The city was busy, as the various activities of market day brought everybody into the streets. People collided with each other over the stalls. Children climbed about on the walls, and watched their younger siblings play about between the legs of the horses and oxen. It was a scene of happy, if not entirely peaceful, existence.

One man sat apart from the others. He was sitting on a stone bench, sharpening a long knife on a whetstone. He whistled as he worked at the blade, watching the people before him. A half smile played at his lips, and his eyes glittered curiously.

"What are you doing?" The voice was small, and it came from somewhere low down. The man glanced towards it. A child, barely as tall as the seat of the bench, was gazing up at him, large dark eyes fixed on the glistening blade. The man smiled.

"I'm sharpening my knife," he said. The child frowned.


"So that it'll cut anything."

"What do you want to cut?" The big eyes followed the blade as it slid across the stone, backwards and forwards.


"Why do you want to cut people?" The child did not react with any horror or surprise, but merely asked another question, the hint of a frown wrinkling its forehead.

"Because it looks good." The man reached out his arm towards the child, and with a slow, lazy movement, sliced through his own skin. Blood welled up from a gash, and began to dribble onto the ground. The child stared at the wound, and then, with a sudden look of fear, it turned and ran away. The man watched it go, and the smile grew broader on his face. He stared down at his knife. A stream of blood trickled down the blade, and he watched it absently, then he licked it off. Grinning, he returned to sharpening the knife, and as he picked up the rhythm, he began to whistle again.


The three men who were riding across the hills could have been any kind of travellers. Merchants frequently passed that way, as did settlers, messengers and armies. The three men were none of these. They were thieves, and their skill had caused many a merchant to lose his wares and his life.

"The scenery around here is wonderful." The lead rider slowed his horse, and stared about. "Don't you think so?"

"Sure, Methos." The second rider, a big man, nodded enthusiastically. The third rider reined in beside them and looked around.

"Hills," he said, apparently failing to see the attraction. Methos, the first man, laughed.

"You're hopeless, little brother. Silas understands. Don't you, Silas?"

"Of course, brother." Silas smiled happily, always glad to agree with Methos. The tall, dark haired man had a mind that often left his slower companion tied in mental knots, but something as simple as scenery was perfectly easy to comprehend.

"Silas would agree if you told him the sky was green," the third man said, a wry smile crossing his face. He was a little smaller than his comrades, dark like Methos, but not as graceful of build. He looked more like a warrior, which was exactly what he was.

"That's not true, Kronos." Silas shook his head emphatically. "I disagreed with him when--"

"Silas..." The third man, Kronos, shot his large companion a withering look. "Forget it, okay?"

"Okay." The big man smiled again. "Where are we going, Methos?"

"We're heading for the city those merchants told us about." Methos glanced around at the horizon, working out their rough position. Finally he pointed. "This way I think."

"Are we going to sell those things the merchants had?" Silas asked.

Kronos rolled his eyes. Silas was an excellent thief and a good fighter. Point him at a merchant train and he would go to work with gusto, battling until all of the merchants were dead. His mind, however, was not nearly as quick as his body could be, and the result was frustrating at times. Methos caught the look, and grinned.

"Yes, we're going to sell those things. They were beads. Should fetch us quite a bit if we're lucky. Then we scout around, and listen to what's going on. See if we can pick up news of any other trains we might be interested in."

"Bigger ones hopefully. We need greater challenges to test us." Kronos began to ride forward again, and the others fell in behind him. "Twenty men are not a great obstacle to us, especially when most of them acted as though they wanted to be hacked to pieces."

"Oh, I shouldn't think they wanted it exactly." Methos laughed. "They just weren't entirely sure how to tell us that."

Kronos chuckled softly. "They could have been telling us for all we know. What was that language they were speaking, anyway?"

"They were Phoenicians." Methos smirked. "It's odd. I speak their language usually, but all I could figure out this time was what they said about this city we're heading for."

"Odd that." Silas laughed, and then dug around inside his tunic. He produced a small animal, something like a large mouse in appearance, and sat it on the neck of his horse. "Argus agrees with Kronos though. We need bigger challenges."

"Fine by me," Methos told him. "If this city we're heading for is as big as those merchants said, there might well be some big trade expeditions heading out." They rode on in silence for a short time. Silas spoke up again first, bringing his horse up alongside that of Kronos.

"Brother?" he asked.


"Is it much further? Argus is hungry."

Kronos smiled to himself. "I have no idea. Ask Methos." The big Immortal thought about that for a moment.

"Last time I asked Methos a question he said that I should ask you. He said that you're in charge."

Kronos laughed. "Only when it suits him." He glanced back at Methos. "How about it, brother. Am I in charge?" Methos smiled at him, an unreadable smile that suggested a liberal amount of sarcasm.

"Of course you are. We share everything, remember?" They shared a grin. Both knew that in matters of planning and strategy Methos undoubtedly ruled supreme, but when brute force was required, or simple skill, Methos was more than prepared to defer to Kronos.

"Does that mean I get to be the leader?" Silas asked, his air of innocence just a little too contrived to be genuine. Methos laughed.

"Sorry Silas, but that's not very likely. You can lead Argus."

"Okay." Silas stuffed the creature back into his tunic. "So how far is it to the city?"

"Not far. We should see it on the horizon any time now. We'll be there by nightfall at this speed." The graceful Immortal stretched, smiling up at the sky. "It'll be good to sleep under a roof again, and be in a city. Maybe even sleep in a proper bed."

"Huh. I've done without both for as long as I can remember." Kronos smirked across at his friend. "You're soft, Methos. The sky is all the roof that you need."

"It's not too comfortable when it rains," Methos observed wryly, and pointed ahead. "Look! There she is."

Ahead, on the horizon, was the low shape of a distant city. It was obviously big, and the defensive walls were a long grey stripe against the sky. "Those merchants were right; it's certainly not small. We should be able to buy plenty of supplies there."

"There should be more than one inn." Silas looked happy. "There have been three full moons since I last had some beer. The last time was before I met you."

"It's certainly been a long time." Methos could imagine the taste of a tankard of beer, probably brewed within the city walls. It would cut nicely through the dust of the wilderness, and the long ride. "Come on, you two. I'll race you to it." He spurred his horse on, and the other two Immortals did likewise. Soon they were racing across the countryside, the wind whistling in their ears, the dust blowing into their eyes, and the speed making their blood pound. None of the riders was able to break ahead of the others, and so the three of them raced on together towards the city.


As the sun sunk into the hills, the three Immortals reached the edge of the city. The guards let them through before they closed the gates for the night. It was custom not to shut travellers outside during the dark times, when they would be vulnerable to wild animals and thieves. Methos smiled as he rode through the gates with his brothers. It would be so easy to attack the city; so easy for him to ride in and tear it apart. The trusting nature of the mortals amused him. For now though, there was something else that he wanted from this city, and it did not require violence. He would let the city stand, and let its mortals keep their fragile lives.

"It's nice," Silas said, looking around. "And old."

"Certainly looks it." Methos glanced up at the white arches and the smooth walls. The buildings were large and the roads were paved. He turned to Kronos. "What do you think? Is it rich?"

"Rich...?" Kronos glanced over at Methos, and frowned. "I... This place feels strange."

"Strange?" Methos frowned. Kronos was not given to premonitions, or visions of any kind. "What do you mean?"

"I mean it feels... like I know it." He shook his head, and rode on further. Methos and Silas followed him as he led them onwards through the city. They twisted and turned through roads that still bore the signs of the market from earlier in the day.

"Kronos? Are you okay?" Methos brought his horse up alongside that of his friend, but Kronos was staring ahead. A slight frown had creased the young Immortal's forehead, and he did not seem to hear Methos' voice. They rode on together, until finally they reined in by a walled garden. Kronos dismounted and walked around the wall. It was white, and stood to shoulder height. Kronos walked around it until he came to an iron gate, its twisting bars forming a barrier against entry. Kronos shook it, but it was locked, and he reached up to climb over it. Methos caught hold of his arm.


"Leave it, Methos. It's okay." Kronos had the look of rigid determination that Methos had come to recognise, and the older Immortal stepped back. He had not known Kronos for long, but he had seen him change already, and had watched the growth of a ruthless confidence that was not to be questioned. He watched as the Immortal pulled himself over the gate and dropped down on the other side. With a sigh Methos followed, with Silas behind him. The three of them looked around the garden. It was well kept, but one corner seemed oddly overgrown in comparison. Kronos headed for it, his eyes fixed ahead. He led the way to a white stone which lay in the corner of the garden. It was cracked and overgrown with weeds, and Kronos smiled at it, suddenly looking as though some nagging question had just been resolved.

"There," he said, a note of decisiveness in his voice.

"What?" Methos moved forward, and brushed aside some of the weeds. There was a name on the stone; Kayia. Methos frowned at it, and then glanced back to Kronos.

"You knew her?" he asked.

"No. Not exactly." Kronos looked thoughtful. "She was my mother. Or - well, you know. She was the woman who thought she was my mother. I guess she found out the truth when she died, and found her real son waiting for her on the other side."

"I guess so." Methos had never thought that way before. It was an interesting suggestion. Perhaps his mortal parents were somewhere now, reunited with the son that had died at birth, that he had been left to replace. It was a disconcerting notion, that they might now know that they had raised a stranger. He smiled suddenly.

"So this is the city you told me about when we first met? The place that your father and his people had to leave?"

"This is it, yes." He smiled. "I didn't recognise when we were riding up, but when we came in through the gates... something clicked. I don't know how I recognised it. It's been so long."

"Immortality does things to the memory. You have to be able to remember things or you'd lose your identity; and you have a lot to remember when you're old."

"Good point." He smiled at the stone. "Crazy, isn't it. I always wanted to come here; to visit this place. But I never really knew her. I only wanted to come because I thought that she was my mother. Now I'm here, and the truth is that she's nothing to me. I never even knew her. She died just a few seasons after my sister and I were born."

"It takes some getting used to." Silas stepped forward, and clapped Kronos on the shoulder. "We all feel a little odd when we find out that our parents aren't really our parents. It would probably be easier if we could find out who really is instead."

"Perhaps." Kronos frowned, his expression vague; and then the veil settled over his eyes again, sealing the sentiment away from view. "We have to find somewhere to stay the night, don't we?"

"We do." Methos nodded sharply, and led the way back to the gate. The streets were deserted, and nobody saw them as they dropped down over the wall. They led their horses in search of a stable, and found one on the edge of town. An inn was built onto it. They left their horses in the care of a weather-beaten little man with a soft voice, and hair like a horse's mane, and then entered the inn. Inside it was dark, and almost empty. An old couple sat at a table, drinking from mugs. Steam floated gently up into the air from whatever liquid filled the mugs, and caught the light from a fire in the hearth. The old man looked over at the three Immortals, and stood up.

"We're closed to custom, boys," he said. "I'm afraid I can't sell you anything this late."

"We wanted to rent a room." Kronos dug some gold coins from a pouch at his belt, and tossed them onto the table. They danced about and then lay still, flashing occasionally as the fire threw its light at them. The old man smiled.

"Well in that case you're welcome," he said. "This way. I'll have my wife bring you something to eat and drink if you'd like. We don't have a lot this late, but I can promise you some beer, and perhaps some stew."

"That would be fine." Despite his violent nature, Kronos had the ability to be perfectly charming when he chose, and he smiled at the old couple. "Thankyou. We're sorry to disturb you so late."

"Oh, not at all." The old man's smile suggested that for money such as he had just seen, he would have been prepared to be disturbed at any time. He led the way up some stairs, and along a dark corridor, where several doors showed a glimmer of light coming from the rooms beyond. There were obviously plenty of other guests at the inn. The old man opened a door at the end of the corridor and gestured inside. It was dark, and they entered the room cautiously, the natural suspicion of immortality making their pace slow. The old man followed them in, and set about lighting a fire in the hearth.

"Damn," he murmured. "I should have brought up a piece of the fire from downstairs."

"Don't worry about it. We'll light it." Methos watched the man leave, and then gestured for Silas to work at the hearth. As the big man rubbed two sticks together, Methos leaned back, sitting on the floor and watching the moon through a window.

"So we wanted a room did we?" He smiled at Kronos, but the smile was lost in the darkness. "Why the change of heart?"

"I don't know. Maybe I felt like playing the rich man tonight. My father is the rightful ruler of this city, after all."

"Not your father." Methos smiled suddenly. "So tell me, little brother. What's it like to finally find your home - your inheritance - when you now know that it isn't yours at all?"

"It makes me glad to be an Immortal." Kronos leaned on the window sill and stared out into the night. "You lose one identity and take on another."

"True." Methos nodded. Nearby, a spark flew onto the dry wood in the hearth, and Silas grinned triumphantly. "When I was a child, I was supposed to follow in my father's footsteps. He was a scholar, and a businessman of sorts; very successful. When I discovered what I was, I was glad that I wouldn't have to worry about inheriting all of that; but in some ways I was sorry to leave it. I suppose it's bound to be a wrench at first."

"Only natural, isn't it," put in Silas, pausing to blow on the tiny, struggling flickers of his fire. "At the end of the day though, we gain more than we lose. We lose our families, but we gain immortality. Sounds like a good trade to me."

Methos smiled faintly, watching the ghostly shadows that the little flames were beginning to fling about the room. "Thankyou, Silas," he said. "I couldn't have put it better myself."

"Thankyou." Silas sat down on one of the beds, and grinned. "I do think sometimes, you know."

"I know." Methos stood up and joined Kronos at the window. "We've all been there, brother."

"Don't worry about me." Kronos turned away, and threw himself onto one of the beds. "I've been an Immortal for nearly two seasons. I've got used to it all. It just threw me a bit, coming here." He folded his hands behind his head and gazed at the ceiling, a critical expression on his face. "You now, the sky makes a much more interesting roof."

Methos laughed. "True. But it's cold tonight. And new experiences are part of what being an Immortal is all about." He stared down into the street, and stiffened suddenly, glancing back at his comrades. They had frozen too, and stood up together to join him by the window. A man stood in the street outside, looking up at them. He grinned, and bowed, then walked away, a long knife in his hand. He was sharpening it as he walked, looking almost as though he were obsessed with his task. Methos frowned.

"It doesn't have to mean anything," he said. Silas laughed shortly.

"It always means something," he answered. "Immortals are trouble."

"That one isn't." Kronos wandered back to his bed and lay down. "He can't get in here, and this city is too crowded to risk a Quickening anyway. It won't be a problem. Relax."

"Okay, Kronos." Silas padded over to his own bed, and spread his large body across it. "I don't feel tired yet though."

"Me neither." Kronos was staring at the ceiling again. "Methos?"


"How do you know what you know? About us I mean. Who we are. I only know what you told me, but who told you? And you, Silas?"

"An Egyptian told me," Silas said. "It wasn't so very long ago. Thirty seasons, or forty..." He frowned. "He told me the basics; the rules, and one or two other things. That's all. That's all anybody knows I think. How about you, Methos?" Methos opened his mouth to answer, but a knock at the door interrupted him. It opened, and the inn keeper's wife entered carrying a tray. Smiling nervously, she set it down on a table and left straight away, hardly looking at the three Immortals. Methos and his companions collected the beer and the stew and crossed to the fire, sitting together on the floor in front of it. The old Immortal watched the flames, feeling the heat on his face, and slowly he felt his mind drawn back, to another fire, in another place, many, many seasons before.

"It was evening," he said, his voice hesitant at first, as the memories began to flow. "I had been walking for a long time, and I came to a town. I didn't know what was going on, and I was confused. I knew I should be dead. There was still blood on my tunic, from where the knife went in. I sat down at the edge of the town, and then this man walked up. I felt him, but I didn't know what it meant of course. His name was Akom, and he was very old. Very old. A lot older then than I am now. He looked old, too, though. He must have suffered his First Death very late in life. He told me who I was, and what I was, and explained about the rules. I asked him so many questions, and he couldn't answer many. He didn't know who we are, or why we are; but he told me a story, about a man who might have been the first of us." He stretched, feeling the warmth of that age old fire again, and feeling the earth beneath him, in place of the floor he was sitting on now. The old voice of Akom came to his ears once more, and he thought that he could recall the feel of the old Immortal's hand on his shoulder, and the way that a sense of reassurance had flooded from it, and eased his fears and confusion.

"The first of us?" Kronos sounded almost eager, but his voice sounded distant to Methos. It came from the present, and he was lost in the past.

"A man. An Immortal, but... not like us. He may have been our creator, or our father. Akom didn't tell me more than a fable. It sounded as though it had been passed down through many hands."

"But he believed it?" Silas frowned, interested by the chance of hearing some other theory about who the Immortals were. He had heard several, but none had really pleased him.

"I don't know what Akom believed. He seemed to know more than he was telling... or just to suspect maybe. The man he spoke of was called Faroukh. He was a story teller, or a dreamer. A sort of magician, who walked with the gods. The story goes that he sang a song, and the music scattered a little of his magic over the world. The people who were touched by it became immortal." He grinned, and snapped back to the present. "It doesn't sound very likely, does it. But I suppose it's a nice story."

"For all we know, it could be the truth." Kronos stood up, smiling faintly. "It would be nicely ironic, wouldn't it, if that was really where we came from, rather than from some line of warriors."

"I suppose so." Methos watched as his friend collected the bowls and the mugs, and put them back on the table. "One thing's for certain though; we do come from somewhere."

"The moon." Silas grinned, and stood up, wandering over to his bed. "You tell good stories, Methos."

"Thankyou, brother." Methos turned back to the fire, gazing back into his memories. He remembered the voice of Akom as he had related his tale, and saw the laughter in the old man's eyes. Akom had certainly believed a part of that tale. Methos wondered what had happened to him. He had barely had the strength to walk fast, and had been reliant on a stick to walk at all. As the number of Immortals in the world increased, someday someone would challenge him; and if he had not yet lost his head, one day soon he would. Methos heard footsteps, but did not turn as Kronos came to stand behind him. They heard the soft breathing of Silas as it grew louder and turned into snores, and they both smiled. Kronos sat down beside Methos.

"Do you really want to know where we come from?" he asked. Methos frowned.

"I don't suppose it's important," he said, after a moment's consideration.

"Exactly." The younger Immortal smiled, his face masked in the dancing shadows of the flames. "We come from the nightmares of the mortals. From the darkest places of their dreams. We are the hand of fear that crushes them."

"You have a nice turn of phrase, brother." Methos smiled again, and toyed absently with some logs in the wood pile.

"Words mean nothing. It's action that counts." Kronos stretched, and threw another log onto the fire, watching the flames leap up, shooting higher and higher. He gestured at the blaze. "That's us, Methos. Burning. Uncontrollable. We want to destroy, to burn unchecked. But we haven't fulfilled our full potential yet. We haven't managed to escape from the fireplace." He sat back down again. "All my life I wanted something more than what I had. Then I found out about the Immortals, and I found the means to achieve great things. Now my patience is wearing thin. I don't want to chase small game. I want to ride my horse into the thick of battle, and destroy all that I touch. I want to be the future, brother. I want to be the end of the world."

Methos turned his head slightly, enough to be able to look at Kronos properly. He was gazing ahead, his eyes burning brightly through the shadows. The flames leaped about within him.

"You've changed," he said softly. "When we first met, you were rootless; powerless. Now you're starting to act like a real Immortal."

"Is that bad?" Kronos snapped his head around to look at Methos, his eyes glittering as though in challenge.

"Far from it. You have to be powerful if you're going to survive in the Game. Our place is above the mortals. They are nothing, and we are the kings. Immortality has made you a man."

"It's made me more than a man, brother."

"I know." Methos grinned. "And I approve; wholeheartedly. Together we can do more than rule the world. We can shape it."

"Control it." Kronos grinned. "We think alike."

"We are alike." Methos stood up and walked over to his bed, lying down. "Now get some sleep. In the morning we'll see what happens."

"Fine." Kronos threw himself onto his bed, listening to the snores of Silas. "You do think that our brother is up to the challenge, don't you?"

"Silas?" Methos laughed. "Absolutely. He may have a soft spot for animals, but he has no such feelings for mortals, I assure you. Or Immortals either, for that matter. You've seen him kill."

"Kill, yes. Not destroy."

"When the time comes, he'll do what's needed." Methos gazed into the night, waiting for sleep to take him. The craving for real power burned within his heart, but he felt vindicated. He had been right to stay with Kronos. He had thought that he had recognised that ruthlessness in his friend; that glow of fury and the desire to inspire awe, and fear. He had been right. Whatever the Immortals were, and wherever they came from, they were not to be underestimated; especially not this band that Methos was currently a part of. Anybody who crossed them would see their true fury unleashed.


Outside in the street, the mysterious Immortal wandered along, sharpening his knife. The glittering blade caught the light of the moon on its deadly edge, and he smiled at it, his face unreadable.

"Soon..." he told it happily. "I'll let you play soon." Voices floated to him, and he stopped abruptly, looking around. He listened intently. There were three distinct voices, young and immature, and he headed towards them. Three boys, still several seasons short of manhood, were walking along the street together, sharing a flagon of wine between them. He smiled, and stepped out of the shadows behind them.

"Boys!" They turned, and relaxed when they saw that he was just one man, alone.

"What?" One of them asked, frowning. This man was a stranger, and strangers were not common in the city.

"How would you like to earn a little gold?" He tossed a few coins in his hand, letting the boys see them catch the light, and hear them as they rattled in his palm.

"Sure." The boys came closer. "What do you want?"

"I want you to kill some people for me."

The boys backed away. "No way," one of them said, shaking his head firmly. "You must think we're stupid."

"It'll be okay, I promise. These men are criminals. Very dangerous. I can't get in to them, but I can't tell you why. You have knives don't you?"

"Yes." The first boy spoke again, sounding hesitant.

"Well then. You take your knives, you go to these men, and you kill them. Stab them in the heart." He smiled. "You're not afraid are you?"

"Of course not." The boy frowned. "Okay, we'll do it."

"Rajik, you can't--"

"Shut up." The first boy, Rajik, turned to his companion, and silenced him with a look. "We're not scared, right? And if they're criminals it doesn't matter."

"That's right." The Immortal smiled at them, his eyes glittering. "When they're dead, you come back to me, and I'll give you the money."

"Give it to us now." Another of the boys looked determined, and the Immortal nodded. "That's sensible. You've a good head." He handed over several coins. "You'll get the rest when you come back."

"Sounds fair." Rajik turned his coins over in his hand. "Where are these men?"

"At the inn, back that way. The one next to the stable. You know it? They're in the room at the front."

"I know it." Rajik nodded, and smiled. "We'll be back soon. You'll be here?"

"I'll be here." The Immortal sat down on a bench beside the road, and closed his eyes. "I'll see you."

The boys went off. Down the street they turned, and approached the inn. The door was locked, but it was not difficult to climb in through one of the ground floor windows. They looked about. The embers of a fire showed them the way to the bottom of the staircase, and they crept up it. At the top of the stairs a corridor led them along in the darkness, until they reached the door at the end. Rajik pushed it open. Inside the fire was still bright, and the sleeping forms of three men were visible. One was snoring loudly. Rajik crept up to him, and drew his knife. He stared down at the man, seeing the fair head, and the big, round face, peaceful in sleep. He frowned, and raised the knife into the air. His friends looked on, and he grinned at them, puffing his chest out in an attempt to look important, and big. With a sudden tightening of his jaw he brought the knife down. It struck the man's ribs, slewing sideways slightly, and jarring Rajik's wrist, then it slid home. He felt as it moved deeper, until it was buried to the hilt, and he stumbled backwards, staring at the blood on his hands. He took a deep breath, then grinned at the others. They smiled at each other, and one of the other boys approached another of the men. He was small and dark, and his hand lay resting on a sword lying next to him. He looked as though he were ready to spring into action, but the boy moved silently. He raised his own knife, identical to Rajik's, and stabbed downwards, closing his eyes. The knife went straight in, and the boy opened his eyes, to find the man staring up at him. The boy gasped, and pulled the knife free. His victim frowned, and tried to speak, but only blood came from his mouth. The boy stabbed downwards again, and this time the man jerked once and fell back. His head rolled, lifeless, to one side.

"What's going on?" The third man had awoken, and he tried to sit up, confused by the silence, which contradicted the worry in his mind. "Kronos, did you say something?" In a trice, Rajik and the second boy had leaped on him, and were holding him down.

"Aris, quickly!" Rajik struggled to hold Methos still. "Hurry!" The third boy came over, his knife in his hand. He shook slightly.

"What are you doing?" Methos tried to pull free, but the boys were heavy enough to block his attempts to rise. "Who are you?"

"Aris!" Rajik glanced back. "Will you hurry up! Someone will hear us!"

"I - I don't think I can." Looking miserable, Aris glanced down at his knife, and then at Methos.

"You have to. We did it." The second boy frowned at him. "We're not afraid, remember?"

"I remember." Aris took a few more shaky steps forward, and raised the knife into the air.

"Don't do this," Methos said, his voice cold, but filled with fury. "If you do you won't survive the night."

"Of course we will. You won't be here to do anything." Aris gave a wan smile.

"Don't bet on that." Methos stared up at the boy, his face dark with rage. "If you use that knife, I will kill you." Aris's smile grew stronger.

"You're lying," he said, and he stabbed downwards. The knife moved smoothly and cleanly, sliding between the man's ribs, and entering his heart. The struggles ceased immediately. Aris breathed a sigh of relief, and stepped back, staring at his hands with something approaching wonder.

"I did it!" he gasped. "I killed a man!"

"We all did." Rajik grinned at his friends. "Come on, let's go back and get the rest of our money." He led the way from the room and down the stairs. Soon they were back on the street. As they walked down the road they moved with a new confidence. The waiting Immortal saw them coming, with a swagger in their stride, and he smiled his little smile to himself. They hurried up to him.

"Did you do it?" he asked.

"Sure we did." Rajik held up his hands, covered in blood. "They're dead." He laughed. "One of them woke up, and he said he'd kill us if we killed him."

"Did he now?" The Immortal laughed. "Well I wouldn't worry about that."

"We won't." Rajik laughed again. "He's dead. He can't hurt us now." His friends joined in with his laughter, and the Immortal smiled too.

"Oh he's quite capable of coming to get you," he said, his voice quiet and cheerful. "But he won't, because I'm going to kill you instead."

"What?" Rajik frowned. He saw a flash as the moon caught the blade of the Immortal's knife, but it was the last thing that he saw. The razor sharp edge of the blade slashed his throat open. The two other boys stared down at their fallen comrade, eyes wide in fear, and tried to back away. They could not move. The Immortal laughed softly.

"What's wrongs boys? Isn't it so funny any more?" He stabbed forward with the knife, and the second boy collapsed, as dead as Rajik. Aris stared at the Immortal, trying to form words. His lips would not obey him. The Immortal smiled at him, a wide, happy smile, and Aris saw joy in his eyes. This man loved what he was doing. He truly enjoyed killing. The last thing that Aris thought of as he died was a scorpion; a deadly creature that slipped unseen into all kinds of places, and then emerged to sting the unsuspecting passers-by. He wondered if scorpions enjoyed to kill, and then he never wondered about anything again.

The Immortal pulled his knife free, and looked down at the three bodies, smiling. He stared at his knife, soaked in blood, and licked it clean, just as he had done that morning, in the market place. Then he dragged the three bodies into the bushes that lined the road. They would not stay hidden for long, but that would not matter. He ran quickly to the inn, and gained entry through the same window that the boys had used. It was easy to climb silently up the stairs. The door to the Immortals' room stood open, and he went inside. All three men were still out of commission, and he stabbed at them with his knife, trying to make sure that they would remain helpless for a while to come. When he was sure that he was safe, he crept back along the corridor. He started at the opposite end of the inn, and began to go through the rooms. The mortals all slept soundly, and it was easy to kill all of them, swiftly and silently. Aris had been right to think of the scorpion. The Immortal grinned. Everything was going perfectly; exactly according to plan. Now all that he had to do was to get the Immortals out of the inn.


Methos awoke slowly, and lay still for a long time. His chest hurt, and he felt as though he had been stabbed more than once. Carefully he raised his hands to check himself over for injuries, and frowned at the rattling sound that accompanied his movements. He opened his eyes, and with a sudden, concentrated effort sat up, blinking around. He was sitting on the floor in a small, dark room. There were no windows, and the air was thick and hot. He rubbed at his chest. There were chains swinging from his wrists, and he scowled at the sight of them. That was a development that he could well have done without. Putting it aside for the time being he looked around for Kronos and Silas. They were nearby, and crawling over to them, he shook them both. Silas mumbled something indistinct, and Kronos coughed and winced. He opened his eyes and frowned up at Methos, then seemed to remember something.

"Methos--" he began, but the older Immortal silenced him.

"Ssh. I don't know where we are yet." He helped his friend to sit up. "How do you feel?"

"Like I've just been stabbed several times in the chest." The Immortal glanced down at his tunic, noting the ragged holes. "Make that eight or nine times."

"Same here." Methos shook the chains. "Somebody doesn't seem to like us very much."

"They were kids... I'm sure I remember a boy." Kronos frowned deeply. "Maybe I was dreaming."

"You don't dream." Methos shook his head. "They were boys; three of them. They can't have done this, though. They thought we'd be dead. Whoever is behind this must know that we're Immortals."

"But why go to all this trouble?" Kronos stood up, and pulled Silas into a sitting position. "Wake up, brother. We may just need your assistance here."

"I am awake." Silas shook his chains hard, and scowled. His great strength was no more capable of breaking the metal links than that of Methos and Kronos. "Where are we?"

"I've no idea." Methos stood up as well, and walked to the door of the room. "But I have every intention of finding out. Somebody is not going to be having a good day."

"That's the spirit, brother." Kronos joined him at the door. "I say we wait until somebody comes, and then kill him, slowly." Methos laughed coldly.

"So long as we can ask him a few questions first." He listened intently, but could hear nothing through the door. "This blasted thing must be as solid as a rock. I can't hear anything through it."

"Maybe there's nothing to hear." Silas kicked at the floor, frowning deeply. "Where's that other Immortal gone?"

"Other Immortal? What other Immortal?" Methos swung round. Silas shrugged.

"I don't know. A little man. Smaller than you, taller than Kronos. I saw him when I was being carried down some stairs by two men." He frowned. "Or maybe it was up some stairs, I don't remember." He frowned again. "Or maybe that was--"

"Silas, get on with it." Impatient, Kronos rounded on his companion. "What about this other Immortal?"

"He was nearby. I started to wake up, and I felt him. I tried to move, but like I said, there were two men holding me. The man came closer, and he stabbed me, and that was it. I don't remember anything else. Except... I think it was the man that we saw out of our window last night."

"Great." Kronos sat down on the floor "That's all we need. What does some Immortal want with us? He could have taken our heads by now. There must be something else." He froze, and looked up, his eyes meeting those of Methos. Methos nodded silently.

"I feel it too, brother," he said. "I have a suspicion we're about to get our questions answered." He moved away from the door, and Kronos rose to his feet. Together the three Immortals stood in a line as the door opened. Three men entered. Two were mortals, and carried long spears. The third was an Immortal. His clothes were old and faded, and his presence felt strong. He was a little older than Silas, Methos decided. The strange Immortal smiled at his guests.

"Good morning! Did you sleep well?"

"Evidently." Methos' voice was sour. "Well enough not to be disturbed by the room change anyway."

"I'm so glad." The Immortal sat down on a bench against the wall. "Perhaps I should introduce myself. My name is Caspian. I'm a trader."

Kronos gave him a wry smile. "Not a very successful one, judging by your clothes," he said. Caspian scowled.

"I haven't been doing too well lately, no," he said evenly. "But that's about to change. I have you now."

"And? Why exactly are we here?" The chains were just about long enough for Methos to fold his arms, and he did so, drawing himself up to his full height. Caspian smiled.

"You're here because I want a head. A very special head."

"What head?" The old Immortal frowned at him, and Caspian frowned back. This tall, dark man scared him, and he had to remind himself that it was he who had the upper hand here. He glanced towards the other two Immortals, and was no less intimidated by them. The smaller dark man was staring at him with eyes that looked as though they could have been used to light a fire, whilst the other was looming threateningly, large and powerful. Caspian moved slightly closer to the two armed guards.

"There's a story that I heard," he said. "Apparently the man who runs this city - the head man, or emperor, or whatever you want to call him - he's an Immortal, and he's determined to be the One. They say that he shuts himself away in his castle in the centre of the city, surrounded by thick walls, so that nobody can detect his presence. When Immortals come to the city, he has them taken to him, and he takes their heads. He's supposed to have taken more heads than any other Immortal alive."

Methos cast a sidelong glance towards the two guards, wondering how much about all this that they knew. Mortals who knew the truth made him uneasy.

"How does he know when Immortals come to the city?" he asked. "If we can't detect him, he can't detect us."

"That's the clever part." Caspian smiled, proud of his superior knowledge. This tall Immortal was making him feel small and unsure of himself, and he felt in need of a boost to his self-confidence. "It's also how I came to know of it. He has an advisor; a mortal who... has some kind of powers. He can see things that other people can't. He can detect us. Can feel an aura that we have about us, apparently. He got drunk one night, and talked, and the story found its way to me." He grinned. "It's a perfect operation, don't you think? He almost deserves to be the One, for thinking it up. But I'm going to take his head anyway."

"And we're the bait, I take it?" Methos asked. Caspian grinned at him.

"That's right. I'm going to make sure that you're put on show, so that this man can find you. Then we'll sit back and see what happens." He smiled. "It's nearly morning, so I'll be back to fetch you when the market starts up."

"Market?" Methos frowned, and Caspian stood up quickly, trying not to be too obvious about the speed with which he was moving to the door.

"That's right. What better way to put you out on show? My betting is that the emperor's advisor will make the highest bid." He caught the look on Methos' face, and blanched slightly. "I'll, er - see you a little later." He vanished out of the door, and his two guards followed. The door slammed shut.

"That worm!" His face alive with fury, Kronos slammed his fist against the wall, then turned back to face the others. "I'm going to break his neck," he hissed, his voice barely above a whisper. "I'll tear his head off with my bare hands if I have to, but I swear I'll--"

"Relax." Methos leaned against the wall. "This little arrangement intrigues me."

"Intrigues you?!" Kronos turned to him, caught between disbelief at his friend's calm acceptance of the situation, and anger at Caspian. "I'm glad you're happy to have something to ponder over. Personally I would rather be--"

"Shut up, Kronos." Methos shook his head, exasperated. It annoyed him that his friend was so willing to sacrifice his formidable intelligence, just in order to allow himself the quick satisfaction of violent rage. "Think. What did Caspian just say?"

"You heard what he just said!" Kronos rolled his eyes. "He's planning to sell us to some psychic who works for the emperor."

"The emperor presumably being the man who threw your father and his followers out of this very city?"

"Presumably." Kronos frowned, then suddenly sat down on the bench. "You mean - you mean that the reason my father was thrown out was because the emperor knew what I was?"

"Exactly. He must have realised that it was dangerous to let another Immortal live here. He might have tried to get rid of you, but failed. So he organised a coup. That's my bet, anyway. Not only did he remove the threat to his life, but he also acquired his own city to rule. Not a bad arrangement."

"Well I'll be..." Kronos smiled up at Methos. "I'm sorry, brother. I didn't think."

"Just as well I was here then." Methos smiled back, the expression fond. "So what do we do next?"

"You're asking me?"

"It's your city, little brother. And we share command in this band."

"Yes, of course." Kronos frowned. "I suppose we wait until Caspian comes back to get us. Then we see who it is that's placing the biggest bids. Whoever it is will probably be working for the emperor, especially since Caspian will have tried to get a message to him, to hint that there'll be a few Immortals on the block."

"Exactly." Methos nodded, satisfied. "Once we know who we're after, we don't need to hang around any longer. We go after him, and make him take us to the emperor on our terms. I'm willing to let you make the first attempt at fighting him. Just as long as you promise to let me deal with Caspian as I see fit."

"Let you deal with Caspian?" Kronos frowned. "I guess that's a fair trade. So long as you let me watch when you cut him up." Methos laughed.

"Whatever I choose to do, you're welcome to watch. In the meantime, we have to wait and see what happens next. Caspian and his friends should be back soon, so remember; whichever of us gets taken out first has to scan the crowds carefully. Look out for whoever is showing the most interest. Once you think you've spotted our man, send the other two a signal, and we'll make our move. Is that understood?"

"Yeah, Methos." Silas sat down next to Kronos, and scuffed at the floor with his feet. "Do I get to take a swing at Caspian too?"

"We'll see." Methos sat down as well, and the three of them stared at the wall opposite their bench. Despite their plan, and the new resolution it offered them, it was hard not to feel morose. The situation was not especially inspiring.


The bolts on the door rattled open, and Caspian's two guards appeared at the entrance, accompanied by four colleagues. The Immortals were assisted from the room by two guards each, and led along a corridor. The light was dim, but as they turned a corner they could see daylight ahead. Caspian was waiting for them, smiling happily. He backed away slightly as the Immortals approached, unsuccessfully hiding the unease that they caused him. He made sure that they were held fast before he relaxed a little.

"Send them up one at a time," he said brightly, trying to act unconcerned and professional. Kronos smiled. There was a familiar look to Caspian; the look of the thief, and small time criminal. He was no trader, but was probably a wandering crook who happened to be an Immortal. The cruelty in his eyes was clear, but so was the look of a man who was not greatly intelligent. Caspian was no fool, but he was also no skilled and inventive thinker in the way that Methos was, or Kronos himself.

"We'll be back, Caspian," he said, speaking in his quietly threatening voice. "Keep looking behind you, when the night is dark..." Caspian took a step back, and gestured at Kronos.

"Better take him first," he said, his voice catching slightly. Kronos grinned over at Methos, and allowed himself to be led out into the daylight, onto a makeshift stage in the market place. He shrugged off the hold of his guards and looked about, feeling his hackles rise. There was a large crowd gathered before the stage, all looking at him, and he had an unpleasant feeling of being trapped, hemmed in by people standing all around. He growled softly, earning a startled look from the auctioneer, who backed off slightly. Kronos let his eyes scan the crowds, forcing his anger down, determined not to let it escape just yet. There was a lot about Methos that he respected, and he knew that he could learn from him. Keeping his rage in check was just one of the things that he knew he had to work on. Part of his attention rested on the bidding, listening for any indication that somebody was especially determined to make the purchase, whilst his eyes scanned the crowds, trying to search out the man he was looking for. The guards stepped forward, and pushed him to the front of the stage, and he felt his anger flare up again. His eyes flashed across the crowds, and quite suddenly he saw a man off to one side. He was frowning, concentrating on the figures on the stage with an attention that seemed unusual. Suddenly he smiled, and placed his bid, well above those that had already been made. Kronos grinned, his favourite evil grin, which turned his face into a mask of cold malice. He heard the hammer fall, and heard the auctioneer's cry, bringing an end to the sale, and in the same moment he stepped backwards, using all of his strength to hurl his guards into the crowd. Two other men ran for him, but he ducked sharply, and expertly flipped them after their colleagues. He grinned. Things were suddenly starting to be so much more enjoyable. He swung towards the auctioneer, pushing past the terrified man to seize the sword from another guard, who had still not yet stirred himself into action. Kronos killed him quickly, and then sent the auctioneer to join him. He laughed suddenly, revelling in the sudden glory of unleashed madness. Without waiting to see if his two friends had recognised his signal he launched himself into the crowd.

Methos and Silas, standing next to the stage, could not realistically have missed their confederate's sudden actions. Without giving Caspian time to react, they pulled away from their guards and dashed up on to the stage. Their guards followed, a little more inclined to action than was Caspian, who seemed to want to settle back to watch events unfold. Methos caught the first man, and grabbed his sword. He threw it to Silas, who caught it and spun around, decapitating two of the guards with one hugely powerful swing, which made even Methos leap backwards out of the way. Silas grinned at him, and Methos took up the sword of one of the dead guards, leaping into the crowds after Kronos, and leaving Silas to deal with the remainder of the guards. Methos looked about for his brother-in-arms, trying to fight his way through the crowd towards him. Kronos stood in the centre of the erstwhile audience, slashing wildly through the mortal city-dwellers with wild strokes that killed at random. He gripped the sword hilt with both hands, to prevent the chains from hampering his movements, and Methos did likewise, hacking a bloody path through to his friend.

"Where is he, brother?" he asked.

"I still see him." Kronos had kept his eyes on the man at the edge of the crowd. People were beginning to panic, to move about in wild desperation, but the man remained where he was, watching the Immortals. With a joyful yell, Silas leapt into the crowd, and began to whirl his sword about him. The mortals, trapped by the sheer size of the crowd, were unable to back away from the flashing blades, and the three Immortals, basking in the delight of the chaos, in the pure feeling of ecstasy that came with the violent destruction, battled onwards, leaving a massacre in their wake. Caspian, standing on the stage, stared out at the scene of carnage before him. Hundreds were dead or dying, and he smiled suddenly, amused by the chaos, and oddly drawn to the three men who were the cause of it all. He saw them break free from what remained of the crowd, listening to the screams that echoed about the market place. He saw one, the tall, dark man, head towards a group of horse traders. He killed them all, before they could even try to draw their swords to defend themselves, then the Immortal swung up onto one of the horses.

"This way!" he shouted, his voice somehow managing to carry through the screams and the cries of the mortals.

The big Immortal with the fair hair and the gentle eyes swung his sword about him in an arc, cutting through the wooden posts that held up the market displays around him. The displays collapsed with a crash that echoed about, and debris flew into the air. The mortals scattered again, trying to escape from this new hazard, and Silas laughed at their panic, running towards Methos and climbing onto another of the horses.

"Kronos!" Methos looked about for his friend, and saw him nearby. He was standing on a stone dais, where a huge fire burned brightly. He held a man in a merciless head lock, his sword pressed against the prisoner's neck. At his brother's shout, Kronos glanced towards him. Methos rode up close, leading a third horse, and Kronos pushed his prisoner forward. The man's arms flailed desperately, and he fell, crashing to the ground in a heap. Methos caught him by the scruff of the neck, and dragged him up onto his horse. Kronos was wrestling with the platform on which the fire burned. With a last, almighty wrench, he tore it from its resting place, and sent the raging flames down into the market place. Instantly the wrecked stalls caught fire, their dry wooden posts leaping into flame. The fire caught at the mortals, igniting their clothes and their hair, and Kronos stared down at it all, for a second surprised by the scale of the destruction that he and his friends had caused. His eyes met Caspian's, and Kronos grinned, throwing him a rough salute, then he leapt from the dais, and landed roughly on the back of the spare horse. He whirled it around. Methos spurred on his own horse, and they galloped forwards. Silas joined them at the edge of the market place, and they rode on together down the deserted streets leading to the gates. Nobody stopped them as they rode from the city, and no one came after them. They laughed as they rode onwards. The elation was still hot within them, and the sounds of the destruction still echoed in their ears. They were some distance away before the last of the screams faded.

They slowed their horses to a walk, and Methos pushed his prisoner to the ground. The man landed roughly, and climbed to his feet, staring up at the three Immortals as they stopped in a circle around him.

"You're all Immortals," he said, by means of greeting. Methos grinned.

"He's quick, isn't he?" he said. Kronos rode his horse up closer, making the prisoner back away.

"You work for the emperor," he said. The prisoner frowned for a second, and then nodded. There was little point in denying it.

"Yes, I do." He smiled. "It's my job to deliver people like you to him, for... disposal." The smile became a cruel grin. "Sometimes he lets me watch."

"How do we get to him?" Kronos spoke in the forceful voice of a bully, rather than with his usual soft and sinister tone.

"You want me to take you to him?" The mortal sounded surprised. "I was intending to do that anyway..."

"Not the way we wanted you to." Methos drew his sword, and let it press against the man's back. "We want you to get us in so that we can kill him. We'd prefer it that way, rather than the other way around."

The mortal laughed, ignoring the sharp blade digging into his spine. "I'm not taking you anywhere," he said, his voice jeering. A wave of darkness passed across Kronos' face, and he jumped down from his horse, grabbing the man by the front of the tunic, and lifting him until his feet barely touched the ground.

"You will take us to the emperor," he said, his voice dropping to his deadly whisper. The mortal smiled nervously.

"Why? You'll kill me whether I take you or not."

"Very true. " Kronos released the man suddenly, his anger giving way to disgust. The emperor's advisor climbed to his feet again, and dusted himself off, looking faintly put out. His eyes met with those of Methos, and he faltered, suddenly afraid of what he saw there. It might have been the look of a man who had lived a long time, or it might have been the way that the tall man was smiling gently, almost paternally at him, whilst his eyes glittered with merciless venom. Methos dismounted, his movements smooth and casual. His prisoner backed away slightly, but Methos flashed him a reassuring smile.

"What's your name?" he asked, his voice kind and gentle.

"Huh?" Suspicious and concerned, the mortal frowned at him. Methos put his hands on the man's shoulders, still smiling.

"Your name." he said, speaking softly "What is it?"

"Tarik." The man was still frowning, but Methos still just smiled.

"Tarik. Right, Tarik. We want to go and see the emperor. My friend over there has an old score to settle with him." He smiled even more broadly. "Now you don't want to get caught up in some argument between a couple of Immortals, do you? You saw us back at the city, and I'm sure you can appreciate that my two friends here have a tendency to be a little... violent. I'm not sure that I could hold them off if they wanted to get really nasty."

Tarik blanched. He frowned, then took a deep breath.

"I'm not speaking," he said, his voice slightly uncertain. "I'm not taking you to the emperor."

Methos smiled at him, and then whirled Tarik around, twisting his chains around the prisoner's neck, squeezing tightly so that Tarik's eyes bulged. He struggled, but could not break free. Methos pulled the chains tighter, his face suddenly converted to an expression of vicious dislike.

"What did you say?" he asked. Tarik choked, gasping for breath.

"Let me go," he rasped. "I... I can't... breathe."

"I can't hear you." Methos grinned broadly, the malice still flashing in his eyes.

"Let me go." Tarik's voice had become a miserable whimper, almost too quiet for Methos to catch.

"Speak up," he said. Tarik scratched helplessly at the chain around his neck.

"I'll take you," he gasped finally. "I'll take you to the emperor." Methos laughed shortly, and released Tarik. The mortal collapsed onto the ground, landing on all fours, and shaking pitifully.

"Right. We'll be going back to the city then," Methos said, his tone bright and cheerful.

"No..." Coughing, Tarik looked up at him, "The emperor isn't in the city."

"I understood that he never left." Methos started to draw his sword again. "If you're trying to trick us Tarik..."

"No! I'm not!" Tarik looked up at him, panicked. "I swear! The emperor got a message yesterday morning from his spies. They reported seeing a train of nomads heading this way. The emperor ordered a group of his militia to go after them, and he insisted on going too. He said that he wanted to take care of this one personally. It's the truth. Really."

"Fine. I believe you." Methos raised his eyebrows questioningly at Kronos, who shrugged.

"Which direction did they go in?" he asked. Tarik glanced back towards him.

"Er... into the mountains," he said, his voice still breathless.

"Why would he leave the city to go after this train?" Methos asked. "I thought he was too afraid to leave the castle?"

"He is." Tarik was looking thoroughly miserable. "He just wanted to be involved this time. I don't know why."

"I do." Kronos was frowning. "Think about it, brother... A nomad train." Methos glanced up at him. He remembered the day when he had first met Kronos, travelling with his mortal family in a train of nomads, homeless and dreaming of the city that they might one day return to. He nodded.

"You're right." With a sudden, swift movement, Methos drew his sword and killed Tarik, then swung up onto his horse. Without looking at each other, or speaking further, the three Immortals headed together towards the mountains.


They rode on, faces fixed firmly ahead. Methos could feel the confusion which was troubling Kronos, and he could sympathise, but he said nothing. The nomad train that they were heading for was just the means by which to confront the immortal emperor. They could not spare emotion for the people in the train who might die. Methos thought briefly of Sestia, Kronos' sister, who had been so kind and gentle towards him. The old Immortal had thought that he had loved her, but that already seemed to be a lifetime ago. He had been a wanderer himself then, without a goal or a focus in life. Now he was a part of a band, and they had a purpose, with no time for regret or sympathy. Not for anybody.

"Methos." Kronos spoke quietly, his eyes still fixed ahead. "We're being followed."

"We are?" Methos did not look back. "I thought so, but I wasn't certain. Are you sure?"

"I'm sure. He's keeping back a long way. Like he doesn't want us to detect him."

"Really..." Methos smiled. "Caspian?"

"I think so."

"Now that is interesting. Just so long as you remember our deal, brother."

"I remember it." Kronos did not look happy, but he didn't object. "What do we do?"

"Not a lot. We can hardly creep up on him, can we." Methos frowned. "We wait until we're into the mountains, then we'll wait for him. By the time that he detects us we should have him surrounded."

"Right with you." At the mention of the mountains, Kronos speeded his horse up a little. He still looked vaguely unsure of himself, but Methos could not help him. He had left his own family behind too long ago.

They reached the mountains, and began to head down the rocky pass that confronted them. It was slow going on the uneven territory, and they soon found a perfect place for an ambush. Methos waited with the horses, whilst Kronos and Silas doubled back on foot. They watched as a lone rider came into view, looking about with caution and concern. He stopped suddenly as he detected the Immortals, and his hand flew to his sword. The three Immortals stepped out of hiding, surrounding him, and he smiled nervously.

"One on one," he said immediately, dismounting, and trying to find somewhere to back away to. Methos smiled.

"We don't want to fight you," he said cheerfully.

"We don't?" Kronos shot him a confused look.

"No, not at all." Methos was grinning broadly. "I have to hand it to you, Caspian, you have some guts."

Caspian relaxed slightly. He did not feel exactly brave at that moment. There was something about these three that was extremely off-putting.

"And?" he asked. Methos laughed.

"And I have a proposition to put to you. You get rid of these chains, and we don't kill you."

"And what if I want to kill you?" Caspian asked, his eyes glittering again. Methos was impressed by this man's singular devotion to what was clearly his favourite past time. The look of ruthlessness was easily read in the other Immortal's face.

"You won't. Because we're offering you the chance to join us; to come with us. We're the best at what we do, and you look as though you could be too. What do you say, Caspian? The four of us."

"The four of us?" Kronos looked amazed. "Methos..."

"Not now, Kronos." Methos was still watching Caspian.

"To hell with not now." Kronos moved forwards, his sword leaping into his hand. His chains rattled furiously at his sudden movement, and he stepped forward until the sword was at Caspian's throat. The other Immortal stumbled backwards, slipping against the rocks. He stared up at Kronos, and saw the cold anger in his eyes, and his look of complete mercilessness. He saw the amusement in Methos' face at the scene before him, and saw the old Immortal gesturing to Silas. The big man stepped forward, and threw his chained wrists over Kronos' head, trapping him in a fierce embrace, pinning his friend's arms to his sides. Kronos struggled wildly, but could not break free. Caspian found his way back to his feet, looking shaken, and Methos shrugged apologetically.

"Sorry about that," he said, sounding unconcerned about the interruption. "My friend is a little unpredictable at times." Caspian took a deep breath, and stood a little taller.

"So does the deal still stand?" he asked, glancing from Methos back to the enraged Kronos.

"The deal still stands." Methos nodded slowly, and Caspian smiled.

"In that case I accept."

"Good." Silas grinned broadly, and released Kronos, who straightened his tunic, and picked up the sword he had dropped in the scuffle. Caspian backed away again, but Kronos just grinned at him. He had got the desired reaction from the other man, and that was all that he had wanted. Methos began to laugh, and clapped his friend on the shoulder.

"Nice display, little brother," he said. "You even had me worried there." Kronos shrugged. He watched as Caspian, still looking a little wary, went over to his horse, and dug around in a bag slung over its back. He pulled out three swords, and threw them onto the ground.

"Those are yours," he said. "I thought I'd bring them along." Silas descended on the swords merrily, and handed them round. The Immortals discarded the ones they had borrowed from the mortal guards, glad to feel the familiar weight of the known and trusted weapons. Caspian, meanwhile, had produced a key from inside his tunic. He unlocked the chains on Methos' wrists, and then those of the other two Immortals. He moved cautiously around Kronos, but the young Immortal had already lost interest in the thought of revenge. He could see the benefits in including Caspian amongst their number, and he trusted Methos. As soon as his arms were free, Kronos swung up onto his horse. Silas followed suit. Caspian moved to go to his own horse, but suddenly found strong hands gripping his throat. A sword blade slid along the back of his neck, and he froze.

"Listen to me, Caspian." Methos' voice was soft. There was no anger in it, and no threat. He merely spoke steadily. "Nobody crosses me, understand? If you come with us, you're one of the team. You take your orders from me or from Kronos, and you never, ever, try anything like you tried back there at the city. If you do I'll kill you myself. Or I'll let Kronos tear you apart first. You can die as many times as I choose to let you. Is that clear?"

"That's clear." Caspian could not nod with Methos' sword pressed against his neck.

"Good." With a sudden movement, Methos pushed Caspian away, and stabbed him in the back. The Immortal slumped to the ground, and Methos grinned down at him. "That's settled then." He hoisted the other man up, lying him across his horse, then the old Immortal climbed up onto his own mount. Kronos was smirking.

"I thought you said you weren't going to kill him?" he asked. Methos shrugged.

"I didn't, did I. Not permanently." He turned his horse around. "Come on now. We'd better get a move on if we're going to make that date with the emperor." He saw a dark look fall like a mask over Kronos' face, and in a sudden hurry the younger Immortal spurred his horse onward. As he turned back onto the trail, Methos thought he saw a faint flash of fear in his brother's eyes.


The time progressed, and the day passed them by. They rode onwards. As the heat of the middle of the day began to show the first signs of cooling, they saw the end of the pass ahead of them, and saw a few wisps of smoke drifting into the air. Without a word, Kronos broke from the group, riding forward suddenly. Methos made a move to stop him, then decided to leave his companion to it. He could not feel any other Immortals in the area. Beside him he heard Caspian groan faintly, and saw him move his head. The old Immortal pushed him from his horse, and Caspian hit the ground hard, staggering to his feet, and coughing as his lungs began to work again.

"What did you do that for?" he asked. Methos shrugged, unsure if Caspian was referring to the stab or the push.

"Just keeping you on your toes," he said brightly. "Get on your horse, and try and stay on it this time." Caspian flashed him a dirty look, but climbed up onto his horse. The three Immortals rode after Kronos, leaving the pass, and reaching open territory.

Kronos had dismounted, and stood at the edge of a scene of destruction. Dead people and horses lay about on the ground, their possessions strewn around. Smoke rose from the tattered remnants of a tent, and Kronos walked towards it mechanically, standing beside it. There were numerous bodies lying inside the burnt out frame of the tent. One, stretched out in the doorway with a sword in his hand, was a man. He was badly burnt, but it was clear that it was a man of late middle age. Kronos gazed down at him thoughtfully, then turned away. He wandered through the sea of dead bodies, people that he had grown up with, and his face remained impassive. Isolated phrases floated into his mind, telling him of the unimportance of mortals, and the irrelevance of their affairs to him. He wandered on, unsure of he really believed that none of this mattered, or if that was just what he wanted to believe. Somewhere near him something moved, and he glanced down at the ground. A woman, her face partly obscured by blood, was gazing up at him, frowning, and he crouched beside her. He would have known her face at any time, despite the blood that covered it. This was Sestia, the woman that he had grown up believing to be his sister, who he had left behind when he had gone away with Methos to be an Immortal.

"Kronos..." Her voice was weak, and she was shaking. There was death in her eyes, and it was not far from claiming her. "I thought you were dead..." He smiled at her.

"I am."

"Then I must be too."

"Not yet." He glanced away slightly, and she frowned again.

"Kronos, you've changed. You're wearing different clothes. Your hair is longer. You - your eyes. They're - different."

"Of course they are. They're dead, remember?" He was still not quite looking at her. He didn't want Sestia to see the coldness that burned inside his eyes; the look of a man who was capable of doing to others what had been done here, to Sestia and her people. In a short time it wouldn't matter anyway. Soon this woman would be with her family, in some other place, and she would know that the man she had grown up with was not her brother. His jaw tightened. Damn it. If he was so ruthless, why was it so difficult to watch this woman die? She was only another mortal; just some woman that he had known once, in another lifetime. She shouldn't matter.

"No. They're not dead. They're more alive than anything I've ever seen before." She tried to raise her hand, but did not have the strength, and he saw her eyes begin to slip out of focus. Fear gripped him suddenly, and he realised that he did care for her. More than anything, he cared for Sestia, and he did not want her to go. He caught her hand.

"Sestia, hold on. It'll be okay."

She had been closing her eyes, expecting death, but she glanced up at him again. At first he was not sure whether she could see him, then she smiled.

"Kronos don't be silly. Of course it won't be okay." She nearly laughed, then frowned. "I always knew you weren't really dead." She took a deep breath, and her eyes closed. "Goodbye, brother. Maybe we'll meet again someday." The breath faded, and she lay still. Kronos frowned down at her. He could feel an Immortal, and could hear footsteps, and he rose to meet Methos.

"Are you okay, little brother?" the older Immortal asked. Kronos stared into his friend's eyes, and Methos saw the new coldness in his face.

"I'm just fine." Kronos spoke harshly, his voice as cold as his expression. "Why wouldn't I be?" He gestured around. "They're just mortals, brother. They don't matter." He turned to walk away, but Methos caught his arm, turning him back.


"Forget it, Methos." Kronos shook his head. "I've killed hundreds of them since we met. Why should these ones matter any more?" He pulled free from his friend's grip, and began to walk away. Methos followed him, keeping a short distance back. He had read it all in his partner's eyes, and knew exactly what the younger Immortal was thinking. He felt all of the pain and anger that a man in his position could be expected to feel, but he did not want to feel it. Kronos had got used to shutting out mortals, and to thinking of them as being nothing but toys to play with and manoeuvre, and destroy at will. It could not be easy to suddenly be faced with a reality such as this one.

"Methos!" It was Silas, running towards them, his sword drawn. "There are riders coming; lots of them." Methos turned, and glanced around. Sure enough, there were riders approaching. At least a hundred men, all armed. They were obviously the emperor's militia; the men who had destroyed the train. They had probably been watching, from a distance. Methos saw the battle fury building inside Kronos, and saw his friend draw his sword. Methos took a step forward, but Kronos had already walked up to confront the leaders of the militia as they swept to a halt in front of him. He stared up at them, the fire wild in his eyes, and with a sudden. vicious stroke, he cut the horse from underneath the leading man. The man collapsed onto the ground, jarred by his sudden landing, and surprised by the fall. Immediately Methos drew his sword, and ran up. He could feel Silas and Caspian behind him, and he smiled. It felt good to have the sure presence of a team behind him. He glanced across at Kronos, and caught the crooked grin on his partner's face. As the militia men moved forwards, the Immortals prepared to meet them.

They came in waves, slashing with their swords. The Immortals went for the horses first, although Silas was conspicuous by his attempts to avoid hurting the animals. Methos felt a sword slash across one of his shoulders, and his heart leapt into his throat. That had come horribly close to his neck; the one place that was truly of concern to an Immortal. He heard a strangled cry from behind, and turned to see Caspian pulling his sword from a mortal's neck. Methos grinned. It was the same mortal that had just wounded him. Caspian smiled back, and then turned to meet a new wave of the assault, fighting on.

The sudden, strong presence of an Immortal brought Methos up short, and the fighting eased to a standstill as a large black horse rode up. A big man sat on the horse, staring down at the carnage around him. He was tall, although his build was not especially powerful, and he smiled the smile of a man who was sure of his own authority.

"Well well well. It looks as though I have some friends come to visit me." He surveyed the four Immortals in turn, as if deciding which head he would take first. The members of his militia took the lull in the battle as a signal, and they moved quickly, grabbing hold of the Immortals, and seizing their swords. The emperor frowned, his expression critical.

"We have one old, and three younger." He smiled, looking Methos up and down. "I think I'll take the old one first."

"No you won't." Despite the fact that he was held tightly, and was now unarmed, Kronos managed to stand tall. He stared up at the mounted Immortal, the fire in his eyes replaced by the cold look of determination. "I'm challenging you. You'll fight me."

"I wasn't planning to fight any of you." The emperor turned to look at Kronos, who appeared as a wild figure, unkempt and slightly insane. "I haven't fought anybody in a long time. My men bring them to me, and I... handle them."

"Not this time." Kronos spat the words out. "Get off your horse and face me."

"Very well." The emperor dismounted, and took a few steps forward. He was taller than Methos by a good margin, and he towered over Kronos. "If I have to fight you I will; but why exactly are you so determined to die?"

"I'm not. I have no real wish to die." Despite the differences in their heights, Kronos was managing to look the emperor in the eyes. "But then neither did any of these people. They didn't want to die either."

"Probably not. But what are they to you?" The emperor was frowning. Kronos grinned.

"Nothing at all. Absolutely nothing. But I used to know a man who was one of these people. He's dead now, and I intend to make sure that he stays that way. There are ghosts that have to be laid to rest to make sure that happens."

The emperor caught the cryptic message, and he drew his sword.

"Very well." He smiled coldly. "Then I'll make sure that everybody gets laid to rest. You included." He nodded to the men holding Kronos. "Let him go."

Methos, Silas and Caspian were pulled back out of the way, creating a space in which the two Immortals could fight. Methos frowned, feeling helpless. There was nothing that he could do, for even if he were free, he could not interfere when two Immortals were fighting. That was strictly against the rules. He watched as the swords clashed for the first time, as the two men got the feel of each other. He tried to watch for some sign that Kronos might have the upper hand; tried to gather some reassurance from his friend's skill, but there seemed to be no sign that either man was winning. He wondered what would happen if Kronos did manage to take the emperor's head. What would the militia do? The emperor had been free in talking in front of them, but that did not mean that they had ever seen a Quickening. He wondered how he and his friends would escape if the emperor died. If Kronos lost it would not matter. Soon his three friends would join him. Methos felt a pang of regret for that. It had felt good, fighting as part of a team, feeling his three companions around him, feeding on their anger and their joy, and feeling his own elation flowing into them. They were a good team, and there was a lot that they could achieve together. It would be a shame if it all had to end here and now.

"You'll never win." The emperor hissed the words at Kronos, too quiet for anybody else to hear.

"I'll win." Kronos was coldly confident. "I never lose. I'm this world's greatest nightmare."

"All nightmares come to an end."

"Not this one." Kronos whirled his sword, and the battling Immortals began to move away from the spectators. They fought on, though the wreckage of the nomad train, past the bodies of Sestia, and her father, and all of their people. They reached the rocks around the mountainside, slipping and stumbling over them, trying to force each other into losing balance. The emperor's sword slashed at his opponent, cutting across his chest, and Kronos did not flinch. The fighting went on. Methos watched them both, willing Kronos to win, and wondering what was going on in his friend's mind. Methos tried to imagine what would have happened if he had found his mortal father murdered, but it was impossible to consider the scenario. He was no longer sure if he remembered what the man had looked like.

The skies began to darken, as the day turned to evening. The sun sank behind the mountains, and the moon rose to replace it. The stars broke out across the sky, and the fighting Immortals became just dark shadows, battling onwards, neither man seeming to gain the upper hand. Methos began to feel decidedly useless. Even though it had been obvious from the start of the fight that both men were formidable swordsmen, and that it would not be over quickly, he had not expected it to take this long to end. The night deepened, and still it went on. The clashes of the swords shouting across the still land carried clearly through the cool air.

Kronos was getting tired. The sword was feeling heavier in his hands, but he knew that it would be the same for the emperor. He felt the tip of his sword cut through his opponent's tunic, and bite into the man's skin. Blood began to soak through his sleeve. In angry riposte the emperor cut low, and the blade of his weapon slashed across Kronos' thigh. The younger Immortal staggered slightly. The pain burned, but he tightened his jaw, ignoring it, and fighting on. Time passed, and he became more and more tired. He began to see pictures in his mind. Images of his childhood, growing up with Sestia. Pictures of a man that should have been his father, but wasn't. They were pictures that belonged to another lifetime, in the memory of a man that was now dead; killed by an arrow that had opened new doors for Kronos.

"You can't win," the emperor told him. Kronos grinned suddenly.

"Sure I will." It was all clear now. He didn't have to mourn for Sestia and the others, because he had already cut the ties. He had left them behind. Even if they weren't just another group of worthless mortals, they still didn't need to torture him with their memory. To him they had already been dead, just as they had believed him to be. He swung his sword with new strength. It was the end of a part of his life. The end of a road; but it was the start of a new one. This was where he left behind the last vestiges of his mortality, and it was where the new Kronos could be born; stronger, brighter and filled with more fire than ever before. His eyes burned into the emperor's

"I will win," he said, and sparks of madness danced in his eyes. "I'll never lose, I'll never fall, I'll never fail." His sword was flashing faster and faster, and the emperor began to fall back towards his men. "I'll conquer." Kronos' voice was growing louder as his passes with the sword became stronger. "I'll destroy. I'll fight, and I'll kill, and I'll burn!" The sword struck again, and the emperor's weapon flew from his hand. Kronos grinned at him.

"I'll face the end of the world," he said. "My friends and I will rule the world. We'll ride across the face of it, and no one will stand in our way." The emperor took a step back, seeking to find refuge amongst his men, but Kronos let loose with his sword. It flashed forward, and the emperor's head fell from his shoulders, just as the first light of the sun began to ease upwards into the sky. There was a silence. Methos braced himself, expecting the Quickening. The wind began to blow, and the militiamen around him started to back away, concerned. They released the three Immortals. Kronos glanced back towards them, seeing the fear on the face of the mortals. He saw their eyes widen as the blue lights began to rise from within the body of the emperor. He laughed.

With a sound of violent thunder the Quickening engulfed Kronos, sending him rocking backwards on his heels. He threw his head back, gasping at the suddenness, and the power. The pain shook him to the core, and the pleasure seemed to stroke his forehead, relaxing and gentle. He felt the rush of energy, the flow of fire, and felt the burning in his soul. The smooth feeling of ecstasy flooded his mind, and the cold knife of agony cut through him, striking at his heart. His whole body began to tremble, and the sword fell from his hand. The militiamen, terrified, were on their knees, their faces pale and white. Kronos would have taken a step towards them, to increase their fear, but he could not move.

Methos shielded his eyes. Caspian had been right; the emperor had taken a lot of heads. He thought of all of the Immortals who must have been taken to the emperor, probably bound and unarmed, unable to defend themselves, and not given the chance to try. He felt a flash of anger, and a sudden hatred for the man who was now dead, and contempt ran through him. For a moment he wished that he had taken the emperor's head for himself, but he had promised the first attempt to Kronos. Promises to a brother had to be kept.

With a sudden silence that was as startling as the noise that had preceded it, the power of the Quickening faded. Methos blew out a long breath, unaware that he had been holding it, and glanced around at his companions. Silas and Caspian looked faintly impressed, and the militiamen were stunned. They were still on their knees, and as he watched, they began to bow, banging their heads against the ground. Kronos grinned at them. Breathless and shaking he retrieved his sword, and then fought to regather his strength. He stared around at the prostrate mortals, an evil grin on his face.

"Get up," he said coldly. They rose, and he surveyed them all. It was an odd scene, Methos thought. Kronos was far from being a big man, and most of the militiamen towered over him. He still managed to look taller than they did, and he stared at them with the eyes of a prince or a king; or a god.

"Go back to the city," Kronos ordered. "Get going and don't look back." He smiled suddenly. "And tell everybody you see on your way that they had better beware of four men on horseback. Understand?" The militiamen nodded miserably, and slunk away. Those that still had horses led them, not daring to ride without an expressed order. As soon as they were gone, Methos began to laugh. He slapped Kronos on the back.

"You were fantastic, little brother! They thought you were a god!" Kronos smiled up at him.

"Maybe I am," he said softly, then he sighed. "Although right now I am a very tired god." Methos laughed again.

"With good reason." He whistled softly. "Another few heads like that one, and you're going to be as powerful as me."

"Maybe." Kronos stretched, and sheathed his sword, glancing about. "We'd better be going," he said.

Methos nodded. "What do you want to do?" he asked, making a rough gesture at the remnants of the train. "About... all of this?"

"Nothing." He shrugged. "What's to do? Although - I'd like to bury Sestia."

"Sure, little brother." Methos nodded. "You sit down and rest for a while. We'll get digging."

"Thanks." Kronos watched as his friends prepared the hole. The sun rose a little higher, still not yet halfway above the horizon, and the four Immortals lowered Sestia's body into the grave. They filled it in, and Kronos knelt down beside the mound.

"And so lies the mortal," he said softly, as Silas and Caspian walked away to fetch the horses. He glanced up at Methos. "Is that Sestia lying there, or is it my past?"

"Both." Methos smiled. "It feels good, doesn't it. To be free."

"I suppose it does." Kronos did not sound entirely sure, his grief still lingering. "No ties, no worries, no fears."

"No conscience." Methos' smile grew, and he reached down to pull Kronos to his feet. "No reason to check the fury. No reason to hold back the fire."

"You have a nice turn of phrase."

"Words are nothing. It's action that counts." They both laughed.


"What?" They began to walk towards the others. Silas was hunting through some weaponry that lay amongst the ruins of the nomads' possessions, and Caspian was poking about similiarly nearby. Kronos barely spared them a glance.

"Would you do me a favour?"

"Certainly, little brother."

"Stop calling me that."

Methos laughed. "I was wondering when you'd ask." He slung an arm around his friend's shoulders. "I guess you're not so little any more."

"You'd better believe it." Kronos had a look of glory and inspiration in his eyes. "The world's going to come to believe it too, pretty damn soon."

"That's the spirit." Methos glanced towards Silas as the big man let out an exclamation of delight. Amongst the debris he had found a large axe, and he spun it in his hands a few times. It looked as though he had found a new friend. The two leaders of the gang shared a smile, and together they mounted their horses. Silas and Caspian followed.

"Where now?" Methos asked. Kronos gestured about them.

"Out there somewhere."

"Anywhere in particular?"

"No. Somewhere... somewhere I've never been before. Somewhere exciting."

"Somewhere with lots of people to kill?"

"That too." They grinned at each other, and Methos raised an arm.

"Forward, Horsemen!"

"Forward to what?" Caspian asked, as they started to ride. Methos shrugged.

"How the hell should I know? Adventure, glory... all that stuff. It's all there if we want it." He looked around at the others. "We're the Four Horsemen. We can do anything."

"There are five of us," Silas said immediately. "You forgot Argus."

"Er... sorry brother, but Argus doesn't exactly strike fear into mortal hearts." Kronos offered him a conciliatory smile. "He can be an honorary Horseman. Okay?"

"Okay." Silas nodded, happy with the suggestion, and Methos started to laugh. He began to ride faster, Kronos beside him, and the others just behind. They were all leaving a part of their lives behind in that place, but everything held the promise of some great new beginning, as if they were riding into a whole new era. Methos felt the elation growing within him, and found himself grinning broadly. This was life, this was immortality; this was the start of new adventures. This was how legends were created. He laughed out loud, a crazy, wild laugh that echoed about him and his band of brothers. They would ride, and they would wait, and they would hide in the nightmares of the mortals. And then, when it was least expected, the Four Horsemen would attack, and nobody would ever be safe again. The world did not yet know it, but the Apocalypse was about to ride out of the sun.