SONGS OF THE FIRST
When all things were considered, Methos would probably have lived the nineteen nineties differently, had he somehow been given the chance to try them again. Whether or not it was entirely the fault of Duncan MacLeod was unclear - although Methos was more than happy to blame him - but at any rate life had been very, very different for the world's oldest Immortal since his introduction to the shining-armoured Highlander. MacLeod spoke of conscience and of faith, and of 'doing the right thing'; a concept that, whilst obviously indispensable to him, was entirely alien to a man who had spent much of the last five thousand years looking after himself, rather than getting involved in the affairs of others. In the opinion of Methos - oft put to MacLeod, but so far without any success - people, as a whole, were best left to their own devices. Getting involved in their affairs was a very good way of losing one's head, particularly since there was always somebody who would much rather have you remain neutral. Rather than listen to the advice of his wiser elder, however, Duncan MacLeod had not only continued to fight the battles of others, but had become remarkably adept at involving Methos in them too. Numerous possibilities for dying nobly whilst fighting for somebody else's wellbeing might have excited a four hundred year old youngster like Duncan, or even the fifty year old child that was Joe Dawson, but Methos would have been far more content to sit quietly in a library somewhere, or to hide himself away in his apartment - either the one in Paris or its virtual twin in Seacouver, he wasn't terribly fussy - and listen to his collection of rock music whilst playing computer games. It wasn't a lot to look for in life, really.
It had been a good idea, at first, to hide himself in the ranks of the Watchers, pretending to be everything that he had never been, and at the same time insuring that nobody ever found him, or discovered what he really was. It had all gone according to plan for some ten years in fact, with everybody from the reasonable, ordinary Watchers to the disturbingly psychotic supporters of James Horton believing that he was nothing more remarkable than Adam Pierson; a young graduate student with a strong historical interest in the affairs of the older Immortals. And yet now... Suddenly everything was more complicated, and getting more so by the minute. What did he want moral crusades for? What did he want of adrenalin rushes, and mad cap rides through the streets of famous cities, battling his evil brethren for the sake of some mortal he would probably never lay eyes on again? What did he care for Duncan MacLeod, the man who had risked his own life for Methos' on more than one occasion? It was quite ridiculous to suggest that the world's oldest Immortal could enjoy having a man like Duncan around. No; given the choice, he would definitely live his life over again. He would have taken that plane to Hawaii, instead of staying on and better acquainting himself with Don Salzer. He would have refused that second cup of coffee which had led to his introduction to Joe Dawson. He certainly would not have been sitting in that basement, reading through those old books, when Duncan MacLeod had turned up searching for Adam Pierson. He wouldn't even have been Adam Pierson. He would have been... Augustus Luciano... or possibly not. He would have been anywhere but there. He had been trying to put a brave face on it for some time now; to convince himself that he was happy as well as avoid upsetting his friends by letting them see that he was not. In the end, though, he kept coming back to one, cold certainty. It was December 31st 1998, and he was about to begin yet another year of living a life he hadn't chosen in the first place. He was miserable, and there was no longer any point in denying it. He was beginning to lose track of who he was; if, indeed, he had ever known in the first place. He felt... unfulfilled. Everything was meaningless.
"Hey, Methos." Throwing himself down into a large armchair as though attempting an impersonation of the old man himself, Duncan MacLeod wandered out of the kitchen. "Thanks for letting me stay a couple of days. My place is a mess."
"Your fault for not looking after it the last year or so." Methos stretched, dropping his feet onto the coffee table with enough force to risk serious damage to the surface. "Houses are like people. They need regular check-ups."
"Oh yeah? What would you know about that?" Duncan sipped from a can of beer in his hand; he had brought a crate of twenty-four as a peace offering when he had turned up on the doorstep some twenty-four hours previously, but already more than two thirds had gone. "Anyway, it's only the plastering needs doing. And the hole in the roof."
"Too many Quickenings," Methos told him, speaking around his own can of beer. "Weakens the structure. We ought to be able to claim all those broken windows on our home insurance."
"Some of us would have unmanageable premiums in that case." It was somewhere between a joke and a boast, and Methos smiled to himself. Maybe Duncan would learn, two thousand years down the line, just why it was that his aged friend was so fond of just slipping quietly away into the shadows. The old man tried to remember what he had been like at MacLeod's age, but his mind balked at the task. Some things were best forgotten, others had to remain so regardless. It was like trying to remember your first birthday; an impossible feat that remained tantalisingly out of reach for no discernible reason. He had been there; he ought to remember. And yet he couldn't, and that was the way it had to remain. It was another part of the miserable chasm he was hanging over the edge of right now.
"What you working on?" His curiosity getting the better of him, Methos leaned over to see the notebook in MacLeod's hands. His friend had an almost unreadable scrawl, but he managed to work out the title, which was all that was written on the page. Plans. "Are you going to write a book?"
"Are you going to mind your own business?" MacLeod shifted uncomfortably. "It's something I said I'd do... for a friend."
"What's her name?"
Duncan glared. "If you must know, her name is Susanne. She's a Watcher friend of Joe's."
"A Watcher?" The eloquent eyebrows rose again. "You're doing their homework for them now?"
"She's a Watcher, not my Watcher. Joe's my Watcher, you know that." He sighed, his expression suggesting that he was going to regret having got into this discussion. He had been noticing a change in Methos recently; something that suggested he was not happy with his life, and was considering dragging the rest of the world into his melancholy blues. "I just said I'd help, okay? No big deal, just a little research. Kind of a favour for Joe." He shrugged. "Anyway, she'll be here any minute, I invited her round to talk."
"You invited a Watcher? Here?" Methos was on his feet in seconds. "I knew it was a mistake letting you stay here! MacLeod, do you have any idea--"
"Relax, old man. She's not a troublemaker, she's just looking for some research. She's really into all this stuff, just like Adam Pierson was. Maybe you could help."
"Help? Help what? Some over enthusiastic mortal woman to blow all our secrets?" He sighed, heading towards the kitchen. "I think me and some beer are going to take a walk by the park."
"Spoilsport." The doorbell rang, and MacLeod looked up. "That'll be her."
"Great." Slipping somehow into his role as the perfect host, Methos walked purposefully towards the door. He opened it, his smile switched on before he had even looked at his guest. His eyes met hers, and he froze.
"Hi. You must be Adam." She was smiling at him with the sort of expression that suggested they were old friends. He almost seemed to know the twinkling lights of her blue eyes, and to recognise the gentle upward turn of her lips. Her hair was black and wavy, her eyes bluer than any he had seen since - since - he couldn't remember when. He tried not to look at the loose white blouse or the tight blue jeans, or even to think about the way that they flattered her graceful figure. She looked powerful; her physique and balance that of a practiced performer of the Martial Arts, and he was sure that she was more than capable of taking care of herself; and yet he could not tell why he got that impression. There was nothing about her that suggested she was anything more than the researcher she claimed to be; and yet he knew straight away that there was a very great deal more. He found his smile beginning to grow, unchecked, and forced it from his face.
"Er, hi. Hi. You must be Su-Susanne." He managed a wobbly imitation of his previous smile, and gestured inside the apartment. "Come on in."
"Thanks." He noticed her eyes lingering on the tattoo on his wrist, and found his own sight filled with her identical mark, which seemed somehow to have called his eyes to it for no particular reason. He backed away from the door.
"Hey Susanne." Strolling up from somewhere behind his older friend, MacLeod took the mortal's arm, leading her into the flat with a proprietary air. "Adam was just leaving."
"Oh?" She looked disappointed, and the old man grinned.
"No I wasn't. I was just, er... going to borrow some sugar from next door, but I've just remembered that I've got a whole bag of it in the, er, in the cupboard." He sat back down on his chair. "What brings you here?"
"Research." She sat down, her body language centring her attention on him. "I haven't exactly been a Watcher for very long, and I'm sure you know how hard it is to get them to take you seriously when you first join..."
"Tell me about it." He smiled. "Centuries of secrecy. They don't trust you till you've been there fifty years. Well, nearly."
"Exactly. So... well I thought maybe I could... come up with something. Some research, or some information that's never been presented before. Something that would make them take me seriously. You know?"
"Such as?" There was a guarded tone to his voice, which she failed to pick up on. She smiled, enthusiasm burning brightly in her eyes.
"I want to research the First. There must have been one - the first Immortal ever to have walked the Earth. Maybe I can find out who he or she was; where he came from, how he came to be here."
"The First?" Methos whistled. "That's one hell of a task. Every Immortal who ever lived tried to find out about the First; it's like trying to find out who your real parents are when you discover you've been adopted. You have to know something, even if it's just a little."
"Then you don't think I've got any chance of discovering anything new?" She looked downcast, then suddenly determined. "Well I'm not going to give up. Duncan has promised to tell me all that he knows. I - I confess that I don't know much about the Immortals, and I haven't had a chance even to get to know the ones of this city yet - I've only read Duncan's file so far - it's just that this means something to me. I have to try."
"Then I suppose we shall have to help you." Methos glanced over at Duncan. "Put the kettle on, there's a good chap."
"Sure." He rolled his eyes, smiling to himself. "Show him what you've got so far, Susanne. You never know, he may be able to help."
"Could you?" Her eyes took on a new intensity which he found quite irresistible, and he found himself smiling blindly at her. "Do you know anything about the First?"
"I only know what my research has uncovered. I know what Methos discovered; what he was told when he was a young Immortal." He shrugged. "It's not much, and I don't think he was ever entirely sure how much to believe."
"But it's a start." She smiled fondly at Duncan. "So far all anybody's been able to tell me is some half-forgotten tales of a myth, who may or may not have even been an Immortal. Please, Adam?"
"Yeah, please Adam?" Duncan, grinning all over his face, sat back down with three mugs and a coffee pot. "Sugar anyone?"
Methos sighed. He could remember so little, although it was true that he had noted some of the more striking details down in his journal. He could no longer remember the name of the language it was written in, but when he closed his eyes he could see the delicate patterns of long-unused letters that only he could now read. He tried to recall their exact words, but it was all too distant. He could remember the gist of it though; the ideas and the emotions which had been behind the original writing. He focussed on the unreachable past, and tried to make it swirl back into place.
It was late, and the low sun of evening was casting long shadows about the deserted town. There was no city wall to prevent access to the settlement, and of that Methos was glad. He had come so far, and he was tired. He had had enough of wandering.
With slow feet that seemed barely to have the strength to walk at all, he made his way across the market place, empty of all life but still strewn with the litter of the day's activity. Lights burned in some of the houses; flickering lights of candles and warm fires which bade him enter. Despite his resolution to cease his hapless drifting he could not bring himself to knock on any of the doors. He walked on, going past the buildings, past the stables, past all that seemed homely and welcoming. Soon there was nothing around him but shadows; no warm lights, no muted sound of voices, nor even the scuffling of horses in their straw. He walked on.
He was not sure at first when he became aware of the feeling. It was odd; like a tingling sensation in his head that spread through his upper body and buzzed in his ears like a swarm of talkative bees. He closed his eyes, suspecting illness, but the feeling continued until it turned to nausea in his chest, spilling confusions into his thoughts and making his legs wobble with uncertainty. He gripped his forehead, his fingers pressing harder and harder against his skull as his vision blurred and his mouth began to feel dry and strange. He stumbled on a few more places, finally sitting down, unable to go any further. There was a fire close by; with leaping, dancing flames, but he did not feel able to walk the last few paces that would take him to its heat. Instead his eyes sought out the shape of the man beside the flames. He was wrapped in a dark cloak and he seemed almost shapeless, but there was something about him that seemed almost familiar; something compelling and strange. For reasons that he could not understand, he felt drawn to the man; as though he had to go to him. He tried to fight the feeling, but found himself rising to his feet.
"Take it steady my boy. The sensations will confuse you at first." The man stood immediately, moving towards Methos, taking his hands and guiding him towards the fire. The warmth of the flames seemed to still the nausea, and the buzzing sound faded. Methos could not be sure whether it was the heat which had relaxed him, or just his closer proximity to this strange old man. He wore a long robe, with sandals that seemed somehow old and threadbare. His cloak was also old, and yet the man himself had a great youth about him, despite his white hair and heavily wrinkled face.
"Who are you?" Once more sure of his voice, Methos stared into the fathomless eyes turned towards his. The man smiled at him, the lines and the wrinkles of his face falling away in a chuckle of good humour.
"I am many things, young man. Many, many things. I have been many things, and I hope to be many more. And how about you?"
"I... I am Methos." He spoke the name with pride, although he didn't know how much it meant any more. What was a man with a name, if he had no life? "I... I come from--"
"You come from wherever." The old man turned him to face the fire. "Has your head returned to normal now?"
"Yes. How did - how did you know that--"
"Because I have seen it so many times." The old man laughed lightly. "It is to be expected, the first time. You'll grow used to it, and it will cease to trouble you. But it will never leave you. That is one of your gifts, to help you to stay alive."
"I can't die." He spoke the words with great bitterness, his pain clear in his eyes and in his voice. He no longer cared if this man recoiled from him in horror, or if he called the town guard to have this enchanted stranger burnt at the stake. "I was killed, but I didn't die."
"I know. It happens to all of us, who are of a kind." The old man took one of the hands of his younger companion. "My boy, my name is Akom. I was born in a world long forgotten, in a city long turned to dust. I saw my first true love turned old alongside of me, but when she died, I did not. We are not as the others, Methos; but there is no shame in that. No fear, no cause for real concern. You cannot die, unless your head is cut from your shoulders; by whatever means. That is when you will cease to exist."
"But - but how--" His words died on his lips, and his tongue lay stilled in his mouth. "What are we?"
"We are the Immortals." There was still a smile creasing the skin around the old man's eyes, and Methos was not sure whether or not to believe him. "We are sent here for no one knows what purpose, to fight for no one knows what reason, to win a final Prize that no one knows anything about. No mortal knows of our existence, no mortal must see us as we die. But we know each other from the feeling we get as we pass; the feeling of the Quickening."
"The... Quickening... is what makes us what we are?"
"In a way, I suppose. The truth is that no one knows what makes us this way, or where we come from, or why we are here. We have no mortal parents, but were placed in the cradles of dead mortal infants. We can have no children of our own." He shrugged. "It is life, of a sorts, to be lived as we see fit; until one day, perhaps, when we shall find out our true meaning and purpose. Our destiny."
"Oh." It seemed an odd response, but Methos could think of nothing else to say. The old man's words whirled about his head, mingling with myths and legends he had heard whilst growing up. "I... can live forever?"
"If you prove to be a good enough swordsman, or an ingenious enough strategist." The old man shrugged. "Or perhaps, in these times, it is sufficient enough to be a good teacher. So far all those who pass by allow me to keep my head; and I've lived longer than most."
"Are you the oldest?" The idea of living forever; or growing in years and stature and never having to die had certain attractions, now that he was hearing that he might not be alone in this phenomenon. His head was clearing, and Methos wanted to know more. Ignorance was clearly not the way forward in this.
"The oldest? Me? Good grief no." Akom laughed hard. "I am but a child compared to many of those who have walked these paths before me. For as long as mankind has been on this Earth, so have we. When I first discovered my own immortality I was tutored by some of those who had been here since the days of the mammoths."
"What, not who. But that, my boy, is not what you need to know right now. What you need is something to drink, and food to eat, and the warmth of this fire to ease you as you sleep. And then, in the morning, you have choices to make; a life to go and live."
"But..." He was tired, and didn't feel able to resist. Akom was still smiling at him, his eyes kindly and peaceful, like those of a father watching his young son settle down to sleep. Methos felt his head grow heavy.
"Relax, my boy, and I shall tell you the tale of the first of us. We can never know for sure, who he was, or where he was from, but there had to be a First. I will talk to you about him."
"I'd... like that." Methos managed to stop a yawn from breaking his voice. He settled back onto the ground, which seemed suddenly to be soft and welcoming, like a warm, deep pile of furs and feathers rather than the sand and dry mud it was in reality. He watched the flames dance, and saw the old man's face fade in and out of focus before his eyes. A deeply relaxing voice began to intone, and he closed his eyes. To see would be too much work.
"Adam?" Susanne was leaning close to him, and as he opened his eyes the old Immortal stared deeply into her steady blue gaze. He smiled at her, enjoying the view.
"You were thinking about Methos?"
"Oh, yeah." He avoided Duncan's gaze, for the younger Immortal seemed to be grinning at him. Flashes of his thoughts passed in front of his mind, but he could catch at none of them. For a moment, he was sure, there had been something; some memory of something that he had seen, or heard. Now it had all gone.
"No, I... I can't remember anything." He frowned at the floor, trying to make the memories return, determined to help this mortal. "It's all so long ago."
"You should read your research more often then," she chided good-naturedly, reading a different meaning to his words. He smiled and nodded.
"Yes... yes I should."
"Perhaps I could see it?"
"See... my research?" His eyes widened momentarily, not sure that this was a good idea. There wasn't any research as such; that was the whole point. There were just his journals, in all their varying languages and styles, written with so many tools on so many different media. "I, er... I mean that's--" He broke off. "There's nothing there about the First. If there had been, I'd have seen it. Everything that I know about Methos is here, in my head, and there's really nothing I have that can help you."
"Oh." She looked downcast, and he felt for her deeply. "I guess maybe I should have listened to Joe Dawson. He told me that this would never work, but - well I had to try. This research really means something to me."
"It does?" There was a strange look in the old man's eyes which Duncan did not recall having seen before. He frowned.
"No, it's okay Duncan. This lady needs our help, and as a colleague I feel obliged to help her." He smiled at her, his eyes sinking into hers. "Duty bound. Resolved."
"You're very sweet." She gazed down at her notebook. "Perhaps if we were to approach this from a different perspective? Something else that you remember, from some more recent research?"
"More recent research?" He frowned, staring back into his past once again. There were some memories; some rather more clearer pictures in the back of his head; he clearly remembered one incident. He smiled, the ideas taking shape. There had been that one time in Egypt, back in... but the modern calendar had no place in such ancient eras, and he had no real way to measure the passage of Time. There had been a Pharaoh, he remembered that much. A Pharaoh with a very beautiful daughter, and four high-spirited Immortals who had just happened to be passing his kingdom. Methos grinned as the memories returned. He closed his eyes. When he really, really thought about it, he could almost see the sand once again, and smell the aroma of those extraordinary deep red flowers which had grown along the banks of the Nile.
They had gone to Egypt for no reason other than that it was one of the richest lands in the known world. It was a place where the rulers wore great gold chains, and carried golden staffs, and where jewels of the richest design were openly displayed without fear of theft. The idea of stealing them amused Methos, who could not help but feel that such temptations were designed for him to exploit. He imagined dressing himself in such finery; his usual clothes of bare white simplicity enhanced by a few golden chains, and a head-dress decorated with the finest inlaid riches. Before he had had his fill of this place, the Egyptians would very likely beg him to take their jewels, to spare themselves from the fire and the fury of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
"Look!" Delight filling his voice, Silas stood up on his horse to point at something in the mud at the side of the river. A great, green coloured creature with a long head and four squat legs, it seemed comical in appearance, until they saw it move with sudden, frightening speed and descend into the waters. Methos whistled.
"So that's the local wildlife. Remind me not to go for an early morning swim here."
"It was beautiful!" Sitting back down, Silas rode alongside Kronos, gazing at him with a steady, pleading stare. "Kronos..."
"Forget it Silas. We've got nowhere to put it." Kronos rolled his eyes, grinning at Methos. "Besides, we'd end up with Caspian cooking it in one of his stews, and that I don't even want to consider."
"He would not eat it! It would eat him first!" The indignant rage in the big Immortal's voice was clear. "Why I would--"
"You'd do nothing, you big lout. If I wanted to eat it I would. I'm not scared of any weird green thing." Caspian's expression showed a clear disgust calculated to enrage Silas further. The big man turned to face him, but Methos held up a hand for silence.
"Forget it, both of you. That thing is a crocodile, and we are not taking one along with us. They grow big enough to eat a horse and they're meaner than Caspian with toothache. I'm not going anywhere near any of them. Matter settled."
"You're so authoritative Methos." Kronos batted his dark lashes at his partner and swung down from his horse, showing a youthful energy and exuberance which belied the cold heart of the killer he so often proved to be. "First stop, the headman's place."
"Straight to the top, of course." Methos jumped to the ground, trusting his horse not to wander if he left it where it was. "Do you suppose they've heard of us?"
"Take a look around, brother." Kronos gestured with one mail-clad arm, pointing towards the crowds of people along the Nile. They had ceased their work and were staring in evident fear towards the foursome. One or two of the women snatched up their children, carrying them swiftly away in their arms. "I think they've heard of us."
"Jolly good." Methos drew his sword, hefting it in his hand. "What are we waiting for then?"
"Doomsday." Kronos laughed, his eyes glittering in the light of the high, bright sun. He stepped forward, leading the way as the four men walked towards the large, stone building that could only have been the palace. A handful of guards blocked their way, but Silas felled three with a single stroke of his mighty axe, leaving the rest scattering in fear and confusion.
"After you, brother." Kronos bowed low, gesturing with his sword that Methos should precede him into the palace. The older Immortal nodded politely.
"Don't mind if I do." He strolled in, the others close behind him, and stared around at the white paving and the painted walls. "Nice. I might stay."
"Who are you?" The voice was authoritative, and filled with the sort of fearlessness bound to attract a Horseman's attention. As one the foursome turned, looking straight towards a tall woman with braided hair and a necklace of purest gold. She stared at them through haughty eyes, strikingly blue, and raised so that she could look down on the intruders. Her arms, heavily decorated with rich looking bracelets, were folded imperiously across her chest. "What are you doing in the palace of the Pharaoh?"
"Pharaoh? He's the guy in charge?" Kronos wandered towards her, clearly taken by her stylish beauty, to say nothing of her evident wealth. "And you would be...?"
"His daughter, the Princess Neletia." Her face darkened into a heavy frown. "I asked you a question."
"You did indeed." He was grinning even more now, and sheathing his sword with a flourish he caught her hand, spinning her into his arms. She struggled, but could do nothing to break his iron hold. "I, my lady, am Kronos, and these are my Horsemen. The Horsemen. Of the Apocalypse. Or so we're called."
"The--" She ceased her struggles momentarily, then began again with renewed earnest. "What do you want here?"
"Many things. You, possibly." He laughed lightly, then pushed her into Methos' waiting embrace. "We want to speak to your father. He in?"
"My father is in his parlour, taking his meal." She stood still now, the fear clear on her face despite her best efforts to hide it. "I can take you to him."
"Much obliged." Methos released his bear-like hold around her, and instead took her wrist firmly in one hand. The white of his skin, even with its dark tan, contrasted sharply with her rich, dark brown colour, and the effect pleased him. He liked this woman, and he hoped to get the chance to know her more completely. "Lead on."
"It's this way." She began to lead the way down the paved corridor, her sandalled feet making little noise on the stones, unlike the heavy clatter of Silas' boots. They were almost at the impressive, carved wooden door at the end of the corridor when the four Immortals felt the distinct sensation of another of their kind. Methos slowed, staring at the door.
"Does your father have guests?" he asked. Neletia frowned, clearly wondering how he knew this.
"Yes. A... a travelling scholar and his companion. A seer, I believe. He has been making predictions, reading dreams, assisting the farmers in their preparations for the next season's weather."
"Really?" Methos raised his eyebrows at Kronos, who drew his sword.
"Two Immortals," he said, clearly caring little for what the princess might hear. "Open the door, Silas. Let's introduce ourselves."
"Sure Kronos." The big Immortal moved forwards, throwing open the massive door without raising a sweat. Inside the room beyond the door, three men were seated at a large table, beset with fruits and meats. One was dark-skinned, his finery marking him out as the father of Neletia, whilst the other two were lighter in colour, although neither was as white as the Horsemen. These two rose to their feet as the foursome entered. Methos frowned. One of them, the elder looking of the two, seemed somehow familiar. There was something about his lined face, and about the kindly, scholarly appearance lent to him by the white beard.
"Hello." Kronos entered the room first, staring at the surprised diners one after the other. His eyes lingered on the Pharaoh for the longest, and a lazy smile lit his eyes. "Nice place you've got here, Fairy."
"My title is Pharaoh." There was ice in his voice and in his eyes, and Kronos raised his eyebrows in amusement.
"Ah." The Immortal glanced back at Methos, grinning. "Well I am Kronos, and these are my Horsemen. You may have heard of us?" The suddenly ashen face was the only answer that he needed. "We're here for all your gold, jewels, women... anything else that takes our fancy. Your daughter I think. We've all become rather attached to her."
"You leave my daughter alone." The Pharaoh laid his hand on a knife resting in his belt, which seemed to be more heavily decorated with jewels even than his daughter's bracelets. His eyes sought out the two men who had been dining with him. "Is this what you meant? Is this the catastrophe you warned me of? The coming that I couldn't avoid?"
"It may have been." The white-haired old man was staring at Methos with bright, intelligent eyes. "But then again, it may not." He smiled. "I see effects, not causes, and I cannot tell you any more about this than I have done so already." He bowed to the Horsemen, then to the Pharaoh. "We must be going."
"Not so fast, old man." Methos moved forward, catching the ancient fellow by the arm. "Who are you? Why do I feel as though I've seen you somewhere before?"
"I have been many things, in many places, Methos. We are sure to have met somewhere."
"And none of it matters now. You will take your riches, of that I have no doubt, but you will leave Egypt with its greatness intact, and you will do nothing to harm the royal family." The second voice was calm and soft, and it came from the other Immortal; the one accompanying the old man. Methos looked at him, seeing dark eyes that seemed to have no end, and a pale brown skin that suggested at something of the Orient, and yet spoke of many other places besides. He opened his mouth to speak, but could think of nothing to say.
"Methos?" Kronos was calling to him, but the other Horseman could not tear his eyes away from the extraordinary man staring at him; the eyes so all-encompassing, so enthralling, so greatly filled with so very much. He frowned.
"We will leave Egypt soon brother," he said, his words clearly directed at Kronos despite his inability to look at his friend. "There is nothing for us here."
"But the gold, the jewels--" Kronos walked closer, but the strange Immortal still holding Methos' gaze raised an arm, the flat of his hand touching the younger Immortal's chest. Kronos stopped as though held back by an army. No anger filled his face, and his arms remained by his sides. The flicker of a frown crossed his face, and nothing more.
"I'll give you anything. Please." The Pharaoh ran forward, confused by this altercation, but determined to do what he could to prevent any of the violence for which the Horsemen were so famed. His eyes scanned Caspian, confused and clearly bothered by this sudden inactivity; scanned Silas, who was staring at them all with his usual air of warped innocence; scanned Kronos, who was standing very still, his eyes filled with a strange calm that was oddly relaxing, and seemed to carry the greatest sense of understanding. Finally the Pharaoh looked at Methos, and pulled the biggest and most impressive of the gold bracelets from around his wrist. He fastened it onto the Immortal without searching for permission, and tried to find some light of clarity in the other man's oddly unfocussed eyes.
"Tell everybody that this is from Khyan. They'll give you all that you seek. Jewels, gold - just leave me my daughter."
"Neletia." Kronos spoke the word with a clear wistfulness. "I shall regret not taking her along."
"Me too." Methos smiled. "But we have no choice." He clamped his hand around the bracelet on his other wrist and seemed suddenly to come to himself. "We must be off."
"Yes." Kronos sheathed his sword, heading for the door. He offered Neletia a half bow on his way out, and gestured to Silas and Caspian. "Come along."
"But--" There was indignation in the latter's eyes, but Kronos ignored him.
"We have what we came here for, brother."
Methos nodded in agreement.
"And more besides. Come on." He joined Kronos, pausing only for the briefest of seconds to glance back at the two Immortals. He could feel their presence more powerfully than any other of his kind that he had ever encountered, and yet he had no desire to take their heads. They seemed to mean something to him, in a way that he could not understand. The darker of the pair raised a hand in farewell as the Horsemen left, and Methos felt the man's image burning itself into his brain. He smiled, and then the door swung shut again, and they were alone in the corridor, and it seemed as though the world once more began to spin.
"Akom." Methos spoke the word as though it were a great revelation. Susanne blinked in surprise.
"Did you remember something?" she asked. Methos stared at her as though seeing her for the first time; clearly confused by her presence but determined not to let it get to him. He turned to Duncan, clear excitement in his eyes.
"Akom! The man who first told me that I was an Immortal - his name was Akom!" He leaned back into his chair, tapping with his fingers on the arms. His right hand reached for his left wrist, touching it gently as though feeling for something that should be there. "I don't quite recall... There was another. One we met in Egypt. Pharaoh Khyan was there, I remember that much, and I know that I was there with Kronos and the others because we were always together back then." His fingers gripped his wrist tighter, a frown creasing his brow. "He gave me a bracelet. Or - or... somebody gave me a bracelet. Gold, and - and I kept it for years. 500BC I think it was when I lost it. I can't be sure of course, different calendar and all that. Nobody called it 500BC." He frowned, looking straight at MacLeod but not seeming to see him. "Australia. It was Kronos - his idea. We were supposed to swim from somewhere to - to somewhere else. When we climbed out of the sea the bracelet was gone. Wow."
"Er... Could I maybe say something at this point?" Susanne, her eyes wide and her face oddly pale, was sitting bolt upright in her chair, her fingers gripping the armrests so tightly that it seemed they might break loose in her hands. "Adam?"
"What?" He turned to her, then froze. "Oh, er, Susanne. I..."
"Don't ever say that age brings wisdom." Duncan sighed, slapping his ancient friend on the back and refilling their mortal visitor's coffee cup. "Susanne, I'm sorry. We should have told you earlier. If you'd read the files before you came over here you might well have found it out for yourself, although I'm not altogether sure how much is in there."
"He's an Immortal. An old Immortal." She stared at the coffee in her cup. "500BC? I--" It came to her in a sudden revelation of logic. "He's Methos!"
"Hi." Methos smiled ruefully, his hands drawing odd patterns in his lap. "Er... Look it really doesn't matter. I - I don't bite." He rubbed his head, his clear attraction to the woman confusing his words even more than his current predicament. "Look, er... I can still help you with your research and all the rest of it. It - it's just that I have to do a little more remembering than you'd thought." His eyes brightened as he leaned towards her. "I want to help you, really. It's like I said before; all Immortals want to know about the First, and - and if it's possible that I know something about it, or - or that I could know - well I want to find out. If anybody has met the First, or heard something about him, then it's got to be me. You have to help me to remember."
"This is rather a lot to take in one afternoon, Adam." She leaned back in her chair, finally seeming able to relax. "I'd certainly like to find out anything that you might know, but--" She smiled. "I don't know why I'm surprised. If I can accept that there's such a thing as the Immortals, why shouldn't you be one? And why not be the oldest? It's just - it was a bit of a surprise. You know?"
"I'm sorry." He took her hand, almost spilling her coffee in the process, and finally deciding that the best thing to do was simply to take it from her and set it on the table. "If it's any consolation - any consolation at all - it was a hell of a surprise to me too at first. At least I imagine that it probably was. I really don't remember." He grinned, quite charmingly. "I'm only five thousand years older than you. Well, call it four thousand nine hundred and seventy-five - or thereabouts. And I've still got all my own teeth."
She laughed, shaking her head slightly to show a faint exasperation.
"You're very sweet."
His eyes lit up, a teasing glint appearing within them.
"Now I just know that you meant to say strong, hard and extremely macho."
"No, I meant sweet." She sighed, looking towards Duncan, who seemed to want to be elsewhere. "Do you think that this is a good idea?"
"Me?" He shrugged. "Who am I to argue with a man more than ten times my age? I want to find out about the First as much as the next Immortal, and if Methos thinks he might know something useful where better to start?" He shrugged. "But I've known him several years now, and in all that time he hasn't been able to remember anything about his early days, and everything before about three thousand years ago seems to be very sketchy. I don't think you'll get anything especially worthwhile out of him."
"There might be a way." She toyed with the necklace at her throat. "Adam - Methos, sorry. Would... would you let me hypnotise you?"
"Hypnotise me?" He was silent for a second, his eyes seeming to search out MacLeod's approval. "I guess so. If you think it would work." He frowned. "So long as you don't make me think I'm an albatross whenever you say 'baked potato', or something equally weird."
"I promise not to turn you into an albatross." She exchanged a grin with Duncan. "Would now be a good time?"
"I've got nothing special planned for the next century or two." He settled back into his chair. "Carry on."
"Cool." She pulled the necklace loose, dangling it from her fingertips in a curiously enticing way. "Are you ready?"
"I suppose so." He smiled at her and she smiled back, beginning to swing the necklace back and forth. He allowed his body to relax, and tried to think of nothing at all.
"Where are you Methos?"
He heard her voice calling to him through an unfathomable void, and he relaxed into it.
"In my apartment."
"What year is it?"
"1998. For a little while longer."
"Good." There was a pause, as though she might be looking towards someone else in the room, but Methos couldn't remember who that might be. He thought that he heard her asking somebody something, but he could not hear their answer. "Okay Methos, I want to take you back a way. We're going to explore your past. Are you with me so far?"
"All the way." He smiled in a strangely lascivious manner. "Carry on."
"Why thankyou." There was a dry smile behind her voice. "Alright, we'll go back. Right back. I want you to go to the day that you met that man, when you first became an Immortal."
"Right back." He was frowning, although he was not himself aware of it. Susanne rested a hand on his forehead. Strictly speaking she should take him back slowly, a decade or two at a time; but whereas that was fine for a sixty year old mortal in therapy, it was hardly feasible in the case of a five thousand year old man. It would take far too long.
"Be careful," Duncan warned her. She frowned a question, and he shrugged.
"You're heading into dangerous waters. Methos wasn't always the man you think he is. If you take him back, you could be unleashing something the world hasn't seen in three thousand years."
"Lovely." She smiled hesitantly, then turned back to her subject. "Okay Methos, slowly now. Let yourself walk back through Time. I want to hear anything that this man Akom told you about the First; preferably in English if you can manage that. You know where you're headed for?"
"No idea..." He was falling deeper and deeper into a state of utter relaxation, and he could no longer hear his own words. Something seemed to be enfolding him, smothering him with a sensation that he found he did not want to throw off. He sighed a deep heavy sigh of diminishing consciousness, aware that a part of his mind was headed somewhere that the rest of him could not possibly follow, and then let utter darkness swamp his mind. Somewhere, from some place deep within him, the words of Akom came again.
"It was a time long ago. Long, long ago. The Earth was filled with strange beasts that challenged the humans for supremacy of the Earth. Huge mammoths, who fought each other with tusks twenty paces long. Longer. Their skin was thick and woollen, and they could kill a man with one blow from their trunks. They were so huge that it was hard to imagine any mortal ever successfully overthrowing one of their number; but they did. They fought sabre-toothed cats as well; cats larger than any still alive on the Earth today, with teeth so huge that their mouths could not close completely around them. It took skill and strength to survive a single day in the world then, and the mortals were a race of men so strong and cunning that they believed they might one day challenge the gods they had chosen for themselves.
"It is told that the gods disapproved of this. They believed that mankind grew too big in the mind, and not big enough in the heart, and so they held a meeting; a great Conference Of The Gods, to decide what was to be done about the mortals and their growing foolishness. In the end it was decided that one of the gods should be sent down to watch over the mortals from close by; to see that what they were doing was right, and to guide them when necessary. But the gods could not decide which of their number it should be, since none of them wanted to take the responsibility themselves.
"Finally, when they were beginning to think that the plan would have to be abandoned, one of the gods heard a voice coming from the Earth. One of the mortals was singing a song, and it seemed to them that the whole world had stopped to hear it. It was a song showing all that was wrong with the world, and all that was one day going to become worse, as the mortals spread themselves over their playground. The gods were impressed beyond all measure, so they drew the singer into the heavens and made him sing for them again. His words touched them deeply, and they decided that this was the man for them; that he should be the one who should walk amongst the mortals to try to ensure their obedience to the rules of Eternity. But he refused the task. He was a simple mortal; a singer of songs and a teller of tales, who worked magic but knew little about it. And so the gods hit upon a compromise. The singer, a man from the East named Faroukh, would return to the Earth and sing his songs to the mortals. Those who listened with closer ears than the others; those who were closest to the magic when he sang, would lose their mortality and become as gods; living gods; unable to die except at each other's hands. The idea was that they could then compete, and the greatest of them would be the one most fitting to rule the Earth. But things did not go according to plan. Some of those who were touched by the magic were not fitting to be a part of it; yet their immortality could not be taken away. They pursued Faroukh through the years, trying to kill him, so that he could make no more of their kind and therefore make it easier for them to win the contest. He had to weave a new spell; a new way to create Immortals that would allow him to remain unseen. He had to call for unborn children, babies whose true origins even he was not aware of, to secretly replace the dead children of those he met. It was a way that made it impossible to choose those best suited to immortality, and the numbers of the evil Immortals grew beyond all measure. The gods had to make more and more Immortals, in an attempt to swamp the numbers of evils ones with a greater number of those that were good. Instead of being a contest that would last a few years, it became a battle that raged for thousands of years. Faroukh was no longer seen on the Earth, and the creation of new Immortals was left to the winds. Nobody knows what happened to the singer, or even to the gods who gave him his task. They moved on, most likely, to some other place. Perhaps the place that Immortals go to when they die. Who knows?"
Duncan smiled, his eyes searching out Susanne's. She sat slumped back in her chair, staring at the vacant peace etched on the face of the hypnotised man before her. She sighed.
"I can't believe any of that. I can't write all that lot up and hand it in to Dawson and the others. I'd be laughed out of the Watchers."
"We tried to tell you that there are no straight answers when it comes to the story of Immortality." He laughed gently. "Forget it, Susanne. Even Methos can't tell you what you want to know. He's old, sure, but the tales tell that there have been Immortals here for as long as their have been sapient mortals. Maybe... maybe we're all that's left of some alien race that came here millennia ago. Or maybe we're just genetic mutations. Maybe the stories we tell each other of being sent to replace dead infants are nothing but wishful thinking on our part; an attempt to make ourselves seem more than what we are. Maybe there's no Game, and no Prize. Who the hell knows? I do know that you're not going to get your answers from him. He's not the fountain of all knowledge, or the source of all truth. He's just a guy."
"A guy who happens to be five thousand years old. If I'm going to find out the truth, I'm going to find it through him." She frowned, resolution burning in her eyes. "Don't give up on this yet, Duncan. I'm going to take him forward a way - maybe to where he was when he spoke of that other man; the one with the Pharaoh who gave him the bracelet. He obviously meant something to Methos. Maybe there are answers there."
"No." Duncan reached out, catching her by the wrist. "Susanne, five thousand years ago is one thing. He was still learning then. He was confused and searching for answers the way all of us do at first. But a thousand years on, to the times you're talking about, would be when he had found his own answers. You have to believe me that you would be taking a great risk. That is the Methos of legend. Death himself. You have heard of the Four Horsemen Of The Apocalypse?"
"The Four Horsemen are a legend." She shook her head, rolling her eyes. "I never took you for a superstitious fool, Duncan. You don't believe in rubbish like that?"
"It's no rubbish." He shook his head, his hand tightening its grip on her wrist. "It's real, Susanne. I met them. Kronos, Silas, Caspian - and Methos. He was at the heart of the greatest source of chaos this world has ever known, and I won't let you risk unleashing that again."
"You really do believe this." She was frowning, staring up into his eyes with an expression of utter confusion. "You really believe that Methos - him - that he's dangerous."
"Yes, I do."
"Oh." She smiled, turning away from the comatose old man with widening eyes. "Wow."
"You have to listen to me, Susanne. I know how important this is to you, but it's not worth this. Believe me."
Her smile grew. "Maybe I do believe you." She shrugged. "But I think that any risk is worth taking."
With a sudden shout that he recognised in an instant she spun about, her body forming into the shapes of preparation for battle. Duncan took a step back, seeing true expertise in the way that she moved; true confidence and readiness. He called his muscles to attention.
"Susanne, I don't want to fight you."
"That'll make it easier for me to win then." Her hands moved in slow, steady brushstrokes, her eyes hot and intense. "Your files say that you're good at this stuff. So prove it."
"I said prove it, Duncan."
She moved with a sudden, alarming speed, attacking high and nearly knocking him to the floor. He moved with the assault just in time, letting his body roll and move almost independently of his mind. She came at him again, and this time he fought back, allowing her to get in one or two blows before he struck back. She fell, her expertise clear in the way that she recovered herself immediately, her speed almost unnerving, even to a man of his experience. He saw a flash of amusement in her eyes.
"You play by interesting rules, Duncan."
"Old rules. The old ways."
"So I noticed." She grinned, moving aside to come at him from a new direction almost before he was ready. "Joe said you always did the right thing."
"So why don't you do the same?" He met her new attack, deflecting without fighting back. He could see the damage that she was capable of causing, but he had no desire to inflict similar damage on her. He still liked her, even if she was managing to act like a total idiot.
"The world's moved on, Duncan. The rest of us don't play by those old rules anymore. We just get on with it." Even as she spoke she was moving out of his line of sight, but as he tried to move with her she changed her direction, changing and changing again until he could no longer see her. When the final blow came, he was almost expecting it.
"Too easy, Duncan." She stared down at his silent form, a heavy poker in her hand; then shrugged and threw the makeshift weapon aside. Duncan MacLeod would not be bothering her for a while; it was time to move on to the next step of her study plan. She went back to Methos, still in his chair, silent and stationary and unaware of anything that went on before him. She sat down beside him, leaning close so that she could speak softly, and hopefully not arouse Duncan any sooner than was strictly necessary.
"Methos? Are you there?"
"Mmm?" He sounded deeply relaxed, and she was almost jealous. Her fight with Duncan, though brief, had taken a lot out of her.
"I'm going to take you forward again. I want to take you to the next time you saw Akom. You met him in Egypt, right?"
"Right." This time the voice was closer to the one that she knew, no longer the confused Immortal she had met more recently, struggling to find meaning in Akom's tale. "1695 BC. More or less. Give or take a hundred years."
"Good. I want you to go there. You saw Akom, and the man with him. What did they say to you?"
"It was... weird. They... He was inside my mind."
"Who was? Akom?"
"No. The man with him." She watched a frown disturb the smooth skin of his forehead, and tried to make her voice seem more relaxing, more gentle, in response to his confusion.
"What man was this? Who was he?"
"He was... Eastern. Darker skinned than me. Not as dark as the Egyptians. His eyes were dark, and so was his hair. He looked younger than Akom, but when I got closer I saw his eyes... They were old. Very old. But young too. I couldn't look into them. He worked magic."
"Magic?" She tried to keep the disbelief from her voice, remembering that this was a man who was still living in an age long past, when magic had been readily believed in, and enchantments and all manner of other things had still been feared and held in great awe.
"Yes, magic. He took my mind, and my brother's. He... stopped us from attacking the palace of Khyan, but I have no idea why."
"Why would you have wanted to attack the palace? Were there other Immortals there?"
"No. Only Akom and the man with him. We didn't want them, we wanted Khyan. We wanted his daughter and his gold and his jewels. And Silas wanted his crocodiles."
"You wanted his daughter?" She was starting to hear something new creeping into his voice, and for some reason it scared her. He grinned, and she saw a cold light in his face.
"Yeah. She was beautiful. That would have given us something to do for a few dark evenings." A throaty chuckle escaped him. "Maybe some of her servant girls as well."
"I--" She decided to change the subject. "Methos listen. The man with Akom. Could he have been Faroukh?"
"Faroukh?" There was a laugh behind the voice. "Sure he could have been. I suppose. Nobody else could have done what he did to my brother and me." His eyes snapped open, and she saw him staring at her, his expression filled with contempt. "Least of all you."
"Me?" She backed away, unaware even that she was doing so. "What do you mean?"
"I mean that there's no way you can hypnotise me. Did you honestly think that you could? You're just a mortal. Not even an old one. I am Methos. Do you know what that means?"
"You - you're an Immortal." She felt a chair blocking her path, pressing into the backs of her knees in a way that left her with no choice but to sit down. "That's all."
"That's all?" He was walking towards her, his eyes bright. "No, that's not all. That's never all. I am Methos. I come from the Apocalypse. I am Death." His hands were reaching under the table in the middle of the room, reaching for something that was hidden from her view, and she saw it brought forth with a sudden and terrifying speed. A sword, long and powerful, its blade gleaming and unutterably sharp, catching the light and reflecting it into her eyes in the shapes of a thousand stars. Her breath caught in her throat and she found herself staring towards MacLeod.
"Duncan?" The words could barely crawl from her throat as she stared from the slumped figure on the ground to the towering, enraged Immortal glaring down at her. She could see true madness in his eyes; but not the madness of insanity. It was the madness of bloodlust, of unchallengable strength; the madness of a man who was at one with all that was dark and chaotic. He laughed at her, and she saw the heart of ice that rested within him. Her eyes moved one last time towards the figure of Duncan MacLeod, and she saw, to her relief, that he was rising to his feet. He shook his head, wiping his forehead with the back of his hand, clearly dazed.
"What is going on?" He made it upright, staring first at Methos, then at Susanne. Something in the poise of the old Immortal alerted him, and a frown began to paint its way across his face. "Uh oh."
"Uh oh? Uh oh? Is that all you can say?" She took a wobbly step back, her eyes torn between the terrifying sight of Methos and the rather less than comforting sight of a bewildered Highlander. "Duncan?"
"I warned you." The phrase did not suggest an 'I told you so', but she lowered her eyes nonetheless. "What happened?"
"You speak as though I am not here." Methos moved closer towards them, his head slightly on one side. "Who are you? Why are you dressed in this way?"
"Listen to me, Methos." Duncan took a step forward, but the sword whipped up to point towards him. He saw light flashing in his friend's eyes.
"I do not know you." The old Immortal turned his head, as though looking towards something that only he could see. "Do you know these people, brother?"
"Adam?" Given new courage by Duncan's state of renewed consciousness, Susanne moved towards him. "Who are you talking to? Look, I'm Susanne, remember? The Watcher?"
"Watcher?" There was no sign of recognition in his eyes, as though the secret society no longer meant anything to him. "Who are you, woman, and how is it that you know so little that you stand in the way of a Horseman? I could destroy you with one stroke."
"You'd have to get through me first." Duncan was unarmed, but his sword was nearby, and he was willing to bet that he could get to it before it became necessary. "Now you listen to me, old man; she hypnotised you. I don't know what it is that you're seeing, or feeling right now, but it isn't right. It isn't you. You're a part of your own past."
"You suggest that a mortal woman could hypnotise me? Methos?" A mocking laugh that was entirely unfamiliar rang in Duncan's ears. Again Methos glanced towards the unseen companion beside him. "He makes jokes, brother. Perhaps we should take him along as our jester?"
"Who are you talking to, Methos?" Duncan's voice was sad. Methos frowned at him, head on one side, sword still raised.
"I speak to my brother, the man who leads the Horsemen into battle. Can you not see Kronos, leader of the descent into chaos? He sees you, Immortal. He will have your blood." He smiled. "But maybe I shall take your head." He advanced slowly. "What do you say, Kronos? I shall take the Immortal, you have the woman. She's pretty."
"Sure." Somewhere inside the old Immortal's mind, Kronos, a purposeful flash lighting him from within, headed towards Susanne. "I'll take the mortal. They scream better."
"Good." Methos grinned, taking strength from the blade that he caressed with one, purposeful hand. "This I shall enjoy."
"Where do you suppose we are, brother?" Kronos sounded confused, a state of mind with which Methos was fast becoming familiar. He shrugged, somewhat vaguely, and nodded towards the two strangely dressed individuals before them.
"These people might know. Perhaps we shouldn't kill them."
"Yeah." Kronos shrugged. "But then again..."
"My thoughts exactly." They grinned at each other. Lost and bewildered though they might be, there was no reason for them to abandon their principles; such as they were. They were Horsemen, therefore they killed. It was what they did, and what they appeared to have been put upon the Earth to do. "I If I ever get my hands on that no-good Immortal again, I'll--"
"After me, brother." Kronos drew his sword, enjoying the comforting sound of the metal scraping against its sheath. "If I see him again I intend to separate his head from his shoulders first, and ask him his name immediately after. The last that I recall, he had his hand on my chest, and then - then this."
"Precisely. An enchantment of a kind, obviously." Methos, aware that the two strangers confronting his brother and himself seemed less than acceptably afraid, advanced a few steps. "Do you suppose that Silas and Caspian are alright? The last that I recall with any real clarity, we were all standing together in the quarters of that Pharaoh. Then that creepy Immortal touched us, and..."
"Wham." Kronos nodded, looking distinctly less than impressed. "Good bye Egypt, hello... somewhere else."
"He was old." Methos stared into his own mind, trying to recall exactly what the Immortal had looked like. He found himself strangely unable to recall anything, save for those fathomless, dark eyes. "Much older than this gawky looking pipsqueak. But he'll do in the meantime." He advanced on the tall, pony-tailed individual standing before him, dressed in the odd clothes and the peculiarly shiny shoes. "Any Quickening is better than none."
"You really don't want to do this, Methos." The tall man before him was backing away slightly, eyes moving as though searching for some concealed weapon. "You don't know what you're doing."
"I know perfectly well." Methos leapt onto the coffee table, making a surefooted jump from there to the nearest chair. "But I don't know you, and I would be obliged if you would stop trying to convince me otherwise. If this is some spell, or some form of trickery, then so be it. But I intend to face unreality with the same hand that I turn towards the world I know well."
"You can't fight me. We've sparred before and you've never won." Duncan edged closer towards the computer desk, where he had left his sword. Methos laughed.
"I haven't lost yet." He was aware, somewhere in the darkest recesses of his mind, that Kronos was advancing on Susanne, and he could hear his old friend taunting her as he moved closer. The words brought a smile to Methos' face, the excitement of the mortal woman's fear sharpening his senses. He chuckled softly, the noise coming from the back of his throat, filled with the shadows of depravity.
"Come on, bright eyes." Kronos edged towards Susanne, who did not react at all to his progression towards her. His eyebrows raised as he watched her, waiting for the escape attempt that he considered a certainty. Still she did not try to get away from him, and finally, caution thrown aside, he leapt towards her, moving with a speed that was barely human. "Brave one, aren't you." His grin grew. "You know, sometimes I like a woman so much that I almost wish I could keep them alive." He shrugged. "Then I think of their blood pouring out, and the sound of their screaming, and I think - what the hell - who wants a woman when they can have a victim?"
He stepped towards her, and saw her shiver suddenly, as though some cold burst of air had passed her by. He frowned. She did not even seem to see him, but as he reached out for her, his fingertips within a hair's breadth of her wrist, she leapt back. He grinned, inspired by this new display of terror.
"I knew you were ready to play," he told her. She backed further away, her eyes widening.
"Duncan! Duncan, look!" Raising one arm in a shaky attempt to point, she gestured at the mirror built into the sideboard nearby. Duncan, still edging away from Methos, still trying to avoid bloodshed and to figure out how to appeal to whatever was within his friend, looked up, his concentration disturbed.
"Susanne?" He frowned towards her, catching her eye and turning towards the mirror where she was gazing with so much fear. He saw himself, reflected back at him, surprise in his eyes; he saw Susanne, backing rapidly away, her eyes scanning the room as though she was convinced that there was somebody else in there with them - somebody who was somehow invisible and silent; he saw Methos, his back turned towards the mirror's surface, his stance showing frustration at the lack of activity. He had wanted a fight, or at the very least a massacre; but not only were these people refusing to play his little game by his rules, they also seemed to be virtually ignoring the very fact of his presence. They seemed more interested in talking together than in screaming and dying as intended. Duncan took a step forward, his new angle allowing him to see more of the room in the mirror. He could see Susanne better now; could see her backing further and further away. He moved forward again, his steps carrying him closer and closer to the bewildered and increasingly angry Methos. He was within striking distance of the raised sword now, but he ignored it. He stared into the mirror. His stance familiar, his clothing hopelessly antiquated and his face decorated with a swirl of complex black paint, Kronos stood in the living room. His sword was raised, and he stared towards Susanne with eyes that screamed of ice and excitement.
"Kronos..." Duncan breathed the words with disbelief. The figure in the mirror swung around, turning towards the source of the voice. His back was now to the mirror's surface, and MacLeod could no longer see his face, but he knew that the long dead Immortal was talking to him. It was a feeling of déjà vu which left him cold.
"He seems to know you, brother." Methos glanced towards his companion, clearly seeing beside him what the others could only see in the mirror. "Perhaps you have greater fame than the rest of the Horsemen."
"He only tries to distract my attention. He wants to save his woman." Kronos shrugged rather vaguely. "I don't like this place, Methos. The people here have no sense to fear us, and they do not stand still and await their fate." He pointed his sword towards Duncan. "Why won't he cross swords with you? He thinks of excuses, and reasons for postponing the inevitable." He looked accusingly towards MacLeod, his expression suggesting a frustration which showed he had been looking forward to slicing Susanne into aesthetically pleasing chunks; and he did not appreciate the distractions. "But I don't question these things, brother. I have a beautiful woman to torment, and what more does a man need."
"Methos, whatever he's saying to you, you mustn't listen. You have to understand that he's not there. He's not real. You aren't what you think you are, not anymore." Duncan made a grab for Methos, reacting speedily whilst the other man was still distracted. The heavy edge of his hand knocked the other man's sword aside, but did not succeed in disarming the Immortal completely. A growl sprang up from somewhere within the old man's throat, and he whirled around. Duncan dodged, seeing the anger in Kronos' face at this sudden attack on his beloved brother. The smaller Immortal whirled, his sword arcing through the air, and distracted though he was, MacLeod saw the reflected figure as he attacked Susanne. She made no reaction other than to shiver involuntarily at the sudden icy curtain that enwrapped her, but in the mirror, Duncan saw the sword pass harmlessly through her. Kronos jerked to a halt, the smooth poetry of his movements instantly ceased. He tried again to attack the woman, using hands as well as sword, but could find no purchase on her body. He passed through her as if she were not there.
"Brother, this place is enchanted." He stumbled back, his sword upraised to protect himself against these things that he did not understand. Methos, anxious to begin his longed-for combat with MacLeod, glanced towards his friend. He saw Kronos making wild passes with his blade at Susanne; saw the cold metal passing through her body, and he gasped.
"Impossible." He moved forward, slowly now, and in trust of his instincts Duncan allowed him to press the point of his sword gently against his opponent's chest. He felt the prick of the blade, and Methos frowned at the contact.
"This one is real, brother. How can it be that she is not?"
"It's not me that isn't real, Methos. Tell him - tell Kronos to try and kill me." Stepping boldly forward, Duncan moved towards Kronos, standing before him, or where his reflected image indicated that he should be. He saw in the mirror as the wiry figure came towards him, sword raised, and felt a peculiar sensation of shivery tingles as the non-existent sword swished harmlessly through his torso. "You see?"
"More enchantments." Methos jammed his sword point into the small of Duncan's back. "I can kill you, Immortal, and I will do so. Just as soon as you free my brother from this spell you have wrapped him in. Return him to me!"
"He's not here, Methos. There's nothing that I can do!" With a last, desperate shove, Duncan spun around, hurling Methos in front of the mirror. It took all of his strength to hold the other Immortal steady, and to avoid the slashing sword, but slowly he forced his friend's head around, so that he was looking straight at his own reflection. "Look!"
"I--" Methos broke off, staring at his face in the glass. He saw his eyes, knowing his face, knowing the expression, recognising the mouth and the nose and the ears; but the mirror itself meant nothing to him. He frowned, staring at it, distracted from his struggles enough to reach out with one, questing hand to touch the cold surface of the mirror. He saw the other hand reaching out from within it to touch him.
"That's... me," he said softly. "Like... when I look into the water when it's still. That's what I look like."
"It is you, you jerk." MacLeod sighed, trying not to sound too irritated. At any second Methos could switch back to his original plan; namely to kill both MacLeod and Susanne and run off to find whatever it was that he was looking for. "That is you."
"No. My hair." Methos touched his own face, watching his reflection do the same. "The hair is short, and my warpaint..." He shook his head, trying to remove the confusion. "These are enchantments. That Immortal is responsible for this. He was with us, and then we were here..."
"I don't know what you're talking about, Methos, and I'm sorry." MacLeod tightened his grip, anticipating renewed hostilities. "You've been here all along. This is Seacouver, 1998. December, 1998. Susanne hypnotised you, so that you would think you were back in the old days. Remember?"
"I remember nothing!" Methos struggled wildly, but could not break free. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Kronos rushing to his assistance, and he tried to turn to face his friend. "Run Kronos! Get out of here and find the others!"
"I won't leave you, brother." Kronos slashed with his sword, the blade passing not only through MacLeod, but through Methos as well. The old Immortal watched as it flew through his body, seeing it pass closer towards the mirror. He stared up towards the reflection, but within the mirror's surface he could see no sign of weapon or warrior. In the mirror Kronos did not exist.
"Kronos." The strength seemed to fade from his body as though someone somewhere were draining it away. MacLeod felt the figure in his arms become heavy, and slowly he let go. Methos stumbled against the wall. He was looking up into the eyes of his greatest friend and companion; the man with whom his entire destiny seemed forever to be intertwined; and yet he could not touch him, or see his reflection. Kronos was there before him, and yet in the same instance he seemed not to exist. "What's going on?"
"I don't know, brother, but I'm not about to let it spoil my fun. Horsemen don't fear magic." The younger Immortal moved closer, his expression wavering between steadfast conviction and the slightest hint of distress as he tried to take his brother's hand, and failed. "I don't pretend to know this place, or these people, but there are two victims waiting for us here, and a whole city-full beyond our walls." He whistled. "I don't know what trick has brought us here, Methos, but this new playground is huge. Imagine setting fire to it. Imagine seeing flames leaping so high into the air that we couldn't see their crests."
"I can see it, brother. But can I touch it?" He came to himself in an instant, standing straight and turning back to face Duncan. "This world is not mine, and if I can't see the truth, I have to destroy the lie." He advanced slowly, enjoying the look of startled displeasure on the Highlander's face. "Prepare to die, Immortal."
"No!" Susanne had moved before the single, desperate syllable had finished leaping forth from her lips. She saw the reflection of Kronos registering surprise, then she saw nothing at all save Methos as she turned her mind to him. He began to turn, alerted most likely by some shout from his brother; but he could not be quick enough. Her experienced hands found him, striking home with enough force to hurl him to the ground. He hit hard, rolling once, his sword falling from his grasp. Susanne reached it even before Duncan was truly aware of what was going on. He grinned at her; a single, breathless movement that earned him a glittering response; then he seized Methos by the shirtfront, hauling him to his feet.
"Dammit, old man, are you going to listen to us?"
"I listen to nobody!" Methos struggled hard, and Duncan slammed him against the wall.
"We are not your enemies!"
"No one is my enemy. I have no enemies because no one can stand in my way." The old Immortal raised his fist, trying to find some weak point in Duncan's defences. The Highlander, exasperation finally giving way to anger, let fly with one, solid blow. It caught Methos on the side of the head, and staggered him. The younger Immortal followed up his attack with another blow of similar strength, feeling his companion go limp in his arms. He let him slump to the floor.
"You'll die for that!" Kronos moved towards him, and Duncan saw him coming in the mirror. He could not hear if there were any words; could not even see the other's face, since it was just his back reflected in the glass. He saw the reflected sword slice across his neck, leaving not the slightest mark, and he smiled to himself. Even a non-existent Kronos was clearly a force to be reckoned with.
"I don't know how you're here," he told the man who was not there, "but I sure as hell wish you'd go back to wherever it is you came from. Whatever is going on here is well beyond a joke."
"Some other time, Immortal." Kronos knelt beside his brother, his eyes turned solely towards the fallen Horseman. "I have other affairs to deal with first."
"I feel terrible." Opening his eyes with a feeling of distinct unwillingness, Methos moaned softly, looking up into the blurred features of Kronos. "Where the hell are we?"
"I'm not sure. Outside the palace, I think." Sure now that his brother was feeling alright again, Kronos stood and looked around. There was sand underfoot, and a huge stone wall rearing upright out of the ground beside them. "I don't know where the others are."
"How about that jerk who was talking to us?" Methos' tone suggested the promise of revenge, and Kronos smiled at him.
"I've already looked for him; there's no sign of him anywhere. I haven't seen anybody." He frowned. "Brother, what happened? I mean - we were in the dining hall, and then - then it felt like we were somewhere else, for a moment at least. There was that guy there, and the woman."
"A mortal woman." Methos made it to his feet, rubbing his jaw. "I feel like somebody just punched me, hard."
"Somebody did, in that... that wherever we just were." The smaller Immortal slammed his closed fist into the wall beside them. "Something is going on here, brother, and I want to know what it is. I want to know who that Immortal with the Pharaoh was. How did he manage to enchant us like that? To make us see things that weren't there, and to come here without knowing it?"
"Why don't you ask him?" There was a strange edge to the old man's voice, and as Kronos turned to look towards his companion, he saw the figure of a man approaching them. He came closer, and the feeling of his presence came to them both. Kronos reached for his sword, his fingers closing about the cold metal of its hilt, his face taking on the hardness that preceded an explosion. He was surprised when Methos reached out for him, his graceful hand alighting on his companion's, preventing him from drawing his weapon.
"Wait, brother." His voice was low and restrained, and Kronos stared at him, amazed. All the same, he hesitated, relaxing his arm slightly so that Methos would know he was not about to cause a scene.
"Can we talk?" The man was taller than either Immortal remembered. They found to their surprise that neither of them had adequately been able to recall his looks until this moment. He was barely short of six feet, with dark hair, and dark eyes that were at once both bold and strangely withdrawn. There was a challenge in his stance, and yet it was not a challenge to fight, or even to argue. It was merely the power of his presence.
"Who are you?" Methos stepped forward slightly, trusting his own rage to stay in check, but anxious to put some physical distance between Kronos and the stranger. He could never be sure how his brother would react. "You did something to us."
"A little display of mind over matter. Nothing more serious." The Immortal laughed lightly. "I'm sorry, but I wanted you to spare this place, for now at least. I wanted to talk to you."
"So talk." Kronos sounded hot. The stranger shrugged.
"What's to say? I'm old, very old, and I've been running from those who want my head for far too long. I can't run any further. They'll catch up with me soon, and then it'll all be over. I wanted to tell one last little story before I die. Stories were once the sole reason for my life, and all that I wanted was to tell them to others. Now my life is too complicated to allow me to waste times with tales of what might have been, or might one day be."
"Meaning?" There was as much belligerence in Methos' voice now as there was in that of Kronos, but the strange Immortal seemed unmoved by it.
"Meaning nothing." The Immortal drew his sword, and without ceremony handed it to Kronos. "You, my young friend, are anxious to end this. So end it."
"No!" Methos grabbed at his companion's wrist, even though he had seen no sign of movement as yet. "Not yet you don't. I want to know about what happened first. I want to know about that place you just showed us, and the people there. I want to know why we're supposed to pay attention to the words of one old Immortal, who tells us that we can't ravage Egypt, when the rest of the world is ours for the taking. And I want to know where my friends are."
"So many questions." The stranger shrugged. "What I showed you was another place. Some moment in your future which was susceptible to my inducements. Some point in your life when your now was very close to your then."
"Why would you show such a thing to us?" Methos narrowed his eyes. "You spoke about stories, so what was your story then? What moral am I supposed to draw from that?"
The stranger shrugged. "Your choice. All I do is tell the tales. It's up to you what meanings you draw from them." He smiled. "Maybe I just wanted to answer some question that you're going to be asking yourself in the future, one day. Who can tell?"
"You're weird." Methos was frowning, feeling drawn to the peculiar man in a way that he could not understand. "You're old, and you speak of story-telling, and you have strange powers...; are you the First?"
"The First?" The old Immortal laughed, the sound strangely musical. "Perhaps. My name is Faroukh, and people tell me that Faroukh was the first Immortal. But I am old, my boy. Very, very old. I can't remember the day I became immortal, or even the name of my first love. I can't remember my mother's name, or the name of the city where I lived even half my lifetime ago. Maybe one day, when you're a good deal older yourself, you'll understand."
"But - but that's crazy. You could be the first of us, and we'd never know it. You'd never know it. You could die, and we would never know any more about ourselves; who we are, where we come from. It's the one thing that all Immortals want to know!" Methos shook his head. "It's mad... how are we supposed to know anything about ourselves if the first of us has no way of knowing even if that's what he is?"
"Vexing, isn't it." Faroukh shrugged, turning his head away from the pair of them. "Soon I shall be gone, and with me all memories of what we might be. And I don't even know if the knowledge we all seek was mine once, or if I've never known it at all. I am the oldest of us still alive, that I do know. But anything else, my young friends, is mere conjecture."
"Then it's all fruitless." Kronos stared at the stranger's sword, which he still held in his hand. "I could kill you now, and we'd be losing nothing."
"Nothing at all." Faroukh smiled at him, his eyes showing a light of infinite sorrow. "I might be the dreamer with the secret of the final goal; the bearer of the last tidings from whoever set us in this place. I might be the last man to know the truth of our identity, and the real reason why we always fight each other. But nobody will ever know it. Even if they take my head, that piece of knowledge will never be theirs."
"It's madness." Kronos threw the sword to the ground. "I could no more kill you than I could kill my brother, and yet leaving you alive accomplishes nothing."
"Nothing except... something." Faroukh smiled secretively, bending to pick up the sword. "All terror has an end, remember that. All fairy tales have their conclusion, and all nows must become thens." He laughed to himself. "Yes, I like that. All nows must become thens. Brothers go their separate ways; but if their fraternity goes beyond mere words, time and place mean nothing. Maybe even life and death are meaningless, in the end."
"I wish I could understand you." Methos felt a peculiar smile beginning on his face. "I wish I knew what the hell to make of the rubbish you spout. Just get out of here before I change my mind and let Kronos cut you to pieces."
"I don't want to cut him to pieces." Kronos was frowning, the sensation of benevolence clearly a new one to him. "I want to get on my horse, and leave Egypt still standing." He took a threatening step towards Faroukh. "But if I ever see you again, I can't promise to think the same way. You'll be a dead man."
"By the time we meet, Kronos, I'll already be a dead man." Faroukh clapped him on the shoulder. "My friend is waiting for me."
"Akom?" Methos glanced up, but could not see his one-time acquaintance anywhere nearby. "I'd like to see him again."
"Too late for that, I fear." Faroukh smiled. "Goodbye."
"Goodbye." The pair stared after him as he wandered away, a strangely lost look about him, as though the weight of the world was resting somewhere in his mind, and all that he sought was the ending of the burden he carried. The pair of watching Horsemen glanced at each other, and smiled.
"Maybe we're losing it," Kronos commented. "I just had the chance for the greatest Quickening of my life, and I gave it up."
"I know." Methos clapped him on the shoulder. "Maybe you're getting old, brother. Old and sentimental, like the old women who sit around campfires wishing they were young again."
"Huh." Kronos stared after the vanishing figure until it was gone completely, then he shrugged. "Maybe I just felt sorry for him. What was all that about?"
"Search me." The older Horseman shrugged, then playfully caught his companion's sword, drawing it from its sheath. "Let's not find Silas and Caspian right away. Let's do something else first."
"Such as?" Kronos stiff-armed his companion, taking back his sword without ceremony. Methos shrugged.
"Wrestle a crocodile? Take a walk by the river bank? Just talk, I don't know. I just feel as though something very strange just happened, and - and I don't want it to end just yet, that's all."
"Fine." Kronos shrugged, happy as always to do anything, just so long as it wasn't boring. "In that case, let's go to the wine-house, and take a few skins. Maybe the Princess Neletia will consent to drink with us."
"I doubt it." Methos shook his head. "That's one nut that's not for cracking." He grinned. "But I make you a promise, brother. If she won't drink with us, and if there's nothing that we can do to persuade her otherwise, I'll still drink with her one day. If it takes the rest of my life, I'll get a drink with the Pharaoh's daughter."
"She's a mortal, brother." There was a tone of wry amusement in Kronos' voice. Methos scowled.
"Just lead me to the wine-house. This is hereby declared to be a weird day, and weird days are for drinking away. By order of Methos. I may not be the First, and I may not be the Last. I might not even be the greatest. But I think I've just met all three."
"Faroukh? You think Faroukh will be the One? That he'll get the Prize? You've got to be joking." Kronos walked on ahead, his expression showing his opinion of that idea. Methos smiled.
"No, he won't be the One. But the One doesn't have to be the Last. The greatest of all of us isn't necessarily the one who wins the Prize, but he may be the one who has the chance to win it, and chooses not to. Like Faroukh did when he offered his head to you."
"So the greatest of us all is a nut. I'll never offer my head to another; and if you ever do, brother, you'd better hope that he takes it, or you'll be living with the consequences for the rest of your life."
"Maybe." Methos shrugged, feeling strangely philosophical and tired. "But that's tomorrow. Let's not think about it. Let's think about--"
"Wine." Kronos waited for him to catch up, then slung an arm around his companion's shoulders. "If our future is full of long-haired strange people and mortal women who refuse to be afraid of us, I'd rather wait until then to do anything about it."
"Yeah." Methos laughed, and they quickened their step. Sometimes even Horsemen had no need of violence.
"Are you alright? Methos?" The voice was filled with concern, and no small measure of guilt. Methos opened his eyes, looking up at Duncan, and beyond him at Susanne. He smiled rather wearily.
"I'm fine. Did I, er... did I hurt either of you?"
"No." Duncan sat down on the nearest chair. "You sure had us worried for a while back there, old man. What the hell was going on?"
"Pass." Methos rose rather stiffly to his feet, stretching and rubbing his jaw. He grinned at Susanne, who was looking worried. "Are you okay?"
"Fine." She looked deeply embarrassed. "I wanted to apologise. I acted like a complete jerk, and I nearly got us all killed in the process. I'm sorry."
"Not your fault." He frowned. "There was something I was meant to tell you, but I can't remember what... Something about the First."
"You remembered something?" He saw delight flash in her eyes, and he shrugged, sorry to be having to disappoint her again.
"Not really, no. All that I know is that I've wasted half your day. You should have stuck to picking Duncan's brains, I'm afraid. I can't tell you any more than he can."
"But you're so old..." There was still hope in her eyes, but he could do nothing save shrug.
"Yeah, I know. Maybe too old; but that doesn't help you. I really can't tell you any more than MacLeod can; or any other Immortal for that matter. Some questions aren't supposed to be answered."
"Then what about the rest of it." Duncan fixed the older Immortal with bright, piercing eyes. "What about Kronos?"
"Kronos?" Methos frowned. "I don't know what you mean."
"He was here, Methos, and you know it. Right there, standing in the mirror, warpaint and all. Like some avenging angel."
"It's like I said, MacLeod. Some questions aren't meant to be answered." He grinned, and reached for a beer can, throwing it at the younger man. "Want a drink?"
"No." MacLeod set the can patiently onto the coffee table. "You're avoiding the issue, Methos. Susanne hypnotised you. You went crazy, and Kronos appeared. He was here. We all saw him; hell, you were talking to him. Now what was all that about?"
"I don't know, MacLeod. Really. All that I know for sure is that it wasn't Susanne's fault. Not really. It was... something beyond the control of all of us. All except one." He smiled, reaching for another beer can and handing it to the mortal woman. "I once made a promise, Susanne, and I'd like to keep it. Would you do me a favour, and have a drink?"
"Huh?" She looked and sounded lost, but she pulled open the can nonetheless. "A drink?"
"Yeah." He was grinning in a most peculiar fashion. "I just worked it out. I knew I'd seen you somewhere before, but without the beads and the gold chains it didn't click at first." He shrugged. "I guess I'm glad, now, that we didn't get to do what we were planning with Neletia."
"I think you're losing it, old man." Duncan shook his head. "Too much beer, maybe. Or too much loud music." He sighed. "Even sitting down to a quiet conversation with you has to turn into something far more complicated, doesn't it. Sometimes I think I should have taken your head, that night in the alley."
"Gee thanks." Methos threw him another can, and was grateful to see his friend break it open this time, and take a sip. "Maybe I wish the same thing. Ever since I met you, my life is like a living, breathing labyrinth. Complications around every corner, unpleasant surprises in every bend. It's like living with a nuclear missile under the floorboards, never knowing when it's going to finally go bang, and obliterate us all."
"Charming." Duncan threw himself back down into the chair he had just arisen from. "I knew coming to stay with you for a few days was crazy. Not only do we get a visitation from Methos the Destroyer, but Kronos the Ever-Returning Dead Guy has to come along for the ride. And now you start telling me you'd rather I'd killed you than got you mixed up in my life."
"Yeah." Methos threw himself down into the chair next to MacLeod. "Well live with it, Highlander. With me you get Kronos, dead or alive. He's in here." He tapped himself on the chest, then grinned and reached over to bang on MacLeod's as well. "And he's in here. And as for wishing that you'd taken my head..." He slumped back into the depths of his favourite chair, taking a contemplative sip of beer. "I had to make the offer. It was the only way that I could go forward." He shrugged. "From that moment on, my life has been a walking nightmare, and I'm about to enter yet another year of the same."
"But you wouldn't have changed a second of it." Susanne sat on the arm of his chair, drinking her beer, and smiling at him over the top of the can. He grinned, a realisation coming to him in the brief seconds of her words, and he reached up to take her hand.
"Not a second, no. It hurts me to admit it, but I think 1999 is going to be a lot of fun."
"Yeah, I'd like to think so too." Duncan smiled in silent thought. "I just wish we could believe we would answer that one little question before falling over the edge of the millennium. Just who was the first of us? I was actually rather hoping you were going to tell us that, old man."
"So was I." Methos smiled, the image of a dark eyed man with the voice of an angel dancing in the back of his mind. "But he's been dead a long time, and I don't think it matters anymore." He stood up. "Let's go to Joe's club. It's getting late, and I think I'd like to see in the new year with friends, rather than sitting here thinking about some guy none of us are ever going to know, who probably died before the last great ice age." He paused, looking hesitant. "Promise me something, MacLeod."
"What?" The Highlander shrugged into his jacket and opened the door for Susanne, who preceded him out into the corridor. Methos smiled.
"If you ever reach five thousand, don't let it get to you. Forgetting can be hard, and sometimes it gets so that the present doesn't seem as important as remembering the past. But... well there's no reason why 1999 shouldn't be as good as - as good as 1452, or 928, or 1200BC, and - and well... " He shrugged. "I guess that's my way of saying you can stay here as long as you like."
"Thanks." MacLeod followed Susanne out into the hall, waiting whilst Methos switched off the lights and came after them. "Does this mean you're going to be a little more fun to be around now?"
"Until this time next year, yeah." Methos grinned, and turned back to shut the door. For a brief moment, as he looked back into the darkness of the apartment, he thought he saw a man watching him, standing roughly where the mirror ought to be; then he dismissed the idea and slammed the door. He led the way out onto the streets, which were filled with lights, and people shouting to each other in the icy cold. He smiled. When all things were considered, he probably would have lived the nineteen nineties differently, had he somehow been given the chance to try them again. But then again, as he headed off towards Joe's place, with a friend he was only now truly beginning to appreciate - not to mention another friend he was looking forward to appreciating a whole lot - he decided that he probably wouldn't have changed anything. Well, maybe a few things - like the size of his bank account, for example, and the next door neighbours. But there was one thing that he would never change; and that was who he was. He was Methos. And as he followed his two companions down the road, the world's oldest man raised what remained of his beer to the sky, and grinned at his favourite constellation, just visible amidst the city lights. Maybe Faroukh had been the father of them all; or maybe he was just another wandering scholar, looking for meaning in a lifetime of unfathomable length. It didn't matter. Methos drank his health, and whispered a salutation to the long-dead legend. From somewhere far out across the city he heard the sound of a voice raised in song, and he laughed to himself. It was just a local, of course; but to Methos it was the voice of the First.
The exact dates of the rule of the Pharaoh Khyan are unclear (sometime between 1786 and 1600 BC, making him either very old or very vague) but 1695 BC is as near as damn it. Short of going back and asking him, I can get no more precise than that. Kronos says it was 1695 BC, and he was there, so he should know.