The Storyteller, or, The Double-edged Sword
The man was clad in black, with his twin swords crossed behind his back and two throwing knifes on his chest... a walking arsenal who made no attempt to conceal his weapons, a concession to a "civilized" era made by most immortals. Of course, living in such an isolated spot of the forest, such concealment was probably irrelevant. And the sight of those twin blades had been enough to send shivers down his spine. If their design was a clue, and the man who now wore them was indeed their original owner, he had to be at least eight hundred years old. But, in spite of his deadly appearance, the man seemed to have attained an inner peace that Duncan had encountered on precious few occasions. However the most shocking detail had been the way in which he had greeted Methos... as Methos.
The fact that Methos had set out deliberately looking for another immortal who knew his true identity, and whom he probably considered an old friend was unheard of, and it gave Duncan a rare chance to try and discover a little more about the Old Man's past... and the fact that he was being neglected by both his friend and his host gave him a chance to look around in the stranger's cabin. It was sparsely furnished, some things spoke of its owner's arab descent, but what drew his attention was a broken old bow, an even more ancient sword and a silver arrow with some indecipherable writing on it, kept in a glass casing that somehow reminded him of a reliquary.
"That was Loxley's bow." Said his host, acknowledging his presence for the first time. "I've kept it all these years."
Loxley's bow, right, like that was supposed to be an explanation in itself, though for some reason the name had a familiar ring to it. He sighed, and then he introduced himself, "Duncan MacLeod, of the Clan MacLeod."
"Methos's friends are always welcomed," the stranger said respectfully, carefully sidestepping the whole issue of introductions. If this was any indication this man was even less talkative and more elusive than the Old Man himself. Then his eyes went wide as he recognized the name of Loxley. He turned to Methos who was looking at him with an amused grin.
"I am Nasir." His host finally introduced himself.
It had been a pleasant chat while they ate, with the older men trading stories and generally catching up with each other, and Duncan still in awe like a small child for being, quite literally, in the presence of a living legend. Their meal was over by the time Nasir said:
"As pleased as I am with your visit, my friend, I don't believe this to be a social call, is there a problem?"
"He is back." Methos's answer was short, but it was enough to get Nasir's undivided attention.
"In England, but it won't be long before he comes to the forest."
"And when he does, I'll be ready. Does he understand what he is now?"
"He does not acknowledge himself as an immortal, but he knows how to kill one if he has to... he is still powerful in his own right."
"Would you mind filling me in?" Duncan interrupted them. "Who is HE?"
"Gulnar." Methos's answer told him nothing.
"A sorcerer, almost one thousand years old. He believes himself to be the ambassador of a demon, Cromm Cruac. He is insane and extremely dangerous... pure, undiluted evil. He had been an immortal for almost one hundred years by the time Nasir first met him."
"Why didn't you challenge him then?" Asked Duncan turning to Nasir.
"Because it was before my first death, and neither of us knew what we were."
"How could he have survived a hundred years without knowing what he was?"
"The eleventh and twelfth centuries were a strange time for immortals," Methos explained, "old immortals had mostly deserted Europe, or they remained within the safe confines of their own castles, the young ones were left to their own devices. Traveling wasn't pleasant, or popular, back then."
"Besides, challenging Gulnar is not as simple as it sounds. It's not only a matter of swords and steel but of spirits and demons." Nasir concluded, leaving Duncan to wonder if he hadn't somehow stepped into the pages of a bizarre novel.
Nasir's cabin was remarkably peaceful, and even Methos, creature of comfort that he was, seemed to be enjoying himself. Life there was a pleasant change of pace, where a buzz was more likely to be a sign of the welcomed presence of a friend than the impending threat of a foe, though Gulnar was never too far from their minds. But, as pleasant as being there was, Duncan was having a hard time trying to imagine living in almost total isolation for eight hundred years. Nasir had told him once that he could not abandon the forest, but he had refused to tell him why. There was something in the outlaw's manner that hinted at something deeper, older than his eight hundred years, perhaps even older than Methos himself.
Methos looked startled for a moment when MacLeod walked in on him while he was working on his computer. The Scot had suspected for a while that there was more to Methos's unexplainable trip to warn his friend of Gulnar's return than he was willing to admit to. At first he had said that the message was too important to convey by any other means, that he felt more comfortable delivering it in person. Okay, but Nasir had already been warned, why where they still there? And why had Methos asked him to come along in the first place?
Every night they would spend hours together, analyzing all the data gathered by the Watchers through the centuries, but Gulnar's chronicle appeared to be disturbingly incomplete. It was as if watching him had proven to be an impossible task. Still they had to find a way to defeat him, so they kept looking for any sign of weakness that might give Nasir the slightest advantage in the coming battle. He could see that Methos was worried about what might happen should Gulnar win that challenge -placing bets in a game were all the players were undefeated could be terrifying- and something in the eldest's attitude told him that there was more riding in this challenge than an old friend keeping his head on his shoulders.
In little more than a week he had learned as much about Gulnar as he thought possible, and he didn't like what he heard. At first he had felt more than a little awkward whenever the conversation turned to magic, demons, and the battle between the forces of light and darkness, of good and evil -especially when he saw Methos, the ultimate skeptic, taking it seriously- but when he heard that Gulnar had survived nine hundred years without a sword to call his own, always beheading his challengers with their own weapons, Duncan was forced to recognize that this immortal was unlike any he had ever faced.
Something woke him up, a buzz, or rather its absence. He had grown used to having those two presences so close to his own, and now one of them was gone. Quietly Duncan got up, got dressed and stepped out of the cabin, into the forest. It was a quiet night, almost instinctively he chose a path and started walking. The forest seemed strange all around him, almost as a living entity. Finally he reached the entrance to a cave and he could feel Nasir's presence inside, though it was altered somehow... different. He looked inside to discover Nasir in some sort of trance, surrounded by a strange mist and even stranger shadows that seemed to come out of nowhere. He was alone and still he heard countless voices, whispering. He realized that he shouldn't be there but he couldn't find the will to move, transfixed by what he saw taking place in that cave. And then it was over. Nasir turned around and their eyes met. He was afraid and embarrassed, unable to explain what had driven him to follow him, or how he had done it. Nasir appeared to be surprised, but not angry, though Duncan had expected him to be.
They walked in silence as they made their way back to the cabin, one of them too confused to ask, the other unable, or unwilling, to explain what had happened. As they crossed the threshold an angry Methos glared at him only to have Nasir place a pacifying hand on his shoulder while he shook his head.
"He is a part of this now, he deserves an explanation." He said, and Methos nodded in acknowledgment.
For a couple of minutes a tense silence hung in the cabin.
"What you saw tonight, what you felt, was Herne," Nasir began, "an ancient spirit of this forest. For centuries now I have been his Chosen Son."
"Is that the reason why you can't leave the forest?"
The outlaw nodded before he continued. "Robin was his first son, and then Robert..."
"It's strange how they became one. After the sheriff killed Loxley, Robert took his place... and his name."
"Because the legend of the hooded man was greater than any man could be. The villagers were willing to believe in Robin, and they refused to accept that he was dead."
"And how does Gulnar fit into this?"
"The first time we met was shortly after Loxley's death. Each one of us had gone his own way, for Robert had been too afraid to acknowledge what he was. And then Owen of Klun abducted Marion. I was a prisoner in his castle at the time and I saw Gulnar use a potion to cause her to fall in love with Owen, but I was powerless to prevent it. Robert rescued her, both of us, and we returned to the forest. Owen died in the battle.
"Gulnar never forgot what we did, and when the centenary of the destruction of Cromm Cruac drew near, he lead us there in an attempt to destroy us. If it hadn't been for Marion and Tuck..." Nasir sighed and paused to compose himself.
"Soon it will be nine hundred years since the destruction of the village of Cromm Cruac, that's why he is back... and this time one of us will die."
Duncan turned to Methos.
"And just how did you get dragged into this?"
"About fifteen years before that happened I was working as a scribe in Thornton Abbey. It housed one of the most magnificent libraries of its day, and luckily the Abbot had no qualms about having a scribe who had never taken the vows. I met a novice there and we became friends after we ran into each other during an unauthorized raid to the kitchen.
"Years later, as I was crossing the forest, I was attacked by a group of robbers. Nothing unusual, you see, back then what was strange was NOT being attacked. Anyway, Robin and the others saved me, and when they took me to their camp I was shocked to discover that my old friend Tuck was one of them. I had a very difficult time trying to explain why I hadn't aged in over fifteen years, and then, to make matters worse, Herne showed up and in his infinite wisdom called me Methos instead of Matthew, the name I was using back then."
"And you met Nasir?"
"Yes, he was still a pre-immortal back then, but I stayed close, and when the time came I told him about the Game, the rules..."
"And you became his teacher?"
"I don't know if that's accurate. I told him about the Game and its rules, but as far as his fighting skills were concerned, he was already far above most immortals. Besides, his style was too different from my own. I became his friend."
"When did you learn about Gulnar?"
Methos hesitated for a moment, eying Nasir before he answered. The outlaw was pale, but he nodded, so the Old Man continued.
"After his first death Nasir remained with the outlaws, he saw his friends grow old and die. Then he tried to gather a new generation of outlaws. They continued their fight for a couple of years until they were massacred in an ambush. Nasir came back to life surrounded by the corpses of those he had led. That was the end and the beginning of the outlaws.
"He was desperate. He felt as if he had killed his men with his own hands. For the first time he realized the full weight of his own immortality. I wanted to help him. He kept talking about his friends, about their time together, and he told me about Gulnar. He hadn't thought much about him since his first death, but it wasn't long before we figured out that he was an immortal as well."
"I wanted to go after him then, but Methos stopped me. He said it wasn't time, that I wasn't ready and that I needed time to heal." Nasir jumped in, continuing the story. " So I traveled, telling about the outlaws to anyone who would listen for a couple of centuries, terrified that my friends might ever be forgotten. And then Herne called me back to the forest, to be both his host and his son. I have been one with the forest since."
Methos stretched and looked out the window only to discover that the sun was already rising. No use in going back to bed now... and he truly hated getting up before the sun.
He felt relieved, he could smell his foe's presence as he approached the forest. Through the centuries he had feared that an immortal might have taken his head, but it had been a risk that he had been forced to take. He needed him to grow, to mature until the time was right, and now he was ready. He had grown to be strong and powerful in his own right. He would need that power if he wanted Cromm Cruac to live again. His quickening would release the demon... and the one who had confined him before would now be his most valuable ally.
He smiled as he entered the forest.
Nasir felt him first through his connection with the forest, but he knew it wasn't time. Not yet. They still had a couple of days to prepare for the upcoming battle. He sighed, there was something that he knew he had to do, and it pained him.
Carefully he opened the case and took out the sword. It felt so heavy... almost as much as the memories it carried. Absentmindedly he ran his finger along its edge until he saw his own blood staining the blade. He had always cared for it, but, although it was his by right, he had never dared to use it. He knew he wasn't worthy of it. Even though it was true that he was its guardian, it was only because there was no one else left. They were all dead. Those who now inhabited the forest had long forgotten Herne... and so the ancient spirit, who no longer had a body, had called him back, to be his last son and to follow him as those more worthy than himself had done before.
And now the time had finally come for him to prove himself, not as an outlaw, a swordsman or an immortal, but as Herne's Chosen Son. It frightened him. He wasn't ready, he hadn't been ready eight hundred years before and he wouldn't be ready in another eight hundred years.
Nasir had appeared anxious since the moment he woke up that morning, and to a lesser extent so had Methos, so he wasn't so surprised when Nasir suddenly got up and announced that it was time, and though no challenge had been issued he had led them unerringly to a particular spot deep in the forest. There, for the first time, Duncan saw Gulnar.
He wasn't sure of just what he had been expecting him to look like, but it certainly wasn't like that bald, scrawny creature, who observed them with the eyes of a mad animal and greeted them with a maniac laughter.
Methos stopped himself at the edge of the clearing and gestured for him to do the same. They stayed there as Nasir approached his ancient foe.
And then it began. It was strange, a sword fight with a single armed combatant. A fight in which the unarmed man appeared to be the most confident one. Nasir was fighting himself at least as much as he was fighting Gulnar, and suddenly a mist was gathering around them. Both he and Methos could feel those unseen and undefined presences. Duncan barely dared to whisper the name of the ancient God "Herne?" but Methos shook his head with a sad look in his eyes.
"This is his son's battle," Methos explained, "he can't interfere. He is a holy spirit, and as such he walks on holy ground. That probably wouldn't stop Gulnar, but it would stay Nasir's hand."
And then, suddenly, the mist changed. Something different, alien and evil, was added to the mix. The scene changed as Nasir circled Gulnar, sizing him up, and Gulnar stood still, watching his opponent with an almost amused grin, savouring his long delayed revenge. He would take this child, play with him, break him before taking his head, and his power. And his friends would be there to witness his failure... an unexpected pleasure. He knew the others wouldn't interfere, their own rules would stop them. Let them watch, he thought. The idea made him laugh.
Nasir couldn't bring himself to lift his sword. He had done so once, only to discover that Gulnar was a master of illusion. And the mist was all around him, he could barely see his opponent. For an instant he thought he saw his old friends in that mist, and then she was there, beautiful, kneeling in front of him, exposing her throat to his sword.
Duncan gasped and turned to Methos, apparently the Old Man had recognized that vision. He had never seen that expression in his eyes before, he wanted to ask him who she was, but Duncan couldn't bring himself to break the silence. He turned once again to see what was happening in the clearing. She was so beautiful, for an instant she reminded him of Debra Campbell, though he knew it was only because of her hair.
Nasir knew she wasn't real, he tried lifting his sword, but he knew he was beaten. He dropped his blade as he collapsed sobbing to the ground, knowing that he had been defeated, that he had failed Herne. Even if he knew it wasn't really her, he could never strike her down... Marion. Resignedly, he closed his eyes and waited for Gulnar to end it all... what was he waiting for?
Gulnar's terrified screams brought him back. Nasir couldn't understand what was happening. He knew that Methos and MacLeod would never interfere with a challenge, no matter how bizarre, but something had stopped his ancient foe from taking his head. He opened his eyes only to see Gulnar collapsing beside him... and once again he *was* Gulnar, though now he was surrounded by an angry, otherworldly glow.
Unsure as to what had happened he picked up his sword and, with a familiar swing, he took Gulnar's head.
He waited for the Quickening to hit, but when it did it was unlike any Quickening he had ever experienced. He was cold, and there was a void. It threatened to swallow him. He wanted to escape but he was paralyzed. There was a foul smell, like something rotten, and then it was inside him, struggling for control of his body and his soul. He was terrified as he became aware of a second battle... a battle within a battle. Instinctively he knew that Herne was fighting, and then everything went black.
He awoke to the unpleasant sensation of steel on his throat, and was surprised to discover Methos holding a sword to his neck, he could also see Duncan holding Albion. Methos was looking into his eyes, and after a while he removed his sword and offered him a hand. He sat and then he turned to see Gulnar's headless body. He sighed... he couldn't understand why, or how, but it was over and he was still alive.
He took his sword back from Duncan's hands, and only then, as his eyes fell upon the ancient inscription, did he understand his own survival.
Nasir could only caress his sword as he wept.
They hardly spoke as they made their way back to the cabin. They were exhausted and confused. As soon as they got back, Nasir sat down, carefully cleaning and polishing his blade. They had a million questions, but they weren't sure of whether or not it was the time to ask them... Nasir seemed so distant, as he replaced the sword in its case and closed it once again.
At last Methos approached him, placing a hand on his friend's shoulder, and asking him what had happened, but Nasir seemed to be unable to take his eyes away from the sword. After what felt like an eternity, he whispered the words that, etched on the blade that he now knew to be his own, had saved his life.
"Herne's Son is my master. I cannot slay him."
He couldn't sleep, he was staring at the ceiling and kicking himself for having overlooked the obvious. Gulnar had never had a sword to call his own, and in the end the pride that had lead him to always take his opponents heads with their own blades had cost him his life. He should have remembered, "Albion" was the last of the seven swords; if Nasir hadn't felt that he had to fight this battle as Herne's Chosen Son, he would have died. He had spent weeks pouring over every Watcher chronicle relating to Gulnar that he could get his hands on, looking for something that could have given Nasir the slightest edge in that battle, but he had totally neglected seeking such an advantage within Nasir's own chronicle. And so in the end he had left it to dumb luck when the answer was locked in a case a couple of feet away.
A scream brought him back to reality. It came from Nasir's room, and it chilled him to the bone. He prayed to be wrong to all the gods he had ever known, but deep within himself he knew it wasn't over yet.
With MacLeod's help they had managed to restrain Nasir. Luckily the Dark Quickening had taken control of his body while he slept, he had been unarmed.
The first thing they had to do was get him to Holy Ground before he could do any damage. Herne's cave was probably their best choice. He clung to the memory of the events that took place during Duncan's Dark Quickening as a faint glimmer of hope. For five thousand years he had never encountered a Dark Quickening and now the bloody things seemed to be turning into an epidemic, but at least now he knew what to expect, and, more importantly, what to do about it. For a man who hadn't felt guilt since the eleventh century, Sean Burn's death still weighted heavily on his conscience, and he was willing to do anything in his power to prevent something like that from ever happening again.
Now if he could only be sure that he remembered the way to that cave.
He was in Herne's cave... someone had brought him there -the same person who had placed Albion in his hand... but there was someone else with him, an enemy this one... he was sure of it, even though he couldn't see him. He was afraid, he knew he couldn't fight there, it was Holy Ground, but nothing marked it as such, so he wasn't sure if his opponent knew that.
Oddly enough the unfamiliar feeling of that sword in his hand gave him comfort, he felt protected. For the first time he understood that he was in fact Herne's Son, and that Albion was truly his sword. Gradually he managed to make out the other's silhouette. He gasped as he recognized the curved twin blades his opponent was wielding, as his own.
He was no longer sure if what was happening was real or not. He didn't know where he was. He knew it was a battle, he realized that he had to fight, but he wasn't sure as to where the battlefield was, whether it was Herne's cave, his own mind, or somewhere else entirely. It was a nightmare, and in this nightmare he knew he had to fight himself to the death.
As he circled his other self he began to understand what was at stake, and it terrified him. Gulnar's quickening had done something to him, it hadn't been absorbed as it should have been, instead it had been embodied into this twisted version of himself that threatened to take control of his own body. Someone had prevented THAT from happening -probably Methos. Nasir remembered the myth of the Dark Quickening, only now he knew it wasn't a myth at all.
All coherent thought was banished from his mind as their swords clashed for the first time.
He could feel the battle taking place inside the cave. There was something familiar about it. He had done this before for the man who was now standing beside him. He knew that at some level Duncan was probably praying, and for a moment he envied him for that easy escape from helplessness. An escape that his own long survival denied him. But Duncan's survival was an escape in itself, his presence a reassurance more powerful than any prayer could ever be. For Duncan had survived a Dark Quickening.
He turned to look at Duncan, he seemed to be petrified, as if he were witnessing a replay of his own personal nightmare. For a moment he blamed himself for having dragged him along knowing what might happen, but he had known from the start that the outcome of this battle could not be left to chance.
Stopping Gulnar had been more important than their lives, and certainly more important than playing by the book. From the beginning he had suspected that, should Nasir win their actual encounter, the outcome was still more than likely to be a Dark Quickening. No one, not even Herne's Son could absorb so much evil and remain unchanged.
Unfortunately he had been correct, and now he found himself for a second time waiting outside a secret-sacred place... waiting to know if he was going to be forced to take a dear friend's head, and in a dark afterthought he wondered which friend's head would it be.
He knew Duncan always played by the book, and he knew that should the dark Nasir win, he could not be allowed to live. So he made his choice; if they had to fight him, Duncan would go first. The reason for his choice made him shiver, deep down he knew it wasn't because Duncan was a better fighter, it wasn't because he felt confident that he was strong enough to beat Nasir... it was only because he knew Duncan would never take Nasir's head mid-quickening.
Of course, no matter how many heads fell in the process, he wasn't sure his own age would be defense enough against the strength of the dark quickening, just as he wasn't sure whether Duncan's own Dark Quickening had dissipated, had been totally absorbed or whether it lay dormant within the Scot. The possibility of both quickenings becoming somehow combined was too dreadful to contemplate.
He was waiting with Methos outside the cave, and he just couldn't help feeling that there was something wrong. Perhaps it was just that the silence was driving him crazy. He knew better than Methos what was going on in that cave, he had been there himself and his memories of that time were far from pleasant.
There was nothing they could do now to help Nasir, but they could do something about the silence. He turned to Methos, hoping that they could at least ease the tension between them. So finally he asked:
"Was it like this for you before, when you were waiting outside that sanctuary for me to fight my own demons?"
"Yes... no... I'm not sure. It is similar, but back then I wasn't even sure as to what I was supposed to be doing. Everything was new. Now I am worried, I know it is dangerous, but at least I know that he does have a chance. With you I wasn't even sure of that, I was just hoping... guessing."
"But about Nasir... you knew from the start that this was going to happen, didn't you? That's why you asked me to come along in the first place." It wasn't a question.
"Yes, I couldn't be sure, of course, but I knew it was likely."
"And what we are doing for Nasir is the same thing you did for me, only I was fighting with my father's claymore."
"Well, your father's claymore wouldn't do Nasir much good. This isn't about a specific sword, Duncan. It is about a sword that can help you remember who you are, what you fight for. For you it was your father's sword, for Nasir it is Albion..."
"He is fighting himself..." Duncan gasped.
"As you did..."
"He is fighting himself, fighting himself with Albion." Duncan desperately insisted.
"Duncan, what's wrong?" Asked Methos, unable to understand the Scot's reaction.
"Herne's Son is my master, I cannot slay him."
Duncan had barely whispered the words, but somehow they roared through his mind and refused to die down. He mentally cursed himself in languages he didn't know he still remembered, as the implications of those words sank in and he fought to control his own fear.
They were evenly matched, with Albion working to both his advantage and his disadvantage, forcing him to fight with unfamiliar moves, so unlike the ones he used with his own blades, but at the same time making it difficult for his opponent to accurately predict his moves.
They were fighting on Holy Ground, but somehow he knew that the rules that governed the meetings between immortals did not apply to this encounter, still the idea of taking a head, with Albion, in Herne's most sacred spot, troubled him. It felt as a betrayal, even though he knew that the alternative, should he lose this encounter, would be worse than losing his own head... and it would result in an even greater betrayal.
They had been fighting for what seemed like an eternity. He felt tired, and he hoped his dark half would be feeling the strain too. It had been quite literally centuries since he had last fought with such a heavy sword. He missed his usual blades, but he knew that this battle was an aftermath of his encounter with Gulnar, and as such it was meant for Herne's Son. That knowledge somehow made it easier... being able to distance himself from his other half, his other self... he was no longer Nasir fighting himself, but Herne's Son fighting Nasir... only that deep down he knew that they were one. He knew Nasir was Herne's Son, just as much as he was his dark half. His dark half was Herne's Son as much as he was Nasir... he too was Herne's Son... Albion... the oath... Herne's Son is my master, I cannot slay him.
His mind froze, but only for an instant, as everything came into focus. He could never defeat his dark half using Albion, for he was a part of himself and as such was protected by Albion. He had to think... fast. He needed a new strategy. Albion would never kill his other self, that was certain, but it had already proven that it would fight him. It had provided an effective defense against his twin blades... twin blades... Albion couldn't kill this opponent, but there was nothing in that oath about not disarming Herne's Son. If he could only make relinquishing one of the blades an acceptable trade-off for his other half. It was his only chance, he had to use Albion to try to recover one of his own swords, and the only way to do that meant, quite literally, risking his head.
Once he knew how to approach the fight it didn't take long for him to recapture one of his blades. He "accidentally" made a mistake that left him exposed. It was an opportunity his dark half couldn't afford to miss... and then with a swift motion he pulled his body out of the way and stroke close to the hilt... not as efficient, and definitely not as crippling as striking his opponent's wrist itself -something he wasn't sure Albion would allow-, but by applying enough force, and making good use of Albion's greater weight, it proved to be effective enough.
And then he found himself fighting an even stranger battle... same clothes... same face... same weapon. He could no longer pretend that he was facing someone else, that he was Herne's Son fighting a stranger called Nasir, or Nasir fighting Herne's Son. They were one... the powers of good and evil... fighting to maintain a balance as they always had. He had to win the battle to claim back his own darkness, his own balance.
He was no longer just going through the motions of the swordfight, but had a clear goal of how and why he had to win this battle... and his move to recapture his sword had caught his opponent unawares, so that he was now having trouble trying to regain his momentum.
It wasn't long before he managed to defeat his adversary. He took the other's head and waited for the Quickening to hit, but there was none because no one had died. He did feel, however, his sword dissolving from his hand.
He picked up Albion, and walked out of the cave.
It took them a moment to figure out which Nasir had stepped out of the cave, and to lower their swords.
Methos could hardly believe that in spite of his mistakes, his friend had survived. He didn't know what to say, how to apologize to him for having been so blind. He wanted to ask him what had happened, how had he managed to survive, but he felt that it should be Nasir's choice whether or not he wanted to tell them.
They were all exhausted, so any explanation would have to wait until the following morning. He looked up to the sky and it's pinkish hue made him correct himself... afternoon at least... anyone who dared to wake him up before that, was dead. The youngsters were turning this "getting up before the sun" business into a really appalling habit.
The last couple of days had been a much needed break after all that had happened. He had gotten some of his questions answered, and now it was time for both Duncan and himself to leave. They had nothing left to do in the forest, now that Gulnar was dead and Nasir was himself again.
He had been wandering around for a few hours until he found himself at the cave's entrance. He could feel Herne's presence inside, as he had so many centuries before. It was as if the forest had somehow been spared the passage of time... like himself... and, for an instant, he felt almost as if he were part of it. He thought about going into that cave but he shook his head as he walked away... still he smiled, knowing that he could come back, but now it was time for them to go home.