To Reclaim the Past
When to the sessions of sweet silent thought
I summon up remembrance of things past,
I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought,
And with old woes new wail my dear times' waste...
from Sonnet 30, by William ShakespearePrologue
City of the Parisii, June 410 C.E.:
It was finished.
Havron laid down his brush as he stared at the cavern walls. The grand design was complete. The various grouping of signs resolved to a fewer number that gradually rose up the walls of the cavern until arriving near the center of the cavern roof and arranging into a circle. He smiled.
"Do you really think they'll ever understand?"
Havron sighed, refusing to look at the naked being who lounged just out of sight. It had recently taken the form of his lost love Aja and seemed to know that doing so disturbed him. Only the glowing red eyes of the being altered the picture of perfection that was his memory of Aja lying beside him in their hovel thousands of years ago.
It moved, and in doing so broke the illusion that was Aja by crawling on hands and knees until it stopped before him. Rising, it licked its mouth and grimaced with a wicked chuckle.
Without concern, Havron gathered his brush and paint pots as he stood… still ignoring the being's attempts to garner his attention.
It laughed as if reading his mind. "You will not live to see it," it cooed. "Your death comes… sooner than you can imagine."
Again Havron bit his tongue to fight back the retort. To engage in conversation with the demon was to invite it into one's life and to give it power. He had learned this the hard way. Instead, he busied himself cleaning and stowing his supplies. He was done here. He doubted he'd return again. Crouching slightly, he headed for the hole in the cavern wall, wondering if he should at long last wall this place up. Behind him he left a single guttering torch that would soon go out, pitching the cavern into the blackness of time.
The being materialized in his path. Havron's eyes widened as he sucked in his breath. This time even the red in the eyes was under control. A non-existent breeze fluffed her long black hair and she looked at him pleadingly. Then he saw the blood streaked on her hands and body, and the sword in one hand while the child's head was in the other. The being had reproduced the exact moment that he'd closed his heart to Aja.
"Join me," the being said pleadingly in her voice. "You've fought against me for thousands of years. Yet you cannot destroy me unless you embrace me."
Havron stepped forward and through the illusion as if he didn't see it. He waved one hand dispassionately as if fending off the sword… but made no attempt to destroy the being.
It hissed in his ear as he passed. "I am a part of you. You may be the Champion of the People, but in the end… I will have your soul as well as all the others. I have prepared one for you. He comes… and with his coming you will be forced to finally take up a sword to protect the Others in this place as you have sworn to do… or you and they will die."
Havron stumbled slightly and paused as he considered the demon's words. He'd tried over and over throughout the centuries to find the path of peace and reclaim the world that once had been. He glanced back at the pattern still visible through the hole in the guttering torchlight. He'd found it… but it was a difficult path and not all the inheritors of the People would be able to follow it… nor should they. Too many had souls tainted by the "game" as they'd come to call it.
But the pattern would be here for those who did understand to find and decipher in time. His life was of no importance any longer. He could stand forward and die. It was time. He was weary. But if the challenger that the demon was bringing truly was in its thrall… then he'd have a harder time stopping him. Havron shuddered.
"You begin to understand then," laughed the being. The blood had vanished from its body and hands. It raised them to his neck as it leaned its head against him. "Love me and you will live forever. I will grant unto you not just immortality… but eternal life. Instead of a ragged champion, half-mad from your battles with me, you can be a god."
Havron closed his eyes. It even smelled like Aja.
"I can even bring her back to you," it laughed. "Kill the one I send… take up his sword and all the world is yours to rule for eternity. If he kills you… then I am free and you will have failed as Champion."
Havron pushed through the being and left it laughing behind him. He'd periodically fought and kept the demon from bothering the world over the millennia. It seemed to gain power whenever one of the old ones died… one of the survivors of the great slaughter. Its continual presence here to plague him was a clear sign that its power was growing once more. Havron and Aja were likely the last of the ancient ones… if either of them died in combat… the demon might be free at last. She'd wandered by here a few centuries ago and had stood on the edge of the city looking at him with plaintive eyes.
He'd gone out to meet her.
"Kritis is dead," she'd said simply.
Havron had nodded. "Yes… I felt his death." He'd been awakened from sleep not long ago by the feel of the earth itself shuddering at Kritis' passing. Kritis… the eldest of the firstborn of the People. "I sent that boy of yours to him. I gave him your ring… the one Kritis made for us, so that Kritis would know he came from me. The boy's anger and his long history of senseless slaughter were things that I could not deal with. He wanted peace… but his anger had to be expiated. I had no way to do that."
Aja had looked into the distance. "I agree… yet I don't think Methos killed him. I think it was another." She leaned on her staff and closed her eyes. "I will have to journey there. Perhaps I can retrieve the sword."
"Still lusting after that thing," Havron had replied bitterly.
She'd glared at him as if stung by his words. "No. But it cannot be left there unattended. It is the keystone of your patterns." She'd smiled knowingly at him.
Havron had turned away. He would not forgive her for destroying all that they'd had. He understood that the same madness that taken her and Kritis had also been in the other groups of the People. He understood well that the demon had introduced the swords into their societies to gain their power and thereby free himself so that he could directly affect the mortal world. But Havron still could not forgive her. He never would.
That was the last time he'd seen her… and he'd wondered about her travels since then.
He climbed up the rocky tunnel until he stood once more in the sylvan grove that he'd called home for so long. Water bubbled at the spring and he knelt by it to clean his brushes and to wash his face and hands. Nearby… the mortal followers of the old ways were festooning the boughs of the trees with garlands of flowers. They hung small, lit lanterns amongst the boughs so that the glade sparkled like some magical place as if the very stars of night's blanket had come to Earth.
Havron smiled at the sight, recalling only now that mid-summer was at hand. He'd have much to do on this the shortest night of the year. He'd recently added some of the tenets of the new faith, Christianity, to the celebrations of the older one. It was essentially the same message… differing only in some its creeds. The path to peace needed to embrace all the faiths that the Others developed. It was the only way that true peace would ever be restored. All must be one, he thought.
Rising he stepped into his nearby hovel, feeling at once the light presence of the boy… Methos. True he was a grown man, as well as thousands of years old… but to Havron he was still a boy. Methos was sitting cross-legged, lost in his meditative reverie. He slowly opened one eye as Havron stowed his items.
"When do you let me see this project of yours?"
Havron smiled. "In time." It was always his answer to the boy. "You are impatient still. You must learn patience. All things will happen in time."
The boy had returned to him a decade ago. The anger about him was gone and he was ready to listen. "I still seek enlightenment from the eldest of us all," he'd asked with all deference, falling to one knee. "The one you sent me to released me from his service. He died not long after I left him." On the little finger of his right hand he still wore Aja's ring. He removed it and offered it to Havron who indicated he should keep it.
Havron had smiled, and then nodded and taken him on this time. "The path to the future is fraught with temptation," he'd told Methos. "You must harness temptation and ignore the easy path that is subject to violence. You must become as still and small as a stone. You must simply be… and allow time to pass you by. Only then will you begin to understand the patterns of life."
"You speak in riddles Old One," the boy had replied.
Havron had grinned and nodded. It was true. He did speak in riddles. Well Methos was still here. He'd persisted despite much of what he was doing involved meditation. He was "becoming" one of the People… though Havron doubted it would be accomplished any time soon. With the demon's warning of his own impending death… Havron feared that Methos would once more lose his way. Perhaps that was the plan of the demon. If he could force Havron to take up a sword and kill… then Methos would return to his dark path. If Havron died… would the boy insist on killing his killer? Either way… Havron feared that unless the boy understood to do nothing… the future would be lost.
He sat opposite Methos and crossed his legs. "One comes that I must meet in ritual combat."
Methos stared. "Who? Why? I don't understand!"
Havron nodded. "Nor do I. But you must not seek to interfere… nor to strike back if I am lost."
"I would protect you with my life. Only you have the answers I seek. Only you know the origins of us all. Tell me who we are! Tell me why we exist?"
"We were the People of the Mist… the People of the Standing Stones… the People of an Ancient Past. You are one of the inheritors of the world that is."
"Again with the riddles!" Methos said sharply as he swiftly stood to begin pacing. "You waste my time!"
"And you waste mine if this is how you feel, Methos," the Ancient One replied soothingly. "You need only do nothing… and all will happen as it must."
Methos stopped pacing and stared down at him. "How can non-violence in the face of atrocity be the answer? I was the nightmare for a thousand years. I know how truly evil men can be."
"And that is why you will be tempted. But you must not interfere. He comes soon. Do nothing… promise me this."
Methos turned away. "You're a fool Old One. You talk as if we have no free will to make our own choices."
"Oh… you have free will," chuckled Havron hearing the trappings of Christianity in that phrase. "Choice is always important… remember?"
Methos glared at him.
Havron drew the sign for "choice" in the dust. He smiled, recalling that it was Methos' habit of drawing the patterns in the dust when he'd first come that had caused Havron to understand that Aja had implanted memories in the boy somehow… memories that were buried deeply in his psyche.
Methos knelt and smoothed the dust with a thin smile. "I wish I understood those things."
"One day you will. Now you must swear to me that you will not retaliate or interfere in what is to come. Otherwise… you must leave here… now."
"If you die… I will never have the answers."
Havron smiled as he touched the boy's chest with one long finger. "The answers lie within you."
Methos shook his head thoughtfully. "I've meditated long and hard as you've taught. I went to Kritis as you ordered and learned all I could from him. He offered me his head. He knelt before me at the end and offered me his sword and his head. I don't understand!" He rose sharply and began once more to pace. "Kritis was a master of the blade and I learned more forms of combat from him than I thought possible. I learned how even an empty hand can be as powerful as a blade if it moves fast enough and hits the proper target. But I also learned to wait until I had to strike… and then to do so swiftly and without mercy. I learned that sometimes in the waiting… the strike can be avoided. But I've never understood why he wanted me to kill him."
"Perhaps he was testing you to see if you'd finally gotten the point," Havron replied thoughtfully. "Perhaps if you'd grabbed at the sword… he'd have taken your head."
Methos froze and nodded. "Yes… perhaps that was it. But I left him. I didn't want to kill him. That much power could overwhelm an immortal. That much power… could level a mountain if not controlled. At Kritis' death… the mountain fell… and the inland sea boiled. That much power suddenly released onto one of us… could destroy an immortal or change him forever."
Havron nodded knowingly in agreement. "It could indeed."
Methos faced him, his mouth a small, "Oh" formed in understanding. "You think to change this immortal."
Havron shrugged. "I have no idea what you mean."
The singing amongst the trees had begun. Havron rose. "I must see to my children." He left the hovel to join the Others in celebrating the shortest night of the year… a time when true darkness existed for only a brief time… before light would return to the world. Havron's soul was at peace with his surroundings… and with the shadow of the future waiting to be born.