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Disclaimer: Highlander belongs to Panzer/Davis. I'm just playing in their sandbox!

My thanks to Whisper for reeling in my use of commas, and R. Sacchi for eradicating all the 'that's!


A Wing's Shadow


PART TWO


Methos stood in front of the fire in Amanda’s outer chamber; reluctant to join her just yet, there were many questions in her eyes that he had yet to answer. He had to leave Florence soon, and he dreaded telling her. Amanda already suspected it, of course; he could see it in her eyes, but she waited for him to say the words nevertheless.

Kronos had found him; a shudder passed through his body as the realisation struck home. He had not crossed paths with his brother in over three hundred years. The encounter had resulted in a bloody massacre on the streets of Paris, as Kronos decided to hunt down all whom he had met in that Northern city. He had lost many a good friend that year.

Luckily, Darius had been safely ensconced on holy ground and Kronos, old enough to remember Darius’s old reputation, was wary off dragging him off it; for fear that underneath that habit, Darius still carried the heart of the warrior he once was. Methos smiled grimly, Kronos may be mad, but he was not stupid.

Wearily, his mind went over the events of that day. He had risen early, so as to avoid Amanda’s questioning looks, and had hurried off in order to buy himself some new horseflesh as well as procure the correct documents for travel to Rome. Methos smiled sourly as he dwelled on how difficult it was to travel in this part of the world nowadays. A thousand years ago one could have travelled the length and breadth of the Roman Empire, armed with a solitary visa, on roads that were wide and well maintained. Now, things were different. The city of Rome had fallen and was now surrounded by an array of small and quarrelsome feudal states and cities, making travel difficult and more than a little dangerous.

It had to be done, nevertheless, and Methos fully intended to leave the city before the week ended. Which brought him back, full circle, to his original problem - Amanda. Throwing himself onto the high-backed chair beside the fire, he mulled over his choices. His original plan had been to merely tell Amanda that he’d grown tired of Florence and that he wished to move on. He would have helped her concoct a likely story for his absence so as to secure her position in Florence, but then he would have moved on. Amanda would have been puzzled, and perhaps a little hurt, but she would have been none the wiser about his true difficulties.

Now, of course, all this had changed. Kronos had made himself known to her and this meant that she was in danger. Methos cringed as he realised how near she had come to death that day. Amanda had been well trained by Rebecca and under most circumstances Methos would be confident in her abilities to defend herself. But Kronos was unlike anything she had ever faced before; she had no idea of the lengths he would go to in order to procure her head. What would have happened if Ramirez hadn’t been passing through the city, curious about the new basilica that he’d been hearing about, and hadn’t stopped to admire the Ghiberti’s bronze doors? Methos’ mind did not like to dwell too long upon the subject.

What he had to figure out now, was what to tell Amanda - the truth? Methos winced even at the thought, Amanda may not be the most righteous of people, but even she might balk at the news that she was bedding one of the four horsemen. To this day, the book of Revelation was spoken of in hushed, fearful, tones. She would not take the news too well. A lie, then? No, that would not do either.

Rubbing his eyes with his hand, Methos thought through his options, eventually he came to the conclusion that he would tell a part truth, just enough for her to see the danger she was in. It was the best that he could do. For a moment, he contemplated taking Amanda with him to Rome, but quickly decided against the idea. Kronos was now hot on his scent, and would almost assuredly guess correctly, what his next move was. He didn’t want Amanda to fall victim to what may come.

He contemplated asking Ramirez for help, he was a chivalrous old soul and would most probably be eager to escort Amanda to safety – especially if she was accompanied by the lovely Gianetta. Methos smirked; he wondered if Ramirez was aware of the mysterious society who called themselves the watchers. If he was, he was going to get a rueful surprise if he spotted the tattoo that graced Gianetta’s left wrist. The comely young watcher must have been in seventh heaven as she dined with them. Not many watchers could boast that they spent the evening conversing with three immortals at the dinner table!

For a moment, Methos toyed with the telling Amanda of their existence, but decided against it, after a moments thought. It was better that she made that discovery herself. Glancing at the closed doors that led to Amanda’s bed chamber, Methos steeled himself as he rose to his feet. He could not put it off any longer; it was now time to tell her that he was leaving.

~~~*~~*~~*~~~



“Your name is Methos?” asked Amanda yet again as he slumped back onto her pillows. Not for the first time that evening, Methos nodded. “And you’re nearly five thousand years old?” Methos nodded yet again. “I see…” she said, a thoughtful expression on her face.

She had taken the news surprisingly well, he’d thought. She had heard the rumours of course, his name was a byword in many an immortal tale. The question was, what would she ask next?

“So who was he?” she asked shrewdly.

“Who was who?” he countered, keeping his eyes closed as he spoke. He didn’t want her to see the wariness that lurked within them.

“The man in the basilica, of course, Gu…Methos!” she told him, hitting him with her pillow for good measure.

“Oh him…he’s an old adversary,” he answered carefully; he well knew that Amanda was adept at smelling a lie.

“And how long has he been hunting you?” she demanded.

Methos opened his eyes and gave her a searching look. “A very long time,” he admitted.

“I see…” For a moment, Amanda seemed lost in her thoughts and Methos waited nervously for her next question. At last, Amanda looked up to meet his eyes once more. “How good is he?”

“Extremely good,” he admitted. “You wouldn’t have had a chance.”

Amanda’s lips twisted into a wry smile. “I think I may have figured that out all by myself,” she told him as she slumped back onto the bed beside. “There was something about his eyes…” Amanda didn’t finish her thoughts, however; it was best not to think of it.

Methos searched Amanda’s face as he tried to figure out what she was thinking; sometimes her face was so hard to read. “You have to leave Florence,” he eventually told her when it became obvious she hadn’t anything to add. “Now that he knows your face, he won’t stop hunting you – in his eyes, you would be the perfect way to get to me.”

“You seem to know an awful lot about the way he thinks,” she observed keenly. “Is there something you’re not telling me?”

“Yes,” he said, in a rare moment of honesty. “But believe me; you don’t want to know.”

Amanda chewed at her lower lip, her mind deep in thought. “I’ll have to take Gianetta with me,” she said aloud. “He saw her face, too.”

“Yes, that might be a good idea,” mumbled Methos, struggling to keep a straight face, if only she knew.

“Will he come after us, do you think,” she asked.

“No, I don’t think so, once he’s discovered that we’ve parted ways he’ll follow my trail, not yours.”

“Hmm…” uttered Amanda. “I suppose that is sound reasoning. I shall start making arrangements in the morning.” She shuddered, “I hate this, you know. Changing lives has become so difficult of late; there is so much suspicion and intrigue in Europe at the moment that even the most innocent looking of strangers is looked upon askance.”

Methos shrugged his shoulders; there was nothing to say, she was right. “Perhaps Ramirez might agree to travel with you for a spell,” he ventured. “He’s an honourable man – and an old friend of Rebecca’s.”

“Is that so,” Amanda said, gracing him with a piercing look. After a moment, however, she relented, a small laugh escaping her lips. “Gianetta would like that.”

“You noticed that too, eh,” Methos said with a laugh.

Amanda threw him a sly smile. “Well, at least she has stopped peering at you from under her eyelashes in that bashful way of hers,” she teased.

Methos growled mockingly. “I’ll show you bashful, you vixen,” he told her playfully as he pulled her into his arms…

~~~*~~*~~*~~~



The household was in uproar when he awoke, screams coming from the hall. Rolling out of bed he reached for his sword, only then pausing for something to wear. Looking back at the bed, he noticed that Amanda’s side was empty. That in itself was not worrying, she had told him only the night before that she meant to rise early in order to get ready for her journey.

An immortal’s presence grew thick in the air and Methos heard the Ramirez’s voice bellowing from the other side of the thick doors. “That bastard from yesterday is downstairs – and he has brought friends!” he roared as he pushed open the doors. “Hurry, man, we have to stop him; he and his cohorts have left a bloodied swathe through your servant staff. I’ve dealt with the few who’ve ventured upstairs but there are too many downstairs for me to handle alone.”

“Where’s Amanda,” he asked hurriedly as he pulled on his doublet over his hose.

“She and Gianetta have barricaded themselves in the Dining hall. I doubt that the doors will last too long more, however. They’re already trying to break it down.”

For a moment, Methos was puzzled. Why was Kronos so eager to get his hands on Amanda when he himself was in the house? Then, it came to him; Kronos had thought he had already left. He was after Amanda for information about his whereabouts. “Damn it!” Methos muttered, as he leapt onto the stairs and bounded down them, Ramirez hot on his heels. He remembered only too well what Kronos’s favoured forms of interrogation were.

Methos felt the crawling presence of Kronos’s quickening as reached the lower floor, the harsh sound of splitting wood met his ears as he sprinted towards the dining hall, sword in hand. Kronos’s cronies had found themselves a bench with which to break the door down and the solid oak was beginning to give. He had no doubt that Amanda was armed and ready at the other side of the door, but she would be hard pressed to defend both her and Gianetta against such a large body of men.

A weight barrelled into him from the side and Methos was sent flying as Kronos pushed him against the wall. “Well met, brother,” he sneered into his face, his eyes glittering with triumph as he drew back his knife to strike. Reacting on instinct, Methos did the first thing that sprang to mind – he kneed him in the balls.

It worked like a charm and Kronos fell to a heap on the floor, he raised his sword. One, clean, cut and his troubles would be over, his brother and his past would no longer be able to haunt him. A scream diverted his thoughts and looking up, he realised that he had no time to take a quickening. The henchmen had broken through and Ramirez was trying gamely to prevent them from entering.

Running Kronos’s body through with his blade, he sprinted to the Persians side and joined the full pitched battle that had now broken out in dining hall. Throwing a glance towards the other side of the room, he glimpsed Amanda dancing among the henchmen, her sword flickering as she darted in and out of their grasp. Gianetta was also determined to join the battle it seemed. She had her hands wrapped around one of the heavy candlesticks that had graced the dining table and was now busy bashing the heads in of those who had fell under Amanda’s quick blade. None of them would be waking up soon, if at all. They made a very dangerous pair.

Ramirez was splendid as always, running the mercenaries through as if they were butter, whilst cursing them in ancient Aramaic. It was a pity that their foe didn’t understand a word he was saying, if they did, they might have keeled over from the profanity of his remarks.

The numbers dwindled and Methos paused after he dispatched yet another mercenary, to take in the scene around him. The hired men obviously had come to the realisation that the people they fought were like no others they had crossed swords with, their survival instincts had eventually kicked in and, to a man, they fled.

Realising that he had unfinished business in the outer chamber, he fled back to where he had left Kronos’s body. His brother’s body was gone.

“Well…that was interesting.” The rich, lilting voice of his Egyptian friend broke through his frantic thoughts and Methos spun around on his feet to face him. “I take it that the scoundrel has fled once again,” Ramirez observed as he noted the expression on Methos’s face.

Methos pulled a hand through his hair, the exasperation showing clearly on his face as his eyes took in the carnage around him. “That would be one way of putting it, yes,” he muttered, his eyes falling onto the corpse that leaned against the open door leading outside. It was the house steward, his neck resting at an awkward on the floor as his eyes gazed up blankly at the ceiling. His mind searched for the poor fellows name – ah yes, it was Giuliani, a common name in Florence.

A muffled cry came from behind him and Methos turned to see Gianetta standing just inside the door, the horror evident on her face as she noticed the dead servant’s body. A moment later, Amanda was at her side, her sword already discreetly hidden among her skirts. “Come away, child,” she told the girl quietly as she led her towards the stairs. “It is best not to look.” Methos couldn’t help but agree with her.


~~~*~~*~~*~~~


The mood in the house was grim; eight of the servants were dead. Isabella, the chambermaid, was one of them; another was the thirteen year old kitchen maid that Amanda had hired the month before, a little slip of a thing that she had taken a fancy to when last she’d visited the foundling home.

It was a bloody mess.

The remaining servants were quiet and sullen, their manner becoming even more withdrawn when he insisted that they did not inform the local militia of what had happened. He knew that it was only a matter of time before one of them slipped off and did just that, however.

Methos poured himself another goblet of wine as he watched Amanda flit around the room, collecting into her satchel that which she didn’t wish to leave behind. She was now dressed in doublet and hose, all pretence of a ladylike demeanour swiftly disposed of. Her sword lay openly at her side. Amanda was very angry.

“There going to confiscate everything, you know,” she informed him heatedly, for the twelfth time. “The house, the grounds, my banking accounts in the merchant’s quarter – I’m ruined!”

Methos let that one slide; he knew that Amanda was way too canny to put all her eggs in one basket. He had no doubt that she had other funds that she could draw from. “Where is Gianetta?”

“She is in her rooms, preparing to depart. The silly girl wanted to visit her family before we left but I convinced her that it was a bad idea,” Amanda informed him as she tied her satchel closed. “She should be along any moment.”

Methos nodded absently. “Good, I had thought that the events of the day might have convinced her to part ways with us.”

“No,” Amanda sighed. “Apparently she is made of sterner stuff than that, though, in a way, I wish she wasn’t. I can’t help but believe that she would be better off without my company.”

“Believe me, she wouldn’t, once De la Corona has learned we have left the city, he will try to take his frustrations out on those in the city that we were acquainted with. It is better that she comes with us.”

Amanda threw herself onto the bed beside him. “What about you?”

“I’m going onto Rome.”

“And Ramirez?”

Methos gave her a sideways glance. “He is going to travel with you.”

“Afraid I’ll get into trouble by myself?” she asked him, a small grin on her face.

“Always!” he told her, pinching her nose.

Hitting him on the arm, Amanda pulled herself off the bed. She picked up her satchel and throw it over her shoulder; giving the room last, rueful look. “Well, I’d better go and see if Gianetta’s ready to go,” she sighed.

Methos nodded silently and watched Amanda leave before he leaned back on the bed. “I hope you’re happy, Kronos,” he muttered to himself. Eventually, he pulled himself together and got off the bed. It was time to move.

The sound of running footsteps caught his attention. With a bang, Amanda threw the doors open once more and ran into the room. “Gianetta is gone,” she panted, her eyes wide with worry. “The little fool has left the house.”


~~~*~~*~~*~~~


A quick messenger to Gianetta’s home confirmed that, if she had intended to go there, she had never made it. The three immortals looked at each other worriedly as they received the news. That only meant one thing, she had been captured – or killed. “We have to find her,” Amanda declared.

“She is most probably dead, Amanda,” Methos said as he watched her pace the room warily.

“I don’t care,” she sobbed. “Alive or dead, I’m not going to leave her in that bastard’s hands.”

“We’ll split up,” Ramirez declared. “This city is not so large that we can’t find one immortal between the three of us.”

Methos nodded reluctantly, his mind already going over the possibilities. “Ramirez, you take the mercantile district, Amanda, you can do the palazzo district. I’ll check the guildhalls. Let’s get this over and done with as soon as possible.” Truth be told, Methos had already dismissed the idea that they were going to find Gianetta alive. But if he didn’t at least try to find her, Amanda would never forgive him.

They split up in front of the house, each going their separate ways. It was already well into the afternoon and the crowds were filling the streets as the siesta came to a close. Methos muttered under his breath as he pushed through the packed streets of the guild area. Gianetta was nowhere to be seen. He was about to turn back when he noticed a commotion in the distance. With a sinking heart he looked up above the massing crowd and stared at the basilica’s dome, it was if a cold breeze passed down his spine.

Slowly, he made his way through the milling people standing outside the bronzed doorways. A hand rested on his arm and Methos looked down at the kindly face attached to it. “You don’t want to go in there, son,” she said. “It’s the work of the devil himself.”

Methos gently shrugged her hand away and slipped through the doors. The basilica was empty, the pews barren for perhaps the first time since the church was built. Methos looked around – what was all the fuss about.

And then, he saw her, her body draped in front of the Madonna like a sacrifice, her blood staining the hem of its marble robes. Gianetta had met her maker at the hands of Kronos. “Could be worse,” Methos thought dazedly. “Caspian could have done far worse.”

It was little consolation. Unthinkingly he took a step forward, perhaps he could move the body, she deserved better than to be discovered like this. The sound of the militia arriving outside brought him to the senses, however. What the hell was he doing still standing there? Hurriedly, he fled outside, melting into the crowd before the militia gained the building. Taking a deep breath, he took one last, fleeting glance over his shoulder before he head back to the house.


~~~*~~*~~*~~~


They rode in silence; there was nothing to say. It was late evening and the sky had filled with the dark clouds of rain. A chill crept through the air; its cold tendrils announcing that winter, at last, had come to Florence. Methos drew his cloak closer to him.

Looking up, his eyes were drawn to Amanda, her back ramrod straight as she rode before him. She had not spoken a word since he’d told her of Gianetta’s death. Their friendship had been dealt a severe blow this day, and he was not sure if it would ever fully recover.

The soft whinny drew his attention to his side and Methos gave Ramirez a wry smile as he drew up beside him.

“She’ll come around eventually, you know,” the Persian told him in a low voice, nodding in Amanda’s direction.

“With our kind, eventually can be a very long time, Ramirez,” Methos countered. “And a lot can happen between now and then.”

“True enough, “Ramirez admitted. “But it’s all the hope I can offer you.”

Methos snorted at Ramirez’s bluntness. “Thanks for the effort!”

Ramirez laughed softly as he noted the expression on Methos’s face. “You have a lot more to worry about than my brusque words, my friend,” he reminded him. “I don’t know of the history between you and that immortal we left behind in Florence, but his face brings to mind many tales that I’ve heard. If he is who I think he is, his wings cast a long shadow.”

Methos grew silent, what was there to say? Ramirez hadn’t said anything that he didn’t already know. The sky rumbled ominously and fat droplets of rain began to fall. “Oh fabulous, that’s all I need,” muttered Methos as he squinted up at the sky.

“A propitious start to a journey,” Ramirez agreed sardonically. “Look on the bright side, at least there is no hail and brimstone – ah, we’re here.”

The road ahead forked in two directions, and the time to part ways had come. He risked a glance at Amanda as they came to halt. She busied herself calming her horse, her face held rigidly still as she studiously avoided his gaze.

“Well, ‘til we meet again, my friend,” Ramirez declared cheerfully, clasping Methos on the shoulder in Farewell.

“Until then,” Methos wearily agreed, his eyes still on Amanda’s passive face.

Slowly, Ramirez steered his horse onto the road leading north, Amanda trotting silently beside him – she did not look back. He watched them go with a heavy heart, seeing their slow moving figures grow smaller as they stretched the distance between them. The rain grew heavier, the promise of a storm in its passage as he watched them disappear over the far horizon. It was time to go, he reluctantly decided. Digging his heels into his mount, he turned his head due south; Rome awaited him.

~~FINIS~~




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