The wind blew softly, stirring the surface of the lake and creating gentle ripples. They rolled across the top of the water, chasing each other, and disturbing the otherwise glass-like purity of the surface. With a splash that shattered the stillness, Methos dived cleanly into the lake, and vanished into the blue depths. He surfaced again almost at once and shook his head, scattering droplets of water through the air. He grinned, enjoying the coolness and the feeling of relaxation, then leaned back and drifted aimlessly to the shore, letting the gentle movement of the water carry him. He closed his eyes, floating contentedly, listening to the distant cry of some bird.

"Methos!" The voice of his travelling companion, Kronos, came to his ears, sounding distant as the first waves of sleep began to have an effect. Methos straightened up, treading water slowly. Kronos slid down the sandy bank by the lake, childish enthusiasm lighting his face.

"Nomads!" he said brightly. "A large group of them. They have a few animals, and they're carrying something."

"Merchants." Methos let a lazy smile creep across his face. "How far away are they?"

"Just within sight. They're heading this way." Kronos grinned. "Lambs to the slaughter brother. We can take them."

"Of course we can. We can take anyone. But if they're heading this way there's no hurry." He smiled at his friend's impatience. "Relax, little brother. They'll come to us."

"I suppose." Kronos stood up. "I wonder what they're carrying."

"We'll find out, soon enough." Methos pulled himself out of the lake, and shook the water from his hair. Since joining Kronos on the road he had allowed his hair to grow, and it reached his shoulders now. It gave him a slightly wild appearance which he had not had before. Methos was a gentle looking man, whose soft eyes gave reassurance to those he met on the road; but they soon learned of their mistake if they happened to trust him. The apparently young man, with his easy smile, was deadly and utterly ruthless. He cared for nobody save himself, and for Kronos, and anybody else was simply a pawn. He killed for entertainment, for exercise, or for commercial gain. Travelling merchants meant money as well as sport. In the wild and savage world in which they lived, Methos and Kronos were not, in truth, much different to their fellow men. All were ruthless who lived in the territories beyond civilisation. The only difference between these two dark men, and their numerous counterparts, was that they were immortal - indestructible - and therefore invincible. When they attacked a merchant train they could not help but win.

Methos shrugged into his loose woollen tunic, and followed Kronos back towards their camp. Since meeting, they had lived a transient life, which had already taken them far from the place where they had met. There were no calendars, no way of keeping track of the time, and neither man had bothered to count the days. Time meant nothing to an Immortal anyway, especially not to Methos. He was already ancient, already older than many of the cities that he had seen. The only time that mattered to him was each separate day, to be faced as it came, and then discarded. He already had too many memories.

The wandering merchants could be seen on the horizon; a black snake of men and horses wandering onwards across the hard land. Methos felt the cold resolution harden within him. With every step these men came closer to him, and closer to death. He kicked out the fire, and brushed earth over the embers, then caught hold of his horse and swung up onto its back.

"We wait over there," he said, pointing to where a clump of weather-beaten trees clung tenaciously to the thin and sandy soil. "Let them come to us."

"We should ride at them," Kronos told him. "Sweep down out of the sun, and destroy them."

"Yes..." The idea had its attractions. This lifestyle of quick strikes and massacres had its advantages, but the dramatic spectacle of a well organised assault would be the best way to cause true terror. "But we would have to be more than just two for that."

"You think we need more men?" Swinging up onto his own horse, Kronos followed Methos into the trees. "You don't think that the two of us are capable?"

"It depends on the sort of targets you're planning to go for." Methos grinned. "You have an ambitious mind, brother. I like your style. But the two of us can't attack whole trains unless we do it under some kind of cover."

"Perhaps..." Kronos drew the sword which hung at his waist. "But I don't trust others. The mortals are too weak, and the Immortals aren't imaginative enough. They're only interested in the Game. There's no fun in that. Fighting other Immortals is a fair challenge, but it's not a career. Only mortals are truly afraid of us. Only mortals plead for their lives."

"I know what you mean." Methos drew his own sword. "The Game is too limited for those of us with real sight, hey brother? We can see that our immortality is a tool that can win us fame, power, riches - anything we want!" He glanced towards the merchant train, winding its way ever closer. "What do you think? We wait until they've reached us, and then work our way up from the back. Quick, quiet kills. Then when the others notice us, we unleash the real fury."

"As ever you show true class, brother." Kronos smiled. "But I still want to ride straight at them. Quiet kills under cover of secrecy; they have less style than an all out attack. We want people to be truly afraid of us, don't we?"

"We do." Methos shook his head. "I don't know what the answer is, Kronos. I just know that we can't attack them like that. Not when there are just the two of us; but I'll work on it, I promise."

"You do that. I was right to join you, brother. Your mind creates the plans I need."

Methos laughed. "You're not such a bad thinker yourself, Kronos. It was your idea to take up this line of work."

"True. But with you to help me I don't have to think. I can concentrate on what I do best." He swung the sword a few times, and his horse moved restlessly, sensing the rider's tension and excitement. "You think, I kill."

"I kill too, brother. I've killed more men than you've seen." They both laughed.

"Maybe; but I'll catch you up." Kronos smirked at him. "Just give me a little more time."

"Time is one thing we have plenty of." Methos raised his eyebrows as he looked at his friend. "But you won't catch me up. Not unless I stop. And I'm having far too much fun here."

"I'll just have to work a little harder then, won't I."

"In your dreams brother."

"I don't dream." Kronos grinned at him. "I don't have to. I already have everything a man could dream of. But I want to be a dream; or rather a nightmare."

"In time brother." Methos smiled broadly, the contentment clear in his face. "In time we'll be every mortal's greatest nightmare."

"I like the sound of that."

They fell silent, waiting for the train to grow closer. It took time for the merchants to come close. They were travelling at walking pace, and they had been some distance away. Finally they reached the remains of the Immortals' camp, and their unsuspecting innocence caused them to travel straight past the place where the two men were hiding. Kronos held his breath, his knuckles white on the hilt of his sword, his eyes bright. Methos, too, was tense, his mouth a hard line. He saw everything, heard everything, judging the moment when he could best hope to make his move. It had to be timed correctly. If the merchants sensed the danger too soon they would scatter, and then the raid would not be as successful. He raised his arm, the muscles taut, ready to leap into life as he commanded them.

"Methos..." Kronos spoke so quietly that his companion could barely hear; but any louder and the merchants would be alerted. "Methos, look." He did not move, but Methos saw the direction in which his eyes were pointing. He turned his head, and his dark eyes searched out whatever it was that had caught his friend's attention. Riding towards the merchants in a distinct attack formation were seven masked riders, weapons gleaming in the sunlight.

"Now that is what I call style." Kronos spoke too loudly, and Methos cast him a warning look. The merchants had not heard, however. A warning shout echoed through their ranks as the seven riders swept closer.

"Immortals!" Methos sheathed his sword, and swung his horse about. "Come on brother; this isn't the place for us."

"What?" Kronos stared at him in amazement. "You can't be serious!"

"I'm perfectly serious. There are seven of them, and I intend to live to fight another day." He grabbed hold of the bridle of the other man's horse. "Don't be a fool, little brother."


"No buts! Come on." Methos kicked at his horse, pulling his friend's along too. "While they're occupied with the merchants."

"Our merchants." Kronos did not resist further, and he followed the other Immortal. Quickly they rode away, through the trees and across the expanse of land that lay beyond. There were hills in the distance, and plenty of places where they could watch, and wait.

Behind them, the seven riders whirled their swords, cutting through the merchant train. The hapless mortals had no way to defend themselves. A few who were too close to the charging attackers fell dead. The others, throwing down their wares in desperation, turned and fled. The seven riders reined in their horses, removing their masks to watch the mortals run.

"Should we follow.?" one of the riders asked. Another, the leader, shook her head.

"Why bother? We've got what we wanted. There's no point in killing them." She slid from her horse and walked over to the abandoned luggage, turning it over. "Mmm - silks. These should sell well."

"Somebody else thought so too." One of the other riders was staring towards the trees. "They seem to have gone though."

"Yes." The woman stood up, a roll of silk in her arms. "Two of them. They must have been planning to attack the train themselves."

"Well we got here first." The man jumped to the ground and picked up another roll of silk. "And there are more of us." They all laughed, quickly loading their prize onto their horses.

"I wonder who they were?" The woman looked in the direction that the other two Immortals had taken. "They were obviously thieves too."

"Too? We're not thieves. We're artists." One of the men laughed, his boast seeming to inflate his chest. "Whoever they were, they aren't important. They left quickly enough."

"Showed good sense. They'd have been stupid to have stayed where they were with the seven of us coming at them." The woman pulled herself back onto her horse. "They could be future rivals."

"Not for long if they get in my way." Another of the gang grinned round at his friends. "I've got a quick way to remove a rival." They all laughed. The woman smiled too, but her eyes lingered after the other two Immortals.

"I have a feeling we'll meet again," she said, almost to herself. "There are few of us in this land. We have a way of coming together."

"You're not going to let them live, Aita?" One of her men stared at her, his expression somewhere between disbelief and concern. "There are seven of us. That's all the manpower we need."

"I know." Her smile was mysterious. "But Immortals intrigue me. I like to know a little about them before I take their heads. That's all." She grinned suddenly. "Come on. We have a long journey ahead of us before we can sell this silk. Then I'm of a mind to come back here. I think we have an appointment with our two friends."


"We shouldn't have run, Methos." As they had reached steeper ground, the two men had dismounted, and were now leading their horses into the hills.

"It was all we could do." Methos slipped, and caught hold of a rock to steady himself. "There were seven of them. I plan to live for a while longer before I lose my head."

"You needn't have lost it at all. We're only allowed to fight one on one. We could have handled them."

"Maybe." Methos stopped for a moment, and fixed his friend with a direct stare. "But one thing you have to learn, brother, is that there are ways to avoid the rules. Immortals that run in packs have a trick or two up their sleeves. If you kill one of them, they'll kill you while you're still weak. You're helpless after a Quickening."

"I suppose you're right." They started on again, reaching flatter ground, and climbed back onto their horses. "But it hurts to run, brother. I don't like to leave people thinking that I'm a coward."

"Neither do I." Methos scanned their immediate surroundings, taking in the rough, uneven territory, the thin vegetation and the short, wiry grass. "But sometimes it's better to face a situation with your mind, rather than with your sword. We're alive, brother. Leave it at that."

"Maybe." Kronos road on ahead, his sharp ears catching the sound of water. A small stream crossed their path, and they stopped their horses, dismounting. "I don't question the fact that it's better to be alive, but I won't have anybody thinking that I'm a coward. If we meet those people again--"

"We'll worry about that later." Methos stretched. It had been a long ride, and he was tired. "For now we have other matters to consider."

"Like our next raid?" There was a hopeful edge to the younger Immortal's voice. "We have to make up for losing that last train."

"Exactly." The old Immortal lay down, resting against the rocks which bordered the stream. "I don't know about you, but I want to visit a town again. Much as I prefer life out here, there are certain things which are available in towns that we just can't seem to get hold of otherwise. Wine, bread - women. But we need a successful raid before we can go into town."

"Not necessarily." Kronos sat down opposite Methos, juggling small pebbles in his hands. He had always found it difficult to sit still. "We could find a small town and raid it. Steal some wine, take some women."

"True." Methos had to smile at the enthusiasm with which Kronos had just spoken. "But women would only slow us down. They have their place, but for most of them it's not on the road with us. We need to be free to move when and where we like."

"It must be frustrating, always being right." Kronos scowled at his friend, but his eyes were smiling. "Okay. so we need another train. Up here we should be able to see for miles around."

"Exactly." Methos leant his head back. Behind him, the rocks were warm from the sun, and they felt welcoming. He had a sudden desire to be extremely lazy. "So we wait up here. There's sure to be plenty we can eat."

"Rabbits." Kronos made a face. "I hate rabbits. Maybe the stream will widen out further down the hill, and we can catch some fish."

"If you manage to catch any fish the way you jig around I'll eat the things raw." Methos smirked, his eyes closed. "But I take your point. I don't have much use for rabbits either." The smirk became a highly contented grin. "My first wife kept rabbits. They used to sit in the garden and eat her flowers. I'd have got rid of them, but she wouldn't hear of it. Stupid really."

"What happened in the end?" Kronos was attentive, his restless fidgeting momentarily ceased. He knew very little about his friend's life prior to their meeting. They had not been together long enough to have had many of these quiet moments when the old Immortal felt inclined to reminisce.

"I don't know." For a second something showed on Methos' face; sadness or regret, though it was gone so quickly that Kronos could not be sure. "One day I went out for a ride, and I never went back. When I woke up after my first death, I - I was scared, I suppose. The wounds hadn't healed yet, and I knew that I should be dead, but I wasn't." He opened his eyes, turning his head slowly to look at the stream, and trailed his hand in its fast flowing water. "I couldn't have gone back home then. So I left. I just got up, and walked away. I never heard anything of her again. I didn't even go to my father's grave before I left. Afterwards I used to tell myself that I would go back one day, but when I did, the house was an inn, and the gardens had gone." He shrugged. "The story of an Immortal." Kronos did not answer. He had also walked out on his family following his first death, leaving without a last goodbye. Methos had encouraged him to cut the ties, and he had come to realise that he did not regret it. It was strange to think that Methos might now be having second thoughts about his own path. The older Immortal shot him a sidelong glance, and grinned.

"Sorry brother. I didn't mean to sound like a lovelorn old man."

"You are an old man. You can't help it."

"Huh. Well old man or not, I'm not lovelorn. I did what I had to do, and I don't have any regrets. I've seen things you wouldn't believe. Cities in places that other people have never heard of. Views from mountains that others have never crossed. I know things about this world that other people couldn't imagine." He grinned. "That's what being an Immortal means. You abandon one way of life for another. You leave what's familiar, and you find yourself a new place; like we are now."

"I'd like to see new places." Kronos had a faraway look in his eyes. "I'd like to keep on riding, and see what I can find."

"Right now?" Methos frowned. "We're only just getting started brother."

"No, not now; someday." He laughed. "And we're not getting started very well, are we. The richest looking merchant train we've seen, and we ended up running away from it."

"Not from it, little brother. From other Immortals." Methos stood up. "And you're right. It is galling. Sometimes it isn't easy to do the sensible thing." He climbed up onto the rocks, and stared about. "We were right though; there is a good view from up here. We can make a good base here. Make a few strikes against travellers."

"Sure. Why not?" The younger Immortal drew his sword, and selected a likely looking stone to begin sharpening the blade. "We might as well practice on a few smaller targets. Just as long as it's understood that it's a temporary arrangement."

"Of course." Methos grinned down at him. "You think I have any intention of spending the rest of eternity making small attacks on wandering travellers? No chance." His eyes hardened. "No chance. I'll have these mortals quaking at my feet one day. I'll have every traveller afraid to hear my name mentioned. I'll be the one that every mother warns her children of; the nightmare that keeps them awake. I'll be the shadow in the darkness that makes them cry when they can't sleep." He smiled again. "So you needn't worry about me lacking in ambition, brother."

"Good." Kronos grinned too. "Can you see anybody up there?"

"Not a thing." He shrugged, a comical look on his face. "I guess we'll have to become legends another day." They both laughed, and the Immortal jumped down. "Make a fire, little brother. I'm going to catch us some fish."

As Methos wandered away, heading downstream, Kronos began to collect bits of scrub. The wiry bushes and dry grass that grew on the steeper parts of the hill made a good base for a fire, and he added some wood cut from the bigger bushes. As always, it was far from easy to light the fuel, and he worked hard, rubbing two dry sticks together, blinking the sweat from his eyes as he worked.

"Dammit," he growled, as the first wisps of smoke began to drift into the air. "There has got to be an easier way to do this." The smoke drifted higher, and he blew on it gently, watching as the first flash of flame ignited. Soon the dry wood had caught, and he added a little more, before scrambling up the rocks to stand where Methos had done before. There was an uninterrupted view of the land that lay below, and it stretched out around him, empty and silent. He smiled at it, his eyes catching the light from the fire. Methos' words had stirred the younger Immortal's heart. For years he had wandered in an aimless train of nomads, never stopping for long in any one place; never getting anywhere, never getting the chance to achieve anything. It had been a life of vague anonymity, with no likelihood of release. That had all changed one day, when his one time best friend had shot him. Kronos raised one hand to his chest, brushing against the place where the arrow had struck. There was not even the slightest mark there now. Something had died that day, he supposed, although he was not altogether sure what. Kronos the mortal perhaps, or Kronos the brother and the son. So much more had been brought to life. The smile grew into a grin that made his eyes burn, and gave his face a look of dangerous glee. There was so much to do before he could be sure that his old life was buried, and forgotten. So much to construct. Fortunately there was plenty of time. What better way was there to leave behind an unfortunate past, than to create a new and glorious present. This talk of legends and nightmares pleased him greatly. People had looked down on Kronos and his people. They had been travellers without roots, and the scorn they had been confronted with had hurt. He was going to make such people pay for all that they had said, and he was going to prove that he was so much more than just a homeless stray. Fate had brought him Methos, and together they could bring this whole land to its knees. He turned his head to look downstream, and caught a glimpse of his friend, wandering along beside the water, sliding uncertainly when the ground became steep, vanishing behind rocks and reappearing again. From his vantage point Kronos could see the wider stretch of water that Methos was heading for. He wondered if the old Immortal knew that he was being watched.

Methos did know; or suspected at least. He did not glance back to check, but he knew that his restless friend would be wanting something to do. Watching the other Immortal was something at least. The older man smiled to himself. They did make a good team, he thought reflectively, but it had surprised him that he had told Kronos about his first wife. That part of his life had been buried for years, and he rarely allowed himself to think of it, let alone speak of it. He let his mind drift back as he walked. The memories were already dim concerning some of the details, but others remained clear. He remembered the house. It had been white, and the roof had been made of wood. The gardens had been sculpted, as part of a display that had been common to all of the gardens in the city. He remembered a broad swathe of blue flowers that had been his favourites. His wife had liked to sit in the garden, and weave them into garlands to decorate the house, and especially the front door. Everybody had liked their house. It had always been open. Their neighbours had often come round to talk to the young couple, and to share stories. Even then, Methos had felt frustrated. He had hated to think that he would grow old there, that his children would grow old there, and that none of them would ever bother to explore the world beyond their immediate lands. He had been restless even then, and had wanted something more. He could never have imagined what had lain ahead.

He settled himself down by the water, watching for the tell tale flashes of silver that would indicate the presence of fish, then waded out into the river. It was cool and refreshing. He stood waist deep, watching the fish, then reached out, his nimble fingers stretching for their smooth underbellies, tickling gently. His eyes did not leave the fish, looking for signs that they had been lulled into a state of relaxation, then he flipped them out of the water. He caught four, and used his old knife to cut them, preparing them for cooking. Perhaps it was the recent memories, but the sight of his hands working with the knife, and the fish, made something snap into clear focus in his mind; a picture, of a walk beside a river with his first wife. They had caught fish, and cooked them sitting at the water's edge. He tried to remember if he had been contented then, but that was one thing that he could not recall. Even during his happiest moments, when he had yet to discover that he was immortal, there had always been something missing. Part of him, it seemed, had always known that he did not fit in.

He stood up, and began to walk back up the hill, carrying the fish on the blade of his knife. It would taste good, smoky from the fire. It was only a shame that it could not come on the crest of a wave of victory. Any food tasted better when the smell of blood was still on his hands. The feeling of excitement, the thrill of the fight, would still be hot within him, and the flames of the fire would serve to make the laughter wilder, the elation greater. He gritted his teeth. The masked Immortals had come from nowhere. He had not seen another of his kind in a while; not since he had first met Kronos. They were a rare breed. He would have to think carefully about the situation. It seemed to him that the seven required further investigation. There could be potential allies among their number, and there was certain to be more then one Quickening that could be taken. Maybe seven. He did not like the idea of competition, especially from a well organised band that moved so effectively. It was clear that he had to do something.


The days passed slowly. Life was relaxed in the hills, but relaxation was not what either Immortal wanted. They fought together in the mornings and in the evenings, and spent the afternoons hunting. A mountain goat proved to be the only game worth taking, and Methos could see the frustration building in his companion. It broke one morning as they sat together on the rocky summit of the hills, searching out potential targets.

"Why are we here Methos?" Kronos did not look at his friend, but spoke to the horizon. "What are we doing waiting here? We should be down there looking for targets, not waiting for them to come to us."

"Should we?" Methos did not look at Kronos either. "Why?"

"So we can fight someone, brother. Do what we're supposed to do. I'm not a goat that takes refuge in the mountains. Are you afraid of these Immortals?"

"No." Methos turned his head towards his friend. "No I'm not. I'm sorry brother, but I thought that we'd have found a few victims by now." He shook his head. "I rather think that our friends might have had something to do with that."

"You mean they're attacking the merchant trains before they come this way?" Kronos scowled. "We set up on the main trade route for a reason."

"So did they." Methos shrugged philosophically. "You can't blame them for getting the same idea we did."

"Yes I can. Because I want to beat them." Kronos stood up. "This is pointless. We can't sit up here for the rest of our lives, just waiting."

"True." Methos frowned. "I was so sure. We sensed them, so they must have sensed us. I was certain that they'd be curious; that they'd want to know who we are. I thought they'd come back." Kronos grinned.

"So did I. That's why I gave in so easily earlier on." He shrugged, and began to pace. There was not much space on the rocky outcrop, but there was room enough to vent some of his frustration. "We could always go and look for them."

"I suppose we could." Methos shook his head. "Maybe strategy isn't my strong point after all." They both laughed, unconcerned with immediate failures. They weren't an issue when there was unlimited time in which to make up for them.

"Don't be too hard on yourself, brother." Kronos had stopped pacing, and was staring at a distant point on the horizon. "There are four riders approaching."

"There are?" Methos stood up quickly. He could see the four riders in the distance, and he grinned, slapping his friend on the back and nearly knocking him off the rocks. "Come on, brother. We'll go down and wait for them to come. We'll hit them before they know what's happening."

"Right!" Kronos frowned. "I wonder who they are."

"Does it matter?" They grinned at each other, and began to slide down the hill. Methos whistled for the horses, and they followed, sliding on the loose earth, and whinnying softly. The two Immortals were focused on their targets, and neither of them had thought to look towards the opposite horizon, where three more riders, were visible, moving quickly towards them.


As they left the shadow of the hills, the two Immortals swung up onto their horses, looking for likely cover. There was a thin group of trees nearby, and they rode for them quickly, never ceasing to watch the approach of the four riders. Methos saw his companion draw his sword, and their eyes met briefly. Both grinned. There was excitement in their faces, and the old Immortal drew his own sword. They would attack first and ask questions later. Whatever these four riders had with them was not important. The main thing was to relieve frustration, and to dispel the gloom of inactivity with a sudden burst of fury.

"Ready..." Methos spoke in a low voice, although the riders were still too far away to hear him. "Wait until they're right up close. I'm not going to allow for any mistakes this time."

"Right with you brother." Kronos narrowed his eyes to slits, judging the distance between them and their intended victims. The expression gave him a vicious appearance, that matched his wild looks. The pair of them waited, watching, their tension building, the excitement growing, as the four hooded riders came closer and closer...

The buzzing of his sixth sense made the tension in Methos' body burst into a flash of cold fire that raged in his stomach. He looked at Kronos, and the younger Immortal stared back at him, amazed. More Immortals? It did not seem possible.

"Look for better cover." Methos hissed, and they swung their horse around, only to feel the presence of more approaching Immortals. Three more riders, also wearing hooded cloaks, were coming towards them from another direction, and there was no where for the two men to retreat to.

"Damn!" Methos jumped from his horse. "Get ready to fight them brother."

"I'm ready." His companion slid to the ground, his stance showing that he was prepared to leap into combat at the first opportunity. The seven horses reined in around them, surrounding them in a circle. The riders removed their hoods, revealing anonymous wooden face masks, held on with leather thongs. Seven steady pairs of eyes gazed at the two Immortals, the only part of the eery faces to show any signs of life.

"Well what have we here?" One of the riders dismounted, drawing his sword. "Two little rats, caught in a trap."

"And waiting to bite the trappers." Kronos took a step forward, his eyes flashing. The man might have reacted to his words, and to his threatening stance, but it was impossible to tell. The mask remained vacant and rigid, hiding the face beneath.

"Is that a challenge?" The masked man spun his sword in his hand, letting it describe a blurred circle in the air. "Come on then." Kronos took a step forward, his sword ready to meet the other man's, but another of the riders jumped to the ground.

"No Garek, wait." Her voice was female, and it carried the sound of authority. Her eyes beneath the mask flickered from one Immortal to the other, settling first on Kronos, then on Methos. "There'll be no fighting just yet."

"But--" the man began. She silenced him with a look, and then turned back to Methos and Kronos.

"Drop your swords," she said sharply. The two men stared at each other in amazement.

"I beg your pardon?" Methos was stunned. Immortals did not surrender to each other without fighting.

"You heard." She moved closer. "We can make you obey us."

"Then you'd better do that. I don't drop my sword for anyone." The anger in Kronos' voice was clear, and Aita turned her eyes from Methos to look at his companion. She stared at him for a moment, then diverted her gaze towards the rest of her gang.

"Take them," she snapped. The six members of her gang moved forward and their two targets swung about, ready to face off an attack. The six Immortals raised their own swords, knocking aside their opponents' weapons, using their superior numbers to prevent effective resistance. In seconds they had Methos and Kronos firmly held, their arms pinned. The two men struggled, but their attempts to break free were futile. Aita stalked up to them. When she spoke it sounded as though she were smiling, but it was impossible to tell through the mask.

"There," she said. "Isn't that more comfortable?" Neither man answered, and she drew her sword, her eyes shining through the holes in her mask. She looked hard at Methos, then switched her attention to Kronos, putting the blade of her sword against his neck. He stared back at her, his eyes bright with rage.

"This one's young still," she said, her voice almost gentle. "Barely worth expending energy on." Kronos glowered at her, but she did not seem to notice. "Very few moons have passed since he had his first death." She turned to Methos, her sword resting against his throat instead. "But this one is much older. He'd be worth something." She slid her sword gently across his neck, not hard enough to draw blood, but enough to make her prisoner extremely conscious of the presence of the blade. He stared deep into her eyes, his face impassive, rigid in silent defiance. As he stared at her he saw her eyes change, and he knew that she was smiling. She turned away and sheathed her sword, walking briskly back to her horse and swinging up onto its back.

"Bring them along," she said, her attention already apparently on something else.

"Bring them along?" One of her gang stared back at her. "Why?"

"Because I told you to." Her voice was hard. "Don't make me tell you again, Torus." The man made no answer, but he hung his head slightly, and pushed at Methos.

"Get moving," he said, his voice gruff. It was a pointless order, since the two prisoners could not help but move as their captors pushed them towards their horses. They began to struggle again, but their arms were held too tightly.

"Get on your horses," another of the gang ordered. His voce was harsh, but it conveyed no meaningful threat. That the leader of the gang did not want her two prisoners killed was obvious.

"Why should we?" Methos spoke coolly, his face betraying none of his anger.

"No reason." One of the men holding him gave a short laugh. It sounded hollow coming from beneath the mask, almost as though he were standing in a cave. With a smooth movement that betrayed no emotion at all, he raised a bright dagger into the air, and stabbed Methos through the heart. The Immortal slumped into the arms of his captors. The knifeman watched him, the mask emphasising his dispassionate nature, then he turned to Kronos. The other Immortal struggled, but there was no way to escape, and no way to avoid the knife. He stared furiously into the eyes of his enemy, the tightening of his jaw his only visible reaction to the sudden pain of the knife striking home. His body went limp.

"Messy, Lukus." Aita looked down at the prisoners, hanging lifeless in the grip of their guards. "Now let's get a move on shall we? We'll make camp in the hills."


Methos stirred, his lungs inflating with a sudden, reflexive jerk that made his eyes snap open. He gasped painfully a few times, then relaxed. His chest hurt, but not a great deal. He sat up cautiously, and looked around. He was sitting under a tree, in the shade of some rocks, apparently not far from the place where he and Kronos had been camped for the last few days. His sword, unsurprisingly, was gone. It was late afternoon, and a fire burned close by. Six of the Immortals sat in a circle around it, their masks abandoned. They did not seem to be paying any intention to their prisoners. Methos caught sight of Kronos lying face down a few paces away, and saw him stir suddenly. The other Immortal sat up, his face pale as he caught his breath. He spotted Methos, and then glanced towards the six men around the fire. Methos shook his head, and stood up, walking towards the fire.

"What's going on?" he asked. As one, the six men turned to look at him, their faces largely uninterested. He surveyed them all. They were powerfully built, and their eyes carried the look of hard cruelty which suggested lives spent in the wilds beyond civilisation. Only one looked different. He was bigger than the others, and his hair was lighter. His round face carried a look of open curiosity, and even a touch of innocence.

"We wanted some company." One of the men turned back to the fire, as if Methos no longer warranted attention. Kronos got to his feet, walking over to stand beside Methos.

"We want to know why we're here," he said, his voice carrying the suggestion of a threat.

"Don't ask me." The man stood up. "If it was up to me you'd both be dead already, but I was just following orders." He glanced the two men up and down, trying to work something out. "I have no idea what she saw in you that I don't, but for some reason she wanted you alive."

"We have obvious charm." Methos glanced over at his companion, and shrugged. "Relax, brother. If there's any fighting to be done, we'll do it later."

"Only if you live long enough." The man that had been speaking turned to a leather drinking bag beside him, and poured some wine into two wooden mugs. He handed them to Methos and Kronos. "My name is Thelos."

"Methos, Kronos," Methos told him, indicating who was who. The big man nodded, and turned to his fellows, indicating them all in turn.

"Boron, Torus, Lukus, Garek and Silas." his tone was consistently careless, but Methos thought he detected a change in it towards the end. He got the impression that these men looked down on Silas.

"I won't say I'm pleased to meet you all," he said, and sat down on a rock to drink the wine. His throat was dry, and the liquid cut through the unpleasant taste that unconsciousness had left in his mouth. The alcohol was strong, and it felt good, making his sixth sense buzz all the more strongly. Thelos laughed.

"Don't worry. We'd rather not have you here either," he said cheerfully.

"But make no mistake." The man Thelos had named as Boron spoke from the other side of the fire. "If you try to leave we'll do whatever is necessary to persuade you to stay." His voice was unpleasant. Methos smiled sweetly at him, with no doubt that he would carry his threat out at the first opportunity. All of the men looked as though they would not take kindly to opposition of any sort, but there was a harder light in Boron's eyes. A sharper cruelty.

"So what happens now?" Kronos asked. Thelos shrugged.

"We have no idea," he said. "We're waiting for the chief to get back."

"Where did she go?" Methos looked around, unable to see any trace of the woman. She had intrigued him, and he had seen from her eyes that there had been a mutual interest.

"To look around." Thelos was evidently the most talkative of the band. "She took her horse, so we're not expecting her back for a long time. In the morning probably." He smirked. "She was very interested in you."

"Not that interested." Boron stood up, and spoke sharply. He picked up a bow and some arrows from a pile of similar weapons nearby. "I'm going hunting." He began to stride away, his movements at once harsh and haughty. He glanced back before he disappeared down the hill, gesturing at Methos and Kronos. "Keep an eye on them," he said. "If they escape, you'll answer to me, Thelos."

Thelos watched as the other man departed, his expression betraying nothing, then he flashed the other two Immortals a grin. "They used to be together," he said, by way of explanation. "Boron and the chief I mean. She's been less interested recently, and I'm not surprised. He's been trying to take over for ages."

"You've been together a long time?" Methos asked. Thelos shrugged.

"Lukus, Garek and I became friends not long after we discovered that we were immortal. I have no idea how long ago that was. A long time. Then we met the others - Boron, Torus and the chief. We decided to combine forces for greater efficiency. It worked too. Silas joined us a short time ago." He had glanced at the others as he spoke, but he did not look at Silas. The big, fair haired man did not react to any of the conversation, and Methos looked over at him, a glimmer of curiosity in his eyes. This Silas could be a useful weak point. Thelos seemed to have caught onto Methos' interest in Silas, but did not speak. Instead he stoked up the fire, and gestured at it.

"It'll be a cold night, and you know how quickly the darkness falls. Why not come closer to the fire?"

"So that you can keep a better eye on us?" Despite the friendly tone of this talkative man, Methos had seen nothing to make him forget that he was a prisoner. "I think I'll stay where I am, thankyou." Kronos did not move either, and a spark of anger flashed in Thelos' eyes.

"As you wish," he said, his back suddenly turned to the two captive Immortals. It was a clear indication that the conversation was now over. Methos raised his eyebrows at Kronos, receiving a shrug in reply. There was not a lot that could be said, or done, right now; no matter how frustrating it was just to wait.


The darkness came quickly, as they had all known that it would. The fire lit the gathering on the hill, casting its light about in random flashes of red and yellow. Nobody spoke, and as the blackness became deeper, the possibilities for escape seemed to grow. Methos reached out a stealthy hand, and let it rest on Kronos' arm. The other Immortal, sitting on the ground at his friend's feet, glanced up, his movements casual. Their eyes met, and understanding passed between them. It was not safe to speak, or to make any gesture, but such forms of communication were not necessary at that moment. Methos stood up, standing still for a moment to gauge what the response had been from the other men. Nobody moved. Lukus appeared to be facing Methos, but his eyes were closed. Kronos stood up next, his eyes fixed on the random collection of weaponry on the other side of the fire, but Methos laid a hand on his friend's arm, shaking his head. It would be impossible to take any of the weapons without being seen, and he doubted that they would be able to get far once their captors had discovered their attempt at escape.

Slowly, the two Immortals edged away from the fire. They had moved some distance away, enough to be on the verge of vanishing into the shadows, when Methos noticed that Silas was watching. His heart leapt into his throat, but the big Immortal did not speak. His pale eyes stared back at Methos, curiosity showing in them. He opened his mouth, as if to say something, then closed it again, looking back into the fire. Methos began to edge away again. He felt uneasy, concerned that the Immortals would detect their departure, or that Silas would speak up, but he fought off the desire to speed up. It was essential to remain calm, to keep steady, and he could only hope that Kronos would understand that.

There was a cracking of dry twigs, and a rustling in the bushes on the other side of the camp. Methos felt the approach of another Immortal, and gritted his teeth. The men around the fire jumped to their feet to challenge the new arrival, and at the same moment Silas pointed towards the escaping prisoners.

"They're getting away," he announced. Boron, entering the camp with a handful of dead rabbits and a bird of some kind, snapped his head towards Methos and Kronos. The two Immortals spun around, racing out of the camp, and beginning to run down the side of the steep hill.

"After them!" Boron roared, the anger evident on his face. With his five companions round him, he charged after the departing prisoners, slipping and sliding on the slope.

Down below, Methos and Kronos ran on down the hill. It was not easy to keep their footing on the loose ground, and they were pelted with earth and small stones dislodged by their pursuers. They ran faster, ignoring the treacherous ground, and concentrating only on escape. Their Immortal shadows raced on after them, then with sudden determination, Thelos and Torus launched themselves down the slope, seeming to fly through the air. They landed on top of Methos and Kronos, dragging them to the ground, and the four of them began to roll down the hill, locked together. Faster and faster they rolled, the world whirling past them in a confusing mixture of darkness and sandy earth, the occasional glimpse of the moon the only indication of which way was up.

Finally, as the ground levelled off part of the way down the hill, the four tumbling Immortals came to a halt in a shower of stones. Breathless, they rolled apart, staggering to their feet. Thelos, his face filled with rage, threw a punch at Methos, who ducked, blocking a second punch and throwing one of his own. It caught Thelos on the jaw, making him stumble backwards. Kronos and Torus circled each other, eyes wary, and met in a blur of fists that was considerably more precise than it looked. Thelos, recovering quickly, knocked Methos to the ground with a powerful punch that winded the other Immortal. Methos kicked out, his feet catching him on the ankles and tripping him. Thelos fell, landing heavily, and Methos was on him in a flash. They wrestled furiously, the anger clear in both mens' eyes. Nearby, Kronos was getting the upper hand against Torus, and delivered a hard blow that made the other Immortal's eyes glaze over. Kronos got to his feet, breathless, and turned to go to his friend's assistance.

"Don't move." It was Boron, the only one of them who was armed with more than just a sword. He had fitted an arrow to his bow, and held it pointed at Kronos. The younger Immortal scanned the group confronting him, then looked at the gleaming tip of the arrow. For an instant he recalled the pain of the last arrow that had struck him; the one that had revealed his immortality to him, and he remembered his anger and disbelief that a trusted friend could have tried to kill him. He turned away, ignoring the weapon, and went to Methos' aid.

"Get them," Boron growled, furious at his weapon's impotence. It was never easy to threaten an Immortal. Most of their wounds healed so quickly that they were willing to risk almost any injury if the circumstances were right. His three remaining companions stepped forward, and with the briefest of struggles they had their two prisoners overpowered. Boron glowered at the scene. Thelos had recovered sufficiently to help Garek hold Methos, but Torus still had not stirred.

"I told you to watch them," Boron said, his anger clear on his face, and in his voice. "I told you not to let them get away. If it hadn't been for Silas we might not have been able to catch them."

"We did catch them; that's all that matters." Thelos sounded out of breath. Ignoring Boron he began to push Methos back up the hill. Boron followed, kicking at Torus as he passed. The Immortal groaned. Slowly he rolled over and sat up, then got up and slunk away, avoiding the malicious gaze of his confederate.

At the top of the hill the fire was still burning brightly, its cheerful light oblivious to the recent events. The two captive Immortals were dragged into the camp, close to the fire where the light was brightest. There was no suggestion of leaving them in the shadows now. Without speaking, Lukus and Garek began to tie their prisoners' hands behind their backs, then they were pushed to the ground on opposite sides of the fire. Kronos tried to sit up, but Lukus kicked him down again. Methos swallowed his anger, and tried to relax. He was a little too close to the fire for comfort, but had no intention of trying to move just yet. The other men moved away, leaving only Silas beside the fire. He wandered around it, staring at the flames, then stopped beside Methos, pulling him back so that the heat was not too intense.

"I'm sorry," he said, his voice low. He sounded surprisingly gentle, although there was a hard light in his eyes that matched his confederates. "I had to tell them, or Boron would have been angry. They all would. Then they'd have hurt Argus."

"Argus?" Methos found that he felt no anger towards this big man. There was something innocent about Silas, despite the fact that he was a thief, and almost certainly a murderer.

"This is Argus." He slipped his hand into his tunic, and pulled out some small creature. It might have been a big mouse, or something similar, but it appeared as little more than a bundle of fur, with large black eyes. It gazed at Methos, then ran up Silas' arm and disappeared back into his tunic. "He's shy," Silas apologised. He cast a reproachful glance towards the others. "They don't like him."

"I do." Methos spoke quietly, still sure that Silas could be a potential ally. Despite the fact that he had drawn the attention of the rest of the gang to the escape attempt, it was not really his fault that Methos and Kronos had been recaptured. If Methos was entirely honest with himself, they probably would have been anyway.

"Good." Silas straightened up and walked away, sitting just beyond the reach of the firelight. Shrouded in shadow he appeared as a large grey shape, rock like and silent. Methos caught Kronos' eye, and both Immortals tried to smile at each other. They had no idea why they were still alive, and it was disturbing. The ropes were painful and the atmosphere had changed distinctly. Even Thelos, who had been cheerful before, now radiated animosity and anger.

The night passed slowly. It was impossible to sleep, although Methos closed his eyes for much of the time. Their captors, particularly Boron, were looking for trouble, and feigning sleep was the best way to avoid it. As dawn came, the flames of the fire dimmed, and the moon faded from view. The rising sun was behind Methos, but he saw the sky changing colour. The diminishing blaze before him, coupled with the improving light, allowed him to see Kronos clearly for the first time since their recapture. The cuts and bruises from the fall downhill and the subsequent fight had faded, but his partner was dusty, and his clothes were torn. Methos imagined that he probably looked much the same himself. The pair smiled ruefully at each other, and then snapped their attention towards the sound of an approaching horse. Whoever it was that was riding towards the camp, they were clearly immortal. Methos tried to turn his head to see the new arrival, but the rider came from behind, and was too high up for him to see while lying down. He shifted his position slightly, and saw Aita from the waist down as she dismounted.

The leader of the Immortal gang looked around, taking in the dishevelled appearances of several of her men, and seeing that the prisoners were bound. She smiled, a light smile that carried rather more amusement than might be considered appropriate in such a situation.

"Have they been misbehaving?" she asked, the amusement showing in her voice as well. Without the muffling action of the mask she had quite a pleasant voice, Methos noticed, although the hardness, the ruthless edge, was still there. He heard her footsteps coming closer, heard her sigh of faint exasperation.; then suddenly she was sitting him up, smiling at him.

"Never the easy way out, hey Methos," she said brightly.

He gazed blankly at her, his face showing complete amazement. "Aita..." His voice was smaller than he would have liked, and she laughed.

"Surprised to see me? Not half as surprised as I was to see you the other day, by that merchant train. Or maybe I wasn't surprised; not really."

"But--" he stared up at her, not quite comprehending the situation. "You're supposed to be dead."

"We're all supposed to be dead, Methos, a long time ago." She smiled. "All except for your young friend over there. Never assume anything; you used to tell me that."

"But why - I mean--" he blinked, confused. "Aita - I--"

"Don't stammer, Methos." She stood up, glancing from one of her prisoners to the other. "We made a good pair once; or at least I thought so anyway. I'd rather like to recapture a little of that old magic."

"That's why we're still alive?" Methos frowned. "Aita, it's been a long time. I--" He shook his head. "I can't take this in."

"Methos?" Kronos, on the other side of what was left of the fire, pushed himself up into a sitting position. "Do you know her?"

"Yeah..." Methos did not look at Kronos or at Aita, but merely stared at the ground. "She's Aita. She's my first wife."

"Your--" Kronos looked up at Aita. He remembered his friend's tale from several days ago. "The one you left when you became Immortal?"

"That's right." It was Aita who answered. "I couldn't believe it when you walked out on me, Methos. I thought you must be dead, but my father said you had always been restless. All the same..." She shook her head. "When I suffered my own first death I had an idea what might have happened to you, but I wasn't sure. Part of me knew all along I think. Call it instinct." She smiled. "I didn't know the truth until I saw you the other day."

Methos closed his eyes. Everything was happening too fast, and he felt as though the world were spinning around him in a blur. Kronos did not speak, and Aita merely smiled, waiting for her one time husband to make the next move. He looked up at her suddenly, the shadow of a frown passing across his face.

"How long have you been doing this?"

"Robbing merchant trains?" She shrugged, and poured herself a mug of wine from the bag on the ground. "Pretty much since I found that I was an Immortal."

"How did you die?" It was the oddest of circumstances for a reunion, as he sat on the ground surrounded by his enemies, his hands bound behind his back, but Methos had to have some questions answered. She shrugged.

"A robbery, in the street. It was on market day. I woke up in the town mausoleum." She smiled her mysterious smile. "I went away in the dead of night and walked off out of town. That was when I thought that you might have done the same thing. Call it instinct. A few days later I reached another city, and an old man told me all about the Immortals. I decided that I could use it to my advantage; rather as you did I suppose."

"Actually I didn't, not for a long while. I didn't really catch onto the idea until I met Kronos." He nodded at his friend, who was watching the exchange with the same slightly baffled interest as were the members of Aita's gang.

"It's taken you this long?" She shook her head, her expression one of mild reproach. "Really Methos, I'm disappointed in you. We're not immortal for nothing you know. Anyway, what does it matter now? I'm running a very successful operation here, and I want you on my team."

"Working with you?" He shook his head. "Kronos and I work together. We run things together. I don't plan to start taking orders from anyone; not even you."

She frowned, and he saw the anger in her eyes. Aita had never been quick to lose her temper, but she was no longer the same woman that he had known before. He tried again, anxious to avoid aggravating her too much.

"We're different people now. It's been - it's been--" he broke off. "I don't know how long it's been. I just know that I could have been an old man fifteen or twenty times over by now."

"It has been a long time." She nodded slowly. "Long enough for our city to turn to dust. There's nothing there now, you know."

"I didn't think there would be." He lowered his eyes, waiting for her to continue, but she remained silent for some time. Finally she turned to walk away.

"Aita." It was Boron, and she looked towards him.

"What?" There was the sound of sadness in her voice, below the usual hard tone.

"You're serious? About letting them join us? We don't need them."

"Don't we?" She smiled at him. "Methos has the greatest mind of any man I've ever met. With him the possibilities are endless. We could achieve... goodness knows what. No train would be safe. We could hit bigger and bigger targets."

Methos looked over at Kronos. It seemed odd to hear all of their plans spoken by a rival gang. These seven Immortals were already part of the way towards achieving all that Methos himself wanted; the means and the ability to wreak terror on the mortals that they walked amongst.

"We don't need them Aita," Boron repeated, his frown deepening. "We've done alright so far."

"Alright isn't necessarily good enough." She swung around again, staring down at Methos. "I want you with me, Methos. I want you in this gang. It's possible that I could take your mind, if I took your Quickening, but it's not a certainty. I'd rather not risk it."

"Thanks." He gazed up at her, his voice sardonic. "It's nice to know you still care."

She shrugged. "It's been a long time. We're probably little more than strangers now. You're not telling me that you haven't changed?"

He smiled. "True."

"Then perhaps you'll reconsider. It might be fun getting to know each other again."

"Aita!" It was Boron again. He sounded angry, and almost desperate.

"Shut up Boron." She glanced back towards Methos, but saw that nothing had changed in his face. "You're not going to change your mind, are you?"

"That depends." Methos was more than prepared to offer to join Aita if it meant saving his life, but he did not want to co-operate unless it was necessary.

"Then I'll have to change your mind." She turned around, pacing up and down. Suddenly she stopped and swung around. "Garek, Lukus. The young one. Take him away, and get rid of him."

"No!" Methos tried to stand, but it was impossible to move quickly enough. The two men grabbed Kronos, and without a word dragged him away, out of sight down the hill.

"You can't do this!" There was panic in Methos' mind. In all the time that he had spent wandering as an Immortal he had never met anybody that he cared for as much as Kronos.

"Yes I can." She stared at him coldly. "I'm an Immortal; I can do anything."

"You're mad." He struggled to his feet, trying to follow the men who had taken Kronos, but Thelos grabbed hold of him. With the assistance of Torus he held the captive Immortal tightly, preventing him from moving. Methos struggled, but it was to no avail. He stared in the direction that the little party had taken, his eyes desperate. "I'm sorry brother," he whispered softly. "I'm sorry."


Kronos was dragged down the hill, around twists and bends in the rough path, until they reached a small flat space. On reflection, he thought, it was the perfect place for an execution, sheltered and secluded. He watched as Garek drew his sword.

"Untie my hands," he said, his voice angry and defiant.

"You're joking." Garek smiled broadly.

"I can't go anywhere," Kronos protested. It was more or less true; Lukus was still holding his arms. If there was the slightest possibility of escape, however, he was going to take it, and it was more likely to come if his wrists were free. "You're not going to take my head while I'm tied up?"

Garek frowned, then shrugged. "Turn him around, Lukus," he ordered. The big man spun Kronos about, and Garek used his sword to cut through the ropes. "There. Happy now?"

"Not entirely, no." Kronos eyed the sword. He had just been getting used to the idea of being immortal. Lukus forced him to his knees, still holding his arms tightly. Kronos took a deep breath, gathering his strength.

"Ready?" Garek had a smile in his voice.

"No." Kronos frowned hard at the ground, concentrating on Lukus behind him.

"Hard luck." With a whistling sound, the sword descended. It moved smoothly through the air, and Kronos listened to it carefully. Everything seemed to move in slow motion. At the last possible moment he used all of the strength he could muster to heave himself forward. Lukus, directly behind him, was dragged forward into his place, and the sword cut effortlessly through his neck. In the same instant, Kronos rolled sideways, catching Garek's hands. He spun, wrenching the sword from the other Immortal's grasp, and letting the momentum carry him in a complete circle. Garek had no time to move aside, and the sword beheaded him as easily as it had done Lukus. Kronos stared down at them, breathing heavily, not entirely sure of all that had just happened. It would take a while for his brain to collate the details.

There was a sudden hush. The earth beneath his feet moved slightly, and he stared around, caught off guard. The birds had stopped singing. He took a deep breath. So far he had only ever taken one Quickening, but he remembered the way it had felt. He dropped the sword, watching as the long fingers of lightning began to rise up, coming from the bodies on the ground. They raced into the air, whirling around in circles, coming closer and closer to the one Immortal in range who still remained on his feet. The ground shook again, stronger this time, and at that moment the lightning engulfed Kronos. He felt it burning into his eyes, and tasted it, hot like fire in his mouth. It caught at his arms, lifting them up into the air, wrenching his head back and tearing him off his feet. He crashed to the ground, and lay on his back, the agony and the ecstasy racing through him, fighting for supremacy in a battle of hot and cold that raged inside of him, stopping him from breathing, filling his head with memories that he could not recall, and pictures of places that he had never seen. He stared up at the sky, part of him wondering about its great distance, another part of him feeling as though the sky were the surface of a lake. He had to reach it if he were to breathe again, but it was just too far away. He did not have the energy to try and swim towards it. The Quickening faded, and he remained staring at the sky, unable to comprehend that the fight was over. Then, his lungs finally managing a few shaky gasps of air, he closed his eyes, and tried not to think at all.

Back at the camp, Methos looked up, seeing the light show in the sky. For a second he thought that all was lost, then sudden hope flooded his mind. There was no way that such a Quickening could have come from Kronos. He had not yet had time to get such power. He felt the grip of Thelos and Torus slacken slightly, as they stared at the blue flashes that were chasing the clouds. He wrenched himself free, and dashed forwards, sliding down the hill, and caring nothing for the likelihood of pursuit. If Kronos had managed to kill one of his captors, that still left another one. Methos was determined to reach his friend in time. Even with his hands tied there should be something that he could do. They had clearly abandoned the rule of one on one, and he saw no reason why he should not do the same thing.

He slid to a halt at the place of execution, and glanced about. Garek and Lukus were dead, and Kronos was unmoving. He did not look at all healthy, and Methos did not wonder at the reason. Garek and Lukus were probably at least as old as he was himself, and the power of their combined Quickening would have been formidable at any time. For an Immortal as young as Kronos, the effect would have been much more severe. Without further hesitation, Methos dropped to the ground. Awkwardly he picked up the fallen sword and manoeuvred it about, cutting the ropes that bound his wrists. He turned to Kronos, and knelt beside him. His partner was deeply unconscious, his breathing shallow. Methos whistled softly.

"Nice going, little brother," he said, and froze. He could feel the approach of an Immortal. He grabbed the sword again, leaping to his feet and whirling around. Thelos appeared, his face showing his amazement.

"Lukus - Garek--" He looked questioningly at Methos, and then his expression changed to anger. "Never mind." He drew his sword. "You're going to die, Methos."

"Aita will kill you," Methos warned, although he was not entirely sure of the condition of his protected status right now.

"She's stood up there still, arguing with Boron. She'll forgive me when I present her with a deed already done." He moved forwards, the sword in front of him, moving like a snake searching for prey. Methos raised Garek's sword to meet him, using the other man's anger to his advantage. Thelos stumbled, his sword swinging about with increasing frustration as Methos eluded him again and again. The big Immortal swung his sword like a club, and Methos stepped back, using his own sword to increase Thelos' swing. The big man spun around, leaving himself undefended, and Methos beheaded him easily. The body collapsed onto the ground, the rigidity gone from its backbone as though it had been shattered. Methos lowered the sword, breathing deeply, and waiting for the rush of power that he craved. The Quickening felt good; the sheer delight of the burst of energy, colliding with the pain that brought him to his knees. He gazed up at the sky, his eyes bright, filled with strength, and his fists clenched as he raised them into the air. It seemed almost a shame as the excitement faded, and he lowered his arms. His head hung down over his chest, and at that moment he realised that there were other Immortals present. He had not noticed them arrive during the Quickening. He reached for the sword, but his body was not yet quite ready to obey him, and he felt hands grab his arms, pulling him to his feet. He raised his head and found himself looking into Aita's eyes.

"I should be very angry with you, Methos," she said. "Three of my men are dead."

"I'm not sorry." He sounded breathless. She shrugged.

"I wouldn't expect you to be. Your friend killed Garek and Lukus?"

"So far as I know." He glanced over at Kronos. Boron was standing over him, his sword in his hand. "Aita, please - no." She stared at him, then shook her head wearily.

"Boron. Leave him."

"Aita!" The big man was rapidly losing patience with his chief. "The others are dead."

"That's my problem. Help Silas carry him back to the camp." He stared at her, his eyes filled with rage, then he bent down. Between them he and Silas lifted Kronos up. Methos did not struggle as Torus began to lead him back up the hill. He was not entirely sure what he was going to do next, but the main thing was that they were both still alive. That, at least, was a start.


They reached the camp in silence. Boron and Silas dropped Kronos down by the embers of the fire, and Silas began to build it up again. Methos pulled free from Torus, going quickly to his friend. Kronos was beginning to stir, and as Methos helped him to sit up he blinked around. There was a new strength, a light of new power in his eyes, and Methos smiled to see it.

"You okay brother?" he asked. Kronos frowned for a moment, then grinned.

"Definitely." He glanced around at the others, and frowned again. "Our situation doesn't seem to have improved."

"Not much, no. But if it's any consolation, the odds are now down to two to one."

"You got one of them." Kronos grinned, seeing who was missing. "Thelos..."

"That's right."

"Stop muttering." Boron, his sword once more in his hand, was standing in front of them. "I'll wipe that smile off both your faces before the day's over."

"Leave them alone, Boron." Aita was searching through the collection of spears, arrows and similar weaponry that her band had gathered. She straightened, holding the sword that had been taken from Methos, and something else. It looked suspiciously like a whip, and Methos felt his hackles rise. He fought back the trepidation and stood up. She used the sword to gesture that he should move away from Kronos, who got to his feet, looking from Aita to Methos. Aita was still smiling. She threw the sword to Methos.

"Join me Methos."


"Then take my head." Her voice was hard and challenging. He faltered.


"You heard. Join me, or kill me."

"I can't kill you."

She shrugged, and the whip cracked once, missing Kronos by no more than the width of a sword blade. He jumped involuntarily, and his eyes darted over to Methos.

"Join me or kill me. It's the only way you can stop me from cutting your friend to shreds." The whip cracked again, this time catching Kronos across the shoulders.

"Aita, don't do this." Methos stared at the sword in his hands. He could not bring himself to use it, not on the woman he had once loved. It all seemed so long ago - was so long ago - but he had held her in his arms, in another time, when they were still unaware of the world of the Immortals.

"You know how to stop me." The whip cracked again, the tip looking almost gentle, stroking.

"Then I'll join you." He looked over at Kronos, but the other Immortal stood unmoving, his face expressionless. He was too stubborn to do anything, and had the sense to realise that Boron was waiting for him to try to move out of the way.

"You don't mean it." She smiled at him, her eyes ice cold. "You're just saying it so I'll stop."

"Aita for goodness sake--" The whip cracked again, and he broke off. Kronos was staring at the sword, and Methos felt a wave of guilt crash over him. He couldn't kill Aita, not even to stop this. She would carry on using the whip until he broke down; or until he killed her, and that was the one thing that he could not do. He closed his eyes, hearing the crack, again and again. He took a step forward, the sword raising almost of its own accord; then he looked into Aita's eyes. His spirits fell. He watched the whip rise again, and saw it fall, and heard Kronos cry out. The Immortal dropped to the ground, landing on his knees, his hands held up to his eyes. Methos ran to him, suddenly afraid. He pulled his friend's hands aside, and saw the blood pouring from one eye. Shaking with rage, Methos turned to Aita. This had gone far enough. He faced her, his eyes wild, although he managed to control the anger in his voice.

"Drop that whip." She smiled, and threw it aside, her movements careless.

"He'll live," she said. "And it looks like I will too."

"That doesn't mean that you deserve to." His voice was quiet and deadly, but she smiled at him, unconcerned by his anger.

"Who are you to judge that, Methos? What have I done that you weren't equally guilty of? You could have stopped me."

"I know." He shook his head, just as angry at himself as he was at her. "But you must know that I won't join you now. Not ever. Not after what you just did."

"After what we just did, Methos. You are just as responsible, and I rather think your friend knows that."

"I'll have to live with it, then, won't I?" He turned back to Kronos, crouching beside him. The other Immortal was sitting on the ground, leaning against a rock, his eyes closed. The blood was still pouring from around his eye.

"You won't live with anything if I get my way." Boron stepped forward, and Aita glanced towards him.

"Boron shut up. This isn't your concern."

"Not my concern?!" He stared at her. "We were a team, Aita. Everything was working well, until they turned up. If we'd killed them everything would still be alright, but it isn't. They've killed three members of our gang, and now he's got you acting like some love sick fool."

"Shut up Boron!" Her voice was cold.

"No. I've had enough Aita. I'm through with watching you lead us down a hole. I'm not going to follow you to the end of all that we've worked so hard for." He raised his sword. "Now move aside and let me end it. I'm running things now."

"Why you--" She stepped forward, drawing her own sword, and meeting him head on. "You get to them through me, Boron. I still say that we can use Methos."

"And I don't." With a sudden fire in his eyes he knocked her sword aside, pushing past her. She pressed on, leading him into a full scale fight.

"I don't want to hurt you Aita," Boron said, swinging his sword up to block a blow.

"Then don't. But I have nothing against hurting you." She moved quickly. Torus and Silas watched the exchange, surprised and confused. Methos looked up at the fighting pair. He wanted Aita to win, but he did not want to care. He glanced back towards Kronos, as much to pull his attention away from the fight as for any other reason. The younger Immortal had managed to open one eye, but the other was a mess, still sending fresh rivulets of blood down his face. The pain was obvious from the set of his jaw.

"You can't win, Aita." Boron was either trying to save his own life, or he was genuinely concerned for his former lover.

"Try me." She swung her sword again. Methos glanced up at the sound of the weapons clashing. He saw the sword fly from Aita's hand, saw her momentary fear, and saw the harsh line of Boron's mouth. He started to get to his feet, started to speak, but there was no time. Boron's sword cut through Aita's neck, and her head fell to the ground.

Boron lowered his sword. He glanced over at Methos, and their eyes met. The big Immortal smiled, his eyes cold, then the Quickening overtook him. He shook with elation, the lightning rolling up his arms, swirling about his waist, flashing in his eyes. Methos watched it all, feeling numb. He could not quite believe that Aita was gone. Just that morning he had found her again, discovered that she was still alive after believing that she had died long ago. Now she was really gone, and he had been powerless to prevent her end. He watched as the last of the Quickening faded, then let the anger turn his heart cold. He picked up his sword and stood up. Boron met his gaze with a smile, but Methos waited for him to recover before he challenged him. He did not want this to be easy. He wanted to have to fight hard, to work for success. Aita's words about guilt and responsibility still rang in his ears.

"You think you can beat me?" Boron laughed at him. "I'll take your head the way I took hers. It'll be easy."

"Don't be so sure." Methos tossed the sword lightly in his hand. "Are you ready?"

"I'm ready - are you?" Boron came forward, his sword flashing through the air. Methos backed aside, feeling the heat from the fire against his legs. He dodged around it, his sword sending sparks raining down into the blaze as it clashed with Boron's. The sparring Immortals circled the fire, weaving around each other, their swords leaping about. Boron was strong, and he knew what he was doing with his sword. Methos was clearly at a disadvantage. He dodged aside, and tried to catch Boron by surprise with a feint to the left. It failed. Boron cut sharply to the right, guessing the bluff, and Methos' sword rang out as it clattered to the ground among the rocks.

"I told you you'd lose." Boron swung his sword, intending to make the killing blow. Methos threw himself aside, and his searching fingers caught Aita's sword. It still felt warm from her touch, and he let the thought of her fuel his anger, increasing his strength. He straightened, and with a fierce blow he knocked Boron's sword away. It landed in the fire, sending the flames leaping up. Coldly, and without hesitation, Methos beheaded him. Boron's body collapsed backwards, and Methos threw Aita's sword away, staring in wordless rage at the dead Immortal. He wished that he could have done more to make him pay for killing Aita.

The fire sunk a little lower, as if sensing the approach of the Quickening. The energy surged from Boron, and enveloped Methos, catching at his heart and emptying his lungs. He gasped, and stared at his fingers as they glowed blue from the lights that surrounded him. The fire raged through him, and stars danced before his eyes. He thought he saw Aita again, and thought that he could hear her voice, but it was probably just some echo of her that had been within Boron. The sights, the sounds and even the tastes and smells from other peoples' lives filled his senses, confusing him, and he felt himself sinking to the ground. The noise faded, and his shoulders slumped as the Quickening came to an end. He did not feel his usual elation, but could think only of Aita, and his heart felt heavy.

"You'll pay for that." He heard Torus, but the voice seemed to come from a long way away. He knew that the other Immortal had drawn his sword, and was approaching him, intending no doubt to take his head whilst he was still helpless. He couldn't move. He thought he heard, rather than saw, Torus raising his sword, and then there was the sound of a blow. Torus' headless body collapsed to the ground, and the noise of another Quickening raged about the hill top. Methos stumbled to his feet as it cleared, and saw Silas, a blood soaked sword in one hand, leaning against the rocks. He grinned hesitantly at Methos.

"And then there was one," he said faintly, and threw the sword onto the ground.

"Thankyou." Methos smiled at him, aware that he owed the big man his life. He turned to Kronos. The younger Immortal was getting to his feet, and without a word to either of the other two, he walked uncertainly over to the stream, kneeling beside it to wash the blood from his face. Finally he stood up and turned around. There was a vertical slash mark running across his right eye, harsh and red.

"Are you okay?" Methos asked him. Kronos nodded without speaking. "I'm sorry."

"Forget it." He retrieved Methos' sword from the rocks and handed it over, then began to hunt for his own. Methos shook his head.

"I can't forget it. I owe you for that one, brother."

Kronos shrugged. "Whatever. Anyway, I'll live, right?"


Kronos found his sword and sheathed it. He looked at the ground momentarily. "And I'm sorry about Aita."


"Don't let it get to you. She wasn't the woman you married. She'd changed." Methos laughed.

"Of course she'd changed. We all have. How can you discover that you're immortal and not be changed in some way?" He smiled softly. "It's okay, brother. I guess I said goodbye to Aita a long time ago."

Kronos nodded. His eye still hurt, and he did not seem able to open it properly. It was taking a long time to show signs of healing. He glanced over at Silas, and the big man smiled. He looked self conscious.

"What do we do with him?" Kronos asked. Methos found himself smiling.

"Silas is coming with us," he said, and saw the pleasure which lighted the big man's eyes.

"Really?" he asked. "Can Argus come too?"

"Why not? The more the merrier." Methos clapped Kronos on the back. "We need more men remember. Think of - think of Aita. Her gang were all that we want to be."

"Not quite all." Kronos met Methos' gaze steadily. "They were defeated. We never will be."

"You've got it." Methos grinned. "The three of us then; it's agreed?"

"Sure, why not?" Kronos glanced towards Silas. "Welcome to the team, brother."

"Thanks." Silas sounded bashful. He dug Argus out from his tunic. "Argus says thankyou too." Kronos eyed the creature dubiously.

"Can he use a sword?" he asked. Silas frowned.

"I don't think so," he said, sounding cautious. He grinned suddenly. "But I could teach him."

"Good." There was a new authority in the way that Kronos stood, a new strength that had to have come from the Quickening. He was not yet as powerful as his two comrades, but Methos could see the new growth, and it pleased him. That was the way of Immortals, as they gathered strength and became so much more than they had been.

"So what do we do?" Silas asked. Methos shrugged.

"Leave," he said shortly. "I don't intend to set up camp in the middle off all this mess." He gestured at the headless bodies. There were already flies appearing, looking for an easy meal.

"Good point. But I think we should make our base somewhere in the hills. It does give us a good view of the surrounding area, remember?" Kronos was heading for the horses. He swung up onto his own.

"Fine with me." Methos jumped up onto his horse, and Silas followed suit, collecting an armful of spears and arrows from the pile on the ground first. The three of them began to ride out of the camp, leaving the fire dying down behind them.

"This could be good," Kronos said, sounding cheerful as he led the way down the side of the hill. "The three of us can really achieve something."

"We might still need more help," Methos said, sounding deep in thought.

"We don't want too big a gang," Kronos told him.

"Not too big, no." Methos was gazing into his own past, his eyes distant. "When I was young, before I discovered what I was, I was the eldest of four brothers - or at least I thought I was. When we worked together we were unbeatable. On the battlefield, on the games field - whatever."

"You think?" Silas smiled hugely. "I'd like to be unbeatable. I'd like to fight all of the mortals, and win."

Methos laughed. "You fit in just fine brother."

Kronos looked back, his expression thoughtful. "Were you really unbeatable?"

Methos shrugged. "More or less. Until my youngest brother turned bad, and a friend of mine had to kill him." He smiled. "I don't seem to have very many happy memories, do I?"

Kronos laughed at this. "You've got plenty of time to make new ones," he said, and let a broad grin sweep across his face as they reached level ground. "And no matter how many of us there are in the end, brother, we will be unbeatable."

"The best!" Silas announced, his eyes bright.

"The best," Methos agreed, feeling the last of his sorrows fade away. A wave of elation washed over him. It was good to be so sure of success, so certain of his own invulnerability. Had he been of a more sympathetic nature, he might have begun to feel sorry for the world; but nothing was further from his mind. The mortals would have to take their chances. If they had any sense they would get out of his way, but otherwise he would cut straight though them. He did not have to be merciful. He was an Immortal; and if he wanted, he could rule the world.