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Old 01-08-2011, 10:38 PM   #221
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Default Chapter 8 ~ pg 173

Minutes later Fitzcairn entered the bridge to find Kendall’s feet sticking out of a compartment and MacLeod searching another cabinet as Greg sat behind the wheel. “What is going on?” The Englishman demanded in dismay, forgetting his earlier resolve to not cooperate while still cooperating.

“Low Jack?” Greg repeated his earlier question. “GPS device?”

“I don’t believe so,” the blond replied thoughtfully.

“You don’t believe so, or you know so.” Kendall demanded squirming out from the tight confines he’d crawled into.

“I don’t believe so,” Fitzcairn repeated more meekly, moving his feet to avoid the other man kicking him.

“Is there a problem,” Joe Dawson asked from the deck outside the hatch. Behind him, Wesley curiously peered over his shoulder taking in the activity.

“Probably not, but go to the engine room and start looking for anything that might look like a low-jack or a GPS tracker,” MacLeod said from the cabinet of electrical equipment he was searching. “It would be just like her to have this thing wired,” he said with a note of annoyance in his voice.



The sun was reaching its zenith and Kendall was steering them out into the open Pacific when MacLeod’s cell phone rang. “What?” The Irishman demanded in disbelieve, “We’re tearin’ the boat apart looking for tracking devices and you leave your phone on?”

Duncan’s expression twisted in indecision as he checked the number, “It’s Amanda.” The Highlander dubiously eyed Kendall, “I should probably answer this.”

“And have her meeting us in Colombia - probably getting underfoot. No. I’ve endangered enough of the lasses in my life for one day,” the Cursed Immortal replied. With an irritable shrug, he snatched the cell phone from his friend and hurled it through the open hatch to sail over the side. Futilely trying to grab after the phone Duncan huh’d in surprise. Under his indignant glare Kendall rationalized, “You’ll just have a lot of voice messages when I replace it for you next week. Most of them from her.”




* Highlander the Series, 'Till Death', Season 4, Episode 19. First Aired 19 May, 1996.
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Old 01-10-2011, 04:00 AM   #222
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Default Chapter 9 ~ pg 174

Chapter 9
Racing the Wind



Katriona’s nose twitched against the nausea inducing assault of diesel fumes. The windowless room gave few clues to her whereabouts but for bare metal plate under her bum. Trying to coax her eyes to focus in the dark room and take stock of her situation, the familiar thrum eased through the decking into the redhead’s bones prompting her to think inanely that someone really needed a tune up. The ever so slight rise and fall of the deck informed her she was on board a ship, most likely underway. Trying to get her lethargic brain to file the information away for future use, Katriona muttered thickly as the memory of earlier slowly swam to the surface of her thoughts. Before she could entirely delve on the details they flitted away like a school of tiny fish back into the fuzzy reaches of her dulled mind. The drugged woman leaned after the scattering memories as if trying to physically follow them, only to have her wrists brought up tight against the cuff’s restraining her to the wall. “Great,” she humphed aloud, flexing her jaw in an attempt to work up some spit to moisten the cotton mouth. “This can’t be good.”

Passing in and out of consciousness, Katriona was unsure of the passage of time when a gaunt woman finally entered the small room. Tugging the shawl tightly around her thin shoulders the Priestess gazed malevolently down on the groggy, Cursed Immortal. On a long shot the well-traveled woman dredged her memory and demanded in Spanish, “What’s the meaning of this? Is it money you’re after?”

Araceli, hissing with anger, slapped her prisoner into silence. In the Ábą Eminánie dialect the possessed Priestess sneered, “I will not sully my tongue with that vile language if I am not pressed to use it.”

Spitting the blood from her mouth, Katriona’s eyes hardened, vowing retribution when she ever managed to free herself. Vaguely remembering that the Arawakan dialects held similarities to the Taïno and Carib she had learned on Tortugas and through the western Caribbean, she wracked her uncooperative brain for a translation basically understanding that the woman thought the Spanish language beneath her or vile. Trying again, Katriona demanded in an old trade tongue mix still used in some parts, “Why have you abduc -” only to be slapped again. The woman’s blow knocked Katriona’s head back against the hull causing bright bursts of light to flash before her eyes as the tiny hand came back from the other direction to strike again.

“Look sister, this is -” Katriona started before Araceli backhanded her a fourth time.

“Silence whore with demon-hair,” the Priestess hissed down at the interrupted Immortal’s hardening expression. “You will speak when you are told to speak! Otherwise you will be silent until the sacrifice,” Araceli finished instructing before stomping down on the redhead’s stomach. As Katriona folded in on herself the Ábą Eminánie woman poked her in the neck again with a dart. Turning on her heel she left the drugged woman to her increasingly fuzzy thoughts.
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Old 01-10-2011, 04:02 AM   #223
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Default Chapter 9 ~ pg 175

Returning to the main deck Araceli wondered about the fearful babbling going on around her and found Jahlis watching the sunset with more interest than she thought the near cloudless sky warranted. Above them she could hear the chief-steward standing outside the bridge arguing with Captain Sandoza about the men’s fears.

“What is going on with the old wind-bags,” Araceli demanded of her young acolyte.

Jahlis eagerly informed her, “A short while ago one of the men saw something off on the horizon and screamed as if he saw his greatest fear! So far I have been able to gather he thinks he saw a ship. A very old ship with large sails. Another said that he saw the ship as well, but that he could also see the horizon through it. As if it was not entirely there. They are saying we are being followed by a ghost ship and that has several of the other crewmen upset at what it might mean.”

“Fools,” Araceli muttered noticing that the ‘Carmalita’s’ master had spotted her and was making his way down the ladder.

“I told Senior Rodrigo I thought it was a bad idea to allow you people aboard my ship,” the stocky Colombian snarled in way of greeting. “Now my men are complaining of ghost ships off our starboard!”

“Perhaps you should ask your men what they have been drinking if they are seeing things,” Araceli derisively replied, motioning Jahlis to follow her. “As I understand there are several ‘Tall Ships’ still in service as training vessels and such.”

“Don’t walk away from me,” Sandoza bellowed after them. “If my men think they saw something - they saw something! Strange things have been happening with alarming frequency since you people came aboard! And no amount of money is worth this trouble.”

Turning to glare up at the Colombian, the Priestess retorted icily, “Senior Rodrigo -and thus you - were paid and paid well to take us to this Wash-ing-ton state and back to Tumaco, Captain. So we will remain aboard until you have done just that.” Taking Jahlis by the arm, she stormed off the deck leaving the man turning purple in rage behind them.

“I say we put the lot over,” Juarez quietly commented to Sandoza as he joined his Captain on the main deck. “Including that woman they brought with them.”

“Sí. I’m beginning to agree with you, amigo.” Sandoza testily acknowledged his First-mate. “But not just yet. In another four days, four and a half at the most, we will be back in Colombia. Keep an eye on the horizon for this ghost ship and just do your best to keep the men calm on watches tonight. I hate to admit it, but she does have a point about many old ships still being in use for a number of reasons. The odds are it was quite real. We don’t need a mutiny. It could have been a fishing trawler or another freighter even and the light playing tricks. Once we have them off, things should get back to normal. This is why I say you never bring a woman onboard. It’s mala suerte. Bad luck. Really bad luck, my friend.”
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Old 01-10-2011, 04:04 AM   #224
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Default Chapter 9 ~ pg 176

*****


“What are you observing so intently my dearest?” The pretty brunette inquired as she joined the ship’s dark-haired master by the rail.

Adjusting the spyglass to bring the modern freighter better into focus, the Dutch Merchantman’s Captain shrugged. With a low laugh for the mortals it was still so easy to set shaking in their boots, even in this age, he lowered the antique growing more serious.

“Strange vibrations off the port and I thought I sensed a sailor dying. I think it’s one of ‘them’. An Immortal. However, there may be others as well. It’s just that one is shining brightest.”

“Who do you think -?”

“We are not a ferry service,” the young looking man admonished his wife with a fond smile.

“You mentioned a strange vibration. I was just remembering that the Sea Lady,” the slim woman referred to their recent visitor, “made mention there were events possibly coming to pass and she asked -”

“If we could keep a weather eye out should it blow our way. Aye, now I remember. But you are the one that had tea with her; I was busy patching the sail.” He said, drawing himself to his full height with a hand resting on his sword hilt to strike a virtuous pose.

“You mean you chose to be busy patching sail,” she rebuked. Affectionately hip-checking her husband, the brunette suggested they sail closer to further investigate the low, off-key vibration that she now sensed as well. Filling him in on what the nymph had told her as she followed him up to the ship’s bridge.

*****
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Old 01-10-2011, 09:22 PM   #225
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Default Chapter 9 ~ pg 177

Methos looked up from the open scroll lying before him on the table rubbing his eyes. Noting the darkness beyond the porthole he groaned, “What time is it?”

“This Momrath Eminán was one - scary – dude. I thought the Kurgan was bad, but - this guy.” Joe commented over the top of his own research material as he set his cup of coffee down.

“Which makes me wonder all over again,” the ancient Immortal argued running a distracted hand through his hair. “Why are you here, Joe? Don’t look at me like that! You know it’s a valid question.”

“His assistance researching these materials that were sent to me yesterday morning could be invaluable. I have not had a chance to go through many of them yet,” Wesley Wyndam-Pryce spoke up from his own thick tome lying open on the table where the three men sat.

“Invaluable,” Joe nodded at Methos with a wryly knowing expression. “Besides, when we get down to Colombia somebody will have to stay with Amanda’s yacht. A task that might have been a bit easier to achieve if we hadn’t tossed her crew overboard earlier.”

“I am most serious about this,” Wesley insisted. “If we don’t manage to stop the Ábą Eminánie before they get to Momrath’s tomb we will be crossing onto his private enclave -”

“In other words, his turf,” Spike translated retaking his place at the table.

“Thank you,” the sorcerous investigator drawled in a tone that said the vampire’s interruption had not been required. “Anyway, it should be handled with the highest caution and utmost diplomacy.”

Diplomacy,” the platinum-blond barked his opinion. “My idea of diplomacy is go in, kick ass, get the talisman, rescue the girl, burn the house down with him still in it. That’s diplomacy.”

“Despite starting a fight in my bar, I’m beginning to like him.” Dawson told the Immortal, indicating the vampire with a jerk of his thumb in Spike’s direction.

“Joe, I’m serious,” Methos insisted.

“Look, I’m observing. I’m recording. And if lending the small amount of assistance that I can provide toward saving the world as we know it is interfering, they can shoot me at dawn when I get back to Dodge.” The gray-haired mortal finished his statement with an affected western-twang, “Haven’t gone ’round the bend or ready for pasture yet, Tex.”

“Are you sure you haven’t gone ’round the bend, mate,” Spike inquired doubtfully. “You are chasing off to South America with us after a fire and blood, sacrifice demanding, demon-god. That’s not exactly considered normal, every-day pursuits.” Noting the Watcher’s raised brow, the vampire nodded as if in understanding, “Oh. That’s right. Your lot don’t do normal. Ok. I get it. Enough. Zipping my big mouth. For now.”
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Old 01-10-2011, 09:23 PM   #226
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Default Chapter 9 ~ pg 178

“Spike,” Wesley admonished.

Shaking a finger, Joe thoughtfully narrowed his eyes, “Actually, he’s beginning to remind me of somebody. Just can’t put my finger on who,” he said, closing his fist to tap against his mouth. Screwing his expression up, Dawson turned to the five-thousand year-old brunette, “Can you think of anyone - Adam?”

“You are delusional,” Methos intoned into the scroll he took back up.

“Delusional or not,” Wesley said, taking control of the conversation again. “Are the Cursed Immortals prohibited from fighting on Holy Ground as other Immortals? The Lady Áine, who we spoke with, was unclear on that effect of their Curse. She assumes due to the energies her sisters and she drew on, that the two could possibly be hindered. However, she does not think that it should keep Kendall from confronting Momrath Eminán if he had to. So do you know if your kind’s prohibition is only in reference to your combating each other,” he asked, looking at Methos. “Or do you know of any of your kind that has ever fought a god on Holy Ground?

“I’m concerned because the site of Momrath’s tomb is sacred ground situated at the nexus of a number of ley lines. Blessed by seventeen shaman of the old tribes to imprison the demon-god. The gods are not allowed to deliver battle to another god’s – home, to put it in simplest terms.”

Joe looked harder at Methos, “It’s only legend who fought in that temple -”

“Vesuvius was two Immortals, Joe. It… It had to be two Immortals, if it happened at all,” Methos argued half-heartedly.

“In other words, you’re not sure,” Wesley inquired.

“What do I look like, the Immortal Gazette?” Methos demanded of the table’s occupants. “I’m just a guy! I wasn’t even in the area at the time. It wasn’t as if we had news at eleven then!”

“Ok,” Spike stage whispered into his own research material. “We’re still working with Plan C. Bring the house down while we’re still in it. Dig ourselves out later. I’d like a better plan, but I can work with that.”
*****

Her thoughts passing in and out of consciousness, Katriona again tried taking stock in her situation. Though the drug-cocktail she had been administered was processing through her system faster than the Ábą Eminánie’s Priestess anticipated, it still made coherent distinction between the here and now and memory difficult. In her present state of mind she swore at the manacle’s the bloody Spanish used to chain her in their brig, chaffing her wrists and serving to increase her bloody and bruised torment that dragging her further from Kendall always induced. A loud scratching at the door drew her eyes up under her stubbornly setting brow.
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Old 01-10-2011, 09:25 PM   #227
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Default Chapter 9 ~ pg 179

1546
~ Caicos Passage, Off Providenciales ~

(Blue Hills Cay)

The arrogant sons-of-bitches! They were the ones who had boarded her ship and impressed crew to serve on their short-handed Manila Galleon; of course she was going to be uncooperative and try to escape! Taking off over the side, swimming for the nearest of the Caicos she could see off on the horizon when she had managed to survey the situation. If only she had not paused at the rail when the distance down had made her hesitate. Kendall was probably following even now and would check along the way for possible points she might escape to.

The key scratching against the plate brought Katriona’s attention back to the door. So far the Spanish had yet to discover she was a woman despite a half dozen of them pawing her earlier as they brought her down off the galleon’s rail.

“I wasn’t saying that, Santiago,” the young sailor spoke in clipped syllables. “I was saying I can’t say I blame the hombre for trying to fight back, is all. Now how is he supposed to eat with his hands hanging over his head? I’ll jus’ unlock him and you cover me. Right, amigo? You’ll behave if we unlock you for a few minutes?


Saraguro and Kore stood just outside her reach arguing weather the young man with the broken arm should unlock their prisoner so she could eat or not. The expression she gave them didn’t look very dangerous and despite Kore’s reservations, Saraguro unlocked the cuffs holding Katriona’s hands stretched over her head.

Rubbing her forearms in an effort to restore their circulation, Katriona smiled as harmlessly as she could when the young sailor bent over to place the tray of food in front of her. Before he knew what hit him she had the older Ábą Eminánie youth by his cast and cracked it down over her up-thrusting knee. Saraguro screamed in pain as he fell to the deck.

Diving into the fray to rescue his friend, Kore came within striking range of their prisoner, but before he could punch her a bare foot lashed out catching him in the groin. With a scream of his own he dropped to his knees. Scrambling to her feet, Katriona yanked the unlocked door open and the captive sailor raced for the main ladder leading to the upper deck and escape. This time she’d go over the rail despite the distance to the water below. Swim for the French disputed Providenciales Island if she had to and wait. At the worst, she would make her way back to the Bahamas with the salt harvesters and find Kendall around their home anchorage.
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Old 01-10-2011, 09:26 PM   #228
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Racing down the ship’s corridor, a squawking vaguely reminiscent of a claxon bell rose from a box on the wall, tried dragging her back to the present. Crewmen shouting in rapid-fire Spanish made it difficult for her to follow the conversation with her rusty skills but she was fairly certain the intent was recapturing her. The ladder being cast of metal and not made of wood momentarily confused her, but that didn’t stop the woman from grabbing and jumping it. Taking the steps two at a time in the direction of the freshening breeze, Katriona slammed into a sailor blocking her path with a sharp chop to his larynx without slowing. The man fell into his crewmate gurgling around the damaged soft tissue fighting for his breath in her wake. Hitting the upper hatch, Katriona pounded across the deck with the intent of going over the side. Running for her freedom the captive woman gathered herself to vault over the rail and down without a look for the distance, but was brought short by three darts hitting her from various directions. Dropping like a stone to the deck, feet shy of her goal, Katriona cussed for the few seconds she could fight the soporific effects of the drugs before succumbing to the velvety embrace of her troubled dreams again.

*****

Off the ‘Carmalita’s’ starboard, the Dutch Merchantman still silently shadowed the freighter. The slim brunette lowered the spyglass telling her companion, “I think I recognize that red hair. If it’s not out of a bottle, I don’t know many that are naturally that shade. If that’s Morgan, we have to at least try to help her.”

“We’ll find out shortly,” the Captain grimly replied. “Someone over there is close to dying. We can question him if he comes aboard when we give him his choice.”

*****
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Old 01-12-2011, 02:23 AM   #229
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Default Chapter 9 ~ pgs 180.75 - 181

Scanning the charts and figuring their position along the Oregon coast, Duncan observed, “On this heading and speed, we should be seeing the California coastline shortly after sunrise.”

“Aye, that’s the plan.” Kendall replied with a quick rub for his bleary eyes.

“Go below and get some sleep,” Fitzcairn suggested. “You’re no good to her if you’re exhausted, laddie.”

“I get some shut-eye - I wake up to find the boat turned around. No, don’t think -”

“He’ll not change our heading,” the Highlander said.

With a thoughtful draw on his pipe Fitzcairn tried gently removing the other blond quipping, “As I was reminded earlier, I have long lived by the code that there is no better reason than love worth dying for. I cannot turn my back on a friend trying to save his own. We know how you feel about the lass. And if our dear Amanda is vexed by the ‘Signora Fortuna’ not being where she wanted it earlier, than hopefully emeralds from the mountains of Colombia will distract her long enough to appeal to her gentler side.

“But I was talking with Joe and that Wesley chap over dinner. Which you have yet to eat by the way, as if I wouldn’t notice you have barely eaten all day,” the English Immortal scolded, “and I’m afraid you are in it up to your eyeballs, laddie. There is no avoiding this. Numbers alone dictate you’ll need your mates watching your back. There’s reference to a comet which they are deducing to mean that one that passed by in February. The pendant you bought Katriona is the same amulet depicted in a Jesuit monk’s sixteenth century manuscript that he reputedly copied from a lost temple in the Amazon he thought to be El Dorado, and now the last of this Momrath’s worshipers have their hands on it. Not to mention they also have someone for their – MacLeod, you bloody, clumsy, Scot!” Fitzcairn bellowed in surprised shock at the hot tea splashing over him. “Why did yo -”

“I think he’s trying to remind you, not to remind me; that they intend to slit m’ lass’s lovely throat,” Kendall groaned. Hand resting on the throttle he stifled the urge to push the engines for more speed. The sigh rose from deep in his soul as he confided, “Guys, you realize the last thing out of my mouth to her was in anger? I was that close,” he held his thumb and forefinger apart in demonstration, “to punching her because…” Kendall laughed bitterly, “Because the lass wasn’t minding my wishes and was only feeding the song birds. She didn’t have a thought for one of the hags showin’. She doesn’t even think they pay us any mind anymore. But just because she likes the songbirds and if a Morrigan passes by, let bygones be bygones.” He closed his eyes tightly against the visceral shiver that racked his lanky frame.

“First-mate has the helm.” Duncan intoned, bodily prying his old friend away from the controls.

“First-mate’s the helm.” Fitzcairn acknowledged, attempting to assist the Scot in sending the Irishman off to a bunk.

“Don’t think I don’t see what you two are trying to do here. T’is mutiny! Who made you First-mate?” Kendall demanded of Duncan, hooking his feet around the rungs of his stool. Jerking sandy-blond hair in the other blonds direction he demanded, “What if I thought he was a better First-mate?”

“I can’t be First-mate,” Fitzcairn argued, “I’m the chef. I have enough on my plate feeding this crew and how would I ever convince Amanda I wasn’t cooperating in this venture? I’m shanghaied,” he grinned brightly, “faultless in this venture even. I was outnumbered and you, you piratical rogue, overpowered me!”
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Old 01-12-2011, 02:24 AM   #230
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Default Chapter 9 ~ pg 182

Duncan scoffed over the Englishman’s argument, “Him - a better First-mate? Him? Talk about your easily distracted leading the blind rush. Make him the First-mate and he’s likely to steer us in to the canal.”

Sputtering indignantly Fitzcairn saw Kendall was about to say something more and quickly added over the ill-mannered Scot, “I’ll have you know I managed to guide this yacht from Palermo without mischief.” Ignoring MacLeod’s scoffing snort he instructed, “Now go! There’s a tray set up in the stern. Eat something then take the cabin closest to the forward hatch. You’ll be bunking with this lout. But since he’s on the night watch his snoring shouldn’t bother you. And don’t try to claim you don’t snore, lad. We all know you do.”

“‘Signora Fortuna’. Come in ‘Signora Fortuna’,” the radio repeated its near hourly call for their acknowledgement.

“Are you gentlemen still trying to call us,” Fitzcairn demanded in an overly reasonable tone to the ship-to-shore radio. “We’re a little busy trying to save a friend, and apparently the world, at the moment. We do not intend to answer you. We do not intend to cooperate. We do not intend to come quietly. We would like you to please take a hint and cease calling us. Go harass the ‘Carmalita’, why don’t you.”

“Yeah, the Puddle Pirates have been trying to get a fix on us all day. We lost them in the dusk, but there was a Coastie Cutter about seven miles off still inside their territorial waters earlier this evening.” Kendall reported before allowing Fitzcairn to push him out of the pilothouse. “They probably weren’t looking for us specifically, but be aware they are in the area.”

After the two men left him alone MacLeod muttered, “They’re probably not looking for us specifically, but be aware they are in the area. Wonderful,” his Scottish brogue slipped making him sound much like his younger self if either of the other men had heard him. “Basically we’re takin’ an unarmed sloop against th’ King’s ship-o’-the-line. Where do I remember this from? It was a bad idea then and it’s an even worse idea now. Have to give the seadog his due though. I have no idea how he did it, but he still pulled it off. Dumb luck of the Irish, I guess.”



Picking at his food, Kendall said, “You can go to bed or whatever you and MacLeod have allotted be’twingst yourselves.”

“Aye. Once you have eaten then I may retire,” Fitzcairn pleasantly informed his friend. “My last duty of the day is to see that the Captain has eaten. Granted, I’m not nearly as comely as your usual cabin lad, but I will just have to do in the interim. And no! I will not sleep with you,” he dead-panned, managing to illicit a rueful snort of mirth from the other.

“Good! I don’t want to sleep with you either. You hog the covers as I recall.”
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Old 01-12-2011, 02:25 AM   #231
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Default Chapter 9 ~ pgs 183 - 184

“Ah! Good! I see your sense of humor is still intact. That is a good sign, I should think,” the Englishman quietly cheered. Fitz continued to smile pleasantly as he watched the older Irishman chew and leaned back on the padded bench. Folding his arms behind his head, he settled himself down for some star gazing.

“I don’t need a babysitter,” Kendall said, carrying his dark ale and stuffed pita over to the railing.

“Oh, but we think you do laddie,” Fitzcairn observed. Stretching and settling more comfortably he silently noted how bright the stars were away from the lights of civilization. One didn’t see half of them except at sea and tonight the moon was late in rising. Half watching the taller man lean his weight on his arms against the rail through drowsy, partially lowered lids; Fitzcairn commented, “If you paid half a mind to keeping your belly filled and didn’t look quite so focused, we might not worry so much. However, under the circumstances, the vote amongst those tha’ know you lad was that you bore keeping an eye on.”

“I’d just like to be alone right now, Fitz.” Kendall spoke to the water. Watching a few crumbs of pita fall into the sea.

“Aye. I’d like to be in Monte Carlo. A lovely lass on either arm, winning shamelessly at the tables. But that’s not happening either, laddie.” Fitzcairn said to the three gulls hovering around the radio antenna. Kendall glared back over his shoulder in vexation at his companion who continued to speak. “Much to my dismay, France may be a little hot for me the next few decades.” Seeing his mate’s expression the Englishman sighed, “You shouldn’t worry so, old man, we’ll get her back. We know approximately where to look and we have the faster bo -”

“We’ve barely a trail, Fitz.”

“Right, right. Shutting up. I will be as quiet as a church mouse. You won’t even know I’m here.”

“Are you always so annoying,” Kendall demanded.

“Of course, it’s part of my winning personality!” Fitzcairn laughingly quipped, spreading his arms expansively before sweeping them back behind his head again.

Turning to look back out over the ink-black sea before him the Irishman took an angry bite. Tearing off a larger mouthful than he intended, Kendall was forced to juggle with the hand holding the ale to catch the extra meat concoction and bread before he lost it. Spilling a large splash and losing some of the pita into the water he shook his head ruefully. “Go ahead and take it then,” he muttered at the diving gulls. The mouthful suddenly turning bitter, he raised the Pilsner mug to take a long pull of the contents to wash the taste from his mouth.

Looking back at his guard he thought the steady rise and fall of the younger man’s chest might indicate his old mate had fallen asleep. That was fast. Throwing a piece of the pita up to the lowest gull he scoffed morosely, “Oh aye. I chew her out and near beat the lass for feeding the birds and here I am feeding you scraps. Think I’m too superstitious to let an albatross come to harm near my boat, do you? Fine! Here!” He angrily threw another piece to the birds after the first offering went unnoticed by his sleeping nanny. Forcing himself to eat a little more, Kendall took a bite and threw the gulls another scrap. Taking the last large gulp of dark ale all at once, Kendall spilled another few drops to the deck wiping the back of his hand across his mouth.

Chin in hand, the sailor leaned his elbow on the yacht’s rail and closed his eyes in an attempt to find some calm center in the midst of the panicked wretchedness twisting his insides. You’ve been an idiot lad. Two stubborn, thick 'eaded, mulish-fools. Yelling at the other over the stupidest, inane'est, trivial… What was I thinkin’ being such an arse? Almost hitting her because I was frustrated. Passed out on Duncan's sofa when she’s needin’ me the most.
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Old 01-13-2011, 07:58 PM   #232
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Default Chapter 9 ~ pg 184.25

“Katri,” he choked. “Baby, I am so sorry. I should have been there. I should have had your back.” Swallowing down the bile Kendall growled at a hovering gull looking for more scraps, “Bloody bird. What do you know or care of gods be-damned amulets. Imprisoned hearts. Damn fool prophecies promising some fallen god a return ticket back among the land of the livin’.”

He laughed bitterly, “Or the idiots that actually think it’ll do ’em any good trying to bring them back. The fools know nothing of the old gods. Bunch of self-centered, egotistical, narcissist, overgrown children, looking for their own gain. What do I care of the lot of them! I’m just a bloody fool of a guy tryin’ to get by in this life and not screw it up too badly in the process. I don’t care for what games gods may play, I’m stuck on the fringe o’ me own tha’ I sometimes can’t play fair - the cards are stacked against me! I haven’t the time for their shenanigans! Why don’t you go tell any god,” he sneered derisively, “that might listen, or thinks they might owe me a favor, that I won’t be picky. I just want her back safe. Maybe she was supposed to be a Curse, but if I were an honest man I’d have to admit she’s been nothing but a blessing. A blessing I thought never to have a righ’ to.” Breathing deeply in an effort to regain control of his closing throat, he tilted the mug over his mouth discovering it empty and snorted in disgust.

Blessing? A blessing?” The elder of the two sisters he remembered actually weaving his Curse suddenly shrieked from mere feet away. Kendall jumped back in a defensive stance as her transformation from gull to woman completed; reaching for the sword he suddenly remembered was in the duffel in his cabin. His heart pounding at the sudden intrusion to take him unawares, the Ulsterman eyed the dark-haired woman that stood warily glaring at him.

Facing Bás Thugtha, Magda ran a vexed hand through her dark brown hair. All but pulling a hank out in her anger she growled again, "Blessing?" The elder of the three drew strength at the sight of her green-eyed sister transforming behind the man and Fódla perching on the cushions next to the English Immortal to change her form. With a heavy huff of disgust the Morrigan complained to the two women as if she observed some unusually unpleasant specimen. “Áine, you always did have a soft spot for these two wretched creatures! You heard him! A blessing he says! As if she wasn’t supposed to be his punishment!"
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Old 01-13-2011, 07:59 PM   #233
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Default Chapter 9 ~ pg 185

“Oh I never said that!” Kendall laughed nastily, betraying little of his discomfort in their presence.

In a high falsetto the Hearth Lady talked over him as if he hadn’t spoken. Brushing a lock of hair from Fitzcairn’s brow, Fódla rolled her eyes while she intoned, "But it was oh so romantic, Magda!” Straightening, the blond goddess pinned Kendall under a malevolently violet gaze. “Do you still find it romantic, murderer? Are there any regrets for killing my sisters?”

“Regrets? ‘I’m basically a shallow man, ma’am’,”* Kendall replied with a belligerent sneer. “If you want me to apologize for killing them to keep Katri, don’t hold your breath. If I caused you pain by killing your sisters,” he looked up talking over Magda’s sudden growl of discontent. “For that I am humbly sorry I wronged you. But for why I killed them… No. Never. I’d kill them both again if it meant having the only lass I ever really wanted.”

Magda’s eyes narrowed calculatingly as she demanded in a low voice, “Then you would kill again to keep her safe?”

His own stormy eyes narrowed in challenge, “What are you driving at? Is this your way of changing the curse? Taking her away?”

Magda looked uncomfortable and Fódla snorted bitterly, “As if we could now, even if we wanted. But cursing her to you apparently wasn’t the answer either.”

Sensing Kendall’s barely held-in-check temper rising, Áine quietly spoke up. “Now, now, Sisters, Captain Wright.” Covering another jolt of surprise, the Morrigans’ intonation made Kendall scrutinize her more closely searching for recognition and one brilliant green-eye winked at him. “Probably. Mostly,” she repeated his answer to little Maddie’s question if Ceanndal and Riona had lived happily ever after. “Perhaps it wasn’t much of a curse or punishment to a man in love, if it is what his heart truly desires most.”

Magda drew herself up stiffly as Fódla’s attention wandered back to Fitzcairn. The elder sister’s bearing indicated she half-expected to do battle and prepared herself to retake control of the negotiation. The younger goddess gently brushed a golden lock from the unconscious Immortal’s forehead, starting to lean forward Fódla was about to whisper in his dreams when Kendall snapped, “Get away from him!” Drawing his boarding knife the warrior closed the distance between him and the blond in two long strides.
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Old 01-13-2011, 08:00 PM   #234
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Default Chapter 9 ~ pg 186

With a squeak of fright the goddess sprang behind her eldest sister seeking shelter from the taller woman. “I knew this was a bad idea,” the younger Morrigan cried as she shifted unsteadily from foot to foot on the cushions. Following the busty-blonde’s flight the Cursed Finnian found himself facing Magda. The battle-maid hissed, her fingers becoming clawed talons as her arm swept up to ward a coming blow. The dark-haired Sea Queen raise her other hand to reach for the sky and prepared to bring up a swamping wave from the near calm waters when Áine threw herself into the midst of the rapidly degenerating situation. “Ceanndal, please! We wish parley. Magda! Sister! Remember why we are here,” the middle Morrigan cried out in their native tongue. “We must work together if we wish to achieve what we all desire.”

Sister!” Horrified violet-eyes peered over Magda’s shoulder as Fódla whispered, “Perhaps Nemain is right! Surely you didn’t mean for us to negotiate as if he were a King of our rank?”

The eldest brunette’s jaw clenched and with a hiss of frustration Magda’s talons shrank back into her long, tapered-fingers. The Morrigans’ bearing clearly conveying her disgruntlement with the situation, she nodded sharply. Glaring challenge down her sharp nose at the man they had cursed for what seemed mere heartbeats and not centuries ago, she ground out, “Aye! If given another path the Finnian might have made himself a King in his own right, Fódla. This we both know. By our own Curse and slow loss of power he’s near enough our equal now.” She all but spit in Kendall’s face as each word was chewed and thrown at him in acknowledgment. Mockingly Magda sneered, “Come up in the world, have we, little guardsman that couldn’t have his Princess? Have a little more to risk now, than a few head of cattle?”

“Magda? Sister. Please. With our heads - not our hearts. We need this alliance,” Áine tried placating the older goddess.

“Parley,” Kendall warily demanded. Meeting the eldest sister’s eyes in a silent battle of wills, he mulled over an etiquette he hadn’t dealt with in over two centuries.

“Aye,” Áine turned beseechingly to the tall, sandy-blond. Raising a hand toward him in supplication she continued, “We are not here to inform you we have taken her to further punish you. Nor do we plan to break your Curse. We were not the ones that took her and we may well lack that power now, if truth were to be told, Ceanndal. Those that would acknowledge us number far too few in these days and our power wanes. This is why we are here. The same fate that awaits your love at the hands of Momrath Eminán’s followers awaits us all if his release is not stopped. I could be corny by this day’s standards and say we need a Champion. Which in many ways is true and we desperately do. But what we need is an ally that might pass where we cannot follow. Someone for whom the wards and constraints placed upon Eminán’s heart and his chosen ground is not a hindrance as they are for us. Someone that will not be recognized as a god, yet still possess the strength, wit, and - will, to defeat one if we find ourselves on the steps of his sacred altar.”
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Old 01-13-2011, 08:03 PM   #235
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Default Chapter 9 ~ pgs 187 - 188

“Wait,” Kendall raised a hand to interrupt her. “Let me get this straight. You want me to fight this Momrath Eminán on his own Holy Ground? Are you insane? Can’t do it! Immortals are forbidden from fighting on Holy Ground. I’m pretty sure that includes me after what almost happened when I fought Garro and he made me chase him too close to the Hagia Sophia. There was an earthquake! And we weren’t even on the actual consecrated grounds! The cupola collapsed the following spring and they had to rebuild the damned thing.”

“Actually, that was from a second earthquake.” Fódla piped up from behind Magda, shrinking back into silence at her elder sibling’s sidelong glower.

“That was in a battle against an Immortal, not a god,” Áine argued with her own glare for the younger woman. “You can fight a mortal on Holy Ground if needs be, even if niceties say you shouldn’t. You should be able to meet Eminán if it goes so far. Ideally Eminán’s followers will not get his heart to his tomb and they will be stopped long before that. To that end, my sisters and I can try to assist as best we can. But the amulet that imprisons his heart as well as his tomb is warded against us. We are forbidden to act directly upon either. The amulet also shields itself and those that carry it from detection. Without a physical sighting we are powerless unless we can detect the faint after image of its passage and that never lasts for very long, even by a mortal’s standards.” Kendall shifted his weight, folding his arms and appeared ready to dismiss them.

“You have no reason to trust us,” the Morrigan pleaded. “We hardly have cause to trust you. And I think I am safe in saying there is no love lost between any of us. I could hate you until long past the last star burns out and dies for killing my sisters, Bás Thugtha. That just is not my nature though. However, in this time, in this place, we need each other Ceanndal O’Laidhgnén. We have a common goal in stopping Eminán and his followers. By working together we both will gain what we desire. At this moment in time, keeping your Love alive serves all our interests.” Áine finished, cocking her head she smiled impishly, “And you did ask for any god that might listen or owe you a favor for help. So your help isn’t as powerful as we once were. We still have a vested interest in this world. What do you say?”

Kendall threw his head back in raucous laughter. Shaking his head, he thoughtfully ran his tongue over his lip in an effort to moisten his dry mouth and stall for time. Absently raising the empty mug, he quickly lowered it back to the crook of his arm. To cover the gesture he again laughed bitterly, “Now I may have heard everything. The gods are asking me for help.”

Fódla waved a small gesture over Magda’s shoulder and Kendall started, holding the over full mug of golden liquid away from his body to keep any more from spilling on him. With an eep of embarrassment the slight Hearth-goddess ducked back behind her sister’s broader shoulders.

“Did you bring enough for the rest of us?” Fódla felt as well as heard Magda’s irritated tone reverberate through her chest as she heard the elder’s question. Complying to the request with another gesture, the petite-blond silently chastised herself for not being as brave as she had vowed to be.

Torn between his distrust of these three women and his be-damned sense of chivalry when it came to scaring a woman, Kendall took a careful sniff of the contents in his mug before taking a small sip. “Mead. Haven’t had this in a while. But then Katri’s not had much room to make it.”

“Once considered the nectar of the gods,” Magda said in their native tongue. “To what should we drink Fianna? Success, perhaps?”

“Common goals,” Kendall replied contrarily.

“To the success of our common goals,” Áine smiled broadly. Raising her own mug between the two forces she recognized as more alike than either would ever admit.
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Old 01-13-2011, 11:21 PM   #236
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Default Chapter 9 ~ pg 188.5

*****


Julio pulled the woman’s eyelid open flicking his flashlight back and forth looking for a response from the Ábą Eminánie’s seemingly unconscious prisoner. Lowering his thin, creased face, he peered into the slowly responding pupil; dredging through his incomplete medical training for an answer to give the Captain. Between Rizado kicking and punching her for killing Cesar during her escape attempt and that bruja woman keeping her doped up with who-knew-what kind of hallucinogenics, this one wasn’t in too good a shape and might not even be entirely responsible for her actions in his opinion. Straightening, he pressed a glass of water against Katriona’s lips trying to slowly pour a little down her throat. Glancing up to Sandoza, he cleared his throat with a phlegmy cough causing his patient to stir uneasily in protest and drippling some of the water –


953
~ Mount Niri. Japan ~


It was odd how little things sometimes took on such clarity when one suddenly lay seized in the grip of death Katriona mused fuzzily. Firelight played before her closed eyes and a soft but steady drip-drip-dripping from somewhere nearby sounded clearly over the small water fall on the other side of the Sorcerer’s cave. To say the gruff old codger she and Kendall had sought out was just a Japanese Immortal would be simplifying things she suspected. The small man hadn’t exactly been forthcoming with that information since their arrival under the Mountain of Niri five months ago. But if the rumors and whispered tales heard along the various Eastern Trade routes off and on the last four hundred years during their quest to better understand this Curse were to be believed, than Nakano was easily over a thousand years old.
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Old 01-13-2011, 11:22 PM   #237
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Default Chapter 9 ~ pg 189

It was the Sorcerer’s mutterings that dragged the pained woman reluctantly back to a muddled consciousness. Every muscle and bone in Katriona’s chest ached and her leg where she had broken it that day, throbbed with agony from Nakano’s attempt at weaving an Illusion around them so he could study their Curse in a manner visible to his magiks. Her senses were so scrambled she didn’t know if it had only been mere minutes or long hours spent screaming in agony near death’s door before the Immortal had quit his prodding.

A callused thumb pulled her eyelid open and Nakano pushed his wizened face into her blurry line of sight grunting. “It is no good. I barely touched the Illusion in search of the answers you seek before it began to - retaliate. She should feel better in a while. From what little I could glean, I would say your Curse cannot be broken. At least not by my humble skills. About lessening or negating the extremes you claim to experience…” Impatiently he motioned the cave’s other inhabitant to give him a bowl prepared for just such a need.

“A chuisle mo chroí,” an ashen and shaken Kendall whispered in her ear. Katriona just wanted to sink against his warmth as he helped her into a sitting position and wrapped her shivering body in a fur before propping her against him. “Drink the potion,” she heard him urge. “Nakano says it will help you feel better, a ghrá.”

Looking back up to Nakano he reflected, “At the least we’re not breaking it without killing her and I will not have her death on my hands,” Kendall quietly murmured. “We’re not so interested in breaking it as we really only want to understand it better. Maybe get the constant gnawing to give us a moment’s peace... It’s like knowing that drink is bad for you, but the light-headed cheer feels so good you constantly drink to excess just to feel it again, consequences be damned. Like doing something you know is bad for you, but you can’t help it. You want the way it makes your blood sing. Like - picking at a scab. You know it won’t heal unless you leave it alone, but the feeling is oddly pleasurable. And sometimes…” Kendall hung his head unable to meet the other man’s gaze, “I don’t just want to hold her, I want to… possess - no I...” he shook his head to shake off his shamed embarrassment. “There are just some things - some places… that maybe you shouldn’t take your own wife. Things you just don’t do,” a short bitter laugh burst from his chest. “We’ve done ‘em and sometimes – sometimes I don’t know if I can entirely blame my Curse. I just want her to still be able to see some of the lad she didn’t notice she was falling in love with, if she really starts looking for him.”
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Old 01-13-2011, 11:26 PM   #238
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Default Chapter 9 ~ pg 190

Nakano nodded gravely, pushing the potion against Katriona’s parched lips, “Drink. “These things I can understand. Too much of anything - good or bad, can be bad for one’s sanity or their partners’. To have that constantly hounding you must be a great distraction. I am not saying your curse can never be made more bearable or even broken, but your goddesses are too strong for my skills,” the elder Immortal’s gravelly voice intruded on Katriona’s attempts to slip back into warm oblivion. “I do not know of any who might even know how to control it either and you have already visited any that I would send you to. Your Morrigans were angry and grief stricken when they cursed you. These goddess sisters meant for you to be bound to her and they used their pain. I would suspect that the emotions you would like checked so, as not to act on them so strongly is a part of their punishment. They may have meant you to feel everything for your detriment. Much like it has been said that the gods feel emotion. Passionately. Indiscriminately. It was their intention for you to live with the consequences of your defiance,” Nakano continued his observations, “But is anything in life really entirely in our hands to command as we would? It is what we make of the situation that makes it a curse or something else. I could try to investigate its bindings a -”

No,” the young Irishman hastily interrupted the older Immortal. Dipping his head respectively Kendall continued, “My apologies, Master Nakano, but if this is what will happen – if trying to understand what this Curse has done to us is going to put her through this, I am not interested. We are not interested. We are grateful for your time and insight.”

Nakano curtly waved any further demurring to his hospitality short, “Nonsense. One lives to learn. One learns to continue living this life we are given and to grow stronger! It is a fascinating puzzle, this Curse of yours. That is why I was not in a hurry to do this experiment. However, you should not be in such a hurry to leave. Where my gifts of Illusion and Sorcery are insufficient to solve your problem, perhaps there are other ways I might assist you in your quest. Perhaps by exploring some meditation techniques you might find a different means of checking your extremes. There is much more to the arts I have shown you than just sword strokes. They will not always curb your more extreme desires and urges, but you may learn to handle them better for the studying. Even become more aware of how to curb them and again become your own master.

“And I would not advise traveling now. Winter is coming and will soon close many of these passes. I think it could be unwise for her to travel too quickly if you heal as you say you do. Even a handful of day’s rest will see the highest passes closed. Meanwhile, we will continue with your sword training in the morning.” At Kendall’s groan the old Sorcerer grinned, “Yes, my new young friend. You still have much to learn despite your training with a master such as Constantine’s reputation if you wish to live as long as he or I. If you are as wise as you like to think - you and your lady will stay until the spring thaw and study what I have to teach you. For now, I suggest we retire early and sleep. It has been an exhausting evening for us all.”



Julio shook his head, “The best I can tell you Captain is her pupils are responding to light, but slowly. I’d say from these punctures that bruja has been keeping her pretty doped up. On what - you’d have to ask her. But whatever it is may well have her hallucinating. Does she have a concussion or any other internal injuries,” the freighter’s de facto medic shrugged. “I don’t think so, but I’d have a better idea if she could answer ques -”
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Old 01-13-2011, 11:27 PM   #239
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Default Chapter 9 ~ pg 191

“What are you doing in here?” Araceli demanded of the two men standing over her sacrifice as she stormed into the cabin.

“I told you that I didn’t like the idea of you bringing this woman aboard,” Sandoza said, squaring his shoulders for a battle he knew was coming. “And now, apparently in some drugged up haze you’ve put her in, she’s killed one of my men! Who is she? If you intend on ransoming her, this isn’t the way you treat a prisoner you intend to return. This is how you kill your cash cow.”

“Is there a problem, Priestess,” Raöul asked from the hatch. Cracking his knuckles Chupall peered from behind the middle-aged man as Jahlis looked in from the other side of the doorway.

“Other than the Captain’s concerns, you really ought to quit giving her the drugs,” Julio said, rising to his feet. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I really ought to be at my station. You coming, Captain?” Ushering his skipper out and down the passageway he quietly cautioned Sandoza, “The lot of them are drugged up on that incense she’s burning. I wouldn’t start a dispute with them without a few more of the men nearby to call for help. It’s only a few more days home and then it’s none of our concern.”

“Si,” Sandoza grudgingly growled under his breath.


*****
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Old 01-14-2011, 10:58 PM   #240
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Default Chapter 9 ~ pgs 191.5 - 192

“Are you absolutely sure?”

“I’m afraid so, Wes. I had Lorne set the research drones on any information that could be found on the Shasta tribes linked to the Stone. The certainty factor is running rather high that the Okwanachu sect was the most direct descendants of the Taïno that brought the stone from Colombia. The Guardians of the Heart were most likely killed in that massacre you dug up in the late 1880’s.”

The younger man took a deep breath. Exhaling noisily, he considered the news before finally commenting, “There goes one of our best hopes at keeping the heart guarded in the future. A pity. They may have been staunch allies in this mission. Ironic that the U.S. Cavalry killed our best hope at keeping an even bigger threat to the country secreted away. Now we’re absolutely certain the Ábą Eminánie were making for Tumaco? There’s no chance they might be sailing for port in Buenaventura?”

“Can I give you a solid guarantee on that,” Angel replied, “No. But Lorne thought to have the Seers start looking for spots they couldn’t scry. Sort of a reverse search.”

“Search for blank spots, of course,” Wesley nodded. “So simple really. Look for the negative space and not the filled. What did you find?”

“We located a spot. It’s small, rather ephemeral, which makes it rather difficult getting a solid fix on it. But it’s located well off the southern coast of Costa Rica and its movement would suggest that if it is them, they’ll be making port in Tumaco in another day or so. You can double check with the Captain, but I would think they’d be aiming more easterly if they were heading for Buenaventura. We’ve managed to get five sightings already and the empty spot is slowly moving toward Colombia’s western port about three - three and a half hours ahead of you.”

“That could be them. Somehow I am not surprised if we have shaved an hour or two off their head start,” Wesley confided. “If we can keep the pace up perhaps we can catch up to them before they reach Momrath’s tomb.”

Angel nodded his agreement. “It would be nice if we could stop them before they get where they’re going. We also found a stationary spot southeast of El Encanto, in the Amazon jungle. Willow’s already down in Ipiales heading there now while trying to get a feel for the land and what we might be facing on that end. I’ll be leaving for Tumaco tonight, check in with her in the morning once I’m Puerto Asis. I told her when she got to Tumaco that she should go ahead and make arrangements for any equipment you might need with a Gorrión and Gibbs Jungle Rentals. Trucks, boats, what-have-you. Apparently they have a branch in Puerto Asis. Willow also said to warn you that the proprietors are a bit,” the brunette vampire made a face and waggled his hand, “odd? So you might want to jot down the account number if you can’t print out the e-mail out.”

“I’ll do that,” Wesley agreed before observing. “It would be nice if we had just flown down. Interesting the first thing this crew thought of was a boat.”

“You’re dealing with some old Immortals, Wes,” Angel grinned just as the satellite they were bouncing the signal off of moved out of range and disconnected the two. With a groan of disgust Wesley checked his watch noting it would be a few more hours before he could get another signal on the device.



Supper over, Fitzcairn allowed himself a congratulatory smoke as he watched the sun sinking into the ocean. The Englishman thought that with the evening’s near cloudless sky it might be possible to see the emerald flash if he were particularly patient and observant. Bringing an arm to rest behind his head, he looked at the other man sitting in the stern strumming the guitar in his lap. “My dear fellow, I know very well you can play something cheerier than that,” he commented on the song his friend was playing.
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