He felt the presence of the other man just as he turned the last corner to his house. Their introductions were brief, as between men who know what they're after and barely follow the formalities that two mortals might take before a duel.
If the fool had believed his shifty and avoiding nature meant he couldn't fight, he had just enough time to become aware of his error, before the clean cut severed his head.
Caught in the aftermath of the Quickening, Methos never noticed the silhouette shaded by a tree, nor did he know that the name he'd given to his attacker was now inscribed in a book along with a quick sketch of his profile.
"Adam Pyersson; apparent age - in his twenties; first death - unknown; to be given a permanent assignment."
This was the last time he'd set foot on a ship. He spat salt water and swore in the direction of the docks. Immortal or not, a few days of swimming could ruin one's feelings for the sea for a long time, especially when one's feelings had been marred by a most unfortunate cruise with a bunch of Irish monks in a tiny boat. 'Barrel of rats, more like it,' he muttered while wringing his shirt out to dry. 'Bloody ships, they either stink or they sink. More often than not they do both.'
He spared a moment to think of the king's only legitimate son, who’d perished in the same shipwreck, along with England's hope for an incontestable heir to the throne.
'That bastard, Stephen, knew what he was doing. I should have taken his offer and disembarked with him. I'd be his loyal knight - for a while, until an untimely death would claim me - and I'd be dry,' thought Methos bitterly. 'And I'd wager we haven't seen the last of him yet.'
The faint buzz drew his attention to the house. Sword ready in hand, he pushed the door with his foot and peeked inside.
The only living being among the ransacked rubble was a child, no more than eight or nine years of age from the look of him.
"Please, sir. Please, don't hurt me," said the boy, instinctively drawing backwards from him, only to trip over the body of a man who, Methos presumed, must have been his father.
"Be at peace, I won't. What happened?"
"The Normans. We couldn't pay the taxes, so they..." The boy's voice broke. The bodies lying on the floor and his torn and bloodied shirt told the rest of the tale eloquently enough.
Methos sighed. Students were enough trouble, but a miniature one...
The child spoke again, unexpectedly.
"They found me when I was a baby, they raised me as their own. The bastards thought they'd killed us all, but I'm alive."
"Yes, and there's quite a bit you need to know about that... What's your name?"
"Come with me, Kenneth. I have a lot to teach you."
"Edwyn, we have no interest in their crusades. The words 'holy war' mean nothing else than that it is a war with blessings to kill."
"This one will be lead by Lionheart himself! The bravest and boldest of England's kings of late, and he is a mortal, Adam."
Yes, try to show reason to the youth, and they'll show you a hero.
"A king who has barely touched his country's soil more than once or twice during his most worthwhile rule."
"You have no right to speak ill of him."
"Yes, I have. Do you know what the first crusades turned into? Pillaging, raping and looting. An army is an army anywhere, and it needs brawls and food and women."
Methos could see on his student's face that he thought he'd found a decisive argument.
"Ah, see, you are mistaken. This is a holy quest, and bodily unions with women are forbidden for its entire duration."
"Indeed? Then there will be bodily unions among the men."
"Which is fine by me!" He threw his hands in the air defensively, but Edwyn continued to glare sulkily. "I was jesting, Edwyn, only jesting," lied Methos. "However, you might want to take into account that those Turks are very keen on beheadings. Do you want to lose your head over a... a fantasy? A king's ambition? I don't want to die foolishly over a religion that isn't even mine."
"Fine. Stay." The young immortal's voice was suddenly calm, abandoning the polemic.
Methos looked askance. He couldn't quite believe he'd escape so easily.
"But I'll go."
'Oh, for the love of...' thought Methos, 'I'm this close to be persuaded, if only to watch over the fool,' but spoke otherwise.
"Don't say I didn't warn you, and don't come complaining to me when you lose your head over this!" The joke sounded hollow to his own ears.
A year later, when they came and told him the stories about the great lightning bolt that struck the earth when Edwyn the Martyr was killed, Methos swore he'd never take a student again.
Sometimes, when the wind was blowing from the land, bringing the smell of horses and an echo of hooves, he missed their rides together, the maddening speed and the feel of a limitless world at their feet. He drank in the cold air and squinted toward the horizon, and the look in his eyes would keep the random passer-by at a distance.
Then a shrill cry would travel on the wind, or a despairing and haggard woman would pass, carrying the scent of burnt wood in her clothes and the fear of death in her eyes, and he'd return to his books and quill. 'No more,' he thought, 'no more of that.'
England was safe, he hoped. He knew Silas had chosen the harsh Russian lands, and Caspian, when he had last heard of him, haunted even farther east. Kronos... Yes, Kronos was a mystery. In escaping Kronos' view, he had renounced keeping track of his moves as well. Still, England seemed too small and isolated for his ambitions. He'd think the Normans little boys playing with sticks.
'Too bad the food's so dull,' he sighed, 'but it will have to do.' So, Methos chewed on a mutton leg and waited for the time to pass.
He'd had no warning when they finally came. The day had been bleak and cold and quiet. He was just preparing to add a page in his treasured diary, a page to end a century maybe, when his quill stopped in mid-air. There could be no mistaking the three powerful immortals he sensed approaching. He tried to remember the smile of Death and turned to receive his brothers.