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Divine Intervention by Tasha 

Greetings and welcome, Divine Intervention is a Methos based Highlander story.



“But he was our leader, how can he betray us like that?” the young man’s voice sounded small and almost lost.

It was as if he was trying to comprehend something that just wiped away his courage.

“He didn’t betray us, Sian” an older man in the group of five said sadly, “if he had we would all be in *her* dungeons. She has him under some kind of spell. I was in court today and there was no recognition in his eyes when he looked at me. It’s like he’s not the same person anymore.”

That drew them all to silence, and a quiet settled over what would have been to most, a very peculiar gathering of men. They ranged from the grey haired, noble man who had spoken, to a meanly dressed, blond individual who resembled a farmer. They were huddled together in a small dark room, in what was obviously a covert meeting. These men were the few who plotted the downfall of their rulers, and not so long ago their number had been six.

“She may be evil, but she is no sorceress,” a dark man in the garb of a soldier said finally. “Methos’ brains have been addled by earthly means. Our fearless leader is drugged.”

Rumours had been flying around that Derisa, their sovereign Queen, could bewitch a man with her smile and that she was in league with demons. The guard, was however, a practical man by nature, and where his companions may have held with superstition, he did not. As far as he was concerned, the female half of the ruling pair was a powerful, ruthless, woman, but there was nothing supernatural about her abilities.

“But Tremar,” Sian spoke up again, “how did she discover him, if not by scrying him out?”

It was the whole inconceivability of it that drove the youngest of them to ask his question. Methos had been the most careful of them all, the most intelligent, the plotter, the man who’s whole life had been intrigues. That he should have been caught was just unbelievable.

“He must have been careless,” the warrior returned calmly. “From the look on the face of the man who suddenly holds Methos’ position in the court, I would say Parsus turned him in.”

Letting panic spread among their ranks would just about kill the cause, and Tremar was making damned sure it didn’t happen. The tyrannical rule of Derisa and her incestuous brother, Pragus, had caused their subjects to band together in common need, but talk of black magic could quickly split them again. The capture of the mastermind behind the plot had just about broken them, anything else would end it all.

“We have to free him,” the soldier’s voice was firm. “Show the people that she can be beaten and they will rise with us.”

There was fear in all eyes that moved to meet his, but there was also the recognition of truth.

The throne room hummed with the sound of pipes and pulsed with the beat of drums. The melody rose and fell in frenetic waves, and joined with the murmur of voices. Three half naked dancers, two women, one man, swayed to the thumping and undulated to the music in what would have once been considered, a most provocative manner. In current times it was viewed as tame, compared to some of the things to which the court was often a witness. Ever since the old King had died and passed the rule onto his all but useless son, the palace had become a den of iniquity. It seemed that Kavar had been the only person in the kingdom not to realise that his male offspring harboured incestuous desires for his sister. The moment his father had drawn his last breath, the obsessed prince had declared that his sibling would rule with him. What it actually meant for the realm was that Pragus would do anything Derisa desired, and this left the people with a conscience less woman on the throne. There was no doubt who truly ruled the country, the King was merely a play thing for the Queen.

Today they sat side by side in royal splendour, decked out in gold and jewels that would have fed half the kingdom for decades. Pragus was a handsome man with dark, almost black curly hair, and deep tanned features. Yet his visage was flawed, as it was consumed by overpowering desires and soulless greed. No amount of finery could make him attractive, and the gold chains that fell beside his face from a circlet in his hair, were just cold metal.

Derisa, on the other hand was, on the surface, what all men could desire. She was beautiful beyond most of her subjects’ wild dreams, and her smile did not betray what lay beneath. Her long hair, darker even than her brother’s, fell in curled tresses about her lily white skin. Her pale green dress covered her from shoulder to feet, but it was made of such a material that it barely concealed anything. Most of those around her would have fallen at her feet with true love in their hearts, until that was they looked in her eyes. There was no feeling there. This woman did not know the meaning of the word compassion, and she certainly had no knowledge of self sacrifice.

Tonight there was a man sat at her feet, quiet and placid as if he were quite content. His dark eyes and chiselled features made him pleasing to look at, and the briefest silk tunic showed off a body that had been shaped by warrior skill. Yet that was not the reason glances turned his way and then hurriedly moved on, it was the emptiness in his face that made people afraid. It was worse that it was such a contrast to the vital intelligence that had been there only a day before.

Methos, the one time head of palace security, sat watching the dancers, following every movement they made as if he was mesmerised by their swaying. The most prominent feature of his garb was a golden leash that ran from his neck to the Queen’s hand, and to see him was to see a man truly imprisoned.

There was almost a look of boredom on Derisa’s face as she too followed the motion of the entertainment. Lack of interest on the part of the Queen was a dangerous state of affairs for those around her and Pragus took the moment to catch her attention. He did not appear quite so comfortable with the arrangement of people on the dais.

“Beloved,” he said quietly and touched her hand, “are you sure this is the safest course of action.”

He was eyeing the back of her captive as if the man would turn and attack at any moment.

“You worry too much, my dearest,” she returned with a smile, “he is entirely in my control.”

Since the King still appeared concerned, she decided to demonstrate.

“Methos,” she called calmly.

The man turned instantly. His eyes stared at her blankly for a moment, the shadow of something behind them, then he smiled and the look was gone.

“Pass me a fig, my little pet,” she cooed at him.

Like some trained animal he did as he was told and then just sat there as if awaiting approval.

“Very good, Methos,” Derisa patronised her prisoner, “you can go back to watching the dancers now.”

He smiled vacantly and swung his head back to the scene playing itself out on the floor. The Queen gave the fig to her brother having proved her point.

“I still think  he should have been tortured for information and executed,” Pragus said sulkily.

“Your henchmen would not have extracted anything from him,” the beautiful, but heartless woman returned. “Our father had him trained from childhood, he would have died before talking. The drugs have his mind completely and showing him off as a toy does much for our cause. Watching him die slowly as the poison removes every thought from his pretty head will serve as a much better example.”

She smiled a wicked smile as her mind worked.

“He could last a year, even two,” she continued whimsically, “and then again, I may grow bored. If I can’t think of anything else to do with him, I may stop giving him the potion. It would be fun to watch him die in agony as his body craves more.”

Now that did make Pragus look happier. If truth be told, he was more jealous than apprehensive and watching the man who had captured his sister’s attention, writhe in pain, appealed to his twisted mind.

For the man under his gaze, the world was a strange place. He understood everything that was happening around him, he even knew who he was, he just didn’t care. Things would occur to him, like the fact that he should be angry, or afraid or both, but he could not keep the thoughts from leaving his mind. Everything that came from inside was fleeting and irrelevant, only the voice of his Queen meant a damn in his existence. It was so much easier just to let the world flow past him and ignore the inner voices.

He watched the dancers like a child watches fire, seeing things in the shapes of their movements that did not matter and vanished as quickly as they had come about. He was empty and all that he saw poured into him, for good or bad, he was just a vessel until given direction.

The seemingly endless rise and fall of the music eventually built into the explosive finale, and as it crashed to it’s finish the performers fell into one panting heap on the floor. They remained totally motionless as a silence descended, now was the time they would be judged. Dancing at the palace was a risky business, it could bring high rewards, but if the Queen did not like the show it had been known to be a very final performance. Not even the courtiers dared move as their cold eyed, female ruler looked at the glowing bodies in the centre of the hall. It was part of her game, making them wait, and Pragus just sat there smiling at the torment it caused the three prone individuals.

At last she moved, and the sigh of relief was almost audible as she tapped her hands together sparingly.

“Very nice,” she said with a most innocent tone, “do come back again some time.”

The rest of the court broke into claps of approval as their invisible strings were released. The three dancers climbed up off the floor and hurried out of the hall, bowing all the time as they went.

The music started again, softer this time and servants began to pass among the guests with large trays of food.

“Their repertoire is becoming tiresome,” Derisa said to her brother as the entertainment left, “I hope they think of something better next time.”

Her passing comment did not bode well for the performers she had invited to return. She was also beginning to look dangerous, as her interest in the evening began to wane.

“My love,” she said to Pragus eventually, “is there one of your henchmen you don't want anymore.”

There was an evil glint in her eye, and as usual, her brother could refuse her nothing.

“For you my dear,” he said with an unpleasant smile, “I would give anything. Feel free to pick one, just not Lephram, please. He is valuable just at the moment.”

The expression that crossed Derisa’s face did not light it with joy, more perverse pleasure than anything else.

“Thank you, my dearest,” she said sweetly and patted him on the arm.

Her gaze swung across the room like an eagle looking for it’s prey and her eyes alighted on an unfortunate individual near the door. The man was decked out in the grey of Pragus’ best, and the Queen’s lips curled at the thought of the upcoming event. She clapped her hands loudly and suddenly, drawing the whole room to a complete hush.

“You,” she said, pointing at her victim, “come to the centre of the room.”

Now there was no hesitation in the man’s step, that would have been instantly fatal, but his face held deep trepidation. Being summoned like this could mean that he would be a very rich man by morning, but it could also mean he was a dead man in the same time span, so he was unsure of his position.

“You are skilled in all the fighting techniques are you not,” Derisa said evenly.

“Yes, your Majesty,” the doomed individual replied and bowed very low to make sure his obedience was obvious.

“Good,” she returned, “because I want you to fight someone.”

“Your wish is my command,” was the instant reply.

The smile that covered the Queen’s face would have chilled the King of hell himself.

“Methos, dear,” she said and watched the other man go white, “you see that man.”

The drugged prisoner’s eyes went from his mistress to the soldier and back again.

“I want you to try and kill him,” the instruction brought Methos to his feet immediately.

Derisa also stood and walked up behind her chosen champion. Her fingers released the golden chain with rapid efficiency, and her captive stood poised to obey her command.

“You may use any weapons you carry to defeat him,” the Queen told the very pale opponent. “He as you see in unarmed. Fairer that way don’t you think?”

No-one had ever stood against Methos and lived. Trained for his position in court since his tenth birthday, this was one man who could fight any challenger. The ultimate right of any noble found guilty of a crime punishable by death was trial by combat, and Methos had been the executor of those sentences. If it was possible to beat him, he would have been dead.

“Go my pet,” she said in her prisoner’s ear, “show me what you can do.”

The potion Derisa had given Methos had taken a long time to perfect and it was very specific in that it did not effect any of the subjects reflexes or motor abilities. This man was still the fighter he always had been and as he padded out onto the floor, it was all too obvious.

There was one thought in the captive’s mind and it did not bode well for the man who hurriedly drew his sword. Methos was all warrior as he slowly walked around the other soldier, and the only thing his brain told him was, kill. There was no conscience to hold him back, no thought for the fate of this innocent man, not even an idea to spare him a painful death. All that remained in the hawk nosed man’s eyes was the killer that he had always kept so well hidden.

The grey clothed individual moved first. His strike was in desperation, but it was founded on the skill of a man who had been well trained. Against a lesser opponent it may even have worked, but Methos just danced out of the way as if it were the most clumsy attempt in the world. The morals of a good man had been stripped away from this warrior and he smiled coldly as his adversary missed. He slipped under the man’s reach with no trouble at all and landed a blow that sent the guard reeling backwards.

The pair circled for a while, the victim trying to find any weakness in his opponents stance, the other just playing with his prey. It was hunter and hunted, lion and buffalo, neither defenceless, but one the natural loser.

The Queen smiled every time her champion landed a blow, and it was easy to see her delight when he finally chose to really hurt the man. There was a loud crack as a single swipe broke the guard’s wrist and his sword fell noisily to the floor. Much to his credit the man gave only one cry and them backed away, cradling his injured arm. With his good hand he pulled out a knife and Methos kicked the sword towards the courtiers with disdain.

He watched his opponent with calculated calm, and there was no doubt in his mind. A small voice deep inside him cried out for him to stop, but he could not hear it and the game continued. The only mark he had received during the battle was a small cut to his left arm and he hadn’t even felt it.

Another exchange, another few bruises for the hapless soldier, and Derisa’s eyes were all but glowing with anticipation. Her champion caught her eye, and he knew exactly what she wanted. As they engaged again Methos swung behind his adversary and deftly removed the unfortunate’s only other weapon: a second dagger from the opposite hip as the first. The guard could see his death in his opponent’s eyes.  

They both brought their arms up and the well kept blades glinted in the light. A soldier killed by his own weapon, the ultimate in humiliation, but that thought never entered Methos’ head. They came at each other and the guard knew it would be for the last time, all he had ever been doing was delaying the inevitable. Steel clashed, a hand lanced out and caught the victim’s arm, a foot swept his legs out form under him, and he was falling. He landed on his back and a second later his opponent’s blade also came down. Death was instantaneous as the weapon flawlessly sliced into his heart.

The smell of blood reached Methos’ nostrils as the red liquid ran over the hand that had dealt the fatal blow. Just for that second his mind grasped what he had done, and he was frozen. His eyes looked toward Derisa and they were full of pure hatred, before the drug robbed him of even that. The Queen thought this was a fantastic climax.

“So there is still fight left in you, my pet,” she said delightedly, even as his face returned to the placid mask.

She climbed to her feet once more and glided from her throne to her champion. He was taller than her as he rose to his full height, but it was obvious who was the mistress as she refastened the gold chain around his neck.

“You were wonderful,” she purred and ran her hand over the blood covered limb which still held the knife.

Much to several people’s well hidden disgust she then reached up and stroked the side of his face, drawing on it a long red streak.

“One day I’ll have someone kill you,” she said as if the rest of the court did not exist, “but not today.”

She seemed to snap back to wear she was very suddenly.

“Music,” she said with an empty laugh, “we shall celebrate my champion’s victory.”

Nobody was going to argue with her, now or ever.

It was not much later that Derisa yawned and looked towards her brother.

“I grow weary of this place,” she said with a smile, “with your permission I shall return to my rooms.”

She had no need to ask, but it pleased her to play the supplicant from time to time.

“You have my permission to do so ever as you wish,” Pragus returned right on cue, and kissed her fingers.

Then his eyes fell on the golden chain and his face showed his distaste, he was quite aware Methos was sharing his sister’s bed just at the moment. He had never had exclusive right to his Queen’s passions, and quite frankly in his perverted mind he quite enjoyed the idea that he was not the only one, but he did not like Derisa’s new slave.

“Oh, why so unhappy,” the beautiful woman cooed as she saw the expression, “you have my heart, my brother.”

That almost worked, but Pragus was still not smiling, and in her own way, Derisa did care what her sibling was feeling. She looked at him brightly as something occurred to her.

“Why don’t you join us, my love?” she asked cheerfully, as if she were suggesting no more than a walk in the grounds. “He really is quite good, you know, all that military training can be put to other uses. You could bring along one of those servant girls you’re so fond of and we could play some games.”

By the time the idea sunk in, the King was beaming from ear to ear, and the royal couple stayed only a few minutes longer.

The city around the palace was brimming over with news of what the mighty Methos had done very soon after it happened, and it didn’t take long for the conspirators to hear of it. That he was a lap dog was one thing, that their leader now killed on command for the enemy was another, and it was a great blow.

“We must free him soon,” Tremar decided almost immediately after the messenger delivered the information. “Any more episodes like that and he won’t be worth rescuing.”

There was only so much the people would put up with in a leader, it was difficult to explain to the masses that Methos could not be held responsible for anything he did.

“Bedias,” the warrior seemed to have stepped into the shoes of the man who was now Derisa’s slave, “tomorrow in court, try and find out as much about what goes on behind closed doors. Make it look as if you’re morbidly curious, it’ll amuse Derisa if she comes to hear of it.”

Life in the royal court could never be described as usual.

“Priam,” the farmer sat up and listened, “we’ll need a diversion tomorrow night. Can you call your people together and have a small riot?”

“I know of several who would like to let out some frustration,” the lowly man replied with a glint in his eye.

It was not often that any had a chance to show their disgust at the way the kingdom was being run, but if they planned it properly, it would be an entertaining evening. Nobody knew the city better than those who lived there and most of Priam’s friends were street rats.

“Devid,” he turned to the one member of the party who rarely spoke and whose garb matched his humour.

The man wore black from head to foot and it was obvious he was armed to the teeth. This was the city’s King of thieves, even those who worked beyond the law had had enough of Derisa and her brother.

“We’ll need a master lock pick and at least one strong arm if we are to get inside the palace,” Devid was the only one of whom Tremar was unsure.

Methos had trusted him, but then the master of intrigue had known more than enough about the thief to keep him well in line. That was why, when the criminal smiled, the warrior was actually surprised.

“Do not look so worried, Tremar,” Devid said wryly, “just because I am a thief does not mean I will stab you in the back as soon as you turn away. There is honour among my kind, just as there is among yours. I have three people in mind who fit your needs perfectly, I will send them here at sundown tomorrow.”

“My apologies,” the soldier returned, it did not do well to upset one’s associates. “Then we move when next darkness comes to the god forsaken place. If this works we will be able to rally the people and strike at the palace very soon. If we fail then this is all over.”

Silence greeted his ominous words.

Methos did not remember the night before, which was a blessing really. The things he had done left no imprint on his memory and he was spared the thoughts that would have haunted him forever. The way he had been used was nothing more than a dark dream that his mind would never recall. The servant girl had not been so lucky and Pragus had had to drug her to get her back to his rooms when the two had finally left.

The sun played off the metal ewer in the corner so beautifully and as the morning truly arrived Methos just lay in his Queen’s bed watching it. He was like a child, anything could hold his attention, even something as simple as a shaft of light. He did not care that he was naked in the arms of a woman he despised. It never entered his head that once he would have ripped her heart out rather than lay beside her. He was just caught in the loveliness of a sun beam on gold. In some ways his world was so much easier now, he had no cares, but neither did he have a mind to realise this. In Derisa’s thoughts she believed she was torturing him, but in truth, there was nothing there to cause pain. Even the flashes of who he had been were meaningless because there was no Methos to remember them.

A face looked in from the supposedly impenetrable garden that sat  outside the window, and it was saddened by what it beheld. The woman was tall and beautiful and had anyone seen her they would have fallen to their knees in supplication. This was the face of the Goddess, the one thing in the kingdom that even Derisa dared not defile. Why a Goddess would be dressed in travelling clothes and carry a large sword strapped to her back was not a question for her worshippers. That this person had made very sure no-one saw her and never would was also a mystery, but then who could wonder at the mind of a deity.

“Your road is going to be harder than you thought possible, my young friend,” she said quietly as she watched Methos smile as a butterfly flew through the window. “I will be seeing you soon.”

By evening the plotters had all the information they needed. They knew that Methos would be sleeping in a guarded room near the servants’ quarters, thanks to a small mistake on his part earlier in the day and the Queen’s displeasure. Tremar had arranged for a sympathetic soldier to be on duty outside the quarters, and the times of the watch were already known to him.

Sian was the son of the keeper of the treasury which gave him a detailed knowledge of the palace from his childhood, and he had volunteered to lead the mission. The three people Devid sent over were not quite what Tremar had been expecting. Only one of them fitted the part he saw for them, and that was Wyn, a very large individual from a foreign land. His hair was as white a snow, enough to make anyone talk in this kingdom of sun and dark locks, and he carried two very unusual axes. The second was of all things, a woman, not that Tremar had anything against women, it’s just they didn’t usually have daggers at every available point on their person or carry everything needed to conquer the strongest lock. Her name was Aranie, and her chocolate brown skin and large black eyes made even the happily married soldier look twice. The third seemed even more out of place, since he was supposed to be the other strong arm Tremar had requested. Ivra was quite small for a start and he did not seem to pack much muscle. When the soldier pointed this out, however, that young individual gave a very quick demonstration of how speed could be a much greater weapon than brute strength, as he disarmed and put him on his backside.

The three individuals set off with Sian as soon as the sun was fully down, leaving Tremar to wait for their success or failure.

Getting into the palace was easy. Everyone except those servants who were asleep, those running the feast and the guard tours were inside the great hall. No locks or bars were any trouble for Aranie and the four slipped inside like mice into a kitchen. Music and shouting could be heard from the massive party that Derisa had suddenly decided to throw, and it covered just about any accidental noise that could have given them away. It was as they headed down the darkened hallway to the room in which Methos was being held that a shadowy figure stepped into a pool of moonlight. This person was hooded, and just stood there watching them with dark eyes.

If he had been a lesser man, Sian would have panicked, but instead he drew his party to a halt and scanned the rest of the corridor. The newcomer waited patiently, sword at side and finally the young conspirator walked towards them.

“Friend or foe?” he asked, even though it sounded ridiculous in the dark passageway.

“You may have need of me, friend,” was all the other said, and with a start, Sian realised this was a woman. “The man you are looking for has been moved, Derisa wants him paraded around at the feast later. They’ve taken him to the bath house to clean him up where she had him beaten.”

There were only two things the young man could do, trust this woman as a new ally, or try and kill her. Either way their plan would not work. This could be one of Parsus’ games, in which case their presence was known, or she was telling the truth, in which case, Methos was no longer where they expected him to be.

“You won’t mind if I ask you to lead the way?” Sian said slowly, at least that way he could keep an eye one her.

“Not at all,” she replied with a laugh in her voice, “that’s the sign of an intelligent man.”

The four originals and their new companion set off at a light trot.

The bruises and the cuts hurt as two servants washed him and dabbed balms on the wounds, but it didn’t help Methos recall how he had been injured. He had been given no specific instructions as how to behave and the two women found that this could be a dangerous state of affairs. Every time a cut stung as they applied their concoctions he would lash out, reacting on instinct. He was tetchy anyway because very shortly he would be given his daily dose of the potion that kept him servile, and he was starting to feel the effects of withdrawal. It didn’t occur to either of the two watching him that it was not only the Queen’s voice he obeyed and any strong authority would do. Not until he actually sent one of the two reeling backwards did the other scold him and discovered that he became quite docile when told to sit still and be good. The guard standing by the door found this very funny.

It was Methos who actually heard his rescuers first, and as his sharp hearing caught the sound of booted feet he cocked his head on one side. He turned to look at the door, just as Wyn came through it and buried an axe in the guard’s head.

“A sound and you die,” Aranie hissed as she followed her companion through the door with two daggers in hands.

The two women either side of Methos were not about to argue, and they backed away slowly as the intruders approached. Sian knelt down beside the naked, placid form of his leader.

“Methos,” he said, seeing the empty stare was almost unbearable, “we’re here to get you out of the palace. Do you understand?”

“Yes,” the other replied calmly, but it was quite obvious by his face that he had no comprehension of to whom he was speaking.

He did however stand up, ready to leave whenever they so desired. Aranie couldn’t help herself, she eyed him up and down with a very large smile on her face.

“Quite a man,” she said appreciatively, “I can see why he’s worth fighting for.”

The look that crossed Sian’s face said he didn’t appreciate such comments, and this was not the time or place to be discussing anything like that.

“Loosen up, lad,” Wyn said quietly, “we’re halfway home.”

He was, however, helping Methos with a robe at the time so he did not receive such a withering stare as his female companion. The older man had cottoned onto the fact that the man they were rescuing would do anything he was told, but wasn’t much into thinking for himself.

“Now you stay with us whatever happens, lad,” the blond individual told his ward calmly.

It seemed that he called everyone who wasn’t his own age, with some form of endearment. The message quiet clearly reached Methos’ scrambled brains and he nodded with complete certainty.

“And if anyone attacks us you’re on our side,” a female voice said from outside the door.

Their mysterious helper was taking no chances, she did not suddenly want to find that their captive was trying to kill them from behind.

“Let’s get out of here,” Ivra hissed from the other side of the doorway, “someone’s coming.”

It didn’t take anymore information than that, they were on their way quickly.

“Bugger,” Wyn said quietly as they skirted round yet another corner and shouts of alarm could be heard behind them.

What had been a rapid escape turned into a full run as the party made a bee line for their exit.

“You go,” the hooded woman said as the voices behind them began to get louder, “I’ll hold them off.”

“And what makes you think you can take on the palace guard,” Sian hissed as he drew to a halt whilst his companion’s ran on.

“Oh, I’m Immortal,” the woman said with a laugh in her voice and pushed back the covering from her face. “now go, and don’t tell anyone what you saw.”

The stunned look that crossed her comrade’s face was almost worth the pain it was going to cause her. Sian was not about to disobey a direct order from his deity, even if doubt did tell him this was impossible, and he fled up the corridor. The woman pulled up her hood once more and waited for the first of her assailants to round the corner.

“Chalk another one up for this damned deity,” she muttered as an oaf of a man came barrelling towards her.

He was a little surprised as she stepped out of the shadows to attack and her sword cut him down with little to no trouble at all.

They’d almost made it, their escape was in sight when Parsus stepped out of the room to their left.

“I was wondering who so carelessly left the window open,” he said with a smile on his face as two of his elite stepped out of the other doors in front of the window.

The five people skidded to a halt and drew their weapons, they were fighters, but they were no match for these people. The new head of intelligence just laughed at the blank stare Methos gave him as he stepped into his eye line.

“I’d say drop your weapons and you’ll have your lives, but I would be lying,” this was one man who enjoyed his job.

He drew his sword ready for the kill, and then found out he’d made a big mistake. The moment he showed aggression to the party of five Methos moved. He’d been told that if anyone attacked he was on his rescuer’s side and he did not stop to consider any consequences, he just acted. Parsus died before he had time to even comprehend that he’d been attacked, his neck broken and his nose a pulp on his face.

Everyone else just stood there, motionless. Methos looked at the man at his feet and felt just a moment of satisfaction. Neither of the other two palace personnel moved a muscle, they did not want to be the next to die.

“There are guards below,” one said finally, making the decision that could save his life, “I’ll show a safe way out.”

“I’m with you too,” the other decided quickly, they hadn’t exactly been fond of Parsus anyway.

Sian chose not to argue with the wise choice and indicated for the two to lead off.

“If you betray us,” he said in a low voice, “you are the first to die.”

The thought never entered the new recruits’ heads, and they led their compatriots through the hallways and out into the city.

The relief to see the whole party alive was such that Tremar enfolded Sian in a hug when the young man returned. He then went to Methos and did the same, totally blind to the fact that his old friend did not recognise him.

“Welcome back, my friends,” he said loudly, “and some new one’s as well I see.”

The night sky was bright with a fire Priam’s people had started in the royal stables, tomorrow would be a good day for an uprising. It was only as the soldier’s eyes returned from the sky that the expression on Sian’s face brought him back from his musings.

“He does not know us,” the young man said quietly and looked at Methos.

Looking into his face, Tremar could see the truth of his companion’s words, but he did not want to believe that the man who had dreamed of freedom was gone forever.

“He’ll get better,” the soldier insisted quietly, “when the drugs wear off. You’ll see, the old Methos will be back, bossing us all around as usual.”

Sian tried to agree and smile, but there was something about his compatriot’s tone that did not ring true.

Fury was the first emotion that crossed Derisa’s face as she saw the carnage that had been one of the central palace hallways. One fighter, that was what they tried to tell her, one person had caused this much destruction. She swept round the corner towards the bath house and into the now crowded room. The two serving girls had been found cowering in the corners and she had them brought before her.

“What happened here?” she asked coldly.

The two looked at each other, almost afraid to speak, but quite sure that to remain silent would mean death.

“There were five, your Majesty,” the older of the two said rapidly and did her best to prostrate herself on the wet floor, “they took the traitor.”

This was one Queen who need scapegoats for her anger and her twisted mind saw these two as the perfect victims.

“He’s gone and yet you live,” she said coldly, “how can that be?”

The two cowering women could say nothing.

“Why did you not throw yourselves on their swords screaming for help?” she asked with brooding fury. “The guards heard nothing until it was too late, and yet you survived.”

She walked round the pair and glared at them. The soldiers in the room were just glad it was not they who were under her scrutiny.

“Throw them in a cell,” Derisa ordered spitefully, “I shall decide what to do with them tomorrow.”

The warriors did not hesitate to obey. It was a matter of them and us, and them lost. Yet even as the unfortunate servants were being dragged away, begging for forgiveness, the Queen picked up a small bottle form the side of the baths and began to laugh. She cackled wildly as she looked at the blue liquid in the vial and did not stop until Pragus walked in.

“What do you find so funny, sister?” he asked a little more harshly than he usually spoke to his beloved.

She turned to him with the most complete smile on her face.

“This, my love,” she said joyfully and waved the bottle in front of him, “they have rescued a dead man.”

The King’s brow creased with lack of understanding, no-one would ever accuse this man of having intelligence.

“He will be dead by morning,” Derisa said with another laugh. “He must take the potion in the next hour or he will die, they rescued Methos only to see him wither away before them.”

Now both monarchs began to laugh.

It was almost like it had been a few days ago, all the conspirators sat around their table, but even though they were all there in body, one was missing in spirit. Methos’ attention span had expanded to a few minutes, but he could barely put two words together and everything confused him. His mind could grasp that he knew these people and he was important to them, but as his thought processes were beginning to return the clarity of the world was diminishing. Certain things were getting through, and he did manage to put a few thoughts together.

“Strike now,” he said quietly and brought the whole room to a sudden hush.

He managed to concentrate his attention on all the faces that turned to him.

“We have to wait for you to get well,” Priam spoke up as his friend’s seemed lost for words, “the people will follow you.”

A vague memory impinged itself on Methos’ memory and he knew that that was never going to happen ...

Derisa walked in front of him with a large smile on her face. He was restrained from behind with thick leather straps, confined like an animal for slaughter.

“You’re mine now, Methos,” she said and her eyes spoke of desire as well as victory. “Now and forever.”

“Only in your dreams, Derisa,” he said coldly.

She slapped him for that reply.

“Really, Methos,” she said, enjoying his pain, “your Majesty, or beloved are the only ways you should refer to me.”

“You have no more right to the throne than that snake you call a brother,” he spat back, and she hit him again with perverse amusement.

She beckoned over one of her rat faced flunkies who passed her a small bottle.

“This will give you to me,” she said with calm, even tones, “it will take your will and throw it away. You soul will be mine, Methos, for as long as you live. This concoction has interesting consequences for those who stop taking it: they die, slowly, and in great pain. Eventually you won’t be able to take enough to stop the craving, and then you’ll die anyway.”
 She clicked her fingers at the guard behind the captive and the oaf stepped forward taking hold of his one time commander, by the hair.

They pulled his head back and tipped the liquid down his throat, he did not recall any more.

... He looked at those around him as very quietly began to speak.

“I’m dying,” he told them with all the concentration he could muster. “The drug is killing me, you have to do this yourselves.”

It was as if admitting it made it true, and suddenly the young form was gripped by a wave of agony. The pain started in the pit of his stomach and moved through every nerve in his body. He fell from his chair with a pitiful cry and curled into a pathetic heap. Sian leapt to his side, he could not believe this as happening. He had remained silent about the presence of the goddess, but he did not understand this. Why would their deity help with the rescue, only to watch the man they had worked so hard for, die in front of them.

Just breathing was like dragging fire into his lungs and the furnace consumed him. His mind cried out for release, but the pain sought out every cell and his senses seemed almost heightened by what was happening. It he’d been able, he would have screamed his agony to the world. Yet no sound passed his lips as every muscles in his body contracted and tried to asphyxiate him. At that moment he knew what would eventually kill him, but this time the spasm passed and the molten lava that his blood had become, cooled once more.  

The torment ebbed away, leaving him exhausted and shivering, lying on the cold stone floor. There was a hand on his back, and his surrounds seemed to have a little more clarity than before.  As his body relaxed from it’s tightly curled position, he heard Sian calling his name.

“Methos, can you hear me?” the tone was urgent, almost panicked, but his friend could not answer.

There was no strength left in his body, and Methos just wanted to give in to the urge to sleep. His tortured form craved rest, and yet he knew he could not let that happen. If he slept he would just wake screaming, no good to anyone, until finally the muscle spasm would not let go and he would die, unable to take precious air into his system. With an effort, born of a will of iron he pushed himself onto his back and took Sian’s hand.

“Help me up,” he said quietly, and his companion’s recognised a shadow of their old friend returning to the damaged shell.

Tremar moved to help his comrades and together the two men managed to put Methos back in his chair. His skin was grey and there were large black rings around his eyes, but the gaze that met his fellows had regained it’s cunning. Even as the pain started to eat away at his life, it gave the tortured man back his mind. He didn’t know if he had days left, or hours, or minutes, but he did realise that this uprising should not die with him.

“Our attack must come before dawn,” he had every man’s attention and they did not question his judgement. “With a new day there must be a new order, or the sun will bring fear and Derisa will send out her guards to make sure there will never be another incident like this.”

He always spoke of Derisa as the ruling power in this city, he knew that Pragus was no more than a figurehead for his beloved sister.

The truth of his words was not lost on any of those who gathered in the little room, and together they began to lay plans. The first time, the delay between seizures was quite long, but the second was shorter and after the third Methos passed out and had to be taken to a bed. He had given his friends all he had left and they all knew he would not live to see the victory he had worked so hard to bring about.

His carers, Tremar’s wife and daughter, had tried to give him food, but his stomach had been unable to keep anything down. About the only thing that could pass his lips without returning the same way was water and that seemed to aggravate his condition more than anything. Eventually they just let him lie there, trying to ease his discomfort with a herbal compress, but knowing it was just a matter of time. It was the ultimate evil, his mind was his own again, but his body could no longer perform the tasks of living. When he had two seizures in quick succession, Tremar’s wife went to fetch her husband.

The veteran warrior entered the room to hear the rattle of his friend’s breathing as even that became almost too much for his weary body. Death was not an uncommon thing to any in this kingdom, but such a loss as this was almost too much to bear. With tears in his eyes and anger in his heart, Tremar knelt down beside the low bed and took Methos’ hand.

“You will not be forgotten, my friend,” he said firmly, as the dark, fevered eyes turned towards him, “your name will live on as a symbol for these times.”

At that the dying man actually smiled.

“You sentimental old fool,” he said with slow uneven tones, “I don’t care about my name. Just make sure Derisa can’t do this to anyone else.”

He was trying to make light of his own end, but there was fear in his tired gaze. To die was an incredible journey and even the most practical of men was afraid to go.

“I shall see you again someday,” Tremar said with a confident smile, “and we shall drink the wine of the Goddess, and laugh about what we once were.”

“I’d prefer beer,” Methos said and grinned as well as his body would let him.

They were the last words he uttered and the agony took him only a few seconds later. First the fire, and his body burned, then the constricting pain that made his chest feel as if it were being squashed by a buffalo. His fingers dug into Tremar’s hand, but all that the warrior heard was a quiet choking sound. There was no death scream, no cry to express the torment flowing through the wreck of a man, and then it was over. Methos relaxed, but not with the relief of another hurdle passed, there was no life left in the hand that limply fell away from his companion’s arm. His pain was finished, the master of intrigue was dead.

His co-conspirators were silent as Tremar walked back into their den of plots. The anger in his face and the unshed tears in his eyes said everything the others needed to know.

“We start this, and we start this now,” he said loudly, “it is time to raise the people against the filth we call rulers.”

Their own groups each had jobs to do, and it was no time for delaying.

“Methos will not have died in vain,” the warrior continued firmly, “and he shall be the fire that will sweep the palace clean.”

He stared at each of his companion’s in turn and all expressions agreed.

“Sian,” were his next words, “you and I are taking our comrade to the temple. His death will be a catalyst, and in the Goddess’ name we shall call the citizens of this city to arms.”

At that moment, the younger man actually believed he knew why his deity had helped to rescue his friend. Suddenly his role in all this had meaning again, and Sian nodded with complete certainty.

“Everyone else, go to your people and let’s finish what we have begun,” Tremar’s words did not need repeating.

They wrapped his body in a white sheet and placed him on a wooden litter like some kind of icon. Heads appeared at windows and a few people followed them as Sian and Tremar carried the remains of Methos to the temple at the centre of the city.  

“Halt, and make yourselves known,” the temple guard stopped them at the gate.

“Stand aside, soldier,” Tremar said with total certainty, “we bring the body of Methos so that he may go to rest in the arms of the Goddess. He has given his life for the people of this place, and his remains must be kept safe for burial after we have taken the city.”

There was the zeal of a man who knew exactly what he was doing in the warrior’s eyes and the man in his way could see the truth. There were people gathering around the gateway and this soldier could see the future in their faces. He stepped aside, he was not a man to stand in the way of history.

The temple was a huge building of granite and marble, and it proclaimed it’s teachings in relief all over it’s outside. Each part of the wall was lit by torches and the representations of old battles and godly events formed a splendid background for the presentation of the new age’s first martyr. The priestess and three of her acolytes met the two men at the top of the steps, just in front of the great doors.

“You will not make a battle ground of Her place,” the regal looking woman said quietly as the two groups came together.

“No, your Holiness,” Tremar replied calmly, “only a point of focus. The palace will be our battle ground.”

That was all the assurance this servant of their deity required.

“We will take him from here,” she said loudly so that the growing crowd could hear, “go with the blessing of the Raena herself.”

Using the Goddess’ name was a right reserved for the clergy only, and that the priestess had employed it here created a hush over the whole crowd. The four women took a corner of the litter each and carried Methos’ body into the temple as their congregation watched. Tremar and Sian held their places at the top of the stairs just long enough for the scene to be completed and then they returned to the gate, ready to rally those around them.

It was slightly colder in the temple than outside, the large pieces of stone having given up the days heat long since. Once beyond the great doors another acolyte took the place of the priestess in carrying the body and she moved over to stand beside the only man in the higher orders of the Goddess’ services. The High priest watched the women carry the body to the inner chamber and turned to his companion.

“Was it wise to use Her name?” he said quietly with a small twitch of an eyebrow.

He was a tall man, and one who had spent many years practising being holy. His counterpart was probably the one person who could hold his gaze without thinking about eternal damnation.

“There is a change coming,” the priestess said with calm resolve, “I wanted to make sure it would be a change for the better. We have been lacking in our responsibilities these last few years, Jaris. Hiding behind our walls we have turned our backs on the people and their suffering. It is time to take sides.”

In the central chamber of the temple, the four acolytes placed Methos before the statue of their deity. Her arms were stretched forth in an open greeting manner and the cold stone reached over the still form. They placed candles at his head and feet, and lit incense on the two small burners beside their Goddess. Three then left and the other knelt down reverently next to the dead man and began to pray.

Methos had left the world in pain, and he rejoined it with the same feeling. His starved lungs made him gasp for air and every abused muscle made itself known to him. He tried to move, discovered something was constricting his movements, groaned and rolled over, straight off the litter. The first thing he heard was a scream and the sound of running feet.

The rotation had freed him from the sheet, and slowly he picked himself up off the floor. He was very confused, but at least the ache that seemed bone deep was fading away as if it had never been there. Standing was an interesting experience and the room made some interesting lurches before he actually managed to stop staggering around. His eyes caught sight of his arm and he stared at it stupidly for a moment, there was something wrong. Then he remembered, there should have been a cut on it, just above the wrist, and then it all came flooding back.

The High priest and priestess came, regally, charging into the room to find a very shocked looking man standing in front of their altar staring at it fixedly.

“Mother of the universe,” it was quite an experience to hear a priestess blaspheme.

Dead was dead, and only a few minutes ago, Methos had definitely been beyond the mortal plane. When he turned to gaze at the two clergy, looking into the eyes of a corpse was eerie for them both.

“It’s a sign,” the female of the pair whispered, almost in awe, “a sign from her.”

Miracles didn’t happen often and the religious leaders in this city were not arguing with this one.

“Quickly,” Jaris said suddenly as his mind caught up with events, “your friends are still outside, you must go to them. You have been given new life to bring down the evil which infests this city. You must use it.”

Those weren’t quite the conclusions to which Methos was coming, but they sounded just about as sensible. He didn’t have much choice in the matter, anyway, as he was virtually herded towards the great doors. It didn’t matter that he was a complete mess, that his clothes were dirty and his hair on end. He had been reborn, all the signs of damage were gone from his person and he was going to lead the rebellion, whether he was ready or not.

Tremar was working well with the crowd. When he rallied them they echoed his words and he could feel that they were almost ready to go. He was about to launch into a battle cry, and lead them off, when there was sudden, total and utter silence. It was almost as if the entire city was holding it’s breath, and all eyes were looking up the temple steps. All the veteran soldier could do was follow their gazes, and when his field of vision reached the great doors his voice vanished as well.

“By all that is holy,” Sian’s whisper mirrored the thoughts going through every head.

A temple guard had thrust a sword into Methos’ hand and he was stood at the entrance to the place of worship, looking for all the world, a little lost. Tremar found his friend’s eyes and saw the confusion there, and his shock evaporated. He had briefly reconsidered his religious convictions, but his practicality won through. He covered the distance between himself and his old friend in seconds, and enveloped the man in a hug.

“I don’t know how this happened,” he whispered in Methos’ ear, “but now is not the time for questions. Call them to follow you, and do it now.”

The newly resurrected man looked at his companion, then at the crowd, then back to his first view and slowly his thoughts began to move. The sharp intelligence returned to his eyes and Tremar knew that their revolution was underway.

This was not, however, the only return from the dead going on within the city walls. A dishevelled, but still hooded woman pulled herself out of an alley into which she had collapsed. The battle had been short and fierce and she had fled when the numbers became too great. Her exit had been fast, but one of Pragus’ elite had tried to end it with a throwing knife to the back. She had managed to run on, but the wound had been fatal and she had succumbed to the cold hands of death just after disappearing into the city.  

Luckily for her, someone had seen fit to steal the blade from her back and the short shuddering breath she had taken had frightened the same individual away before they could take anything else. She had, however, been dead for just that little bit too long, and her spirits fell as she heard the cry go up across the city. They were calling Methos’ name and she had a distinct sinking feeling.

“Too late, Raena,” she said to herself and brushed off the dirt, “you blew it again.”

There was a lot be said for numbers and it was impossible to stop the citizens of the city breaking through the walls of the palace. They swarmed through the outer courtyards like so many ants, brandishing everything from meat cleavers to pokers. They clashed with the palace guards and the blood began to flow.

Methos and his friends fought their way through and into the building itself, there were few who even tried to stand in the way of the man who had helped train most of the soldiers. Doors in the palace were fortuitously open and it was apparent that Devid’s people had done their job before disappearing back into the woodwork.  

There were secret passages throughout the old building, and if they hadn’t had Methos on their side, the attacker would never have known. As it was when soldiers suddenly appeared as if from nowhere the group were ready for them. They were on their way to the throne room, the only place with a tunnel to the outside world. That would be Pragus and Derisa’s escape route, and it was the perfect place to spring the final trap. Priam’s people would have made their way into the entrance by now, and the Monarchs would find themselves stuck in their own web.

There was no hesitation on Methos’ part as grey clad soldiers blocked his company’s path. He charged in, weapon in hand, as if he could take on the entire force single handily. He was feeling a little bit invulnerable, and it made him just about unstoppable. Three guards went down before his comrades even joined the fight. There was something about surviving death that brought out a courageous, but somewhat reckless side to Methos, and it did not bode well for his opponents.

He clashed swords with a man who’s face was all too familiar, and it brought him sharply back to reality. This was one of his hand picked few, a man he had trusted with his life, now he knew who had betrayed him to Parsus.

“Hello, Lephram,” he said coldly as the hilts of their weapons locked, “I never thought I’d see you in Pragus’ grey.”

There were two distinct seats of soldiering power in the palace, one had been Methos’ group, the other Pragus’, they had never liked each other. Derisa had looked on those in black as her people, but they had always been loyal to their commander first. Those who hunted to the King’s horn were loyal only to their own gain. Many of Methos’ soldiers had changed sides to band with the rebels when they had heard the rallying cry, those in grey were not so sensible.

The frantic soldier struck out desperately, and in his haste actually landed a strike with his dagger on his opponent’s outstretched arm. All colour left the unfortunate’s face as the wound sparked and closed as if it had never been there. He had a few second’s to wonder at it as Methos gazed on in shock, and then his opponent’s sword relieved him of any cares he may have once had.

Some of their number burst into the throne room a few seconds later and discovered the whereabouts of a large number of the other guards that had vanished. There had to have been thirty of them, all lined up between their Monarchs and the rebels. Each man had been promised a fortune in gold if they survived, and to these individuals, money spoke very loudly.

“Kill them all,” Derisa’s condescending tones filtered into the corridor and suddenly there was nothing that could even slow Methos down. “Let them die like the swine they are.”

She was actually laughing, as if it were all a game. She was sure in her delusion, that the servants behind her would open the escape route, she and Pragus would flee to safety until the rebellion was quashed and then she would return to her throne. In her mind, defeat was not possible, that was until she saw a very familiar figure run through the doorway.

“Not possible,” her voice was a whisper and could not be heard over the clash of metal as the warriors fought.  

Her hand clasped at the pouch on her belt, the pocket that held the token of Methos’ downfall. She had kept the little bottle from the bath house, now it gave her no solace. Once, this man had just been her toy, another enemy defeated, now it seemed he was her nemesis. Their eyes locked and for the first time in her life, she actually knew fear.

“You’re dead,” the words cut straight through the fighting, and it even brought some of it to a stop.

Pragus spun on the spot, where he was watching his bondsman open the secret passage and his face crumpled in complete terror.

“Not before you,” Methos returned with cold, hard brutality.

At his confident, clear tone he saw something he’d never expected to witness. Derisa’s expression changed to one of pure terror and incomprehension, and in that moment her enemy saw her soul. She turned to flee, unthinking and in total panic, running blindly for the nearest door, knowing that nothing could stand between her and the demon she had failed to kill.

At the same time Pragus’ man finally pulled the entrance to the passage open and the King ran to it. He never even made it through the darkened opening, but stopped suddenly just as he reached it. The muscles in his back tensed and his shoulders stooped over as he looked down. Only as he turned back, a look of complete shock on his face, did it become obvious what had happened. Pragus had impaled himself on the sword of one of those coming to close the trap, and it protruded from the centre of his chest. He seemed stunned, unable to believe what had happened, and only as blood trickled out of the side of his mouth did comprehension dawn. He collapsed slowly, the glaze of death in his eyes.

The fate of the puppet ruler was not on Methos’ mind, however, and he was already charging after Derisa. Behind him Sian and Tremar followed on closely, and the three ran to catch the fleeing woman. At first it was as if they had lost her, but then they heard a door slam and the man she had killed sped up once more. They came to a halt outside Pragus’ chambers as two very large, very heavy door greeted them.

“She is trapped,” Methos said without the slightest hint of emotion in his voice, “there is no way out of these rooms except this door.”

Pragus had always been a paranoid man and he had had these rooms fortified especially for himself. There had once been a tunnel out, but he had had it sealed, and all the windows had been filled in, it was a dead end. In her panic Derisa had fled to what her brother called the safest room in the palace, and it was her downfall.

With the hilt of his sword, Methos banged on the door and the sound boomed throughout the palace.

“Open the door, Derisa,” he called loudly, “this is over.”

He was telling nothing but the truth, the rebellion was all but finished. The fighting had almost stopped, the King was dead, the Queen trapped, there was no way out for the tyrannical rule, it was over.

There was no reply from behind the sculpted portals, but the carved revellers’ faces were not laughing at those trying to get in, they were laughing at the victim sealed behind them. He had waited a long time to see the Queen fall and now Methos was impatient.

“Find something to break this door down,” he snapped at the two men beside him, “I want her out of there.”

His eyes were flashing and he could barely contain himself as his comrades picked up a very large, heavy torch burner and headed for the door. The three thrust it against the gold painted wood and chunks of the precious metal flaked off. The value of what they were destroying was not, however, anywhere in Methos’ mind and all that the damage meant to him was one splinter closer to his prey.

The door gave with an almighty creak and their battering ram fell to the floor moments later. The three men charged into the room and were drawn to a complete stand still by what they found. The torches flickered off the high walls and made eerie patterns in the curtains around the large place to sleep. A perfect surround to the figure of Derisa, sat in her brother’s bed, totally motionless, with a very blank expression on her face. She looked at the three men with empty, unthinking eyes and a small bottle rolled from her right hand. Sian and Tremar walked forward slowly, but Methos was frozen as he saw what he must have been. They had told him what he had become, but he had never seen it and the sight of another stopped every emotion that raged through his troubled heart. His youngest companion picked up the vial and threw it against the wall in disgust.

“She took her own potion rather than face us,” he said as if she had robbed him of the final victory.

Tremar was no happier about it, but he could see the consequences of her actions. He took her chin in his hands and pulled her head up to look into her dead eyes.

“Well you don’t get away that easily, Derisa,” he spat coldly, “we’ll throw you in a cell and we can watch you die the same way you wanted to watch Methos.”

His righteous anger was complete and it felt like a just punishment for all her crimes. What he did not realise it that his companion had gone beyond his fury and the lust for battle had died in his heart.

“No,” Methos said firmly, and his friends turned to see a sad expression on his face, “there has been enough suffering. Take her out, show her to the people and then execute her. Get it over with and then we can get on with living.”

The other two would have argued that it was not enough, that she deserved to die in pain, the way she had watched so many others, but the haunted look in his eyes stopped them. This was a man who had seen death, and if this was the way he wanted his revenge then they would not argue. To put him through any more pain would have been unthinkable.

“I’ll be in the palace shrine,” he said quietly and turned to go, leaving them to their work.

There was no clear reason in Methos’ head as to why he headed for the only holy place within the palace walls. It was just that somehow, it seemed the right thing to do. As he walked, he saw the way people looked at him, the awe in their eyes, and he didn’t like it at all. By the time he reached the seclusion of the barely used shrine he was glad of it and closed the doors behind him. The moon shone through the large window from the garden and he just sat down in a pool of light.

Suddenly it felt as if there were ants crawling along the inside of his skull, and his ears rang with a strange sound. It was like nothing he had ever experience before and it caused him to wince.

“Now here was not exactly the place I expected to find you,” a voice said from a place he was sure no-one had been occupying a second ago.

All he could see was a silhouette against the bright night outside, and he wasn’t exactly happy to see anyone.

“Who are you?” he demanded coldly and a little brusquely.

“My name is Raena,” the woman said calmly and turned so that he could see her face.

Now Methos had never been a religious man, but the events of the night had given him some faith. This, however, was even a bit much for him. He scrambled to his feet in a most uncontrolled fashion and actually backed away.

“Why did you do this to me?” he was suddenly angry, and this Goddess was the only person in the vicinity, at whom to lash out.

“I didn’t do anything to you,” the woman told him calmly and sat down on one of the cushions in the room.

The trousers and the sword didn’t exactly fit with the image most people had of their willowy, gentle Raena, but than who was to argue with what a Goddess wanted to wear.

“But ... but,” the answer to his question really put pay to the others in his mind.

“You’re Immortal,” his companion put in quickly, “you always have been and it had nothing to do with me. You can’t die and now you have been killed for the first time you’ll heal very quickly. That feeling you had when I came in, that’s a warning to you that there is another Immortal around. This time, namely me.”

This was all becoming a little confusing and Methos wanted to backtrack slightly.

“You are Her, aren’t you, you are the Goddess?” his shock had given way to some intelligent questions.

“Oh, I’m Her,” she said as if she wasn’t proud of the fact, “the only problem is, Her isn’t a deity. Her is a mistake from about three hundred years ago when this city was no more than some houses by a ford.”

This took some getting used to, Methos had only just found religion, now he was being told to loose it again. He stood there staring at Raena for a long moment without saying a word.

“Explain,” he said cautiously.

Somewhere in the back of his mind there was a little voice that actually believed the stories of the Goddess and was telling him this was some sort of test. It was difficult to dismiss it entirely because, well religion was a matter of faith, wasn’t it?

“I’m just like you,” she said slowly, “and we’re not the only ones. I lived here when the King was just a head man and the biggest industry was a sheep farm.”

“The texts say you lived among us and then revealed yourself to us, throwing out the false gods that we worshipped,” Methos was hedging.

Raena laughed at that, she seemed quite amused.

“Some oaf of a mercenary passes through with his comrades,” she told him as if it was the most mundane thing, “and decides he wants a little fun. I told him where to go so he throws me against a wall and my skull cracks open. A battle is about to ensue over my dead body, between the men of the town and the strangers and I wake up and scare the horses. Everyone starts looking at me as if I’m god touched.”

Her smile had faded and she did not look particularly happy about her past.

“If you listen to people long enough you start to believe what they say,” she explained very matter-of-factly, “and when I didn’t age they proclaimed that I was the Goddess come to earth. The most stupid thing I ever did was use the power they gave me to try and help people. Once you become a deity you can’t step down. It was when they started trying to persecute for heresy that I declared I was not who they thought I was and left, but by then the religion was well dug in. It was my mistake so I keep an eye on things, but the only time I’ve ever interfered was when on High Priest felt like going in for virgin sacrifices.”

Her simple straightforward tale, was hard for Methos to accept, but it made more sense than Goddesses and divine intervention.

“So what do we Immortals do with ourselves?” he asked bluntly, he was in no mood to hedge.

“We live our lives, keep our secret from Mortals, and kill each other,” she returned, just as forthrightly.

The killing bit stuck in her companion’s mind.

“Why do we kill each other if it’s not permanent?” he asked slowly.

“Oh, it can be,” she told him evenly. “Remove our heads from our shoulders and we are very dead. If an Immortal kills another all their power transfers in what we call a Quickening. We live by rules, Methos, and our primary law is in the end there can be only one.”

She let the information sink in and saw him become suddenly defensive. He was a man from a world of intrigues and now he was not so sure of her.

“If there can be only one,” he said coldly, “why didn’t you try and kill me when you first came in. I was an easy target and you could have taken my head, I would not have resisted my deity.”

A smile spread across Raena’s face and she patted her sword hilt fondly.

“It’s a lonely world when your only friend is your sword,” she said quietly, “it’s good to share time with another of your own kind and pass on what you know. I have seen what you did with your Mortal life, Methos and you are a good man. I want you to come away with me, let me teach you the rules of the Game as I was once taught them. It’s a big world, getting bigger all the time, we can explore it together.”

It was so tempting, but this soldier had other worries just at the moment.

“I can’t leave them,” he said, his shoulder’s relaxing as he believed her words. “They are building a new order, they will need my help.”

She stood up then, and walked over to him, a sadness in her eyes. She had been in his place once and she knew the conflict that must be raging within him. With strong, warrior’s hands she took his shoulders and looked deep into his eyes.

“This is not your fight anymore,” she said firmly and fixed him with her old gaze, “you are Immortal now, you must leave your old life behind.”

“But,” he tried to contradict her.

“No buts, my friend,” she told him honestly, “you must go, either with me or alone if you prefer, but you cannot stay. Do you know what will happen?”

She would not let him drop the eye contact, she had to make him understand.

“I do,” were her brutal words, “because I’ve been there. They’ll make you their King, Methos. Do you want to rule? Then, when they see that you’re not ageing and they’ll declare that you’re a God. Some will start to worship you, others will hate them for it and there will be bloodshed in my name and yours. Then if you’re still here they’ll begin to hate you because they cannot have what you have, Eternal life. Then one day another Immortal will come to challenge you and one of you will die. If you live, your worshipers will see that you are not invulnerable and someone will try and kill you. They’ll probably die as well, but eventually someone will get you. Is that what you want, to see everything you love die and become twisted? That is what will happen, Methos, unless you leave.”

The truth was hard, but it could not be escaped when one who had seen it’s like was doing the telling. This man, who only a few days ago had thought only of bringing down the tyrants who held his home, now saw a much bigger plan. He knew Raena was speaking from her heart and he knew she was right.

“Can I say goodbye?” he asked quietly, as if he were a child asking permission from it’s mother.

“They already know you are alive,” she told him calmly, “which I had hoped to avoid, so I cannot see the harm in it. I will even play the Goddess if it will make it any easier. I have heard to can back in my temple, so if I gave you life, I can take it away again.”

He nodded, it sounded like a good plan.

The central core of the rebellion were in the throne room when Methos walked back in, and he arrived just in time to hear his name being mentioned in conjunction with the word crown. He was suddenly glad to have Raena standing in the doorway. An awe filled silence fell as the men in the room saw the two so close together.

“I have to go,” Methos said quietly, “I have finished what I came back to do.”

“You can’t leave,” Sian found a voice in his youthful recklessness where his elders were struck dumb, “we want you to rule.”

It was Raena’s turn, in this place, her word was law.

“Mortals live but once, my young friend,” she said in a voice that sounded almost holy, “Methos was given a second life for one purpose and that has been fulfilled. Would you deny him eternity in my company so that he may be your King?”

It was all perfectly true, but it was vague enough to have another meaning. The young man had no answer to that and tears stood out in his eyes.

“Goodbye,” Methos said calmly and he was overcome by sorrow as Sian enveloped him in a hug.

Why was leaving so painful?

Adam woke suddenly with the ache of loss in his heart. His mind was full of memories and such sweet agony, but even as he groped for the faces of long past friends they faded away. These were the things he only remembered in his buried subconscious and they floated away like so much mist as the sun heats the earth. He was left with a vague feeling of emptiness, of having lost something important. It was not the first time he had woken in the middle of the night as the fog in his mind occasionally cleared, and he looked at the clear sky through his window. The moon made him smile as he almost saw the face of a woman he had once loved. Then she too was gone and all he could do was turn over and go back to arms of dream. Sometimes it was hard not knowing, and yet at others it was sweet forgetfulness.

The End