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The ink-filled brush slid silently over the paper, writing with elegant strokes characters which to most eyes would mean nothing. But to the man who sat cross- legged on the floor, inkwell to one side of him, it was all very clear what it read. In silence, he dipped the brush into the ink, slid it back out along the rim of the bottle and began writing anew.
The characters, if they could have been translated, were of a journal of a life long past. It was something that as each character was written, reflected on the writer's face what it meant and seemed to portray a memory.
He laid down the brush on the paper and began to make another character when the phone rang startling him causing him to spill the ink all over paper and floor and ruining his efforts. "Dammit!" he sharply swore out loud and picked up the receiver as he cradled it on his shoulder. "Pierson," he curtly said as he searched and found a rag to clean up the mess left by the ink.
He listened for a moment as he wiped up the ink and threw away the paper, then paused as he curled his hand about the receiver tightly. "I'm sorry-- would you mind repeating that?"
"Adam, I thought I'd let you know since you're working on the Methos Chronicles that an old acquaintance of his is back in Paris. At least we think he was an acquaintance."
Pierson's nostrils flared as his eyes narrowed when the name was mentioned.
"Greyson." There was a pause. "Is it possible that he and Methos knew one another? I mean, it's a possibility, isn't it?"
His eyebrows drew closer on his forehead as he frowned. "There's always that possibility, Gerard. Both of them are or would be very old, if indeed Methos exists." His mind raced ahead to what he knew was in his best interest--get out of Paris immediately. "Has Darius been contacted by Greyson? He was Greyson's teacher after all."
"We haven't seen anything, been fairly quiet according to Darius' Watcher. But Darius is an easy assignment; not much goes on with him."
Pierson's eyes raced about the room as he made his excuses and said goodbye to Gerard. He hung up the phone, threw the rag to one side, grabbed his keys to his Land Rover and headed out the door. After a moment, he re-entered and grabbed his Ivanhoe that sat near the door. Better be safe than sorry. Let alone dead, he thought to himself.
He drove across the Seine as he wove in and out of traffic easily as if he had been doing it all his life when, in reality, only a miniscule of time was taken up by this machine's making and his learning it. Pulling up and parking near an older church he got out, eyes darting around him and senses reaching to see if anyone else was around he didn't want to meet up with. With swift strides, he made it onto the church grounds and heaved a sigh of relief.
He entered the chapel and kept to the shadows and darkness as his eyes got accustomed to the interior and waited as the thrumming of another filled his senses.
Inside the rectory, Darius stiffened and turned his head to look in the direction of the chapel.
Someone had come.
Someone with a long lifetime of living. One of the few old ones left from what he could sense.
He entered the chapel and saw no one. "Who's there?"
"Who's there?" From behind, at the back of the chapel, came a voice, one that made him open his eyes wide in surprise.
"Hello, Darius. Been a long time."
Darius peered into the dark reaches of the church from where the softly clipped voice came from but couldn't discern a body. "Is it really you?"
Methos looked at himself; he half smiled as he watched Darius who stood near the altar. "Last time I looked it was."
Darius turned and lit the candelabra and began to walk towards where Methos stood. "You and I parted ways centuries ago. You became a rumor; a myth."
"Mythology has its' advantages, Dareios. You too have myths surrounding you from what I have heard." Methos shifted his position and pressed himself further into the shadows. "Don't come any closer. I'd rather not be seen."
Darius' voice became tinged with concern. "Is something wrong? Let me help you if I can." He stopped midway down the aisle and looked into the darkness once more.
Methos snorted. "It's true! You have changed. I remember a man on a horse charging down a army of thousands with his troops and winning the day despite the odds against you."
"That was a very long time ago, my friend, a time that I have left long ago behind me," Darius quietly replied. He sat the candelabra down then slowly lowered himself onto one of the chairs and sighed. "A very long time ago..."
378 CE Adrianople, Italy
The dust rolled in great clouds as the armies crashed and sawed at one another as both Visigoths and Roman armies tried to get the upper hand against one another. Screams of men intermingled with the screams of horses that were systematically gutted when the cavalry tried to ride through the Roman ranks.
The ground was littered in broken bodies, gore and blood that soaked the ground making it slick and hard to maneuver in. Each line wavered in ebbs and tides yet both still were able to hold their positions despite the odds against them being able to do so.
High on a hill on horseback sat a man watching the battle. His long, black locks blew about in the wind and framed his angular face while his eyes narrowed as he saw the Visigoths' cavalry gather strength once more. "By all the gods above!" he swore and turned about in search of a runner to deliver his battle maneuvers to turn the tide of their cavalry.
Spying a man who he knew to be swift, he summoned him to his side. "Praetorian! Here, take this to the generals quickly." He folded up a piece of sheepskin on which he had scurried a quick note in Latin on it. He pointed a finger at the soldier. "Everyone, do you understand?" The soldier nodded and ran for all he was worth towards the battlefield.
Methos watched him go, re-checked the positions of the armies again and became alarmed as he realized that the Romans were about to become overrun by the Visigoths' cavalry. As he watched, a great cry was heard from the opponents' side and the Roman shield wall collapsed. The Visigoths' cavalry poured through the opening like water breaking through an aqueduct and before he could blink, they began to make their way through the entire Roman ranks.
Once the cavalry had breached the shield wall, their foot soldiers followed as each side tried to regain ground or keep the ground they had just fought and won moments before.
Methos wheeled his horse about abruptly, realizing that it was soon to be a lost cause for the Romans and that whoever had planned this attack was a brilliant tactician as well as great leader. One side of his mouth quirked up in an ironic half smile. "A man after my own heart," he thought to himself. He swung down from the horse, recovered a fresh one, and swung upon his back. Turning towards the battle, he rode towards the fray to deliver the instructions himself as to how to stop the onslaught of his opponents.
Pulling his sword the closer he came to the battle, he began to hack and slash at whoever came anywhere near him not caring if it was friend or foe. It was hard to distinguish which side was which anyway; one man fighting or dying looked the same as another. Neither side wore anything that distinguished them as being Visigoth or Roman except perhaps in their weapons; in the rush and heat of battle, who had time to look? One concentrated on surviving and that was all one did.
The sunlight was hot and the glinting on all the iron swords and metal on the shields made him near blind and the roar of over 30,000 men as well as the 5,000 strong cavalry was deafening. He took a look about to get his bearings; he never saw the blade that came at him from behind which struck at his spine.
Fortunately, it hit the large knife he had carried there out of habit for centuries, slipping away and upwards while it still made its mark on him as it shaved off both muscle and tissue before it skittered off his shoulder blade.
Gasping in shock and pain, his arm reached behind him to feel what was or was not there. He was losing a lot of blood and knew it; he also knew that he would bleed to death shortly if he didn't do something fast like heal but there wasn't a way to induce the healing to happen faster than it normally did that he knew of.
The world began to spin around as his eyes blurred; he fell off his horse with a heavy thud. A sensation tingled through him sending a warning that somewhere another Immortal was close at hand. His breathing became more labored and he attempted to get to his feet but again he couldn't get his body to coordinate with his thoughts. Blearily, he looked up as a shadow blocked the sun from his eyes.
A tall man with flowing blonde hair stood over him, his body a mass of cat-like grace and agile swiftness. He wore a shift of cotton the color of doves but also stained with the blood and gore of many. In his hands he held a sword unlike any that Methos had seen before and as he watched, a cold smile came to the man's lips.
Methos held his hand up and tried once more to get to his feet but it was to no avail. "Who are you?" he rasped as he began to feel his body grow cold with the grip of death.
"I am Greyson," the man answered coldly yet arrogantly. "And you're
Methos awoke with a start as a blow to his side rolled his body away from the pile of corpses that he had been placed on. The air scorched his lungs with the stench of burning flesh as he was took his first few breaths of life once more. He turned his head enough to see another blow was heading his way.
"Get up!" Greyson's foot arced closer to Methos, but Methos reached out, grabbed it and twisted it so that Greyson tumbled to the ground.
Methos groaned and sat up with a stiffness in his muscles that seemed to make him feel like he was actually a mortal--and a very old one at that. He whipped out the knife that was still hidden underneath his short tunic, holding it before him as his only means of defense against the blade that Greyson had whipped up to his neck.
Greyson got back to his feet, the point of his blade never wavering from Methos' neck. Methos also got to his feet then knocked Greyson's blade away, grabbed him roughly by the tunic and drawing him in close.
"Care for a little dance with death?" Methos icily sneered as both stared eye to eye with each other, the blood hatred still pounding in their veins. "Or would you prefer to let me loose and I you?"
Greyson's eyes turned frosty with his anger; he reached up, grabbed Methos tightly against him as he swiftly raised his knee into Methos' groin area.
Methos collapsed in agony at his opponent's feet and released his grip on Greyson.
"Tie him up and put him with the other slaves. And make sure you check him for other weapons." Greyson smoothed his tunic out, then reached down to wipe his blade off in the tall grass. He turned to go then hesitated and turned back as the soldiers tightly bound Methos' arms around his back. Raising a hand to indicate those other Roman soldiers still alive and already bound hand and foot he stated, "Those there you can have, but not this one. He's special; he is for my father. He is not to touched, understand?"
When the soldier was slow in answering he found a hand slapping him across the cheek so that it stung when it connected. "Understand?" Greyson repeated in a cold voice, one that was filled with authority. The soldier nodded and they dragged Methos, still gasping and choking out his pain, away as the others were led in chains towards a pen.
Greyson shielded his eyes, searching for his father, carefully noting how the rest of the battle was going. The main part of the Roman army was now clustered about in small groups rather in the normal line formation and spread over the entire field. The battle was winding down and he could tell that a great victory for the Visigoths had occurred, thanks to the gods and to the calvery.
High overhead the vultures circled, waiting for their dinner. Occasionally, one or two swooped down and began to prey on the dead as well as those too incapacitated to fight them off, tearing small hunks of flesh off and gulping it down.
Greyson smiled as he watched them feed as he picked his way back through the lines towards his father's tent, over the mounds of bodies strewn helter-skelter on the ground. He also smiled at the scores of camp followers that came to rob the dead or mourn them depending on which side one had been on.
Finally reaching his destination, he slid indoors to the coolness of the tent's interior and shoved aside all that stood in his path. He ran a hand through his hair, pushing it back away from his eyes and accepted a beaker of wine from a man who bowed in deference to him. He never noticed him, and even less noticed anyone else as his eyes locked onto the broad back of the man he had been in search of while feeling the might of his immortality as it touched his.
"A great victory is yours, Father." He waited as the man turned to the sound of his voice.
The man who turned his pale eyes on his son stood tall; his arms were wrapped with coils of gold about his upper arms and a torc surrounding his neck. A full beard that cascaded to his chest covered it where his tunic lay open, revealing the skin underneath. His hair was plaited into two long braids on either side of his face while the back hung freely. He held himself proudly and without fear of the man in front of him and smiled broadly at him. "Claudianaus! Have a seat! Wine?"
Greyson shook his head "no" as he strode to the chair and sat. "It's Greyson now Father, remember?"
A deep chuckle rumbled in the standing man's chest and he nodded. "Yes, I will have to get used to the name change, won't I?" He sighed then rubbed his hands wearily over his face. "We have them on the run, don't we?" He looked at a young boy, who ran over and poured a beaker of wine for his master.
"Indeed, we'll soon have Rome itself eating out of our hands, Father. If we go now, pursue them, we could soon be at their gates knocking on their doors." Greyson took a sip and frowned as he thought about it. "We could sack the city, pillage it and bring them down to their knees. They would beg us for mercy and give in to our demands if we were to do that."
"There are other concerns now, my son. After word gets back to Rome, they will quake and offer us land to settle upon. I have seen this before and know how it works. It might take more time and more blood spilt but if it does--so be it." Darius took a long drink from his cup, then leaned against the table as he thought upon what Greyson had said. "In good time Rome will fall to us.
They are weaker now than what they were before and the people cannot agree upon common things. Let us wait it out and we will see what will happen."
Greyson's eyes shone in admiration for the man standing before him. He was everything to him and Greyson had decided long ago that he would follow him to hell and back if he were to be asked. Darius was his adopted father; his mentor; his friend, his teacher. And he wanted to emulate him in every way possible. "It could take years of waiting--why not attack now?"
"It is not time yet to do so. We must lure them into acceding to our demands little by little, just a s a spider entices a fly into its' web." He smugly smiled. "Time is on yours and my side, my son. Patience."
Greyson templed his fingertips together and contemplated them before replying. "Very well, Father. I will try to be patient." His face brightened for a moment and he smiled at Darius. "I found a little something for you today on the battlefield. Something that you should be very pleased with."
Darius' face became a reflection of his curiosity. "Oh? And what
could that be, Greyson?"
Shortly afterwards, Darius stiffened, casting a glance in Greyson's direction who smiled back at him. "Who is this?" he whispered to Greyson as the Immortal's buzz increased with each moment.
The tent flap was flung open; a man in chains was thrown roughly inside and fell to his knees in front of Darius. He wore nothing but a loincloth--all else had been stripped of him except his sandals and his eyes blazed at the two of them as he raised his chained hands in front of him, shaking the chains in fury.
Darius turned and got his sword from the table. "Your name...what is your name?"
The man remained silent but unmistakably furious at his treatment.
Darius looked up at Greyson. "What is this?"
"Spoils of war, father. A trophy, if you wish. What you do with him is up to you." Greyson pushed himself up off the chair and grabbed the prisoner's dark hair, snapping his head sharply backwards. "Answer him. What is your name?"
The man's silence hung thickly between the three of them and Greyson flung a hand backwards then downward across the man's cheek. "Don't be insolent to this man. Answer his questions!"
His cheek stinging sharply, the man worked his jaw about to see if it still was working then directed his blank stare at Darius. "I am Methos."
Darius lifted his swordpoint to under Methos' chin and lifted it. "You are nothing except my slave. Remember that. No more, no less and you will be killed by my son--" he indicated Greyson "--or by me if you forget it."
Greyson's voice chimed in. "Remember that, slave. Remember--or face
Darius adjusted his cassock against the chill of the night air. St. Julien's was an old chapel, one that Darius himself had helped to lay stones for the foundation and had always been drafty and cold in the wintertime. "I won't deny the past, for to deny what I once was is to deny who I am today." He sighed, shaking his head slowly. "What do you want me to do? Apologize for something that happened fifteen hundred years ago?" He paused. "I apologize. I thought that you were dead long ago. And yet..." His voice trailed off.
"If I were dead, I would have invited you to the funeral to say a few words over me," Methos replied bitterly. "I thought you would have known me better than that."
He slid down the cold stone wall of the church into a relaxed, crumpled heap onto the floor. "Don't you want to know why I've come after all these years to see you?"
Darius remained silent, then slowly nodded. "You would have told
Four years of waging war, four years of campaigning in the spring and summer months only to retreat back in the fall and winter months to harvest crops, lick their wounds, regroup and plan for the next year's offensive. Each time they won ground, they left a contingent of their army behind to guard what had been won with blood and lives lost.
Methos lived in a kind of hell in that time, free to roam the encampments, yet still a prisoner and slave to be placed on display when the need arose to impress upon visiting dignitaries how powerful an opponent the Visigoths were.
Letters had been sent to Rome after the battle of Adrianople demanding land for the Visigoths to settle upon and also demanded they be paid a ransom for Methos, whom they held. Methos soon learned by word of mouth that Rome had refused all thoughts of paying ransom for him. It didn't surprise him. He had only been there at the behest of the Emporer, Valens, who lost his life in the battle, to oversee the strategy of the mighty Roman army and analyze where its' flaws were. He was to determine where improvements were to be made. However, he had been impressed into the ranks of the elite Roman generals after too many had died during the campaigns against both Goths and Visigoths from the north and the Huns and Vandals who were attacking the Roman territories on the east.
The idea of giving up land for peace had been rejected by the Roman
Senate each time. Each time, it made his captors more furious and they
vowed revenge one day upon Rome.
Late in the fourth year of his captivity and very late into the night after all had either fallen asleep or had passed out at the table from too much mead, wine and beer, Darius received a visitor in the form of the newly elected ruler of the Visigoths, Alaric.
Methos unobtrusively stood by the wall in the common area of the main structure of buildings listening to the two men, with two divergent ideas of what lay ahead for the Visigoths.
Darius paced through the great hall as he talked with Alaric, about the next year's campaigns. "I have a plan, that will make our people as mighty as what Rome once was!" he gloated. "It is nearly foolproof and one I am sure that it would further our empire westward towards Gaul."
Alaric frowned. He was a tall man as many of his people were, with bright red hair which fell to his waist and piercing blue eyes; one could see the stamp of intelligence written onto his face. "Never mind about Gaul. What my people are demanding are more lands to stretch out and settle upon. They need time to regroup, have families, and raise the sons you need for your armies, Darius. We, as a people need time to sow, to harvest, to reap the benefits of all that we have gotten in years past, and to have peace. War comes at a high cost to all."
Methos watched the interchange with keen interest, having learned over the years the thick, guttural tongue of his captors. He knew of Darius' secret vow said to Greyson in the darkness of night, that one day he would push his army westward through Gaul to the ocean and become as mighty a leader as anyone had ever seen before.
He understood that feeling of power, having had it before long ago and seen it before in other years prior. He knew of campaigns won or lost because of one man or one thing that went awry. Power was like a drug. Once you had experienced it, it held onto your dreams and thoughts forever. He knew that only too well.
"Rome will come to her knees eventually, Alaric. We will be there when she does for the first spoils of her vast holdings. This I promise you." Darius' eyes stared intensely at Alaric. "But the time is ripe to move forward!"
Alaric stood his ground. "No. Not with my army, you won't. My people need peace; peace is what I will give them--for a while."
Methos watched as Darius' face colored in rage. "You can't!"
"Watch me." Alaric's voice grew as cold as a winter's snow. "If you defy me on this, Darius, then I will have your head. I am ruler of the Visigoths; you will obey me! They are my people and I will do what is best for them. Do you understand?"
Darius remained silent as his eyes blazed at his king. Finally he spoke in a voice strangling with anger and fury, "Lord, you are wrong to do this!"
Alaric spun around and threw his beaker against the wall. The wine looked like blood as it ran down the wall in rivulets. "Enough!" He advanced upon Darius. "There are things you are not aware of. An emissary from Rome arrived this morning offering us lands in the Balkans in exchange for our soldiers as well as our generals. I have accepted their offer." With a fist raised, he continued. "You will be traveling to Rome as a part of that military contingent, Darius. And you will be taking that upstart son of yours with you. I will not have someone who has dreams of taking my place as leader in my midst."
Darius blinked and took a step backwards, surprised that Alaric knew of his plans. His mind was reeling-- he was quickly trying to think of what to say but could not refute it, or would he admit to it.
Methos' hopes raised. Darius would be going to Rome, as would Greyson. It would be easy to get lost in Rome, easy because he had learned how to blend in years ago. Perhaps he could make his escape at long last. He hadn't tried before in the past few years because he was learning from Darius all he could without Darius knowing it--learning all his tactics, all his stratagems, all his plans for an empire to rival Rome's.
Now, at last, he could put it to good use.
Finally--- back to Rome.
Late into the night, Darius summoned Greyson to his bedchambers to give him the news of their re-assignment. "It means that we will have to find a way of keeping track of what is happening here, my son. It is imperative that we know what the king is doing and thinking in our absence without being obvious that we are doing so."
Greyson paced as he talked. "There are ways of that--perhaps a network of spies?" "Perhaps, but even then you must find those that are willing to risk their lives for our cause. To go westward to the ocean through Gaul--we have the power now to do it but instead are forced to leave here just as things are ripe." Darius glanced over at Methos, who looked away, feigning nonchalance.
Greyson looked warily at him too. "I think he knows too much, father. He understands what we are talking about all too well, don't you?" he said as he directed the question at Methos. He frowned as Methos remained silent and his mouth tightened. "Insolence! Father, kill him; take his head or I will before it's too late!"
Methos spoke up, turning to look at the two of them. "A woman."
Darius cocked his head to one side, his face a mask of concentration. "What did you say?"
"A woman. If you want someone to watch Alaric, then get a woman to do it. Bed her beforehand; make her yours then she will do whatever you wish of her. Surprised you hadn't thought of it." Methos' eyes flicked from one to another. "It's been used as a weapon for centuries and probably will be for eternity."
Greyson drew his dagger out; in three swift strides he was holding it to Methos' throat.
"Silence!" he hissed between clenched teeth. "You have no right to speak here!" He turned his head to look at Darius. "Did I not tell you he understood what we said?"
Darius swiftly came over and knocked the blade out of Greyson's hand; both looked at one another for a tension-filled moment before Greyson turned and walked away. "Let be!" He turned his pale eyes upon Methos, as he tried to think about what this slave had said. "What do you know of war--of tactics and the like?"
"I might have had some experience in it at one time; haven't we all?" Methos replied evenly to him, then turned his head to Greyson. "Someday you will lose your head to someone. You had better pray that the cut is clean when it happens." His mouth curled upwards at his own small joke on Greyson's behalf.
Turning, Greyson let out a roar and charged at Methos. Both wrestled with one another, falling heavily to the floor where they rolled about with hands about each other's throats, pummeling each other with blows until Darius pulled Greyson off Methos and threw him to one side.
"Enough!" He drew his own blade just as the guards who stood watch outside their doors burst in, swords drawn. He looked up them and shook his head. "Go back to your posts." The soldiers looked confused for a moment but soon shuffled off to their assigned positions once again. Greyson slowly got up, dusted himself off and left after shooting a deadly glance in their direction.
Methos got to his feet, warily watching Darius for any sudden movements. When no sudden movement was forthcoming, he walked away from him never letting him out of his sight. "Now what? Kill me and be done with it."
Darius frowned then half whispered, "How old are you?"
Methos lowered his head to his chest as his mouth curled in tight smile. Glancing at his captor, he replied, "Old enough to know not to answer you." Walking over to the window, he leaned out and looked at the stars and the multitude of campfires that were spread out over the area. Softly he said, "I know what you want, Darius, what you crave and hunger for."
Darius pulled his fingers through his beard as he contemplated the man before him. "What do I want then? Tell me so that we both know."
"Power--and an empire." Methos watched him carefully, choosing his words with care so that it would have the effect he wanted from Darius. Lowering his voice to a more conspiratorial tone, he continued. "Perhaps I had what you want, long ago. Perhaps I can give you what you want."
Darius' brows knitted together and his blade appeared in his hand as if from nowhere. "Perhaps you could lose your head too!" he retorted. "I will not be played a fool!"
Methos didn't move a muscle, but his eyes slid from the blade pointed at his throat to the icy blue of Daruis' own eyes. Quietly he said, "If you kill me, then you will not be able to get what I can provide you." Pausing for what seemed to be an eternity when in reality it was only for a couple of heartbeats, he went on. "Rome--on her knees and at your mercy." He paused again knowing that Darius was soaking in that information and was, at last, truly listening to him. "Once Rome is yours, then everything else beyond..."
|The Book of Darius
(This page last updated 02/22/2003)