The Cycle of Axer Carrick
Part IV -- Reading the Endtrails
The Revised Version
by Henry Wyckoff
December 1995

Chapter 14

The brace had been taken off Duncan's head, allowing his mouth to move. The pain was so intense that he didn't even know where it was coming from. He was moaning in, but even that hurt.

The Inquisitor smiled grandly, "Don't you love my handiwork? Now you won't have to worry about tooth decay! Now, perhaps you'll tell us the whole story?"

Duncan spat saliva and blood at the Inquisitor, who clapped his hands with glee. "Wonderful -- I haven't broken you yet! You're going to *LOVE* what happens next!" Then he stopped himself, "But it looks like I'll have to let you heal first..." He poured out some red, gloppy stuff. "Drink this -- it's vegetable juice. It should make you heal faster."

Duncan didn't have much of a choice. He drank it down, shuddering with pain as each drop entered his lips. After an eternity, it ended. He did start to feel better.

"So your teeth DO heal," muttered the Inquisitor. "I thought they would be left alone..." He became happy once more, "Then that means I get to play with you some MORE!" His face became grim, "Now, you're not going to start talking and force me to quit playing, are you?"

By now, Duncan's mind was so totally twisted in knots that he didn't know *what* to think or say. He just moaned again in pain.

"I guess I'll have to let you heal. I'll be back tomorrow." He walked away, then stopped, grinning wickedly, "Enjoy your salsa!"

Duncan was now beginning to realize that he had swallowed half a jar of the hottest Mexican salsa he had ever tasted -- beyond red salsa. It never occurred to him that it had tasted like tomato juice only a second before. His moaning continued now.

What Duncan couldn't know was at the precise moment that his own door had shut, Richie and Methos had kicked in a solid German door at the same time. The door flew open, cracking down the middle in a crooked fashion, and the two rushed in.

The only occupant was busy reading the news, but his reflexes were good enough for him to pull a handgun on them. He was a middle-aged man with a worn face, and a bearing that identified him as a military man. The look in his face said that he wouldn't hesitate to blast both their heads off, and the gun was good enough to do it.

"Who are you?" demanded Hans Kiefer, the Watcher. "What do you want?"

Methos, grinning a bit, said. "I'm Methos, and my friend here is Richie Ryan, the student of Duncan MacLeod. And we want information from you."

Hans knew what that information would be, and he turned white. "Methos! If that's true --"

"It is," interrupted Methos, "but I thought your response would be more along the lines of: Duncan and Sharpe are at such and such a place."

"I can't tell you! I'm an observer -- you can't expect me to interfere!"

Methos shook his head, looking at Richie, "An honest Watcher, if you could believe it!"

Richie had enough of all this, so he yelled, "You'll be a lot less concerned about interfering if you don't tell us where they are!"

"Is that a threat?" The gun was still aimed at the two immortals. Hans figured that it was the only thing they could be.

"Yes," growled Richie, moving forward. His eyes were wide open with fury, seeming to glow red -- but that could have been a trick of the light.

"Hold it!" barked Methos pulling Richie back a touch. Richie resisted, but gave in. Methos looked at Hans, "Look. Richie wants to hurt you very badly -- all you have to tell us is where Sharpe and Duncan are."

Hans kept silent.

Methos sighed, "This isn't a matter of immortals battling one another. They were investigating another group of Hunters -- a new group that none of us knew about. Does your idea of noninterference include letting others interfere."

"Hunters? Impossible!" Hans was red with rage.

"If I could prove it to you, would you reconsider?"

A moment of hesitation, "Yes."

* * *

Scully was grinning foolishly as she started on another cup of coffee. She'd never felt so good in her life. The same could be said for everyone else as well. Even Bill felt better -- his pallor was replaced with a red-faced, red-nosed expression. He resembled a much younger Ted Kennedy in appearance -- all he needed was that 'puffed up' look and a ring of dripping keys in his hand.

Joe seemed the only one who kept his head on straight, and he viewed everyone's gradual changes with amusement. He was old enough -- and enough of a drinker -- to figure out what had happened, but he let Coleen play her trick. The more he thought about it, the more he admired her deviousness. //What better way to make sure people aren't sober enough to try anything stupid?// He felt a little pained that she didn't trust him, but then again he realized that in this game, trust was a dangerous thing. //Well, I have a few tricks up my sleeve as well...//

Nick walked in to the main room and saw them. "Mulder? Scully? What are you doing here?" Then he saw the two others.

Mulder got up a little unsteadily, "Allow me to introduce Joe and Bill -- they're Watchers, and they came here all the way from Vancouver just to see you."

Nick's eyebrows rose.

"Have a seat," said Joe, "and we'll tell you everything." //And we'll have an honest chance to gauge you!//

Nick did sit. "So tell me what brought you out here."

"It all started not that long ago, right outside your very own police station..."

* * *

Nat's expression was a mixture of utter horror and a blissful release -- a quite improbable mixture, but possible given the right encouragement, which Coleen was certainly giving. She had a "drugged out" look which was slowly fading, and her "natural, reflexive reaction" that would normally be kicking in most certainly wasn't -- or at least, not as much as it would in a normal situation.

"See? I told you so," smiled Coleen. Her hands were around Nat's waist, and their heads just inches apart. Nat was lost in the green eyes that pulled her in ever closer.

No matter how much her soul screamed in rebellion, she nodded. When Coleen leaned in and kissed her on the lips, Nat didn't resist. Whether it lasted for minutes or hours neither knew, but when it ended, Nat's expression now included guilt.

But when she looked into Coleen's eyes again, she felt the guilt wash away. //My God, what am I doing?// But it was Nat who leaned in for the next kiss.

* * *

Axer was shaking with fright. "No! Please don't make me go back!" His fear was so strong that he might as well have been a child begging his mother not to take him to the dentist. His face was still buried in her shoulder, his arms holding on to her as if for dear life.

"You have to face your fears sometime," Kate spoke in a soothing voice, running her fingers through his hair. "I've seen what happens when you don't face them." ^^Trust me.^^

He still held onto her, but he seemed to relax. A few moments later, went limp and breathed as if he was asleep. Then he breathed, "Great Mother, help me."

"Can you hear me?" she asked.

"Yes," he whispered. "But I can't see you."

"Don't worry. I'm here. Where are you?"

"The same place as before, but it looks a little different." His tone was full of wonder, "You won't believe this -- there's a forest off in the distance, and an ocean! And I can see mountains -- this wasn't here before!"

"Is there anyone there?" Kate immediately regretted the question.

"There is, and she's seen me. GREAT MOTHER!..."

...Axer sank to his knees. It was her. //Why does she always look like Scully?!//

She approached him, and smiled lightly as she reached him. "Silly man. Does any son kneel to his mother?" She reached down and pulled him up by the shoulders, then frowned as she realized that he was a good bit taller than her.

"What are you doing here?"

"Didn't you call my name? You're acting like I don't belong here!"

"No, Mother! I'm just surprised, that's all!"

"I'm just *kidding*," she pinched his cheek a little. "You're so *serious*."

For some reason, that stung him badly. He frowned.

The Great Mother frowned as well, "Why are you afflicted with this great sadness? What is it that ails you?"

He was honest, "I think I'm going insane. When I'm awake, I have memories that aren't mine and when I'm asleep, I have the most horrible nightmares. Men and women I've killed come back to haunt me."

"It's the memories that haunt you," she nodded. "You did things that you regret, don't you?"

Axer nodded too. "That's part of it. But I don't know what to make of the rest. I can't go on like this."

"Have you ever considered just letting go? Do nothing, and what needs to be done will be done."

"I don't understand?"

"You're FIGHTING. You're fighting the memories. You're fighting the nightmares. What you're not doing is letting go and learning what the memories can teach you."

* * *

Nick leaned back in his chair as Joe finished telling what he had heard from his informant. Although Nick had been there, things had been going so fast that hearing it from another point of view wasn't all that boring. In fact, it filled in a few gaps.

"So now that you know about us, what will you do?" asked Nick. "We have an organization known as the Enforcers, and their primary goal is to kill every mortal who knows about vampires -- or at least any mortal who is a threat to our existence. What is your intention?"

That seemed to shock Bill, who would never have considered such a possibility. Nick noted that reaction, and also Joe's lack of one. It was Joe who spoke, "I think that particular topic is neither here nor there. What is important is the string of murders and these mysterious third players. Bill happened to follow Odin up to Canada, and managed to catch on to what was happening.

"I think that this situation is grave enough to pull us in. We just can't stand back and watch, since there's a high chance that any Hunters who are left over from the Horton incident could be recruited."

"That is an interesting turn," smiled Nick. "You have an unspoken thought on your mind."

"Yes. I might also be able to ferret out some useful information about this group testing the 'electrogravity' devices. We have some extensive contacts, and I think I can pull up some definite answers in a little while."

"That would be helpful."

Bill suddenly turned green and whispered that he'd be back in a moment. Nobody heard the retching sounds.

* * *

Axer looked over the endless ocean, an arm over her shoulder. It relaxed him, and made him think of simpler times.

"You see, my son? It all depends on what you want. If you want hell, you get it; if you want this, you get it. It's all up to you."

"But how do you explain the nightmares?"

She shook her head sadly, "You've had the answers for all your immortal life. You've told them to every student you've had. 'When you take a head, you also take the Quickening -- all the power and knowledge of an immortal.' Where do you think that knowledge goes? Just because you've never consciously tapped it, it doesn't mean that the knowledge isn't there."


The voice boomed throughout the land, jolting Axer's nerves. The Great Mother looked at Axer quizzically.

"It's Kate," he explained. "She thinks that immortals are some other kind of vampire that takes souls."

She shuddered, "Her analogy is not accurate. No, you're not a vampire, because immortals don't *feed* on other immortals. Vampires are poor souls who know nothing but appetite. Immortals should know better than to let themselves be ruled by appetite and emotion."

"Do you know *what* I am? What we are?"

Her eyes were full of sadness, "There are some answers you must find for yourself."

Axer snorted and turned away, but he didn't yell this time or throw a tantrum.

"Axer... to get answer your earlier question, souls are an integral part of the Quickening. You've been tapping into that pool of knowledge, whether you know it or not, but there's a danger -- you can fall in that pool, and something altogether different can climb out."

It ended. Although he was bewildered, he knew he was lucky. How many people got to come back from some dreamscape and reemerge into the real world in the arms of a beautiful vampire?

* * * *

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