangled nature. "I only wish it were so."
Turning suddenly she kissed him insistently, her hands once more seeking his skin beneath his clerical garb. For a moment it was so easy. He could kiss her back and then… and then… Darius pulled away sadly. "I want to show you something."
Rising he led her to the spring. "Can you see it?"
Eleanor's eyes were focused on the sword still lying as if newly made in the water of the spring. She closed them and shuddered. "I know… I've always known."
Darius leaned down and withdrew the blade… brandishing it expertly as something made for his hand. For a moment… again… it seemed so easy. He could take this sword up again and re-enter the world with Eleanor at his side. Then he saw her eyes… glittering as she followed the sword's movements… her tongue licked dryly over her lips. Already it called to her.
Darius held it out to her. Eleanor's hands reached for it… stopping only inches from it. Her fists balled up and she stepped back. "I don't want that thing."
"Yes you do," Darius insisted. It might be the only way to make things perfectly clear to her. Better to hurt her now… before things progressed too far… rather than later. He lay the sword against her neck.
She shut her eyes. "It's holy ground… you can't… not here."
Darius nodded. Eyeing the hidden entrance to the sewer, he grabbed her hand and pulled her along behind him. "Then we'll go where it is not holy ground and see what happens"
"No!" Eleanor tried to free her hand and held back… trying to stop him and be free. "You can't!"
Opening the entrance he pulled her down the slope to the raging torrent of water and sewage and cast her before him… releasing his grip on her hand. "Here," he said harshly and held it out once more. "Take it and use it… or I will."
Eleanor stared at the sword in the darkness… within her Kae Dhun roared in triumph. "He offers it to us! Take it! Use it! He's a fool!" Part of Eleanor agreed with that.
"Lovers kill lovers," she seemed to hear Edward… Methos… say long ago. "Teachers kill students… students kill teachers… and lovers kill lovers. Until there is only one."
"This is what you want. I see it in your eyes."
"No," Eleanor shook her head drawing back.
"If I leave with you… if we are together in any other capacity… this is what will lie between us."
"Until you can look at this thing and see what I see… that a sword is only a sword… no matter how old it is or who once used it… there can be nothing more."
"No," Eleanor's voice broke as the tears tacked across her cheeks.
"Either take it and use it… or leave. I made a choice for my life long ago. That choice did not include you. I make it again."
"No…" By this time Eleanor was sobbing. "I won't kill you! No matter what he says… I won't. I do love you… I do." She brushed past him and re-climbed the slope into the garden, hearing him follow and close the door.
"You're wrong, Darius!" she turned on him angrily. "I do know love. And I love you… and no matter what you say… I know you love me too." She pushed at him and then backed away. "If you stay here… you will die!"
"It is a foregone conclusion. It was the fate I accepted long before you were ever born."
"Then you're a fool!" she screamed. "We don't have to die! We don't have to kill! We can find a place… life could be good."
Darius shrugged. "Hiding there or hiding here… it's all the same. The only way to survive is to face and embrace our destiny."
"Destiny!" Eleanor screamed once more turning and pacing. "I give that…" she snapped her fingers, "for all the destiny in the world."
"You wouldn't say that if you understood."
"Then explain it to me!"
Darius' mouth worked open and shut. Finally he shook his head. "I don't understand it all myself. It's in those artifacts and rubbings you keep bringing me. It's in the writing on the cavern walls. It's in your relationship with Methos."
Eleanor turned angrily away and swiped one hand against a bush… wishing she had that sword and could use it. She stormed for some moments… screaming her frustration. Beneath her the ground seemed to groan… awakened by her state of mind.
"See what you've done! Now even this place rejects my presence!"
"I have done nothing but speak the truth," Darius answered back sharply.
"Truth? You are lying to yourself even if you think it's the truth." Eleanor backed away. "Stay then… stay here and be a priest… cowering on holy ground… waiting for the death that will surely come! And it will come. And it won't be me who does it… I won't kill you! Why won't you trust that I won't?" She turned and stormed out of the grove.
Darius sadly watched her leave. Then he replaced the sword in the pool of water and stared at. "A sword is just a sword," he whispered. It was hers… it wasn't his… he needed no sword. Never again. Here it would lie and wait for the day she reclaimed it. She would one far-off day… he could almost see it. Eleanor would claim the sword when she was ready to let it go… and it would pass beyond her… even as it had passed beyond him. He doubted he'd live to see that day.
He locked the gate, returning her key to the wall's access. Then he'd knelt at the altar rail and prayed as he had not done so for a long time… Darius prayed to all the gods of light and darkness… that the future would come… that the end of the game would happen… not with there being only one… but with all immortals joined in a sense of community. He felt the mantle of responsibility settle once more on his shoulders, and he accepted it humbly. "I will be the beacon for the future. Here I will remain until the end." He smiled and chuckled. "But don't ask me not to regret even a little the choice I've made." Darius sighed. "I choose the future for all of us… rather than one for me."
Rising… he returned to his cell and snuffed the candles burning there. It might be years before Eleanor began to understand and forgive him. Meanwhile… he had much to do. For the first time in years… he was actually looking forward to his duties here. Perhaps the secret lay in focusing on one life… one day at a time. He'd thought so once. Perhaps he needed to regain that mindset to help him through the days to come… the endless and unchanging days of immortality.
Epilogue: Sword of the Future
Enough, if something from our hands have power
to live and act, and serve the future hour;
and if, as toward the silent tomb we go,
Through love, through hope, and faith's transcendent dower,
We feel that we are greater than we know.
from The RiverDuddon by William Wordsworth
Cairo, November 1915
She paused momentarily in the rolling of bandages, as she sat near the bed of the dying Englishman and knew she could do nothing. Glancing up at the familiar presence of Methos, Eleanor smiled weakly… and then returned to rolling bandages… hiding her face beneath the wimpole of her nurse's uniform.
"And how is this man, Sister?" he asked. Eleanor nearly laughed aloud at his slipshod upper crust English accent… wandering a bit as he tried to be heard as only as the English lieutenant he pretended to be.
"His wounds are severe, sir," she said quietly, properly. Her superior had chastised her recently for misspeaking to some of the officers regarding their men and their wounds.
"Walk with me."
Eleanor stared up at him wide-eyed… hearing in his words something of the old barbarian he claimed to have been once. It was not a tone she'd ever heard him use… at least on her.
"As you wish." She rose, leaned over to check her patient, breathing easily for now. She waved to one of the others to indicate she was being called away and walked demurely down the ward at Edward's side. "How did you find me?" she asked as they passed through the double doors and out onto the wide covered walkway between the hospital bungalows.
"I walked in and there you were. Really, Eleanor… I have no ulterior motives."
"I don't. Why do you never trust me?"
Eleanor hesitated and turned to face him… staring into his thin face, aware of the mustache over his upper lip and his slick-backed hair. How different he was from the last time she'd seen him… and how much the same. If she closed her eyes she could feel his presence like some great keening cry… different from all the others she'd ever felt. Some part of her even now wanted to respond to that cry… yield to it. But it was too soon. "The day you trust me," she finally said.
"I have trusted you. You know my name."
"But do I know you… the you that exists behind all the masks you wear? I think not." Eleanor turned to leave, suddenly aware of his hand on her arm. Within her flared the old hatred to destroy that hand. She sighed. She would not give into that. It simmered too closely to the surface these days.
In the shadows, her superior cleared her throat. It was forbidden for the nursing staff to be bothered by even the officers. They were never to be alone with them. Eleanor stepped back and smiled, "I have work to do."
That night she attended one of the galas the British Army loved to put on. It wasn't that she wanted to be here… it was just that the superintendent of nurses had ordered all but the night staff to attend. "The officers would like ladies to dance with. And we shall all be proper English ladies."
Edward was here as well, and it wasn't long before he managed a dance… a waltz with her. Afterwards they both applauded politely as he escorted her to the buffet for a glass of punch. It was while sipping it that word came that the regiments would be leaving on the morrow for the shores of Gallipoli.
"Damn!" Edward said under his breath.
"Gallipoli is a deathfront. I know… I've led forces against that coast in ages past. Thousands will die on both sides."
Eleanor caught a tone of immense sadness in his voice, and wondered at it. "Which side were you on? The right side or the wrong?"
He eyed her with a smug expression. "My dear girl… whatever side I was on… was the right side." He winked.
They managed to slip out during the revelry of patriotic songs that followed. He pulled her along behind him. "I want to show you something before I have to leave."
Eleanor pulled her long skirts up slightly to follow as she stumbled along behind him. Her nurse's wimpole slid from her head. She caught it as it fell and carried it wadded up in one hand.
Methos led her beyond the encampment and out onto the desert where the pyramids rose as shadows against the night sky. When they'd reached the largest of them… he led her into the small opening… stopping only to light a torch and reach back to clasp her hand. "Hurry… it won't last long."
As they walked… crouching in the confined space of the tunnel, Eleanor could feel the holiness of this place about her… like that of the grove. The pyramid had been built upon one of the ancient sites. Concerned as to whether she was welcome here, Eleanor shuddered fearfully. If anything happened here… the pyramid might collapse and bury them both for all time. Even now, the weight of all that stone seemed to press down on her and make her feel as if she were a part of the earth. Methos' presence seemed to echo and re-echo off of the stones until the keening became a roar as though thousands of voices chanted in an ever louder voice. The temperature rose and the hot air of the desert night became stuffy and moist in the closed spaces of the pyramid.
"Hurry… we're almost there." He led ahead, his hand holding fast to hers. Finally the dark space opened out and they were in a small room… far beneath the desert sands. "Look up," Methos said.
Eleanor gazed up as he lowered the torch… wondering what was so important. And then she saw it… the light of one bright star peering through a small hole far above. She gasped.
"Did you build this?"
"You designed this… why?"
"To stand here and see the stars as they were meant to be seen. A single star can banish the night… no matter how far away it is." He extinguished the torch. For a moment the darkness rushed in and filled everywhere. Eleanor gasped at its sudden and complete existence. Then… the light of that one star seemed to banish the edges of the night. Eleanor seemed to stand in a shaft of light. She felt Methos' hands on her shoulders as he stood behind her.
"I wanted you to know… that no matter how dark the world gets… one star… one dream… one candle… can defeat the night. There is always hope."
Turning to Methos she reached for him. "Love me here. Love me now." His arms surrounded her and his mouth crushed against hers. They sank to the sandy stone floor and in the light of one star made love.
The starlight faded. And there was only the darkness. In the darkness… Eleanor thought of Darius even as she made love to Methos. In her mind it was the priest who'd finally come to her and was here with her. For a moment she sensed him truly here… and there… in Paris… in the dark… as she was here in the dark. Tears fell as she pulled away at last.
"Who was he?" Methos asked. His hand held one of her bare breasts.
"No one," she lied. 'No one of any importance."
"He has to be important or your mind wouldn't have been on him instead of me."
"Doesn't matter," she said brushing his hand away and fumbling for her clothes. "I have to get back. As it is… the superintendent is likely ready to have my head."
"That would be quite a show." His mocking laughter grated on her in the darkness. The heat had returned… if it had ever left. "Now tell me about him… or I won't re-light the torch." His mocking tease dispelled the magic of the moment.
Eleanor stared into the darkness. If she told him… what would he do. If she admitted loving another… would he be jealous or would he even care. Would he kill Darius? Or would Darius kill him? Eleanor shuddered… unable to face what might happen. Friends kill friends! "He was just another immortal. He's dead. He's dead and buried." In a way, it was the truth… her hopes for a life with Darius were dead and buried.
Methos sighed. "I'd thought maybe you'd finally loved one of your mortals… that you'd finally let the walls around your heart fall and had dared to truly love. You really should try it sometime. I've loved each of mine… and let them go in their time. All mortals die, Eleanor. All we can do is love them while they live. Accept what they offer. And mourn them when they're gone. I don't think you've ever truly loved a mortal before. I fear that until you do… you'll never really know love."
Eleanor laughed. "What? Did you think that you were the only man I ever loved? Silly Methos!" she teased and leaned in to kiss him… still lying on the sand. For a moment she considered remaining. Instead she sat back. "About the torch?"
"Very well. You really are the most exasperating creature I've ever known. Is it any wonder I don't have long-range relationships with any other immortal female? I fear they'd all be like you… and one of you in my life is more than enough." Nevertheless, he lit the torch. By that time, Eleanor had composed her face. She seemed uncaring and uninterested in him once more.
Methos led the way out and Eleanor followed. "Edward…" she asked, slipping into the old name. "Whatever happened to that sword you had when I first knew you?"
"I gave it away."
She saw his shoulders sag in the tunnel. "It wanted more from me than I wanted to give."
Eleanor laughed lightly but her eyes burned with an inner fire. "You speak as if it were alive."
"Perhaps it was. Why all these questions about a sword I carried eleven hundred years ago?" He stopped and turned back to peer at her in the torchlight.
Shrugging, Eleanor shook her head. "No reason. I was just thinking about the time I could have taken your head so long ago. I often wondered what happened to that sword."
Methos stared thoughtfully at her. "Did it speak to you?"
Eleanor laughed. "Silly Methos, a sword is just a sword. Now lead the way. You've shown me your star chamber and I have to get back before my reputation for this life is utterly ruined." She pushed at him and waved him on.
"Did it speak to you?" he'd asked her. Eleanor feared to tell him what it had said… what it had offered… even centuries before Kae Dhun had filled her mind with his wishes and desires.
"I am the justice of the people. The immortal who uses me will have the power of all immortals to re-make the world." Eleanor brushed the thought away. "You lie old sword. I was never meant to wield you… and I never will."
Soon they emerged into the desert night and saw the panoply of stars above them. On the horizon… the crescent moon rose.
They held hands… fingers laced together as they returned to the encampment. At the edge of the hospital quarter Methos raised her hand to his lips and kissed it. "I'll see you in another lifetime." Then he dropped her hand and walked away.
Eleanor chuckled. This evening had calmed her demons a bit. But calling after him… following him was not the answer. She needed to face her demons… and she needed to conquer them. Until she learned to stand alone… she could not stand with him… or with anyone. Squaring her shoulders she headed toward the nurses' barracks and the tongue-lashing she was certain was awaiting her.
As stated at the beginning… this was an attempt to go back to other events in my stories and see them through other eyes. This group of stories was meant primarily to explain the Sword of Power that Derrick now holds in the modern day. (PH, SS, ALH)
Between 1912 and when Eleanor finally retrieved it in 2003, she did not touch it. Between 1912 and 1965, she did not even dare to return to the grove. Only after then was she strong enough to ignore both it and the voice Kae Dhun, still urging her to kill Darius for him. (PRM, PH)
The sword, initially given to D'jann at the dawn of time by an elder immortal, passed to Kritis, eldest of the firstborn who used it to kill D'jann and others of their people and paid for his crimes with long centuries of madness.(PH, SS) He offered both his head and the sword to "the lady's boy" his sister Aja's foundling (CoT) when Methos arrived on his doorstep for training, sent by Havron, Aja's beloved. (PH, SS) Methos refused. Kae Dhun used the opportunity to slip in and claim the sword and Kritis' head… but the massive quickening drove him mad and buried him deep under the earth.
He awoke when the boy Ulrich (later Darius) pulled it from his hands… Kae Dhun determined to be free once more, retrieve his sword, and kill the boy. Ulrich gave the sword to the woman he knew as Anya (Aja) who had intended to offer it once more to Methos. Instead, she gave it to Ulrich to keep until he had no need of it. After his first death, Ulrich believed it was the sword that made him immortal until he met his first teacher. (PH, SS)
He carried it in battle, noting that other immortals often looked at it with hungry eyes… as if it were something important. He lost it only once… and that was to Phillip, an immortal who'd trained with the oracle Danae (Aja in another disguise). Darius won the sword back in a game of chance devised by Methos, attempting to be certain that Phillip did not retain the sword… nor that Methos himself would have to claim it. The three immortals struck up a friendship that lasted for two thousand years. (LoBJoW, PH, SS, ALH)
When Darius used the sword to take the head and quickening of the Ancient One at the gates of Paris (Havron)... he realized he had no further need of the sword… and returned it to Anya when she passed through Paris. (SS) Anya, in her guise as The Lady of the Lake, thrust the sword into anvil and stone… for Methos to retrieve.
Once more Methos refused the sword, and the sword passed into the hands of Artos, a mortal who became King Arthur. After Arthur's death, Merlin (O ro' dred) reclaimed the sword for Aja. Merlin's love, Nimue (the immortal Nin) asked to hold it instead… that she might protect O ro' dred from other immortals. Aja agreed, but the sword drove Nin mad.
O ro' dred bade Methos to hold it for a while, to give the immortal time to help Nin learn to ignore the sword's siren call. Methos agreed and carried it for a time. During that time, he visited the court of King Cinaed (Kenneth) of Scotland and met the pre-immortal Aella who reminded him of Aja. (CoT)
Once Aella had become immortal, Methos trained her. She wrested the sword from him once and nearly took his head. Refraining… she left both the sword and Methos behind. (CoT) Methos returned the sword to O ro' dred's care.
The immortal took the sword to Avalon and there it remained until Kae Dhun, having escaped the mountain, came for it. He killed O ro' dred and Nin but was trapped in Avalon.
Meanwhile, Aella became Phillip's student and met Methos once again. Methos and Phillip, hoping to lure Darius off of holy ground and once more into the game… sent Aella to Paris. (LoBJoW) Instead, Aella became Darius' student… and took the name Eleanor which he gave her… Lady of Light. (SC, PRM)
Kae Dhun, finally free of Avalon traveled to Paris to kill Darius… but instead was killed by Eleanor who went mad in the face of her first quickening… and who then attempted to kill Darius. (PRM) Stopped by Phillip… she was taken away to the island of Niebos where Phillip and Methos worked with her to understand and control the power she'd inherited. (PRM, PH, SS) Darius hid the sword in a sacred spring where he'd buried the remains of the ancient Havron and later… Aja. (SS)
The sword remained at the spring until Eleanor claimed it and passed it on to Derrick… a boy she found who seems to carry some of Darius' old memories. (SC, PH, SS, ALH)
The above events not included in the chapters of this story, may be found in the following stories by this author.
1. Stolen Child (SC)
2. Crossroads of Time (CoT)
3. A Loaf of Bread, A Jug of Wine (LoBJoW)
4. Please Remember Me (PRM)
5. The Pilgrim Heart (PH)
6. The Shattered Soul (SS)
7. The Artist's Loving Hand (ALH)