Little Horsemen on the Prairie
by Rob Morris
Prologue - Doc Baker's Helper
Richie Ryan was bored. In another two weeks, he would be dead. For now, though, he was bored.
Amanda was bored. Macleod had moved all of the good stuff out of his apartment, so there wasn't even anything worth hiding to drive him crazy with.
Duncan was bored, from hearing about how much the other two were bored. They were three Immortals in America, their lives enmeshed with sex and death. It was Amanda who suggested the logical thing ---the only logical thing. The thing that many bored people do, to make their lives bearable for a few passing moments. It was a suggestion steeped in both sex and death.
"Let's watch some TV."
In Macleod's newly installed home entertainment center room was a 70-inch Diamond Vision Television. Richie dreamed of the Destroy All Monsters LD he had purchased. Amanda knew that The Brinks Job was on Bravo. Duncan had the new DVD of Mortal Kombat, with Connor
using his SAG alias to play Rayden. Just then, disaster struck. Methos had gotten to the TV first. He was watching a TV show Marathon on The Superstation.
The episode on was nearly over. On screen, a young blond girl was close to tears, complaining to her stuck-up mother that she, and not the other girl, should have won the contest. The girl vowed never to speak to her mother again. The put-upon husband merely smiled and left as the show ended. Richie moved for the remote. As a result, he almost died two weeks early. Methos grabbed Richie by the collar, and spoke.
"Not a good idea, Richie. I was here first. Move for that again, and your alias will go from Redstone to Headstone."
Amanda did not want to watch the show.
"Strip me, beat me, and have your way with me, but do not make me watch this sugar-coated Seventies schlock. I liked the man when he was a Cartwright, but as a farmer or an angel, he leaves something to be desired."
Now Macleod put in his two cents.
"We're not gonna strip you and beat you, Amanda. You'd enjoy it too much. Methos, this is my TV, and frankly, I never cared much for this show--say, was that blond girl Nellie or the lookalike they adopted later?"
"Enjoy it? Not with you two boy scouts. You'd keep your eyes closed. This show always makes me wanna hurl my--what's Albert doing there? Didn't he die?"
Richie just shook his head.
"This fluff is so far away from reality, that anybody who'd bother watching it has totally lost my---waitaminute. How can Mrs. Oleson even SAY something like that? She knows it was her own son who took the---err, uh, that is, I...."
Methos looked about amusedly.
"I am SO glad that none of you watch this horrid little show. You're not like me, who is fascinated by the chronicling of frontier life, with its droughts, floods, winters, summers, crib deaths, chronic unemployment and simple sustaining faith."
"Simple sustaining faith? YOU?"
"Macleod, if one cannot swim, he tends to be fascinated by the exploits of those who can. I always liked Walnut Grove, and Laura Ingalls Wilder knew how to tell a story."
All resigned themselves and watched the remainder of the episode. In the interim, Joe Dawson entered the apartment and found a seat in the TV room. During commercials, he told why he was there.
"During my initial recovery, Michael Landon and Pernell Roberts were taken on a tour of the troops in Nam'. To this day, I can't miss this or Trapper John, MD. Say, Mac, didn't you know the real guy?"
"Sorry, Joe. By the time I reached the 4077th, Hunnicutt was in. I did meet McIntyre at the Pierces' wedding, back in 65', briefly."
"SHOOSH. Must all males talk during programs? This is it."
At Amanda's prompting, all fell silent and watched the family of bullies thrown out of town, with the preacher's blessing. Methos then spoke.
"The next episode will be Doc Baker's Helper, and I think that you shall all enjoy it a great deal."
Walnut Grove, Minnesota – Late 19th Century
Charles Ingalls' met the stage. He was determined that the Doctor substituting for the ailing Doc Baker would be welcomed and would be made to feel welcome. A well-dressed English-sounding man disembarked. Charles saw the medical bag, and shook his hand.
"Welcome to Walnut Grove, Doctor. I'm Charles Ingalls, and we are very grateful that the University in Minneapolis would send us another Doctor while Doc Baker is laid up with that…"
The Doctor pulled his hand back, and wiped it off, quite disdainfully.
"Mr. Ingalls, allow me to be frank. I am not here to chit-chat with you backwater yokels. I am not here to help you discover things you didn't already know about caring for one's health. I am not here to be a hero or friend to your rug rats. I intend to clear away as soon as your sawbones is up and about. Good day, Mr. Ingalls. Oh, my name is Abel C. Adams, but you may call me -Doctor."
With that, the man found his office in town, and left Ingalls alone. A little bit angry at this treatment, he muttered out loud:
"Charmed, I'm sure--Doctor."
At the commercial, Joe looked over at Methos. Duncan, and then the others, realized why he was doing so.
"Methos. Wasn't Doctor Abel Cain Adams your alias in the late 1800's?"
The Oldest just smiled.
"It really was a lovely little town. Although I think I was a bit more polite to Mr. Ingalls that what you just saw--dramatic license, I suppose---oh, it's back on."
The four friends were still stunned by the thought that this episode of Little House On The Prairie was based on a real incident in Methos' life. They still failed to fully comprehend just how completely he had set them up. During the commercial break, Methos cheerfully ticked off the show's inconsistencies.
"…thirdly, 'rug rats' was NOT a Nineteenth Century term...."
"At the last, do you ever shut up? It's coming back on."
Walnut Grove, 19th Century
To man of the stature of Doctor Abel C. Adams, doctoring in a town like this Minnesota lake community was something of an insult. But taking jobs like these when he was offered them kept people from asking too many questions about his credentials. In those days, no one mistrusted an agreeable sort - or one who wished to appear agreeable.
Methos knew that he had three sets of people to fool at all times. The public, most of whom were not fond of asking questions. Other Immortals, who had to believe that he was, at most a thousand. That would make him a tempting target, to be sure. But should any of them tumble to the fact that he was The Oldest, then the challengers would never stop coming. Eventually, one of them would get lucky. There need only be one, a bit better with the sword than himself. The third group was The Watchers, whom he knew enough about to make believe he was less than two centuries old, and therefore not of the prime interest some of his more noticeable Immortal brethren were.
After checking Baker's 'influenza', Doctor Adams made a tour of the town. He wasn't a chatty sort, but going around and knowing who was sickly or likely to be in need of medical care was smart if one wanted to be in and out of town quickly. The unexpected could easily extend a stay.
He took note of five pregnant women in various stages, four war vets whose amputations did not look like they were done properly, six elderly people, some in better shape than the young, and three drunken fools building a barn. He wisely expected them within 3 hours, and he was not disappointed.
He also caught the attention of a creature that has plagued humans since before Methos' forgotten birthplace was founded. This creature was the town busybody, a self-appointed chairperson of everything. Her name was Harriet Oleson.
"Thank you for your most gracious offer, Mrs. Oleson, but I prefer to dine alone."
Kronos had possessed a way of talking past people that was actually, in its own way, deadlier than any of his killing skills. Harriet Oleson, too, had learned the art of dismissing what one said before one said it. People like herself and Kronos didn't merely not take no for an answer--they really couldn't hear the word.
"I simply WON'T hear of it. Doctor, a man of your breeding and culture should eat with his own kind."
"Ah, but Madam, wherever would I find such people in your town? Unless you refer to that kind Mr. Ingalls and his family? Good Day, Mrs. Oleson."
Methos had seen the disdain Harriet Oleson and her daughter Nellie treated others with. But their movements around the Ingalls family were especially stiff. The Oldest could smell a feud a mile off, and that was the amusing part. While Charles, Albert and Laura Ingalls became more cautious around the Olesons-Nels being an exception, not to mention exceptionally patient- they simply had better things to do. Methos knew that it very rarely became important for the less well off family to puncture the pomposity of the other. He also sensed who was usually the winner in those clashes of will.
Realizing he had to go back into the General Store to buy the materials he used to keep his sword at the ready, Methos overheard the tail end of an Oleson argument. It somehow involved Nels refusing to march into the Ingalls' house, there to demand the return of a long-forgotten trophy. Harriet simply left in a huff. Nellie, however stopped to ask Doctor Adams a question.
"Doctor, you've seen lots of women in your practice, am I correct?"
"Oh, yes, my dear. A great many."
Feigning interest was harder with some people than with others.
"What great beauty of history do you think I'll look like, based on your knowledge of anatomy and bone structure?"
"Nellie, with you being the way you are, I see you as the next Marie Antoinette."
"Why thank you, Doctor. You obviously have taste."
Seeing that Nels had overheard, Methos expected an earful after the girl had left. The man was laughing.
"You have to understand, Doctor Adams, my Nellie got a C in history. Her mother thought it was more important to understand the French language than to know about the people."
'Adams' rolled his eyes.
"Why does that not surprise me? Tell me, Nels, why do you tolerate such a situation? Some might have simply walked away by now."
Nels seemed not angry, but resolved.
"I love my family, Doctor Adams. With all my heart, and all my soul. I just don't always like them very much, is all. What kind of man does that make me?"
Without missing a beat, Methos said one word.
After that, Mr. Oleson filled Doctor Adams' order, trying not to chew his ear off, but still chatting as he went.
"It's just that my Harriet has her nose up so high, she's always walking into something, and her hands in everyone's business so often, she can't see for our own sometimes."
"Well, Nels, I can imagine that many community leaders get a high opinion of themselves."
"High opinion she may have, Doc. But the man this community really turns to, whether they know it or not is...Charles?"
"I don't know? Is it...oh, Charles."
Outside the store, Charles Ingalls was attempting to separate two men on the verge of fisticuffs. From the way they continued to gesture at one another, Methos could see he wasn't meeting with much success. With his body between them, Ingalls stopped the first punches from being thrown. Unfortunately, he did so with his own head. The two louts forgot their argument, and went to help him up. 'Adams' made a brief observation, before going out to help Charles.
"That, Nels, is the wrong way to block a punch."
"Hey, Joe. That Nels was sure clever and patient. A good 'observer' of the human condition."
Joe Dawson, Macleod's Watcher and Leader of much of the Watcher organization overall, merely smiled.
"Sorry, Mac. But it wasn't him."
Methos knew, of course, who had been Watching him during his brief stay in remote Walnut Grove, when his regular assignee was a no-show. But like Joe, he was also a Watcher. Also like Joe, he wasn't telling.
Duncan smiled again. He would soon frown again.
"It's so obvious. Charles was the Watcher. He kept copious notes, which he passed on to his daughter, and she used them to write Little Hou...stop shaking your head, Joe. Accidents can happen."
Joe Dawson was in his element.
"Yeah, Mac. And you might accidentally stumble on who the Watcher in Walnut Grove was. But to quote your kinsman, I Don't Think So."
Amanda raised her finger.
"Guys are so narrow. Who ALWAYS made sure to keep up on everyone else's business? The Watcher was Harriet Oleson."
She received naught but hard stares.
"OK, ok. Dumb Idea."
It was now Richie's turn.
"He watched over his Christian flock...and any who lived too long. Mrs. Oleson would never keep her mouth shut, but..."
Joe stopped him.
"Rich, it wasn't Reverend Alden."
"Joe, you are so lucky that I won't challenge a man with no..."
Before Richie could react, Joe stood up, took his cane, and pushed the cocky young Immortal to the floor. He made a gun-shape with his hand and made a 'bang' motion. Richie was properly chastised.
"A bullet at this range, Rich. Need I say more?"
Joe then helped his friend up. Richie rubbed his head. He smiled at Joe.
"You know, a simple 'Shut Up' would have sufficed."
It was always a lesson. Joe's legs were plastic, but his spine was steel. He was neither to be underestimated, or trifled with. This time, Joe sat back down next to Methos.
"Joe, you needn't be so hard on him. He knows better than to cross you, for the most part. Besides, I think I finally like the little creep."
Dawson was feeling his motion.
"You liked Silas, too, Methos. Didn't help him, much."
"Just watch the damned show, Dawson."
Walnut Grove, 19th Century
"THIS is the yellow bottle. I asked you for the one with the red label. Are you blind?"
Mary Ingalls Kendall stared in Methos-- Doctor Adams'-- general direction.
"I don't know, Doctor. Are You? Because maybe my Pa shouldn't be in your care if you are."
It took a lot to embarrass Methos. But not noticing Mary's eyes was a huge error.
"If I apologize, and say that my not noticing is a compliment to the way you handle yourself, will you accept my apology?"
"If you'll accept mine. I was trying to grab what you told me to by shelf position. Dumb, huh?"
"A worthy effort, Mrs. Kendall. But you do have some limitations, as do we all. Could you call in another family member, if one must be here?"
Since Mary actually appreciated frankness about her eyesight, she asked her younger sister Laura to come in. With her was another younger sister, who looked at her unconscious adoptive father, Charles Ingalls.
"Doc, what happened to my Pa?"
Accepting that he had lost control over his office, Methos spoke gently to the little one.
"Well, it seems your Father stepped between two men who were having a fistfight. He stopped them---the hard way."
The girl put her hands on her hips.
"Not another fight about Mr. Tullane."
Methos now did recall Ingalls breaking up two other fights in his travels; He hadn't bothered to make a connection.
"Who is this Mr. Tullane?"
"Some folk as were strong for the Union think he's a great man. Some few as liked the Confederacy call him worse than Sherman. Me, I just don't like William Tullane. He enjoyed what he did, burning Southern towns and all. That wasn't just punishing the enemy. That was hate."
"Mary, I've been in war, and sometimes petty, ugly things become tragically necessary. Sometimes also, petty, ugly people who tell themselves what they're doing is right are the ones given those grim tasks."
"I know, Doc. But Mr. Tullane likes to brag that he didn't do these things because he had to - but because he could - because he liked it. I lost my sight to a burning fever. I lost a friend and my baby to a fire, and nearly lost my brother to a burning guilt he kept over something he didn't mean to do. I hated Albert when he told me, Doctor Adams. But at the worst of it, he showed remorse, begged my forgiveness. Eventually, I even gave it. But when people demand an apology from that evil man, he just laughs. At his most irresponsible, my brother is worth a thousand of that man. And when he caused that fire, my brother was a boy. Tullane was a man, even back then. So anyone as likes fire, I don't much like them."
Methos was taken aback by the girl's straightforward assessment of a man who sounded too much like himself, in an earlier time.
"It's obvious he is a dullard and a fool. No man could do such things and feel nothing, unless he is a monster. And I've known three or four in my time."
Laura took up a chair next to her father, whom Methos had given to drink a mild sedative, to keep the active man resting for a time. Mary thanked Doctor Adams, and left with the younger sister, while Methos concocted something with which to clean the small gash on Charles' forehead. As she left, Mary innocently said something that caused 'Adams' to drop his bottles.
"When we get home, remind me to ask Ma for some biscuits, Cassandra."
After dropping the bottles, Methos assured them all, including little Cassandra Cooper Ingalls, that he was all right. But Laura could see that his hands were shaking, as her sisters left.
"Is something wrong with Cassandra, Doc?"
At the mention of the name of the woman he had abused abominably and yet probably still cared for on some level, millennia back, Methos drew into himself. How many children had been in her village alone? But survival would out over conscience, as it always did. Quicker than he felt comfortable with, he had a cover story for Laura.
"I'm fine, young lady. I just once read a story about a woman named Cassandra-not the Greek one- but a darker tale. Much darker."
Laura's eyes lit up.
"Will you tell it to me? I'm a little old for all those happy ending stories."
Methos struck upon his plan. While avoiding gore and sex, he could still craft a tale that would send his young visitor away, wishing never to return.
"All right, I will tell you. But when the nightmares come, don't tell them I didn't warn you."
Methos plan began to fall apart as he saw the smile broaden on Laura's face. While Charles rested, 'Adams' began his dark narrative.
"In proximity to the Fertile Crescent, four cruel men met and decided, together, to be the MOST feared and MOST cruel of any band of men. Like your Mr. Tullane, they did this--because they could. So began The Demon's Ride Of The Four Horsemen Of The Apocalypse. Out from Mt. Meggido -- called Armageddon in the Latin -- they swore that nothing and no one would stop them. No one ever did."
Laura tilted her head.
"But didn't anyone ever try to kill them, if they did cruel things?"
"Oh, they were not men as you have known. But for the loss of their heads, they could not die - they were Immortals."
When Methos' tale was done, Laura had only one question.
"Are they still around today?"
"Remember, Laura, it is merely a story. But, even if it were true, they are not around. One of them got tired of always being evil, and of the justifications his crazy friend started to dream up, in place of their old credo of cruelty for cruelty's sake. So he left, and the ride ended."
The young woman nodded.
"So, just like Beowulf got tired of being a hero all the time, and grew weary, this Methos got tired of being a villain."
The child had a talent for phrasing things, the Oldest had to concede that. It was extremely late, but Laura merely looked at him and said one thing.
"Now, it's My Turn."
The next morning, Methos awoke in his chair, stirred by the sound of Charles Ingalls preparing to leave for home. Laura had done so already. A little bit of his arrogance had left with her. She made life in this small town sound like one powerful drama. For all her narrative ability, though, he still couldn't figure out why Harriet Oleson was still among the living. If even half those tales were true, she'd have been burned as a witch two centuries back. Methos didn't wish to become maudlin, but decided to offer an olive branch to Ingalls, after all this.
"Am I all right, Doc? You're just staring over at me."
"Listen, Ingalls. For my brusqueness, I feel I owe you..."
Just then, Methos heard and saw a mob outside a house. Two sets, actually--opposing one another.
"Where do you suppose they're headed?"
"Probably to Tullane's. The Grey and the Blue starting in again, over his war actions."
"Well, just be careful this time."
"I'm not going out there, Doc. I'm looking after me and my own. I wash my hands of William Tullane, his detractors, and his supporters."
Methos had often heard words like this from his own mouth. But to hear them from a man like Charles Ingalls actually upset him, and made him wonder how hard the man had been hit.
Macleod stared at the screen dumbly.
"Charles Ingalls would never say something like that, Methos. Would he?"
The Oldest felt a similar reaction from all his friends. He offered little explanation.
"That is basically what he said, and there was no brain damage, that I could discern. Let's just watch further, and keep in mind that people will do that thing that they must do. Some things just are."
Unsatisfied with that, Immortals and Watchers turned back to the TV for answers. During a commercial break, three Immortals huddled, and they made grim plans together. Richie spoke first.
"Ok, we run Methos through, then tickle Joe until he agrees to tell us who the Walnut Grove Watcher was."
Amanda shook her head.
"Don't be absurd, Rich. Joe's not ticklish."
Duncan gave Amanda a certain look. She claimed not to understand.
Just then, there came a taunting voice from the larger couch.
"Oh, Children. It's coming back on. And the Watcher is in this scene."
The three raced back to the couch, but shook their heads at the scene, which had almost every character on the show on screen at once.
"I have Cassandra's beeper number, you know. She gave it to me in case I change my mind about stopping her from killing you. Don't pull this again."
But The Oldest, once a model for Shakespeare's Puck, could allow no such threat to sway him from playing mercilessly with his friends. He still had quite a bit up his sleeve.
Walnut Grove, 19th Century
Methos watched as the ever-more unruly mob reached Tullane's house. The shouts could be heard down the street.
"Last I checked, Burnin' Rebs wasn't no crime. It was a soldier's duty. Major Tullane jes did it real well, and that burns you folk again."
"He burned the lands of our fathers. Cheered as we were forced to flee all we knew. Wouldn't evenn let the coloreds move onto it, sayin' as he liked the land dead. You Blue-Boys want a hero, choose Grant. At leastways he didn't humiliate our men, at Appatamox. Coulda, but outta respect for The General, he didn't."
"Grant wasn't real. To us, he was a name on a piece of paper. Plenty to drink, and a soft bed when he wanted, a thousand miles or more away. It was people like Major William Silas Caspian Tullane as did the heavy liftin'."
Macleod looked at Methos.
"Was that his name?"
"What can I say, Duncan? Back then, people had a lot of names."
One could almost hear Macleod's buttons being pushed, right and left.
Isaiah Edwards tried to calm things. But finding faith doesn't always translate to finding the right calming words, especially when a mob of men is bent on a fight.
"Look, I was Union. So was Charles Ingalls Pa. Neither of us liked Tullane, and I don't think a lot of you like a man who would brag on the way he does. But in that white building where the Lord and the students dwell, I found that such folk are best left to the Lord's judgment. Let that happen, in his own time. Good or bad, we're not fit judges for Tullane, so long after the fact. Pity's sake, folks, I was a drunk, and I see this clearly. You all are smarter than me. Leave him to God."
The former Confederates seemed to calm themselves a bit, at that, and the Union forces seemed to remember that the war they fought was one about unity. For a moment, there were only Americans in Walnut Grove.
Charles Ingalls had made a deliberate choice of not going out amidst the crowd and calming them. His voice dripped impatience with and exhaustion at being the voice of reason in the Tullane matter. But Methos, still hearing the disagreement ringing in his ears, knew that Ingalls was not cut from his own cynical cloth. When such men gave up, it was perhaps time to start asking questions. In the distance, the two ruffians Charles' had gotten between were starting in again, and the calm voices turned to incoherent, angry rumblings. Charles' face showed his concern, but he made no motion to leave the Doctor's office while this was going on.
"Mr. Ingalls, you thought enough of this town's peace of mind to become injured preventing an outbreak of violence. Now, you're going to allow this?"
If there was a wrong subject to speak to Charles Ingalls about, it was Tullane. For four years, he had held people apart who sought to attack or defend *The Union Firefly*. His charity was exhausted. Given 'Doctor Adams' huffy entrance into town, he was also hearing about this subject from the wrong person.
"Sounds a lot like a man who supposedly doesn't give two shakes is presuming a lot from his injured patient. Well, Doc, I'll tell you. For years, I've heard that horrible man tell of how he burned people out, and how he burned people up. Now it was wartime, so I know things happen. But bragging on it is cruel. And doing it in a town with a sprinkling of former Confederate families goes to being downright insane. Next time someone in this town wants to re-open that old wound, I intend to be fishing with my daughter or helping my son deal with the loss of his fiancée, six months next Tuesday. Or maybe I'll even ask my wife to risk showing me how to bake bread, although she fears I'll ruin her stove. But where I won't be is playing keep away with grown men's anger."
Methos closed his eyes, and then opened them.
"Mr. Ingalls - Charles - I apologize for the way I acted. The man you saw is a shield I use. I don't need him as much as I once thought, but he's hard to put away. But I have recognized that you have a good town here. Treasure it. If events with the wagging tongue called Tullane should come to a head, you won't have it much longer."
"I know that -- Abel -- but I can't heal a town that doesn't want to be healed. These things keep falling to me, and I keep falling to them. The word for that kind of man is chump."
Methos despised self-pity above all else.
"Another word is hero. Like Arthur. Like Beowulf. Like Siegfried."
"Only problem there, Doc, is that all of those men died in their stories."
"No one lives forever, Charles."
"No, I guess no one does. But hate dies hard. And I can hardly calm folks down when just being around Tullane makes me livid from knowing what he's done, so casually, like those people were nothing."
"To him, that's what they were. Perhaps it might help you to calm yourself if you merely remembered that, in history's impassive gaze, your bragging firebug is merely a petty little man guilty of petty little crimes. There have been far worse. I--have been far worse."
At those words, Charles regarded the Doctor with new eyes.
"I heard you tell Laura that story about the Horsemen. That 'Methos', the one who turned away. You changed a few things, for her sake, but it was a version of your own past, wasn't it?"
"We all do things we regret, Charles. I just did a great many more of them. My time as a doctor helps keep some of the beast back in me. Now, I fight death. Then, I was Death."
But Methos' conversation was cut short by the sound of a real horseman. It was Tullane, in full Union garb, his saber dipped in oil and set aflame. He rode up by his house, pushing the crowd back. Even his most ardent supporters found this bizarre action troubling. One spoke.
"Major, come on down from there, this is neither...Ow!"
Dismissively, Tullane had given his advocate a brief touch of his burning sword. The man threw his hands up, and walked off, shouting.
"You Rebs want that cracked egg, you got him. A man that fond of fire is going the devil's way, and I ain't speakin' for him no more."
Even the ringleader for the former GAP Union soldiers was thrown off, but had no success in taking Tullane down. If anything, he grew more strident.
"Look at all of you. Vermin unfit to wear the Blue. Worms who sought to negate our social compact, then had the nerve to question how real men put you to rights. Once, I sat in Holy Judgment over you all. Then as now, I find you wanting. I was The Archangel Of Death, riding a good Union Horse. At my whim, I would lead you to burn."
Tullane didn't see a reluctant albeit careful Charles taking the two flabbergasted sides and setting them apart while the incoherent speech went on. The Union ruffian, the one lightly burned, had left. The former Confederate ruffian, the other one who Charles had been punched by accidentally, kept back from it all, afraid that Ingalls would want to get back at him.
Tullane also didn't see a man step in front of his horse. It was Methos.
"Well, well. So YOU are Death on a Horse."
Strongly enough to get a reaction, but so as not to hurt the animal, Methos punched the horse in the face, and then stepped back as he bucked Tullane off. Methos grabbed the drunken loudmouth by the collar.
"Listen, you. I know Death. Death and I are old traveling companions. You, chum, are NOT Death. You are a noisome little bug who has worn thin the charity of a nice little town. Now, I am going to take you down to the creek, there to clean you up. If you resist, I'll give you to the Sons Of Dixie. If that should happen, then Death, thou shalt die!"
One of the former Confederacy soldiers had a length of rope in hand.
"Appreciate you bringing him down a notch, Doc. Now step back, so's we can raise him up again. We don't want no..."
Deucedly tired of it all, Methos grabbed Tullane's saber and sliced through the right support of an old hitching post. The wood had been five inches thick, and had been quite solid. Except for Charles, his family, and Isaiah, all found a reason to depart at that. But the man who had started the earlier fight had someplace real to go. He made for the Mercantile.
"Albert, help Doctor Adams down to the stream."
"But, Pa, I promised Mary I'd..."
"I'll fix her window, Son. Just stay with him and run back to me if that mob regroups."
Charles was proud of all the free time Albert still gave his sister, as often as he could. He knew the reason lay in deepest guilt, but at least it meant he was capable of knowing remorse. Unlike Tullane, who cursed them all as he was taken to the stream, for his dunking.
At the Mercantile, Harriet Oleson made a deal unlike any she ever had. Rather than purposefully ruining a few lives here and there, her latest effort might unknowingly destroy all of Walnut Grove. Before her stood the young ruffian who felt that Tullane's humiliation was not enough.
"So you see, Mrs. Olseon, that new Doc is something weird. I got sources a state over just might know something."
"I...see. Well, I suppose a horse is in order, to protect the town, of course. You will tell me anything you might hear first, Hmmm?"
"Now, Mrs. Oleson. Wasn't I always the best source The Pen N' Plow ever did have?"
Smiling, Harriet Oleson signed a horse over to the young man, son of a Confederate veteran who never returned. She was also signing her town's death warrant. The young man cared nothing about the Doctor, and rode instead to meet an Uncle of his, a man much like Tullane, except on the Southern side. He was now an outlaw, and he rode with an outlaw gang. Made up mostly of the decidedly less heroic Sons Of Dixie, they would all want a piece of Tullane--if their ruthless leader approved.
Back in Walnut Grove, a boy whose hand had been taken by a rapidly spinning millstone died of shock, despite Doctor Adams best efforts. All were struck by the way he stayed with the boy until the end. The man was more like Doc Baker, now recuperating at a cousin's in Sleepy Eye, than any of them could have thought. It gave Methos a chance to take down his shield. It gave Caroline Ingalls an idea.
"Doctor Adams, I have some friends I'd like you to meet, if you'd like that."
"Glad to, Mrs. Ingalls, if you can just keep your husband out of the line of pugilistic fire."
Later, though, Methos regretted his promise as Caroline presented him to a group of marriageable women. Charles promised to apologize for his matchmaking better half later. To his shock, though, Doctor Adams asked one young woman to dinner--out. Methos again wondered why he had been out to destroy such places as Walnut Grove, in times past. Part of that reason was coming at him, from out the West.
At the outlaw camp, a burlap sack was dumped over a cliff. The young man had forgotten his uncle's vow of vengeance against him on a family matter. The uncle had not. But all the desperadoes were interested in getting William Tullane. Their leader agreed, but for his own reasons.
"It occurs to me that a little town like Walnut Grove would be the perfect Grave Marker as we push eastward. Inoffensive, harmless. Sheep begging for the wolves. They shouldn't beg. Its unbecoming. We start---NOW."
Mounting his horse, laughing like the madman he was, Melvin Koren led his gang toward Minnesota and a possible reunion with an old friend---Doctor Adams.
Amanda was livid.
"To Be Continued? Methos!"
Methos nodded his head.
"It is a marathon, my dear. Plus, many of the best 'Little House' episodes were Two-Parters."
Richie stared at Duncan, concerned.
"Hey, Mac. You look like you saw a ghost. Who was this Melvin Koren anyway? One of us? Hey, Joe, what do you know about this?"
Dawson was brief, and brutally to the point.
"In that episode...Kronos is riding for Walnut Grove."
Duncan Macleod stared at the TV in dumb silence. The single most incongruous event in narrative history was playing itself out on his new 70-inch TV. Melvin Koren and his outlaw gang were riding for Walnut Grove. Kronos, demonic leader of the Horsemen, was riding for the sweetest little town in history. To him, it would seem like an overripe melon. These events were not one hundred years gone. Kronos was dead by Macleod's sword. Everyone in Walnut Grove was long dead, but he knew that they must have survived the assault. Why then, did his stomach churn?
Joe's eyes were heavy with the look of one who had read the chronicles of this incident. The words *Not pretty* went unsaid, being unnecessary.
Amanda and Richie had often felt the natural gravitation an Immortal feels towards children, the delight in viewing something they may not have. Both also often changed the channel on any *Little House* episode where children died--there were quite a few. Both had the sick feeling that this would be another. Macleod had told them both about Kronos.
Methos thought to himself.
*Oh, Laura, they've read and watched of your little town for decades. They call me a cynic, and yet they have no faith. I wish my friend Charles were here to lecture them. Or even my late friend Michael. Losing Bill Bixby and him so close in the same year was a blow even I could not be ready for.*
And the show resumed.
Walnut Grove, 19th Century
With his head cleared of all but hate, William Tullane was sent back to Walnut Grove, cursing his protectors as he went.
"I'll see you stinking of brimstone, Doctor Adams. And you, Albert Ingalls. Perhaps I shall pay a visit to your blind sister's house-unless you beat me to it, that is."
Albert was livid. After all Doc Adams had done to save Tullane from the mob outside his home, he was an ungrateful fool. But to taunt Albert with the burning of his visiting sister's was merely vicious. Doctor Adams - Methos - restrained the boy, and responded in kind.
"Visit anyone you like, Major. Just remember that as for a hitching post, so for a neck. Do not taunt the boy with his one great sin when you've a legion to answer for. Now get gone, and darken our path no further. You bore me, little man."
Some people knew how to psych an opponent. Methos knew how to get an opponent to rip into their own cranial casing. Tullane left, silent and whipped.
"I'm sorry, Doc. I shouldn't let him get to me. But what I did to Mary, he shouldn't be allowed to joke about. I don't care how long I live, I'm gonna hear her crying over her baby."
"Albert, he is an insect. In stinging you and others, he seeks to die himself, so he can rest and find the peace he can't now. Ignore his words, as much as you ignore the bleating of sheep. Also, thank you for holding his hands while I dunked him. Now, what way back?"
"How about the long way? It's not too bad, and it's a nice day. Doc, did you mean that Mister Tullane says those crazy things so's that someone will kill him? Why? I haven't seen no conscience bothering him. None at all."
"He is asking to be killed, Albert. He can't live with what he's been, and so hopes that someone else will relieve him of his secret shame. But no one does, so he talks ever louder, and more shrilly still. If he didn't feel this way, he'd be a complete monster like..."
At that, Albert pulled out of his pocket a faded, folded-up wanted poster. To Albert, it was the face of a real outlaw. To Methos, it was the face of a man he once called brother, and whom he honestly prayed to whoever might exist was dead.
"Someone...like Koren, Albert."
"You okay, Doc? You look pale."
"Albert, I believe that boy is your friend, Willie of the lovely Oleson household. Why don't you chat while I sit down?"
Willie was indeed walking toward them, but they spoke within earshot of the contemplative Methos.
"Hey, Willie. Why aren't you riding Pally-Boy?"
"Ahh, my Ma loaned him to Tom Skyler, who still hasn't brought him back. I think he was supposed to learn somethin' about...someone."
"The Doc, Willie? Why?"
"Ingalls, if you want me to actually explain why my Ma does anything, we'll be here two weeks. Truth is, I think he rode on out to meet his uncle, the one he's always bragging rides with Koren's gang."
Methos sat up, at that.
"William, who exactly makes up Koren's gang?"
"Well, Doc, I guess it would be former Confederates mostly. People like Mister Tullane, only their side lost, so's they're outlaws. Say, ya think Tom wanted his uncle to come after Mister Tullane?"
Methos stared blankly. Kronos would just love a town like this. Plans had to be made-fast.
He hurried the boys back to town, and spoke with some of the men. Glad for the warning, they set up watch all over. Though two evenings passed without incident, the watch was not relaxed.
On the third evening, evil approached the town. Pure Evil.
"Your little war criminal means nothing to me. But it is such a nice place. I think I'll visit the church. I have a burnt offering to make. Remember, have your way with the women, and stampede any cattle—and this time please don't mix the two up."
The late Tom Skyler's uncle, now riding Pally-Boy, looked chastised.
"I told ya, Koren, we was all drunk, and them cattle was just asking fer..."
Koren - Kronos shot Skyler dead.
"I have my standards, after all."
Methos lay asleep in his room, waiting for his new lady-friend, Jessica Tane, to return from Church. There, she and other spouses who had suffered desertion held a prayer vigil once a week. They had snacks and drinks, and their children in tow. They also never stood a chance. By the time Methos woke from sensing his once-fellow Horseman, the Church was burning, and the Koren gang gunning down those who tried to escape. Twenty people died very quick, very brutal deaths at the hands of laughing hyenas. The outlaws were Christians also, but they did what Kronos told them to at all times.
Isaiah Edwards was the one who told 'Doctor Adams' the details of what had occurred.
"We didn't guard the Church, Doc, because we figured it'd be safe. What sort of man deliberately destroys a church?"
Edwards also informed him that the gang was pinned down by where the church was, but that they would probably break out soon.
"Thank You, Isaiah. I'll join you all as soon as my weapon is readied."
Of course, his weapon was always at the ready. Brandishing the sword, Methos went into the town, ready to face Kronos down. He would be unable to resist single combat, after all these centuries. Still, he was afraid. He knew he probably couldn't take Kronos, and the town would still die screaming. But he wouldn't preserve himself this time. If damnation waited for him, he would at least look down on Kronos. He would have that much. Walnut Grove would be defended.
"Hey, Doctor Adams! Why not try on this for your fight?"
Laura Ingalls held something. Something brilliant.
The angle before the first commercial break did not allow anyone to see what Laura held.
"Well, Methos, at least we know you and Kronos didn't face one another then."
"Macleod, you know exactly ZIP."
Silence reigned for the rest of the break. Duncan thought he knew the Horsemen's history. As Methos taunted, all of them would still find out that they certainly did not know everything. Horsemen, after all, were nothing if not past grandmasters of the unexpected, and Methos had been their planner.
"You mean you and Kronos did fight? But Methos, you said he hadn't seen you for centuries when he found you here."
Again, Methos smiled the smile of a man who just didn't give a damn how smug he looked.
"I don't mind telling you I was scared. What I did to Cassandra's mind and body, Kronos did to my soul. My capacity for violence frightened the Ancients. Kronos' capacity frightened me. His hold over me was near total. I wouldn't have been any less cruel without him, mind you. But he was like that political officer in *Hunt For Red October*. Always checking my mind, for stray free thoughts, then stamping them out as they rose. I still would have been who I was. I just might not have continued it so long as I did."
Richie chuckled, that annoying Richie-chuckle that only he had-for the next two weeks, anyway.
"The Big Bad Wolf was afraid? C'mon, Methos. You go into a fight that fearful, you're begging for the extra-short crewcut."
"One of us is, anyway. Ahh, Richie. Have you read no Melville at all? Even Captain Ahab wanted no fool aboard who was not afraid of a whale."
"Against Kronos, fear was just healthy."
"But our young friend is essentially correct, Duncan. I was almost paralyzed by fear. I knew that if Methos faced Kronos, Kronos would win-hands down."
"So what did you do?"
"So Methos didn't face him."
While Macleod pondered the meaning of that, Amanda had nearly destroyed a pillow with her bare hands.
"What did Laura have in her hands?"
Walnut Grove, 19th Century
Doctor Adams smiled as he looked at what Laura Ingalls held---a cloth scarecrow mask, left over from a Halloween costume her mother had made for her father.
"Brilliant, Laura. How did you think of this?"
"I just figured that with you traveling around so much, you wouldn't want the outlaws to see your face, in case one of them sees you someplace else."
Methos squeezed the girl's shoulders. If Kronos didn't know who he was facing, then Methos might have an edge. Kronos would still taunt him, but he'd be doing it randomly, while Methos knew his fighting style well. Still, he would be in for the fight of his life. A life that Laura just might have saved-along with her town.
"How's it fit?"
"A trifle tight around the throat, but passable."
"Maybe too tight, Doc. Your voice sounds all dry, raspy, and strange, like someone hurt your throat."
Methos had an inspiration, and laughed, in a voice that threw Laura off a little.
"Does it now?"
In town, the lines had broken. The outlaws were riding through the heart of town, and it looked like the approaching dawn might be Walnut Grove's last. Harriet Oleson saw her horse, Pally-Boy, among those being ridden, and began to formulate ways to explain it away to her advantage.
Some of the outlaws, including Melvin Koren-Kronos-had ridden for the other side of town, and now many people were being herded into the town square-for the slaughter. Albert Ingalls had been struck in the head by Koren's gun-butt when the outlaw leader had no ammunition left. He had been trying to help his sister Mary to a safe place-if there was one. Crying, she cradled someone she once vowed to hate forever. Mary wondered what Adam would feel, back in New York, when he got the news. For now, though, her prayers were not for him.
"God? I'm not one for spouting demands, you know that. But you have my baby. Leave my brother be, please. My Ma doesn't have a natural son, like she wanted, and my Pa has put so much effort into helping him, I know his heart'd break. Isn't it enough that I couldn't see his face as he begged my forgiveness? That I'll never see the fine young man I know he's gonna grow into, only hear it? I wanted to hurt him so bad, back then. I even thought about telling him how Jeremy Quinn wasn't even his real father, just got him from an orphanage, as a foundling. But now, he's just my dumb brother, and I love him."
A distinctive gait told Mary who was in front of her.
"Nellie, help me get him up, please."
"No. We've got to get out of here."
"I agree. You, me, and Albert have got to get out of here-together."
"Leave him, I say. He'll hold us back. Besides, if Willie had killed MY baby, I'd leave him to rot."
"Oh, Nellie. Like Mother, Like Daughter. Where is she, in all this mess?"
Nellie grew nervous.
"What do you mean, saying that? Wasn't her fault Tom Skyler lied when he borrowed Pally-Boy, to go talk to his crazy uncle. Can't blame her for them being here--Can You?"
Caroline, Mary's mother, once commented that Harriet Oleson might one day bring on the end of the world. Caroline Ingalls had been joking. Koren's gang, though was no joke. Mary just shook her head.
"Best get out of here, Nellie Oleson. Being a pretty, pouty young lady is not gonna do you much good real soon. Wait-where's my little sister?"
"How should I know? Your Pa can just adopt another one, like he always does. Hmmph. You'll never catch my family pulling in some stray like that."
In later years, when she had mellowed, Nellie would meet her adoptive sister and accidental twin Nancy, and choke upon those words, as few others.
The girl was running, confused. She was scared. She thought somehow her ninth Birthday would be the end of fear, but it obviously hadn't been. Still laughing his shrill war-cry, Kronos scooped her up, and firmly held her, taking delight in her kicking.
"Surrender now or the girl dies."
Both groups stopped. The townspeople were exhausted, anyway, and the outlaws, despite themselves, were always secretly horrified when Koren would threaten a child personally. Impersonally was fine, though. Kronos held her up.
"What is your name, little one?"
"OUT WITH IT, YOU LITTLE WRETCH."
Kronos smiled, laughed, and looked into the sun.
"Oh, by the Scourge of Babylon. This is too, too PERFECT."
Then, a voice was heard from above.
"I couldn't agree more."
The masked man dropped from the shop roof onto the horse, behind Kronos, startling the beast, who bucked them off. Kronos fell, but the masked man caught Cassandra and gave her to Charles Ingalls, whom she clutched for dear life. As he went back to fight more, Cassandra Cooper Ingalls tugged at him.
"Thank You, Mister. You're my hero."
The child didn't know who she was saying this too, or how good it felt for him to say what he said next.
"It's good to be your hero...Cassandra."
The masked man-Methos- had used the tight roof shops in this part of town to jump from one to the other, moving so quickly that he was on Kronos almost as he sensed him. He also knew the toughness of his old comrade, and so had a kick in the face ready as he got up.
Quickly, the man called Melvin Koren got his sword.
"To the child, you may be a hero, friend, but your attack lacked all honor...I like that. Reminds me of a brother I once cooked and ate, when he tried to leave. Are you merely here for me, or is this personal?"
Methos used the mask's constriction to his advantage, added with a little voice training.
"You Killed My Family."
"Sir. You know who I am. You'll simply have to be more specific than that."
"Very well. I am....THE KURGAN."
The look in Kronos' eye wasn't fear, but surprise at facing so powerful an opponent in so obscure a place.
"I've admired your work, Kurgan. After all, I helped begin it, when I tossed you into that ravine."
"It was a valley, and it was your comrade with the Blue Face that did it. Him I got, centuries ago. Mind you, I never liked my family much, but they were mine to kill."
"YOU. YOU killed him? Then, Kurgan, this shall be a duel for vengeance. For I did like my lost brother."
"How touching, Clock-Keeper. Now, as the saying goes, There Can Be Only One."
"Yes, I'd heard you were obsessed with that phrase. AAAAAHHHHH..."
Methos' disguise was perfect. As Kronos came at him, he thought he really was The Kurgan. Thankfully, the two had never really met, and Kronos' memory of the slaughter of the Kurgans was not all that sharp. Otherwise, Methos' height alone would have betrayed him. Plus, he knew things only one present back then would. In front of the stunned people of Walnut Grove, an actual swordfight took place. This was against the rules, but neither Immortal cared then and there.
Methos had developed a new fighting style, over time. Kronos, brutal and quite effective, never really had bothered to. Wild at first, then pressing for advantage, then endurance, etc. Methos knew it like the back of his hand. Worse still for Kronos, while Methos' defensive posture was his own, he occasionally mirrored Kronos' own fighting style, driving his opponent further into a crazed rage, also a Kurgan trademark.
Without his mask, Methos felt that one snide look from his fellow Horseman would shake him badly. But he was masked, and had enough skill of his own and knowledge that Kronos didn't have to do what he once thought was plainly impossible. Switching at the last moment to his Bronze Age fighting style---he ran Kronos' through. The First among The Horsemen fell. Methos was ebullient. What he did to win stank of treachery and dishonor. But what mattered was, at long last, he had beaten Kronos. Before the townspeople could react, he raised his sword to finish the job. As a shot tore through his shoulder, though, Methos realized that the outlaws were probably anxious to keep their semi-mystical leader around.
"What In The Name Of God?"
Charles Ingalls wasn't fond of oath-swearing, but the sight of Melvin Koren shaking off his wounds was one he would never forget.
"Your God's been thrown out, friend. You'll all be with him soon. But the masked man goes first. Out of respect, I think I'll let you keep that mask on even after you're done."
"AND YE SHALL BURN IN HIS FIRE ETERNALLY!!!!!"
Shots rang out, and hooves thundered. The outlaw gang was slain to a man by the best shot the Grand Army Of The Potomac ever had--Major William Silas Caspian Tullane, The Union Firefly. Kronos jumped up and pummeled the rider, who had a bottle of lantern oil in his hand. As they rode out of town, locked together, the bottle broke, and sparks from the spurs set them both afire. In the distance, one of the eerie burning riders cried out.
"Another day, Masked Man!"
"Anytime, 'brother'. For I know now-you can be beaten."
Methos had once thought that even cheating wouldn't be of use against Kronos. But the planner had planned well. He could do so again.
It was later discovered that Tullane and Koren had ridden straight over the *Wrong Path*, a cliff overlooking a fast-moving tributary that could have your body a hundred miles downriver before you blinked. Neither body was ever found. In town, the man who was once both hero and villain simply became Tullane, the man who whipped Melvin Koren. For the sake of peace, Methos told no one that he suspected Tullane did this for personal glory, not for the town. When he peeled off his mask, the whole town cheered, and Isaiah Edwards pointed.
"It's The Doc!"
Charles slapped Methos on the shoulder.
"Hey, Abel. I thought you didn't come here to be a hero."
Never one to shun a new experience, Methos drank in the adulation of having driven off the barbarians.
"People change, Charles! People change."
But not all did.
"All I'm saying, Reverend, is that a sizeable donation from my family will ensure that the Olesonville Church built to replace the lost one will be the envy of the whole state."
Methos was aghast. By now, everyone knew the unwitting role that Harriet Oleson had played in this horror. But rather than mourning the lost, including dear Jessica Tane, she was once again jockeying for advantage. Inside him, something broke.
"Charles, may you and your dear little town forgive what I must needs do next."
"Hey, Doc. Wait."
Methos mounted a horse, and began to ride. He rode straight for Harriet Oleson. Despite her weight, he grabbed her up, and rode off as a stunned town watched. Charles realized what was happening.
"Everyone, move out and find them. He's gonna kill her!"
But Charles saw no one move, except his own family. Nellie and Willie, tending to an injured Nels, saw none of it occur. The town's patience with Harriet Oleson had finally run out. Soon, so would her luck. For now, the loudmouth busybody, casual gossip, and powermonger rode with Death.
"Now, I remember this one. You make her run around in her skivvies, right? And everyone points and laughs. A classic."
Amanda shook her head.
"No, No. He's just gonna scare her, but good."
Duncan looked grim. So did Joe. They knew.
"Tell them, Methos."
"Oh, well, it's really quite simple. As I rode out of town, it was my every intention to kill Harriet Oleson. You know, no one objected as I did what I did-except Charles Ingalls. Even with him, I sensed a hesitance. Harriet Oleson had no advocate in Walnut Grove then-if she ever did."
Macleod stared hardest at his ever-surprising friend. He and Charles Ingalls were cut from the same moral cloth. Richie and Amanda also stared, but more sympathetically. It was hard to watch most episodes of Little House and not wish that justice would find the manipulative Harriet Oleson. Some episodes had her so loathsome as to make one want to write an episode where she at least gets her serious comeuppance. But that episode was now coming on.
"Methos, she was a pain, but she wasn't evil. Hardly deserving of summary execution."
"No, Macleod, she wasn't evil. But let me ask you. Why does Cassandra hate me?"
"You know damned well why."
"That's right. I do. My acts had consequences, her hatred one of them. I can trace a line between them and know what I did, and why she feels that way. But Harriet Oleson was a sociopath. Yes, she loved her children, and her long-suffering husband. Yes, she occasionally showed glimpses of humanity. But as you watch this, you understand my point of view. To me, this is NOT an episode. I actually had to deal with her, to bear her self-important scheming and its very tragic consequences. I could bear no more. There was no TV screen blocking the way. She didn't understand the cause-effect correlation. I was determined that she should."
Macleod was silent and sullen. Methos' argument, while self-serving, was also compelling in its way. There were times even he had watched the show and hoped to see Ahnold in sunglasses asking *Vhere ees Hahreet Olesahn?* At the very least, she stretched patience and charity to their limits. Joe smiled an evil smile.
"Now, if she'd been a lieutenant in Nam'..."
Walnut Grove, 19th Century
After losing their half-hearted pursuers, Methos found a spot where he could do what he felt he had to - kill Mrs. Oleson.
"DOCTOR Adams. Do you have any idea who I am in this town? Why, the charges that will...."
Methos put his sword near her throat, and she remembered the solid hitching post 'Doctor Adams' had sliced through.
"Mrs. Oleson. We have established who you are, what you possess, and who all you know. Now, understand my point of view. You are not my employer, and I don't owe you a dime. Your actions brought a gang of brutal outlaws to the nicest town I've ever seen. After the horror you helped create, you moved for advantage. I was forced to confront a man I hoped never to have to see again, and lost a young woman I'd come to care about. All because you loaned a young tough you had no reason to trust a horse so that he could gather information---on me. Knowledge is power, after all, and you are power-hungry."
"HOW DARE YOU. Why, that gang would have come our way, no matter what. My--intervention probably saved this town. If I hadn't loaned out Willie's horse, we would not have had advance warning."
"Are you even listening to yourself? Tell me, did the Skyler boy own a horse?"
"Hmmph. He was still paying off his shoes. He was in arrears, to boot."
"Ah. Then, but for your loan, how would he have contacted his outlaw uncle, a state or two
away? Such men don't have access to telegraph or telephone, where they hide."
"You're twisting my words around."
"I must be. After all, you would know about such matters."
"You've been talking to that hateful Caroline Ingalls, haven't you? I'll bet she told
you some twisted versions of some common misunderstandings I've been involved in."
"Actually, she barely speaks of you."
"Well, she is quite jealous, after all."
Methos laughed loudly into the Walnut Grove countryside. Far in the distance, the woman they were both speaking of was searching for them, and heard this.
"Jealous.? Of what? Of a woman who makes Dickens' Scrooge seem redeemed at story's
beginning? Of the strutting vain peacock who saw fit to slander her son and his fiancée? Of you, who so isolated the girl that her rapist was able to corner and destroy her? Why would dear Caroline be envious of the town rumor-monger? Why would any of the Ingalls want what you have, the contempt of your own family? I've heard good things about you, Harriet. But those things always occur after twenty stories of you hurting someone--because you could. Well, my dear lady, I'm tired of your face. The mirror gives me enough trouble without the likes of you around. And so, Justice. And so, you...."
"Abel, don't do it."
Some part of Methos had hoped that someone would try to stop him. But it wasn't a very big part. Caroline would have to work to enlarge it, for his sake.
"Ah, Caroline. I was just going to send Harriet to the Celestial Waiting Room. Here's a
hint, Mrs. Oleson : It's the down set of stairs, you'll be taking."
"Doctor, I know you're upset about Jessica. I know what Mrs. Oleson can be like. But killing her won't..."
"Caroline, this has aught to do with dear Jessica. This woman is now, worse than I ever was, on my darkest day. I did more horrible things, but then I never had a place like this to call home. She is the ruin of a beautiful place."
Boldly, stupidly, Mrs. Oleson stood up, and waved her finger.
"So you're judging me for YOUR crimes? Let he who is without sin cast the first stone, and turn the other cheek."
Methos put his face up into hers.
"One, Magdalene was a better woman than you could ever hope to be. Two, even Iscariot
understood what he had done. Three, people like you conveniently forget something else that great man said. If both cheeks are then slapped, and are made sore, cast the evil one into the darkness. And it is precisely BECAUSE of what I have been, that I am fit to judge you. I know what our sort can do, unchecked."
Of course, by that, Methos meant self-centered people, not Immortals. He was fairly sure
he would not want Harriet's Quickening if she were one.
Caroline played her trump card.
"Abel, Albert was wounded. We think he may be dying."
"I'll be free to aid him in a moment, Caroline. I should be through a scrawny neck like this in no time flat."
"I just don't see what this fuss is all about."
"In a few seconds, Mrs. Oleson, what you see and what you don't will be quite irrelevant."
"Doctor. My son is hurt."
"And I shall help him--afterwards."
Caroline shook her head.
"I love my boy, Abel. He's not mine by birth, but I love him. More than Jeremy Quinn ever did, adopting a foundling to put him to work. But if you kill her, for good or ill, you won't touch my son. I'll let him die before I let a butcher help him, I swear."
Methos walked away, the Planner angry at being played so well by this frontier titan.
"Well done, Caroline. I'm off to help Albert, and she escapes justice, yet again. Don't
speak, Harriet, until I'm well out of earshot. First and last warning--Horsewoman."
Harriet wondered at the phrase, but wisely said nothing as directed.
"Caroline? Did you say that Albert was a foundling?"
"He doesn't know. He thinks Jeremy Quinn was his real father. Nobody seems to know where he came from. But he's ours, now. Why, Abel?"
"Just a feeling I've had since entering town, now explained. Coming?"
"In a minute, Doctor."
Methos hurried for the Ingalls' household. When 'Doctor Abel C. Adams' was long gone,
"Caroline, thank you SO much for saving my life. That lunatic was going to chop my head
Caroline slapped Harriet.
"That was for my son, the girl he loved, and the unfortunate child I would've called my
grandson. That was for our Church, our children's school. That was for daring to presume
that I stopped him to save your snob's life. I did it to keep that dear man's soul from jeopardy. No one should have to burn because of you. Not for someone who taunts us with stretches of decency, only to always revert to type. Don't come back into town, right now, Harriet. Nels is fetching a coach, to take you to your cousin's house in Michigan. Walnut Grove will do without you, for a time. It will do very well."
Harriet Oleson was not an evil person. But her life was headed in a certain direction, best
summed up by a redundant phrase she then uttered.
"I STILL don't understand what all this fuss is about."
That was more the pity. It was four months before she returned to Walnut Grove, still
basically good, and yet still having learned nothing.
As Methos passed by the ruins of the Church, he saw the Reverend Alden re-consecrate
"He dwells here, born the King of Kings, descended of David's House, he who now sits at
the Right Hand Of The Father, Prince over the Universe. He who believeth in him shall
never die. Amen."
Tied more to the resilience of these good folk than to their faith, Methos whispered, as he
"Indeed, Reverend. Amen."
Finally, he approached the Ingalls. There, he saw Mary sitting alone. She had been crying.
"Is my gait that distinct?"
"Oh, sure, everybody's is, but only blind folk notice. Pa walks with determination, Ma with
grace, Laura with enthusiasm, Adam with authority, and Albert....Doc. Albert's gonna die,
"We don't know that, Mary. In fact, I think.."
"Don't lie to me. Albert's gonna die, and it's all my fault."
Suddenly, the sophisticated wife of a New York attorney seemed very much a small child,
scared of life and its twists. Methos sat down.
Methos saw Macleod drying his eyes with a tissue. His tear ducts had fought a valiant, but ultimately futile effort at self-control, as had everyone's. Duncan looked over.
"Methos, you are gonna pay for this so big..."
"Why, Duncan, I've barely begun to run up a tab."
Duncan, Amanda, and Richie had reached the end of their patience.
"Joe, we know the Watchers didn't know exactly who Methos was, back then, but there
was a Watcher on him, right? So, who was it in Walnut Grove?"
"Allll, right, Mac. I'll tell you, it was...OHHHHH, my Heart. This is the Big One. I'm comin' to join ya, Elizabeth."
Methos smiled at his friend's joke.
"Dawson, You Big Dummy. THAT marathon isn't on till tonight. There, I Kill Aunt Esther,
Bubba, and Grady."
As the three sat back down, they gave Methos and Joe a look that said give it up soon, or
"As we watch this portion-this final portion-I shall add my own little commentary, to answer your questions, once and for all."
Richie just shook his fists.
"These twins are just waitin to meet five thousand-year old lips."
"Old Fish-Eyed Fool."
Duncan thought to himself, *Why are four Immortals and a Watcher just sittng in front of the Tv all day?*
Walnut Grove, 19th Century
While on his way to treat Albert Ingalls, injured in Kronos' attack, 'Doctor Adams' had stopped
outside the house to comfort a badly shaken Mary Kendall.
"Now, Mary, what's this nonsense about you bearing responsibility for Albert's condition?
Last I heard on the subject, it was Koren's slamming him with a gun-butt that caused his
Mary Ingalls Kendall was not a weakling. But she couldn't stop sniffling, for all her raw
emotions churning. This, Methos, knew, had been with her a while.
"Koren was only the instrument, Doctor. Albert was hurt because of what I did. God's
taking him--be-because of me."
"Why, Mary, he was attempting to guide you to safety, as anyone would have. That
certainly doesn't make you culpable."
"Call me Abel."
"All, right, Abel. You don't understand, though. It wasn't any action I took, or one that was
taken for me, that hurt Albert. It was something I asked for, something you're never supposed to ask for--but I did."
"The fire, then. The one that took your child. The one that Albert caused, without meaning
Mary nodded, and the tears began again.
"After he confessed to me, I hated him so much. I---I prayed for his death, Abel. I prayed
for God to restore my baby and take Albert in his place. I wanted my brother dead, for
what he had done to me. And now—it's happening."
"What utter nonsense. How can you, an intelligent girl, believe such malarkey?"
Mary's face then grew so intense, the blood vessels in her eyes gave the appearance of
"How dare YOU.? Look, Abel, you may not share our faith, or have any of your own, but
don't go looking down your nose at those who do. I won't have it, not for five seconds, not
Methos kept his cool, as always.
"You are absolutely correct, Mary. I do not have much in the way of faith. This is as
opposed to you, who apparently has no faith whatsoever."
"Do you honestly believe that your God would punish you by ending Albert's life? Do you
believe that he is so petty he would even contemplate such a thing? That his wisdom, which I'm sure you've sung of in Church, couldn't discern that your prayer was made in grief, and anger? Your faith is not mine. But if it were, if I believed in an Almighty, I would not stand and curse at the skies, asking 'Why'? Faith, has, at its core, the belief that the answer to 'why' has already been provided. You seem like you had that answer once. If it was true for you then, it should remain true now."
"You're right. If Pa were here, he would've said the same thing, except for the part about
She held his hand, as he got up to attend to Albert. Both felt slightly flushed.
"How--stands your marriage to Mr. Kendall?"
She smiled, just a little.
"Adam and me, we're as strong as the Rock Of Gibraltar. Why?"
'Doctor Abel C. Adams' then left to check his patient, who he was certain would not die.
As he walked in, and saw an unworried Laura writing a letter, he knew something else, too.
Outside, Mary spoke under her breath
"Not that a good marriage isn't tested, every now and again, by temptation. Lord, let me pass this one, for I do love my Adam."
Sometimes, the answer to a good prayer is still yes.
Methos spoke to Laura.
"Who are you writing to?"
"Almanzo Wilder. He's my fiancé. In 9 months, Pa will let us get married--I hope."
"A trifle young, aren't you?"
"Does everyone HAVE to say that? I'm not a kid anymore. Soon as the Church is rebuilt,
they say I can substitute teach. Almanzo's earning extra money out of town right now, so
we're not taking from our families so much. We'll get by."
"But suppose being married causes you to move away?"
"That might happen, I guess. But we'll do alright."
Methos closed his eyes, and played his trump card.
"Who, if you move away, will watch over Albert? Who, then, will be his...Watcher?"
Laura stood dumbfounded, as Methos scanned her letter to 'Almanzo'.
"Hmmm...'By my conversations with him, I must believe that the Doc is really Methos, the
Oldest of all Immortals, and that Melvin Koren rode with him in the Bronze Age."
Laura grabbed back the paper.
"You--you're not supposed to know. I-I've failed. Broken my oath. Oh, no--I--Albert will
be given a new one. Maybe one of those Hunters."
Methos was curious.
"Yeah. The way some folks talk about colored folks and Indians, these Watchers talk about Immortals. The only good one is a…and all that."
"Laura, I've known about the Watchers for some time. I am The Oldest, after all. Although I'd not heard of these 'Hunters' before. Hmmph. But you've betrayed nothing. Tell you what. Let me alter your report, to protect us all."
Laura shook her head.
"That's lying, no matter how you slice it--Methos. They didn't even want a kid, originally.
But Mr. Edwards is not good with the three R's, and there was no one closer to Albert than
me. I don't tell them private things, mind you. Just whether he's alright, health-wise."
"Laura, please. If people find out I'm the Oldest, my life will change, and not for the better."
"All right, Doc, I'll do it. But I'll need a favor back. A big one."
Methos agreed, but almost regretted it when he heard.
As he walked in to gauge Albert's condition, Methos saw Mary walk in, and then he looked at Laura, who merely shrugged.
"Don't look so surprised, Doc. A Watcher can always use a 2nd set of ears."
Realizing his circumstance, Methos smiled.
"And a fine set they are. Ears, I mean. I have been played like a finely-tuned piano, haven't I?"
"Very finely tuned, Methos. Piano, that is."
Methos reached his patient as the final spasms began. Albert didn't have long to live. The head wound had been negligible, but the resulting shock to his heart and other systems was killing him. Methos knew that Eighteen was early to have it happen, but there was nothing he could do to prevent it. In the outer room, the girls talked.
"Hmmph. Finely tuned piano. Mary, you are a married woman."
"And you, Miss-Breathing-Heavy, are an engaged woman."
Both said one more word together.
Methos came out.
"Ladies, it is time."
Knowing what they knew didn't help the sisters, as they each took a hold of Albert's hands.
Charles and Caroline returned then, too, while Isaiah kept the other children occupied. Charles turned to Methos, who explained the situation as best he could. Part of his promise to Laura had been to take Albert in should Charles and Caroline react badly to the news, as some did. Caroline, when told, was thrown, but remarkably happy. Charles spoke for them both.
"Well, Abel, we always knew he was special."
Five minutes later, with much of his family around him, Albert Quinn Ingalls died. Five minutes
after that, he awoke with a start. Though prepared for this, his family started with him.
"Everyone clear out. Albert and I have to talk. Now."
Charles led most into the living area, but Caroline lingered for a moment, and looked at the son of her heart. She felt such pride for him, she was afraid she would burn for it one day. She then looked at her beloved husband, sitting with the children, playing. Her vision shifted from him to Methos, then back and forth again. As she closed the door, she said one word.
Two days later, a recovered Doc Baker returned to Walnut Grove. Much of Walnut Grove
was there to see 'Doctor Adams' off, but not Nels Oleson. He sent a note, through Charles.
Eventually, his Harriet would return, and she would never let him have peace if he saw Methos
off. The Reverend Alden spoke first.
"Well, Doctor, so long as you don't threaten to turn any more of my congregation into
kindling, you're welcome back here, anytime."
"I'll hold off on that, Reverend. Sorry for all that. I suppose her donation would have
helped, after all."
"No, Doctor, it would not. He who was born in a humble manger does not require a palace.
Our little place was good enough before. It will be good enough again, I should think."
Now, Doc Baker thanked his substitute.
"I've met a lot of surgeons, Doctor Adams, but never one who wielded so large a scalpel."
"I encounter a lot of really big moles, in my line of work, Doctor Baker."
Finally, Charles shook Methos' hand.
"You'll be back, like we agreed, Methos?"
"Laura drives a hard bargain, Charles. But when the time is right, I'll be here to take Albert from you. Hmm. It seems I'm to make my trip alone. Take care, Charles. This place and you people will remain with me, always."
"Mary told me that you can leave Walnut Grove, but Walnut Grove never does leave you.
Take care, Meth-er, Abel."
Charles carefully neglected to tell Methos that Mary had been scheduled to leave with him, but delayed her departure for a few days, for reasons unknown. As the coach pulled away, Charles walked home. There, he found Albert practicing with the saber that had once belonged to William Tullane. He seemed to have a natural affinity for it.
"Albert! Boy, watch your head when you're swinging that thing. We don't need rain that
Albert sighed at the inaccurate joke.
As they watched the ending credits, another surprise awaited the Immortals and Joe, who
spoke up first.
"Adam Pierson as Doctor Abel C. Adams?"
Richie laughed, Amanda grinned, and Duncan shook his head.
"Typical, Methos. You played yourself."
"Who better, Macleod? They sought me out as 'Adams' supposed descendant, and then Michael asked me to read for him, and voila. Even better, he had lunch with Bill Bixby during filming. I got to play a mad scientist who ticked a green-tinged Lou Ferrigno off. But then I got out of TV for my own good."
Amanda was floored.
"Why? Why give up show-biz? Me, I'dve killed for a part in 'The Hulk'."
Methos just looked down.
"I had to get out. Those are ruthless sorts, in Hollywood. They'll cut your head off, as soon as look at you."
More groans followed.
"One last thing. My departure from Walnut Grove was not the end of my association with the Ingalls Family - not by a long shot."
Richie raised his arms.
"Hold the phone, Central. If Albert was an Immortal, then how come he died in the
next-to-last 'Little House' movie?"
The trap Methos had laid, hours back, was now merrily chewing Richie, Duncan, Amanda,
and even Joe to pieces. They were playing in his realm, and they were quite lost. As he liked it.
"Very simple, Richie. As you know, the TV series of *Little House* was based on this
book, ah, here it is...'The Extensive Notes of Mrs. Wilder'. It contains snippets and stories
that Laura couldn't fit into her books, or felt she couldn't describe as she cared to. It's all
true, and all quite accurate, except for two discrepancies."
Amanda shook her finger, indicating realization.
"Riiight. 'My brother came back as Dr. Albert Ingalls', and 'My Brother died of a rare blood disease, just like....' Oh, that beautiful little Watcher. She took the the crib death of her mother's son, and used it again to give Albert an out. Kind of like beating a tragedy into a plowshare."
Duncan nodded in agreement.
"So that whole 'Look Back To Yesterday' sequence was almost a complete fabrication. Makes sense. She could hardly write, *Albert's off, part of the Game, and Pa is sure he's gonna be the Last. Just the other day, he took the head of Jethro Bodine.* No offense meant, Methos. But I guess Laura had to protect Albert somehow."
"Whatever finally became of Mrs. Oleson? Both the series and the books are kind of silent on the subject. Did she finally cut the nonsense?"
"In 1903, Albert-now my protégé-and I went to New York, on a grim occasion. There I
encountered a grown-up, quite changed Nellie Dalton-Cohen, once Oleson. She really was
a classic beauty, after all. There, she told me of how her adoptive sister Nancy virtually
destroyed Willie's sanity, requiring him and his wife to move as far away as possible, for his sake. Before, they had been within a reasonable distance. Now, he severed all contact with his parents, or certainly with his mother. Nancy's demands grew more strident, and her mother ever more acquiescent to them. Unable to bear any more, Nels left her, with Charles' reluctant help. He joined his son, quite far away. One night, Nellie told me, Harriet Oleson actually said no to Nancy in a meaningful way. The Mercantile was aflame that night. Harriet did not survive, and the girl was dragged off to an asylum, showing no remorse. Nels was released from the adoption, and lived to a ripe old age, but always with a shadow upon his heart."
The room was silent, and sullen. No, Harriet Oleson had not been evil. But the choices she
had made came back at her, as they do on everyone, mortal or otherwise.
"So, why were you in New York? What was the grim occasion?"
"Funny you should mention that, Duncan. For it was not all a grim occasion. Though it did start that way."
NEW YORK, 1903
"Penny for your thoughts, Albert?"
"Sorry, Methos. But my thoughts were worth more when I was a morphine fiend, than they
are right now."
Methos had been told of Albert's addiction. Stupidly, he had taken his immortality to mean
invulnerability from consequences. Only Charles' tough talk had kept him from becoming an eternally-young shell of a man.
"Where are they buried, Albert?"
"Ma and Pa? Oh, well, Lassiter-that's the land swindler-lost the deed to some pretty
brunette thief, who then sold it to Mr. Oleson. He's having a mausoleum built on some of the grounds, and when he heard how losing Walnut Grove had killed them of a broken heart, he put them up for free. Their spot is where home used to be, and we can all go there, when our time comes, he said. Mr. Edwards is tending the grounds, and his spot when it's time is where his house was."
"Charles would have liked keeping his land through eternity. Tell me, will they bury Adam
Kendall there, as well?"
At the thought of his late brother-in-law, Albert almost choked. Crusading against
corruption in New York City, Adam had run afoul of the wrong people. Thanks to Albert,
those wrong people had met with a similar fate. But the damage was done, and his sister
Mary had been hurt yet again. Adam, Jr., (named for his older brother lost in the school fire) only a year old, now had no father, as well. Informed of their presence, Mary came down the stairs from her bedroom.
"Albert. Abel. Oh, Lord. I'm so glad you could come."
Mary hugged her brother so hard, he was glad he didn't have to worry about suffocating.
The past, at long last, was past.
"Mary, we're really sorry we couldn't be here for the funeral."
"You hush. You're supposed to be dead, remember? 'Albert Ingalls' has a marker next to
Pa and Ma. The fact that you came at all means the world to me. Course, it doesn't hurt
that I was told about those lowlifes being found, all run-through."
Albert was teary-eyed.
"I love you, Mary."
"For an Immortal, you sure are all mushy. Why don't you go up and see your nephew?"
Quietly, Albert did just that. Mary talked to Methos.
"I just wanted to thank you, for looking over him, like you do. The way I see it, he owes me a good long life for that of my baby's."
"I haven't had a protégé in a long time. But I am glad to do it, after all. How are you bearing up, Mary?"
"Not well, Abel. I'm just now learning to live with being alone for the rest of my life."
"Why? You're quite attractive, and intelligent. Not to mention strong. To bury your parents and your husband in one year's time? Many would have crumpled. When your heart heals a bit, you'll have suitors galore."
"Don't know how things went in The Bronze Age, Doc, but, here and now, who'd want to
marry a blind woman?"
Methos paused, and then spoke from his heart.
"Someone who has been charmed by your grace and your strength since the first day we
met. I can't grow old with you, Mary, and I don't have a lot of faith. But, after a reasonable
mourning period--Mary Ingalls, will you do me the great honor of becoming my Wife?"
The ears of blind people are not better than those of the sighted, simply better utilized. Mary had in her life, become very adept at detecting pity in the voice of another. She detected none in Methos'. She smiled broadly.
"Will you let me think about it?"
"No need to rush, my dear. I have time."
Two months later, an answer was given. Doctor Abel Cain Adams was married to Mary
Ingalls Kendall, and adopted Adam, Jr, as his son. The Maid Of Honor was Mary's
younger sister, Cassandra. Also in attendance was one Doctor Quinn Edwards, who bore
an eerie resemblance to Mary's late brother, Albert.
As the saying goes, there was not a dry eye in the house.
"Quite a story, Methos."
"I'll-I'll bet Mary made a beautiful bride."
"Did you play old guy for her?"
"If, Richie, you mean, did I dye my hair and affect old age, the answer is yes, and I was glad to. I loved her--I still do. She is one of a bare handful of things I do not regret."
Joe looked contemplative.
"Methos, wasn't Adam Kendall, Jr., also your CO at the 8063rd MASH in Korea?"
"For a time, Joe. Don't your chronicles tell you of our frequent meetings?"
"Nah. Roy Dupree was a great guy, but a lousy Watcher. Always getting loaded. Luckily,
we had Father Mulcahy at the 4077th, to supplement, when he would visit."
Methos raised an eyebrow.
"ROY DUPREE? That-that-hayseed hackbones?"
Joe smiled that Joe-Smile.
"Hey, you didn't notice him. If Colonel Flagg hadn't turned Hunter, you would've been watched
through the whole Korean War. Course, we still didn't know who you really were."
"Methos, is Adam, Jr., still alive?"
"Afraid not, Macleod. You see, he got a furlough stateside, and his plane...his plane..."
As Methos trailed off, Duncan filled in.
"Was it Henry Blake's plane?"
With Methos unable to speak, Joe helped his friend out.
"Yeah, dammit, Mac. Mulcahy identified poor Henry Blake's headless body-what a loss, I
mean, the guy was a member of the Round--well, he also posted in his report the loss of
Methos now spoke up.
"I was crushed. I'd promised Mary I would look after him. I felt for a long time like I failed
her. She--died in 1919, as a result of the Post-World War One Influenza epidemic. I put
young Adam into a military school. It was a good one-more interested in building leaders
than bullies. I visited quite often, to keep them honest, and to keep my promise. Laura did
too, when she could. Doctor 'Quinn Edwards' was the school physician, though he could
never tell Adam till later he was his uncle."
Richie asked a question.
"Killer story, Methos. But what's the point to telling us all this?"
"Richie. There doesn't have to be a point. Some stories are just told."
"Actually, Duncan, he has a point, and so does my story."
"Which is this, Amanda. You don't know me. You think you do. You think this glimpse or
that into my past will reveal all. But for all you've found out, including today, you simply,
and plainly, one and all- do not know me. The time may soon come for all that to change. But for now, you know what I want you to. That isn't a shot, or an insult. Just a statement of fact-taken-as you like it."
With that, Methos left, leaving his four friends in his trap, all having walked in willingly for a furtive glimpse of the true nature of the Oldest Known Immortal.
In the silence, Richie inserted a laserdisc into the player. Watching fifteen Japanese Monsters
fight it out did nothing to alleviate the feeling of being played like a finely-tuned piano by the master of the art. Methos had his victory, whatever it might be, and in that, he was happy.
"Halt. Who Goes There. Er, I mean, are you here for me?"
"Uh, no. I'm Charles Pierson. Adam Pierson is my adoptive Father. I was told he was he
"Oh, uh, him and Mac--that's Duncan Macleod--went out for some food. Er, do you know
who Adam is?"
"Well, I guess I trust ya. My name is Benjamin T. Blake, only I used ta be Walter O'Reilly. Most people, though, they just call me Radar. I'm Mac's new protégé, which replaces his old protégé, who isn't around anymore."
The man extended Radar his hand.
"Pleased to meet you, Radar. I hope Methos is teaching you, as well. He can be rough, but
you will learn from him. Like I said, I'm Charles Pierson, also known as Quinn Edwards,
and once known as Albert Ingalls."
"You mean, like the Ingallseses on Little House?"
"Yeah, my late sister Laura sure wrote up a storm. People still love that show, though some won't come out and admit it."
"Oh, well, I always thought it was the greatest. Boy, O Boy. I just can't get over it."
"Get over what, Radar?"
"Well, ya know. Me--Radar O'Reilly--standing here, talkin' to a character from a television show."
"When you put it that way I guess it does all seem rather surreal. Now, you look like you need some practice…"
Respectfully dedicated to the memory of Michael Landon, the heart and soul of Little House.
Writer's note: To all die-hard LHOTP fans, I apologize for little errors like Mary and Cassandra Ingalls in town at the same time, and Laura not yet married to Almanzo. But since this is a HL/Methos story as well, I would feel worse if the LHOTP characters did something out of character, than worry about who knew who when. Obviously, this story treats the TV versions of the LHOTP characters as though they were also the historical ones.