Chapter 6

Los Angelus, Summer 2003

"What do I say? " Tara thought numbly as her voice froze, "What is there to say…oh, dear goddess. " Helplessly, she watched as Willow sobbed silently on the couch, wishing she could somehow find the words to ease her pain.

“She’s in shock,” Xander said softly as he put a comforting arm around his childhood friend. “Maybe I should bring her upstairs…”

“No,” Willow murmured into his chest before slowly pulling away. “I’ll be fine, I just…It’s really you, isn’t it?”

“Yes, it’s me,” Tara said softly, cautiously sitting on the couch beside her.

Tentatively, Willow’s hand reached out and covered hers, “It’s warm,” she whispered, “You’re really here…”

“U-huh,” Tara said, smiling as she delicately tucked an errant strand of Willow’s hair behind her ear, “It’s me.”

A glimmer of a smile showed on Willow’s lips, “I missed you,” she said, her voice barely audible as her fingers curled around Tara’s hand tightly.

Tara’s breath caught in her throat. “I missed you too.”

Drawing a ragged breath, Willow let go of her grip on Tara’s hand. “A lot has happened since last year…a lot has changed.”

Tara saw Kennedy shift uncomfortably from the corner of her eye. “So I’ve heard,” she sighed, “Don’t worry, we have plenty of time to talk about it.”

“Before or after the apocalypse?” Willow asked with a wry smile.

“Hey, that’s a whole three days away,” Tara joked weakly, “Its more time than we usually have.”

“Which reminds me…” Wiping the tears from her eyes, Willow looked up at Giles. “Have you ever heard of the light of R’Nathnor?”

The light of R’Nathnor,” Giles repeated thoughtfully, “I believe I may have read something about it in the Chronicles of Parnoe.”

“…And that would be?” prompted Adam, raising a quizzical eyebrow.

“A Swiss sorcerer who lived during the 13th century,” Giles explained, “He had rather ambiguous ethics, unfortunately. One was never sure which side of the fence he sat on, if you catch my drift - but he did keep a detailed journal during his life. The watcher’s council use it as a source book for medieval artefacts. He was quite fond of them.”

“I’ve never read it,” Willow said, wrinkling her nose, “But I had a nose around in Wolfram’ and Hart’s library when we waiting for you to arrive and found a prophecy which mentioned it.”

“Well, from what I remember, the light of R’Nathnor is a force for good,” Giles muttered.

“That makes sense,” Willow said, nodding, “The prophecy was a little vague but one verse caught my attention, ‘In the light of R’Nathnor dwells hope,

In the Wolf and the Hart dwells night. Heed you the call of the flame, Heed the horn’s might.’…it rhymes better in Latin,” she said, shrugging.

“Only barely,” Adam muttered, shaking his head in disgust, “Who writes this drivel?”

“A seventh century monk from Ireland,” Willow told him, “His name was Columbanus.”

“That explains it,” Adam said, “He was probably in his cups; those monasteries were bloody depressing places.”

Giles raised an eyebrow, “Is that so?”

“So I’ve heard,” Adam murmured, suddenly developing an interest in the cuff of his coat.

"Um, pardon me for asking this," Willow piped up, "But who are you?"

“Me? I’m Adam Pierson, a friend of Tara’s,” Adam informed her cheerfully, “Don’t worry; I’m just a casual observer.very casual.

Tara rolled her eyes, “Be nice,” she said under her breath.

“I thought I was being nice,” Adam said lowly, his eyes widening innocently.

Willow’s face darkened as she watched the exchange. “Tara, it’s just occurred to me that I never asked how you’re not dead,” she said, looking at Adam coldly as she got to her feet.

“Oh, Adam had nothing to do with it,” Tara said hurriedly, realising what Willow was thinking. “I’m an immortal…”

Surprise flashed across Willow’s face. “You mean as in swords and quickening and stuff,” she exclaimed.

“You’ve heard of them?” Tara asked, relief flooding through her; one less thing she would have to explain.

“Um, yeah, Buffy has a…friend,” Willow said, her eyes round, “Oh my, so does that mean you have to…you know…” Willow mimed holding aloft a sword.”

Tara’s smile faltered, “Not yet.”

“Oh, right,” Willow stuttered, her face showing she’d realised what she’d asked.

“Moving swiftly onward,” Adam murmured, “You were saying something about a prophecy?”

“Huh? Oh, yes,” Willow said distractedly, “Well, that’s it, really; it was a little vague, as I said…”

“What I don’t understand is why Angel never mentioned it,” Giles said as he slowly eased himself onto the couch.

“He probably doesn’t know,” Willow said, “I only found it because I insisted on looking for myself. Wolfram and Hart’s idea of help isn’t very helpful, if you know what I mean.” Frowning, she looked over her shoulder, and the few employees who were near enough to overhear their conversation hurriedly scuttled away, throwing fearful glances at Willow as they fled the lobby. Puzzled, Tara looked at Willow’s face for clues; she didn’t seem at all surprised they had run from her attention. It was as if she expected them to be afraid of her. With a sinking heart, Tara realised she still didn’t have the entire story.

“We’d better tell Angel then.” Giles said suddenly, starting to rise from the couch – only to fall back into it a moment later, his face twisted with pain.

“Oh, Giles, I’m so sorry,” Tara said, suddenly remembering his wound. “I completely forgot you were injured.”

Giles waved her apology away. “I’ll live,” he mumbled, “To be quite honest, I almost forgot myself.”

“Let me give you a hand there, G man,” Xander said, helping him up.

“Thank you,” Giles said, once on his feet, “I believe Angel is downstairs, perhaps you could go downstairs and bring him up to date, Xander?”

“Hey, no problem,” Xander said, “Just point me in the right direction.”

“The elevator to your left takes you straight there,” Tara offered.

“Cool, be back soon,” Xander said as he retreated, “Don’t go ending the world without me.” Tara grinned; Xander hadn’t changed – although the eye-patch was a bit of a mystery; yet another thing she had to ask about.

“Well, now that that’s been taken care of, I think I’ll go and have a look at this prophecy...” Giles muttered.

“I’ll come along,” Adam said promptly.

Gils looked at him questioningly, “I’m not sure if you would be much help…”

“Oh, didn’t Tara tell you? It’s what I do…I’ve a doctorate in ancient languages, a bit of Medieval Latin won’t be much of a problem for me,” Adam said amiably.

“It’s true,” Tara piped up, seeing the expression on Giles’s face, “He teaches at the Sorbonne.”

“I see,” Giles said thoughtfully, “Well, that explains a few things…very well; an extra pair of eyes never hurts.”

“Happy to help,” Adam murmured, burrowing his hands into his coat pockets.

Tara looked at her teacher suspiciously; what was he up to? Adam never volunteered; it was practically a matter of principle for him. She looked at him pointedly, but Adam studiously avoided eye contact as he listened to Giles's describe the extent of Wolfram and Hart's library. "At least Giles looked happy, " she wryly thought, hearing Adam ask a few pertinent questions as they slowly strolled across the lobby, "And he's going to be even happier when he discovers how good Adam actually is... " With a start, Tara realised Adam was going to make a rather startling discovery of his own; a whole new array of languages he'd never seen before. She remembered the delight he took when he came across a language or dialect he wasn't familiar with and grinned; he'll be like a kid in a candy shop.

“What are you smiling at?” Willow asked softly.

“I’m just imagining the look on Adam’s face when he realises that all the languages in the library books aren’t human,” she whispered, “It’s going to be priceless.”

“He’s an immortal too, isn’t he?” Willow murmured.

Tara nodded, “He’s the one who found me after I died,” she explained quietly.

“How old is he…it’s just that Buffy said some of them can be pretty old…a few old them have even lived over a millennia.”

Tara thought of Amanda, “I’ve met one,” she said, “she’s….not what one would expect. I don’t know how old Adam is, exactly. Every time I think I’ve figured it out, he says something which makes me realise I’m not even close.”

“Why don’t you just ask him,” Willow asked, puzzled.

“It’s an immortal thing,” Tara said with a shrug. “They consider it bad manners to ask; some of them even consider it a challenge. The older the immortal, the more powerful the quickening, you see.”

“Sounds…dangerous,” Willow said carefully.

“It was a bit nerve wracking at first,” Tara admitted, “It still is, to be honest. I’ve been lucky so far, the only immortals I’ve met are friends of Adam and they are more interested in a good meal and some idle conversation than a challenge…”

“That’s interesting; isn’t it, honey?” drawled Kennedy as her arms slipped around Willow’s waist from behind, her eyes flashing defiantly as she rested her chin on Willow’s shoulder.

Embarrassed, Tara studied her feet as a look of sheer panic crossed Willow’s face. A wrenching pain tugged at her heart as she remembered Willow’s heart wasn’t hers anymore. She was merely the ex, calling at an inopportune moment…

“Am I interrupting something? Adam asked quietly, his eyes watchful as he suddenly appeared at Tara’s side.

“Interrupting? No, not at all…not that there was anything to interrupt…no, nothing to interrupt here,” Willow babbled.

“I’m so pleased,” Adam drawled, smirking slightly as Willow’s face went bright pink.

“I thought you were on your way to the library,” Tara said tightly.

“I was,” Adam said lightly, “But Giles suddenly remembered Angel’s new ‘guests’ when we got there and he thought the vampire might need a little slayer strength. I said I’d save him the trip back and tell Kennedy myself; I don’t want him to strain his injury more than he has to.”

“Angel can handle it,” Kennedy muttered defensively, “Besides; he has the whole of Wolfram and Hart at his disposal.”

“I’ve no doubt you’re correct but, apparently, Giles thinks otherwise. Perhaps you should to run over to the library and tell him differently,” Adam said, an edge creeping into his voice.

“Kennedy, honey,” Willow said softly, “If Giles thinks Angel needs help, you’d better go and see what’s up.”

Reluctantly, Kennedy nodded, kissing Willow on the cheek before extricating her arms. “I won’t be long,” she promised, before heading off to the elevator.

“Giles said no such thing, did he,” Tara murmured once Kennedy was out of earshot.

“Are you complaining?” Adam asked.

“Wait a minute,” Willow said, a frown appearing on her forehead, “You mean Giles never…”

“You two need to clear the air and now you have a little breathing space to do it in, I suggest you take advantage of it,” Adam said shortly, “I’ll see you in a few hours, Tara.”

“Sorry,” Tara murmured as Adam stalked off, “He can be a bit…direct, sometimes.”

“Kennedy’s not going to be happy when she finds out,” Willow said worriedly.

“I’ll explain everything when she asks,” Tara sighed as she slumped back into the couch.

Slowly, Willow sat down beside her. “Why did you leave me?” she asked timidly, “Was it because of what I did? Didn’t you love me anymore?”

“Oh Goddess, Willow, no,” Tara burst out, surprised, “I didn’t even know about that until you told me. I left because of me…of what I’d become.”

“I don’t understand,” Willow said softly, “Did you actually think I would care what you were. I loved you; I didn’t care about anything else. I went out with werewolf, remember?”

“And if an immortal had come to town after my head, what would you have done then, Willow?” Tara said, quietly registering Willow’s use of the past tense.

“We would have dealt with it - together."

“No, we wouldn’t have, Willow,” Tara murmured, “If you know about Immortals, you know about the game. I couldn’t have asked you to sit by and do nothing as I took someone’s life…or the other way around. It would have destroyed you in the end…destroyed us.”

“You don’t know that, Tara,” Willow said softly.

“Don’t I?” Tara said, “Even if you were willing to look the other way, would Buffy? Immortals aren’t demons, Willow, they’re human. What do you think she would have done if she knew I was chopping off people’s heads?”

“A lot has changed, Tara, including Buffy,” Willow said sadly. “She no longer sees the world in black and white…neither do I.”

“Maybe so,” Tara admitted, “But this is now, and that was then.”

Willow sighed. “You’re right of course…oh goddess, what a mess.”

“The one good thing about a mess is that it can be cleaned up,” Tara suggested shyly as she felt a spark of hope springing to life. “Tell me what happened, Willow?”

Paris, Winter of 2002

“Are you sure this is okay?” Tara whispered worriedly.

“Of course it is, darling,” Amanda said, her smile a flash of white in the gloomy doorway, “I wouldn’t have brought you along if it wasn’t….here, hold this and shine it on the keyhole for me.”

Tara held the penlight and glanced over her shoulder at the street uneasily, “What if someone sees us?” Tara asked,” I mean, I know you said it’s not really stealing but the local gendarmes are not going to see it that way, are they?”

”Oh, don’t worry, honey, Adam can afford to hire you a good lawyer,” Amanda said absently, a frown of concentration appearing on her face as she twisted a lock pick inside the keyhole.

“That wasn’t the answer I wanted to hear,” Tara said nervously, “Tell me again how this isn’t really stealing?”

“Oh, but it isn’t, my dear,” Amanda assured her, smiling as a soft click signalled her success, “You can’t steal something you already own, can you?” Gently, she pushed the door open and listened for sounds of movement. “All clear,” she murmured, stepping into the hallway before waving Tara inside.

Cautiously, Tara followed Amanda into the house, trusting in her fellow immortal’s sense of direction. At last, they came to a stop in front of a pair of oaken double doors. Putting her finger to her lips for silence, Amanda slowly turned down the handle and opened the door a crack, stepping back hurriedly as the mellow light of a lamp illuminated the thin gap between door and doorway.

“I thought you said nobody was in?” Tara whispered under her breath.

“He can’t be,” Amanda whispered back, her tone puzzled, “He’s an immortal, remember? If he was in the house we would have felt him when we entered. Cautiously, Amanda stepped forward and put her ear to the door. Pulling back, she gave Tara a reassuring nod before opening the door another fraction and looking inside the room with one eye. “Oh-oh,” she muttered, hastily pulling her eye away.

“What is it?” asked Tara anxiously.

“Nothing….I’ve just changed my mind, that’s all,” Amanda said, grabbing at her hand to pull her away from the door.

“You’ve changed you mind,” Tara said incredulously, “But you said the sword was yours, a gift from your teacher.”

“Not now, Tara,” Amanda said worriedly, “Time to leave.”

“But I don’t understand, why don’t we just get it now?”

“They’ll be another time,” Amanda said abruptly, tugging at her arm, "Now come on."

Tara dug in her heels, refusing to budge. “We’re not going anywhere until you tell me why, Amanda,” she said calmly. “For the last week, you’ve pestered me to come with you tonight. You told me the sword was of great sentimental value to you, and you couldn’t bear leaving it in another immortal’s possession for one more day. Now, when we’re standing less than twenty feet from it, you tell me you’ve changed your mind. What is it you’re not telling me?”

“Tara, darling,” Amanda said softly, “Now is not the time for this conversation. I’ll explain everything once we get to Joe’s.”

“Not good enough,” Tara said grimly, “I want to know now.”

Amanda sighed, “I’m sorry, Tara, I thought he was out of town when I didn’t see him leave or enter the house today,” she said softly as she pushed the door open.

Tara bit back a cry when her eyes took in the devastation. “What happened here?” she asked hoarsely.

“A quickening,” Amanda said sadly, “Poor Antonio, he was a terrible thief, but charming in his own way.”

“But I don’t see…” Tara’s words petered off as she saw the leg sticking out from behind the couch.

“Yes. That’s him,” Amanda said, following her gaze, “He would have long disposed of the body if he had been the victor. Come on, time to leave,” Gently, Amanda led the unresisting Tara from the room and closed the door.

“Is it always like that?” Tara asked gravely.

“I’m afraid it is, honey,” Amanda replied kindly, “It’s the price we pay for immortality…”

“I’m not sure if I want to pay that price,” Tara murmured.

“Good, see that you don’t then,” Amanda said.

Tara smiled humourlessly, “You sound like Adam, Amanda.”

“No I don’t, honey,” Amanda said calmly, guiding Tara through the front door, “I sound like an Immortal.”

Los Angelus, Summer of 2003

Shaking his head in wonder, Methos watched as the blank pages filled with Latin text, “Handy,” he murmured as he flicked through the pages.

“Tell me about it,” Giles said, with some aspiration, “There was a time when I would have killed for a library like this. You should have seen the paltry resources I had to work with in Sunnydale…”

“Indeed,” Methos muttered as he sunk into an armchair and opened the book on the first page. He was three lines in before he realised something was a little off. “An Irish monk, my foot,” Methos thought, examining the text.

“Is something wrong,” Giles asked looking up from the book he had picked up.

“It depends on what you mean by ‘wrong’,” Methos murmured, “This book is in classical Latin, not medieval. Could this be a copy and not the original words of the monk?”

“It’s possible,” Giles murmured, a glimmer of interest showing in his eyes, “May I see?” Methos passed him the tome. “Hmm…you’re right,” Giles said aloud, “How strange…”

Methos shrugged, “Stranger than the fact he somehow had foreknowledge of an event which wasn’t about to take place for another thousand years?” he asked rhetorically.

“You have a point,” Giles agreed, his eyes scanning the page before he turned to the next one. “Good grief,” he muttered.

“What is it?” Methos asked, leaning forward in his chair.

“There’s a recipe for beer here,” the watcher said, bemusement showing in his voice.

“Is it any good?” Methos enquired, curious.

“Not unless you like the taste of moss,” Giles sighed as he paged through the book.

Methos grinned, “Depends on the type of moss,” he joked.

Giles raised an eyebrow as he continued to search the book for the prophecy. “Maybe I should have asked Willow to accompany us,” he said under his breath as he turned another leaf over.

“I think she’s a bit too distracted to be of much help at the moment,” Methos said softly, “She’s a lot on her mind.”

“Yes, you’re right, of course…was that why you volunteered to help?”

“Partly,” Methos admitted, “The other part of me was just curious….why don’t you try the back pages, he might have kept his more esoteric writings separate.”

Giles skipped to the back of the book, “Good call,” he said softly as he suddenly hunched over the book.

Getting to his feet, Methos stepped behind the desk and looked over his shoulder, quickly translating the words aloud as he read.

“When the mouth of Darkness closes,
When the evil of all appears;
Beware the jewel of Al’keron,
Its fiery glare you should fear.

Betwixt the light and dark,
A warrior alone shall stand;
Death shall ride his heels,
And glory shall lie in his hand’

In the light of R’Nathnor dwells hope,
In the Wolf and the Hart dwells night.
Heed you the call of the flame,
Heed the horn’s might…”

Methos sighed, “Does this make any sense to you,” he asked, crossing his arms.

“Well…the first verse obviously refers to our battle with the first and the closing of the Hellmouth,” Giles explained, “As for the rest; your guess is as good as mine.”

“But I think yours might be a little more educated,” Methos countered.

“Be that as it may,” Giles said, “The fact is, I’m as much in the dark as you are.”

“So what do you suggest we do?” Methos asked, frustration showing in his voice, “I don’t know about you, but I would prefer to avoid an apocalypse.”

“Well, I would say our first priority is to find the light of R’Nathnor,” the watcher sighed.

“Any ideas as to where we start looking?” Methos enquired.

Giles placed a hand on the book he had been originally reading. “The chronicles of Parnoe,” he murmured, “I decided to refresh my memory and look up the pertinent passage. According to this, the light of R’Nathnor was hidden in an undisclosed monastery.”

Methos groaned. “Do you have any idea how many monasteries they were during the middle ages?” he muttered, “It’s like looking for a needle in a haystack.”

“Not necessarily,” Giles disagreed, “From what I can gather, this is an extremely power artefact. You may not realise this, but Willow is a very powerful witch. If we can find a better description, perhaps a list of its properties, she should be able to locate it with ease.”

“I see,” Methos drawled.

“You know, for a supernatural being, you seem to be extremely sceptical about such things,” Giles observed, “Why is that?”

“Long years of experience,” Methos sighed, “I usually find when men mention witches and demons; they’re actually revealing their hidden prejudices and fears. I’ve seen too many people die horrible deaths because someone has accused a midwife of being a witch or a loner of being a demon. It tends to give one a rather jaundiced view of such things”

“And you’ve never, in all your years, come across an entity, or a power, you could not explain?”

“Of course I have,” Methos admitted, “They are a number of immortals who have powers which I could not explain, and I’ve stumbled across a few vampires in my time; but Hellmouths and demons with horns, no. Though I did stumble across something in a cavern once which might have been a dragon….”

“A dragon, are you sure?” Giles asked, surprised.

“Who’s the sceptic now,” Methos said with a grin, “It was big, it was scaly, it had wings; I challenge you to tell me what else it could have been!”

“I’m just surprised, that’s all,” Giles said, staring at Methos suspiciously over the rim of his glasses. “The last confirmed report the watchers have of a dragon living in this dimension was during the eleventh century.”

“Fancy that,” Methos muttered evasively, “You must have missed one then…”

“I think not,” Giles said, a hint of a smile on his lips, “Dragons tend to be very hard creatures to miss. How old are you, Mr Pierson…if that is even you real name?”

“Let’s just say I look good for my age and leave it at that, shall we?” Methos evaded.

Giles sighed. “Let me be straight with you, Mr Pierson,” he said as he took off his glasses and started to clean them. “I’ve noticed the influence you have over Tara, and I have some serious reservations about your relationship with her. I do have some knowledge of your kind’s culture, so I realise Tara probably owes her survival to you and your efforts as her teacher. But we don’t know you, and you have evaded every question either I, or the others, have asked about your past. As you may have realised, our lives are not like others, everyday we battle against forces which would give a grown man nightmares. In a climate like this, trust is very important and, so far, you haven’t given us any reason to trust you.”

Silently, Methos listened to the watcher as he returned to his seat. Tara trusted Rupert Giles but that didn’t necessarily mean he could. Nevertheless, he could understand the watcher’s position. To his mind, Methos represented a dangerous unknown. “Mr Giles,” he said softly, “I’m a very private man. Not even Tara knows my true age or name and, believe it or not, this is as much for her protection as mine. I can count the amount of people who know my true history on one hand, the rest are dead…victims of the game.”

“Be that as it may, we still need to know the truth,” Giles said evenly.

Methos nodded reluctantly, “On one condition, what I tell you doesn’t go beyond this room,” he eventually said, “You are to tell no one, not even Tara.”

“I’m not sure if I can promise that,” Giles said slowly, “I’m not the only one who needs to be reassured.”

“They vampire wants to know, eh?” Methos muttered, “He and I didn’t get off to a very good start. Mostly my fault, I’m afraid, I tend to get a bit prickly when I find myself in unknown territory. Tell me, wouldn’t he accept your word if you vouched for me?”

“Whether or not I will vouch for you remains to be seen, Mr Pierson,” Giles said, raising an eyebrow, “However, I think he might accept that, yes.”

“Well then, I suppose we should start with the basics,” he sighed, “My true name is Methos and I have the dubious honour of being the oldest surviving immortal…”


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