Highlander: Sword of Power!

A story cycle focusing on the sword of the ancients, and its effects on the immortals of Highlander who have wielded it over the centuries. This grouping of stories takes place within the Highlander universe as conceived by this author in her Eleanor saga stories.

The actual events of these stories are alluded to in my other fan stories, but generally are seen through other eyes, with other considerations. While the events are alluded to... the full understanding of what happened takes both sets of stories.

These were mainly stories which did not fit well into the other ones, because of their viewpoint, and which tended to slow and otherwise disrupt those stories. Here, they can be read as background and additional information.

As always, I don't own Highlander or its canon characters. All others are original with me, other than the traditional figures, who are a part of the Legend of King Arthur in the first two stories. Nor is Avalon my invention, although the way it is presented in some of the stories is.

Part One: Sword of Destiny

Come by the hills to the land

where legend remains

Where stories of old stir the heart

and may yet come again.


The Island of Britain

ca 490 c.e.

As O ro' dred stared out over the gathering crowd of mortals... he had an uneasy feeling. The place was right... the time... not quite... but some of the faces of the men gathering were ones he always saw with his blasted right eye... the one turned inward through which he saw always the moment of his death... the end of his journey. And for the first time in thirty-five hundred years... it was not his death he was seeking.

He handed his staff to Nin who settled on the ground next to him... her dark eyes carefully surveying the crowd. He'd have to talk with her later... remind her that when the moment came... she was not to interfere.

The grumbling of the assembly grew. Already O ro' dred could hear the arguments and the accusations as one faction played off another. Everything was going wrong!

"Men of Britain!" he finally called out in a loud voice. For a moment no one noticed... then gradually the arguing ceased, and the barons and petty kings and all the assembly turned toward the old man with the blasted eye expectantly. O ro' dred took a deep breath... he did not like speaking in public... he much preferred staying out of people's notice and just performing the task the Lady had long ago given

him... finding the newborn immortals and telling them the rules... preparing them for their future. "Men of Britain... your king is dead... You must select a new one... one whose rule will unite all of you... one who will not favor one clan over another... one who will reign with the wisdom of the ages!"

The assembly sent up a great cheer!

"How, mighty Merlin, do we choose this king!" one of the petty kings roared. "How do we select one from among us to rule us... to unite us as a force against the invading Saxons!" The crowd began to grumble once more. Too many of them had lost family... livestock... land to the Saxon hordes that had begun to settle like lice on their shores!

O ro' dred shook his head at the name they had hung on him... It was a corruption of the name Nin often called him... but in this time and in this place he had decided to go with the name the people here had given him... Maybe it had something to do with the black bird that followed the immortal pair. Nin had made a pet of it and while it was not a merlin... it was black like one. In Viking lands... the immortal pair were sometimes mistaken for the wandering god Odin and his wife Frigga or sometimes Freya... Even now that bird came to a rest on her outstretched arm and cawed as she stroked its feathers.

The cries from the assembly rose and then faded as O ro' dred once more raised his arms. "I must consult the bones. I will tell you all when the time is right." O ro' dred turned from the crowd and reclaimed his staff from Nin. He winked at her and the two of them left the center of the Giant's Dance and retreated to their fire. None dared follow them.

He flung himself on one of the rocks about the fire and shook his head. He flicked his fingers at Nin in her silent tongue. "How did we get ourselves into this?"

Nin grinned and her gnarled brown fingers moved swiftly in reply, "How should I know... I was just following your lead."

"Well toss some bones and we'll pretend to read them while they are waiting."

Nin gathered up a handful of bones and tossed them with a shrug at O ro' dred's feet. He shook his head... he saw nothing but bones laying in the dirt... but he stroked the long white beard and rubbed his balding head. This entire situation was getting out of hand... and yet... he sobered at the thought... he was certain his death was here... and so he would play this out.

But he would be sad to lose Nin... he'd only found her in the last hundred years... he should have come to this land long ago... then he'd have had time to really be with her... as it was... he had to treasure what they did have.

He'd found her here among the standing stones of the Giant's Dance one midsummer's eve... sitting in the center of the great circle... slicing her arms and wailing a great cry... an immortal woman.

Under her matted brown hair her dark eyes glittered in her round face. She seemed a mature woman... and there were some strands of gray in her hair. She was not so tall as many he had seen, and she was dressed in coarse cloth and furs. On her back was a leather harness that still held a long knife... sister to the one she was using on herself that day.

With a strangled cry, she leapt up at his approach and drew the other knife... facing him in a stance of combat... both knives flicked about her in the moonlight. He had no fear of her. He knew the face of his killer... he knew the weapon... he knew the moment... and this was not the time of his death.

Nin waited for his attack. He opened his arms with a smile and shrugged. Then he readied his staff in case she attacked anyway. But she didn't... he hadn't really expected her to. She looked him over suspiciously and then re-seated herself in the center of the stone circle and began her keening and wailing once more.

O ro' dred had sat on a nearby fallen stone and watched her for what seemed like hours. Finally, he rose and approached her slowly once more. She'd gazed at him questioningly... he'd motioned for her to follow him, and then he'd walked away. Nin had followed... and was following still.

It had taken time... but he'd learned the silent tongue she used... she could understand the speech of others... she just preferred not to use it. Except when she needed to call his name or get someone's attention. Her voice slaughtered his name so that it became more Or-won... Over the years... some had also called him Owain in this land. Some had thought him a traveling bard for some reason and he had often amused the children of the villages he had visited with old tales of their long-forgotten history

If he'd thought her a young one when he first met her... he had realized very quickly that she was not. She knew about the game and the need to take heads to survive. Indeed, he had seen her fight on more than one occasion. She was skilled. She had no style... but with those knives... she threw everything into her movements like some kind of whirling demon. And... she seemed to have no conscience about what she had to do. He worried that when the time came for his death... she'd not stand idly by. Strange... in that moment of his death that he always saw... she was nowhere to be seen. Yet she never left his side.

It had been with some surprise that he had discovered that he loved her. His mortal wife had died thirty-five hundred years ago. So long ago he no longer remembered her name or her face. He had been an old man when he'd saved the life of the Lady's child and been reborn. She had taken pity on him and told him what she knew of immortality and asked him to help her spread the word among the others reborn into new life.

Too many were killing and dying... she wanted to stop or at least slow the process. She somehow felt that the killing needed to end. She wasn't certain how to accomplish that... but she was no longer willing to stand on the sidelines and watch it happen. Would he help her? He'd said yes! And then he'd asked to know when he would die. So she had given him that one vision... a piece of herself... of her great power... her own quickening. With that power... his right eye was blasted and turned inward to see forever the moment of his death. He could travel the world without fear... knowing he was untouchable until the moment came. Now... it was coming... and now... he wanted more time. And that surprised him. But he would meet his death when it arrived.

He stared at the bones once more and shook his head... whatever should he tell the assembly? He was not a prophet... he was not a priest... or a holy man... he was just a simple potter who had lived a long life. Well... something would occur to him... perhaps tomorrow.

He gestured to Nin. She came to him with a smile and clasped him tightly... then she kissed him nibbling slightly at the edges of his beard where it met his lips. He stroked her hair. Yes... tomorrow was another day... tonight belonged to Nin.

In the gray dawn... Nin rose to stir the fire and make meal cakes to cook on the hot stones. She cut some strips of meat from the cured oxen shoulder and soaked the meat in hot water while the meal cakes cooked. She was worried about O 'ro dred. He seemed very pre-occupied with this place and this time. True it was here that they had first met. But even she knew to keep moving.

She had stayed too long in her home in the north... on the island. She'd outlived all her people. Even the babes she had helped to birth were old and gray and in their graves while she still lived. The tribe had shrunk to a small group... and then to a few families... finally one extended family... and then the last of them had simply died. There had been no great invasion... no great calamity... their numbers had simply dwindled over the years until she had burned and scattered the last of their ashes and she had been alone.

In that long lonely time... she had replayed the events of her life. All had seemed normal in the old land that she only vaguely recalled. She had grown to womanhood and married. She'd had no children... but her husband had not cared. With the tribe they had crossed the northern sea to the coast with its warm breezes and temperate climate... escaping the frozen wilderness of their old home.

On the journey... the carraugh she was in had sunk. She'd gone down into the green darkness. The next she knew... she'd been cast out of the darkness and was choking out water on the rocky shore of the new land. Her people were glad she still lived. Her husband was dead... so she had taken another. And they had built a new community on the shores of the northern sea.

They'd found the strange standing stones there... last remnant of an older people... or perhaps of the gods themselves. Nin's people were fisher-folk... and lived simple lives. Nin's second husband grew old and died and she had taken a third... then a fourth... then a fifth... she'd lost track after a while. She'd simply lived... childless but well regarded in the tribe as an old wise woman... a healer and a birther of babies. And then the last of her people had died.

In later years... new people came. She'd settled with them but when she lived too long they'd cast her out so she had crossed the sea and come to the larger island. She'd learned not to stay too long. So she traveled... doing what she'd always done... offered healing herbs and birthed the babies... until the other found her.

He'd stared at her with hate and come at her with a great blade. She'd avoided his blow and somehow she'd killed him. But he was like her and woke up. So she'd chopped his head off with his own blade. That was when the knowledge of their shared past had come to her. She was immortal and would live forever... but she must kill the others of her kind when she found them. Or... they would kill her.

She had developed her own weapons... more suitable than a great hacking blade. She'd traveled... she'd watched... she'd killed all who came at her... until O ro' dred. She'd never considered that her kind could co-exist. So she had followed him... protected him... he carried no blade... taught him her own language... come to love him... shared his bed. She'd taken him to skara brae to see her own standing stones. One hundred years was but a beginning she felt. Together they would travel for all time... and her people would always be remembered!

She glanced over at him... already stirring. She smiled... she would protect him... she would remain forever at his side. He had brought life back into her dead soul. He had reminded her of what it was to love someone. His eyes were open... and with that one dark eye... he gazed warmly at her. Breakfast was ready.

The storm seemed to have come up out of nowhere. Lightning criss-crossed the sky and a cold wind blew the rain in pelting sheets about them! Still O ro' dred stood at the center stone leaning on his staff as if in silent prayer. All about him the Britons huddled fearfully. When the storm had begun, O ro' dred had taken the opportunity to claim that the gods were speaking to him through the power of the storm. In reality... he hoped to use the ferocity of the storm to tell the men to go home to their families... to strive against their enemies and to await the day when one of their own would lead them in victory against their enemies. It was as good an out as he could come up with.

Yet even as the storm intensified... O ro' dred began to feel the old and powerful sensation that told him to expect the Lady... Aja... voice of the gods to those who had once dwelt in the Old World. Already the rain had lessened and the cold wind blew the clouds away so that the full moon began to show. Aja's once dark hair was more silver than black and blew about her head in a great cloud and her green eyes almost seemed to glow. Her billowing garments of black and silver added to the mystery of her appearance.

She came then... from the nearby lake... bearing before her a great sword. O ro' dred saw the Britons bow before her as she passed. Their legends spoke of the Lady of the Lake... a witch of enormous power in this place. He shook his head and grinned slightly. He had never understood how she seemed to be able to control the weather for her entrances... perhaps she didn't and just knew how to predict when it would be most favorable for her to make an appearance.

He hadn't expected her here... but he was glad she was. Now, at least, he was off the hook to come up with something for the council.

As Aja came closer, O ro' dred's grin turned solemn. He knew that blade! It was the one he had always seen... the one that was destined to take his head. He glanced about him... no not yet... the immortal who would wield that blade was not yet here. The weather was not right... but soon... soon.

The Lady of the Lake entered the clearing to stand beside O ro' dred. She turned and stared out over the assembled Britons speaking in a loud voice. "I have heard your cries. Thus do I bring a sign by which you may know he who can unite your people and lead you into an enlightened future!" She turned and thrust the sword into the great altar stone. Lightning flashed once more and the sword was held deep within the rock. Aja winked at O ro' dred, then turned and strode away.

Beside him, Nin gave a great cry and leapt after the Lady, grabbing at her arm. The Lady calmly turned at the touch and regarded the silent immortal. Nin's fingers flicked frantically in her silent tongue. "I wish him to live!"

Aja glanced back at O ro' dred. She nodded thoughtfully. Then her fingers flicked in answer, "So do I... but this is now out of my hands, child." Then she lightly touched Nin's face. She leaned close to her and whispered into her ear, "Stay by his side... be there with him. It is all you can do." Then the Lady walked purposely back toward the Lake and vanished into the gathering fog at the shoreline.

The weeks had passed. Word was spread that whoever drew the sword from the stone would be the leader that they sought. So far... no one had been able to do that.

Already, many had come... and many had failed. O ro' dred stood daily beside the altar stone... awaiting his fate. Still, the immortal he sought did not come. A few had shown up to try their hand... but they were no more successful than the mortals had been. And the crowds grew.

The weeks lengthened into months... still the sword remained firmly in the stone. O ro' dred chuckled... Aja had made certain that only a very old and powerful immortal could remove that sword. The old potter had considered moving it himself... he was at this time likely the eldest of the ones who remained... but he was no king... no warrior... no learned leader. He was a potter who had long sought his own death. Now that death would come and he would be here to meet it. But he was in no hurry.

Nin remained quietly at his side. At night her fingers flicked in her silent tongue, begging him to leave with her. To remain in this place was foolishness itself. O ro' dred tried to calm her. This was what was foretold... if he left... if he tried to run... it would be the worse for him. He needed to remain. He would face his death and she would make no move against his killer. Nin wept... but so promised.

By night she lay in his arms and held to him tightly. By day she sat by his side and watched the faces of those who came. Each time an immortal came forward to pull the sword... she held her breath... letting it out only when the sword remained held in the grip of the stone.

The seasons turned and winter made way for spring. With spring, a new crop of men from across the sea arrived to try their hand at the sword. Among them came Methos.

Methos had no real interest in any of this... merely curiosity. As he traveled along the road to the Giant's Dance, he kept his senses alert. There were several immortals about... but all the ones he'd seen appeared to be willing to keep a low profile in this mass of humanity. They nodded in passing... each attempting to remember the other's face for a future meeting. Some few had evidently decided to band together and await the new king... if king he truly was... and carve a nice piece of the land out for themselves. Others apparently wanted to save this land from the invaders and were truly disappointed they were not chosen to do so.

The closer he came to the Giant's Dance... the larger and more boisterous the crowds became. Methos listened to the tales told about the mysterious sword. Already he'd heard seven different versions of how the sword had appeared here. All versions had one thing in common... whoever could draw the sword... was king... the ard rei for whom the populace waited.

Methos stirred the fire with a long stick. Around it he could see the party of men he'd been traveling with gesture and joke among themselves nervously. Tomorrow... their group should be one of the ones that would approach the sword. Perhaps one of them would be ard rei. Methos had fallen in with them more from a desire to seem unimportant and to seem to be attached to a group of mortals than because of any desire to get to know them. So far it had worked.

"And just what kind of king would you be?" Gaius Marcellus asked his young attendant.

"Oh..." the red-haired boy replied, "a good 'un I'd be." The boy was just into his fourteenth summer and was still awkwardness personified. He was all arms and legs, which always seemed to get in his way no matter what he needed to do. He fell over his own feet... he seemed to hit his head on every overhanging branch... and every time he tried to handle something... he either broke it or dropped it. In short, young Artos had become the joke among this small band of travelers.

"And just what is it that you would do to be a good one lad?" Verus Turtullus pressed.

The boy shrugged, "Well... I'd have about me the smartest, strongest, most able people... and they'd help me to be good."

There was an earnestness and naiveté in the boy that amused Methos. Over the centuries he'd known many young rulers like this lad... boys thrust into the eye of power who trusted those around them to somehow just know what was right. Usually, those around the young rulers had their own agendas and someone suffered. Either the people under their rule suffered... or the young ruler met an untimely death. Thankfully, the chances of this boy being the next King of the Britons were remote.

"And how would you determine the fitness of those around you?" Methos inserted into the conversation. This question seemed to stifle the good-hearted levity of the older men regarding the boy's statements. They nodded, as if it were something they themselves might have to determine if the sword was theirs.

Young Artos lowered his head and creased his brow in deep thought. Finally, with a shake of his red hair and a laugh, he said, "They'd have to swear before me and before God Almighty that they would be honest and true men!"

A laugh sounded from the men about the campfire. "And you are certain only an honest man would tell the truth!" Verus finally said.

"Oh... aye!" said young Artos. "A liar would lie about it. But a liar cannot tell the truth. And I would ask many questions to which I knew the answers so I would know if the man was to be trusted." The boy folded his arms over his chest and nodded as if that took care of everything.

"Well, my young foster brother... 'tis best we go before you tomorrow... Lest you pull the sword out before we have a chance." Once more the men laughed. Gaius reached out and tousled the boy's hair. He was fond of the lad... there was never any question about that... but he feared what might happen to this simple and trusting boy once he became a man.

Methos smiled in the darkness and chuckled to himself. If this boy pulled the sword out... he hoped the boy's friends would stay by his side and give him good advice. Otherwise... Britain would be in for a dark time.

The morning dawned misty and a thick fog hung over the nearby lake. The ground had seen so much rain that it seemed more a morass of mud than the sacred ground of the ancient standing stones. Everything was so damp that many wondered how it was that the stones remained upright. The men in the line moved slowly forward, slipping over the smaller stones in the mud.

A great shout went up as each man tried his hand at the sword. A great groan followed quickly on its heels as another man failed to remove the sword from its resting place in the altar stone where once was said men had lost their heads in ancient and forgotten rituals.

Already, a group grumbling about having been overlooked and rejected by the sword were stirring up the others... trying to say it was all trickery. The sword's removal from the stone could not be accomplished by simple strength of arm... but by he who controlled the land. Their side was gaining strength as more and more men strained to pull the sword out of the stone and failed. Word began circulating that it was not a stone... but an anvil itself that held the sword... they had been forged as one and no power under God would ever separate them.

As the group that Methos was in came close to the Giants' Dance... Methos could feel the presence of an immortal. His hooded eyes flicked from side to side as he attempted to determine from where this new sense emanated. He tried to give no sign that it was he the other might be attempting to locate. His body language betrayed no sign of recognition or alarm. Finally, Methos' eyes fell on the bearded old man near the stone... an old man who stared piercingly at him with one good eye. Near the man... a woman also looked up and stared at Methos. She rose to stand protectively at the old man's side.

"Ah..." Methos heard Verus mutter. "The Merlin and his witch, Nimue await us."

As he awaited his turn... Methos eyed the immortal pair and wondered what their part in this farce was. The old man was bald and had a long white beard. His right eye was white... apparently blind... the other was dark but piercing. He wore long undistinguished robes and held in his hands a great staff. The woman was another matter entirely. She seemed some wild and dangerous thing out of the depths of time. Her brown hair was a matted tangle about her head. Her skin was weathered and browned by the sun and her clothes were made of cloth of a simple and rough weave... about her shoulders was an animal skin worn as a cape. She glared at him and bared her teeth. The old man turned and said something to her. She looked up at him and nodded. Then she sat down near him once more and bowed her head... but even then... her eyes never left the approaching immortal.

Methos could not sense anything old or powerful about these two... but he felt they were... more from their dress and their demeanor than from any outward sign. The Merlin seemed to regard him with sadness but acceptance and the woman... Methos could tell she was ready to leap from the old man's side and engage Methos in combat right then and there... but it did not appear that a challenge was what the Merlin wished. So Nimue sat and stared and gave Methos hate-filled looks.

If he could have left... Methos would have. As it was... he was in line to try the sword. He'd have to go through the motions and then leave... and leave in a hurry! He did not feel safe going to stand so near the immortal pair... yet there were mortals about and this place was surely holy ground... surely they were all safe here.

Ahead of him... Gaius strained at the sword without effect. He finally relinquished his turn and dejectedly turned away... standing at the edge of the circle for the others in his group. This expedition had been his idea... he had felt that the new king must be one of the Roman-Briton landowners of the south. He had talked it up... this was the time that they would reclaim the lost glory of Rome and help the Britons... their mothers' brothers to move forward into a glorious and bright future... a re-forging of the glory of Rome. His friends and neighbors had enthusiastically agreed... Now he was cast aside... he was not the ard rei of the Britons. After Gaius came Verus... but he had no luck either.

Finally it was Methos' turn. Behind him, the boy Artos gave him a slight push. "Hurry up, it'll be my turn next!" Methos eyed the immortal pair and came forward. When he saw the sword... he gasped. He knew that sword... Once an ancient had offered it to him... a mad immortal who had dared him to take his head and seize the sword as his own... He had refused and left. Later he had seen it again... several times... in the hands of the immortal warrior he knew as Darius... the one who himself had killed another ancient and then turned his back on the way of the warrior. Darius had also offered that sword to Methos once. But Methos had thought that Darius still had it. How had it come to be here?

Methos shook his head. He'd held that sword. He'd practiced with that sword. That sword almost seemed to speak... whispering of power and glory. But Methos knew the sword lied. It wanted only blood. Immortal blood! Mortal blood! It did not matter! In the hands of an immortal... it could be a dangerous weapon. He'd never understood how Darius had refrained from falling victim to its siren song.

The old man motioned Methos forward. In his eye was an acceptance of what was to come... and a sadness that it had come. At his feet... the wild looking immortal woman held her breath. The old man dropped one hand to her shoulder and patted it gently. She looked up at him then closed her eyes and nodded.

Methos stepped forward and slowly put one hand on the pommel of the great sword.

At once the seductive whisper began. Visions of pulling forth the sword and using it to lead men to glory filled his mind. He did not want this... he wanted only to be left alone... he wanted only to survive in relative peace and quiet.

The sword leaped within the stone and moved at his touch... He could pull it out... all he had to do was clasp it firmly and withdraw it as easily as if it were in a scabbard. He hesitated. He glanced toward the Merlin. The man knew! It was all there in his eye. If Methos drew forth that sword... the old man would die... and he awaited that moment.

Methos closed his eyes and centered his thoughts on the calm center of his being... he was Methos... he was himself... he was no one's to command... he was no one's to use.

The voice of the sword at last was silent. About him the wind rose sharply and seemed to blow from the nearby lake. He took a deep breath and released his grip on the sword. He met the Merlin's eye and gazed at him evenly. "Not today... old man," he thought, "Not today!"

Methos stepped away from the sword, nodded at the immortals, and turned his back on them and the sword as he strode hurriedly away... eager to be free of this time and this place. Eager to be out of the public eye... eager to hide once more behind the facade of ordinariness. If he claimed the sword... the sword would claim him. He feared that Death would ride once more across the face of the known world!

He'd gone only about fifty feet when he heard steps and felt an immortal close in. He turned and saw the woman come to stand beside him. Her dark eyes regarded him evenly... then she motioned with her hands in some sort of silent language he did not know.

"I'm sorry," he began, "I can't follow..."

"'ank... oo." she managed to say. Tears brimmed in her eyes. She smiled and nodded her head. Then she clasped both her hands together and a small smile played about her mouth.

Near the altar stone a great cry went up... and then a rousing cheer. Methos glanced back and saw Artos waving the sword about his head. He'd been the next one after Methos... and had pulled the loosened sword from the stone to the acclaim of the crowd and the amazement of Gaius and Verus and their friends.

At Artos' side... the old Merlin clasped the boy's shoulder and raising his staff... encouraged the crowd to even greater cries. But it was at Methos that the old man looked with an accusing glance.

The celebration went on for hours. Unable to make any headway in leaving... Methos had settled down at a campfire and basically tried to stay out of everyone's way. Now that they had a king... the council of leaders were attempting to put together a government. The boy-king's friends were trying to protect and guide Artos in these opening moves. Already... there was a huge rift developing between those that supported the will of the gods and those whose desire for power had been thwarted. Methos figured the land was in for a bloody civil war.

At length he felt an immortal presence and looked up to see the old man and the woman approaching his campfire. The old man motioned to ask for a seat and Methos inclined his head in agreement.

"Well," the old man said, "You certainly messed things up today!"

"How's that?" Methos replied.

"You know that sword was meant for you."

"Sorry... I'm not one who likes being the pawn in someone else's game." Methos shifted his position as if to show disdain for the man.

"I am O ro' dred," the old man said. "This is Nin... my wife."

"I'm a traveler from foreign lands. I have no desire to be king in this place!"

"You don't remember me?" O ro' dred asked.

"No... have we met? I don't recall."

O ro' dred smiled. The Lady could be very devious. This surely was the boy whose life he had once saved... if so... he was nearly as old as the old potter... or so close it did not matter. It was this boy who should have ended his life. Already the vision he had once seen so clearly in his blasted eye was fading... only darkness would reside there now. His moment of death had passed... the future lay before him as unknown as it had in that long ago desert world that had been the birthplace of both the boy and himself. "Listen to me boy... the world is what it is and we are all merely the pawns of the architects of this game in which we find ourselves. We all have parts to play... yours is to wield that sword."

"I rather think I'll decline the honor!" Methos folded his arms across his chest.

O ro' dred shook with silent laughter. "So be it. Now... do you have any ideas how I might turn that boy into a worthy king? I am only a simple potter... despite what these mortals think... and I could really use some help."

"The boy's friends know his limitations. They will help... and he has a good heart. He wants to be a good king."

O ro' dred sighed. "I sincerely hope so." He looked at Nin and flicked his fingers in her silent language. She nodded and they rose to go to their own campfire.

"Goodnight Methos... and good journey!" O ro' dred said as he and Nin left.

Methos started. He had not given them his name. How had they known? That name was one he had not used in centuries. It was still the name by which he thought of himself... but it was not one he ever shared... not any more. His eyes narrowed. He did not know this old man. He did not know this wild-looking woman. He had no memory of either of them. How did they know him? He shook his head. Perhaps he would not leave on the morrow after all. Perhaps he'd stay and get to know them a little better. Perhaps he'd help this awkward boy-king grow into the role he now must play. He laughed, suddenly things appeared to have taken an interesting turn... and as he had often found over the centuries... he rather liked interesting.