Greyson slowly made his rounds among the soldiers, noting the restlessness and anxiety of them as they prepared for the return on the morrow towards home and the Empire's northern borders. He took his time as he walked among them, so as to prolong the wait for Methos and make him wonder just when he was going the get the punishment ordered by Darius.
The camp was abuzz with men who sat and prepared their traveling gear
for the morn while speaking in low tones among themselves of their thoughts
and dreams as well as the wish for their homes. He nodded and understood
their longings as he himself had felt the pangs on occasion of wanting
what had been his once not so long ago in terms of a wife, a home and all
that it entailed. But for him, and others like him, it was not to be.
Methos stared at him as he watched him approach and stand before him, his eyes glittering like dark green stones in the light while his face and body was bathed in the orange red colors of the fire. He waited, knowing full well of what was to come and that for the time being, there was nothing he could do about what was to happen. "Did you come to apologize, Greyson?"
Greyson refused to be needled as he looked at the man before him. "I don't think so. Seems you are in a bit of a quandary. I hold your life in my hands--" He withdrew his sword and turned it about in the light so that the light caught upon the blade and reflected itself. "Or, for that matter, my sword." He looked at his prisoner. "Personally, I think you're getting off much too lightly. Your head would be mine, if it had been me who had given the orders." Sighing, he came closer until the tip of the sword pricked and drew blood at the base of Methos' neck. "But unfortunately, it's not up to me. I have to follow orders as much as any man here." He glanced over at a couple of men then twitched his head to one side.
Methos began to laugh loudly with true mirth, then became coldly threatening. "You don't know who you're dealing with, do you? You haven't a clue. Didn't your parents ever teach you respect?"
A swiftly swung backhand caught Methos squarely across the face, causing a small trickle of blood to leak out of his nose and brought tears to his eyes. He began to struggle as the two men Greyson had silently ordered to him stripped him of all his clothes.
"You're in no position to say anything. I know who and what I'm dealing with. And I will deal with you now!"
Methos now shivered in the cool night air as it met his now bare skin. "Will you? And what about later? Maybe I will deal with you."
Greyson scowled, then turned his back and nodded at a massive man with hair that hung past his waist. "Start at the front and work backward."
Methos closed his eyes in anticipation of the first licks of the leather as he wrapped more of the thongs which held him upright about his wrists. He wasn't about to cry out so that
Greyson could hear his suffering nor would he beg for mercy. "Give me strength," he told himself. "Give me courage."
The snap of leather made him involuntarily flinch; he opened his eyes a crack to see the man unraveling a long length of leather whose ends had been split and plaited. Another snap was heard and seen by him as the whip was tested.
Without warning, the leather's ends came flying at him and striped his skin open. Immediately, the blood began welling from the gash as once more the leather bit into him causing him to bite his lower lip to suppress his outburst of pain. He leaned his head back and tried to concentrate on the overhead branches in an effort to block out the pain as repeatedly he was struck.
Tears welled from his clenched eyes and he was soon left gasping from the continuous onslaught. His chest was a mass of blood that quickly dried as his body repaired itself and the wounds that snaked across his arms, shoulders and neck. Another snap of the whip caught him right across his face and the blood poured forth from it. He cried out despite himself and opened his eyes to look at the one who was inflicting the pain. He was startled to see Greyson standing with whip in hand, recoiling it for another blow.
"It's good to see that you're still among the living," Greyson said when he noticed the prisoner looking at him. "But don't worry, you won't be for long."
"Easy for you to say, Greyson but harder than you realize to do," Methos rasped out in a voice choked with pain. "I've lived this long and plan to live a lot longer. If I die, it'll be my choice to die at the time I choose to."
In response, Greyson flicked the whip so that the ends contacted his groin and upper leg area causing Methos to scream out. "We can see about that! Your life is in my father's hands; you will live or die at his behest."
Panting now, Methos wished that there were a way out from his bonds so that he could curl up and protect himself. Better yet, to take Greyson's head. He knew it was useless to think of it especially now; he tried to think of other things as the blows rained down on him furiously but found that the pain overrode any other thoughts.
He soon fainted from the pain and Greyson handed the whip back. He walked over to Methos, pulled his head up roughly by the hair and slapped him hard. "We're not done yet. Wake up!"
Methos groaned as his eyelids fluttered then he became instantly aware of where and what was happening to him. He intensely stared at Greyson with all the hatred he could muster. "I'd be very careful if I were you."
Greyson slapped him again in one direction, then back. "Be quiet!" He turned, throwing a thumb in Methos' direction. "Continue; do his back area and all there until there is nothing left to strike that hasn't been hit before. When you get done with that--" he paused for effect as he looked directly into Methos' eyes. "--do it again from the beginning."
"It will kill him, lord!" the man began to protest.
Greyson’s face turned dark. "Do it as my father wishes! If you can't, then I will find someone who will--and you will take the prisoner's place. Do you understand?"
The man lowered his head in assent, then began to ready himself for
the next blow.
"And we never forget, do we Greyson? We never forget!" Methos sneered at him.
Another bite of the leather hit him; he began to scream in agony all
over again as Greyson walked away towards his father's tent, laughing at
the sounds which came from behind him. "Never do we forget." He became
somber then repeated, "Never!"
Alaric’s eyes closed in concentrated rapture as he rhythmically withdrew and entered the young woman who lay underneath him, gasping and crying out as she clawed at his back. His timing was near perfect with her and soon both felt the waves of pleasure as he released his semen. Lowering his head to her shoulder as he tried to catch his breath, he began chuckling and reached up to kiss her lightly upon her nose. “You are a remarkable woman!”
She looked deeply in his eyes for a moment before closing her eyes and turning her head away. “He has been gone too long!” she thought to herself as she sighed deeply while thinking of her lover, Darius. In all the times she had been with Alaric, she had always dreamt that it was Darius astride her when Alaric had had her body. He had never suspected in all that time the truth; for her, seven years was far too long to have had to wait for her lover’s return.
Concerned, he propped his head up on one hand as his finger traced the line of her arm. “Is something wrong, my sweet child? Tell me, so that I can make it right for you.” He turned her face towards him and bent down to give her a kiss. “I am yours but to command; a king who begs for your tender mercy.”
Aelsgaarth mentally rolled her eyes but replied as she stroked her king’s face, “How goes the kingdom, lord? I have heard stories of battles within our country. Is this truth?”
He frowned at her then sat up abruptly and began to get dressed. There were times that she seemed to know things that no one else knew outside his private chambers except for those on his council; it raised his suspicions about just who was behind her. As much as he loved her, he realized that there were those who would stop at nothing to gain what he had and also knew that what she had spoken of was true. His people were getting restless and wanted more land, more space to grow their crops and raise their families, more bloodshed.
On top of this, the Vandals had begun to raid the fringes of their lands, destroying crops, burning whole villages, wreaking havoc and waste wherever they hit. The peace that he had argued about with Darius seven years prior was worthless and a fraud he had found out over the years. It had neither made the Goths stronger nor given them the breathing room he thought they had needed. It had also stirred resentment towards the peace made with Rome seven years prior and an anger that ran deep.
Many had thought he had been wrong to have sent away one of the greatest generals the Goths had ever seen to be used by Rome in her service. Some were calling for his recall back home as well as withdrawing all of the Goth troops under his command from Rome’s service and back to Goth territories. He rubbed at his jawline as he thought about it then turned to Aelsgaarth and smiled. “Whatever has happened, has happened. The people yearn for more land, more space—“ he paused. “More fighting.”
She sat up and wrapped her arms about him, drawing him tight against her as she whispered, “Bring Darius back, lord. The people want him to return, they yearn to see their husbands, sons, brothers, fathers.” She nibbled on his ear playfully and ran her hands down his front towards his groin. “Bring him back—forgive him his past mistakes against you. Swallow your pride.”
Alaric captured her wrists in his hands, then craned his head around to see her. She was speaking the truth—he also knew what was being said in the undercurrent of unrest that seemed to thicken the air and surround him. “It would mean civil war.”
“You must bring him back to me,” she begged him silently. “I must have him again; I want to taste him again, to feel his hands upon me, to have him deep within myself one more time.” She placed a finger to his lips, then pulled him backwards so that they fell onto the thick pile of skins and woolen blankets, then sat astride him her hands running the length and breadth of him. Throatily she whispered, “Bring him back.”
The king looked at her, unable to resist and unheeding of the warnings
that were ringing inside his head. He pulled her towards him once more
as the heat of his want overtook him and he nodded. “It shall be done.
Darius will be recalled home.” One thought nagged at him as he began to
make love to Aelsgaarth once more: was Darius to be trusted when he returned?
Darius stood as his cassock swirled about his ankles and headed for the simple alter at the front of the church. He knelt, crossed himself then lowered his head in prayer. Already he had heard too much, had remembered too much of his former life, had acknowledged that perhaps he was not as free from the sins of his past that he had told himself over the centuries. God may have forgiven him but had he himself ever truly forgiven himself?
“Prayers won’t get rid of the memories, Darius,” Methos said as he silently approached the center of the church. “Do you realize how long it took me to not wake at night in a bloody cold sweat from the nightmares of my time in your hands?” He pulled a chair out away from the others and sat backward in it silently watching Darius turn his head towards him. “Why is it that you don’t seem surprised that Greyson has come to Paris?”
Darius extended his hands and studied them. “I don’t see a need to go into the reasons. There isn’t a need for me to explain myself to you about him.”
Methos mocked him. “ ‘There isn’t a need to explain myself to you.'” He slammed his Ivanhoe against the flagstones of the church floor, making it ring shrilly and echo inside its walls. “There bloody well is a reason—your life! If you don’t remember, then let me refresh your memory—“
Darius turned to face him, one of the few persons who had been there and had seen what he had seen, lived what his visitor had lived and still had managed to survive the centuries. “Why have you come to tell me? What difference does it make to have me know that Greyson is here?”
“It depends on whether you want to face the truth about him--and you.”
“I know the truth. I lived it and you know that!” Darius’ normally calm voice now carried a more forceful tone. One could hear in it the element of one used to commanding others.
“Your version of the truth is only what you want to believe. It’s not necessarily what happened—people tend to sanitize the facts when they are remembering the past,” Methos sneered. “You had such grand dreams, Darius. You wanted the world at your feet by whatever means was necessary to achieve that goal and would use anyone to help get there. You were—“ His voice dropped into a softer tone. “Brilliant. And you killed thousands in your quest for an empire. Thousands! Who will forgive you those sins, Darius? Who?”
Darius frowned in silent grief; he stared into the darkness and began
to pace. His long strides made Methos remember another time and place as
they prepared for the return to Alaric’s palace…
Greyson handed the young runner by the scruff of the neck to Darius. “I found this lurking about, father. Seems that he got a little lost, didn’t you?” He looked down at the boy who didn’t reply then slapped him along the back of his head. “Don’t make me loose my patience with you!”
Darius shot a warning glance at his son as he pried Greyson’s fingers from the boy’s collar and guided him away. “Leave us alone.” When Greyson refused to budge, Darius’ eyes shot from the doorway to him and he indicated with a movement of his head that he meant what he said.
Greyson scowled then left.
“Now my boy,” Darius said gently. “What do you have for me?”
The boy extended a small scroll and waited for a reply if indeed, there was going to be one.
He unrolled the scroll, read the crude runic symbols then walked over to a small urn and burnt the scroll. “At long last,” he thought. “I’m going home.” He glanced at the boy and smiled. “Go boy, get something to eat and get some rest.” Pursing his lips, he paced for a moment while thinking. “Here is a reply: I accept and will return as soon as the army can be feasibly assembled. Got that?”
The boy nodded and took off, followed closely behind by Darius as far as the doorway where Greyson met him.
He nonchalantly slipped inside the tent and turned to face his father. “What news?”
“We’re been recalled home to settle matters a final time between Alaric and myself.”
“Then, there shall be a beautiful war.”
Darius pointed to a small satchel as Methos packed items in his tent to prepare once more to move. “Leave that.”
Methos nodded silently. He was not the same man he had been seven years
before; he was full of long silences, deferential to both Darius and Greyson
and looked to any outsider who saw him like the slave he was. He still
plotted and schemed to escape in the dead of night, dreaming of revenge
for what Greyson had done to him as he played his part out. For the moment,
he could only wait and play the part until an opportunity arose to make
He had been left hanging unconscious, still strapped to the trees once the whipping had concluded, his body looking like the bloody pulp of the inside of a pomegranate. Not a piece of skin had remained intact upon him as had been ordered; his body had been completely latticed with the markings from the lash.
When he came to he saw that the bonfire was now a small blaze and that Darius was sitting quietly observing him as his body slowly mended before his eyes, leaving behind no trace of any trauma that had been there before. “What are you looking at? Surely you’ve seen it happen before,” Methos said to him.
“I think of this as an experiment,“ Darius said quietly. “Not many that have gone through what you have gone through by my command, have lived.“
Methos winced as he tried to move; his muscles and body still screamed out in pain but it slowly ebbed away to nothing as more and more of him mended. “I wonder why that is, that I lived through this then? I ask you, do you think it might mean I’m immortal?”
Darius half smiled but said nothing.
“Just what do you want from me, Darius? What do I have that you don’t that is so important for you to keep me imprisoned for all these years?” Methos’ voice began to show his returning strength as well as his irritation. He shook his bindings in frustration and anger.
Darius glanced at him then back at his body, seeing the pieces of flesh come together like pieces of a vast puzzle as they knitted together. “What I want is your knowledge of what lies outside Rome’s borders as well as her defensive structure. I am going to force you to keep your word to me.”
He got up, stirred the fire then went and got a small bowl filled with water and a scrap of cloth. He then brought it to Methos, laying it on the ground and cut him loose. “Here, clean yourself up.” Methos collapsed to all fours on the ground and held that position as he swayed in place. The world was spinning as the recovery from his wounds sapped at his strength. He willed himself to a sitting position and looked himself over. Rivers and tributaries of dried blood ran over him in both large and small amounts while the wide lash marks which hadn’t healed gaped open revealing his pummeled muscles and tissue underneath. “Why are you doing this?” he asked in wonder.
“To prove to you that I am not the man you think I am. I am a warrior, true. I revel in the blood, the glory of a fight well fought, the strategies used to win. I love a good fight and hunger for the power that others have.”
Methos slowly reached out for the rag, picked it up, and began washing off the blood as he thought about what Darius had said. He drew his eyebrows together in a frown. “Be very careful about what you desire, Darius. You might get it, then much later it may come back to haunt you when you least expect it to.”
Intrigued, Darius replied, “It happened to you?”
Methos just smiled. “If you say so.” To himself he said, “I’ll just make you wonder even more about me.” He so enjoyed playing with someone's mind. With Darius it proved to be a diversion--and a challenge.
Just then they both felt the presence of another. Greyson came out of
the shadows and looked at both of them as one eyebrow quirked upwards.
“Am I—interrupting something?”
Methos held the horses while Darius, who had a cloak pulled over his head spoke to Greyson. He tried to ease his way closer to eavesdrop on the two to see if there might be a chance yet of his escaping. He concentrated hard on what words could be heard and tried to make sense of the little he could understand.
“—To see what the mood is of the people towards me as well as towards Alaric,” Darius replied to his son’s unsaid question. “Once I determine that, then I will decide what, if any, action will be taken against the king.”
“Do you still want him dead for sending you away seven years ago?” Greyson asked as Darius slipped an arm about his shoulders and guided him away from where Methos stood much to Methos’ chagrin.
Darius shrugged noncommittally while his face reflected the hunger of a wolf while tracking its’ prey. “Perhaps, perhaps not. Times change, as do people. Maybe he has learned that I was right all along.” He smiled. “We shall soon see.”
Greyson looked back over his shoulder at Methos. “I don’t trust him father. Will he go with you or will he stay?”
Darius looked back at him too then back at Greyson. “I don’t trust either of you,“ he thought to himself. “One of you would kill the other and I need both of you to make my dreams work.” He replied simply, “He stays—there is too much risk of him escaping while with me.”
Greyson nodded. “It might be good that he stays then. Perhaps he could teach me a few things that are different than what you teach. Providing of course, that I don’t take his head first.”
Darius snapped his head around at the comment. “Be careful of him. He is one of the Old Ones I suspect, and is much more than what he seems. He will play you for a fool if you let him.” He paused as he thought a moment. “Perhaps it would be better if he accompanies me—the Vandals are about these days and two are better protected than one man alone. “
“That is not a good idea—he might just try to take your head and then
The horses drank from a small stream near where both Darius and Methos sat eating their mid-day meal. Darius had throughout out the trip, asked Methos about what lay further to the west towards Gaul and had noted every detail that was heard. He locked it into memory and tried to imagine what the landscape looked like; how could he use it to his advantage?
Methos was bemused by all of the questions and had answered them as Darius had wanted to hear, not because what he replied held any truth in it. The only truth was within Methos’ grasp—his freedom could be obtained if he were careful enough in his planning and took advantage of whatever came his way to help him obtain it. If it meant lying to Darius about what was ahead, so be it.
“Have you been this way before?” Darius asked as he tore off another hunk of bread while Methos sliced a piece of hard cheese and passed it to him. He chewed then swallowed while his eyes flicked from area to another along the landscape.
Methos straightened and shielded his eyes as he looked around. “Maybe. I’ve been in many places. After awhile they all tend to run together and look alike.” He noted the distant mountains. “You crossed those?”
Darius nodded as he took a drink from his mead. “Yes. There were 200,000 of us—men, women and children of all ages with us. We all worked together to make a new home far from our original homes after Rome submitted to our demands of land for peace.” He spat out his mead making a sour face as he did so. “Bah! Rome was weak—not at all like she used to be. If we had tried to force the issue—“
“You would have died as your men would have,” Methos balefully interrupted. “Rome is not as strong as she once was, but don’t dismiss her so lightly. There is still very much the power and might behind her.” He stood and walked away, conscious of Darius’ eyes following his every move. He stretched his arms open wide, closing his eyes in the process and tilting his head back, reveling in the false sense of freedom that he had in that moment.
“Just what do you know about these things?” Darius asked as he narrowed his eyes and waited for a reaction. His curiosity had now been piqued; he wanted answers about the man before him. “Just how do you know what you talk about—how much war and tactics have you been behind in your lifetime; how many people have you killed, how much blood is on your hands?” He stood up and laid a hand on Methos’ shoulder that Methos promptly shook off.
Slowly Methos turned his head to look at his captor. His face remained blank but his eyes reflected a deep savagery that was oh –so very apparent. “You don’t want me to tell you Darius because you look like a child in comparison." Methos icily said. "Think in terms of river that runs thick with blood as the flies buzz around the bloated bodies. Think in terms of staining all that you have worn going into battle the bright red that gushes from a mortal wound and that you actually don’t mind it at all but rather revel in it as a mark of a man!”
He roughly grabbed Darius by his tunic and drew him close. “Don’t ask me this again…and don’t screw with me little one or I’ll have your head quicker than you can blink.” He pulled him closer yet until they were eye to eye. “Remember the rule, Darius. The one our kind live and die by—there can be only—“ He paused then sneered fiercely, “one.”
Darius looked into Methos' dark green eyes as he wondered what it would be like to fight a man such as him. He smiled, then brought his knee up sharply into Methos’ exposed genitals.
As Methos bowled over clutching himself, Darius backed away then walked backwards towards the horses and withdrew two swords. He threw one to Methos; it lay on the ground near where Methos was still crouched over holding himself. “Get up!”
Methos rolled over to one side before uprighting himself into a standing position once more. His palms itched to take up the sword and feel the cold iron encircled by his hand but he looked from the sword lying on the ground to Darius. "I don't think so. I've had my fill of killing."
With one smooth movement Darius scooped the sword into the air and tossed it at the man before him. "No man refuses me! When I say something you do it!"
Methos shook his head. "There's a first time for everything, Darius." A heartbeat came and went before he continued. "Pass."
"Fight me!" Darius said in a voice that carried authority. "Fight me!" He paused. "--For the freedom you hold so dear."
Methos calculated. Without warning, he swooped upon the sword in a boneless motion and slapped it against Darius' own sword making the horses startle and move about uneasily at the noise.
Darius returned the blow then began to use all of his sword skills as he pressed Methos into a retreat but Methos swiveled about in a flurry of both body movements, parries and thrusts and in return caused Darius to step by step retrace his footsteps.
Back and forth they went, the air getting dusty from their offensive and defensive moves and the sounds of their exertions filling the air. Neither one had an advantage over the other; Methos watched and waited for a mistake, as did Darius so the end would come sooner.
Suddenly the ground began to shake as the thundering hoofbeats of a multitude of horses fast approaching them fills the air. Both swung their heads in the direction of the sound then glanced at each other.
Darius glanced skywards and caught his breath. A fuselage of arrows was arcing down on them, so many that it seemed as if the sun had been blacked out. He shouted to Methos, who also glanced upwards and then motioned for the two of them to drop to the ground.
"Who are they?" Methos shouted to Darius.
"Vandals--the greatest archers in the world," Darius replied and covered his head and body as the arrows began hitting the ground all about them.
Methos curled up into a ball and repeated the name in disgust. "Vandals."
"You were wrong, Darius. They weren't Vandals after all, were they?" Methos voice carried eerily in the chapel. "And you died for your mistake, still never admitting that a mistake had been made."
"And you took every advantage with it too." Darius replied as he stared into the darkness.
"What else was I to do? An opportunity arose that hadn't been there
before and I took it." He laughed. "What--are you still angry after all
these centuries?" He ruefully shook his head then went on. "You deserved
everything you got too. Everything!"
Signal fires burned on the hills surrounding the army's encampment and Greyson had been warned of the approaching army. He watched from atop horseback as his enemy approached trying to gauge how many foot soldiers as well as cavalry were in their midst.
The other army was still too far out to tell exactly who it was. He ordered a small battalion out to scout out them out and see what their strength actually was while he watched safe behind the lines. He tried to remember all that Darius did in times like this while trying not to show his uncertainty to the others. With Darius gone, he had been placed in charge and had been told to finish preparations for the trip back to their homeland.
He thought about how he had ordered the food train to load up all the food within riding distance of their position, then ordered all remaining patrols doing line work reconnaissance on the borders to return, thus essentially leaving the borders open to invasion. Glancing around at the other officers who waited on him to order them into position, a slow smile stole across his lips as he silently reveled in the feeling of power.
He no longer cared if an invasion were to come, as he knew that soon a revolt against Rome herself was forthcoming and all would be forgotten. An invasion of their borders would only help their cause because Rome would have to split its' armies up in order to deal with the invaders and still be able to deal with them. The time was rapidly approaching when all the pieces would fall into place and the Goths would be the dominating power in the region, more so than what they were now.
One of his captains spotted through the haze and dust pointed out the multitude of colors that slowly split through it all and pointed it out. He turned his head towards Greyson and said so all could hear him, "Huns!"
All eyes flew to the gathering army that had come to force their way into their homeland, who had come with bows that stood as high as a man and whose aim was both deadly and accurate. They had come to rob, to burn and to sack whatever stood in their way of achieving their goal; the only thing to stop them was the Goth army under Greyson's command, a commander, untried, unsure of himself, and yet a prodigy of Darius' own making. He made a quick decision. "Move everyone into position, now. We will attack; we have the advantage over them in terms of terrain." He frowned. "How many do you say they have, Baldur?"
Baldur squinted and counted. "If you judge the amount of men who can make such a vast stirring of the earth and multiply it by ten--" He looked over at his commander. "Thousands, maybe more than what we have here. It's a major movement of men and troops."
"And the cavalry?"
Another of his men spoke up. "As many of them as us, I estimate. These are the same ones who snapped at our heels before in our old homes, forcing us to flee our ancestral homes and lands. We at least know in advance how they fight and with what weapons."
Greyson eyed him as he digested the information, wondering all the while where his father and his hated slave were. He hoped that whatever happened they made it to Alaric safely and do what was to be done swiftly before returning. "Very well, then." He nodded more to himself than to any of the others. "Gather together all and upon my signal, we attack."
The other captains nodded in assent, murmuring to themselves, then each went to their own men and prepared for battle.
He hung his head, pursing his lips as he thought of what was to come.
To himself he whispered, "This is it. Father. You had better hope I learned
my lessons from you well." He sighed as once more he looked upon the enemy.
"This had better work!"
Greyson looked at the vast dust cloud that was approaching then at the signal fires which burned on the surrounding hills, warning the camp of the impeding danger. He stared at it before wheeling about to prepare himself for the fight ahead.
The men soon stood lined up in formation, shields and swords at ready with the cavalry behind the first wave of men. Greyson rode his way through them to the front then down the line as he inspected them. He was well aware of all the eyes that were upon him waiting and wondering in anticipation of the battle ahead.
It wasn't like it had been with Darius when Greyson rode at his side as the men watched and waited for him to speak. They needed to hear the words to inspire their courage, to hear words which gave them honor in their fight, to hear words which would soothe their hearts in the coming battle where their lives would be at stake.
Darius had always had the right words to speak with and the charisma to make the men believe and follow him to hell if necessary in order to fulfill his goals. And they would have, if asked.
But not Greyson--he did not possess such skills, thus the words failed to come to his lips. He rode in silence, glancing every now and then at the vast army that was spread out over the plain opposite his own.
A thundering cry was heard; he turned his head to look and saw the Huns approaching them as the archers strung arrows while at a dead run, then letting them fly to bring death to those unfortunate ones hit by them.
Silently and surely the arrows began hitting their marks and men began to fall about him.
He swiftly brought up and slashed downwards his swords as a signal to
The commotion forced Greyson to wheel his horse about hard at which the beast reared then crashed downwards, crushing a man in the process. He hung on then both he and his horse leapt forwards into the fray. He slashed, blocked and parried his way forward as he tried to get to what he assumed to be the commander of the Huns but soon was pushed backwards away from the man.
Glancing about him, he realized that it was hard to determine what losses he was experiencing let alone if victory would be in their hands today. He beat off another man, slicing through his skull as if it were an eggshell then retreated, aiming for a small knoll that he could see what the whole of the battle looked like below him.
After much effort, he made his way to the top and paused, gasping for
breath while surveying the scene below him. He wiped the blood, sweat and
splattered brains off as he assessed the progress of the battle then slowly
he smiled. "Maybe victory is mine!" he chortled. "Maybe it is!"
Methos groaned and opened his eyes to look around at the damage done by the arrows to both Darius and himself. He noted the number of arrows either embedded in the ground or them then heard a noise behind him.
Looking quickly to his rear, he saw that they were not alone as he had hoped but was indeed surrounded by men with faces like tanned leather, high cheekbones, and eyes that slanted into an almond-like shape.
Each man was garbed in a different array of clothing, each piece of clothing was brightly colored; over it lay padded breastplates of cloth stuffed and quilted with animal hair. Also he noted grimly, were dozens of bows each individually notched with arrows ready for release that were pointed at them.
Silently, he swore then calmly began removing the arrows one by one from him, gasping as he pulled them from his body or if necessary, breaking them off and forcing the arrow completely through him before he could remove it. The pain was staggering and it made him groan in agony but it had to be done.
The Huns meanwhile watched fascinated yet horrified of the man who sat in front of them bleeding from the many wounds upon him yet healing before their eyes. Was he a god sent from their heaven? Or was he something else?
Darius never moved nor stirred during the time it took Methos to remove, heal and come to his feet again. As he did the latter, the Huns moved back away from him in fear, a fact which he noted and began to use in his favor. "Tell your leader to come to me swiftly. I am most displeased that you would treat me in such a manner!" Methos ordered in the sing-song dialect of their language. He suppressed a smile when he saw the very real look of fear cross their features as they listened to his orders.
They conferred; one man was sent away. He soon returned followed by an immense man on horseback, fierce in his demeanor and looks. "Who are you?" he demanded to know.
Methos looked sternly at him then replied, "A god who holds the power of life and death in his hands!" He strode over to where Darius lay and quickly checked him over to see why he hadn't revived yet, but found nothing until he began pulling out the arrows none too gently, from him.
An arrow and its' shaft which had broken off lay deeply buried in Darius' back with only the slightest edge revealing its' presence. Feeling around for the angle of it and judging the best way to remove it, he glanced up at the commander. "Watch while I bring the man to life before your eyes!" With that, he shoved the arrow downwards and through him so that it emerged from his chest cavity.
In a matter of moments, Darius coughed blood and opened his eyes, then braced himself on his elbows as he struggled to sit up. He glanced at Methos who held a sword in his hand and who smiled icily at him then at all the men who surrounded them.
The Huns were convinced and needed no further proof that before them was a god of some sort. He had brought back the dead and had spoken in their language when met. Indeed, they were faced with a dilemma--they had treated him ill and now he stood before them. What would he do to them in retaliation for their acts?
Methos knew of their fear but also knew that his godhood needed to be
solidified by another "miracle". He grabbed hold of Darius and hissed,
"Vandals?" He paused then smiled tightly. "Smile, Darius. Now your life
is mine!" then shoved the blade deep into him, reveling joyfully in the
revenge of the kill for all he had been through in the past years as a
Theodonius looked at his new general, one who had had many successes in the field and one he knew beyond any doubt was loyal. "My spies tell me that the Goths are getting weary of peace. There is talk of revolt among them."
Flavius Stilicho turned as he continued pouring a flask of wine for himself and looked at his liege. "How reliable are they?"
"Reliable enough, I'd say. The news comes from the general's own mouth."
"How can you be sure? It could be idle talk you know, my lord." Flavius strode over to sit in an ornate backless chair and took a drink. "Did you put the spy there yourself, or did someone else do it for you?"
Theodonius face grew red as he pushed himself upright making the bulk of his weight jiggle. "How dare you question me?" He took two steps towards Stilicho, fist upraised. "You're an insolent bastard even for your brilliance."
Stilicho was undisturbed by the display. He had seen far too many battles, seen too much killing, had seen both defeats and victories in his lifetime as a soldier to be worried about what a man might think of him. "If you think so my lord of me then I can go back to my troops--" he began and got up to leave but a swiftly raised hand by Theodonius stayed his actions.
"Stay. I didn't give you leave to go."
"I never asked for it nor do I require it." Stilicho's hawk-like face reflected the iron hard qualities that had pulled him into the position he now held. "Shall I take my leave or shall you answer my question?" he asked bluntly.
Theodonius sighed. "It's a rumor. Only God knows what they are thinking. I cannot seem to get anyone near Alaric to learn of his plans. As for Darius, his general--" he shook his head. "He's on the border guarding against invasion for Rome. It seems that he had his ruler had a falling out seven years ago which to this day remains unhealed."
Stilicho nodded. "That could be good. Let them fight among themselves, rather than gather their forces against Rome and begin their raids anew." He stood and began to pace. "If Rome were to show any indications that we are aware of any discontent then they might back down on any plans to revolt if indeed that is true."
The Emperor looked out the window towards the Seven Hills adorned with its' many buildings, the Senate, and all of the rest of the squalor below it as he thought. "And they may not. And for that reason, I have called Constantine back into service. He has the knowledge, the manpower, the experience you would require to defeat them."
"But he is in Egypt!"
"No," Theodonius said quietly but with unmistakable authority. "He is not. I sent for him before I sent for you. He is to provide backup to your forces should anything happen."
The general scowled his unhappiness apparent on his features. "Who is to be in charge then of the armies then?"
"You are, my dear Flavius. Despite you being a Hun, I would still trust Rome to you should it come to war." He looked over to his general. "Constantine is good, I'll grant you that. He has served Rome for a very long time and has done well for her. But do not fret. You my dear, are better and my choice. "
"And you will explain that to him when he arrives, will you not?" Flavius downed the rest of the wine in one gulp and set the flask down with a resounding thud.
The emperor smiled benevolently. "Upon my Christian God, I so swear
I will. I will tell him..."
When Darius revived a second time, he awoke to the realization that it was now dark and that he lay strapped in a spread eagle position away from the noise and rowdiness of the Hun camp. He cursed Methos loudly and swore to kill him no matter what was inside his head. He could always take a chance and find out what he thought Methos knew on his own.
The voice came at him from the dark to his right; he angled his head that way in order to see who it was even though he knew the voice. "I'll kill you for this!" he hissed furiously.
"Just how do you intend to do that--you'd be dead again before you could get to me." Methos approached his captive and casually sat down. "Did I ever tell you how much I hate the Huns?"
Darius yanked and strained at the leather thongs that bound him and growled in frustration at him. "Why?"
Lifting up one side of his mouth in a half-grin, Methos replied, "How does feel to be held against your will, Darius? Do you feel as strong as before? Or are you feeling helpless and weak?" He got back up and the twinkle of the distant campfires caught on something metallic.
Darius' eyes stared at the metal object as it was brought down around his bindings when
Methos knelt beside him then caught his breath as it was brought into contact with his throat.
"You must be good at negotiations Darius for you to have come this far. I'd say I will do you a favor if you will do me one. We could negotiate it out. Interested?"
"And if I don't want to negotiate?" Darius snarled despite being intrigued.
"Then I shall tell the Huns how to really kill you and all your dreams will have been wasted on nothing." Methos face and voice had turned quite deadly. He pushed the knife harder into Darius' throat and watched as a small trickle of blood run down the blade. "Are you willing now to negotiate?" He paused then as if in an afterthought, went on. "Oh yes, one should never bloody one's own hands--but you already know that rule now don't you?"
Darius gulped as he winced against the pain. "Very well! What do you want from me?"
"My freedom--and a choice to ride with you or not depending on my decision. In return I shall set you free tonight and we shall say no more of what has occurred on this day. But mark me, if you renege on the deal then I will take your head."
"What of Greyson?"
"He's not a part of this. If he comes for me---" Methos made a quick flowing motion of one decapitating another. "Understand?"
"Greyson must be left alive at all costs. He is my legacy to the world."
Methos shook his head. "Some legacy--a cold-hearted son of a bitch who dreams of as much glory as he can muster under your wing."
"He lives and you will not fight him." Darius strained at his bonds again. He frowned. "If he is that, then it will be I who will deal with it now and in the future."
"Promises, promises." Methos sneered then looked upwards towards the starry sky. "If I let Greyson alone, then you must make sure he understands my change in status--that I am on equal footing with him as well as with you. He's very jealous of the fact that I have taken a place as an advisor."
"It will be done. Are you saying that you will ride with me if I let you free?"
Pursing his lips then sarcastically smirking, Methos said, "Did I say I wouldn't? Are we agreed then?"
"Depends on if you agreed as to letting my son live no matter what has happened or might happen in the future."
"He will live," Methos replied softly but an undercurrent of an unspoken threat flowed through the tone of his voice.
"Then I agree to all." Darius was furious at having to agree to allow Methos his freedom--he didn't trust him but he felt as if he had a destiny to fulfill and in order to do that he must agree.
The knife slipped away from his throat and slit the bindings quietly and quickly. Darius sat up, rubbing his wrists then looked around before noticing two horses prepared for riding standing nearby. "Why you--"he began to say but Methos' hand flew to his mouth and clamped it shut.
"Quiet!" Methos motioned him to mount up and soon they rode southwards towards Alaric's homebase.
Along the ride, Darius turned and said, "Why do you hate the Huns so badly?"
Methos smiled and replied, "Their food gives me indigestion." He rode
a bit further before adding, "Besides, godhood gets tiring after awhile."
Greyson watched the breach in the Huns' line break open wider and wider and more and more of his men ran in for the attack. He kicked his horse in the ribs and began making his way back into the melee when a roar when up from the Huns making him jerk his head upwards.
The Huns had begun to close the gap in the lines and now were decimating
the Goth soldiers and cavalry who had come inside their lines. Soon the
gap was no more and the line was once more whole and seamless. Not one
Goth would survive the onslaught.
Slowly and surely the Goths collected themselves back into a defensive unit and fell back leaving all the wounded as well as all the stragglers behind as they headed southwards with the Huns in close pursuit.
Eventually, the Huns dropped the chase and in the next few days Greyson
heard of the terrible losses he had suffered at their hands. The cavalry
had suffered the least but his foot soldiers had experienced a loss of
about a third of them. It turned him into a sullen, short-tempered man,
more so than normal and all avoided him that suited him just fine.
He tossed his reins to a guard and strode inside. His walk and mannerisms were akin to Darius' own as he went down the halls to report of the army's arrival to Alaric, hoping that Darius had already arrived. He smiled grimly each time he passed someone and they whispered, "Darius! He has come back! Darius!"
If only he were here, and if only he could be his father. What was Darius going to say when told of the losses? He didn't want to think on it. He pushed his way past the guards to the Great Hall where he knew Alaric held his audiences and strode in and stopped.
All eyes and attention turned to him and many caught their breath. "Darius!" The name rang out in chorus from many of the lips.
Alaric sat silent at the intrusion, Aelsgaarth at his side. "Why do you burst in on me like this?" he finally said at length.
Aelsgaarth could hardly contain her joy and she leapt up when the figure didn't answer and leapt up in his arms, knocking the hood off his head in the process. She gasped as the entire court and backed away as Greyson's coldly glittering, hawk-like eyes surveyed them all.
"Greetings, my lord." He paused, knowing that his father wasn't here as he had hoped after all if one was to judge from the reactions of his uncovering. "The Huns are upon us once more."
|The Book of Darius
(This page last updated 02/22/2003)