by Henry Wyckoff
A Highlander/Sentinel Crossover
The streets were abnormally quiet. Too quiet. That's when he heard the scream and the swordplay. Latro, for all his bitterness, still had that long-developed reflex to keep the peace. Murder was an obsession best left in back alleys, and not in the open city where children or ladies might see what most of their loved ones probably participated in on a daily basis.
When he got there, he saw an open door. Several assassins were carrying out the body of a still-living man, covered with blood. It was obvious these men were up to no good. Another man lay dead of a sword wound, as did a naked woman inside.
"Stop where you are!" barked Latro, pulling out his repeating lead ball rifle. (Back in those days, he hadn't used an axe, but his sword was very handy should he need it.)
Naturally, the assassins faced him. Two men ran off with the body while the other eight faced him with their own swords drawn.
Spitting in disgust, Latro made short work of them with his rifle and followed the body. They'd managed to move only a hundred feet by the time Latro caught up with him, and they crawled an extra ten feet after their kidneys were blown out.
The young man they had carried looked to be a lean and worn one at that, his face showing as much weathering as shaved wood. He had been knocked unconscious, but he showed signs of having been in a nasty sword fight --the cuts along his forearms and the grip of the broken sword he still held on to with an unbelievable ferocity.
"I don't know who you are, but you've gained my curiosity, which is not easy at my age."
He left the dead assassins behind and took the man to his own transient dwelling, where the accommodations were not upper-class, but were clean, sterile, and comfortable. Perhaps this man would not find them disagreeable, seeing what he had experienced so far.
There were no significant wounds to clean, so Latro assumed that the best thing to do was wait, drink tea, and fry some Centurion bread.
There was something timeless about cooking, he noted, especially in Asia. It had been almost two thousand years since he had been in Jerusalem, but as he started the fire and heated the split-Syrian bread, he could almost hear the aimless chatter from the dry, hot streets. Conversations replayed themselves in Latin, Aramaic, and Greek. Some German, from those growing numbers of mercenaries, like himself.
By the time he put the sliced cheese onto the bread and watched the melted ooze absorb into the bread, he found that he had been talking to himself, "I almost feel guilty being so relaxed. Duty in an hour. Should have been . . . should have been . . . "
"A scholar, for this land and age." The man's voice was a soft croak, heavily accented.
"I'm just a simple soldier."
"A simple soldier who speaks Latin better than even my father?"
That's when Latrorealized that his daydreaming had brought him back further in time than he'd wished. He shrugged, "I learned it as a boy."
The man said nothing, then, "Do I have you to thank for saving me?"
"I saw some assassins carrying you away, and I couldn't stand for that, especially when I saw those two corpses back there." The mention of that caused hhe boy some pain. "Friends of yours?"
"The woman was."
Latro nodded. "I'm sorry. I can tell you this much: she is avenged. Nobody left alive." He smiled as he patted his repeating rifle. "No man, not even wearing stone armor would be safe from this. It can blast apart a marble head from over three hundred feet!"
"I see you carry a sword." The boy saw the sword that hung from Latro's baldric-scabbard.
"It's not a horseman's blade."
"No. I fight on foot."
"I find it curious that you would use such a heavy blade. I could slip a knife in your ribs before you could even raise --" He gulped., finding he tip of that heavy blade a mere inch from his eye so fast that it hadn't registered until it was too late.
"It all goes into your placement. Being in the right place at the right time can tip speed and strength on your sides." Latro re-sheathed his blade. "I hate to think I must give you a lesson in bladework when I killed ten men to save your life."
He smiled grimly, "My apologies. My tongue got the better of me."
"You're still young." Latro thought of something. For a hothead, the boy spoke very good Latin. "I am curious. How is an obvious fighting man such as yourself so good at speaking my language?"
"My father taught me," he shrugged. "He wanted me to follow in his footsteps. To tell stories and speak tongues. He taught me Greek, Latin, Russian, Arabic, Hebrew, and even English. At home he would very rarely speak Georgian, because he believed that I got enough practice in the village. I was the only one who could read, other than my father." His eyes misted as he thought back to different times.
"Something happened. The Armenians destroyed my village. It was only by the grace of God that I survived, and I have spent every day since killing Armenians. I won't be happy until every Armenian is dead."
Latro shook his head sadly, "I've been there, boy. Dead men stood so deep and high that I could barely move through the piles. Fires threatened to reach the vaults of Heaven, and I was not satisfied. I'm still not, but learning to at least forget, if not forgive, made me feel human. I can see the signs, and if you don't forget, the hate itself will kill you in another year."
"Why do you call me 'boy'? You are barely older than me!"
"I call you boy because you can't even touch me in years. I was walking the roads before you were even born. What are you, twenty years? I travelled the world and back in that time."
He was silent for a moment, considering, and Latro didn't think to be suspicious about that moment of pensiveness. "Where are you travelling now?"
"I am seeking Gurdjieff, a wise man who has learned much. I want to see if this man has the truth or not. Something to send me further on my way."
"What truth?" it was a sardonic spit.
"God, the Earth, and our very existence. Nothing happens without reason, and nothing that seems bad happens without reason. I refuse to live my life without that understanding."
* * *
Inside, Tutyr spoke. "The odd man who spoke Latin, in his blunt honesty and in his genuine capacity to listen to me, that is what made me change my ways more than anything else. I was still a 'hothead', as he called me, but he rekindled my passion for learning. I even forgave Gurdjieff for being Armenian, long before I ever met the man.
"Though the man had a capacity for brute violence, he behaved more as a soldier and less of a barbarian, as the Kurgan was. He followed a strict moral code that was unbending and more consistent than a straight line, once I understood it. He was a soldier, through and through, who sought the meaning to things. Though he was as 'learned' as any old scholar in the world, he threw away what he called 'useless facts' and spent every waking moment trying to understand the overall meaning.
"'Everything is a part of a complex web,' he once told me as we followed the trail of Gurdjieff. 'We like to compartmentalize our knowledge and say "that is chemistry" and "that is farming," but it's all interconnected. I hope that's one thing you learn well. I had to learn it the hard way.'
Blair was quite intrigued by that. "He was a synoptic philosopher."
Tutyr nodded. "About the closest thing to Aristotle that the world could provide then, in a lot of ways, with a much greater knowledge base than the Aristotle had. I didn't know it at the time, but the reason that he knew so much was that he'd had almost two thousand years to accumulate that knowledge. From the moment I met him, I suspected that he was different, but I knew from the signs that he wasn't 'immortal.' It wasn't until the incident at the hotel that I learned the explanation."
Pierson looked confused. "You are saying that the Latro who shoved me out the window is the same man you encountered in Turkey?"
"Yes. He is the same man, and the explanation he reportedly gave you is the only one that would make sense. Oddly enough, it might very well confirm the existence of Jesus, for it was he who cursed Latro to live far past his time, for the simple action of kneeing one of the disciples in the groin while drunk."
Jim stepped in. "All right, I can believe your stories, because . . . well . . . there's some evidence I can see with my eyes. I've seen things. But a man who was cursed to live forever? By Jesus."
Tutyr nodded. "About as unbelievable as a man who can hear a whispered conversation in a noisy plaza from over two hundred feet away."
Pierson was puzzled, but Blair and Jim stared at him in shock.
* * * *
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