The sword was unfamiliar at first, its balance not that of a weapon he felt comfortable with. He wondered where his own had gone. Had he left it in Seacouver? Perhaps. Such events were vague in his mind, drifting forgotten through synapses that were still only just beginning to feel like home to his roving personality. A secret grave was quite common for an Immortal, where the victorious opponent would bury a vanquished foe, sword in hand, in order to help protect the vital secret. Perhaps he had such a grave, and perhaps his sword rested there beside him, with whatever bones and bric-a-brac were left of his previous self. For a while he had considered trying to reclaim the weapon. It had seen him through many adventures, and many tight or awkward situations, and it seemed a shame to abandon it beneath the cold, damp soil. It was not without some regret that he eventually ruled out such a plan. The sword was probably past its best by now - rusted perhaps, certainly no longer the kind of top-notch weapon that he required. Instead he turned his attentions to the replacement fate had seen fit to leave in his hand at the moment of his rebirth. He wondered who it had belonged to, and where it had come from. The moments leading up to his return to the land of the living were practically non-existent. Some of the memories of his new brain were easy to access. He knew for instance that the original owner of his body had been named Peter Kerensky, and that he had been known to Methos the Destroyer. What he didn't know was how Kerensky had come to die, and how he, Kronos, had awoken in his body, alone in a half-burned shack on a mountainside. At first he had thought that it had all been a dream or a trick - that Duncan MacLeod had only wounded him, and not killed him during their fight in Seacouver. That was, after all, the only logical explanation. He had believed, for a while, that it was still 1997, and that MacLeod had left him in this secluded place at some request of Methos'; to remove him but not to kill him perhaps. It had not taken long for him to discover that the scar which had for so long marked such a spectacular path across his right eye was no longer there. Later he had discovered that it was 1997 no longer - that the world had been moving on without his knowledge for nearly three years. When he stopped to think about it - when he concentrated on all that he knew and had known - he thought that he remembered some strange, confused moments spent in another place. A feeling of being detached from everything around him, from all that he thought of as reality. It had been a time of great oddity and unrest, during which he had the distinct, if peculiar, impression that he had seen the world through the eyes of another - that he had been inside the mind and the body of somebody else, and governed their actions for however short a time. He had, he was sure of it, walked in the footsteps of Duncan MacLeod - that infernal, damnable, do-gooding, meddling Highlander of whom Kronos was not at all enamoured, to say the very least. He thought that he remembered feeling very lost and very desperate, although it was all too unreal for him to be sure of any of it. At best the memories were snippets, like the most vague of hallucinations viewed through net curtains; leaving him with a cryptic puzzle to solve, and less than half of the clues to help him do it. He had, with no small amount of disturbance to his already unsteady balance of mind, decided that he must have died, and subsequently been resurrected. It was something akin to the peculiar sensation of his First Death, four thousand years previously - or at least he thought that it was. He didn't really remember. At any rate he was, clearly, in a situation that was virtually unprecedented. He was certain that there was an explanation, and that the key to the answer was in his possession, but it was tantalisingly close whilst remaining stubbornly out of his reach. It teased him with promises of enlightenment, but hid with those curious half-memories behind their smoky net curtains. All in all it left him with only one likely explanation for any of it - and that in itself was an answer with a question mark. Methos. It was a word that was as much of an enigma as the man who had it as a name. Why he did the things he did, what he thought when he did them, what he felt he might gain from any of the thousand different courses of action that he might undertake, in apparent contradiction to each other and yet all at the same time - all was as much of a mystery to Kronos now as it had been on the day they had first met. They had been the closest of friends for longer than many civilisations had managed to stand, and yet Kronos could no more have said, on his secluded mountainside in Poland in 1999, what made Methos tick, than he could have done when they had first introduced themselves to each other under the vast empty skies of Eastern Europe some four thousand years previously. He wanted to go to Seacouver immediately, and seek out his oldest friend. He wanted to find out what had happened in the intervening years; who Peter Kerensky had been, what Methos had been doing with his body, and why Kronos himself had managed to end up with it. How he had come to be lying in the burnt out ruins of a shack on a mountain in Poland was just another in a whole slew of questions that he had a powerful, almost irresistible desire to beat out of Methos, with as much violence as he felt to be entirely unnecessary. He had found, however, on venturing out of his mountainous retreat, that the world in which he was now once again at large was considerably less disposed to be friendly towards him than he was to be friendly towards it. During his death, which was at once both interesting and remarkably impressive, he appeared to have made Europe's - indeed the world's - most wanted list. This, being an achievement that he had not managed during his lifetime, was a little unexpected after his demise; but always one to look kindly on the little twists and turns of fate, Kronos had not questioned his new status as a much-sought crook. It seemed a little unfair, however, that the main charge being laid against him seemed to be the murder of a woman he had never met. He assumed that it was Peter Kerensky that the police were really after, although admittedly he himself was hardly blameless by anybody's reckoning. He was, after all, guilty of masterminding the escape from secure custody of the celebrated mass murderer known only as Caspari. It was just that, when a man returned from almost three years spent considerably less than alive, he did not generally expect to find himself wanted for crimes which had, in the main, occurred before his unexpected return from the dead. Still in a state of marked confusion, Kronos had withdrawn to his mountain hideaway; and there, lost to the world, with nothing but a foreign sword for company, he set about restoring himself to the peak of physical fitness. Kerensky had clearly known something about swordplay, for his body and muscles responded well to certain movements, certain manoeuvres. His was not the body of a man who had spent four thousand years avoiding the sharp end of other people's weaponry, however, and Kronos had had his work cut out for him turning Kerensky's body into his own. And so it was that the weeks passed, and the sun, on rising each day, found him already long awake and practising exercises learnt centuries previously, from teachers long turned to dust. Only the birds and the goats saw him in his earnest endeavours; only the wind bothered to take a close look at what he was doing. He would, of course, have dealt summarily with any humans who had happened to come his way - but no humans came, and his weeks of solitude stretched on in blessed silence. It was almost with regret that he turned his back on his hideaway for the last time and, with a determined goal set firmly in his sights, strode down the mountainside once again. This time there was no lingering in the town square; no asking detailed questions in the post office and spreading rumours and suspicions up and down the length of the region. Instead he travelled by the unofficial route, which in his former life had been one of his many special talents. Leaving Poland was easy; leaving Europe only marginally more difficult. It had, of all people, been a wig salesman, taking an inadvisable stroll late at night down the Champs-Elysées, who had provided him with his means of entry into the United States, where he had landed at an out of the way airport apparently frequented only by hillbillies and marines. From there, comfortably hidden beneath a longish curly wig and beard, and feeling distinctly mediaeval, he began to work his way surreptitiously south. Someone somewhere knew the answers to the questions he felt in desperate need of asking - and that someone, if he was anybody at all, was Methos. Methos undoubtedly would be found in Seacouver - and so too would Duncan MacLeod. And so it was, then, in January 2000, some three years after his last visit to that strange Mecca of Immortalkind, that the Leader of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse returned once again to the place where he had died. It was a quiet return, on a chilly, foggy morning; where on a nondescript street corner he paid his impatient taxi driver for the ride, slung his bag jauntily over his shoulder, glanced up at the nearest recognisable landmark, and set off to look up the oldest friend that he possessed. The oldest friend that anybody possessed, in all likelihood. There was, however, one minor detail that he had overlooked. Where Methos was involved, nothing - no matter how large or small, how trivial or vital - ever went according to plan. Not even nearly.



It was cold by the river. A distant, bright sun shone off the surface of the water, glinting weakly, and sending snakes of black and gold wriggling their way across the gentle swell. Methos watched it for a while, enjoying the changing patterns of the light and the darkness, watching them through the drifting white clouds of his breath. The sun was still rising, and it was cold in this dark and shadowy place. Tall old buildings cast greater shadows, blocking out most of what little warmth there was in the world at this early hour. They blocked out the noise too, sealing him into a place that was almost his own. The traffic was distant and muted; the hundred and one different sounds of a city that never slept were far removed from his place of quiet retreat. A few hundred yards down the river a pair of small boys were trying to catch fish, casting home-made lines as they clung to the rotting poles of a long-abandoned jetty. Methos watched them for a while, amused. Even if the long, winding river that ran through downtown Seacouver had been teeming with fish, the boys would not have stood much chance of catching any. They were laughing and shrieking at each other, slipping and sliding on the wet, mossy sides of the jetty, and doing a very good job of scaring away every living thing in the vicinity. The world's oldest Immortal smiled at the sight. A few months previously he might have wondered how it felt to be so carefree; how pleasant it might be to have so few concerns, so few worries. He might have watched the two boys and wished that he was more like them. Now he just smiled and enjoyed the sight; enjoyed the realisation and quiet acceptance of the fact that he had no worries either - that he was as carefree as the boys themselves. For once in his life he didn't seem to have anything hanging over his head. He didn't feel miserable, he wasn't in a bad mood, he didn't feel at all angry. He wasn't even worried about anything. Maybe it was the final farewell to the twentieth century which was making him feel so good. It shouldn't have meant anything to him really, coming as he did from another era, another culture, another civilisation. Modern ways of marking time had no real significance to him, and plenty of people seemed to think that the new century didn't begin until the following year anyway. It was all immaterial. He had woken on the first day of January - or come round, anyway, and then spent several hours trying to find out where he was - with a feeling of great refreshment. It was like a new awakening. Duncan had laughed at him when he had tried to explain it all later. The Highlander had told him that it wasn't a momentous new beginning as such, but more a case of one almighty hangover and an overdose of Alka-Seltzer. In many ways he could have been right, but Methos was enjoying the feeling anyway. A new century - just the thing to wash away the troubles and problems of yesterday, as far as you were able, and set about making a new start. He had thought about selling his apartment, but had settled instead for hitting the sales, and buying at least twenty cans of paint - some of them in colours that he would never even consider using. He had sold most of his furniture, bought far too much in replacement, and had spent the night redecorating, getting bored every time he was halfway through painting a large stretch of wall, and moving on to a different room and a different colour just to make life more interesting. The paint work was beginning to look decidedly patchy, but then he wasn't looking for an entry in Good Homes Magazine. On reflection, however, it probably hadn't been a terribly good idea to choose the night-time to do his painting, with the windows flung wide open and his favourite Rock Greats CD boxed collection blaring at close to full volume from the stereo system. Now the jerk across the street was threatening to write to the owner of the building and press for an instant eviction; but then the jerk across the street had been threatening that ever since Methos had - inadvertently - painted his car bright orange. He had tried to apologise, but his belligerent neighbour was not the type who liked to listen. That left Methos with two options, so far as he could tell. Either he could be extraordinarily polite for the rest of the millennium, and hopefully avoid losing his home, or he could creep across the street in the dead of night and behead his neighbour without preamble. Currently he favoured the second option. Removing the jerk's head was, after all, only going to improve his looks.

Dismissing the thoughts of irritable neighbours, Methos lowered himself to the ground and stretched out on the chilled and stunted grass. It was not the most comfortable of resting places, but having had no sleep for nearly forty-eight hours he was glad of the chance to relax. He closed his eyes, letting the new colour scheme of his bedroom float unbidden before his eyes, dreaming of neatly painted skirting-boards, and tailor-made carpets. It was nice to think that, for once in his life, he had nothing more interesting to dream of. There were no insane Immortals on his tail, no crazy mortals out for blood; no woebegone-looking stray mortal girls had turned up on Duncan MacLeod's doorstep looking for salvation from ill-chosen, bullying husbands and boyfriends. There hadn't even been any cases of drunk and disorderly at Joe's bar just recently. Life was quiet, uneventful, leisurely. Methos' eyes snapped open. And boring. It was horrible to have to admit it, but after month upon month of hair-raising escapades, when all that he had wanted was the chance to do a little interior decorating, worry over the rising price of beer and write argumentative letters to music companies about the extortionate price of CDs, now that he had all of that he was bored rigid. Could it be that he actually liked being in mortal danger night and day, hanging onto his life by the skin of his teeth? No, that was plain crazy. There was something though. Something that was making him feel restless, and eager to do something vaguely exciting. It was a strange urge, like a desire to go on a rampage painting mail boxes purple, or a desperate need to spray insulting graffiti over every available squad car. He smiled to himself as he stretched luxuriously, and wished he hadn't lain down on the cold grass. The ground was uncomfortable and lumpy, but he couldn't be bothered to get up again. He ignored the discomfort, and let his tired arms relax, enjoying their break from slathering paint all over obstinate walls. It wasn't that they moved whenever they saw the brush coming, exactly. It was just that they somehow seemed to repel the paint as it loomed up on the periphery of their vision, so that instead of going where it was intended, the paint went all over the floor - and all over Methos. His T-shirt was a mosaic of paint stains, with blue all over one sleeve, red all over another, and an interesting mishmash of green, yellow and pink all down the front. That was particularly interesting, since he didn't actually remember using either green or pink paint. Neither did he remember using orange, but there was a whole slew of that down one trouser leg. It was one of the interesting scientific facts of life, he decided, that paint was attracted to clothing. Clearly his clothing was rather better at attracting it than most peoples'. Perhaps he could get some kind of government grant to study the phenomenon further.

"Hey mister." He opened his eyes reluctantly, blinking up at the two small boys standing over him. From their heavily patched jeans and oversized South Park T-shirts, he recognised them as the two who had been fishing earlier. One of them, clearly older than the other, was holding what looked like a ten dollar bill, and had a faintly arrogant tilt to his head that corresponded with such redoubtable riches. He was about eleven at the outside, with a mass of wiry blond curls and large, dark green eyes that reflected images of the threatening delinquent he clearly couldn't wait to become. His companion, a sandy-haired wisp of a boy with an oil-streaked face and a nervous grin, was jigging about anxiously, as though terrified that somebody was going to confiscate their brazenly displayed wealth.

"What can I do for you?" Smiling pleasantly, although inwardly wishing that they would return to their piscatorial struggles, Methos raised himself up on his elbows. The older boy folded his arms.

"Some guy told us to come here and talk to you." He delivered the message like a challenge. "He said you were to meet him in his car over there." He pointed with one long, grubby finger, then sunk his hands deep into his pockets. "He paid us ten, said you'd double it."

"Did he indeed." Methos sat up, feeling a distinct chill in the air which had nothing to do with his insubstantial clothing and the unpleasantness of the weather. "What did this guy look like?"

"I dunno." The boy shrugged. "He said you had to hurry."

"Yeah? Well maybe I don't want to." Methos' eyes narrowed. "Was he tall or short? What was his accent like?"

"He was tall." The boy was looking distinctly shifty now, his shoulders hunched forward slightly, and his eyes flickering about. "And his accent was like he was from New York." He gave an extravagant sigh. "Look, all he said was that we had to fetch you to him, that's all. He said he wanted to talk to you. Are you going to pay us or not?"

"Maybe." Methos reached into his pocket and pulled out a ten dollar bill. The boy made a grab for it, but the old Immortal held it back. "Hang on. I want a few answers from you first."

"Such as?" The older boy was still trying to look tough, but his resolve was crumbling, and he was starting to look increasingly like a small boy again - or, more precisely, a small boy who was beginning to wonder if he might have got involved in something that he would much rather have left well alone.

"Such as, are you sure that he was a tall New Yorker, and not kind of a smallish British guy? With dark hair and pale blue eyes? Maybe a sort of a dangerous looking bloke."

"No." There was a firm head shake. "He definitely wasn't British, and he didn't have pale eyes. They were dark; real dark. He looked like maybe he was Greek, except that he was from New York." The boy frowned, then tried turning on the tough guy voice again. "Can I have my money now?"

"Our money." His little companion spoke up for the first time, revealing a reedy little voice that suggested he might have a good future in the choir of his local Church. Methos sighed and rose to his feet, brushing off his clothes before handing the money to the smaller boy. His oil-streaked face lit up, and in a flash he had turned tail and vanished. It was impossible to see which of the alleyways he had disappeared down, for he moved with all the speed and skill of a hunted fox. The older boy stared after him as though considering following suit, but Methos caught him smartly by the wrist.

"This guy I'm supposed to meet. Was he wearing a long overcoat?"

"No. A short coat. Sheepskin I think, with a big belt round it, like something out of Starsky And Hutch. He was wearing gloves too. Looked like a dock worker." He tapped at the left side of his neck. "He had a tattoo right here, of a ship and a big snake, and he was wearing big boots." He hesitated, looking distinctly nervous. "Can I go now?"

"Yeah." Methos released him, and watched him run away. He ran like a scared jackrabbit, hesitating before vanishing down his chosen alley. He glanced back at Methos, still standing by the river, and for a second seemed to be considering something, such as maybe turning back and telling the Immortal something else. Then sense prevailed, and he dashed off down the alley. The river seemed very quiet without his presence.

"A sailor." Methos rubbed his chin thoughtfully, trying to remember if he had ever met anybody who matched the boy's description. "A Greek New Yorker. Maybe ex-Navy?" It didn't ring a bell, which tended to suggest that it wasn't some Immortal he had once wound up on the wrong side of. Unreliable though his memory could be at times, he usually remembered the people he had upset - particularly if they were the kind likely to come looking for him a few centuries later. On this occasion he was drawing a complete blank. He had been hoping that the boy had been lying at first in his description, but his later words had not suggested any desire to pull the wool over Methos' eyes. The old Immortal had been almost expecting a strange message from the smallish British guy with pale blue eyes that he had spoken of to the errand boy. Ever since finding out, nearly a month earlier, that his wayward brother Kronos was apparently back among the land of the living, he had been waiting, hoping, wondering. There had been long, sleepless nights waiting for the telltale tingle of an approaching Immortal - restless moments in deserted parks, wondering if Kronos was really looking for a reunion, or maybe just for revenge. He knew that his brother could kill him easily, without Methos even being entirely aware of his presence. He had proved that quite admirably on the occasion of their last reunion. Now, though, it seemed that the oldest man was to be disappointed yet again. Again there was no Kronos - just a mysterious Greek sailor from New York, who might or might not be a potential psychopath with a sword hidden under his sheepskin jacket. Never let it be said that life ever stayed peaceful for long.

The crunch of stone underfoot made Methos turn suddenly, still sufficiently jumpy from the tricks being played on him by his own mind for every noise to sound threatening. It was only just beginning to sink in that he had felt no indication of an approaching Immortal, when he began to realise that the man coming towards him over the frost-touched grass was tall and dark and was wearing a sheepskin jacket. He had the easy grace of a man who knew that he could handle life's unexpected obstacles, and the slightly rolling gait of somebody who had spent the best years of their life at sea. He was in his late forties at a guess, with a slight sprinkling of grey in the hair at the sides of his head, and deep lines on his dark, weather-beaten face. His eyes were almost black, although his eyebrows and lashes were bleached almost white, creating a startlingly piercing gaze that was almost disturbing in its intensity. The smile was friendly enough though, tempered by look that suggested this was not a man to get on the wrong side of. Methos looked him up and down, trying not to appear too overtly suspicious, whilst at the same time trying to convey the suggestion that he was not to be messed with. Somehow he didn't feel too confident of making the last part too believable.

"Hello?" He sounded cautious, he realised, and began to wonder if the man would be at all startled were he to draw his sword for protection. His new acquaintance merely smiled.

"I was beginning to think that you weren't coming," he said brightly, displaying a strong New York accent that bore the telltale stamp of the Bronx. "So I figured maybe it'd be best if I came to you instead."

"Fine." Folding his arms and wishing that fate had seen fit to grant him an extra foot in width across the shoulders, Methos forced an answering smile onto his face. "What can I do for you?"

"Name's Daniel Reuben." A large, gloved hand was thrust at him, and Methos shook it almost by reflex.

"Adam Pierson."

"Yeah, I know." Reuben peeled back part of one glove, revealing the small blue Watcher's tattoo on one wrist that marked him as an associate of sorts. "I've been looking for you."

"I'm glad." The smile was becoming easier to fake, but the person behind it was getting more and more uneasy. "Any particular reason?"

"Oh sure." Reuben's grin became even broader, threatening imminent jaw damage. "See, I've been away at sea a long time, and a guy hears things at sea - especially with a multi-national crew like the one we've got. I've been a little isolated, maybe, but there's some things that I do hear, and there's one thing I'm sure of." He hesitated, looking very proud of himself. With a distinctly bad feeling growing within him, Methos managed a questioning raise of one, quaking eyebrow.

"And?" he inquired, trying to sound innocent. Reuben's grin widened even more.

"I've got a hot lead on Methos. A real hot lead. Matter of fact, I think he's right here in Seacouver."

"You do?" Well that wasn't as bad as it could have been. After all, as soon as Reuben checked in with the local head office, he would find out who Methos really was. It might even be amusing to be present at that moment. Reuben nodded hard, and instantly became a good deal more serious.

"I heard it on the crossing from Cape Town. Seems there's some guy who's put a contract out on Methos. Word is there's a hitman here, in Seacouver, and from everything I've heard Methos is here too." Worry creased the amiable features. "I was kind of hoping you'd be the guy to talk to. I know you're in research, not a real field agent, but if we don't do something Methos could be dead - and I kind of like the idea of there being a guy as old as him in the world. It's nice."

"I'm inclined to agree." Methos swallowed hard. "What do you know about this hitman?"

"Not a whole lot. This and that. Rumour mostly, but it doesn't sound too good for the old guy." Reuben pulled a battered cheroot from the pocket of his jacket, and lit up with a cloud of blue-grey smoke. "What do you think?"

"I think we should get in touch with Joe Dawson." Methos felt a heavy, sinking feeling in his stomach that told him he was very soon going to be longing for the boredom of interior decorating. "How close is your car?"

"Real close." Reuben's eyes narrowed. "Say, you don't look too good."

"You don't say." Methos glanced around, expecting at any moment to see a large man come racing towards him, wielding a double-edged blade. "And do me a favour, okay? Stick close."

"You expecting trouble?" Reuben smacked his large, gloved hands together, suggesting that trouble was one of his favourite things. His answer was a rather bleak smile.

"You could say that, yeah."


"Wow." Daniel Reuben sounded much like a small boy being introduced to his life-long hero. "Methos. Wow." He reached over and shook the old man's hand for the sixth time in half as many minutes, threatening to separate it from the arm altogether in his boundless enthusiasm. "I can't believe it. I mean - I mean - wow."

"I don't see why it's so unbelievable." Looking sullen, Methos managed to extract his hand from the vice-like grip clinging to it. "It's just a name. I'm just a guy. Why do people always expect something else?"

"I don't know. I guess I just imagined... I don't know." Reuben shrugged, looking somewhere between embarrassed and amused. "I guess I always imagined that you'd look... well. Something like Charlton Heston. You know - tall, in a robe, with a beard. Like he was in The Ten Commandments."

"If you're looking for Moses, you're definitely in the wrong camp." Methos caught sight of Joe grinning, and scowled. Somehow this kind of revelation never seemed to go according to plan. "Anyway, maybe I'll get lucky. If you lot find it so hard to accept who I am, perhaps this hitman will have the same problem. He can go and behead Charlton Heston, and I'll be sitting pretty."

"No." Reuben shook his head, making his thick hair dance. "He's got a picture, or so I heard. He knows exactly what he's after. Whoever hired him seems to know exactly who you are and where to find you. That's what surprised me. I mean, I thought Adam Pierson was the world's number one authority on Methos. I was starting to think maybe he was behind the hit." He grinned. "I guess maybe not, huh. At any rate I didn't realise that your identity was common knowledge these days. I never imagined that the Watchers had finally been able to track you down. What happened? Did you slip up?"

"No." Methos' glare could have cut boulders in half, such was its heat and intensity. "Never mind what happened. The fact is that my identity is not common knowledge. Most Watchers still think of me as plain old Adam Pierson, and that's the way I plan on having it stay."

"So what are you going to do about this hitman?" Reuben stretched his long legs, making himself look like some kind of lanky giant. The tall bar stool on which he was seated was too small for him, and with his large build the contrast between him and Methos was almost comical. Seated on adjacent barstools they looked much like a picture with greatly distorted perspective. "Do we get together and go out there? Hunt him down? An army of Watchers, searching the streets for--"

"No." Methos stood up, thinking about reaching for a bottle of beer. Instead he headed towards the window. "We have to keep this low key."

"Too bad Mac's staying with Amanda at the moment." Joe refilled Reuben's glass, and was startled at Methos' refusal to have his own blood alcohol level replenished. "He could ask around for us. People talk to Mac."

"We can handle this without the boy scout." Methos sat down on the windowsill, drawing his knees up almost to his chin. "If there's some hitman out looking for Immortals, that means we're dealing with somebody who knows what we are and how to kill us. I'd feel better if MacLeod stayed out of it."

Joe raised an eyebrow. "How very thoughtful."

"Not at all." Methos was looking dark. "I have a few suspicions about who might be behind this. I brought Daniel to you because I could use your support - Watcher support I mean. Access to certain files I can't be sure of getting hold of anymore. But I want to handle this alone, and I want you to get word to my Watcher to hang back for a couple of days. If I'm right about this, anybody who's on my tail is going to be the first to bite the dust."

"I don't know about that, old man." Joe looked more than just worried. Methos offered him the smallest of smiles.

"I need room to work."

"Not without me you don't." Reuben strode towards him, laying a heavy, almost proprietorial hand on the Immortal's shoulder. "I came all this way to warn you. I plan on sticking around and making sure that you're okay."

"Daniel, I--"

"No buts." The big man sounded very gentle, but very firm. "Now you said you had an idea who we might be dealing with. You want to open up a little?"

"Just a guy I used to know. Word was he died, but I heard recently that he might just be alive after all." The old man sounded cagey even to Daniel, who had only just made his acquaintance. From the expression on Joe's face, it was clear that the story did not hold much water. Methos rose to his feet. "I'm going back to my place. He might have been in touch."

"Why would he do that?" Joe sounded incredulous, but Methos ignored him.

"Never mind. I'll talk to you later." With that he strode to the door and vanished out into the street. Joe sighed.

"I hate to ask you this," he began uncertainly. "I mean, we've only just met..."

"Don't worry about it." Reuben clapped him on the shoulder, almost knocking him over. "I'll stick by him. You get on the case like he told you to. I'll be in touch."

"Thanks." Joe watched gratefully as the sailor headed off after Methos, his huge sea-boots making heavy clumping noises on the floor. The door swung shut behind him, and the ageing Watcher leaned heavily on his bar and sighed. Just when things were finally starting to look quiet. He should be expecting this kind of thing by now. He wondered who Methos suspected, and wondered if there was anything in his files. It was a place to start the search at any rate; so locking the door and pulling down the blinds, he headed into the back room. Time for a little research. If there was one thing Joe Dawson was not prepared to do, it was to let Methos handle this alone.


There was no doubt in his mind that this was Methos' apartment. If the huge bookcases loaded with texts at least as old as Seacouver weren't clue enough, the eclectic range of styles and furniture designs proved all. A huge antique desk dominated one wall, its carved legs groaning under the weight of two hundred pieces of dog-eared paper, at least thirty heavyweight books, half a dozen ring binder folders and a laptop computer that looked as though it might have been one of the very first to make it out of the factory. The desk's green leather-topped surface was marked with at least three ink wells, one of which still held an ink bottle; and what looked suspiciously like the original quill pen was displayed beside it. Beside the desk sprawled two long bookcases, each one filled to brimming with books of every description. There was no apparent filing system, no regulation over where each volume was placed. Tom's Midnight Garden was next to The Iliad, which in turn rested next to The Illustrated History Of Medicine. There were at least twelve copies of Oliver Twist, all in different languages of which only two used the Roman alphabet, yet all looked equally well read. They were scattered all over the bookcases, distributed equally amongst tattered and well-thumbed copies of everything from The Secret Garden to War And Peace to Mrs Beeton's Country Pie Collection. There were also at least half a dozen books clearly designed for the under fives, and just as many with suspiciously teenaged themes. The Encyclopaedia Of Rock Music was filed with a range of holy books representing practically every modern faith, and stuck right in the middle of the religious section was How To Make Paper Aeroplanes and Origami Jungle Animals For Very Small Hands. Kronos found himself grinning. It was enough to keep an army of psychiatrists happy for a decade.

He ignored the rest of the room, practically blind to the half-finished decorating job, and all but oblivious to the art deco coffee table, ultra-modern shelving and bohemian three-piece suite. He walked right past the CD rack filled with computer games, ignored the two large top-of-the-range computers that faced each other across the room, and dismissed the DIY beer kit that was bubbling away to itself under the pile of mismatched throw rugs and priceless Persian carpets lying in the corner of the room. Evidently they were waiting for the decorating to be finished before they were found homes. Their wait would likely be a long one. Instead Kronos headed straight for the much smaller, chipboard bookcase near the far window. It was understated, and seemed to have been made from a kit - easily seen from the sagging centre shelf and crooked top. Whoever had put it together had apparently been doing it blindfolded, and extremely drunk. Kronos didn't need to wonder who the craftsman had been.

He knelt beside the bookcase, looking briefly through the National Geographics, New Scientists and Medical Journals, giving a cursory glance over the collection of History Today magazines, Record Collector and ancient issues of NME, and settled at last on a handful of elderly books and journals almost hidden on the bottom shelf. They were leather-bound, some more antiquated than others. Some were no more than a hundred years old, others dated back millennia. He recognised many of them, and remembered only too well those countless moonlit nights, when he had awoken to the sound of a pen scratching on paper - or a stylus on parchment, even a knife on wood - and watched the silhouetted figure of his brother writing his journal by firelight. They had joked about it, even fought over it, when Kronos and Silas and Caspian hadn't seen the sense in keeping the account. Methos had killed to regain it, when once or twice it had gone astray. And always there it was, somewhere in his keeping, even though many had been the times when he had been separated from it by entire continents, unable to hold it in his hands for whole years at a time. Still he tried to keep it updated, and still he kept it as a part of him. Kronos smiled to see it now, and without waiting further he reached out for one of the newest looking volumes and tugged it from the shelf. It fell open on a random page - July, 1996. Settling himself on the floor, leaning back against the shaky bookshelf, Kronos laid the book down on his knees and began to read.


"Do you often leave your door wide open when you go out for the day?" Pushing Methos behind him, Reuben gestured at the main door of the apartment. Methos shoved past him, faintly annoyed.

"Not as a rule, no. I'm quite used to uninvited guests though." Not fond of them necessarily, but certainly used to them. In Methos' opinion, uninvited guests were supposed to be him. There was nothing wrong in him paying an unscheduled visit - but for others to drop by on him unannounced amounted to a crime against the state - or a crime against the state of his health at any rate. The oldest Immortal sidled suspiciously up to the door, already feeling the telltale buzz that told him his guest was an Immortal. It was a powerful feeling, strong and certain and familiar in an infuriating way. It was strange too, and deeply disturbing.

"What is it?" His sea-boots beating out a tattoo with every step, Reuben practically ran to his side, flattening himself with theatrical abandon against the wall beside the door. "You feel another Immortal?"

"Ssh!" There was little point now in trying to arrive in secret, but the least Methos could do was to try to gain the upper hand by not letting his 'guest' know how many people were outside the door. Keeping his eyes firmly fixed on the empty doorway, Methos let his right hand fall to his waist, where from the inside of one trouser leg he withdrew a short sword. It was more of a knife than a real sword, and certainly not in the same league as his favoured weapon; but the blade was sharp and practical, and it was a useful weapon despite its limited reach. Far better to carry a small weapon than no weapon at all, at least in Methos' opinion; and this weapon was pleasantly easy to conceal about one's person - especially when one left the house in the early hours for a gentle stroll in nothing but a T-shirt and jeans. Reuben raised his eyebrows.

"You keep back," he ordered sharply, apparently none too impressed by this flamboyant unsheathing of his companion's arsenal. "I'll handle this." He pulled a gun from inside his jacket, lovingly fastening a silencer onto the barrel, and thereby increasing its length by almost a foot. Methos shrugged.

"Be my guest." It was quite nice to have somebody who was willing to act out the age-old flock-of-sheep-and-a-minefield scenario; and far be it for Methos to stand in the way of a happy volunteer. He stepped back, cheerfully gesturing for Reuben to precede him through the door. Reuben's face hardened, although his eyes were still smiling. He raised one snow-white eyebrow.

"Wish me luck." If it was the preamble to a military assault it was missing something, but Methos forgave him his lack of poetry. He tightened his grip on his sword, and wondered if he should warn his would-be bodyguard that their quarry already knew they were there. Since he could still feel the presence of the other Immortal, Methos was certain that he had not made a break for it down the fire escape - which meant that he was almost certainly lying in wait. Reuben, however, did not seem in any way concerned; and even as Methos was considering going against the habit of a lifetime by offering his assistance, the sailor let out a bellowing battle cry, and flung the door open with all of his strength. There was a heavy thudding sound followed by the crunch of a door handle slamming into plaster and paint. Reuben's powerful arms reached out as he blasted his way into the room, kicking aside the half-empty paint cans strewn in his way. A shadowy figure loomed on the edge of the room and the big sailor swung around to face it, only to cry out in pain and alarm. A heavy, hard-covered book, flung with startling accuracy, came down hard on his wrist and caused him to drop his gun before he could prevent himself from doing so. It hit the ground butt first, bounced once, and unleashed a volley of shots which peppered the newly painted ceiling with large black holes. With a yell of rage Reuben made a leap towards the black shape that was all he had seen of his attacker. He moved with great speed for his size, and before his intended victim could move aside the sailor was upon him, grabbing him by the shirtfront and slamming him up against the wall. The sword fell from the unfortunate Immortal's nerveless fingers and he raised his hands in an attempt to defend himself from the powerful man threatening to crush his chest.

"Who the hell are you?" Fighting back with surprising strength for a man who, next to Reuben, seemed very small indeed, the Immortal almost succeeded in freeing himself. Reuben clung on tightly to the man's shirt however, and threw him against the wall once again, this time with considerable gusto.

"I'm asking the questions here." He slammed his unfortunate prisoner against the wall a third time, just for effect, then dragged him towards Methos. "Do you know him? Is he supposed to be in here?"

"I've never seen him before in my life." Methos was frowning at the figure. There was something strikingly familiar about the Immortal's face, but he was sure that he didn't recognise the longish curly hair or its matching beard. There was something of the mediaeval knight in the man's looks.

"Damn you Methos. I came here intending to be friendly." Fury burned in the man's eyes. "Is this the way you greet your friends now, or is it just the way you greet me? Does Duncan MacLeod hold this much sway over you, that you hide behind some mortal gorilla, and meet me with weapons and violence?"

"Kronos?" If the looks were not familiar the voice was - and so was the blaze of ill-contained rage in those icy blue eyes. Methos' mouth fell open, the beginnings of a smile of utter joy showing in the corners of his eyes. Suddenly, however, joy turned to a rage that was almost a match for Kronos' own. "You. You - How can you call me unfriendly? How can you come here acting like I'm the bad guy when we all know that you're here for my head? I trusted you! I might have hated your guts, you stupid, insensitive, bloodthirsty moron, but I loved you too. I brought you back from the dead. I spent weeks lost in the mountains in Poland, nearly getting my head lopped off by a bunch of the craziest madmen I have ever encountered, in order to bring you back to the land of the living, and what thanks do I get? What sign of friendship do I get? You send me a coded message through some guy we managed to send crazy nearly four thousand years ago, then just when I start thinking maybe there's a future for the pair of us you turn up in Seacouver planning to take my Quickening. I should have left you floating around in the netherworld driving MacLeod insane." He seemed drained after this lengthy explosion, and almost sagged against the doorframe. When he spoke again his voice was much quieter. "Just tell me why Kronos. I know I hurt you before, but you hurt me too, damn it. You shouldn't have asked me to choose between you and MacLeod - not when I hadn't laid eyes on you for nearly two hundred years."

"Your head?" Helpless in Reuben's grip, Kronos struggled to ease the pressure at his throat in order to answer his old friend's challenge. "I don't want your head, and what the bloody hell would I do with your Quickening? My own is a hundred times greater than yours, and you know it. If I wanted your head I'd have taken it a thousand years ago. I came here to talk to you. I wanted to try to bury a few hatchets, maybe make some sense out of what's happened to me. I wanted to find out how I came to be alive again." With a sudden burst of strength he swatted aside Reuben's huge hands, and advanced on Methos. "How could you think I'd come here looking for your head? I hated you for what you did to us. I hated you for letting MacLeod kill Caspian. I hated you for taking Silas' head. I hated you for foiling my every move, for blocking me at my every step last time I was here. I was ready to take your head then and be done with it - but do you honestly think I'd break in here, lie in wait, challenge you without giving you a chance to defend yourself? If I was after your head I'd face you in open territory. If I was after you Methos, you'd know all about it." His voice had dropped to a dangerous whisper. "If you were in my sights, I'd want to get the full effect. I'd wait until every one of your nerves was frozen in fear before I made my move. That's the way I work best, remember?"

"Always the showman." Methos' voice sounded as though it were coming from paralysed vocal chords. "Fear is a game to you, isn't it?"

"We've all got to have a hobby." Smiling all over his disguised face, Kronos reached out, grabbing Methos by the shirtfront. "I came here to be friendly, but I've got a good mind to--"

"Leave him alone." With easy speed and remarkable grace Reuben moved forward, catching Kronos once again by the throat. He pulled him away from Methos with a tearing of cloth, then flung the startled Immortal into the corner of the room. He hit the floor with a loud thump, shaking his head to clear it before beginning to make his way back to his feet. He froze before he was halfway there, suddenly finding himself staring down the barrel of Reuben's hastily retrieved gun. Ice blue eyes flashed.

"Who the hell is this guy?" he asked, petulance filling his voice with childish anger. "And what makes you so bloody sure it's your head I'm after? What's got into you Methos?"

"Somebody's after me." Methos crossed the room, intending to help his old friend to his feet, but instead pulled back and took refuge at Reuben's side in the face of his brother's clear rage. "There's a contract out on me or something. This is Daniel Reuben, a Watcher. He discovered the hit, and came here to warn me. Whoever the hitman is, he knows who I am and what I look like. He might even know where I live. When I heard that he was that well read, I figured he had to be you. There aren't that many people who know that much about me, and you have to admit - with this happening just after you got back in touch... Well it's pretty damning evidence brother."

"A hitman? Who the hell would put out a hit on you?" Contempt filled Kronos' voice as he climbed to his feet, this time ignoring the gun. "Who have you wound up the wrong way this time? Another jealous husband? Another jilted lover?"

"This happens to be serious." Himself now equally enraged, Methos shook his head. "Damn it, I don't know why I bother. Dead or alive you never bloody change. You always were an irritating bastard, Kronos, and it looks as though you still are." He glared daggers at Reuben, who was looking increasingly confused. "Just shoot him, for pity's sakes. Otherwise one of us is going to wind up tearing the other's head off, and I don't want bloodstains all over this new furniture. I happen to like it a great deal."

"You want me to shoot him?" Despite his knowledge that a gunshot would not cause Kronos any lasting damage, Reuben still blanched at the suggestion. "Are you sure that's a good idea?"

"It's the only idea he can come up with." Kronos sounded deeply disparaging. "After his glory years went west with the Bronze Age he starting hiding behind other people's weapons. Never face someone yourself, do you Methos. Not when there's somebody else who can pull the trigger for you."

"If you don't shut up, so help me I'll--"

"What? What'll you do? Fight me?" Kronos laughed unpleasantly. "I don't think so. You'll make up some excuse and go sliding off into the shadows hoping nobody noticed. I know you Methos. I know you as well as you know yourself."

"Yeah?" Rage and indignation coloured the old Immortal's voice as much as they had already coloured his face. "Well we'll see about that. Pick up your sword, brother. We'll see once and for all which one of us is the best. To think that I ever rode side-by-side with you, you outdated, big-headed--"

With a violent splintering of glass and an explosion that shook the ceiling, the window to the old man's right caved in and a small metal object bounced across the floor, effectively silencing Methos, and making all three men turn to face the source of the noise in shocked surprise. Methos' eyes widened.

"Grenade!" He had hardly shouted the words before all three of them were making for the door, but they were still a long way from it when the device spluttered, gave a second, much smaller explosion that set the floor vibrating, and sent a wave of heat and smoke throughout the room. Methos felt his head swim.

"Make for the door," he croaked uselessly. Reuben struggled to retain hold of his gun.

"I can hear footsteps," he mumbled, although the words were barely audible. Kronos glanced up towards the door, seeing two sets of booted feet coming towards them. What seemed an impossible distance above the feet floated two blurred and badly focussed faces, largely covered by gas masks. He groaned, casting a glare in the general direction of Methos.

"Hitmen, huh." They were the last, angry words that he was able to utter, before he pitched forward, unconscious, to the ground. Methos groaned.

"Damn." It seemed pointless, and not to mention a little late, to say sorry to Kronos now for having doubted him; and his last thought but one before he too lost consciousness was that Seacouver was becoming an unfeasibly dangerous place in which to live. He also found himself wondering why the jerk across the street hadn't yet come round to complain about the noise - and that was the very last cogent thought that raced through his brain before the world went completely black.


Methos awoke to a mammoth headache and a feeling of impending doom, which was not eased by the swift realisation that he was bound to a chair. He let his rebellious head settle before glancing about at his new surroundings; and almost immediately met with the thunderous glare of his brother. He smiled rather nervously. Somehow the fact that Kronos was tied up as well did not give him any added confidence. The Leader of the Horsemen was still lethal, even when he was bound hand and foot and tied to a chair - he had demonstrated that before. Right now, however, he appeared to be more interested in understanding the situation than in apportioning any kind of blame, so after checking up as well as he was able on the still unconscious Reuben, Methos tried to relax, wishing that he could rub his throbbing head. He looked towards the door of their cramped living quarters, half expecting it to be flung open at any moment.

"You feel ready to tell me what's going on?" Kronos did not sound angry, which was rather a surprise. Perhaps something of Peter Kerensky had rubbed off on him; or more likely he was saving up his energy for a real explosion later. The old man flashed him a smile that was only marginally less nervous than the previous one.

"I told you," he said, trying not to sound too defensive. "There's a hitman after me."

"If we're dealing with a hitman, why didn't he just take your head in the apartment?" Kronos fought for a moment against the ropes, showing clear signs that his current level of patience was not going to hold. "You're a curse, brother. Whenever I meet up with you it leads to trouble."

"Is that so? Well let me tell you something, brother, I--"

"Are you two still at it?" Groaning the words out softly, Daniel Reuben stirred nearby, blinking about at the plain, brown room in which they were sitting. "Anybody would think you were enemies."

"We are." Methos sounded hot, but he managed to control his annoyance in order to turn to his latest mortal acquaintance. "Are you okay?"

"Are you kidding? I'm a sailor. This is no worse than the hangovers I've had after a couple of nights shore leave." Reuben tried to shift his position on his seat a little, then sighed. "Although admittedly I don't usually wake up tied to a chair." He grinned, still looking a little fragile. "Mind you, there was that time in Singapore..."

"Save it." With a wry smile, Methos glanced back towards Kronos. "Okay, mastermind. If this isn't the work of a hitman, do you want to give us some ideas? Maybe it's you they're after. It's a possibility, right? After all, you're the one with a thousand different enemies for every day of the week."

"Yeah, but they all think that I'm dead." Kronos shook his head. "This isn't about me. It can't be. I might be wanted all over the western world - and I want to have a little chat with you about that sometime - but I've been in disguise since I left Europe. Nobody here knows who I am. And anyway, I thought you said this guy was after you."

"I did." Methos struggled for a moment, angry and frustrated by this latest prison. The ropes held stubbornly firm. "Damn it. I should have gone to visit Amanda with MacLeod."

"So you're still hanging out with the Highlander." Kronos sounded dark. "I should have guessed. He steals your light, brother. You're not the man you can be, not when he's hanging around. He brings out the best in you, and the best is always the worst for a Horseman."

"I'm not a Horseman any longer, Kronos." Methos spoke softly, and there was a faint sadness in his eyes. Reuben felt almost like an intruder. Whatever it was that lay between these two men, it seemed almost tangible - a bond so strong that he could virtually see it in the air between them. He could almost believe that, if he hadn't been bound, he would have been able to reach out and touch it. Odd that after having spent some ten years reading everything he could find about the oldest Immortal, he had never yet heard the name of this man Kronos. He wondered how they had come to know each other, and what had made them so close - and what had happened to forge such a vast gulf between them as could make the whole room feel chilled.

"Neither am I." If Methos' voice had been soft, Kronos spoke still softer, his words barely traceable, like a faint draught in a still room. He was staring at the ground. "I'm the Leader of the gang that Time forgot. Do you know how much that hurts?"

"Yes." It was a painful admission, especially here and now, but Methos made it all the same. For all his insistence that he had left the old ways behind, he knew that they were as much a part of him as they had always been - and there were times when he missed them so much that it stung his very heart. Nights when he was lonely, days when cold rain and snow seemed never-ending, weeks that stretched on and on into an oblivion of boredom and lonely recollections - those were the times when he sat alone in his apartment and wondered what might have been. What might have happened if his differences with Caspian hadn't become too much to bear. What might have been if the Horsemen had stayed together for another millennium. What might have come about if he had stayed with Kronos, instead of striking out on his own, trying to make himself believe that he had changed too much to stay with the past. Perhaps nothing would be different, perhaps everything would. Perhaps they would both be dead now, or perhaps they would be gods. Instead all that he could do was to look back at history, and watch the myriad of scholars and speculators discuss him and his brothers, and declare that they had been nothing but a fanciful myth. Somehow that hurt almost more than anything else. "And I'm sorry Kronos. Maybe I shouldn't have brought you back."

"I'm here now, aren't I. You always did wonder too much about things that can't be changed." The younger Immortal broke off the conversation for a renewed fit of struggling. "I think I can feel these ropes getting looser."

"Jolly good. See if you can pull free, then get over here and help us." Methos was making no headway at all with his own bonds. Kronos, in answer, gave a deeply unpleasant laugh.

"When I break free, brother, who's to say that I'll take anybody with me? Why should I put myself out for a man who counts my killer as his best friend?"

"Now listen here--" Anger welled up in Methos again, and even though he was sure that this was just what his infuriating brother wanted, still he could not stop its certain growth.

"No, you see here!" Daniel Reuben, almost forgotten during the course of their conversation, sounded more than just exasperated. "What the hell is it between the pair of you? You're like a couple of kids. A blind man could see that you don't really hate each other, so just shut the hell up and try finding us a way out of here." His dark eyes with their pale white lashes swivelled to look at Kronos. "I don't know who you are, and I really don't care. My interest lies in saving Methos. So if you think that you can get free, damn well try it! Quit the tough guy attitude, stop picking fights, and do what you can to save us. I don't care if you're an Immortal. I'm still a whole lot bigger than you. Got it?"

"Got it." Kronos' voice was pure ice. He smiled his favourite cold smile; the smile of the torturer about to spring his most beloved weapon on his most deserving victim. Evil glittered in every atom of his being; and as the smile spread into one of sarcastic glory, he rose to his feet and stepped away from his chair. Torn rope ends and loosened loops fell away from him, others still clinging to his arms. That his wrists and shirt were streaked with blood from the fury of his final struggles was nothing to him, and his smile broadened as he closed in on Reuben. Blood dripped from the ends of his fingers, making tiny splattering noises on the cold stone of the floor. It was a hollow sound, distant and strange.

"Er..." Reuben didn't know what to say. Whether it was this image of blood-daubed mania now confronting him that had succeeded in stilling his tongue, or whether the shock of the Immortal's sudden escape was the reason, it was impossible to say. Either way the words he wanted to say stuck in his throat, like pieces of three-day old steak pie from the ship's galley. He tried clearing his throat, and found it suddenly obstructed by a pair of cold, strong hands that pressed against his windpipe.

"Kronos..." Methos' voice was as cold and as strong as his brother's grip. The older Immortal had to crane his neck to properly see what was going on, but that did not diminish either his determination or the note of authority in his tone. Kronos glanced towards him.

"What? Are you going to beg for your friend's life? Do you expect me to fall over myself to do your bidding, brother?"

"No, I just want you to leave him alone. If you have any argument, it's with me." He sighed. "Daniel said things he didn't mean. We all do when we're tied up and scared for our lives." He smiled without humour. "Most of us do anyway. Just put it down to nervous energy, and see about getting us free. If it's what you really want, we'll fight it out later, the two of us. If you really want somebody's head, you want mine. Right?"

"Right." For a second Kronos didn't move; then with a sudden burst of movement he released Reuben and set about untying the mortal's hands. The ropes fell away easily enough, and the Immortal headed over to Methos. Again the ropes gave way easily, and Methos stretched his tired arms.

"Thankyou." He looked up, staring straight into Kronos' eyes, and wondered what in God's name he was going to do to avoid the confrontation he had just sworn himself to. Pale blue ice glittered at him in horrible confirmation of his own greatest fear. Before this was over, he would very likely have to fight Kronos - and he had no chance of winning.

"We'd better find a way out of here," Kronos sounded quiet again, his voice surprisingly even. Methos nodded mechanically, and wondered about the chances of Daniel guessing his unease, and coming to his assistance by smashing a convenient piece of furniture over Kronos' head.

"Yeah, sure."

"Could be tough." Spinning on his heel, Kronos had headed for the nearest wall. "I think we're underground."

"Yeah, I got that impression myself." It felt surprisingly good to have his old and trusted sounding-board back, even if they were supposed to be on different sides now. "The air quality doesn't feel right, and there's something about the way this place feels."

"Not far underground." Kronos stared up at the ceiling as though calculating some impossible equation. "Beneath cellar level certainly, but not a whole lot further."

"A bunker perhaps. Somewhere built as an old bomb shelter, or maybe as a shelter from earthquakes?" Methos shrugged, then promptly destroyed his own theory. "No, that doesn't follow. There aren't any earthquakes in Seacouver; at least none that anybody seems to bother about."

"Who says we're still in Seacouver?" Kronos began tapping the walls. "They sound solid, but it's still just stone. That's not nuclear shelter material."

"Then I guess we're just in an underground prison." Methos felt his despondency return, bringing all of its depressed little friends with it. "Far underground, so they can kill us and make sure nobody sees the Quickenings."

"Snap out of it." Kronos sounded faintly amused. "They may know you're an Immortal, but they don't know anything about the rest of us. They can't know anything about me. They wouldn't need to hide you away when so far as they know they're just killing one Immortal who's all alone. There wouldn't be any Quickening."

"There would if it's Immortals we're up against," pointed out Daniel, not unreasonably. Methos' shoulders slumped still further, and Kronos glared daggers at the mortal.

"Then we'd better get out of here and find out. Hadn't we." He headed for the door, his stride not slowing in the slightest when the scrape of a key sounded loudly in the lock. Methos tensed.

"Kronos..." he hissed sharply. His brother did not even pause. As the door opened he met it, striding out through the opening with all the confidence of a king about to inspect his troops. There was the sound of startled scuffling, a yell of surprise, and then a gunshot. The bullet ricocheted along what was clearly a stone corridor beyond the door and someone shouted out in shock. Moments later the room was full of guards. Two of them, Methos was almost amused to see, were holding Kronos. He looked remarkably fatalistic - cheerful even; but then, thought the oldest Immortal somewhat ruefully, chaos was meat and drink to Kronos, and even if his escape hadn't been successful he had at least managed to cause his fair measure of turmoil; which was reason enough for his smirk of satisfaction. It was almost like dealing with a child; but strangely enough the thought brought a faint smile to the old man's face.

"What are you smiling at?" One of the guards, clearly some kind of a leader, was glaring at him as though he were responsible for everything. Methos shrugged, feeling suddenly light-hearted and oddly confident.

"Nothing," he assured the man, allowing himself to be led towards the door. The guard made a loud and disgusted noise.

"Hard to see that you're worth all the trouble." He pressed his gun into the small of Methos' back. "And just see that you don't give me any."

"I wouldn't dream of it." The old man glanced about at the stone of the corridor as he was pressured out into it. Strangely, somebody had tried to improve on the place by putting up wallpaper. It was incongruous and bizarre, and therefore oddly comforting. "How far underground are we?"

"Never you mind."

"Are we still in Seacouver?"

"I said, never you mind." The guard pushed the gun harder against his spine, although Methos didn't think much of the threat. He was sure that the guard would not fire his weapon in this confined a space. The reaction to the previous shot, and the sound of it ricocheting its way down the corridor, were proof enough that these were not gun-friendly surroundings. He wondered if the guards knew that their weapons could have little real effect on him anyway, and decided not to press the point just in case.

"Where are we going?" he asked, as pleasantly as he could. The guard didn't answer him.

"Oh." Methos smiled absently, trying to keep his spirits from taking another swan-dive. "That's nice." His only answer was a sharp jab with the gun.


They had been walking some time when the presence of another Immortal came to them - a strange, insinuating presence, that seemed to float towards them through a bath of hot and scented oil. It surrounded them, stroking at their senses in a way that was at once both enthralling and obscene. Methos hesitated, and his guard did not push him onwards. It was almost as if the man pitied him for the audience he was about to make. This thought was not a comforting one; and picking up his feet with an effort Methos redoubled his pace. Better to confront this strange presence than to hide from it, and risk extending the unpleasantness of speculation any further. Another Immortal presence had joined the first by now, even more troubling in nature, and for a second his head spun. He felt almost nauseous, and wished that he could see Kronos from his current position. The gently familiar feel of his brother's presence was like a tonic, helping him keep his head above water, helping him stay focussed. He had been so long without it - had not even dared think of it in nearly as long - but now he was leaning back on it as though it were the strong, supporting embrace of someone special. It was like the comforting security of the family he had so long been without.

All too quickly, or perhaps not quickly enough, they reached a door at the end of a long corridor, where condensation was thick on the walls, and mildew scarred the leaking wallpaper. It was an old design - a fifties flock pattern, with tiny pink roses and larger, more vibrant violets. They were faded and old now, washed over with a greyness that seemed to infect everything. In the light at this end of the corridor even Methos felt grey, and as he glanced down at his hands he saw that the same, dull light had bathed his skin with its deathly pallor. He looked like a corpse, which was not the most encouraging of observations.

"Wait here." The lead guard spoke softly, almost reverently, his words losing themselves quickly in the sponge-like dampness of their surroundings. He squared his shoulders, then knocked hard on the door. His fist seemed to sink into the wood, so old and damp was its build, and the noise was no more than a dull thudding. Nonetheless somebody heard it, for beyond the barrier came the sound of a voice, faint but undeniably strong.

"Come in." The guard hesitated, apparently summoning his nerve, before reaching out a tentative hand for the large, black door handle. It turned easily enough, though with a screech loud enough to awaken the dead. With the gentlest of pushes the heavy door swung open. It creaked loudly, shuddering on its ancient hinges, before coming to rest when it could go no further, its sagging edge catching on an uneven bit of floor. Moving forward as one the guards herded their three prisoners into the room beyond.

It was a large room, but extremely ill-lit, the only illumination coming from a handful of spluttering candles on a shelf at the far side, and a single lamp on a desk in the middle of the floor. The candles, of which there appeared to be three, were huge and grey, standing on a series of large, black holders swamped in ancient deposits of wax. It hung from them in long, dripping fingers, occasionally sending large drops down to join the growing piles on the floor. The flames flickered and spat, causing the light and attendant shadows to dance furiously, as though bidden by some ghostly and unforgiving musician. By contrast the light from the lamp was static. It cast out a perfect oval of rays, pale yellow in colour and utterly without variance. It lit up the surface of the desk, revealing it to be large and cumbersome, and made of some kind of dark wood. There was a pile of old books on the far side, and many scattered sheets of paper which covered much of the surface. Some were curled and old, all looked damp. They bore traces of mould and added a musty smell to the air that made the room seem smaller somehow, and infinitely more oppressive. A solitary figure sat at the desk, poring over a collection of thick yellow papers. Their corners were curled and their edges were crumbled, and the lowest sheet in the pile showed the clear marks of some ancient wax seal. Even in the bad light it showed itself to be coloured a dark red, and it was still possible to see bits of the original design of the seal. It looked as though it had been complicated.

"Ah." The shadowy figure at the desk was still bowed too far over the paper to be seen in any detail, and the voice, at any rate, did not seem to have come from him. Instead it came from the far corner of the room, where a second figure awaited. He came closer now that he had noticed the new arrivals, and his increased proximity showed him to be the origin of the uneasy, insipid Immortal presence. His footsteps clacked in precise, sharp notes on the flagstones.

"Ah," he said again, as he drew closer. They could see him now; a spindly, bent figure dressed entirely in black, in the garb of the nineteenth century. His hair was dark and striped with grey, lank and long and heavily greased. It reached to his shoulders, hanging close around his face and emphasising the pallor of his skin. His eyes stared almost unblinkingly from within dark and sunken rings, and was almost cast into shadow such was the extent of the length of his thin, sharp nose. He was smiling, or thought he was, bearing yellowed teeth that slanted inward, as though trying to escape his slimy-looking, greying lips. He rubbed his long, pale hands together, gripping a large lace handkerchief between his thumbs and caressing it with his fingers. It was as damp with accumulated condensation as everything else in the room, and his constant twisting at it, and restlessly toying with its embroidered edge, sent a cascade of tiny droplets onto the ground.

"The name's Pascoe," he announced, in an unpleasantly sibilant voice. "Josiah Pascoe, businessman and entrepreneur." His thin shoulders squared as much as his bent back would allow. "Formally tailor to the gentry of London, until circumstances forced me to change my trade."

"To the eternal relief of your clients." The second voice was deeper, hoarse even, and it came from the figure seated at the desk. He rose to his feet as he spoke, putting down the papers and allowing the lamplight to reach his previously hidden features - and showing why, perhaps, he had left them hidden for so long.

He was a large man, at least six-and-a-half feet tall, with huge shoulders and an almost absurdly thin waist. His legs seemed too small and thin to support the vast weight of his upper body, but clearly they supported it well enough - for as he moved around the table he displayed a definite grace and ease of movement. Like Pascoe he was dressed in old fashioned clothing; heavy cotton trousers and a thick, homespun shirt, with a largely shapeless leather jerkin thrown carelessly over the top. The jerkin had a hood attached to it, and he fumbled with it for a moment or two, as though considering pulling it over his head - but at the last minute he changed his mind, and came around the desk with his head uncovered.

It was a large head, bulbous almost, and heavily scarred almost to the destruction of any recognisable features. His nose was virtually gone, his small eyes sunken and strange in a sea of blotchy, discoloured skin. There were no lips, which helped to reveal his gum-less teeth almost to their full length, and twisted his cheeks in a half-scowl. The expression was emphasised by the criss-crossing frenzy of deep scars which had left his cheeks as little more than a ravaged mass of skin, leading to jagged, torn ears and a shaggy covering of thick and unmanageable brown hair. He rubbed a large, callused finger across his brow before coming a few steps closer, to peer speculatively at the trio of prisoners. A leering smile pulled his mouth to an even more widely gaping extent.

"So you're Methos," he boomed, gazing intently at Kronos. "I'd expected something a little more--"

"Like Charlton Heston. Yeah, I know." Methos had taken a step forward before his powerful self-preservation instincts were able to begin screaming at him. "I'm Methos."

"And I am Kronos." The smaller Immortal also took a step forward, standing shoulder to shoulder with his oldest friend. "Who exactly are you?"

"Kronos?" There was interest in the deep, scratching voice. The bigger of their two hosts nodded clumsily. "I've heard of you. You have quite a reputation, Kronos."

"Yes." The smile on the face of the Leader of the Horsemen was unpleasant, but it emphasised the sparkling magnetism of his eyes. "I know."

"Is it earned?" There was amusement in the big man's voice. Kronos took another step forward, his movements almost lazy. None of the guards moved to stop him, even though he was close enough now to touch the huge, disfigured Immortal before him. His smile became a little broader, and his eyes considerably more evil.

"Oh it's earned." The smile had become more of a smirk. "I'd be happy to demonstrate."

"I'm sure." The booming voice had developed an unpleasant edge, but almost immediately it was gone. The large shoulders straightened, and the big man put his hands behind his back to create more of a dominating presence. "My name is Gulmore - Paul Gulmore. Philosopher, scientist, astronomer." Again that gaping smile. "And collector of rare items - such as yourselves."

"Collector?" Methos felt a cold emptiness in the pit of his stomach. "What do you mean?"

"Just what I said." The large hands gestured vaguely in the air. "Let me put it this way. I don't like to go into the outside world. I don't like the people there, and the way that they view me. But it gets boring down here on my own. It gets lonely, empty... cold. And so I collect things to fill the void."

"People?" Reuben sounded disgusted, but Gulmore did not seem to notice his outburst. His eyes remained fixed on Methos, moving every so often to stare at Kronos as well.

"Objects," he said finally, his small eyes glittering despite the limited light. "Treasures, works of art, items of scientific and religious significance. Any number of paintings, statues, sculptures..." He shrugged. "You should see my collection sometime. Although I think one of you would value the experience rather more than the other."

"Where do we come into this?" Methos' tongue felt thick in his mouth. "Don't tell me that you brought us down here just so we could admire the contents of your vault."

"Not admire it, no." Gulmore gestured to Pascoe to take over, before withdrawing back into the shadows that lined the room so effectively. His twisted little associate preened himself carefully, then slunk closer, still wringing the sodden handkerchief between his lily-white hands. He smiled unctuously, his bent posture giving him an air of almost preposterously exaggerated servility.

"You're Methos," he informed his fellow Immortal, as though he were telling him something that he hadn't already known. "You've been alive a long time. You know things most other people don't."

"Yeah. I know that Emperor Nero liked his eggs sunny side up, and that Genghis Khan had a funny little birthmark right here." Methos gestured at his right hip. "What is it that you want to know?"

"Mr Gulmore wants to increase his collection. He thinks that you can tell him how to do that. We have maps, accounts, ancient documents of all kinds - but we can't read any of them. No man alive knows how to read some of those ancient languages. No mortal man, that is. Oh the scholars have tried, speculated, made educated guesses... But I think you can do more than that."

"We think you can." Gulmore's voice echoed out of the darkness. Pascoe nodded deferentially in its approximated direction.

"Who else is there for us to turn to? Who else is likely to be able to do this for us? We'd heard of you, of course. Most younger Immortals have. It didn't take much to find out that you were more than just a myth, and fairly soon we were able to find out rather more - what you looked like, for example. Of course finding out where you lived was rather harder, so Mr Gulmore turned to more devious means." He grinned, laughing almost silently. "We hired a hitman. They have extraordinary means of hunting people down, when they think there's money in it for them. Once we'd given him your photograph all that we had to do was sit back and watch him watching you, so to speak. And then when he found you..."

"You stepped in and grabbed us." Methos was impressed with the audacity of the plan, although any respect that he felt was very grudging. "What did you do with him?"

"Our operatives removed him from the picture." Pascoe made a dismissive gesture. "We couldn't have him trying to collect on the hit later on. It might have caused all kinds of problems." He grinned, his shoulders shaking violently with his silent laughter. "And now poor Mr Reuben, coming so gallantly to the rescue. You deserve to be commended, but it was entirely unnecessary. The hitman we hired didn't know any more about Methos than his name, and he certainly would never have thought to take his head." In contrast to his laugh, his chuckle was decidedly noisy. "You should have stayed onboard your ship. You'd have been safe there."

"So I see." Reuben glanced away towards the looming silhouette that was all they could see of Gulmore. "So what happens now? I assume that your plans don't include me?"

"On the contrary." Gulmore spoke from the shadows, his voice eerily disembodied. He sounded offhand - flippant almost. "We can always threaten to kill you, if Methos doesn't agree to our demands."

"I haven't heard any demands yet." Methos felt very nervous, and extremely suspicious. If all that these people wanted was his assistance in a little translation, they had an odd way of going about getting that assistance. He couldn't help feeling that there was something else - some nasty little clause in the fine print of the deal which was in keeping with the slimy, damp-ridden walls of this dark, subterranean hideout. He heard his own voice echoing in the large room, its sound hollow in the unpleasant atmosphere. Pascoe sidled closer.

"Simple." He placed great, and apparently unconscious emphasis on the s, turning the word into a hiss that made Methos' skin crawl. "You translate for us, and you help us to find things that the mortals, with all their engines and digging equipment and overly qualified archaeologists, don't have a hope of finding."

"And in return?" Although Methos had thought the words, it was Kronos who gave them voice. He sounded as though he didn't much care one way or another - a sure sign to Methos that his old friend was close to making some kind of a decisive move. Not for the first time, he wished that he knew what was going on in that dark and active mind. Kronos had a habit of taking action at the most inconvenient of moments - and either killing everybody in the blink of an eye, or killing all hope of escape just as quickly. The brilliant tactical mind tended to get a little overshadowed by anger, and age never seemed to mellow the impressive temper. Methos might have smiled, had the situation not been quite so fraught. It was odd how, even after so long apart, he was still able to adapt and adjust his plans to allow for the uncertainties of his brother's actions. Some things never seemed to change.

"In return?" Pascoe chuckled noisily again, sounding like a under-fuelled steam train struggling to make its way up a steep hill. "You'll live, if you do as we say. You'll never go above ground again of course. There would be far too many temptations there - far too many opportunities for you to slip away. We can't risk that. We can't allow our presence here to become public knowledge. The people above ground don't trust us. They don't like us. They've chased us out of our cities too many times before, and I won't let that happen again."

"Neither will I." Gulmore loomed out of the shadow, his scarred features coming back into focus as the lamplight cast its steady glow across his face. "I was forced down here, and here I've been ever since; and now you get to share my exile with me. I'll let you share in my collections of art and treasure. I'll let you see the beauties that make my imprisonment so much more bearable. I think you might even come to enjoy life below ground, after a while."

"You're crazy." Methos took a step back, bumping into Daniel, who had moved nearer to him at some point during the exchange. His towering presence had been a comfort above ground; but here in this dark and damp place of nightmares it was just an annoyance - a sharp irritation that made the old Immortal want to lash out and push him aside. He controlled himself with difficulty. "No deal. Now I want to know the way back to the surface, and I want to know it now. I want to get back up there into the daylight, and I never want to see either of you again." He stepped around Reuben, intending to make good his escape, but a guard moved quickly to block off his only route. Gulmore made a strange gargling noise in the back of his throat, which might have been anger - but might equally well have been sorrow.

"He doesn't like us, Mr Pascoe." His voice was strangely soft. Pascoe nodded, tucking the damp handkerchief into one sleeve before sidling closer to Methos.

"He doesn't, does he. He's just like all of the others." He sighed. "I had hoped that there wouldn't have to be any bloodshed. I don't like bloodshed."

"Neither do I." Gulmore folded his massive arms. "Although it can be entertaining when it's done well."

"So it can, Mr Gulmore. So it can." Pascoe was nodding hard, his small head moving almost frantically on top of his long, thin neck. "And especially when it's performed on mortals, don't you think? They have far less defences, far less resistance." He smiled up at Daniel, looking almost flirtatious. "I think Mr Reuben here might provide us with an interesting diversion whilst Methos thinks over our offer." He clicked his fingers and two guards stepped up to seize the sailor by the arms. Before he had had time to struggle he was pulled backwards through a previously hidden door in the wall, which closed with a mighty bang. It faded away gradually, and as it did so a fearful scream rent the air, echoing and re-echoing about in the empty, damp mustiness of the room. Again and again it rose and fell, like the dreadful howls of some mortally wounded animal. Methos' eyes widened in horror, recognising Daniel's voice only too well through the screaming, even though the cries hardly seemed to be those of a human at all. Beside him he felt Kronos move, albeit only slightly. If he felt anything for the fate of Daniel Reuben he did not show it - nor was he ever likely to - but he knew only too well that Methos was close to caving in. The oldest Immortal wished that he had more control over his brother, but all that he could do was to shut his mind to the other's presence, and pray that it was not too late to save Daniel - and that Kronos would not do anything to make the situation deteriorate just yet. Still wavering in the depths of indecision, his heart racing painfully, Methos stepped forward.

"Let him go," he said softly, hating each word even as they were burning their way out of his throat. Beside him Kronos growled softly, but Pascoe grinned in ugly satisfaction. His fingers curled in on themselves, and for a horrible moment Methos thought that the twisted little man was going to hug him.

"Oh good." The words sounded oily and sweet, like the heavy patronisation that an over-the-top adult might display to a child. "Jolly good. Oh good good good."

"We haven't agreed to anything yet." Taking a hasty step forward Kronos found his path suddenly cut off by a brace of well-built guards. They caught hold of his arms, effectively preventing any kind of an advance. Gulmore beamed down at him.

"You have to behave," he said merrily, apparently sharing his partner's propensity for being deeply patronising. "If you don't then we might have to hurt you. And we don't want to do that, do we Mr Pascoe."

"Oh no, Mr Gulmore." Pascoe beamed back. Gulmore cracked each one of his misshapen fingers in turn, snapping the knuckles with an expression of almost experimental intrigue on his face.

""We really don't want to hurt you, because you're such an important part of our collection. And we never let anything happen to our collection. Do we Mr Pascoe."

"Absolutely not Mr Gulmore." Pascoe sidled closer, just as another fearful scream rent the air. "We live for our collection. It's our raison d'être, you might say."

"You might indeed." Gulmore nodded sagely. "You might indeed. You see, in our lives, beauty is terribly important. The perfection of a painting, the joy of a sculpture... Other people can't begin to understand how it feels for us, being who we are, living how we do - but we find release in our collection." He reached out, one large hand cupping Kronos' chin with the greatest of care and gentility. "We'd protect our collection with our lives."

"We're not sculptures." Kronos spoke between his teeth, his eyes dancing with the sort of uncontrollable rage that spoke of volcanoes - if only he could get free. He renewed his violent struggling, unaffected by Reuben's continued screaming. "We're not paintings or statues or--"

"Oh I know that." Ever so gently, Gulmore placed a couple of large, clammy fingertips over the old Immortal's lips, indicating that he should be silent. "But you're so much more. Part of a newer, living collection. Living history - archaeology made vibrant, made vital, made vivacious!" He chuckled at this fine display of alliteration, then turned sharply away, beginning to pace up and down. "Of course if you don't want to stay then the deal's off. Daniel Reuben dies and see if I care. You can take your chances back out on the streets, amongst all those dirty, conniving mortals. You can never trust them you know. They're taking over the world, and there's not a damn thing we can do about it - except hide underground and collect beautiful things. Lots of beautiful things." He smiled, his eyes distant as though thinking of some favourite object from his collection. "Make your choice. Just make sure you choose the option I like best." He toyed with the edge of his massive desk. "Or I'll have to see about getting angry."

"We choose to leave." It was what Methos had expected Kronos to say, and clearly it was what Gulmore and Pascoe had expected too. They exchanged a look that might have been sorrow, or resignation - might even have been satisfaction. Pascoe shook his head.

"Very well, very well." He sighed. "It's such a shame, really it is. Still, we'll be putting Mr Reuben out of his misery, won't we. I'm sure he'll be glad about that. Once he gets over the initial grief at your betrayal of his trust of course."

"Don't hurt him." Methos shoulders were sagging to never before seen depths. "Please."

"Methos!" Kronos broke into a suddenly renewed fit of struggling that might well have been an attempt to get to his old friend and rip his head off the hard way. The guards easily subdued him, but they could not subdue his temper. His voice rose. "Are you crazy? These people are insane. You can't agree to their demands. You can't go along with this!"

"It's too late, Kronos." Methos could not meet his brother's eyes. Instead he turned his face towards Gulmore and Pascoe, both of whom were beaming quite horrendously. He nodded, feeling his neck rebelling against the rhythmic movement.

"We agree," he told them, trying not to choke over the words. "We'll stay here, be part of your collection, whatever. We'll do whatever you say. Just let Daniel go."

"Of course." Pascoe rubbed his hands together. "Consider it done. His bony shoulders straightened. "Now we'll talk over the particulars later - the terms of the contract and all that sort of thing. For now perhaps you'd like to see your quarters?"

"I'd rather see Daniel." Methos tried to sound forceful without sounding too belligerent. It didn't seem to matter, since neither man was apparently listening to him anymore.

"Impossible. Quite impossible. Mr Reuben is already on his way back to the surface, and he'll not come down here again." With that Pascoe scuttled off into the darkness at the other side of the room. The two old Immortals heard his footsteps clacking their way across the flagstones, fading into indeterminate scratches. Gulmore waved rather vaguely at the guards.

"Take them away." He turned about, apparently suddenly fascinated by the spluttering of the nearby candles. "Take them away, and make sure that they're comfortable. They're going to be with us a long, long time..."

"Don't count on it." As he was dragged back towards the door, Kronos managed to catch Methos' eye. The glare he gave his old friend was pure poison, and the oldest Immortal felt a wave of unrest in response. He let the guards prod and push him out of the door and back along the corridor, mutely acquiescing to their herding, and refusing to answer Kronos' anger with his own. It was only when the heavy door leading to the lair of Gulmore and Pascoe had crashed shut that he felt his mind start to slip back into focus. It was beginning to dawn on him just what he had done. He had agreed to stay down here, in the darkness, with a pair of seriously disturbed individuals - all so that he could save the life of a mortal who, for all he knew, was now dead anyway. The cold unpleasantness of the damp settled in around his neck, and he felt a shiver crawl its way down his spine. He let it run through his body. Perhaps this was how it felt to be an animal in a zoo. His heart began to thud painfully within his ribcage, and he wondered if the others could hear it. It seemed louder than usual, heavy and dull in this world of damp stone. It occurred to him, as he trailed on down yet another dark and dripping corridor, that this might forever be the extent of his world - that from now on there would be nothing else. No clean, fresh air. No glowering skies and welcoming, warming sun. Just low ceilings, running walls, cold stone floors.

And the worst thing was, he had been offered the chance to walk away - and instead of taking it, he had offered to stay down here. He didn't feel the cold fingers that were tracing their way up and down his back. He was already too cold for their presence to make any difference. Instead all that he was aware of was a gnawing feeling in his gut - his sixth sense working overtime again, warning him of dangers to come. But things were already bad - surely they couldn't get any worse? That was a possibility that he no wish to speculate on. Instead he speculated on Daniel, and hoped that the sailor was still alive. There had to be a silver lining somewhere in this cloud - otherwise he thought that he might give in altogether.


Their guards led them through what seemed like a labyrinth - a vast network of purpose-built corridors and rooms that made Methos certain they were no longer in Seacouver. All the while Kronos seethed, his tense body sending out enough vibes to freeze half a city. Methos twitched nervously, uncertain whether to make a break for it, or to stick around and see what happened. He had a rather unsettling suspicion that the most likely eventuality would be Kronos going crazy and tearing the place apart. On reflection, Methos would rather be somewhere else when that happened.

"Where are we going?" He was surprised to hear Kronos voice the question in such a reasonable tone. The guards didn't answer. Kronos, the tension in his shoulders rapidly building to exploding point, quickened his step. Methos considered calling out a warning, or at the very least something that might calm his brother down, but he abandoned the shout before it had begun. What was the point? Kronos never listened to him, and the guards didn't seem inclined to either. He watched with a curious sense of detachment as the younger Immortal strode forward, grabbed the nearest guard by the shoulder, and whirled him around. There was a sickening thump as the unfortunate mortal slammed into the wall, before Kronos was hauled off by a collection of the guards who had been bringing up the rear. He threw them aside with ease, still maintaining his hold on his original victim.

"I asked you where we're going." His voice was like ice. "It was a reasonable question, and I thought I asked it rather nicely. I didn't even shout." His grip tightened on the guard's lapel, forcing his head back so that it knocked against the damp wall with a strangely hollow sound. The other guards milled about, looking confused and without direction. None of them seemed to know how to tackle the situation. None of them seemed capable of making any kind of a decision; and left helpless in the grip of the irate Immortal, the terrified guard gurgled a few words that were barely legible. It sounded like he was saying something about Gulmore's collection.

"Not good enough." Kronos pulled the man closer, staring into his eyes. "I want to know where we're going, and I want to know whether or not I really, really want to go there. And then, I want to know the way back to the surface." He smiled, his eyes sparkling with a friendly glitter that seemed almost entirely genuine. "And I know that you want to tell me all that. Don't you." He grinned encouragingly, and the guard, too terrified to reply in the negative or the positive, blinked unhappily. He stared past Kronos, appealing to his confederates with silent desperation. Methos, on the verge of stirring himself into action, felt his arms gripped suddenly tight. He struggled, and felt the grip tightening.

"Hey!" He considered arguing his own innocence, demanding to know why they were giving him the rough treatment, when it was Kronos who was misbehaving. With a loud, painful thump that made him look much more sympathetically upon the guard suffering Kronos' ministrations, Methos was slammed into the wall. He gasped for breath.

"Kronos!" One of the guards was shouting, his voice painfully loud coming from so close to Methos' ear. Kronos turned, albeit only slightly, his eyes sparking with sudden fury. Who are you to be interrupting my fun? was the question that burned, unvoiced, in his expression. The image of Methos, held helpless in the grip of two guards, seemed to take a long time to filter into his brain. Methos offered him a faint smile.

"What?" It was a belated response to the hail, and it came grudgingly from a throat tightened through anger. Kronos' hands tightened around his prisoner's throat, and the unfortunate guard made strange, hoarse gasping sounds. As if in response one of the guards holding Methos pulled a long, thin blade from inside his right boot. The blade had little more width than a pencil, and in the gloomy corridor it was barely visible. If Methos had needed proof of its tangibility, however, it came in the unpleasant cold touch of the weapon across his exposed throat. In the chill of the damp corridor the frosty bite of the sword was enough to make him shiver.

"Go ahead." There was a sneer in Kronos' voice which made Methos' eyes widen in indignation. "He means nothing to me."

"Well thanks a bunch!" Methos straightened up, trying to take advantage of the guard's distraction in order to make a break, but found himself effectively pinioned. The sword pressed more tightly against his throat, and through his original fear he began to realise that something did not feel right. He could feel no sharp edge pressing against his skin - could feel no sensation of layers of skin being scraped, even cut. There was no trickle of blood winding its way down the hollow of his throat, no sharp pain to take his breath away. There was only the cold of the naked metal.

"Kronos--" He intended it as a warning - intended telling his brother of his suspicion - but something in the other Immortal's eyes made his words trail off. Kronos was staring at him, eyes sad, the anger no more than a ghost in the shadows of his still-disguised face. It was a melancholy face, made more so by the expression of defeat. Methos found himself missing the scar which had marked it for so long.

"It's okay Methos." Kronos was releasing the guard even as he was speaking. "You don't have to beg." His voice was soft and empty. "Did you really think I would let them take your head?"

"No!" It was a futile shout, for even as Methos was swatting aside the useless sword, Kronos was being borne down under the weight of a gaggle of angry guards. They dragged his arms behind his back, throwing him up against the wall. "Kronos, damn it, you didn't have to--"

"Get moving." The guards were grabbing at him again, flinging him bodily down the corridor. He stumbled, shutting off the words in order to concentrate on regaining his balance. "It was a fake sword, Kronos. You didn't have to-- Damn it, why did you have to start doing the honourable thing now?"

"Next time I'll let them take your head you ungrateful--" Kronos was cut short by a blow to the middle of his back. He stumbled in mid-step, held upright by the guards gripping his arms. Methos looked away. He didn't want to think about how his brother had just thrown away his best chance of escape in order to save him from a non-existent threat. It made his stomach churn.

"In here." The leader of the guards had pulled a large key from his pocket, twirling it on the end of a long silver chain before thrusting it into the lock of a massive wooden door. The door was clearly more than just a barrier, for pride and workmanship glowed in every carved flower, every lovingly created pattern and mark. All the same, the wood was wet, and there were marks of mildew near the base. Methos brushed against the door as it opened to let him through. It felt slimy and cold, and it left black marks on his clothing.

"Welcome home." There was a sardonic tone to the lead guard's voice which had not been there before. It was as though he had taken all that he was going to take from his prisoners, and was determined that they understand this. He gestured around. "Mr Gulmore's collection. What do you think?"

The 'collection' stretched out throughout the length of the massive room now lying before them. The walls were hung with paintings, rugs and tapestries, sometimes forced to overlap through sheer number. Statues of white marble, and sculptures fashioned from every imaginable medium covered the floor, sometimes balanced precariously on top of each other, sometimes resting on display pillars, as though placed there in the early days of the collection, when there was still enough empty floor space for them to have been displayed more fittingly. Now it was almost impossible to tell one item from another. Men carved in gold rested atop soldiers cut from solid stone; animals and creatures of every imaginable sort stood bedecked in jewels and semi-precious stones; makeshift shelves groaned under the weight of ornaments carved from amber and from soapstone. In the centre of the room, separated from the other items, stood the most valuable parts of the collection. Sealed inside a cage fashioned from pure gold, its bars shimmering in the light of the hundred candles that lined the edges of the room, was a host of other items almost too bright to look upon. A silver branch bore a small flock of golden canaries; a shelf, angled so as to capture the best of the light, held a vast collection of well-cut jewels and jewellery designed for the richest of men. With almost his first, and briefest, glance Methos saw tiaras and necklaces and brooches, and rings almost too large to be worn. A collection of life-sized porcelain figurines - soldiers bearing the most detailed of arms - stood guard over another, smaller golden cage within the first. Inside it, alone and resting on a large wooden stand, stood a book. It was closed, revealing a leather cover decorated in gold leafing. Intricate designs climbed the front of the book, twisting and turning and forming strange, vaguely surreal pictures and images. The name of the book was written in large red lettering, in a script so old that it took Methos, as he wandered closer, several moments to fathom the language in which it was written. The alphabet was one that he had not seen in thousands of years, and had never imagined he would see again.

"Feeling at home yet?" There was a nasty edge to the head guard's voice, and Methos was not sure how to respond. How could anybody ever feel at home in a place so tasteless, so filled with decadence and obscenity? It hurt the eyes to look upon so much gold, so much silver and gleaming jewellery. The unreal lighting and nauseating patchwork of flashing brilliance and wretched darkness was enough to make his senses flinch. Caring nothing for his uncertainties, however, the head guard unlocked the door of the outer cage, waving his entourage through into the interior. None of the guards showed any interest in the fineries around them, the Immortals noticed. Perhaps they were used to it all, or perhaps they were too well trained. They showed no concern when Methos examined one or two of the items, and did not display any displeasure when his innocent fiddling caused the flock of golden canaries to burst into song. It was a curious collection of notes, trilled through some ancient mechanical apparatus, and entirely unfamiliar to Methos. Perhaps it was a composition of the artist, or perhaps the notes came entirely at random. In any case he was soon sick of it, and it was with some considerable relief that he greeted its eventual silence.

"In here." Their curt leader had unlocked the door of the inner cage, and was gesturing for the two Immortals to walk through. Methos hesitated on the threshold, feeling uncannily like one of the golden canaries. What were they - just another part of this obscene collection, and expected to sing on command? The guards were not in the mood for rebellion, however, especially given the trouble they had already taken from their prisoners. The oldest Immortal felt a sharp blow in the small of his back which sent him stumbling into the cage. A second guard attempted the same manoeuvre on Kronos, but one withering glare stilled his hand. Kronos looked from the guards to the Methos to the cage; then with all of the dignity he could muster he stalked into the gilded prison after his brother. His footsteps echoed on the coldly glinting metal of the floor.

"How does it feel to be a living sculpture, brother?" His tone was cold, and the careful enunciation of his words added icy precision to the sentence. He made it sound strangely like a threat; as though he were on the other side of the bars, and was holding the key. Methos smiled faintly, a look of watery desperation showing in his eyes. The door clanged shut behind them, and the leering head of the guard leant on the bars to stare in at them.

"You can get to work on translating that lot while you're in there," he told them, nodding at the book. Drawn to it despite himself, Methos ran his hands over its dust-laden cover. It intrigued him whether he wanted it to or not, and part of him very much wanted to work on the translation. It would be interesting to discover what some ancient scholar had thought important enough to write and bind in this fashion, in an age when the book format was almost unknown. Was it really filled with the locations of hundreds of long-forgotten treasures? Kronos, predictably, was not interested in such possibilities.

"How long are we expected to stay here?" His voice demanded an answer. Their guards shared a laugh of derisive amusement.

"You're here forever, just like the rest of the collection." A tall, dark-haired guard with a pencil-thin moustache and a slight stoop to his shoulders leaned in close, his posture bringing him dangerously close to the Leader of the Horsemen. He was, of course, oblivious to the risk, and indeed was smiling as he rested his fists on the golden cage. "Although I have to admit that I can't see the attraction. What makes you two so special? Why are you to be sealed away with all this lot?"

"Why don't you come in here and find out?" Unseen, Kronos' hand snaked out between the bars, seizing the guard by the neck and yanking him further forward. His head connected with the bars with a sharp clang, and Methos felt the vibrations running through the floor. He winced. Kronos was grinning, the old lights alive in his eyes. "Perhaps you're jealous?" he suggested, his tone pleasant enough. "Perhaps you'd like to be an exhibit too?"

"N-n-no." The guard tried to pull back, and one of his friends caught hold of him, trying to drag him away. The smile on Kronos' face became broader, and more cold.

"Nonsense." He was laughing now, although not in the usual way. It was a humourless laugh filled with the same fires of persecution that so filled his eyes. "You were built for this place. You need to be a part of it." In a blur of movement some tiny object slid from the Immortal's sleeve; a dagger of miniscule proportions with a gleaming blade, which shot from beneath Kronos' fingers and embedded itself cleanly in the guard's throat. The mortal gave a choked cry and sank to his knees, eyes wide and disbelieving, face ashen. He fumbled with the tiny knife, gasping and trying to shout for assistance. No words came from his paling lips; just a fountain of blood that spattered the floors of both the inner and outer cages, speckling the golden canaries with red froth. One of them began to sing.

"You bastard." The leader of the guards sank to the ground beside his fallen companion, staring from his thrashing form to the towering image of the Leader of the Horsemen. Kronos' expression had not changed, save perhaps that the smile had become less insane. He folded his arms, leaning casually on the priceless bars of his prison.

"He makes a good sculpture." The words came softly from his mouth, like poetry spoken by a reverent scholar. "Don't you think? He sprawls almost perfectly, and I couldn't have arranged for the blood to spray more eloquently." He leaned closer to the remaining guards, his teasing smile curving more steeply upwards. "Every death is a work of art, especially when performed in such inspiring surroundings." The guards, whether they agreed or not, gave him no indication of their appreciation or otherwise. Instead they ran for the door, their leader pausing only momentarily to lock the door of the outer cage before he chased after his underlings. The heavy wooden door slammed shut, blowing out several candles with its attendant gust of wind. Stirred by the distant vibrations the canaries burst into song once again, and in hoarse accompaniment the guard on the floor breathed his last. His body lay stilled, but the canaries sang on, oblivious to this anonymous tragedy. Denied his audience, Kronos gave a faint laugh and turned his back on his most recent victim. His interest in the situation had waned abruptly.

"That wasn't necessary," Methos told him, from the opposite corner of the cage. Kronos did not look at him.

"Yes it was. It was a statement. A demonstration." He turned suddenly, facing his old friend. "Have you lost yourself that much?"

"No." With slow, heavy steps Methos joined him, staring down for a second at the silenced form. Several of the priceless pieces of jewellery were splattered with blood, and the row of porcelain soldiers now wore reddened boots. He smiled, a little distractedly. "Do you happen to have any more of those knives up your sleeves, or did you decide to waste the only one just to make your 'demonstration'?"

"It was the only one." Kronos aimed an experimental kick at one of the bars. "So what? We don't need it. This cage is made of gold, more or less pure. It should be as soft as butter."

"It's pretty strongly made." Methos shook one of the bars to illustrate his point. The canaries, which had fallen silent, burst into song yet again. The old Immortal glared at them.

"Just my bloody luck to have to spend the rest of my life incarcerated with those little..." Words failed him, which was perhaps just as well. The canaries chirped breezily, and his scowl deepened.

"You're honestly intending to spend the rest of your life here?" Kronos sounded oddly cheerful. "You like this place that much?" He began flipping idly through the ancient book, taking no particular care with its brittle pages. "I'll tell you something, brother; you won't be staying here very long at all once you let our two charming friends know what's really written in their little 'goldmine'. He might think we're pretty special, but I don't think that's really what qualifies us for a place in this charming treasure-trove, do you?"

Methos' eyes narrowed. "What do you mean?"

"I mean that that delightful duo have put us in here with this book so that we can translate it, and tell them where they can find other little additions to this collection of theirs, remember?" He smirked, running his hands over the exquisite workmanship of the ancient volume. "I feel almost sorry for them. Beauty obviously means so much..." He shrugged offhandedly. "I can take it or leave it myself."

"So I noticed." Methos marched over, pushing his old friend aside in order to look more closely at the book. "Now what are you going on about?"

"Take a look, brother. Take a look." Kronos was grinning. Methos glared at him, before turning his attention to the text. He read silently for several minutes, struggling with his rusty memory of the relevant language and its alphabet. It came to him with surprising ease, and an unwilling smile painted itself across his face.

"This is a love story," he said stiffly. Kronos was laughing softly to himself.

"Mills And Boon for a departed generation." He shrugged. "Must be a true story to have been given this kind of treatment, but all the same it's not what Gulmore is looking for."

"And if we tell him, he'll take our heads before we're past the apologies. Oh joy." With a sudden explosion of anger that surprised himself - and apparently delighted his brother - Methos slammed the book shut, sending half of its pages shattering into a fountain of brittle dust.

"Oops." Kronos began to laugh. "Still, it's his own fault. He should have kept it in a controlled environment."

"Sod the controlled environment!" Ablaze with petulance and fury, Methos hurled what remained of the book across the cage. It set the bars rocking, and the golden canaries, inspired yet again to music-making, began to sing louder than ever. Methos spun to face them, wishing he had something to throw at them - wishing he had their confounded metal throats gripped in his hands. He wanted to tear their carefully sculpted heads from their neatly engraved bodies, and melt the whole lot down for scrap. Failing that he wanted to feed every cog and wheel of their innards to Paul Gulmore.

"Something wrong, brother?" Kronos could not have sounded more amused if he had tried. Methos turned on him, his face a mask of violent irritation.

"I want to get out of here." He gripped Kronos by the shirt front, risking serious damage to those fibres of his clothing that were not already stretched out of shape by the day's events. "I want to take the head of every living being in this whole, cursed bloody hell-hole. I want to set fire to every corridor, and I want to do it now." His voice had descended into little more than a hiss; a deep-throated whisper of pure malice; but Kronos greeted it with nothing save a smile. Unconcerned with his companion's threatening stance he clapped Methos on the shoulder and offered him a brief, impulsive hug.

"Welcome back brother," he said, as bright and as breezy as the still chirping canaries. Methos scowled at him, in no mood for jokes - but the anger showed no sign of dissipating from his face and his eyes. He could feel it burning its way through him. Perhaps it was being with Kronos again. Perhaps he should work harder to fight it, to swallow it, to force it to the back of his being.

But then again, perhaps he should just let it out. And to hell with the consequences.


The bright sunlight hurt Daniel's eyes, but it was more welcome than anything he could remember in a long time; and though the chill air of approaching evening brought an edge of darkness to the skies, the world was considerably brighter than the underground caverns of Gulmore and Pascoe. His skin crawled at the thought of the pair, and of their damp hideaway beneath the streets.

It was not hard to discover where he was, now that he was back in the world above. Clearly he was no longer in Seacouver, for the streets were narrower and the houses more drab. There were fewer places for night-time entertainment; fewer neon signs and fancy billboards. The buildings seemed older too, which suggested that the town itself, and very likely the labyrinth beneath it, had been around a long time. Daniel couldn't help wondering how long Gulmore and Pascoe had been down there; when they had constructed their lair and why. How had they come to want such fearful isolation? He dismissed the thought, choosing not to worry about it, and instead headed for the nearest telephone. An old man selling newspapers at the side of the road was happy to point him in the right direction on the understanding that he buy a paper, and this he duly did. It was a local broad-sheet, The Archville Gazette, bearing a large heading written in a rather old-fashioned, stylised font, and with at least three stories on the front page that could not possibly have been of any interest at all to people from out of town. All indication of how small and closed a community he was now in. It was almost amusing to wonder how the people of this place would react to the news of what lay beneath their feet. A rabbit warren of oozing, mouldy tunnels, complete with a pair of slimy individuals who might have been down there for hundreds of years. Certainly the deathly grey-white of their skin was indication that they had not been above ground in a long time.

Daniel found the phone despite the old man's helpful instructions, and dialled the New York number of his immediate superior in the Watchers. The man, a small, rotund individual named Cassidy, gave him Joe Dawson's phone number, and it was with almost feverish haste that he dialled that next. The phone seemed to ring for a long time, which made his head sing with unwelcome possibilities. Maybe Gulmore and Pascoe had got hold of Dawson too. Perhaps they had all of Methos' friends in their underground lair. When it finally came, the sound of Dawson's voice almost went unnoticed.

"Hello?" Joe had hurried to catch the phone, and was out of breath. "Hello?" There was no immediate answer and he glared at the receiver. "Who's there?"

"Huh? Oh!" The relief was astonishing. Daniel heaved a great sigh and leant against the walls of the booth. "Mr Dawson, it's Daniel Reuben. I met you earlier, with Methos."

"Ssh!" Joe glanced about, even though nobody at his end of the line could possibly have overheard. "Play safe, okay? Remember he likes to try and stay incognito. We call him Adam." Among other things considerably less... complimentary. "What's wrong?"

Daniel smiled. The other man sounded so capable, so certain. It was almost as though the problem were already almost solved. He wondered where to begin. "Er, well... There's been a slight problem."

"Don't give me any of that whitewash." Joe sounded very much on edge. "The police have been around. There was talk of explosions, guys with grenades. This is Seacouver, Mr Reuben, not Outer Mongolia. People with gas-masks and grenades get noticed." There was a pause, just a beat in length. "Although after that they seem able to vanish into mid air pretty damn quick. Everybody sees the guys with the gas-masks, nobody sees where they went. It's hopeless."

"I can certainly tell you where they went." Daniel was peering out through the glass walls of the telephone booth now, almost expecting to see the residents come marching towards him bearing guns and pitchforks. He stuck out here, as he was only too well aware; and that was not a nice feeling when he did not know who he could trust. "I'm in a place called Archville. It's a little town, must be someways out of Seacouver. No sign of the sea. No real sign of anything much."

"I know Archville. It's about eighty miles south of here. What the hell are you doing there? Can I speak to Methos?"

"No." Daniel sighed. "Okay, look I'm not doing a very good job of explaining here, am I. Fact is we were brought here by these two Immortals - or at least I got the impression that's what they were. They were acting like it, you know? Real creepy pair, like something out of a Tim Burton movie. Gulmore and Pascoe. Have you heard of them?"

"No..." Joe sounded thoughtful, as though already thinking about his precious files. "Are they head-hunters?"

"Didn't sound like it. They kept going on about some kind of a collection. Works of art or something. Stuff they've been collecting for a long time. They've got stuff, ancient stuff. Writing nobody can read, which they figure Methos can translate for them. They think it'll help them get hold of other stuff, things archaeologists might have missed out on. Long forgotten treasures, that sort of thing." He shrugged somewhat redundantly. "They let me go. I guess they figured I wasn't worth anything to them, being mortal. I was surprised, until I took a look around and figured I couldn't find out how to get back into their headquarters. I swear Mr Dawson, the place seems as big as the New York Underground at least - but from up on the surface you can't see a trace of it. It's weird."

"And Methos is down there all alone." Joe sighed. "I don't have the usual troops at my disposal, Mr Reuben. Ordinarily I'd bring in my friend Duncan MacLeod and we'd be there before he could draw his sword. Right now I don't know what to suggest."

"Don't suggest anything. I'm here, I can do something. And Methos isn't on his own. I don't know what to make of the guy he's with, but if nothing else he seems more than capable. Kind of a touchy guy though."

"Somebody's with him? Who? Another Immortal? One of his Watchers?"

"No. Immortal I think. Nobody said as much, but Methos went all weird like he could sense another Immortal, just before this guy turned up. Little fellow, from where I'm standing anyway. Dark hair. Real cold blue eyes. It was weird, like they didn't know whether to hug each other or rip each other to pieces. They seemed to gel though, in a weird kind of a way."

"This guy have a name?" Joe was at a loss, unable to think of anybody who fitted such a description. Just how many more old 'friends' did Methos have lying about?

"Yeah." Daniel frowned, trying to remember the unfamiliar name. "Kronos, I think it was. Yeah, that's right. Like the king of the gods. I should have remembered that sooner. My grandmother used to swear by all those old legends."

"Kronos?" Alone in his club, Joe felt as though all the silence in all the loneliest places in the world was crowding in around him, forcing him down beneath its pressure. He thought that he heard the blood rushing through his veins, but it was hard to be sure above the raging sound of the silence. "You're positive that was his name?"

"Yeah. Methos said something about him having been gone a long time. It was like they'd missed each other a lot, but like they hated each other or... or loved each other or something. Kronos was definitely the guy's name. I remember, 'cause it was kind of weird and old, like Methos. I figured maybe they go right back. That'd make Kronos pretty old too, I figured. Gulmore and Pascoe seemed to think so too. They'd heard of him. Said he had quite a reputation, but I guess that doesn't stretch to the Watchers having heard of him, 'cause I've read all the files we've got on Methos, and I don't remember this Kronos guy getting a mention. There was talk of horsemen. I guess that means they go back at least as far as there not being any cars, right?"

"Right." Joe was only half listening, Reuben's barrage of falsely cheerful chatter rolling in waves above his head. "Listen Daniel, hold the fort okay? I'll be down there as soon as I can."

"Sure Mr Dawson." Surprised by the seriousness of the other man's tone, Daniel frowned at the telephone. "I'll be seeing you." Joe's words had sounded like a farewell, and he was not too surprised to hear nothing in reply save the click of the connection being cut. He hung up. "Odd." Still, there didn't seem to be any reason for him to worry. He had better things to do, and whilst he waited for Joe Dawson to turn up, the best thing he could do was to try and find a way into the underground headquarters of Gulmore and Pascoe. He had promised to watch over Methos, and for reasons of his own that was precisely what he was going to do.


Methos paced up and down the cage, letting the insistent chirping of the golden canaries wash over him and fuel his rage. It felt good, he had to admit. Not for a long time had he been this mad, this furious. There had been those distant, confused times when he had been under the thumb of the Involution, but his memories from those recent days were disjointed and strange, as though they were not his memories at all, and were only stories told to him by a friend. This was the real thing; this was the power he had once felt flashing through his veins every day of his life. It frightened him, and not least because he knew that, leaning in his corner with a look of utter satisfaction on his face, Kronos was pleased beyond measure. The younger Immortal thought that he had finally got his brother back. Perhaps he had. Perhaps losing Kronos and finally regaining him again was all the proof he needed that he wanted to be with him forever - or perhaps the years they had been apart had taught him that he no longer wanted to be with his brother at all. In the back of his mind he could still see the look of unbridled delight when he had first let loose with his fury, and punched at the cell bars. Kronos, grinning at him like a child, ice-blue eyes alive with echoes of their glory days. It wasn't fair to make him hope like that - to make him long for something that Methos didn't think he could deliver. The problem was, that just filled him with greater anger, inspired him to greater violence. And that in itself pleased Kronos all the more.

"We can use this." Kronos sounded relaxed and friendly, the belligerent tone he so often used to speak to others entirely gone now from his voice. It was like a mask that he brought over himself, hiding his sharp intelligence and surprising good humour from a world he had long ago sworn to subjugate or destroy. Damn it, Methos' brain was screaming at him. You like him. You know you like him. Why can't you just tell him that it's over? But that was the problem, for deep inside he wasn't sure that it was over. Not completely. He was still Methos, and however far he had travelled since the days of the Horsemen, he was still the same man who had done all of those things. Being with Kronos again was like putting on an old pair of comfortable shoes, or using a long-forgotten sword. He remembered every weakness and every strength, every failing and every merit, and knew that they mirrored his own.

"Use what?" He refused to turn around, refused to look at the grinning face with its shadows of a thousand happy memories he would rather forget.

"This." Kronos sauntered into his line of vision, the heavy wooden stand which had once borne the ancient book held awkwardly in his arms. "This'll handle the bars and those bloody canaries."

"Those 'bloody canaries' look to me like early eleventh century pieces. Each one was probably carved by a different artist. I remember once hearing about something very similar. Each one is worth close to a million dollars on its own, and as a collection they're utterly priceless."

"I don't care." Kronos grinned again, and again Methos found himself missing the scar. The scar, somehow, had always been a symbol of their life as warriors. It was easier to focus on all of the terrible things that Kronos had done, when that scar was there to remind him of the violence and the old ways. Without it, the innocence of Peter Kerensky was still so alive in the face. Methos wondered if there was anything of Peter left in the body and the mind. He doubted it. Kronos was too powerful, too strong a person and too forceful an entity. And that meant that, as soon as MacLeod found out his old enemy had returned from the dead, the well-meaning Highlander would be after him with sword unsheathed. Methos couldn't face losing Kronos again, and he had no intention of losing Duncan either. He scowled inwardly. Perhaps they would all have been better off if Kronos had just stayed dead.

"Come on Methos. Snap out of it." The icy edge was back in his companion's voice, telling him - warning him - that the moody reflection had to be over. They had better things to do than wander around glaring at the décor, and thinking thoughts that were better left alone. Methos managed a smile.

"Yeah. Of course."

"Are you okay brother?" There were times when he didn't sound like Kronos - when he did sound more like Kerensky. But that, Methos was sure, was because it was Kerensky's voice that he had become used to. It was, after all, the same voice, coming from the same vocal chords. Even the Leader of the Horsemen couldn't sound evil and twisted all of the time, and when he let the façade of violence slip, vague echoes of Kerensky tumbled forth. Would that be enough to convince MacLeod to let him live? Stupid question. All that Byron had done, and all that he had ever represented, had not been enough to make Duncan MacLeod consider him fit to survive. All the beauty that he had created, and all of the beauty that he had inspired. All of the poetry and the imagery and the pain which had eventually consumed and twisted him - none of it had cut any ice with MacLeod. And Kronos did not have nearly so many saving graces as George Gordon, or Lord Byron, or whatever name that confused and tortured soul might have preferred to go by. Byron, after all, had expressed certain regrets. The only regrets that the Leader of the Horsemen had was that his reign of terror had only last fifteen hundred years, and not fifteen thousand. He was sorry that he had not inspired more fear, created greater terrors, caused greater destruction. It was very hard to find saving graces in a man who had, just a few years ago, set out to poison half a continent because it felt like a good thing to do. And yet, standing here now, Methos knew that he would still do anything the younger Immortal asked him to; that part of him would always want to head off with him into the sunrise and search for unending adventures. That part of him would gladly call down all of the powers of destruction and darkness to annihilate the cursed modern civilisation, which had destroyed all the old opportunities for fun and glory and excitement.

"Methos?" The ice was back, and with it a warning. Kronos had no time for people who lost themselves in thought, when action was a hundred times more appropriate, and of a great deal more immediate use.

"Sorry." Methos took a deep breath. He had to stop creating problems for himself. He had to stop trying to figure out the unfigurable. Face it, his subconscious told him. Whatever the problems it causes, whatever the pain it might inspire, Kronos is back. Really back. And that fact isn't going to go away. He reached out, helping his companion with the wooden stand. "Ready when you are."

"Fine." Kronos sounded relieved. He had never really understood his companion since the days when the Methos of old had begun to evolve into something new. He certainly didn't understand him now, with his worries over things he couldn't change, and his passion for thinking about things all the time. For Kronos, thought was something one did only when action didn't speak louder; and that, usually, meant the times when great ventures had to be planned. Otherwise thoughts got in the way, and clouded the mind when it could have been doing something rather more useful. With his companion's assistance he raised the heavy wooden stand, so that they were holding it awkwardly like a battering ram from the old days. That was a simile that went well with both his current disguise and his current mood. He looked like a mediaeval knight, and he was about to storm a kind of castle. It was a pleasant thought that he might get a chance to take at least one Immortal head today, and recharge his old powers. There was too much of Peter Kerensky in this body with him. He needed a powerful Quickening to blast away the cobwebs, and remind himself that he was an Immortal - a powerful Immortal, and one of the oldest still alive.

"On three." Methos took a step back, trying for a better grip on their battering ram. "Aim for the bars of the door. That way if the bars don't give way, the door just might."

"The bars will give way. I told you, this cage is pure gold. It'll give, if we can only hit it hard enough."

"They might only be gold on the outside. There could be any kind of metal inside, and if that's the case then no amount of pounding with a bookstand is going to have an effect."

"Methos." The Leader of the Horsemen sounded vaguely hurt. "Are you suggesting that I don't know pure gold when I see it? Do you have any idea how much of this stuff I've stolen in my lifetime? Do you have any idea how many different gangs of thieves I've led, how many raids I've made against gold merchants, jewellers, banks, private collections?" He straightened his ragged collar in an attempt to better look the part. "I can tell you the ratio of gold to base metals in any item you care to suggest." He took hold of the battering ram again. "Blindfolded."

"Just get us out of here." In another time, another place, another lifetime, they might have fought over such a claim, and wound up getting drunk together in some out of the way inn where the proprietor would not dare deny them free ale and wine. Now all that they did was try to avoid real confrontation. "One."

"Two." Kronos sounded impatient. Methos swallowed a sharp retort.

"Three." As one they leapt forward, hurling the bookstand against the bars with all of the strength they could muster. There was a loud clanging sound, as though somewhere nearby a hundred bells had begun to ring, and with the strangest sound of rendering metal and bending gold, the bars of the cage door curved outward. From the outside it appeared as though the cage were afflicted with a giant tumour, so great was the lump projecting from a part of one side. The lock was almost completely torn, but still the door did not swing open. The pair hauled back and tried again, this time making the whole of the huge room sing loud with resonances from the force of their blow. The door gave a creaking, groaning sound, like an asthmatic robot struggling to climb up a hill, the bars leaning and bending and finally giving way altogether. Two of them broke apart like softened plastic, clattering away across the golden floor of the outer cage. Methos gave a yell of triumph.

"And now for those sodding canaries." Without warning he threw aside the bookstand and caught up one of the broken golden bars. It was disproportionately heavy, proving its purity through sheer density, and it was all that he could do to raise the bar above his head and swing it through the air. One blow caught three of the precious birds, beheading the first and sending the other two spinning across the cage. They stuttered out a broken rendition of their repetitive song, the notes sounding like some unfortunate stutter-rapper suffering from a helium overdose. The rest of the birds fell silent, almost as though they were afraid that their own lives hung in the balance.

"Now that felt good." Methos drew in a deep breath, feeling his chest swell and his shoulders broaden. Throwing off the oppressive ghost of Adam Pierson felt like watching Clark Kent change into Superman. His head lifted, his poise hardened, and the glint in his eyes became noticeably resolute. He glanced back at the remaining mechanical canaries, remembering what he had said to Kronos. Ancient. Priceless. The work of skilled craftsmen. Labours of love, probably commissioned for kings or emperors or conquering generals. Possibly gifts for beautiful princesses, brought by rich suitors from foreign lands. Who might they have sung for, in centuries past? He smirked. Who gave a damn?

With a yell of sheer pleasure, Methos drew back the golden bar and sent another almighty blow flying into the flock of precious birds. As one the rest of the display clattered onto the floor, falling like heavy rain. Some ceased their song immediately, others were inspired by the hard landing to even greater feats of musical dexterity. Methos smashed his way through them, wielding the bar like a golf club, sending bits of battered bird flying about his golden prison as though somehow the fate of the world depended on the speed with which he could dispatch his inanimate opponents. As the final notes of their song, which had infuriated him so much, faded away into the golden roof above him, Methos stamped the last cogs and wheels beneath his feet, grinding the birds into nothing but debris. Kronos gave a whistle.

"Remind me never to sing a song you don't like."

Methos glared at him, eyes still ablaze. "Just get us out of here." The words tripped thickly from his tongue, and Kronos dismissed any further jokes he might have been about to make. Instead he bent again to the bookstand.

"Come on then."

The second cage was easier to break than the first - or perhaps they were a little more motivated the second time, and found it easier to summon the necessary strength. At any rate the bars broke apart on only their first blow, and although it was a tight squeeze escaping through the twisted mess of the priceless barrier, they soon found themselves at large in the main room. The high rocky ceiling stretched up above them, ascending into darkness and shadow. It seemed colder here than it had in the cages, where the closer ceiling and more cramped conditions had lessened the sensation of the ever-present damp chill.

"Let's get that door seen to." Methos marched towards the huge wooden door. Kronos beat him to it, running his hands over the formidable piece of carpentry. There was no lock on their side, making any kind of a subtle escape impossible.

"We could burn it down," he suggested, his eyes taking in the myriad flickering candles that lit up the vast and eclectic collection. Methos shook his head.

"Satisfying yes, practical no. How could we be sure of controlling the flames?"

"We couldn't." Kronos smirked. "So maybe we'd get a little singed. I'd like to see Gulmore's eyes pop out when he saw the flames coming towards him."

"And so would I brother. Although somehow I get the impression he's already lost an argument with a fire. Remember the scars on his face? I don't plan on spending the rest of my life burnt to crisp just to satisfy a few moments of rage. Some injuries even immortality can't heal."

"That bookstand won't cut any ice with this door." Kronos turned to look about at the collection. There were suits of armour, massive statues, and weapons built more for show than for useful service. Any number of items might have been heavy enough to break down the door, but none of them were possible to lift; at least not for two men on their own.

"Then we resort to more cerebral measures." Methos gave one hinge a solid kick. "Get me something sharp. Something like a screwdriver or a chisel."

"Something like this?" Pleased with himself, Kronos held up a small pewter ornament from a selection on a nearby shelf. The full tableau showed a miniature Saint George, parading majestically towards a mighty dragon, with a bevy of admiring onlookers holding their arms in the air in shock and amazement. Saint George, with his glittering, onyx-bestowed armour, carried a sword some three inches in length, its tip like a tiny chisel. A sharp blow from a nearby stone child smashed the tiny weapon from the saint's broken hand. Methos nodded in satisfaction.

"Perfect." He bent to the nearest hinge, setting to work on the large black screws that bulged out of their rusted setting. The spear was too small to make quick progress, and the screws themselves were determinedly rusted into place, and anxious not to be disturbed. With a little patience and a lot of glowering, however, the first hinge dropped onto the floor. Methos drew in a deep breath that was heavily tinged with frustration, and moved on to the next.

"Try belting it with one of the gold bars." Kronos was anxious to be moving on again, all energy and pent-up frustration. Methos glared at him.

"That won't do a blind bit of good. Just hold your horses, okay?"

"My horses have all moved on to newer hunting grounds." The younger Immortal began pacing up and down, making wild sweeps at the candles with one of the heavily bejewelled swords on display. They were too large and impractical to be of any real use, but it relieved a little of the tension to use one now. His own sword still lay, presumably, on the floor of Methos' apartment, and to be so far from it was driving him crazy.

"Ah ha!" With a final flourish Methos pulled out the last screw. The door did not so much as wobble, which was something of a relief. "Come on brother."

"At last!" Kronos threw aside the precious sword, letting it crash through a vast display of porcelain dolls and glass figurines. Shattered pieces rained down on the stone floor, amongst broken candles and dented candlesticks, amongst split display stands and piles of torn fabrics. A whole section of Gulmore's collection lay in ruin. Gulmore, Methos reflected with surprising relish, was going to be livid.

"Give me a hand." Laying hold of the door, he tried to position himself to best take its weight. Kronos stood beside him, taking a firm hold of the door edge, and trying to be sure of which way the vast wooden barrier was going to fall. It was impossible to tell.

"Ready when you are brother." The excitement was strong in his voice, and Methos wished it was a little less clear in his own.

"Then pull." Together they heaved to no avail whatsoever; until, just as they were giving up for a hasty rethink, the door let out a mighty, indignant creak and began to topple. For a second it seemed as though it might still hold its ground - that somehow it might manage to stay upright if only though sheer stubbornness. At last, however, with a wretched groan, the monstrous door started to fall. The two Immortals jumped out of the way only at the last minute, watching as the huge barrier measured its length on the floor amidst clouds of rising dust and scattered remnants of yet more of Gulmore's collection. It was no longer possible to see what the broken junk now lying around it had once been, but Methos thought that he remembered seeing a series of five marble statues in a row before the door. There were three there now, looking like a sad and sorry jigsaw puzzle with the best of its pieces missing. Even the door was splintered and broken. Methos felt almost sorry.

"What a mess." They had destroyed countless millions of pounds worth of artwork just by their mere presence in this mighty room. He remembered how it had looked when they had first stepped inside - the stretches of ostentatious wealth; the glimmering, glittering swathes of gold and marble. Now the cages were broken, the canaries destroyed, shelves of ornaments torn down and thrown into the general melee. Headless statues stood silent, whilst their fallen heads stared soulfully at other severed limbs. Even as he watched, a shelf jarred loose by the falling of the door finally gave up its tenuous hold on the wall, and pitched its priceless load of glass animals onto the floor. A startled-looking glass Noah fell with them, and seconds later his ark followed suit. The last to fall was Mrs Noah, who slid slowly down the sloping shelf, catching for a brief moment on a piece of splintered bracket. Candlefire caught her semi-translucent body and made a tiny rainbow dance on the ceiling. She seemed to be staring straight at Methos as she clung to her insubstantial perch, before finally, inevitably, she was gone. He heard her body shatter on the stone, and on the already scattered pieces of her family's broken remains. The rainbow blinked sharply out of existence, and as if in answer the creating candle flame fluttered out.

"Ready?" Kronos asked the question as though suddenly unsure of his brother's commitment to the escape. Methos managed a dry smile.

"Ready." His head wanted to mourn the destruction, but his heart wanted to cause more. He swallowed the impulse and made for the gaping doorway. "Come on." Together they raced out into the damp and ill-lit corridor.

"Going somewhere?" The voice came from behind them, where a single guard, a long sword in one hand and a powerfully built gun in the other, stood watching them. A deep frown creased his forehead, and the look in his eyes was unpleasant. Methos felt a burst of irrational anger rise within him. So near, and yet so far...

"Well hello there." There was a grin on Kronos' face that spoke whole volumes. With a deceptively casual stride he sauntered forward a few steps, hands linked behind his back. His pale eyes glinted in the candlelight. Only when he was less than an arm's length from the guard did he come to a halt, and the grin faded to a dangerous ghost of a smile. His eyes fixed onto the guard's. "Now see, we have a choice. Either you can get out of the way and give us your weapons, or I can slit your throat into ribbons." He let the corners of his mouth twitch up for a second into an encouraging smile. "You get to choose."

"Forget it." The guard's sword jumped up, the tip pressing itself into Kronos' chest. He felt the sharp point against his breast bone, aware that it had pricked his skin. A few tiny drops of blood soaked through the material of his shirt and he sucked in a breath of air, shaking his head.

"I really was trying to be nice." He sighed theatrically, glancing for a second at Methos as though pleading his innocence before a judge. "I really did. I offered you the choice."

"I've got the weapons, pal." The guard's eyes had narrowed. He was clearly afraid, although he was not entirely sure why. Here he was, well-armed and unshakeable, being confronted by a smaller, unarmed man who could do little save make small threats. Kronos nodded, apparently conceding a point. Then he shrugged and brought one arm up, giving the wrist a casual flick. The guard gave a hoarse, blood-choked cough and stared down in shocked disbelief at the small, grey dagger emerging from his chest. He didn't know how it had got there. He wasn't sure where it had come from. Eyes blurring over, he raised his head, staring at Kronos from an ashen face. Kronos smiled encouragingly.

"Bye," he said, rather impatiently. Methos glared at him, and with a heavy, powerful blow he punched the guard across the back of the head. The man dropped to his knees, still reeling, then collapsed face down on the cold stone. His last breath wheezed slowly from his lungs, and a dribble of blood began to run from beneath him. Ever mindful of his shoe leather, Methos stepped disdainfully out of its path, then gave Kronos a hefty push.

"I thought you said you were out of knives. Have you any idea how much easier it would have been to break out of that place if you'd told me you had another dagger? I could have taken that door apart in half the time, and we could have picked the locks of those cages. I got splinters in my hands holding that bookstand. Big, nasty, pointy splinters. My splinters have splinters."

"Okay, keep your hair on." Kronos shrugged. "If I'd given you the knife earlier I couldn't have done that just then, could I. Methos, brother; you have to relax. Go with the flow. Think big, and think style. Why hurt when you can torment, why scare when you can terrify?" He grinned. "You're angry. There's no fun in just being angry. Be vengeful. Be a Horseman."

"Yeah." Methos could not stop a faint smile from interrupting the hard line of his mouth; although it did little to dispel the burning in his eyes. He stared on down the corridor. "Don't worry, brother. With every single second, it's all coming back."


"Hi." The suddenness of the voice made him jump, and he banged his head on the upraised manhole cover before him. It was only by the skin of his teeth that he managed to stop himself falling down the open hole. The voice behind him laughed softly. "Sorry."

"Damn it!" Thumping the metal cover, Daniel Reuben spun around, glaring at his uninvited companion. The grinning face of Joe Dawson looked back at him, and he relaxed slightly. "Oh. It's you."

"You expecting somebody else?" Dawson sounded jaunty, despite the hurried trip that he must have just undertaken. Images of Watcher-owned private Lear jets flew through Daniel's mind. Somehow he couldn't equate the image of Joe Dawson as a jet-setter, leaning back in the embrace of a comfortable reclining seat, with a glass in one hand and a pitcher of iced cocktails in the other. Maybe a hurried trip by Greyhound was more his style, or a hell-raising drive cross-country in a battered '69 Chevy. He could picture that last one, definitely.

"I wasn't expecting anyone." Daniel gestured down inside the manhole. "I've been looking for an entrance to the Immortal hang-out, and from what I've seen this looks pretty likely. It's got a bigger cover than the other manholes, and looking at it now, the tunnel underneath looks a lot broader and a lot higher than a normal drainage channel."

"So you think this is it, huh?" Joe peered without enthusiasm into the depths of the shaft. "Boy. It's gonna be fun finding out."

"You said it." He frowned. "Just how did you get down here so quickly?"

"Watchers have their ways." Joe was smiling teasingly, although his voice sounded as though he was serious. "Incidentally, I've called in a few favours with the police department. One of the locals is one of us." He waggled his tattooed wrist as though in indication of what he meant. "So let's try and get a few things sorted out before they get here, shall we?"

"My pleasure." Cautiously Daniel swung himself over the edge of the hole and began lowering himself down towards the rungs set into one side of the shaft. It took him some scrabbling before he managed to get a firm foothold, and he glanced up at Joe, concerned. "Um... I don't want to... I mean..."

"Just get out of the way, and I'll follow you down." Joe was already manoeuvring into a better position. His expression softened slightly. "Forget it, okay? I know my limitations, and I'll do the worrying about them."

"Fair enough." Daniel began to climb down the shaft, his footsteps echoing on the metal rungs. He was almost at the bottom, engulfed in near total darkness, before he glanced back up at Joe and flashed a smile of faint abashment. "Er... you don't happen to have a torch on you. Do you?"


They met three more guards on their way back along the corridors, and Kronos disposed of each one with his usual practical speed. He shot the first with his own gun, snapped from the unfortunate man's hand at the expense both of the guard's wrist and his own. Painful though it might have been at first, his own wrist, naturally enough, was healed before the guard's body had hit the floor.

The second and third guards were easier to dispatch, each killed silently with a single thrust from the sword their fallen comrade had tried to threaten Kronos with earlier. Methos looked on dispassionately. He was finding it harder to care; finding it harder to feel sympathy or sorrow for these slaughtered victims of his brother's restless sword. Oblivious to their fate, he stormed on through the corridors, barely pausing to wait for Kronos as he performed these callous tasks. Methos' mind was set firmly on the room where they had met Gulmore and Pascoe - and nothing else mattered to him. Not the dying gasps of young mortals, not the ruined treasures in the room they had left behind, and not the distant sound of voices that told him their earliest killings had been discovered. Footsteps were already echoing down the rocky passageway behind them, speeding up with every passing moment. Methos didn't care. Let them come. If Kronos couldn't handle them all, then together they certainly could. Although his hands were empty he could feel the hilt of a sword in his right fist. He almost wanted to drive a well-balanced blade through the body of an advancing foe. It would relieve a few tensions, dispel a few lingering furies. Even the thought of it pushed up his pulse rate, and the burgeoning red mists in his mind thickened quickly, blurring his vision with hot anxieties and urgent madness. Let them come. Let all of them come. He wasn't afraid of anything anymore.

"They're not far behind." Catching up as they stormed around a bend, Kronos cast a glance back over his shoulder. "Do you want to stay here and wait for them, or push on?"

"We push on." Methos did not look back. "With a bit of luck we can reach Gulmore's headquarters before they reach us, and it should be easier to lay in our defences there. He's sure to have one or two weapons lying about in that office."

"Yeah, and he'll be using them on us. Just because they're a creepy looking pair doesn't mean they'll be a pushover." Kronos glanced back again, this time seeing moving shadows on the walls behind them. "Better get your skates on, brother, if you want to stay ahead. Our mortal friends are nearly here."

"Then let's do just that." Methos broke into a run, momentarily leaving his companion behind. He recognised the corridor that they were in; even seemed to recognise the tracks of mould down the uneven walls. The steady drip of slow running black water from cracks in the ceiling drew him onward. Kronos came in his wake, sword scraping occasionally against jutting pieces of the wall. As he tried to move up to take the lead, however, when they came upon a group of waiting guards, Methos blocked his stormy advance. Instead it was the older of the Immortals who led the charge; and although he had no weapons save his fists, the guards fell back under his powerful onslaught. The first of them collapsed back against the wall, catching his head a stunning blow against the stone which left him with gushers of blood erupting from the back of his neck. A second fell almost as quickly, and Methos stood over him for a second, head tilted quizzically to one side. What was it that he was feeling, as he looked down at the inert form by his feet? He couldn't be sure. The man had broken his neck, the Immortal's blow too forceful for his spine to endure, and yet Methos felt no remorse. It was more a kind of white hot satisfaction; not gladness, but surety of a job well done. He felt a smile beginning to grow across his face.

"Come on, brother. No time for self-congratulation." Kronos was already stepping over the bodies, once more heading off down the corridor. Methos glanced up.

"Not so fast, brother." He pushed his way past his companion, his actions forceful and harsh, his eyes burning in the dim light of the wall-lamps. "I'll take the lead."

"Sure." Kronos stepped back to allow him to pass, wasting another precious second to stare after him. A slow smile crept across his face, and he allowed his mind to dwell on the possibilities. It was almost like coming home.


"Does any of this look familiar to you?" Despite his confident words of earlier, Joe was beginning to find it hard going in the uneven tunnel. Daniel glanced back at him.

"None of it. I was unconscious when they brought me in, and blindfolded when they brought me out. I wasn't doing a geological survey." He scowled into the darkness up ahead. "And besides, we don't even know if we're in the right place, do we. This could be just another sewer, or just another storm drain. There's no way of telling unless we bump into those two Immortals." He made a face. "And that is not an experience I would enjoy."

"I can believe that." There was the sound of Joe struggling to keep up. "I ran a check on our two friends before I came out to join you. Paul Gulmore is a bit of a shady character, but it's a fair certainty that his scars were caused when a fanatical gang tried to burn him at the stake back in 1528. It was in Europe, where exactly I don't know. He was tried as a witch, after apparently cursing a rival for his lover's hand. That was probably his First Death, and afterwards he was spurned by society. Whether it would be easier these days I don't know, but back then scars like his were hardly welcomed out in the open. He hid from everybody, became a drifter travelling at night, kept his face covered. You can probably guess the rest."

"He wound up hiding underground, collecting beautiful things from the world above." Daniel shivered. "Great. Now I'm starting to feel sorry for him."

"Don't. If he hadn't been burned as a witch he would have been hanged as a murderer. He may not have cursed his rival, but he did bump him off. He killed a lot of people before that too, although the actual figures aren't concrete, and he's responsible for a lot else besides. We haven't had a Watcher on him since 1793, which I'm guessing is when he made Archville his home, but up until then he'd wiped out just about everybody who ever stood in his way. Art collectors especially, but he also killed a lot of artists. Easiest way to get hold of their work I suppose, and to make sure that it could never be replaced. It probably made his collection all the more special."

"Must be quite a sight." Daniel thought back to his fleeting glimpses of the large Immortal, with his unpleasant eyes and nasty smile. "Unlike him. How about Pascoe?"

"Josiah Pascoe. Experienced his First Death in 1286, from what I could tell. He's another mystery figure, had a habit of disposing of his Watchers practically every month. He was a businessman of a sort, but he was forever being executed for stealing his customers' money, and had to keep relocating. The last confirmed information we have on him dates from the 1790s, which I presume is when he met up with his pal Gulmore. He was a tailor then, but his business was failing. He and Gulmore went into business as art collectors, but it didn't work. They couldn't resist illegal means of collecting, and they were driven out of town - London town that is - late in 1791. They went to America together, were sighted here and there, doing this that and the other - and then dropped out of the record books altogether. There was an unconfirmed sighting of Pascoe in 1912 when Pompeii was excavated. I think we can assume he was after trophies. Other than that, nothing."

"Real mystery men." The tunnel was coming to an end, and Daniel slowed to a halt, peering around a sudden, sharp bend into a dimly lit passage lined with flickering wall lamps. Most did not work, but enough did to enable him to see a rough-hewn stone corridor. He glanced back over his shoulder and grinned. "Bingo."


By the time that they reached the last corner they knew precisely where they were; and if the familiarity of the peeling wallpaper, and the rotten wood of the door was not clue enough, the strong, insipid buzz of Immortality certainly was. The pair drew to a halt.

"I think we've found them." Methos' voice flashed with excitement, just the way that his eyes did with the thoughts of what was to come. Kronos nodded.

"I think you could be right." He gestured to the door. "You want to do the honours?"

"You bloody bet I do." The old Immortal clenched his fists, casting a glance back over his shoulder towards the sound of approaching feet. They didn't worry him. Despite the distortion and the sound of echoes he could hear at least five different sets of feet, which meant at least five approaching guards - but those he could deal with when the time came. All that he was interested in now was the door. He tried the handle, and was not surprised to find that it didn't turn properly. The door was locked. Inside his head and in the depths of his heart the presence of the other Immortals burned brightly. He slammed his palms against the wooden barrier, and was heartened to feel it wobble slightly. Clearly this door was nothing like as strong as that which had barred the entrance to the collection room. He set his shoulder against it and banged hard, feeling his collarbone jarring painfully with the force of the blow. The pain made him smile.

"Let me do it." Kronos was moving in to take his place, but Methos pushed him aside.

"No way. Just because you're the headcase and I'm the grad student doesn't mean I can't break in a door." He rammed his shoulder into the barrier yet again, and was again rewarded with little but a wobble for his pains. Kronos laughed.

"You're out of practice, brother."

"Knocking doors down was never one of our special talents." Methos turned back to the door, then broke off to stare at his companion again instead. "And if I'm out of practice what are you? You've been dead for three years. At least I've been doing something in that time."

"Yeah. Hanging around Duncan MacLeod and letting him play the hero."

"He's my friend, Kronos." Methos shook his head. "Oh to hell with it. What's the point? You never did understand anything except what you wanted to." He returned his attentions to the door and punched it, hard enough to make the bones in his hand snap. "Damn it! Why the bloody hell won't this door give?"

"You're not hitting it hard enough." Kronos' dry observation was not exactly helpful, but it served its purpose. Methos glared at him.

"Then I'm going to have to hit it harder, aren't I." He spared another second to glance back towards the coming guards. The first one appeared around the corner, gun in one hand, sword in the other. In the bad light Methos could not tell if it was a real sword, or one of the false ones that he had seen earlier. Somehow he felt that, even if the guards had been under orders before to ensure that their ancient immortal prisoners were not damaged, such rules were not going to apply now. The blood pounded in his ears. No way was he going to risk dying at the hands of a bunch of sword-wielding mortals when his real enemies were so close at hand. The least that he could do was get a shot in at them before he let the guards lop his head off. He spun back around, staring at the stubborn barrier through eyes that were rapidly blurring with hate and anger. A smile broke free and painted its path across his face; but it was not a happy smile. It was the same sort of smile of cold amusement that he had once used to make the blood of his victims freeze in fear. He felt his shoulders seem to broaden, and let the anger rush through his veins. Thus strengthened he took a step back, drew in a breath, and hurled himself once again at the door.

With a crash that echoed in his ears, the door broke apart around him, splintering into a hundred different pieces that cut at his arms and lodged in his hands and his clothes. He kicked the loose pieces away from the doorframe and stumbled into the room, a yell of triumph and excitement still tumbling from his lips. He straightened up, regaining his balance just in time to see a sword come whistling through the air towards his head. He threw himself aside, rolling through the pieces of the door, and watched as the sword slammed home in the doorframe. It stuck there, quivering. Kronos pulled it out and gave a low whistle.

"You know, if I were you brother, I'd take that personally."

"Shut up and give me that." Scrambling back to his feet, Methos snatched the sword away and whirled to face the room. He was just in time to see Pascoe scamper out of a second doorway, roughly opposite to the first. Gulmore folded his arms, staring at his fellow Immortals with a look of deepest displeasure.

"I don't remember giving you permission to leave your room." He sounded like a strict but benevolent father. "It was for your own good that I put you there."

"Strange." Methos took a step towards him, the sword swinging from his fingertips. "I thought it was because you wanted a few new trophies in your cabinet."

"I did." Gulmore's eyes narrowed. "I'm not used to being refused, either. When I set my sights on a new work of art, I get it. It doesn't matter what it is." He pointed at Methos, his finger jabbing in the air. "Art is my life. My collection is my life. And if I decide that you're going to be a part of that collection, you don't get any say in it."

"Yeah? Well maybe I've got something to say about that." Methos stepped forward, twirling the sword in his fingers. "I have a lot of ambitions, and oddly enough being kept in a cage with a flock of mechanical canaries isn't high on my list."

"Maybe that doesn't matter." For a second he thought that it was Gulmore who had spoken; but as he turned he saw that the guards he had heard in the corridor had now reached the office. They came through the door in a line, all carrying drawn swords. Kronos tapped his sword against the palm of his hand, sizing up this new range of opponents as though choosing which was to be his first victim. More were arriving all of the time, and already the room was beginning to fill up. Gulmore smirked.

"Perhaps you'd like to reconsider my offer. You stay here, with me, and help swell the ranks of my 'trophy cabinet', as you so charmingly called it. In return, I won't order my men to take your heads." He strolled closer to the immortal pair. "If legends are to be believed, you have nearly ten thousand years between you. You're priceless, can't you see that? And that's even before you begin translating that book, and tell me where I can find more treasures, more beautiful things. More pieces of art that the rest of the world would kill for. We can be a great team, you and I."

"Oh yeah. That book." Methos smirked at him. "See, there's a problem I've been meaning to talk to you about, regarding that."

"And regarding the collection too." His eyes fixed firmly on the still arriving guards, Kronos could not resist adding his contribution to the verbal stand-off. One of the guards made a move towards him, and the Immortal slapped at him with the flat of his sword blade, hard enough to make the man stumble back into a handful of his friends. They jammed together in the doorway, struggling to maintain their balance.

"What about my collection?" Gulmore's face seemed on the verge of shattering. "What have you done? What is it?"

"Oh, nothing much." Methos shrugged. "But the main thing is, it was fun. Right brother?"

"Right." Kronos nodded appreciatively. "It was lots of fun."

"Brought back a whole lot of old memories." A dreamy look crossed Methos' face. "Time was, I used to do things like that nearly every day. Destroying priceless works of art was something of a hobby. It gave me something to do with my spare time. You know the kind of thing - burn down the odd Greek temple, trash a hanging garden or two, slow roast a handful of Vestal Virgins. All in a day's work."

"You've done something to my collection?" Beneath the scars and the discoloured skin, Gulmore had gone very pale. His voice caught. "You can't have - you - you wouldn't have--"

"Wouldn't we?" Methos feigned innocence and regret. "You don't mind, do you?"

"It's all I have. All I was ever allowed to have. They forced me down here, wouldn't let me live up there amongst them looking like this. They took everything I owned, kept me from beautiful things, and so I started collecting things that were mine. Mine and nobody else's." His head was shaking from side to side, and tears were beginning to flash in the corners of his eyes. "I won't let you hurt it. I won't let you have done anything to it. It's all I have."

"Oops." Methos laughed an unpleasant, icy laugh. "Well hey, you win some, you lose some, right Paul? Never mind, you can always begin again. Supposing you live that long."

"Oh I'll live." Pain and anger ignited the big man's words. "I'll live." He waved an arm at his guards. "Deal with them." With that he was gone, vanishing so quickly through the second door that Methos was hardly aware of his departure. He blinked in surprise.

"The sneaky--" With a sudden burst of speed Kronos dashed towards the second door, just as the guards suddenly erupted into activity. They flooded forward, like a sheet of humanity, every one of them raising a sword into the air. Methos whirled to face them, eyes wide. They were moving around him, cutting off all routes of escape. Somewhere off to his right he heard an explosion of breaking wood as Kronos smashed his way through the second door.

"Kronos!" Anger and desperation coloured his words, but his only answer was a laugh.

"Don't worry brother. You'll handle them!"

"Damn you!" He heard the pounding of his brother's feet down the corridor, thought of him facing Gulmore and taking his Quickening - the Quickening that Methos wanted for himself. Anger threatened to burst through his veins with the force of its throbbing heat, and with every bit of strength that he possessed he swung the sword, slashing open the chest of the nearest guard. The man fell, his comrades closing in again, hemming Methos in on all sides. He whirled the sword again, thinking thoughts of Kronos to keep his anger burning. Blood was beginning to fly as he hacked his way through the pushing, pressing guards. A grim smile fixed itself on his face, and his heart sang. His life might be about to end, but it felt as though he had been waiting for this moment for years. He swung the sword again, and saw another man fall back, and another. A manic laugh burst from his lips. He could taste the blood as it spattered on his face, and it made him feel like singing. The presence of his brother was fading from his senses, and he knew that he was alone - alone in the face of incredible odds. He should be terrified. He should be wishing for support, and for the sword of Duncan MacLeod. Instead he wished only for more blood, and his sword flashed faster. All around him the guards continued to close in, but so far not a single one of them had managed to land so much as a blow. He kept them at bay with ease, and jubilation rang in the air with the slashing of his sword. Leading a massacre was like riding a bicycle. You never forgot. Not even when you thought you'd become someone else.


He pounded down the corridor, hearing his footsteps echo above and around him. It sounded almost as though he were being chased, by two or three sets of stamping, running feet. He ignored them. If four thousand years worth of chase and pursuit taught you anything, it was to tell the false alarms from the real threats. It surprised him that Methos was not coming after him yet, but since the last sight he had had of his brother had been of the older Immortal up to his venerable neck in flying fists and vengeful mortals, he was not all that surprised. He would be along, eventually. Kronos grinned as he ran. Maybe it would all be over before Methos even came this way. If the old man wanted to hang around and tangle with mortals instead of going after the real game, that was his lookout.

A corner loomed up ahead that Kronos recognised, and he slowed to an immediate halt. His cold, computer-like brain was already calculating odds, planning offensives, running scenarios. He weighed his recently procured sword in his hands, and peered around the corner. Sure enough the battered door of the collection room awaited his all-seeing eyes, and he allowed himself a small, hard smile. He could see Gulmore standing stock-still in the middle of the vast room, his hands clasped over his head as though in deep distress. Kronos' smile became a wide, mocking grin, and shouldering his sword he strode into the room. The Immortal presence grew and washed over him, like a tonic of sorts. It strengthened him, replenished his energy reserves, reminding his still alien body just who he was, and what he was about. All a part of laying the ghost of Peter Kerensky to rest, he thought, and the lights in his eyes brightened with his grin.

"Hi." His stride was easy, his pace steady. Gulmore glanced towards him. There were tearstains on his cheeks, and his dark eyes were bright with pain and anger. He didn't speak. Kronos sauntered closer, the sword still resting on his shoulder, his smile still sunny and unconcerned. "Nice place you've got here. Been meaning to congratulate you on the decor. I especially like the shattered look. It goes with the feel of the place. All those broken figurines - pure class." He swung the sword, neatly beheading one of the few statues still standing in that part of the room. Gulmore stared at him, his expression strangely dull.

"I spent centuries building up this collection." When he finally spoke, his voice was so soft that it was a strain to hear it. "I brought it down here with me, when the rest of the world wouldn't give me the time of day. Beautiful things." His hands momentarily caressed his heavily scarred face. "In an ugly world."

"I sympathise." Kronos reached up for a second, honestly expecting to feel the mark of the scar on his face. It wasn't there of course. The scar was a part of his old body, which was mouldering away in its secret grave somewhere in Seacouver. This was his new body; his new, scar-less body. "But hiding from the world isn't the answer. Never was. If the world doesn't play your game, you have to make it. Shape it. Carve it into your own special creation." He grinned, and beheaded another statue. "If they insult you, kill them. If they make fun of you, kill them." A shrug, almost comical. "Works for me."

"You think you're something really special, don't you." Gulmore was walking towards him now, drawing his sword as he did so. It was large, like its owner; an ugly weapon, with heavy lines and no apparent grace. The blade was black, and the hilt twisted into gruesome shapes. Clearly this was another part of the collection; but a more practical part than the rest. "You think that you can do what you like, and get away with it."

Kronos shrugged. "I don't see people falling over themselves to stop me. Unless you want to give it a try." He grinned. "But then, I've already been dead. Not many people can say that - even people like us. I've really died, and I've really come back again. It wasn't up to much I've got to admit. I don't plan on going back there." His voice dropped to a lower, confidential tone. "You see, the coming back bit only works if Methos is here with me. He caught part of me last time, and brought me back. It doesn't work if he's not here, and to be honest I don't know if it would work a second time anyway. I wasn't planning to try it, personally."

"You've got all the answers, haven't you." Gulmore tapped his sword on his boot, making a hollow, heavy sound not unlike nails being driven into a coffin.

"No, I haven't." He moved forward, his body already adopting a battle stance as he raised his sword in readiness. "But then that's the beauty of the Quickening, isn't it. It fills in a few gaps. Teaches us things we didn't know. Gives us a few more pieces of the puzzle."

"The Quickening." Gulmore made a disparaging noise. "I didn't want your Quickening. I was planning to let you live."

"Live? As a part of your collection?" Kronos gave a short, unpleasant laugh. "You wanted us to sit in your golden cage and look like museum exhibits. And for what? All so that poor little Paul can gather together his beautiful things, to hide from the world he's so scared of. It's not the old days anymore, you know. However long it is you've been down here for, a lot's happened up there since. They could probably rebuild your face now - fix you up if you hate yourself so much. They certainly wouldn't drive you out of town."

"This isn't about hiding. It's about having what I want. Collecting what I want. It's about making sure that real beauty, real treasures, stay with the people who'll best take care of them. I'd have let you live on down here. There would have been no danger of anybody ever taking your head. You'd never have gone hungry, never have been uncomfortable or cold, never faced hardship of any sort. I'd have been cared for the way I care for all of my exhibits. You and Methos, you're something special. So old, so powerful. You'd have had pride of place in my collection - the most valuable works of art that I possess."

"Lucky us." Kronos smirked. "But you don't seem to have taken very good care of the other exhibits, do you. This place is a mess, Paul. If I was you I'd sack the caretaker."

"You--" Anger churned its way across Gulmore's already twisted face, and for a second an intense pain lit up his eyes. "This place was my pride and joy, and you've destroyed so much of it. My beautiful canaries, my ornaments, my statues... All ruined." His face fell into a mask, suddenly lacking in expression. "But you'll pay."

"I don't think so."

With the first clash of their swords they squared off, their eyes furtive and alert. Kronos was on the offensive, looking about both for Gulmore and for Pascoe - Gulmore himself cared for nothing save Kronos. The bigger man whirled his sword above his head, letting fly with slashes so powerful that he was able to keep the smaller man at bay for some time. Kronos was willing to play safe and wait for the moment. He was aware of Gulmore's anger, and it helped to keep his own in check, calming his mind in anticipation of the kill. All that he needed was one little slip up, one little mistake, and he knew that the game was up.

The mistake came just as Gulmore swung his sword for the hundredth time; a massive swing that caused Kronos himself to stumble backwards, plan lost in a moment of honest panic. He crashed backwards through a pile of broken stone and marble dust, falling heavily amongst the course, rough chunks. It was far from the softest of landings, and the breath flew from his body.

"We've got him!" The shout, excited and high-pitched, came from the shadows to his right, where Pascoe, his lurking form like that of a hungry reptile, slid suddenly from cover. The twisted little Immortal slithered his oozing, moth-eaten frame between the pieces of broken statue, his own sword held high above his head. It was long and thin, like the tongue of a snake, and it jabbed downward with horrible speed.

"So that's the way you want to play." With all of the energy left in his frame, Kronos flung himself aside, rolling uncontrollably through broken glass and jagged pieces of ancient sculpture. His sword fell from his hands, disappearing beneath the dislodged piles of ruined artwork. Gulmore let out a bellow of rage, and his heavy, booted feet rained down on the stones of the ground as he hurled himself after the fugitive Immortal. Kronos caught a faint glimpse of him far above, that massive black sword raised in jubilation above his ugly, scarred head. The old Immortal smiled a grim smile and stared straight up into the fury-filled eyes above him - just as his scrabbling, grazed fingers closed around a broken golden bar. One of the bars of one of the cages. He raised it, swung it, meeting the sword halfway. The massive blade cut straight through the gold, but the blow was deflected enough to make the stroke go wild. Kronos caught Gulmore's wrist, increasing the swing, making the larger Immortal carry on through with a hopeless blow that left himself open wide to assault. The last sight that the massive Immortal had of the world was of Kronos tearing the sword away from him, and swinging back with it as Gulmore himself toppled helplessly straight into the waiting blade. The last clear sight that Kronos had of Gulmore was of a large, wet tear rolling from each eye, before the other man's head was gone, and the sound of his last, choking sob was gone for good. Silence reigned.

"Pascoe?" Kronos swung about in a circle, staring into the murky distance. Too few of the room's candles remained lit, and the shadows were too dark, too intense, for him to be able to see past them. It worried him to have the other man out there still, when he had already proved willing to break the Rules once. Two against one was a cardinal sin in the Game; and the likelihood of the slimy Immortal trying to behead Kronos whilst he was lost in the grip of the Quickening was too great. He thought that he heard the scampering of footsteps, but he wasn't sure. Already the wind was rising; great gusts blowing down the thin corridors, coming from nowhere and going nowhere else. It raged around Kronos, hurling itself about him in dizzying circles, whipping at his clothes and tearing at the cloth. Gulmore's sword fell from his hand, clattering away across the stone.

A candle exploded. For a second its flame burned in mid-air, hanging above emptiness; then in a flash the flame was gone, and another candle followed suit, and another and another; until every candle in the room had been extinguished in violent, ghostly fashion, leaving the room dark and close and impenetrable. Kronos tried to take a moment to catch his breath, but the wind blew harder than ever, and he felt his balance beginning to falter. He tried to cling onto a nearby, headless statue, but the broken shards of stone slashed his hand to pieces before the statue itself exploded. He threw up his arms to protect them from the flying rubble, and almost missed the spectacular sight of the familiar blue lightening beginning to rise from the body on the ground. It shot upwards, rising up to blast away at the ceiling, before turning around and darting at Kronos, striking at him as though each streak of blue fire were a snake attacking its prey. Each blow was an agony and an ecstasy, each cutting, slicing streak of power was a memory or a thought or an idea from somewhere else. Dreams and nightmares, strung together; truths and hallucinations seen as one. He wanted to yell out loud; he wanted to share the moment with someone and everybody and no one at all. He wanted to lash out at the world around him, and unleash a little of the new power that he felt. He closed his fists, raising them high into the air, gazing through wide open eyes up into the maelstrom of lightening flashing above his head - just in time to see the ceiling rupture and fracture and finally burst apart in a storm of fire and stones. A car teetered on the brink of the new hole opened in some distant, unseen road, before it crashed down into the pit and vanished into a new swathe of rubble, burying Gulmore perhaps for good. Far up above him Kronos saw a stretch of inky black night sky, speckled with a few of the brightest stars. A string of streetlamps blew themselves out, and he heard the crash of breaking glass. Some of it rained down on him, coming from who knew where. He watched the light of the Quickening shining through each piece, and watched them flash and burn and finally melt, until what hit the ground was not glass at all, but drops of some molten liquid. It sizzled and splashed about him, hissing and fizzing above the sound of the raging wind, until eventually it burnt itself out. Everything burnt itself out, and the wind blew itself away. Kronos was alone. Slowly, gently, as though gradually folding up inside himself, he dropped to his knees. Thick with stone dust, so that he was more statue than man, he hung motionless for a second, eyes closed to the world's sudden stillness. Then silently, inevitably, he fell forward and lay still.


"Methos!" Joe Dawson burst into the chamber, eyes wide and face flushed from running. There was a gun gripped in his free hand, and the knuckles of the other were white around the handle of his cane. He slowed to a halt, staring at the chaos around him. "Are you okay?"

"I'm fine, Joe." Methos managed to flash him a tired smile. He felt exhausted, but through it all the joy rushed free. He had killed five or six, he thought, and nearly as many lay injured or unconscious. One or two were groaning, but nobody showed any signs of going anywhere. Joe clapped him on the shoulder.

"I've been worried. Daniel seemed to think you were in danger."

"Me?" Methos still contrived to look innocent, although how or why he bothered remained a mystery to his mortal friend. Calamity followed the world's oldest man the way sharks followed a trail of blood; and yet still he acted as though he had never been in trouble in his life.

"Yeah, you." He peered around at the bodies. "What happened here?"

"I don't know. Most of them were dead when I got here." Methos joined him at the body of one young man, almost beheaded by a wild and vicious stroke not half a minute before. Fortunately for him, and for the reputation he had gained amongst the circle of his newest friends, he had slid the bloodied sword into his hidden sheath only moments before Joe had entered. "I think it was Pascoe and Gulmore. They were angry when they found out I'd escaped. These are the men who were supposed to be guarding me."

"You don't think maybe Kronos had something to do with it?" Joe's gaze was searching, but Methos did not flinch in his portrayal of the innocent lost in a storm.

"Kronos? Kronos is dead. He hasn't killed anyone since 1997."

"Daniel told me." Joe's voice was not accusing, but it was quietly firm. Methos frowned.

"But that was-- Oh, yeah. I can see how he might have got the wrong idea. That wasn't Kronos. Not the Kronos, anyway. You remember the guy who used to pretend to be me? The divine messenger, all that rubbish? Well this guy goes by the name of Kronos, but in reality I don't have a clue who he is. He's a jerk, but he means well. At least he seems to." He smiled. "You can see him for yourself, Joe. Trust me, there never was a guy who looked less like Kronos. This guy looks more like a poet, like he couldn't say boo to a goose. Long curly hair - I mean, I ask you. Kronos, looking like that? No way."

"Another forgery, huh?" Joe smiled. "Okay, fair enough. Anything's better than having the real thing let loose on us again. Just because I never met the guy the last time he came round doesn't mean I don't know what he's capable of. I saw the way he spooked MacLeod."

"Yeah, I know." Methos managed a look that was somewhere between contrite sympathy, and sorrow for his dearly departed brother. Joe clapped him on the shoulder, smiling all the while.

"Never mind about that. It's old history." He shook his head. "I was actually worried about you. It takes something to admit it, granted, but I really was genuinely worried. I can't for the life of me figure out why."

"You know me Joe. I always come through." The sound of footsteps startled the old man, and he glanced up, seeing only Daniel Reuben. "Have you seen any sign of Gulmore and Pascoe? My, er - my friend chased off after them, but I haven't seen a sign of him since then. I thought I heard a lot of noise just before you burst in. It might have been a Quickening--"

"Then we'd better get going, hadn't we. You got any idea where they'll be?" Joe was already heading for the nearest door, even though he had no idea where it, or its attendant corridor, led. Methos caught up with him quickly.

"Yeah. Probably the collection room. It's Gulmore's pride and joy, and if he's figuring on making a break for it, that's where he's going to go first."

"Great. I've been wanting to get a look at this collection." Joe made as though to go down the corridor, only objecting a little when Daniel moved up to take the lead in his place. Methos flashed him a small, vaguely apologetic smile.

"It's not quite as impressive as it was," he admitted, sounding strangely subdued. Joe gave him a suspicious look.


"Meaning that we needed to - to make a few alterations here and there."

"That stuff could be priceless!" Joe quickened his step, and Methos hung back for a second, watching him as he hurried off. A small smile crossed the face of the oldest Immortal. He liked Joe a great deal, and he was willing to play whatever part the mortal felt most comfortable with - but he wouldn't fake sorrow for a collection he had willingly helped vandalise. Certainly not when it belonged to a man who had tried to make him a part of it.

They began to realise that something was wrong long before they reached the collection room. As the corridor stretched on, they began to discover wall lamps that were fused and melted, and candles which had been incinerated almost completely. The wicks remained, untouched, but the wax was all gone. There were loose sections of rock in the corridor walls, and pieces of the ceiling hung down. Anxious, Methos raced ahead.

The door to the collection room was still where he had left it, lying on the floor amidst shards of ruined statue. The room beyond, however, was nothing like he remembered. The ceiling had gone, and the floor was awash with stone and rubble and debris from the street above. Cars were hanging on the brink of a growing hole in the roof, and a burst water main poured its former burden down into the growing mess. Sparks flew from severed electrical wires, and rivers of water from the burst main snaked their way through the dust and growing mud. In the midst of it all, predictably, was Kronos - but rather less predictably he was standing, motionless, in the grip of two uniformed policemen. A third was asking him questions, for which he appeared to be receiving less than civil answers. It was this somewhat stressed officer who glanced back as Methos, Joe and Daniel entered, and who strode towards them with his gun in his hand.

"Who are you?" His tone was decidedly belligerent. A hundred likely stories, not to mention a hundred considerably less likely ones, raced through Methos' mind. He opened his mouth to answer, but Joe beat him to it, limping over some of the larger chunks of rubble with one hand outstretched.

"Joe Dawson," he said brightly, his tone filled with good cheer. "I called you."

"Oh yes. Mr Dawson." The policeman shook the proffered hand, although he still looked confused. "We came here like you said, sir, but it seems that we were a little late. We caught one of the gang though." He pointed at Kronos. Joe shook his head.

"Sorry Officer, but that's one of the good guys."

"He is?" The policeman was obviously disappointed, and his voice dropped to a confidential tone. "I could have sworn... I mean, I don't recognise his description, but there's something about him. Something familiar, like I've seen his face somewhere before or something." He shrugged, and flashed a mocking smile. "He told me he was called Kronos, and that he was the Leader of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse." He twirled one finger about his ear. "I think he's a little, er... you know."

"No, we don't." Methos could not stop the cold edge from touching his voice, and was aware that Joe was looking at him in surprise. He ignored the mortals altogether, and the policeman frowned.

"Yeah, well. You can take him then, for all I care. But I'm going to want to see every one of you tomorrow morning, bright and early, to answer a few questions. Understood?"

"Understood." Joe nodded, smiling brightly. The policeman seemed to relax a little, then glanced back towards Kronos. "Everybody except him that is. I don't think I'm going to any more out of him than I have already, and to be honest with you... Well he kind of gives me the creeps."

"You're lucky that's all he gives you." Methos knew that his voice still sounded cold and hard, but he was unable to stop it. He forced a smile in recompense, but it was as cold as his voice, and was definitely lacking that certain something. The policeman turned and walked away. Joe let out a long, pent-up breath.

"That was close."

"You want to tell me what the police are doing here, Joe?" Methos managed to keep his voice down to a whisper, but it still sounded urgent and harsh. Dawson flashed him a look of long-suffering tolerance.

"I thought you were in trouble, remember?"

"I was in trouble." Across the room the newly freed Kronos was smirking, and as his eyes met his brother's Methos matched the expression. "I just have my own ways of getting out of it."

"So I see." Dawson sighed. "Okay, okay, I admit defeat. It's just that you're usually such a shrinking violet. Sometimes I forget that you've been looking after yourself for such a long time." He clapped the old Immortal on the shoulder. "So are you going to introduce us to your friend?"

"It doesn't look like it." Some way away Kronos was already beginning to scramble up the piles of rubble, heading back up to the surface. "I'll see you in a few minutes, Joe."

"Yeah, right." Somehow Joe couldn't help feeling that it might just be rather longer than that. Maybe it was the apologetic flare in the Immortal's eyes, or maybe it was the shadowed, guarded look on his face as he stared after his friend. "Well just be careful. You said you heard a Quickening, and by my reckoning that means one of the bad guys is still on the loose."

"I'll be careful Joe." Methos was already gone, no longer really even within earshot. Joe glared after his retreating figure.

"Sometimes I wonder why we bother," he announced darkly. Daniel grinned.

"Because he is who he is, and you wouldn't be without him." His eyes narrowed. "Can't say the same about his friend though. That guy really gives me the creeps."

"Yeah?" Joe stared after the curly-haired Immortal. Like Methos had said, the man looked harmless - like a poet more than anything else. He looked as though he should have been wandering through the pages of a novel by Sir Walter Scott, or striding gaily through Wordsworth's hillside of daffodils. He didn't look dangerous - but then, he reminded himself, neither did Methos. And fewer people in the world had the capacity to be more lethal than a man who had once ridden at the head of the Apocalypse. That thought made another one slide into place in his mind. If one Horseman looked so innocent, why the hell shouldn't another? His eyes flashed. "Damn it!"

"What?" Daniel looked confused, not having been a party to these dark thoughts. Joe pushed past him, heading for the nearest more manageable exit.

"Never mind. Stay here, and try to keep the police here too. I'll speak to you later." He winced. "I hope."


"Meaning that our friend Methos might just be about to head off towards the nearest likely-looking horizon. I'd rather he didn't do that. If he does a disappearing act we may never see him again, and I don't want to think about what he might be getting up to if he's with that mediaeval hippie everybody seems so spooked by."

"I'd rather he didn't disappear too." Daniel made as though to follow him, but Joe pushed him back.

"No. Stay here. The last thing we need is for the cops to go on the alert. Just stay here and act normal, and I'll see what I can do with the world's oldest pain-in-the-backside up there." He hurried off, his feet skidding occasionally on the broken floor. Daniel stared after him, and a dark look crossed his darker eyes. The sparking lights from the severed wires above his head made his bright white lashes stand out starkly in the blackened surroundings.

"Methos better not disappear," he said, his voice a sharp whisper from the falling shadows. "I've got him right where I want him, and I don't aim to let him get away."


Up on the surface it was dark, and the sloping, empty road was quiet. Cordoned off most likely, thought Methos. The local police force didn't want civilians blundering about in the dark, and falling down inside their town's latest geological feature, after all. Kronos, aware of his presence, was standing in the light of a badly sloping streetlamp. He was smiling, although the expression did not seem to be an entirely happy one. He was on the alert, Methos realised, clearly looking for whichever of the immortal pair had got away. Strangely Methos found that he did not care. Perhaps it was because he had got the chance to work off his own frustrations; or perhaps because he was still basking in the glory of emotions reawakened. He strode over to join his friend, trying to ignore the lurking policeman he could just see out of the corner of his eye. He was sure that it was the same one who had spoken to him earlier. He was making a pretence of writing up some notes in a book, and making the occasional report into his radio; but it looked to the old Immortal as though he was watching the pair quite intently. Kronos seemed oblivious to his presence, and nodded a greeting to Methos as the older Immortal approached. He raised a hand in tentative welcome as well, but it seemed as though the gesture might just as likely have been one of farewell.

"So what happens now?" Methos couldn't quite manage a proper smile of his own, although he wasn't entirely sure why. He was free again, and his enemies were dead; but he found himself left in a quandary over what to do next. What did he want to do? And, if Kronos made the offer, would he really be able to refuse him, and go on living in Seacouver whilst his brother headed off alone? He could see the policeman still staring at him, and he wished that the infuriating mortal would go somewhere far away, and leave them to do this alone.

"What do you mean?" Kronos looked strangely subdued, and his voice was soft, even faintly ironic. "What is there to do?"

"Are you going to come back with me to Seacouver?"

"No." Kronos glanced up, meeting his eyes only for a second. "I don't think that's a terribly good idea, do you?"

"Oh yeah." Sarcasm coloured the tone of the oldest Immortal. "And since when was a bad idea ever a deterrent for you?"

"Since I died and came back to life." A tiny smile showed itself beneath the false beard. "Perhaps I see things a little clearer now. Perhaps I'm not quite as ready to throw my life away as I once was. Duncan MacLeod is in Seacouver, and no town has room enough for both of us. One of us would only end up dead, sooner or later - and I rather think you'd be a little upset if I killed him." The smile twitched briefly upward. "I know I'd be a little upset if he killed me."

"So would I."

"Would you?" It wasn't a hard question, or even a gentle one. It was more a moment of confusion. "Sometimes I don't know. I don't know which one of us you'd choose, if it came down to it."

"That's the beauty of life, isn't it." Methos sunk his hands into his pockets, staring at the ground almost like a shy schoolboy. "The uncertainty. The wondering."

"Perhaps." Kronos caught his eye and grinned. "And you were always my greatest uncertainty."

"I seem to remember congratulating myself on that millennia ago. Before we were Four."

"Before we were even three." For a second there was silence as the two surviving Horsemen merely smiled at one another - then Kronos shrugged and turned away slightly. "But times change. You're yourself now. You don't want to come with me, and I can't ask you."

"Try it. I think you might be pleasantly surprised by the answer."

Kronos nodded, his smile still small, but still holding. "Maybe. Maybe if I ask you to come with me you will, and we can head off together and keep on going. Have adventures. Maybe neither one of us will ever look back."

"Then ask."

"And maybe you'll spend the rest of your life regretting your decision, and wishing that you'd stayed here with your new friends. You've changed Methos. You've forged a new life for yourself, and no matter what I want to think, you don't need me anymore." He shrugged, looking oddly innocent, and not at all like the one-man wave of epic destruction that he could so often be. "Of course I may still need you... So don't be surprised if I turn up on your doorstep one dark morning, and insist that you help me lay waste to some unfortunate continent." He gave a half shrug. "It's sort of the way I am." A glimmer of some harsh radiance, and a flash of brighter, whiter intensity burned through him. "I don't change, brother. Whatever you may think, and whatever you may be led to think. However I may appear, and whatever I may do... I'm still the Leader of the Horsemen. The Apocalypse is still my greatest goal. Just because you found another source of inspiration doesn't mean that I ever will."

"I know." Methos was thinking of the many countless souls who owed their eradication to his brother. The thousands upon thousands of men, women and children who had been wiped from the face of the Earth. The towns and cities destroyed, the armies crushed and defeated. Odd that he could dismiss them all so easily, almost as though he were still thinking the old way. "I've tried for too long to make you into someone you're not. It's time I accepted you for what you are - for all your faults and violence."

"And I've been trying to change you for just as long. Which is why I'm leaving tonight, and I'm not taking you with me."

"Tonight?" A cold sword seemed to lance through Methos' heart. "But--"

"No buts, brother. It's not a goodbye. It's not forever."

"But it is for now. We've only just met again. I don't want to lose you so quickly."

"We've spent whole centuries apart before, Methos. I think we can survive a few months, don't you? I have places to go, things to do. I have a body to get used to. We'll meet again."


"Ah." Kronos smirked at him. "If I were to tell you that, it would take all of the fun out of it, wouldn't it. You'll never know when I'll next walk out of the shadows, brother. You'll never know when I'll next come for you - or what my intentions will be. After all, I never know that bit myself, so why should you?"

"Always the showman."

"It's what I do best." They shared a grin, before Kronos gave a brisk shrug and a half shiver, as though throwing off the moment of unnecessary sentiment. His curls danced on his head, and Methos laughed.

"You like your new look, don't you."

"Are you kidding?" With the roughest of tugs, Kronos pulled the wig and beard from his head, revealing his old, wild self in all its glory. His mad blue eyes glinted beneath a fringe of dark hair, and his clean-shaven jaw described a grin that was truly manic. "It makes me look like something out of the days of Prince John; and whereas they might have been fun for battles and pillage, those days are not best remembered for their fashions." He cast the wig aside, watching dispassionately as it blew away down the road, tangling itself instantaneously with mud and dust and rainwater. The policeman, quite predictably, was beginning to look very interested indeed.

"Oh very sensible. Every policeman in the western world is looking for a man with your face, brother. Partly my fault, I'll admit, but largely inescapable."

"I'll do alright." The lack of concern was almost endearing. "And I'll see you around."

"Are you planning on going somewhere?" It was a sharp voice, and it came from across the street. Methos looked up first, seeing a familiar blue uniform, then the man within it, and lastly seeing his face. It was broad and young, topped with blond hair and sporting a pair of intense brown eyes. Intelligent brown eyes, showing warmth and good humour beneath what was, right now, a solid cover of ice. "I thought there was something familiar about you."

"He's not Peter Kerensky. He's George Hadley." Methos flashed the policeman a smile, but didn't see it being returned. Instead he received a frosty glare.

"I'll deal with you later." Gun in hand, the policeman was staring at Kronos, although his words continued to address Methos. Disapproval showed its eloquent marks on his face. "This man is wanted for the murder of his sister-in-law, and he's also wanted in Europe for the murder of a Romanian doctor, and for masterminding the escape of a serial murderer from a prison hospital in Bucharest." The policeman was smiling the smile of a man in love with his duty. "I'm placing you both under arrest. You do not have to say anything--"

"Oh, but I want to say something." Kronos was smiling, his eyes hypnotic and his expression beguiling. "I want to tell you who I really am. It's such a nice story. You see... I'm really not who I appear to be."

"Are any of us?" Methos took a step forward, his eyes showing a warning no one but Kronos could translate, his mind twisting along the empty road with the remnants of the wig and the beard. The policeman shot him a sidelong glance that told him to be silent or else; and the old Immortal smiled innocently. "He isn't Peter Kerensky. Peter Kerensky is dead. Gone. This is Kronos."

"Kronos." The policeman sounded deeply unimpressed by this very bad cover story. Methos nodded, enthusiasm suddenly getting the better of him. His voice dropped a few decibels, taking on a new earnestness.

"The Leader of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse."

"The Apocalypse." The policeman was looking even less amused than before, and was reaching for his handcuffs. In contrast Kronos was grinning happily, the ice in his eyes now joined by a flash of merry joy. "You're a little late for that aren't you, sir? It was supposed to happen at the end of last year."

"That was your myth. Ours can happen anytime." Methos held his eyes, stared deeply into them. He was doing something with his hands, but the policeman could not tell what, and playing it safe he took a step forward.

"Put your hands in the air."

"No." Methos was smiling, but his eyes were cold. He gave a philosophical shrug. "Sorry."

"For what?"

"For being me." There was a flash of sunlight on steel, and a blur of one white-clad arm. The policeman gave a cry, took a step back, stumbled. With a rush of hot red blood and a hoarse, gasping choke, he fell to the ground and lay still. Methos stared down at his body, then without so much as a trace of emotion, he cleaned his sword blade and slid the weapon back into its hidden sheath. He didn't look at Kronos, and Kronos did not look at him. Neither of them spoke, and for a second there was deathly silence - before, quite suddenly, there came the sound of hurrying footsteps. Methos felt his pulse dance quicker than ever.

"Adam?" It was Dawson's voice, and the old Immortal experienced a rush of anguish and fear. With all that had happened, he had forgotten about Dawson. What had the Watcher seen? He whirled about. The mortal was coming towards him, running as fast as he could, stumbling occasionally as his legs swung too fast for him to keep balance with his cane. He was already staring down at the policeman, recognising the mark of a sword wound. "What the hell happened?"

"We found him like this." There was a teasing spark in the soft voice that spoke up in answer. Joe glanced towards it, a disparaging fire in his eyes that burned itself out in an instant as soon as he saw Kronos. His mouth fell open.

"You." His eyes were widening. "It can't be."

"I know." There was warmth in Kronos' smile, and in the tone of his voice. "Isn't it fun."

"You... you..." Joe turned to stare at Methos. "Did he do that?" He was pointing at the policeman, although there was hardly any need. "Dammit Methos, speak to me! Did he kill that policeman?"

"No." Simple honesty showed itself in the old Immortal's expression, although that had never before been a reason to believe his words. "Listen Joe, we need a few minutes, okay?"

"No, it's not okay!" Joe's stabbing, pointing finger was directed towards Kronos now. "That's not Peter Kerensky, is it. That's Kronos. As in Horseman of the Apocalypse? As in Death, Disease, Famine--"

"I know who he is." Something in Methos' voice made Joe's pointing cease, and caused his arm to fall back to his side. He frowned.

"I'm going to call Duncan. And then I'm going to call the police."

"No you're not." The voice was so quiet he could barely hear it. He could feel it, somehow, as though he were picking up the vibrations; but the voice itself was little more than a whisper, like a thin flurry of snow on a gentle wind. Joe didn't need to look down to know that there was the tip of a sword pressing against his chest; so instead he looked up. Above him Methos' eyes were brimming with tears. "Please Joe. I don't want to."

"You'd kill me?"

"If I had to."

Hate burned the words. "For Kronos."

"No." The tears were still welling up, and the eyes behind them were startlingly hot and bright. "For me. Please."

"MacLeod will find out eventually."

"I know."

"And they'll fight."

"I know that too. But until then I have to do what I can. I'll do what I can to save them both. Please understand me Joe. I'm very fond of you, but I won't let you stand in my way." He was looking out of the corners of his eyes, seeing Kronos through a blur of tears. "Get going. I'll handle things here."

"Sure brother." Kronos flashed him a grin, but Methos did not see it. Dawson did, and the warmth and the shine of it startled him - repulsed him almost. He didn't understand how anybody so callous, so cold, could look so genial and mild. He was still wondering when Kronos had gone, moving swiftly and silently away down the street, like a shadow or a whisper of wind. With his departure the tension seemed to wash away from Methos' body, and he allowed himself a smile that was something like the Methos of old. Something like Adam Pierson, in as much as there was anything of that old persona left. If Adam's shy and retiring nature had survived the first return of Kronos, and the deaths of Byron and Richie and Jacob Galati, it had very likely long been buried following the encounters with Frank Horton, and with Joshua Kenton, and especially with the Involution. That was the way of things.

"And now what?" It was, Joe realised, a faintly helpless question; and as Methos asked it he was holding out his sword.

"I don't know what you mean." Unconsciously the Watcher copied the Immortal's tone of voice. A whisper, faintly confused, faintly lost.

"Is it over?"

"Kronos is gone, if that's what you mean. And we have a dead policeman to deal with." He frowned. "There's blood on your sword. Who's is it? Is it Pascoe or Gulmore's?" He didn't want to ask if it might be the policeman's. He didn't want to believe that it could be.

"It's somebody's."

"Somebody's." Joe shook his head, wishing, for the umpteenth time, that he had never joined the Watchers, never listened to the tales of the Immortals, and never first made that telling contact with Duncan MacLeod, after which his life had twisted and turned its way into irrevocable complication. He pushed the sword away, not wanting it near him, and not wanting the responsibility that came with the gesture of surrender its apparent submission represented.

"I can keep a secret," he said finally. "If I think it needs keeping."

"Meaning that you won't tell MacLeod about Kronos?"

"Meaning that I'll keep quiet about it. But if he finds out, I won't keep quiet then. You might not know which side you're on, but I know which side I'm on."

"I'm not asking for your forgiveness Joe."

"That's good." Dawson's face was hard. "Because you're not getting it."

"I'd be very disappointed in you if I did." He smiled for a second, then let his eyes drift towards the body on the ground. For now the street was deserted, but it wouldn't stay that way for long, even in this out-of-the-way place. Something had to be done about the patrolman's stiffening corpse before it became too late. He began to pick it up, awkwardly lifting the heavy weight. After a moment he felt the burden lighten, and realised that Joe was helping him. The gesture surprised him greatly, and he smiled to himself in a sort of triumph as he headed into the looming shadows of the nearest alleyway.

"Just be certain of one thing." Joe sounded hoarse, struggling awkwardly to manage both the body and his cane.

"What's that?" Methos tried to glance back over his shoulder, and was rewarded with a sight of the dead, white face of his victim. He wasn't sure if the feeling he felt was of guilt, or just of faint remorse. He certainly didn't feel as bad as he might have expected - but he didn't plan on letting Joe know that.

"I want some big favours after this. And that's going to include helping-out-behind-the-bar-type favours. Honest work. I might even pay you."

"Me? Work in a bar? Come on, Joe..." Right away Joe let go of the body, and the Immortal stumbled under the sudden, startling weight. He nearly fell. "Okay! Okay, just help me lift him." He staggered again, and Joe steadied him just in time. For a second they stared at each other, their gazes locked together. Both men were impassive, although for different reasons. It was strange, thought Joe. They had fought, albeit just with words, for so long - come to care so much for each other almost without realising it. And now, after finally having become real, close friends, their relationship had changed again. He wasn't sure what it was now, and he wasn't sure why he was so determined to protect it. As he helped drag the murdered body of a policeman into an alley, quite possibly assisting the murderer himself, he didn't think that he was really sure of anything anymore; anything save the fact that Methos was his friend. It wasn't much, compared to everything else. But right now, perhaps, it was enough.