by Maxine Mayer
I'd been looking for her for months, without success. She'd disappeared. The Watcher database simply lost her, and I was furious. I needed Amanda - and where was she? This was intolerable!
Finally, I remembered her cottage in the Greek Islands. She was pleased to call it a villa, but it was nothing like so grand as all that. Nice enough place, true, but no villa. And no phone. I put all my eggs in one basket and flew out to Greece on the next plane I could charter.
"Amanda!" I called, arriving at her cottage by speedboat from the main island and walking up the sandy beach towards the house. I opened the front door and cried out, "Where the hell are you?"
"I'm up here, Methos," she said quietly, her voice sounding hollow and lifeless.
I couldn't imagine what she was doing inside on such a lovely day. I'm an indoor person myself, but Amanda loved the sun and the water.
And I couldn't conceive why she was here alone. There were no servants, not even the housekeeper. The entire place was empty - parlor, kitchen, bath. I went upstairs and tried the four bedroom doors. She was behind door number four.
"Hello, Methos," she said.
"Hello, Amanda," I replied.
"What do you want?" She was sitting in a rocking chair, a book unopened in her lap, her eyes closed, her sword miles away on the quilt at the foot of her bed. She was wearing a brown terrycloth bathrobe - in this heat. She'd let her hair grow in a bit. It needed a trim badly.
"You. I want you."
"Here I am. Problems?"
"Yes, there are problems! Are you planning on opening your eyes or do you expect me to lead you by the hand to the airport?"
"I'm not going anywhere, Methos. I'm fine right here." She did open her eyes. They looked dead. "But you're welcome to my advice, if you need it."
"MacLeod's free, and he's suffering. Come on. Let's go!"
"What do you mean, free?"
"Just what I said - Tessa's dead. She was killed in a mugging. He needs you. Let's go!"
"I know she's dead. I've seen him since. I'm not going to him."
"What - you're gonna sulk here forever? I've had a devil of a time finding you! Tessa's been gone long enough. He needs you. Let's go."
"You've met MacLeod, then, Methos?" she asked. Not curious, really, just to make conversation, I think.
"Not yet. Not the right time yet. But I know what he's doing. I'm watching him."
"For you. For me. Simply curious. His reputation." I offered one reason after another to Amanda's skeptical gaze.
"Right," she said at last.
"Why - doesn't matter. What's happening to him, does. He's - nearly beyond repair. You've got to come now!"
Her eyes went all dreamy as her memories flooded back in. "I said she'd grow old, his precious Tessa, and he said he didn't care. He didn't care! Our looks - that's all we've got - women - and he doesn't even care."
"Amanda - this is no time for dreaming. You can sleep on the plane. He needs you. Now."
"He'll find him another - I'm not coming, Methos." She smiled at me. "Got you too, has he? Without even meeting him? Don't worry - he'll survive. He's not beyond repair. Nothing like. He'll be fine."
I understood, then. Where she'd been all these months. What had happened to our girl while I'd watched MacLeod.
I took off my jacket and sat down on the edge of her bed. "Want to tell me about it, Amanda?"
"Not really. You wouldn't understand. You've been around the block too often. Probably don't even remember what it's like - being in love, being rejected."
"Amanda, I remember." I smiled. She'd rejected me, more than once, over the centuries. Always for a younger, better looking man. An action hero. It'd become a kind of game for us, after a while, me coming on to her, her saying no to me. Not that I didn't mean my advances - I did. Just - I wasn't in love with her, and Amanda needs love. Nothing less will do.
"Do you? I think not, Methos. I think not." She sounded almost angry. Must've been with MacLeod. You have to really care to be angry, and Amanda didn't care for me, not like that.
"Centuries, we've known each other! He lived with her for only a decade! Chose her over me! I humiliated myself - for nothing!"
"Well, I'm sure he's forgotten all that by now. He needs you, Amanda. Needs the sun of your smile, the sound of your laughter. Your wicked schemes and silly lies. You can't let him down now, my sweet."
"He'll find him another," she insisted, tossing her head.
"Well, yes, he already has. A lady doctor. Worse than Grace. A prig and a bore and as serious as Death. She's gonna hurt him badly. He doesn't need that."
"I don't care."
"Oh yes you do."
"Damn you, Methos, why are you doing this to me? MacLeod broke my heart - I didn't even know I had a fucking heart! And you want me to help him?"
"It's what we do, cherry blossom. It's all we're good for. Nothing much to offer, just a laugh and a bit of a tickle. If we don't give that, then where are we? Who are we?"
"You're not like me, Methos. You've got -" She cut herself off, at a loss to describe what I had.
"What've I got? I've got nothing but a History that would choke a horse, if anyone knew it. Please, don't go telling me what I've got. Adam Pierson's what I've got now, and he's a fine upstanding milksop. Better than I deserve, Adam is. I'm lucky to have him. Don't tell me what I've got!"
"Bitter, bitter, little man!" I'd coaxed a smile from her. Round One to Methos.
I tossed my head. "How 'bout a beer, blossom?"
"Very well." She stood and threw off her robe. Underneath she was wearing nothing but a thin silk chemise. Left nothing to the imagination. "Well, come on! I'm not dressing for travel, if that's what you're waiting for. I'll get you a beer. Come on!"
I followed her to the kitchen. It was frightening, how good she looked in that chemise. Blurred my vision and my sense of purpose. I'm here for his sake, I reminded myself, over and over. For MacLeod, not for me, for him. I began to wonder why. What was he to me?
"How've you been, Brother Mike?" she asked me. Called me Mike, short for Michael, which is what my name had been when we'd met, long before MacLeod was born.
"I'm all right. Working on the Methos Chronicles for the Watchers."
"What are the Watchers?" she asked, curious.
"Nothing. Just a society of Mortals who track us Immortals. Don't interfere, just keep our history. Nice chaps."
"Ah, them. I remember now. With those strange looking pendants -"
"They wear tattoos now, sweetie, on their wrists."
"Same thing," she said carelessly. "You like it - research? Of course you would. Sounds a bore to me. Still in Paris?"
"Yes. Returned a while back."
"Is that where he is?" She meant MacLeod, of course.
"No. He's still in Seacouver. You remember Richie, his young friend?" Amanda nodded. "He's Immortal. Shot at the same time as Tessa. Survived." I shivered. "It was awful."
"You saw it happen?" Horrified.
"No, no. Just heard. But the idea of it - to watch your student die, and revive, Immortal. While your lover is gone for good. Would turn me sour on Immortality, I tell you, if it happened to me."
"MacLeod doesn't suffer from melancholia, you know. He suffers from pride."
I was taken aback. It was a fine insight on Amanda's part. She often surprised me like that. Rebecca's student - I'd need to remind myself more often. Rebecca's student.
"Pride? MacLeod? Thought he was pretty humble, myself."
"Sure. Humble too. But lots of pride. Thinks he can fix everything, change the world, help everybody. People like you and me, who just go along, survive, we're not good enough for him. We're too selfish. Too small, for him."
"Amanda - you love him."
"So what. Makes no difference. Doesn't make me blind. He's - beautiful. And charming. And he's got a streak of the devil in him, if you can unearth it from beneath all the Boy Scout manuals he's buried it under. But he's proud, and he's mean, and I hate him!"
"Worked yourself up, have you? You hate him? So - it's okay with you if this doctor woman breaks his heart, as he's broken yours. Tit for tat, something like that?"
"Of course not! How dare she! What's she done, anyway?" Ah, a question. Round Two to Methos.
"Right this moment, I don't know. Probably deliberating on whether he's worth it - worth her trouble."
"You're kidding, Methos. He's worth the trouble."
"Yeah, I know that. And you know that. But the fair Lady Anne doesn't know that. She's minutes away from giving him the boot, Amanda."
"How do you know all this, Methos?"
"Never mind how I know - I just do." I stood, exasperated. "Don't change the subject. He's gonna need you badly."
"Well, what are we waiting for - let's go!" Round Three to Methos.
We flew to Paris. Amanda stayed with me in the luxurious flat I was house-sitting for a professor on sabbatical. It was good having her with me. I'd been alone for a long time, and Amanda was one of the few people from my past I actually had a pleasant relationship with. We'd been through some scrapes together, nothing major, helped each other out. Amanda actually liked me. I liked her, too.
But things don't often happen as we plan them. I'd hoped to be able to bring Amanda on to ease MacLeod's misery when Anne left him, as she inevitably would. The question - how did I know - is absurd. How did I know anything? I studied the woman. She was unsuited for life with an Immortal. Particularly, an Immortal as high-profile as MacLeod. She'd see that soon enough, and leave him. He, on the other hand, loved with everything in him, when he loved. She'd twist his heart right round, when she left, and he wouldn't even permit himself a whimper. Cripes. How did I know? It's plain as the nose on my face, is how I knew! What I don't understand, is how nobody else knew!
The best laid plans of mice and men - I hadn't counted on Kalas coming after MacLeod, just then. Battering away at him from every angle - Anne, Joe Dawson. Everyone. It was pure Evil. Kalas was pure Evil. I knew I'd need to go hands-on very soon. I wasn't ready for that but I'd get no choice.
Kalas got MacLeod "killed" in Seacouver, so he returned to Paris. Next thing I heard, Kalas had killed MacLeod's best friend, Fitzcairn. That was really bad. Very bad.
Finally, Joe Dawson phoned me to let me know MacLeod was coming to see me - to talk about Methos. I'd meet Duncan at last. No more looking through keyholes and peering through binoculars. No more sneaking peeks at Watcher reports. No more measuring the paces when I followed him - how close was too close, for an Immortal to track another Immortal, calculating relative strengths of buzzes, sensitivity to auras - and so on and so on. Math was never my strong point. I don't know how many times he nearly discovered me following him.
Now, all that was over. Man would meet Boy. The moment of reckoning. Would he match my impressions of him? Would he be as good as he looked on paper? Would he fit the bill, be the One to take on Darius' mantle? Would he tolerate me, after he'd used me for whatever he needed me for, so he could do what he had to do, to kill Kalas?
After Dawson phoned, I asked Amanda to leave. Things were heating up, and Kalas was too dangerous for any friend of MacLeod's - especially, a female friend.
"You're sure, Methos? I'd like to help, if I can. Not just for MacLeod's sake - for yours as well." She is a sweetheart, our Amanda.
"I'm certain. He's gonna be too busy to worry about women - especially, Anne. When this bit with Kalas is over, he'll need you. I promise. I'll send for you then. I'm sorry, blossom, sweet blossom. Just a little while longer."
"I can wait," Amanda said with a smile. Of course she could. But would she?
No time to concern myself about that. He'd be here any minute. As it turned out, Amanda would miss him by a heartbeat. There he comes....
A.D. 1200, In A Benedictine Monastery, In What Is Now Called Bordeaux, France
"Brother Michael, Brother Michael," the laybrother at the gate called to me. "Where are you going?"
"Anywhere," I answered curtly, "off Holy Ground. Anywhere at all!"
"But Brother Michael, it's nearly time for Lauds!"
"They'll do without me - I can't sing to save my soul - I'm sure Our Lord prefers I don't try."
"Brother Michael," the laybrother, whose name was Stephen and who was an angel in disguise, I think, spoke gently to me. "My brother, please, don't run away. Remember your vows, your promises to God, and to our Abbot. Please don't leave us. We need you."
"I'm not leaving you - I'm simply going for a walk. I can't abide the cloister for another minute." I relented. "I've got Father Abbot's permission to inspect the west field. I'll be back in time for Vespers, Brother."
"Ah, well then, it's all right, Brother Michael. Have you taken some provisions with you? Some bread and cheese, a flask of wine?"
"No, no, it's not necessary. I'm not hungry. I'll eat when I return. And there's plenty of fresh water at the spring near Our Lady's shrine. I'll drink that. Don't trouble yourself, Stephen, please."
The laybrother smiled at me, finally, a sad smile. He knew what I was - a monk in name only. But he couldn't resist the holy desire to convert me to true religious faith. His zeal was lovely and bright, like the morning sun on a dewy leaf. I always regretted I couldn't oblige him, be a true monk. But I was here for a purpose - to preserve the word - and nothing the monastery offered beyond that privilege tugged at my heart. I was too old for this new way of being. Too old for celibacy and sacrifice and suffering as a way of life. I couldn't accept it, though I admired those holy enough to succeed in their attempts to live it. And I obeyed the rules of their game, while I lived under their roof. After all, I can wait.
"Here, Brother," Stephen said, forcing a small canvas sack into my hands. "Take this - just a little bread, a heel of cheese, for your walk. You might get hungry, Brother," he added shyly.
"I might at that. Thank you, Stephen. I'll see you when I return."
And I set out on a road that was going to take me into an adventure I never expected to find, so close to cloister walls.
The west field wasn't far, about an hour's journey on foot, at a brisk pace. When I came to the spot I had in mind, a place I liked to go when the oppression of monastic life became too hard, I stopped and sat down under a tree. The day was a lovely one, sunny and cool, with the first hints of spring all around me. I rested a while, then took out a small Book of Psalms, illuminated with lovely gold leaf and beautiful many-colored letters and drawings by my friend, a monk I corresponded with from another monastery of the Order, Brother Kalas. He'd sent it to me by a traveling brother only a few months ago, at Christmas. Made it specially for me, made it small, so I might carry it in the folds of my robe, and read it whenever I was alone. He'd promised me a similar volume of the New Testament, for my saint's day - I'd chosen St. Augustine as my patron saint, when the Abbot asked me years before. I liked to celebrate his joy in summer, when I could spend the entire free day outside, in open air.
I'd only just reached into my robe for the Book, when I sensed it - the unmistakable feel of an Immortal's approach. Possibly two, I thought. I was not on Holy Ground, not here, though I probably could convince the Immortals we were.... if I was clever about it. Perhaps my robe would protect me. Most Immortals forebore challenging religious....
I stood slowly, taking my hands out from the folds of my robe and letting them hang at my sides, visible and swordless. I turned, first to the right, then to the left, until I'd fixed on those who approached. They were quite a distance away, which meant, of course, that at least one of them was quite old, with a very strong aura. I waited.
Then I saw them clearly. Two women, on foot, beautiful beautiful women! Glory be to God in the highest! Women Immortals! Beautiful women Immortals! I felt I'd died and gone to heaven!
"I'm Rebecca, and this is my student, Amanda," the older one said when she was near to me. They both wore swords at their waists. Rebecca was dressed in torn garments, her face was dirty, her clothes dusty from her travels. But she had a dignity beyond outward appearance, and inner stature beyond price. The younger one was similarly lovely, but without dignity and without stature. A raggamuffin. But sweet. I could sense her sweetness in her aura, so distinct from Rebecca's "feel," which was tart, wise, and brave. Above all, calm.
"I am Methos," I answered. "Called Brother Michael. Monk of the Benedictine Abbey down the road there." I pointed behind me, to a spot we couldn't see from where we stood. "What do you ladies hereabout?"
"We run for our lives, Brother Michael - from the torches and ropes of witch hunters." Rebecca said nothing more. Forebore asking for my assistance, for shelter, for protection. Simply stated her case, and that of her companion.
But Amanda had no such qualms. "Can you help us, Brother Michael? We're hungry and thirsty and I'm so tired I could die! Is there somewhere you can hide us, until the witch hunters pass?"
Witch hunters. I was not surprised to find that these women Immortals would be hunted thus, and feared. Surely, even Rebecca's royal manner would incite envy and anger in the simple folk hereabout. The women were English, to boot, and the French hated the English. They were danger on foot, to me.
"I can give you something to eat," I replied, thinking quickly of how I might assist them and then speed them on their way. I needed no one to link me with witches. I had secrets of my own. "And there's a wonderful spring nearby, water so fresh and cool, you will think you're drinking the finest wine."
"Thank you, Brother," Rebecca replied quietly. "Anything you can offer is welcome to us."
"Thank you, Brother," Amanda imitated, bobbing a curtsey which suited her ill.
I gestured in the direction we should walk to get to Our Lady's spring, and opened the canvas bag Stephen gave me earlier, offering bread and cheese to the women. I couldn't help being struck by how God provides. Then I banished the foolish thought as quickly as it came to me. I strode along next to Rebecca.
"Brother, what do you in the monastery?" she inquired. "You seem - an unusual man to be a monk."
"I'm not a true monk. I preserve the written word, until it is safe again. Then I will return to the world."
"Ah, I thought that would be your way," she said with a smile. "I've heard our kind speak of you, Methos. But the stories cannot be true."
"They are true, Lady," I replied. "But -"
"You've changed," she concluded. "That's the way of it, I think. Some change, some do not. It is not a simple matter, living long and living well."
"No, it is not." Suddenly, the weight of my many centuries lay heavy on my heart again. I'd not thought about the old days for a long long time.
"I'm sorry I saddened you, Brother," Rebecca said. "But rejoice in your new life, and look ahead to the future. Much that is wondrous will happen to you, Methos."
I smiled ruefully. "Too much has already happened, Lady. I don't expect miracles. I atone. That's enough."
At last Amanda spoke, eyes round and wide, "You atone, Brother? Is that why you've chosen a life of celibacy?"
"No, child," Rebecca admonished, "not for that. He saves the books, for all of us, for the Mortals. He does a great work."
"But he atones, he says," Amanda insisted stubbornly. "No one of our kind chooses celibacy. It's silly. Why, then, does he atone, do you think?"
"I atone, girl, for sins greater than you can imagine! And celibacy isn't silly - it is a wonderful weapon in the fight against the devil and his angels."
"You cannot believe in devils and angels - you are old, really old, I can feel it! You do not believe the Christian God is the one true God! There is no such thing as one God! They could not fool you!"
"I believe not in one God, but in all gods - and they are all One," I said, surprising myself. I hadn't known what I believed, until I told the child.
"Oh! All gods are one God! I see," she said, and her face lit up. Became positively beatific. I almost couldn't recognize the urchin, so brightly did her face shine now.
"Thank you, Methos. I've been trying to get her to understand that for three centuries, now! Without any success thus far! You're a wonderful teacher! Have you many students?"
"I have none, nor have I taught since before the Christ was born. When my last student left me, I relinquished the task, forever."
"Forever is a very long time," Rebecca said, and smiled. "Perhaps it is time to take up the task once again. I've been long without a teacher, and I feel myself growing dull and stupid as the centuries pass and I meet no one to inspire me, to catch me up when I sleep and bring me farther along. Will you teach me?"
I stared at Rebecca, astonished by her request. It was clear to me from the moment I'd sensed her aura that she was close to a saint, in the Christian way of reckoning, and clearly a superior person with a fine intellect and a wide education. And morals to match. I could no more teach her than I could fly. She must be mad to suggest it!
"I see you do not wish this burden," Rebecca said sadly. "Perhaps, then, you will take on my student, Amanda. She's no trouble at all, though one must watch one's purse in her presence."
"No - I'll not leave you, Rebecca!" Amanda protested.
"Never fear, little one," I said quickly, "I will take no more pupils. It's a vow I have made."
But I came to a decision, that I'd protect these two women for as long as was needful, risk or no.
It was a good decision. I never regretted it. Five months they were with me, hidden in the barn in the west field. To be student of Rebecca was an unexpected joy for me. To teach a little, now and again, to Amanda, pulled my life right around. Stephen was my only confidante, who gave me extra bread and cheese and wine for my Ladies. Only Stephen would trust such a man as he knew me to be, to remain chaste in the face of such temptation. I wouldn't have disappointed him for the world - or the flesh.
There he comes!
Oh my God!
Oh. My. God!
I'm an old old Immortal who's been around the block - as Amanda taunted me. Many times. But I hadn't been around the block for a very long time. Those celibate centuries took something out of me. I speak of them in the past, but they aren't. They're my present. Taking heads isn't the only thing I stopped doing long ago. The other intimacy - more poignant than Death, more exhilarating than a Quickening - has been a stranger to me for a great deal longer than two hundred years. A great deal longer.
When I spoke to Duncan of passion - and my lack thereof - I spoke truth, as I'd lived it, up till just a few hours before....
Our rapport - MacLeod's and mine - was instantaneous, irrevocable, terrifying and glorious. The beauty part was that we both felt it. He responded totally to my ancient aura, I to his young heart. Not since Darius have I cared for another Immortal to the point of insanity, to the point where I'd willingly lose my head to preserve his. And Darius was different from Duncan. He was old, even when I knew him. He was mellow, he was holy. And very beautiful, as well.
Ah, to describe it is futile. Much as I love words, I can journal till I'm blue in the face, and no hint of the magic will be there in the words, no hint....
I've begun to dot.... always a sign of tremendous stress and excitement....
He was worried about me. Me!
"I'll stay close," he told me, when I'd revealed I hadn't faced another Immortal in two centuries. As if it went without saying that one Immortal would protect another.
Already, he begins to break the Rules, I thought immediately.... He would protect me.
Automatically I told him, "You cannot fight my battles for me, MacLeod." Reminding myself of the Rules. Not simply the Rules of the Game, oh no. There are so many kinds of rules.... Then I walked away.
What else was there for me to do? Stay there with him and die of joy?
What choice have I, but to walk away, again and again. Or bury myself in the ground, drown myself in the river, throw myself from a bridge?
In the end there can be Only One. May it be Duncan MacLeod, the Highlander.
Darius' mantle sits well on his shoulders.
What I must do to ensure that, I will do. It's clear MacLeod won't make it easy. The Warrior Immortals never do.
A.D. 1200, In A Benedictine Monastery, In What Is Now Called Bordeaux, France
"Brother Michael, Brother Michael!" Stephen called to me, as I was returning to the monastery, having sent Rebecca and Amanda away, after so long, with a contingent of monks making a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. I hoped they'd be safer there.
I'd been walking slowly, saddened at the loss of these new friends, when I heard Stephen cry out to me. I didn't have many friends. Somehow, I never expected that women could be so wonderful, when you're not making love to them. I'd had no idea. But of course, Rebecca and Amanda were not simply "women," they were Immortals, and they were incredibly different from other Immortal women I'd known, as well.
Clearly, I thought, I will miss them without surcease. Would we ever meet again? In these turbulent, uncertain times, I believed, most likely not. But if we survived, if we outlived these times, maybe.... Maybe....
I looked up from my reverie and noticed how excited the lay brother was. "Yes, Stephen, what is it? Is there a problem in the abbey?"
"No, no problem." He tried to catch his breath. "You have a visitor, brother - I think he's another like you! But not like you in every way - I think he is a true monk - but like you!"
I did not wish to speak with anyone now. I'd hoped to be able to spend some time in silence, with my manuscripts. Perhaps, if I immersed myself in the life of the monastery, I wouldn't miss my Ladies quite so much.
Apparently, this was not God's will, as the good brothers would say.
"Where is he, Stephen?"
"Father Abbot said the man could wait for you in Our Lady's chapel."
I frowned. "Did the monk give a name?"
"Not to me, Brother Michael. But he is very tall."
"Very well. Thank you. I'll go to see him now."
I didn't recognize the brother who greeted me, and he was not a Benedictine. But his aura was strong and beautiful, like aged wine, and his face was filled with humor, peace and joy. He was Immortal, in the finest sense of the term.
"Brother," I greeted him, "I am Methos, called Brother Michael."
"I am Darius, called Brother Jerome. It is good to meet you at last. We owe you a great debt, for your work with the manuscripts of the Greeks. And for your work with our own Chronicles. On behalf of us all, I thank you, Methos."
"I preserve the books and our Chronicles for myself, Darius. Therefore, no one owes me thanks." I smiled. "Will you walk with me, Brother?" I asked him.
"With great pleasure."
We strolled around the inner courtyard for some minutes without speaking, our minds and ears occupied with the celestial chanting we could hear coming from the choir. Vespers. Poor brothers! I so often missed the Hours. They were unfailingly forgiving of my dereliction, but disappointed nonetheless.
"What brings you to me, Darius?" I asked at last, when the final notes were sung and the monks left the choir to spend time in private prayer before the evening meal. "Is there some trouble?"
"Not exactly, Brother Michael. There is - unrest - everywhere, of course."
"You were sent by -?"
"The others. Quentin, Lamartin. Vasquez. Simeon. We're convening in a month, in Paris. In the Lady Chapel dedicated to St. John the Baptist. You know it?"
"I do," I said, nodding.
"There is much to discuss. And the Watchers must not know. We will elude them, for this meeting. Will you come?" he asked simply.
"Have I a choice?" My retort was quick and angry. I wished I did have a choice but knew I did not.
"Always, Brother. But I think you do not see things in that light."
I smiled. "Have you been preserving the papers of the Sophists?" I asked. "I will come, of course. If you need me."
"We need you," he replied. "You are nearly the oldest of us all. We wait a month longer so that Frederick might be summoned. And several who live at a great distance. In the Holy Land."
I thought for a moment. "Will there be women Immortals among us?"
Darius shook his head. "I've been searching for the one called Rebecca, but she is nowhere to be found."
"If you hurry, you can catch her, Darius," I said, grinning.
"You know where she is!" This was the first sign of excitement he'd shown.
"She was here not an hour since. With her student, a Green Girl named Amanda. They sojourned on the brothers' property for nearly half a year, under my protection. They are hunted, you know."
"And now? Where is Rebecca now?"
"With some monks who are traveling to the Holy Land. But they can't have gotten far. I will join you. Show you the way. Let me say my farewells to the Abbot and the monks, pack my things, and I'll come."
"No, Methos, that is not possible. We cannot journey together. I will fetch Rebecca. I must ask you to go south, to Aragon. Erasmus Minor is there, in the Benedictine Monastery near the border. You cannot mistake it - there's only the one road. Return with him to Paris. He is hunted by many of our kind. Protect him with your life, my brother."
"And who will protect Rebecca?" I asked angrily, knowing Darius' reputation, that he was once a great Warrior.
"She needs no defense from our kind, Methos. She is the finest Immortal swordswoman of our times."
"Swordswoman," I repeated with emphasis.
"Do not concern yourself, my brother. If necessary, I will protect Rebecca," he promised solemnly.
I nodded. "Very well. I will go." I sighed. I'd hoped, for one moment, to see my Ladies again. But I would, in Paris. I can wait, I reminded myself. I can wait.
"Go, now. Say your farewells. We'll set out for the main road together. Then you'll show me the direction Rebecca took, and we'll go on our separate journeys."
I nodded. Darius spoke with authority, which was rare among us. He spoke for many, another rarity. But most of all, he spoke with compassion and love, rarest of all. He was out of the Game, I knew. He carried no sword, but he'd sworn to me he would protect Rebecca, if the need arose. I didn't doubt his word, though Darius lived and traveled as a true follower of Christ. The mere thought of returning to the world unprotected as he was filled me with terror! But I would not be doing so. I'd dress as a layman again, and carry my sword. How I envied his faith! How I loved him already!
Kalas found me, of course, as both MacLeod and I knew he would. There was nothing for it but to fight him. And I did. As hard as ever I could. In skill, he couldn't best me. But his spirit was very strong, fueled by hatred and anger, and his body mass much greater than mine. This would not have been a problem, a thousand years ago. And of course I had speed and agility to counter his weight.
But I'd lost something vital over the centuries. I would never regain it, I thought. Never rekindle the fire and the passion. This was bad. Worse than I'd envisioned. If I continued the Battle I'd lose.
I eluded Kalas by toppling us both into the river - and even that was a near thing, in my present state of disengagement.
He was after MacLeod. I was only a means to that end, for Kalas. My head, my Quickening, my power, were all he wanted. He didn't even know who I was - that I was his old friend from the celibate centuries, his dear Brother Michael, whom he'd loved so well from afar.
But I knew. And more. That he'd murdered Paul - one of us, of our circle. A good friend of mine.
Very well, I decided. There's one way to go.
I was mad, you see, by then. Completely abandoned to love.
I offered my head to MacLeod.
He refused it.
What is there I can say to that? What possible rejoinder? What possible explanation? I offered Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod the chance to take in such power as Warrior Immortals only dream about, with my Quickening. So much power that defeating Kalas would be child's play for him, afterwards. He refused. Made a joke about it. "After five thousand years, all you can come up with is for me to kill you?"
No, that was not all I could think of. I couldn't think at all. I only knew that Kalas was stronger than I was. Perhaps, stronger than Duncan. And that dying for Duncan MacLeod would be easier than living without him.
I was insane! After five thousand years, I'd been driven completely round the bend by the aura of a Green Boy!
It worked for us.
But would it work against Kalas?
A.D. 1200, A Chapel dedicated to Our Lady, Paris, France
We were late getting to Paris, Erasmus Minor and I. Several skirmishes on the road delayed us. No Immortals attacked us, though, which was something to be grateful for. I'd not been relishing the idea of defending Erasmus' life with my own. Not that I didn't like the man. He was a very fine, intriguing Immortal. But he was not Darius. And serving Darius at one remove suited me ill.
When we'd made our way at last to the Lady Chapel, I was delighted to see Rebecca again. Darius had found her and brought her back with him - safely - as he'd promised. A tearful Amanda was spending her time alone in an Inn nearby, Rebecca told me.
Quentin, Lamartin and I greeted each other like long lost brothers, which we were, after a fashion. But I sensed they were preoccupied with the business of this council, and to tell the truth, I wondered what was so urgent, myself.
When everyone we awaited had arrived, Quentin suggested we convene elsewhere, at a nearby tavern owned by one of us, a young Immortal student of his. We transferred ourselves to the pub and imbibed a drink or two.
At last, Quentin opened our deliberations. He said, "Our business is simple, brothers, but vital. We must speak about the End of the Game."
"What do you mean?" Erasmus Minor asked. "In the End there can be Only One."
Rebecca added, "Who he is concerns us not at all. We must keep our own heads, fight our own Battles. That is our task, by the Rules of the Game."
"No, that is not all we can do. We must do more," Lamartin responded, his fiery Latin temperament shining in his dark eyes.
"The question is not what we can do. Or how much we must do. Only - why must we do anything at all?" I stated quietly.
"We must do something because those who take the Evil Path are many. Legion. As things are going now, in the End one of them will be the One. To me, that is intolerable," replied Quentin.
"What do you suggest, then?" I asked.
"That we take responsibility. Take control. Accept the End of the Game as our life's work," Quentin said strongly. "I suggest that we manipulate the Game."
There was silence, eerie as the dying shower of sparks after a Quickening.
"That is impossible," Darius said. "It is to do Evil, that Good might come."
"No, no! Not at all," Quentin replied. "We will do Good, that Evil might not come."
"How?" I asked simply. "What would you have us do?"
We spoke together for a long time. Quentin and Lamartin outlined their remarkable creation, the Society of Trustees. A society not dissimilar to the Watcher Band. But the Trustees would have more than one purpose.
First of all, we would continue to keep our own Chronicles, as we'd been doing for millennia. Private, true, intimate Chronicles, filled with those details few Watchers ever learned. Ever recorded, if they did learn them.
And secondly, we would choose the Victims we challenged to Ritual Combat. Together. Select those Immortals whose Evil we judged was so great that special effort must be expended to elimate them. By selecting those Immortals whose skills were for War, to challenge the Evil Ones, we'd destroy them.
Thirdly, and most important of all, we would act to preserve the lives of those we deemed worthy to Battle in the End. Preserve the life of the Immortal we desired to be the Only One, in the End. Guard him. With our own lives, if need be. With our heads.
We agreed, finally, to Quentin and Lamartin's proposal, and in that moment changed the life of the Game forever: the Society of Trustees was born in Paris in the year of Our Lord 1200.
The Arbiter we selected, to keep the List of Victims not selected at random, was Quentin of York.
The One we chose by secret vote to survive till the End, was Darius, called Brother Jerome. In reserve, we held Rebecca. Even then, some of us sensed that a time would come again when women Immortals might rule....
Only Quentin - as Arbiter - and I, were entrusted with Darius and Rebecca's names. This privilege became mine when I was made Scribe and charged - for the sake of preserving our History - never to Battle again, if I could avoid it.
I was amused by my Immortal brothers. Their choices reflected how much the Christian ethic infected their thinking. Darius was a holy man who'd ceased taking heads centuries before. Rebecca was a Warrior Virgin, whose life - outside the Game - exemplified every Mortal Christian virtue. Rather than select One who had a chance to defeat other Immortals in Ritual Combat and emerge victorious at the End, we'd chosen our weakest, most frail comrades - in terms of the flesh. In terms of the spirit, of course, we'd recognized the strongest among us.
In themselves, our choices were an unwitting concession to the times. By implication, a harbinger of miracles of change to come, for all of us.
Months after I met MacLeod, Amanda did the unthinkable. She released Kalas from prison - where I'd sent him in an effort to save Duncan's head. She'd hoped to kill Kalas herself. By her foolish act, Amanda set into motion the events which finally resulted in Kalas' death by MacLeod's hand.
By then I'd reconciled myself to the fact that Duncan must fight Kalas. That no effort I expended would prevent it. That no injunction given to me by the Society of Trustees, now renamed the Glass Bead Society, would avail against the determination of the two of them - Kalas and MacLeod - to fight.
During those dark hours, Duncan and I reached an easy alliance and a camaraderie that sang through our auras and caressed our souls without any outward sign. I watched, amused, pleased, and a little maudlin, as Amanda and MacLeod finally brought their love for each other into the open, after so long, in the face of the proximate end of the world as we knew it. I wondered how long it would be before my friend and I would wake in a similar fashion to our own unspoken intimacy. Centuries, no doubt. I rested secure in the knowledge that I can wait, and that our future holds unimaginable anguish and delight. That Death might separate us - MacLeod and I - but nothing less.
And sweeter yet, I can wait because I believe Death might bring us together again....
Though I work against that one possible End to the Game with everything in me, a small voice in my heart sings with the hope of it! Maybe I've become a true monk after all, possessing my soul in faith.
Well, we're none of us perfect....
"Methos? You home?" That was Amanda, come to visit me.
"I'm here. Come in."
"Wow! What a place! You buying or renting?"
"Neither. House-sitting. You saw my last digs."
"These are even better! Gorgeous!"
"As you say." I nodded modestly.
"That's where you disappeared from, right, your old flat, taking all those Watcher Chronicles with you? Joe nearly had a cow!"
"MacLeod got a kick out of it, though -"
Amanda cut in, "And that's what counts, right?"
"Yes, that's what counts. For some of us."
She pulled up a chair and sat next to me at my desk. "I've gotta thank you, Mike. If you hadn't dragged me back from Greece, I don't know what would have become of me. I was really in a bad way."
"We live to serve," I quipped, smiling broadly.
"I still can't get over how right you were - about Anne, about Mac. Even about me."
"That's why they pay me the big bucks."
"If you'd told me a year ago that MacLeod and I would be this close, this happy with each other, I'd have laughed you out of town."
"Life's one unending round of Quickenings and surprises," I said, and grinned. I hesitated, then added. "If you'd told me a year ago that I'd be a new man today, I'd have taken your head in a heartbeat."
"Are you, Methos? A new man? Even from the distance you keep, he's hit you that hard? I didn't know you Old Ones could fall that far."
"My dear Amanda," I replied, "call me 'Old One' again and I'll begin to refer to you as my 'Middle Aged' friend!"
"Ugh! Don't even go there, Methos!"
"He's glorious, Amanda," I said intensely. "I know you sense his aura, that it's not simply physical with you." I wanted to talk about him. Had few chances to do so. Amanda's visit was an opportunity I couldn't resist. But she changed the subject.
"Nobody senses buzz the way you do, Mike - Rebecca told me that eons ago. 'Watch out for Brother Michael,' she said, in that solemn way of talking she had, when she wanted to impress me, 'he's a dangerous man. He knows everything about you from the feel of your aura. Your strengths, your weaknesses, your age, your spirit. Don't try to fool him. And never challenge him.' That's what Rebecca claimed, anyway. Give, Methos. Is it true?"
"I have a gift. A nose, if you will, for buzz. It's a curse, sometimes. Takes the surprise out of life. But it's valuable in the Game."
Amanda turned away from me for a moment, standing and walking around the room. Touched a statue here, a book there. I wondered what she hesitated to ask me. She wasn't shy, ordinarily. Far from it.
Finally she asked, "Methos, can I play?"
"What'd you mean?"
"I'm no Green Girl any more. I'm more than Middle Aged. Nearly twelve centuries, now. That's a really long time. Some would say I'm Old. I want in."
"What are you talking about?"
"The Glass Bead Society - please, Methos, sponsor me?" She pleaded and wheedled simultaneously, as is her way.
"Rebecca told you something of our work?"
"No. Never. Not a word. I cheated - followed her, read her secret papers." She raised her shoulders prettily. "I was suspicious. And worried about her. What's a girl to do?"
I thought hard for a moment. "I'll talk to the Arbiter. We'll see. Perhaps he can find work for you."
"Can't get much closer to MacLeod than I am, and still live, if that's any recommendation," she said nonchalantly. "I can pull my weight. Tell him that."
"Oh yes, one can get closer, and still live. There are many ways. But yours is the best, I concede, blossom. The very best. We do need someone inside."
"Yes, I know you do. He's the One, right? Your choice for the Only One? The Society's choice?"
"Yes," I admitted simply.
"Mine too, Methos. Find work for me."
I nodded. "See what I can do. You can begin to hope as of -" I glanced at my iron sundial "- now!" Then I laughed.
"Thanks, Mike. I owe you one. Big time."
"I'll hold you to it, Amanda, never fear."
"I'm sure you will," she said, with a large smile. "Wanna take it out in trade?"
I looked around. "Is that Methos fellow still here?" I muttered. "Oops, just missed him, cherry blossom. Just missed him." I couldn't believe it - I was refusing an offer from Amanda!
"You really are in love, aren't you?" Amanda asked, curious.
"Hopelessly, ma chere, utterly without hope."
She put her arms around my neck and kissed my cheek. "Oh Methos, you should know better than that, as old as you are! There's always hope!"
She thought a bit, moved off so she could see my face better, then asked, "To the point of fidelity?"
"Actually, chastity," I responded, with a rueful glance.
Amanda was quiet for a moment, then she repeated, "There's always hope. Look at me."
I didn't reply. Didn't care, really. At my age, there's very little to hope for, and so much to be grateful for. I've survived. Head intact. Heart alive with the passion of a Green Boy. What more could I hope for? Wasn't too much more I wanted. Had what I wanted. I was lovesick. Me! Fifty centuries and counting. Lovesick! Indeed, what more could I desire? I had everything, simply - everything.
I whispered a prayer of gratitude and wrapped my arms around Amanda, burying my face in her neck, which our One had kissed, not so long ago. And I smiled.