The Fifth Horseman
A Magnficent 7 - Highlander - Wild Wild West Crossover
by Terrance K. Harrington
Part III: Storm Front
The three men had separated fairly early in the chase. After all, it was better to split the pursuers, and it improved the chances that at least one of the three would escape to tell of the matter. The Dark Riders took the bait, splitting into three roughly equal groups to proceed.
Vin Tanner, used to tracking others, quickly lost his group. As soon as he knew he was clear, he spurred his mount as fast as was healthy, on as straight a line as possible with Four Corners.
Chris Larabee, on the other hand, was not as adept, prefering a good fight to running, anyway. However, before he could dismount and seek cover, he heard a muffled rifle *crack!* and felt a stinging sensation in his right shoulder. Reaching back, he amazingly felt no blood, but he almost immediately began experiencing other difficulties. Within seconds, his mind became extraordinarily fuzzy, and he sat, dazed in his saddle. With no urging or direction, his horse slowed to a halt. Shortly, his chasers caught up. Chris numbly tried to look at the men, tried to gain some understanding of what had befallen him. Yet, nothing seemed familiar, and the words being spoken by those surrounding him made no sense. After what may have been seconds... or even days, from his warped perceptions... the men rode away, leaving Chris sitting dumbly on his horse, in the middle of nowhere.
It took several minutes for the effect to wear off, but Chris soon felt the grogginess receed, and, he too... though at a slower pace... aimed his horse toward home, for Four Corners. He thought he understood, now, how people were being taken without a single blow being thrown, but he wanted more answers... especially, he wanted to know why he was left, not taken...
Duncan McLeod had other plans. Like Vin, he was an experienced tracker, so he probably could have lost his pursuers easily enough... yet, he only stayed far enough ahead to set a few quick traps. Duncan was an Immortal, and had a different set of priorities. Although he, like Chris, sought answers, he sought particular ones... this had the feel of another Immortal behind it, and he wanted to know who it was. There once was another place, another time, where a similar set of events occured. If this were the handiwork of that particular Immortal, he and his new friends were in tremendous danger. In fact, if this Immortal were still alive, still up to his old tricks, no one was safe, anywhere...
Duncan had been born too late for the Crusades, but he still found plenty of trouble on the mainland when he finally arrived there during the late 17th Century. He had befriended a man who planned to travel from Spain back to his home, but wished to see Constantinopol at least once in his life, having heard about the city from family members who had visited. Duncan was still unschooled and illiterate at this point, but he loved adventure, and thought the idea to hold potential.
Among the troubles still seething in that part of the world was continued animosity between the followers of the Christus and those who followed Mohammed's legacy. In particular, there was a Serbian prince who longed to drive Islam from his beloved land, and he stopped at nothing to accomplish the task. Legend had it that this prince fought against the original incursions into the regions going back as far as the 600 A.D.'s. Of course, no one but an Immortal would ever give such talk a second thought. But, as Duncan and his mortal friend neared their destination, rumor began taking the shape of reality. On one occasion, Duncan got to see, first hand, the work of this man who was called Prince Slaus by his men: over 200 men in a coastal town had been hung on either side of the road entering the village... not because they aided the enemy, but simply because they refused to fight a superior foe. The Prince decided that since such cowards refused to die in his honor and service, they would die to prevent "siring worthless cowards like them". Any sons over 12 years of age were taken into forced labor, and any under 12 were herded off to be trained as proper fighting men for their "Lord"...
Duncan never met this Slaus, but word circulating the fearful villages was that the Prince had once rode with a legendary group of cold-blooded killers from the Russian steppes who called themselves the "Four Horsemen". Duncan placed little stock in such rumors, since such Immortals (and that's what they would have to be, if true) would have been been nearly 5000 years old... old, even for those who only die by a chance stroke of some blade. Yet, seeing the end result of this Slaus' justice made Duncan wonder...
His more obvious traps were, naturally, avoided. Of course, the path of avoiding them lead into less obvious ones. Duncan was able to reduce the number of his opponents to five within seconds. He made his move when the last remaining few dismounted to help fallen comrades. He was among them in seconds.
In another time and another place, Duncan McLeod had been washed ashore in a strange land, and was befriended by a warrior, who placed his own life at risk by allowing Duncan to live. The man, who called himself a samurai, in service to a warlord called a shogun, taught Duncan as many of the samurai skills (called jujitsu, or "methods of giving way" and kenjutsu, or "way of the sword") as he could, and, over the years, Duncan had managed to master some of these techniques. He used all his skill against the remaining five Riders, and soon had them subdued.
The answers he got to specific questions did nothing but heighten his concerns... it was imperative that he make it to Four Corners, if for no other purpose than to evacuate it, before all Hell broke loose...
Larabee's group of Riders regrouped with one other set after a while. The young woman had escaped, and two of the men apparently did likewise. The Boss would not be pleased, but this was no capital offense... they had other duties to attend. Several of the men disapproved that their Major had decided to allow Larabee to ride on... especially after Markham's splendid shot, but he reminded them that (a) it was not their task to round up stray cowboys, and (b) if the man didn't flee to the East Coast... even to book passage elsewhere... he would be caught and/or killed, later.
Time the Dark Riders had plenty of... it was a commodity that the denizens of the region had in ever diminishing "ticks", however...
Send Terry a wire!
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