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Journey, by tirnanog

Part 5-6

All things are filled full of signs,
and it is a wise man who can learn about one thing from another.

Plotinus, Enneads, bk.II, treatise iii

Part 5

Enkidu was in his room, deep in a dusty treatise on Gnosticism, reading the chapter on the snake-worshipping sect known as the Ophites. Other books lay in piles on the desk and on the floor, works on comparative religion, mythology, symbols, and dreams.He was still seeking an answer to the riddle of Darius' nightmare, hoping to discover more about its meaning. He looked up suddenly, sensing the approach of another Immortal. Daray had left St. Jerome that morning—surely he had not already returned? Then he heard a knock at his door. "Come!" he called out, setting the heavy tome to one side. The door opened to reveal a familiar slouching figure in a rumpled coat.

"Methos! This is a pleasant surprise!" Enkidu got up from his desk to greet the Oldest Living Immortal.

"You might think otherwise when you find out why I'm here," Methos warned, with a dour look.

"Ah, so it is business, and not the pleasure of my company that lured you away from Paris," Enkidu said, feigning disappointment.

"Not that it isn't nice to get away from the traffic and noise for awhile, but yes, it is business—your business, to be precise. Remember you asked me awhile back to look into cases of mortals killing Immortals, a sort of overview of when and where this has happened before?"

"And?" Enkidu raised one dark eyebrow.

Methos stuffed his hands into his pockets, and paced restlessly around the small book-lined room like a panther in a cage. "Historically speaking, this problem has cropped up more often than you might suspect. From time to time, a mortal discovers that one of us Immortals is "different", and kills him, more out of ignorance and fear than malice. Sometimes the mortal understands that beheading is necessary for a permanent death, sometimes not. But these have been mostly isolated incidents, not organized campaigns of extermination."

"So far this is what I expected."

"Yes, but late last night, in the course of doing this bit of checking for you, I looked at some recent statistics for Western Europe, and I discovered a possible trend that is making me very, very nervous. Over the past six months, the rate of unexplained deaths and disappearances of Immortals in certain geographical areas has been unusually high. Paris and its environs is one of those areas." Methos turned and gave Enkidu a piercing look. "So, is there something that you're not telling me about? If so, I'd appreciate an explanation. Now, please."

"I did not know of any such trend until you told me, Methos," Enkidu said soberly.

"Well, forgive me for jumping to conclusions, but you have to admit the timing of your inquiry is rather…shall we say, odd? What did prompt you to ask for information on this particular topic? A hunch? A tip from an anonymous source? Or since you used to interpret dreams for a living, maybe a voice in the night?"

"All of the above," Enkidu said, with a little smile. "But my inquiry concerns a specific individual, who has asked me not to reveal his identity or any of the details involved."

"Well, now it concerns me, and it ought to concern you," Methos pronounced ominously.

"Tell me more specifically what you have learned. Are there any patterns to the deaths and disappearances?" Enkidu asked.

"There isn't much to go on. As I say, they are unexplained. This sort of thing does happen once in a while. Someone's Watcher is ill with flu, and his Immortal is beheaded by another whose Watcher was taking a break. So there are no official witnesses, and the death is attributed to "parties unknown". But lately this has been occurring too damned often. And also, too damned often, the few headless bodies that do turn up in these cases are not accompanied by the usual evidence that a Quickening has taken place—broken light bulbs and windows, freak storms, power outages, and the like. In some instances, the victim's Watcher was actually in the vicinity when his assignment was killed, but never saw or heard a thing."

"Which suggests--what? That a mortal is doing the killing?"

Methos shrugged."Possibly. Or more than one. And whoever it is obviously knows about Immortals—where to find them, how to kill them, and when their Watchers might not be around."

"Other Watchers," Enkidu concluded grimly.

"Bulls eye. Give the man a teddy bear. So now you understand why I might be just a bit upset if I thought you were holding out on me. Being an Immortal Watcher puts me in a rather delicate position, you must admit. Not only do I have to worry about other Immortals coming for my head if my cover gets blown, but now also my co-workers. Or is that why you didn't tell me about this before—for fear I had divided loyalties?"

Enkidu looked him in the eye. "You know me better than that, my friend. And I know exactly where your loyalties lie."

"Right," Methos said with a grin. "With Numero Uno. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. And mind you, my first impulse was to take a long vacation to parts unknown, leaving no forwarding address. But as you see, I am still here. At least until my plane leaves Orly in approximately…" (glancing at his watch) " ...two hours. "

"And for that, I am grateful. But one more thing—have any of the deaths you speak of occurred on Holy Ground?"

"Ah! Do I detect a note of self-interest now? Actually, there have been no recorded deaths on Holy Ground in the time period I sampled. But if I were you, I'd watch my back and keep my sword sharp. And if you wouldn't mind, call Darius and warn him about this. I drove by the church before I left town, but another Immortal was there, so I didn't go in. Two's company, but an unknown third... you understand." Methos edged towards the door, as if to leave.

"And where are you bound, if I may ask?" Enkidu inquired.

"Tibet. My usual home-away-from-home. It can be a bit difficult getting there this time of year because of the snows, but that works both ways—makes it less likely anyone will risk following me. I'll be in touch." Then reacting to his friend's unvoiced reproach, "Look, you've got to understand, Enkidu. I'd like to stick around and help sort this out, but my situation is a bit tricky. I can't just go up to some higher-up in the Watchers and say something is rotten in the state of Denmark. I'm not even supposed to have access to some of these files, since the Methos Project is basically historical in nature. Before I left, I tried to arrange for the "trend" I spotted to be discovered accidentally by someone else—one of our real statisticians. It would probably get noticed eventually, of course, and something would get done about it, but hopefully what I did will help that along. By and large, I believe the Watchers are a benign and useful organization, and they will be just as eager as we are to stop this once they find out about it."

"Unless this goes all the way to the top, Methos. In which case, you are wise to make yourself scarce for a while. But I agree there is only so much we can do. If we start telling other Immortals who do not know about the Watchers that the group exists, it could start a panic, possibly even a war," Enkidu warned.

"My thoughts exactly."

"But remember, Tibet might have other dangers you might want to consider—such as avalanches, bandits, and yak butter. Be careful, my friend."

"When have you known me to be anything else?" the Oldest Immortal said jokingly.

"Once or twice," the Akkadian answered, giving his friend an affectionate thump on the shoulder. He saw Methos out, and went over to his window to watch as the elder Immortal walked to his car. Before driving off, Methos glanced back towards the dormitory, and lifted his left hand in salute, briefly exposing the circular Watcher tattoo on his wrist. After their conversation, the sight of it made Enkidu uneasy, but he merely waved back, and returned to his books.

A few moments later, he was interrupted by another knock on the door. "Come!" he said, without looking up. Diana Connelly dashed in breathlessly, as if she had run up the stairs.

"Enrique! Did you see him? That guy from Paris? He's the same man I saw at Darius' church. What is he doing here?"

"To whom are you referring, child?" Enkidu asked, poker-faced. "I have been here in this room most of the afternoon."

"Someone I saw at St. Julien, twice. He was just here. I saw him drive off in a Volvo wagon."

"I fear I must have missed him then," Enkidu lied shamelessly. He got up, and taking her by the shoulders, gently propelled her towards the door. "If you will excuse me, I am rather busy at the moment, Diana. Perhaps we can discuss this later." He shut the door behind her, and turned back to his desk. What he saw there stopped him in his tracks.

The book on the Ophites still lay on his desk as he had just left it, open to the page showing an illustration of Abraxas, their supreme deity, with his watchful, observant bird's head, and the twin serpents for legs… but upside down, the twin serpents resembled something else, something very familiar. Enkidu tore a piece of paper from a pad and drew the Watcher symbol on it. Then he placed the paper next to the upside-down snake legs, copied them, and enclosed them in a circle. The resulting drawings were very similar, too close for comfort. How could he have missed it?

Now he knew what the serpents in Darius' dream meant, and the knowledge struck him like a physical blow. Reeling from the implications of it, he sat down, mind racing. There was no help for it—he must inform Darius of what he had learned, and soon. What had once seemed only a dream had suddenly taken on a rather grim reality.

Granted, we are not one, but a solitary two:
our consciousness and he;
But how much we owe each other
past conceiving,
the way it is with friends!

Rainer Maria Rilke, "[Brother Body is poor…]"

Part 6

Darius was in his study when the call came. "Enkidu! it is good to hear your voice! Guess who showed up for a visit this afternoon, our old friend Daray. I just sent him to the cellar for a bottle of mead, because we were about to sit down for a game of chess. Would you like me to call him? No? Then how can I help you?"

Enkidu got right to the point. "I have found an interpretation for one of the key elements in your dream—the twin serpents that come from the left sleeve of the assassin in the church. When you first described the dream to me, I noted a possible connection with Abraxas, the Ophite supreme deity, whose legs are twin serpents, symbolizing mystery and eternity, and whose head is that of an eagle or rooster, symbolizing watchfulness and foresight. Today, Methos came to me with information suggesting that individuals within the Watcher organization might have turned against their oath, and are using inside information to track down and kill Immortals. After Methos left, still thinking of the Watchers, I noticed a striking visual similarity between the Watcher symbol and the depiction of Abraxas. I believe I may actually have found the one of the original sources of the Watcher symbol. Perhaps some of the Ophites were members of the Watchers, or the Watcher organization simply adapted the Ophite symbol at some point. It makes perfect sense—watchfulness, mystery, and eternity. Then it suddenly occurred to me that there was a connection between your dream and the renegade Watchers. The symbol is usually tattooed on the left wrist of those belonging to the organization, is it not?"

"The Watchers?" Darius couldn't believe it. "Why would the Watchers want to kill Immortals? They are a primarily group of historians and record keepers, and we are the very reason they exist."

"I do not believe all the Watchers are involved," Enkidu explained. "I suspect we are talking about a very small group of fanatics. Every large organization has a disgruntled splinter group or two."

"Can anything be done to stop them before they kill more Immortals?" Darius always put his concern for others before his own problems.

"Methos has attempted to leak this information to someone within the organization, to alert them to the situation and let them investigate and deal with it in their own way. He has since left the country for his own protection. Obviously, we cannot put out a bulletin to all and sundry Immortals to warn them—very few Immortals know the Watchers exist, and if they suddenly found out about the organization, I fear a panic would ensue, and some very nasty situations could arise—Immortals and Watchers killing each other out of fear, or even killing innocent people they suspect might be one of "the enemy". But what about your Watcher, Darius? Do you know who he or she is? Has this person ever given you a reason to be suspicious?"

"Ian Bancroft has been my Watcher for years. I asked Methos about him once. He seems to think Ian a very reserved, quiet man, typically English, very devoted to his work. I do not believe Ian is either a fanatic, or a killer." There was a pause, and then Darius asked, "Methos is still in the dark about my secret, I trust?"

"I gave nothing away in our conversation," Enkidu reassured him. "But he was concerned for you. He asked me to call you, and would have stopped by to warn you himself, if he had not sensed Daray's presence there."

"I am relieved you did not tell him. I fear he would insist on trying to intervene, and end up dead. The same goes for Duncan, or Sean, or anyone else who is close to me. I would not have told even you if I could have avoided it, although I am grateful for your information. So now we know this is real, not just a figment of my imagination." He paused, then added softly, "I think, somehow, I have always known." Darius told Enkidu about the increased frequency of the nightmares, and his death-dreams about other Immortals.

"I am sorry, my friend," Enkidu said simply. "I wish I had better news for you. If there is anything you need, or anything you would like me to do, call me, no matter what the hour."

"Thank you, Enkidu. Whatever happens, I want you to know how much I value our friendship. Goodbye." Darius put down the phone, and went over to the small table to set up the pieces for the chess game. He was still at this when Daray came in shortly after, carrying the mead and two glasses. He also had a bag of fresh croissants.

"I saw you were on the phone, so I just stepped out to the boulangerie and picked up some of these. Darius?"

"Yes?" the priest said absently, getting another chair.

"Sorry, you just looked a bit distracted. Has anything happened?"

Darius glanced over at his friend. "Why should you think so?"

"Because I've known you for a very long time, and I can see it in you. It's up to you if you want to tell me or not, but what kind of friend would I be if I didn't ask what is bothering you?"

Darius frowned. "What exactly has Enkidu told you?"

"Exactly nothing. Diana Connolly was the one who told me that you needed help. Enkidu did not deny it. So here I am. And here we are, the two of us, where our friendship began fifteen hundred years ago."

Darius took a deep breath. "Telling you will serve no purpose. Nothing you can do will change what is to come."

"Then telling me will do no harm, will it? And it may do you good, which is all I intend."

Darius made a little rueful face. "Pour us both a drink," he said, giving in at last. "We'll need it."

The bottle of mead was empty by the time Darius finished telling his friend about his recurring dreams of death, Enkidu's interpretation of them, and the new information concerning the Watchers.

Daray listened intently from start to finish. After a moment, he said. "First the Ancient One, now you. Why is it, do you think, that the people I love the most seem set on martyrdom? Is it something about me? Something I said?"

A little smile crossed Darius' face. "I do not want to die, Daray. I have never loved life more than at this moment, or felt a greater desire to go on living. But something, or Someone, is trying to tell me that my path leads elsewhere, and it is a narrow way. A sword's edge. I see it every time I close my eyes."

"I stayed awake a whole year once on a wager, through meditation. Mind over matter. Won quite a pile of money, too." He went over to the table. "We never did have our chess game, did we? I have always thought of the game of chess as a metaphor for life. In life, as in chess, there are Rules, and limitations as to how different pieces may be moved, but one still has the power of choice." He chose a pawn and advanced it, then looked at Darius. "It's your move. "

Darius picked up a pawn on the other side of the board, but set it back down again on the same square. "I have studied all the possible moves, Daray, but what I believe is this: all roads lead to where I stand, except one—the one I do not wish to travel. And yet I feel that the time of departure is upon me. Tomorrow, or the tomorrow after that—I cannot be sure, but I know that it is close. " He rubbed his temples and closed his aching eyes for a moment. He hadn't had more than a few hours of rest in over a week.

The priest felt Daray's hand on his shoulder. "There is at least one thing I can do—I can stay if you will let me. Please don't insist on facing this alone."

Darius looked up at his friend. "All right," he agreed. "Will you watch with me tonight? There are things I need to discuss with someone, arrangements I need to make, while there is still time. And to be perfectly honest, I don't want to be alone."

"You won't be," Daray promised. "I'm not going anywhere."

This story is Copyright ©1998 by tirnanog and may not be reproduced without permission.

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