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Return of the Immortal

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  • #26
    Here are the blurbs. They are at least short! Will this work as I intend it to...

    Back Jacket
    Outside, lightning lit the heavy clouds, and rain pounded down on the car in torrents. MacLeod stared at his hands, holding the blade of his katana like an offering.
    He had not escaped the vicious circle of the eternal battle. He knew it, and it almost drove him to the brink of madness, fueling that nameless rage, but also the despair deep inside him. That was the true reason he had come here, though he had persisted in persuading himself that he was just driving around aimlessly.
    Inner Jackets
    Ever since one of the battles fought between Scottish clans hundreds of years ago in the Highlands, Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod cannot die. Like his ancestor[1] Connor, he is cursed to be immortal. Since that day, he has been forced to wander restlessly through time and space, sometimes even walking on the shadowy border between life and death, only to return to the world of the living.
    But even his time is limited: There can be only one, and so he must face battles to the death again and again with his peers. The katana, his magic sword, is one of the weapons that he can use to defeat other immortals and finally beat Slan Quince, one of his greatest enemies. But the blade, in whose steel comes to life again and again figures and images of bygone eras, is also the symbol of his curse.
    In order to free himself from the curse and be able to live a life of love with Tessa like a normal mortal man, he hurls his sword into the Pacific...

    [1] Though by the show Connor is not supposed to be Duncan's ancestor, the word used in German is Vorfahre: pronounced very like to my ear forefather, it means ancestor.


    • #27
      A thousand years in your sight
      are like a day that has just gone by,
      or like a watch in the night.

      Psalm 90:4
      *found on the Internet
      The Curse of The Katana

      It was worse than ever before: The voices of the night whispered behind walls of dark noise, and Duncan MacLeod vaguely grasped that, after hours of aimless driving, he now leaned forward, hunched over behind the wheel of his black '68 Thunderbird, eyes staring straight down. What he had been looking at for a very long time was perhaps part of one of his confused, feverish nightmares of eternal flight and damnation, of madness and death. The holy sword ... the deadly sword ... the heart and soul of the samurai.
      The blade flashed dully in the faint light of the dashboard. Faceless figures, who seemed to have risen from all epochs and regions of world history, danced wildly on the silvery steel, beating each other with murderous rage, uttering inaudible triumphant shouts, dying with silent groans - victors and defeated, offenders and victims.
      But it was not a dream - of course not. This was reality, his reality, and he had lived through it for four hundred years with ever increasing horror; since that day, a truly magical day in the Scottish Highlands, when he was killed in one of those ridiculously pointless clan skirmishes, but after a few days he had come back to life, and not been able to die since.
      Too much blood, he thought numbly, and yet he could not avert his gaze from what he thought he saw in the slightly curved, slightly more than yard-long, razor-sharp blade of the katana. It was dangerous to waste time on such trivialities in this situation. Nevertheless, he was unable to break their spell.
      For too long he had been on the run, and there was too much of everything; especially too many memories.
      And too many fights, he thought. Too many names. Too many faces of too many dead.
      And of the living dead.
      Slan. Kiem Sun. Felicia Martins. Walter Reinhardt. Caleb Cole. And Crowley and Pilar Vasquez and...
      And Tessa and Richie.
      MacLeod did not want to think about them, not just now, because he wanted to bring his old life to a close and begin anew. But such thoughts were dangerous opponents. They ruthlessly scratched old, still festering wounds, and underneath, the painful truth inevitably came to light.
      What also came to light was that this time it had begun again after a ridiculously short few years of peace. And that in the deepest depths of his consciousness, he knew exactly why.
      Too many questions are asked about the purpose of this life.
      His consciousness, his memories and the horror - everything returned in a whirling turmoil, like shards and splinters of an old smashed mirror, a kaleidoscope of distorted glittering IMAGES. The death of Pilar Vasquez, his raging aimless crisscrossing of Vancouver. Then up to Whistler, Pemberton, Lillooet and on towards Prince George. Finally, quite suddenly, he had turned around. And now he was here, at the northern tip of Vancouver Island; barely fifty yards above the cliffs of Port Hardy. From the fishing port, every other day in the summer, the large, majestic car ferries of the B.C. Ferry Corporation cruised the islands of the Inside Passage northward, up to Prince Rupert. If he closed his eyes, he thought he could feel the loneliness and power of the place, as well as the surf beyond the steep cliffs. And the flocks of seagulls which, in spite of night, storm, wind, and rain, circled about in breakneck maneuvers and braved the forces of nature with a boundless life energy of their own.
      And suddenly it was easy to switch to that other, alien perspective. The Laterna Magica turned at restless speed. Somewhere hollow thunder trembled. The mirror - this smashed mirror. More shards, more pictures, all in his head - furious and of compelling power.

      The great forests of the north, the hunt for Tessa's kidnappers. The fall into that gorge, then the impact. Blood in his mouth. That shadowy border he had once again crossed, as so often before, in one direction and the other. The fight man-to-man... Reflections of sunlight on the jagged edge of the war ax... Caleb's screams. The smell of sweat, expectation and fear.
      And then, all of a sudden, Walter Reinhardt appeared, and MacLeod thought: He doesn't belong here, doesn't belong in these picture galleries. It was New Year's Eve 1989. Mighty sword strokes clashed, steel on steel.
      The dark-skinned face of a beautiful woman. He remembered her name the way he always remembered too well: Rebecca Lord. He heard Reinhardt say, "Women are interchangeable."
      He saw her die in the incredibly luxurious and expensive gym she had created for the day of her revenge. But that was far from the end. Reinhardt... Reinhardt's damn sword...
      And his own death. Again and again his own death. Then a darkness like the shadow of a dead sun.
      Unspeakable pain, screams.
      And more pictures: a storm, the flood of the century, which rushed hundreds of yards high, raging and roaring and...
      Brian Slade and the others at the Vancouver Courthouse. The thunderous echo of shots. The pervasive howl of alarm sirens. Screams of dying or panicking people. So many hostages.
      Tessa and Richie. The little girl, Belinda, in her own little hideaway: the janitor's room. MacLeod heard himself saying to her, "I want you to hide in here." And she shook her head, as determined and yet vulnerable as only children can be: "First you must tell me a story. No ghost stories. I like fairy stories." So he told her about beings who could never die, who were good and protected little children, while at the same time thinking of killing Brian Slade, and then...
      Images of Connor MacLeod, himself a member of the Clan MacLeod. Connor's laugh. That incomparable laugh. And his memories keep racing... faster... faster.
      The Holy Island. Connor walking down a wide slope to his canoe. And Tessa's anxious smile: "You didn't say goodbye?" And himself, laconic: "We never do."
      Then China, 1792. Kiem Sun's Temple. And Alexei Voshin, 1947. The dissidents. The Sea Witch. Steel that strikes steel and produces flashing sparks. Felicia and Sheriff Crowley. Steel that strikes steel and kills people.

      And finally, Pilar Vasquez.
      She had tracked him down, stalked and pursued him like a tigress who is sure of her prey, but wants to play with her victim for a while before she kills it. He had felt her, again and again, with short, bursting flashes that flared like sparks of a vague realization and already burned out before they let themselves be caught. Oh yes, she had been clever, had managed to submerge herself in the shadows of this world and the world beyond, and to avoid him when he was about to find her.
      And then suddenly, as unexpectedly as a meteor that flares up in the night sky like an omen of coming doom, she jumped him in the parking lot - truly a tigress but with murder and bloodthirst in her eyes far beyond the animal drives of a predatory big cat. He had been forced to defend himself, to muster up all of his strength and wits in order to withstand her hellish attacks and to ultimately defeat her.
      And then, when she lay there on the dusty asphalt without a soul inhabiting her body, and after her power had torturously passed into him, he really saw her for the first time. She was a child. Going by her looks, she might have been sixteen years old. Sweet Little Sixteen - the melody of the rock song passed through his mind and brought tears to his eyes. He was fully aware of the fact that her youthful appearance was deceptive, that she could easily be two hundred or three hundred years old. Maybe even older than he was. But this was a realization of the mind. His heart, his emotions as the human being he still considered himself to be, told him that she was a child. And he had killed her.

      Death. Again and again, death. But this time... one death too many.
      Maybe he just tried to gain time with this procedure of self-torture. Or the sword wanted it. Conscious of the danger emanating from his own sword, it appeared that he was sitting perfectly motionless while the weather was storming outside and the rain was pouring down on the car in torrents. He stared at his hands, which held the katana's blade like an offering, and now tightened their grip.
      Honed steel cut deeply into the sinewy flesh of his palms and fingers.
      More blood flowed. But he did not feel the pain. At least not this pain. No muscle twitched in his sharply cut face. The all-consuming vortex in his skull was like glowing lava, and he lost more intensity with every passing second.
      Do not forget why you are here.
      MacLeod shook his head to finally drive off the images. He felt sick, nauseous. The blood on the blade - his blood - seemed to be dark and malignant.
      No warrior ever touches the polished and sacred steel of his blade. It is a crime. It is like inviting the beast inside to devour him.
      And suddenly he knew that he, himself, was his most dangerous opponent.
      He had not escaped the vicious circle of the Eternal Struggle. He knew it, and it almost drove him to the brink of madness, fueling that nameless anger, but also the despair deep inside him. In the end, he had come here for that reason alone, though he had persisted in persuading himself that he was driving haphazardly.
      Find silence. Peace.
      What a ridiculous undertaking for a man, a creature, like him.
      Death had been part of his life for centuries. This death, though, was not a bony grim reaper but a network of magical dependencies and traditions, of umbilical cords made of pure cosmic blackness, and like a giddy abyss beyond time. It was omnipresent and stifling, just as a pervasive, never-ending battle of evil against good might dictate.
      Such ghosts could not be driven away.
      Nevertheless, it had to end someday.
      He still hated killing. He hated being subject to the ritual.
      There were days like today when he despaired of the weight of centuries, of his eternally unchanging face, and of the fact that all those he loved who were human and mortal could for him be nothing but comets: a flash of brightness and warmth in his life - and then there would inevitably be nothing but emptiness and darkness.
      A century in his sanctuary on that nameless holy island had not been enough to make the others forget that he existed. And it certainly was not enough to make him one of them, or to have fun with, or even feel pleasure in, this perverted way of being.
      The eternal battle, the blood, the sweat, the tears, and the hurricane and pestilence of death, remained iron law and the curse of all his kind, no matter how far the day of the Great Gathering - or even how near.
      It was not over.
      It would never be over. Not so long as he or one of the others kept his head.
      And yet! It had to end, for Tessa and Richie. It had to end - for their sake. He thought that over and over again, at first with only a faint hint of horror: It was little more than a fleeting touch, something with many hairy legs that scurried over his soul and disappeared again, but finally it trembled with hate and turned into something much, much worse.
      Do not forget why you -
      A thunderous rumble drove closer with unnatural speed and rushed over him like a mountain of rock. He had not noticed the lightning in the thunderstorm, but it must have burned even the last bit of blackness out of the car's interior for a tiny blink of the eye.
      He blinked. It was as if he were awakening from a completely unnatural sleepless sleep. But with the blackness, this paralyzing spell was also torn: He felt himself abused and miserable - it was as if he had given away a thousand good dreams to remember the bad ones. But there was also determination. Power. He would do what he had come here to do.
      A blue-and-white wisp flickered like a bizarre, ghostly image of lightning over the razor-sharp blade of the katana, making the blood glow and sparkle as if to mock him.
      Do it. NOW.
      Maybe it was the voice of his unforgiving God he had heard. He did not know. He had pushed open the car door and got out with a single powerful gliding motion before the paralyzing spell could regain its grip.
      He plunged into the raging, wind-swept inferno. The storm nearly threw him off his feet, hitting him in the face with an icy chill that made him gasp, billowing his long coat and flapping it in the wind. The rain now fell in long, silvery cascades and soaked him to the skin. The air seemed to be rife with sulfur and electricity, and the flash of lightning, the crash and reverberation of thunderbolts shaking the earth, turning his strides into disoriented staggering.
      After a few split seconds, the car seemed to be swallowed up behind him as though by a giant beast. The headlamp beams that had initially shown him the way were nothing more than meaningless pale cones that crumbled as though under black acid. And the sky itself, under the cover of the storm-wind and the rain, changed into a terrible maelstrom, in the center of which something attempted to materialize that hopefully would never materialize: something big, black, dreadful, with moist, glittering tentacles, possibly able to span the whole world. MacLeod clenched his hands on the long ivory hilt of the katana, still slippery with his blood. He finally banished all distracting thoughts from his brain and focused entirely on the silhouette of the cliffs, where sky and earth met, in front of a chasm of nearly thirty yards of seething depth.
      Making headway got easier with every step he took, as if some kind of mystical agreement between the mighty blows of the forces of nature and himself had formed. Furthermore, he actually felt that something of the impetuous wildness and joy of the seagulls was awakening within him. The darkness was no longer around him, but penetrated him through each of his pores, spreading and probing throughout him, recognizing him as an ally: a son of the night, a shadow warrior; a being of its own kind.
      Later, he could not remember how he had traversed the last few yards over the wet, slippery rocks and clifts. But as his thoughts and perceptions returned to his consciousness, he stood tall, a few inches away from the steep slope - an easy sacrifice for any sudden squalls. He did not even try to protect himself from the tremendous thrusts and spurts, and it almost seemed as if respect was being paid. He was not hurled into the abyss. Rain lashed his face, and out of the depths before him rose a roaring as of primeval births. For a moment, he thought he saw the pale rage of the Pacific, infinitely far below. In the glaring, almost white twitching of ever new lightning flashes, the surf threw itself against the rocks, alienated from slow motion, and an ever-increasing vibration continued to spread down his body to the soles of his feet.
      He smiled, blinking raindrops from his eyelids and brushing back his long, tangled hair with the back of his left hand.
      He had made his decision, and at the same time felt an overwhelming sense of... maybe freedom. Behind the electricity and the smell of sulfur, he now tasted the salty breath of the sea with every fiber of his body, and no more fear or anxiety. The lightning bolts flashed in an ever-increasing sequence around him, just a few feet away, surrounding him like a vast dome of icy light. He knew they would not hurt him, any more than energy storms could affect him during a return to life. The power of this place, of this night, and of his resolve, flowed through him in wild, pulsating thrusts. They fullfilled and protected him. He had become part of this night and storm.
      He did not want to delay it any longer. With a jerk of his right hand, he lifted the samurai sword high above his head, offered the katana as a sacrifice to the maelstrom in the heart of the night sky, and felt for a timeless moment behind visible reality the flaring of an outraged anger.
      You dare -
      "Looks that way," he whispered ironically against the screech of the storm, still smiling. In the meantime, he was already moving with the speed of an attacking snake: his left hand rose and closed around the grip of the katana. It was as if he were parrying one last attack: his left shoulder slightly forward, his muscles taut, his lips parted slightly, he exhaled with the same breath that Musashi once described in Go Rin No Sho as a death breath for the enemy.
      Then he finally hurled the katana into a riot of sheer blackness over the Pacific. He thought of the victims - only guilty victims - and watched the blade as it whirled away and cut the darkness. In the glare of the flashes, within a moment the blade itself had become a kind of crescent-shaped lightning. Then it was gone and, as if by chance, at the same time the intensity of the lightning seemed to fade.
      Even so, he did not feel like he was awakening from a nightmare. For the duration of several heartbeats he remained in absolute darkness. He felt relief and found that the wounds on his hands had healed again. The new flesh, the new skin, was tingling. Outrageous.
      It was as always. But that should be different now, very different. Shivering, he buried his hands in his coat pockets, turned away from the steep slope and, with exactly the same dreamlike assurance with which he had come here, made his way back over the rocks and clefts and the broad, rock-strewn slope.
      The flickering flashes of lightning went away. The thunder was just normal thunder. Even the storm seemed to subside, and the torrential downpour eased into a calm, serene, silvery streaming rainshower.
      Time was back to normal: as fast as a millipede. He still felt no pain - not even a sense of loss. At least he did not admit to it, not yet.
      But the pain would come. Oh yes, it would.
      His car was still in place, like a bulwark against the eerie magic of the night.
      He felt the last remnants of dizziness fade away and tried to keep his mind moving with trivialities. He wondered if it made sense to formulate a meaningful scientific commentary. But immediately afterwards, as he opened the car door, got in and turned the ignition key, he found this thought quite ridiculous. Better, he took it with one of those banal proverbs of mortals: food keeps body and soul together.
      It was as good - or bad - as anything else that night. But he had a quite normal goal before he would return home as usual to Tessa and Richie. He would buy a whole lot of Italian delicacies. And then he would ask Tessa to cook them with him - just like that, to celebrate the day, because he was back on track in every way after two days of wandering a great deal.
      A small, very private feast. How a normal couple did it now and then. For example, Fettucine with fresh salmon.
      He thought Tessa would be completely taken aback, but he wanted to risk it.
      "To Antonio's Gourmet Italian Market, then." He said it softly, then shook his head. He could not trust this evocation of normality, as much as he wanted to.
      The Thunderbird's engine came to life with a lush rumble. MacLeod let out the clutch, hit the accelerator, and wheeled the car around so violently that the tail swung back and forth like a giant had kicked it.
      He reached Highway 17 A, accelerated and drove quickly south. He felt justified in his belief that he needed to make up for lost time. It was about four hundred miles from the northern tip of Vancouver Island to the Swartz Bay Ferry Terminal. Then the crossing to Tsawwassen - another one and a half hours. His pretty little feast would be a breakfast. But it was a good feeling to be on the road and to hear the singing of the tires on the wet asphalt.
      Night birds flew up from the roadside, like silent shadows.
      For the next eighty miles, he met not a single other vehicle. The rain died away to a half-hearted dribble. The windshield wipers shuffled back and forth with ugly scraping noises. The horizon, far behind him, lit up occasionally with lightning. Blue-black thunderheads and gigantic evergreens and Douglas firs moved into his field of vision like raised fists and fingers - symbols of a distant, vague threat.
      If he closed his eyes for even a second, he would see the katana again, spinning and turning in a wide arc through explosively pouring rain and squalls, finally falling into the boiling sea. Like Voshin's sword, back then, when it sank; a silver reflex in the bill of exchange of green and blue water, from light and dark. How it was taken up by the current and whirled around and pushed into the depths. And how it finally came to rest between skull-shaped boulders.
      The message was clear: You'll find me anytime, Highlander. Anytime. And you will come back to me. Soon.
      His eyes widened, and he concentrated determinedly on the Thunderbird's steering wheel, the spray of raindrops, and the slippery roadway - the real now of the moment. He did not want to hear the whisperings that came from the world he intended to leave behind. But even if he had his ears locked in desperate defense, he would not have been able to keep them away from him. The mysterious power of the katana, connected to him as though it was an umbilical cord of pure cosmic blackness, proved stronger.
      There is no normality for you, Highlander. Your attempt to flee from yourself is doomed to failure. Give up! Turn around and come back to me!
      With a heavy, jerky kick MacLeod put his right foot on the gas pedal. The car, already going faster than was appropriate, made a noticeable leap forward, lurching. And while he was whipped up by adrenaline rushes, focusing all of his concentration to avoid crashing into the road embankment, the chimerical contours of the sword faded before his eyes, and the simultaneously enticing and threatening voice faded away.