Highlander: The Artist's Loving Hand

Weathered faces lined in pain are soothed beneath the artist's loving hand.


~from Vincent (Starry, Starry Night) by Don MacLean

Author's Foreword

This is the third novella in a series, which began with "The Pilgrim Heart" and continued in "The Shattered Soul". These stories may be found elsewhere on FanFiction.net. The first section of this story allows for time to pass... and for changes to occur in our world and in the world of Highlander. As the story is set in the future... I cannot fully describe the world as it will be... but have attempted to extrapolate politics, technology, and attitudes from what they are... to what they might be in a few years' time. I make no claims to be a fortune-teller.

For readers just starting out, who would like additional background on Eleanor and all that has led her to the events of this story, please see the following stories.

The Bargain of Fergus McCurdy

Having lost his only child, a ninth century Scot makes a deal with a mysterious woman for a child who will never die. Note: on this board, this story is presented as a prologue to the following one.

Crossroads of Time

On a visit to the ninth century court of Scotland's first king, Methos meets a pre-immortal child who stirs in him memories of his own childhood... and the mysterious immortal he knew as Aja.

A Loaf of Bread, A Jug of Wine

Three hundred years after they parted, Methos meets Aella, now a student of his old friend Phillip... and the games begin.

Stolen Child

Post Endgame, Duncan MacLeod meets Derrick, a ten-year old boy living on the streets with his "sister"... the mysterious immortal Ellie.

Please Remember Me

Having left Derrick in foster care, Eleanor journeys to Phillip's island home, so that she might finally deal with her grief over Darius' death.

Sword of Power, Part Four: Sword of Vengeance

This chapter of the story is a re-telling of Eleanor's killing of Kae Dhun in 1832 from Darius' point-of-view. Previous stories in this grouping tell of how Methos first refused the sword but finally carried it for a while and why, and of Kae Dhun's killing of O ro' dred and Nin. These are stories which did not fit into the others… but do help explain some of what happened.

The Pilgrim Heart

When Methos meets Derrick, he and MacLeod discover they are drawn to protect the boy from immortals who would kill them all.

The Shattered Soul

Duncan and Methos search Paris for Darius' last student, while Phillip, on the road with Eleanor and Derrick, considers contacting Cassandra to help the traumatized boy.

And feedback... have we mentioned how much we live for feedback? Comments and suggestions are always appreciated.

NOTE: All song lyrics are used as section introductions are used without permission. The concept of Highlander and all canon characters from Highlander: The Series and Highlander: The Raven are the intellectual property of Gregory Widen, writer of the initial movie and Davis/Panzer et al. This story is not for profit… but it is for fun. All non-canon characters are original with me and should not be used without permission.

Prologue

Paris, May 1993

The stories are woven and fortunes are told

The truth is measured by the weight of your [soul]

~from Marrakesh Night Market, lyrics by Loreena McKennitt

Everything was done. Every letter written. Every clue put in place. Everything that he could do... had been done. If for some reason he did not live to see his task through to its conclusion, others could follow in his footsteps. Darius sat wearily down and leaned his head on his hands. He was so very tired these days. This course of action he'd undertaken in the past eight years had drained him more than he thought possible. He had recently begun to understand what Aja had meant before she died. How tired she was... how little strength she had left.

To the casual observer... or even to those he called friends... Darius knew he seemed as he had always seemed. In many ways he still was... and in others... he had greatly changed.

His eyes fell upon the scrap of MacLeod's tartan he'd stuffed into the wall. Duncan should notice that... to anyone else it would have appeared to be nothing of consequence. He looked about his cell. There was nothing left here that if it fell into the wrong hands could precipitate a catastrophe. He'd finished transferring all the artifacts and documents (after Cassius had scanned them onto the computer disc now hidden in the secret aperture of one wall of his cell) to a safe hiding place. He trusted that Phillip would remember how to find the disc if something unforeseen happened to prevent the priest's retrieving it when the time was right. It was only a back-up, after all. Another means of making certain the gathered research would not be lost... that the final truths might one day be understood.

He had not finished decoding the items... another ten years perhaps and their secrets would be his... but he no longer cared. He'd left everything for the others to work on if they wished. Let them spend a thousand years trying to understand the clues. The one portion Darius had finally decoded eight years ago had both excited and frightened him. To test its validity... he had betrayed his friends. He'd stolen time from them that they might never regain. His actions still weighed heavily on his conscience. He had not been a Roman Catholic priest for almost fourteen hundred years without some of it rubbing off on him.

He knew his old friends thought him crazy. Why else did he remain on holy ground? Why else spend centuries in one place living only a single life? Of what use was peace if the only hope for immortals was the game with its directive that "in the end... there could be only one..."? His first teacher had taught him those words! He'd taken them to heart and then killed his teacher... before gathering an army to march across the face of the known world... raping and pillaging. On that journey he had taken what he wanted in the sure and certain belief that he was destined to be the one.

Darius closed his eyes. It was not a past he was proud of. Yet it was his past... and it had helped to make him the man he now was. That and that last quickening. Was it arrogance and pride that had made him persist in a battle that he'd had no hope of winning? Had the Ancient One pulled back and stopped his assault once he'd won, for a reason? Darius had often wondered whether in that moment of capitulation the Ancient had seen something in the defeated Goth that had made him change his mind. The man had smiled and lowered his sword... allowing Darius to take his head and with it a power so great that even now... over fourteen hundred years later... Darius was still not certain of all of its ramifications.

That quickening had filled him with the knowledge that only by peace and by love could the game end with a positive outcome. He, Darius, must remain here and show by example that it was possible. By accepting the Ancient's quickening… Darius had also been faced with accepting his mission. But Darius' silent agreement with the utter peace of the Ancient had cost him dearly.

Had he made the right choice centuries ago? He could still remember with a warm softness his utter delight in watching the masked Eleanor dancing around that bonfire before the doors of the newly completed Cathedral de Notre Dame... and the knowledge that she was the dancer of his childhood vision. It was with her he would need to make a choice, Aja had whispered to him... and he'd been tempted... so very tempted to turn from the path he had chosen... and follow Eleanor's. But he'd remained... loving her in silence and in veiled words... but never acting on that love. He'd held her always at arm's length, never telling her how he truly felt.

Like the small part of Aja that dwelt within him... he had felt Aja's magic in the small immortal. It was a connection they shared... as if the two of them were in some cases... of the same mind. Oh not that they'd ever shared thoughts... but often they seemed to understand in one another's movements and expressions... the truth of the other's beliefs. Well... he'd understood her. But, had she ever understood him? Really understood him? Darius doubted it. It was no matter.

He was leaving this life now... hoping it was not yet too late. He needed to tell her what he'd done... of what he'd robbed her of. He needed to face her and accept his fate at her hands. Darius had almost told Methos last week when they'd met in secret at Notre Dame. Methos was concerned about a movement within the Watchers that he as yet... knew little about.

"Immortals are dying, Darius... and I don't think it's one of us. Leave here... before it's too late." The Old One had pivoted and left him in the semi-darkness of the cathedral after that. Things had been strained between them for several years. Darius was certain Methos suspected that the priest knew why it was that Eleanor had left Paris so suddenly... why she had refused to see him in the intervening years. Darius did know... but he also knew that Eleanor's reasons were because of Darius' lies to her about Methos. Eleanor had believed the lies... she had no reason not to.

It was time to make amends. They both needed to know what he'd done... he owed them that. He owed them the chance to regain what he'd robbed from them. But he needed to face Eleanor first.

The sound of the outer door of the church and the collective stride of several men entering the church at this odd hour alerted him that something was up. He rose... his eyes momentarily flickering to the hidden exit to the sewers, but if it were nothing? Shrugging, Darius walked cautiously toward the door of his cell and slowly opened it to see who had entered the church.

The blonde man standing at the door, hand raised to knock, smiled as if he had achieved something of great worth. "Brother Darius... I've long wanted to meet you. My name is James Horton," he said... his clipped English accent failing to hide the menace in his tone.

Darius backed up a step startled. He smiled warily. "How may I help you gentlemen?" He glanced around at the harsh faces of the party of men.

Horton's smile widened as he held up a tazer. Power lanced into Darius' system... for a moment overwhelming him. From deep within him... the last of the Ancients' power soared to life... Darius struggled in the electrical charge... finally overcoming it with a glare and a great roar. He shoved at the men and attempted to close his cell door.

The charge hit him again... but this time the waning power within him could thrust up only a thin barrier. He pushed weakly once more at Horton and the others.

Their arms gripped his.

"Who are you? Why do you do this?" he managed to utter as they began dragging him through the church.

"We are men!" asserted Horton. "There is no power on earth but that of men. Abominations will not be tolerated!"

Darius saw his death in their eyes. No! He wanted to scream... Not now... I still have something to do. Once more he dug within him for the strength to throw them off. If he could get back to his cell... bar the door... perhaps it would delay them long enough for him to escape. With one final surge of strength he threw them off. He managed a brief escape... flinging chairs out of his path... but the men were too many for him. Swarming over him as once rats had swarmed over the living as well as the dead in the long ago plague years... they brought the immortal to his knees.

"No! My warrior... there is another way!"

For the first time in eight years he heard Aja's soothing voice. He continued his struggles. If he remained here... surely they wouldn't... not here! "I am no threat to you... This is a church!"

"And in it you will die!" Horton powered up the tazer once more shooting electrical current through Darius' weakening system as the others backed away momentarily. "Here you have no power... but we do!"

"They will kill you, my warrior... but it will be their undoing. Choose Darius... would you recapture the past or forge the future!"

"The future!" Darius thought... his mind thinking of Eleanor... of wanting to see her one more time, of wanting to make ammends.

The men reclaimed their grasp on the stunned priest. They had Darius' arms pulled out away from his body... pulled back. They were holding him so that all of his struggles were useless.

"Then focus my warrior... the future can still be ours... but focus... All you are... all you have been... all you have learned... all you might one day become... Focus... With our help... mine and my beloved's... here... on holy ground... with none to receive what you are... there is a way. It might not work... but we can try."

Darius stared into the cold eyes of James Horton as the blonde man raised an axe. The priest smiled at his murderer... "Thy will be done," he said quietly... his words aimed at both the mortal man... and the last remnant of the Ancients who had once dwelt within him.

Darius closed his eyes and focused.

As the blow fell... there was a momentary pain... then darkness... then he felt as though he were riding a current of electricity... down... into the cavern below the church where the elusive writing on the walls was suddenly so very clear to him. "I see!" he found himself exclaiming. But even then... the power charged once more through the darkness... until it found what it sought... and a baby's cry sounded.

"Sleep my warrior... sleep until you are grown. Only then... when the others find you... will you awaken. To remember it all... you must be grown. Forge the future... be my warrior... be ever the surprise!"

"And Eleanor?" For a moment everything faltered.

"In time my warrior... in time."

Darkness took Darius then ... and he let his memories sleep.