Vicious Circles
by Karen

There was something both decadent and deeply satisfying about lounging around in one's private bathing chamber Methos reflected. He dipped his left hand into the steaming water, observing the disruption which sent small circles rippling across its surface. Steam rose in small tendrils making the walls damp and the floor slippery. Whatever could be said of this Spartan king, he certainly knew how to make guests feel comfortable. Methos wondered if the king had known about the naturally-occurring hot springs when they built the palace or if it had been a recent addition. In any case, bless the architect who built it.

Methos closed his eyes and wondered why it was so hard to allow himself to let go of the frenetic always protective shield that he wove around himself. Perhaps he should resign him self to the fact that that peace of both mind and body would be forever denied to him. It simply required too much mental energy, energy that he didn't have at the moment. The battle with the Scythians that had just come to its inevitable conclusion a fortnight ago was foremost in his thoughts.

Bathing the grime and pain of battle from his body, Methos had leisure to recall details of the past battle and how his newfound companion, Ortho, for all his gruff appearance and coarse manners, he did have his usefulness. Ortho knew how to conduct a military campaign. Ortho, swore to keep secret the fact of Methos' immortality, and he had connections with the upper crust of Greek society. Now they had been invited to the wedding of Prince Meneleaus of Athens and Helen of Sparta.

Methos wriggled his toes and wondered if the water would cause his skin to wrinkle like a prune. He thought about pulling the bell cord for one of the servants to bring him a towel and conduct him to his chambers so he could dress for the banquet when Ortho appeared framed in the open doorway.

"You've been in that spring long enough that if the Master Cook were to walk in on you right now he might mistake you for tonight's lobster," Ortho remarked, a towel slung over one arm.

"I don't care, just hand me the towel and find out what they've provided in the way of formal clothes," Methos grunted, levering himself out of the water and gliding forward on the balls of his feet.

"I don't much care for the design of this place," Ortho muttered, handing over the towel and then turned to face the various arched entryways and marble columns, all designed with fanciful carvings and shells. "Whoever built must have been either drunk or insane, or both."

Methos, now towel wrapped, "I can't say it's that bad. I imagine it was designed more for function than to appease some sense of beauty. All these interconnecting passages, narrow windows for archers...lots of hiding places...."

"You've lost me, boss," Ortho, "I am just a soldier. I'll leave the intricate plans to you."

Methos, occupied in drying his shoulder-length black hair, narrowed his eyes at dark, squat, hairy soldier and considered that the man was either being modest or he was being playing the fool for his amusement. Methos distinctly recalled that in the battle with the Scythians only a fortnight ago it had been Ortho who had come up with the flanking strategy that had won their side the victory. While the man had all the subtlety of blacksmith's anvil when it come to political maneuvering. Ortho he had other qualities that made up for that. "How did you manage to get us invited?"

"Every wealthy city-state in Greece are looking for good soldiers to command their armies, Nestor being no exception and the fact this his sister-son's cousin...." Ortho replied.

"Do I need to know the family tree?" Methos snapped.

"No, no." Ortho stammered, "It's complicated, but I've got to have money to pay for all this high-faultin' living expenses, pay the troops...."Ortho threw up his hands. "It helps to have connections," he finished wearily.

"I see," Methos replied.


Outside the palace walls the city of Sparta slept through the mid day heat in a torpid ease. If some were troubled by unsettling dreams and explicable messages from above, it passed unnoticed except by those few. The streets were deserted and the celebratory offerings of fruits and floors left in the temples of the gods of Olympus wilted in the heat, left by commoner and highborn alike. It was far different inside the walls of the palace, however. Music from pipes, drums, and flutes echoed through the interconnecting doorways and corridors.

Servants got in each other's way, as they crossed and recrossed the tiled floor of the banquet hall, cursing each other and the inordinate amount of food and drink that King Nestor had ordered for the occasion. The lobster that Ortho had commented that Methos time in the hot springs made him resemble was not just one of the shelled crustaceans but two dozen, boiled, baked and stuffed with cabbage, onions and all topped with saffron. The gold platter that it was carried in on threatened to overbalance the half dozen sweating servants that brought it in and laid it on the silk- draped banquet table.


Methos stood at the top of the marble staircase with Ortho at his back as was proper for a second-in-command, waiting for the court herald to announce their arrival, Methos who was always noting details of his surroundings, ascertained the available exits and entrances, the various court dignitaries already in attendances; the smoky torches illuminating the banquet chamber and allowed a small grin, noting the elaborate hairstyles ordained by royal decree of Her Royal Highness, Clymenestra. How any woman, no matter their station in life, either by circumstances of birth or by reason of economics could push and pull, and otherwise coax their hair into an carefully sculpted beehive, was something he would never understand, even if he lived to be hundreds of years old. Methos took his attention off the courtiers for a moment to regard his clothing, fine Egyptian imported linen covering him from head to toe in folds and banded at the bottom hem with a crimson dye.


Methos and Ortho had been placed at opposites ends of the high table whether by accident or design, but in any case, Methos figured he was on his own. His table-mate to his left was a man who had the look of a soldier, a veteran at that judging by the fine dusting of white scars criss-crossing his tanned skin. He had been introduced by Achilles, whom, for his part, seemed to take offense that Methos was not taking an interest in listening to his war-stories, which Achilles illustrated his thrusts and jabs with the gnawed bone of a roasted boar. Methos deflected his questions about his own battles with non-committal replies and the man eventually began ignoring him, which suited Methos just fine. His table-mate to his immediate right was a woman, with hair the color of honey and piercing blue eyes. He did not how she managed it, but she had arranged the folds of the gown so that most of her snowy-white bosom was revealed to advantage. "Deceptively distracting," Methos thought in the back of his mind, `and she knows it.'

"Methos, " she purred. "What an exotic name. That doesn't sound Greek and your looks, a foreigner, I'll wager. Might I inquire where you were born?" Oh, it's no shame to come from other lands. Half the population of Knossos are from other parts of the empire."

"Out east from the Greater Steppes, your Highness. Methos rolled the taste of the fine white wine around on his tongue. "It's not where I was born, just the place I was a long time." The nobility of the realm certainly enjoyed loud table talk, mostly of politics, territorial disputes that supposedly would be solved by this marriage between the two city-states. Methos supposed that he could learn something by absorbing what he could. As his old comrade-in-arms and former Horsemen, Kronos, had once said, `Fighting the god-damned war is the easy part, but try occupying a conquered people, now that's the hard part." Methos tossed his head back and laughed. He missed Kronos, and the rest of his brother Horsemen, Silas and Caspian,. Methos had serious doubts that he would ever find they're like again. Then a troubling thought occurred to him, `would he want to bring back the Four Horsemen? Would he want to become Death on a Horse? How far had he come in a few short season from what he had once been? Was he the same person. The thoughts flashed through Methos' mind, and came up with the answer, NO." Methos shook his head and sighed.

"Does your name have any significance among those tribes?"

"Not that I'm aware of."

"You are very young to have attained the rank of commander of your own army," Achilles interrupted.

"Correct me if I'm mistaken, but so was one of your greatest military generals, Alexander,"

"You, Sir, are hardly Alexander, the man called Ajax interrupted, seated beside Ortho. "With one hand tied behind my back I could easily snap you in two." Ajax laughed, hearty and from the belly, flexing his massive arms

Methos smiled, a narrow thinning of his lips, so tight it resembled the rictus smile of a corpse and drank more wine. "With no proof, I'll take your word for it, otherwise I would not wish to wager on it."

"Good head on that one's shoulders," Menleaus whispered to Ortho.

"You have no idea," Ortho muttered under his breath.

Ajax spluttered, unable to form words for a second, and the wine spilled onto his shirt. "Well, well, the puppy has teeth. Good show, man. I shall be eager to fight beside you."

"Indeed," Clymenestra murmured, poking the prongs of her fork into the linen tablecloth leaving five, evenly spaced puncture marks in the fabric. "More wine?"


"Dearest, "Agamemnon interrupted, "You mustn't monopolize our guests."

"My husband is correct. " Clymenstra blushed, "I do forget myself at times. She rose to her feet, "If you'll excuse me, I have duties to which I must attend, and Princess Helen, poor dear, has a wedding to prepare for."

"I had all but forgotten," Menelaus blushed, covering it with a napkin.

"That is the spirit, man," Ajax grinned. "A woman is a woman, and they are as plentiful as. I can't think of an appropriate contrast at the moment, my head is too muddled with this fine wine. Hoi! Servant, refill my cup, lazy bones!"

`You should talk, Ajax," Agamemnon replied, `you with your string of court girls and bull dancers, it's no wonder none of their fathers have approached you yet with offers of marriages or alliances."

"And I should be so obligated to select a wife?" Ajax asked.

"No, but it is a pleasant diversion," Ortho ventured to offer.

"Are you married?" Meneleaus asked

"Once," Ortho shrugged. "She died in a raid by the Scythians.

"I had no idea," Methos said.

"I never told you," Ortho said, and resumed eating without contributing anything more to the conversation.


A shepherd, tending his flock, took a moment in the sweltering heat of summer, to lie down in the shade of an olive grove. His charges did not need to be watched all the time and he trusted that they knew their master well enough that they would not be inclined to stray out of the protective ranged of his sight or at least a shouted command. His blond hair hung lake over a handsome face with wide blue eyes and a curving mouth. He lay directly beneath the boughs of the tree, his head pillowed on wool and fur lined cloak. His hands were engaged in coaxing noises that he regarded as music from a eight-holed flute, his friends often jokingly referred to as sounding more like `a randy goat on the make.' Paris did not mind, his father was shepherd, his grandfather was a shepherd before him and had died a shepherd, and most likely so would he. It was a decent if hard live out among the foothills of Sparta and in the spring they would all move onto the plains where the land offered more grazing and level land for planting crops. Paris was content with his life for he knew nothing better. Little did he know that the peaceful life he knew was about to change forever.


The first rumbling sounds of an approaching storm rumbled over the hills and rolled down to the small cottage surrounded by a fenced in yard where Paris had just tied the last of his sheep. He looked up, startled, white, hot sparks danced across his vision and he lost his balance and fell to the ground to land on his rump. Hoping no one witnessed his embarrassing fall, he glanced up at the sky and felt the first drops of rain on his outstretched hand.

At that very instant another hand, this one soft, white, delicate bonded, and decorated with rings ; helped him stand up again.

Paris was frozen, he didn't how to react, or what to say.

When he senses were once more in working order, Paris came face to face with the owner of that hand. A woman with auburn hair tied in a loose braid, and dressed in a flowing gauzy white gown, sandals the color of pink coral that bordered the city's harbor, on her feet. Paris was not the most observant of men, but this was no ordinary woman, this was a goddess.

"Come now," she purred. "Don't be all day about it." You are Paris?

"I, Uh, Yes, I answer to that name." he managed to stammer. "Are you. Am I really...." Paris trailed off and resumed starting at the ground.

"The goddess of Love? Charming. Yes, I am."

"We are wasting time," Aphrodite's companion interrupted. "The lives of mortals are finite, but even to such as ourselves, time is commodity that we cannot afford to waste."

"You always were such a downer, Athena," Aphrodite. "We agreed that I would be one to approach this mortal."

"Excellent," the other woman added. "Men's senses are so easily dazzled."

"We are having a little wager, and being so evenly matched we cannot decide for ourselves," Artemis said. "Whom among us is the most beautiful."

"Begging your pardon, ladies," Paris muttered, "What has that to do with me?"

"Much and nothing," Aphrodite laughed. "You see you are but one player in the game."

"Oh, stop torturing the poor lad," Artemis snapped. "Tell him."

"I would rather not. I would be a poor judge," Paris muttered, trying to avoid staring into the eyes of the trio of goddesses and drill a hole for himself where he could bury his burning shame at being forced into this position.

Aphrodite glided towards him and wrapped her fingers around his chin, forcing him to look her in the eyes. "I'm afraid, oh lost little lamb, that you have no choice."

"I do not understand," Paris whispered.

"It is very simple," Artemis replied. "You see before you three goddesses, we are deadlocked in this contest, and for simplicity's sake, we have decided to allow a mortal man to select the winner. The reward is this. " She snapped her fingers and clasped between her gloved hands was a round, shimmering object no bigger than

"Use it and you can have your pick of any woman in the world, even the most beautiful, and your destiny will be made."

"My destiny?"

"You will not spending the rest of your mortal life as a tender of ship," Artemis replied. "Instead, your true parents were royalty of the city of Troy. It was foretold that you would be either the savior or destroyer of your city. The prophecy was never clear on that matter, was it, Athena?"

"I cannot remember," Athena replied, shaking her head.

"Either way, the choice is yours," Artemis said.

Paris, at that instant wanted very badly to have some other destiny than tending the sheep for the rest of his life, a wayward part of his mind, found himself silent shouting to run away as fast as his feet would carry him; he could never hope to outrun anyone, much less the swift Goddess of the Hunt, Artemis, let alone her immortal sisters. Paris thought about deals with the gods of Mt. Olympus, thought about this stranger prophecy that he was the subject off, it was too remote , too out of the ordinary, and suddenly he wanted this strange destiny, wanted so badly he could taste it, and stretched out his hand for the golden apple.

"Your decision," Artemis demanded, arms folding over his chest.

"I have chosen, Aphrodite."

"Wrong or right, the choice has been made," Artemis sighed, and placed the golden apple into the palm of his hand. It was surprisingly light and airy, as if it was hollow on the inside. Paris turned it over and over in his palm and wondered how much gold went into its making, when the thundering sound returned and he was tossed back by an invisible force into his home.


Helen tugged at the intricate and delicate silk laces that bound the layers of filmy fabric to her body and wondered if the royal seamstresses had been ordered to make a dress so confining that whoever wore could not even breath. She considered yelling at them but what good would that do,' she thought, In the back of her mind she knew that it was her own fault in not have spoken up when the wedding dress was being made and have ordered it then to be sewn exactly to her specifications; she had been distracted by more important matters like enjoying her own pursuits. Needlework was boring and wearing on her delicately boned fingers and made her fingers red and swollen, not at all attractive. Oh, there were other garments in her wardrobe suitable for more active pursuits, such as climbing the trellis east wall and climbing down to the gardens and hoping that a handsome prince or lesser nobility would happen by and chance to see her admiring her reflection in the garden reflecting pool. Her golden hair hanging loose over face, as was maidenly proper. It was part of the game played by young people, but it was nothing more than a game. It was never intended to be taken seriously, a flirtatious glance, perhaps a light peck of the cheek or a more daring kiss, but never promised anything beyond that, for if it did, her watchful governess would swoop in and forcibly have the daring young man removed.

Helen thought with some regret, now the game was coming to an end, her sister, Clymenstra, had patiently and kindly explained that as a royal princess she had obligations that befitted her station, that princesses married for love, marriages are arranged for political reasons and she could thank the Gods that she had been fortunate in the man she had married. She had grown to love King Agamemnon. "A hard man, but a good one,." Clymenstra had observed. Helen bit her lip, afraid that Prince Meneleaus would turn out far differently. :The apple has fallen farther from the tree." she muttered under her breath, noting with some annoyance that her mood was creating tiny creases in her smooth forehead. "I shall have my servants treat that with the recent shipment of Byzantine oils that came in last week." Helen left off admiring herself in the reflecting pool and straightened her skirts, showing just enough of a well- turned ankle to leave something to the imagination of admiring young man but not enough to be scolded for scandalous behavior by her maid- servants. She moved towards the entry way off the garden and into the palace proper when her breath caught in her throat and she her harsh breathing, a scramble on the far wall across for where she stood, the gasp as a blade pierced heavy leather armor and flesh, and then a thud, a curse muffled by the crash of marble and stone bricks.

"Who is there?" Helen demanded, wishing at the last minute that she had remembered to attach her small silver knife with the jeweled hilt that had been a pre-nuptial wedding present from her future father-in- law King Agamemnon. She realized, too late, that she had left it lying on her end table next to the vase of day lilies and hyacinths watered and carried for by her body servants. Crossing the inlaid mosaic tiles, heedless of the plants she crushed beneath her slippered feet. Helen moved forward, keeping her palm raised, hoping the intruders would think she held a knife in her hand.


Paris thought him self a perfect fool for agreeing to drink with the three men who first stole his best goat, panicked the flock of ship, and laughed at him when he feel into the water trough meant for the horses of the royal stables. His lank blond hair hung over his in soaked ringlets, his clothes clung to his lithe figure, and to make matters worse, the hurt look in his father's eyes, when told of his son's slacking negligence s somehow that hurt worse than the blows of fists and the knife blade that grazed his ribs. Paris, could bear up under everything else that had happened this afternoon, except disapproval of his father. If those soldiers really were from Troy, Paris thought to himself, what do they want with me. It's more than their livers' are worth to be caught in the heart of the Greek city- states. Peasant or no, I do a thing about a thing or two, and this is no time to be stealing livestock from his Highness King Nestor." Paris realized that he was talking to himself but didn't care. He shifted around on the balls of his feet. He liked being a shepherd, but they did not make for great conversationalists even at the best of times.


"I know someone is there, come forward if you have the courage," Helen demanded, her hand shaking and she allowed it to drop to her side. "Or must your mischief be conducted in the dark?"

"Hardly in the dark, my lady," Paris replied, glancing down at his disheveled appearance, "Forgive the abrupt entrance but circumstances have forced me to take a more cautious route." Paris took a look at her, the wheat blond hair cascading down her back, the blue eyes that pierced through fabric and flesh and saw right to his soul. Paris had never seen any women so beautiful and for a moment his tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth and he was unable to get any words out.

Helen him over and was about to dismiss him as a mere servant, the damp hair, leather clothes and sandaled feet and was about to call for the guards, her mouth was open, the words on her lips when the motion was halted by a pair of salty lips pressed against hers, tasting of mint julep. Helen was of two minds about what to do about the sheer impertinence of young peasants these days. She was royalty and engaged to be married, but it was nice to be admired, and she had to admit if one overlooked the clothes and the dirt, and the look of instinctive fight or flee in blue eyes the color of the ocean in the winter, he was certainly good to look at.

"My lady," Paris said when he recovered use of his tongue. "I shall be honored to tell you my story if you could but tell me where we are."

"The House of the Double Axes, the Palace of King Nestor." Helen obliged him. "On the eve of my wedding."

"Forgive me, I did not mean to intrude." Paris turned and was about to leave again by climbing the ivy-choked wall when he heard Helen call out. "Wait! Don't go."

"I do like tales," Helen smiled, enjoying the game. Here was one who admired her simply for herself not for herself as a princess of the realm, or her looks, or her eligibility as a wife, or her political connections, but herself. It was a frightening and a heady sensation. One she had never felt before and it she found it enjoyable.

Helen walked over to sit on a marble bench near a bank of trellis roses in full bloom. She arched one delicate eyebrow and invited him to sit beside her, patting the space with a slim-fingered hand. Paris looked at her than at the bench. He chose to sit down on the floor of the garden..

"Is marriage to this man hateful to you?" Paris blurted out, not realizing what he was asking, but wanting her answer as badly as he ever wanted anything in his life.

"It is my duty," she replied.

"Is that all?"

"It is enough," she said.

"What would you say to a proposition?"

"Bold, but highly improper. I am..."

"Hush, I hear someone approaching. Paris twisted to his feet and placed a finger over her mouth.

Tense moments later, he moved away. "They are gone. I am a disinherited prince of Troy, and I wish to reclaim my birthright. Come with me."

"You wish me to go to our enemies? It is all so very strange."

"They will love you, as I do," Paris replied, embracing her again, not realizing that he hand his hand in a pocket and that he was rubbing the golden apple.

"I have a solution to our dilemma. We shall elope!"

"Yes, then I shall go and gather money and clothing for our departure. Wait for me by the lilacs at the base of this wall. She sighed. "You have no idea how happy this has made me," Helen whispered, kissing him on the lips with the fire of adventure in her blue eyes.

" I shall wait."


"Prince Menealeaus! Where is he? I must speak with him. It is urgent" the chief steward gasped, running, his breath burning in his lungs.

"He is here," Ajax yelled, bolting from his chair at the banquet table and leading the exhausted steward up to the high table. "Now, man, what is so urgent that you had to nearly kill yourself bringing it to us?"

The steward gasped for breath, the throb of his pulse beating double time. "My lord, it is with great sorrow that I bring you this. Please spare, this unworthy servant's life."

Ajax swatted the man on the back, and the steward nearly fainted. With a grin, Ajax snagged a pitcher of water and poured it down the man's throat. "Now, tell us."

"My lady, Helen has run away with a spy from Troy" the man rattled out all in one breath.

"Is this true?" Ajax demanded.

"I wish it were not, my lord," the steward replied. "But I saw with my own eyes. They were caught in a most compromising position in the royal herb garden. I overheard them making plans to elope while I was overseeing the kitchen servants to gather herbs for the soup."

Prince Menelaus "How dare she! How dare our enemies sneak into our towns, our palaces, and take what is mine! They must pay for this sheer arrogance! Pay dearly!"

"I think he's about to have a fit," Ortho remarked, moving over to sit beside Methos when no one was looking. "And here I thought this would be a dull social affair. He shrugged. "Shows what I know."

"You grub," Methos snarled, grabbing the shorter man by the collar of his tunic, "Why didn't you tell me you've been married before, you could have warned that the bride to be would try something like this."

"Like what? Running out on her husband-to-be?" Ortho whispered, "Let loose of the threads, you're choking me."

Methos loosed his grip on Ortho's collar and subsided back into his chair. "It's not the battle I wanted. This has nothing to do with me, and I owe no one here any favors."

"What's the matter with you? Ortho spluttered. "It's a battle. Ignoring the silently fuming Methos he turned to his table mate, Ajax. "How far is it to Troy?"

"No one would call it short. A matter of several seasons on the open ocean, perhaps more, and then a long overland march," Ajax said. "It could be done, but it would need many men of both horse and on foot."

"Not to mention the cooperation of the other rulers," Ortho added. "If you'd ask me, which no one did, they are just looking for an excuse."

"This means war!" Meneleaus shouted, pumping his fist in the air, ignoring the whispered cautions of the assembled guests.

Men rose and tried it seemed either to encourage the young man in his fevered cry for open warfare, while an older man, whose black hair was shot through with gray streaks, giving a salt-and-pepper look stood up and, banging a spoon against his glass, demanded order, and announced. "I advise caution, gentlemen. True, what this young pup from Troy has done merits harsh and instant retribution. But declaring open warfare is foolhardy."

"Then what do you suggest we do?" Menelaus demanded, rounding on the older man.

"We send an envoy, with demands for the safe return of Princess Helen and adequate recompense for the trouble, perhaps a tribute in gold and jewels."

"Do you honestly believe they will honor such a request?" Methos asked, interested in spite of him self.

"It's no secret that Trojan corsairs have dared to raid, ransack and take our own Greek maidens and youths captive, to be used as slaves," Agamemnon remarked.

"Our enemies could argue the same thing, and it would amount to about the same thing, not much," Nestor replied.

"Then, we are committed?" Meneleaus demanded of the room in general, his eyes were too bright and his brown hair stood out in bristles like the spines of a porcupine.

"I have your vow of that you will support me in this endeavor, my brother,"

"I shall, that I vow, and let the gods be my witness," Agamemnon stated, rising to his feet and clasping his brother's forearm.


Methos cursed the inefficiency of three separate fleets under the command of three very different commanders,. "Damn, stiff-necked, arrogant bastards,' he muttered under his breath, unaware of the amused and look in Ortho's eyes as he watched him pace up and down the port side of the ship the carried the bulk of the ground troops. Prince Meneleaus was in command since it his wife that had been kidnapped by the Trojans, but King Agammenon was in overall command. Which worked fine on paper, and the documents that all the rulers had signed were as legally binding as anything on this side of the Aegean, but it was far different trying to get the assorted horses, weapons, soldiers, armor loaded onto the ships. They ocean was not a forgiving mistress as Methos had cause to recall, thinking back to the time he had crossed over from east of the Aegean on the "Osprey," a Phoenician craft, the he had since learned made excellent trading partners, but they were a superstitious lot, given to sacrificing otherwise excellent and valuable gold and silver ornaments to the various land, sea, and earth gods to indulge favors for good sailing weather, favorable times to plant, to when to have children. Methos found it all highly amusing and rather worthless, while he had to admit he couldn't exactly find an adequate explanation for these `gods', existence; what it all boiled down to, was that the only thing he really believed in was himself, and Ares, if he was still around and interested in him, could take a flying leap off his war chariot.

Methos allowed a small smile to slip out, a narrowing of his thin narrow lips, but it did not last very long. "Shouldn't have eaten all that rich food at the banquet," he chided himself, "You'd think being Immortal would give me advantages over being sea-sick. This is absurd, it's all a case of mind over matter."

The ship hit a nasty patch of water and he lost his grip on the railing and sent rolling into a stack of barrel containing fish oil used to coat the sails. Methos let out a groan and clenched his teeth together, cursing when he bet through his tongue. A passing sailor gave him a pitying look, and chuckled. "Don't worry, mate," he added. "Takes landlubbers a good mite to get ther sea-legs. Ye'll be comin along in no time"

Methos glared at the sailor, too dumb to realize that the Immortal did not appreciate being made the butt of a crude joke, and if he felt better would have taken the opportunity presented and slammed his fist into the sailor's gap-toothed mouth. As it was, Methos was unable to rise to his knees and take a half-hearted swing before he feel back onto the dock, moaning. Looking over the railing at the rushing green water of the ocean below, convinced him that when the sailors brought around the beef stew, he would refuse on account of his queasy stomach. "Dam sight, unfair this is. Must be punishment for leading a wretched life."

"Hah!" Ortho laughed, coming up with a wooden bowl of beef stew. "Have some of this, the cook insists that you do. Although, I would rather eat my boot leather, it's at least salty."

"I could not keep anything down," Methos snapped. "Take it away."

"Let's go below, some of the men have started up a dice game and I think it would take your mind off the ocean."

"Dice game?"

"Yes, we might make a killing depending on the fall of dice"

"Lead the way."


Sandy cliffs rose in into the sky in a jagged line from where the ships nosed their way into the narrow strait. The sun, just crossing the horizon painted the cliffs a rosy pink to contrast with the brown, red, and orange of the rocks. Methos, taking his turn at the oars, paused and shaded his eyes with his right hand, wondering if the light and fatigue were playing tricks on his eyes. He could have sworn that he had seen a darker, blacker patch move.

"Did you see something move up there?" Methos asked, tugging on the sleeve of the man before him.

Whatever response the sailor would have made was lost as the crew-man standing in the crow's nest called out a high-pitched warning. "Beware! Danger to starboard! To Arms!"

The black spot grew steadily larger, emerging into the sunlight as a gigantic body of a monstrous octopus., it's pulsating sucker pads opening and closing, its beak scenting the blood of living men aboard the three flagships and their attendant smaller vessels.

The creature, scenting the mingled scents of human blood, sweat and fear, sent its tentacles out in random directions, trying to make contact. It wrapped its oozing body around the mast, instantly snapping it in two.

The captain, standing on the helm with a white-knuckled grip on the helm, shouted hoarse commands over the wind, shouts and confusion. The crew, responding to his authority, shook off their fear and took up their swords and bows, firing the creature's eye, and hacking at its tentacles.


Methos, feeling the tension build up inside him, felt clear headed- he stood up, his legs wobbling for a moment before his mind ordered them to obey. He shook his head, sweat making his dark hair hang limply over his eyes. He brushed it aside with the back of his free hand, the left holding onto the ship's railing while he gathered his balance. The nausea in his stomach faded, replaced with the adrenaline rush of action and battle. Methos thought for an instant to look for Ortho and found him in the knot of sailors attacking the sea-monster. Methos, yanked his sword from the sheath he wore strapped to his back and ran forward, teeth bared in a fierce rictus smile. He arced a high blow midway on the tentacle, backing up when a black oozing goo seeped from the wound. Hacking away at the others within reach, spinning and darting away to avoid being hammered by a return blow. Time passed but it ceased to have meaning while spun and struck, blood and sweat pouring from off his body, the front of his tunic wringing wet, a damp patches spreading across it.

A booming sound like thunder in a clear sky made Methos look towards the aft section where the sailors had regrouped, and he saw Ortho standing beside him, holding a wooden cup of water. Without a word, Methos accepted it and drank it down, when the cup fell from his hands, and the breath rattled in his lungs. He gasped, it felt as someone had dropped an anvil on his chest; it hurt to breath. It hurt to move. Irritably, he shoved the weight aside but there was nothing there but air.

Then he lost focus, and as if from a remote distance he heard Ortho calling him, but it was hard enough to concentrate on breathing to pay attention, and the last thing he recalled before losing consciousness was: "Do not do this to me, you son of bitch."


"There is nothing you can do." Ajax remarked, leaning over Methos' prone body.

"No! Ortho shouted, dry-washing his hands. "You have healers onboard, there must be something they can do." "He has lost too much blood, I'm surprised he has lasted this long. I would have expected to have died before sunset."

"Can we not move him below?"

"I am no healer, but I have been on enough battlefields to know a dead man when I see one, moving him would only make his death quicker. You are his friend?"

"Yes," Ortho whispered.

"Then as his friend, the best thing you can do for him, is stay with him until he dies, the fates were not kind today, we lost many good men."

"Wait! Ortho shouted, "Ajax!"


Methos heard their voices from a great distance, as if he stood on a distant hillside and they on the opposite side and shouted to make themselves heard over the roaring of a storm, the rain coming down. Methos thought they were discussing him, and a part of him wanted to respond, if only to hear the sound of his own voice, because inside his head there was silence. It was difficult to concentrate, his bones ached. He struggled to move his limbs, and the fingers of his right hand twitched, loosing his grip on his sword hilt. It dropped to the deck with a ringing crash. At that instant the tingling sensation spread to his arms, legs, and torso, his head hurt like he'd been drinking ale for a month without stopping. Methos snarled but it came out a choking rasp. The tingling grew worse, and it grew into a surge of pain like being hit with lightning. His entire spasmed with the pain, twisting and jerking, and his concentration fled. Time passed but Methos no longer cared, the pain was his entire existence, blue flickering flashes setting of sparks all over his body.


When the pain subsided Methos sat up, gasping for air, his lungs burning. He was thirsty, Ortho, who had knelt by his side throughout the entire ordeal, held a cup to his Methos cracked lips.

"By the Gods, I have never anything like that," Ortho whispered.

"You must be cursed by the gods," Ajax said, shoving his way through the decked littered with the bodies of dead soldiers. "The creature is gone, driven off or injured. It hardly matters now."

"What happened?" Methos muttered, rubbing his temples where a lingering head ache refused to go away.

"You tell me. By all rights, you should be dead, but here you are," Ajax grinned.

"Maybe you have special talent or armor given you by the gods, after all. Like our friend, Achilles."

"Maybe I do," Methos nodded, then ordered Ortho to take him below decks back to his hammock.


Docked on land again the commanders ordered supplies unloaded to honor the gods for granting them safe passage through the Pillars of Herkales and allowing to reach a sheltered harbor without any loss of life or property.


Agamemnon, accompanied by Meneleaus, Ajax and Achilles, led the way towards where the blue and white striped tents of the nobility had been pitched, the fabric billowing and collapsing at the mercy of the unrelenting wind. They all had cloth masks wrapped over their mouths to keep out the grit and dust in the air. It had been agreed that this erratic weather in the middle of summer was unnatural and after a lengthy wait and much heated argument they had agreed to consult the army seer that accompanied the troops, Colchas. Agamemnon shouted through the entrance. "Come out, old seer, no one will harm you."

"My Lord," Colchas replied, wrapping his robes and his dignity around him self as he staggered out of the tent, holding onto the center pole with one hand, the other using his cane to keep his balance. "You summoned me?"

"Indeed. Read the signs for me, tell me the outcome of this venture.

"At the very least, tell me why the gods have seen fit to curse us with this foul wind," Ajax snapped.

Colchas eyes glazed over until the whites showed, and went deep into the trance that allowed him to see past his immediate surroundings, to look into the mist of what ifs and what may yet come to pass. When he recovered, he looked directly into the younger man's eyes. "My lord, you will not be pleased with my answer."

"Tell me," Agamemnon ordered, teeth gritted.

"You will not leave this place either by sea or by land, the wind will come again in greater measure, men will go mad with hunger and fear unless."" Colchas whispered.

"Unless what?" Achilles interrupted, "Spit it out, man!"

Colchas sighed. "Unless, our king offers his most beautiful daughter as a sacrifice to the goddess Artemis. I am unclear on this matter, but he has managed to anger the goddess of the Hunt, and until she is appeased, the wind of ill fortune will destroy us all."


Methos mingled with the crowd unloading crates of the sweet Greek white wine, figuring that he would at least get some reward at the end. Methos waved to Ortho when he caught sight of him standing on the off ramp of a nearby vessel.


They joined a group of sailors who had opened a cask of white wine and were tossing from one to the other around a bonfire, built from the driftwood gathered on the beach. They waved and made room for the two men to join them in the circle. He spent hours in pleasant company, laughing, sharing drinks of the spiced wine and listening to the stories told my the sea-going men.

"What is happening over there?" Methos asked Ortho, pointing towards where men, had removed their shirts and were constructing a wooden platform held together by iron bands.

"Pay it no mind. It is none of our concern."

"Call it curiosity," Methos shrugged, as he stood up and stretched and strode towards the platform, shoving aside people when the got in his way, his black cape fluttering around his shoulders like the wings of carrion crows.

"Don't go," Ortho whispered, clutching at Mythos's sleeve.


With a heavy tread that left deep grooves in the sand, Agamemnon, nearly tore the tent down when he yanked on the entrance and shoved aside the women who looked after his daughter and the other women who accompanied the army.


Methos had never had any tender feelings where children were concerned, but this innocent girl's frightened gazed pierced through the layers of his emotional armor and made him realize what a terrible fate awaited her. He waited until she was handed over to the executioner in a black cloak and mask, an dagger in one hand.

The girl's hair was black and her eyes were blue of the evening sky. She couldn't have been older than eleven or ten winters old. She wore a light cotton shift that she wore to sleep and the wind was cold, she shivered. Her head dropped and she store at her bare feet as if nothing else in the world existed. Methos snarled, and muttered a curse under his breath. Someone, some way he would be the one to rescue this girl and bring live to this melting blue eyes. He fumed with impatience, waiting for the right instant in which to act' vowing that when the axe descended, he would snatch the girl right out for under their watching eyes.

The executioner reached down and pulled the black tangle mass of hair away from her neck. Then, with a great show of effort and limbering of muscles, he bent down and levered the dagger to cut the girl's throat. Methos choose that moment to spring up toward the top of the platform, grabbed the girl and leaped for the opposite side, ignoring the mingled shouts of shock and anger, and ran for where he had pitched his tent with Ortho. If they came after with vengeance on their minds, so be it.


Agamemnon marched across the beach, his heavy strides made him look as if were wading through water instead of sand. The glare in his eyes would have melted butter, it was so fierce. Methos stared him down, refusing to let anyone, even a king intimidate him. Methos detected a small grimace on the thick lips, the puckered scar deepening the lines around the mouth.

"Something wrong, my Lord?" Methos said, holding a trembling Ipgenia by one hand, his free hand held the dagger that would have been used to cut her throat.

"More than I would like, sir," Agamemnon replied, his hand on the hilt of his drawn sword. He nodded towards his companions, and fellow rulers, "Bring his companion here."

"Spare her life," Methos whispered, an edge to his vice.

"It has gone past that."

They obeyed with due speed, dragging a confused and angry Ortho between him, holding onto him by his elbows.

"Thus, I take my revenge," Agamemnon replied, thrusting the blade directly into Ortho's stomach, watching as the blood dripped from the gaping hole in the short man's middle. Ortho's eyes widened with the pain and the shock.

"Remember me." Ortho whispered, the light leaving his brown eyes.

"I will," Methos promised, the blood of his friend coating the bottom of his boots, as the body sagged into his arms, Methos carefully lowered into the sand.

"How dare you!" Methos screamed, whirling to confront Ortho's murderer. "You had no right to kill my friend."

"On the contrary, I had every right. I am his king. His life and, should I choose, his death, belongs to me." Agamemnon stated, staring Methos' directly in the eyes, the puckered scar even more pronounced than before.

"The Goddess of the Hunt required a sacrifice before we would be allowed to leave this harbor, does it matter whose blood was spilled," Achilles.

"Hell! Yes, it matters!" Methos swore. "Why?"

"It was an object lesson. For you, not for your friend. I have had you under observation these past few seasons, and one thing has become clear, for those with eyes to see. You think far too highly for yourself. You are arrogant, cold, haughty to those you consider your inferiors." The man was about as tall as Methos, and faced him at eye level, his shoulders were broadening, and the light of the setting sun made his appear to be all planes and angles, his blue eyes were icy with contempt.

"Which is anyone other than yourself and those in your circle of confidence," Meneleaus interrupted.

"We are ahead of schedule. We are winning the great Game, and all the glory will go to us when we beat the Trojans back to their sea wall. Then we will sack and burn their city. I do hope that does not conflict with your loyalty to your friend,." Agamemnon said.

"I will see to it, that he has a proper burial," Menelaus offered, gesturing to the soldiers to pick up the dead man and wrap him in white cloth, and take him away to prepare for burial.

"I will not forget or forgive this, my Lord," Methos whispered, whirling on his heel and marching off along the sand to a sheltered cove near the headland where he could be alone to gather his thoughts and plan his next move.


The wind and rain that had trapped them on this miserable shore left suddenly and without warning, leaving the beach scraped clean of debris and trash. Methos took of his black cloak and wrapped it around the girl's trembling shoulders. She sighed and coiled up like a rabbit in it's den and fell asleep. He cursed himself for a fool, "What I am supposed to do with her? It is obvious that she cannot return to her family. I could take her with me. I owe nothing to anybody here, now that Ortho is dead.' He toyed with the idea of taking the girl with him, he could use her as a servant, and made she grew older.

At that instant the hairs on the back of his neck itched, and he took a quick glance around the sheltered cove, wondering why his senses told him danger was near but he was unable to see any sign of it.

"Hello, Methos," a baritone voice greeted.

Methos spun around, avoiding stepping on the sleeping girl. `I know that voice, Ares/. If you think I will agree to any bargain with you again," Methos shouted.

"Do you believe in gods?" Ares, not all angry that Methos recognized him or remembered the circumstances of their previous encounter.

"No." Methos shook his head. "Oh, I have witnessed impressive manifestations of supernatural phenomena, but that is all its."

"What do you believe in?"

"This," Methos replied, scooping up a handful of sand. "Earth, Air, Fire, Water, my self. What I can see and feel, touch and smell,"

"Are you not a bit young to be so cynical?" Ares mocked. "That is a remarkably refreshing attitude, if extremely arrogant."


"So, I've come to discuss the terms of our deal." Ares snapped. "I am god, whether you acknowledge that fact or not, and your life is mine to do with as I please."

"You would do better with that king down the beach," Methos interrupted.

"Perhaps, but others have already taken an interest in him. Far be it for to fight my siblings of Mt., Olympus, over particular mortals to support in this tangled mess."

"It wasn't you who cursed with this deluge of bad luck?" Methos said.

"I thought you didn't believe in luck?" It's an intangible thing," Ares grinned. What about destiny?"

"I make my own destiny."

"Well, if that's the case, you are on your own," Ares snapped. And we will see just how well you do without my support." Ares shouted vanishing as suddenly as he had appeared.


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