Excerpt from "Facing the Future

Tall Tales and Haunted Places"

Part 3: As Inevitable as Death
Completed July 28, 1998

Highlander is © 1997 Davis/Panzer Productions. This is fanfiction, not to be considered canon, nor will it infringe upon the aforementioned copyright. No money is being made off this story. Darnit. This is also historical fiction. Any resemblance to actual persons or events is probably intentional.

"In Switzerland, as elsewhere in that region, the high mountains stand like ramparts against the sky. It was 1885. I lived in Grisons, the 'land of 150 valleys'. There the streams of the Raetian Alps wend to the North Sea by way of the Rhine, the Black Sea by way of the Inn and to the Adriatic sea by way of the rivers of the southern valley. Many of the people in that canton still live isolated by geography from the changing world. They keep to themselves, largely speaking various dialects of Romantsch. Tourists often take the train from Zurich into the area to ski. Or just to be on holiday."
Years could pass unmarked and unmourned for an Immortal. It was difficult to keep up with the passage of time and the repeating cycles of history. In the last thousand years particularly there had been little change. The languages were stagnating. After the fall of Rome there had been little meaningful contact between distant peoples. In Cassandra's long lifetime the mortal world had often gone through short spurts of activity wherein it seemed that great changes might occur, then disaster came and civilizations deteriorated.

Cassandra sometimes slept through the winters. When the waiting weighed too heavily upon her, when her visions showed nothing but the usual wars, she would walk high into the mountains. She would find a lonely, isolated place mortals would be unlikely to go to, then curl up and let the freezing winds take her into the temporary death. When the weather warmed enough or if her half-death dreams alerted her to danger, she would wake and collect her hidden cache of supplies. Back down into the high valleys she would go to her hidden home. Every so often something would happen. The weather would not warm enough or she would have hidden herself too carefully and she would wake to find she had slept through several winters. The first time she had lost years in that way, she was alarmed until she realized that it did not really matter. The world did not change enough, even in centuries, that she would not recognize it when she woke.

For there is no death that is permanent for an Immortal. Drown, and then wake to find you can breath the water. Freezing, starvation, thirst and other such deaths, you could die of them only to wake and die of them again. Cassandra simply skipped the waking until conditions changed, or she felt the pull of the world calling her. Kantos coming, or something else of interest.

In the stillness and absolute calm of death she lay. Freezing to death was one of the least unpleasant ways to die. There was pain for a short while, then the illusion of warmth as the body shut down. Familiar presences would join her in the stillness. Hijad and Circe would hold her in their arms. She did not know if the two ghosts were aware of one another, nor if they were even real or merely products of her wishful dreams. It really did not matter. The illusion was enough for her.

Then came the faint stirring of her talents. The whisper of change. A sudden murmur of excitement. Something out there. Some reason to explore, something different. She disengaged from the stillness and peace reluctantly, but she had to know what was happening. Coldness enfolded her, as it always did. Then there was the jerk and yank, as she accepted waking and her Immortality drew her to life. Her first breath of the freezing, dry air was painful and shocking. Always new, for all that she was familiar with it. She curled to her feet, instinct and memory taking her hands straight to her oil-lamp and lighting it. Ancient knowledge kept in the forefront of her memory. A fire that lit easily and a stout but not too heavy cage with tiny mirrors to reflect and brighten its light. She had once used bright metal, but she liked the mirror-glass better.

Her hands were beginning to ache. No matter. She gathered up the pile of cold-weather gear she had stored and left the isolated crevasse.

It was the Year of Our Lord, 1885. She had slept for four decades. If anyone recognized her she would, as always, claim to be her own granddaughter. She moved back into her home, so much a part of the landscape and hidden so deep in the woods that no one had found it. There remained a sense in the air as of great events going on. It was not a dream of danger, precisely, that had woken her. It was a feeling that she was missing something. She could see this was so in the peculiar behavior of the town societies. There were strange foods on the table, mysterious items from all over the world for sale in shops. The clothing people wore was indeed bizarre. Cassandra adapted, as always. She wondered, though, what was happening in the world to cause this great sense of something coming. Her visions fluttered with life and death, hatred and love but there was an accelerated sense to everything. She puzzled over it but found no answers. So she simply went back to living.

The summer season in Graubunden - Grisons - Canton was incredible. The winter snow melts sent water cascading down into the valleys. The ragged mountain tops looked like broken walls of citadels. In many places the mountainsides were rocky and dangerous to climb. Other slopes had no visible rocks, the grass grew thick and soft upon them.

Gathering herbs on a bright, sunny day, Cassandra basked in the peace. She always enjoyed such times for as long as she could. She had lived in the area on and off throughout two millennia. On and off being a relative term for an Immortal. When she had first come here, the Romans were building roads across the Julier, Septimer and Splugen passes, and had built a castrum - precurser of castles - in Chur where all the roads joined.

Christianity had found its way to the land by about the same time, the second century after Christ's life. A missionary came into the region, was martyred and later sainted by the church. There was a bishop living in Chur by the mid fourth century, but the religion did not truly spread until after the Franks took the region from the Goths in 537. It was Charlemagne, in the Ninth Century, who had felt that the most important landlords were the bishop, the abbey of Disentis and certain of the monasteries. The leading clan of the region was the Viktorides, whose members sometimes sat the bishop's throne. Charlemagne had ordered the separation of secular and spiritual powers, and established a dukedom from the countships of Upper and Lower Raetia. This gave him a ruling body to issue orders to.

Cassandra had moved out of the region during that period. Her senses told her that at this time there was much of interest going on, and she wanted to see more of the world. Besides, when regional power was shuffling like that, the situation always became dangerous for innocent bystanders. Centuries of experience had taught her to get while the going was good. She had returned several times since. Temporarily lost in the past, she wondered what was happening in the country these days.

As if in answer to her thoughts, a presence disturbed the peace. She could hear someone tramping through the woods. If she were feeling generous to whomever it was, she would admit they were not really tramping. Only in comparison with her silent ways. She listened idly, with talents she largely let lie fallow. A young male. Frustrated but with great optimism. Almost as if drawn he was heading straight towards her. She considered disappearing farther into the woods, but it had been a long time since she had just talked to anyone.

A clear, young voice filtered through the woods, singing a song. The tune was familiar though the words were not. So many melodies were recycled so often, it became difficult to remember where or when she had first heard them. "If all the world were paper and all the sea were ink, if all the trees were bread and cheese what would we do for drink?" the voice sang with some enthusiasm. Its accent, despite the words to the song, was aristocratic. Cassandra wondered what the song was about. "If all the world were sand O, Oh then what should we lack O, if as they say there were no clay how should we take Tobacco? If all our vessels ran-a, if none but had a crack-a, if Spanish apes ate all the grapes how should we do for sack-a?" Cassandra gave up trying to make sense of the song and just listened. "If all the world were men and men lived all in trenches, and there were none but we alone, how should we do for wenches? If friars had no bald pates nor nuns had no dark cloisters, if all the seas were beans and peas how should we do for oysters? If there had been no projects nor none that did great wrongs, if fiddlers shall turn players all how should we do for songs? If all things were eternal and nothing their end bringing, if this should be then how should we here make an end of singing?"

She was mildly surprised that the final two stanzas stirred her heart. She waited, but it appeared the song had reached its end. The boy was starting to deviate in his course and might miss her after all. She wanted to meet him. A song she had heard over three centuries before sprang to mind. It was English, but singing it in High German presented no challenge. It was a somewhat bizarre song to match the one the boy had just sung.

"The Indian weed withered quite, green at morn cut down at night. Shows thy decay; all flesh is hay: thus think, then drink Tobacco. And when the smoke ascends on high, think thou behold'st the vanity of worldly stuff, gone with a puff: thus think, then drink Tobacco. But when the pipe grows foul within, think of my soul defiled with sin, and that the fire doth it require: thus think, then drink Tobacco. The ashes that are left behind may serve to put thee still in mind, that into dust return thou must: thus think, then drink Tobacco."

The boy reached her when she was halfway through the song. He stood across the clearing from her and looked quite astonished. His clothes were new and thick cut. He was paler than she was accustomed to seeing. He had fine bone structure, and his eyes were an indeterminate brown. A son of a rich family, twelve or thirteen years old. When Cassandra finished the song, she inclined her head slightly in greeting.

He shook himself and blinked at her, embarrassed. "Your singing is lovely, Fraulein. Robert Wisdome would be flattered."

"Thank you, Herr," she replied, greeting him with the same respectful politeness he had shown to her. She waited for him to speak again, impressed that he knew the name of the man who had written that song.

He suddenly blushed and held out his hand to her. "Henri von Salis at your service, Fraulein."

Ah, a Salis. That was the name of one of the leading families in the whole of Grisons. The family was constantly producing outstanding soldiers, statesmen, poets and scholars. It had its hooks in most of the other rich families. She had known a poet from one of the joined lines, Johann Gaudenz von Salis-Seewis. He was buried at the church of Seewis about eight decades ago.

Henri von Salis did not resemble his distant cousin, and would not come to. She could see his adult face in her vision's center, long and sharply boned, knowing brownish eyes glinting with humor. This polite curiosity of his would remain with him, though there were shadowy hints of other possibilities. Mortals changed so much, so quickly. He would physically look much different before she could ever become accustomed to his face. He would sire children and give his heart to them, and she could never do anything to match that miracle. The marvelous potential of his character warmed her heart.

He suddenly looked brightly at her, eyes twinkling. "Are you a gypsy? Will you be kidnapping me and holding me to ransom?"

Startled by the question, she almost took it seriously before the smile at the edge of his lips bloomed full. She arched her eyebrows at him in mock severity. "I am not a gypsy."

His lips parted in a mischievous grin. "Are you certain? You have a most unusual accent; and I think you must be widely traveled. As well, you have not given me your name."

Quite true. She had forgotten to introduce herself and the young man was not so subtly reproving her lack of courtesy. She gathered up her herb basket, her arm through the woven handle and gazed steadily at his bright face. "I am called Cassandra," she told him calmly.

His eyes brightened with mischief. "And have you no family name, Fraulein Cassandra?"

She allowed her old melancholy to show. "No, I have no family at all."

He looked stricken suddenly, his eyes apologizing for asking such a personal question. He was young. By most cultures' standards he was already a man. The English chose eight as the age at which a boy was a man; ready to assume responsibility for his family if his father was ill or dead. The children of poorer families often led shortened lives. They coughed their lungs out in mines, or burned their eyes out and crippled their hands doing lace work for rich families. Cassandra had lived in the underside of cities and often taken care of such brutalized young people. Here was this young man, whose family's wealth kept him free of doing manual labor, but whose heart could still be cut. The poor did not have the luxury of playing games with other minds.

Henri von Salis stepped hesitantly closer to her. "What are you doing?" he asked with the curiosity of his age.

"I am gathering herbs to make winter medicines," she told him truthfully.

His eyes brightened. "Are you the village wise-woman?"

Amused, she replied, "No, I am the witch in the woods."

He smiled at her, clearly not at all intimidated. Then he winced slightly and rubbed his throat. "Pardon me, Fraulein," he said, looking quite embarrassed. He stepped back into the bushes and she heard him spitting, trying to work more moisture into a dry throat. Ah, rich and from the low country. He had yet to adjust to the spare mountain air.

She raised her voice. "You may call me Cassandra, if you wish."

He came back swiftly, grinning broadly. "I am very pleased to meet you, Cassandra. You may call ME Henri." He added shyly, "If you wish."

He talked to her as they walked together through the woods towards her home. He told her that his family came from Zurich. This was his first time in the mountains. His father had purchased a mountain chalet as that was the fashionable thing for the rich to do, these days. "Father's trying to buy his way into Davos," he mentioned, sounding irritated.

"Davos? Why?" She had heard of that resort, high in the mountains.

"Because it's famous as a place to have consumption treated," he replied. At her puzzled glance he stopped and stared at her. "You don't know about that?"

"I am not aware of current events."

"Current events," he muttered. He shook his head and smiled sheepishly. "Actually, this was about fifteen years ago."

"Tell me," she invited him.

He shuffled his feet and cleared his throat. "Doctor Spengler from Germany developed a special treatment for consumption. Davos is the place for the rich to get treated. It is a very expensive resort. Father intends to purchase shares of it with an eye towards owning it in the future." As he spoke, he sounded increasingly bitter. "He is not a kind man," he added absently.

She suspected as much. When a soft-spoken, friendly child showed hostility towards his own parent it was not without reason. Cassandra tilted her head, looking around at the trees around them. "Do you know what surrounds you?" she asked him.

He stopped and looked around. With a world-weariness that did not belong in a mortal child, he said, "Nature."

She nodded as his gaze came to rest on her. "Yes. Here there are beech, poplar, elms and birches. There are braken and ivy, mushrooms, moss and blackberries. Pine trees. These plants feed and shelter many creatures. If you would like, I will teach you to see them."

He was gazing wide-eyed at her. "Would you truly? I love animals." The bright hope shone from him.

"I would. There is something you might do for me in exchange, though."

His head came up, eyes filled with a sad caution. "What might that be, Cassandra?"

"You could tell me what is happening these days. I know many things, but... my knowledge of the last century of history is rather vague."

Henri looked astonished. "You would trust me to teach you about the world?"

She nodded her head. Henri was clearly a bright young man. Whether or not he liked the man, his father had seen to it that he was educated. She could tell that from his vocabulary.

"I would be honored," he said with quiet dignity and gave her a courtly bow.

She curtsied in return.

The summer went fairly quickly with Henri to teach and talk to. They often wandered the woods together, finding plants and creatures. There were cuckoos, crows, blackbirds, woodcocks, chamois, foxes and trout to be observed. There were hikes to find the nests of the yellow mountain bees. There were the stories she exchanged for his information.

One day, they were picking the delicate, velvety-cupped blue gentian flowers and the conversation drifted to languages. Henri said, "Officially we speak German, you know."

"Who speaks German?" Cassandra asked.

"Oh, everyone in Switzerland. Although in 1880 the new constitution granted equal status to the German, Romantsch and Italian languages."

Cassandra looked at him and tilted her head. "Very few people in this canton speak German," she commented. Her thoughts drifted to the Romanish, a language wholly different from Romantsch and much like Latin. There was the drawling Maienfelder dialect which was a German variation. There was the broad-sounding Zurich-bieter Dutsch. In St. Gall and Thurgovie the dialect tended towards nasal tones, while in Uri the people spoke as though they gurgled.

Henri chuckled. "Yes, Father likes to complain that he has to bring a different local translator along everywhere he goes because the peasants speak different gibberish from town to town!" He sat up, stretching his back and arms. He flopped down, avoiding the delicate flowers and asked, "Why are there so MANY languages in this canton?"

"There is a legend to explain the many languages," Cassandra mused. Henri sat up quickly and waited for her to speak. She considered the legend for a moment, converting it to High German in her head. "The Creator commanded the Angel Logos to sow the seeds of language in the heads of men. The seeds were contained in bags to be spread over each region. They took root in the brains of mankind and sprouted all at once; languages burst forth in torrents. However, when the Angel Logos returned to the Creator, he found to his horror that he had omitted the Grey Federation. The Creator told him to take the seeds that remained in the bags and empty them on the Canton of Glaciers, as he called this region. Hence came the many different languages and dialects of the mountain people."

"Do you believe in angels?" Henri asked her.

She stopped gathering herbs and sat in silence, thinking. "I believe there are powers greater than ourselves in this world. I believe in the power of good, and of evil. I have never seen an angel, but I do not disbelieve in them."

Angels, djinni, other winged humanoid creatures populated legends she had heard on and off all through her life. Sometimes wings flapped in her visions. Crows on the killing fields after a battle, or pennants flapping in the wind. Loose robed people of the desert came through distorted when she saw the future. Images of horror were more vivid than images of peace. The world, however, was in constant warfare in one place or another, and areas at peace were usually only pleasant for about half of their population, while the other half did all of the work. Cassandra had never made any prophecies, but those with the talent often did so in her presence. Their words served to pinpoint key events or faces she saw in her visions.

Henri's voice broke into her thoughts, drawing her back to the present. She was relieved, for she had felt that heavy weight which presaged visions, and preferred to endure them in privacy. "So you don't believe in angels," Henri was saying.

She tilted her chin down and admitted, "No." They stared at one another for a long time, Henri clearly waiting for her to say more. Cassandra turned the matter over in her mind to find his true question's answer. "I believe that certain events are inevitable. How we choose to react to them is a matter of choice. Death is inevitable."

"Not for me. I'm going to live forever!"

Cassandra felt a touch of melancholy amusement. "If that were true, then how do you think you would feel if you wanted to die, but could not?"

That thought had clearly never occurred to Henri. It was one that came up for many Immortals, but Henri was not. Cassandra thought, I will remember you and pass your memory on to the one who takes my head. And when there is only one he or she will remember us both. "Change is inevitable, Henri," she said gently.

"I suppose so. But the weather never changes. Well, winter-spring-summer-fall, but that isn't change. It's constant."

Cassandra replied thoughtfully, "Not completely. The winters here are not always the same, either."

"How are they different?"

She closed her eyes and thought of the long winters. How strange sometimes that she, a daughter of the desert, should find her favorite home in the mountains. "Sometimes the winters are only cold. Other times icy winds come from the central mountains in fierce gales. They howl through the night and day. Sometimes the clouds are heavy and hang like a thick, white mist in the air. Every winter the rivers, waterfalls and fountains freeze in a moment of startling splendor, as though fairies have built their winter castles for us to admire." Being with Henri was slowly inuring her to speaking for long periods of time. By herself, Cassandra rarely spoke. For the young man, she attempted to use more words to describe the amazing loveliness of the Grisons winters. "Sometimes the Sahara lets its breath out in the night, and the sudden warmth brings danger of avalanche. Then the winter takes hold again and ice, not snow, covers the land. It is dangerous and beautiful. To see it in the moonlight is to know that there are great powers in the world, concerned only with creating such moments of beauty."

Henri smiled and leaned his chin on his knees. "Do you like sunsets, too?"

"Of course."

"Two years ago the sunsets were magnificent. All orange, yellow and red. Now they're back to normal." He gazed at her, his eyes twinkling.

She tilted her head at him and pursed her lips. "You are going to tell me why?"

The boy raised his chin, affecting a hauty manner. "According to associates of my father, the sunsets were brightened by ash and clouds from the explosive eruption of a volcanic island, Krakatau. Um, near the North Americas. The sound of the eruption was heard in Australia!"

Cassandra nodded, impressed. He had given her a globe of the world. Rather an expensive one from the workmanship. She wondered if his father would ever notice it was gone. She said, "My grandmother told me that seventy years ago the skies turned yellow. There was frost in the summer, snow fell out of season and damaged many crops. There was wide-spread starvation. She cared for children orphaned or abandoned." She tilted her head again and asked him hopefully, "Do you know why it happened?"

He stared at her, eyes sorrowful. "No. I'll see if I can find out, though."

Cassandra's gaze turned inward as she remembered another time. "In 1783 my ancestress looked up at the sky to see that it was a strange shade of blue. That summer was unusually cool. A friend of hers said," and here she paused, amused, "that a friend of his named Benjamin Franklin, attributed it to the eruption of a volcano in Lakagigar, Iceland."

"Benjamin Franklin? The inventor?"

"I do not know. What did he invent?"

Henri sat forward eagerly. "Oh, he invented the lightning rod. He thought that lightning would move from a negative location to a positive one to maintain balance, so he thought a positive iron rod would draw lightning away from places it might otherwise hit. He lived in..." the boy paused, trying to remember. "He lived in the colonies, a town called Philadelphia. This was before they won their independence from England."

Cassandra adopted a wide-eyed expression. "The colonies are independent?"

Henri stopped and stared at her, then caught the twinkle in her eyes. "Very funny." He grinned and continued. "He wanted to use a church steeple to prove his theory, but since the Philadelphia church spire wasn't ready in time, he attached an iron wire to the string of a kite and it attracted a strike from a storm cloud. He published his data the next year-" In response to Cassandra's quizzical eyebrow he added, "1753, in Poor Richard's Almanack. It became terribly fashionable to have conductors on your hats, your umbrellas, anything that could be turned to the purpose." He settled back, his gaze turning inward. Finally, he said, "This is a great interest of mine. I want to join the British Meteorological Society. I took a ride in a hot air balloon a few years ago. It was the most extraordinary experience! I could envy the men in France's Aerostatic Corps! You know, the first aeronauts rode in their balloon in 1783!"

Cassandra dipped her head in acknowledgment. The conversation having turned to the sky, she remembered she had something to show him. "Do you know what this is?" she asked, drawing a stone from one of her pouches and handing it to him.

He turned the small rock over in his hands. It was a black crystal made up of two parts which had formed together in the shape of a cross. He frowned. "I am afraid I do not know much about minerals, Cassandra," he said apologetically.

She shrugged slightly. "Nor do I, in truth. According to my grandmother, from HER grandmother, this stone was one of many like it that fell out of the skies over Naples, Italy, in 1660. I believe it must be a volcanic stone. At that time, the population was certain the stones were from their patron Saint, Januarius."

Henri looked over at her. "You know the most extraordinary things. And yet you do NOT know the most surprising things." He grinned suddenly. "Here's something very new. Last year, delegates at an international conference in Washington D.C. fixed zero degrees longitude at Greenwich Park in England. These days cartographers and seamen all decide where they are based upon where England is. Isn't it marvelous what modern science permits us to do?"

Cassandra's lips twitched and she bowed her head in amusement. "Modern science, indeed. Have they stopped arguing over whether the Earth is round or flat?"

"I think so. Though there are still some people who dispute it."

"Eratosthenes was the name of a luminary at the Library of Alexandria, sixteen centuries ago. There is a well at Syene, where at midday on the summer solstice sunlight reaches straight down to the bottom. He waited for the summer solstice, and measured the shadow cast by a column at midday. Since it's angle was about one-fiftieth of a circle, he multiplied the distance between Alexandria and Syene by fifty and concluded Earth's circumference was twenty-five thousand, five hundred miles."

Henri blinked. He eyed her doubtfully. "That's almost exactly right."

"Yes, it is."

He frowned and set his head on his knees. "How could they get it right so long ago and we've had it wrong for so long?"

She shrugged slightly. "The Alexandrian Library was destroyed fifteen centuries ago. It wasn't until the magnetic compass was invented over five centuries ago that people began concentrating on making accurate measurements again."

Henri raised his head and shook it as if to jog something loose. "I've got some." At her raised eyebrow he mustered his dignity. "In sixteen seventy-six Jean-Dominique Cassini started using Jupiter's moons to determine longitude. Did it with triangulation."


"And, in seventeen sixty-five, John Harrison's marine chronometer was approved by the British government. It lets sailors measure exact longitude at sea."

"Isn't Jupiter a god?"

He eyed her for a long moment as if to determine whether or not she was joking. Realizing she was not, he explained. "Yes. They gave one of the other planets the name of a pagan god."


Henri was silent again, his gaze turned inward, brow furrowed. At last the young man looked at her thoughtfully. "Do you believe in God?"

She tilted her head at him. "Did we not already discuss this?"

"You didn't answer the question, not really," he said mildly.

She stood and stared towards the peaks, their crags forming vague faces out of the mountains' silhouettes. Do I believe in God? She folded her arms around her chest. What to do; answer the question as Henri had asked it, or respond else wise? Perhaps a test to see how far he was willing to pursue the answer. "Yes," she told him.

He turned his head to look up at her. "I'm learning, Cassandra. That's a qualified 'yes'. What are your qualifications for this admission?"

Cassandra was amused by his question. Such a bright and searching young man. He would be amazing as an adult. "It is not God who does good, nor the Devil who does evil. It is people. Sometimes people who masquerade as gods." As Kantos sometimes had. There were times when she had come out of hiding to unwind the webs of power that Kantos had woven over mortals. There would then follow a century of wandering the wilds as he pursued her. She would lose him in great cities, for to find her in them would require much use of the Voice, and he would tire.

She felt a great deal of culpability for his methods. When he had been her student, she had been using her power in just that way, though usually without malice. Over time she had learned that words and a calm manner were often all that was needed. To take advantage of the weakness of most people's minds was cruel, and usually unnecessary. People already wanted to do things for a beautiful woman. They wanted to do things for a kind word. So she used her power very rarely. She had almost gone after Kantos to destroy him, but about nine centuries ago she had heard the Prophecy from the mouth of the mad hermit.

She bowed her head, lost in thought. He had been as much a hermit as she was. Hidden in his cave full of ancient arcane symbols. He made no sense and never had. He had never told her his name and she used to wonder if he even knew what it was. They had been lovers, when she could get him to clean up. Taking care of him was always such a relief from her own concerns. She had left Scotland years before he died, luring Kantos away from young Duncan MacLeod. When she returned to find his body rotted in its rags, she had laid him out and cleaned up the cave as best she could, before sealing it up in the ancient manner befitting kings. Mad he certainly was, but he had been a good man and a tender lover.

"Cassandra?" a voice interrupted her reverie.

It was Henri, of course. She suspected from the uncertain tone that he had spoken more than once. She looked down at him, sitting on the loam. "I was woolgathering, Henri. I am sorry."

He looked concerned but he nodded. "That's all right."

She sat down next to him, tilting her head. "The people of this area are very Christian, and yet they also still have, deeply entwined in their faith, the beliefs that existed here before Christ."

Henri cocked his head. "What makes you say that?"

She looked up toward the peaks around them. "They still see the mountains as giants. As great, living beings. Indeed they are, though not in that way. There are also the foods that it is customary to eat on special occasions such as Christenings and certain holidays. Then there is the Green Man. They say now that he is the Devil. But he is not."

He was Kantos, in fact. One of his games which she had foiled too late for some of his victims had left its legacy. The peasants of a village had been desperate to rid themselves of an evil knight. So Kantos had told them to give him an unbaptized child and he would help them. In the end, a young woman had become the village spokesman to make the deal. After Kantos had killed the knight, women bearing babies had made sure that the newborns were baptized almost the moment they came from the womb. Kantos had used the Voice to drive the woman who had been spokesman mad. She became like a wraith, haunting the houses where babes were being born, convinced that she had to steal one or she would never be free. Kantos had used the Christian faith and those peasants' fractional understanding of it. He had been hunting for foundlings, figuring them most likely not to be baptized right away. Fortunately he had not found any. No baby Immortals to be lost before they even had a life.

Henri lay back on the moss. "They say the guilt of one soul's destruction weighs far heavier than the saving of thousands and thousands of human lives. That is Christian."

"So it is. It is also pre-Christian."

"Hmm. Our Constitution forbids conducting blasphemous talk in public, or seeking in public," he began ticking off on his fingers, "by writing, illustration or degrading acts, to dishonor and vilify the objects of veneration, or the dogma, or the institutions, or the customs of any confession acknowledged by the State. People can go to prison up to two months and pay a fine up to one hundred and seventy francs. It also says that anyone who commits violence on sacred objects and thereby causes public scandal shall go to prison up to four months and pay a fine up to three hundred and forty francs."

Cassandra's lips twitched. "Are you trying to tell me I am being blasphemous?"

He was patently uneasy. Looking away from her, he asked, "Cassandra, are you a pagan?"

"Yes, I am."

She watched as he stared down at his shoes. "I see," he said quietly. She felt a vague sort of pity for him, but was somehow unsurprised. He was quiet for a while, then apologetically excused himself. She watched him go. There was no sense of impending danger, so she did not worry that a witch hunt might begin. She felt sad, though. His company had been very pleasant.

Three days later he came to help her hang herbs to dry outside her home. She inclined her head in sober greeting when he appeared. He raised his eyebrows apologetically. They worked in silence the afternoon through, until all of the herbs were drying in the summer sun. Finished, they retired to a large, flat boulder to eat some small treats.

Henri looked up shyly from his sandwich. "I was afraid you would make me leave."

"No," she replied simply. She would not have made him suffer for his upbringing. Neither, of course, would she attempt to change him. If he wanted to be different, he must decide for himself. She could only set an example.

"My father," Henri began quietly. Cassandra turned an inquiring look on him, and he shrugged slightly. "Father is very devout, in word. I have tried to be very devout in heart because... because..." he trailed off, frowning. At last he ran his fingers through his hair and blushed. He sighed. "I just do not want to be like him. He's cruel and angry. One would think being a Christian he would be different." Cassandra said nothing, remembering all too well the Spanish Inquisition, amongst other things. Henri shook his head. "I see him in me. I do not honor my father. I go to church on Sundays and pray every night that I will not someday realize I have become just like him. Sometimes I hate him, and that's wrong."

"It is un-Christian. Is that where you see him in yourself?"

He sighed. "Yes, it is. Sometimes I really love him. He is seeing to my education to make certain I can attend the Federal Technical College in Zurich. He's even arranged that I can join the Swiss Alpine Club! But he hated the Geneva Convention, which I think was a most Christian, humane undertaking. You know how, in 1830 all those peasants in England who were dispossessed of their land by the aristocrats, overran towns and then their leaders were tried, imprisoned or hung? He LAUGHS about it. Of course he does, because now that these people cannot farm, his businesses in England can hire them for almost nothing!" He stamped his foot and looked nervously at Cassandra. "You see what I mean? I am as poor a Christian as he is. I could be spending all my time helping out at a church, but instead I come to see you."

She did not nod. It was not hers to shape his decisions. It was, however, difficult to be neutral. She absorbed herself in the texture of the boulder, stroking it with her fingers as she sought to gather a response that would not hurt him. At last, she said, "Christianity itself is a kind, hopeful religion. It proffers rewards for gentle behavior."

Henri said flatly, "It does. I am well aware that rather few of it's followers are either kind or gentle. I want to be."

"Then you will be," she stated firmly. She looked into his eyes and tried to convey her confidence in him. Yes, there were a variety of possibilities for his future. Yes, he could choose which future would be his. And as for being a Christian... "Are you weak in your faith?" she asked Henri directly.

He lifted his head, almost defiantly, but meeting her serious gaze relaxed. "I don't think I am. I'm trying to set an example for my father. But it should be the other way around."

"You ARE being a good Christian, then. It is written in the Bible that you must show, whether you are slave, owner or stranger, that your faith has given your life meaning and joy."

Henri's smile blossomed. "So it is written. Nowhere is it written that you should torture people until they agree to be Christians. What an example the Crusaders set! Thank God for the printing press!"


"Oh, it's done wonders for Christianity. Many more people can read the Bible. I've been to the nearest church. You know, I know the Bible better than the Father does! It is taking the Church out of the hands of power-hungry leaders and putting it in the hands of those who truly follow its teachings."

Cassandra decided not to respond. If it was happening, it was a slow process. Her friend Galileo had died under those men's rule. Instead, she turned the subject slightly. "I lived in Venice for a time. I wanted to meet Aldus Manutius, but of course I never could. He died in 1515. He must have been an extraordinary man. In only thirty-three years he translated all of the major Greek texts and printed them in quantity."

Henri grinned again. "Did you ever hear William Hone's, 'The Political House That Jack Built'?"

Cassandra tilted her head, curious. "No. How does it go?"

He leaned back and said in a sing-song tone, "This is the man - all shaven and shorn, all cover'd with Orders - and all forlorn; the Dandy of sixty who bows with a grace, and has taste in wigs, collars, cuirasses and lace; who, to tricksters, and fools, leaves the State and its treasure, and, when Britain's in tears, sails about at his pleasure: Who spurn'd from his presence the Friends of his youth, and now has not one who will tell him the truth; who took to his councils, in evil hour, the Friends to the Reasons of lawless Power; that back the Public Informer, who would put down the Thing that, in spite of new Acts, and attempts to restrain it by Soldiers of Tax, will poison the Vermin, that plunder the Wealth, that lay in the House, that Jack built."

Cassandra had nodded slightly with each pause. She was puzzled. "The 'Thing'?"

"Johann Gutenberg's Thing. The printing press. Well, perhaps someone else invented it. There were some lawsuits over the question." Cassandra chuckled and Henri turned his head to look sharply at her. "You know, that's the first time you've done that since I met you." As she stared at him in surprise, he grinned broadly. "It's nice to see you can laugh."

She narrowed her eyes and tried for her wisest expression. "I can do many things. Laughter is one of my most prized talents."

Henri broke out with his own laughter at that.

Summer was drawing to a close. Soon Henri's family would return to Zurich. Cassandra was ready to stay awake through the winter, her home shored and stocked up. She had no intention of losing more time. Henri would be back the next summer. There was also the muffled but still present sensation of urgency. She started to consider leaving the area, for the urgency had a dark flavor to it and thoughts of Kantos were crossing her mind with increasing frequency.

One dark night she woke with images burning across her eyelids. Kantos, his sword at Henri's throat. His voice thrumming with the power she had taught him to use. His eyes glowing red with malice. She scrambled out of bed. The darkness slowed her not at all as she changed out of her light sleeping clothes and into more solid daywear. Kantos was in the area and would meet Henri. That was certain. She had to get to the boy's family and have them leave early, taking Henri out of harm's way. When Roland came, she would either be gone already or have to fight her way through him. That would not have presented a problem if he only fought alone. However, Kantos never came after her on his own, he always gathered a small team of mortals to help in his attack. She could not both fight him and control the mortals. Even if she broke the strength of his control, the mortals would probably still attack her. The Voice was most effective one-to-one, so Kantos mesmerized his victims separately before gathering them in a group.

She left the house, not sparing a glance at the strange, two-wheeled contraption Henri had brought her a few days earlier. She had recognized it as very like the one Maestro da Vinci had attempted to design three centuries before. She had not yet learned to ride it and it would do her no good. The air was cold and sharp in her lungs, presaging the winter to come. She ran, fleet of foot, missing the various wolves who had been her companions so many times. I should have a dog of some kind again, she thought as she ran. Her breathing was steady, her thoughts entirely calm. Kantos was a known quantity. He had even been her lover more than a millennia before. She knew him too well, knew what drove him and what haunted him. When she had realized what he was becoming, she had left him. That haunted him, too. She had been much younger, then, and could see no way to sway him from his course if love was not enough. Love was never enough to stop men from doing evil.

She moved into a sense of Presence, and knew that it was Kantos. She stopped and raised her head, considering ghosting away into the depths of the woods.

He spoke, a warning to her but his voice not directed at her. "She must be very beautiful, your Gypsy witch," he said calmly.

"Yes, she is," came Henri's voice. He sounded faintly puzzled. She listened quickly and felt faint threads of Kantos' power binding the boy. Fury burned through her. Not Henri! Not ANYONE, no helpless child for they were all children to her. There were so few who could find their own innate wisdom that transcended the years of their lives. Names and faces rose behind her eyes but vanished quickly, ignored in the needs of the moment.

Henri continued, his voice faded slightly with compulsion on him, but still containing a faint thread of indignation. "But Herr Kantos, she is neither Gypsy nor witch."

Kantos sounded amused. "We shall see."

Cassandra listened. No other bright mortal presences impinged on her senses. He had come alone. As in her vision, Henri was his hostage.

She stood and waited, cloaking herself in power until the breezes whispered with it as they passed around her. Thus had she been when the two of them had met; it always shook him.

When they came around the bend, both stopped. Henri looked stunned. Kantos threw his head up, his eyes narrowing, nostrils quivering to catch her scent on the wind. For a moment he seemed to have lost the power of speech. He collected himself, his eyes gleaming. "Well, well."

She fixed her gaze on Henri wanting... a thousand things but first wishing she could apologize for subjugating his will even as Kantos had. Her voice was soft though it thrummed with power. "Go home, Henri."

Kantos' gaze sharpened. "I don't think so." His hand descended heavily on the boy's shoulder. She saw Henri wince. Kantos' voice lowered into a purr. "Boy, you have delivered the Fraulein into the hands of her enemy. You must feel terrible. The cliff we walked past coming here. If you jump over the edge, you will no longer feel guilty."

Cassandra hissed. With Kantos' compulsion upon Henri, there was no room for her to lay a counter compulsion. She would have to do something else and quickly. In the faint morning light she could see tears gathering in the corners of Henri's eyes. The Ban Sidhe wail she let loose rocked both males, disrupting the threads of power and Henri staggered away from Kantos. "Run!" she told him, drawing her blade from its hidden sheath.

Kantos had already straightened up, outrage shining from him. He had not expended much strength on the young mortal, but still his recovery time surprised her. He's become stronger, flashed through her thoughts. She closed out all the world surrounding them, focusing her concentration on Kantos. Compulsion and counter-compulsion would be wasted, here. She was proof against his power as he was against hers. Forget the damn prophecy! Granted she intended to live to see it happen, but she would do her best to stop him TODAY!

Through the circling and feinting words had to be spoken. "After three-thousand years, you should be tired of letting these mortals move your life!" Kantos snarled. Unable to use the Voice, he was attempting to reason with her in his own way.

"I was tired two-thousand years ago. I cannot treat them like lemmings," she replied calmly. She swept out of reach of his strike and came back in. As they circled each other again, memories flew between them.

Winter in the mountains of the vast expanse of land that would someday be known as Russia. Cassandra looked upwards and watched with idle interest as a pack train made its way along a narrow mountain ridge. She was amused. Merchants were always trying to find faster ways to take their wares through the mountains to foreign markets. Fortunes to be made if they were brave enough, or paid someone to be brave enough, to find the right path.

A moment, the flash of sound like sight. A white storm rolling down the mountain towards the pack train. If they screamed it could not have been heard beneath the cold storm. The snow passed the ledge, leaving it swept clean and came the tremendous distance down. Cassandra almost felt pity, then she began the trek to where the train was buried. There was something interesting in the remains. She would wait a few days to see that they were all dead, her Immortality protecting her from the cold. Then she would dig down, her Sight already showed her where, and discover what it was that was so interesting to her senses.

A few days later she found him there in the snow. One pink hand amongst wrinkled gray ones. The faint blur-sense of another Immortal on the verge of waking from death. Cassandra touched the hand and moved it curiously, sensing sleeping power. The snow fell aside to reveal chains. A slave, then. Another of her kind, enslaved. She stared at the chains, her thoughts for a rare moment motionless. Did he know what he was? Did it matter? She could take his head while he was completely helpless. She cleared the snow away from his face, decision made before she was quite aware of it. She gathered the threads of power about her, an invisible shining, as he coughed and drew in air, eyes opening blue and filled with incomprehension. He stared up at her before raising trembling hands towards her face. She did not draw away or prevent him. He was so pink and red with the cold, his clothes ragged. Much more of this treatment and he would have lost limbs to the cold before his first death. As it was, when she removed his jagged footwear she found two withered toes and that his right foot was missing those two. She felt almost guilty for not having come earlier. Almost.

She could give him the chance she had not been given. The chance to come into his power secure in the knowledge of what he was. The chance to be strong almost from the first and not wake for years from night terrors generated by horrors after his first death.

The passage of years in their peaceful valley nestled amongst the mountain peaks. Lying in fields of multi-colored flowers; curled together amongst the ferns. Running with the winds just for the joy of it. Kantos could sing. Oh, Cassandra could sing, but she was accustomed to her own voice. Kantos knew strange music. He fashioned a small harp which he mourned as being very low-quality. Still, when he played it they forgot everything except the moment.

All things change with time. Mortal settlers eventually found the small valley. Cassandra and Kantos retreated deeper into the mountains. Centuries had already passed for them. Soon they would have to leave or the mortals might hunt them. This she had warned her student and lover about. That was why she always made her home far from the haunts of man. Kantos looked upon the settlers with resentment. His anger deepened when he saw that they had slaves among them.

The settlement grew to become a small town of a few hundred people, a supply depot for armies that passed on their way through the mountains to wage war for reason, or even sometimes for no reason but the glory. Kantos became moody and dark. Cassandra's dreams began to leak blood. "Voice of Death," whispered in her mind, bringing to memory a tall form with heavy hands and cold, brown eyes. She told Kantos it was time for them to leave and he agreed, yet that night he did not return to their small home. When he did return in the morning, the moodiness was gone. He washed himself contentedly and gave her a gift of some delicate golden jewelry. He smiled, looking a mere two decades old. Cassandra was glad to see his smile again.

Until three days later when she went into the town. Silence. From the farm houses along the way only dogs barked at her passing, to whine and wag their tails when she bid them hush. Dead. They were all dead. The horror of it, as she found the bodies, was slow to completely sink in. It seemed as though every mortal had suicided, except for the babies who had died at their parents' hands. Cassandra sat down finally, shaken and sick to her gut. She wanted to ignore what her instincts and dreams told her. Kantos moving through the town, whispering with his power into defenseless ears. "You want to die."

"Don't leave me!" he screamed at her. His Voice lashed out but could not hold her. "What does it matter that I killed them?! They would have killed US, you know that! If they knew about us they would kill us, or make us work like dogs in the fields!"

"What you did was WRONG!" she told him firmly, shaking. "You hold their lives in the palm of your hand. You should not close your hand! They are helpless and you must have compassion."

"NO! ONE is helpless! But they BREED! In just a few generations they are dangerous."

He was the Voice of Death. She knew that, yet she could not bring herself to attack him. She could not stay with him and so she fled, but not far. It would be a century before Kantos would realize who it was who thwarted his plans every time, and minimized his impact upon the mortal world.

The memories were pushed aside in the clash of swords, the bright morning sunlight bouncing in surprise off the graceful woman and the less-graceful man. Kantos had never developed his sword-skills to the fullest. He had for centuries relied upon his Voice in battle, to weaken and slow his opponents. Only with Cassandra was that talent of no use. She, though, also had never developed her sword-skills to the fullest. She lived isolated. Any Immortal who found her could either be avoided or sent on his way. She had not taken a Quickening since some centuries before she had found Kantos, hating the feeling of destroying another person. Because of this, the two were fairly evenly matched.

They had fought their way to the cliff-edge. Far below was the tumbling river, its roar echoing up the rock-face. They fought in silence, their faces fierce. Kantos overreached himself but succeeded in disarming his former lover. She grappled with his sword hand and propelled them over the edge. He lost his grip on his sword as they fell, clawing at each other furiously. They remained locked in a death-grip until the impact against the roaring river surface broke them apart. Cassandra lost consciousness with the initial impact.

She regained consciousness in darkness and cold, water moving all around. Her leg was caught tight. She reached down to feel the roughness of stone. Boulders, wedged between boulders. She struggled for a time but could not loose herself. Eventually she gave up the struggle. Futility was a condition she disliked more than any other. Wait, then, for conditions to change. She drew in, willing her body to shut down; cease taking in oxygen from the water. Death came and shrouded her in a deeper darkness than any she had ever seen. She drifted in a dream-state, occasionally stirring from it to register darkness and deep, abiding cold. There was always an eerie sense of motion as water passed around her. This was a familiar condition. No sense of urgency disturbed her so she remained quiescent.

Then one day she felt herself moving. A warmth stole across her and pulled at her. Sensing no danger she was reluctant to wake. There was suddenly a huge tug on her being, the familiar sensation of being drawn back to consciousness. She inhaled and woke coughing up water. Now that she could register feeling completely, her body ached, muscles knotting as she rolled to her feet and staggered farther up the shoal. She had fought Kantos and they fell into the river. She waited, breathing in carefully, until her body finished righting itself. She raised her head and looked about. She was not certain, at first, where she was. Then she recognized the landmarks around her. She had been washed several miles down the river. She drew a deep breath. Her clothes, when she examined them, were ratty, filled with sand and pebbles. How long she had been under?

She took a more careful look around. The air was moist and warm, clouds in the sky. Her eyes were drawn to the blooming trees in the field beyond. Apple and cherry trees. Well, it was spring again. Pity, her stomach was protesting its emptiness. That would be alright. On the way back to her home she would find berries and other such things that were in season. She sighed and began her trek.

It was when she came to the road that a dawning feeling of missed time stole across her. Paved. No one had ever paved a road though these mountains. This had not even been in the works when she was last awake. She had to have been out for at least four years. She started to step onto the road when she heard a bizarre sound. It rumbled, something like thunder except the pitch was all wrong, and it continued. It began to intensify, indicating the source was approaching. Cassandra backed off the road and into the bushes to observe.

A bizarre contraption rounded the bend. It looked a tiny bit like a carriage, except nothing pulled it. It belched black smoke as it rattled by. Cassandra stared after it, then shook her head and waved her hand to clear the air of the foul smell it left behind. There had been people sitting in it. A man and a woman, laughing cheerily. She mused, you fall in a river and the world changes. Perhaps I should have tried this before. She laughed slightly. An absurd idea, that by changing the venue where she waited out quiet times from ice to moving water, she had changed the world.

Though the road was paved, it was the same road as before and Cassandra followed it, wondering if her home was still intact. On rare occasions when she had been forced away from where ever she was living by circumstances rather than boredom, someone moved in or burned the place down. Foolishness, Cassandra's homes were always the best in the region. If there was one thing she knew, it was how to blend the knowledge of her millennia to build a strong, safe home, with hot and cold running water. She laughed softly. As she walked, sometimes other strange vehicles passed her. She stopped to watch each time, bemused. Then a fleet of those two-wheeled contraptions came around the bend, their riders laughing. Well, that had certainly caught on.

Her valley seemed untouched. She sighed with relief. What with those utterly bizarre contraptions on the road, she had begun to wonder if her home had been isolated enough to protect it. There it stood, deep in the woods. She stopped and stared at it. Obviously someone had moved into it. It appeared to be in excellent condition, the walls white-washed, the stones clear of growing plants, the shakes on top looked new and clean. The windows were clear. Cassandra raised her eyebrows and sighed softly. It was worth a check. There had been times before when she woke to find her homes tenanted or destroyed. She had managed to retrieve her valuables in the past. Unfortunately, this time she had not taken any with her or been able to act to preserve her things.

When she undid the secret latch and stepped inside, she was stunned. The house was largely the same. There were some small changes. A strange sort of push-button on the wall next to the door. Tentatively, she pushed it. The room lit up. She stared in surprise at the tiny, clear glass globes each with a bright filament of fire coiled inside, like frozen lightning. "How on Earth..?" she murmured. Gaslight had evidently been surpassed. She remembered the special 1879 issue of the Illustrated London News Henri had shown her. The blackness of the London winter night broken by beams of light. He had said, "A bright glow happens when an electric current is passed though the tips of carbon rods that are about 1/8th of an inch apart. Of course, after a while they burn away. Its called an arc light. But Thomas Edison is working to improve it already." This must be the product of that man's work. Henri's fascination with all things scientific - Cassandra felt a pang in her heart. What had happened to Henri? She sat down to collect herself and looked about her home.

Across from her was something very new. A stout bookshelf laden with magazines. She stood up and approached, curious. The magazines were in English, each dated. Tentatively, she pulled out the oldest one, dated October, 1888. It had a professional look to it, a kind of dull brown cover. No embellishments. "National Geographic Society," she read, and opened it.

On the first two pages was written this statement: "The National Geographic Society has been organized to increase and diffuse geographic knowledge, and the publication of a Magazine has been determined upon as one means of accomplishing these purposes. As it is not intended to be simply the organ of the Society, its pages will be open to all persons interested in geography, in the hope that it may become a channel of intercommunication, stimulate geographic investigation and prove an acceptable medium for the publication of results."

Other books graced the shelves besides the long series of magazines. It all seemed to be in chronological order. Cassandra drew a deep breath and reached for the last one. Time's Man of the Year, it was titled. An African man, identified as Haile Selassie, emperor of Ethiopia, graced its cover. The magazine was dated 1935. Cassandra gingerly returned it to the shelf and sat down. Fifty years had passed. Fifty years. I won't let it happen again, she told herself. There's too much going on, I can't lose time like this again. She laughed weakly. "I've been at the bottom of the river for fifty years...."

Her clothes were still in the drawers. They had been carefully tended over the years. There was no overt sense of menace, and the books on the shelf spoke to her of Henri. He had taken care of her home, she was certain. She could almost see him, though her visions were of the future and not the past. She threw out her old clothes, bathed and changed into a fresh set, then settled down at the bookshelf again. She chose magazines almost at random, but in chronological order. The National Geographics drew her because there were so many of them, but she tried to look at the other magazines, as well.

And hours passed without her noticing, so absorbed was she in the magazines.

The sound of the door being unlocked roused her from her reading. She looked up as it swung open. A young woman, perhaps thirteen years old, stood in the doorway and gaped at Cassandra. She looked as though she saw a ghost. "A-a-are you Fraulein Cassandra?"

Cassandra tilted her head in assent and asked, "But who are you, and how do you know my name?"

The other woman did not speak for a moment, still looking shocked. "I am Margot Seewis," she said with a deep curtsy. "I'm pleased to meet you."

"I am pleased to meet you, too," Cassandra replied dutifully. An extremely well-mannered young woman, for all the astonishment on her face. Like Henri, she was of an old, powerful family. Something in the slim girl's face clued the Immortal as to how Margot knew of her, but she said nothing, only repeating her question. "How do you know my name?"

"You can't be..." Margot trailed off. She was a tall girl, fair-haired yet with sharp cheekbones like Henri's. She wore a simple one-piece dress and a light sweater over that.

Cassandra recognized the problem and explained mildly, "My mother died recently, and left a note in her will about her mother's house. Grandmother's name was also Cassandra."

Margot's face cleared immediately. She lifted her head and smiled. "You look exactly like your grandmother!"

Nonplused, Cassandra asked, "I do? How do you know so well what she looked like? I myself did not know."

Margot stepped in somewhat shyly and skipped across the floor to sit beside Cassandra, a little smile tugging at her lips. Again, the Immortal was strongly reminded of Henri. "It's a terribly sweet, romantic story," she said, her eyes twinkling. "But," she added suddenly, "it gets rather strange and magical towards the end."


"Yes! It has all the trappings of a fairy tale, complete with an evil wizard!"

Cassandra found herself smiling. Margot somehow warmed her heart. She leaned forward in friendly greeting to this young woman who was most likely Henri's granddaughter, and all too like her grandfather.

Henri had commissioned a portrait of Cassandra that the artist had to paint from his painstaking description. It hung on the wall and he always showed it to the children before he told them the tale of the beauty and the sorcerer. The children adored the tale and believed every word, despite Henri's disclaimers when they got older.

Cassandra found herself agreeing to accompany Margot to meet the family. Henri would be sixty-three, now. As they walked, Margot began to sing melodiously. "Oh, they built a ship Titanic to sail the ocean blue, and they thought they had a ship that the water wouldn't go through. It was on its maiden trip when an iceberg hit the ship; It was sad when the great ship went down, BOOM--BOOM--BOOM! Uncles and Aunts, little children lost their pants; It was sad when the great ship went down, BOOM--BOOM--BOOM! Irish people came aboard with very little dough so they put them down below, where they'd be first to go."

Cassandra stopped in mid-step, shocked. "That is about the ship that sank in 1912, isn't it? That's a terrible song!" Henri, it seemed, had been careful to make sure that articles about such things that shocked the whole world would be there for her to read.

Margot nodded enthusiastically. "It comes from America, of course. Nobody knows who made it up, but kids all over America were singing it." She added after a moment, "American children are very strange."

"And how is it that YOU know it?"

"Oh, grandfather's seen to it that I get to learn all sorts of strange and bizarre things. He said your grandmother always enjoyed hearing about them." She stopped and looked seriously at the older woman. "When I was a child, he would tell me that tale as if he really believed it. When I got older, he started to say that it was what he only believed as a child. Momma says that he really does believe that Herr Kantos was the Devil and Cassandra was three-thousand years old. And you look just like her. Maybe I shouldn't bring you home."

"You are afraid he will go mad," Cassandra answered softly. So, Henri had still been within hearing range when Kantos had thrown his words at her.

"Well, momma would be. I'm not sure." Margot pursed her lips and toyed at a hunk of moss with her foot. "Grandfather has always seemed the epitome of sanity, to me. He worries, you see."

"Worries? About what?"

"Everything! I have never seen a man more aware of what is happening and what it might mean than grandfather! Oh, I know I'm only thirteen, but still I've met quite a few people."

Cassandra lifted her head, gazing up at the beauty of the mountain peaks. Breathtaking as ever. Still, she had to know. "What IS going on that worries him so?"

"Well, the world economic crisis. The Geneva Bank crash threatened even OUR concerns, but grandfather's portfolio is so diversified why, he's supporting the whole family right now! Our part of it, anyway." The young woman drew a deep breath as she gathered herself to explain. "The federal railways have great deficits. Tourism is at a lull so the hotel industry is failing. There is a great deal of foreign capital in the banks, but very little of our own. We aren't producing much, our imports and exports are dwindling," Margot paused again for breath, "Fascists are taking over Tecino canton in the south. The Austrians are bankrupt, Germany has shut her frontiers. England and some other countries have gone off the gold standard, and cheap Russian materials are driving local producers out of business!"

"A recipe for war," Cassandra said softly. She had seen this pattern before, though on smaller scales.

"Father says 'the government is aware of the situation'," she intoned, wagging her finger. "They're passing laws every day trying to preserve our neutrality. Grandfather says the fact that so many foreigners have their money in our banks may protect us. Father calls him cynical. And grandfather shakes his head and says that Germany is going mad , that everybody is sick of the old laws and there's nothing left there but rage. He thinks it's going to start a war that will whirl out to include the world. I mean, Germany was so devastated and demoralized after the Great War, It's no wonder they're angry. But would they really start another one? They're such a small country."

Any doubts about the young woman's grandfather vanished. Henri had done a great deal toward the raising of her. Cassandra suppressed her smile at how like him Margot sounded. "I suspect that is what people said just before the Great War."

"I have no idea," Margot shrugged. "I don't approve of war."

As they neared the Salis house, Cassandra paused in mid-step to stare at the poles that stretched high in the sky, holding up what seemed to be unending, thick black ropes. "Margot, what happens when these things break?"

"Oh, then you can't use the telephone."

Well, that cleared things up nicely. What on Earth was a telephone? Wait, she had read some mention of the invention among the magazines and books. Some sort of device for communicating over long distances, voices carried on special cords. She could not wait to try it out. As soon as she had someone to communicate with, that is. "Tell me, what about your grandmother?"

Margot's shoulders sank. "Oh, she died about four years ago."

Cassandra tilted her head in sympathy. "I'm sorry to hear that." The loss of a beloved, trusted family member was hard on a mortal. What must it have been like for Henri? "How is your grandfather, then?"

Margot straightened up and smiled wistfully. "Oh, he's fine these days. For a while, though, she was all he would talk about. He even seemed to forget about YOUR grandmother. You know, they used to go everywhere together. Grandmother was part of the Red Cross. When the great Influenza epidemic struck our troops in 1918, Grandmother was there on the frontier helping the sick men and he was with her. Momma told me she was afraid every day that she would hear they had sickened and died. And in 1920 they went to Geneva to observe the first meeting there of the League of Nations, you know, on May 15. Of course our country is a member but only on the condition that our neutrality be preserved. Grandfather said neither of them liked that, but at least Switzerland did become a member." She went on, waving her hands as she spoke. "In 1906 they went to San Francisco in America to help in the aftermath of the April 18 earthquake, 8.3 on the Richter scale. The Red Cross had to feed 300,000 people, and more than one thousand died between the fires and the quake! And when there was an equally powerful quake in Japan, on September 1 in 1923, they went there with relief supplies from our country. That quake was worse than the 'Frisco one because of the tsunami that came afterwards. It's called the Great Kanto Earthquake. 100,000 people died, there were fires and aftershocks for days." She added as an afterthought, "Grandmother was an aviator."

"No! Really?!"

"Yes, really! She was in the 1929 Women's Air Derby. They flew from Santa Monica to Cleveland, in America. All of the really famous Flygirls were there. Amelia Earhart, Pancho Barnes, Ruth Elder, Ruth Nichols, Bobbi Trout, Vera Dawn Walker, Phoebe Omlie... Grandmother wasn't famous, but she was the oldest of them."

It sounded like Henri had married a very interesting person. Cassandra thought she would have liked the woman.

Margot led the way into the house. It was fairly large for the region, but to all appearances perfectly standard. Easily three stories high, it rested on its granite foundation, the rest of the house wood to the shingles on the roof. It had a covered gallery around the first floor. The inside, though, was crowded with items from the world over. The colorful carpets on the floor looked Arabic; a Scottish plaid with huge tartan checks lay upon a divan. The chairs with their seemingly delicate design were definitely not local. Cassandra was interrupted in her gazing about by a surprised gasp from the stairs.

A woman in her mid-thirties stood upon the steps. She wore a pale lilac dress, delicately embroidered. Like her father and daughter she was fairly tall. Her eyes were like Henri's. Margot skipped forward and took the woman's hands in her own. "Mother, this is Cassandra, granddaughter of the Cassandra grandfather knew."

The woman's mouth opened slightly, then formed into a slow smile. She came down the steps with her daughter and clasped Cassandra's hands between her own. "How do you do, Fraulein Cassandra. I am Monique Salis-Seewis." Her eyes danced with delight. "You look just like your grandmother."

Cassandra raised her eyebrows, trying to look wry but her own smile was genuine in response to Monique. "So I've been told. I never knew." Suddenly worried, she said directly, "Margot thought you might prefer me not to come here, for your father's sake."

Monique glanced over at her grinning daughter and shook her head. "Father will be delighted to meet you. Did you know your grandmother well?"

Cassandra lowered her eyelashes demurely. "I didn't know her at all. My mother said I was much like her, though."

"Ah, don't tell father that, or he'll talk your ear off about both her and about my mother. He developed a taste for strong, intelligent women because of her. We have all benefited from it."

She was about to answer when, from the top of the stairs, a man spoke her name. She turned, prepared to say that she was another Cassandra. Her words stuck in her throat when she saw him.

The boy she had known had become a tall man, with broad, proud shoulders. He moved down the stairs with tightly controlled excitement, a smile of delight on his pale lips. There were laugh lines embedded deep in his skin and his face was long, his bones sharply defined against his skin. He reached the foot of the stairs and held out his hand. Instead of taking it, she found herself reaching up to lay her fingers upon his left cheek, amazed by his adult appearance. His smile broadened under her touch, the brown eyes dancing with joy.

Monique stepped in and slid an arm protectively around Cassandra's waist. "Father!" she said scoldingly, "Mother always said women flocked to you. You're getting much too old to be a Don Juan." Her arm tightened slightly, pulling Cassandra out of her astonished daze.

Glancing back and forth between Monique and Henri, Cassandra felt her cheeks grow hot. What HAD come over her? She had not reacted so ridiculously to a man since... since the last time she had fallen in love.... Oh, that was such a long time ago!

Henri gathered her hands between his. "I'm sorry, you're MUCH too young to be the Cassandra I knew." His smile was deep and warm as were his eyes. A knowing twinkle danced within. She felt herself falling into them.

Monique rolled her eyes and kept her protective arm around Cassandra's waist. "Father, this is your Cassandra's granddaughter of the same name. Don't you break her heart, now." She added in an aside, "I'm jealous, you know. I used to promise mother that if anything happened to her, I'd marry father. But by that time I was already married and had promised to forsake all others."

Cassandra, the spell Henri seemed to be casting over her temporarily broken, found herself laughing. Still, her cheeks were hot and she felt shy meeting Henri's knowing eyes. She tried to remind herself that she was Immortal and three-thousand years old. But for the first time in millennia, those years lifted and she felt like a young woman again.

Margot came to her other side. "What was your mother's name?" she asked curiously.

"Circe," Cassandra answered automatically. The name of her Immortal teacher came to mind whenever the word 'mother' was mentioned. Green-eyed, dusky-skinned Circe had taught her everything; had held her in the night when the memories overwhelmed her, and whispered vows of vengeance in Cassandra's name.

"Your family's custom is to use Greek names? What was your father's name?"

"He was named Hijad," she answered automatically.

Henri broke in, his low voice capturing her attention with remarkable magic of its own. "Now that's an interesting name. I'd love to hear about your family. Would you do me the honor of having dinner with me tonight?"

Margot cut in, teasingly, "Have you no shame, grandfather?"

He drew himself up to his full height and fixed his granddaughter with a steely, affectionate gaze. "None at all. Don't worry, she hasn't accepted the invitation yet."

Monique said firmly, "Perhaps she might if she could get a word in edgewise."

Cassandra DID accept the invitation, and many other such afterwards. Being among the family was stunning. While with them she was mortal; she could feel the blood and the swift leap of time flowing through her. Henri taught her modern dances, the Charleston and the Black Bottom. Margot and her mother often helped, teasing him unmercifully. Curiously they did not tease Cassandra, but folded her into their women's lives, a far cry from most such she had ever witnessed. Though women in Switzerland still officially did not have the right to vote, their influence was felt through their men.

She and Henri stole moments alone together. One early evening out in a meadow watching the stars, he took her hands in his and smiled. "It's so wonderful to be alive, isn't it, Cassandra?"

She nodded, her breath caught in her throat. Being alone with him she often lost her tongue. Her face flushed and she was glad he could not see the color. Though perhaps those bright, observant eyes saw the darkening of her skin.

He shook his head. "Do you know, of all inventions, which I believe will prove the most far-reaching?"

She shook her head, waiting.

"Vannevar Bush's differential analyzer in America. It can solve equations with as may as eighteen variables in almost no time at all. It's housed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology."

Cassandra smiled fondly, memory tripping through her. His eyes, so knowing. Shyly, she acknowledged their past with a phrase the granddaughter who had never met her grandmother could not have known. "It could never be as far-reaching as the Thing."


"The Thing that poisoned the Vermin who plundered the Wealth that lay in the House that Jack built."

He laughed softly. "It could never have been built without the knowledge disseminated by the Thing. I agree." He brought her hands to his lips and kissed her fingertips. He lifted his gaze to stare into her eyes, and she felt again as if she were drowning, yet afloat upon a warm sea. There was gratitude in the brown depths. He asked, "Will you marry me, and let me love you the rest of my life, Cassandra?"

She caught her breath, her blood running suddenly hot. A playful spirit made her say, "But the age-difference, sir! There is so much time between us."

"Oh, I don't mind marrying an older woman," he said, grinning.

She gathered her scattered wits to make a frivolous remark, having learned some from Margot. Then she was lost in his eyes again and could say nothing for a moment. When she could speak, words deserted her and she had nothing to say.

They married at the Church of St. Peter in Mistail. It was one of the oldest churches in Grisons Canton, though still younger than Cassandra. For their honeymoon they went to Paris, France, because she admitted to him that she had never been there. The city was a marvel of beauty and artistic wonders as they strolled. Its night-life was brilliant when they went dancing. Cassandra stepped shyly into the styles of the thirties, her hair cut to below her ears, the fine cloche hats of the period lending her a lightness she normally could only feign. They saw talkie-films and toured, for curiosity's sake, the manufacturing floors of some of Paris' forty-odd rival car companies. They listened with delight to an old man as he told the tale of how, during the Great War, General Gallieni saved Paris from attack by requisitioning the Taxis of the Marne to carry reinforcements to the front.

Eventually they returned to the Salis home in Grisons Canton, Switzerland. They loved and lived until Henri von Salis passed away at the age of a hundred and two, leaving Cassandra to pick up the pieces of her life, so empty without him in it.