AMID THE WAVES
It was yet another in a series of hot, sunny days. Was the weather in this country always so perfect? With a contented sigh, Methos leaned back in his chair and folded his hands behind his head. In five thousand years a man saw a lot of places, and enjoyed a lot of good weather, but somehow it never ceased to be so wonderfully satisfying.
It was 1723 - or at least he thought it was. Although Methos was a serial journal keeper, he still found it difficult to keep track of the years with complete reliability. After a while some of them did seem to run into each other rather. And on a day like today it seemed so ridiculously tiring to think about anything at all.
The gentle waves of sleep were beginning to lap against his consciousness, and Methos allowed his eyes to close, feeling that wonderful sensation of complete relaxation begin to envelop him. In a state of such peace, a younger Immortal might almost have ignored the electric tingle in the air; but not Methos. He jerked awake, and in a smooth movement which had been perfected over so very many years, he drew the sword which hung at his side. The perfect blade always gave him a feeling of added strength and confidence. He stood up, and watched the door ease open, slowly allowing a figure to become visible. Methos moved away from the desk, determined to have a full range of movement now that he had been cornered.
"Oh thankyou." The voice was dry. "Is this the way that you greet your oldest friend?" As the door swung open completely, it revealed a man of slight build and average height. Ice blue eyes regarded Methos with just the right amount of hurt to be contrived. The old Immortal felt the tension flood out of his body, to be replaced with delight.
"Kronos! Kronos, by all that's - No, there's nothing Holy about you. How are you?" Sheathing his sword, Methos almost ran to meet his guest. They hugged briefly and then smiled at each other, trying to ascertain if the years they had spent apart had left any mark. "It's been - what - fifty years?!
"About that." Kronos smiled. "And it seems to have stood you in good stead my friend."
"And you." Methos gestured to some chairs. "Sit down. I want to know what you've been doing."
"Oh the same as ever." Kronos sat down and regarded his friend silently for a few moments. "And you? The times agree with you."
This was true. Methos was enjoying the eighteenth century, and he was enjoying the Americas, at least for the moment. Life as a merchant ship captain was prosperous and inspiring. He had allowed his straight brown hair to grow a little, and wore it in a short sailor's pigtail, and he wore a heavy blue frock coat in a similar style to a naval officer's. The clothes of the period suited his tall, elegant frame. Kronos, he noted, was as ever less respectable looking. His loose shirt was torn, and his boots were scuffed, and his hair was also a little longer than Methos remembered it. His old friend's blue eyes glittered in the shared enjoyment of reunion. Methos and Kronos were more than brothers. They had travelled through the millennia together; and although their paths sometimes separated, it was never for very long.
"I can't complain," he said. "But it's not Methos here. I'm Martin Gray. Captain Martin Gray, of the good ship Spartacus."
"Spartacus? I remember him..." Kronos frowned. "70 BC? Something like that. He had potential."
"Many of them do." Methos settled himself to hear a story. "Now come on. How do you come to be here? What have you been doing recently?"
"Me?" Kronos shrugged. "A little of this, a little of that. You know."
"Oh no you don't. I want to hear all about it. I've missed you."
Kronos scowled. He was not given to making conversation, but then when he was with Methos he did a lot of things that were not usually in his nature. All the same, after fifty years of wandering amongst mortals it felt strange to be back with the one man he was willing to subordinate himself to.
"I was transported, " he said at length. "For life. They said I was a thief."
"Did they?" Methos tried to sound surprised. "What did you steal?"
"I didn't steal anything." At first he sounded almost sullen, then he suddenly leaned back, with his hands behind his head. "There was this girl... She was beautiful Methos - I mean Martin. Such big dark eyes. But she was a slave, and they said I'd stolen her." He scowled suddenly. "Fools. Don't they realise that there was a time when the whole of the known world was ruled by people who weren't white? I remember the times when we could travel for days - weeks - across Europe and never even see another white man."
"Yes I know." Methos was sympathetic. Sometimes it was hard to leave the mortals to their own devices after having spent so long amassing such experience. Kronos was a thousand years younger then Methos, but he had seen more than enough to make him look down on the mortals. They seemed so inconsequential at times. "How did you escape?"
"Oh that was easy." He smiled. "I've had four thousand years practice at escaping from prison. There was this one guard - a real sadistic bastard. I'd had enough of him, so I killed him. Then I let his friends think they'd killed me."
"Nicely done." The off hand way in which Kronos spoke of killing mortals should have worried Methos, but he knew his friend too well for that. When life was a game, it was hard to take death seriously, especially when it was not generally a concern. "So I'm harbouring a wanted man?"
"Of course not. Henry Morgan's body was thrown into the sea six weeks ago. Nobody here has ever heard of Karl Vincent."
Methos found himself smiling at the shared joke. He gestured at the sword which hung at his fellow Immortal's side. "But won't they wonder how Karl Vincent came to be in possession of a sword which was presumably on Henry Morgan when he was arrested?"
Kronos shrugged. "A few gold coins well spent my friend. I had no intention of being sent half the world away from my second oldest companion." He glanced around the room. "Do you have anything to drink in here Methos? I feel we should celebrate."
Methos needed no persuasion. He jumped to his feet. "There's no alcohol here, " he said, "but there's an inn just over the way. The owner keeps a table for me."
"Excellent." Kronos also stood, and allowed Methos to lead the way. "If you're not worried about being seen in the company of a convict."
Methos laughed. They had both been convicts so many times before, and in so many different eras and places, that it was impossible to remember them all. He was still laughing as they entered the inn.
The table which Methos favoured was towards the back. Like Kronos he was a congenital loner; the only company either of them ever actively sought was each other's. His table allowed him to see without being seen, and to watch and listen to all that went on around him. He hadn't lived to be five thousand without learning to take advantage of everything. They settled together to watch the milling mortals as they drank. Both were practised enough to make no mistakes whilst they were in public, and to any who happened to look their way they simply Martin Gray and Karl Vincent, two friends sharing a drink. Even as time passed, and they began to get drunk, they did not allow their guard to slip. It was a simple task to keep a check on their conversation, and it was easy enough to switch to another language if they wanted to speak of something which had happened a long time ago. There was nobody in the inn who would understand if they spoke Latin, or Greek, or Chinese.
"France. That was the place to be. I liked France." Kronos leaned back and remembered. "Those were the days Martin. A man could be free then, if he wanted. There were fewer laws, and fewer people trying to enforce them. You could ride for days across undeveloped land. But times are changing."
"That's true." Methos could see the world being altered around him. He had always adapted well to change, but Kronos was different. Whilst Methos lived by his wits, Kronos had always lived by the sword. Some day he would find it impossible to continue without altering himself. The days when he had been happiest had gone. Kronos had been a warrior, a distinguished knight, but how much longer could he continue to live as he had done? Methos was sorry to lose the old days, but he delighted in the challenge of the changing times. Such was his nature.
"Oh listen to us," he said suddenly. "Sounding like a pair of old women. There's nothing wrong with the here and now. I think we've had too much to drink."
"You could be right." Kronos stood up. "Show me your town Martin. I might stay a while, if I like it."
"Of course you'll stay. You always do." Methos indicated the door. "We'll start with the Spartacus I think. She's the new love of my life, and I think I should introduce you."
"Certainly." As they headed towards the door, they both paused to offer a kiss to the inn's sole waitress, a beautiful girl of about nineteen. She flushed with embarrassment, and turned to go back to the kitchen. A sailor tripped her over, and she fell to the floor in a clatter of tankards. Methos helped her up, eyeing the sailor with distaste.
"I think you owe the lady an apology," he said firmly. The sailor raised his eyebrows.
"I do? Why?"
"Because a gentleman always apologises for his mistakes." Methos did not usually pick fights with strangers, but whether it was the drink talking or just his anger at having a cloud appear over such a pleasant day, he was not willing to let this pass. He knew that there would be no objection from Kronos. His friend had never yet avoided a fight.
"Does he now? Then you'd best apologise." The sailor rose to his feet, and with him rose five companions. They were big men, but if they had hoped that their size would impress Methos, they were mistaken.
"I don't think that's very likely. Do you Karl?"
"Hardly Martin." Kronos looked almost eager. "If we were to take a stroll outside, do you think that these cabin boys would be men enough to follow?"
The first sailor's face contorted with rage. "Why you little-" he began. "We'll follow you all right, won't we lads?"
"Aye!" The others moved as one for the door, Methos and Kronos preceding them into the sunlight. The dockside was more or less deserted, which was probably just as well. The six sailors formed into a line, and drew their swords. Their eyes were narrowed menacingly, their black toothed mouths frozen into grins of anticipation. Not one of them seemed to be entertaining the possibility of defeat.
"En avant, mon ami," Methos said brightly.
"En avant!" came the echo, and in unison the Immortals drew their swords. The two blades caught the glare of the sun in a mighty flash which suggested something of the power contained within them. The battle cry became a whoop of sheer delight, and Kronos leapt forward, a split second before Methos. The air was filled with the clash of steel on steel, and Methos felt the delight of battle rise within him. The exhilaration, the adrenalin, was a rush which it was impossible to achieve by other means. He saw his own joy mirrored on the face of his sword brother. Kronos was laying about him with an energy and zeal which had made him legendary thousands of years ago, when he was as young as his body suggested him to be. He was playing with the sailors, Methos knew, goading them on and holding them back, showing them only a little of his ability, but hinting at a little more of it, refraining from killing them because that would make it all be over too soon. Methos was not surprised to realise that he was doing the same. It has been too long since he had taken up his sword In combat. All the same, he knew that it would end, and he knew how. For a moment he was sorry for these six mortals, who would certainly meet their ends beneath the swords of the Immortals, and then the exhilaration of the moment washed the guilt from his mind. In the thrill of battle each man had to take his chances, and all was fair; if one of them stabbed him, he would have to play dead for a while at least. Was it wrong for an Immortal to take the life of a mortal in battle? Kronos would tell him no. After all, Immortals were immortal for a reason, and these mortals were hardly the cream of their race. All the same, he still felt that he should experience a little token guilt. He had never yet met the man who was a match for Kronos in sword play. But he had forgotten just how much fun it was, to test his skill. This was no time for guilt, it was a time for ecstasy!
"Halt!" The voice cut across the dockside with the authority of one who expects to be obeyed. Neither Methos nor Kronos intended to give him the satisfaction of compliance. "I said halt!" Kronos glanced impatiently over his shoulder, the action not causing even he slightest lapse of concentration. His sword seemed almost to move by itself. Sixteen naval guards armed with drawn swords and muskets stood in a line some distance away.
"Damn." The Immortal edged closer to his companion. "We have company Martin. Lots of it."
Methos stole a quick look back. "Any suggestions?" he asked. Kronos knocked aside the sword of one of his opponents, and almost laughed as the sailor scuttled to retrieve it as it clattered across the hard ground. Did these people honestly still believe that they had any chance of defeating him? He could have killed all six several times over by now.
"We can't overpower them all, " he said ruefully. "One at a time, yes, but not all at once."
"And being killed is such an inconvenience," joked Methos.
"You don't say."
"An honourable surrender? Or a noble retreat?" Methos disarmed one of the sailors, and took advantage of a second's resulting lull to glance back again. The line was advancing; they were now less than a hundred yards away. "Or maybe that will be decided for us."
"What?" Finally throwing aside the cat and mouse game that he had been playing, Kronos whirled his sword, and disarmed four of the sailors in almost a single stroke. At another time he would have killed them. but now he had other things on his mind. He spun around to face the oncoming guards, sword at the ready, but it was obvious that the fight could have only one outcome. Surrounded, the two friends were overpowered. A triumphant guard wrestled the sword from Kronos' hand as the angry Immortal was held helpless in the grip of three guards. Methos, calmer by nature, was content to stand silent as the guards held him. Inside he was angry and frustrated, but outwardly his expression was of faint amusement. The officer in charge of the guard smirked, enjoying some secret joke which no doubt was based on his knowledge of their fate.
"Brawling with the King's Guards is a serious offence," he declared airily. "You could be taken before the governor for this."
"Really? How is the old chap?" Methos had not seen the governor since his arrival in the Americas, but he knew him well enough; he had been a neighbour for a few years when the governor was six years old, and still living in England.
The officer scowled at him, and stepped back, gesturing in the rough direction of a naval ship anchored not far from Methos' own Spartacus.
"Take them on board," he growled. "You know what to do with them."
"Sir." The guards began to manhandle their prisoners across the harbour, using far more violence than was really necessary. Methos showed no sign of resistance, and the wild struggles of Kronos were hopelessly ineffective. They were forcibly dragged up the gangplank and across the deck to the hold. Despite the apparent gravity of their situation, Methos could not prevent his mind drifting back to a time when the pair of them had been captured by a Viking fleet. They had not even left the shore before Kronos had broken free, and had wreaked terrible vengeance with his sword. The violent raiders, with their axes and heavy blades, had been no match for the speed and ferocity of the already ancient Immortal once his blood was up. It had all been over in minutes, and the two Immortals had made their escape by leaping overboard and swimming for shore, leaving half the crew of the ship dead or wounded. Here there was little chance of that. They were packed in too tight, and there was no likelihood of escaping unseen. He gritted his teeth and allowed himself to be forced down into the damp darkness of the hold. After all, they said that with life came hope, and here there was little chance of their losing their lives. It was just a matter for patience. Their moment would come.
The time passed slowly. Methos stood staring through a porthole, deep in meditation, whilst Kronos sat on the floor, testing his strength against the heavy chains which decorated his wrists. Finally Methos turned around, the persistent jangling noise beginning to make it hard to maintain his concentration.
"After all the practice you've had, you should be used to these things by now," he commented lightly. The surly look on his companion's face faded.
"You'd think so wouldn't you?" He took the hint, and sat still. "What do you think they'll do with us?"
"I've no idea." Methos sat down beside him. "Execute us perhaps?"
"Oh, not again..." Kronos scowled. "Just so long as they don't hang us. It hurts." He rubbed his neck. "Dangling there, with everybody watching. I've been hanged three times already."
"Three? It's gone up."
"Yes." There was a wicked gleam in Kronos' eyes. "I was executed in England about thirty years ago, for being a highwayman. Yes I know what you're going to say. It serves me right."
"Would I?!" Methos reflected on their millennia of shared experiences. "To be fair, most of the times we've been executed we hadn't really done a lot. I see to remember being thrown over a cliff in Ancient Greece."
"That hurt too," interjected Kronos. "I had a headache for days."
Ignoring the interruption Methos continued. "Then there was that time in Rome when we were put to the sword."
"A rather colourful phrase which basically means being stabbed." Kronos shook his head. "That was a close one. They threw our bodies out for the wild animals. I have no idea what happens to an Immortal if he's eaten by a wolf."
"I'd really rather not find out." Methos couldn't recall why they'd been killed that time, but he had a feeling it had concerned a senator and an imagined insult. "Mind you, Rome was fun in other ways." He smiled wickedly. "I seem to remember having to buy you from a tradesman after you let yourself be caught. You still owe me some gold for that."
"Perhaps." Kronos' tone suggested sarcasm. "But I rather think I returned that debt. Or had you forgotten Camilla?"
"No..." Camilla had been a beautiful Immortal who had decided to take Methos' head. She had nearly succeeded, but Kronos had arrived just in time.
"Now that was quite some Quickening." Kronos smiled in satisfaction. He could still remember the exhaustive agony and the sweet ecstasy as he had taken Camilla's life essence. He grinned wickedly. "It's been a long time since I took a head."
"Well don't go thinking of taking mine." It was a redundant statement anyway, since they weren't armed. Kronos raised his eyebrows.
"Perhaps I should. It would be a remarkable experience."
"It would make a mess." Methos smirked. "And what makes you think that you could beat me?"
"You know I could. I always win. The only way you could beat me is if I let you."
"Perhaps." They had discussed this a hundred times before. It was something that they would have to face up to one day. After all, the old legend did not say that in the end there could be two.
"You know," he said after a moment's thought. "Beheading is making a comeback in some countries. We're going to have to be careful."
"You mean I'm going to have to be careful." Kronos made a face. "Don't worry. When I meet my end I have no intention of my Quickening being lost forever. I won't be beheaded by a crowd of bloodthirsty mortals.
"I tell you what," Methos offered comfortingly. "I won't let anybody take your head but me."
Kronos offered him a scathing look, but his eyes were smiling. "Thankyou, " he said. "The sentiment is mutual." They shared a laugh. "You don't really think they'll execute us do you?" he asked. "I'd just got used to being Karl Vincent, and I can't go back to Britain yet."
"I doubt it. If they suggest it we'll have to escape." Methos kicked at the floor. "I haven't been executed in several centuries."
"Yes, I know. You're slacking." Kronos leaned back against the wall. "You're a thousand years up on me, and I'm well ahead of you on this one. I've been garrotted in the East, virtually disembowelled in the Tropics-"
"I've been shot, stabbed-" His expression turned dark. "And the Turks tried to have me flogged to death. They lived to regret it, but not for long."
"Yes, I remember that too." Methos did not press the subject. He recalled only too clearly how he had gone to retrieve his friend's 'body', and had found him wishing that he were mortal. Death was, at the very least, a release from pain. "Relax Kronos. They'll lock us up, no more."
I suppose..." Kronos' previous good humour returned. "You don't think we'll get life?"
Methos snorted. "That would be something," he said in amusement. "Fifty years from now they might start to suspect something."
"Possibly. But I doubt it. Nobody has guessed yet, except perhaps Taesca."
"Taesca?" Methos had never been sure about that one. "Did he really know who we were, or was he just going by ancient legends?"
Taesca had been a chief, part of a tribe which had ruled the land not far from where the two Immortals were now, but some two hundred years previously. They had met him whilst travelling north after some time amongst the Aztec culture of the south. He had been old and wise, and had spoken of the wisdom of centuries that he had seen in their eyes. Methos had spent hours - days - speaking to him, learning things from the extraordinary old man, and telling him stories in return. Whilst Kronos had roamed the untamed land with the hunting parties and war bands of the tribe, Methos had gained much from Taesca. The Immortals had spit up at that point, for a while. Kronos had decided to go west, searching for new adventures, whilst Methos had chosen to remain behind with Taesca's people. It had been less than thirty years before they had been reunited, though, once more in the south. Kronos had been in a black storm of rage at the actions of the newly arrived Spanish, and it had taken all of Methos' skill and patience to calm him before he allowed his terrible fury to escape. They had stolen a Spanish ship in the end, and with a few local friends for a crew, had set sail and left Mexico far behind. Methos sometimes wondered, looking back, if it would have been better for him to have unleashed Kronos then, and maybe saved the Aztec people, but he doubted that it would have made a whole lot of difference.
The sudden sound of bolts being drawn back jerked Methos from his reverie, and the two Immortals were immediately on guard. No longer the ancient wanderers, they were immediately just a pair of slightly impatient prisoners. A group of guards gestured to them an they rose, a little awkwardly due to the chains.
"The captain wants to see you," the lead guard told them, his face expressionless. The two allowed themselves to be led from their prison and up the steps which led out of the hold. It was pleasant to be back in the sunshine again, and Kronos stretched as far as his chains would allow; just enough to remind the guards of the havoc he was capable of creating. They were ushered hurriedly below decks and into the captain's cabin, with Methos barely able to control his amusement.
The captain was sitting at his desk, writing, and he rose as the two prisoners were shown in. He saw them for what they appeared to be - two men in their early thirties, one tall and slim, the other a little smaller, and deceptively slight of build. The taller man had an air of quiet, regal superiority, whilst his companion held himself with a haughty air which made him seem like a prince and a vagabond combined. The captain tried to decide whether it was the polite scorn of Methos or the fierce defiance of Kronos which unsettled him the most.
"Ah, there you are." Telling himself that there was little which either man could do whilst chained and under guard, the captain approached the pair with false confidence. "I need your names."
There was little point in withholding them. "I'm Martin Gray, master of the Spartacus, and this is Karl Vincent, my friend."
"Very well." The captain nodded at this unexpected show of agreeability. "Gray, Vincent, you are charged with assaulting members of His Majesty's Navy, and also members of the local guard. How do you plead?"
"We didn't assault anybody," Kronos growled. "You'd have known it if we had." His words left just enough of a threat hanging in the air for the captain to be persuaded to take a step back. Methos tried not to smile, but Kronos was not nearly as discreet.
"it's not as if there are no witnesses," the captain shot back at them, his tone a little harder. "You were caught in the act. You're lucky that we've decided not to charge you with attempted murder. You'd hang for that."
Methos avoided looking at Kronos. For some peculiar reason he felt sure that he would laugh if their eyes met. "So what is going to happen?" he asked, keeping his tone level. there was something about this self-important mortal which annoyed him.
"You stay here, in the service of His Majesty," the captain told him. We sail within the hour."
"Stay here? You mean we're being pressganged? You can't do that." Methos was angry. "We've had no trial, and I have my own ship."
"That's not my problem." The captain ignored the question of a trial. "I'm merely informing you of the decision which has been made." He gestured to the guards. "Take them away. Once we're well underway, release them and put them to work." The guards started to lead their prisoners from the room, and Methos allowed them to do so. he was thinking too hard to offer much resistance, and Kronos was more than capable of struggling enough for both of them. As they left the cabin he glanced back.
"Whose decision was it?" he asked. "If it's not your problem, who is responsible?" The captain smiled at him.
"The admiral," he said, his tone verging on being patronising. The group of guards and prisoners rounded a corner, and the captain was out of sight. Methos and Kronos were taken up the steps and back out on deck.
"If I had my sword..." Kronos breathed, his dark face made darker with ill suppressed rage.
"Not yet Karl, not yet." Methos scanned the deck, looking for a trace of this admiral. Surely two free men would not be pressganged like this without there being some reason for it? He could remember no one that he had angered recently who would wish for this kind of revenge, but there had to be someone that he recognised. A feeling of energy surged within him, a low buzz that called to the warrior inside. Beside him he felt Kronos' struggles cease. A man swaggered up the gangplank, dressed in naval uniform - the admiral without a doubt. He approached the two prisoners with an expression of smug triumph.
"Well well well, if it isn't my guests," he said, his voice oily and his eyes scornful. "I hope you've been comfortable."
Neither prisoner spoke, and the admiral smirked at them, enjoying himself immensely." Honestly," he said aloud, to the crew at large. "Anybody would think I was going to take their heads!"
There was a ripple of laughter from the crew, to which Methos and Kronos did not react. The admiral seemed disappointed that not even the inflammable Kronos was rising to the bait. He turned away, and walked below decks. It took some time for the feeling of his presence to fade, and Methos only felt free of it as they were once more locked into their cell. Whoever this new Immortal was, he was powerful. Suddenly their situation seemed very different.
"Did you recognise him?" Thoughtful and sincere for once, Kronos watched through the grating of the door, to ensure that the guards had gone.
"No. At least I don't think so." Methos frowned deeply. "That beard though. He might have grown it recently."
"He seemed to know us."
"Yes, and he's powerful." Despite his general dislike of the necessity for such things, Methos felt a flash of curiosity as to what the Quickening would feel like, if he were to take it.
"Not as powerful as us." Kronos was not given to boasting, and this was simply a statement of fact. One did not live to be several thousand years old without becoming powerful. "Certainly not as powerful as you."
"That doesn't mean anything right now." Methos shook his chains. "We're not armed. He could have us shot at any time, and then we'd be helpless, for a while at least."
"He won't kill us. Not here. There's nowhere on this ship where someone wouldn't notice a Quickening; even a small one."
"Yes, that's true. Which gives us some time to think." Methos sat down on the floor. Thinking was something he was good at. He could think very well. On reflection, that was probably one of the reasons why he and Kronos made such a good team.
"Gives you time to think," Kronos corrected. It wasn't that he was opposed to that particular past time, it was just that he was more than willing to concede to a true master. Planning his actions had never been a strong facet of Kronos' character. He vaguely remembered some tutor telling him that he should think more before he did something, but the response of his student had been that there was no point; he would do it anyway, so why waste time thinking about it first? Dimly he wondered how long ago that had been, but there seemed to be little point in trying to remember. The tutor was no more than dust in the wind, and he was remembered only faintly by a single student half an eternity away. It probably no longer mattered. He felt an odd, lurching sensation.
Methos looked up, then his face registered the sensation. "We're underway," he said. "Well that narrows the possibilities somewhat."
"Where do you think we're going?" Kronos went to the porthole, but it was below the surface of the water, and would not have told him much anyway.
"I don't know. They said we'd be let up on deck when we're away from shore, so we can't be aiming for anywhere on the mainland. The West Indies maybe."
"Or Europe," Kronos growled. "I can't go a month without killing someone here. Not if they're going to keep pushing us around."
A month. It would certainly take at least that long to reach Europe, and the prospect was not inspiring. Methos thought carefully.
"We're not going there," he said finally. "They can't. They're acting well beyond their jurisdiction keeping us here like this. We must be headed for the West Indies. A man could get away with anything there."
"Really?" Kronos sounded interested, and Methos couldn't suppress a smile.
"Not your kind of place, Karl," he said with amusement. "I'm talking about slavery for the most part."
"Oh." The dark look returned. "There's no glory in that."
"No." Methos sometimes wondered at the strange sense of honour which inspired his friend. People had accused Kronos of wilful violence, of immorality, but never dishonour. "So in the meantime, all we have to do is try and keep calm."
"Keep calm? While a shipload of fools like that captain try and order us around?"
"We've taken worse." Methos smiled. "Most people mellow with age Karl. You should try it instead of moving in the opposite direction."
Kronos matched his smile. It was true, they had taken worse. They had made mistakes in long dead civilisations. When he had first arrived in America some six months previously, there had been an auction of the transported prisoners which had brought back a few unpleasant memories. It hadn't been the first time that he had fetched the highest price of a sale, but it was no less humiliating when the buyers were anxious to make the purchase.
"I'll mellow when my body is as old as my mind," he shot back. "Old men should walk with bent backs and weak arms. That's the time for growing calm and gentle."
Methos laughed. It was impossible for either of them to imagine being old. Few Immortals had reached any great age before they experienced their first death. Neither of them could even remember how old their minds were, although Methos suspected that he could probably pin down Kronos' age if he really thought about it. Either way, there was no chance of their bodies ever equalling it.
"I wonder how long it will take us to get far enough from the coast for them to let us out?" he wondered, changing the subject. Kronos tried to judge their speed from the water passing the porthole.
"We're not making a bad speed," he said. "An hour or two at the most if we're lucky." He tried to stretch his muscles, but the chains prevented him from moving as he would have liked. "And then what happens?"
"Then we wait." Methos had made a few decisions. "We watch and learn, and then when we reach shore again we can think about escaping. I have no plans to swim several hundred miles in this sea. It's crawling with sharks."
Kronos did not look impressed, but he could see the sense. It would be painfully ironic to survive for so long only to be beheaded by the bite of a hungry shark, and it was unlikely that they would be able to take the ship on their own. He could be patient. It didn't happen often, but he was quite capable of it. It was impossible to spend four thousand years in the company of Methos without something rubbing off. All the same, before this latest adventure was over he was going to retrieve his sword and have a little fun. Even if it had to be mortal heads that he took, he would do something to get some satisfaction from the chains and the imprisonment.
It was impossible to gauge the time which passed, but eventually the two friends heard the sound of bolts being drawn back again, and a group of guards indicated that they should leave the cell. They walked forwards cautiously, tensing in expectation of feeling the admiral's presence. He was not within range yet, but all the same it was difficult to go up on deck without appearing too tense, too uneasy. Long before they emerged into the evening glow of the sun, they could sense him. He stood on the foredeck, his left hand resting on the hilt of his sword, watching them with attentive eyes. He reminded Methos of an eagle, or a frigate perhaps, since they were at sea. The captain came to meet them.
"You'll join the watch," he said curtly. "There are a few hours left before we turn in."
Kronos held up his chained wrists. "What about these?" he asked. The captain glanced towards the admiral before responding.
"They stay on for now," was the answer. "In the morning we'll see about taking them off."
"You expect us to work like this?" Kronos was angry. "We can hardly walk straight."
"That's not my problem." It seemed to be a favourite phrase of the Captain's. Kronos could have spoken further, but he knew that there was no room for a great display of anger in their plan. Not yet. He followed Methos across the deck, and together they began to coil the massive ropes which were strewn about. Methos worked deftly and in silence, his brow furrowed in thought. These short hours were a chance for the captain and his crew to judge the seaworthiness of the new recruits, and no doubt also a chance for the admiral to make his presence felt. It could work two ways though. A few hours at the end of the day, when the crew were more likely to be careless, was the best chance for him to observe. If only Kronos could keep ahold of his temper they should be able to get through this without incident. That way, when they reached their destination, and the admiral finally showed his hand, Methos would be ready for him. He felt Kronos' eyes on him and looked up. The younger Immortal was following his lead with the ropes, but was hardly an expert.
"You're worried," he said, his voice low.
"You noticed." Methos also spoke quietly. "Are you surprised?"
"No." Kronos regarded him quizzically. "But it's me you're worried about, isn't it. Martin, how many times have we got into trouble together?"
"And have I ever let you down?"
"No," Methos admitted.
"Well then." Kronos threw another coil. "Relax Martin." I'm perfectly capable of controlling my temper when I have to." He refrained from looking back at the admiral. "I'm far more worried about our friend back there. It makes me feel uneasy, having him around all the time."
"Yes." Methos glanced up, and for a second his eyes met with the strange Immortal's. There was something there; something in the way that he held himself, or just that in that brief fusion of glances perhaps, which struck a chord in Methos' memory. He frowned. "We have to talk," he said urgently. "I'm sure we know that man. If we can figure out who he is, we may be able to out think him."
"Certainly. We'll be back downstairs soon." Kronos stiffened. Even though his back was turned, he could feel the admiral coming closer. Neither he nor Methos rose to meet him.
"Captain!" The admiral sounded a little angry. His over-willing underling was immediately by his side.
"Yes sir?" he asked, sounding too anxious to please.
"Do you think it's sensible to have these two working together?" Gesturing at his two prisoners, the admiral swept the deck with his arm. "It's a big ship. Make use of the space."
"Yes sir, of course." The captain made a beckoning sign to a couple of crewmen, and pointed at Kronos. "Find him something to do somewhere else."
"Sir." The sailors were members of the group that the two Immortals had fought earlier in the day, and they were only too pleased to have been chosen for this task.
"Get up Vincent," one of them ordered. Karl Vincent looked deep into Methos' eyes, and smiled. He rose to his feet. He was nearly six inches smaller than the sailors, but somehow managed to look taller than both of them. He was led away without protest. For a moment Methos hoped that the admiral would remain, but he turned and walked back to his former roost. He liked to be able to see the whole deck. Uneasy, but as relaxed as he was ever likely to be whilst on the ship, Methos returned to his task. It was simple, which allowed him to think, and it also conjured up images of the Spartacus. Somehow his choice of name for that fine vessel now seemed strangely prophetic. He only hoped that he had not seen the last of her.
On the other side of the deck, Kronos began to paint tar onto some new ropes. It was not the most pleasant of tasks, but he was sure he had had worse. It wasn't always easy to remember everything that he had done, but in four thousand years he was sure he must have done something that qualified. He began to build up a rhythm, and almost felt like whistling. He was aware of the lurking presence of all six of the sailors that he and Methos had met that morning, but he tried to ignore them. It wouldn't be a good idea to cause trouble; not when any wounds that he received would heal so quickly.
The time passed. Methos finished coiling the ropes, and found himself repairing a loose section of railing. It was never difficult to find something to do on a sailing ship. The growing darkness, and the obstructive presence of the masts and men made it impossible for him to see Kronos, but he was not too concerned. He was almost disappointed when two guards appeared beside him and ordered him below.
"What about Karl?" he asked. Neither guard answered, and he followed them below. He hoped that the admiral had not given orders for them to be confined separately. He needed to talk to his companion. One of the best things about having a friend who was similarly ancient was that they could bounce half remembered events and faces between them until something clicked. There was no sign of Kronos in the cell though, and Methos sat down on the floor, hoping that his friend would not be long.
Up on deck, Kronos could see new sailors reporting for the night watch, as others went below. The captain and the admiral had also gone, and soon there were less than twenty people on deck. Six of them were his 'friends', the sailors from the inn. He began to be worried. One of the sailors came closer, and knocked the container of tar over, spilling the contents in a black slick across the decking. Kronos tensed his muscles and stood up.
"Whoops," the sailor said, his voice deadpan. Kronos raised an eyebrow, but made no other move. There seemed to be little point. The other five men were edging closer, trying to hem him in. That was hardly fair. Six against one were not odds that Kronos would normally have shied from, but he could not use his arms properly, and the chains on his ankles prevented him from having any real chance of dodging blows. He backed off, but found that there was no where to go. The sailors were smiling. Angry, Kronos could do nothing as they moved in. His arms were seized, and helpless he could do little except watch as one of the sailors stood in front of him. He hoped that they would tire of their game quickly, and lock him up before any injuries that they caused had a chance to heal. In the meantime, the only consolation was that the pain wouldn't last long.
It did not seem that Methos had been alone for long before he heard the door of his cell open, and a handful of sailors pushed the limp form of Karl Vincent inside. He fell senseless to the floor, and the men left, locking the door behind them.
"Damn." Methos rolled Kronos over onto his back, wincing in sympathy as he did so. The darkly handsome face was a mask of blood, and the Immortal was deeply unconscious. He would heal quickly enough, but that would cause problems of a different sort. There was a bucket of water in the cell, and Methos tore out some of the lining of his coat to use for a rag. He washed the blood from his friend's face, and settled back to wait for him to wake up.
It did not take long. Kronos stirred and opened his eyes. He lay still for a brief moment, and then sat up. The marks on his face - mostly superficial - were already beginning to fade. Although facial injuries were amongst the slowest to heal, they should be gone by the morning. He rubbed his head and took a moment to focus on Methos.
"It wasn't my fault," he said defensively, before the other man could speak.
"I guessed that." Methos wondered if he could expect similar treatment tomorrow. "I recognised our friends when they brought you in." He smiled ruefully. "I'm sorry about that. I started that one, didn't I."
"No. They did." Kronos massaged his jaw. It hurt, and he mentally added another mark to the list that he was keeping. Something else to raise his sword to, come pay back time. He made another abortive attempt to stretch, and decided to think about something else.
"You wanted to talk," he asked. Methos nodded slowly.
"That's right. About the admiral. I need you to remember, Kronos."
"I'll do my best."
"Okay." Methos tried to identify the pieces that he needed to connect. "It's a long time ago. It's cold, and dark, and we might be near the sea. There's someone watching, and he's another Immortal."
Kronos frowned. "I remember... India," he said finally. "I think. We were on the coast, about three hundred years ago. More maybe."
"Yes, that's it! India!" Methos rubbed at his eyes. "Oh but we're missing something. What were we doing there? There were traders - lots of people with silks and cotton."
Kronos was nodding. "It was early in the year, and we had just arrived from... China?" He paused, trying to remember something. "The traders - weren't they from Naples?"
"I think so." Methos banged his forehead, as if by doing so he could shake the pieces into place. Suddenly he smiled. "There was an Immortal with them. Lorenzo. Lorenzo...?"
"Amendola," Kronos finished. "He kept hanging about, in the distance. Making his presence felt."
"Lorenzo Amendola, that's right." Methos let his mind drift back, remembering how he had looked up one evening, and caught the man's eye as he had watched them from a distance. "The traders were robbed, and their silks were stolen. Amendola was arrested for the crime. He was accused of being in league with the thieves. He was executed."
"Put to the sword," Kronos confirmed, being something of an expert on executions. That was hardly surprising, Methos thought wryly. Kronos had been executed more often than any other man alive.
"I don't remember seeing him again though," he mused.
"I don't think we did." Kronos shrugged. "Maybe he thinks we should have helped him."
"Maybe." A sudden thought struck Methos. "Karl... we left remember. There was that business with the prince's daughters-"
"Of course. We went to Africa before the sentence was carried out."
"And if they buried Amendola..." Methos almost shuddered. "He could have been buried for some time. We should have thought about him. Gone back."
"Why? He had friends. And anyway, he was an irritating idiot. Don't you remember how he looked down on everybody? Thought that he was God's gift to Immortalkind? The only reason he didn't try for our heads was because he never ran into us separately."
"True." Methos shook his head sadly. Amendola had been a fool, despite his relatively great age. He must have been at least a thousand. If he had been buried for a long time, something might well have snapped within him. It was not a pleasant experience, and it was easy to see how a man who was not entirely possessed of a full measure of sanity to start off with, could easily slip over the edge altogether. He might have been watching Methos for some time, planning his revenge. The arrival of Kronos was no doubt an unexpected bonus.
"So where does this leave us?" Kronos looked up inquiringly. "If Amendola wants revenge, he's going to want to take our heads, surely?"
"Probably, eventually. But we're assuming that he considers us responsible for something - quite likely a long burial - and in that case he's going to want to get something other than a Quickening or two out of this one. He wants revenge."
"Indubitably. Which means that he's got something planned for us." He rolled his eyes. "Oh good. I can hardly wait."
Methos smiled grimly. "Well at least we're ready for him now," he said, with some determination. "We know who he is, and we know more or less what to expect. We just have to carry on waiting."
"For how long?"
"I don't know." Methos leaned back, a little more relaxed now that one puzzle at least was solved. "But I'm still sure that we're heading for the West Indies. It can't be long now."
Morning came quickly. The guards who fetched them were ones who knew nothing about the fight, and they showed no surprise at the lack of visible damage on Kronos' face. On deck, the sailors who had been responsible were loitering about, no doubt intending to get the greatest possible entertainment from their handiwork. Instead they looked astounded. Emerging into the sunlight, Kronos flashed them a wicked grin. They had been expecting cuts and bruises at the very least, but there was not a mark to be seen. Methos smiled, feeling a little smug. There was something satisfying about such a moment as this. He caught Amendola's eye, and the Immortal came over, sensing the summons. He recognised the animosity in the air, and glanced from the group of sailors to the prisoners.
"What's going on?" he asked.
Methos fixed him with his favourite piercing glare. "There was a little trouble last night," he said meaningfully. Amendola got the message.
"Well it won't happen again," he said forcibly, and ordered the guilty sailors away with a single look. "I'm sorry," he said. "Once those chains are off you'll be free to fight back if necessary, but I want your assurance that you won't try to escape. It would be... foolish."
"Oh don't worry about that." Methos was keeping his voice low, although he didn't think anybody was within hearing. "We want to stay here for a while, and find out what you're up to - Amendola."
The other Immortal flinched at the sound of the name. "Amendola is dead," he said thickly, his voice a harsh whisper. "He's been dead a long time. Not that you'd care."
Methos shrugged. "I'm sorry about what happened," he said quietly. "But you must have known that you'd be killed if you were found out."
"Killed maybe... but not buried." Amendola had acquired a haunted look. Methos lowered his eyes.
"How long?" he asked.
"One hundred and twenty five years." The dark eyes had become slits, and the voice was barely audible.
One hundred and twenty five years... Methos remembered one occasion when he and Kronos had been buried for several weeks. He remembered the claustrophobia, the pain of constantly gashed and rehealing hands as they had clawed their way up, tearing at the wood that surrounded them, and then at the hard, stony ground; repeated suffocation as the earth collapsed on top of them again and again. That had been bad enough, and the memory had lingered in their dreams for months, but one hundred and twenty five years. It didn't bear thinking about.
"I'm sorry," he said, although it was not nearly enough. He and Kronos had been roaming the globe for millennia, in constant search of fun and the next adventure, and it had never really been necessary to give a second's thought to most of those that they met along the way. There was a reason for that of course; it hurt too much to get really involved. This was one time, though, when surely they needed to at least find some small measure of guilt. "But you can't blame us for that. I mean - you had friends, and surely you could have dug yourself out if necessary. It's not easy, but-"
"My friends left," Amendola told them. "The authorities put my body out on display, for all to see. They saw it heal. I was feared as an evil spirit, and they had me buried in lead, and rock, to make sure that I couldn't come back to get them, once they'd killed me again."
"I'm sorry," Methos said again. His pity was real. His own lingering claustrophobia was as a result of the last time he had been buried, and he could not even begin to imagine how it must feel to have been incarcerated in such fashion for more than a century. The growing desperation, the wretched insanity, was only too easy to visualise. Amendola said nothing, but his voice spoke volumes.
You will be sorry, it said. He turned and walked away, gesturing absently at a guard as he did so. The guard, holding a hammer and chisel, approached them and struck off the chains. Methos stretched in delight, the relief in his shoulder muscles feeling wonderful. It would have been all too easy for Amendola to have kept them locked below. Presumably he was allowing them this restricted freedom in order to emphasise the power that he had over them, but it was a welcome gesture nonetheless. Once they were free the guard edged away nervously. He had no doubt heard all about the fight which the two had put up before they had been arrested, and he had no desire to take any unnecessary risks.
"That feels good." Kronos rubbed at his wrists, watching the chafe marks vanish. He noticed the shadows of thought which were visible in his friend's eyes. "You're letting him get to you."
"I know." Amendola's back was turned, but Methos watched him all the same. "A hundred years, Karl. Think about it."
"No thanks." Kronos had no desire to recall the sensation of being trapped underground in a small space. Even the first time, when it had been for no more than a day, had been bad enough. He sighed. "There was nothing we could have done for him Martin," he said reasonably. "Think about it. If they had just buried him, we could have dug him up, but what could we have done with his body on display? We would only have ended up being buried with him."
This was true. All the same, Methos could not shake the feeling of responsibility.. Perhaps it was something to do with being the oldest man on the planet, but he often felt that there should be nothing which was beyond his power. He should be able to help everyone, no matter how foolish it seemed. One thing was clear, though; Amendola had started out as a thief, and he had become a mad man looking for revenge. It would not be possible to leave him alive. The damage that he could do to those around him was too great for him to be allowed to live; and besides, the two of them could never be safe whilst he was walking the Earth. Despite that knowledge, Methos doubted whether he would be able to kill Amendola. His sympathy was too great.
Julius Vestus, who had been born in 80AD as the son of a Roman senator, sat at his desk with his head in his hands, his sword stretched out in front of him. It had shaken him, hearing the name of Lorenzo Amendola again after so many years, and the thoughts he had hoped were hidden had come back to haunt him. He felt the lead casing around him, restricting his movements, and smelt the earthy, damp smell of the tiny space, the constant light headedness from the lack of oxygen. He felt the twenty feet of rock and earth above him, and remembered the sound of his own tortured screams; how they had grown louder over the decades until finally someone had heard them. One hundred and twenty five years was a long time to lie in the darkness plotting revenge, but now he had both of his enemies in his hands. In all truth, Vestus - Amendola - knew that Gray and Vincent (they had called themselves Walker and Samuels then, if he remembered correctly) were not to blame for his incarceration. There had not, in fairness, been anything that they could have done to help him, but he wanted to blame someone. Those who were truly responsible had been long dead before he had broken free. He had always planned to kill the two Immortals anyway. He had envied them, with their easy confidence and their luck with women. He was jealous of Gray's mind, of his intelligence and knowledge, and he coveted Vincent's expertise with weaponry, which he knew was by no means restricted to the sword. These were things which he hoped would be his when he took their heads. After more than a century in his own private hell, his already twisted mind had become dangerously unhinged, and he intended to make his two fellow Immortals suffer before he killed them. He had nearly caught up with them a hundred years previously, in Scotland, but had lost them again. Now the situation was perfect. Not only was he able to satisfy his need for revenge, but also his love to cause pain, and his desire for two very special heads.
The days passed in a blur of tying knots and washing the decks. With the chains removed, and the knowledge that they were only to be locked up at night, the two Immortals felt less like prisoners. They saw less of Amendola since their confrontation. Perhaps it was because they had recognised him, but he seemed to be less comfortable around them now. They tried to ignore his presence. The ever present sun, and the sea, were long standing friends of both Immortals, and the billowing sails were like old friends to Methos in particular. They reminded him of the Spartacus. Even Kronos seemed to have relaxed a little. Being at the top of the masts gave him a feeling of immense strength. The limitless horizon, the exhaustive silence, spoke of the countless millennia that the Earth had endured, and suggested at immeasurable power. Kronos gave little thought to the Prize as a rule. He lived for fun and adrenalin, and little more; but he couldn't help wondering, as he stood at the top of his own world, what could be a more rewarding prize than the essence of the Earth herself. That made him laugh. It was a sentiment worthy of Methos.
The looming presence of land on the horizon brought a dark glooming imperfection to the stretching sea, and it brought back the worries of Methos. He knew that Amendola had to reveal his hand soon, and whilst that would be a relief in some ways, he suspected that it would not be easy to escape the insane Immortal's grasp.
They docked in a quiet harbour near a new town. A few white washed buildings suggested at what the settlement might one day grow to, in decades to come, but it amounted to little as yet. Methos had been expecting to be locked up once they reached land, but unarmed, and on a crowded deck, they presented little real threat. He felt Amendola approaching, and turned to face him. The younger Immortal did not speak, but simply went ashore without a backwards glance. Kronos merely shrugged at Methos' questioning look. He had little care for what went on in their captor's warped mind.
Time passed more slowly in the harbour. There was less to do, and the temptation to make an escape attempt was strong. Leaping over the side would be easy, but Methos knew that there was no sense in running. Not yet. They had to end this.
Amendola returned shortly before nightfall, and had the ship taken a little way out to sea. He knew of the temptations that a port presented, not only to prisoners but to a crew. Again he passed his intended victims without a word. It was frustrating, and the suspense made the night's imprisonment seem longer than usual. In the morning, however, it seemed that the long wait was over. The two friends were led on deck only to see Amendola and two mortal companions. The threesome were conferring at a distance, with repeated glances at the prisoners. Kronos felt his hackles rise. He knew the scenario only too well; there was no market place, and no shouted bids, but two plays could have the same plot even if the dialogue was different. It did not take long before some deal was struck, and the two men left. Amendola sauntered over, looking refreshed and content, the haunted look finally chased away.
"You fetched a good price." he said airily.
"You'll pay for this, admiral." Kronos spoke the rank with bitter sarcasm, and he took a step forward. Several guards converged on him at once and prevented him from moving further. Braver men than Amendola had withered beneath Kronos' eyes before, but the admiral did not flinch. Instead he smiled.
"No, my dear Vincent, I don't think so." his contemptuous gaze flicked to Methos. "Can't you keep your dog on a leash, Gray?"
The comment prompted another attempted advance from Kronos, but he was held too tightly to do much more than struggle wildly. Methos felt a hot flush of anger rise within him, but he had become adept at controlling his emotions.
"I rather thought that you were going to kill us," he said, choosing his words carefully for the benefit of the mortals present.
"Oh not yet my friend, not yet." Amendola's eyes seemed to be lit by some strange glow. "Those men... they'll work you till you drop. They have... ways of making you do as they want. And since you two have such... remarkable recuperative powers, their subtle methods should be extra-specially appreciated, don't you think?"
The message was clearly there, between the lines. A captive Immortal could endure years of pain as his body constantly recovered no matter what the injury. Amendola was adding the promise of torture to the humiliation of slavery.
"One day you'll beg me to kill you," the admiral said, his voice almost a whisper, his tone one of thinly masked excitement. Methos felt disgust replace the anger. Amendola was not just insane; he was depraved.
"Don't bet on it," he said, his voice tense with the hatred he was not sure that he could continue to control. The other man smiled a contented smile.
"You won't be so sure, ten years from now," he murmured. "Or maybe only five, or three... It doesn't take long to send a man insane. Death is a sweet release which comes to end the agony... If you're lucky." He signalled to the guards, and the two prisoners were once more taken below decks. "Enjoy yourselves," Amendola's voice echoed behind them, mockingly. "You'll be in new quarters before this time tomorrow."
The door crashed shut. Methos let out a long sigh, and leaned against it, his eyes closed. Kronos was almost shaking with rage. For the thousandth time Methos was glad that he and the explosive Immortal were friends. He didn't relish the possibility of one day finding himself on the wrong side of that temper.
"We've got to get out," he said, hoping to find a constructive outlet for the growing storm.
"You don't say."
"We'll have to handle the crew first. Get them off the ship, or locked up down here. We should get away from the coast, too, before we handle Amendola."
"Whatever." Kronos looked at him suddenly. "I have a score to settle with others besides him."
"I know." Methos doubted that he could do anything to help the six sailors in question, and he was beginning to wonder if he even cared. "But there is the question of escaping first."
"And finding our swords."
"Yes. I have a feeling that the captain has them in his cabin." Methos had not seen them when he had been taken there, but he felt certain that they were there nonetheless. There were some things that he just knew. He shook the door, but it was as firm as it had been every other time that he had tried the same thing. "There has to be a way out of here."
Kronos scanned the room, his eyes coldly calculating, despite the hot fury that was burning behind them. They had not seriously considered escape from this room before. Curiosity, and the need to see things though as regarded Amendola, had kept the technicalities of breaking out away from their immediate thoughts. He pushed experimentally at the walls, and kicked at the floor. Nothing suggested itself as an immediate possibility. Finally he crossed to the door, and ran his hands over the hinges. They were rusted, and although the door itself was strong, that would mean little if it was not fixed strongly in place.
"It'll take some time," he said. "One kick isn't going to do it, but in an hour or so, maybe, we'll be out."
"Fine. We'd better get started then." Methos stepped back to allow Kronos to deliver the first blow. He doubted that anybody would hear the noise, and the door couldn't stand up forever. Their bodies were more resilient than it was.
The door took nearly two hours of constant battering before it finally crashed from its resting place. Nobody came to investigate the noise, and the two Immortals went quickly to the stairs. They climbed them carefully. Since they were at anchor there was only a skeleton crew on deck, and it was easy enough to move unseen to the hatchway which led below. From somewhere beneath them they could hear the sounds of the other crewmen shouting and singing, and Methos wondered if it would be possible to lock them in. He followed Kronos towards the captain's cabin, and allowed him to burst in first. The captain sat at his desk, and he jumped up as they entered, his expression one of abject fear. Kronos did not bother speaking to him, but began instead to search the room. He trusted his friend's instinct enough to be sure that the swords were in there somewhere. Methos strode straight to the desk, and pulled open the top drawer. It was deceptively large, and inside lay the swords. He drew them out, and felt a rush of excitement as the blades glistened.
"Kronos..." he called softly, and as his companion turned he threw him his sword. Kronos took it from the air and spun it in his hand, feeling its weight, and hearing its secret song. He whispered something in an ancient language that the rest of the world had long forgotten, and which he gave little thought to usually. It was a language of warriors, wizards and kings, and it had been sealed into the blade that now glittered before him. The captain, too terrified to move, watched the Immortals with something approaching awe. For the first time he was seeing beneath the surface, catching a glimpse of what lay behind the eyes of these two young men; and it frightened him more than anything he had ever seen before, from the ocean at its wildest to the contaminating depravity of the admiral.
"Let's go." Methos headed quickly for the door, and Kronos, knowing him well, allowed him to move beyond sight before he ran the captain through.
They were just reaching the deck when someone discovered that they had escaped. Going below for whatever reason, he must have seen the broken down door. He gave a yell, which was taken up by those on deck. Soon the rest of the crew was running up from the fo'c'sle, and Kronos grinned at the promise of the fight to come.
Methos swung the sword in a wide arc. It felt good to feel the cold metal in his hands once again, to feel its weight and its life. Three of the mortals had drawn their own swords, and they advanced cautiously. Methos let them come. They were preparing to fight Martin Gray, an innocuous looking young man; but they were about to discover how deceiving appearances could be. A few yards away Kronos was already in the thick of battle, despatching mortals with impressive skill. The six sailors that had started it all back at the inn were the first to fall. Methos tried to wound rather than kill, but he soon found it impossible. The sailors were dogged and desperate. He got the impression that they were too afraid of their admiral to allow the prisoners to escape.
A yell echoed through the air. Methos had already felt Amendola's presence on the deck, and he did not need to wonder at the source of the shout. Kronos, throwing aside the last few sailors still in his way, made a charge at the other Immortal. Amendola swung up the ladder onto the foredeck, drawing his sword to meet Kronos. Methos felt a desperate feeling inside his stomach. He knew that this fight could have only one possible ending; a Quickening, and he could think of more subtle ways of letting half the port know of their presence. There was no avoiding it though. The whole adventure had been leading up to this point, and he did not blame Kronos for his anger. All that was left was to hope that it was not Amendola who would win.
Whirling his sword, Methos blocked two thrusts at once, feeling the force jar his shoulder, After five thousand years practice he still wasn't the world's greatest swordsman, but he was more than able to fight off his attackers. He was still trying not to kill them, but he could see that his good intentions were going to be thwarted. The last two men fell dead at his feet, and he swung around, looking for more assailants. There were none; all the other members of the crew who were still alive were watching the battle between the two Immortals.
From the first crash as their swords met, it was obvious that both men were experts, and that both were intent on annihilating their opponent. They tested each other at first, throwing cautious passes, trying to find out how good the competition was. Down below, Methos and the crew watched together, their own battles forgotten. Only Methos could appreciate its significance. He was almost holding his breath.
Minutes passed, feeling like hours. A lucky blow from Amendola slashed across Kronos' chest, and Methos felt his heart leap into his throat. He tensed his muscles. If Amendola should manage to disable Kronos, there was a chance that Methos could reach them before the fatal blow. Kronos, however, seemed only to have been given new strength by the sudden pain. His sword was almost a blur as he cut through Amendola's defences. The bewildered admiral stumbled backwards, all of his own phenomenal ability useless to him now. The older sword painted an arc across the sky, and Amendola threw up his own sword to protect himself. Kronos' weapon passed as though there were no blockage at all, severing Amendola's arm at the elbow. The disconnected hand twitched, and the sword clattered to the deck, the arm landing on top of it. Amendola stared down at it, unable to think of it as his own, but knowing that this was the end. Almost before his sword had finished that first swing, Kronos brought it back in the opposite direction, and the other Immortal's head joined the sword at the victor's feet. There was a silence. Down below, Methos braced himself, clenching his teeth as the darkness grew. A hurricane seemed to be tearing across the ship, and he felt the spray from resultant waves on his face. Someone screamed, but he had no way of telling if it was Kronos or one of the watching mortals. He threw up an arm to protect his eyes, and saw the familiar blue-white fire as it charged through Kronos, hurling him through the air and onto the decking below. Amendola had been as powerful as they had thought.
The silence returned slowly. Gradually Methos was able to relax. The mortals were either too stunned, or too scared to move, and he took advantage of this to run to Kronos' side. His friend's eyelids flickered, and he gazed up at Methos, a weak smile crossing his face.
"Wow," was all he could manage for the moment. Methos helped him to his feet, supporting his weight. He didn't like the way that the deckhands were beginning to gather together.
"We'd better leave," he said curtly, heading for the rail, and sheathing his sword as he did so. Kronos put away his own weapon, but looked down at the water without enthusiasm.
"I don't think I'm up to a swim," he mumbled, his voice still unsteady.
"That doesn't matter." As the crew began to advance, Methos clambered over the rail, and Kronos followed suit. Without further ado they dropped into the ocean.
The water was cool and clear. Methos swam down, until the depth blocked the ship from his view. He blew out a long breath, sending countless bubbles leaping towards the surface, then looked for Kronos. His friend was beside him, sending similar clouds of bubbles skywards. It would not take long. The weight of their swords would keep them far enough below the surface to avert suspicion, and the crew would not look for them for long. Then, eventually, the tide would wash their bodies into the shore.
The sun was warm on his face. Methos choked, and sat up slowly. Of all the methods of dying, drowning had to be one of the worst. He nudged Kronos, and his companion groaned and rolled over, sitting up. He stared out to sea, then looked sheepish.
"Sorry," he said, his voice almost inaudible. "That was all my fault."
"Not really." The only thing more worrying than Kronos in a bad mood was Kronos when he was feeling apologetic. It was unsettling. "It had to happen sooner or later."
"So now what?"
"I don't know." Methos stood up and stretched, anxious to get the full benefit from the sun on his limbs. Drowning had left him feeling cold and slightly ill. Whoever had decided that the sea should be salty had obviously never swallowed several pints of the stuff. "We can't go into town. By now the word will have spread. Everyone will know about the Quickening, and that we drowned."
"And everyone back on the mainland knows that we were arrested," Kronos added, cleaning his sword at the water's edge. "Which means it's all up for Martin Gray."
"I guess so." Methos pulled Kronos to his feet. "Come on Karl. We can't stay here forever."
"Why not?" Kronos had always liked the sea, and the sun. There was something about the West Indian Ocean that reminded him of the Mediterranean, and of other, similar places. "It's not unlike Atlantis."
"Come on." Methos had not missed that particular comparison himself, but there would be other times to reminisce about the happy days on Atlantis. About the endless fun, the perfect food, and about Maia and Karinn... "We've got to take a look around. Find out where we are."
"That should be easy enough."
They headed along the coast, always alert, but they saw no one. It was getting dark before they reached a harbour. It did not seem to be the same one that they had left. Methos could not hold back a smile as he thought of the havoc that must have been caused by their presence there, and about the legends that he knew would arise from the lightning that had filled the skies. They paused on the outskirts of the small town, considering their next move. Finally Kronos nudged his companions' arm.
"Look," he whispered. A little out of the port, a ship lay at anchor. She was beautiful, her lines graceful and smooth, and she sat perfectly in the water. "We could take her," he urged. "Go anywhere."
Methos smiled. It was perfect. A ship of their own; another Spartacus. The means by which to travel anywhere, and the freedom to do as they wished. He nodded, and they quickly removed their boots. Methos pulled off his coat, and they waded into the sea. It was growing cold, but neither man minded. A quarter of a mile was no distance at all, and they climbed silently up the anchor rope. The ship was calm and still, but the drunken songs which drifted across the bay from the town suggested where most of the crew might be. A handful of inebriated sailors lay around on the deck, and it was a simple task to throw them overboard. The ship was theirs. The two Immortals grinned triumphantly at each other. They had no idea how well they would be able to handle it on their own, but that was a concern which would be faced later. Eager to explore, they went below decks. Kronos could remember another time that he had taken possession of a vessel - a Roman galley. He had started the voyage chained to an oar, and had wound up in command, although not exactly with the permission of the ship's master. That had been when he had met Spartacus.
It was dark on the hold. There was a smell of death and disease. The tired coughing and the clink of chains were all that were needed to alert the old friends as to the nature of their cargo. It looked as though they had found their crew. Lighting the oil lamps which hung above them, they began to free the captives. This was one shipload of men at least that were going to be saved the horrors of slavery. There was plenty of time to see that they knew how to handle a ship. In the meantime, the two young men who were really old merely drew up the anchor and let the tide begin to pull them out to sea.
"We've stolen a ship, helped two hundred slaves to escape and killed half a ship's crew," Methos said, sounding a little stunned. That was an usually active day even for Kronos. "Now what do we do?"
"Sail somewhere. Let off the men who want to go home. The others can stay on as crew." Kronos' eyes gleamed in the light of the rising moon. "The sea is full of ships, Martin. Rich cargoes. Less able men than us have made a good life from piracy."
Methos frowned. Was the idea really so bad? In a world where the strands of morality and immorality were so tightly interwoven, it was not always easy to tell where right ended and wrong began, and that just about summed up his life with Kronos. Fun, and the search for adventure, were all that really mattered.
"Piracy..." he mused, his face lighting up in a smile. "On one condition."
"We rename the ship Spartacus II."
"Why not. Given her crew it seems rather appropriate." Kronos was grinning broadly. For him life was always in black and white, and the struggle to justify his actions in terms as vague as 'moral' and 'immoral' meant nothing. It was a philosophy which was catching, and Methos found that he was glad to take it up again.
"Mr Vincent - point her at Africa," he said contentedly.
"Aye aye sir." Kronos had no idea where Africa was, but he had a fair idea where it wasn't. He spun the wheel in a non-committal fashion, and let the sea do the rest. Sometime soon they would have to think about doing something with the sails, but that could wait a while longer. Methos threw an arm across his companion's almost impossibly ancient shoulders, and turned his own even more ancient head to look out to sea. There were unimaginable horizons out there; countless sunrises and unconquerable sunsets. And best of all there was the unmistakable promise of adventure.