by FF Calliope
This story contains some violence and lots of juicy (and slightly kinky) male/female sex described in loving detail. Therefore, if you are a minor (under 18 years of age) or are squeamish about sexual content, drop this like a hot potato. If you continue to read after this warning, don't blame me.
The Other Legalities: Highlander is the property of Gaumont Television and Rysher TPE, based on the character created by Gregory Widen and the underlying characters and concept of Davis/Panzer Productions, Inc. I just like playing in their sandbox; no copyright infringement is intended. Delphyne and Valerius are my own creations.
Many thanks to Emma B., Ann Stephens, and Cindy Deas for their beta-reading, and of course to my writing partner, JakeStone. They all helped me to improve the story immensely. Any errors, grammatical or otherwise, are my own damned fault and none of theirs.
Unfamiliar terms and historical notes can be found at the end of each section of the story.
Constructive criticism welcomed. Destructive criticism ignored. Send either, or just general comments, to my email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
"Justice" is the third in a series of Methos and Delphyne stories
Timeline: approximately 190 B.C.E.
Was that man looking at her?
Delphyne picked up an onion and squeezed it, checking for soft spots, and at the same time watched the stranger out of the corner of her eye. His short hair and the style of his clothing made him stand out from the rest of the marketplace crowd, but what bothered her was the way his black-brown eyes seemed to linger on her. Putting the onion back in the vendor's cart, she moved on. He didn't follow.
Methos' paranoia must be contagious, she decided.
The sun shone brightly, which was a relief - she'd feared that it would never get warm again after the long, dreary winter. It was a milder here than where they had initially settled, in Aberdeen, but Pretani1 was still a far cry from the hot climate of Alexandria. Still, this land had a charm all its own. The buildings were of wood and wicker instead of stone or brick, surrounded by lush green forests and meadows, and the standing stone circles everywhere reminded her of her time among the Keltoi peoples. Something about those circles called to her more deeply than the elaborate temples of the Greeks and Romans. Something . . . primal.
Swinging her basket from one hand, she made her way through the marketplace. Methos, who was still using the name Niall, had insisted that he wanted fresh beef for dinner tonight, and she might as well get a few other things, while she was here.
"How much?" she asked, pointing at a large steak hanging from a pole.
"Five ungae2 silver," the merchant answered. He was tall, with the muscular arms of a butcher and the waistline of a man who ate whatever he didn't sell. Unruly red hair was pulled back into a leather thong, with several strands escaping around his face. "Five ungae? Are you mad, man? That scrap of dog meat isn't worth one!" The man roared in outrage at the insult. Folding her arms across her chest, Delphyne jutted her chin out defiantly and stared him down. Just because she was new in this town didn't mean she was a fool. "Perhaps I should find a merchant whose wares aren't meant for royalty. I'll give you two ungae, no more." "At that price you'd be taking food out of the mouths of my children. Four, not a screpul3 less."
"Keep trying to overcharge me and I'll see to it you sire no more children. That will solve the problem for you!"
He stared at her in shock for a moment, then threw back his head and laughed. It was an infectious sound; she couldn't help but join in.
"All right then, three ungae. That's only fair!"
"Three it is." Delphyne reached into her tunic and drew out a leather thong that hung between her breasts. On it were strung several rings of silver. She unknotted the thong and slid a ring off, placing it on a small scale that the merchant kept for weighing payments. When the first ring was too small she tried another, and another, until she found one that weighed the correct amount. Her meat was wrapped up in a scrap of cloth, and she deposited it in her basket, satisfied with the exchange. Grinning, she left the meat vendor and turned towards the fruit stalls.
As she made her way through the crowd of people, Delphyne again noticed the man with the short hair and odd clothes. Perhaps she had been right the first time, she thought. Though he didn't appear to be looking at her, neither did he seem to be looking at anything else. Suspicious. He wasn't an immortal, but that didn't mean that he was harmless. There were other types of predators, and something about this man made her hackles rise. Perhaps she should take a different way home than usual to see if he followed. Pretending to examine some berries, she glanced around the market area. It wasn't nearly as large as the markets in Hellas4, which made it easier to spot the second man. Realizing that she'd seen him, he began walking towards her. He carried himself with the confidence of a soldier. What was going on? Was it a coincidence? Delphyne didn't trust coincidences.
Pivoting abruptly, she headed into the thickest part of the crowds. A flash of sunlight on metal drew her attention. A knife. The man wielding it was also coming towards her, staring blatantly with black- brown eyes. Three of them now, from different sides, hemming her in. All had dark hair and complexions, and the one with the knife bore a scar which twisted his lip to one side in a permanent sneer. Danger. She'd think about what it meant later. Delphyne dropped the basket, grabbed up her skirts, and took off running. She supposed that she could shout for help, but no one knew her here yet. What if the men accused her of stealing? Or of being a runaway slave? If they were convincing enough, it was just as likely the people would help them instead of her.
The crowds conspired to get in her way. She darted around customers and vending stalls and animals, searching for any possible avenue of escape, some clear path where she could leave the men behind in the tangle of people and gain some distance. There. A space between two buildings, like the mouth of a cave. It was a dark little alley, and so long as it wasn't a dead end, she had a chance. Delphyne made a bee-line for it, but just as she entered, she felt the unmistakable sensation that warned her of another immortal's presence.
A man stood in the shadows some yards away. Tall, strongly built, with the same short hairstyle as the others, but this one was like her. Immortal.
Delphyne hesitated. What to do? He didn't draw his sword, but what else could he want if not her head? The others must be with him. They had brought her to this alley as neatly as dogs rounding up a stray lamb.
Survival instinct took charge, overwhelming the fear of her curse, at least for the moment. Delphyne dropped her shields before she even knew that she was going to. It wasn't as easy as it had been with Methos, for she needed to isolate the minds of four people instead of just one. The chaos of thoughts and feelings from the crowds shook her sanity, and memories of Delphi mingled with them to add to her panic, but she was able to ruthlessly blank out those voices until she had homed in on the four hunters who stalked her.
Images and emotions tangled together, and she had no time to separate and analyze them: loyalty, trust, determination. Blood and bodies, the gleam of sword-blades and the reek of death, grief and rage so intense that it nearly swallowed her whole. The immortal, in particular, blazed with a brilliant flame of righteousness and all- consuming need.
Delphyne shut out the three mortals and concentrated on him. She saw a woman's face and felt deep, profound love for her. Then the sound of horse-hooves and the smell of fear, demons riding out of the sun to bring annihilation. A Death's-head mask on a pale rider; searing agony as a sword was thrust through his heart and he died, only to awaken to something far worse. The weight of her body limp in his arms. A wail of grief. Broken sobs and utter helplessness as warmth faded from her flesh until she lay cold and stiff, leaving him alone, so terribly alone. Flies buzzing and vultures descending upon the other victims. Every image, every emotion was charged with an overwhelming desire for vengeance.
But why was he hunting Delphyne? She had nothing to do with his wife's death - what part could she play in his revenge? Somewhere in the back of her mind was the seed of a thought, but she had no time to coax it into sprouting. The mortals were closing in. It was too late to get past all three of them if she turned back, so she tried to make it around the immortal.
All of this took place faster than the eye could blink. Having learned as much as she could, her other senses only served to distract her. Perspiration broke out on her forehead as Delphyne struggled to seal herself off. The relief was profound when her thoughts were hers alone once more. She had never stopped moving, and now she picked up speed to run full-tilt towards the shadowy figure in the alley.
"Are you all right?" he asked. He had a strong accent which she couldn't quite place. There was concern in his voice, but she wouldn't have trusted it even if she hadn't just seen inside his mind.
When she kept running, he stepped in front of her, blocking the way. "Whoa there! What's wrong?"
Delphyne skidded to a halt just out of his reach. Did he really think she'd believe this act? Narrowing her eyes, she stepped forward and kicked him in the balls.
The immortal fell to his knees, groaning, but even as she slipped by him, the other end of the alley filled with three more men. Trapped. Delphyne cursed herself for a fool. She'd gone soft, had forgotten that she was more than Methos' willing slave. She had broken the rules of survival. Stupid, stupid, stupid.
The immortal recovered quickly. He was back on his feet when she turned to face him.
"That wasn't nice." He surprised her with a hint of laughter underlying the pain in his tone. Was he laughing at her, or at himself for not anticipating the attack? Either way, she doubted he would make the same mistake again.
The immortal drew his sword. Immediately she dropped into a crouch, widening her stance for better balance, and drew her own weapon from where it hung at her back, concealed by her hair and tunic.
"Here?" she asked incredulously. "With mortal witnesses? Are you insane?"
He motioned with one hand, and she glanced around as the other men moved out of sight.
"They see nothing that I do not wish."
Delphyne snapped her attention back to him. "Very well. Let's get it over with."
He stepped towards her, and she swung at his neck, more to test his reflexes than anything else. His sword swatted hers away almost casually, as if he weren't even trying, and then he lunged. A quick dodge to the side barely saved her, and Delphyne's heart sank.
The immortal pressed his attack, his strokes quick and precise, and she scrambled to defend herself. With every block, the force of his blows rattled her to the bone. The point of her blade dipped as her arms began to ache. She tried to drop low and get under his guard, swinging at his ankles, but he leaped up out of the way. His booted foot came down on her blade, pinning it to the ground.
Delphyne let go and jumped back from him as he kicked the sword aside with a clatter. Her muscles coiled, ready to run, to fight on with her bare hands if she could. But he stepped forward faster than a man his size should be able to move, and put his sword to her throat.
What would Methos think when she didn't come home? Would he assume that she had run away, abandoning him? She couldn't bear the thought. Tears filled her eyes, and Delphyne dropped to her knees to beg for her life.
She had never done such a thing before.
"Please. Spare my life." The words came out raw, from the heart.
"You were better than this once."
That caught her by surprise. "I don't know you. How do you know me?"
"But I haven't come for you."
It made no sense. He'd gone to so much trouble -- what did he mean, that he hadn't come for her? Unless . . .
Delphyne went pale. Before she could say or do anything more, his fist crashed into her temple, and she tumbled headlong into unconsciousness.
She couldn't move. Delphyne opened her eyes and found that she was tied to a chair, her arms bound to the chair's arms, her legs to its legs, her chest and waist to its back. Lifting her head brought a burst of pain, but it faded quickly. Cautiously, she tested the ropes. They didn't budge. Given enough time - say, a day or two - she might work her way free. If she were lucky.
Where was she? The room was large and furnished with elegant couches and low tables, the wood carved into designs worthy of a master craftsman's hand. Rich fabrics hung upon the walls, dyed with royal purples. It was the most civilized place she'd seen since coming to this land. To her right were windows, and the shutters opened onto an expanse of fields and a setting sun. It would be dark soon.
The sound of flint being struck drew her attention. Several feet away, perched on the edge of a table, was her captor. A torch flared to life, illuminating him, casting shadows into the corners of the room. He set down the flint and placed the torch in a holder, then picked up a silver goblet with one elegant hand to sip from it as he watched her. The room was so quiet that she heard the sounds his throat made as he swallowed.
"Who are you?" she demanded. "Why have you done this?"
One more long sip, and then he set the goblet aside. His movements were controlled, hinting at emotion barely held in check. When he spoke his tone was light, but she could tell that it cost him to keep it that way. "My name is Valerius. I'm sorry to have met you under such unfortunate circumstances."
It was a moment before she realized that he was speaking Latin, and then she had to backtrack and figure out what he'd said. Delphyne examined him. His black hair was cropped close, with a few curls coming down onto his forehead and lying against the nape of his neck. He wore a rust-red tunic which was hemmed just above his knees, and over it a short jacket made of strips of leather and covered with sections of iron plate. Iron-tipped leather tabs hung down from the jacket in a sort of skirt. A Roman soldier, she recognized at last. Probably an officer, judging by the horse-hair plumed helmet that rested on the table beside him. What was he doing in Pretani1, so far from the nearest Roman outpost?
"Would you like some wine?" he inquired, speaking to her more as a guest than a prisoner.
"What I'd like is to be set free."
"In time." A frown crossed his face, and he added, "I have no desire to hurt you."
"What do you mean, you know?"
"If you wished to hurt me, you would have by now. Therefore you must want something else."
He nodded slowly, acknowledging her reasoning, and the frown faded. "It's your Master I want. What has it been, ten years since his last quickening? It seems he's trying to take himself out of the game. I'm putting him back in."
She had guessed as much. The rest wasn't hard to figure out, but she wanted to keep him talking, so she asked, "Why?"
"Because he is a heartless killer. An evil man." His jaw clenched, and the polite tone of his voice took on a dangerous edge.
"No," she denied, "not any more."
He laughed. The sound grated discordantly, making the hair on her arms stand up. "That changes nothing. He must still die for his crimes. You can't just kill thousands, and then one day say 'Oops... I'm sorry. Shouldn't have done that.'"
Delphyne winced. How could she possibly convince him that she was right? Even Methos wouldn't agree with her.
"Please, Valerius, don't do this."
"I have to." His stare intensified, and he moved towards her, making her tilt her chin up to meet his eyes. The river Styx could not have been more black. She feared that she would drown in them.
Fight back, you fool, she told herself. Reason with him, argue, beg, cry if that's what it takes. Just don't give up. Mind spinning furiously, she said, "Then you should kill me, too. I've committed the same crimes."
"It's more personal." His gaze shifted inwards, dismissing her words, and he went back to the table to pick up his helmet.
"So this isn't about his crimes. This is about revenge."
"It is about justice!" he roared, slamming a fist down. She flinched.
The goblet fell with a clang and rolled away, splattering drops of wine as red as blood across the floor. Torch-flame flickered, and the silhouette of Valerius' broad shoulders heaved as he struggled to control his emotions.
She remembered the images from his mind. They flashed before her relentlessly, though she didn't want to see them again. A woman's face, pretty, not young, but lined with laughter and kindness. That same face battered and bloody, the horror of her death forever staring out of sightless eyes. Dear gods. Delphyne didn't want to hear this, but she had to. How could she help Methos unless she faced all that he had done?. Shaking, she forced herself to ask, "What did he do to you?"
"He killed my people, and the only woman I have ever loved. Are you sure you won't have any wine?" He spoke quickly, trying in vain for his former light tone, and tucked the helmet under his arm.
"No." Delphyne cursed herself for getting into this mess.
"Too bad. It's an excellent vintage. Perhaps you're right, though - your Master should be here soon. Assuming he cares enough about you to come. I'm betting that he does."
"Why don't you take my head, then? Kill his woman, as he killed yours?"
Silence. He looked over his shoulder at her, an odd expression on his face, then slowly moved across the room and knelt before her. One blunt hand reached out to touch her cheek. "You would die for him?"
"Yes." Her voice thickened around the word.
A row of lines appeared across his forehead as he struggled to understand, and in disbelieving tones, he said, "You love him."
"Yes," she answered again, barely a whisper now.
Shadows moved in the Stygian depths of his eyes. Was he thinking of his wife, remembering what it was like to be loved so completely? He deserved the chance to heal. She wanted him to heal, to be freed from his pain so that he could love again someday . . . but not at the price of Methos' life.
Short, thick fingers brushed her hair back from her face. It obviously troubled him that she could love the man he believed to be the epitome of evil. Delphyne felt a glimmer of hope, but then he stood and settled the helmet onto his head. "I won't kill you for his crimes. That would not be justice."
She tried again, probing the crack she'd found in his emotional armor. "I don't blame you for wanting vengeance, but don't you see that you are about to do to me exactly what he did to you?"
"For that, my lady, I am deeply sorry." He looked down at her sadly. "I meant it when I said that I have no wish to harm you. But he must die." The genuine compassion in his voice humbled her. If only she had known someone like him when she first became immortal! All those centuries of murder would never have taken place. What dreadful irony.
Frustration and grief surged up within her, for him as well as for herself, and her voice rose to a shout. "Then you will become just like him. You will become what you hate. Is that what you want? Will justice demand that you kill yourself, then?"
The Roman went back to the table and picked up some bits of cloth which he turned over in his hands as he spoke. "I have waited too long for this. I had nothing else to live for. Not for more than two hundred years. Do you understand, Delphyne?"
That startled her, for she had been using the name Dierdre for nearly ten years now. How did he --
"Oh, yes, I know your name. I was right behind him when he rode through Naucratis and found you there. Ever since I learned what I was and the rules of our immortality, I have hunted him. I took my time about it. Learned how to fight from the best teachers in the world. Rose through the ranks of the army until I had enough influence and wealth to aid in my search. My people investigated every trace, ever rumor of the Horsemen, and when I knew for certain that I had found them, I resigned and took with me only those I could trust completely. This is the first time that he has stayed in one place long enough for me to catch up. I suppose I have you to thank for that."
Hades take him, how could she ever forgive herself if Methos died because of her? Grabbing at straws now, she said, "And after he is dead, what will be left for you? Valerius, there is another way. Don't kill him. Teach him."
"Teach him?" His laugh was harsh.
"Yes, teach him! He is changing already. You are a good man, the sort of man who could show him how to live, how to love." "If you had seen him murdering women and children, heard him laughing as they pleaded for mercy, you would know that he is not capable of love!"
"If that were true, you couldn't use me as bait to draw him out! Please, you must see that killing him will only destroy both of you." His fist clenched around the cloth. "He has no right to love! He does not deserve it!"
"Don't you want him to feel the pain that he caused you? Teach him how to love, so that he can understand the depth of his guilt!"
"Enough! I will hear no more of this."
Delphyne saw his features tighten as he hardened himself against her arguments. How could she expect him to do otherwise? He had devoted his life to killing Methos; nothing she said was going to change his mind now. Still, she couldn't give up. She started to protest further, but before she could get out another word, Valerius strode across the room and stuffed a cloth into her mouth. He tied another around her head to hold it in place, and when he was satisfied that it wouldn't come off, he went to the wall and drew a thick tapestry aside to reveal a hidden alcove.
"It won't be long now. When he feels the presence of another immortal, he'll think it's just you," he explained, and then ducked into the alcove, letting the cloth swing down to conceal him.
There had to be something she could do. Delphyne studied her surroundings desperately, but there was nothing she could use to cut the ropes, and the windows were too high for her to tumble herself out of one. She tried lifting up and then slamming the chair back down against the floor, but it took the abuse without any sign of strain. The only thing she could think of was to scoot herself over in front of Valerius' hiding place, so that he would have to go through her to get to Methos. Tied up as she was, it took forever to position herself there.
A single cry echoed from somewhere inside the house, followed by eerie silence. An instant later she felt the dull roar of another immortal's approach. Methos. The door to the room flew open, and there he stood, his sword bloody and his expression hard. "Delphyne."
She jerked her head back towards the alcove, trying to warn him. Methos' eyes narrowed, but before he could puzzle out her meaning, Valerius burst forth, knocking her out of the way so that she tumbled over, bruised, her eyes on a level with their feet. Sword drawn, he advanced towards his hated enemy, his purpose in life.
"Do you remember me, you murdering bastard?" He spoke in a low hiss. "Do you know why you are here?"
"I don't want to kill you." Methos sounded almost sad. "You won't have to." The Roman leapt forward and attacked with brutal efficiency. He swung, aiming for the shoulder-joint, was parried, and his back-swing immediately flowed into another blow to the opposite side, which was also parried . . . barely. Methos defended himself, but he was hard-pressed to keep up and completely unable to take the offensive. She could see the hard bulge of muscle in Valerius' legs as he surged forward, and Methos gave ground step by step. He backed into the table and rolled out of the way just in time to avoid a stroke that would surely have split him in two. The Roman's gladius5 crashed into the wood, embedding itself deeply. The torch swayed, nearly falling over, and Methos scarcely had time to recover his balance before Valerius had yanked the blade free.
Both men were breathing heavily - one with exertion, and the other with emotion. Methos' dark hair tangled about him, half-concealing his face. She had never thought of him as frail before, but next to the bulk of the Roman he looked almost delicate.
By the gods, it didn't have to be this way! If only she could have made Valerius see . . . if only he had listened . . . Her eyes filled with tears, and the whole scene became a blur of flashing blades and moving limbs looming over her like the giants in a bard's tale. She heard a shout as someone scored a hit. Delphyne blinked rapidly and in the instant that her vision cleared, she saw Valerius thrust his sword forward into her Master's body.
Methos staggered. With a strangled cry of pain, he fell to his knees, barely hanging on to his weapon. A scream like the wail of a banshee tore through Delphyne's throat, only to be muffled by the gag.
The Roman knew he had won. He took a step closer to his enemy and looked down into his eyes as he spoke. The words echoed through the room, resonant and full of passion.
"Now I will kill you for all those you have killed. I will destroy you as you destroyed me. I will have my revenge, and I will look you in the eye as I take... your... head!" His voice rose to a shout of rage and triumph, and she saw his arms tense as he prepared to jerk his sword free. Before he could, Methos closed his hand over the hilt and pulled it in deeper instead.
Valerius' triumph turned to surprise as Methos swung upwards with the last of his strength.
"You talk too much."
The head hit the floor first and rolled away under the table, ending up next to the goblet. Blood mingled with the drops of wine. Then the large body toppled and fell, one hand flopping down within inches of her face, the fingers still twitching. It took her a moment to understand what had happened. Delphyne's eyes rose to meet his, and Methos stared back as he tugged the Roman's sword out of his body and let it fall. Then the first bolt of quickening hit and he screamed, breaking their gaze.
Lightning snaked through the room, coming from everywhere and nowhere. Delphyne turned her face down to the floor, protecting herself as best she could in the chaos of breaking pottery and falling furniture. Splinters and shards rained down on her, drawing blood wherever her skin was bare. The walls shook. Underneath all of this, she heard his moans, a haunting mixture of pain and pleasure, torn from him again and again.
It stopped abruptly, leaving behind a silence that was somehow even more deafening. She hesitated. Then raised her head to look at him. Methos was on his knees in the middle of all the destruction. His features were twisted in misery so intense that her heart ached. Tears streamed down his face. She longed to go to him, to press his head to her shoulder and rock him in her arms, but all she could do was lay there, imprisoned and silenced by ropes and gag, and cry with him.
At last he stood and pulled himself together. Emotional defenses went back up, turning his face into a mask once again, yet it didn't fit as well as it had before. She saw the strain around the edges. His hands shook as he wiped his sword clean on Valerius' shirt, but he steadied them with an effort, then used it to cut her free from the chair. Methos sat her up and helped remove the gag. Then he took her hand and pulled her to her feet.
"Let's go," he said roughly. "It's over."
"I'm sorry - Oh, gods, I'm so sorry." The words felt completely inadequate. Delphyne started to put her arms around him, but he stepped back. She felt as if she'd been slapped. Bewildered, she opened her mouth to ask what was wrong, but he cut her off.
"Later." His glare silenced any protest.
Delphyne swallowed whatever else she might have said. As he pulled her across the room, he grabbed up the torch and touched it to one of the tapestries. Purifying fire, she thought. If only it could burn away the past.
She half-ran in order to keep up with his long strides. Her sword was on a table in the hallway, and she paused to retrieve it, grateful that it wasn't lost for good. The weight and balance were made specifically for her.
The bodies of Valerius' men littered their path through the house. She had only heard one cry out, but all lay dead. She had always known that he was capable of cold-blooded murder, but this was the first time she'd actually seen it, and the sight chilled her to the bone. Methos dragged her past the corpses, his jaw clenched tightly. Outside the house, he headed for the stables and set all of the horses free, not wanting them to be trapped if the fire spread that far. Mounting one, he grabbed hold of her arm and hauled her up behind him.
The sun had finished setting by the time they entered the town. Still some ways away from their lodgings, Methos let the horse go, not wanting to be caught with it for fear someone would recognize it as belonging to the dead Romans. A slap to its rump sent the animal trotting down the street in the general direction of its stable. They walked the rest of the way home.
Back in their little room, Methos tossed himself down onto the bed and brooded. Delphyne lit the lamp and watched him, not sure what else to do. What could she say? Even if she could find the words, he was in no mood to listen. Finally he looked up and fixed her with a hard stare.
"From now on, you practice. I will train you."
She nearly wept with relief. She'd begun to fear that he would free her, would cast her away to keep this from happening again. Setting down the lamp, she moved towards him, but there was more on his mind.
"He didn't deserve to die."
The words stopped her in her tracks. In a flash, she relived that terrible moment when Valerius' sword had thrust into Methos' body. The pain when she thought that she had lost him. A sob lodged itself in her throat, unuttered, a painful lump that would not go away. She realized then how profoundly she had changed, for the truth was that she would have sacrificed a hundred such good men in order to keep Methos alive.
"Neither do you."
It wasn't adequate, wasn't even true. They both knew it. Instead of arguing, he said, "Fix me something to drink."
Delphyne wiped her face dry with a dirty sleeve and moved to obey. Methos went to the wash-basin and began stripping off his bloodied clothes, his eyes following her as she poured wine into a wooden cup.
"Pour yourself some, too. You need it."
He was right, she did need something to calm her down. Getting out another cup, she poured some for herself as well before stoppering the jug. Methos scrubbed at the blood that had crusted over his hands and belly, rubbing the skin so harshly that it turned an angry pink. Finally he sat back down on the bed, naked from the waist up, and she went to kneel on the floor at his feet and hold the wine up for him to take.
His expression softened, and the backs of his fingertips brushed lightly over her hair before he took the cup from her. Delphyne curled up, leaning against his legs as she swallowed her wine, taking more comfort from touching him than from the drink. When her cup was empty, she set it aside and rested her head on his knees.
"I thought at first he would kill you. To get even with me." His voice shook. Turning her head, she looked up at his face and saw an intensity of emotion that he rarely displayed. "I couldn't have . . . lived with that."
Delphyne closed her eyes tightly. "I couldn't have lived with myself if he had killed you."
"He might have. But he was careless." Without warning, he hurled the wooden cup across the room. "I should have let him take my head!"
Surging to her feet, she slapped him so hard that she was afraid she'd broken her hand. "Don't you ever say that again!"
His cheek turned scarlet where she had struck him. Methos looked up at her, his eyes bleak. "He was a good man. And I . . . I am a monster. Sometimes, at night, I can still hear the screams."
Anger flashed through his eyes. Delphyne took his hands and squeezed them hard. "Don't you see? It means that you are not a monster any more. Monsters don't feel remorse."
"Pretty words," he spat bitterly.
"No. Hard words. But true. You have done horrible things, there is no changing that. But as bad as you were, you have an equal capacity for the opposite."
"You don't understand. You can't know."
"Can't I?" Her lips twisted, and she let go of his hands, turning away.
"I don't want you to know," he said softly.
"It's too late to prevent it." Tears stung her eyes. She blinked them back as she retrieved her empty cup and the one he'd thrown, and busied herself with washing them out. "I was brought up among the tribes of the Keltoi. Did you know that? Many of the women fought alongside the men. Raiding. Killing. That's what I did, for centuries."
"I have killed thousands of people, Delphyne. I was Death." "And I was Nemain . . . their Goddess of Panic." Didn't he believe her? Staring at the walls, she saw the past on them in a mural of moving limbs and red flowing blood. Delphyne closed her eyes against those pictures. Her voice faded to a whisper. "They deified me, worshiped me as one of the faces of the Morrigan, their battle- goddess. Any who looked upon me lost their nerve and fled in fear, and my people cut them down from behind while I laughed and gorged myself on the power of it."
"What gives me the right to live while Valerius dies?"
She turned back to him, her expression hard. He didn't want to hear about her past? Fine. He would hear about himself, then. "What gives you the right to end your suffering the easy way? You have used your intelligence and your skills to destroy, to murder. Now it's time to use them to heal. To build. You must atone."
"It would take 3000 years!" he cried, angry at her.
"At least. But you can do it." Delphyne went to him. Taking his hands in hers, she kissed one palm, then the other. "These hands can do more than kill. I know. You've shown me." Firmly, she pressed them against his chest. "There is a heart beating here. You've shown me that, too. Every time you laugh, every time you kiss my lips, every time you make love to me until I am shattered with the beauty of it, you show me." She released his hands. Threaded her fingers through his hair and looked down into his sad eyes, whispering, "I have seen your soul. Why can't you?"
He held her gaze as his tears gathered, thickened, and at last spilled over. Fury melted into grief. Instead of looking away, he let her see his pain, his need. "I won't kill another Valerius. We'll find another way."
That brought a faint smile to her face. We. The two of them, together.
"We have to leave here anyway," he continued. "If Valerius found us, so can Kronos. I know of some islands off the coast of Iberia6 . . . uninhabited . . . "
"We'll go there, then." Delphyne sat down on his lap and brushed his hair back. Long arms wrapped around her, nearly cutting off her breath, but she didn't mind. It felt too good. The sharp angles of his face rested against her soft breasts, and she kissed the top of his head, content to hold and be held.
"I had something made for you while you were gone today." The subject change startled her. Delphyne drew back to look at him, wondering why he was telling her this now.
"You - you did?" she asked.
Gently, he urged her off his lap. She stood and watched as he knelt by the bed and fished around underneath, coming up with a box about the size of a loaf of bread. Sitting back down, he held it out to her.
The thing was too small to be clothes or shoes. Puzzled, she removed the lid.
Inside was a circle of heavy black leather, oiled to a fine gloss and studded with silver ornaments in the swirling designs of the Keltoi artisans. She had never seen anything like it.
"Iron collars are ugly," he explained. His voice was soft, and he seemed uncertain of himself for a change, anxious even. "My slave deserves something better."
A collar. Picking it up, she examined the thing more closely, noting the fine workmanship and the elegant silver ornamentation which made it a work of art, as lovely as any jewelry she had ever worn. Stamped on the inside were the words, "In the care of Niall". Delphyne felt an intense tenderness well up within her. He might not say it in words, but this collar told her what she meant to him. Looking into his eyes, she brought it to her lips and kissed it. His anxiety faded, and he took the collar from her.
She turned, holding her hair out of the way, and he pulled her down onto his lap, then placed the collar around her pale throat. Its metal clasp clicked shut, and he produced a key from around his neck which he used to lock it into place. Then his arms wrapped around her, and warm lips brushed against her ear.
"Now you really are mine."
I always was, she thought, but didn't say it. Instead, she leaned back against him, savoring the feel of the collar around her neck and his hard body beneath hers. Methos pressed a kiss to her hair and added, "There's more."
"Oh?" she murmured.
Warm breath tickled her ear as he whispered, "Get up and take off your clothes."
Delphyne shivered. Slipping from his lap, she stripped off her tunic and boots, and his eyes followed every movement with a hungry intensity that was almost frightening. When she was naked, he drew her down onto the bed, laying her on her back. His fingertips touched the collar, then her cheek. She caught hold of his hand and squeezed it, looking up at him. "You don't have to do this. After everything that's happened today -- "
"I want to."
"But -- "
"Don't make me gag you."
She nearly laughed. That was the Methos she knew so well. Used to getting his way. Releasing her hand, he moved to the foot of the bed and opened the chest they kept there, drawing out several items - four long leather straps, some strips of soft, colorless cloth, a feather, and three slightly-wilted red roses. Taking one of the leather straps, he moved to kneel beside the bed. "I've made some . . . modifications."
Curious, she leaned over the side to see what he was doing. The bed was hardly more than a big box made of wood, with a mattress of feathers and dried mosses laid on top of wide wooden slats. As she watched, his long, capable fingers tied one end of the strap to a metal hook which protruded from the wood. It hadn't been there before. There were more of them, too, spaced out evenly along the side of the bed.
Methos stood and pushed her onto her back, positioned her arms at her sides, then stretched himself across her legs to reach over the other side of the bed. There he fastened the strap to a matching hook, looping it over her ankles, and tightened it.
Delphyne's heart began to beat faster. He had vowed years ago that he would learn how to please her sexually, and since that time Methos had applied himself with the diligence of a scholar to doing just that. Because of his experiments she was learning things she had never known about herself. It was almost embarrassing to discover that being tied down, unable to move, could excite her. But it did. Dear gods, how it did.
The next strap was placed just above her knees, the third across her belly, and the last over the tops of her breasts. He tightened them until she could hardly budge. Her arms were pinned at her sides, and the only part of her body not tied down was her head. Closing her eyes for a moment, Delphyne wondered just what was so sweet about this helplessness. Hadn't Valerius tied her down also? But that had been different.
A peculiar sense of peace swept over her whenever Methos did something like this, as if there were a still, calm place deep inside that could only be reached with his help. She did not know why, but she felt a unique sense of freedom in giving over control to him. With her body strapped down to the bed, her spirit soared above the clouds. She gave up trying to understand, preferring simply to feel it.
When he was satisfied that the straps were tight enough, Methos went to the foot of the bed and worked her legs apart. The leather burned her skin a little as he did so. Then she heard him move away, and opened her eyes.
Delphyne watched as he picked up one of the roses. Holding it by the stem, he dragged the crimson bloom over her belly and down one thigh. The petals were so soft that she barely felt them. Then he picked up one of the strips of cloth and carefully tied the rose to her inner thigh, the blossom scant inches from her sex.
Thorns lightly pricked her skin, tiny points of pain that made her gasp aloud, and Delphyne's senses came awake like the sudden flash of the morning sun appearing on the horizon. When the delicate petals of the second rose brushed down one arm she felt every nuance of their shape and texture, noticed the sweetness of their scent as she had not before. Her breathing was suddenly shallow. Dear gods. After 1500 years, she had thought it impossible for a man to surprise her in bed.
Methos studied her face, and little lines appeared at the corners of his eyes as he saw her reaction. The second rose was tied to her other thigh, mirroring the first. Delphyne let out a tremulous moan as the sensations translated into arousal, making her sex tingle and her nipples ache. Picking up the last rose, he touched it to her mouth. Traced the very tips of the petals down her throat and slowly around each breast. Her eyes focused on the blossom, and she watched it lift just a fraction, not quite touching her, then move to hover tantalizingly over one hard nipple. He held it there, teasing. When at last it dipped down to make contact, she gasped aloud at the burst of pleasure that leapt through her nipple and spread instantly into every inch of her body. Looking very pleased with himself, he placed the rose between her breasts and used a long strip of cloth to bind them together so that the thorny stem was loosely clasped in a tunnel of warm, tender flesh.
Then he picked up the feather.
Delphyne watched as he got a chair for himself and placed it next to the bed. Gods, but he was a beautiful man. She loved his smooth grace, the clean economy of motion that he himself did not even seem aware of. Sitting, he leaned forward and balanced one elbow on the bed while the hand holding the feather moved towards her. That tantalizing object became the focus of her attention as it came closer, not quite touching, just stirring the air above her skin enough to make gooseflesh rise. The soft plume teased the tops of her thighs for a moment. Then he began to brush it ever so lightly over the lips of her exposed sex.
"Oh . . ." she breathed. It was exquisite. The folds of skin swelled open as liquid oozed to the surface, and the little knob of flesh just above began to ache with arousal. It felt incredible, but it wasn't enough to satisfy, just enough to torment.
Methos kept brushing it back and forth, slowly, not picking up the pace or deepening the touch, looking as though he could do so all night. She held still for as long as she could stand it, but at last Delphyne arched up against the straps, her hips lifting, trying to increase the pressure of the touch to her sex.
Brush . . . brush . . . brush . . . .
"I heard about this from a people far to the East. They used it to make women talk."
Brush . . . brush . . . brush . . .
Delphyne's face flushed red. By the tone of his voice, she was pretty sure that he was making this up.
Brush . . . brush . . . brush . . . .
On the other hand, she had to admit it would be effective.
Brush . . . brush . . . brush . . . .
"Oh - oh really," she managed to say, "and wh-wh-what do you want me to -- ohhhhhh! -- to talk . . . about? I thought you . . . Mmmmmmmmm . . . preferred me . . . to be silent."
Brush . . . brush . . . brush . . .
"It's rumored that if you do this long enough you can make a woman go insane. Of course, that takes days."
"Oh gods!" Her voice was weak at the thought of him torturing her like this for days on end. The straps bit into her skin as she strained up against them.
Brush . . . brush . . . brush . . .
The feather became moist, and still he kept on, ignoring her pleas for mercy. She lost track of time. There was only that light stroking, driving her mad, turning her entire body into one raw and quivering nerve ending. The feather was soaked through, literally dripping by the time he stopped.
Methos set it aside and lightly slapped one of her arms. "Numb yet?"
She flinched, hypersensitive to the slightest touch. It took a moment for the question to register, her mind was so fogged over. Delphyne shook her head.
Kneeling down beside the bed, he tightened the straps.
Delphyne moaned as this caused the thorns to bite more deeply into her skin, one or two of them drawing blood. The twinges of pain danced through her body, fireflies of sensation. In her agonizingly aroused state, this transformed instantly into a high, floating euphoria, making her wilder than ever for him.
Methos watched her for a moment, and smiled to himself in satisfaction. Eyes glazed, she stared as he opened the chest once again and took out another strip of cloth, and two small wads of wool. What was he doing now? Dear gods, she didn't know if she could stand much more.
She didn't have to wait long to find out. Methos leaned over her and softly kissed each eyelid, then wrapped the strip of cloth around her head, blindfolding her with quick efficiency. When she tried opening her eyes behind the material she could still see nothing - it was thick, impossible for the dim lamplight to penetrate. Something brushed into the hollow of her ear, then was pushed deeper. One of the wads of wool, she realized.
"Methos, you're driving me crazy!"
He placed the second wad of wool in her other ear, and she could hear nothing but the dull roar of breath going in and out of her mouth. For a moment, Delphyne panicked -- she was so vulnerable like this, completely helpless, not knowing what was coming next. He could take her head before she had any idea what had happened.
Take her head? No, he wouldn't do that. The fear receded as she remembered that this was Methos, the man who had risked his own life to save hers.
No sight. No sound. That left taste, touch, and feel. Nostrils flaring, she discovered the exotic scent of arousal rising from her sex and mingling with the perfume of the rose that lay crushed between her breasts. Her lips were dry, and when she licked them, she tasted salt. For the first time, she became aware of the little leaves on the rose-stems and how they tickled her.
Something warm closed over her breasts, and she identified his hands as they gently squeezed the mounds of flesh together over the rose, making the thorns bite even more deeply. The pain was almost enough to jolt her out of her arousal, and her face twisted into a grimace, but at the same time she arched her back and pressed up into those calloused palms. She smelled him now, too, the unique aroma of male skin and sweat and desire. His hands moved, stroking down her sides and over the swell of her hips, and then long fingers tightened around her legs, dragging them together and trapping the roses between them. She caught her breath at the pain of the thorns digging into that tender flesh. There was a sensation like oil around her inner thighs, and Delphyne realized that it was her own juices. Her body was weeping with the intensity of her need.
The warmth of his hands left her like that. Every heartbeat pulsed through her swollen, aching sex. For long moments nothing happened. She began to lose her sense of up and down, feeling as though she were floating weightlessly. It was too much. Moving her head blindly this way and that, she called out to him. Her voice sounded strange and muffled, vibrating through the cavern of her mouth.
Nothing. No movement, not even a stirring of air to tell her where he was.
Her breathing sped up as the fear grew, and her heart pounded painfully inside her chest.
"Methos, you're frightening me -- "
The air around her changed, and a sudden weight pressed down into the bed on either side of her legs. Warmth, the contact of skin, something -- no, someone -- heavy settled onto her hips. A scratchy texture touched her waist, moving along her ribs, yes, it was his hands caressing upwards, gently stroking over her breasts and making her gasp as they came in contact with her achingly hard nipples. One hand lingered there as the other rose higher until his fingertips touched her lips.
Delphyne's fear subsided. Lifting her head, she pressed her face against his fingers and kissed the tips with deep emotion. Then something tickled along the little vee where her thighs came together, nudging at her slippery, delicate flesh. Was it...? Yes, it had to be. The tip of his cock, lightly tapping and bumping. He must have taken off the rest of his clothes during that agonizing absence.
The hand at her lips drew back, and she felt a hint of pressure on her upper arm, but wasn't sure what it was. When she didn't react to it, he moved away and left her without his touch once again, instantly lonely and anxious, but before she could become afraid she felt the straps being loosened, and understood that she must have at last grown numb. That pressure had been him testing to see if she was all right. Circulation returned, feeling as though instead of three roses there were hundreds, all lightly pricking her skin with their thorns. Cautiously, she flexed her legs. Made circles with her feet, helping the blood to flow back to her extremities. An encouraging little touch urged her to work her legs open beneath the straps, until her ankles were several inches apart, and she felt cool air chilling her wet skin.
Once again, his weight pressed down onto her hips, his hair- roughened thighs straddling her. She recognized his hands immediately this time as they went back to her breasts and face. The teasing little taps to her sex returned, moving down to the now- exposed lips, subtly nudging them apart, and she strained upwards in a futile search for satisfaction.
"Methos, please... oh, gods, please..." She didn't know if she spoke audibly or not.
No warning. One instant she was tortured by that delicate touch, and the next she was impaled. Delphyne threw her head back and cried out in shock at the sudden overload of sensations, struggling to assimilate the invasion of his hard cock, and his fingertips pushed into her open mouth. Moist air rushed over them as she drew in a long, shaky breath. Adjusting. Relaxing. The tension in her body eased as she exhaled, and her lips closed around his rough skin, pursing slightly as she sucked and licked.
He waited for her to soften beneath him. Then he began to rock slowly so that his cock shifted inside her, sliding along the walls of her passage. She had been so intensely aroused for so long now that the slightest motion sent pleasure cascading through her from head to toe. Each gentle thrust made the thorns shift against her skin, adding spicy pain to the sweetness of the pleasure. She wanted to ram up against him, but the straps held her helpless, at his mercy.
One hand caressed her breasts, teasing the sensitive little nipples, and the other moved to slip his fingers in and out of her mouth, mimicking the slow push-pull of his cock. Delphyne drew hard on them, pouring all of her desire to please him, all of her love, into the tight, wet caresses of her lips and tongue. As if from far away, she heard a thin, high keening, and knew that she must be making that sound, though it hardly seemed human.
He kept his thrusts slow and deep. The thick column of flesh eased out of her perhaps an inch before pushing back in, and the blossoms of the roses shifted against her skin as his balls nudged the very tips of the petals. She could feel his muscles tensing, and instinct told her that his control was being tested. Delphyne strained up against the straps with all her strength, her own muscles as hard as iron beneath her skin.
The orgasm began as a mere glimmer of sensation, the shadow of a cloud falling over the sun while a storm gathered. Methos pushed deeper into her, deeper, and the thrusts vibrated down through the bed and through her whole body. Clouds gathered and thickened inside her, and there was a distant rumbling of thunder just before the storm broke.
A burst of lightning flashed behind her eyes as she exploded into orgasm. Her body jerked hard against the straps. Delphyne screamed. The intensity was too much. For a moment she fainted, then awakened to the spasms that continued to crash through her, shaking her limbs.
Through all of this, Methos continued thrusting, prolonging it. His hand pushed down upon her chest to hold her to the bed, keeping her from hurting herself on the straps. Had he come? she wondered, yielding to the euphoria of satisfaction. But no, he was still hard within her, and as her muscles relaxed, he shifted to deepen his thrusts. His body moved on top of hers with a deliberate skill, and the cock inside of her found the perfect angle, stroking the most sensitive places, the base of his shaft grinding against that achingly swollen jewel just above her entrance.
Impossible. She couldn't be ready again so soon. But he pinched and pulled at her nipples, sending sharp bursts of pleasure through her, and Delphyne's muscles grew tense once more as satiation gave way to renewed arousal. She was almost afraid to come a second time. He was relentless, though, hard as marble with the need for his own release but determined to wring still more response from her. She felt his fingers at her lips. A hard twist to her nipple. The thick shaft grinding ruthlessly into her, and sweet Aphrodite, she had to arch upwards, only to be forced back down by his powerful thrusts.
She didn't feel it begin this time. The climax hit all at once, slamming through her with the brutal force of a tidal wave. Her mouth opened, but the scream was silent, and her face twisted until it looked as though she were in indescribable agony . . . or ecstasy. The body atop her went still as she spasmed under and around him. Then she felt hot little bursts of pressure as he released deep inside her. Delphyne moaned. The feel of him pouring into her was sweeter than life itself.
He seemed to come forever. Time was distorted into infinity. He overflowed between her thighs, and the petals of the roses became dewy-moist, until at last she felt him gradually relax. Something deep in his soul seemed to breath a sigh of satisfaction, and there was a sense of peacefulness in his long limbs that made her smile. Her body was weak and exhausted, yet Delphyne felt stronger than she had ever been before in all her centuries of immortality.
Methos slowed to a halt, and rested on top of her briefly before his weight lifted and his shrinking cock slipped out of her sex. The second orgasm left her excruciatingly sensitive, so that even that subtle withdrawal was nearly painful. The warmth of his body faded away, and she was alone once more in darkness and silence. The fear she had felt before was a distant memory now as she sank into a pool of afterglow. Her lips moved faintly, breath whispering through them, and she didn't realize that she was speaking aloud as she murmured his name.
Currents of air cooled her skin as Methos slowly loosened the straps. He took his time about it, giving her the chance to enjoy the gradual return of her senses, and she came up from the pool of afterglow like a swimmer letting her natural buoyancy draw her towards the surface. Her stillness shifted into a slow, luxurious stretch.
He must have been waiting for a sign from her, because now Methos removed the straps altogether. His fingers gently brushed aside her fumbling attempt to remove the blindfold, and she let him take it off for her, then remove the wads of wool from her ears. She blinked at the soft glow of the lamp, and every creak of the bed seemed loud now that she could hear again.
"Hold still," Methos commanded. It was hardly necessary - she couldn't have moved much even if she wanted to. With heavy- lidded eyes she watched him untie the strips of cloth around her thighs and breasts, wincing only a little as the thorns dug in one last time before being removed. The roses were crushed. Red petals scattered over the bed as he tossed them aside.
Methos slid an arm under her shoulders and gently helped her sit up. She curled close, and he cradled her to him.
"Are you sure you want to live with me on an island in the middle of nowhere for a century or two?" he asked. There was a smile in his voice, but she sensed the uncertainty beneath it.
Delphyne lifted her chin to whisper in his ear.
"I have a feeling you won't let me get bored."
2. An ungae is the same as an ounce. The first coins appeared in the British Isles around 125 BCE. Prior to that, currency was either in the form of cattle, or silver and gold by weight. Swordblades were also used as currency, but seem a bit bulky for a trip to the market.