The distant hills of Rome were like the welcoming calls of old friends. Methos reined in his horse and gazed out at the horizon, grinning broadly.

"Home," he said, with some considerable satisfaction. Beside him, Kronos scowled.

"That's not home. That's… somewhere else."

"Well it's home to me, for now." Methos sighed, thinking happily of a cask or two of wine, and a bevy of serving girls. They always welcomed him back in some pleasant fashion, usually with feasting and merriment. Not that he hadn't had plenty of feasting and merriment whilst he was away - to say nothing of a fair supply of serving girls - it was just that it was always nice to get back to the place that he thought of as home. "You should try putting down some roots, Kronos my boy. It's a nice world, once you start getting to know it."

"I do know it." Kronos favoured his companion with one of his most joyously evil grins. "I've terrorised half of it."

"Only half?" The old Immortal spoke with a dry tone. "Come on, brother, this is not a bad place at all. It's been extremely profitable for us, all things considered; a big farm, lots of land, as many horses as you can possibly ride. What more could a man want?"

"A war." This time Kronos' smile showed that he was only joking. "Just don't get too settled, Methos. Another ten years at the most, and we'll have to be moving on again. We've already been here nearly that long."

"I know. Much more and they'll start thinking we've found the Fountain Of Youth." Sighing, Methos nudged his horse forward again. "A little less of the Methos, please brother. Get back into the habit of calling me by my Roman name."

"Fine, Ensis. I suppose we ought to play by the rules." Kronos smirked. "It wouldn't do to let them know that we're not Roman, after all."

"Not given their record concerning outsiders, no." Methos grinned back. "Civis Romanus Sum, and all that."

"Precisely." Kronos pulled ahead, his horse suddenly seeming nervous. "Do you hear anything, brother?"

"Nope." Methos glanced around. There was nothing to hear, and nothing to see. Everything seemed deserted. "Can't you go more than a day without getting paranoid?"

"I'm not getting paranoid. Just careful." The younger Immortal let his hand rest on his sword. "It pays to listen to the horses sometimes, brother. They know things."

"I know. But they're probably just as anxious as we are, that's all. They know we're nearly home, and they're looking forward to it. Nothing to worry about."

"I suppose." They rode on for a while, watching as the hills grew closer. The horses seemed to have settled down, no longer gripped by whatever anxieties had affected them earlier, and Methos began to whistle; a low, dirge-like piece of music which he had heard on his travels. Kronos scowled.

"You have dreadful tastes in music, brother," he commented. Methos smiled.

"Just passing the time, Kronos."

"Latin names." Speaking the words with deliberate force in order to make his point, Kronos slapped his companion on the back. "Remember?"

"Yeah, yeah." The older Immortal smirked. "Not that you really look like a Roman."

"And who says you do?"


"Yeah, sure." Kronos shook his head, faintly amused. "Well at least I can actually remember where I really do come from."

"You just wait, brother. When you're as old as me, we'll see how good your memory is. Anyway," adopting a haughty tone, Methos shrugged slightly, "it's not that I don't remember where I come from, it's just that I'm not quite sure where it is. No one ever showed me a map back then. It was just a city."

"Rome is just a city." Kronos gazed towards the hills, still a long way off. "Do you suppose anybody will remember where it was, when the world has moved on again?"

"Who can tell? Cities come and go, you know that. No one knows which ones the storytellers will choose to speak about the longest. Mind you, the way they've been expanding recently, the world would be hard put to forget Rome."

"It's not so special." Kronos had acquired an idle grin, which accentuated the mischief in his eyes. "I bet I could destroy a fair bit of it, if I really tried."

"I won't argue." Methos tightened his grip on the reins as his horse began to toss its head nervously. "Damn this creature. What's wrong with it?"

"I don't know." Kronos halted his mount and stood up in the stirrups, gazing about. He could see nothing, which did little to lessen his tension. Beneath him, his horse whinnied softly, scraping at the ground with its hoof.

"Trouble?" Methos asked, letting his hand fall to his sword. Kronos nodded slowly, his usual instincts telling him that something was wrong, even though his eyes were denying it. "What do you think?"

"I think somebody is watching us." Kronos drew his sword, turning his horse about. He could still see nothing, but he could feel something, like a rigid tension in the air. "This ground is too hilly, brother. I don't like it."

"Good ambush territory, I know." Methos drew his own weapon. "Do you want to try running?"

"We don't run, brother." Kronos narrowed his eyes, staring into the sun. It was dazzling him, and he felt sure that if an attack was going to come, it would come from that direction. That was how he would have attacked, if it were him hiding out there.

"We've run before." Methos turned his horse around. "Come on, brother. There might not even be anyone to fight. I'd rather get back home, and spend the night in my own bed, rather than waiting up here for some bloodthirsty mountain thief. I'm not in the mood for getting my throat cut."

"Maybe you're right." Kronos did not seem to have relaxed at all. "Okay, brother. You win." He turned his horse back towards Rome, his sword still in his hand. "We're more than a match for a bunch of bandits, if they choose to come after us."

"You can say that again." Methos flashed his partner a grin, turning his sword blade about to return it to its sheath. Even as he was doing so, he heard the sound of approaching hooves.

"Kronos!" He shouted the word loudly, but his companion was already alert, and was ready before he was. Swinging his horse about, the smaller Immortal leapt forward to the attack, meeting a brigade of some nine or ten horsemen riding towards them. His sword slashed in a vicious arc, making short work of the lead attacker, but making the others only the more eager.

"Hold on, brother!" Riding into the fray with a shout of rage, Methos knocked aside the man representing the most immediate risk to Kronos' well-being. The mortal fell from his horse with a short scream, and Methos spun to face the next attacker. A sixth sense made him look up, disturbed by some sudden instinct, and he saw three men readying themselves on the ridge above his head.

"Look out!" Shouting the warning to Kronos, he tried to bring his horse back, away from this new threat, but found himself entangled with several of the mounted attackers. He heard a bloodcurdling yell and lifted his sword, ready to impale anyone attempting to attack from above. A heavy blow caught his arm, and his weapon fell, vanishing beneath his horse's hooves.

"Ensis!" Methos heard Kronos' voice from somewhere far above him, as a mighty figure launched itself through space, knocking him from his horse. He was vaguely surprised that his companion should have remembered the alias, in the midst of all this madness. The thoughts were torn from his mind by heavy hands grasping at his arms and he struggled furiously, desperate to break free. Above him, where the battle had continued to rage on horseback, the noises were lessening, and as his captors finally succeeded in dragging him to his feet, he saw Kronos battling furiously against the grip of two men, both twice his size.

"You'll pay for this!" Methos snapped, finally abandoning his attempts to pull free. He heard a rough laugh, then was spun about. A large man, dressed in merchant's clothes, was seated on a horse nearby. His hair was neatly cut in the style of the rich, and his horse alone proved his wealth. He was smiling at the scene before him.

"No, my friend. Somebody else will pay." He laughed to himself, clearly amused by this little joke. "In this business, it's always somebody else who foots the bill. Wouldn't you say?"

"Not this time." Methos was aware that he cut a less than impressive figure just then, especially before a man as well groomed as this, and he struggled to bring his ragged breathing under control to restore some element of sophistication to his bearing. "We're Roman citizens, and you know the penalties for interfering with our passage. You could be executed."

"Could be, but won't." The merchant smiled disarmingly. "I am a Roman citizen as well; born and raised in that fair city. Nobody is going to accuse me of improper behaviour." His smile broadened. "Especially you, where you're going." He nudged his horse to make it ride closer. "Business has been slow. I have to take what advantages I can find. I can assure you that you'll be very well treated, so long as you behave yourselves." His eyes drifted over to Kronos for a moment, lingering on the smaller captive. Cold rage glowed in the dark man's pale eyes, and the merchant felt a chill envelope him.

"You've got to be kidding." Realisation was dawning, but Methos denied it, certain that he was getting the wrong idea. "Look, we're Romans, both of us. My name is Ensis Aeturnus. My partner here is Caedo Eques. We have a farm just outside of--"

"I don't give a damn where your farm is." The merchant smiled at him, although his eyes glimmered with a harsh light that carried no suggestion of a smile. "You don't have a farm anymore. You can call yourselves whatever names you like, but from here on in, your citizenship is revoked." He nodded at his men, and Methos felt his arms dragged behind his back. The bite of rope stung his wrists and he forced himself to relax, knowing only too well just how much it would hurt if he struggled now. Even with this minor damage control exercise, the rope still slipped as they wrapped it around his wrists, scraping the skin and burning painfully. Finally it was over, and he was released. He struggled briefly, to test the strength of his bonds, but found them unpleasantly effective.

"You won't get away with this," he hissed, his eyes glittering dangerously as he stared up at the merchant. "You can't do this to Roman citizens."

"I've done it before. Many of us try it when business is slow." The merchant made a brief gesture with his hand, then spun his horse about and headed off into the hills. Methos felt a noose tighten around his neck, surprising him with its sudden presence. Beside him one of the horses began to walk onwards, and he felt the rope jerk about his throat, forcing him to follow on.

"Ensis…" Kronos spoke in a low whisper, which warned his companion of the rage he was finding it hard to contain. "Tell me this isn't what it looks like."

"Steady, Caedo." Methos frowned, painfully conscious of the intermittent tightening of the rope around his neck. It hurt, and if they were in for a long walk, the pain was only going to get worse. It was making him angry, which could only mean that Kronos was ready to explode.

"Steady?" The younger Immortal turned to look at the older, his ice-like blue eyes glittering unpleasantly. "I shall kill them, brother. Every last one of them."

"Not right now, you won't." It would be foolish to try anything just now, and Methos was determined not to invite trouble. There was sure to be a better moment than this for him to make his move. He heard the ragged breathing beside him which told him that Kronos was calming himself. Clearly he too realised that there was no real way to escape just now.

"I won't let them kill me." The smaller Immortal spoke in a faint whisper, which only his brother could hear. "I won't revive on the road somewhere, with them long gone, and no chance of me catching up with them. I want to kill them."

"Hold on to that thought." Methos glanced towards the man holding the other end of the rope around his neck, and thought about the happy moment when he could turn the tables. Almost as though reading his thoughts, the man gave a sharp tug on the rope, nearly dragging the old Immortal off his feet. Methos glowered, thinking sweet thoughts of revenge. These people would pay for this outrage. His thoughts drifted back to his plans for the evening, when he and Kronos had been going to celebrate their return home with wine and feasting, and a faint growl grew up inside him. These people were definitely going to pay. He squared his shoulders and narrowed his eyes, concentrating past his immediate discomforts. He would find a way out of this, just as soon as he could.


They walked until the hills of Rome were a distant memory, lost beyond the horizon. Daylight was fading fast, and it was with some relief that the pair of Immortals saw lights ahead, marking the end of their journey. They were hurried onwards, to where the ivy covered walls of a small farm stretched out to meet them, and a pair of strong looking young men rode up on a pair of milk white horses.

"Father! You've found us a few extra!" There was an air of good humour about this revelation, which made the hair on the back of Methos' old neck tingle with rage. To these people he was suddenly no more than a way by which to earn money. He could already feel his rights as a citizen of Rome slipping away.

"Two men I found out in the hills." The merchant joined his sons, heading towards the ivy covered walls ahead. "Between you and me, boys, I don't think they were too happy to join us."

"Really?" One of the sons looked back, his haughty gaze lingering on the pair walking beside the horses. "That's a shame." They shared a laugh, speeding up in order to cover the last short distance more quickly. A woman came out of the white-walled house to greet the merchant, smiling in glad welcome. Methos glowered at her, thinking of the warm house and the food which awaited their captor. Even the pleasant images of what he would do to this family once he was free did little to dispel his growing bitterness.

The pair were taken to a large pen in the middle of the courtyard, walled on all sides by high, sharp stakes. There was no roof, but the number of guards and the construction of the walls made it unnecessary. There could be no escape from here, especially with their hands tied. One of the riders yanked the ropes from around their necks, then pushed them into the enclosure. Methos glared at him, his eyes flashing in the light coming from the windows of the house. The man laughed down at him, unconcerned with his prisoner's ill-temper. In his view, the thoughts and feelings of slaves were of no importance. Anger could be easily discouraged, if it became a problem.

"Now what?" His voice soft and cold, Kronos spun away from the gate of the pen, storming across the dusty ground to an empty space. There were numerous other slaves in the enclosure, but they all moved out of his way, no doubt recognising the look in his eyes. Methos followed on, determined to maintain a little decorum. There was no reason, in his eyes, to stop acting like a Roman just because he was not being treated like one.

"Brother…" he said softly. Kronos whirled about, his blue eyes flashing wildly.

"What?" His voice was hot. "Don't tell me to be steady, or to be calm. I can't do that right now."

"Fine." Methos sat down on the hard ground. "Just don't be a fool, brother, that's all. The way our luck is going right now, they'd probably behead us." He was met with a short silence, before Kronos finally managed a smile, which soon became a grin.

"You're probably right." He laughed softly. "I'm sorry, Ensis. I just find it a little harder to keep my temper than you do."

"I don't think so." Methos looked over towards the lit windows of the house. "I just don't show what I'm feeling. That doesn't mean I'm not feeling it." He smiled at his brother. "We have to choose our moment, that's all. Don't let anger stop you from being able to enjoy the moment when it comes. Dead men don't get to have much fun."

"I hear you." The younger Immortal sat down beside his companion, closing his eyes. "You always were the one with sense."

"Sense, yes. It's what keeps me alive. I see no reason to risk my life just for a moment's satisfaction." Methos gave a wan smile. "At times it's hard to remember to stay calm, but it's better than descending to the old ways, and maybe losing everything." There was no answer, and he glanced across at his friend. Kronos was leaning against the fence, his eyes still closed. If he was struggling to keep his temper, Methos had no desire to disturb his concentration. Immortal though he may be, he did not intend to risk the possible consequences of an impossible escape attempt. He would rather keep his brother in check for the time being.

"Who are you? Where do you come from?" The whispered questions came from all around, but he glowered at all those who tried to come close. He knew only too well that Kronos was likely to unleash a little of his madness on these people whilst he was still unable to get at their captors; and he was not entirely sure whether he himself would be able to keep his anger for those who truly deserved it. The other slaves backed away, sensing danger from these two men, with their brooding silences and their air of menace. Beside him, Methos felt Kronos stir, but his friend did not open his eyes, and he did not speak. Methos let him fight his battles in silence. By morning, the danger of his rages would be past.


It was hot, and the sun shone down on the arid and dusty ground, further baking the drying grass until it seemed that it would never again be green. The gang of small figures which crouched together in the tangle of dry and battered undergrowth paid no attention to the heat. They had known hotter days, and they knew the colder ones which would follow. It was better to be glad of the sun whilst it was here, before the killing cold returned again.

"Which way now?" The question was directed towards the smallest of the figures, a young boy still years short of manhood. He was evidently the leader of the group, despite his size. He glanced about, knowing the rough, featureless landscape as well as he knew himself.

"That way." He pointed with a small, strong hand. "That's where the camp is. We're not going back there yet."

"We have to practise more?" The other boy, his expression suggesting intolerable fatigue, shook his head wearily. "Come on, Kronos. How many more times?"

"Until we get it right." The smaller boy hefted his sword in one hand. It was a different weapon to the more cumbersome battleaxes carried by his companions, but it suited him better. If they wanted to be slow in battle, let them. He had better ideas. "We have to get this right, or we'll never be allowed to join the guard."

"They won't let us anyway." Another of the boys sounded miserable. "Come on, Kronos. They said my older brother was too young."

"Your older brother doesn't know which end of an arrow he should point at the enemy." Kronos smiled, his pale blue eyes glittering. "That's why we are going to practice. This was your idea, Rosad."

"It was a stupid idea." The boy stood nonetheless, holding up his axe. "You realise our weapons are half the size of the ones we'd have to carry as guards? This practice won't do us that much good."

"It's a start." Another of the boys raised his own axe. "Come on, Kronos, show me how good you are."

"Sure." Kronos turned to the attack, at the same time something catching his eye. It seemed to be a flash, like a weapon catching the sun, but he ignored it to concentrate on the fight before him. His companion met his attack, before Kronos saw the other boy's eyes widening in sudden fear.

"What the-?" He turned, his sword upraised, his ears filled with the sudden sound of hoof beats. From out of nowhere there came twelve riders, riding at him from where the sun made clear vision impossible, their armoured bodies catching the light as they galloped forwards.

"Scatter!" Finding his senses in time, Kronos fell back, his small sword flashing in the sunlight. He saw the blade make a minor mark on the leather gauntlets of the closest man, and his small heart sank. There was no way to fight men like these armed with weapons that were little more than toys. A heavy blow from above struck his wrist, and his sword vanished beneath the hooves of the horses. He let it go in disgust, raising his fists to strike where he could. He heard a distant laugh, echoing and filled with imagined insult. In the midst of the confusion, darkness fell.


Kronos awoke to the bite of rope on his wrists, and the sight of wooden bars all around him. He looked up, to where the dying sun peered in at him through the bars above his head.

"Garon? Are you there?" Looking about at the collection of small boys in the cage with him, he caught sight of one in particular and smiled in relief. "Garon!"

"Kronos!" The other boy, roughly the same age as his friend, but a full head taller, rose to his feet. "Are you alright? I was worried."

"I'm fine." The smaller boy looked about. "Who are these people? Why have they taken us?"

"They're slave dealers. We're to be taken to some city, and sold there." Garon's eyes flashed angrily. "I feel like such a fool!"

"Don't. They came at us out of the sun. We had no way of seeing them. I doubt even the men could have done better." Despite his assurances, the words stuck in the boy's throat. He hated to admit defeat, and it hurt more than he could stand, thinking that he had been bettered by a gang of slave traders. He went to the bars, gazing out to the view beyond. Ideas were dancing about inside his head, most of them foolish and unlikely. He grinned, accepting them without regard for their foolhardiness.

"Garon? Do you think you can get these ropes off me?"

"If I tried hard enough, I should think so." The other boy turned around, so that his bound wrists were facing those of his friend. Kronos felt the soft touch of hard fingers on his skin. "These knots are tough…"

"So be tougher." Aware of how harsh his voice sounded, Kronos smiled to himself. Here he was the leader in a way that went beyond his usual playacting during weapons training. Here he could really take command. He liked to be in charge, and he liked the way that the others were looking at him. Even Garon, who had been his closest companion since infanthood, was clearly his underling now.

"I think I've got it." Even as Garon spoke, Kronos felt the ropes loosen around his wrists. He grinned, pulling the last of the bindings off.

"Thanks." He clapped his friend on the shoulder. "I'll be back soon."

"But what-?" Before Garon had finished even the first half of his sentence, Kronos was gone, squeezing between the bars of the cage in a way that his companion would not have believed possible. He vanished into the shadows.

The makeshift tents of the traders were open and unguarded. It was easy to slip in unseen. Kronos made his way towards the pile of weapons in one corner, and carefully selected a long sword. Its curved blade was unlike any that he had seen before, and he tested its weight in his hands. It was a good deal larger than the sword he practised with, but he knew that he could handle it. He grinned in the semi-darkness, running his hand along the blade. This should be easy.


"Kronos?" The voice was soft and persistent, and it did not belong to that distant day, in the darkening tent. Kronos opened his eyes, turning towards Methos.

"What?" he asked. Methos smiled down at him.

"You're a noisy sleeper, brother. I've been listening to you mutter for half the night."

"Sorry." Kronos sat up, unsettled by the wooden bars around him. It was all too much like his dream. "Our situation seems to have made some old memories resurface." He smiled. "Unpleasant memories."

"Too bad." Cheerfully unsympathetic, Methos relaxed back against the bars. "So what were you dreaming about?"

"Trouble." Kronos leaned his head against the bars. "When I was a boy, some friends and I were captured by slave traders camped near our train. We were locked in a cage, rather like this."

"And you escaped, no doubt, causing mayhem and madness in every direction?" A small smile was his only immediate answer.

"More or less. I escaped, yes, and managed to kill a good many of the traders. But there were more than I had been expecting, and they got the better of me, for a while at least. When they thought I was incapable of further resistance, they left my friends and I alone. That was their mistake. They should have killed me, not left me angry for revenge. So I killed them all. Every one of them. It was the first real battle of my life, and when I took the others home, my father let me join him as a warrior. The horse he gave me was so big I could practically walk between its legs, and the sword was nearly as long as I was, but he let me ride with him." His smile grew. "I like to kill the people who cross me, brother. It makes hardship that much easier to bear."

"You know I agree with you there." Methos grinned, recalling some of the various encounters during his long association with Kronos. There had been the silk merchants of Sumer, who had tried to have them falsely accused of the crimes they themselves had committed. There had been the pirates of Rhusan, who had tried to steal their gold. There had been thieves, slavers, rich men and beggars, all of whom had tried to cross the world's most dangerous partnership. They had all failed, and had almost all died in the process. Such a record made the old Immortal eager for action now.

"Everybody up." The harsh voice came from the door to the pen, where a collection of guards had assembled. "One at a time, come on. Line up at the gate."

"Looks like we're moving." Methos stood, wishing that his hands were not still tied. "If we get separated…"

"Don't worry, I won't do anything stupid." The wild gleam had gone from the younger Immortal's eyes. Evidently he had made use of their short night to quell his rage. "I'll wait for the right time."

"Thankyou." Methos headed towards the gate, somehow finding himself at the head of the queue. The jostling of the other slaves pushed him forwards, and he felt heavy hands gripping his arms. Behind him Kronos was pressing to be next in line, his small frame easily visible amongst the crowd.

"You better not try anything." The voice that addressed him was harsh and unpleasant, and Methos smiled sweetly in its general direction. He felt the ropes around his wrist loosen, then vanish completely, but his moment of relief was short lived. Almost immediately his hands were dragged in front of him, and the cool, heavy feel of metal bracelets replaced the bite of hemp.

"Jewellery? You shouldn't have." He fluttered his eyelashes at the smith, receiving a heavy blow between the shoulder blades to remind him of his place. He grimaced, allowing the men to haul him to his feet. A metal collar was clamped around his neck, before he was thrown aside. He lay where he had fallen, watching as Kronos was brought up next. The smith worked quickly, fastening the metal chains into place with the aid of red hot rivets.

"You alright, brother?" Smiling pleasantly, as though they had met by chance in some tavern, or whilst out for a ride, Methos sat up to greet his friend. Kronos caught the chains linking the other Immortal's wrists, and heaved him up.

"I'm fine." Kronos was smiling too, apparently unconcerned. "The longer the wait, the greater the enjoyment, when the time does come." His eyes scanned the scene before him. Their merchant friend had gathered his men together, all on horseback and eager to be off. "I rather think we're going somewhere."

"To market, no doubt." Methos turned away, determined not to look at the merchant. He was not sure that he could handle a meeting with him without losing the temper he was controlling so determinedly. "A day out. How nice."

"We'll be out of this before we're sold." There was cold resolution in the voice of his friend, and Methos nodded, glad of the reassurance. There was something deeply disturbing in all of this; something painfully insulting. The men who had captured him had been so matter of fact, so businesslike, that his blood boiled. It was not often that he was grateful to Kronos for providing a calming influence.

"Line up." The head of the guard moved among the newly chained slaves, dragging them into two rows, kicking the occasional unfortunate who moved too slow. "Come on, we don't have all day." He finally succeeded in his task, and then ordered his men to collect long chains coiled up nearby. They threaded the chains through the holes on the slave collars, fixing them firmly into position, until the slaves were joined together, linked much like ornaments strung on a charm bracelet.

"Are we ready?" Riding forward, the merchant eyed his rows of slaves with a critical eye. He spotted Methos and Kronos, and a smile decorated his unpleasant face. "If it isn't my two Roman friends. Good morning, citizens. Did you sleep well?"

"Well enough." Methos straightened his shoulders. "Nice day for a stroll into town."

"Isn't it just." The merchant grinned at him, his eyes sizing the pair up. Seen now, in circumstances that were rather more favourable to him, he could see that he had captured a fine prize, clearly strong. The taller one had the look almost of aristocracy, whilst his smaller companion was clearly a born fighter. "It's Aeturnus, isn't it? And Eques?"

"I'm flattered." Methos kept the sarcasm from his tone only through hard work. "Are we to have the honour of a proper introduction?"

"For such obvious gentlemen, naturally." The merchant smiled sardonically, his eyes gleaming. "My name is Saevus. Claudius Saevus. I'm honoured to make your acquaintances."

"Saevus." Kronos seemed to be trying the name out, rolling it over in his mind. "I'll remember that. Be sure of it." He looked up, his pale eyes catching the light just enough to be truly disturbing. Saevus flinched noticeably, reacting sharply to the look of ice, and to the voice of gentle humour.

"March on." Swinging his horse about, the merchant rode off, taking his place at the head of the train. Methos laughed.

"You shouldn't be so unkind," he chided his friend. Kronos smiled.

"He shouldn't be such a jerk." A tug on the chain threaded through his collar marked the movement of the slaves up ahead, and he stepped forward. "This isn't easy, brother."

"I know." Methos' voice was strangely subdued. He had not been expecting this latest development. Chains made an escape all the more unlikely, and he was beginning to think that he should not have worked so hard to control his companion the night before. They might have missed their only feasible shot at freedom. His descent from happy citizenship into this current predicament had been so quick, so sudden, that it had left him reeling. Such a short time ago he had been a free man, and yet now - without even having committed any crime - he found himself being treated like this. His head was spinning, and not just through confusion. He had not known a rage like this one in a hundred years. His dark green eyes chose a point in Saevus' back to gaze at longingly, and he allowed himself to smile. He could see his sword driving itself home into the merchant's body; or perhaps a flaming arrow would be more effective. He had used to like them, as a particularly spectacular method of execution. The blaze as the victim's clothes and hair ignited; the screams of pain and fear. At one time, he would never have allowed this situation to reach this stage. At one time, he would have allowed his rage to escape, and would have killed all that he could, merchant or slave.

"Slow fire." Kronos muttered the words under his breath, but Methos heard them clearly. "Boiling oil. We could unravel his intestines and make him eat them." There was a long pause, evidently for further thought. "Brother, do you remember that salt merchant who wouldn't give us his wares? We skinned him alive, and threw him in his own salt. I can still hear him screaming."

"I'm not surprised. He made one hell of a racket." Methos smiled. "Trust you to remember that one. Whose idea was it?"

"Yours. All our more inventive ideas were yours." Kronos smirked. "Caspian made a shield out of the skin, do you remember? He spent three or four days painting it in all manner of colours, and then lost it the first fight he got into. It split like parchment."

"I remember." Methos caught sight of another of the slaves staring at them, and he glared. "You looking at something?"

"No." A look of pure terror in his eyes, the Greek turned away, studiously looking in the opposite direction. Methos laughed. He had almost forgotten what it was like to inspire such fear in others.

They walked for days, long days which ran into each other, stretching out interminably both before and behind. Sleep came during the cold darkness, as they huddled together for warmth. The light of the traders' fires cast flickering shadows about, which tantalised with their promises of unreachable warmth. By day they walked, rarely allowed a rest, struggling over often steep and rocky ground on the treacherous path to their destination. Saevus rode ahead the whole time, sometimes glancing back at his rows of charges, more often sparing them less than a moment's thought. He had not spoken to any of them for the whole of the trip, except to mete out his own, rough forms of justice, when he considered somebody to be in the wrong. Even as the smell of coastal air reached the party, he remained silent and aloof, and did not speak until the train had reached the harbour.

"Here we are." Reining in his horse, Saevus let the train pass him by, until he was on a level with Methos and Kronos. "A good day for the market, don't you think?"

"A little overcast, perhaps." Methos met the other man's stare with a calm eye. His frustrations and rage had been dulled by the easy trip. Saevus had left him alone, and the rough treatment meted out to numerous other slaves had not affected either him or Kronos. Now that he was in a town, however, his freedom seemed loser at hand, and he was determined to make it a reality. Even as he smiled at Saevus, he was imagined wrapping his chains about the other man's neck, throttling him until his eyes bulged and his tongue swelled. It would be a pleasant epitaph to a decidedly unpleasant experience.

"Overcast? You think so?" Saevus scanned the skies. "Perhaps; but you're not in Roman territory anymore, you know. You'll have to get used to the change in the weather." He smiled. "This is new land. Your fancy speech and all your Latin won't help you here."

"I see." Methos did not allow his anger to show. He had suspected that their long march would carry them beyond the lands that he was familiar with, but to have left the vast lands of Roman influence seemed impossible. If he did not speak the language here, it would be hard to blend in, making his escape plans somewhat awkward. "Where are we?"

"As if that concerns you." Saevus smiled coldly, then lashed out with his foot, catching Methos in the chest. "You're a slave. You don't need to know where you are, or even who you are. All that you need to know is what you're told." He turned the horse around. With a speed that was unnerving, Kronos moved forward. His chains allowed him the barest amount of manoeuvrability, but it was enough. His movements jerked the other slaves sharply backwards as he grasped the reins of Saevus' horse, and twisted hard. The horse panicked, whinnying in pain and fear, and reared up on its hind legs. Its hooves lashed the air, and Saevus let out a yell, clinging onto his reins in desperation.

"Stand back!" Roaring in rage, the lead guard of the train ran forward, knocking the slaves out of the way in his hurry to reach his employer. He caught Kronos by the back of the neck, jerking him backwards and off balance. The horse, panicked by this sudden movement as much as by the attack, reared up again, its voice mingled with the yells of its rider. One hoof struck the nearest guard on the head, killing him instantly. Methos stepped forward, catching the animal by the reins before it could do further damage, speaking to it softly. It calmed immediately, slowing its maddened attempts to flee.

"Nice work, brother." Throwing aside the handful of guards which had descended upon him, Kronos glanced down at the dead man. "Messy."

"I'll give you messy." The lead guard made as if to strike the Immortal, but the tangle of chains linking the slaves got in his way, hampering his movements. He extricated himself irritably, striking out at anybody within range, then pushed Methos aside to help Saevus from his horse.

"Are you alright, sir?" he asked. Saevus stared at him, momentarily too shocked to answer.

"Yes, I'm fine." He looked down at the dead guard, and scowled. "Somebody clear up this mess. And you--" He spun around to face Kronos. "You had better pray that you get sold today, because if you're still in my train by nightfall, you're going to pay for what you just did."

"Try it, Saevus." Kronos spoke the words too quietly for anybody else to hear, but the merchant recognised the menace in his tone. He smiled.

"You have a dangerous tongue, my friend," he said. "You and your friend here. Perhaps I should do the world a favour, and have them removed?" He pulled the dagger from his belt, holding it up so that the blade caught the light. "Do you fancy the taste of your own blood, pouring down your throat?"

"I would prefer the taste of your blood." Kronos took a step forward, his face expressionless but his eyes alive with cold fires. "Would you like to try your luck, Saevus?" He grinned, a lazy, broad grin which transformed his face into a mask of pure malevolence.

"I'll try my luck tonight, if you've not been sold. You won't be half as mouthy then you little--" Saevus broke off, turning sharply away. If he was afraid of his prisoner, he gave no outward sign of it, but even Methos knew to beware of his partner when he had that look in his eyes. There was no telling how he would react to those about him when his fires were burning so brightly.

"Easy brother." He moved in close, whispering softly, but Kronos did not react. Instead he allowed himself to be herded with the other slaves to a simple wooden building near the water's edge, where a small crowd of well dressed merchants had already gathered. The slaves were cursed and cajoled into the building, where their linking chains were finally removed. Kronos breathed a sigh of relief, no longer forced to move in tandem with the rest of the group. It hurt his sense of pride being chained to mortals, especially subservient lifeless mortals such as this group appeared to be. He and Methos separated themselves as much as they were able, hanging back to watch the proceedings with distaste.

"I like this one." Approaching from one door, a merchant gestured at one of the slaves, a young man dressed in what had once been expensive clothing. "I need a tutor for my children."

"Fine." Somebody mentioned a price, and the buyer nodded his head in polite acceptance. Methos raised his eyebrows. Obviously this was no ordinary auction. The procedure had a strange civility about it, if there could be anything civil in the buying and selling of people. He caught sight of a merchant looking at him, evidently gauging his strength as a prospective addition to some workforce, and he glared fiercely. The merchant flinched, stepping back in sudden haste, and nearly colliding with Saevus. The trader barely got out of the way in time, clearly unimpressed by the clumsiness of his customer.

"I hear the train has arrived." The voice was loud, and filled with self assurance. It came from the door, and even as the last syllables echoed away, Methos felt his hackles rising. An Immortal, close by and coming closer. He looked at Kronos and his friend frowned, gazing towards the door. The pair tuned in tandem, staring at the figure as he appeared, meeting his gaze with cold hostility.

"Well well. Saevus old fellow, you've excelled yourself." Striding into the room with clear confidence, a large man wearing a huge, curved sword clapped the trader on the back. "I'm looking for two men to--" He broke off, as though noticing Methos and Kronos for the first time. "Perfect! I'll take them."

"I was hoping to save these two." Saevus glanced towards the pair, evidently torn between his desire for money, and his longing to find his own way of disposing of the Immortals. "They're pretty special."

"Whatever. You know me, Saevus, just name your price." The big Immortal approached, gazing first at Methos, then at Kronos. "I am Leon Mortuus. You can trust me." His words seemed to be directed at Saevus, but the two old Immortals knew that the name at least had been meant for them.

"Fine. They're yours, and I'm well rid of them." Saevus consulted a sheet of neatly arranged figures. "Shall we say… the usual, plus a little extra? I had some trouble getting them here."

"Whatever. See my foreman." Mortuus pushed his two fellow Immortals to the door. "I'll be seeing you, Saevus. Nice doing business with you."

"Yes, of course." Saevus watched as the pair were led from the building, his expression changing from pleasure at a good deal to frustration at being denied his revenge. Finally he settled on a vague shrug. Who was he to argue with riches? Leon Mortuus always paid well.

"Where are we going?" As the threesome reached the edges of the crowd, Methos felt safe to talk. Mortuus smiled at him.

"Does it matter?"

"If we're going to have to kill you, yes." Kronos kept his voice steady and even. "What's your game, Mortuus?"

"No game. I need help running my farm." Mortuus was smiling, his eyes showing secretive sparks. "You do as you're told, and you work hard, and I may let you both live. That's the way it works. If you disappoint me, in any way, the penalty is death." His smile grew. "By beheading."

"That's not how it works." Angry, Methos turned on the man. "You can't take our heads like this." He held up his chained wrists. Mortuus laughed, drawing to a halt beside a large cart loaded with empty grain sacks.

"Those are the rules of my Game," he said darkly. "Take them, or die now." He fingered his sword. "You're slaves now. Nobody would give a damn if I killed you right here. So long as we're away before you revive, nobody will be any the wiser." He half drew the weapon. "As far as I'm concerned I can stab you both here and now, and then take your heads as soon as we're out of town. I'll be sorry to lose the extra men for my workforce, but it'll be worth it for the Quickenings. What's it to be?"

"You know the answer." Methos pushed past him, climbing onto the cart without waiting to be asked. It was no doubt the local convention for slaves to walk, but he had had enough of walking whilst others rode. It would take a lot more than he had so far experienced to make him begin acting like a slave. Kronos swung up beside him, and Mortuus showed no sign of complaint. Three other men joined them, one no doubt the foreman spoken of earlier, and with these reinforcements on board, the Immortal climbed up into the cart and signalled for the off.

"What's the plan, brother?" Keeping his voice low, Kronos edged closer to his partner, so that they were more likely to be able to speak unheard.

"I've no idea." Methos closed his eyes momentarily. Apologies were never easy, even - or perhaps especially - when they were directed at close friends. "I'm sorry."

"About what?" Kronos actually sounded confused, which made Methos smile.

"For this, brother. I was so sure that there would be a better opportunity to escape. I wanted to wait. Now I think we may have missed our chance." He sighed, watching the hard and dusty ground pass by beneath them, through a hole in the wood of the cart. "Perhaps I'm growing too cautious in my old age."

"The thought had struck me, yes." Kronos smiled, staring back to where the coastal town was fast disappearing from view. "So we have to escape from our new friend before we can deal with Saevus. We'll manage."

"Will we?" Desperation was starting to creep up on him, and Methos sighed. "He meant what he said, brother. He'll take our heads."

"Not if we take his first." Kronos spoke with his usual simple conviction. Doubt never seemed to enter his mind in such situations. When something had to be done, he always assumed that he could do it, without difficulty. It was a reassuring facet of his character. "What do you say to burning that town down, brother, when we've finished with Saevus? We could drive the people into the market square, and burn the buildings around them. Or perhaps we could herd them all into the sea…" His voice trailed off as he pondered over this possibility, no doubt working out exactly how he could be sure of killing as many of the citizens as possible, without any of them swimming to freedom. "That could work."

"You never change, do you." Amused, Methos relaxed slightly, content to allow his companion's confidence to wash away his worries. He was concerned all the same. Mortuus would have to be dealt with, sooner or later; but it was more a question of how than when. If only he could find some way to lose the chains… But thought did not come freely when the sun was so hot, and he was still exhausted from the long days of travel and rough treatment. Even with the jerking of the cart on the uneven ground, he found himself relaxing too far for conscious thought. The plans did not come easily.


Mortuus' farm proved to be a rambling affair, larger than most, with sprawling fields to tend, and a profusion of grape vines. Animals wandered at will about the courtyard beside the main house, considerably more free than the large collection of slaves. Many of them, Methos was frustrated to discover, were more than happy with their lot, having identified Mortuus as a more tolerant owner than many other Romans. They were content to obey his orders and complete their assigned tasks, without any sign of unrest or undue misery.

One morning, on the sixth or seventh day of their time with the Immortal - days ran into each other, and he was no longer sure of the passage of Time - Methos found himself at work in the courtyard, Kronos at his side. They stacked sacks of grain, recently harvested from the fields which surrounded the farm, and passed them to each other in the kind of wordless silence which seemed to encompass everything that lived on the farm. There was no point in talking since they had nothing to say. The sun moved on across the sky, marking the passage of yet another day in the custody of others. It was becoming frustrating, to say nothing of maddening. Finally, with a growl of sheer impatience, Kronos threw his sack away, hurling it as far as he was able.

"I've had enough." His voice was cold. "I'm sorry, brother. This has got to stop. Now."

"Easy, Caedo…" Methos glanced about, worried. Several other slaves working with them reacted to the outburst, looking up in surprise.

"I've had enough of easy." Kronos grabbed the nearest slave by the throat, and jerked him off his feet. "What are you looking at, mortal?"

"I--" The slave tried to pull free, without success. Kronos shook his head in disgust. These people were so pathetically subservient that he couldn't even be bothered to kill them. He pushed the slave away, sending him tumbling off the cart on which they were standing. He landed heavily, the metal shaft of a pitchfork piercing his back, and emerging suddenly from his chest. His eyes widened briefly, then closed.

"Oops." Kronos stared down at him. Several of the other slaves gathered around their dead comrade, murmurs of aggression clearly audible from within their group.

"Definitely oops." Methos watched the little gathering nervously. "We've got trouble, brother."

"They're the ones with the trouble." Kronos grabbed a second pitchfork, spinning it in his hands with a confident flourish. As if in answer, the small group of slaves began to move forward.

"Oh great." Throwing up his hands in mock despair, Methos turned away. "Now what do we do? Six against one, and I really am not in the mood for a fight." Even as he was speaking the words, he caught up the heavy metal hook used for fastening the sacks, and turned back to face the oncoming assault force. "I hate violence." He held up the hook, weighing it in one hand as though unsure exactly what to do with it, then stepped forwards with sudden force. He reached the slaves even before Kronos did, swinging the hook around in a broad, almost lazy sweep, which gashed the nearest slave across the chest, disembowelling a second before he could hope to move away. The dead man tumbled to the ground and Methos looked down at him, his eyes devoid of emotion. "Oops," he said, his tone free from remorse.

"You'll die for this." With a sudden burst of liveliness such as the Immortals had not seen in any of the slaves since their arrival, one of the men ran forward, tackling both Immortals at once. The threesome crashed to the ground, instantly transformed into a wild struggle of loose limbs and waving legs.

"Fool!" Bellowing the one word in a burst of rage, Kronos tore himself free, snatching the hook from his partner's hand. He slashed at the lead slave with it, precision and aim sacrificed in a moment of pure, delicious madness. It embedded itself deeply into the mortal's neck, snagging on something and refusing to release its hold. As the other five men came in for an attack, Kronos used all of his strength to drag the hook free, sending the head of his unfortunate victim spinning away across the courtyard.

"Stop!" As the five remaining slaves encircled the two Immortals, Mortuus' voice echoed about the yard, filled with rage. The seven men froze, turning as one towards the sound. The owner of the farm stood a short distance away, three armed men by his side. All carried bows, ready fitted with arrows. The five mortal slaves fell back, their veil of subservience sliding back over them, until all the fight was gone.

"You two." Mortuus was hot with anger as he approached the group. "I warned you." He looked down at the three dead slaves, a fourth in evident pain from Methos' attack with the hook. "You know the price for displeasing me."

"You mean we have to go to bed early?" Methos smiled insultingly, his eyes inviting a fight. "You scare me so much, Mortuus."

"You're a dead man." Mortuus drew his huge curved sword. "Both of you."

"Here? In front of all these witnesses?" Methos shook his head. "You can't touch us."

"Can't I?" Mortuus was smiling, his face filled with contempt. "I don't make threats idly, friend. Do you know how many Immortals I've bought over the years? They've all gone the same way. My employees know everything." His tone fell to a venomous low. "And who cares what the slaves see? They don't count."

"You're the dead man, Mortuus." Reacting with his usual unpredictability, Kronos whirled around, the hook descending with sudden, violent force. It sank into Mortuus' arm, going all the way through and piercing his side. He let out a bellow of rage, and in the same instant his archers fired. Kronos fell, two arrows embedded in his chest.

"You're first." Yanking the hook out of his arm, Mortuus lifted up his sword, kicking aside two of his slaves who had strayed too close. Methos moved to stop the big Immortal, but the slaves, eager to be seen to help their master, descended on him in a sudden flood, grabbing at his arms and holding him back.

"No!" Methos struggled furiously as Mortuus stepped up to make the killing blow, the muscles on his arms standing out as clearly as the veins in his neck as he raised the sword above his head. On the ground, Methos saw Kronos beginning to revive, staring up into the eyes of the enraged Immortal about to take his head. The sword fell.

"Kronos!" Beside himself with rage and grief, Methos ceased his struggles, his body suddenly weak. He saw the sword blade flash in the sun, saw it as it descended, knowing that there could not possibly be time for Kronos to move aside. He saw his friend's eyes widen momentarily as the sword came towards him, and then in a sudden, seemingly impossible moment of confusion, the weapon slammed into the metal collar around the Immortal's neck, bouncing off in a shower of sparks, and jarring itself loose from Mortuus' grip. It spun across the ground, and Kronos, tearing the arrows from his chest, leaped to his feet. In the face of this sudden resurrection, the slaves holding Methos fell back, releasing the Immortal and stumbling away. Kronos leapt for the three archers and Methos, suddenly free to move, made a grab for the fallen sword. It felt awkward and unfamiliar in his hands, but he swung it up nonetheless, grinning wildly at Mortuus.

"No." Mortuus stepped back, fear showing clearly in his face. "Please."

"Never beg, Mortuus." Methos' eyes were like fire.

"I'll do anything!" The big Immortal glanced around, but his terrified slaves showed no sign of being any use, and the three archers were otherwise engaged.

"Good, then shut up and die." Methos swung the sword. The head rolled away across the ground, and he let out a whoop of delight, throwing the sword aside in readiness for the Quickening. It rushed up to meet him, swirling about him, bursting the sacks on the cart and showering everything with a whirlwind of flour as the grain exploded. The ground seemed to shake, and the casks of wine stacked nearby ready for the market burst open, making the ground run red with rivers of alcohol.

"By Jupiter…" One of the archers froze, staring at the sight before him, and Kronos grinned, killing him instantly with one of the arrows pulled from his own chest. His hands blood red, he turned away from his highly enjoyable work to watch the Quickening escalate.

"I feel good!" Yelling the words up at the sky, Methos raised his hands above his head. The chains about his wrists glowed white and blue, then shattered into a million pieces. His body shuddered as the power faded, and he sank to his knees, grinning.

"By the gods…" One of the slaves was still within reach, and as he climbed to his feet, Methos grabbed him, hauling him close.

"You," he said forcefully. "Are you any good with tools?"

"T-t-tools?" The slave seemed to be battling with fear as he stuttered on the word. Clearly he could not decide whether it was an answer in the affirmative or the negative which was more likely to save his neck. Finally he nodded. "I was t-trained as a smith."

"Good." Methos dragged him by the scruff of the neck to the nearby shed, throwing him through the door. Kronos followed. "Then you can remove this," he tugged at the collar around his neck, "and you can free my friend. Understand?"

"Yes. Certainly. Definitely." His hands shaking, the slave gathered together a handful of tools, then set to work, trying not to let his nervousness get the better of him. Finally he stepped back, having succeeded in removing both collars, and also the chains from Kronos' wrists.

"Good work." Methos headed towards the door, then glanced back. "The farm's yours, if you want it."

"The - the farm?" Gasping at him, the slave did not seem to comprehend this statement. Kronos laughed at the act of uncharacteristic generosity.

"Maybe he doesn't know what to do with it? Maybe we should kill him and save him all this trouble."

"No!" The slave shook his head so hard that he seemed to be in serious danger of decapitating himself. "No, I, er… I know farms. I, er, I like farming. I - I, er…" He lapsed into silence. The two Immortals laughed, leaving him to his stammers as they headed off across the courtyard. The stables were tended by two old men, both of whom Kronos killed with his bare hands, enjoying the freedom of movement that the loss of the chains had given him. He swung up onto the nearest horse, clearly excited and eager to be off.

"Come on, Ensis." His horse reared up as he kicked at it, and he laughed as he hung grimly on, getting the measure of the powerful creature beneath him. Methos mounted up as well.

"You're mad, brother," he chided jokingly. "You came damn close to losing your head there."

"The gods smile at me, brother." Kronos gave a low laugh. "They wouldn't dare not to."

"You have one almighty ego."

"I have one almighty fire, brother!" The horses leaped forwards, Kronos taking the lead as they galloped away. "We have to find Saevus."

"I'll drink to that, brother." Methos laughed, hearing his joy fading away as the wind whipped it from his mouth, hurling it far into the distance. "That no-good mortal is never going to know what hit him."

"Where do we find him?" Already pulling so far ahead that Methos could barely hear his words, Kronos glanced back. Methos spurred on his mount, drawing level.

"He'll have gone home," he shouted above the wind. "We head for Rome."

"Rome." Suddenly Kronos was no longer shouting, and the joy had gone from his face. In its place was the cold look which always meant death. "Then Saevus is a dead man."


They arrived back in Rome after nearly a week, checking into the nearest boarding house prepared to take two unshaven and raggedly dressed men. Methos emerged from the rather basic wash house looking like a new man, with his untidy beard gone and his hair once more neat and tidy. Kronos grinned at him.

"You missed your calling, brother. You should have been a tailor's dummy."

"Very funny." Methos glanced over his threadbare clothes, once expensive travelling attire, and grimaced. "If we're going to fit in here as anything other than a pair of escaped slaves, we'll need some new clothes."

"Sure." Kronos nodded in agreement. "But we don't have so much as a coin between us. We'll have to get out of this place without running into the owner as it is."

"I know." Methos threw himself down on the grass, staring up at the sun. It was so much better to look at it as a free man, and it would be so much better to look at it knowing that he had been avenged. He folded his arms behind his head. "I still feel grimy from the ride. I think I need a bath."

"Why not? If we go to the baths we can take our pick of all the clothes there." Kronos pulled him to his feet. "There's a back way in."

"I'm right with you, brother." They left the garden cautiously, looking out for the manager in case he was feeling suspicious enough to demand payment in advance, and were soon out on the streets. The bath house was not hard to find, being one of the main centres of social life, and they easily gained entrance through the back way. There was a large storeroom full of clothes left by the people currently in the baths, and the pair went through the whole lot, searching for anything which might be a likely fit.

"Here, brother. This looks about your size." Kronos held up a centurion's uniform, clearly belonging to someone who had seen plenty of successful action. Ribbons adorned the chest plate.

"Thanks, but I'm looking for something a little less conspicuous." Methos pushed the uniform aside and found a simple white tunic instead, complete with a grey cloak and a pair of comfortable looking sandals. Nearby Kronos had found something similar, and they dressed quickly.

"We need our swords," Kronos said, still feeling half dressed without a weapon at his side. Methos nodded slowly.

"There are sure to be weapons around here somewhere," he answered, burrowing about through the mounds of clothing they had thrown aside in their search.

"More likely they're kept somewhere else. This whole place is run by slave labour, and the locals can't risk letting them get their hands on swords. " Kronos grinned at some sudden image. "Not with all those senators' throats lying around, all exposed."

"True." Methos led the way to the door. "Keep quiet. I think I hear people coming."

"No problem." Kronos was clenching his fists, but Methos grabbed him by the shoulder, dragging him back to the door they had entered by.

"Don't be a fool." He led his companion back out into the corridor. "We don't want to attract attention."

"I wasn't going to do anything!" Eyes wide with supposed innocence, Kronos led the way back to the outside door. "You're too suspicious brother."

"I wonder why." They rounded a corner, surprised to see a group of men standing in the corridor, talking together as though discussing business. "Uh oh. We'd better wait till they've gone."

"My sentiments exactly." They turned around, heading back the way they had come, only to come face to face with another man coming towards them down the corridor. He froze when he saw them, and they saw his expression change from surprise, to anger and then to fear.

"You!" Kronos jumped forward, fists clenching automatically. Saevus, his eyes widening, dodged aside.

"Escaped slaves!" he yelled. Immediately the crowd of businessmen turned, running to the assistance of the beleaguered trader. They dragged Kronos off, soon overpowering the immortal pair. Saevus panted, his expression returning to one of cold malice.

"Thankyou." He nodded politely at the men. "I sold these two not a month ago, to a friend of mine in another province."

"Then they were fools to come back to Rome." One of them men holding Methos spoke with cool clarity. "They'll meet their end in the arena tomorrow, and I think I'm going to be there to watch."


"Can you see anything?" Methos, lying on the floor of the filthy cell, looked up at his companion, who was balanced somewhat precariously on a wooden shelf by the window.

"Lots of people." Kronos frowned, leaning at a dangerous angle to get a better look. "There's a pair of gladiators out there fighting. One's got a net and a fork thing, and the other's got a sword, and a shield. Whacking great helmet too. That other fellow hasn't got a chance."

"That's the fisherman. They call him that because of the net." In the next cell, a young mortal was lying on the floor, watching the pair morosely. "It's the other man who hasn't got a chance. The fisherman rarely looses. He's got more manoeuvrability, and if he gets the net around his opponent, the fight's done."

"Doesn't look like much." Kronos watched as the swordsman met his predicted end under the fisherman's net, and shrugged, jumping down. "Child's play."

"Undoubtedly." Methos could almost see Kronos enjoying this as a new line of work; coming here every day to kill people as spectacularly as possible. He could become something of a celebrity in the arena. He had forgotten about his friend's strong devotion to liberty, however.

"We have to get out of here, brother. I don't care how indestructible we are. I won't fight just to keep that lot happy." Kronos began to pace about the straw-strewn floor, kicking at loose stones in the flagging. "When are we due to fight?"

"You're recaptured slaves. Your section is up in a while. They'll have a whole show devoted to criminals." The man in the neighbouring cell stood up, sticking his hand through the bars. "My name is Clatus. I've been a gladiator for five years."

"Some career." Methos took the proffered hand, shaking it politely. He could not see the sense in staying as a slave for so long, but did not show it to the gladiator. Kronos was not so circumspect.

"How can you stay here so long? I'd have gone long before now. Better to die than to stay as a slave."

"I wonder if you'd say the same if you were out there. It's not easy to make a mistake on purpose, to let yourself get killed." Clatus shrugged. "Does it matter? I'm here, and I'm healthy. I'd rather that than be dead, whatever the cost of staying alive."

Kronos shrugged, dismissing the mortal as unworthy of further conversation. Instead he climbed back up onto his perch, peering back out of the window to watch the next fight. Two men wrestled before the cheering onlookers, the fight ending when one broke the other's neck. A long cheer went up, and he scowled. He liked to fight as a test of his strength, but for people who wouldn't know what to do with a weapon if their lives depended on it to watch such a display, seemed to somehow belittle the skills he had honed to such perfection. He jumped down.

"Ah, good day to you. My Roman friends." Saevus, grinning all over his unpleasant face, had entered the dungeon, and was looking about at the cells full of gladiators with a superiority that was truly sickening. "Did you have a good night? Plenty of rest to get you going for your big day?"

"We're fine, thanks." Methos crossed to the bars, staring coldly back at the trader. "I don't remember inviting you in here."

Saevus grunted in contempt.

"I just came to tell you that you're up next. We decided that for two such special cases, the usual rules should be waived. We certainly didn't want you killing each other quickly to get it over with."

"We're charmed, I'm sure." Methos inclined his head in a regal nod. "So what does that mean, exactly?"

"It means, Citizen Aeturnus, that you will fight Leo the Greek over there, while your friend fights Clatus. Then the two winners - survivors - take on each other."

"And when we win?" Kronos asked. Saevus blinked at him.

"When one of the four of you wins, it won't be either of you two. But if it is, you'll be executed. They don't want trouble makers like you here, and we can't resell you. Once you've done a turn in the arena you're damaged goods. Nobody will buy an ex-gladiator." He shrugged. "I might have to execute you myself. That'd be hard." He grinned and walked out.

"Oh great." Methos sat down on the floor again, kicking at the loose straw. "Brilliant."

"Forget it, brother." Kronos smiled at him. "We'll win, and if we don't it won't matter. We can still get Saevus."

"True." Methos sighed. "I can see it now, though, brother. A lucky blow, or a theatrical flourish, and we lose our heads. It would be about par for the blasted course right now."

"Fair point." Kronos, who never seemed to worry about anything, shrugged. "Don't worry so." He pulled his friend to his feet again as the outer door swung back open. A small parade of uniformed guards marched in, spears held erect. "Looks like we're off."

"I'll try and make it quick for you," Clatus told him as they were marched down the short tunnel leading to the arena. Kronos flashed him a typically Kronos grin, and nodded cheerfully.

"You do that." He strolled confidently into the arena, catching up the heavy sword lying on the ground, and leaving the shield and helmet where they were. Clatus picked up the net and the trident.

"Are you sure you wouldn't prefer these?" he asked. "If you've never fought in the arena before, you--"

"Forget it." With a sudden yell, Kronos leapt forward, the sword whirling in a short arc. Clatus jumped back, startled, and spun the net to warn his opponent back. They circled briefly, watching each other carefully.

"Feign left. I'll go right and end it. I don't want to make you suffer." Clatus was still speaking in a tone of gentle well-meaning, but Kronos merely grinned at him.

"Save your breath, Clatus." He dodged the net, slashing it from the fisherman's hand with one swift stroke. The trident caught his arm and he winced, then ignored the pain and let fly with a stunning left cross that staggered his foe. Clatus half fell, and Kronos brought the sword flying back to snap the shaft of the trident in half. He moved forward, knocking the gladiator to the ground, placing the tip of his sword at the other man's neck.

"May I suggest mercy, sir?" The arena owner leaned close to his senator guests in the VIP box, his tone slightly pleading. "Clatus is a good man."

"Certainly." The highest ranking of the senators stood, holding his thumb upwards. Obediently the others present began to make the same sign. Kronos stared down at Clatus, who had a blissful look on his face.

"End it," he said simply, and Kronos grinned. Clatus had fought well, despite the briefness of their battle. He nodded shortly, and then drove the blade home.

"You were told to spare him!" Angry, the arena guards dragged him away, holding him at one end of the games circle as Methos and Leo the Greek were brought on. Kronos shrugged off their hold, watching with a curious regret as the body of Clatus was dragged away. He almost wished that there had been another way to end it, but he was determined to see the fight through. He had plans.

Methos picked up the net and the trident, surprised that Leo was giving him the choice of weapons. He tried whirling the net about his head, and found it easy to control. Leo saluted the watching Romans, a civility that Kronos, unsurprisingly, had omitted, then spun to face the old Immortal. Methos grinned at him, snapping the net like a whip around the other's legs. Leo tripped, cursing wildly.

"Language. There are ladies present." Methos scanned the watching crowds. "At least, I think there are."

"Shut up and fight." Leo came at him again, but Methos side-stepped neatly, catching the other man's arm in the net, and making the sword fall to the ground. He did not wait for further orders, but dispatched the Greek quickly, spearing him through the back of the neck with the trident. A cheer went up amongst the onlookers. Methos grinned and bowed, before he was dragged away by the guards.

"Damn you." Enraged, Saevus faced the pair, clearly angry that they had defied his predictions, not only by surviving, but by winning their respective battles so quickly. "Now you'll pay for it. One of you has to kill the other."

"Well that's no trouble." Kronos grinned wickedly. "This jerk has been asking for it for more than a thousand years."

"Well I like that." Methos allowed the guard to drag him back out into the middle of the arena, where he was given another trident and a net. Kronos took the sword which was thrust at him, then gazed about at the excited crowds.

"Let's give them a show to remember, brother," he said gleefully, and stepped in for the attack. Methos whirled his net around, catching Kronos' legs and making him stumble.

"Not quick enough!" Methos merrily stepped back, pulling his net clear, and the pair circled each other. "One of us has to kill the other and get executed, then we can get dumped somewhere, and come back for Saevus."

"No problem. How do you want me to kill you?" Kronos feinted to the right, slashing suddenly forward with his sword and catching Methos off guard. He deflected the blow with his trident at the last moment.

"Who says you're going to win, brother?" Grinning, Methos darted back, seeming almost to bounce in his enthusiasm. He knew his old friend's abilities well, for they sparred together often. Immortals had to stay in shape, after all.

"Who says I won't?" They fought on, playing up to the audience, soon learning how to milk the reactions of their spectators. Finally, after a long, tiring head to head, Kronos tired of the game, and as Methos twirled his net again, Kronos grabbed it, pulling hard and jerking Methos off balance. The older Immortal tumbled to the ground, losing hold of his trident, and landed heavily, the wind knocked from his lungs. Kronos placed his sword tip at his companion's throat, and looked inquiringly up at the VIP box, where the senator was watching in evident interest.

"Kill him!" he shouted down, holding his hand up, thumb down. Kronos glanced down at Methos, who was waiting with clear impatience. "Take his head."

"Behead him?" Kronos looked down at Methos, a smile playing about with the corners of his lips. It was a smile that Methos knew only too well; one that the younger Immortal reserved for those who were about to become his victims. He raised the sword above his head, and his companion, still lying flat out on the floor, stared up at him, wondering for the first time in his life if he might have misjudged his oldest friend. Kronos grinned, and at the last possible second he threw the sword aside, catching up the trident instead. He whirled about, throwing the weapon with all of his strength. It flew through the air, piercing the senator's throat, and pinning him to his chair. A scream echoed about the arena, and Kronos pulled his old friend to his feet.

"Sorry brother," he said apologetically. "I couldn't resist it."

"Shut up and get ready." Methos sighed, looking towards the onrush of angry guards. "Sometimes I wonder how I get myself into these things…"


The short fight was over, and the two bodies of the fallen gladiators were dragged from the arena. Saevus watched them go past, his anger clearly evident. In his view their violent death had not been nearly punishment enough, despite the fact that they had been all but hacked to pieces. He had been made to look a fool by having them brought here in the first place. The senator's death was in part his fault, and his customers would not forget that. He would find it very hard to sell another slave, and he knew it only too well.

"Damn barbarians." He aimed a kick at the nearest of the two bodies, which happened to be that of Kronos. "Death isn't good enough for them." He aimed another kick, only to feel a hard, strong fist catch hold of his foot. He blinked. Kronos grinned up at him, then yanked hard on the foot. Saevus wobbled, then crashed to the ground, slamming against two of the arena guards with enough force to knock them out.

With a whoop of glee, Kronos leaped to his feet, tearing a sword from the belt of the nearest guard. The befuddled man could do nothing but gape, and found himself dead before he could protest. Kronos turned to Saevus.

"I--" Saevus backed away, his eyes widening. "You're - you're a demon or some such corruption. I should never have--"

"You should have thought of that before." Kronos lashed out at another of the guards, choosing one at random. The mortal toppled to the ground without a murmur.

"Get it over with Caedo." Rising to his feet amidst further gasps of fear, Methos looked about, afraid of some new attack. Kronos shrugged at the unfortunate trader.

"Sorry, Saevus. I hate to massacre and run, but what the hell." He swung about with the sword and beheaded his former captor in one, simple stroke. Behind him, he heard a dull thud as another guard, no doubt coming at him from behind, was dispatched by Methos.

"Thanks brother."

"Just get a move on." Methos pushed him ahead and they ran through the streets, heading away from the arena. Behind them they heard a shout rise up. "You just can't lie still, can you? Just a few moments, that was all we needed. Then we'd have been home free."

"Sorry. I couldn't resist it." Kronos suppressed a laugh. "The look on his face when I--"

"Save it." Methos dragged him into an alley, and they leaned against the wall to catch their breath. A rather large, jagged hole in the older Immortal's side still had not properly healed, and it hurt. He pressed his hand against it, gasping. "Now what do we do?"

"I don't know. But they can't sell us again, brother. We're damaged goods, remember? It'll be a nice quick execution."

"The trouble with us, brother, is that we don't stay damaged goods for very long." Methos felt a laugh coming, and could not fight it. His shoulders shook. "Damn you, you always get us into trouble."

"It was your idea to come to Rome, and to stay here all these years. We could have been far away by now." Kronos sighed, evidently content with the chaos he had just left behind. "So where now? We can't stay here."

"I'd noticed that." Methos smiled suddenly. "How about Britannia?"


"Britannia. That island Caesar made all those trips to."

"Caesar? Which one?" Kronos looked blank, and Methos rolled his eyes.

"Julius, you twit. Surely you remember Julius? Little fellow, broad shoulders. Liked oysters and boiled hedgehog." He winced at the memory.

"Oh right. Julius. The general. Didn't we help him conquer some island?"

"Britannia." Methos grinned. "And we didn't exactly do it alone."

"As good as. Yeah, I'd like to see that place again." Kronos frowned. "On condition we go to Saevus' place first, and try to get our swords back."

"Sure. He's bound to have some money lying around that we can put to a good use. Our funds are in need of a little life-saving assistance." Methos threw an arm around his friend's shoulder as they walked back out into the street. "Of course, if we get caught, I'm blaming everything on you."

"Thanks." Kronos grinned, and they began to head off through the streets of Rome. Half of the city's inhabitants would be looking for them by now, but neither man cared. It was a nice day. Everything was going to be just fine.


Rome. Big city. Had a big empire. The Roman Empire was founded in 27BCE by Emperor Augustus (who ruled until 14CE). It reached its biggest size in 117CE under the Emperor Hadrian (of wall fame). Julius Caesar (102 BCE - 44BCE) ruled from 48BCE to 44BCE, before he was murdered: "Infamy! Infamy! They've all got it in for me!" (You know the story). His expedition to Britain was in 54BCE.

Civis Romanus Sum translates as "I am a Roman citizen". It was supposed to be a passport to anywhere in the Empire, and meant that you could avoid trouble with awkward locals and other unsavouries, just by quoting it. It was a symbol of Roman superiority above other races. That was the theory at any rate.

As for the names in this… If you speak Latin, I make no apologies. If you don't it's probably just as well. What can I say? Originality never was my strong point.