This story was written while I myself was a volunteer at the FolkFest. I was a NightHawk, overnight security, one of the hardest and least appreciated jobs on site. If this tale seems a little strange to you, keep in mind that it was inspired by lack of sleep; being stuck in the dark at three in the morning watching boxes full of equipment, and holding on to your sanity any way you can.

But if working 'Hawks is Purgatoy, then being there for Festival weekend is a little bit of Heaven. Join me then, for the true festival experience...


Folk Forever

The Edmonton Folk Music Festival, known simply as Folkfest, was an outdoor festival in the original sense of the word. No seats, no shelter: just a stage and a hill. Every long-term Folkie had a love-hate relationship with The Hill. You came, you staked out your favourite spot; each day you started over, hoping no one came early and took your place; and of course, you had to climb the damn thing.

Joe Dawson was a veteran Folkie, as much as he could take time off his "work" every year to see it. This time Joe had cheated a bit; besides, it was about time Mac got to see a little bit of what he was passionate about.

It was a crisp August evening in Edmonton, but at least it didn't look like rain. Their tarp was more than halfway up the hill, and Joe was almost ready to admit he was getting too old for this. Bundled up in true festival style (at least five layers of clothing, plus gloves), Joe leaned over his cane and looked enviously at MacLeod. Duncan was clad in jeans, plain white T-shirt and black leather jacket; quite a few Folk girls admired him as he walked past, striding easily as if he were on level ground.

Joe glared at the Immortal, "You know, sometimes I hate you."

Duncan turned back to his Watcher, all Innocence. "Hey, I was born a Highlander."

Dawson growled, half to himself, "Highlander? You're a bloody goat!"

Suddenly Methos appeared from another direction, with a wide grin; "Did someone say goat? There's a booth down there that sells goat, best I've had in almost a thousand years."

Joe and Mac shared a did you invite him? look; both shrugged in unison. Methos just gave one of his infuriating grins and dropped into step as they climbed. He tried to make up for his awkward appearance with equally awkward conversation: "You know what goes great with goat?" The answer came in stereo: "Beer?"

He looked hurt by the implication that he was predictable. "No actually, mead. But since nobody makes decent mead anymoreÖ" By then they had reached the tarp. Joe turned around carefully, looking downslope toward the Beer Tent. "Thereís no way Iím going back down there!"

Methos pounced cannily on the opportunity, "You mean youíd save the spot for us? Thatís great." Dawson recognised the irony of two old/young men abandoning a much younger Old Man while they had their fun. As they took their first steps down he cleared his throat meaningfully.

"Donít you boys have a tarp marker?" The world-wise Immortals stared at him without a clue. "Something so you can find your way back again."

"Um, canít you just stand up or something?"

Dawson shook his head wearily; "Do you guys have any idea how many people are going to be on this hill?" Twin shrugs. "A marker just makes sense; usually itís something big, easy to recognise andóunique." Both Immortals stared in horror at the Watcher; each glanced at the other.

Duncan spoke up first, "Well, Iím not using mine!"

Methos sounded almost petulant, "What makes you think I even have mine?"

So began a pitifully childish exchange, which the Watcher observed with mixed amusement and annoyance. "Yours is more memorable"ó "Yours is bigger"ó"A ha! So you admit it"ó "Size isnít everything! Yours is older." Joe could barely keep himself from laughing as Methos growled "Damned right, practically a museum piece!" Duncan brought out a verbal coup de grace: "Yours hasnít been used as much!"

The Eldest Immortal sputtered his indignation; "I resent that remark!" Finally, though, he just threw up his arms in defeat: "Forget this, I just want my beer." Despite his own words, he pulled the ancient weapon from his pack, driving it deep into the soil beside the tarp. He levelled an accusing finger at the Highlander: "Just remember, Iím under your protection now."

As the two picked their way down the slope, Joe could hear a muttered exchange behind him. "That thingís going to block the show!"ó "Fine, you tell them"ó "No way, you tell Ďem!"

It soon became quite clear why the hill wasnít very busy, not to mention why the Beer Tent had its own security. The man in the tan coloured T-shirt was ushering people in small groups only, and the two were lucky to get in together. Methos found the whole idea of separate ticket and drink lines vaguely amusing, while Duncan couldnít shake a sense of unease. Even from the back of the line, they noticed the rather attractive redhead behind the counter; Methos gave Duncan a knowing smile and a nudge. They were the next to be served before the Buzz finally hit, the two froze warily and there was even a catch in the redheadís pleasant voice as she turned toward themÖ

"Hi boys, what can I get foróYOU!!", the last word was spoken in such a tone of scorn that everything stopped for a moment. The object of that concentrated ire was Methos, who froze like startled rabbit.

"Cassandra, " he managed finally, "itís so nice to see you volunteering your time like this." It sounded rather lame, even in his own ears.

"I knew if I stayed around beer long enough Iíd find you again."

Duncan quickly interposed himself between the two ancients; Cassandra was already half way across the counter with death in her eyes. "Heís unarmed!"

She bared painted nails like claws, not even taking her eyes off her intended target; "Thatís his mistake, not mine." Already some of the less inebriated patrons were backing away. In the background Duncan thought he heard a tense voice hissing into a radio. If he could just defuse the situation a little longeró a desperate thought came to mind.

"You canít do this. Itís Holy Ground," his voice was an insistent whisper. Methos looked on this with amazed confusion, while Cassandra was merely annoyed. "For whom?" she challenged angrily. "Considering the purple haze hanging over this place, probably the Rastafarians." She shot Mac a look of mixed shock and disappointment; "Thatís the kind of shallow, fabricated argument Iíd expect from this manipulative bastard, not from you."

Duncan glanced over; Methos looked pale as a ghost and ready to flee into the crowd. A lot of help heíd be. Perhaps a rational approach would work, "Look, this is a public festival. Thereís innocent people here, thousands of dollars worth of equipmentÖ" Methos opened his mouth, once again, at exactly the wrong time; "And besides, have you ever seen a beer keg explode? Itís just not a pretty sight."

Just then a new Buzz froze the trio where they stood. A quiet, confident voice asked, "Is there a problem here?" Cassandraís demeanor shifted instantly; "No trouble here, Charlie. No problem at all." The manís dark festival T-shirt read Site Security and he had the subdued presence of a man accustomed to command. "I certainly hope not. There will be no Situations on my shift; have I made myself clear, Ms. Donan?" Cassandra actually paled for a second and swiftly returned to her duties.

Charlie led the two men through the crowds to a more private corner. He fixed each of them with a dark look before speaking. "All right, what was really going on in there?" Methos was conspicuously silent, leaving Duncan to explain; "Thereís a lot of old blood between those two; tempers flare pretty hot when they get together." The cause of all the trouble finally rose to his own defense, "Honest, I never expected Iíd run into her again."

The man gave them both a stern glare. "I meant what I said back there. I run a clean site and I make sure nothing goes wrong on my shift." The radio on his belt suddenly flared to life: Concession Gate to Two-Forks. He held up his hand in a quick command before keying his radio; "Go for Two-Forks." The call-sign more than the gesture shocked them to silence. Even so, they only caught snatches of the radio exchange. "Stop the vehicle now;" his voice was calm and controlled; "you know the site is live." A pause; then, "No one drives into Gallagher Park on festival weekend. If they give you any trouble tell them theyíll have to deal with me."

The man looked up suddenly; blinked for a moment as if he had forgotten the pair already. He quickly forestalled the question on both their lips; "An incident in the Site Kitchen years ago; the name stuck." A touch of mischief flashed briefly in otherwise somber eyes; "Besides, itís not like I need a knife." Without another word, he turned his back and walked away, presumably in the direction of the aforementioned gate.

Duncan pointed back into the crowd, "Still want that drink?" Methos jerked his head no, feeling a sudden need to put a large steep hill between him and a certain beer wench.

As he watched the dark-haired pair practically sprinting up the hill, Joe had a feeling that things hadnít gone well down below. Remembering that festival season was his well-deserved break from the world of Immortals; he wondered how he had managed to get saddled with two of them. "Trouble find you again?"

Methos sighed, "You could say that; Cassandraís down there and she wasnít too happy to see me."

Dawson couldnít believe it, his luck was actually getting worse. "Guess this means I wonít be seeing Wilson Pickett tonight, then?" The Watcher started gathering things for a quick getaway; it wouldnít be the first time.

Mac knew how much this meant to the old man; "Wait, itís not that bad. Someone else stepped in; someone who could get her to back down."

"Oh, so you met Charlie then?" The two Immortals gaped at the casual tone. "That man ran a tight ship, and he runs Folk site the same way: firm, but fair. Why do you think they let me come up here every year; I promise to keep an eye on Two-Forks and the others."

MacLeod couldnít believe it, "There are more of Us here?"

Dawson just smiled, "Sure. When youíve got all the time in the world, why not volunteer? That reminds me, youíd better be careful around Two-Forks."

"Why, is he looking for heads?"

"No, warm bodies." Before he could explain further, a young Security volunteer puffed up the hill.

It took a couple of seconds for him to get up enough courage; heíd never been asked to do this before. Pointing awkwardly at Duncan, he stammered, "Charlie wants to see you." Realizing how ridiculous that sounded, he tried again; "Iím supposed to bring you to the Production Office." There wasnít a speck of authority in his voice, despite all his efforts.

Mac almost felt sorry for the kid, but that didnít stop him from getting worried. He glanced over at Joe, who could only shrug. There was only one way to find out. He got to his feet, much to the relief of the volunteer. Mac smiled over his shoulder; "Iíll be back in time for the show. I hope."

It was a fair hike down to the off-season ski chalet that served as the siteís production office, but the volunteer didnít say a word. This wasnít the kind of job heíd signed on for and as soon as he finished this heíd be glad to go back to a nice, boring gate position. There was something about this man that gave him the creeps; even Kitchen Gate, considered Ďexileí by most during festival weekend, was beginning to look good.

Duncan couldnít help feeling like a lamb being led to slaughter. He didnít want to hurt the kid though, he was just doing his job and he wasnít even getting paid for it. The only thing he could do was stay alert and be ready for anything. His escort brought him right up to the door of the tiny building before almost sprinting away.

The only thing Mac hadnít prepared himself for was a crushing anti-climax. The office wasnít much: a few cheap desks, some ratty looking couches. In his current state, a shrunken head loomed large in his attention, until he realized it was made from a coconutÖ strange place. It wasnít hard to pick the source of the Buzz out of the group; matching it to a face he already recognized. The one they called Charlie Two-Forks grabbed his elbow even as he was reaching into his coat. "Not here," he hissed, "Iíve a reputation to keep."

The man obviously wasnít interested in Challenge, which left Duncan off-guard and uncertain. Reluctantly, he let himself be steered to one side, though he would not be cornered. "You wanted me, you got me."

The man waited until he was sure they were alone. "Relax. If this were about the Game, do you really think Iíd endanger one of my crew bringing you here?"

MacLeod wasnít quite ready to back down yet; "Iíve seen men who would."

"I heard more about what happened today. Youíve got a good head on your shoulders and, frankly, Iíd rather see it stay where it is. You can think on your feet and you work well under pressure." Watching a smile spread slowly on the other manís face, Mac remembered, too late, Dawsonís comment about a need for warm bodies. His fate was sealed by a single phrase: "So, how are you on the night-shift?"

Back on the hill, Joe found himself watching Methos more than the stage, "Donít look now, but I think your concern is showing."

"I donít know what youíre talking about."

"You just flinched when you thought you saw lightning down there."

"So?"

"So, itís raining." Joe paused, looking him in the eye; "You really are worried about him, arenít you?"

Methos was saved from a confession by a Buzz. He turned to find Duncan climbing wearily to their position. "You okay Mac? You look like you just made an appointment with something sharp."

Duncan sighed deeply as he settled down on the tarp; "Itís worse than that. I wasnít challenged; I was recruited. Iím a Nighthawk!"



Ok, time for another edition of Ghost Cat's what's real and what's not. The description of the Hill Experience is quite accurate, and personally, I wouldn't want to have to climb it with a cane. Tarp markers are a Festival tradition and though I've never seen a sword, I have seen everything from ski poles to flags to rubber chickens. There really is a coconut shrunken head at the Production Office; it's right under a sign that says "the last person who didn't pinch and pocket" (their cigarette butts). Oh, and yes, there really was a tent in the food fair selling goat meat!!

Charlie was loosely based on a real person.He's not Security; he's Production,which means he is in charge of making sure the whole Site gets put together every year. He is the closest thing the Festival site has to a Captain short of the Festival Director himself. He really does go by the radio-name "Two-Forks", though my story for how he got the name was purely a guess on my part. The "forks" in fact are the 2 Forklifts on site every year. Personally, I like my version better. He hasn't heard about this story yet, though I hope that he would be complimented by being made Immortal.
 
 

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