TITLE: Methos of Ur
WARNING: spots of violence and death (no major characters - all ofc's)
HISTORICAL NOTES: Nanna, Ninhursag, Ishtar and Anu were all gods that had been worshipped in ancient Mesopotamia. Mesanepada, Aanepadda, Ur-Nammu and Hammurabi were all rulers of Ur and Babylon respectively.
DISCLAIMER: Methos, Duncan MacLeod, Joe Dawson, Kronos, Silas and Caspian all belong to Davis/Panzer Productions. The historical folks belong to the world. I am making no money from this; it's a work of love, not profit.
SUMMARY: A brief beer induced glimpse into Methos' past, before he rode as the Horseman of Death.
METHOS OF UR
Methos rolled his eyes in amused exasperation even as he took another swallow of the slowly warming beer in his hand. Joe Dawson's face was carefully neutral, but the man couldn't hide the burning curiosity in his eyes, which was understandable. The man was a historian after all. Duncan MacLeod on the other hand was merely frustrated.
Methos could empathize with the younger immortal. Duncan's life was filled with ever changing trends and times, endless new fads and tastes, ceaseless danger and chaos. Because of that, or maybe in spite of it, Duncan craved order. He thrived on being able to label and categorize everything. Usually in the simplest of terms and with the most convenient labels. Right and wrong. Good and bad. Old and new. Weak and strong.
It was a habit that Methos was slowly trying to break him of. The way he saw it, chaos itself wasn't a bad thing, it merely was. It was the form that the chaos took that had the possibility to be bad. The flip side of that was that it could also be a good thing. Duncan was just too young to see that. Yet.
Still, Duncan had it in his head to try and find a way to classify the enigma that was Methos. Noble undertaking, but not something that was easily done. Hell, Methos barely understood himself, so how could anyone else be expected to? He'd tried to tell the Highlander that, but the man was stubbornness personified. Duncan could comprehend and relate to the persona he knew as 'Adam Pierson'...and that was exactly what Adam had been created by Methos to do - give modern man a mask that they could understand and interact with. But Methos was far more than just the shell known as Adam Pierson. He had been many men, had worn many masks and answered to many names.
Well, Duncan asked for it...so Duncan would get it. Methos just hoped that the Highlander was able to handle the information that was about to be dumped on his head. He also hoped that their friendship would survive telling of his tale.
"Methos isn't the name I was born to...it's merely the first name that I remember."
He took another long swallow of beer as he watched Duncan's head snap up and around, intense brown eyes boring into his own. "What?...What do you mean, it's not your first name?" Joe merely raised an eyebrow and made a smooth gesture with his hand, encouraging Methos to continue.
"Methos is a Sumerian word...it was given to me by the people that lived in the town of Ur...several centuries before it grew to become what is now known as a 'city-state'. I took my first head there...that's the point where my memories start and where I earned the title Methos."
Duncan frowned and Methos could almost see the gears turning in the Highlander's head as he processed that thought. "I don't understand what you mean by earned the title. When you took that head, did others see the Quickening or something?"
Now it was Methos' turn to frown. "Or something. It's...hazy. Most of what I do know is based on circumstantial evidence. I do remember the fight and the Quickening. It was against an immortal named Nanna. He was literally worshipped in Ur as a god. A moon god, I believe. I also know that afterwards I had to learn the language spoken there. Because of those two things, I don't think I was born there. I believe that I had been a nomad before that, wandering for I don't know how long before I came to the town of Ur."
Joe twirled his glass in a half-circle, staring into the amber liquid for a long moment. When he looked up, his expression was one of fascination. "Did they make you their god? I mean, after you defeated their old one...Nanna."
His opponent was tall with dark hair that was styled into an elaborate weave of braids that hugged his skull and hung down his back. The other immortal also wore a long beard that was as meticulously styled as his hair. It was a sharp contrast to the clean shaven face and wild tangled mane that snarled and caught about his own head. Their clothing and weaponry were vastly different as well. While he wore ragged untanned hides of wild animals and carried a long bladed obsidian knife, the other immortal wore a coarsely woven fabric that was dyed bright red around his waist in a skirt. It was folded into elaborate pleats and billowed about his legs. His enemy's weapon was a heavy staff with a long stone spearhead fixed to the top and a heavy carved bone medallion hung about his neck.
He didn't want to fight the other immortal. He was hungry, tired and hot. All he wanted was some food for his belly and a dry spot to sleep in, but that was not to be. He couldn't understand the language of these southern people, but it became fairly obvious what was happening when armed warriors herded him into the main town center to face the other immortal. He tried to talk his way out of it, but they didn't understand his words any more than he could understand them.
The fight itself was brutal, violent and over quickly. Removing the man's head was another story. His obsidian blade was fairly sharp, but it wasn't a clean smooth edge so he found himself practically sawing it off of the other's neck. It was a gruesome task and he kept waiting for one of the village warriors to come to the rescue of their leader, but they didn't interfere. They merely stood back and watched with solemn eyes.
Then the Quickening hit. He had known that it would, but he had never felt one before. The rush of agony mixed with ecstasy was overwhelming and he dropped to his knees, his arms raised up to the sky to receive the power that slammed down into him. Time seemed to stretch out endlessly into eternity until with a painful snap reality jarred back into place. When he could raise his eyes once more, he found to his surprise that all of the villagers had gathered around him and dropped down to their knees, their foreheads pressed into the dirt as they worshipped him.
Green-gold eyes burned with an odd intensity before softening into memory once more. "Yeah...they did. I became Methos." He sighed and shifted slightly, although he was sure that he wouldn't be able to get comfortable while digging up these memories. "At first I didn't understand what was happening. I was dazed and confused by the Quickening and the people around me were frightened and amazed as well. What's more, I didn't speak their language. I spoke an even older tongue."
There was silence for a moment, but then Duncan broke it. His voice was a whisper, but Methos could hear the undertones of desperate hope. "You said you became Methos...that it was an ancient Sumerian word, a title. What...what does it mean?"
When Methos looked up at Duncan, his expression was bleak because he knew that he was going to shatter that fragile hope. "Nanna was Sumerian for moon. Methos was their word for destroy. I became The Destroyer. Over the course of the next two thousand years...during the third Dynasty of Ur when Sumer and Akkad had melded; culturally, militarily and economically. By that time, the language had changed enough that the word Methos shifted from meaning to destroy to meaning death. I was the living embodiment of Death."
Duncan tensed and Methos could see the muscles along his jaw twitch and he clenched his teeth rhythmically. Finally, "Is that when you formed the Four Horsemen?"
Methos took another swallow of his now warm beer and shook his head. "No. That wouldn't come about for another two thousand years, Highlander." Methos turned a sardonic grin on his friend. "You can't even imagine one thousand years...let alone two. And at that time, in Ur, I wasn't considered a monster. I wasn't shunned as evil to be destroyed...I was the Destroyer. I was a GOD!"
Duncan tried to hide the automatic sneer that slid across his face but Methos saw it. And he could understand that as well. Duncan had been born and raised in a time where religion was more superstition than anything else. Worship based on ancient stories and myths, nothing real or concrete.
"I was taken in and I was worshiped. I was fed, clothed and educated in all things. I was first taught to speak the language. Then, one by one, I was given tutors in every craft and labor that was needed to make life for the people of Ur possible. I was made into the receptacle of all of their collective knowledge and wisdom." Methos snorted. "And the only thing that they asked in return was that I faced all of the dangers of life for them."
Joe looked interested and handed him another beer. "What do you mean; you faced all of the dangers for them?"
He was sitting in the warm sunshine carefully separating the barley grains from the shaft by hand when the sound of hurried footsteps reached his ears. Looking up, he turned his head to see a frightened child with panic in his dark eyes. "Great Methos, you must come quick. Raiders have been spotted."
Another time; he was carefully painting with rough glaze onto a sun-baked clay urn when a wailing woman carrying the body of a mutilated young girl came up to his home with a trail of villagers following. "Oh Terrible Methos. My beautiful daughter was ravaged by a savage beast. Avenge her death Holy Methos. Bring me back his furred hide."
And yet another time; he was preparing to head down to the banks of the Euphrates to help with the fishing when many cries rang out and the stench of acrid smoke hit his nose. A young warrior dashed into his hut, his eyes wide with fear. "Eternal Methos, the weaver's hut is burning and she is trapped inside. Please! Save her."
Another graceless snort. "Wild animals sneaking out of the wilderness to drag away the young and the sick? Call Methos and send him to bring back its hide. Raiders from a nearby village or town threatening to invade? Call Methos and have him lead the Temple Guards to turn them back. Grass hut burning down? Send Methos in to drag out those that are trapped. Local citizen stirring up trouble and strife? Call Methos and have him fight the ruffian in a trial by combat." Methos glared sullenly. "I was their god, their Destroyer. It was my duty to destroy all of their enemies...no matter what form that enemy took."
Not realizing that he was doing it or what he was giving away by it, Methos' eyes softened with memory and an odd longing for home. "Strangely enough, I was happy there. The people were graceful and loving; although by today's standards they would be seen as the worst kind of barbarians. When I first arrived and they were still teaching me their ways, I had knowledge that they didn't have and I taught them as well. Older knowledge...different techniques, and crafts. I had a completely different way of thinking." A soft smile filtered across his face. "I remember seeing how they used small sun baked clay bricks to build small things like platforms and altars and asking them why they couldn't use those same bricks to build larger things like homes and buildings. I remember asking if they could dry and store fruits and vegetables, why they couldn't do the same for meat?"
Joe blinked and his glass thumped on the table harder than he intended it to in his shock. "Are you trying to tell me that you invented the concept of brick homes and smoking meat into jerky?" Methos just smiled and took a swallow of his beer. Joe shook his head. "Geeze. That's...that's...I can't even tell you what that is."
Methos shrugged. "I didn't really know Nanna, but I have the feeling that he was pretty much happy with the status quo...so to speak. He didn't want nor like change, but I'm a different sort. Change never really bothered me and I still have an unhealthy curiosity, I suppose. Ur changed a lot during that time period. By the time I'd been there for almost five hundred years, Ur was beginning to shape itself into the legend that it is today."
"Every generation I was given a child to raise from the family of the current ensi...or chieftain. At that time, when I had been in Ur for roughly five hundred summers, I was raising a boy child by the name of Mesanepada. He was a bright and inquisitive child. Gentle and loving. When he was still so very young, a fierce band of well armed raiders came out of the northeast...from the same direction that I had originally come from. I'm not sure exactly where, but I believe it was somewhere near the Caspian Sea. Raiders were a fairly common occurrence, about once or twice every generation. This time it was different, however. This pack of raiders was led by an immortal and his warriors were armed with weapons forged of a copper and bronze alloy."
Methos snorted and took another swallow of beer before he leveled a sardonic gaze on Duncan. "My guardsmen were armed with weapons made of obsidian, stone and wood." At Duncan's odd look he rushed on, "Oh, don't get me wrong. We were smelting copper...just not for weapons. It's too soft for that. We weren't, however, smelting bronze...let alone making alloys. Our weapons were heavy and strong...but brittle and easily chipped."
Methos sighed and gazed with shaded eyes at his bottle of beer. "The battle was like any other battle I suppose. Bloody, messy and filled with the cries of the dying. It was also a huge waste of time, pain and life. In the end it came down to a fight between myself and the other immortal, just as I knew it would. I took off his head with the same obsidian blade that I had taken Nanna's head with. The only real difference was that this Quickening was stronger and it was the first time I had suffered through one with a metal blade still sticking through my half-healed body."
Duncan grunted in sympathy. "That's never enjoyable. For some reason it seems to make the Quickening twice as intense and ten times more painful." Methos could only nod his head in agreement to that, but then he shrugged and grinned.
The fight was fairly evenly matched. Both were strong, well trained and tired from earlier battle. In the end, they stabbed each other simultaneously. The only difference being that Methos was stabbed in the stomach while he had managed to skewer his opponent through the heart. Yanking his ancient obsidian blade out of the immortal's chest, he swung and hit his neck. Strength fading fast, it took four separate hacking blows before the man's head separated from his neck and toppled to the ground. Then the lightening hit.
Pain rushed through his body like never before as lightening slammed into him over and over again. A burning hot wind whipped about the battlefield and thunder shook the suddenly dark sky. Fighting ceased as warrior's either fled in terror or dropped to their knees in abject worship. And in the middle of it all, Methos screamed his agony to the uncaring and violent sky.
"Made for one hell of a lightshow, I can tell you that much. Impressed the other immortal's warriors so much that half of them turned tail and ran away and the other half stood around gape jawed and pissed their pants."
Duncan chuckled a bit at that and Joe muttered an amused, "I bet."
Methos' eyes softened again in that odd way that was half memory and half longing. "Of course, my people just fell on their faces in worship of such a blatant display of my divinity, but that's only to be expected. That was also a major turning point for Mesanepada. He became obsessed with the whole concept of what he called the 'great warring gods' and he devoted his entire life to see that vast improvements were made in Ur for me. He was determined that I would come out the winner of every such battle. Of course, now we know that we're," Methos gestured between himself and Duncan, "not really gods, but immortals. At the time though, that's what they...and I, thought that we were."
Another sip of beer followed by a soft smile. "That boy was a brilliant planner and an optimist of the highest caliber. I've never had anyone who was so devoted to me, who believed in me so purely before or since." Methos frowned suddenly and muttered, "Well,...maybe one other," before he shook his head and continued his story. "He was one of the few members of his family that survived the battle since he had been deemed too young to participate beyond being there to carry weapons and to help with the wounded afterwards. So, in the aftermath, he took over the duties of ensi."
"Mesanepada ordered a huge brick Temple built to replace the smaller one that I lived in. This one, a forerunner to the ziggurats, was big enough to house not only myself and my personal servants, but also twice as many guards. It included a large training area as well as an altar of worship. He encouraged families to do as his had traditionally done, to dedicate one of their children to the temple. Only instead of those babies being raised to be my...companion, they would be raised to become my own personal army."
"He also encouraged the populace to begin to travel to outlying villages and lands to learn their crafts and secrets. Mesanepada was obsessed with discovering the secret to smelt bronze. He had watched too many of our warriors fall in battle due to weapons that chipped, or worse: shattered, to do anything less."
The temple was going to be huge, Methos could see that already. The foundation was set and the plans were drawn up. It was a massive effort and it involved almost all of the villagers. Personally, he didn't think he needed anything that grand or fancy, but his beloved was determined and Methos would do just about anything to make Mesanepada happy.
So, the village women and children spent their nights shoving wet clay into wooden brick molds and the village men spent their days laying those sun baked bricks to build his new temple. In return he worked himself to exhaustion trying to take up the slack in the fields and with the flocks and herds. He also hunted for fresh meat and fished in the river.
It was hard and tiring, but Mesanepada was happy, the city was bursting with new life and purpose and Methos had never been happier. It didn't last, though. It never does.
An odd flicker of sadness chased quickly by amusement passed over Methos face. "Things were changing quickly and the people were rallying around my banner as they always had, but the balance of power was uneven and it was very worrying to many. Mesanepada's family had been nearly decimated in the battle with the immortal's army of raiders to the point where he had to take up the duties of ensi, yet he was my chosen, raised from birth to be mine. As things stood, he would be the last of his line and that would leave the people without an ensi."
"I remember that the people were so afraid of my jealousy and of incurring my anger, but they had to realize...these were my people too. I cared about them deeply. No, I wasn't really good at sharing, at least...not then. However, I had no real choice. I wanted Mesanepada's line to continue as much as the next man, so I married him to his younger sister and then swore to protect the bloodline by moving her into my own personal living space instead of moving Mesanepada out."
A flicker of distaste moved across Duncan's face, but Methos ignored it and him by turning to face Joe, a smile of amusement on his face. "Ironically enough, three seasons later, when we had just realized that Mesanepada's sister had become pregnant with his first child, a pre-immortal infant was brought before me to be a temple raised guardsman." As he knew it would, Joe's face lit up with glee.
"No way! What did you do? Did you even realize what the kid was? How did the people react?"
Methos chuckled and took another swallow of beer. "Yes, I knew what she was. She was a foundling, and at that time Mesanepada was insisting that all foundlings and any...unwanted children be brought to my temple to be raised. I named her Ninhursag and announced to all that she was to become a goddess. I proclaimed that just as it was my duty to protect all of Ur, she would become the protector of the ruling family to prevent the near disaster that had almost just took place. I raised her alongside of Mesanepada's son, Aanepadda. When he became ensi he eventually raised a smaller temple to her." Methos' eyes softened and a gentle smile graced his lips. "She was my first student, my daughter. I loved her very much."
Suddenly, Methos' eyes cleared and he raised his head, pride shimmering from every pore. "They recently excavated her temple. It still stands to this day, a monument to her and the beauty that she brought to everyone's life."
Duncan grinned. "So...they had a Destroyer and a Protector? Two immortals to guard one city, one people?"
Methos grinned back. "Yeah. They did." Then Methos' grin faded into a frown even as his sparkling eyes clouded over with remembered pain. "It didn't work, though. Good intentions not withstanding, we didn't know anything about human genetics back then. Ninhursag took over the line of the ruling family and simply followed the example that I myself had set. She routinely married brothers to sisters for several generations. It ensured a continuous and pure bloodline, yes, but it also bred a lot of weaknesses and defects. It finally got so bad that it took all of her skill and all of my skill to nurse Kiremminos through an entire pregnancy from conception to birth. She had already miscarried four times."
"When Kiremminos' daughter was of marriageable age, Ninhursag and I held a grand competition with all of the warriors in my temple to see who could win the hand of the girl-child who was the ensi. It was much like a medieval tournament only without the jousting. It was a huge event that lasted for many days and culminated with the wedding and a citywide feast."
Methos lounged back on his soft cushions with a soft smile on his face as Ninhursag passed his a mug of chilled fruit juice. Her long dark hair was woven into an elaborate knot at the base of her skull and several strings of polished copper beads hung around her neck to sway between her bare breasts. And like himself and every one of the mortals gathered around the platform they occupied, she was wearing her finest and most elaborate skirt wrapped about her wide flaring hips.
A soft squeak of excitement pulled their attentions away from each other and back to the games they were holding. The young girl-child that was the ensi sat upon her own pile of cushions, her slim body stiff with tension as she watched with rapt eyes. Below, a long line of young men stood, each with a long spear in his hands. At the far end of the city square, a bound pile of grain stood as a target.
A bank of stands were set up along the far side of the square where the wealthy citizens of Ur could sit in the shade and watch the festivities and show off their best jewelry and finest linen skirts. Jugglers and acrobats plied their trade at the edge of the crowd hoping to entertain and young children ran wild through the milling people. Merchants set up stands and hawked their wares, their voices rising above the din as they tried to tempt people to purchase fresh fruits and drinks. The atmosphere was one of a festival and everyone was of good cheer.
Finally, one of the warriors that Methos knew to be extremely talented, if not quite bright, stepped forward. His strong and toned body glistened in the sun from his sweat and his dark hair was bound in simple braids, his beard just beginning. His form, however, was flawless and when he threw his spear it flew far and true, striking the target in dead center. The crowd roared its appreciation.
Methos took another long swallow of beer and rolled his eyes at his own memories. "Thus was the beginning of the second Dynasty of Ur. Things were pretty quiet during this dynasty. Raiders were less frequent since the might of Ur was well renown and the temple guards were of a sufficient size and skill that there was less danger from the wild beasts that hunted on the edge of the fields. This line of ensi was healthy, but not very bright or ambitious."
"While we were living in a fair approximation of prosperity, our neighbors to the north were going through their own form of growing pains. The word filtering down to us was that the various towns and villages of Akkad were battling each other. I suppose that I should have been paying a bit more attention, but things were peaceful and I was devoting myself to study and learning. I had a proto-library at this point in time and I spent most of the hours of the day filling it with clay tablets filled with cruciform writing, trying to capture the history of Ur down for future generations. By the time I bothered to stick my nose outside my temple, the Akkadians had managed to form themselves an empire and they wanted to form an...alliance with the empire of Sumer."
A wry grin stole across Methos' face as he accepted another beer from Joe. Duncan, caught up in the story like a child trying to hold back the time for sleep was impatient. "Well? What happened then?" Methos' grin grew wider.
"An exchange of daughters, of course. We sent the youngest daughter of the ensi to Akkad. Ninhursag escorted her personally in a jeweled and linen draped liter that was borne on the backs of her own personal slaves. I sent along an honor guard of my fiercest warriors to protect them on their travels. All of Ur celebrated the elevation of that girl-child from Third Daughter to Queen of Sargon. In return, one of Sargon's younger sisters was sent to us in Ur."
Methos sent an odd look to Duncan. "You can probably relate to this quite well having lived through something like it, but Sumeria began to change. There were several city-states that had formed alliances over the centuries that were all considered to be Sumerian. Ur, of course was the main city, but there was also Warka, Eridu and then later on there came Babylon."
Joe interrupted. "Babylon, old man? Come on, that was its own empire."
Methos nodded in agreement. "Yes, they were...or would be in about...uh...four, maybe five hundred years. At the time, though, Babylon was a Sumerian city and was a nominal subject of Ur...and that meant me."
Duncan frowned. "Why would I be able to relate to this part of the story?" Methos shrugged.
"Because you lived through something like it in Scotland. When you were a lad, the Highlands had their own culture. It was pure and untainted. Over the years that became less and less so. Ideas and religion and technology and all sorts of things drifted in little by little. Some of it was adopted readily and some of it was forced. But it did happen. And that's what happened with both Akkad and Sumer. Even the language changed. The Semitic language of the Akkad's and the language of Sumeria merged to create a third new language. Even the cruciform writing changed once the Akkadian's got a hold of it. We had horses and camels that we used for pack animals. The Akkadian's used them for mounting warriors. We adopted that idea. They absorbed our art and textile skills."
Methos took another long swallow of beer. "I was nearing my second millennia in the city of Ur when Ur-Nammu became ensi. He was a near perfect melding of Sumerian stock and Akkadian stock due to several generations of exchanging 'princesses' with the emperors of Akkad. By this time I was a bit alarmed by the submersion of Sumerian culture into the Akkadian belief system. The people of Ur no longer saw me as a god in my own right, but as a blessed child of Ishtar...one of the Akkadian goddesses. While I didn't mind being the son of a goddess, I was a bit worried about the way that things were changing, so I took a keen interest and a firm hand in the raising of Ur-Nammu." A smug smile erupted across the ancient one's face. "That boy did me proud. By the time he handed over the rulership to his son, Ur was in complete control of the outlet into what's now the Persian Sea and Ur was the wealthiest and strongest city in the Twin Empires."
A deep frown and a dangerous glitter to his green-gold eyes suddenly marred Methos' face. "That prosperity lasted for only a bit longer than a century until the Elamites came and captured me and Ur-Nammu's grandson. Ur was destroyed."
They had grown lazy and complacent. He had grown lazy and complacent. He had no one to blame but himself. It had been so long since any serious challenge to Ur had come along that he had become soft, weak. The peace with Akkad and the legendary might of Ur had held back the tides of war for so long that he had allowed himself to believe that it might never come again. Now his beloved city and his cherished people were paying the price in blood and pain for his ignorance.
With a long bronze sword in one hand and a cruel hook pointed obsidian dagger in the other, Methos fought like a man possessed, cutting deeply into mortal flesh and blood. Around him, his temple guardsmen hacked and swung their weapons at their armored opponents. And hadn't that been a nasty surprise? While he and his warriors wore simple woven skirts about their waists, the Elamite warriors wore vests and skirts of thick cured leather that was difficult to cut or stab through.
The air was thick with the acrid scent of burning wood, cloth and flesh, the smoke dark and choking. The cries of the injured mixed and mingled with the desperate pleas of a frightened and panicked citizenry and the shrill screams of horses. The paved stones beneath his feet became slick with the blood of his enemies and still he fought on, a killing machine in the midst of his dying people. No one could face him and live, he was simply too good a fighter, too strong an opponent.
Finally, someone got smart and shot him in the back with an arrow. Then another. He spun around to face this new threat only to see two more arrows fly at him out of the sky to find new homes in his chest. He tried to push back the pain and the darkness that was creeping over him so that he could continue to defend his beautiful city. His limbs shaking with fatigue and loss of feeling, he killed one more enemy before false death stole over him and he knew no more.
A long pull from the beer in his hand. "Ur was eventually rebuilt as a part of the Larsa kingdom which was then overthrown by the people of Babylon. That's when the Babylonians began their empire; when they took over the rule of Ur. I wasn't there to see that though. I spent several centuries as a prisoner in the Elam city of Susa." Methos snorted, it was a bitter sound. "I found out later that when the Elamites were sacking Ur, they found my library and read through my journals. They brought back the worship of Nanna, telling the people that an immortal who had been dead for two-thousand years had returned from the underworld to have his revenge on me. Then, they destroyed my library and all of the records I had kept. Oddly enough, the worship of Nanna continued for another thousand years. Which I don't really mind...much. The fact that they dedicated my temple to him, thus making me want to resurrect the fools just so that I can have the pleasure of killing them again is besides the point."
Joe snorted in amusement. "A bit bitter, old man?"
Methos glared at him. "Wouldn't you be bitter? It was MY temple. I was worshipped there for over two thousand years! Then they turned around and dedicated it to some fool who lost his head due to a combination of laziness and arrogance! The idiot blighters."
Duncan flashed a brief grin at Joe before turning serious eyes on Methos. "So what happened then? How long were you a prisoner of the Elamites?"
Methos frowned again. "About two centuries. Not that they let me go, mind you. I escaped. Fled down river to the Persian Sea and then from there I made my way to Ur. That's when I found out about the whole Nanna thing. It...hurt. I couldn't stay. I made my way up river to Babylon. By then, they were at the height of their power in a strange sense. They had a lot of land, but very little control over it. Kassites were invading the outlying districts regularly and the Elamites had left behind a lot of physical and cultural damage that was still being borne out. Things were a mess. I was bitter over my casual disregard in Ur and in a rage over my torments in Elam, but these were still my people in a sense and I cared for them."
"I bullied my way into the royal court and made myself a tutor of the young princeling. His name was Hammurabi. He was arrogant and spoilt. I disabused him of that right away and then spent several years teaching him how to read, write and most importantly, how to think. I pointed out what was wrong with his father's empire and offered several suggestions on how to correct them. I worked on him about politics, economy, the military, religion...everything I could think of. Then, when he was crowned Emperor, I left Babylon."
"Uhhh..." Joe interrupted. "Hammurabi is considered to be one of the greatest rulers of that time. You realize that, don't you?"
Methos shrugged. "Well, he certainly had his work cut out for him, I'll give you that. The culture of the ruling class was decadent and lacking in morals to say the least. And the commoners' plight was pitiful. Each of his father's underlings was in charge of different areas of the city and the surrounding countryside and each ruled according to their own whims. Invaders and raiders were a scourge and the militia only guarded the main city of Babylon and left the smaller towns and villages that supported that city to their own defense. It was a mess, but Hammurabi did a good job of fixing all of that. He was ruthless and cruel, but he solidified the empire and unified the people."
The small dark child glared up at him, his thin arms crossed over his chest and his chin lifted in haughty arrogance even as his lips twisted into a sneer of disdain. "I am Hammurabi, Prince of all Babylon. I'll do whatever I please."
Methos snorted in amusement and bent low to place himself nose to nose with the spoilt child. "You are the heir to a decadent and crumbling empire that is on the very verge of shattering apart. Its strength is weakened from within by the corrupt and the unjust even as its strength is battered at from without by raiding warriors against a hopeless and terrified populace. If you and your family want Babylon to be the seat of power for all Sumeria then you must rule all of Sumeria and stop playing these petty games of trying to impress each other with your personal wealth and glory."
The child puffed up his thin chest in indignation and practically shook with righteous anger. "How dare you speak to me such? I could have you killed for that impertinence!"
Methos grinned a nasty grin and drew his dagger. A flicker of fear crossed the child's face, but he stood his ground almost defiantly. A sliver of pride in that fact shivered through Methos, but he didn't let it stop him. With an almost casual flick of his wrist, he used his dagger to slice open his own hand. Together, he and the child watched as sizzling blue lightening raced across his wound, healing it closed and then fading the scar away as if it had never been. "Go on child...have me killed. I shall simply rise again and come back to finish your education."
The boy's dark skin grew ashy as the blood fled his cheeks. "How...why...if you are descended from the gods and cannot be killed...then why do you care about me?"
Methos eyed the small boy and hardened his heart. "I don't." The boy looked crushed. "I care about Sumeria, child. I think that you have the potential to be a great ruler, better than your father could ever hope to be. I have come to you to see that you have the chance to do just that, but you must put aside your belief that you are more important than Sumeria. That's why your father and his council of advisors are leading the Babylonian Empire into ruin. They are putting their own needs ahead of the needs of the empire. If you do the same, there won't be much of an empire to hand over to your own son."
A long endless moment stretched out silently as Methos watched the small boy consider what he had just seen and been told. A niggling voice of doubt spoke up in the back of Methos' mind to inform him that if he didn't have the boy's cooperation than teaching him the difference between being an emperor and a tyrant would be difficult. He almost wanted to nibble on his bottom lip, but then the child's dark eyes turned to look up at him, a fierce determination in them.
"Teach me what I must know."
"The next several centuries I spent traveling as a nomadic vagabond. I went from city to city, learning what I could and avoiding danger as best as possible. I worked for food and lodging as a storyteller and a teacher. It was a little lonely at times, but I was content for the most part. After a while, the power shifted from the Babylonian Empire to the Elam Empire. This was prompted by the fact that the Elamites finally managed to dispose of the Kassites that had so long plagued both Elam and Babylon. However, after a few generations had passed, I couldn't ignore the fact that the Elam culture was quickly becoming the main culture of the entire area. Their language was overtaking the shared language of Akkad and Sumer. Their gods and their clothing and their writing were appearing everywhere. I still hadn't forgiven the Elamites for disposing me of my divinity, so I went north."
Methos took another beer from Joe and drank deeply, his eyes losing their focus once again. "It's odd, but I almost felt as if I had gone back in time by over two thousand years. Ur was located at the base of the Euphrates River and I headed towards the headlands of the Tigris River and found a people that were surprisingly like those early Sumerians. When I left Ur it was arguably the most powerful city in Sumeria, but when I arrived it was just a ramshackle town, little more than a village of crude huts. And that's what I found in the northlands. Crude little villages."
A sad and haunted look flashed across Methos' eyes almost too quickly to see. "I also found my second immortal student. I came across a young immortal man who was in the process of building a huge funeral pyre for a little more than half of the people of his village."
"Raiders?" Methos looked up at the concerned tone of Duncan's voice and gave a mirthless little bark of a laugh.
"No. Sickness. To this day, I don't know what plague killed off over half of the village, I just know that my newest student had lost his parents and his brand new bride to it. In fact, he had died trying to prevent the illness from killing any more of his people by traveling to the next village over to bring back their healer. The neighboring villagers killed him and dumped his body in the river in fear of him spreading the disease to them as well." Methos' raised up one eyebrow and stared Duncan right in the eyes. "My student's name was Kronos."
He sat cross legged in front of the tormented young man with the beautiful haunted eyes and the painful scar that he would bear forever. The pyre had been built and the bodies of the dead had all been cleansed and wrapped. When the sun set over the hills then the torches would be lit and the corpses would be burnt to ash. The young one, Kronos, had been almost hysterical when he realized that the village's only holy man had succumbed to the plague and there was no one left who could perform the ceremony to send his people on their way. Methos, in an effort to calm and comfort him had promised to perform the task, although it would be in the style and language of Sumeria. Kronos and the few remaining survivors agreed.
So now, here he sat before the young one to get him ready for the ceremony. A crude wooden bowl filled with a hastily made paint was held in one hand and simple and hurriedly cleaned clothing of the palest shade that they could find was drying by the fire. Methos dipped two fingers into the paint and then reached up to gently draw a line dividing Kronos' face in half.
"I lived for fifteen hundred years in the great Sumerian city of Ur, young one. This custom is ancient, even older than I am. Your people's spirits will rest easy, I promise you that."
Kronos' eyes flickered to him briefly before returning to stare sightlessly into space. Suppressing a sigh, Methos began to fill in one half of his handsome face with the blue paint.
"We wear the palest of linens, preferably a stark white to reflect all the energy of life from us to the dead we honor. White is pure, like their spirits and to cover our bodies in that color comforts them. The blue paint that we hide half of our face with is the color of mourning and sadness. It is this way that we show those that are still living that our hearts are divided, one half of us among the living and one half of us praying and longing for the dead."
Methos continued to paint Kronos' face silently. Finally he finished and put his bowl aside. For a moment he thought that Kronos would remain silent, but then those haunting eyes turned to catch his own green-gold ones. "How...how long should I wear the white and blue of death?"
Methos' face was serious and his own eyes reflected loss after loss after loss. "For as long as you need to."
Both Duncan and Joe sucked in a deep breath of surprise. Methos simply lowered his eyes in regret. "He never recovered from that trauma. Emotionally, I mean. He carried that pain with him until the day you took his head, Highlander." Methos looked up again, his eyes reflecting millennia of hurt. "I always sort of wondered what he would have been like if he hadn't lost so much in such a horrid way. Or even if that healer had been at least willing to try and save them. Who knows...?"
Duncan's face was set into a hard expression, his jaw muscles clenching. "Was he...violent and psychotic even then?"
Methos sighed and took a swallow of beer, his eyes losing focus as he thought back. "No. No, he was sad and hurt and utterly obsessed with human frailty and sickness, but he wasn't violent. He didn't go out and...hurt anyone. At that point in time, he still kept all the pain and hurt inside. He was a good man...and a good friend."
Duncan gave a noncommittal grunt, but Joe was intrigued. "How did you go from a wandering storyteller to the Four Horsemen? I mean, that's a huge leap in job descriptions if you ask me. And were you still going by the name Methos?"
Methos shook his head. "No. I mean, I did when I was tutoring Hammurabi in Babylon and I told Kronos my name...but I took another one when I was around regular people. It had been several centuries and it was a different part of the world, but the name Methos was still widely known. Okay, granted it wasn't a very far distance by today's standards, but at that time it was almost the other side of the known world."
He smirked slightly. "As for the Horsemen...that was still to come. Kronos and I spent a little over a century traveling from random village to random village. We'd only stay for five or ten years and then move on. I taught him to smelt bronze and copper. I showed him how to forge his own sword and then how to use it to fight. I taught him how to use a spear, a bow and arrow and how to hunt. I taught him how to dress that kill and how to preserve the meat and how to tan the hide. I taught him how to speak the Akkad-Sumer language and how to read in cruciform. I also taught him how to speak the Elam language and what little I knew of their pictogram writing. I taught him how to recognize edible plants and how to cook. I taught him how to ride and care for a horse and I taught him what little I knew of healing and tending the injured."
Methos' smile softened. "We were...content. Not happy, mind you. We had each lost too much that was important and special to us, but...content."
Joe handed Methos another beer and he smiled at the Watcher before continuing. "At the time, I didn't realize what I was doing, but looking back on it now it is so clear, hindsight being 20/20 and all. To me and Kronos it was so simple then. We traveled to a village and made a home for ourselves. I would set myself up as a teacher and he would apprentice himself to a healer if he could or I would teach him some craft if he couldn't. And I was good at what I did. I had been a professional storyteller for a few centuries and a professional god for a millennia and a half. By the time we left a village, it was changed. The children's heads were filled with ancient knowledge of crafts not yet reaching into this backwards part of the world and their hearts were filled with stories of the great empires of the south and the fabled city of Ur. This pattern was repeated over and over and over again."
The look that Methos shot to Duncan was painfully self-mocking. "Is it any wonder that this land of simple villagers and farmers suddenly found themselves struggling painfully towards their own form of empire?" Then a seemingly careless shrug that was anything but. "It probably would have been a smoother and easier transition if it weren't for their location. Akkad and Babylon to the south were out of power and struggling under the yoke of Elam. Raiders from that area found easier targets to the north as far as pillaging and looting for food and supplies. Elam was the strongest nation and had overpowered the Kassites, but there was still a violent undercurrent in that land due to strong pockets of Kassite resistance fighters. And while Luristan was a buffer between Elam and the northern villages, they were a very weak nation at that time and did little, if anything, to prevent random armies of either side from marching through their territory. To the far west by the rumored Mediterranean Sea were the lands of Anatolia. While they were far enough away to be harmless, in between them and us were several bands of nomadic raiders and warrior clans. As time moved on, the number of attacks on the northern villages grew greater and it became increasingly apparent that they would have to band together to face off these invaders."
Joe frowned. "Sounds like a rough time."
Duncan nodded. "Aye. Makes me think of the clan wars back home."
Methos smiled and took a sip of his beer. "Yeah. It wasn't the nicest of times, but I'd been in plenty of battles before and I had trained thousands of men to fight. Kronos and I always ended up defending any village that came under attack while we were there and then helped in the rebuilding afterwards. It just became more frequent as time went on. That's how we came across Silas."
Duncan's eyebrows flew up. "He was a raider?"
Methos shook his head. "No, a villager. He died in a raid, though. A bad one. The raiders burned all of the villager's crops and stole almost all of the people's flocks and herds. It was a fairly small and poor village to start with and the raiders were strong and well trained. The only real fighters that the villagers had to defend them were myself and Kronos. They were all just simple farmers and that's why they were attacked...for their food stores. We stayed to help rebuild, but all of our efforts weren't enough. That village suffered a bad famine for the next four or five years. When the food supply was real low; Kronos, Silas and I ended up going without. We each starved to death several times before the crops and herds were rebuilt."
Duncan frowned. "Well, that explains Silas pretty good."
Methos merely nodded. "Yeah. He pretty much vowed never to go hungry again after that and as far as I know, he didn't. When we left Sila's village, Kronos was mightily sick of fighting and to be honest, so was I. At first I suggested that we head due north to the lands where the fabled Black Sea lay, but Kronos wanted to go east. There was another sea there that had been known as the Great Waters of Media for as long as I could remember, but in recent times had started to be referred to as Caspian's Sea...or Caspian's Doom. Rumors said that a great and terrible demon had been cast into the sea, never to be seen again and he was curious. So...we headed east."
"Let me guess, you didn't find a demon but another immortal?" Duncan rolled his eyes. Methos smirked.
"Yeah, but not right away. Like I said, I wasn't too impressed with tales of some mythical sea demon, I had been a god after all. And besides, I was busy training and teaching my third immortal student; Silas." Methos' eyes softened fondly. "Silas had a good heart, a strong back and very little in the way of intelligence. It was easy enough to teach him how to work with his hands and his back...but to educate his mind? It would have been easier to relocate a mountain. I despaired of ever pounding a civilized language into his head and he never did get the hang of reading and writing. The concept of time was elusive to him as well. He could comprehend the passage of the sun across the sky and the turning of the seasons but that was as far as that went. Counting years was beyond him since I could only ever get him to count as high as ten. After that it was simply 'many' to his way of thinking."
Duncan grunted. "Sounds like a frustrating student. How did you put up with him for so long?"
"He was a frustrating student, but he was a great and gentle man-child. He had a way about him with animals that was astonishing and he never complained, never gave up and never argued. He was always in a cheerful mood and never had a bad thing to say about anyone. Well...until we found Caspian. Silas and Caspian didn't get along at all."
Duncan snorted. "Did Caspian get along with anyone?"
Methos nodded. "Kronos. While I was busy teaching Silas, Kronos was busy tracking down the rumors of the demon Caspian. We traveled from village to village all along the coast of what's now the Caspian Sea until he eventually found him. Kronos was, by then, my best friend and long time companion so I was more than willing to humor him. When we found Caspian, he was chained to several rocks and laying at the bottom of the Sea. Ironically, it was Silas and his great strength that made getting him out of there possible."
The days of diving down into the cold dark depths of the Sea had finally paid off. The 'demon' that the villagers were so eager to gossip about was an immortal and the vibrating song that swelled in their minds whenever they got close to his watery grave is what led the three men to finding him. By taking turns tied to a rope held by one of the others still afloat on their leaky boat, they were able to slowly but steadily work Caspian's chains free and pull the rocks from him that held his corpse down under the waters.
On the forth day, Kronos tied the rope around the submerged immortal and then swam back up to the boat. Caspian was heavy and bloated with water and weighed down by the chains and rocks that they couldn't free him of. Kronos and Methos tugged at the rope, but they weren't strong enough to pull the drowned immortal to the surface. Kronos was half crazed with the thought of freeing the doomed man, but it was of no use.
Finally, inspiration hit and Methos shouted at the top of his lungs towards the shore. "Silas! Silas! Swim out to us! Hurry, we need you! Silas!"
The giant of a man wasn't the best swimmer and the waters of the Sea weren't gentle, but he never faltered. Silas simply double checked their horses and supplies to determine they were safe and then stripped himself of clothing and weapons. Once bare of anything that could tangle in his limbs or weigh him down further, the large muscular farmer dove into the water and made his slow steady way through the foamy waves towards the leaky boat that Kronos and Methos waited in.
It seemed to be a long time before they were able to reach out and pull the youngest of them into the boat, but when they did, Silas was still in his eternally cheery mood, despite the fact that he was naked, wet and cold.
"Come Silas, help Methos and I pull the drowned one up out of the Sea."
Silas flashed a toothy smile at Kronos and grabbed a hold of the end of the rope, wrapping it around his thick wrist before clutching it in his meaty fist. Then, together, the three of them pulled and heaved and yanked. A long sweaty time later they got their first look at the pale and bloated dead face of the immortal that they would one day come to call brother.
Methos' eyes turned hard and almost haunted as he speared Duncan with his green-gold gaze. "Can you imagine being trapped in a watery grave? To die of drowning only to revive again and again and again without food, drink or reprieve? That was Caspian's fate and as far as we could tell he was older than Silas...although younger than Kronos. He was probably down there for around a hundred years. Dying over and over and over again. He had been cast there by his own people after he revived from his first death. They called him a demon and chained him to the bottom of the sea."
Duncan and Joe both shuttered and the Highlander went pale at the thought, but Methos went on. "Of course he was mad by then."
Joe snorted. "I think I'd be angry too. That's a hell of a way to be treated."
Methos shook his head. "That's not what I meant. I mean, well yeah he was angry and filled with rage, but when I say he was mad I meant that he was insane. Irreversibly insane. I suggested that either myself or Kronos take the poor shit out into the nearest field and cut his head off. I figured that it would be a mercy to the raving bastard, but Kronos had a soft spot for him and tried to tame him. It wasn't an easy task, especially since he had a tendency to attack anything that wasn't immortal and he went ballistic at even the sight of water. The poor fool ended up dying of dehydration quite a lot at first since we couldn't convince him to even drink the stuff."
"We eventually started to make our way south and west towards what had once been Luristan. I figured that we could simultaneously avoid any villages that would send Caspian around the bend and we would also be in a position to harass and possibly turn away various bands of raiders. The four of us spent years honing our skills and learning to work as a single unit as we battled endlessly against the raiders and armies of Elam and the Kassite resistance. We even took a decade or two traveling through the northern parts of the growing populace which would eventually become Persia. We were...heroes."
He flashed a look of remembered pain mixed with a terrible irony at Duncan. "It was a messy and violent life, but I was happy. I had my two students and a pet lunatic at my side and I had a grand purpose. I was ready to put my past as Methos behind me at last. That's when the rumors began. The northern villages where I had found both Kronos and Silas had finally reached the point where they were solidified into a single empire; Assyria. However, they were a superstitious people who had been forged through endless battles and raids and disasters. To protect themselves and to ensure the supremacy of their rule, the self-styled rulers had ordered a dangerous and daring raid of their own into the southern lands which had been in political turmoil for a while. Their coup? They had captured a southern goddess, a daughter of Ishtar. They were planning to sacrifice her and send her home to her father who was rumored to be a god of the dead."
Joe seemed to clue on faster than Duncan. "Oh no. Please tell me they didn't and that it's not who I think it is. Please tell me it wasn't your first student."
Methos response was to close his eyes, a look of naked anguish settling on his face. "We rode hard for many days and many nights but we were still too late. I arrived at the base of the platform they used for Ninhursag's public beheading just in time to take her Quickening. Needless to say, the commoners scattered in fear even as Kronos, Silas and Caspian ran to me. Kronos was the one that helped me back to my feet. I then made a very eloquent and pompous speech in which I named myself as Methos; the Destroyer, Sumerian God of Death. Then, the four of us slaughtered the Assyrian people randomly."
He opened his eyes then, but they were focused on the distant past, not seeing the two horrified men before him. "I think that Caspian fought because he enjoyed it, but Kronos and Silas fought for me, at my behest. I fought because I honestly believe that watching my beloved daughter die and then taking her Quickening drove me insane."
It was two days after the death of Ninhursag and Methos had everything that he needed in readiness. Both Kronos and Silas were worried about him, he knew that, but he just couldn't find it in himself to comfort them and set their minds at ease.
He had spent an hour down by the stream bathing and cleansing his body, trying to rid himself of all taint and compassion. He needed to be strong, focused, a razor sharp weapon of vengeance in order to do what had to be done. Finally, he stepped out of the freezing waters and stood in the wintry sun, letting the light and the winds dry his skin.
Then, slowly, he turned and walked back to their camp. Caspian was off to the side, one hand holding up a large rock while the other scrabbled in the moist earth to capture the scuttling bugs that he seemed to find so tasty. Silas crouched by the fire, roasting a bit of haunch for their dinner. His eyes tracked Methos and his face was filled with sadness, but only Kronos understood the true meaning behind his actions.
With meticulous care, Kronos helped him to wrap himself in a blindingly white linen drape. Attention was paid to each fold and pleat as it was hung around his lean muscled frame. Over that, in defiance of tradition but in response to what Methos considered a necessity, his heavy leather body armor was placed. Kronos had spent a long time trying to bleach it as pale as possible in accordance to Sumerian mourning custom, but a light tan was the best that could be done. Methos didn't mind that the leather wasn't pure white; it was the effort that counted.
Then, when all else was in readiness, he sat down with crossed legs as his, now, eldest student took up a rough wooden bowl of hastily made blue paint. Methos closed his eyes as Kronos' gentle fingers first painted a line down the middle of his face to divide his spirit in half and then began to fill in one side to represent the half of his spirit that was among the dead...with his beloved daughter Ninhursag.
"How long shall you wear the white and blue of mourning, Methos?"
His eyes snapped open to reveal green-gold fire. "For as long as I need too."
Methos' eyes snapped back to the present and he took a long drink from his beer, emptying the bottle. "It took several hours before we tired enough for the city guards to be able to kill us all. We revived just before they would have buried us all alive. To their surprise we were reborn not as Kronos, Silas, Caspian and Methos; but as Pestilence, Famine, War and Death."
The haunted self-mocking smirk returned. "That's the real irony. We had just spent several centuries fighting raiders to protect these people only to turn into their greatest nightmare. Nothing was sacred and no one was safe. Assyria, Babylon, Elam, Persia, and later, Greece. They all fell before us."
It was Joe that finally voiced a question and broke the silence that had descended. "What stopped you? I mean...why did you leave the Horsemen?"
An odd look flickered across Methos' face almost too quickly to see. "I took a Quickening and it changed me. The immortal had been old, not quite as old as me...but old enough. His name was Anu and he had spent his entire life on Holy Ground until we came. He left the safety of his temple to try and help bring in the old and the young and even the women."
"By then it was fairly well known that we would, for whatever reasons, never violate the sanctity of a temple no matter who it was dedicated to. I assume that he didn't realize just how much danger he was in. While we didn't ever fight on Holy Ground, I had no problem with killing a holy man or a priest. I took Anu's head before he could even react to the danger. Afterwards, I found myself looking around at what we had become...what I had become. I didn't like what I saw."
Another beer was placed before him, but he didn't drink, he merely stared at it as if it held all the answers. "I had become that which I had spent millennia fighting against and I was suddenly able to see that fact. The blood rage which had descended on me at Ninhursag's murder had lifted and I was appalled. I put aside the blue and white of mourning and spent almost a decade trying to persuade the others to give up raiding and fighting. Let's go to Athens and start a new life, I'd say. Let's go south to the lands of Egypt and travel the Nile, I'd say. Let's cross Persia and explore the lands of India, I'd say. They didn't listen and they didn't want to give up the power and the hate. So...I left. End of the Four Horsemen."
There was a long moment of silence. Then, "Did you go to those places?"
Methos smirked at Duncan. "I went everywhere. I've been traveling the world ever since. I spent over three thousand years of my life dedicated to Mesopotamia. Most of them were in defense of the people there, but I'm only remembered for the short time that I was a terror. No one remembers that Methos spent over a thousand years as a god at Ur...but they remember that he terrorized the Assyrians. When I left, I stopped calling myself Methos again. In every city I gave myself a new name and I followed a different trade. Methos faded into myth and the seasons turned and the world moved on."
A soft sad chuckle. "Adam Pierson is a nice enough fellow, I suppose, but sometimes I find myself missing Methos. Oh, not Methos the Horsemen of Death, but Methos of Ur; guardian, protector, teacher and god of a grand and fabled city. That Methos was a good man, a gentle man. He hadn't yet been twisted and broken by the heavy weight of time and events until he was little more than a parody of himself."
A warm hand rested on Methos' arm and he looked up into sympathetic and understanding brown eyes. "You can't go back home, old man. Even if you win the prize, you can't ever go back home."
Methos nodded. "I know." Then he drank the rest of his beer in silence, stood up and put on his coat. He shrugged his shoulders once to settle it and the weight of his hidden weapons into place and then smiled sadly. "My home doesn't even exist anymore, Highlander. I destroyed it." Then, with his green-gold eyes focused firmly on the present, Methos turned and walked out of Joe's Bar.
END: Methos of Ur