Changing of the Guard 2

Chapter 13

Their first order of business that day was to sell the dozen or so gem 
stones they'd brought with them. They wandered around the market -- an 
open air field not far from the Oracle where one day a permanent agora 
would be built. One with marble colonnades, shade trees, benches, 
fountains and statues to entice the eye and give succor to weary 
travelers and citizens. The current collection of tents, stalls, wagons 
and carts that constituted the market wasn't much more than a noisy, 
confusing jumble at present, but Methos moved through it with practiced 
ease, pausing now and again as something caught Jack's eye.

There were several jewelers already in residence, he explained to 
O'Neill after their first walk through. But only two dealt in stones of 
any worth. The rest carried silver, gold and bronze trinkets for the 
more affluent. And only one of the two regularly showed his wares to 

He led O'Neill back into the controlled chaos and over to the largest 
tent in the market. There was no stall out front, or slave to hawk the 
master's goods. Those desiring to buy or sell would find him, without 
the need for advertising.

Methos approached the entrance, glancing inside to make sure the 
jeweler wasn't with another customer then politely scratched at the 
tent post when he saw the man alone. The jeweler, not much past his 
prime by Methos standards, lifted a hand to usher them in.

"I am Methos, son of Tok'ra, who offers greetings," he said, taking a 
seat on the mat opposite the man. "My companion is Yanos, son of 

The jeweler nodded deeply. "I am Mendanes of Achiaea, who offers 
welcome to all his customers."

"May the gods smile favorably upon him then," Methos smiled. At least 
this man wasn't put off by the fact that they were obviously foreign. 
While O'Neill had tanned over the past few days, enough to bring him a 
little closer in shading to the population, Methos hadn't and never 
would. A sunburn was damage to the skin and as quickly as he burned he 
healed with disgusting regularity. "But we come to sell, not buy, good 

The jeweler smiled thoughtfully and clapped his hands. Out the shadows 
in the corner a slave arose and Methos waited patiently as the boy 
brought wine already mixed with water and a bowl of figs then returned 
to his corner. He took a sip and judged Mendanes honest, there being 
more parts water to wine. An old trick, he knew, to give the customer 
strong drink before making the price. With a surreptitious glance he 
checked on O'Neill, who was surprisingly placid, following Methos' 
instructions to the letter. "Do as I do and say nothing."

With a slight nod of approval Methos reached into the front of his 
chiton and pulled out a small leather bag, removing the strap from 
around his neck to lay it open on the mat before him.

Mendanes' quickly stifled gasp was a good sign that he was impressed, 
not only by the size of the stones, but by their gloss. He picked up a 
piece of tigers eye and held it to the light. Methos said nothing as 
one by one he examined the others. Uncut and polished to perfection 
using modern techniques, they were all exceptional pieces.

Finally, Mendanes put down the last stone and gave a desultory nod. 
"These are fairly common stones," he said, beginning the time honored 
dance of the bargain.

"If you aren't interested," Methos said, moving as if to sweep them 
back into their bag.

"Wait!" the man exclaimed, laying a warm hand on Methos' arm. "Don't be 
so hasty, young friend. I might be able to find a use for them."

So, now they were friends? Methos thought, amused. Mendanes was 
obviously eager to buy, but not to be taken to the cleaners. Even if, 
as Methos well knew, these common stones were the best representatives 
of their kind the man was ever likely to see.

"I am in no hurry," Methos told him, sitting back. He took another sip 
of wine and nibbled a fig as Mendanes took another moment to examine 
the stones again.

"Perhaps I was mistaken and they are not so common after all," Mendanes 
finally said when Methos made no move rush him. Here was obviously a 
customer who knew the worth of his wares.

"Not common at all," Methos agreed, taking the hint. If the stones had 
a unique history, one which would please the ear, titillate the mind 
and increase the stones value in the eye of the beholder Mendanes would 
certainly feel better about shelling out a small fortune for them. He'd 
make at least twice that from the uneducated, but hideously rich 
aristocracy, who were always trying to keep up with their wealthy 
friends and neighbors.

"The stones you see before you," Methos said, making up the tale as he 
went. "Come from the land of Khemet, brought there by the Pharaoh 
Imhotep from fabled Nubia and washed in the desert sands for twenty 
years by a thousand slaves until they shone as bright as the stars in 
the heavens."

"They do have a nice polish," Mendanes allowed.

"A nice polish?!" Methos feigned shock. "Each of these stones was worn 
for a year in the warm bosom of the pharaoh's beloved daughter, 
Nefreti. She who killed herself after the death of her lover, Ahknaten 
-- executed by her father for daring to offer the princess a lotus 
blossom in the garden! A nice polish indeed!"

Mendanes' eyes widened as he drew an awestruck breath. An hour later, 
after some cursory haggling and the expected sharing of wine and 
gossip, Methos and Jack left the jeweler's tent. The little sack around 
his neck was heavy with gold and silver, but Methos was extraordinarily 

"In the warm bosom of the pharaoh's daughter?" O'Neill finally asked 
when they were far enough away.

Methos shrugged. "What did you want me to say? That they were blasted 
out of a rock formation by a Goa'uld staff weapon, polished in a gravel 
filled tumbler by an archaeologist and given luster in a weak solution 
of bicarbonate acid by Major Carter?"

"Doesn't quite have the same ring to it, does it?" O'Neill agreed.

"Not quite," Methos nodded.

"Yeah, but is it enough to get us to Egypt?"

Methos felt the weight against his chest and smiled. "More than enough 
to give us a damn good start."


"Where to next?" O'Neill asked as they headed down a side street.

"Flesh market's on the other side of town," Methos said, licking his 
sticky fingers. For lunch, they'd found a stall where an early version 
of the shish-kabob was sold, using goat instead of lamb. Then they'd 
stopped at a kiosk where an old woman made dough balls, deep fried in 
oil and drizzled with warm honey.

"Flesh?" O'Neill repeated. 

"Meat of every kind," Methos explained. "Two legged and four. They keep 
it out of town because of the stench."

"Thanks for the warning," O'Neill grimaced as they headed in that 
direction. Even this far away the scent of animals was redolent in the 
warm, heavy air.

"Oh, the slave sales are over for the day," Methos told him lightly. 
"Those are held in the morning when their bodies are clean and fresh. 
Wouldn't do to have the merchandise looking wilted and smelling of the 
pens. Might lower the price."

"Sweet," O'Neill muttered. "Let's just get this over with."

Methos didn't bother to respond. He was sorry to have to be so blunt. 
To rip away all the illusions of the bright white history books O'Neill 
had grown up with. But there was no other way. No matter what O'Neill 
thought of himself and his capabilities as a tough as nails covert 
operative, the man had still been gently raised. If he was going to 
survive in this world and help his people to survive along with him, 
then he had to understand the simple facts of everyday life.

The pens, a mere quarter mile away as they reached the edge of town, 
were quiet at the moment, and Methos did nothing to draw O'Neill's 
attention to them. In the heat of the day this part of the market was 
never busy. And given a choice, had Methos been alone, he'd certainly 
have waited and gone the next morning. But he wasn't, and not trusting 
O'Neill's gut reaction to the sight of a slave auction, he'd decided 
not to put it off.

They moved across the wide field where temporary paddocks had been set 
up. Just some wooden posts and rope to keep the animals from wandering 
off. There were goats, sheep, chickens, geese and ducks for sale near 
the front, but the larger animals were all towards the back. Donkeys, 
mules and cows came next then the paddocks spread out further apart and 
Methos nodded to himself as he saw a fine pair of oxen being watered 
and fed.

The man in charge of them was obviously an overseer for one of the 
larger estates. Only the very wealthy could afford to keep these 
animals given the amounts they ate. But the wealthy rarely sold such 
riches, using the beasts both in the fields and to draw their wagons, 
though on rare occasions they might sacrifice one for a wedding. If 
they were selling then it clearly meant trouble at home. A poor crop 
that threatened to affect the family's social status, or an illness 
which had spread among the other animals and reduced their income. 
Still, what was trouble for one was often good fortune for another.

Methos didn't spend time on pleasantries with this man, who was no 
doubt tired from having spent the day talking to potential buyers and 
wouldn't have appreciated the waste of his time. The overseer named a 
price, which Methos refused, offering another amount far less than they 
were worth. They haggled for half an hour and when the man stood firm 
at six silver drachma for the pair, Methos knew that this was the 
lowest price set by the owner and accepted.

He gave the overseer a quarter of the amount as earnest money to show 
his master, then asked the man if he wanted to make something extra. 
The overseer, glad to be of service now that his job was done, and 
always willing to help out a paying customer if it put something in his 
purse, accepted Methos' charge to buy them a good, sturdy ox cart and 
enough feed to last the journey home. He gave the man his smallest 
silver coin and named a fee. Not very much, but then the man would 
likely pocket most of the money left over from the purchase. It was 
expected and they both knew it.

After making arrangements to meet the following day to complete the 
transaction, Methos paused on the way to the horses to drink some 

"That looked expensive," O'Neill commented as Methos offered him some.

"Very," he agreed. "But they're just for cover. We'll sell them once we 
get to the coast. Should even make a bit of money off the sale."

O'Neill shook his head, giving Methos back his canteen. "Are you ever 
going to tell me what this plan of yours is?"

"And spoil the surprise?" Methos looked shocked. "I'm living just to 
see the expression on your face when it's revealed."

The colonel gave him a wry smile. "Let's hope it's one you can live 

"The risk is half the fun," Methos grinned, moving toward the nearest 
corral. He liked only one of the animals he saw there and wandered 
further afield, hoping for better, then way off in the distance heard 
the panicked, angry whinnying of a terrified horse.

"Come on, let's see what the ruckus is about," Methos said as frenzied 
shouts and at least two other horses joined in to trumpet anger and 

"You're not thinking of helping anyone, are you?" Jack called after 
him. "Methos?!"

The Immortal ignored him, moving easily through the crowd which had 
gathered to watch. At the front, he found a waist high fence, more 
sturdy than the rest, and given the current behavior of the occupants 
Methos could guess why. 

An unbroken white stallion, taller than most Greek horses, though 
nowhere near the height of an Arabian, ran the length and breadth of 
the area followed by his equally wild consorts. A pair of fine mares, 
one a reddish brown color, the other black with white hocks.

"They're perfect," he whispered as O'Neill came up beside him.

"They just kicked the shit out of that guy over there," the colonel 
responded, discreetly pointing toward a man being carried from the 
field by his companions.

"Don't be a wuss, Yanos."

"You're calling me a wuss?!"

Methos rolled his eyes and turned to look for the owner. He found him 
as the crowd dispersed. A tired looking man, who seemed extremely 
agitated as the buyer he'd thought he'd had furiously shook his head, 
shouted a few choice curses and left.

"Hey, friend!" Methos called to one of the men still milling about. 
"What's the story on that lot?" He nodded at the horses and the man 

"The sire was mad. Bad blood, if you ask me. But old Archimedes," he 
nodded toward the owner. "He figured he could make back his money if he 
bred the bastard to gentle dams. Instead, they bred true. Now he'll 
have to put them down, like he did the sire last summer after it killed 
a groom."

"That would be a shame," Methos murmured thoughtfully as the man walked 

"Are you out of what's left of your mind?!" O'Neill demanded. "Didn't 
you hear? Those things are dangerous!"

"Nonsense," Methos responded lightly. "They just haven't been handled 

O'Neill's face went blank. "That wasn't an invitation for discussion, 

Methos glared at him to no effect then finally sighed. "Colonel, who 
are you going to trust? Some illiterate peasant who's probably never 
even sat a horse? Or me?" he asked snidely. "You know, there's a reason 
we were called The Horsemen and not Those Four Running Guys in Scary 
Masks. I've never once had to put down a steed for bad behavior -- even 
when I specifically trained them to kill with their hooves."

For a long moment O'Neill stared at him then paused to watch the 
horses. They'd calmed down a bit and were resting after their run. "You 
think you can handle them?" he finally asked.

"I don't think I can. I know it! Look at them," Methos pleaded. 
"They've got strength and endurance and that fool Archimedes can't even 
see it! We can buy them for a song and sell them when we get to Egypt 
for ten times what he'll charge us here."

"I must be losing it," O'Neill finally muttered. "All right, Methos. 
Permission granted. Go buy the horses."

It wasn't quite that easy as they soon discovered. Archimedes, already 
fearful of charges being brought against him by the man who'd been 
injured, was loath to allow Methos into the corral. He was so young and 
couldn't possibly have enough experience to handle The Beast as 
Archimedes called the white stallion. Look what had happened to Anoos. 
A man twice his age who'd spent his whole life around horses. Finally, 
Methos made him an offer he couldn't refuse. He'd pay him for one 
horse, in advance, and if he couldn't sit the animal Archimedes could 
keep the money.

The old man laughed long and hard at that. "If you can sit The Beast, 
boy, you can have the others for the price of the one."

"That's a deal," Methos grinned as they shook forearms. He looked at 
Jack who simply rolled his eyes and shook his head as the Immortal 
handed over the money. "Do me a favor, Yanos?" he asked as he shrugged 
off his himation and folded it neatly.

"Carry your broken body off the field of battle?" O'Neill asked 

Methos chuckled. "That too when the time comes. Right now, just hold 
onto these." He handed over his cloak and sword then quickly stripped 
off his long chiton which would only get in the way, tossing it 
casually over his shoulder. Then, naked but for his sandals, Methos 
approached the animal cautiously.

Around the paddock a crowd gathered, probably eager for more blood and 
violence. But Methos knew better. He moved and as the stallion followed 
turned him into the sun, quickly darting around to wrap the tunic about 
its head, covering his eyes. The Beast moved nervously for a few 
moments until he finally settled. Then, quick as he could, Methos 
grabbed the horse's mane and jumped on his back, knotting his fingers 
deeply into the full tufts at his neck. The stallion remained quiescent 
for an instant then shook his head in confusion. The loosely wrapped 
chiton fell away and the horse suddenly went wild.

Methos held on for what seemed like endless hours as the stallion 
bucked and twisted. His shoulders burned with the effort to keep his 
hands in place while his spine seemed to jar further out of alignment 
with every painful second. Long minutes later the horse finally 
understood that he couldn't throw his rider and Methos heaved a sigh of 
relief as the animal quieted. He leaned forward, wincing as his raw 
backside slid against the rough brush of the stallion's coat, wrapping 
stiff arms around the animal's neck while whispering soft words of 
encouragement into his ear. Stifling a groan of agony he slid off, then 
pulled the stallion's head down and gently blew in his nostrils. There 
were more soft words and a brief time spent patting the animal's nose, 
until Methos judged him calm enough to release.

A roar of applause sprang up as The Beast trotted off to graze -- a 
beast no longer -- but Methos simply ignored it to find and put on his 
dusty but undamaged chiton, and hide his quickly healing posterior. The 
rest he would pay for later, he knew with painful certainty as he 
headed for the exit and Archimedes, who looked both pleased and 
disappointed all at once. He might be quit of three obstreperous 
horses, but he was also out a good sum of money. A well deserved loss, 
in Methos' opinion.

"I'll be by to collect my horses tomorrow!" he called to the old man, 
who simply waved a hand in acceptance and nodded, then he grabbed 
Jack's arm and hurriedly led him away.

"What's the rush?" O'Neill asked as they reached the town proper and 
Methos ducked around the corner. He caught the Immortal just as he 
fell, lowering him gently to the ground as he groaned in agony, every 
muscle in his body suddenly seizing up.

"Shit! Shit!" Methos hissed as he writhed and curled, pressing his legs 
together as his thigh muscles cramped so tightly he thought he'd 

"What the hell is wrong?!" O'Neill demanded.

"What the hell do you think is wrong?!" Methos managed to gasp. "That 

"Well, yeah," O'Neill nodded. "Especially the bare ass routine. But 
you're Immortal. So..."

"So nothing," Methos choked. "I just pulled every muscle in my body. 
But they aren't damaged! Stretching them is a natural process, like 
heartburn. I may not get an ulcer, but it sure as hell hurts!"

"Oh, brother!" O'Neill muttered, throwing down his pack as he knelt 
beside the Immortal. He quickly found what he wanted and pulled out a 
large white tablet. "Here," he said, getting an arm around Methos' 
shoulders. "Get this down."

"I'm an Immortal! Don't be absurd," Methos whispered as he quickly 
became exhausted. "Give me a few minutes and I'll get moving. If I stay 
warm tonight it might not be too bad in the morning."

"Unacceptable," O'Neill responded flatly. "I need you on your feet now, 
not in a couple of days. Besides, I'm making it an order.And what do 
you mean you can't take pain meds because you're immortal? What kind of 
idiotic idea is that?"

Methos stared at Jack in astonishment then glanced at the tablet. It 
certainly couldn't hurt. And he'd prescribed similar pain relief for 
countless others, though he'd never once considered it for himself. In 
truth, the idea had never occurred to him. With a faint sense of 
trepidation Methos took the pill and stuck it in his mouth, grimacing 
an instant later as the bitter medicinal taste of the thing made him 
want to wretch.

"Ech!" He spat out the tablet as O'Neill laughed, giving him some 

"Don't tell me you've never done drugs?!" he chortled, picking up the 
tablet and cleaning it off.

"Only the really good pharmaceuticals," Methos grimaced as he wiped his 
mouth. "But I never popped pills or used needles. My last foray into 
the ozone layer came in a sugar cube and went by the curious name of 
Mellow Yellow."

"You've never taken a pill?!"

Methos shook his head, struggling to sit up. "And after that, I never 
want to. That's awful!"

O'Neill's shoulders shook with mirth. "You're not supposed to bite and 
swallow. Just swallow."

Methos shrank back as he offered it again, until O'Neill sighed in 
disgust and grabbed his face. "Tilt back, open wide, tongue down," he 

He could barely move a muscle to walk, let alone fight, so Methos 
simply squeezed his eyes shut and gave in to the horror. It felt too 
big for his throat as the tablet touched the back of his tongue and he 
nearly gagged. But there was water being sloshed into his mouth and 
O'Neill shouting the unhelpful phrase, "Think oyster!" as he shoved 
Methos' jaws closed, rubbed a thumb across his Adam's apple and forced 
him to swallow. At last, Jack released him and Methos fell back, 
coughing hard.

"Your bedside manner sucks!" he hissed when he'd finally caught his 
breath, wiping his face with the back of a hand.

"And you're a lousy patient," O'Neill shrugged. "Now eat this," he 
added, shoving one of the leftover honeyed dough balls at Methos.

"I'm not a child," Methos grimaced. "The spoonful of sugar technique 
won't work with me. I'm still pissed at you!"

"This isn't a treat," O'Neill explained calmly. "I just put eighteen 
hundred milligrams of Ibuprofen in your stomach. You need to eat 
something to keep from puking it up."

"Eighteen hundred?!" Methos exclaimed, horrified as he quickly accepted 
the food.

"Yeah, we use it for gun shot," O'Neill told him. "Now, just sit back. 
Takes about twenty minutes before it really kicks in."

"Sit back?" he asked around the food in his mouth. "In another twenty 
minutes I won't be able to walk at all! I have to keep moving!"

"No, you don't have to keep moving. You have to sit back and rest."


"Who are you going to trust?" O'Neill grinned. "A bunch of ignorant 
Immortals who've never thought of using modern medicine? Or me?" he 
asked smugly. "You know, there's a reason Doc Fraiser is always nearby 
when I come through the Stargate."

Chapter 14

"How y' feelin', sport?"

Methos yawned and stretched luxuriously in his bed roll, sighing in 
contentment as not a single twinge interfered with his pleasure. When 
O'Neill had helped him back to the field where they'd planned to camp 
he'd been sore, but thankfully, not in what he'd consider a great deal 
of pain. He'd figured he'd still be a bit stiff come morning, but there 
wasn't even that. 

"I feel fine," he murmured in amazement, recalling the night before. 
"In fact, I feel great."

"Good," O'Neill grinned, throwing Methos his chiton. "Next time, don't 
argue so much and I'll give you a lollipop."

Methos rolled his eyes and slipped the tunic over his head. "There 
won't be a next time," he said. "We can't replace Ibuprofen. I won't 
let you empty the med kit just because I have a few aches and pains."

"Wasn't from the kit," O'Neill told him as he rolled up his blankets. 
"That came from my own personal stash." 

Methos looked up, surprised. As he recollected, modern soldiers never 
gave up their private caches of pain killers -- not unless the Sergeant 
was dying, or their best buddy was gut shot, or something equally 
horrendous. For themselves, there was always a little more pain they 
could tolerate, a bit more discomfort they were willing to endure. And 
O'Neill went on to confirm this observation.

"I never take all the pain meds Fraiser gives me. But I've learned over 
the years to keep some stuff on hand. Just in case."

"Smart," Methos nodded, vaguely wondering how he'd managed to achieve 
best buddy status, because from the way O'Neill generally treated him, 
he certainly wasn't the feared and revered Drill Sergeant. Unless, of 
course, one considered the other option. Perhaps the colonel thought of 
him as the annoying kid brother who needed lots of looking after. Now 
there was an unsettling thought.

"We done here?" O'Neill asked, grabbing his pack as Methos stood, 
tossing his cloak over his shoulders.

"Almost," he responded, pinning his himation about his shoulders. "We 
need supplies for the road and a few more things to complete our little 
ruse, then we can leave."

O'Neill heaved a sigh of resignation as they started back toward the 
market and Methos hid a smile. He imagined the colonel was dreaming of 
nice airy shopping malls with food courts and canned music. Instead, 
Methos found an open stall selling a proper farmer's breakfast of hard 
boiled eggs, goat cheese, bread, raw onions and wine mixed with three 
parts water. 

They ate it hunkered against a wall watching the sun come up and the 
town come to life. Shops opened, slaves came down to the wells to fetch 
water for the households, farmers with tools on their shoulders headed 
out into the fields, and pack animals with their burdens carried goods 
to and fro while sleepy children rode their backs making their morning 
deliveries. A day like any other Methos had seen repeated in a thousand 
variations for as long as he could remember. And, he supposed, it was 
the same in the future. Though the shops opened at the slothful hour of 
nine or ten, the farmers had tractors or trucks, and goods came to 
brightly lit, scrupulously clean supermarkets in big rigs driven by 
adults. Still, it was the same old dance, if dressed in new clothes.

They finished eating and stood, Methos rubbing his stomach to ease the 
passage of the onion. He still loved the taste of them raw, but he'd 
forgotten just what a whole one, even as small as that one had been, 
did to him.

O'Neill caught the movement and shook his head. "Don't tell me," he 
sighed. "You've got heartburn."

Methos only shrugged. "Onions were thought to be good for the 
digestion," he explained as the colonel once again delved into his 

"Meet Mr. Tums," O'Neill said, handing him a very large pink tablet. 
"He's an old friend. Remind me to introduce you to his good buddy, 
Uncle Pepcid, when we get home."

Methos looked aghast at the size of the thing. "I can't swallow that!"

"Trust me, if it's pink and smells like a cherry you can chew the 

Well, it didn't smell like a cherry to Methos, but he nibbled the edge 
and didn't find it too horrible. It was chalky, but sweet and slightly 
tart so he ate it. A few minutes later he was astonished to find the 
burning in his stomach gone.

"You know," he said as they reached the open market. "I'm beginning to 
rethink my stance on the usefulness of modern medicine for Immortals. 
If it won't kill us permanently, we tend to just tough it out. Now I'm 
not so sure. I might even go back to medical school," he added 
enthusiastically. "You know, I've always wanted to do a heart 
transplant. Or maybe kidneys. Those are interesting, too."

O'Neill just stared at him. "Could we focus here," the colonel 
pointedly reminded. "Remember? Mission. Egypt. End of world. Kinda puts 
a damper on the whole Ben Casey thing, don't y' think?"

"But we're here," Methos smiled, nodding at the nearest stall.

"We came back to buy jewelry?!" O'Neill whispered angrily.

"But it's for Daniel, Teal'c and Carter," Methos told him, looking 

O'Neill rubbed his face with a hand. "Is this something I need to be 
here for?" he finally asked.

"Not really," Methos responded, hiding a smile. "I also have to buy 
more clothes for us. Something really ostentatious this time."

"Great, more skirts," O'Neill sighed. "You have fun. I'm gonna watch 
the big sweaty guys making armor."

Methos laughed and hurriedly reached under his chiton to pull out a few 
coins for Jack. "Enjoy yourself," he smiled. "And don't pay more than 
half what I just gave you, unless it's a full set of armor with a thick 
quilted padding and good leather straps."

He'd never buy it, Methos knew as the colonel sauntered off looking 
relieved. Not when he learned he'd have to strip for the measuring and 
have parts of his body shaved for the molding -- then wait several 
weeks to get the finished product back. But they could always use a 
couple of good shields and O'Neill was sensible enough to do just that. 
Besides, he thought, turning to examine a set of earrings he'd had his 
eye on, learning how to handle money and be at ease in a crowd was just 
as important as knowing how to trounce the enemy on the field of 


The sun was just beginning to dip into the western sky as Methos stood 
watching the slaves bring a steady stream of goods and supplies out to 
the ox cart. It stood just a quarter mile from the last house that 
could be considered a part of the town, but the streets had been too 
narrow for Methos to even consider bringing it inside. Still, it was a 
common enough occurrence for the shopkeepers not to worry over, 
especially during the spring market. 

As soon as the cart was loaded the overseer who'd sold them the oxen 
came by and Methos handed him a coin. The man had done a very good job 
buying the cart, which even had it's own small awning for when the 
women were traveling. And after giving the overseer the rest of the 
money for the oxen along with his fee, the man had offered to direct 
the slaves bringing out their supplies. Certainly, Methos could have 
done it himself, but he wasn't much interested in directing slaves at 
the moment. He was thinking about his new horses.

Five days, maybe six to get back to camp since they'd have to stick to 
the main roads, and at least two weeks to get the horses ready. Not to 
mention teaching the others how to ride virtually bareback. A leather 
saddle pad was not at all the same as a modern saddle. And without 
stirrups, which hadn't yet been invented, sitting a horse meant the 
knees did most of the painful work of holding the rider up.

When both the overseer and the slaves were gone, he looked over at 
O'Neill, who was lying on his back sprawled across the grain sacks, 
playing with a long blade of sweet grass stuck between his teeth. He'd 
done well at the armorer's. Buying a decent pair of shields, plain 
enough for real soldiers to be carrying, and one ridiculously 
ornamental one covered in flying sea creatures chased in silver, with 
wings and tails that swept up and away from its surface. Not the least 
bit useful in a real fight, where all those pretty fetishes could 
easily catch a sword tip. If Methos hadn't known better he'd have 
thought Jack knew exactly what he was planning.

"Hey, Yanos!" Methos called up and Jack glanced down. "Think you can 
watch the cart for a while?"

"Oh, yeah!" O'Neill said as he sat up and nodded, fingering one of a 
pair of small daggers he'd also purchased. The other was strapped to 
the inside of his forearm. "Not a problem."

At that, Methos grinned and hurried off to fetch his prize.

Chapter 15

O'Neill watched with one eye half open as Methos stole out of his bed 
roll just before dawn the next morning and slipped behind the wagon. 
Bemused, he settled back, wondering just whom the Immortal thought he 
was fooling.

They'd left Delphi sometime after noon by his estimate and put a good 
ten miles between them and the town before pulling off the road. And 
all the while Methos had walked behind the cart talking to the horses, 
pressing against them, and in general making friends with the objects 
of his obsession. He'd fed and watered them when they'd stopped for the 
night, giving Jack a few cursory instructions on how to tend the oxen 
then staked them out to graze. And when he'd finally gotten them 
settled down, joining O'Neill by the fire, Methos was more chatty and 
talkative than the colonel had ever seen him.

He'd been a Master of Horses dozens of times over the ages. For kings 
and queens and nobles across most of Europe and Asia. He'd bred and 
broken horses on and off for a good part of his life. The last time in 
1898 on a ranch in New Mexico somewhere south of Santa Fe. He not only 
knew horses, but understood them as well. All the little tricks and 
foibles they were wont to get up to when a strong hand was not present 
to guide and care for them.

Not knowing much about horses, O'Neill had simply listened -- more to 
Methos' tone of voice than what he'd actually been saying. And 
somewhere in that long soliloquy Methos forgot he was giving, Jack had 
finally reached the conclusion that Methos lacked a real childhood.

It was understandable, O'Neill admitted silently as he watched the 
Immortal quietly lead the white stallion out into the field where 
they'd camped. Given the circumstances surrounding his first death and 
his revival five thousand years later, he could imagine the kind of 
emotional loss and devastation he would have been feeling, even if 
Methos himself hadn't been able to comprehend why he felt that way.

As a good commander it was O'Neill's job to look for that kind of 
thing. To judge and estimate the best way to handle his people based on 
their emotional wants and needs. Shouting worked for some, while a kind 
word and gentle encouragement worked better with others. Methos on the 
other hand, needed to be teased and cajoled into acting. Despite his 
great age, he was still a playful twenty-something whenever he forgot 
to be the ancient Immortal striding fearlessly through history.

With a sigh, O'Neill rose up on an elbow and found his binoculars, 
watching through the half light peeking over the horizon as Methos 
belted his chiton with a piece of rope, blousing the material until it 
hung above his knees. Then he ran the horse in circles for a while, 
finally jumping on its back before the animal knew what was happening.

O'Neill chuckled as the stallion bucked and Methos went flying. But in 
a moment he was back on his feet and at it again. At least this time, 
O'Neill thought wryly, he didn't have to play super macho bronco buster 
in order to make a point. And from where he sat, it looked as though 
the Immortal was staying loose, keeping those muscles fluid and his 
limbs relaxed as he rolled with the punches. 

In a way, O'Neill thought, putting aside the binoculars to begin the 
familiar process of breaking camp, he had to admire the man's 
persistence. Not only with the horses, but in his own life. Had Methos 
ever once really given up on himself? O'Neill didn't think so -- but he 
had. In his short little life he had on occasion contemplated ending 
what was left of it. He couldn't begin to imagine Methos ever seriously 
considering that option, no matter what Duncan MacLeod said. And, if 
after fifty centuries of war, famine, heartbreak and slaughter Methos 
still wanted to go on, that was certainly something for a mere mortal 
of less than fifty to reflect on.


"Hey, Pale Rider, how's Trigger doing?"

"You named my horse?!" Methos responded angrily, pointedly ignoring the 
more accurate jibe.

"You're horse?" O'Neill retorted. "When did it get to be your horse? 
Listen, Bronco Billy, if those are anyone's horses they're mine. So, 
bite me!"

"But Trigger!" Methos sighed disgustedly as he knelt beside the fire to 
grab some cheese and an apple. It was night again and all day he had 
worked the horses, alternating between them whenever they'd stopped to 
eat and water the oxen. O'Neill had been pretty decent about it once 
he'd explained that by breaking them on the road they could save time 
once they got back to camp. It also meant that Methos was worn out now, 
though he'd rested in the cart between sessions. "Couldn't you have 
picked something more dignified?" he grumbled.

O'Neill rolled his eyes. "So, pick something else," he told the sulking 

"I can't now!" Methos complained, wincing as he really started to feel 
the long day in his muscles. "It's sort of a tradition, you know. Like 
naming a kid. The first thing you call them after you get them home 
sticks in your mind forever. Doesn't matter what's on the birth 

"I get it," O'Neill nodded. He'd been Jack for so long that he often 
forgot his real name was John. And his son had been Charlie, never 
Chuck or Charles. "So, Wilma and Betty won't do for the girls, huh?"

"Damn it, Jack!" Methos shouted, throwing the rest of his apple at 
O'Neill, who fell back laughing. "Those poor, noble creatures," he 
added mournfully, rubbing his aching shoulder. "Forever to be 
remembered as cartoon characters and an overfed, dandified plow horse!"

"Think of it as something to live down to," O'Neill replied as he 
reached into his pack and pulled out a small pill bottle.

"No," Methos waved a hand as he saw what Jack offered. "I'm tired and 
sore, but it's nothing I can't handle."

"This isn't a democracy, Captain Pierson," O'Neill responded quietly. 

Methos frowned but held out his hand. The colonel was correct and he 
knew it. Any military was for all intents and purposes a contained 
dictatorship -- its first order of business to keep its weapons, which 
consisted mainly of the soldiers who directed the implements of war, at 
peak performance. Anything which interfered with that was bad and 
therefore had to be stopped. He looked curiously at the little yellow 
pill O'Neill handed him. "What is it?"

The colonel looked at the label and shrugged. "Dilaud. Ten milligrams. 
Also for gun shot, but in this case as I seem to recall, it was for 
getting blasted with staff fire. Works the same as the Ibuprofen, but I 
was kind of hoping for a lot less fuss getting it down that skinny neck 
of yours."

Methos grimaced. "I know what Dilaud is," he said, finally putting the 
pill in his mouth and accepting the canteen O'Neill handed him. "So, 
what else have you got in that magic sack of yours?" he asked after 
swallowing. This time it was much easier, he thought with relief.

"Some Vicodin, a few Compazine, maybe some codeine. Why? You planning 
to open a pharmacy?"

"You never know," Methos grinned, easing back on his bedroll and 
closing his eyes. A moment later something struck him in the face and 
he sat up, startled and looking anxiously around until his eyes fell on 
a piece of cellophane glittering near the fire.

"Enjoy your lolly," O'Neill told him. "Oh. And Zorro," he added, laying 
back down in his own blankets. "I'm tired of playing Gunga Din, water 
boy of oxen. You can look after Fred and Ethel tomorrow in between 
rounds. I intend to sleep in."

Methos stared at Jack then at the candy. With a shrug he picked it up. 
After all, he'd never eaten a lollipop before. Not that he didn't know 
what it was. They'd been around for quite a while. Still, no one had 
ever thought to offer him one and he wasn't much of a sweet eater to 
seek them out. Methos shrugged and unwrapped it. Might as well try this 
one, he thought, amused by his own curiosity as he gave the little disk 
of hardened sugar a tentative lick before happily sticking it in his 
mouth -- especially since Jack would probably think to quiz him on it 
in the morning.

Chapter 16

The days of travel passed swiftly after that. Once the horses learned 
that their lot in life was to carry a rider, Methos adapted back into 
the saddle almost as if he'd never left it. By the time they reached 
the small narrow valley below the temple he was racing ahead of the 
wagon and with O'Neill's bemused permission scouting the forest on all 

As expected, he found signs of traffic around the villages they passed 
through. People were moving again. The men going out to hunt for game 
to replenish their supplies as they waited for the harvest, the women 
seeking fresh new shoots of wild herbs and anything they couldn't grow 
in their gardens. The common folk mostly stuck close to home, the world 
outside being fraught with dangers unknown. So, it was with some 
surprise as they moved up the road leading to the temple that Methos 
found the remains of someone's cook fire.

O'Neill halted the cart as Methos dismounted.

"Trouble?" the colonel asked as he climbed down, joining Methos where 
he squatted by the cold ashes. There were several broken arrow shafts 
lying on the ground nearby which was heavily stained with blood.

"Hunters," Methos nodded as he stood. "Probably rich kids from the 
bigger farms out looking for any sign of incursions from up north. 
Happens a lot. Nomads looking for better grazing lands find a good spot 
to settle down and the locals want to run them off. Doesn't matter that 
their ancestors did exactly the same thing. They were here first. So 
they think it's their duty to root them out. Kill whoever fights, sell 
whoever survives and split the spoils of war."

"Sweet," O'Neill muttered, reaching under his cloak to pull out his zat 
gun as something moved in the trees beyond the clearing.

"It's just us, Colonel!" Major Carter called down, moving out into the 
open followed by Daniel and Teal'c.

"You kids all right?" he asked, putting away his weapon.

"We're fine," Daniel nodded. "These guys just showed up last week. 
About a dozen or so with horses. We laid low and kept an eye on them 
until a couple started moving to explore the temple. Then Sam sent up a 
flare from inside and they all packed up and left in a hurry. That was 
about three days ago."

Methos frowned. "That might not have been the wisest thing to do," he 
told them. "You may have frightened them off, but they now have a 
wondrous tale to tell. And there's always some joker who'll take it 
into his head that the gods should be appeased, or that this is where 
you should come to ask a favor. Or maybe he's got some time to waste 
and wants his own wondrous tale to tell so he can get free meals for 
life out of his friends and neighbors. Safer just to let them look 
around and frighten themselves off with stories of angry spirits and 
whatever they do to trespassers."

"We didn't consider that," Daniel admitted ruefully.

"Of course you didn't," Methos said amiably. "It's not like you've ever 
interacted for long periods of time with most of the cultures you've 
come across. And knowing about the people," he offered gently. "Doesn't 
mean you can gauge their reactions to random events."

"But I should have," he responded quietly.

"Why? You aren't an anthropologist or a sociologist. And the whole 
mindset of the SGC isn't one of non-interference with the local 
cultures. It's the exact opposite. Which is not to say," Methos added. 
"That what the SGC does is wrong. It's just a case of me and mine 
first, you and yours we'll worry about when we have the time. The 
Goa'uld haven't given us the luxury of making a more humane choice. And 
frankly, I always thought the non-interference directive on Star Trek 
was idiotic. Lots of things interfere with the natural growth of 
cultures. And unless the underpinnings of the society in question are 
already on shaky ground just meeting a handful of space travelers isn't 
going to destroy it, just make it expand its horizons."

"That's a wonderful theory, Pierson, but do we really have time to 
discuss the whole Kirk versus Picard issue?" O'Neill asked 

"There's always time for intelligent discussion," Methos responded 
haughtily. "And there's no contest there. Kirk above all others."

"Not all," O'Neill smirked. "Janeway's pretty hot."

"To each his own," Methos grinned, leaping back into the saddle.

"And where do you think you're going?"

"To scout the area," he responded, giving O'Neill a bemused glance. 
"With your permission, of course. I'd like to make sure there aren't 
any others roaming around who might cause trouble for us."

O'Neill nodded. "Make it so, Tonto."

Methos rolled his eyes in disgust as he turned the horse and headed 
out. If O'Neill kept up the western name calling for much longer, he 
was going to start missing the minion thing after all.


It was nearing sunset when Methos finally returned to camp after 
settling Wilma in the small, makeshift stable the others had built 
while they were gone. It wasn't much, just half a dozen covered stalls 
and a little rail fence enclosed paddock. Still, it was enough to suit 
his purposes and Methos was pleased with what he'd found when he'd 
arrived. Despite all of Jack's grumbling at being reduced to water 
carrier and stable boy he'd at least taken the care of the animals to 
heart. The stalls were clean with fresh hay, and clear water filled the 
hollowed out log they'd used for a trough. The other horses had been 
fed and curried, the oxen left to graze in the field nearby -- even 
Amelia, the donkey, was looking fat and happy. 

The cabin was warm and cozy as Methos stepped inside and the wonderful 
aroma of warm stew filled the room. The others were sitting comfortably 
around the place in various states of dress, mostly consisting of 
uniform pants and tee shirts.

"Are you guys sure you want to leave?" Methos asked. "'Cause this place 
is really nice for the times."

Pillows, a handful of wet clay and a rock all came sailing in his 
direction as Methos ducked under the table.

"I was joking!" he shouted as cries of outrage reached his ears. 
Apparently they still wanted cable TV, pizza dinners, and a working 
toilet more than the hardy, but character building pioneer life of 
their ancestors. Even Teal'c was glaring at him as he poked his head 
out to make sure nothing else was about to start flying. "Sorry," he 
grinned. "Just making sure we're all together on this."

"Home isn't where the hearth is," O'Neill muttered sullenly. "It's 
where the Chinese place knows to deliver on Sundays."

"A most astute observation," Methos agreed, finally making his point. 
"Which is why tonight is the last night we will all be able to wear 
modern clothing, use modern appliances, or speak anything other than 
Greek unless absolutely necessary."

Stunned silence greeted him as it at last sank in. They were almost 
ready to escape the boredom and isolation of their little haven and 
head out into the larger world where danger awaited.

"Pierson's right," O'Neill said quietly. "We've only got one chance. 
Let's make sure we get this thing right."

Chapter 17

"What do you mean we aren't going to Athens?" Daniel asked as they were 
loading the wagon.

"Megara is closer and it'll be just as easy to find a ship there, if 
not easier," Methos told him brusquely. "Athenians aren't always 
welcome on the islands. The Megarans tend to be a lot friendlier with 
their neighbors."

"But it's Athens!" Daniel exclaimed. "At a time when--"

"When it's still a backwater fishing port just like any other," Methos 
finished disgustedly.

"That's not the point," Daniel retorted.

"No," Methos agreed. "The point is I don't want to go to Athens."

Daniel stared at him owlishly. Methos had let him keep his glasses, but 
since he'd also had two pairs of contacts in his pack, Methos had 
insisted he wear those in public.

"I thought you said the Horsemen were in Anatolia?" Daniel said 

"They are," Methos sighed. "And this has nothing to do with them," he 
explained, pausing as he started to lift one of the beds up and Daniel 
made no move to help him. "It's just..." he shrugged, looking off into 
the distance. "I'm not ready to go back to Athens. Not yet. Not in any 

"You want to talk about it?" Daniel asked, growing concerned.

"Not really," Methos admitted. "Suffice to say there was a woman. 
Alexa. She loved Athens and I loved seeing it again through her eyes. 
And then she died. So, you'll forgive me if I'm not eager to revisit 
that memory."

"I'm sorry," Daniel nodded slowly. "You're right. We should go to 
Megara. It's closer."

Methos gave him a grateful smile as the front door opened.

"That's the last of it," Carter said, putting down an armload of 
linens. "Except for the stuff we need every day."

"Good," Methos told her. "I can load the donkey in the morning."

"Daniel," Carter said. "The colonel wants to see you as soon as you're 
finished here."

Daniel nodded as she went back inside. Methos shrugged. "Just help me 
with the bed and I'll get the rest," he offered. Most of the heavy work 
was done anyway and Methos wanted everything loaded where he could get 
at it when needed. They'd all been very surprised when he'd told them 
to empty the cabin of everything that wasn't nailed in place. But that 
was all part of his plan, he'd explained, and they'd know everything 
come morning.

When it was all done to his satisfaction Methos went down to check on 
the animals and see that they were fed, watered and bedded down for the 
night, then stopped by the stream to wash. By the time he returned to 
camp night was falling and he suddenly realized he hadn't seen any of 
the others for quite some time. He opened the door to find them all 
huddled around the hearth. O'Neill rose first, blocking his view of 
whatever they'd been looking at. 

"Where the hell have you been?!" he demanded. "Well, Mom, Johnny asked 
me to come by his place for a game of catch, then Billy's dad took us 
for ice cream. Where the hell do you think I've been?" he asked 
sarcastically. "Working hard to save your ass!"

"And because of that," O'Neill told him sharply. "I have to do this!"

He stepped away from the others who suddenly moved back to reveal one 
of the finest bows Methos had ever seen, while beside it lay a quiver 
of arrows. His lips parted in surprise and he inhaled deeply as he 
knelt to examine their gift. 

"This is really nice!" he exclaimed testing the bow which had been made 
from a length of ash wood and polished to perfection. The arrows were 
light and tipped with new iron heads which O'Neill must have secretly 
purchased in Delphi. The fletchings were made of dyed feathers and 
arranged in a pattern he'd never seen. While the quiver itself was a 
masterpiece of workmanship. Deer skin stretched around wood and tooled 
in a running border of leaves individually dyed green with a hunting 
scene in the center.

"Teal'c did all the carving," Daniel told him. "Carter redesigned the 
bow and did the fletching, so these arrows should be more aerodynamic 
than you might be used to. I just helped draw the hunting scene."

"The rest," Carter added. "Was Colonel O'Neill's project."

Methos turned wide eyes to Jack, who stood there frowning. "You did 
this?" he asked, holding up the quiver.

"Okay, so I took a couple of art classes in college," O'Neill huffed 
defensively. "Sue me!"

Methos swallowed hard, looking from one friendly face to another not 
quite sure what to say that would accurately express how he was 
feeling. No friend had ever gone to this much trouble to hand make him 
so special a gift. The amount of time each facet of its preparation 
must have taken was also telling. Off time was precious to soldiers, 
and from what he saw here they'd spent at least a good portion of 
theirs thinking of him. And everything was so beautifully crafted. More 
importantly, each one of them had used some area of their expertise to 
create it. In truth, he would have been satisfied with a decent bow and 
a serviceable quiver with a few sharply whittled arrows. 

"I think he's speechless," Daniel commented.

"It's about time," O'Neill muttered. "You'd think somebody stuck a key 
in his back and wound him up too tight."

Methos bowed his head, laughing softly. "Thank you," he finally said, 
looking from one to the other. "It's a beautiful gift. I'll keep it 

"And he means always," O'Neill nodded thoughtfully. "Which in itself is 
very cool."

The others were smiling as they thought about that. Something they'd 
made would be seen and treasured for lifetimes to come. A little slice 
of immortality they themselves could own.

"So," O'Neill asked, daintily lifting the hem of his chiton and taking 
a seat on the edge of the hearth. "We gonna eat or what?"

For the rest of the evening they shared a lively meal interspersed with 
stories of home, friends and family. They laughed a lot and generally 
ignored the fact that there might be danger ahead. It was the only way 
to deal with it. To hope like hell that they could manage to make their 
way to Egypt and successfully accomplish their mission. As for Methos, 
he silently vowed that even if they failed, he would make sure his 
friends spent the rest of their lives in splendid comfort and safety.

Chapter 18

Dawn was a tiny sliver on the eastern horizon as they rose and gathered 
their bedding. There wasn't much talking as they ate a cold breakfast 
of smoked fish and bread, just the occasional word or comment about 
whatever task they were focused on. While Methos secured their travel 
gear and supplies to the donkey, Teal'c and Daniel harnessed the oxen 
and O'Neill saddled the horses. 

"All right," Methos said when everything was loaded and ready except 
for the shields the colonel had purchased and one large bundle. "Places 

"Carter isn't here," O'Neill reminded.

"She can take a little extra time," Methos told him smugly. "She's our 

"O-kay," the colonel nodded dubiously. "Hey, can I have the window 

"You'll get plenty of air sitting on Betty," Methos responded. "But 
first," he said, opening the package. "Remove your robe."

"But you haven't even asked me out yet!"

"And I'm not likely to once you're wearing this." Methos held up the 
sword he'd purchased and the deer skin belt he'd made.

"Cool!" O'Neill said, removing his himation. 

The belt went around his waist, neatly tied with fringe at both ends. 
Methos took a moment to adjust his chiton so that it bloused over the 
belt, leaving the hem to fall just above his knees. The sword had it's 
own girder which went over the colonel's head to hang across one 
shoulder with the scabbard comfortably strapped to his back. Taking the 
himation, linen now because the weather was getting warmer, Methos 
redressed O'Neill, placing the folds carefully so that there would be 
no impediment if Jack need to reach for the blade.

He handed O'Neill one of the shields and stood back to admire his 
handiwork. "Now, you're a soldier," he nodded.

"Imagine that," O'Neill muttered, looking down at himself disgustedly. 

Methos rolled his eyes and helped him place the shield over his back so 
he could ride with it then turned to the other members of the team.

"Teal'c," Methos gave a half bow as the Jaffa came forward and he 
unwrapped a fine linen cloak stitched with hundreds of tiny feathers 
dyed in rainbow colors. "You," he explained, removing the plain 
himation Teal'c had worn and replacing it with the new one, "are an 
ambassador from Numidia. A very important man."

"Indeed," the Jaffa intoned.

Methos took out several heavy gold bracelets, putting them on Teal'c's 
wrists and ankles then added rings for his fingers and a heavy gold 
neck chain and pendant.

"You won't really need to do anything," he told the big man. "Just look 
distant and regal. Pay no attention to anyone. Not even us."

"A simple request. Most easily done," Teal'c grinned wickedly.

"Thought it might be," Methos chuckled. "One more thing. Two, 
actually," he amended. "You'll ride Trigger and carry this 

Teal'c grimaced at the hideous shield he held up.

"Hey!" the colonel complained. "That is a great depiction of fish."

"I believe there is a saying among the ancient peoples of the Ta're," 
Teal'c began. "To return from battle with one's shield or lying dead 
upon it." 

"With my shield or on it. Yes," Methos nodded.

"Then please see to it. Should the worst happen, it may be any shield 
but this."

"You have my solemn oath on that," Methos agreed emphatically as he 
helped the Jaffa hang the detestable armor across his back.

O'Neill frowned mightily and stomped over to Betty. "We ready yet, 

Methos sighed in despair. "Look, Jack. Just pick a name. Any nickname! 
Then stick to it. Even minion is better than this!"

"Y' think?" O'Neill grinned, then dropped his sudden mask of 
affability. "Just get this show on the road, Pierson. We're not playing 

Methos nodded. O'Neill was right. He was delaying. "Sorry, Danny, but I 
have to pierce your ears," he told the young archaeologist.

"I think I see where this is going," Jackson nodded.

"Don't worry," Methos said gently, holding up a pair of earrings that 
looked like tiny lions' heads. "These are lighter than they look and 
I've got a good salve there to keep you from itching."

A little alcohol and a fine needle from the med kit allowed Methos to 
do the work quick and neat. A pair of gold bracelets to match and a 
lion's head broach to hold his himation at the shoulder and Daniel was 

"Major Carter!" Methos called. "You can come out now!"

The front door opened and Carter stepped out, drawing stares from the 
other members of the team. Her fine blonde hair was curled high and 
held in place by tiny combs of beaten gold set with miniature sheaves 
of wheat. The same motif was repeated in all of her jewelry. From the 
huge dangling earrings to the small pins that held her sleeves together 
at various points from her shoulders to her wrists. She wasn't wearing 
bracelets or a necklace, but the belt that encircled the waist of her 
flawlessly white chiton whispered musically as the sheaves slid across 
her hips as she walked.

"It's brilliant!" Daniel whispered as he looked to Methos. "We're 

"What's brilliant?" O'Neill asked. "She looks like an ad for the 
Farmer's Almanac."

"She's a bride, Jack! Don't you get it?" Daniel explained. "A noble 
bride on her way to be married. Led by the groom's ambassador," he 
waved at Teal'c. "Protected by a pair of her father's soldiers. And 
bringing with her a dowry of such wealth her husband could only be a 

"Don't forget your own role in our little charade," Methos grinned, 
bowing deeply. "The honored brother who acts as his father's emissary, 
driving a fine pair of oxen and his very beautiful sister."

"So?" O'Neill asked again. "What's the big deal?"

Methos cast his eyes to the heavens, sighing again in despair. "Do you 
know how much bad karma messing with anyone looking like us would 

"Not to mention the war it would cause," Daniel added.

"Okay. So no one messes with the king's main squeeze. Got it," O'Neill 
nodded. "Carter, get in the wagon."

"Yes, Colonel."

"No!" Methos shouted. "You don't speak to her. And she doesn't speak to 
anybody! Daniel speaks for her and we speak to him only when 

"So what do I do?" Carter asked angrily. "Just sit up there looking 

"No," Methos told her calmly. "You are a princess. You sit demurely 
with your eyes downcast and pay no attention to anybody."

"The whole way to Egypt?!" she shouted.

"Only when we're in public, damn it! You can chat with Danny. But only 
if he speaks first."

Carter frowned and O'Neill looked furious.

"Please," Methos said quietly. "It's only when we pass through a 
village, or if we're close to anyone on the roads. If you say anything 
then, he'll be required to beat you."

"I thought princesses got special treatment?" she asked, giving Daniel 
an icy glare.

"Only in storybooks, Samantas," Methos told her kindly. "In the real 
world, they may have more to eat and prettier clothing, but they get 
treated far worse than most other women."

"He's right, Sam," Daniel added.

"It's not that I like doing this to you," Methos explained. "But it's 
the only way we can get to Megara without running the risk of being 
stopped for any reason. Your very presence makes the rest of us safe. 
And if we do have to stop where there are people you won't have to stay 
with the other women. You'll have a special place with Jack and I as 
guards. The other women won't expect you to eat or even gossip with 
them. You'll be both respected and ignored by everybody."

Finally, she nodded. "Okay. If it'll get us there safely, I'll play 

"Thank you," Methos heaved a sigh of relief. "Danaeus," he turned to 
Daniel. "Help your sister into the wagon. No one but you touches her 
until we get to Megara."

Methos adjusted his own chiton, strapped on his sword, slid his shield 
over his back, and tossed the rest of the gear into the wagon. Without 
a backward glance at the little cabin he turned and went to his horse 
as Jack mounted alongside him. 

"Just for the record, Methos," O'Neill said quietly. "This plan sucks."

Methos grimaced wryly as he kneed his horse forward. "If it gets us 
where we need to go in one piece, I don't care if stands up and farts."

Chapter 19

The houses and fields stood empty in the bright summer sun. Whole 
villages depopulated in a matter of minutes. Even those unable to walk 
were carried to the road where the great and mighty were passing. Only 
once in a generation might such an event take place and those who 
missed it would listen in rapt awe to those who hadn't and account 
themselves lucky just to hear the tale.

They came out of the north it was said. Rumor flew on the feet of 
children, who ran ahead to win sweets and praise from their neighbors. 
Royalty is passing, come show your respect and be entertained.

People lined the roads, some having left their homes many miles away 
and long before dawn just to wait in the heat of the day. But none left 
disappointed. A man of rich exotic color, like the fine dark wood of 
the precious cypresses of Lebanon polished to gleaming perfection led 
the procession. A prince of his people, or maybe a lesser king himself, 
so wealthy he decorated his skin with gold emblazoned on his forehead. 
But who else, they whispered, would be sent to bring back so rare a 

She was fair like the cream which rises to the top of the milk jug, 
with hair of sunlight to crown her glory. Even the gold she wore paled 
beside such beauty. And as she passed, her unblinking eyes held the 
road ahead as though her only thought was for the husband awaiting at 
the end of her long journey. 

Then there was the relative who accompanied her. Skin nearly as fair as 
the woman, his own hair dipped in gold with eyes the color of the sky 
at morning. Tall and stalwart, a man of honor indeed, who plied the one 
who might challenge a goddess with sips of cool wine and simple 
conversation that might keep his charge amused.

Of course this wondrous entourage had guards. Only two, but did they 
need more than that when the two were of such frightening demeanor? 
They glared at the people with faces carved like granite, searching the 
crowds as if they could see into the hearts of men and know who might 
offer insult or danger. One was a hawk, the other a lion, terrifying in 
their coldness. It was said that together they had beaten back the Four 
Horsemen who'd tried to steal their lady and hacked the monsters to 
death. And this was believed because it was said. And why shouldn't it 
be true? If you could but look into the eyes of these fearless men you 
would know it!

And as the procession passed onto the horizon the people gathered in 
the road behind to catch every last bit of its magnificence. Well 
pleased and satisfied that they had been blessed by the gods 
themselves, they returned to their homes and their fields to repeat the 
tale as often as they were able until the myth turned into legend.


The wagon turned at a bend in the road putting a large stand of trees 
between SG-1 and their latest audience. Methos glanced back over his 
shoulder to make sure no one was following and nodded.

"It's over for the moment," he told O'Neill.

"At ease," Jack announced to the others, who heaved a sigh of relief. 
"You okay, Carter?" he asked, riding over to the wagon.

Samantha was slumped in her heavily padded chair which sat beneath the 
awning. "Just tired of sitting, Colonel."

O'Neill nodded. "This looks like a good place to stop for lunch. Why 
don't you get down and stretch your legs?"

"Thank you, sir." She stood up and stretched in a most unladylike 
manner, rolling her head to ease the tension in her neck. "Come on, 
Daniel, help me down from here."

Jackson nodded, moving stiffly off the hard bench, kneading his lower 
back as he reached the ground. He winced sharply as he touched a tender 
spot then frowned at Carter as he held out his hands and lifted her 
down. "Could you not kick me quite so hard next time? I'm getting a 
bruise there," he complained.

"If you'd just speak to me, I wouldn't have to kick you at all," she 
replied unrepentantly, walking away to lean against a tree trunk and do 
some leg stretches.

"We are all tired, Daniel Jackson," Teal'c said quietly as he came 
over. "She perhaps more than we. It is not easy for Major Carter to sit 
so silently on display."

"Tell me about it," Daniel muttered, rubbing his sore spot again.

Teal'c merely raised an eyebrow and went to find a comfortable seat in 
the shade beside O'Neill.

On the other side of the wagon Methos easily slid off his horse, 
loosely hitching the mare to the cart. He pulled his canteen from the 
saddle bag and quenched his thirst, going over to the donkey to 
retrieve the basket he'd filled that morning with food for the day. He 
could tell by his companions' expressions that they were already weary 
of the game, and after three weeks of being ogled by the masses he 
couldn't really blame them.

"Cheer up," he said as he joined them, setting down the basket. 
"Another three weeks, maybe a little longer if we lose another wheel, 
then we can ditch this whole set up and sneak into Megara like good 
little covert operatives."

"You knew this would happen," O'Neill accused, obviously referring to 
the endless streams of people that came out to greet them.

"I was counting on it," he agreed. "And it's to our advantage to play 
up to them. A few local aristocrats might be greedy, but they'll think 
twice if the entire district is watching. It's their crops that will 
burn and their families that will be slaughtered if the nobles go out 
of their way to make a powerful enemy needlessly. And many of the 
villagers can still tell stories of those same nobles whose ancestors 
were just as poor as they are now when they first arrived, but found a 
good plot of land, or killed their neighbor to get it. Blood feud is a 
way of life here, and you can bet that if one tribe offends us the next 
will want to protect themselves from our anger by taking up arms 
against the evildoers."

"So no one is willing to do anything that might get them killed," 
Carter surmised as she finally joined them.

"Would you if you were them?" Methos asked. "They may be poor by our 
standards," he explained. "But they're comfortable and content with 
their lot in lives. They're warm in the winter, they have food to eat 
and a few small luxuries. Maybe a vial of rose water for Mother once a 
year, or a basket of peaches from Argos the whole family can share. We 
might not think it's a lot, but they're happy because they don't know 
they aren't supposed to be."

"Makes you wonder what a few innovations in technology would do here," 
Daniel murmured. "Not much," Methos snorted, parceling out the contents 
of the basket to everybody. "Especially after they killed you for even 
suggesting it. I remember when day laborers rioted in England when 
machines put them out of work in the mid 19th century. It's only in the 
past hundred years that people have come to see technology as a 
necessity -- and only in the last twenty that business had cushioned 
the blow to the economy by retraining workers in other fields. 
Innovation has never been the poor man's friend."

That seemed to end the discussion and they were quiet as they ate, more 
cheese, olives, way bread and a handful of figs. Meat was for the 
evenings when O'Neill could find a quiet place and attack a tree, or 
when they were between distant villages and Methos felt it was safe 
enough to go hunting.

"Did you hear what they were saying at that last village?" Carter 
suddenly asked. Everyone looked at her curiously. "That Colonel O'Neill 
and Methos had destroyed the Four Horsemen."

"I'd always wondered where that tale came from," Methos admitted. "The 
Lion and the Hawk. Wishful thinking, I suppose."

"Yeah," Daniel asked. "Whatever happened to them? The other Horsemen, I 

"They're dead," Methos said blandly.

"In the Game," Daniel nodded.

"You could say that," Methos responded and kept eating.

"Well, it was or it wasn't," O'Neill challenged the Immortal. "Come on, 
Pierson. Give."

Methos thought for a moment, then gave an internal shrug. It was over 
and done with. Whether they enjoyed hearing the tale or the role he'd 
played in it wasn't really important, was it?

"It happened just a few years ago our time," he explained quietly. 
"Kronos found me and decided we should have a sort of class reunion. 
Only this time he didn't want to ride through the countryside laying 
waste to small pockets of humanity. He wanted the entire world at its 
collective knees."

O'Neill snorted in amusement. "And how was he going to achieve that 
imaginative feat?" he asked dryly.

"Biological warfare," Methos answered succinctly, watching their eyes 
widen. "He must have spent years studying. And it's a pity really. 
Without realizing what he was doing he became a brilliant virologist. 
Created a toxin to rival Ebola -- and without a vaccine. Thought if he 
unleashed it on even a small part of the world they'd have to give us 
everything. All the power and bootlicking he'd ever dreamed of."

"That would have lasted all of five seconds," O'Neill chuckled 
mirthlessly. "He'd have just loved that Welcome To The World Powers 
gift we'd have sent. You know," he confided. "Some of our nukes only 
make a tiny little boom and have no fall out worth mentioning."

Methos nodded wryly. "It was insane," he agreed. "But he could have 
wiped out millions before you stopped him. Maybe more if the virus 
became airborne."

"What happened?" Carter asked.

"I left MacLeod a trail and he came after us."

"You were in on it?!" Daniel looked shocked.

"Of course I was in on it! Kronos would have killed me if I hadn't 
agreed -- and that virus would still have been out there waiting to 
destroy humanity. He might have liked the advantages of the modern era, 
but he wasn't above being spiteful and petty. He could just as easily 
have sent the world back to the Stone Age, found himself a good horse 
and started all over again -- with him in charge of whoever managed to 
survive the plague. And I knew how to handle biologically hazardous 
material. To destroy the virus so completely that not a single microbe 
would escape. After MacLeod took out Caspian and I knew he could take 
Kronos, I went for Silas and it ended."

"So you only pretended to be in on it," Carter nodded thoughtfully. 
"Wouldn't have made a difference which if Kronos had succeeded. I would 
have been just as guilty in your eyes. And come to think of it," Methos 
cocked his head. "Knowing what I know now I probably shouldn't have 
been as eager to take care of it personally."

"How's that?" O'Neill asked.

"Well, that story," Methos responded. "The Lion and the Hawk. When 
Kronos showed up and MacLeod already wanted his head I thought maybe it 
was a bit of prophecy unfolding. I mean, you never know about that sort 
of thing, do you? And one of the symbols of Scotland is the Lion 
Rampant. I thought it meant we were destined to win." 

Sometimes, Methos thought ruefully as the others smiled at his childish 
whimsy, he amazed even himself with his own egotistical stupidity!

They finished their meal in silence, then wearily resumed their places. 
Once they were mounted O'Neill sidled the horse over and quietly 
brought up the earlier conversation 

"You still would have done it," O'Neill said with conviction. "Even if 
you weren't sure you could win."

Methos raised an eyebrow. "You really think so?" he asked, not at all 
certain he wouldn't have handled it differently.

"Oh, yeah," O'Neill nodded. "You may be a cold, calculating son of a 
bitch to everyone else, but deep down inside you'll always be my 
marshmallow minion."

Stunned, Methos watched as he rode to the other side of the wagon. 
"Kronos was right," he whispered, aghast. "I've not only gotten soft," 
he grimaced. "But chewy!"

Chapter 20

A week later they paused in their journey to rest at a hot spring in 
the foothills below the Garania mountains. It was sheltered by the 
remains of a small shrine to Hephaestus, god of the forge, one Methos 
had remembered from his days with the Horsemen. But the old priest who 
had cared for it two centuries earlier had died and the shrine must 
have become lost. 

They set up camp for the night and took their turns, smiling as they 
rejoined their comrades by the fire. Going next to last, Methos sighed 
with pleasure as he sank into the heat of the spring and slid beneath 
the surface. He relaxed himself, breathing in the hot, metallic tasting 
water unconcerned with drowning, until every fiber of his being felt 
soothed and comfortable for the first time in weeks. He drowsed there, 
floating peacefully until he drifted off.


A hand gripped his hair, pulling him up and out of his warm cocoon, 
flailing and sputtering with indignation.

"What?!" he shouted at O'Neill, who knelt beside the pool.

"You drowned."

"I was napping!" 

O'Neill stared at him in disbelief until Methos finally sighed in 
disgust and explained. "I don't know why Immortals can breath under 
water, we just can. Maybe it has something to do with how our 
Quickenings perceive our bodies. What's normal and what's not. Muscle 
strain is a normal function, but tearing them is not. We breath fluid 
in the womb, again a normal function, so perhaps it--"

"Okay! Okay!" O'Neill held up a hand. "I'm down with the water 
breathing. Now, if you don't mind, I'd like to take a bath."

Methos rolled his eyes, reaching out for the small pot of soap he'd 
brought with him. "Well, don't mind me, there's plenty of room. And I'm 
not done yet."

O'Neill frowned, then shrugged and stripped off his towel, groaning 
with relief as he slid into the water. "God, I miss indoors plumbing," 
he muttered.

Methos smiled as he started to wash his hair. "I know how you feel. I 
remember Rome. Houses had proper sewers with heated floors and baths. 
Then the Visigoths showed up and Europe went to hell."

"Never met 'em, but I despise them on principle," O'Neill murmured 
laconically as he rested his head against the ledge of the pool. 

Methos grinned and rinsed his hair, then reached for his straight razor 
to shave.

"So, what's on the other side of those mountains?" O'Neill suddenly 


The colonel sat up and frowned. "You said it was another two weeks to 

"It is," Methos sighed, carefully pulling the blade across his lightly 
soaped cheek. "But we can't take the cart into the mountains. There's 
no pass anywhere near here."

"And how long if we just cut straight across?"

"Three days maybe, but--"

"Change of plan, Pierson. We dump the oxen at the nearest farm and burn 
the cart."

"We'll lose a lot of money on the resale," Methos pointed out.

"We're not here to make money," O'Neill grimaced. "If we need more 
we'll just send Carter and Teal'c out rock collecting."

Methos shrugged. It certainly wouldn't be a problem leaving the oxen 
behind. Or some of the supplies they would have needed for a longer 
journey. The donkey could take the rest and they could double up and 
walk the horses some of the time. He'd planned for them to ditch their 
disguise on the road to Megara anyway and enter the port as a family 
looking for passage.

"Sounds fine to me," he finally nodded, washing the rest of the soap 
from his face.

"Wonderful," O'Neill responded. "Now, be a good minion and go find Fred 
and Ethel a nice home. The rest of us can empty what we need from the 
cart. I think I'll give Carter the pleasure of lighting that fire. Oh, 
and you'd better hurry it up," he added, leaning back. "We head out at 

Methos frowned. "You're sure you just want to leave the oxen?" he 
asked. "You wouldn't rather I sacrifice them in your honor? You know, I 
make a wonderful ox tail stew."

O'Neill sat up looking horrified. "You'd kill Fred and Ethel? For a 
lousy bowl of stew? What kind of sick and twisted minion are you?! Get 
out of my shrine!"

Methos fell back laughing until O'Neill kicked him in the shin 
splashing him. Bemused, he hurriedly hoisted himself out of the water 
and grabbed his towel. If he left it to the children no doubt they'd 
bring all the animals back -- and turn the SGC into a petting zoo!

Chapter 21

"He says he knows of a house that may be for rent," Daniel told the 
others as they waited near the deep fresh water spring that served the 
five small villages which would one day become the city of Megara.

Methos glanced up from fixing his sandal strap and looked toward the 
man in question. A slave. And by the look of it, one sent to fetch 
water for the household.

"Tell him to finish serving his mistress then come back and show us. 
We'll wait."

A few moments later Daniel returned. "He says it's on the way and he 
lives in the next village over. He won't be able to come back."

A likely story, Methos thought lacing up his sandal again, but it could 
be true. Either the man didn't wish to lose the chance at whatever coin 
he'd earn for his small service, or his mistress was one of those women 
who swore by the healthfulness of spring water. He'd known one Roman 
matron who would send a dozen slaves with carts to bring enough water 
for the entire family to use every day. Which might have been sane if 
the fool had thought to give some to her chefs for the food, rather 
than using it exclusively for bathing. Lead from the pipes which 
carried water into the city from the great aqueduct had poisoned 

"All right," Methos nodded. "We'll follow. Just let me get the others."

They gathered up the few things they'd removed from the packs for their 
morning meal then Methos lifted Carter back onto the donkey. Like all 
women traveling she was wrapped head to toe in swaths of linen.

"Almost there," he told her softly. She was hot and tired as they all 
were, but the restrictions imposed on the major by this culture were 
definitely getting on her nerves. A normally even tempered woman, she'd 
been snapping at everyone since they'd come out of the mountains three 
days earlier. They'd all agreed to get her laptop out of storage as 
soon as they were safely indoors.

O'Neill and Teal'c brought up the horses while he took charge of the 
donkey and Daniel walked beside the slave chatting amiably. Methos 
watched in silence, wondering absently if the boy knew the kind of gift 
he offered this man. Or maybe it was torture, to be treated for a brief 
time as a man and not a piece of chattel. In any case, he doubted 
Daniel understood what he was doing. The archaeologist in him would 
probably be more fascinated by the wealth of knowledge the man's 
presence offered and he'd be up half the night scribbling notes in his 
journal. Not that Methos couldn't have offered him the same 
information, but like any good scientist he wanted corroboration from a 
variety of sources.

They reached the house which was down the narrow lane from the owner's, 
a man whose brother had once lived there with his wife and two children 
according to the slave. The man had gone out fishing one morning about 
a month ago and not returned after a storm. As was customary, the care 
of the wife, her children and all her spouse's property had gone to the 
husband's nearest male relative. 

Methos handed the slave a small sliver of bronze, cut from a much 
larger coin and given as change from an earlier purchase. It was enough 
to buy a good meal, or a cheap pair of sandals and he popped it in his 
mouth to hide under his tongue. With a nod of thanks the slave took 
off, seeming to carry his burden a little more lightly as he called to 
someone in the owner's house that custom, or trade awaited at their 

The owner, a man called Theophrates, a dealer in fish oils, came out a 
few minutes later to unlatch the door and show Methos the house. It was 
a typical home for the times. Two large rooms sectioned off into 
numerous small chambers with a low walled courtyard in the back where 
there were pens for the goats and chickens. The kitchen was a tiny room 
off the courtyard with a good sized oven, though now that it was summer 
most of the cooking would be done outdoors. The place came furnished 
with a few old pieces and at the cost of one drachma a month it was 
more than a little steep.

"We may not need it for a month," Methos explained. "My family and I 
seek passage to the island of Crete."

"Crete?" Theophrates asked, surprised. "You won't find any here to take 
you that far. Those who were going even half such  distance have long 
since gone. And none that I know of have ever traveled there."

Methos nodded, he'd expected as much and the others knew it as well. 
The only way to get there would be to island hop from Megara to 
Salamis, or maybe Aigina, and from there down the rest of the Attic 
coast. They'd need to winter on Crete, but from there they could easily 
obtain passage to Egypt.

Without explaining his business to the man, Methos made him an offer. 
"I will pay you one third that for two weeks. If we find passage to the 
islands before then you may keep the rest. If not then I will pay you 
by the week."

"One month full payment at my original price," he countered. "In 
addition to which, I will send a slave to clean the house and cook two 
meals a day. If you leave before the two weeks are up I will return one 
quarter of the money. If you stay longer, it will be the same 
arrangement monthly until you leave."

Methos considered the offer. It was fair and the food might just be 

"Done," Methos agreed and pulled out the coin. "Send the slave in the 
morning. My sister will oversee her work."

"As you wish," Theophrates nodded, accepting the coin then politely 
wished him well in his search for a ship before leaving.

"All set," Methos grinned as he rejoined the others. "There's a 
courtyard around back where we can keep the animals," he added, leading 
the way.

"It's a little cramped," O'Neill commented as they entered through the 
kitchen. Everyone but Samantha had to duck in order to get inside, and 
Teal'c had to keep his shoulders hunched in order to avoid hitting his 
head on the ceiling.

"It is what it is," Methos shrugged. "Of course, if you're not happy 
with it there's always the other alternative."

"Which is?" O'Neill asked suspiciously.

"I'm sure one of the local brothels would be pleased to let us a room, 
though it might be small and rather noisy from time to time."

"There aren't any hotels," Daniel reminded him quietly as O'Neill 

"And this place comes with a bonus," Methos explained as he showed them 
the rest of the house. "Theophrates is going to send someone to cook 
and clean for us."

Daniel stared at him, appalled. "You got us a slave?"

Methos raised an eyebrow at that. "It's a big house. Would you rather 
Major Carter do all the work?"

Samantha shoved back her mantle and frowned. "Major Carter would have 
preferred that you consult her first before deciding to help her out, 

"And if we were anywhere but here I would have," Methos acknowledged 
soothingly. "But here we are and there you have it."

"I do not need or want a slave!" she stated angrily.

"Fine," he told her coolly. "Then you cook and clean while she sleeps 
in the corner. Feed her three meals a day if you like and it assuages 
your conscience. But don't complain to me when the local housewives 
beat you bloody for showing them up to their men folk. They like having 

"We can all work," O'Neill announced trying to be diplomatic. "Just 
like before."

"Are you out of your mind?" Methos asked. "If you think the women are 
bad just wait until the men come after us for daring to upset the 
natural order. The Megarans may be a little more cosmopolitan than 
their country cousins, but not by much."

"But--" Daniel began.

"No!" Methos declared, having heard enough. "No more complaints! I told 
you all there were things you'd have to do that you weren't going to 
like. Well, consider this one of them."

"He did indeed warn us," Teal'c reminded them. "And this world is not 
unlike many others we have visited," he added quietly. "But with one 
difference. These people are long since dead and forgotten in our time. 
Therefore, anything we do here cannot be held against us. We did not 
enslave them. Perhaps it would be well to think of those who suffer as 
merely shadows of a past injustice long since overcome."

"Teal'c's right," O'Neill sighed, crossing his arms. "We all knew this 
might happen. So just suck it up and deal with it."

"Yes, sir," Carter answered quietly as Daniel nodded. 

"Good. Now, let's get the gear unpacked and properly stowed. I don't 
want this girl coming across anything we don't want seen."

Methos heaved a silent sigh of relief as he went to help in the 
unpacking. He didn't really understand what all the fuss was about 
anyway. Yes, slavery was a terrible thing. It had always been terrible 
and everyone knew it, which was why no one wanted to be a slave. Of 
course, until the industrial revolution no one had ever taken the idea 
of completely ending slavery seriously either. As long as it happened 
to someone else the practice was considered a necessity. And it wasn't 
as if he'd gone out and made the purchase himself. The slave was just a 
loaner. A girl to help out around the house. Surely they'd all 
contacted a cleaning service from time to time and had someone come in 
to do the floors and laundry? He knew damn well that Carter ordered her 
groceries online and had them delivered to her apartment. Did she think 
the women who cleaned and the students who brought the food to her door 
and put it in her cabinets earned more than the equivalent of modern 
slave wages? They got just enough to keep a roof over their heads, food 
on the table and warm clothes on their backs with nothing left over for 
the luxury of having someone come to their house and clean their floors 
when they were tired from work. 

It was all relative, Methos supposed as he removed the saddle bags from 
the horses. Payment in coin as opposed to a space in the corner and 
enough food to keep body and soul together meant modern children didn't 
have to trouble their consciences when the service personnel walked out 
the door and went home. Not to a nice, loft style condo in the city, 
but to a drab, run down apartment block in a marginally safe 
neighborhood, if they even had that. And did these children of the 
modern age think their temporary servants were any freer than slaves to 
pick up and go where they wanted? A few with courage and opportunity 
might throw caution to the wind and give up the security of even a low 
paying job. Most, he knew, were too afraid of ending up in far worse 
circumstances than before. The modern equivalent of slavery, he thought 
wryly, was euphemistically described as 'honest' work.

With a mental shrug of dismissal Methos gave up this line of thought. 
Carter could coddle the girl all she liked as long as the major made at 
least a token effort to have her work. And the others? Well, they would 
just have to deal with it in their own way and on their own time. He 
had more important business to worry over than someone else's 

Chapter 22

Methos left the harbor not long before sunset, stopping once to 
purchase a little basket of sweets as he reached the edge of the port. 
For the second unsuccessful week in a row he'd tried to find passage. 
Still, he wasn't worried. It was only mid-June and many of the larger 
boats that had gone out when the weather finally cleared in April would 
soon be returning. They'd make at least two, maybe three more runs out 
to the islands before putting in for the winter to wait out the fierce 
Mediterranean storms. The point of going down to the harbor now was to 
talk to fishermen and sailors about which captains were trustworthy and 
who might be willing to take on passengers. By the same token, it also 
got the word of mouth out that someone was looking to travel.

At the end of the street he saw the house they'd rented, looking much 
the same as a thousand others homes he'd ever lived in. The only 
difference being that behind those doors were four people who didn't 
belong in that house or anywhere else on this planet.

He hid a smile as he stepped inside. Samantha still might not be 
speaking to him after their conversation the week before, but she'd 
obviously listened. The place was swept clean and fragrant rushes had 
been spread on the dirt floor in the main rooms. Bees wax had been used 
to polish the furniture, while dust and cobwebs no longer resided in 
the corners. The lamps had been filled with scented oil then lit for 
the evening. And the aroma of fresh fish cooked to perfection wafted 
through the house.

With a nod to O'Neill, Methos went to his room, since they now had 
enough space for everyone and stripped off his clothes. His bed was 
made and on a low table in the corner he found a wash basin and an urn 
filled with water set beside a clean towel. 

Now this was how a proper house in this place and time should look, he 
thought smugly, washing the dust from his body. Poor Carter hadn't even 
known where to start. Having the girl take their travel stained clothes 
and bedding to the river to be washed the first day had been a good 
idea, but Samantha hadn't figured out that there were actually worse 
jobs. Dumping and cleaning chamber pots wasn't something she was 
accustomed to, let alone had thought about until he'd mentioned it to 
her. There were straw mats to be shaken, beds to be made, dishes to be 
cleaned and a host of other daily tasks that a slave would be surprised 
to find already done before she started working. And Samantha had 
quietly been doing all of them, leaving the girl to do the laundry, 
sweeping and cooking.

Shopping for food was another chore, but he'd assigned that to Daniel, 
since men did that anyway. Giving the boy leave to talk to the natives 
and look around as much as he liked. Megara was one of any number of 
historic cities which had continuously occupied the same spot -- though 
very little archaeological work had ever been done at the site. It kept 
him busy and out of the house and for that, he knew, the others were 

O'Neill had volunteered to look after the animals, while Methos took 
care of the difficult business of visiting wine shops and chatting to 
sailors down in the port. Teal'c had agreed with everyone else that the 
less he was seen in public the better. Dark skinned men and women were 
not unheard of in any sea town along the Aegean, but rarely seen this 
far north. As far as Methos knew, he'd spent most of his time either 
meditating in private or whittling bits of wood in the common rooms.

Methos took a fresh chiton out of his chest, dressed himself and left 
the old one with his himation on a peg by the door. In the morning, the 
girl could shake out the dust and see if they needed washing. If not, 
she'd hang them out in the courtyard to air.

There was a soft knock at the door post to his room and Methos moved 
the thick leather curtain aside to find O'Neill standing in the narrow 

"Got a minute?" the colonel asked as he stepped inside.

"Of course," he responded. "I was on my way to report. Nothing new I'm 
afraid, but that's to be expected right now."

"Understood," the colonel nodded, moving to stand at the tiny window 
that looked out onto the courtyard. He turned slowly, looking around 
the barren room.

"Something on your mind?" Methos prodded, when Jack remained silent.

"I need to know what you said to Carter," he said, keep his tone 

Methos didn't have to ask, he knew what O'Neill wanted. "I told her 
there was gossip," he said bluntly which there had been. "I told her 
the women were wondering why we didn't beat her. That the slaves in 
their houses were getting sloppy because they saw how hard she was 
working, and that her kindness to one slave was getting dozens more 
punished." Methos gave a half shrug at O'Neill's disbelieving 
expression. "Even if it wasn't true they were still getting beaten 
because the women were angry with Carter. More importantly, they said 
all this loudly enough for me to hear as I was passing. It was meant as 
a warning for her. So, I simply explained exactly what her duties as 
mistress of the house were -- and that they didn't include emptying 
chamber pots."

"And you took it upon yourself to explain all that without coming to me 

"Do you know how an ancient household functions?" Methos asked coolly.

"That's not the point," O'Neill retorted. "Protocol says you come to me 
and I talk to her."

"You'd gone fishing and it couldn't wait," Methos shrugged. "I was 
afraid she'd walk out of the house and get stoned to death, or at the 
very least badly hurt. The idea that it takes a village to raise a 
child is a very ancient one, Colonel. And if I hadn't done something 
the women would have taken it upon themselves to correct what they 
perceived as Carter's poor performance. I'm sorry if I breached 
protocol, but it needed to be done and quickly."

O'Neill nodded slowly. "That may be true, but Carter can take care of 
herself. And I'd have liked to see her kick those bitches butts."

"Oh, now that would have been lovely," Methos grimaced. "Attract a lot 
of the wrong kind of attention. The kind that gets the men to thinking 
what a feisty woman like that could do under the covers."

"She'd have kicked their asses too!" O'Neill grinned nastily.

Methos shook his head. "Do you want to get out of here alive, Colonel?"

"I never expect to get out of anywhere alive," O'Neill said flatly. "In 
fact, I'm usually pretty surprised when it happens. Why should now be 
any different?"

"Never mind," Methos sighed. "What's really bothering you is that 
Carter is sulking."

"Yeah, that," O'Neill agreed as he walked to the door. "And thanks to 
you she's also stopped eating." O'Neill paused and turned, staring into 
Methos' eyes as he noted the Immortal's stunned expression. "I know you 
didn't mean for that to happen, but it did. So now it's your turn to 
suck it up and fix it. Any way you can." At that O'Neill turned on his 
heel, leaving Methos to wonder what could have possibly gone wrong.

He hurriedly found the little basket of sweets he'd purchased, more of 
the deep fried dough balls in honey though these had a variety of fruit 
preserves in their centers -- the ancient equivalent of the jelly 
donut. He'd bought them for Carter in any case, since most women 
weren't allowed out of the house unless they were visiting friends or 
going to the temple at festivals. It was a difficult lifestyle for a 
woman as independent as Carter had been, but she'd done as he'd asked 
and Methos had hoped to show her how much he appreciated it.

He picked up a small lamp and left, heading down the corridor to the 
women's rooms -- a nod towards the decorum that an ancient household 
required and that a female slave would have been shocked to find 
absent. Men other than husbands and sons were supposed to be forbidden 
entry, but when the slave returned to her master's house after 
preparing their evening meal no one paid that little custom any 
attention, except when it came to Carter's bedroom.

Quietly, he opened the heavy wooden door that separated the two 
sections of the house. At night, Carter generally retired early and as 
far as he knew worked at her computer. Luckily, every piece of 
equipment the military provided came with solar powered batteries, so 
they'd never had to worry about losing those resources. True, he 
admitted as he silently approached her bedroom, he hadn't been around 
much during mealtimes, so he couldn't contradict what O'Neill had told 
him. But he'd believed her the few times she'd avoided sitting down to 
dinner when they were all together -- claiming, of course, that she'd 
already eaten. And after the way she'd befriended the little slave 
girl, he'd thought it very likely she was sharing her meals in the 

He paused at the door, seeing the room curtain wasn't completely closed 
and surreptitiously peeked inside. Carter sat on the floor with her 
back to the entrance. No lamps had been lit though her body was 
partially illuminated by the steady light from her view screen. She was 
wearing a simple linen bed gown, thin enough for the light to 
silhouette her figure against the cloth -- and enough for Methos to see 
that O'Neill hadn't been mistaken as he'd thought. Always a slim woman, 
Samantha's ribs were now hard against the back of her gown. 

Shocked, Methos rapped lightly against the door post and watched in 
dismay as she started, moving hurriedly to shut the laptop, but not 
before he saw that she'd been staring at a blank screen.

"May I come in?" he asked softly as the room plunged into semi-darkness 
lit only by his single lamp.

"I'm really tired," Carter responded dully. "Can it wait until 

"This won't take long," he offered. "Please?"

She sighed deeply and shrugged, moving to stand and replace her 
computer in the large chest at the foot of her bed. The only one with a 
lock where they kept most of their modern gear. She picked up her 
himation and wrapped it around her shoulders as she went to sit on the 
bed and told him to come in.

Without a word Methos stepped inside, using his own lamp to light the 
one set in the wall niche beside her bed then went around the room and 
lit the rest, ignoring her frown.

"I got these for you," he finally said, coming back to stand next to 
the bed.

She took the little rush basket and peeked under the small bit of scrap 
cloth that covered its contents. "Thanks, " she said, putting it aside 
and looking as though she'd be ill. "I'll have them for breakfast."

He doubted that, but said nothing as he fetched a stool from the corner 
and without asking took a seat beside her bed. "Did I ever tell you I 
was a slave?" he began lightly. "Several times, in fact."

Her eyes went wide. "Then how...?"

She didn't even have to finish the sentence. He knew what Carter was 
asking. "How can I even indirectly own one?" She nodded and Methos 
smiled sadly. "Because until quite recently I never really thought the 
institution of slavery would ever end. I always believed that men would 
continue enslaving others just because they could. And then I ran into 
Harriet Tubman. Or more exactly, she ran into me like the veritable 
Underground Railroad she was."

"You knew Harriet Tubman?" Samantha asked, more than a little awe 

Methos smiled wryly and nodded. "1853. I had a little medical 
practice," he explained. "In Georgia just north of the Louisiana 
border. It was well known that I would treat slaves, but the plantation 
owners looked the other way. I was the only doctor in the county and 
they needed me. One night, Mother Tubman showed up on my door step with 
half a dozen runaways. I hid them, fed them, treated whatever ailments 
they had and sent her on her way -- hoping I'd seen the last of it," he 
added ruefully. "But you didn't argue with Harriet. When she wanted 
something you gave it to her and were glad to come out of it with just 
a tongue lashing. I once heard she met an avowed slaver, who after an 
hour in her presence came out of the conversation an ardent 
abolitionist. I'm inclined to believe the story."

"You were a stop on the Underground Railroad," Carter surmised, quietly 

"For a few years, until I was hung for it," Methos admitted.

Samantha rubbed the crease between her eyes and sighed. "I don't 
understand," she finally said. "You obviously despise slavery. And 

"And yet I accept the practice in the here and now," he finished and 
she nodded. "It's how I've survived, Major. Just think Stone Age and 
put a computer in my hands. What does that tell you about me?" For a 
long moment she simply stared at him until Methos gently explained it 
to her. 

"I blend in, Samantha. I accept the moral teachings and social values 
of those around me and I become a part of the culture. It doesn't 
matter whether I personally agree with what they espouse, I accept it 
because there is no other choice for me. And in all honesty, I don't 
believe I have the right to condemn anybody for their beliefs. 
Immortals have no culture, no social organization which can rightfully 
be called a society. Mortals make the world what it is and we don't 
have the right to interfere."

"Well, I can't accept it. Slavery. It's... It's... Ich!" she shuddered 
in disgust as if something nasty had crawled across her spine.

Ich?! Methos thought, surprised. He expected Ich! from O'Neill. But 
Carter? She used twenty dollar words as if she minted them herself. 

And then it hit him. He'd seen this before. With Alexa. He just hadn't 
recognized it. 

They'd stayed in hotels wherever they'd gone during his one spectacular 
year with her. And every morning she'd get up and clean. At first he'd 
teased her, telling her to let the maid take care of all that -- it was 
what he was paying for. Her response had been to tell him not to be 
silly. That she was quite capable of picking up after herself. He'd 
thought it very brave. A refusal to give in to her illness. Even when 
she'd been too weak to walk she'd clean the little area by her hospital 
bed until the time finally came when she couldn't even lift her arms. 
Embarrassment and shame had marred her features every time one of the 
cleaning staff would come by to wash the floor in her room or change 
her linen. Again he'd thought it was her pride, but maybe it had been 
something much deeper. A thoroughly modern mindset against servitude, 

"May I ask you something?" Methos swallowed hard as he broached the 
subject. "Have you ever hired a cleaning woman?" he asked softly.

"Of course not!" Samantha responded angrily as if she'd just been 
insulted. "I can look after myself."

"Ever sent the laundry out?"

"Only the dry cleaning," she told him, staring at him curiously. "I 
don't like the idea of strangers touching my personal things. 

"You order groceries online though."

Samantha frowned. "Only when I absolutely have to. It's my job to take 
care of me, not anyone else's," she added emphatically.

Oh lord! he thought. I've screwed this up royally! He'd totally misread 
the situation. Carter didn't need persuading, she needed relief. No 
wonder she wasn't eating. She was so revolted by the idea of slavery 
that having a slave in the house made her feel... Unclean. And by 
virtue of that everything around her that was touched by slavery also 
became tainted and filthy. Yes, she'd done her duty. Sucked it up and 
played the lady of the house -- but it was killing her by inches.

"I'm truly sorry," he told her honestly. "Would you prefer if one of us 
directed the girl in her duties?"

"I wouldn't do that to the others!" she whispered, appalled at his 

He had to think about that a minute. If Carter hated it, what were the 
others feeling? O'Neill avoided the house as much as possible and 
Daniel kept himself busy with other things. Only Teal'c remained, and 
he'd already decided that nothing in this place applied to him anyway. 
They were obviously just as disgusted as she, but dealing with it in 
their own ways. He had to get them out of here, and quickly!

Methos picked up the little basket of sweets. "These were made by a 
free woman. No slave touched them. She doesn't have any male relatives 
to take her in, so she sells them to support her son until he's old 
enough to take up the trade of sailing. Do you think you can eat them?"

Samantha looked faintly embarrassed to discover that someone else had 
noticed there was a problem. She took the basket and nodded. "I'll 

"Thanks," he smiled kindly. "And will you tell O'Neill, if he asks, 
that I've gone back down to the harbor?" She nodded again, only vaguely 
curious as she nibbled the edge of a pastry. "I promise, Major. If I 
have to buy a boat and row us all to Salamis I'll get us out of here 
before the end of the week." Surprised, she gave him a grateful smile 
and took a larger bite. "And no more house slaves," he added, standing 
and putting the stool back where he'd found it. "That I guarantee."

She seemed to relax as her face flooded with relief. "I'd really 
appreciate that," she nodded.

Methos turned to leave, smiling sadly as she finished only one of the 
sweets and put the rest aside. Still, it was better than nothing. He'd 
find something more substantial for her at the harbor and make up 
another nice story she'd believe.

Chapter 23

The port of Nisaea, like any port in any century, was still lively 
after dark. It stood a mile or so below the villages and was almost a 
village in itself. Sailors, fishermen, tradesmen and the occasional 
farmer all congregated in the wine shops and taverns at night. 
Prostitutes sat in their windows, or had a man outside the house 
hawking their talents. Very few wandered the streets actually searching 
for trade. While slaves looking to make extra coin waited near the 
shops with torches to light the way home for those too inebriated to 
manage the task themselves.

Methos passed a clutch of young men bargaining with a pimp, sons of the 
wealthy out for a night of disreputable fun. He smiled to himself as he 
passed them, recalling his own youthful indiscretions. Never quite so 
young as his companions, but sometimes being taken at face value had 
its merits.

He went back to the largest and cleanest of the taverns where the wine, 
like the food, was of better quality -- as were the patrons. Not really 
expecting to find a ship, though he saw quite a few new faces in the 
thin crowd that filled the low planked tables and benches, Methos found 
a place in the corner and signaled to the proprietor to send him a 
meal. A few minutes later a slave brought a plate of fish in a thick 
sauce and bread, placing a jug and a wine cup at his elbow.

He was just finishing when a commotion sounded near the door. Not 
trouble from the laughter surrounding the new arrival, but a welcome 
addition apparently. Methos looked up as the men called out their 

"Hail Gyganes! That shrew of a daughter-in-law drove you out again 
tonight, eh?!"

The newcomer, a stout man of some years with a face so seamed with 
lines and wrinkles that he could have personified the term weather 
beaten nodded sadly.

"My friends," he told them. "It is a wonderful thing to have the wealth 
of five sons, but never let your eldest marry a harpy!"

Even Methos chuckled under his breath at that as a few nodded their 
agreement. He watched in surprise as the tavern owner himself served 
the old man, then said something quietly and pointed to Methos. 
Excusing himself from his friends, Gyganes took his plate and cup and 
came to sit at Methos' table.

"My friend says you are called Methos and are looking for passage to 
the islands," Gyganes stated.

Methos nodded, ignoring the abruptness of his words. The sea created a 
different kind of society. One less apt to be tolerant of the extreme 
politeness more commonly used. "My family and I are traveling south," 
he explained quietly. "Have you a ship?"

"I have five ships," Gyganes said proudly. "One for each son to sail 
for me."

A man of wealth indeed, Methos thought admiringly. It was not easy to 
extract riches from the sea and to have been so successful meant 
Gyganes was a man of some daring.

"Would one of those ships be headed where we are going?"

"And where exactly would that be?"

"To Crete, eventually."

"Crete," Gyganes echoed with a wistful sigh. "I have always wanted to 
go there. No reason. But it would be nice to die having seen the island 
of the Minotaur."

Methos hid his surprise. Whimsical ideas of traveling to far away 
places for the sake of adventure were not widely accepted yet. Not here 

"If you had a ship I could pay you well for the voyage," Methos 

Gyganes laughed. "Now that would be something. To be paid for having a 
foolish dream."

"Why is it foolish?" he asked. "If you can make the journey why not do 

Gyganes sat back and stared at him. "I never thought of it that way. 
And an old man should have some say in the manner of his dying."

"Every man should," Methos agreed.

"Very true," he nodded. "But all my sons are on their ships and my 
eldest grandson, a fine young man, has only a small boat for the short 
trade with Athens."

Methos nodded slowly. The old man seemed willing if he could only be 
persuaded. "If you knew of a ship for sale I would buy it. Then," he 
added as Gyganes stared in amazement. "I would give it to you in 
payment for taking us there."

Methos watched as the numbers clicked inside Gyganes' head. A big ship 
with only passengers and their belongings going to Crete and an empty 
ship on the way back. Room enough in the hold to store all manner of 
trade goods that would fetch a fantastic price at towns along the 
coast. And when it was over his grandson would have his own ship and 
the family wealth would grow.

"You are very eager to go," the old man asked warily. "You have not 
offended the gods or committed some sin for which I might be punished 
by offering you passage?" Like most sailors, Gyganes was obviously 

"No sin or crime taints my family," Methos told him earnestly. "But we 
need to go."

"What will you do on Crete?"

It was not a fair question, but Methos liked Gyganes so he answered it. 
"Eventually, find a ship to Egypt."

The old man's mouth hung open. A whole family traveling to fabled lands 
was unheard of, but Gyganes had his own dreams and Methos was playing 
to them.

Finally, Gyganes nodded. "No one needs to go so far to escape the gods 
if they are guilty of sin. Why you go is not important. But I would 
like to see Crete -- and escape the harpy for a season!"

Methos grinned. "Then you know of someone who wants to sell their 

"No, but I know of a new ship made for an old friend who died last 
winter. The shipwright hasn't had any takers and isn't likely to until 
the harvest trade is over. I was waiting till then to offer for it, but 
the vessel is sea worthy. I'll fetch you in the morning and we will 
visit him together."

"Agreed," Methos nodded and told him where they lived. He stayed a 
little longer just to be sociable then excused himself, saying his 
family expected him. On the way out he remembered Samantha and stopped 
to purchase an extra meal. Maybe she'd be so excited at the thought of 
leaving she wouldn't need a happy little story in order to eat.

With another little basket under his arm Methos left, buying a small 
torch from one of the slaves. He walked the two and a half miles home 
in well under an hour, smiling broadly as he opened the door to find 
Jack, Teal'c and Daniel waiting up for him.

"You'll want to get Major Carter," he told them. "I have good news."

O'Neill shouted for her and Methos rolled his eyes, closing the door 
behind him as he found himself a stool. She came into the front of the 
house wiping sleep from her eyes.

"Yes, Colonel?"

He pointed to Methos and the Immortal nodded. "I've found us a captain 
willing to take us to Crete." 

The others were jubilant as he explained the deal he'd made with 

"And the best part," he finished. "Is that we can move out of here and 
onto the ship as soon as it's ready. Even before he's hired a crew. As 
the owners, no one will question anything we do."

"How long before we can sail?" Daniel asked.

"A week, maybe two to get her fully stocked for a long voyage. We won't 
be able to take everything we need because of spoilage, but we'll be 
able to replace things as we go. And it's a big expenditure," he 
warned. "What with having to buy food for the crew and pay them off, 
but it'll be worth it. This way we're sure to get to Crete before the 
winter storms."

O'Neill nodded. "Good work, Pierson. All right campers, let's get some 

"Major!" Methos called softly as the others headed for their rooms to 
turn in. Carter paused as he got up to bring her the basket of fish and 

"Smells good," she smiled as she took it. "Do I get a clever bedtime 
story with it?"

Methos had the grace to look embarrassed. "Do you need it?" he asked 

She shook her head. "No. But if you're in the mood to talk I could use 
some company while I eat."

Methos grinned. "How about I tell you the tale of The Ship That 
Wouldn't Sink?"

"Is that like The Thing That Wouldn't Die?"

"The what?" he asked putting out all but one lamp to bring with him.

"You know, that old B movie. The Thing That Wouldn't Die."

"Must have missed that one," Methos murmured as he followed Samantha 
down the corridor. "Anyway, what was The Thing That Wouldn't Die?" he 
asked curiously.

"The usual," Carter shrugged. "Some guy in scary monster mask chasing 
after a lot of screaming bikini clad women."

"Now that's not fair," Methos put on his most insulted expression. 
"They weren't screaming because I chased them -- they were just 
delighted to see me!"


There was a light breeze off the water early the next morning as 
Methos, O'Neill and Gyganes walked along the beach. The old man had 
been pleased to meet the family he'd be transporting and even more 
pleased to be invited to break his fast with them. He'd been a little 
surprised at the sight of Teal'c, but Daniel's story of how Uncle 
Teulokos had fallen asleep in a hot spring dedicated to Hephaestus, 
only to awaken and find himself colorfully blessed by the god of the 
forge had deeply impressed the man. The added inference that they had 
visited the Oracle at Delphi and been told to go to Egypt for reasons 
unknown only excited Gyganes' imagination further. They were on a quest 
like the great heroes of old and he would be blessed for helping them. 
Just to be certain, of course, he would sacrifice an unblemished goat 
to Poseidon and have the entrails read. But he didn't think the god of 
the sea had ever been angry with Hephaestus, so there should be no 
trouble there.

They reached the shipyard, primitive by modern standards, but a good 
sized factory by ancient ones where boats from large to small were 
built by skilled craftsmen. There were no slips or docks, just an old 
house where the master ship builder lived and his works in progress 
scattered over the beach. Gyganes led them to Metosthenes, whose family 
had been building ships for more than a century. With little in the way 
of formal greetings they headed over to the ship Gyganes' late friend 
had intended to purchase. Methos stood back saying nothing as he walked 
around the vessel, impressed by the quality of the workmanship.

Some thirty feet in length and approximately ten feet wide, it was 
fairly typical of most Greek ships that would be built over the next 
millennia. It might displace some fourteen tons of water and hold 
perhaps twenty tons of goods or stones as ballast weight. There were 
small decks both fore and aft, and a narrow walkway ran to either side 
above an open hold with rails along most of the length. One giant oar 
steered the ship and of course, there was a single mast for the large 
square sail that would be raised.

"I'll want modifications," O'Neill whispered as Methos paused to 
consider what kind of offer he'd make.

"What sort of modifications?" he asked, confused.

O'Neill looked at Methos as if he'd suddenly gone stupid. "You know, 
lifeboats, extra rigging above the hold, extended decks, maybe a nice 
little cabin with a wet bar and Jacuzzi for Carter, a fishing chair for 

Methos nodded slowly. Jack was right. They were going to have to live 
on this thing for nearly three months and the Mediterranean was a 
dangerous ocean. 

"Gyganes," he called, waving the captain over. "What would you say if 
we wanted most of the hold covered over with sturdy planking? Then, for 
the sake of my sister, built a small house atop it."

The old man look surprised, but nodded. "If it did not interfere with 
the running of the ship or its sea worthiness I would have nothing to 
say, would I?"

Methos smiled. "It would not. We'd leave openings near the prow and 
stern giving access to the hold. And there would be plenty of room for 
the crew."

Gyganes shrugged. "Draw a picture for Metosthenes and I am sure he will 
do his best."

"Not necessary," Methos explained. "Uncle Teulokos has told us what to 
do and we are fair hands at building ourselves."

Gyganes appeared astonished, but nodded emphatically. "If the god says 
this is how it must be done, then so it must be. Whatever help I can 
offer, it is yours."

Methos smiled gratefully. Now they would have free reign to do as they 
pleased. And once the story got around the villagers wouldn't even 
dream of interfering. He only wished he could have done this before, 
but coming into any town claiming religious favor was a good way to get 
one killed. Subtlety in presentation was everything.

Methos glanced at O'Neill, who nodded. This way, doing all the work 
themselves, they would also be able to reinforce the ship using modern 
techniques and no one could say anything. He went over to Metosthenes, 
bargaining hard for the ship and extra materials. The builder was 
clever, but had no head for business and Methos felt no pity when he 
raked him over the coals. Three small row boats and a ton of extra 
lumber were added to the bill as well as a promise allowing them to 
live and work on his beach for as long as they needed and all for just 
a few more pieces of bronze. When Metosthenes left, counting himself 
lucky, Methos turned to Jack and caught Gyganes smiling. Business sense 
was not much appreciated among the Greeks yet. The economy of investing 
in the future or hedging ones bets almost completely unknown.

"A fine son you have there, Yanos," the old man said proudly. "He 
speaks well for his family."

O'Neill raised an eyebrow. The only familial designations they'd given 
Gyganes so far were for Teal'c and Carter. For all the old man knew, 
Methos and Daniel could have been his brothers. On the other hand, this 
could make things interesting.

"Yes, he's a good boy," Jack agreed enthusiastically, reaching out to 
hug Methos shoulders and ruffle his hair mercilessly. "Sometimes he's a 
handful, but I think I'll keep him."

"Thank you, Father," Methos gritted as O'Neill wetly kissed his 
forehead and the old man grinned. 

"Now, if you'll excuse us, Gyganes," the colonel said. "I need to 
inform the rest of the family to begin packing. Come on, son," he added 
expansively, leading Methos away by the back of the neck. "I'll buy you 
some candy."

Chapter 24

Methos stared in dismay as O'Neill ladled another helping of fish onto 
his platter, but with Gyganes and his crew joining them for dinner 
there was really nothing he could do to stop him. It had taken nearly 
two weeks to make the necessary alterations to the ship, boiling olive 
oil down to make pitch, redesigning the hold to carry the horses and 
donkey which O'Neill had decided they should keep as well, then 
building the center deck and cabin. 

"Go on, son, eat hearty," the colonel grinned. "You're mother always 
said you were too thin."

Silently, the ancient Immortal vowed that if it was the last thing he 
did he'd get Jack for this.

Daniel gave him a wide smile as Methos savagely bit the head off his 
fish and spat it into the fire.

"Tough being the baby of the family, isn't it?" the young archaeologist 
snickered. Beside him, Carter's shoulders shook with silent laughter.

"Apparently, our fearless leader has developed a deep atavistic need to 
torment really old people," Methos muttered angrily, picking absently 
at the unwanted fish. "And you two infants aren't far behind."

"It's not his fault Gyganes made an assumption," Carter whispered.

"Well, he could have corrected him," Methos retorted. "We're unmarried, 
remember? And while it might be good for your ego to be considered a 
child in public, mine isn't doing handstands over it."

"Something wrong, kids?" O'Neill asked across the fire. He and Gyganes 
had been discussing the joys of fishing.

"Nothing, Father," Samantha responded cheerfully. "Methos was just 

The Immortal groaned silently. He should never have suggested the 
family motif. On second thought, he probably should never have signed 
those damned documents at the SGC.

"Fussing, is he?" O'Neill nodded thoughtfully, getting up. "Come on, 
son. Let's take a walk."

With a heartfelt sigh at the absurdity of it all, Methos put down his 
plate and followed Jack along the beach. The moon was going down now 
and as soon as the tide turned they would be leaving. Gyganes had been 
very impressed with their modifications and with a crew of four hand-
picked men the old captain knew and trusted, Methos felt they were in 
good hands.

O'Neill paused at the edge of the water staring out toward Salamis. 
"There a problem, Methos?"

The Immortal thought for a moment then shook his head. It wasn't a 
problem, he realized, just an annoyance. "No," he answered quietly. 

O'Neill nodded. "Because if there is, I think we need to talk about 

"I don't need a father-son lecture," Methos sneered. "It's 

The colonel gave him a sardonic smile. "That's generally what family 
is. Irritating."

"Lest you forget, Yanos," Methos pointed out stonily. "We are not a 

"No, we're not," O'Neill agreed. "We're more than that. We're a team. 
Ever been part of a team, Methos?"

"Of course I have!" Methos snapped.

"No, I don't think so," the colonel said with a slow shake of his head. 
"You've been a member of a team and a team player, but I don't think 
you've ever been part of a team."

"Oh really?" the Immortal began snidely.

"Did I ever tell you," O'Neill interrupted, clearly ignoring Methos' 
attempt to deny the accusation. "That way back when I went to the 
Academy? You know, Officers' School. I learned a lot of fancy words 
there -- and a lot of weird head shrinker shit. Mostly about team 
building and group dynamics. But what it all boiled down to was one 
single word that pretty much said it all. Enmeshment. Know what that 

"I've heard the word," Methos agreed cautiously.

"Yeah, but have you ever felt it? Been enmeshed in a group so deeply 
you forgot where they ended and you began?"

Methos remained silent, not sure where O'Neill was going with this. 
He'd certainly forgotten who he was on occasion. Lost himself in a 
persona so completely that he'd had to stop for a moment and remember 
that he was not who he pretended to be.

"What are you trying to say?" he finally asked.

"I'm saying that you aren't Adam Pierson anymore. That you haven't been 
Adam Pierson for a long time. Maybe since that first trip to Delphi. 
Pierson might have left camp, but Methos came back. And somewhere along 
the way home he forgot to pick a new identity to hide behind."

"I don't--" 

Methos paused as he started to speak. He'd been about to say he didn't 
hide behind his personas, simply showed only the aspects of himself he 
felt others could accept. But something stopped him. What O'Neill said 
felt right and that surprised him.

"You do hide," O'Neill offered gently. "You hide so well you even hid 
the fact that you were hiding from yourself. Which is understandable," 
he nodded. "I'd guess there aren't many people willing to accept who 
you are and what you've been all at the same time. And then you found 
us," Jack grinned wryly. "Think you're bad? Think again," he added 
bitterly. "I've killed a hundred thousand to your measly ten. Teal'c's 
slaughtered millions and enslaved even more."

"So we're none of us good guys," Methos frowned. "Make your point."

"My point is, that for the first time in five thousand years Methos 
doesn't have to hide. And for someone whose life has been one long 
covert operation that's a scary thought. You've become enmeshed in a 
way you never expected. It's easy to care about someone, then mourn 
their loss. But it hurts like hell when they care just as much about 
you and you can't hold onto them. So you push them away. You make it 
easy on yourself. Can't blame you really," he sighed. "I'd probably do 
the same. But then, I'd lose so much. Sometimes," O'Neill added, 
finally looking Methos in the eye, "living in the moment and suffering 
the consequences is the only thing we really have time for."

Methos sat heavily on the sand as O'Neill walked away. Sometimes he 
really hated it when the children were right. He did push people away. 
Mortals. Immortals. It didn't matter. None could even begin to fathom 
who he was or what he'd been. And he'd felt that loss O'Neill spoke of, 
knowing he could never truly be himself with anyone. Most recently, 
he'd felt it with the Highlander. 

MacLeod, who'd seen only Adam Pierson -- not Methos, the survivor. 
Somehow imagining that the ancient Immortal had existed throughout his 
life as some sort of wandering scholar -- not the warrior he would have 
had to have been. But that had been easier for the Scot to accept, so 
that was who Methos had been. And yet, the scholar was a part of him. 
Well, one aspect at least. So, he'd shown only that part of himself, 
knowing MacLeod could never accept the whole. No one, he suddenly 
realized, ever had. In all his long life he'd never once completely 
shown himself to anyone, not even the Horsemen had seen the buried 
pieces of the puzzle he was.

And now? Who was he playing at?

Methos thought hard, cataloging his past lives and personas but 
couldn't put a name to this act. Which had to mean it wasn't. And the 
others had seen that before he'd even realized it was showing. More 
importantly, they obviously liked what they saw.

Now that shocked him. And O'Neill had been right. It scared the hell 
out of him more than he wanted to admit. To know and be known was 
dangerous. It meant...enmeshment. His life entangled with other lives 
that meant as much to him as his own. He'd have to live with their 
deaths in a way that not even Alexa's loss or Joe's eventual demise 
could affect him. And some part of him had known it all along. He was 
mourning them even now. Pushing them away to keep himself safely 
cocooned against the loss. They were all dying and he could feel the 
pain of it even as he sat and stared up at the void of the stars.

But that's what Jack had meant when he'd talked about the consequences 
of living one's life. Living in the now without anticipating the 
future. They teased him because they liked him, and he both loved and 
hated them for it. Hated the fact that they'd die and he could do 
nothing to stop it. Hated the fact that he'd go on and maybe never 
share that wonderful sense of totally belonging with anyone again. It 
hurt so bad he wanted to rail against the curse of his Immortality, 
instead of seeing it as the blessing he'd always thought it was.

And he loved them because they saw him. A terrifying concept. He was 
known. But instead of running, some part of him wanted to stay and let 
it all hang out. Be the warrior and the scholar. The complex, many-
faceted individual he was. Soak up their approval and revel in it. But 
to do that, he'd have to live in the moment. Accept the consequences of 
living life, instead of peeking through a tiny tear in the fabric of 
the tent wall. Most of all, he'd have to stop mourning them before they 
were gone and get on with the business of sharing the same space and 
time. They weren't walking corpses -- and he wasn't either.

Distantly, Methos heard a voice call out from the fire that the tide 
was turning. Indeed it was, he thought with a hint of self-mockery. It 
was time to go. And time to live, however briefly, with the strange 
little family the fates had thrown his way. Because, if he really 
thought about it, that was all he really had time for.

Chapter 25

With each passing day Gyganes and his crew grew more familiar with the 
strange customs of their passengers. They did not interfere, merely 
watched, bemused, as Yanos fished from a chair nailed to the stern, or 
Danaeus made scratches in the thing he called a book. Samantas also 
drew strange pictures, but on a slate, making her own scratch marks 
which she often discussed with Danaeus. And while they were thus 
occupied, Uncle Teulokos fashioned new toys to amuse his favorite 
nephew, Methos, who spent an inordinate amount of time avoiding his 
family and eagerly helping the crew.

As was the way of sailing in these days, the ship kept within sight of 
land whenever possible, stopping at islands large and small along the 
way to take on water, fresh food and fruit. At night, and again when 
possible, they would pause in their journey, pulling into one of the 
thousands of tiny bays and inlets that dotted the coast. It gave Methos 
a chance to exercise the horses and hunt to supplement their food, 
though many of the places they stayed were no more than rocky atolls 
with a surplus of birds. 

Weeks then months passed in this way as their slow journey south 
continued. Sometimes the winds were good. Sometimes there were days 
when they barely moved at all. Storms came and went slowing their 
progress even further as they made for land and anchored themselves 
tight each time. And it was mid-September when they finally came within 
weeks of their goal...


I really do hate the sea, Methos thought sickly, lurching forward as 
the ship rolled drunkenly in another swell. He made it to the rail, 
bracing himself as he breathed in the cool clean air. It wasn't so much 
the weather that was bothering him, he knew, but the stench slowly 
creeping up into the cabin from the hold. They'd tried their best to 
keep it sanitary, but try as they might with the ship so unsettled the 
muck strewn floor was impossible to clean -- not without first getting 
the animals off -- and that wasn't likely to happen for a while.

"Good morning, son!" O'Neill called ebulliently as he strolled around 
the deck, ignoring the fine mist of rain. The colonel seemed to 
positively thrive in bad weather.

Methos closed his eyes, sighing in despair. He really didn't want to 
deal with this right now. "Morning," he muttered sullenly.

"You look awful!" O'Neill commented as he came up beside the Immortal.

"I'm fine," Methos lied. "Just had a bad night." The last thing he 
needed was to be fussed at by the others. They were still having way 
too much fun with the baby brother routine, though he did rather like 
all the amusing little toys Teal'c made to while away the hours of 
boredom aboard ship. He just enjoyed baiting the others with frowns and 
snide remarks ever so much more.

"Poor kid," O'Neill told him sympathetically. "Why don't you go check 
on your pets then take a little nap? Looks like we're going to be here 
a while."

The mere mention of the animals made Methos grip the rail until his 
knuckles turned white, biting his lip to keep the nausea under control. 
"Sure," he nodded, turning away and completely missing O'Neill's look 
of concern when he didn't come back with a smart ass remark. 

He headed for the trap door that led to the hold. He could do this, 
Methos told himself firmly. This was the Mediterranean, not the 
Atlantic. He wasn't in a row boat covered in filth and excrement with a 
handful of chanting Irish monks on his way to Iceland. Horse dung 
smelled different.

Oh, shit! he thought desperately as he opened the door and the hot, 
fetid air from below hit him. Not different enough, apparently. Methos 
was at the rail heaving painfully before he even realized he was 
moving. Behind him, O'Neill was suddenly holding his shoulders and 
rubbing his back in slow comforting circles which eased the knotted 
muscles even as he tensed for another bout. A few minutes later he went 
limp, not caring when O'Neill slowly led him back to the cabin and 
gently helped him to a bed roll.

"We got any Dramamine?" the colonel asked quietly and Samantha nodded, 
going to fetch the med kit.

"I'm not sea sick," Methos whispered, wiping his face with a damp rag 
someone handed him.

"Could have fooled me," O'Neill muttered.

"Well, not very," he admitted tiredly as the boat rose and fell, 
turning his stomach. "It's a combination. The sea and the smell from 
below. Reminds me of a bad trip I once took."

Daniel brought water as Samantha handed O'Neill the little foil packet 
of pills. 

"Whatever it is," the colonel told him. "You're down for the count. 
Take these."

"I'll be fine," Methos said, the very idea of ingesting anything making 
him wince. "Just don't start singing hymns in Latin," he joked weakly.

"Latin?" Daniel asked, confused.

"Went with the bad trip," Methos sighed, then briefly explained the 

"I could have lived without that fascinating bit of trivia," O'Neill 
grimaced. "Now I need Dramamine."

Methos chuckled, stopping abruptly as he tried to suppress another bout 
of dry heaving when the ship rolled and pitched.

"Take the pills," Samantha told him kindly. "They really do help."

He suddenly caught a strong whiff of animal scent and groaned. Nothing 
could be worse than this, he thought, retching softly as he took the 
damn things then choked them down with water. A while later, as Methos 
felt the worst of the illness passing, he finally drifted off to sleep. 

Nearby, the others watched with concern as the wind rose and the ship 
rocked strongly. O'Neill shook his head and gently tossed a blanket 
over him.

"A sea sick Immortal. Who'd a thunk?" he muttered.

"Sounds like more of a psychological problem," Carter sighed

"Yeah, well. Who cares," O'Neill shrugged. "Just keep him sedated until 
the weather clears. We need him alert and well rested."

"Yes, sir," she agreed. It would put a dent in the med kit, especially 
if he needed more for the rest of the journey to Egypt. But if there 
was one thing aviators knew, it was how to treat nausea. If necessary, 
she'd corner Methos and make him give her a recipe for whatever ancient 
sea sickness potions he knew. And given what lay ahead, they were going 
to need it sooner or later anyway.

Chapter 26

The sound of shouting on deck filtered easily through the thin walls of 
the cabin. Frightened, angry cries punctuated by thunder, lightening 
and the ever present rocking of the ship. Methos was alone in the 
cabin, still groggy and weak from the drugs, but he knew danger when he 
heard it. Ignoring his body's protest, Methos hurriedly retrieved his 
sword, staggering outside just in time to see the last of the crew 
leaping over the rails. The cold air seemed to clear his head and he 
moved forward against the storm, catching sight of another figure 
outlined against night.

"What the hell happened?!" he shouted as he caught Samantha, holding 
her against the rail as another wave pummeled the ship.

"Don't know!" she called against the roar of the wind and water. 
"Something set them off. They started screaming about Poseidon and 
being cursed. Gyganes tried to calm them and one of them knocked him 
down! He's hurt, but Teal'c and Daniel are with him!"

Damn it! Methos thought angrily. He should have known better than to 
allow himself to be drugged!. A few days in a storm like this would 
have been enough to worry most seamen in this day and age. If even one 
mistook a wave for a sea monster the rest would have panicked and 
followed along. Wouldn't have mattered that their greatest safety lay 
in staying put, they'd be swimming for land in a minute.

"Get inside!" he told her as Daniel and Teal'c appeared carrying the 
injured captain. "See what you can do for him!"

"You go!" she shouted back. "He needs a doctor and I need to help 
Colonel O'Neill secure the ship!"

She was right, Methos realized and nodded. The rough sea was dragging 
them closer to the rocky shoreline and O'Neill was probably trying to 
get another anchor over the side. 

"Wait!" he called as she turned and started to make her way toward the 
stern. With the edge of his sword he cut the hem of her chiton and 
ripped away the bottom half of it so she wouldn't trip, leaving it as 
short as the sailors' had been. "Do the same for the others! Screw 
propriety! We're running this ship!"

She grinned and went to help O'Neill as he and the others got Gyganes 
into the cabin. Teal'c left immediately while Daniel helped him find 
the med kit. Then he too disappeared, leaving Methos to tend to the 
injured man alone.

It was hours later when the storm finally began to subside and O'Neill, 
Carter and Daniel finally reappeared looking utterly exhausted. They 
were soaked and chilled to the bone, but Methos had nothing to offer 
except dry blankets and water. All their stores were down below and 
inaccessible at the moment.

"How's Gyga--" O'Neill began then stopped as he saw the blanket covered 

"He died a few minutes ago," Methos said quietly. "Acute head trauma. 
There was nothing anyone could have done."

O'Neill nodded and sank down against the wall.

"The ship okay?" Methos asked, slowly putting away the medical 

"We've got her stabilized," Carter responded, moving behind the wooden 
partition that served as her bedroom and a dressing area. "Teal'c's 
keeping an eye on things."

Methos nodded. "If you guys are okay on your own for a bit, I'll go 
down below. I need to check the animals. Get some food out of the 

"I'll do it," Daniel said tiredly, taking a deep breath as he turned 
toward the door.

Methos gave him a grateful smile. "Thanks."

"So, what next?" Carter asked as she came out dressed in her old 

No need to hide anymore, Methos realized with a shock, glancing at 
Gyganes' still form. A pity, he thought sadly. He'd liked the old man 
with his whimsical dreams and notions. The others were likely dead as 
well. Not many sailors learned to swim. It was thought impudent and a 
temptation to the gods to wash them overboard at the first big swell.

"First we bury our dead," O'Neill said as he rose stiffly and went 
behind the partition to change. "Then we sail to Crete."

"Not at sea," Methos said quietly, shaking his head. "He'd have been 
afraid of that."

Samantha gave him a curious glance. 

"If the fish eat him, his soul won't go down to Hades," Methos 
explained. "There should be another island about thirty miles south. 
It's where we were headed before we dropped anchor here. The village is 
small, but it'll have a cemetery and we can leave his name with some of 
the sailors there. They'll pass it on to any ship headed toward Megara. 
Word of mouth will eventually reach the family. They won't have 
payment," he shrugged. "But they'll have that comfort at least."

"What about the others?" Carter asked. "They might have--"

"They can rot for all I care!" Methos snarled, shoving the med kit back 
into her pack. "They didn't have to hit him. He was an old man. He 
couldn't have stopped them from jumping."

O'Neill said nothing as he stepped from behind the screen and the major 
stared hopefully at him. Hoping for what, Methos didn't know. Probably 
some grand humanitarian gesture more in keeping with their modern 
sensibilities. If so, she was disappointed. 

"We head for the island," O'Neill ordered curtly, shrugging into his 
jacket. "And bury the old guy proper. We can restock if we need to and 
go from there."

Methos nodded, refusing to look at Carter. He'd hire the mourners and 
see to it that the funeral procession was befitting a man of Gyganes' 
wealth and status. He could even, Methos thought, feeling his spirits 
lift a little, perform the burial rite himself. It was usually left to 
the nearest male relative of the deceased, but he didn't think Gyganes 
would mind. It was after all, the least he could do -- especially after 
taking such unfair advantage of the man.

Chapter 27

"Okay, campers, Admiral O'Neill is now in charge!" Jack shouted, 
striding happily across the deck giving orders. "Up that anchor. Unfurl 
that sail. And no sea chanteys!" he added as the team moved to take 
their positions. "I hate those. Everyone named Jack has a peg leg, an 
eye patch and swigs rum like a sponge."

Methos laughed. The day was bright and beautiful and not even Jack's 
taciturn command style could put a damper on his good spirits. After 
six days in port the hold was clean and they were fully stocked with 
enough food and water to carry them all the way to Crete. And more to 
the point, without the pretense of having to stop for fresh water, 
since they could now purify what they had at will. Or the need to 
anchor every night for fear of sea monsters and rocks, they could set 
sail for deep water and make the great island in less than two weeks.

"You look happy," O'Neill said as he joined the Immortal beside the 

"I am," Methos smiled. "I like Crete. Of all the islands, it's my 

"It's nice," O'Neill said blandly. "Good beaches, okay fishing. A 
little touristy, but nice.

"You're thinking of modern Crete," Methos grinned. "Wait till you see 
it now. It used to be better when the Minoans had it all, but where 
we're going... Let's just say it's the last bastion of civilization 
left on the island."

"You're the tour guide," O'Neill shrugged. "But none of that two for 
one Club Med shit, Pierson. I'm paying top dollar for this."

"Top dollar it is," Methos grinned. "And I know just the right hotel," 
he murmured to himself softly as O'Neill went to check the riggings. 
"The Kronos Isn't Inn..."


The breeze was good and the sea calm as they approached the eastern tip 
of the island. They were too far out to be spotted, but through their 
binoculars they could see at least a dozen ships in the distance.

"Looks busy," Carter said as she put away her field glasses and went 
back to cleaning fish.

"It is," Methos agreed, giving her a hand. They were anchored here 
until nightfall when they'd land in a quiet cove he knew of and go 
ashore. "That's Zakoros. One of the best harbors on the island. Nicely 
sheltered from the winds off the cape. It used to be one of the four 
great administrative centers on Crete. Had it's own palace, too. Not 
quite as big as Knossos or Phaistos, but it controlled all the eastern 
trade with Egypt and the Levant. To a certain extent it still does, 
even without the central organization of the palace."

The major tossed another fish onto a nearby platter. "It'll be nice to 
be on land again," she commented, glancing toward the high forested 
peaks of the island.

Methos only smiled in agreement. The rest of the trip had been 
relatively easy with only one brief squall to mar their passage. And 
thankfully, no need for O'Neill to get out the Dramamine.

"When my father was stationed in Athens I visited here," she went on 
offhandedly. "One of the tour books said that Minoan women were pretty 
much treated as equals."

"They were," Methos nodded, calming her unspoken fears. No one wanted a 
repeat of what had happened in Megara. "And in Zakoros that's still 
pretty much the case. Not a lot of Dorian influence in this area yet. 
It's always been pretty inaccessible from the rest of Crete. Like 
Egypt, women have property rights, own businesses, bring lawsuits -- 
and since god is a woman here they control the religious hierarchy as 
well. In the old days, when the palaces still stood," he smiled 
wistfully. "They could bull jump and box with the best of 'em. It'll 
change later," Methos added with a sigh. "But right now, this part of 
the island is still very much a Minoan society."

"That's good to hear," Samantha nodded distractedly. "And the, 
uh...native costume?" she inquired delicately.

Methos chuckled. "Those wall paintings are deceiving, Major. Except, of 
course, for the men," he amended with a wicked grin. "We really did run 
around in mini skirts and not much else. The only women who went around 
truly bare breasted were the priestesses. Unless it was a festival day, 
of course, then all the unmarried women went bare."

"And now?"

Methos shrugged. "That's up to you. We won't be staying in the city. 
So, you can do what you like. The local girls still keep the old ways 
of course. But with more strangers coming into town they've learned not 
to go into the foreign quarter without an escort. A shame too, because 
Minoan women were always quite open and forthright when they spoke to 
men. I rather liked that about them. As I recall," he added 
thoughtfully, gutting one last fish and tossing it onto the pile. "Four 
of my wives were Minoan."

"You were married?" Samantha asked, very much surprised as Methos 
grabbed the tray and stood. "When you were a Horseman?"

"Yes, I was married," Methos shrugged as Carter got to her feet and 
followed. "You know, we weren't always out wreaking havoc on the 
countryside. A couple of generations on the road and we'd settle down 
for a bit, wait until the stories passed into legend then go back out 
in a couple more. Pretty scary when your granddad tells you the tale of 
the Four Horsemen when you're a kid and you wake up one morning to see 
them galloping over the ridge. Helps too," he added sardonically. "If 
you spread the joy across a couple of continents -- just so the 
villagers don't get the idea to band together and finish you off."

"And in between all this, you just...went on vacation? Found a pretty 
girl and got married? 

"That about sums it up," Methos said as they joined the others, who 
were sorting through what stores they would be taking with them. 

"Sums what up?" O'Neill asked as he neatly tied a bed roll.

"The story of how I thrived and wived," Methos said, setting the fish 
aside as he knelt to pull out a baking dish.

"Wived?" O'Neill asked curiously. 

"You never said you were married," Daniel added.

Methos rolled his eyes in disgust and stood. "Is everyone here? Where's 

He looked around as the big Jaffa poked his head in the cabin door, 
hearing his name called. 

"Good. Get in here. Because what I'm about to say is of the utmost 
importance. Absolutely necessary information without which you might 
all come to a bad end and have no one but yourselves to blame. Everyone 

They nodded, trying not to laugh as Methos frowned, hands on hips and 
sternly told them the truth. 

"Since this is obviously information none of you can live without, and 
for your sublime edification, let it be known that I have been married 
a grand total of sixty-eight times -- not counting slaves and 
concubines. Are we happy now? Can you at last live with yourselves 
knowing this ultimate revelation?!"

Teal'c merely raised a disinterested brow and left as Daniel nodded 
confusedly, no doubt averaging out the number of wives needed per 
century. Carter merely ducked her head, refusing to laugh aloud.

"That wasn't like, you know, all at once?" O'Neill asked dubiously.

Methos closed his eyes briefly and shook his head. "No, Jack. The most 
I've ever had to handle at once was in China. Eight wives, eleven 
concubines. All of them gifts I might add. Nearly drove me insane."

O'Neill frowned, looking from Methos to Daniel and back. "Am I doing 
something wrong? What is it? The geek always gets the girl?"

Daniel nodded, trying not to laugh. "Sorry, Jack. He who has the 
sharpest pencil rules."

Chapter 28

The tiny inlet above the small bay was completely isolated, shielded by 
trees reaching nearly to the water's edge. They beached the ship using 
the horses and the donkey to drag her into the tree line, carefully 
camouflaging the hull with palm fronds and sand. Though they had no 
plans to come back here, ever cautious, they all agreed that sinking 
her might turn out to be a mistake. Then, once again dressed in their 
ancient world costumes, they loaded their few possessions onto the 
donkey and set out.

Methos led the way up through the trees toward the narrow gorge that 
marked the steep road to the city above.

"This is the Ravine of the Dead, isn't it?" Daniel asked as they 
reached the wide path that ran beside it.

"The what?!" Jack exclaimed.

"It's just an old Minoan burial ground," Methos explained soothingly, 
mounting his horse then giving Carter a hand up behind him. Teal'c did 
the same for Daniel then Methos started them moving, attaching the 
donkey's lead to his saddle. 

"The gorge is chock full of sacred caves, so this is where the locals 
come to bury their dead."

"Cool," O'Neill muttered, glancing over the edge toward the rocky 
ground below. "So," he asked. "How far are we going this time? I 
noticed you didn't pack a lunch."

"About twenty miles inland. We should be there by morning. Kronos has a 
little palace tucked into one of the hillsides."

"Kronos?" Daniel asked nervously. "The other Horseman?"

"The very same," Methos nodded.

"Which one was he, by the way?" O'Neill queried.

"Kronos was Hell," Methos grimaced. "Always dogging my heels. Did I 
ever tell you he was Minoan?" he asked, deftly changing the subject. 
"The son of a king, actually."

"Kronos was a prince!" Samantha's eyes grew wide with surprise.

Methos smiled wryly. "Raised in the belief that he had the right to 
exert his power over anyone simply because he was Kronos."

"But if he was a foundling...?" she asked.

"His mother was a minor wife to one of the Minos line in Knossos," 
Methos explained. "With infant mortality rates so high, adoption was a 
very common practice even in royal households. If she couldn't conceive 
and found a baby it would have been seen as a gift from the Mother 
Goddess. The king wouldn't have objected if she raised him. And he'd 
have been just as pleased because it pleased her. Trust me, when you 
have multiple wives and concubines keeping all of them happy at once is 
a logistical nightmare."

"So, what happened?" Daniel asked as the road curved around a large 
outcropping of rock. "I mean, why did he become Hades?"

"Ah, well, that's his whole story, isn't it?" Methos sighed. "Child of 
privilege gets a taste for battle. Likes the fear and terror that comes 
from dominating your enemy. Put him in a suit and give him a seat on 
the stock exchange and he would have lived for the deal. Instead, like 
all the boys he went out with the men folk and raided the Karians, the 
tribes who originally inhabited the Cyclades. They were considered 
pirates hereabouts. Eventually, he ended up dead on one of those 
islands. They buried him with all the honors and left him there. When 
he finally got back -- no doubt expecting the welcome of a man gifted 
by the Goddess -- they promptly rejected him. As you might imagine, 
Kronos didn't take it very well."

"Everyone was fair game after that," O'Neill nodded slowly.

"Exactly," Methos agreed. "He was pretty pissed, but he headed for Asia 
Minor where the Minoans had a few trading colonies. We met a few 
centuries later at Troy. He'd picked up Silas somewhere along the way, 
and Caspian showed up later with a contingent of mercenaries. After the 
Greeks sacked our employers we decided to head out together."

"You fought on the Trojan side?" Daniel asked, a little surprised.

Methos chuckled softly. "They paid better. And besides, the Greeks 
weren't really that upset about Helen. I mean, she was okay to look at 
-- sharp as a tack, too, which was her best feature, in my opinion -- 
but not the kind of woman you'd go to war over. Menalaus was just 
miffed. Because while Paris was there to tell him Troy was reneging on 
full payment for several shiploads of wool, and in addition, seizing 
the ships that carried it for failure to provide a quality item, he 
also seduced Helen -- then ran off with her and the royal jewels. One 
or the other the old man could have stood. But both at the same time?" 
Methos shook his head. "And Troy had been getting over on the Greeks 
for the longest time. Sometimes they'd pay, sometimes they wouldn't -- 
depending on whether they thought there'd be any real consequences if 
they didn't. Usually there weren't. A deal gone sour for one king would 
have delighted the others, but running off with his wife -- and her 
dowry -- that was just too much. It could as easily have been them. The 
Trojans made the ultimate mistake," he commented sagely. "They gave 
their enemies a chance to think -- and the one good reason they needed 
to put aside their differences and join forces."

"So what does all this have to do with Kronos?" O'Neill asked 

"Nothing," Methos shrugged. "Except that after ten years of raiding the 
Egyptian coast with the rest of the Greek and Trojan hooligans, who had 
a ship or two and decided to have a little more fun before going home 
to the wife and kids, he invited the three of us here. That was during 
the first palace period. I'd been to Crete before, but not in style," 
he sighed. "Kronos never went back to Knossos, but when we got here he 
commissioned a house to be built. Thirty rooms on a hillside in 
Phaistos -- Knossos' long time rival and most hated enemy," he added 
with a grin. "Very grand and ornate. We hung for a while, then hit the 
road as the Horsemen. About a century later, after the first big quake, 
the Myceneans showed up, but Kronos eventually came back and rebuilt. 
When the volcano in Akritiri blew we were on the mainland in Greece. 
There wasn't much left after that, but Kronos was adamant about keeping 
a house here. Said not even the gods could drive him out of his home. 
But he did take my advice and moved his little project to a more secure 
location before the Dorians invaded as we all knew they would. It's up 
there," Methos pointed to the low foot hills of the mountains just 
beyond the city. "The only true Minoan palace left on the entire 

"Fantastic," Daniel murmured, staring off into the distance.

"And you're sure he isn't going to show up anytime soon?" O'Neill asked 

"Not a chance," Methos told him smugly. "We just left -- relatively 
speaking. The Horsemen won't be coming back this way for at least 
another century." 

He didn't bother to mention what the Horsemen would be doing in all 
that time. Not that it mattered anyway, Methos imagined. He'd thought 
himself very clever in those days. For centuries they'd simply been 
known as The Horsemen. In the next hundred years, by listening for news 
of trouble in various regions he'd lead them into hot spots and earn 
them the appellation 'Harbingers of the Apocalypse'. How many wars 
they'd directly or indirectly caused Methos didn't know, but he guessed 
the number was pretty high. By causing turmoil in already politically 
unstable areas, whether their actions were attributed to the enemy or 
considered an omen that war was inevitable, they'd invariably softened 
up the countryside for whatever army eventually swept through. Armies 
they themselves would later join as mercenaries and thereby share in 
the looting of the cities as well. 

Of course, he'd never dreamed they were the actual cause of all those 
wars. Mortals battled each other regardless, same as Immortals. But in 
hindsight, he could see that many of those conflicts might have been 
averted by whatever negotiations were taking place, or smaller 
localized military actions. If not for their presence and the 
heightened fear and anger it caused among the participants, the greater 
conquests of entire nations might never have occurred. But such was 
life and the arrogance of youth, Methos thought regretfully.

They rode in silence after that. Well rested from their sea journey, 
the horses kept up a good pace, stepping sure footed around rocks and 
other obstacles that might impede their movement. By dawn they had long 
since passed the old ruins of Zakoros palace, which like all the other 
Minoan strongholds on the island would eventually disappear into 
history. Unlike their predecessors, the Myceneans, the Dorians had no 
use for great cities. Not yet, anyway. Their descendants would one day 
build up Athens, Corinth and the other great centers of culture on the 
mainland. But here, most of that was now forever lost. As the sun 
touched the high peaks further inland, Methos led the little group into 
a narrow ravine alongside a sheer cliff. It wound downward, curving as 
they neared the bottom. Turning sharply, Methos seemed to disappear 
into the cliff face and the others followed, passing briefly through a 
cramped tunnel into a tiny clearing. Cut into the stone on this side of 
the cliff were a series of steps winding upward until they reached a 
spur on the side of the mountain facing the sea. Set back against the 
cliff wall stood a three story mansion wrapped in colonnaded porticos 
and verandahs.

"Wow," Samantha breathed.

"Think you used enough red?" O'Neill asked, staring at the brightly 
painted edifice.

"It's what they used," Daniel pointed out. "A good non-reflective shade 
that helps keep the house cool."

"Actually, we just liked the color," Methos told them blandly.

"Whatever," Jack muttered. "So, where is everybody? No caretaker?"

Methos shook his head as he led them along the cobble stone path past 
landscaped trees and gardens filled with late summer blooms. "Kronos 
would buy slaves whenever we got here, then sell them on the mainland, 
Egypt or Greece, whenever we left. No one knows about this place and 
the angle's all wrong for anyone looking up to see the house. The 
further out you get, it just blends into the mountain."

"How did you find it?" Samantha asked as he took them around the side 
of the house to the stables.

"I followed a goat," Methos grinned. "They're wild around here. Of 
course, we cut the steps to make it easy to transport all the 
materials. The goats were just fine without them."

They took some time to get the animals settled then Methos led them 
back around to the main entrance.

"Most of the place stayed unused even when we were here," he told them, 
opening the front door to reveal a long colonnaded courtyard just past 
the entry hall. "I think Kronos used to dream he could restore the 
throne of Minos with himself as Great King."

"Sweet," O'Neill grimaced as they followed Methos to the far end of the 
courtyard where two sets of stairs brightened by light wells above led 
to the upper floors.

"My apartments were this way," he explained, going to the right. 
"Kronos' quarters were above mine on the top floor, but the others 
lived there," he pointed left. "I'd stay away from their living areas, 
if I were you. There's no telling what might have been left behind."

"Like what?" Daniel asked, avidly taking in the frescos that decorated 
the walls of the second floor.

Methos frowned distractedly. "Caspian was a serial killer, Daniel. He 
never manifested that with us, though I could be wrong. At least, I 
never saw any sign of methodical stalking of victims. But he was a 
death fetishist. Liked to decorate his tent inside and out with the 
skulls and bones of those he killed in battle. I never saw the inside 
of his rooms here, but I can't imagine that his taste in objets de art 
suddenly improved because he had four solid walls and a hearth." The 
others looked appalled, but Methos doggedly went on.

"As for Kronos," he shrugged. "His pleasures were a little more 
sedentary, though he often left a mess when he was done. Liked to send 
in the new slaves to clean it up whenever we arrived just to scare them 
into docility. And Silas," Methos sighed sadly. "There are some nice 
wall paintings of mythical animals in there, but nothing else of much 
interest. Off the battlefield, he was fairly docile."

"What about you?" O'Neill asked quietly.

Methos raised an eyebrow as he paused before a door. "See for 
yourself," he said, flinging it open.

A long central corridor overlooked an open air peristyle set with 
statuary and a fountain to one side. "This is the men's hall," Methos 
explained, leading them through the first of several rooms.

"Pink marble?" O'Neill asked, staring at the floor and walls.

"Rose," Methos condescend stiffly. "And it's gypsum."

"Right," O'Neill patted his shoulder as he stepped inside. "You just 
keep tellin' yourself that."

"Well, I like it," Samantha smiled. 

Three sides of the room were wrapped in stone benches and at the far 
end a large high backed chair carved from a solid block of granite 
stood on a raised platform. A pair of limestone pedestal lamps sat on 
either side while behind, shields, swords and a pair of battle axes 
decorated the wall.

"Nice throne," O'Neill remarked, taking in the contents of the room.

"Isn't that your desk chair?" Daniel asked, voice tinged with startled 

"Yes to both," Methos murmured. "I told you we had delusions of 

"Had?" O'Neill smirked as he went over and sat down, casually hooking a 
leg over one chair arm as he lounged. "Comfy."

"Incredibly," Methos agreed, hiding a smile. "Now, if you'll just 
follow me, I'll show you to the real seat of power -- the water 

"Yes!" Jack shouted gleefully, leaping to his feet. "Indoor plumbing!"


"Nifty setup," O'Neill sighed as he settled back into the plush 
softness of a dining couch. Feather pillows and carpets abounded in 
bright colorful shades, giving the dining hall a decadent, sybaritic 

"It suited me at the time," Methos murmured, sipping wine from a thin 
alabaster goblet. They'd prepared a proper meal, bringing it back to 
his apartments, then eaten well of the dried meats and other foodstuffs 
carefully stored in large stone pithoi within the villa's magazines. 

"And now you have to do your own laundry and wash your own floors," 
Carter grinned, recalling Methos' complaints as they'd searched for 
where the linens and bedding had been kept as the others cleaned and 
aired out the rooms.

"Adam Pierson does his own housework," Methos condescended. "I get 
someone in."

"But you are Adam Pierson," Teal'c pointed out. 

"He's right," Daniel grinned. "Even if you are just playing a part. 
I've seen those hands picking lint off the carpet, remember?"

"Fraud," O'Neill teased.

"Oh, all right," Methos frowned. "Bunch of party poopers. I think next 
time I'll be Matt Adams. Now he was a real slob. Never did housework."

"Matt Adams?" Samantha asked curiously.

"My last incarnation. Long haired hippie rock star wannabe roadie. 
Smoked a lot of dope, did a lot of groupies and toured with the Stones, 
among others."

"You mentioned that," Daniel nodded. "Why'd you stop?"

Methos sighed heavily and rolled onto his back, staring up at the 
ceiling. "It was great until Altamont. Then Mick hired those thugs to 
work security -- the Hell's Angels. Guess who showed up in the 

"Kronos," Samantha guessed.

"Yup," Methos nodded and sat up, looking mournful. "Three hours later I 
was on the first plane to New York looking like a poster child for the 
Young Republicans."

"My heart bleeds for you, Pierson." O'Neill smirked. "Now, campers," he 
clapped his hands. "Back to business. We've only got six months to get 
ready for Egypt and I want us prepared. Report."

Carter nodded, raising up on her elbows. "I've been working on some 
ideas for a containment unit if we can locate the Ark Shishak received 
before it's opened. We'll also need some form of protective gear. I can 
work with Methos on what's available locally. Anything we might be able 
to use to manufacture what we need. Then there's the extra power we'll 
have to have to charge the gate to get us home. Teal'c and I can figure 
something out there. Maybe tie in to the ship's main engine."

"Good," O'Neill nodded. "Pierson?"

"We need to synthesize some form of medication to treat radiation 
sickness," Methos responded. "I noticed a couple of items in the med 
kit designed for that, but we'll need more. And dyes, we'll need those 
too. Our skin and hair have to be darkened sufficiently to pass for 
native to the casual eye." Teal'c raised an eyebrow. "Not you, my 
friend, but the rest of us need to blend in. We're safe enough here," 
he added. "Crete's always had a good mix of different races, though I'd 
prefer it if Carter and Daniel colored their hair before going into 

"And moi?" O'Neill asked, feigning hurt.

Methos shrugged. "Sorry, Dad, you're too old to get hit on by anyone 
sober enough to notice the blonde in all that gray."

A large pillow slammed him hard and Methos fell back laughing.

"Daniel?" O'Neill sharply asked the young archaeologist, who was 
grinning from ear to ear. "You have anything to report? And remember," 
he threatened. "I have lots more pillows where that came from."

"Yeah," Daniel chuckled. "I do. Actually," he qualified. "It's more of 
a request really. I'd like to find out as much as I can about the 
present state of Egyptian affairs. Secular and religious politics, 
possible military actions we don't know about."

"And this is because?"

"I probably know as much about Ancient Egypt as any modern scholar 
can," Daniel explained. "But I can't know everything that went on. 
There are things in the historical record that are missing or wildly 
inaccurate depending on whose viewpoint you read."

"Can't Pierson help?" O'Neill looked at the Immortal who was frowning.

"Not really," Methos responded. "After our nasty experience with the 
other Ark in Ethiopia we came here for a bit. In this time, we'd only 
just left for Asia Minor a couple of years ago. I didn't even hear 
about Shishak's visit to Jerusalem until long after. And Egypt is 
different in every reign. The bureaucracy stays the same, but the 
treatment of foreigners and how much graft is acceptable, that changes 
with each pharaoh's administration. Which priesthood is plotting and 
who's likely to be the target are also important things we need to be 
aware of. Daniel's right. We can't walk in there blind."

"So we study the area and not just the lay of the land, got it," 
O'Neill nodded. "Teal'c?"

"I must create a model of the Goa'uld ship we found," he told them 

"Great," O'Neill sighed. "More visits to the talking trees."

The Jaffa merely narrowed his eyes and went on. "You must all learn 
every detail of the ship. Stealth and quickness are required if we are 
to succeed."

O'Neill nodded. "So, campers, the plan is, we grab the Ark, bury it 
somewhere safe, then just sneak aboard and use the gate?"

"Doesn't seem like we have much of a choice," Methos responded. "By the 
time we get there those living nearest the Ark will already be dying."

"What about all those other villages, Adam?" Daniel asked softly. "All 
the people taken from the area who just disappeared."

"We can't change that much history," Methos insisted. 

"He's right," Carter added. "If we try to stop it there's no telling 
what repercussions might occur down the line."

"But history's already changed," Daniel pointed out. "Gyganes and his 
crew are dead because of us."

Methos shook his head slowly. "They'd already lived their lives, Danny. 
Had families and children. Their deaths came too soon, but not before 
their time."

"I hate to say it," Samantha nodded. "But I have to agree. Any changes 
to the timeline caused by their deaths would be negligible."

"What if they're not?"

"Then we've already failed and all this is pointless," Methos stated 
flatly. "We will live here until you all die then I will find the gate, 
make sure it ends up in some bottomless pit under the sea and stop 
anyone from ever going through it."

"What?!" O'Neill asked, startled.

Methos' expression went stony. "If Daniel never translates those 
tablets, you'll never open the Stargate and Ra won't die. The Goa'uld 
will have no reason to come back to Earth while she's weak. Once that's 
done, I'll find the other Methos and let him take my head. Because this 
time," he grinned ruefully, "there really should be only one."

"So, I'll go to work for NASA," Carter said quietly. "Daniel will live 
in obscurity teaching at some second rate community college, Teal'c 
will remain as Apophis' First Prime and..." she paused, glancing at 
O'Neill who sat staring at nothing.

"And I'll put a gun in my mouth and blow the back of my head off," Jack 
said calmly. "Which is what I was planning to do the day I got called 
back to duty."

"You're right, Adam." Daniel swallowed hard and looked away. "We can't 
change history."

Methos said nothing. It had been a cruel example, but he'd done what 
was needed.

O'Neill suddenly yawned and stood up. "Okay, kids, shut eye time. Big 
bedroom's mine."

Methos started to argue then closed his mouth. Fair enough pay back, he 
thought, for forcing that confession out of Jack and they both knew it. 
On the other hand, giving in gracefully wasn't in his nature.

"Mind if I get some things first?" he asked sourly as the others went 
to find the rooms they'd chosen.

"No problem," Jack told him magnanimously as he led the way down the 
hall to Methos' bedroom, laying down with a heartfelt sigh on the 
oversized bed. "Take your time."

"You're a real pal," Methos grimaced, opening the chest that stood at 
the foot of his bed and gathering up his favorite bed robe, the one 
he'd been missing for nearly three thousand years. This was going home 
in his pack if it was the last thing he did. Of course, that also meant 
he'd stolen it from himself in the first place and he probably 
shouldn't have accused Caspian of taking it out of spitefulness. Ah 
well, he shrugged silently. Live and learn.

"So, where are you going to sleep?" O'Neill asked, smiling.

"The wife's room down the hall," Methos jerked his head in that 
direction. "Bed's twice the size of this one. And," he added smugly. 
"She had a private bath."

O'Neill leaned back thoughtfully, shoving his hands under the pillows 
to prop up his head. "What's this?" he asked as his hand thumped 
something hard.

Methos raised an eyebrow, the glimmer of an idea taking hold. "Bed 
box," he explained casually. "Kept a few odds and ends in there."

"Yeah?" O'Neill asked, sitting up and examining the item. "Mind if I 

"Not at all," Methos told him lightly, grabbing his favorite slippers 
as he prepared to leave. "Just don't use the ointment in the green jar. 
Tends to burn if you're not used to it." O'Neill's eyes went wide. "I 
wouldn't play with the Medusa Head Vulva of Happiness, either."

"The what?!"

"It's got a broken hasp and the spiked teeth tend to tear the skin more 
than usual."

O'Neill dropped the box and jumped off the bed. "The wife's room's got 
a private bath?" he asked, looking desperate for any excuse to leave. 
Methos nodded innocently. "Colonels are entitled to that. And the 
biggest bed. We have to have that. It's a rule," O'Neill added hastily 
as he fled.

"All the way down the hall, second corridor to your right," Methos 
called to O'Neill's back. "It's the first room on the left!"

Methos closed the door and threw himself on the bed laughing then 
picked up the box and laid it on his chest. He opened the lid and 
searched through its contents, smiling as he found the item he wanted 
then put the box back in its place behind his head. "Poisons and 
Potions for Healing," he murmured as he punched up the pillow, 
partially unrolled the scroll and sat back to read. 

No doubt O'Neill would be back crying foul as soon as he discovered 
he'd been had. Then again, maybe not. Zekna's rooms certainly were 
nicer than his, even if they hadn't been aired out in nearly a century. 
He just hoped Jack heeded his words about the green jar in her bed box. 
Otherwise, O'Neill would be sitting in a cold tub screaming for a week 
-- and not just the half hour's worth of sensual agony he'd 
experienced. And of course, he smirked wickedly, no beautiful Zekna 
afterwards to soothe away the pain and replace it with voluptuous 
pleasure. The same pleasures for which he'd married the delightful