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Full Circle, Chapters 6-10

by Celedon

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Chapter 6

Often, both Greyson and Darius worked long into the night as the torches flared and sputtered, throwing long shadows upon the walls.  They covertly set up a network of spies to keep them informed of news on Alaric as well as any other pressing matter that they would need to know of while they were away.

The discussions often were intense and heated between them especially if Methos was in the room. Greyson was becoming more jealous of him as he saw his father actually listening to him and instigating things that he suggested such as the woman chosen to keep them informed about Alaric's doings. It made him uneasy to know that this upstart was still a slave, yet he handled himself as if he ran the place as he manipulated things left and right to his own liking.

He lifted his goblet to his lips, his knuckles white with anger as he gripped it tightly, following the slave his father seemed to favor now with his eyes as Methos pointed out things that still needed to be done before their departure. Whispering to himself, he vowed, "Someday, you won't be around him and then it will be just you and I. We'll see just who loses his head then..."

Methos pointed out a place upon the crude map he had drawn, and Greyson heard his voice carry in the air. "...Constantine is their general on their Egyptian front to the south. He is smart, capable and disciplined, as are his troops. Ever since that fiasco with that Egyptian queen and Caesar, Rome has had to make up for a lot but the governor has become more Egyptian than Roman and sometimes forgets who he works for."

"Is he a threat?" Darius said as he leaned on both his outstretched arms while looking over the situation that lay out before him. He swiveled his head, looked at Greyson, and motioned him over.

"Why do you stay so distant? This involves you; I expect you to be a part of it. Come closer, my son."

Both Greyson and Methos exchanged hostile looks that Darius didn't fail to notice.  Then Greyson approached one hand to his dagger that he wore in his belt. "Father, this is old news! Why worry about him when he isn't even going to be close to Rome?"

"Because," Methos replied, eyeing Greyson steadily, "he could possibly be recalled at any time." He turned his attention back to Darius. "Yes, he could be a threat depending on the amount of soldiers he has access to and the condition of the army."

Musing, Darius pulled at his beard, then turned and walked away, deep in thought. So much to know and learn, so little time to do so. The discord between his son and his slave threatened all their plans that had almost reached completion. He couldn't afford it to threaten all he had dreams for--or all that he wanted. A decision had to be made as to how to handle it and made quickly. Pursing his lips, he turned back to Methos. "You have never told me what you want in exchange for the information you supply to me. What do you want me to grant you?"

Chuckling, Methos' eyes crinkled as his mouth raised into a wry smile. "Isn't it obvious? My freedom."

Darius looked at him for a few moments, then looked at Greyson. "If I grant you this, will you ride away?"

Greyson held his breath as he waited for the answer. He was hoping against hope that his father would release the slave now so that he could leave and he himself could step back into his rightful place as advisor and chief lieutenant. He felt that his place had been usurped by this war trophy, someone who he should have killed when he had had the chance those few years ago.

Methos refused to answer directly but only smiled. "Why not find out by granting me this?"

Darius chuckled, then got serious again. "Very well. You may have your freedom--once Rome and everything beyond is mine."

The Roman Emperor, Theodonius, was a Christian who devotedly went about in religious zeal destroying all objects and temples of pagan worship throughout the Empire including the famed Seraphinum at Alexandria after his accession to the throne. No spot that had any trace of a pagan identity was safe from his zeal; many sacred places were lost to eternity in his want to Christianize the empire in the name of the carpenter from Judea. This then was the man whom Darius was to be a general for--and Darius was most assuredly, pagan.

Outside of Rome

Darius pulled the horsehair reins so that his horse came about to survey the vast Visigoth and Goth army that lay before him. His heart swelled with pride as he looked at them, knowing that they would die for him if asked and more if necessary. He nodded to himself then glanced at Greyson who rode on his right side.

Greyson half smiled as he looked at his father; this was a day to be remembered! Rome lay ahead of them within the fabled seven hills--so close, yet so far. Time would have to pass before it was ripe for plucking its' riches. But all that would come to pass soon enough; time was on their side as well as a well placed spy network already at work and had been prior to their leaving their homes in the Balkans.

Darius raised his sword over his head; instantly the soldiers quieted and listened to what they could catch on the air of what their leader was saying. "My army!" he shouted and it bounced off the landscape around them. "Ahead lies Rome, behind you your new homeland. We assemble here today to show what we are to Rome, and what we can be!"

A roar went up from the army; the air filled with the thunderous din of thousands of swords being beat against wooden and brass-studded shields in approval of Darius' words.

He looked from one end of the ranks all the way to his calvary as the din continued without abating. Yes, he thought, these were his men--let Alaric try to take them away. Raising his sword again he went on after the ranks had quieted again. "Let us show mighty Rome what true men are; let us show mighty Rome that we are not afraid to die; let us show mighty Rome that we are what haunts their dreams at night for we are the Goths, we are the Visigoths--" He raised his voice even louder. "And we have arrived!"

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Chapter 7

Greyson impatiently sat on his horse as he shielded his eyes from the glare made from the hundreds of Roman shields ahead of him. "Let's get this fiasco over with so we can enter Rome!" he muttered to himself as well as his aide-de-camp who sat beside him.

They were waiting for the Roman envoy who was riding swiftly towards them so as to give them escort and the time of when the Goths could enter Rome and meet with the Emperor. As he rode a large cloud of dust rolled out from behind him and thunder boomed from overhead in the gray skies.

The envoy took in the thousands of warriors and calvary spread before him and shivered. He had fought them before in prior encounters and knew first-hand of their ferocity and cruelties on the battlefield as well as the aftermath of it. His whole village had been burnt to the ground when the Goths had passed through; he had seen both his mother and sisters raped by Goth soldiers. He had good reason to hate them and yet it was his sworn duty to invite them into the heart of the city where the blood of the Roman Empire had flowed in order to make it as it was and always would be. It was like inviting the wolf into the sheep's herd for dinner and not expect him to eat what was laid before him, he thought to himself.

He pulled up yards in front of the two Goths, and raised his hand in greeting. "Hail and well met! Rome greets you and bids you to enter her gates!"

Greyson looked over at his aide-de-camp and smirked then turned to look at the envoy. "Our greeting to Rome and the Emperor. At what hour shall we enter mighty Rome's gates?"

Thunder crashed overhead and a brilliant flash of lightning lit the sky. The Roman envoy looked skywards then back at the Goth. "At the hour of sunset. But there are conditions that are imposed upon you--and your army."

Greyson's face clouded over in fury momentarily then he regained his self-control, saying tightly, "What conditions?"

"The general, Darius, shall come to the palace to meet with the Emperor, Theodonius, and may only be accompanied by one hundred of his war-" The envoy paused for a moment and rephrased himself. "His soldiers. You will be escorted by a Roman contingent so as to honor you and your most esteemed commander. Is this agreed to?"

Scowling, Greyson nodded. "Very well. One hundred warriors only." He lowered his voice while nudging his horse in the ribs so that it advanced towards the Roman. He wanted only the envoy to hear him. "Frightened of us, is he?"

The envoy frowned in confusion. "Who?"

Greyson fully smiled at the envoy; the envoy recoiled at it. It was a smile that was akin to a hunter who had just captured its' prey and was about to kill it.
"Why the Emperor, who else?" The envoy's discomfiture around them made Greyson laugh; it chilled the Roman to the bone.

Blustering, the envoy replied, "Of course not. He is afraid of nothing!"

Greyson turned his head to look off towards Rome as rain began to pelt the ground. "I am not a Goth, you know. Once upon a time, I was a Roman citizen but circumstances changed...." he said wistfully, but then his voice changed to iron. "I changed." He turned his attention back to the Roman, his hawk-like eyes drilling into the emissary's while his voice held nothing but contempt.

"Perhaps, the Emperor should be frightened of something. Any man who is not is a fool!"

"Is that a threat to Rome?" the emissary retorted.

Greyson raised his eyebrows in mock indignation. "Did I say anything of the sort? Go and tell him that we will come as he requests and when he requests."

The envoy curtly nodded, and turned to go but paused when he heard Greyson say one last thing. "What did you say?"

Greyson wheeled his horse around so that it reared then fell back to the ground. "Be afraid; be very afraid."

Inside a hide tent far on the edge of the Goth camp, sat an old woman. The wrinkles and furrows in her face seemed to crawl about in the firelight; she glanced upwards as the tent flap was pulled back and a lone figure entered and stood silently. A hood was drawn up against the rain causing its' shadow to mask the identity of the man completely. But there was no need to guess who it was--one could tell by the way the man carried himself that it was Alaric's commander who had come to call on her.

"I expected you sooner, lord," she said without raising her eyes to look at him. She turned about and gathered pots, small amphorae and a chipped bowl worn from much use. Slowly with gnarled hands she reached in and measured out various amounts from the differing powders, liquids, and pieces of dried herbs then put them into the bowl and began to stir her concoction.

"Did you?" Darius pushed back the hood from his face, squinting at the light from the fire. "What can you teach me today crone, about these herbs and medicines which you carry about?" He squatted by the fire, watching in fascination as the concoction in the bowl thickened before his eyes. "Is that to heal--or to kill?"

She glanced up at him. "Both. If given in the right amount it will make you healthy; if you give too much, it would be a slow and painful death." Smiling in satisfaction, she scraped the thickened goo onto a soft leather piece, then folded it up and placed it behind her. "What do you need of me?"

"My fortune told. What say the heavens about what we start today?" He slowly relaxed, sat down and ran his hand over the top of the flames, unmindful of the flames licking at it. He glanced skywards as another crash of lightening cracked overhead, followed by a swift clap of thunder. "Will I succeed in what I start this day?"

The woman frowned and reached into an old worn bag that she had about her neck, withdrawing several small, irregularly shaped stones each with a runic symbol etched upon it. She spat upon the ground, then grabbed a knife, slit a small gash into her flesh and let the blood drip upon her spittle. Taking a fingernail, she stirred it until it was mixed.

She began to hum as she shook the runic stones in her hands then released them where they fell helter-skelter upon the ground, some in the blood and saliva, some out. Heaving a sigh, she muttered a soft incantation to her gods so that she might read the omens right as she intently studied them.

Darius grew impatient when she took her time in deciphering the meaning. "What is taking so long?" he asked angrily. "What do you see?"

Shaking her head, she glanced up at him. "For this moment in time, you will succeed. But it is unclear what will happen after that. I see a bright light after much fighting and bloodshed."

"What is that supposed to mean?" Darius reached over and picked up a stone, studying the word written upon it before closing his fist upon it. His eyes glittered ice blue in the firelight causing them to look almost unearthly.

"It means that from what you start doing tonight you will succeed in but I cannot tell you the outcome. Something is blocking my sight--I cannot tell you more." She lowered her head. "I know no more than this."

Pursing his lips, Darius thought about what had been foretold. His thoughts were interrupted by another clap of thunder overhead, and he stood. "You will teach me all that you know of the healing arts, old woman. I want to know it all--what heals, what kills. Do you understand?"

The old woman bowed in assent. "Yes, Lord."

Darius turned to go, his cloak swirling about him. "Very well, we begin tomorrow."

Methos rubbed the whetstone he had found along the scrap of iron that he had retrieved in the reject pile of scrap metal near the weapons-makers forge then tested the edge with his thumb. Instantly, blood welled up the crease where his skin had been split and, just as quickly, it healed.

Satisfied that he was at last getting the edge he needed to take a head, he continued to draw the stone repeatedly over the iron, then eyed it down it's length. It wasn't a pretty sword--quite the contrary. But it would do in a fight if it came down to it. He still needed a guard of some sort as well as a hilt, but the blade was nearing completion.

He had managed to hide it under Darius' nose and work on it covertly as his time allowed. The whetstone he had found near an old riverbed where he had gone to retrieve water for his captor one morning on the trip to Rome. He knew if given the chance, his freedom would lay just within Rome's walls; he also knew that he had to try to gain it, despite the consequences if he failed. A noise snapped his head about as well as the queasy feeling another Immortal caused him to experience; he quickly wrapped up his prize and hid it.

Greyson entered the tent as he slid the wetness off his muscular arms, shook his clothes out and looked about. Puddles formed about his feet and his eyes searched all the nooks and crannies of the tent's cramped space. He directed his attention to Methos. "Where is he?"

"Who?" Methos replied sarcastically.

"Don't try to play your little games with me. Don't think that I don't know what you are doing, slave." Greyson sneered arrogantly at Methos. "I know--" he took a threatening step towards Methos. "--that you know exactly what you hope to accomplish. It won't work."

"Are you trying to threaten me?" Methos began to laugh loudly. "I've had children do that more effectively." He lowered his tone as he narrowed his eyes. "You don't want to cross me, mark my words well. You are still a child and behave like one--an Immortal one, but still a child."
Greyson growled, "I should have killed you while I had the chance. You seem to forget yourself-
-" He drew his blade and pointed it at Methos' neck. "I am the one in charge this time, not you." He walked around Methos looking him up and down appreciatively. "You might get lucky and get a good owner the next time around--providing you're still alive."

"Oh, I will be. I'll be alive long after you're dead." Methos said as he prepared himself for what was to come, if anything.

Greyson reached over and grasped Methos' meager tunic, yanking it downwards, shredding the fabric then stood back to look him over. "Perhaps, I'll give you a taste of something you'll not forget in a very long while." He ran his hand over Methos' chest, then slapped it hard enough that it left a red welt that quickly faded.

Methos leapt backwards, his eyes furious and his face contorted in pain. He composed himself then replied, "I seem to have a long memory already; I'm not accepting anymore contributions today. Sorry; you'll have to make it another day."

Greyson furiously arced his sword backward over his head and was in mid swing when Darius entered his tent. He swiftly took in the situation and grappled with his son in order to stop the downward motion. "Enough--he his not yours to punish! He is my property--remember that, my son. My property!"

Methos slipped away during the struggle between Darius and his son to the outside and disappeared. "At last, a chance at freedom!" he said to himself then chuckled as he ducked behind a boulder. He then remembered his sword left inside the tent and he cursed vehemently. He looked skywards as the clouds opened up, pouring a large downfall of rain on him and the rest of the earth. "I hate water. I truly do."

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Chapter 8

Darius threw Greyson off him and into the corner. He slowly said, "You forget, I am the teacher--you are my student," and advanced on him, drawing his dagger, his face a mask of fury. "Get up!" He motioned Greyson upward with his dagger. "You need to be taught a lesson!"

Greyson stood, his own dagger snaking out of it's sheath; he slashed at Darius who easily leapt backwards like a cat out of reach.

"You can't do better than that?" Darius taunted him. "What have I taught you--nothing? After all these years, I find that I have wasted my time teaching you!" He inched backwards, watching his adopted son come away from the corner throwing his dagger from one hand to the other, and making swift feints before retreating.

Greyson was a formidable fighter--Darius had made sure in his teachings that not an ounce of compassion for his victims flowed in his conscious mind. The intensity to kill was all that he cared for, the hunt of his prey and the glory of the kill afterwards. Darius knew just what would set him off and what would stop him cold but his son had to be taught a lesson about interfering with things that did not belong to him--and taught it the hard way. When Greyson was far enough out of the corner, Darius lunged at him, bowling Greyson over on his back.

Greyson gasped as the wind was knocked from him; Darius took the opportunity to sit astride him and pin him to the floor of the tent. But Greyson bucked upwards, shifting his weight to one side and throwing Darius off him. He rolled over then scrambled to his feet as did his father; both circled each other warily, the light glinting off each blade.

Darius locked his eyes on Greyson's; Greyson's own eyes reflected those of a bird of prey as they searched for a kill. He was at his most dangerous at this point and Darius knew it. Nothing would stop him now--he would continue to fight until one of them was dead. This was exactly what Darius wanted except for one minor detail.

He wasn't going to be the one who died tonight.

Greyson was. He wouldn't like it but it had to be done for his own good and understanding. This was a military chain of command--Greyson had to follow the rules and obey the commands and he knew that! Otherwise there would be chaos.

Darius waited then lunged outwards at Greyson, his dagger nicking the flesh on Greyson's arm as he tried to block the attack. As quickly as the blood flowed, it stopped. Once more Darius attacked, forcing Greyson to retreat backwards step by step.

Greyson took the offensive; he stepped low and inside slashing in a wide arc at Darius' abdomen, making contact as the blood spewed forth from the gash.

Darius howled in agony, one hand holding closed his abdomen while the other making contact with an upward and outwards slash to Greyson's ribs, exposing the bones underneath the muscles. "You will not touch my things again!" he gasped out, then as he gathered strength he straightened himself upright and plunged his dagger up to the hilt in his son's chest, and twisted it for good measure. Blood spurted from the severed arteries spraying him in the face with the warm liquid and painting the area bright crimson. "Learn, by all the gods, learn!" Darius hissed at him.

Greyson's eyes flew wide in shock and horror at the act as well as the pain. His thoughts ran amok; he had been betrayed and killed by the man he most admired and looked up to, the man who he called "father". His eyes stared into Darius' as the coldness of death began to creep along his limbs. As the blood continued to pump from him he rasped out, "May all the gods of all the underworlds leave you waiting forever at the gates of Hades!" He curled his fingers weakly about Darius' arms then slumped to the floor.

Darius fell to the floor with him, and cradled his son's now still head in his lap. "Learn, my son. Learn." He looked about then back at his son and shook his head. He now had to wait it out to learn what news of entering Rome he could from him when he revived.
One only had to wait for a short time for that to happen...

Methos slowly approached the picket line where the horses were kept staked as a clap of thunder overhead made them move about nervously. He was cold and very wet, his hair plastered to his head. He looked about for any signs of a guard; he reached up and pulled loose the traces on a horse then spied the guard and dropped to the ground slithering on his belly towards the man through the slick mud.

Rising up behind the guard, he tapped him on the shoulder at which the guard turned. Methos grabbed him around the jaw and upper head and twisted his head violently until a sharp crack was heard.

The man fell limply to the ground.

He looked at him for a moment dispassionately as he wiped the mud from his hands then bent down and began stripping the body of its' clothes and weapons. Once clothed and armed with a sword and a rounded shield slung over his back, he vaulted bareback upon the horse he had released, wrapping his long fingers through its' mane and kicked it in the ribs towards the outskirts of Rome.

He ran the horse for all it was worth, feeling each heartbeat of the beast in him as closer and closer he came to the Roman legions still encamped as they waited for their time to come to escort the Goths to the palace. A cry ripped from him in exhilaration; he slapped the horse's rump with the flat of the blade urging it to an even faster speed.

On the perimeter of the Roman forces, a guard spotted a dim figure flying over the ground on horseback towards them. Shaking his head, the guard peered intently at the figure that appeared and then disappeared in the sheets of rain falling from the sky. Maybe it was an apparition he was seeing--it seemed to fade into thin air as he watched it. He thought for a moment, then turned behind him and shouted out a warning to the next sentry along the line who, in turn, alerted his officer in charge of the invader approaching.

The officer jumped upon the nearest horse and sat astride to get a better view of whatever or whoever it was then ordered a small detachment to the fore.
Immediately they lined up in perfect precision and awaited their orders, grumbling softly to themselves about the weather and trying to discern what it was they were standing at attention for.

The motion within the ranks caught Methos' eye and he pulled up hard, causing the horse to rear back on his hind legs. "Whoa--down!" He walked the horse slowly as he assessed the situation and decided against any further approach. It was too dangerous and he knew enough of the signs from the Roman contingent to know that he was possibly considered a threat to them.

Wheeling the horse about he decided to head for the villa of a friend, Gaius Pollonius, on the outskirts in order to get shelter, dry clothes, and a way to get out of the Goth's commander's grasp. He was willing to escape in any manner necessary--and at any price.
The Roman officer squinted as he watched the lone figure turn his approach away from his men, then turned and shouted to them. "Stand down!" whereupon the men shuffled back to their original positions and wait miserably in the damp for the setting of the sun.

Greyson stirred, gasping the first gulps of air into his once-dead lungs. His eyelids fluttered and he swiftly clutched at his chest where the dagger had been impaled. Groaning in agony as he attempted to sit upright, his eyes flew open to stare into Darius' own pale blue ones.

"Welcome back," Darius said as he cradled his son. "How are you feeling?" He shifted his weight and clasped his son's hand. He stared intensely at him for a moment before saying, "Learn to keep your temper, my son. It will be your undoing someday as will your arrogance."

Greyson shook himself from his father's grasp and stood up silently walking away from him, his body language speaking of the hurt and betrayal that he was feeling. After a few minutes of complete silence he turned and looked back on his teacher. "You killed me!" The hurt was now obvious in his voice. "How could you do that to me? I am your son!"

Darius stood and walked away over to a bowl of water and cleansed himself of the blood that covered him, paying meticulous care to remove every trace of it ever being on him. "When do we enter Rome?" He glanced in Greyson's direction. "Soon?"

Greyson's mouth tightened for a moment as he realized that he had been taught a lesson about obeying and following directions. He pulled up a hide-covered stool and sat. "Yes, soon. At sunset but there are conditions."

"That being?" Darius pulled his blood soaked tunic off him, revealing the heavily muscled back, arms and chest as his eyes searched around for any signs of Methos. Frowning, he went to the door of the tent and pulled it back only to not see any sign of him.

"Rome is to escort us into its' walls with a small portion of their army." Greyson paused then went on. "Only a hundred of our men are to accompany you--no more." He smirked. "I think that they are afraid we might start something."

Darius half smiled. "One hundred will be sufficient--two hundred eyes to look at their defenses and the strength of their positions when we enter." He sighed and stretched like a cat with arms overhead, working out the knots and cramps of when he had held his son during the wait for him to revive. "Methos!" he shouted. ""Methos!"

There wasn't an answer.

They exchanged glances. Finally, Greyson softly said, "He's gone--escaped."

"He will regret this, mark me on this, son. When I find him--and find him I will--then he will know my wrath!" He looked about and finally got dressed in his finest clothes: a pure white woolen tunic that reached mid thigh, leggings of black leather and warm boots made of animal hide that were wrapped in strips of leather in a cris-crossed pattern to hold them up. On his arms, he placed arm guards of dark leather studded with bits of silver and gold worked in intricate patterns that reached from wrist to forearms.

Greyson nodded in approval. "You shall put them all to shame, father." He cleared his throat then continued. "I will try harder to obey your wishes and commands. I learned my lesson." Lowering his head, he said. "I apologize for my temper."

Darius came to him and embraced him, then kissed him on the cheek. "You are a good student, son. And a good man to have by my side in battle. But you must fight your own battles within yourself to control the demons that could cause you to lose in the Game--your temper and arrogance will do naught but ill in the final battle for the Prize."

Greyson nodded then backed away. "I'll go and choose out the hundred for your escort." He left.

Darius looked after him as he squeezed his fists tight. "Rome has no idea what we start tonight." He went over and searched for the runic stone he had taken from the soothsayer and held it up to the torchlight, read it and then tossed it to the floor as he himself left to attend things as well as organize a search for his personal slave.

Had someone come in and picked it up, they might have had a hard time of it as they tried to translate the simple runic symbol on it, but Darius knew exactly what it was that it said.


And, when flipped over, another runic symbol was revealed which translated to another word.


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Chapter 9

Methos looked at Darius, who sat silently in the chair, lost in the memories of fifteen centuries past. He cleared his throat. "Do you remember what happened that night when you met Theodonius? How your men, once you were inside the gates spread out in search of me?"
Darius slowly nodded. "You were something of value to me; you had broken your word." Frowning, he turned back to look at the altar, then back at the shadows where Methos' voice emanated. "I wasn't the same man then," he said in a distant voice. "God has forgiven me my past sins, but perhaps others who can remember have not."

"Oh c'mon Darius! We both know that there are so few of us left who can remember that time! We--you, I and a few others--are the elders of the Immortals--we are the hunted ones." Methos said in anger and exasperation. "What makes you think that your God can forgive everything you have done? Can you honestly say that you have forgiven yourself?"

Darius calmly replied, "Yes."

Methos shook his head. "Greyson's here in Paris."

Darius' face was a reflection of pained resignation yet of being a little stunned at the same time. "Greyson's here? Now?" He brought his hands up to his mouth as if he were praying and closed his eyes. "How do you know this?"

"I have my sources."

"Will you meet and fight him?" Darius half-whispered, but the words echoed about in the chapel.

"No. I'm heading out of town on the next stage and take a long vacation elsewhere." Methos stood and headed for the door but paused to turn around and look at Darius who still sat pondering the news just given him. "Darius--" he began.


"Just what happened to you? What happened to make you change?"

Rome's finest turned out for the grand procession that filled the streets. Vendors and prostitutes plied their wares and bodies openly; thieves and pickpockets were having a good day judging by the weight of coins they had hidden on them from their marks. Darius was surprised to find that he wasn't the only army and general to be honored. He was following another set of soldiers from another of the northern bordered provinces of Rome, but his eyes were only on gauging the tactical as well as the defense structure within Rome's walls.

Turning to Greyson who rode beside him, he nodded at the commotion then at the soldiers standing guard along the great roadway they were traveling on. "They're in a state of decay and don't know it yet."

Greyson smiled and nodded in agreement. "They live on dreams of the old Empire and Rome as it was. They don't see what is so obvious."

"Have you been here before?" Darius inquired as his eyes roamed over the crowds missing nothing.

Greyson sat silent for a long while then replied, "Yes. A very long time ago." He dropped into silence as the memories of another life came rushing back of his wife and himself coming to pray at the temples for children. As the years passed they grew to realize that there never was going to be children. She had died barren and bitter, leaving Greyson bereft and alone.  Two years later when the Goths made their first push towards Rome, he had died. They raided, burning his farm and crops as well as others in the surrounding countryside. He had awakened from death to find Darius standing over him, offering to explain and teach him of his new life. Greyson shook his head to erase the memories and the pain.

At long last, they made their entrance into the palace standing inside the main audience chamber where once brilliant frescos of wood nymphs and satyrs had been. The frescos were now all chipped and broken, the colors faded. Some were altogether defaced and replaced with more of the symbols of the new Christian religion that Theodonius actively practiced and destroyed all others in the name of.

One by one, each of the chosen men to be Theodonius' eyes and strong arms on the northern borders were introduced to the Emperor. Each in turn bowed in acknowledgment that Rome was
the only government to be sworn an oath to.

When it came time for Darius, he proudly approached the dais but stopped midway and locked his eyes upon the Emperor's in a challenge of wills. He refused to bow; Greyson stood at his side to serve as his translator despite the fact that Darius understood the language quite well and spoke it too. "Now everything is in motion," Darius thought to himself as he watched the Roman Emperor stir uncomfortably in his chair. "Someday soon I will be sitting where you are now so enjoy it while you can," he whispered under his breath at which Greyson chuckled and slid his eyes over to catch Darius' own.

"And I will be right there when it happens, father. We shall soon have them by their throats."
The Emperor began speaking to him; Greyson whispered the translation into Darius' ear so as to make the whole of Darius' play-acting look real.

Darius stared at the Emperor for a few moments more; Theodonius finally averted his eyes and shivered, feeling as if he was looking at his own death when he looked into this man's eyes. Not only that, he felt that he was looking at Rome's death. There was just something about him that was unusual.

The moment of introductions was finally over and they turned to go. Once they left the chambers Darius emitted a hearty laugh and slapped his son on the back. "It will be easier to take Rome than even I dreamt!" He got serious for a moment. "But we have other concerns for now."

Greyson raised his eyebrows in anticipation while his tongue ran over his lips. "Methos?"
Now sober, Darius scowled as he spat out the name of his slave. "Methos!"

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Chapter 10

"At least the rain has stopped," Methos muttered to himself. He turned his head back in the direction he had come from. Frowning, he scouted the skyline; he could have sworn that he had heard and felt hoofbeats approaching from Darius' camp. He caught his breath when he saw a group of horsemen fast approaching--perhaps as many as five if his eyes weren't deceiving him. "By all the gods in hell!" he swore loudly then roughly swung the horse around and kicked it hard with his heels in its' ribs.

"Up there ahead!" one of the pursuing horsemen said to the others and pointed out the rider ahead. He too gave full rein to his mount as did the others and soon the distance between both the pursued and pursuers was beginning to become marginal at best. The terrain was rough with outcroppings of rock jutting from the earth, and as the sun basked its' last rays upon the earth for the day it captured a moment in time unlike no other one.

Wheeling his horse around, Methos lost all control as his temper flared and his blood boiled at the thought that they were not going to allow him a freedom that they could have, yet he could not. "Enough is enough!" he roared out at his pursuers then withdrew his sword and charged at them, his hair and clothes flying in the wind.

The Goth leader pulled up short then looked at his men and laughed. "A brave one, eh?" He then rode and caught up to his men. As if as one, all withdrew their weapons and swiveled their shields over their arms and let loose a blood-curdling appeal to their heaven as finally both sides clashed, the sounds of metal crashing against each other ringing shrilly in the evening air.

The bloodlust pounded in Methos' temples; he felt his old craving for a good killing bursting out from its' suppression. He slashed at his attackers who encircled him, stabbing one in his stomach and with a swift upwards cut disemboweled the soldier.

The soldier's intestines snaked down the horse as the blood sprayed everywhere; the horse reared as it smelled it and felt the unfamiliar warmth from the blood upon its' body. He toppled from his horse screaming in agony; Methos leaned down to avoid a blow by another of the Goths and rammed his sword into the horse's belly then withdrew it and struck out once more.
One of the Goths bumped up side to side with Methos; he landed a direct blow upon Methos' leg slicing it deeply and nearly severing the femoral artery. Screaming at the intensity of the pain, Methos lowered his shield for half a second but it was enough for a second blow to hit him from behind as it severed flesh from where it had been previously on his body.

Methos swung about with his shield, knocking the man from behind off his horse and momentarily stunning him. He grabbed at his sword, tightening his grip, then arced it about his side in a short downward motion towards the leader of the group's head and neck.
The sword connected neatly between the vertebrae, slicing it as if it were butter and the head toppled backwards off the rest of the body which remained upright for a few minutes more as blood pumped out in a fountain from the last few heartbeats left in him. Slowly, the body too fell dead to the ground and trampled under the hooves of the horses.

His once-white tunic was now crimson with his blood and the others' with only a few remaining patches of white sporadically located on it. He was beginning to feel faint from the major loss of blood that he was suffering from. His arms and legs were growing weaker by the minute; both shield and sword continued to weigh more and more with each passing moment.

Another of the remaining soldiers sliced at the mount that Methos was riding on and the horse's legs went out from under it throwing its' rider heavily to the ground where he was swiftly surrounded by the remaining three soldiers. "Now what?" one said to the others as they walked their horses about Methos who was struggling to get to his hands and knees.

"Now we get him back to camp," another said as Methos blearily eyed him as he swayed on his elbows and knees then lowered his head down to his arms.

"It won't be long now," Methos thought to himself. It had been a swift fight to be sure, one where the odds were against him but he hadn't cared that they had been. He forced himself to think ahead as to the future, mentally struggling to shove the feelings of might and power as well as the sheer pleasure in taking a life brought him back to the darker recesses of his heart. He was pulled upright roughly; he glared at those who surrounded him and spat into the mocking face of the man who held him. His strength was returning as his healing quick-timed itself. "One thing had to be said about old age," he said to himself, "was that it did have its advantages--especially if you were immortal."

He stood upright again thoroughly healed after a few more seconds and fought to free himself until his world went dark as a pommel of a sword came crashing into his temple.

Darius sat impassively looking at the man who lay motionless at his feet, then motioned for an amphora to be brought to him.

A woman who was to be Darius' handmaiden for the night swiftly brought it to him, kneeling before him as she offered it up to him. "Here, lord."

Darius looked her over carefully and a slow, sensuous smile caressed his lips. Her eyes were the color of a doe's, her lips and face finely chiseled. She will do. For now, at least. He took it from her hands, covering hers with his and lingered upon them. "Go and get thee to bed, woman. Prepare yourself."

She glanced up at him and silently nodded, then got up in one fluid motion and headed for the door, a slow smile covering her lips once she had turned away from him. "Alaric will be pleased with these developments," she thought to herself. "Very pleased."

Darius poured water onto Methos' face and waited.

Methos came to spluttering, leaping up then pausing as he looked around in recognition. He locked eyes with Darius then glanced over to Greyson who lounged against a short table, an unforgettable smirk covering his face.

"Planning to take a little trip?" Greyson asked sardonically. He pointed in an arc the soldiers who stood guard around the tent walls. "I don't think so."

"Be quiet Greyson." Darius looked at Methos. "You broke our agreement! I promised you your freedom when Rome fell and I reached the shores of the ocean to the west."

"Did I?" Methos asked in mock surprise.

Darius' face turned to stone before replying. "Our kind can be hard to kill at times. But yet, you must learn obedience and accept that you will be with me the rest of our journey." Turning to Greyson he ordered, "Have him tied up outside and flayed until there is nothing left to flay." He glanced over at Methos' sudden lunge at him.

Two soldiers ran over and restrained him as another bound his wrists. They hauled him out the door as he cursed loudly at Darius. "I won't forget this for as long as I live, Darius!" he cried out as he was dragged away. "And I plan on living a long time!"

Once it was quiet again, Darius stood and stretched, anxious to bed the handmaiden but his duties had to come first. "When he is healed, son, flay him again like before then report back to me."

Greyson's face split into a bright smile at the thought. "Then you aren't going to watch?" When Darius shook his head "no", Greyson mentally rubbed his hands together in anticipation and glee. "Very well, when it is over, I'll come back."

"Very well; I have pressing matters to take care of. Leave."

Greyson tilted his head in assent, then began to chuckle once he left his father's tent and headed over to where a large bonfire was lit. "An apt punishment, to be sure though taking his head is perhaps a more appropriate measure under the circumstances," he thought, then laughed chillingly. "But he is to be punished by my father's orders. I will be the one who will be doing the "punishing" in truth and I will enjoy every moment as my whip cracks across his skin."

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(This page last updated 02/22/2003)