Methos woke to an overwhelming stench of garbage, thirst and a vague feeling of irritation. Slow return to full conciousness did nothing towards improving the situation. A quick appraisal revealed that he was lying face down in a gutter, which accounted for the stench and the wetness slowly seeping through his clothing.
He scrambled out of the gutter only to discover that his boots were missing. The long dagger strapped to his back was fortunately still there. After a concentrated effort, some recent memories floated quietly up from somewhere, carried on a fresh wave of nausea. Apparently, he had a hefty concussion, and possibly a hangover to boot. No, actually, the hangover had been there first, and the concussion had followed. Possibly, he could blame his stupid behaviour on the outrageous amount of beer consumed; in fact, it had been a surprisingly good batch; he licked his lips at the remembered taste. Unfortunately, straight on the heels of the memory of the heavenly brew came the recollection of a very public and quite unlucky, if not even ignominious death.
He swore vehemently under his breath. He should have remembered enough from his previous time here to avoid getting caught in the heat of an argument. Particularly, in the volatile company of a bunch of beer-guzzling, quarrel-happy studiosi of the fair city of Heidelberg, who literally leaped at a chance to turn a conversation into an argument and an argument into a duel. Some things did not change in 350 years, Methos reflected ruefully. In fact, sometimes they got worse. Methos had to admit that; at least taking the recent experience into account; he much prefered a rapier to an unpredictable, clumsy, bloody dangerous flintlock toy.
It had clearly not been a good night for him; to lose a perfectly simple argument to a boy who barely had any need to shave yet was one thing, but to have one's own duel pistol blow up in one's face was adding insult to injury. It also meant that his brilliant idea to spend the next decade fairly comfortably brushing up on his medical skills and enjoying the student life - with a hefty bequest from a fictional dead uncle to boot - was trashed even before it had begun.
Methos frowned. He felt a fair amount of affection towards Heidelberg, partly stemming from good memories, partly having to do with a comely and affable maid in the Red Ox, the main student hangout, reinforced by the admirable quality of the beer served in the aforementioned establishment. Now he must not only leave all that behind, but it was in all probability better to get clear out of the Great Duchy of Baden altogether.
Damn, this constant need for making career choices was really beginning to piss him off. He definitely needed a drink to help him decide the next course of action. With that thought he found - largely to his surprise; that aimless wanderings through the evening streets had brought him almost to the Red Ox.
He hesitated at the door. The news of his unfortunate demise would certainly reach the ears of the tavern regulars and the fair Marie by tomorrow morning.That would mean having to travel fast throughout the night, because he did not think that the citizens of Heidelberg took kindly to dead men walking around. People tended to develop some nasty inclinations when faced with the unruly dead, as he knew from rather painful personal experiences.
The moon was full, but still … he hated travelling by night. On the other hand, he hated travelling with a parched throat and a throbbing head even more, not to mention that he did not have the slightest inkling as to the direction to take.
A beer or two would not hurt, Methos decided. God knows when he'd have a chance to enjoy such a superior malt again. What was it that Marie had said? The tavern owner brewed his own beer, but he had studied the craft somewhere; Methos could not recall. Well, certainly the famous brewing centers should be the same as a couple of hundred years ago; Bremen, Hamburg - or were they? Maybe his knowledge was a bit outdated. Perhaps it was time to reaquaint himself with beer-making, especially considering the fact that beer was largely responsible for his present predicament. Methos rather liked the theory of the universal symmetry, only he tended to view it more as a natural law of pervading irony.
Yes, that could be a good idea. His medical skills would certainly hold up in face of anyone's scrutiny for at least another hundred years or so. Nothing much seemed to change in that field anyway. It would be nice to devote the next identity to the brewery business. After all, one of the perks of immortality was the exhilarating possibility of having a lifetime to spend on each and every beckoning branch of knowledge.
With that heartening thought, Methos gave in and stepped into the welcoming warmth of the noisy tavern. Threading his way between tables towards the tap-room he came suddenly face to face with the fair Marie carrying several foam-topped mugs. His eyes were still lingering on the pleasant and promising - in several ways - prospect in front of him, when that prospect underwent a rather disheartening change. The girl 's eyes widened, her face aquired an alarming greenish pallor and her mouth opened in the shrillest scream Methos had had the misfortune of hearing in several centuries.
"The dead man walks! The devil has stolen his body and has come to take us to hell!" The girl let the beer mugs drop in favour of crossing herself fervently before scrambling away under the closest table.
Methos did not stop to hear more, he was out of the door and running down the street as fast as possible. He turned the corner, stubbed his bootless toe against a paving stone and with a suppressed yelp ducked into a side alley. Heart pounding in his chest, back pressed against the cold stone wall, he strained his ears to catch any noise indicative of pursuit. Fortunately it seemed that the tavern patrons had trusted that the devil had returned to his proper habitat and they had no interest in following him.
Methos resigned himself to a beerless retreat, reminding his parched throat sternly that thirst was certainly a superior choice compared to death by stoning or burning;or to any kind of death, really. Beer was overrated anyway, he thought morosely. Maybe he should stick to wine for a next decade or two.