The Cycle of Axer Carrick
Part V -- Riding the Wave
The Revised Version
by Henry Wyckoff
December 1995

Chapter 3

Kate opened up her eyes, and her situation slowly dawned on her. She was in a concrete and brick room, leaning against one of the cold walls. Her legs and arms were bound with irons. A few feet away, a young man sat against another wall, holding a torch in his hands. His expression was -- inquisitive.

"I trust you feel well," he said softly, his voice very staccato.

"I couldn't be better." Not quite the truth. She could wake up after being thrown into a thornbush and be in just as good condition. "What do you want?"

"What a cliche question," he smiled. "But then I suppose every question one might ask would be cliche... And I'm afraid I'm going to answer you with another one: I want you to be the prize for a game I'm going to play with Axer Carrick, as he prefers to be called these days."

"What do you mean?" she demanded. Kate was confident that she could break the chains any time she chose, so she pretended she was helpless. "What game?"

"The only one that matters. The rules are simple -- he finds out you've been taken, he hunts for you, and he finds you. And he *will* find you."

"I don't understand -- where's the game in that?"

"Ah... but you don't understand what game is truly being played. The game is not whether or not he finds you, but rather if it will be Axer Carrick who reaches you. I should really thank you for setting the stage. It was you who encouraged him to face his demons. Do you know why most immortals cannot access their Quickening -- harness the power?"

She shook her head.

"I'll leave you to ponder on that."

It was then that Kate pulled on her chains, and realized that no matter how hard she tried, they wouldn't break.

Her captor smiled sardonically, "As Axer has said on occasion, 'Isn't science wonderful?'"

He left by walking through the wall. It was as if he had walked through a mirage, but when she crawled over and tested it herself, it was quite solid.

Leaning back against the wall, she tried to crunch up her hands so that she could slip them out, but she couldn't seem to crunch them enough.

Her captor's voice drifted through the wall, "...The metal is not only one of the strongest, but also one of the most flexible..."

* * *

Halscombe sat in the corner, staring at the ceiling. He might have been either a lunatic or a dunce being forced to sit there, but the distinction didn't matter that much now.

Needing something to do, Mulder helped Kermit tidy the place up while making sure it would be ready for the riot after-shock. Joe, Bill, and Scully were making phone calls on their own cellulars -- gathering and giving news.

Coleen hadn't returned from her investigative trip, and she couldn't be seen through the front windows. Apparently she had found someone worth pursuing.

Kermit paused in his adjustments of the furniture, "Coleen should have been back by now!"

Joe nodded, "Let's give her a few more minutes."

The door opened then -- but it was Heimdall, not Coleen, who barged in through the front door of the Raven. The door was kicked open so hard it slammed against the wall. His eyes looked wild, and his hair was smoking slightly as he scanned the room wildly, demanding, "Where the hell is Axer?!"

Scully looked at him a bit warily -- she was in between calls, "He's downstairs. He has been for the last ten minutes."

He nodded and ran downstairs before she could ask him anything. Everyone else was so used to the wild and chaotic events that they took it in stride. When a few moments later, Heimdall's voice carried up quite well, "I'm too late!!" -- they didn't take it in stride.

It only took a moment for Mulder and Kermit reach the basement, where Heimdall was looking at a door opening into the sewers. By the looks of it, it had been a hidden door for a long while, and had been opened from the inside. Oddly enough, though the door was wide open, there was no stench.

"What happened?" asked Kermit blandly.

"They were taken."

"By who?" Mulder was a bit more expressive than Kermit.

"Not who," corrected Heimdall, "-- what. An Invisible One. And now it's too late."

"What do you mean?" demanded Mulder.

Heimdall sighed sadly, "Go on. Learn the hard way. Go through that door."

Mulder took his challenge and immediately tried to go through the door. Once his hands reached through it, he screamed, pulling them back like he'd been burned. "What the hell was that?"

"More advances in technology. That's just one of the tricks that the Invisible Ones employ."

Kermit inspected it, "This isn't just technology -- it's art! It's better than a door jam! All they have to do is slap on some paneling and a power source, and they have the perfect wall!"

Mulder still rubbed at his hands, "It didn't feel like electricity..."

Kermit was too preoccupied with the door to listen to Mulder. He muttered to himself, "There's got to be a way to get past that. There's *always* a trick."

"Fine," muttered Heimdall. "Do what you want -- *I'm* getting drunk."

"What?!" demanded Mulder, shocked.

Heimdall looked at him like he was an idiot. "There's nothing any of us can do. We might as well wait things out until we *can* do something."

Something just occurred to Mulder, "You may be right, and I know just the thing... I've been meaning to corner you for quite a while..."

Heimdall blanched.

* * *

Axer and LaCroix stood at a crossroads. The scent was cold, there were no tracks, and they were pretty close to being lost.

"What now?" asked Axer.

"I can't sense her," LaCroix shook his head.

"Then they could be anywhere! That's just great!"

"It just got worse," whispered a voice that seemed to come from nowhere. A hooded man walked out from the side of the wall as if either he or it were a hologram. "*She* could be anywhere -- you know where *I* am."

Axer's glaive was already drawn, "You bloody bastard --" He slammed against a pain-field that stopped him as effectively as a wall, forcing him to drop to the ground in jerky spasms.

The hooded man frowned, "I had thought you would do better than that. It's so cliché." Then he looked at LaCroix, "You, Roman, are about to enjoy a pleasure that you have not tasted for two millennia: you are about to watch a game."

A transparent yellow light formed a wall between Axer and LaCroix. He was about to sneer and walk through it when the hooded man cautioned with a raise of his hand, "Have you ever questioned why sunlight is lethal to you? It's not some mystical element -- it's a physical element. Have you stopped to consider that this light might have something in common with sunlight?"

LaCroix backed up a step, uncertainty on his face.

The hooded man continued, "This is the way it will be. You will search through these tunnels until you find Kate. That is all. There are no rules. Either you find her or you don't, and if you don't, nothing will happen to her. I will not harm her in any way -- only hold her prisoner until your fate is determined, and then she will be released, regardless of how it turns out.

"Welcome, player... Welcome to the game of your life!"

He backed up into the wall, where he vanished. Axer stood and tried to run through the same spot. He slammed his head into solid concrete, knocking himself out.

LaCroix threw his hands to the sky.

He found two chairs beside him -- grand and comfortable chairs that had not been there before. The air suddenly smelled less 'strong'. Another glance and he saw an elegant Roman lady seated in one of the chairs, wearing a stunning white tunic, holding a clay jug of wine with a seductive look in her face.

"Come," she said in an elegant, patrician Latin of his own day. "Sit down and enjoy the festivities..." She waved her hand, and LaCroix saw the sewers turn into a clean concrete room -- Roman style -- with a large-screen television mounted on the wall, showing Axer in great detail. The speakers reproduced every sound he made.

LaCroix wasn't a puritan -- and he was also interested in catching her expression when she eventually discovered that he was incorruptible. He accepted her offer and sat down.

It turned out that the wine wasn't wine, but rather was the sweetest blood that he ever tasted. He didn't seem to mind when the lady draped an arm over his shoulders and leaned in as he saw Axer get to his feet once more, and mutter to himself in frustration.

* * *

Odin looked at the two wolves sitting obediently a few feet away, their eyes filled with curiosity.

"I suppose you've come back out of some sense of loyalty, I'd wonder..." Odin muttered in a clear voice, full of bitterness. "Or are you my keepers?"

They looked at him with confusion, their heads tilting a fraction.

"It doesn't matter," he muttered, leaning back into the ice crevasse. "Destiny is a track laid out for me. Nothing I do can change it."

* * *

Richie had fallen asleep once more, and Methos was left to his own thoughts. An old man -- a *very* old man, engaged Methos in conversation.

"I understand that you and the young lad were talking about Norse gods."

There was no getting around it. "Yes. We're doing research for a... mythological project."

The man held out his hand, and Methos shook it reflexively. It was strong and firm for a man of such age. It was then Methos also noticed that the man was blind, and yet he stared Methos right in the eyes. "My name is Hodr."

Methos smiled, "I take it you're Norwegian."

"Danish," frowned Hodr, "but you're close enough... I was curious as to what you thought about what you read. What kind of people do you think the Aesir were? What of the Vanir? Of the Jotuns?"

Methos sat back a moment, thinking, "I'm not sure what kind of people the Aesir were, or the others you mentioned. Not much is said about the Vanir, other than obscure references to them, but I would say that the Aesir were one of the most bloodthirsty band of killers I'd hate to lay eyes on. But then again, we're bloodthirsty killers as well."

"Bloodthirsty gods for a bloodthirsty race," nodded Hodr.

Methos had to agree, "And in a war, who's to say whether the Jotuns were right or the Aesir? Perhaps it was the Jotun who were the right and honorable ones... I just don't know."

"What do you think about them as gods?"

"I never thought about that..." nodded Methos. "As Richie pointed out to me, they're just like men. They behave as men, fight like men, drink and eat like them, marry one another and have children... Except for the fact that they arrogantly believed they controlled the lives of men, I don't know how they could be gods."

"What if you're comparing them to the Christian god, who is supposedly all mighty? What if you're comparing apples and oranges?" Hodr raised his eyebrows meaningfully. "What if the Viking gods were gods under a different definition, and served a different purpose?"

"I don't know," Methos had to admit. "But you *do* have a point."

"Tell me this: what is a god to you? What purpose should they serve?"

Methos had to think quite a bit on that one.

* * * *

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