The proud ship stood at anchor, its tethered sails silent and still. She was smaller than the various cargo vessels and passenger ships that were docked nearby, and a good deal older, but she still seemed to shine out from among them. Her name, freshly painted on the side, read Lady Of The Apocalypse. Nothing stirred on the ship, as though it were empty, but in reality her crew was below decks. Their captain ran a tight ship whilst at sea, but he knew enough about his men to allow them to relax when they were docked. To a man the crew was drunk, and fast asleep.

The captain of the Apocalypse strode along the docks, his second in command at his side. They were both young looking men, probably in their thirties, with dark hair. One, the captain, stood about a head taller than his companion, and had a slight build, lithe rather than powerful. His companion also looked slight, but the set of his shoulders suggested a greater power that might be hidden beneath the surface.

"It's a pity we had to change the name," the taller of the men commented, as they left the docks. His companion shrugged.

"What else could we do? Everybody knows the name of the Spartacus II by now. We couldn't have sailed in here with that name painted on the side."

"True." The taller man smiled. "And there is a certain class about her new name, I suppose."

"Of course there is." They both laughed. It was a name that carried a significance for both of them, and one which brought back certain memories; ancient memories.

"Where are we heading for, Martin?" Dismissing the issue of the ship's name, the smaller of the two men looked around as they reached the town beyond the docks.

"Not Martin," the taller man said warningly. "That's fine for the boat, in front of the crew, but not here."

"Why?" The smaller man frowned. "It's 1796 for Heaven's sake. Who's going to remember us now? We haven't been here since 1723."

"It's just not worth the risk. Even mortals sometimes live longer than seventy-three years you know."

"Okay - so who are we now?"

The taller man smiled. "George and William," he said, an air of regal superiority in his voice. "I'm George."

"Fine - George. Where did those names come from?" The taller man grinned at him.

"George is King of England at the moment, and William is Prime Minister. Don't you pick up anything as we travel about the world Karl? I mean Will?"

The smaller man raised his eyebrows sardonically. "Yes," he said. "Gold, silver, the occasional case of brandy. You're welcome to the current affairs, brother, but they don't sell so well." They both laughed.

"Fair enough." The taller man, George, who had been named five thousand years previously as Methos, smiled at his companion. "And in answer to your question, brother, we're heading for an inn."

"Good." The smaller man, William, who four thousand years previously had been named Kronos, returned the smile. "Just as well that that last ship was thoughtful enough to give us three thousand guineas, then."

"It was, wasn't it. It obviously worked, telling them that it was for the Orphans Of Immortals Fund." They both laughed at the joke, and changed direction as they noticed an inn across the street. The door was open, and they strolled in, looking around.

It was a large inn, filled with numerous tables and chairs. There were men and women everywhere, laughing and talking together. Nobody paid the two new arrivals any undue attention. Dressed as they were, in loose shirts and dark trousers, they were almost certainly sailors, just like all the other men present, and the sword belts fastened around their waists were hardly uncommon either. A closer inspection might have revealed that the swords were rather older than might be expected, but otherwise Methos and Kronos fitted in perfectly. They approached the bar, and Methos tossed a coin to the barman.

"Rum," he said, and was almost instantly handed a bottle and a pair of tankards. The barman vanished again immediately, heading for some other customers. Methos poured some of the dark liquid into the mugs, and they turned to watch the room as they drank, gazing through the thick blue tobacco smoke that filled the air. Methos coughed.

"What do you say we try and find somewhere where the air is breathable?" he asked. Kronos grinned at him.

"Sure brother. I'm not sure even Immortal lungs can put up with this lot." They took the bottle and walked across the room to a table by the door. As they sat down, somebody shouted something, and vanished beneath a table in a hail of fists. Methos raised his eyebrows.

"The locals are a bit excitable, aren't they?" he said, and Kronos grinned.

"Just a bit of healthy exercise," he commented merrily, and watched as a large man smashed a chair over a neighbour's head. His victim crumpled into a neat heap, without spilling so much as a drop from his mug. The big man who had struck him took the tankard from the nerveless fingers of his victim and grinned, revealing a mouth filled with blackening teeth. Another man crept up behind him, a chair raised above his head ready to strike, and Kronos tripped him. The would-be attacker fell, the chair smashing into pieces as it hit the floor. Glancing up at the sound, the big man who had been his intended victim whirled around, picked up the unfortunate sailor, and flung him across the room. He landed on a table, and the legs broke, dropping him to the floor with a bone jarring thud. Methos winced.

"Perhaps we should leave?" he suggested, already knowing what the response would be.

"You're joking! It's just getting interesting in here." Kronos ducked expertly to one side as a chair flew through the air, shattering on impact with the wall. Methos made a grab for the bottle of rum, saving it just in time as a pair of sailors, locked in a wrestler's embrace, crashed into the table, and fell to the ground with its broken pieces around them. The two Immortals exchanged amused looks, and rose to their feet, heading for another table. Before they could sit down, a big man barrelled into them, his split lips dribbling blood into his beard, and his left eye swelled shut. He saw the bottle in Methos' hand and grabbed it, upending it to use as a club. It shattered as it came into contact with the back of another man's head, and Methos frowned.

"Now that was just downright unfriendly."

"It was, wasn't it." Kronos put his tankard down on a nearby table. "Would you excuse me for a moment brother?"

"Certainly." Methos watched as Kronos stepped forward. He caught hold of the shoulder of the man who had taken their bottle, and spun him around. A quick right cross dropped the big sailor into an ungainly sprawl amongst the debris on the floor, and Kronos brushed himself off, turning back to return to Methos. Behind him two men reached forward. Methos opened his mouth to warn his partner, but he was too late to do anything more than watch, as Kronos vanished backwards into the midst of the fight. It had spread fast, and was now taking up much of the centre of the room. Methos sighed, making a face, then set his tankard down. He took a deep breath, walked forwards, and tapped the nearest man on the shoulder. The man turned, and Methos dropped him with one punch. Immediately the men around him shifted slightly to allow him into the fight. He caught a glimpse of Kronos ahead. The smaller man, battling gleefully against two men nearly twice his size, smiled at Methos, his eyes bright with adrenalin.

"Hey, do you come here often?"

"Only when I'm with you." Methos ducked sharply to avoid a ham sized fist. It sailed past him, and he helped it on its way with a judo throw. Kronos shook his head.

"Unfair, brother. You were taught by a master."

"It's not my fault if they've never been to the East." Methos ducked again, his fists moving readily as he settled into the swing of things. "You now, I could start to enjoy this."

"Glad to hear it." The fight shifted again, and Kronos vanished, borne to the ground by several opponents. He reappeared again shortly afterwards, looking decidedly ruffled. Methos stepped past him, and with a quick left cross, he downed the sailor who had been coming up behind his friend. Kronos grinned.

"Thanks brother."

"Don't mention it." A chair flew from nowhere, and caught Methos across the back. He dropped to the ground, and Kronos winced. He looked about for whoever had thrown the chair, only to come face to face with a wicked looking individual, sword drawn.

"You hit me," the man rasped at him, speaking through swelling lips and broken teeth. Kronos frowned. He didn't remember this particular man, but then he had not been keeping a record.

"I probably did," he agreed, and eyed the sword. "You'd really better put that away."

"Should I?" The other man spat a stream of blood onto the floor. Bits of broken tooth skittered across the floorboards.

"I don't warn anybody twice." With a flourish, Kronos drew his own sword. It met the other man's as though delighted to have been brought out to play. Kronos grinned at his opponent, and they crossed swords wildly. The gap toothed sailor looked ashen, realising that he had challenged a master, and he began to stumble backwards.

"I - I didn't mean-" he began, but Kronos pushed on at him. His eyes had become hard and cold, a bright light burning at their centres. His opponent faltered, and with a broad swing, Kronos sent his sword flying across the room. The other man gazed at him, terrified, and trying hard to breathe with Kronos' sword pressed against his throat. A drop of blood welled from his neck, and rolled lazily down the sword blade. Kronos grinned suddenly, overcoming his momentary loss of control. There was no reason to kill this man. That did not usually stop him, admittedly, but he had the sense to realise that things were different on land. He was not at sea now. He lowered the sword. Methos climbed to his feet again.

"I'm impressed," he said, referring to the unusual display of mercy.

"Not half as impressed as I am." Kronos glanced about. The fight had stopped in order to make way for the two swordsmen. A couple of other sailors drew their swords, anxious to try their luck against this new champion. Kronos shrugged. He didn't care who he fought. Methos made to draw his own sword, but Kronos pushed him back.

"This one's on me brother," he said. "Watch my back."

"Right." Methos glanced about, looking for signs of a rear attack. He knew that the local people would not like to see a stranger win. Kronos walked forward. He was perfectly capable off taking on both of the sailors at once, and he knew it. He did not even bother playing with them, but knocked the first man's sword from his grasp immediately. The second man was more tenacious, but as Kronos disarmed him he heard a shout from behind.

"Kronos - look out!"

The Immortal spun around. The first man had retrieved his sword and was coming at him. Kronos did not hesitate, but killed him instantly. The man's body crumpled to the ground, and an angry murmur ran through the inn.

"Nice work brother." Methos drew his sword, joining his partner in the centre of the room. "Do you have to be so damned conspicuous?"

"He tried to kill me!" Kronos was watching the other men in the room, knowing that they were going to close in to attack at any moment.

"And how exactly was he going to do that?" Methos asked.

"You know what I meant." The other patrons were coming closer, and they broke off their conversation, watching the advance. The silence was unnerving, but the tension was like heady wine for the two Immortals, who had been fighting battles together for several thousand years. They both grinned, their eyes bright, as the other men came closer.

"Nobody move!" A voice echoed around the room, loud and authoritative. Almost unwillingly, the group in the middle of the inn turned around to face the door. A patrol stood at the entrance, muskets raised. The officer in charge had spoken, and he stared around at the assorted mixture of men in the room. All were dusty and battered looking, but the two at the centre of it all seemed to be somewhat less ruffled than the others. The officer frowned.

"Are you men sailors?" he asked, to the room at large. There was a jumbled assortment of confirmations, and he nodded.

"Then return to your ships immediately." There was a few seconds of inactivity, then the sailors began to traipse from the room, helping fallen comrades up on the way. Methos looked across at Kronos and shrugged. They sheathed their swords, and began to head after the other men. The officer stopped them.

"Not you two. You're under arrest."

"What?" Methos was incredulous. "What for?"

"Murder for one thing." The officer indicated the dead sailor.

"That was self defence!"

"Probably; but if you go out there on your own, you won't get three hundred yards before you go to join him."

"Somehow I doubt that." Kronos sounded faintly belligerent, and Methos frowned. The officer shrugged.

"It's my job to keep order around here, and I happen to think that right now you two are a threat to that order. I'm not trying to save your lives, I'm trying to save myself the hassle of another murder investigation." He gestured at the soldiers in his patrol. "Escort these men to the town prison."

"Sir!" The sergeant crashed to attention, and waved several men forward. Methos and Kronos were led from the inn. Methos swallowed his indignation. It did not seem fair that he and Kronos should be the ones to get arrested, but he imagined it was because they were the least well known of all those who had been involved in the fight. The others probably visited frequently during voyages. It was just as well that nobody here knew that the two fairly ordinary looking men were highly successful buccaneers. Fortunately nobody had ever seen their faces. They had begun to wear masks during raids some time previously, since it was not a good idea to allow their descriptions to become too well known. After seventy-three years questions would begin to be answered. It was only by changing crews every ten years or so that they were able to keep their secret intact.

The town prison was like any other prison in any other country. The walls were of grey stone, the floor cold grey flagging. Sturdy bars lined the inner walls of the cells. The guards steered Methos into one cell, removing his sword belt first, and guided Kronos into the second cell, similarly disarmed. The doors clanged shut, and the two Immortals stared ruefully at each other through the bars. Methos laughed.

"Every time," he said. "Every time I stop off anywhere with you - in any town, in any country - we end up in a fight."

Kronos grinned. "It's a natural talent," he said cheerfully. "Are you alright?"

"Fine. You?"

"Fine." They grinned, and began to laugh again.

"Oh well." Methos lay down on his bunk. "It could be worse. At least the beds are comfortable."

"Yeah. Not like in France."

Methos began to laugh again.

"Hell, don't remind me. France was definitely a mistake. A hundred years ago it was fine, but the place has gone seriously down hill. Guillotines on every street corner. I swear I woke up in a cold sweat every night we were there."

"It was your fault we got arrested that time brother."

"So?" Methos grinned, and acquired a dreamy look. "She was worth it."

"So you said." They laughed again. A passing guard gave them a perplexed look, unable to see what was so amusing about being locked up. Methos caught the guard's expression, and giggled, unable to stop himself. The guard left quickly, and Methos coughed, trying to sober himself up.

"We ought to see about getting out of here," he said. Kronos shrugged.

"They'll let us out before long."

"That's not like you. You're usually trying to tear the cells apart."

"I'll get to that tomorrow, if we're still here then." He glanced out of the window, into the street outside. He could see a commotion, and a large man being dragged towards the prison building. "Looks like we have a guest."

"Really?" Methos looked up, interested, as the door opened. The buzz of immortality was strong around this new arrival, and he watched as the man was pulled into the prison, struggling wildly. He was flung into the cell next to Methos, and the door slammed shut. The ancient pair exchanged glances. The new prisoner had not reacted to their presence, but shook the door of his cell furiously, angered by the way in which the guards continued to ignore him. They departed, and he glanced over at the other two Immortals.

"What are you staring at?"

"You." Methos extended his hand through the bars. "George... Walker," he said, and gestured at Kronos. "And William..."

"Kidd," Kronos offered. Methos shot him a scathing look, but the new arrival laughed shortly.

"Liar. I sailed under Kidd for a while." He frowned at them both, his eyes full of distrust, then he shook Methos' hand. "Ben Ward."

"Pleased to meet you." Methos sounded genuine, but he could still see doubt in the new prisoner's eyes. "What are you in for?"

"Are you kidding?" The man shook his head. "What do you think?"

"Don't ask me. I don't even know what we're in for." Methos gave him a rueful grin, and Ward smiled. It faded quickly, and he looked Methos in the eye, his expression rapidly turning bitter.

"I'm black," he said pointedly. "And I ran away."

"Oh." Methos should have guessed, but such issues were usually all too easy for him to avoid. Most of his crew was made up of runaway slaves, but he did not often listen to their tales. It all seemed very distant when at sea. There, everything was free; or felt it at least. "I'm sorry."

"So am I." Ward stared at him cautiously. "You really didn't know?"

"No. I never thought." He shrugged. "It's not the sort of thing I'd expect to find an Immortal bothered by."

"Makes it worse I suppose? The mortals don't matter?"

"No, I didn't mean that." Methos sat back down on his bunk. "Or maybe I did." Ward laughed.

"It makes a change, to be with people who see me as something other than a slave. I was beginning to forget who I really am." He watched them both carefully. "You don't see me as a slave, do you?"

"I don't see any man as a slave." Methos smiled ruefully. "I've been on the other side too often." He gestured at his partner. "Him too."

"For somewhat different reasons." Ward sat down opposite Methos, watching both of his fellow prisoners. He shook his head, seeming to need somebody to talk to. "I was born a prince; I owned slaves. I rode with Alexander the Great. I shared wine with Julius Caesar. In Ancient Greece I was a respected scholar."

Methos met his gaze. "In Ancient Greece I was a slave; for a while at least."

Ward laughed. "Touché. But it is different, Walker. In Ancient Greece they didn't enslave you for the colour of your skin."

"True." Methos frowned, and glanced back at Kronos. "It was something to do with disagreeing with Aristotle wasn't it?"

"Could have been." Kronos shrugged. "How am I supposed to remember one prison in the middle of all the others?" Ward smiled at them.

"You see? In Jerusalem, during the Crusades, I was a slave. I was taken as a prisoner of war; a Christian captured by Muslims; and I accepted it. They treated me well. I learnt a lot. I learnt about mathematics, and astronomy. I read Ptolemy's Almagest. It was an enlightening experience. But here, because I'm black, I'm treated as though I were nobody. Nothing. Worse than nothing. To be treated that way, by people who speak the same language, who claim to be of the same religion; that is the greatest of all insults."

Methos nodded slowly. "What are they going to do to you?" he asked. The other man shrugged.

"Send me back I suppose. Someday they'll hang me, and then I'll be free for a while. But I won't be able to escape. I can't get away. Wherever I go I'll be arrested as an escaped slave."

"Not necessarily." Methos was frowning at the floor. "We have a ship, in the harbour. More than half our crew are escaped slaves, and they've done alright. So long as they stay out of sight when we're in harbour nobody pays them any attention. If we could get you on board you'd be fine. You could stick with us as long as you like."

Ward smiled at him. "Thanks. But I can't just leave. There are others. I know I'm an Immortal, and perhaps I should be above problems like this one; but I'm also black. That has to mean something too; especially here and now."

"You mean that you want to stay?" Methos smiled faintly. "I think I understand." His smile grew stronger. "Perhaps I can interest you in a little assistance?"

"You'd help me?" Ward frowned. "Why?"

"Call it comradeship." Methos shrugged. "I once shared wine with Julius Caesar too." He glanced over at Kronos. "What do you say, brother? A little detour?"

"Sure." Kronos shrugged. He had never cared for trivialities such as colour; all people were potential victims in his eyes. "What are you planning?"

"I was intending to try and rescue people." Ward had suddenly become animated. "Lots of them; as many as possible. The ones I work with primarily of course. I doubt I could get many before I become too well known, but - just to make a statement! To disrupt things out here. It would be a start." His eyes shone with inspiration. "Are you really prepared to help me?" Methos shrugged, trying to play down the issue.

"We'll fight for anyone if the cause is right," he said off-handedly.

"Or even if it isn't," Kronos put in, but he was smiling. As Methos had said, they had both been on the wrong side of it all once too often. Ward nodded, then smiled suddenly.

"It's all immaterial anyway, really. We're locked in."

"So we are." Methos grinned at him. "But don't let that worry you too much. I've broken out of more jails than you've ever seen."

"I doubt that."

"I don't." Kronos stood up. "I've been in them all with him, and believe me there's been plenty."

"Whatever." Methos went to the door of his cell, and began to call to the guards. He added a touch of desperation to his voice.

"Guard! Guard, it's getting late! I have to be back at my ship! The captain will have me hanged from the yardarm if I miss the sailing. Guard!"

The door at the end of the room opened, and a guard came in. He looked along the rows of cells, evidently annoyed at being roused from sleep.

"What's all the noise?" he asked.

"I have to get back to my ship," Methos told him. "The captain is going to be angry enough as it is."

"Hard luck." The guard turned to leave.

"No - wait!" Methos was jingling something in his palm. "Come on... I can pay you for the keys. Five guineas? Ten?" He held the gold coins out for the guard to see. The man came closer, attracted by the money. He looked suspicious.

"Where did you get that much money?" he asked. "I never earned anything like that when I was at sea." Methos shrugged.

"Don't question a man who's offering you money," he said. "Do you want it or not?" The guard frowned.

"Just you?" he asked. "I can explain that. Not both of you though." He glanced towards Kronos, not even seeming to see Ward.

"Yeah, sure. Just me. Come on, please?" He jingled the coins again.

"Alright." The guard unlocked the door, and Methos knocked him out with a hard right. He dragged the unconscious man into the cell, and passed the keys through the cell bars to Ward, before he began to tie the guard up with the unfortunate man's own belt. Ward unlocked his own cell door, then freed Kronos. Methos gagged the guard with a piece torn from the blanket on the cell bunk, then they locked him in. The old Immortal threw a few gold coins at him, and Kronos rolled his eyes.

"George, I swear you are just too damn honest."

"I'm a gentleman; I keep my promises."

"You didn't promise him anything. And you're not a gentleman; you're a pirate."

"Can't I be both?"

"Gentlemen?" Ward eyed them both with exasperation. "We're not free yet. Can this wait?"

"Sorry." Methos went quietly to the door at the far end of the room, and peered through. There was nobody in sight. He gestured to his companions, and they joined him. Kronos headed straight for their sword belts, and buckled his own around his waist, passing the other to Methos. Ward looked about, and found one for himself. He grinned as he fastened it.

"That feels good," he said. "I can't tell you what it feels like to have no weapon; never knowing whether somebody is going to come looking for your head, when you have no way to defend yourself." He went to the window, looking out into the street. "Where do we go from here?"

"Back to the ship. I want to tell them to take her out to one of the offshore islands, so that they're not in any danger. It could be weeks, or even months, before we're ready to sail in her again."

"How do we get there?" Ward asked.

"We walk." Methos took a deep breath, and straightened his shirt. "I'm willing to bet that if we keep on walking, and look confident enough, nobody will challenge us."

"I wouldn't be so sure of that." Kronos told him. "Half of the sailors out there are after our blood, remember?"

"They'll be on board their ships." Methos spoke with a little too much confidence to be genuine. "Come on. Are you ready?"

"As I'll ever be." Ward joined Methos by the door, and Kronos followed. Together they walked out into the street, and strolled purposefully to the docks. Hostile stares met them all the way, but nobody challenged them. They reached the Lady Of The Apocalypse without incident, and went below decks, breathing heavily in relief.

"She's a nice ship," Ward told them. "Where did you get the idea for the name from?"

"Nowhere special." Methos did not mind talking to Kronos of the old days, but he was not prepared to speak of them to a stranger. They were days that he was not sorry to have left in the past. He found his second mate, explaining in the simplest terms possible that he should take the ship out to sea, and wait somewhere. The man nodded at him vaguely, still drunk, and Methos rolled his eyes. He could only hope that the crew would recover soon. He led his two companions to the master cabin.

"It's probably best to swim from here," he said. "We can go a little further up the coast and find somewhere outside town. After that it's up to you, Ben. You know where the plantations are I presume?"

"Sure. I can lead you straight to them all." He grinned. "I appreciate this; really."

"Forget it. It's the least we can do." Methos smiled at them both. "And anyway, it's likely to be fun."


They swam for an hour or two, following the coast round to a secluded cove, which Ward pronounced as being quite close to the plantation he had worked on. They walked out of the surf and took a moment to rest on the sand. It was approaching dusk, and the sun was sinking towards the sea that stretched in front of them.

"I would dearly love to get back in the water, and swim out there," Ward said, his voice quiet. Methos stared out at the sun.

"It'd take a long time," he said lightly. Ward smiled, his eyes and mind on something else.

"Just to find somewhere," he said sadly. "Maybe to swim back through the centuries."

"All Immortals have a time they were happiest in," Kronos said, wandering up to stand behind the others. Ward glanced up at him.

"You're probably right," he agreed. "But we can't go back, can we. If I had been a mortal I'd have died three and a half thousand years ago, as a prince. I'd never have seen any of this."

"You'd never have met Alexander the Great either, or Julius Caesar," Methos pointed out. Ben shrugged.

"I suppose not. Maybe it would have been worth that sacrifice to have been free all my life." He stood up suddenly, and swung around. "Just why are you two helping me? If it's some kind of trick, you'd better take my head now, and have done with it. I don't care which of you does it."

"We don't want your head," Methos told him.

"Then why are you helping me? I don't need bleeding-heart liberals following me around you know. I'm here for a reason. How about you?"

Methos shrugged. It was rather hard to explain something like that. He was not sure how to define his longing for adventure, his love of a challenge, or the fact that he had come to believe that it was his duty as an Immortal - and a particularly old one at that - to help out the mortals around him. Kronos spoke up before he could, his words as blunt as ever.

"We came here to help you," he said. "Maybe you find that hard to believe, but that's your problem, so just listen; I don't care much for mortals. I don't understand their affairs. I don't give a damn for colour, or religion, or gender, or nationality. I've killed them all. My sword is colour blind."

Ward frowned. There was a cold look in the other Immortal's eyes which surprised him. He got the impression that this was one man that he did not want to get on the wrong side of. All the same, the words were reassuring. Whatever this man was, he was not just some white man looking to clear his conscience. He smiled.

"Okay, I understand. And I'm sorry. I guess I'm a bit suspicious of people like you. Too many white liberals are far from committed all the way."

"No apologies necessary," Methos told him. "Not from you anyway." He looked from one of his companions to the other. "If we're going to do anything tonight, we'd better get moving before it gets dark."

"Right with you," Ward answered, his voice once again determined.

They had wrapped their shirts and boots up in oilskin sheeting, along with their swords, to keep them dry, and they dressed quickly, then buried the oilskins in the sand. It was best not to leave any evidence of their presence. In a short time they were fighting their way through the thick undergrowth beyond the beach. The light was failing, and it was a long walk in the semi-darkness. Ward led the way. He knew it well, and Methos suspected that he was taking them along the route that he had used for his escape. Eventually they came to a place where the trees seemed to be thinner. Ward gestured on ahead.

"The plantation is about four hundred yards that way," he said, keeping his voice low. "The trees go on for another two hundred yards or so; after that there's no cover. There aren't many guards though; usually none at all."

"What's the plan?" Methos asked, and Ward pointed to the left.

"That way is the main house. The guards will be over there if there are any at all. To the right are the slave barracks. They're wooden sheds. We head for them, unlock the doors and leave them to it."

"You don't plan to lead them anywhere?" Methos asked. Ward shook his head.

"Where? I'd like to do that, but a permanent base would be too easy for the Whites to find. I'd be better off leaving them to their own devices. If they have any sense they'll head for the hills. There are bands of escaped slaves that live up there."

"Okay." Methos nodded. "We just have to unlock the doors?"

"That's all that's holding them in." Ward made a face. "But the locks are tough. I've tried breaking them before."

"It won't be a problem with our swords." Methos started to walk forward, but Ward stopped him.

"There may not be any guards out, but there are plenty of windows in the main house," he said. "We wait until it's completely dark. Even so you're going to stick out like a lantern." He gestured to the mud on the ground, wet from a tiny stream that ran past. "You'd better black up."

"Oh good." Methos made a face, and Ward laughed at him.

"Hey, it's not my fault you were born the wrong colour." As Methos began to paint himself, his companion glanced over at Kronos, who was lurking nearby. Ward looked as though he was unsure whether he was brave enough to suggest that the other man also blacken his skin. Methos smirked.

"Don't let him scare you. He's harmless really."


"Well... no. But if he likes you, you couldn't hope for a better friend."

"And if he doesn't?"

"Then you haven't got a hope in hell." Methos grinned at the expression on Ward's face. "But you're okay; he likes you."

"He does? How can you tell?"

Methos leaned close. "You're still alive," he whispered conspiratorially, then raised his voice to call to his partner. "Will? Come and paint up."

Kronos glanced over, surprised to see the black mud spread on his old friend's face. He grinned.

"Just like the old days."

"Not quite." Methos watched as Kronos painted the mud across his face. The familiar features of his friend vanished beneath the mud, obscuring the scar across his right eye, and hiding all save the wild brightness of his eyes. The Immortal straightened up and grinned at his companions.

"Are we ready?" he asked. Ward laughed involuntarily.

"Probably not." He began to lead the way through the last of the trees. As they reached the edge of the jungle they could see the buildings of the plantation just ahead. There was an open space before the cover of the barracks, but in the darkness there seemed to be nobody to see them. They ran quickly, keeping low, and pressed themselves against the near wall of one of the wooden buildings. Ward grinned.

"Okay so far," he whispered. His relief was obvious, and Methos tried not to laugh.

"How many of these sheds are there?" he asked.

"Three. One each." Ward gestures ahead. "They're in a row."

"Fine." Methos nudged Kronos. "Come on brother."

They ran towards the next two barrack sheds, looking back towards Ward. He edged around the side of his shed, and they followed suit, catching sight of each other again when they reached the front. They positioned themselves by the doors of their respective sheds. Ward drew his sword, as a signal for the others to do the same, and with all the strength that he could muster, he brought his weapon down onto the padlock and chain that kept the door from being opened. At the same moment Methos and Kronos shattered the locks of the sheds that they had assigned themselves. The clang of metal striking metal echoed around the courtyard, and Ward's eyes met those of Methos. They had not expected so much noise, and surprise and panic showed on both their faces. The three Immortals heaved open the heavy wooden doors. In the barracks, the shapes of huddled men and women were revealed, a few children gathered together among them. They blinked in the darkness, hardly able to see their would-be rescuers. A shout rang out from somewhere across the courtyard, and Ward gestured wildly to the people in his shed.

"Get a move on!" he said, a little desperately. Methos called similarly to the others, and Kronos waved his sword as encouragement for those who were slow to comprehend. Another shout rang out, and the escaping slaves speeded up, running out of the compound in a confused jumble, beginning to scatter as they reached the trees. A dog barked, and lights flickered in the windows of the main house.

"Uh oh." Ward joined his two companions, who were watching the mass exodus. "Come on, quick." They glanced towards the house. Six men had come from the door, and were heading towards them. They were still half dressed, but they were all armed.

"This way!" Methos took off across the compound, crashing into the jungle with his friends close on his heels. They could hear the sounds of escaping slaves behind them, and also the barking of dogs. As they ran on, the voices of more and more men began to echo about them, as their pursuers gathered strength, raising more and more of their fellows from sleep.

"Head for the river!" Ward grabbed the other two and pushed them to their right. The ducked beneath the low branches of the trees, and crashed on through the jungle, blood pounding in their ears. Suddenly they broke out of the trees, and found themselves on the banks of a river. Its brown water rushed past them.

"Quick; it'll throw off the dogs." Ward pushed his friends forward, and they splashed into the river, following it quickly downstream. It swirled about their knees, sometimes rising as high as their waists, and they skidded and slipped on the wet pebbles and sand that shifted about underfoot. They ran faster, listening to the cries of men and the furious barking of dogs, and it seemed as though they could not possibly outrun their pursuers.

"Where does this river go?" Methos asked.

"Inland a way, then back out again towards the coast, but we shouldn't have to follow it that far." Ward began to pull ahead, his greater size and strength making the water less of an obstacle. "They won't follow us much further."

"They still sound pretty determined to me!" Kronos, the smallest of the three, found the water deeper, and more of a problem. Despite the dangers, however, Methos could see the delight in his friend's eyes. This was just the kind of furious escapade that they both loved. They ran on, splashing in the water, losing their footing frequently. Gradually the water began to get deeper and the jungle became thicker around them, edging closer to the river as though to hem them in. They ran on, the sounds of pursuit gradually seeming to fade.

"We're losing them!" Methos glanced back. "I can't believe they didn't guess where we'd gone."

"Don't knock it brother." Kronos slowed to a halt, and looked back. There was no sign of anyone following.

"They'll have suspected it." Ward also stopped. "But there's too much risk of an ambush in such an enclosed space. Come on, let's get out of here."

"How?" Methos looked about. "The jungle looks just about impassable round here."

"It is; but we can follow the river on." He grinned. "So long as you don't mind a swim. It gets a bit deep after a while."

"What fun." Methos rolled his eyes, and turned about, wading on. His two companions followed. They kept up a steady jog, until the water reached chest height; then they began to swim. The river widened, and the waters became slower, and eventually Ward began to head for the side. Exhausted, the three Immortals dragged themselves from the river, and collapsed on their backs in the grass. For a second they lay in silence, and then Methos began to laugh, breathless at first.

"What a night..." he gasped, still too tired to do anything more than lie back and stare at the sky. "Did we know that that was going to happen?"

Ward laughed softly. "We did rather suspect that it might." They all laughed, and Methos eventually managed to sit up. He was still tired, but he felt elated. He caught sight of Kronos and began to laugh again.

"You look a mess, brother," he said, his voice still showing signs of exhaustion. It was true. The mud had been partly washed off by the river, and had run in streaks over the Immortal's face and clothes. "You look like a zebra."

"Huh. You look pretty much the same, brother." Kronos stood up, pulling Methos to his feet. "Perhaps you'd like a wash?"

"I don't think so." Methos struggled, but he was not strong enough to break free from his friend's iron grip. The younger Immortal propelled him to the water's edge.

"Ben!" Methos glanced back at his new friend. "Help!"

"Not me." Ward leaned back, a broad smile on his face. "I'm a prince, remember? I don't involve myself in fights between commoners."

"Try again, George." Kronos grinned, holding the old Immortal just tight enough to prevent him from slipping, and making him lean further and further over the river.

"Will, I'm warning you..."

"Will? I don't see anyone around here called Will."

"Karl! Paul, John, Simon, Andrew, whatever! Dammit Kronos if you drop me I'll-"

"Oops!" Kronos let go, and Methos fell, disappearing beneath the surface. In a second he bounced back up, making a wild grab for his friend's ankles. Kronos tried to back away, but was not quick enough. He slipped, and with a shout of surprise fell into the river. The water closed over his head. There was silence, then Methos felt something drag him beneath the surface. The waters became still again. Ward frowned, almost becoming concerned, until the two Immortals reappeared again, and swam for the shore. They climbed out of the river, coughing. Ward shook his head.

"Don't you two ever rest up?" he asked. Methos laughed, throwing himself down beside the other Immortal.

"Anything for a quiet life." He frowned. "Where are we going to sleep tonight?"

"Tonight?" Kronos glanced at the sky, then flopped down next to the other two. "It's just about morning."

"Whatever. We can't sleep here."

"There's a place up ahead a way. It'll be safe there." Ward stood up, and pulled the other two to their feet. "Come on. We can get some sleep and find something to eat. Then there's another plantation to hit tonight."

"Lucky us." Methos grinned broadly. "We're going to have to be a little more careful than we were tonight if we're planning to make a career out of this."

"Hey, it was our first attempt." Ward laughed. "I didn't think it went too badly."

"We were chased all night down a river." Methos shook his head. "I have been involved in more successful operations."

"We'll improve." Ward put an arm around his shoulders. "And it didn't go too badly; we're still alive, right?!"

"Right." Methos grinned over at Kronos. "What do you say brother? Tonight okay for you?"

"Well I don't have anything else planned." He drew his sword, spinning it about in his hands. It was something of a habit. "Just how many of these plantations are there in this region?"

"Fifteen. I figure we can make our way cross country. No reason why we shouldn't stop off every few days and make a raid. Have to make it look random though." Ward shook his head. "I wish I could be sure that everybody made it away okay tonight."

"That's not your problem," Methos told him. "You did the best you could for them. They have to take it from here."

"Yeah, I know." The joking was gone, and Ward was serious again. "I don't like to leave them though. They're just mortals. This is it for them; as good as it gets. It's tough for me, and I can't pretend it's not, but I get to believe that it'll be better one day, and that I'll be around to see it. These people only get one shot at life, and it hurts like hell to think that so many of them are going to spend the whole of that life in slavery. There should be something more that I can do." Methos nodded slowly, but he remained silent. There was not a lot that could be said, and this was one time when he did not know the answer.


Days turned into weeks, and the raids continued. It was hard, spending much of the day travelling, and spending their inactive nights in hiding, but the miles passed by, and the plantations continued to be easy targets. As time went by the guards became more numerous, more alert and more angry, but they were confronted with expertise perfected over a combined total of twelve and a half thousand years. Like ghosts, the three Immortals slipped into the plantation compounds, and like ghosts they left again, lost in the midst of the escaping slaves. Sometimes the guards came close to capturing the raiders, but they never managed to raise the alarm. Kronos and his sword were the most effective form of permanent gag, and the anonymity of the threesome remained intact. Only occasionally did a guard manage to escape after seeing the Immortals, but the information that such witnesses could give was vague at best. Three black men, one very big, one tall, the third smaller; but all of their faces remained lost in the darkness. So it was that the coast remained clear, and the three companions were able to trek on together unchallenged. No one suspected the two white men who were passing through the region, and nobody questioned the presence of Ben Ward so long as he remained with his friends.

One night, when a thick covering of cloud obscured the new moon, Ward threw an apple core at Methos as they lay together beside the road.

"Hmm?" Methos responded sleepily.

"Tonight we hit Paul Barrington's place. It's about half a mile from here."

"Fine." Methos threw the apple core back. "Where's Will?"

"I sent him on ahead to check the place out. You were still asleep, and we didn't want to wake you."

"Okay." Methos stood up, and smiled. "We better catch him up then, before he goes in single-handed and tears the place apart." Ward looked a little concerned.

"He wouldn't do that would he?" His companion gave a short laugh, and shrugged.

"I don't know. You can never tell with him. Catch him on a bad day, and - you really never know." He smiled, and Ward stood up, joining him in a walk down the road.

"You've known each other a long time, haven't you."

"Yes. You could say that. We go our separate ways every so often, spend half a century or so at opposite ends of the globe. Then we find ourselves in the same town again."

"How long have you been together?"

"Difficult to say. We've spent more time together than apart... I suppose it must be about four thousand years in all. More or less. Ever since the one man war machine walked into an arrow."

"Four thousand years?" Ward whistled. "And I thought I was old." Methos grinned.

"You are. Very. Just not as old as me."

"And how old are you?"

"I really don't know. I never counted the years back then. There was nothing to count. Nobody knew about time. There were days, and seasons... phases of the moon. None of it mattered much to me. At a guess, I'd say I was about a thousand years old when I met Will. Maybe older."

"That's quite something." The younger Immortal shook his head. "It was weird, being an Immortal when I was young. There were so many superstitions. I was scared of my own shadow. But you must have found it harder still."

"I guess..." He shrugged. "At first I was confused. Then I guess, after a hundred years or so, I started to find a rhythm. I settled down a few times, took a few heads. There were so few of us back then though. Most of the time I just wandered around, from place to place. The world was so different then. There were no laws, so few people compared to now. Wherever you went there was nobody to get in your way."

"Do you miss those times?" Ward asked. Methos was silent for a few moments.

"No," he said finally. "Sometimes, maybe, but no I don't think so. Laws have a purpose, and the world's probably better off with them. Not that I tend to take much notice of them myself. Most people seem to be happier than they were then. And there are so many new things happening. New inventions, new discoveries. Have you seen a steamboat yet? They're quite something. And hot air balloons. Who'd have thought of them a hundred years ago? New advances in astronomy..." He grinned. "And all those mortals getting excited about finding islands and countries that the rest of us knew about several millennia ago. No, I'm happy enough now. Sometimes I don't think that Will is though. He preferred being able to ride for days across wild territories, and fight local tribes whenever he felt like it." He glanced across at Ward. "You'd rather be back then, too, wouldn't you?"

"Yes." Ward smiled. "Oh, I appreciate your enthusiasm George. I understand, really. All this talk of inventions and discoveries. But who's making those inventions? Those discoveries? Not people like me, that's for sure. I don't mean to sound depressed, but it is not easy right now. You can't begin to imagine what a handicap my colour is in this era. The way people look at me. A thousand years ago they didn't give a damn. Maybe a thousand years from now they'll have changed again." He grinned. "Or maybe the tables will have turned." He shook his head sadly. "I'd like to go to sleep for a few centuries, and wake up again when all of this is over. I have fond memories of the past, and I guess I have high hopes for the future, but if I'm honest, the present can go to hell."

"Fair enough." They had reached a copse of trees beside the road, where Kronos stood waiting for them. He had already blacked up, and Methos did the same.

"It's going to rain," Kronos said. "Should help to cover our tracks."

"Well let's hope it stays dry until we're finished here." Ward led the way through the trees until they could see the plantation buildings ahead. "Any movement?"

"No. Everything's been quiet. There was one guard here, but I took care of him."

"Fine." Ward had never shown any sign of being disturbed by the methods of his companion. He found it hard to feel sympathy for the white men who ran the plantations. Although he tried to avoid killing them himself, he did not feel inclined to feel sorry for the ones that Kronos disposed of.

"Looks like the layout is the same as all the others," Methos said, scanning the buildings with a practised eye.

"Should be. Most of these places are built on the same basic model." Ward gestured to the wooden sheds that stood nearby. "That's what we're heading for wouldn't you say?"

"More than likely." Silently, Methos led the way forward. They had got no more than ten yards before an almighty crash of thunder echoed above them. "Damn..."

"It's okay. It ought to drown out any noise." Ward's confidence faded as a jagged streak of lightning cut across the sky, lighting the compound as brightly as if it were day. "Now that could be a problem."

"All the more reason not to hang around." As the first of the rain began to fall, Kronos broke into a run, and attacked the lock of the first shed with his customary zeal. He heaved the door open, and began to usher the slaves out. They had just left the compound when a second streak of lightning lit the world up again. As soon as it had faded, Ward ran to the next shed, and broke it open. The rain was starting to fall faster, and he dashed it from his eyes, hurrying the escaping slaves along. Another burst of thunder shattered the relative silence, and Methos heaved open the door of the third shed. As the rain fell around them, turning the ground into thick mud, the three Immortals began to shepherd their latest group of escapees into the woods beyond the compound, urging them to stay clear of the road. A shout rang out from the plantation house.

"Damn." There was still one more shed to open, and Ward was loath to leave it after opening the others. He ran towards it, and burst open the lock, throwing the door open. Inside it was dark and still. He frowned into the blackness, then backed away.

"What's up Ben? We've got to hurry." Methos shot a quick look towards the other Immortal.

"Run!" Ward hurried towards them, slipping in he mud. "Come on!"

"What the-" Methos broke off. The fourth shed had not contained slaves. It had contained a group of white men. They were armed, and had obviously been lying in wait for the raiders.

The three Immortals fled, running for the road where escape would be easier. They had not reached it before they found more men blocking their path.

"Split up!" Methos shouted, but before they could do so they were surrounded. The armed men closed in, and the Immortals leapt at them, fighting for escape. It was no good. Methos saw Kronos dragged to the ground beneath several men. They struggled together in the mud, fighting to overpower the Immortal. Methos himself was quickly overpowered, by three men who were each as big as Ward. Even the big Immortal himself was not able to escape, but was quickly subdued. The force of numbers was too great.

"Got you!" A man, who looked as though he were in charge, sauntered up. He had been staying out of the fighting, but now he stood in front of the Immortals, the rain pouring down his haughty face. "It was worth losing those slaves for, too." He grinned triumphantly at them all, then his smile faded. "Wait a minute." He glanced over at Ward, then looked at Methos and Kronos. "These two are white!"

"Huh?" One of the men holding Methos pushed him towards a lantern being held by an associate. In the light it was possible to see where the rain had washed through the mud that the Immortal had used for camouflage. "Well I'll be..."

"White or black it won't matter now." One of the men that had captured Kronos dragged the Immortal to his feet. "Let's get them inside. The boss will want a word I think."

The three raiders were hauled across the compound, and up the steps of the main house. Inside the light was bright from oil lamps along the walls, and the improved vision allowed Methos to survey the situation properly. They had been captured by a gang of around twenty men, most of whom had remained outside in the rain. Standing with them now were about eight men, big and decidedly unfriendly in appearance. He heard footsteps, and glanced towards the sound. A man, probably In his late fifties, sauntered into the room. He was expensively, if hurriedly, dressed, and was smoking a cigar. His face fell when he saw the scene before him.

"Davis, man, are you mad? Think of the carpet!" he sighed and shook his head. "I suppose it's too late to worry about that now." He tried to ignore the mixture of rainwater and mud that was being dripped all over his expensive floor coverings, and instead surveyed the three prisoners.

"These are the men?" he asked. Davis, the man who had done most of the talking outside, nodded sharply.

"Yes sir. We caught them in the act. The ruse worked just like you said it would."

"Except that they let the slaves out before they got to you," his employer muttered. He puffed a smoke ring, which rose lazily into the air, and took a few steps closer to the prisoners, stopping in front of Methos. Even soaked by the rain, and striped with mud, the old man retained an air of quiet distinction.

"My name is Paul Barrington," the plantation owner said, staring Methos in the eye. "You have been... arrested, let us say, in connection with some rather unfortunate goings on. I presume that you know what I'm talking about?"

"I can guess." Methos smiled, beginning to feel rather cold in his wet clothes. "What happens now?"

"Not a lot. There'll be a trial, naturally. Of sorts. Then we'll hang you probably." He smiled. "If you're found guilty of course."

"Of course." Methos returned the smile. "In that case, would you mind if we got some sleep? It's been quite a long night."

"Shut up." Behind Methos, one of the guards stepped forward, and clubbed the Immortal across the back of the head with his musket. Methos collapsed to the floor and lay still. Enraged, Kronos tried to hurl himself at the guard responsible, but was quickly overpowered. He struggled fiercely, and received a heavy blow in return, sagging into the arms of his guards. Ward closed his eyes momentarily, too sensible to try something similar.

"Get them out of here." Barrington looked exasperated, and vaguely disdainful. "Lock them in the cellar. They should be safe enough down there."

"Sure Mr Barrington." Davis gestured to his men, and they began to drag the prisoners across the room. In the hall beyond, a door stood open, revealing a line of stone steps, disappearing into the darkness. The guards took Ward's sword belt, then pushed him through the door, sending him slipping and stumbling down the steps, struggling to catch his balance and avoid falling. At the bottom, he glanced up as the guards sent first Methos and then Kronos down as well. The two Immortals rolled down the steps, coming to a standstill at the bottom. Immediately, the door at the top of the stairs was slammed shut. Ward heard a lock click sharply, and he sighed. Alone in the dark the situation did not feel inspiring. He bent over his two companions, and dragged them into a more comfortable position. In the darkness he could hardly see them, but he shook Methos gently, trying to wake him.

"George?" he whispered, unsure why he was trying to keep quiet. "George?" A low groan came in answer, and a few seconds later Methos blinked up at him.

"Ben?" He tried to sit up, and winced, holding his head. "Ow. What happened?"

"They didn't appreciate your sense of humour." Ben crouched down beside Methos. "Are you okay?"

"I'll be fine in a minute." He blinked hard, and glanced down at Kronos. "What happened to - No, I think I can guess." He leant over and shook his friend. "Wake up brother."

Kronos stirred, and coughed, rubbing his eyes with his hand before he opened them. He frowned through the darkness.

"Where are we?"

"In the cellar of Barrington's house," Ward told him. He straightened up and began to walk around. "It looks pretty solid. One door, up those steps."

"Something tells me we won't find it easy to get out that way." Methos stood up, joining Ward in inspecting the walls. "This place was built to last. I don't think we can get out anywhere. We must be underground."

"At least ten feet." Ward slammed his hand against the wall. "Damn! I'm sorry I got you two into all of this."

"You didn't get us into anything." Methos walked up the stairs, and listened at the door. "Two guards out there at least." He wandered back down, and sat on the bottom step. In the darkness he could barely see his comrades. "We're going to have to sit this one out," he said, trying to keep the faint despair from his voice. " My guess is that they won't keep us down here for long. It'd be too much trouble."

"Yeah. They'll probably just kill us tomorrow and have done with it." Ward sighed. "I wanted to keep it going longer, but I guess we'll have to retire now."

"Looks like it." Methos smiled into the darkness. "It's not the end of the world though. We've raided - what - eight, nine places? We've done quite well really."

"I know." Ward smiled too. "What'll you do? After they kill us I mean."

"Go back to the ship." Methos leaned back. His head still hurt, and walking around had not been too good an idea. "We have a guaranteed income. You're welcome to come with us."

"Thanks. I might just do that." Ward laughed. "Of course, I always used to get terribly sea-sick, but it usually settles down after a month or two."

"Should be fine on a century or two then." Methos shivered suddenly. "Damn, but it's cold in here."

"It is, isn't it." Ward rubbed his arms. "Remind me to complain to the manager."

"Absolutely." The older Immortal rang some of the rain water out of his shirt. "I suppose we'd better try and get comfortable though. We don't know for sure how long we're going to be here."


Three days passed, and the Immortals waited in their cellar, with varying degrees of patience. Ward sat on the steps, throwing discarded wine corks into an old crate. Methos lay on the ground, as always appearing outwardly unruffled. He seemed to be meditating most of the time, apparently unaware of the restless pacing of Kronos. Finally, the door at the top of the stairs opened, for the first time since the prisoners had been given a jug of water on the morning following their capture. A guard at the door gestured for them to leave the room, and they filed up the stairs together. A group of armed men, led by Davis, awaited them at the top of the stairs. Davis frowned.

"You look a mess," he said. This was true. They all needed to shave, and their clothes were muddy, despite having eventually dried. Their skin was also streaked with dried mud. Davis shook his head. "You can't go in looking like that. Take them to get cleaned up, and then bring them through to the drawing room." He turned and walked away. Methos watched him leave. This sounded serious. He let the guards lead him away, and propel him into a bare room. A large pump was fixed to one wall, and several shaving razors lay about. It was obviously the wash room used by the men who worked on the plantation. The three Immortals washed up as best they could, and shaved quickly. It felt odd, as though they were being asked to dress for their own executions, but it felt good to Methos to get rid of the three days growth of stubble, and to finally wash the mud from his face and arms. Their clothes still looked distinctly battered, but he could live with that.

"Get moving." One of the guards gestured down the corridor, and they were hurried along in the direction taken by Davis. Around a corner the foreman waited by a large wooden door, and he grinned at the three prisoners.

"Ready to meet your makers?" he asked. Methos shrugged.

"It would be an interesting experience," he said brightly. Davis scowled at him, and threw three pairs of handcuffs at the guards. They used the cold metal bracelets to link the prisoners' hands behind their backs, then they were led through the big door. On the other side nine men stood, facing the Immortals. One was Barrington, and Methos got the impression that the others were the owners of the other plantations that had been raided. He grinned cheerfully.

"Good morning."

"Be quiet." Barrington sat down behind a big desk. "These men have travelled a long way to be here. You know who they are?"

"I can guess." Methos sauntered further into the room, and looked the men up and down. "Can't say that I'm impressed though."

"Why you..." Davis took a step forward, but Barrington motioned him to back away.

"Leave it Davis," he said. "There'll be plenty of time for that later." He stared thoughtfully at the three Immortals. It bothered him that they looked so unanimously unafraid. Methos smiled around at his captors, Ward looked stonily defiant, and Kronos glowered.

"I hope you enjoyed your little stay in my cellar?" Methos shrugged.

"I've been in better hotels," he said, his tone that of vague disinterest. He sat down in the nearest chair, managing to look lazily comfortable despite the handcuffs. "The room service was terrible, and I have a suspicion that you have rats."

Davis hauled him to his feet, but Barrington smiled faintly. It did not bother him if his prisoners wanted to act so nonchalant. They were not going to be able to escape, and he was going to deal with them.

"I'm sorry you didn't like it," he said, his mock concern ringing with vague amusement. "But we had to wait for the others to get here."

"Oh I quite understand." Methos smiled broadly around the room. "So what are we all doing here?"

"We're deciding what to do with you." Barrington stood up, and walked round to the front of the desk. "I don't think there's any question of your guilt, is there?"

"I don't think so, no." Methos shrugged. "Unless we all have twin brothers or something." He glanced over at his friends. "Do you have a twin brother Will?"

"No." Kronos grinned. "But it sounds like it could make a good alibi. Remind me to try that one next time."

"There won't be a next time." Barrington smiled coldly at him, and tried not to flinch at the arctic stare he received in reply.

"Get on with it Barrington." One of the other men stepped forward. "We've all lost a lot of money to these men, and I say we should stop wasting time. I'm not going to risk them getting away."

"They won't get away." Barrington shrugged. "But if you're in a hurry, so be it. I vote we hang them."

"Fine by me." The other man nodded, and one by one the others also voiced their agreement. Barrington flashed the Immortals a smile.

"There you are; looks like we're unanimous. You'll hang. Shall we say noon?" There was a chorus of agreement from his colleagues. Methos smiled at his companions.

"Told you they'd be lenient." Barrington frowned. There was something disturbing about this easy defiance. He did not seem able to scare any of the three. He gestured at Davis.

"Take them out," he said coldly. "We'll use the scaffold in the meadow. The one from last time." He looked over at Methos, staring into the Immortal's eyes, and trying to hold the other man's gaze. He failed. "And Davis?"

"Yes sir?" Herding the prisoners to the door, Davis looked back at his employer.

"Don't be too gentle. Use your imagination."

"Yes sir." Davis grinned. "Come on boys. Let's go."


Methos shifted painfully. His chest hurt, and something was hammering away inside his head. He was lying in the grass beside a ready built gallows. It was made from pine boarding, and it looked grim. The old Immortal smiled at his companions, and winced. Davis and his men had not been especially imaginative, but they had certainly been thorough.

"Everybody okay?" he asked. Ward laughed, and then coughed. It hurt even to breathe.

"I'm fine," he said. Kronos made a non-committal noise. As usual he had let his temper get the better of him, and had suffered for it. Methos sometimes wondered of his fiery friend would ever learn.

"It's nearly noon." Ward glanced about. "I can't see Barrington and the others."

"They'll be here." The sounds of distant voices drifted towards them. "See?"

"I guess this is it then." Ward frowned. "I've never actually been hanged."

"No?" Methos allowed himself a smile, although he did not feel especially cheerful. "You haven't missed a whole lot."

"Anything I should know?"

"I doubt it." Methos shrugged, and winced again at the movement. "It's instinctive to take a breath before you fall, but try not to. It only prolongs the event. You don't want to spend any longer over it than you have to, believe me. It's not pleasant. The best you can do is try and jump. It's not easy with a drop as short as the one we're going to get, but it's a lot less painful if you can break your neck. Otherwise all you can do is get into the swing." He frowned. "Sorry, bad choice of words."

Ward tried to laugh. "You do this often?" he asked.

"Every once in a while." Methos smiled. "No, not all that often. We usually wind up getting put to the sword, or something equally serene."

Ward shook his head. "I don't know how you can joke about all this. I know it doesn't mean a whole lot really, but I'm still pretty nervous about it."

"Relax, there's nothing you can do." Kronos tried to sit up straight, hampered by his handcuffs. "Any fool can die."

"True." Ward smirked. "And I suppose we do have a slight advantage."

"It's still going to hurt," Methos told him. He looked about. Davis and his men were just beyond hearing range, and Barrington and the others had just joined them. "Any time now."

"Great." Ward gazed at him for a moment. "So do I get to know the name of the men I'm going to die with? I get the impression that you're not really called George."

"True." Methos nodded slowly, and glanced across at Kronos. The younger Immortal gave him a slightly stiff shrug.

"Come on, it can't hurt." Ward looked from one to the other. "I heard you call him Kronos once."

Methos smiled. "You did, didn't you. That was careless of me." He laughed shortly. "I guess there's no reason for secrets now. My name is Methos. Not a particularly common name these days. Hence the alias." He frowned. "So come on. There weren't many prices called Ben Ward three and a half thousand years ago, as I recall."

"That's true. I changed my name for the same reason you did. My real name is Segean."

"Good to meet you Segean." He glanced over towards Davis. The men were heading for them. "Looks like we're ready to go."

"Up you get." Davis and his men dragged the three prisoners to their feet, and led them up the steps onto the gallows. The foreman seemed in high spirits, cheerful to be sending the three to their deaths. "I've been looking forward to this."

"I'll bet you have." Methos grinned over at his friends, and they both returned the smile. Ward still looked a little uncomfortable, but Kronos was glowering ahead with his usual defiance. Only Methos, who knew his friend almost as well as he knew himself, could see the slight hint of nervousness in his friend's eyes. A black hood dropped over Methos' head and he could see no more. He felt the noose as it was lowered over the hood, and settled around his neck.

"Ready?" Davis asked, his tone bright and jaunty. None of the three answered, and he shrugged. "No last words? No begging for forgiveness and mercy?" Again there was no answer, and he scowled. He would have preferred there to have been more of a show. At a sign from Barrington he pulled the lever.

The floor vanished from beneath Methos' feet. He felt the rope snap tight, and his head tingled as the veins in his neck were constricted. The rope dug deeper, and his lungs struggled to breathe. He tried to relax, feeling the disorientation as he began to swing in a circle. His throat started to burn from the lack of oxygen, and the pain filled his chest. He choked, but there was no air to bring relief. He could hear the creaking of the rope, but there were no sounds of struggling. The men watching would be upset that their three prisoners were dying so quietly. He would have smiled in grim satisfaction, but he did not have the strength. His lungs still struggled for breath. The rope tightened again. He felt his head swim. It was not easy to accept that there could be another ten minutes of this yet. He frowned, closing his eyes briefly in mute concentration, trying to see past the pain. Everything hurt, everything burned. With the distant echo of Barrington's laughter ringing in his ears, he gave himself up to the shadows.


His head cleared. For a second Methos could still feel himself spinning on the end of the rope, could still feel the burning of his oxygen starved lungs as they fought to keep him alive. His eyes snapped open, and he gasped frantically, staring at the sky, but for a second not comprehending the fact that he could see it. He shuddered, and brought his breathing under control, glancing around. He was lying on the back of a cart. The handcuffs had been removed, but the noose was still tied around his neck. A few yards away, three men were digging holes. One of them was Davis. They had their backs to Methos, and he smiled grimly, sitting up. These men were obviously digging graves. He tugged the noose from his neck, and shook Ward and Kronos, silencing them as they jerked awake. Kronos took in the situation in an instant, then nudged Methos. Behind them lay their swords. Barrington had obviously decided to dispose of all of the evidence; just to make sure. Methos glanced over at the three men, and recognised the evil smile on his partner's face. He nodded. He did not entirely like the idea of killing the men in cold blood, but his heart hardened, and he realised that in truth he had little sympathy for them. If anybody deserved it they probably did.

Kronos pulled the rope from around his neck, and reached for his sword. Silently he slid it from its sheath, and still without making a sound he climbed from the cart. Ward moved to do the same, but Methos stopped him, shaking his head. He knew how much Kronos hated being hanged, and it seemed only fair to let him handle things now. He watched the other Immortal moving like a shadow, coming up behind the three men. With a simple swing he beheaded one man. The other two swung around, but Kronos killed the second before he was able even to drop his spade. The third, Davis, drew his sword, and stepped back from the half completed graves. He was staring at Kronos, looking pale.

"I don't know how you did that, boy," he said, "but this time you're going to stay dead."

"I don't think so." Kronos spoke in the quiet and deadly voice he reserved for such moments as this. He swung his sword around, and Davis raised his own. He parried a few blows, paling further as he realised that he could not keep up with his opponent's speed and skill.

"Let me go," he gasped desperately. "I won't tell anyone that you're still alive."

"Guess again." Kronos swung his sword again, and Davis continued with his weak attempts at defence. It was clear to his eyes that Kronos could have killed him by now, and he found it terrifying that he was being played with in such a way. He began to get a grip on himself, and recovered a little of his bravado.

"There are others coming," he said. "Mr Barrington wanted to come and see you buried."

"Then I'll kill him too." Kronos had not changed his tone, but still spoke softly, his cold eyes burning into the face of the mortal.

"You'll never make it."

Kronos shrugged. "Neither will you."

"You're a fool, boy."

Kronos' face darkened, and he came at Davis suddenly, swinging his sword. Davis saw that the game was over, and his eyes widened in terror. He did not have the time to back away. Kronos killed him with a single slash across the throat, and watched as the other men fell backwards, blood bubbling frothily from his neck. He choked for a moment before he died, and Kronos glared down at him.

"Don't call me boy," he told the dead mortal, and then grinned, cleaning his sword on his shirt as he returned to the others.

"What took you so long?" Methos asked. Kronos shrugged.

"He wanted to chat." He picked up one of the spades. "I take it they're going to pretend to be us?"

"That's the idea, yes." Methos picked up another spade, and threw one to Ward. The big man climbed down from the cart and began to dig. He looked oddly cheerful.

"Last time I dug in a field it was as a slave," he said. Methos laughed.

"Yeah, well you're a pirate now. Sounds glamorous, but it's still damned hard work."

"Yeah, and I appreciate it." Ward glanced over at the other two. "Er... I don't suppose you'd be interested in one more little adventure before we leave?"

"One more huh?" It was late afternoon, but it was still hot work digging the graves. Methos wiped the sweat from his brow, leaving a trail of grime across his forehead. "Where exactly?"

"The Spencer place. It's the biggest for miles. Rumour has it that he owns more than a thousand slaves."

"A thousand..." Methos shrugged. "It'd seem a shame to leave them locked up in weather like this. They should be out enjoying the sun in the hills. Wouldn't you say brother?"

"Probably." Rapidly vanishing into his hole, Kronos looked up momentarily. "A thousand sounds pretty greedy to me. Probably deserves to be raided."

"Okay then." Methos grew bored with digging, and threw his spade down. "That's deep enough for these scum." They collected the three bodies, and dumped one into each hole. Methos raised his eyebrows at them.

"You like making a mess, don't you," he commented, watching as the earth stuck to the congealing blood. It was not a pretty sight. Kronos shrugged, uncaring, and began to fill in Davis' grave.

"You could have done it instead, brother," he said. Methos nodded.

"True. I thought you might appreciate the exercise though." The task done, they fastened on their sword belts, and Methos smiled cheerfully around.

"Looks good, doesn't it."

"I shouldn't think anybody will guess." Ward dropped an arm around each of his companions, and smiled. "You know, I keep forgetting how small you two are."

"Thanks," Methos told him. "Okay, where's this Spencer place?"

"Two days walk that way. More or less." Ward pointed. "We should be fine. He won't expect a thing. If he's even heard of us he'll have heard about the hanging before we get to him."

"Fine." Methos smiled up at him, feeling cheerful. "Lead on brother."

"Brother? I'm honoured."

"Don't be." Kronos smirked. "He calls me brother too, and look at the trouble he gets me into."

"Me? Get you into trouble?" Feigning indignation, Methos shot Kronos a glare. "I like that. What about-"

"Hey!" Ward shook his head. "Why do I sometimes feel like you two are just children? Between you you've been around for nine thousand years."

Methos shrugged. "About time we entered that second childhood then." He grinned. "But we'll grow up to deal with Spencer; promise."


They waited until dark, and then approached the plantation house quietly. There was a full moon, and the house was dark. Methos looked around, moving ahead to scan for any sign of guards, and felt the low energy surge of an Immortal presence. He turned.

"Is that you brothers?" he whispered, then spun around as Kronos and Ward came into ranger behind him. Concern flooded Methos' mind, and he looked about.

"Who's there?" he asked, speaking louder than he liked.

"What's wrong brother?" Kronos joined him. He glanced about, noticing the strange presence. "That doesn't feel good." He drew his sword.

"What? So unfriendly before we've even been introduced?" A deep voice rang out, and a large figure sauntered out of the shadow of the nearby buildings. He was wearing a long black cloak, and he pulled it aside, revealing a lantern that had been hidden beneath.

"Greetings brothers," he said, his voice filled with cheer, and the faint suggestion of sarcasm. "Have you come to give me your heads?"

"Not exactly, no." Methos sized the big Immortal up, taking note of the large body, and the equally large sword. "You're Spencer?" he asked.

"For now. It's as good a name as any." He laughed, a deep, loud laugh. "But names don't mean much to us, do they? We all use aliases from time to time." He smiled. "I've been waiting for you."

"You have? How did you know about us?" Methos was playing for time, trying to form a strategy.

"Easy. Tales, over seventy years old, about blue lightning in the sky when an admiral was beheaded near here. A ship is stolen in 1723, and I see the same ship docked in the harbour more than half a century later. Even with a new name I could tell it was the same. So I talked to the crew..." He grinned. "You'd be surprised what they've heard you know. Some of them have been with you long enough to know that you don't seem to age. Then when I heard the descriptions of the two white men who had just been hanged-" He laughed. "In our business, we learn to read the clues, don't we - recognise things others would miss. We get to know the signs of our fellow Immortals."

"Very clever." Methos stared into the other Immortal's eyes. He was a fearsome sight, with his obvious strength, and with his black cloak swirling about behind him.

"Yes." He smiled. "And I'm sorry, about your crew."

"My crew?" Methos narrowed his eyes. "What about them?"

The big man smiled at him, his expression scornful. "They were so easy to kill; all of them. Most of them were still drunk. I slit their throats to a man. And then I sunk your ship. She's resting at the bottom of the sea somewhere. I'm not sure I could tell you where exactly. Must have forgotten to note down the position. Careless of me..." He laughed again. He had a deep, loud laugh, that echoed around them. "So come on, my little Immortal friends. Come and fight me."

"With pleasure." His face dark, Kronos started forward, but Ward stopped him.

"No. Let me handle this one, brother."

"You haven't fought anyone in ages," Methos told him, but Ward shrugged.

"So? I need the practice then, don't I. Don't worry about me. I've been around a long time."

"Fine. I've never taken a black head before." Spencer drew his sword, spinning it about in his hands. "Come and get me, big man. Tell your little friend to back off."

Ward glanced back. "Trust me Will," he said. "I'll handle him. Put your sword away. One on one, remember?"

"Okay brother." Kronos sheathed his sword and stepped back. He watched as Spencer set down his lantern, and the two Immortals began to circle around it, their swords passing and striking at each other.

"Come on." Methos began to walk away. "There's nothing we can do. Help me to release the slaves." They hurried over to the sheds, breaking open the locks, and trying not to glance back towards the fight. The sound of swords clashing was loud, despite the noise made by the slaves as they fled from their barracks, and departed into the night. They remained unaware of the significance of the fight, imagining it to be their mysterious benefactors attempting to silence a witness. Ward and Spencer circled each other, oblivious to the escaping slaves. Methos and Kronos returned to watch the fight, seeing the swords, lit by the lantern on the ground, as they danced at each other, cutting and stabbing. Methos frowned, almost as if he believed that, by concentrating hard enough, he could somehow help Ward to defeat this big Immortal. He heard Spencer laugh, and closed his eyes, thinking back to the lessons he had learnt in the East, complicated lessons of mental exercise taught by long dead Taoist masters. The sound of clashing swords grew louder, and Spencer's laugh rang out again, deep and resonant, and Methos heard the big man shout out, his voice as deep and loud as his laugh.

"There can be only One!" At the sound of the shout, Methos snapped his eyes open, in time to see Ben Ward's head fly from his body, and land with a splash in the river that ran nearby. In seconds it had been dragged away, and was gone.

The wind began to blow, and the leaves were torn from the trees around them, as the Quickening awoke, and the fire and intensity of energy that had been Segean flowed from his headless body and surged into Spencer. He shook, lifting his fists into the air, laughing harder and harder as the power raced through him.

"There can be only One!" he roared again, and his eyes danced with lights and madness as he basked in the full glory of the Quickening. Kronos started forward, but Methos stopped him.

"No brother."


"We play it by the book. And I take him on next."

"Only if you get to him before I do."

They were shouting at each other through the wind, through the roaring power of the Quickening, but all at once it ended, and the noise was gone. Spencer took several deep breaths, and grinned as he regained his composure.

"So who comes next?" he asked. "My sword is hungry again."

Kronos stepped forward before Methos could stop him, spinning his sword in rough preparation. Spencer grinned at him.

"I'm ready for you, if you're ready for me," he said, his deep voice making the words sound rasping and wild.

"I'm ready." Kronos faced him, his eyes glittering, but Methos grabbed his arm.

"No brother - listen!"

"What?" Kronos glanced towards him, and then frowned. There were mortals coming. It was clear that he could not fight the big Immortal now. "Damn." His eyes still on Spencer, his sword still drawn, he allowed Methos to pull him back.

"Leaving so soon?" Spencer laughed. "Perhaps we shall meet again, when you're not in so much of a hurry."

"I'd like that. Who do we look for?" Methos stood at the edges of the lantern's reach, and Spencer grinned at him.

"The mortal's call me John Spencer," he said. "But others call me Kurgan."

"I'll remember that." Methos pushed Kronos away from the plantation, and they broke into a run, racing away from all that had happened. They ran hard, knowing that they could not allow anyone to see them just yet, in case they were recognised. It hurt to leave Spencer untouched, but they could not have killed him with the mortals present. It was not that easy to explain away a Quickening.

Eventually the two Immortals slowed to a halt, and glanced back. There was no sign of pursuit. Evidently Spencer had chosen not to tell anybody of their presence.

"Maybe they'll arrest him," Kronos said.

"They won't." Methos shook his head. "They'll see a black body, and they won't think beyond that. They're more likely to congratulate Spencer than condemn him. A black death doesn't mean anything here."

"He was a prince."

"Everybody is somebody, brother."

Kronos shook his head. "Not to me." He sheathed his sword, which had still been in his hand, and calmed his anger slowly. Finally he frowned. "Kurgan... Didn't he kill Ramierez?"

"I believe so."

"Then he's the one that MacLeod has sworn to kill. That means he'll fall in the end."

"Only if MacLeod wins."

"He will."

"I'm not so sure." Methos shook his head slightly. "Conor is young still. He might not be able to handle a man like that."

"You're kidding?" Kronos gave a short laugh. "That goody goody Scotsman leads a charmed life."

"You think?" Methos glanced back in the direction they had come from. The plantation house had vanished from view, and Ben Ward's body had long since been swallowed by the shadows. "It's nice to know that somebody does." He sighed, feeling the sorrow deep in his heart. It was going to take a long time to shake this regret. "Come on brother. We have to find another place to play in." He turned towards the sun, which was beginning to rise in the east, and with Kronos beside him he began to head towards it. When you were Immortal, life always went on.


(Your guide to all things trivial)

King George III (of England) ruled from 1760-1820.

William Pitt was Prime Minister of the UK from 1783-1801.

William Kidd was declared a pirate in 1698, but started out long before then. He was commissioned as a privateer in 1695 after a (distinguished!) career raiding French ships. (his treasure has never been found incidentally - last heard of in New York).

Ptolemy's The Almagest was the Bible of astronomy, really until Copernicus published The Revolutions in 1543, and even after that, until Galileo published his works in the 17th century. Some of Ptolemy's theories were seriously bizarre...

The steamboat was invented in 1788, and the hot air balloon in 1783 (the parachute was invented the same year!)

As for France, the Revolution was in 1789, the king and queen were executed in 1793, and open season was declared on heads shortly after, peaking in 1794, when 300 people (on average) were being guillotined each month. Not terribly inspiring surroundings for an Immortal.