Even as he entered the hidden grove from the secret entrance that connected to the old church, Darius felt Eleanor's lilting nearness upstairs. He smiled. She had returned to Paris once more. Swiftly and with a smile he climbed the old stone stairs and entered their hidden quarters.
It had been four years since she'd last been in Paris and in that time... Darius had been surprised at how much he'd missed seeing her. They'd managed finally... after so many years... to find their way back to friendship and an easy teasing banter. She had seemed in the last few decades to finally find peace of mind and he... he had at last begun to accept the reality of the strange connection between them. Some part of Aja, the Ancient, lived in each of them.
Her door was open and he crossed swiftly... ready to welcome her home. But he stopped at the doorway and though there was a sudden pang in what he saw... he managed a look of amusement and quietly placed his hands within his sleeves.
Eleanor was just putting the finishing touches on her attire. Her shoulder-length black hair seemed almost like a great cloud about her head. It swished and curled about as she ran her fingers through it and gazed at her reflection in the small cracked mirror. She even had on a touch of makeup... something she so rarely did. Her green silk sheath with it's darker green abstract symbols was only slightly more green than her eyes... and very revealing, It covered her only in such a way that it seemed to invite the touch of a hand to assist in its removal. She glanced back at him with a teasing smile and arched her eyebrows. Then she struck a pose.
"What do you think?" she teased.
"I somehow don't think you dressed that way for me," Darius said lightly. "You must have a date."
"Of course silly." Eleanor turned once more to the mirror and shifted back and forth. "I'm meeting Methos later." She fluffed her hair and then shook her head.
"Oh... is that all." Darius turned with a casualness he did not feel, toward his worktable and began to shift through the pages laying on the surface. "I didn't realize he was in Paris these days."
Eleanor followed him and carefully arranged herself on his work-table as she crossed her legs. Her eyes blazed with a joy and peace he'd not seen in them for centuries. "Only just arrived. He's just begun working inside the Watchers as a historian these days. But he called and said he needed to see me... apologize for what happened last time... and so..." her voice trailed off teasingly. She suddenly thrust her short legs straight out before her and stared at her bare feet. "Do you think heels would be appropriate?"
Darius had laughed, shaking his head. "Do you honestly think your appearance means anything to him. I'm certain he would approve of whatever you were wearing... or not wearing."
"Maybe if I dress as though it might... he'd know how I truly feel." Darius heard the wistful edge to her words. "I need to tell him... I need to chance it and see what he says. I need to trust him Darius... I love him. Now... if only he'll love me... really admit he loves me." She shifted position and met his gaze. "Am I wicked, Darius? Is that why I love him even though I know some of what he once was. His dark past entices me... and awakens the darkness within me as if it were my own. Sometimes in my dreams... I seem to ride with him across the desert in a world I never saw. He's dangerous... to me and to my precarious peace of mind... but I do love him."
"Are you certain it is love?" Darius asked her, feeling a tinge of regret.
She'd leaned toward him then, grinning. "Do you think I don't know the difference? I love you... you do know that, don't you?" she teased.
Darius nodded. A small smile played across his lips.
A solemn expression crossed her face once more. "But I love him as well. For too long I've waited for one of you to make a move. You my dearest friend appear to be a lost cause. So...tonight... well... I have made my choice... and I will live with it. If he turns me away... then I will leave him be... but if he finally makes a move... I rather think I'm finally ready. There's something strong between Methos and me... something... old." She kissed him briefly on the cheek, then wiped away the smudge of lipstick that remained. "So... heels?" She laughed and Darius nodded with a small laugh.
As she was on the way out the door, he made one final request, "After dinner... before you two get too caught up in the moment... come see me. I'll be at the west transept at Notre Dame."
Eleanor turned, "Why?"
"To offer a blessing," Darius said with a smile.
Eleanor laughed and left with a shrug and a wave. "Sure... We'll see you there."
She was gone then and Darius knew she was truly gone. He'd had the chance and had not taken it. As with so many other chances... he had let them slip by. He'd waited for her to make the choice... and now she had done so. He would accept her decision. Why had he insisted on seeing them together?
"Because it is necessary!"
"What is necessary?" Darius said aloud to the empty room, knowing he spoke only to that small pearl that had resided quietly within him for so long.
"You will know!" came the reply.
Darius waited in the shadows of the west transept. It had always been one of his favorite spots. On Thursday nights he could listen to the organist practice and sometimes one of the choirs. Here in the shadows no one saw him. His Watcher, he knew, had no idea he ever left his church after dark and slipped through the sewers to emerge here. From here he could go many places and check on many things going on in Paris... as he had done for so long.
But tonight... it was not the music that had brought him, nor the need to check on his people or their activities. He was here to usher in the future. If Methos and Eleanor had truly made their peace with one another... if they both had truly chosen to love one another... he would know. But he had to see them together.
The voices within had spoken to him only rarely in eight hundred years. When he'd faced the stalker in the sewers... the one who'd come bearing his own sword... the voices had rejoiced and told him to accept their long lost brother into himself as he had accepted them. He'd stepped forward in the knowledge of what would happen... knowing that it was by that choice that the three would be re-united.
But Eleanor had interfered. And in the madness that had taken her... she'd lost her way. Torn by the desire to kill him and the desire to love him... she'd run from him. True she kept returning... as she had always returned... but it had never been the same. The chance for unity seemed lost. He knew it was not him she needed so much as the peace that dwelled within him. But the only way to unify the ancients and to end their division was the one way that would destroy Eleanor forever. Darius feared that if he allowed her to kill him... her mind would never recover. And he knew... he could not kill her.
So it was he had remained on holy ground... watching and waiting for the moment when he knew she'd be able to face the future without him. Recently he had realized that there was another way... but that it would take Methos as well.
The artifacts and old records had begun to reveal themselves to him... oh they were still mainly a puzzle he feared he would never solve... but he had come to understand one portion of their secrets. In an instant a few days ago... he'd understood one of the great mysteries of immortality. It had stunned him in its complexity and its simplicity. "Of course!" he'd said to the empty room. "That makes perfect sense." But there had been no way to test it... now there might be.
He felt them approach. He could hear their laughter and see the glow in Eleanor's face and the joy in Methos'. It seemed they would attempt this reconciliation and this time... it might well work. Darius felt a pang of regret for what he would now do. To test his theory he would have to destroy this chance for their happiness. He hoped they would both forgive him one day. He hoped he would have the chance to explain. If this were real for them... they'd find one another again... perhaps in only a few years. But first...
Darius gave a slight wave as they crossed into the shadows.
He greeted them both with a smile. "Come my friends... I've brought some mead... Join me in a toast to the future."
So they had sat there on holy ground, drinking mead and telling stories... and wishing Phillip were there. In the end, when their eyes were slightly glazed from the mead, Darius had embraced them both and sent them away... He'd know tomorrow if it had worked. He'd know... and one day... they would too. Drained and alone... Darius returned to his church and awaited the future.
We are shaping the space
And harvesting places
We're the princes of the universe
We are living together
In the here-everafter
In the temple of the evening s[u]n
We're the princes of the universe.
~from Shaping Space by Kevin Max
As with most second movements of a trilogy... this was a decidedly dark journey. Although the last chapter was written very early in the writing stage... with Methos, Eleanor and Derrick returning to Scotland, the journey to get them there took me into some very dark places. And characters lived who were supposed to have died... and characters died, who I had wanted to see live. My original outline was in shambles. It took longer to edit the story into a cohesive whole... than to actually write it.
The character of Nestor did not spring fully developed from my mind. He grew in the writing and as chapter by chapter his watching and the suspense about him grew... so too did my understanding of who he was and why he was that way. His depravity had to be truly evil for there to be a reason for his continued survival. The dark quickening aspect came fairly late in the writing stage... although it seems readily apparent. His relationship with Phillip came to me in one of those sudden understandings that writers sometimes get. It explained so much about my Greek soldier and why he so desperately wants to live each day fully as if it were his last.
The bond between Eleanor and Methos was based partially in the comments of Ramirez to Connor MacLeod in the original film... that all immortals are connected... that all life is connected. Aja's death and her ability to focus her life-force into a single moment likewise grew out of Ramirez' death in the second film. Although much of that film is usually regarded as a dream or a non-existent story... there are some truths and some moments in it that are truly mesmerizing. The idea of a community of immortals came from the Season One episode "Bad Day in Building A" when Duncan tells a frightened little girl a fairy story about a world where people lived forever in communities filled with harmony and peace. Although the episode is not one of the better ones of the series... I have always loved that particular image.
Alisaunne has always been a part of my story... as was her mysterious background... that of a child born immortal to immortal parents... a child whose birth would usher in the final Gathering... a child who was the key to the Prize. The problem was in figuring out a way to bring her story into this reality, and whether or not readers would even accept this particular story element. I finally decided to go for it and let the recriminations fall where they might. The next story will deal with her origins more clearly.
As for Methos and Eleanor... I will give them a few years together. When next we meet... we will have done the time warp dance and moved ahead a few years. I already have the outline. After all... there are still a number of things they have yet to puzzle out:
(1) the meanings of the writings on the cave of the Ancient hidden below Darius' church;
(2) the map coordinates and what they will find there;
(3) the final understanding of Darius' research that even he never solved completely; and
(4) the truth about Alisaunne and what the future might hold for all immortals.
I had hoped to deal with at least one of these in this story... but alas... Nestor interfered and I decided to hold that story section for next time as it made no sense to try for it in this one. Rest assured gentle readers, we shall deal with at least two of them in the next book, and we shall all arrive at the end of the road someday soon.
I invite and look forward to all your comments.
The 45 Symbols
For those interested in the patterns, although I do not know exactly what they looked like (I still lean toward some Mayan glyph rather than Celtic rune but I could be wrong), I do know what they mean. Here's a list for those attempting to keep score. Even the chapter titles of Crossroads of Time were in effect, some of the symbols. Because of the length of the last two stories, I decided to forego chapter titles for section titles. The careful reader will note that the section titles also reflect the patterns and their juxtaposition one against another. Not all have been explored yet. Where some immortals clearly represent a particular symbol... I have placed their name in parenthesis. Some symbols were also given a different name in some stories or a further name based on what they meant.
1.-- 2. water (cradle of life)--fire (instrument of change)
3.--4. earth--air (the unknown)
5.--6. light; day--darkness; night
9.--10. life--death (rebirth)
11.--12. promise, trust--betrayal
13.--14. (Aja, first daughter); guardian--(Kritis, first-born); craftsman; builder
15.--16. (Methos) scholar, knowledge-- warrior, (Darius)
17.--18. (Gael) healer--outcast; liar; lies (Nestor)
19.--20. (Morannon) judge; balance--champion (MacLeod)
21.--22. creation (meetings, beginnings)--destruction (endings)
23.--24. chaos--order; patience
25.--26. loss; despair--comfort; gain; hope; joy (Aella)
29.--30. (Sofaer) compassion--indifference
31.--32. desire (hunger); the devourer--fear; avoidance
33.--34. (O ro' dred) friend--enemy
35.--36. home; destination--journey
37.--38. (D'jann) seeker, questions--answers; truth
39.--40. (Nin) vengeance; consequences--mercy
41.--42. (Havron)prophet; vision; dreamer--speaker, teller of tales; holder of memories (Phillip)
44.--45. Now and for all time---all things are one