Chapter 1: Paris, France. April 2012
Chapter 1. Paris, France. April 2012.
“Please, stop complaining? For ten minutes. There is good wine and good food and it has been forever since either of us has been to Paris,” Duncan said as he took a bite of his steak.
Methos gave a long suffering sigh of a man tired of explaining the same point to someone who never listens and drank some of his wine.
“Not long enough,” Methos said as he put his wine down and picked up his fork. “I’m just saying,” he added, before taking a bite of his fish.
“You’ve said it,” Duncan replied. “Can we talk about that guitar for Joe or something else?”
They were sitting in one of the up and coming restaurants in Paris and while Methos did come along when Duncan mentioned that he managed to get a last minute reservation, he had been muttering and commenting on keeping a low profile periodically throughout the evening. Duncan halfheartedly wished that perhaps Joe could have come along since then Methos would have complained about something else.
Methos took another drink. “Just…things are changing, Duncan, and people live longer and both of us should just really stay away from Paris for at least another twenty years. Even with new identities. Even if your new identity had a different name. I still think it is highly ridiculous of you to keep using the same name.”
Duncan took a breath. “So you keep saying. I know. We are back in Paris only for Joe’s concert and only for a short time. And a public restaurant is risky. But really, I just miss Paris. Can’t we just enjoy one evening? Are you sure that dealer will have the guitar by tomorrow?” Duncan was desperate to change the subject.
“He should.” Methos looked at Duncan and seemed to finally drop the subject. “I’m meeting him tomorrow at two. Do you want to come along or are you helping Joe set up?”
“I don’t know yet, I guess I’ll decide...”
“Duncan! I thought it was you!” said a voice behind Methos. Methos closed his eyes briefly and took a drink and then looked pointedly at Duncan. And snickered. Duncan couldn’t blame him. He looked up to see who it was while thinking of various excuses. To his relief he recognized the person the voice belonged to, even as he was almost twenty years older and aged significantly.
Duncan smiled and got up extending his hand. “John. Good to see you. Long time.”
“I didn’t expect to see you here. I thought you left Paris.”
“I did,” Duncan said. “I’m just visiting for a week or so. How are you, John?”
“Old. Still kicking, though.”
From the corner of his eye Duncan noticed that Methos was turning toward them. John glanced down at him. Duncan thought that it would be wrong to not at least introduce them.
“Good to know. John, this is Matth...” He started to introduce Methos but John broke into a smile and interrupted him at that same time as Methos stood up and smiled as well.
“Adam!” John said with delight in his voice. “Wow, this is a surprise. I didn’t realize you knew each other. Although you were both Rebecca’s friends.”
Methos reached out to shake John’s hand. “Hello, John. Looking good.”
“You know each other?” Duncan said with a surprise in his voice.
“So it seems.” Methos nodded.
“Yes. Rebecca introduced us, thirty years ago, I think. Was it that long ago?” John said.
“Yes, when I got to Paris. She insisted that I come to dinner and meet you properly. And I could never say no to your wife.” Methos smiled.
Duncan turned to Methos. “Wait, you knew Rebecca? You never said.”
“I don’t give you reports on everyone I ever met. That would be long and tedious. I knew Rebecca before you knew Rebecca. I knew her before she was Rebecca.”
Methos turned back to John. “So you are still in Paris, John? I thought you wanted to retire to some tropical island?”
“I was thinking about it. But so many memories are here. Rebecca loved it here. And even after almost twenty years, I can’t bear to leave her behind. Besides, I think I’m too old to start something new.”
“You’re never too old,” said Methos and John laughed.
“No, I guess not. Well, it is really good to see you both. Perhaps, you both could stop by sometime if you are not too busy. I still live in the same place.”
Duncan still looked like he was adjusting to new information but he remembered his manners. “I don’t know if we will have time but perhaps on Thursday evening?” He looked at Methos who nodded. Duncan added, “It would be nice to catch up. Do you have a number?”
John took out a card and handed it to Duncan. “Please, do call. Really good to see you both.”
As John walked out of the restaurant, both Duncan and Methos sat back down.
“Small world, huh?” Duncan said.
“Not really. We are in Paris and we were just bound to run into someone either of us knew. At least John knows about us. We’re actually pretty lucky. Maybe next time you’ll listen to me for a change.” Methos started eating again.
“Yeah, but what are the chances we both know him?”
“Again, not that low. We both knew Rebecca so I always assumed we both knew John. Amanda still keeps in touch with him.”
“She does?” Duncan asked. He took another bite and Methos could see him mulling over something.
Finally, Duncan said, “Wait, you actually saw Rebecca in Paris, while you were with the Watchers? Wasn’t that risky for a researcher to be seen with an Immortal?”
“I knew her Watcher’s schedule. I could sneak in visits. It was handy, being a researcher.”
“So when did you first meet Rebecca?”
Methos shook his head. “Oh, no. You’re not getting that story.”
“Please.” Duncan pouted for good measure.
“No. You wouldn’t like it. And don’t unleash the puppy eyes, I’m immune.” Methos was thoroughly concentrating on his plate. The puppy eyes would work and he didn’t want to take a risk.
Methos looked up, surprised, but then his eyes narrowed. It was not like Duncan to give up so easily.
Duncan said, “Another day for that story then. How about another story about Rebecca? I assume you ran to her once in a while.”
“So, pick one. Any adventures? Or anything?”
“She was interesting. Amanda worshiped her. I always wanted to know her more. And you.”
Methos took another bite.
“One story.” Duncan nodded.
“Right. Well, one comes to mind. But it is not a story about Rebecca as much but she was an important part of it. She gave me a start in one of my lives. Well, blackmailed me into it. Sort of.”
Duncan smiled. “I’ll take it.” And at least this way, Methos would stop mentioning every five minutes how careless it was to return to the city which he should avoid.
Chapter 2: Norfolk, England. August 1347.
Chapter 2. Norfolk, England. August 1347
“Move, you stupid, useless beast. I should sell you at the first market we pass. Or better yet, eat you, for all the good you are. But then you would probably be too stringy and useless too.”
Methos tried to pull on the reigns some more but the small horse seemed determined to dawdle. He gave up actually riding her two days ago because the horse seemed about to drop and he knew his horses. But even two days later, days which consisted of just walking alongside the horse, it seemed that she did not want to carry the saddlebags either.
“If you just want to lie down and die, you are not doing it until we get most of the way there. And we still have another day to go, and I’m not in the mood to carry anything.”
He pulled again and the horse reluctantly picked up speed while looking at Methos with an accusing glare. He knew he should never have bought her but when he arrived at one of the Cinque Ports on the English coast, he didn’t have too much money and his timing, just as it was in the past year, was just really unfortunate. He could tell when he haggled for the price that the horse would not be good for much but he refused to walk all the way to Norfolk. He promised himself to get a good horse as soon as he could. Not that England knew much about good horses. Not like the Persian Empire in its day. Methos again cursed his luck and the French knight who so carelessly killed him and did not even try to capture him for ransom.
The last year had not been a good one. It is not like Methos never had to pick up the pieces of his life before and he’d been accidentally killed and had to flee plenty of times, but for some strange reason, he could not manage to wiggle into a new life very easily now. He prided himself on insinuating himself into new situations. Even his last life was comfortable and successful despite the lack of strong connections. But that life in Yorkshire was over and he could not go anywhere near it for at least thirty years. “I hope that French bastard dies of pus and boils,” Methos mumbled as he pulled on the reigns again.
He didn’t even have time to arrange for a nephew or a distant cousin to pass on the money once the land was sold in the event of his carefully arranged death. Which was probably stupid of him since he was heading off to war. He just got complacent and he didn’t think Edward’s French campaign to claim his right to the French throne would be different than any other campaign he’d been on for the last ten years.
When Methos first came to England ten years ago after he decided on a change, he came with a letter from an Iberian Count and got introduced to the best circles. While he never liked to bring attention to himself, he knew that to keep a sword on him he needed to be established as the country or greater gentry and fit in with the aristocracy. The social orders in England were becoming more and more rigid especially in the last few decades, from what he heard. And a life of a settled knight suited him. He had some money which he brought with him from Castile, enough to court a wealthy widow. Matilda had several manors in dower in Yorkshire, had an income of £45 per year and grown children whom he managed to win over. He only had the interest in her land until her death, since men could control a woman’s land until their own death only if an offspring was produced, but that land and its profit allowed him to buy and build quite a few acres of his own. And he and Matilda got along rather well.
So for ten years, he lived relatively quietly in Yorkshire, without even one Challenge. He managed the manors, presided over the manorial courts, paid his own seigniorial obligation and suit at court to Matilda’s lord and his own and for forty days a year, rode in that lord’s army. He was comfortable and settled and he cursed himself for getting that relaxed. He was over four thousand years old and he did not survive that long by getting complacent.
He kicked the horse again for good measure.
The trouble came on an August day a year ago, on a Sunday in the twentieth year of the reign of King Edward III of England, at Crécy in France. It was a great enough campaign. A little over 10,000 English troops faced off 50,000 French ones and won because of the longbow. Methos watched the longbows devastate the French knights and pierce through their armor. He loved new technology and decided that he would master it once he got back home. The French knights charged into the fray, going uphill with heavy armor and they didn’t stand a chance.
And the battle was devastating. Methos watched as so many French nobility died. The knight who charged him and, surprisingly, ran him through was mad with despair over his fallen lord, Count of Blois, judging by the colors. No wonder he did not bother with the ransom. Now that a year had passed, Methos could appreciate his luck since the French knight did not just cut off his head in his fury. But it still hurt to be one of the few English knights to actually die in this battle in full view of his own lord. Methos, unfortunately, could not wander back into the camp later and pretend that he was just heavily wounded.
When Methos awoke, long after the battle was over, he did not even have a sword or any armor as it was stolen from him. He sneaked carefully away, tired and discombobulated, and headed for the only place where he knew he could get sanctuary and, perhaps, plan for the future. It took him a while to get to Paris but he was glad of the knowledge that Darius was in his church with an open policy for any wandering soul.
His original plan was to stay with Darius for a month or so and decide in which direction to go and what life he wanted to lead now. Maybe a monastery again, for the books and safety. Or, perhaps not, as those got pretty boring after a while and he hated the haircut.
Methos ended up staying almost a year.
Darius welcomed him. Of course, he did. They’d known each other for a few thousand years. He knew Darius when Darius was a general and when holiness was the farthest from his mind. Methos would visit his Paris church every half century or so. It was good to talk with someone who was older than most Immortals he met. And this time, when Methos drank ale and played chess and read the manuscripts in the local monastic collection and when to a few lectures in the University of Paris, Darius waited patiently for Methos to make up his mind. But he just could not do it.
Finally, after a year, Darius casually mentioned a letter from Rebecca and her life in Norfolk and Methos knew that he wanted to get back to England. He liked it there and he wanted to try again. And while he couldn’t get back to Yorkshire and Matilda or the king’s court or in any way interact with his old life, he still had possibilities. He couldn’t think of a way to get back and not be a stranger, which would have prevented him from having a good reputation, but now knowing that Rebecca was established there, Methos could use her as a connection. He missed her too since it has been at least a hundred years since he saw her last. And so he said goodbye to Darius and sailed back to England.
The horse stalled again as she got distracted by a tree and Methos restrained himself from hitting her. In less than a day he will be in Walsingham and see Rebecca and he hoped that this period of soul searching was finally coming to an end. Maybe he should have gone to Tibet.
Chapter 3: Walsingham, Norfolk. August 1347
Chapter 3. Walsingham, Norfolk. August, 1347.
Our Lady of Walsingham was a major pilgrimage center and Methos found himself among a large crowd of people. Many women came here to pray for safe childbirth and other concerns and hawkers were selling their wares right alongside the pilgrims. Methos found the sea of humanity comforting as he could blend in as a pilgrim as well and no one questioned him long when he mentioned he was going to Walsingham. They assumed he came for prayer or to fulfill an obligation imposed by his confessor. Methos let people assume what they would.
He didn’t even have a new name yet. He needed to settle on one as soon as he could. He would use Wakefield as a surname in honor of his old life, since he wasn’t ready to let go but no Christian name stood out to him. He tried several combinations.
He came upon the monastery with relief and patted his horse. “You can keel over now, you lazy animal. We’re here.”
And as he came closer, he felt the Presence. He instinctively strengthened up and looked around to detect another Immortal even though he knew it was her.
“Welcome, cousin!” Methos heard the lovely voice he missed for so long. He turned to his left and saw her. Rebecca looked just the same. Her hair was in a wimple and her body was encased in a quality gown and she was as lovely as the day he met her one thousand years ago. Of course, not long after that, she swindled him out of much money before he realized what happened.
Rebecca made a welcoming motion and Methos led his horse inside the monastery.
“It’s good to see you. Cousin?”
“Darius wrote to me. His letter came just a few days before you did. And my cousin could stay with me for a while without much suspicion,” Rebecca said. She was smiling and leading him toward to stables.
“Naturally. Will the suspicion be justified?” Methos asked, smiling in return.
“I am unmarried at the moment. One must be careful of old friends taking advantage,” Rebecca replied.
“I am the one at your mercy,” said Methos, bowing his head as courteously as he could. He didn’t read all the new French romances for nothing.
Rebecca laughed and waited while Methos unloaded and then led him to her chambers.
“Right as I sensed you, I’ve ordered a bath for you in the room. The hot water should be there shortly. You must be tired,” she said.
“I am. More hungry and thirsty. A beer would be good right now.”
“I have no doubt. I ordered that too.”
“You know me too well,” said Methos as he entered the room and put his satchels down.
“It has been too long,” said Rebecca.
“It has.” He wanted to add Rebecca’s real name but a servant came into the room at that moment bearing food and he settled down to eat something. And he was never much for sentimentality.
Later, after he bathed and Rebecca had come back after giving further instruction to the servants not to disturb them, Methos decided that some sentimentality was needed after all as he kissed her and pressed her into bed. He called her real name then and was just briefly surprised when he realized that she didn’t utter his name at all. But then all thoughts had fled.
Later still, as they were lying in bed and eating more bread and fruit, he asked her why. In the past, when they met or loved his name was always on her lips.
“You need a new name. When you pick it, I will call that name.”
“Yes, and I will pick one but you know my real name. It had never been a secret.”
“It should be.” Rebecca looked at him with such honest concern that Methos frowned and put the food down.
“Why? It’s just a name.”
“Not anymore. Surely you heard the rumors?” she said.
Methos shook his head. “What rumors?”
“About how Guillermo de Mesina took the Quickening of Hotep.”
“Oh, those rumors. Darius mentioned it and I met some in Paris who talked of it but it is just a rumor. They are always around.”
“No, not anymore. Darius, in his letter that told me you were coming here, also wrote that there was confirmation. A friend of his was close to it and saw the head afterward. He went to check because he did not want to believe it.”
“Well, too bad for Hotep. He was good with a sword but quick to temper. It is a surprise that he survived to be four thousand five hundred or so in the first place. Especially since everyone wanted the Quickening of the oldest Immortal for the last two hundred years. I bet Guillermo feels powerful now. I wonder how big a Quickening it was.” Methos tried to imagine it. The oldest Quickening he ever took was about three thousand years old, when he was young. That had been indescribable.
“The town thought there was an earthquake. And Guillermo does feel powerful. In fact, the rumor has it that he is seeking more. He wants to take the head of the oldest again.”
“Good luck to him.” Methos reached to take another piece of bread. Rebecca kept starring at him while running her hands on his chest, waiting. Methos looked at her worried eyes and shook his head.
“You think it’s me.” He nodded slowly at the absurdity of it. “You think that I’m…No.”
“Yes. Have you met anyone older than you recently other than Hotep?”
“No. But I don’t go around seeking Immortals. I like to stay quiet. I fight when it comes to me but I haven’t been searching for a flight lately. I’d rather live.”
“Well, no one else met anyone older. I certainly do not know one and neither does Darius. Nor does anyone else. And Guillermo does not make his intentions obscure. He tells everyone that he is searching for Methos and he will not stop.”
“There must be someone older. In the East, perhaps.”
“You’ve been to the East as I have. Have you met anyone older than you?”
Methos thought. After a while, he reached a cup and drained the rest of the beer. “No. I can’t think of anyone. Hotep was the only one I knew but…” He shook he head in disbelief. “But I can’t be the oldest living Immortal. I’m just a man. And I like my life.”
“So you have to work to keep it. You cannot use your name with anyone new you meet or talk of it much in public. Use the names you pick in your lives, but not your real name.”
“Well, if I survive three hundred years, I would be the oldest ever since no one really lived past that. Something to strive toward.” Methos leaned back in the bed and pulled Rebecca closer.
“Do not jest. You need a name. And not just because I refuse to endanger you by using yours but also because I will need to introduce you properly tomorrow. I’ve been creative so far in avoiding it.”
“Wakefield for a surname. As for the Christian one… I’ve been thinking of it for the past month and I can’t seem to settle on one.”
“What about Richard or John. To keep it simple.”
“I was Richard in the last life. I don’t want to keep it. And John. That doesn’t sound like me. I don’t like it. It is not proper for me.”
“And as the oldest man, you need a good proper name.” Rebecca poked him in the ribs. It tickled.
“An old name.” Methos nodded.
“I can think of a few. But you cannot have one that even resembles yours. No names starting with M.”
“No, I don’t want to make it too easy for Guillermo. Although I think I could beat him, not that I really want to tempt fate.”
“Please, don’t try to be clever.”
Methos smiled. “Me, clever. Never. An old name.”
Rebecca said, “Where is Adam who named all the creatures of the Earth. He should rename you.”
Methos sat up. “That’s it. Adam. I’m going to be Adam. I’ve never been Adam before, but I think it’s perfect now.”
“Really. Adam? To spite Guillermo?”
“No. If I can’t speak my name in public, I can still be it. Adam – the oldest man. It is my name. Adam Wakefield in this life. I won’t use it always but I think it would have a ring to it. I hope Guillermo finds me one day and I can introduce myself to him as Adam and watch his disappointment.” Methos could just imagine a scene. He liked being clever. And now he had a name to start a new life with.
He ignored the nervous feeling on the bottom of his stomach that was there since he realized he was the oldest man. No one ever heard of an Immortal to reach five thousand years. He really hoped to be the first one.
“Adam,” Rebecca said. Methos looked at her. “Welcome to Walsingham.”
Chapter 4: Walsingham, Norfolk. January 1348.
Chapter 4. Walsingham, Norfolk. January 1348.
“I need a favor.”
Methos was startled when he heard Rebecca’s voice. He was reading one of the manuscripts of a translation of Aristotle from Arabic into Latin and mocking it in his head. He wished he could go to another monastery in Spain where he hid his original Greek version just to compare the subjunctive. He was too engrossed at composing commentary in his head in Greek and he was not really expecting to see Rebecca until evening.
He turned around. “Can it wait?”
“No.” She leaned towards the book and closed it and then made him follow her outside into the cloisters.
As they began to walk, she said, “You are going to help. And no excuses.”
“Am I? With what exactly am I helping?”
“There is this girl.”
“Oh, no. Last time you said that I had to get Amanda out of a very sticky situation and not something I want to repeat.”
Rebecca chuckled and continued, “Not Amanda. A mortal girl from a village nearby. She is having trouble with her brother and needs some legal help.”
“Well, there are plenty who would help. Maybe in Norwich or Bishop’s Lynn.”
“You will help. Did you or did you not tell me not a month ago about your time in Bologna studying Roman Law? And how one of your favorite things to do when you went to king’s court in Westminster was to observe the Bench hearing cases and watch the debates at the Inns of Court? And how you wished you could go there again?”
“But I can’t. And I say a lot of things. And I’m in the middle of an important translation.”
Rebecca sighed. Methos knew that meant she was getting set in her plan and arguing further would be useless. She said, “The monks put up with you because I pay generously to stay here and I’m a big patron of the Shire of Our Lady. And if you want access to all those books, you will do me this one favor. When I told Katherine that my cousin was staying with me who knew something of law, you should have seen her eyes light up. So you will help.”
“Blackmail, Rebecca. Isn’t it a little low?”
Rebecca smiled. “Is it working? And you still owe me one.”
And that was how Methos ended up at the Church yard a few days later meeting with a girl named Katherine. Granted, she was a lovely woman, a twenty-three year old with a very steadfast face. She came nine miles from the village of Westreynham just to meet him and she was anxious to tell him her story.
Her father, William Doune, was a wealthy villager who amassed quite a fortune for a peasant and was of a good standing in his village. He had six children. Two sons, Thomas and Ralph, and four daughters, Katherine, Margaret, Etheldred and Margery. After his wife’s death, he was concerned with his own and he wanted to particularly make sure that, after his death, his daughters would be able to hold for their lifetime some of his property. Legally, all of his land and chattel would go to his eldest son, Thomas, but William knew of alternatives. He arranged a meeting with two men who would buy two houses with the surrounding gardens and some acres of land in trust. William would continue to hold that land for his lifetime, but upon his death, the men would give that property to Katherine and her sisters to hold for life before the men finally acquired it.
Everything was arranged and William’s caution paid off. When he died, Katherine and her sisters could remain in the main house and were in possession of that property for their lifetimes. Margery died soon after her father but the rest of the sisters were quite content. Margaret even had a marriage prospect.
Katherine’s voice got steelier for the next part and Methos could guess what happened in the story with three unmarried women with no one to protect them but their brothers.
According to Katherine, it was Thomas’s doing. Ralph was a more easy going one with some money he gained from being a servant when he was younger and more prospects. And Ralph was easily persuaded. Thomas was never one to share anything. One morning, Thomas, Ralph and their friend Nicholas showed up at the house and began banging on doors and walls. Katherine ran out to yell at them but they brought weapons with them. Thomas made it very clear that they had ten minutes to clear out of the property as it was his by right as a legitimate heir. There was really very little they could do to defend themselves. And no one would really step in and help, despite the commotion. The sisters were staying in the second much smaller house were Margaret was planning to set up a home, in a very crowded little house too, and Katherine was determined to get her main house and land back. Margaret’s prospect depended on it and she refused to let her brother win.
Methos listened to her story patiently but he wasn’t sure how he could help. “What can I do? If you want me to threaten your brother, I don’t think I could, really. I am a stranger here.”
“No, sire, no. I want to take him to court. To gain what is mine,” Katherine replied.
“In what jurisdiction? Your lord might not take the case and the hundred court might be reluctant as well.”
“No. The King’s court. I am a free woman and I know I have a right to it.”
Methos’s eyes shot up in surprise. “King’s Court at Westminster might be a little expensive for you. And it takes forever. I don’t know if I could really help you there. I cannot be in Westminster for more than a few hours.”
“I heard talk. When others in my parish met for Sunday mass a few weeks ago, they talked of this old property dispute over at Waterdeen, when my father was young. This one man was thrown off his land and he sued before the King’s justices that came to Norwich. They say that the King’s justices would hear those kinds of cases and restore justice in just a day. I just need someone who might find out how that is done.”
That sounded familiar. Methos thought about it and, of course, the assize property justices! When he lived in Yorkshire he knew the justices who passed through the shire a few times a year when the main King’s Court at Westminster was on holiday. He heard of someone taking a case to those justices too. It was cheaper to do so and easily manageable if the property case was simple, involving just simple dispossession. As he thought over Katherine’s story, he thought that her case might qualify.
“So you want me to find out about this court?”
“Yes, and how much it would cost. And would you represent me in it or at least find out what I should do? Lady Rebecca said you would help out of charity.”
“Of course, she did,” muttered Methos. But the case sounded interesting to him now. He could at least ask around. He wanted to go to Norwich for a few days anyway to search for a book at the Cathedral there. So he told Katherine that he would look into it and had to take a step back to keep his balance when she promptly hugged him.
Chapter 5: Westminster to Norfolk. February 1348.
Chapter 5. Westminster to Norfolk, February 1348.
At least this horse was better. Methos was on the way to Norwich and he was just happy that the ride back would not take too long. Going back to Westminster, knowing that he couldn’t visit London nearby, was taxing. He did like the anonymity of a big town but he was old enough to know not to risk it. Westminster itself was a risk. Luckily, he did not meet anyone familiar in the Chancery.
After that conversation with Katherine, Methos travelled to Norwich and found a lawyer who often represented litigants at the royal assize court. Buying the man a drink got that man talking about his trade, and Methos gathered a lot of information which he later confirmed with other sources.
What he needed, apparently, was to start a case of novel disseisin or recent dispossession, when translated from Norman French. From what Methos gathered and from what he knew before, the courts that considered just the question of property and not much else and so they were very quickly resolved.
The property assizes were created by the administration of Henry II almost two centuries earlier after all those other Clarendon legal reforms. Henry came to the throne after about twenty years of anarchy under the reign King Stephen. For most of his reign, Stephen had to defend his claim to the throne against Matilda, Henry’s mother, and later Henry himself. And the barons of England took advantage of the situation and played two sides against each other, gathering privileges and seizing land, often by force.
When Henry became the King of England, one of his priorities was to establish a strong kingship and he saw justice as one method to do so. He sought to establish a fast and uncomplicated procedure for the recovery of land that could by-pass the self-help methods, usually violent, popular in the King Stephen’s reign. The assize of novel disseisin, the first significant property legislation under Henry II, cared little for the right to the land and was mostly concerned with limiting the violence sometimes used in obtaining that land. If the plaintiff alleged that the defendant “unjustly and without judgment” took over the plaintiff’s property within the statute of limitation, the case could be brought before the travelling justices.
The justices would rely on the local jury to report on the local circumstances. The only two questions put to a jury were whether the plaintiff recently held the land and whether the defendant took it away. If the answer to both these questions was yes, then the plaintiff would get the land back. Even if the defendant had a right to the land and had proper reasons for evicting the plaintiff in the first place, he could not do so violently. The new expectation was that the defendant would sue at the King’s Court under a different law case. All King Henry wanted was to keep the peace and have his subjects come to his courts for justice, not fight amongst each other. Travelling justices make the court cheaper and this type of case would be heard and resolved in a day. Of course, the questions the justices considered grew more complicated over the last few centuries but Methos realized that Katherine might actually stand a chance.
After meeting with her once more, this time with her sisters as well, he was appointed her attorney or representative. First thing he needed to do was to travel to the royal Chancery and buy a writ or a command to the sheriff to start the case. The sheriff would then take the disputed land into his custody and put together a jury for the case. So off Methos went to Westminster to get the writ and to bring it back to the sheriff in Norwich.
The trip to the Chancery actually went very smoothly. While there, making sure the clerk wrote down all the details perfectly since any technical error could cost them the case, Methos also found out about a special commission to the judges and bought that too. Rebecca could afford it.
The judges were coming to the Norfolk in April by the order of the general commission of the King, but having a special commission to the judges would make sure that the case would be heard. In regular king’s courts, in Westminster, a case might take years. Waiting until April would be a relief. Monday, after the first Sunday after Easter, in the twenty-second year of Edward III, three judges were expected in Norwich, and Methos was determined to be there and be done with this nuisance. Then he could go back to his books.
Chapter 6: Westreynham, Norfolk. March, 1348.
Chapter 6. Westreynham, Norfolk. March, 1348.
“There are riders coming! Come quickly to the green,” a kid’s voice yelled clearly as the boy ran past and headed to the next house. Methos was sitting with Katherine and Etheldred in front of their second smaller house, drinking ale, while sorting through the documents Katherine managed to procure from the men holding the title to the disputed land. As the women put their spinning away and were excitedly speculating on the new arrivals, Methos debated with himself if he should go see the commotion. In the end, curiosity won and after hiding the deed inside the house, he made his way to the green where most of the village already gathered.
It was a Sunday, and men and women were not really permitted to work and many were already on the green as was customary, playing games and generally being merry.
Four riders approached, on good horses. As they came closer at a steady pace, one of the villagers recognized the rider who was slightly ahead of the others. “It’s William de Middleton, the sheriff.” The murmur went through the crowd. The sheriff never came to their village personally before. Usually, his bailiff might appear or they would see the sheriff at a market day in a bigger town but never here. Methos knew that the village would talk of it for years to come. He already began to suspect why the sheriff came. He gave the writ to one of his bailiffs a fortnight ago in Norwich.
The sheriff came to a halt but did not dismount. His followers, all armed, pulled up behind him. He pulled out a piece of parchment which Methos recognized as the writ.
“I am here on the behalf of his majesty King Edward of England and France. Thomas Doune, Ralph Doune and Nicholas Chaloner are accused of dispossessing Katherine, daughter of William Doune and her sisters Margaret and Etheldred of a house with a garden and eight acres of land in this village in defiance of the King’s laws. I am commissioned to take the disputed property into my hands and to empanel a jury of free men to investigate the matter and that jury would then report it to the royal judges on Monday, after the first Sunday after Easter next in the Shire Hall in Norwich.” He put the writ away and faced the crowd.
Methos noticed that Thomas, Katherine’s brother, was taken aback and then he was staring furiously at his sister. Thomas was not a small man. He was almost at tall as Methos, had broad shoulders and large arms. Methos was grateful that Thomas could not carry a sword, although his knife would be a dangerous weapon. Methos moved towards Katherine, even as he knew that Thomas would not be able to do anything with the sheriff and his men around. Nicholas, Thomas’ friend, seemed to be holding Thomas back just as a precaution. Men and women seemed to move a little further away from them.
Methos glanced at Katherine. She was staring back at Thomas defiantly with her head up.
“Who is the bailiff in this manor now?” asked the sheriff.
“I am. Rob Sewale is my name,” said a man.
“Rob, do you know of which property I speak?”
“Yes, my lord. It happened in December.”
“Good. Then all the profit from that land goes directly to me. You will present an account of it once the matter will be resolved in the king’s assize court. You can bring it to Norwich with the rest of the taxes after Easter.” Rob nodded and William de Middleton then looked back at the crowd. He noticed the space before the three men and addressed them. “You are Thomas, Ralph and Nicholas?” Ralph was the one who nodded. He looked the most terrified of the three of them.
“You will not go back to the disputed house and land from this moment on. It is now in my possession. Find somewhere else to stay.”
As he was about to address the local bailiff again, Thomas raised his voice, “Can we get our instruments and …” He stopped talking as one of the sheriff’s followers moved his horse closer.
The sheriff glanced at Thomas and said, “I don’t like to repeat myself. You will not go near that property as it is now mine until the judges determine what to do with it. I will know if you came anywhere near it. If you like to spend the time waiting for the judges to decide in my custody, you are welcome to try.”
“No, my lord.” Thomas clenched his fists and sent another scathing glance Katherine’s way as he answered. He also began to appraise Methos for the first time, which made Methos slightly nervous.
“Bailiff,” William de Middleton addressed Rob Sewale again, “gather all free men of this village, except the defendants, on the one side of the green, those who know what happened and the history of the property in question. I will need to empanel fifteen good and honest men to investigate. Twelve will serve as a jury. And you,” he pointed at a one matronly looking woman, “do you make ale?”
“After we are done here, how can we find your house to drink some?”
“John here, my boy, will lead you there, sire. I have some bread as well.” She pointed at her small son who was trying to peak around the men in front of him to see what was happening.
The sheriff looked at the boy, signaled to one of his men, who then dismounted, rummaged through a pouch on his belt and gave the woman some coins. She thanked him and left to make sure everything would be ready.
Meanwhile many of the men were moving toward the side of the green closest to the Church. Methos was startled to see the sheriff’s gaze on him. The sheriff finally dismounted and made his way over to Methos. Methos made sure his face seemed as innocent and not threatening as possible.
“You’re not a peasant, going by your clothing, nor from here. I know all the manor lords.”
“No, my lord,” Methos knew to adopt the most courteous manner possible. He was now lower gentry after all, or at least pretended to be. “My name is Adam Wakefield. I’m staying with my cousin, Lady Rebecca, at Walsingham.”
At the mention of Rebecca’s name, the sheriff visibly relaxed. “A good lady. Determined not to marry.”
“Yes, she does value her freedom.”
"What brings you to this parish? Lady Rebecca’s charity project?”
“You know her well. I am actually serving at the attorney for Katherine Doune, the plaintiff in your case.”
“You are the one who procured the writ and the special commission.”
“Creating more hassle for me. Well, at least I’ll get some profit out of it, if those eight acres manage to grow anything. You should come drink with us, once I tell the jury what must be done. You must tell me more of how you came into our shire.” William then clapped Methos on his back and moved toward the local bailiff and the group of men gathered around him. Methos knew it was not a request but knowing the sheriff would lend him credibility and respectability so it might turn out an advantageous deal after all.
Methos watched the sheriff question the men and then point to fifteen of them. Another one of the sheriff’s followers came closer with the parchment, ink and a quill. The names of the men were recorded both on the parchment and then on the back of the original writ which the sheriff pulled back out. Then the sheriff told the men to view the property in question and talk about the history of it and what happened that December and come to the agreement. He also took pledges to make sure they would come to court on the appointed day. Some of the men did not look happy at the prospect of travelling to Norwich for a few days, but others were pleased to be given this responsibility.
Then many headed to the house of Agnes Burel, the woman who promised ale and who sold it out of her yard. Even after the sheriff and his men left, many stayed to talk about the events of the day. It was late when the crowd dispersed and in the darkness a few men fell into the ditches. Luckily, no one died and the coroner did not have to be summoned. Methos did notice Thomas watching him throughout the evening and that did not bode well.
Chapter 7: Norwich. April 28, 1348.
Chapter 7. Norwich, April 28, 1348
The Shire Hall in the Norwich Castle was crowded on the morning of the court date. The court was only hearing two cases this morning before they moved on to the next county but there were still many people around. For each case, at least twelve jurors were present and many friends of plaintiffs and defendants. It seemed like many villagers from Westreynham made the trip to Norwich for the night and day, for it wasn’t often they could see such entertainment.
The bailiffs had trouble keeping the space in front of the bench where the judges would sit free. The clerks were already setting up their writing implements and asking for more candles. The sun had barely risen and the Hall was buzzing with the noise of the crowd.
Methos and Rebecca were standing next to Katherine and her sisters and attempting to keep them calm. Methos was grateful for Rebecca’s quiet and tranquil influence.
“Perhaps, Sir Adam could speak for us after all,” asked Margaret. She looked the most worried of them all.
Methos tried to speak up to reassure her that the sisters were sufficiently prepared as he was doing for the last fortnight, but Katherine spoke first.
“Maggie, we talked of this. Thomas will speak for himself. He’s been learning from that lawyer in Walsingham. And everyone thinks we should be the ones speaking. Maybe the judges will take more pity seeing us up against him. And Sir Adam had been teaching us.” Katherine took Margaret’s hand and Etheldred took her other one. Margaret nodded but still looked nervous.
Katherine reassured her some more, “Don’t worry so. The right is on our side. Everyone knows it. And I will do the speaking. And after we win, we’ll have a feast for your wedding.”
Methos was not as confident. He knew that legally the law should be on his side. They had the deed prepared and he read the law. But it all depended on the way the jury decided. They were meeting and talking for the last month but they clammed shut if Methos even came close. He hired a boy to spy for him but the boy couldn’t give him too many specifics. He knew men who served on juries in his previous life and often their sense of justice depended not just on right but also on the reputation of the parties and their standing in the community. And Thomas did have many friends.
Maybe he should have spoken for Katherine and her sisters today. He sighed. Rebecca threw him a look and Methos put a confident smile on his face. He did perfect the art of appearing how he wanted to be.
The crowd murmured. The door of the side of the Hall opened and a few soldiers came in along with the Sheriff. He called for quiet and the Hall hushed as three judges entered the chamber. They were resplendid in their colorful cloaks and rich fabrics. Rebecca knew two of them personally and the third by reputation and had been telling him stories about Richard Kelleshull, Robert Thorp and John de la Rokele.
Richard Kelleshull was from Herefordshire and he was a sergeant-at-law at the King’s court until his appointment as the Justice of the Common Pleas eight years ago. Since he stared out as a lawyer he had a sharp mind and did not like any lawyer who didn’t have much training in front of the Bench. Richard Kelleshull and his views on lawyers and his weakness for women was the main reason that Methos decided that Katherine and Margaret and Etheldred should represent themselves.
Robert Thorp, who liked fashion and was dressed in the latest cuts, was a local man, raised near Norwich. He was educated in Cambridge and got an appointment as an attorney at the King’s court soon afterward. He had high ambitions. Everyone knew he wanted to be Chief Justice of the King’s Bench and maybe even Chancellor someday. Methos had no doubt that Robert Thorp would succeed. He met many men over the centuries with high ambition and they did not let anything get in their way.
John de la Rokele was the biggest mystery. Rebecca did not know him at all and his reputation was of a thinker who would nonetheless be influential in questioning the parties in court. After this case was over, Methos needed to find a way to get introduced to him. Good thing he drank with the Sheriff a few times over the last month. That might prove useful.
The judges sat and nodded and one of the clerks motioned for all to be quiet. They were ready to start. Methos hoped that he’d done enough.
The case itself did not take long at all. The sheriff read out the case again and mentioned the property in question and told the judges that he took the property into his own custody. Then Thomas came to speak for himself, his brother and his friend. He repeated his claims as a legitimate heir in halting but proper language. Whoever trained him was though. And then he answered some questions the judges posed to him.
Methos admired his strategy. Thomas was trying to get the case thrown out by saying that only the house was in question and not the eight acres of land. He claimed that those acres were in the possession of the sisters when they bought the writ from the King’s Chancery. And since the wrong property was listed, the case should be dismissed.
The sisters then stated their claim and produced the deed to the land which one of the clerks took to copy later.
Then the judges asked the jury to speak and they all stepped forward. One of the jury spoke for all and Methos held his breath. But when the jury spoke on the first point, of whether Thomas and others took eight acres in addition to the house, which Thomas denied, Methos felt relief flood through him. The jury was taking their side. They confirmed that the sisters were not in possession of those eight acres when they sought out the writ and then, most importantly they corroborated that Thomas, Ralph and Nicholas dispossessed them of those acres and the house. And that the story was as the sisters alleged down to every detail.
Methos felt Rebecca gripping his arm with excitement and he himself was nodding in satisfaction.
John de la Rokele leaned forward and said quietly, “And did the defendants take the house and land peacefully or by force and arms?”
The juror fidgeted with his hat in his hands and then said clearly, “By force and arms.”
The audience started chatting and murmuring excitedly and the clerk had to call for quiet again. Methos knew why. “By force and arms” was a more serious offense and carried a heavier penalty since it breached the King’s peace. Thomas was not happy because he knew where this was going. Katherine looked smug.
The judges consulted with each other and then pronounced their agreement with the jury. They decided that the defendants owed the sisters eight marks in damages and that the defendants should be arrested until they paid the fine to the King for breaking the peace.
Margaret cried with relief. Methos knew that that money would pay for the legal expenses and some would be left over to compensate for the money the women lost since this whole thing began. He just felt relieved that he did not lose his first case, especially since Rebecca did need him to win and he owed her.
Methos did not stay to watch the second case. He told everyone he would meet them later and walked around the castle grounds instead. He felt useful and good for the first time in more than a year and the feeling actually unsettled him.
Chapter 8: Westreynham, Norfolk. May 1348.
Chapter 8. Westreynham, Norfolk. May 1348.
When Methos rode into the village, it was easy to see where all the people were heading. He followed them. In front of the house that was taken away from Katherine and her sisters there were now signs of a major feast. The ale was certainly flowing freely and Methos was looking forward to that. Margaret looked radiant in a new dress and the man she was to marry that day was welcoming all the villagers to celebrate in the large space in front of the house where the women were setting up the food.
Methos dismounted and tied his new horse to the tree close by and made his way over. He felt the Presence and stopped for a moment with his hand on a sword but even as he scanned the area he knew that Rebecca was probably here as she was invited too. In fact, Rebecca was the patron of this wedding, although Methos was still not sure why she extended her help to these three women in such an extensive manner.
Their eyes met and Methos came over to where she was sitting as the guest of honor. On the way, he received many greetings and a welcoming pint from Etheldred.
“I was afraid your travels would detain you and you would miss the feast,” said Rebecca cheerfully, extending her arm in welcome.
“I’m here now. I want to enjoy all my hard work,” replied Methos as he sat beside her after kissing her on both cheeks.
“I have no doubt. How was Norwich?”
“Everything went well. I rented that house. I know I should probably buy one but I want to be cautious.”
“Of course,” Rebecca nodded. She added, “So you are all settled, then?”
“Mostly. Robert of Thetford agreed to teach me all the nuances of the local law if I give him a small cut of every case I’d take. And when the King’s judges would come on their circuit next through our eastern shires, we would shadow the court to learn all we can. I already have some of the clerk’s notes to read. But I don’t want to bore you with the details,” said Methos and took a healthy drink from his pint.
“I’m glad to see that you decided on what you want your life to be,” said Rebecca, patting his arm.
“I should do something and while I like your company, I need to feel useful too,” said Methos.
“I know,” said Rebecca. Methos could see a small smile at the corner of her mouth.
He closed his eyes and nodded to himself. “You minx.”
Rebecca turned to him, still trying to contain a smile. She raised her eyebrows.
“That is why you wanted me to take this case and insisted on it. This wasn’t charity; you sought it out!” Methos said.
“I might have. When I heard about Katherine’s story I thought that was something you could do. And if it got you out of the abbey, all the better.”
“And the mysterious introductions to the Norwich lawyers? And insisting I would be here looking over the deeds on the very day the Sheriff arrived. I see your plotting.”
“Well, how many times have you manipulated me into doing what was best for me? It was time for a return favour. Darius very much liked my plan.”
“I bet he did.”
Rebecca frowned, “You are not angry at me, surely?”
Methos took her hand and kissed the back of it, “No. Of course not. I needed a solid kick in the arse and I never been a lawyer before. Well, I dabbled once, but the law was completely different.”
Rebecca looked pleased.
The villagers were starting to gather around a bench that was close to the entrance to the house. Margaret and John, her intended, were sitting on it and Katherine called for quiet. Methos was sitting only a few feet away and he turned in that direction.
“Thank you all for being here. As we give thanks to God and his help and goodness, we are here to celebrate the marriage of my sister to this good man,” Katherine turned to her sister and nodded to her.
John turned to Margaret, took her hand, and said, “In the presence of God and all these friends and neighbors, I, John, take you, Margaret, to be my wife. From now on until the day I die.”
Margaret beamed and spoke in return, “And I, Margaret, take you, John, to be my husband, from this day on.”
John then leaned in to kiss her and all the guests and the crowd began to make noise again and then began to tease them.
Etheldred announced that all were welcome to the food and celebration and the party started in earnest.
“My last wife insisted on marriage at the church door. This seems so much simpler,” said Methos.
“I know of one couple who married in bed, and another who made the words of consent in the future tense in the pub and then were married the next morning since they went to bed together. When the man tried to back out and say that he only promised marriage, his wife took him to church could and they affirmed that marriage took place. I like comparing marriage customs. My last husband and I were married just by contract and I just moved into his house. But that was long ago,” said Rebecca.
“I remember him, I think. Tall, balding fellow,” teased Methos.
“Hush. He was a good man,” said Rebecca.
“When are you moving to Norwich, then?” asked Rebecca, clearly trying to change the subject.
“Monday next, I think. The house is being readied.” Methos paused and then added, “There were rumors in town of a sickness that is making its way from Genoa. They say it carries away all who come near it.”
“I heard these rumors too. Merchants from Lynn came to Walsingham to ask for prayers to make sure that it does not come to England.”
“We lived through plagues before.”
“Yes. But last time there was a plague in Europe, in the Roman times, it was not a pretty sight. I hope it passes us by.”
Katherine chose that moment to interrupt them and insisted that they get the best portions of meat, specifically cooked for the occasion. As the only high born guests, they were given all the best considerations.
Methos decided to stop with the talk of illness for the evening and enjoy good food and company. He was going to miss seeing Rebecca often, but Norwich and Walsingham were not far from each other. And for the first time in a year and a half, he had plans for the future. One did not survive if one was aimless and he was more determined than ever to survive for a very long time. And being a lawyer sounded interesting enough to keep him busy.
Chapter 9: Paris, France. April 2012
Chapter 9. Paris, France. April 2012.
Methos poured himself another glass as Duncan sat across from him and chuckled to himself.
Duncan said, “A lawyer, huh? That actually really fits you. You really never were a lawyer before that?” He sounded too amused by that discovery.
“No. Not really. I usually hired others. Or used my sword. Why is it funny?” Methos tried to sound indignant but Duncan’s good mood was catching, much to Methos’ chagrin.
“It’s not.” And yet he still continued to chuckle as he took the bite of his desert. Methos decided he was going to steal that cake and snuck a fork in.
Duncan just moved his plate towards the middle of the table. Took the whole fun out of it.
“How long were you a lawyer? And in Norfolk, of all places. Talk about backwater,” Duncan said after a minute.
“Not too long. Maybe ten years. Maybe fifteen. I don’t remember. I did leave England after that to go to Salerno.” Methos stole another bite of the cake.
“Best medical school in Europe at the time. The first one, actually. I wanted to catch up on the modern medicine.”
Seeing Duncan’s puzzled frown, Methos elaborated. “After the Plague, I just felt helpless and I thought I should learn more. That was not a pretty time.”
Duncan sat back in his chair. “That’s right. 1348 was right in the middle of the Black Death.”
“We didn’t call it that at the time, but yes. Seeing more than a third of everyone around you die is not the pretty sight. That wedding I went to…The husband, John, died six month later and left the woman pregnant and alone. One of her sisters died too. I was very grateful that we never get sick, but that meant that I had to care for many. Rebecca insisted.”
“I can imagine.”
“No, I don’t think you can. Rebecca left Europe soon after that and went to China. She needed distance from all that upheaval.”
“And you? You stayed for ten more years?”
“I liked it. Not the upheaval but the job. And in a few years, most people went back to normal. There were still quarrels and lawsuits and since many lawyers died, including the man who was teaching me, there were many job openings. I was comfortable.”
“But you still left for Salerno.”
“It was time to move on. There were rumors that Guillermo de Messina was in England and planning to stay and I thought it prudent to be elsewhere.”
“Makes sense.” Duncan put his fork down and took a sip of his coffee. “What happened to him? Did he ever find you?”
“No, he didn’t. He lost his head two hundred years later or so to some upstart. All of us lose our head at some point, even those who think they are above it. Try not to lose yours.”
“I’m not going to avoid a fight.” Duncan was smiling as he said it as they were now on the very familiar ground.
Methos took the bottle of wine and poured the last of it into their glasses. He motioned for Duncan to take his.
“To Rebecca. Wherever she might be.”
“To Rebecca.” Duncan clicked his glass to Methos’ one and they both emptied them.
As Duncan put his glass back down on the table, he looked curiously at Methos and then asked, “So, since that time, did you really not tell anyone your real name like Rebecca told you?”
“Not, I didn’t. Not really. A Watcher knew once, a long time ago, but no one else unless I knew them earlier. I would just go by whatever name I took. Rebecca was right in that. And I liked being Adam.”
“So why didn’t you deny it?”
Methos shook his head in puzzlement at the question.
Duncan leaned forward a little. “When we met and I called you by your name? Why didn’t you deny it and just said that you were Adam Pierson, only an Immortal? Why did you actually admit to it?”
Methos just smiled but didn’t say anything. He called for a check instead.
“C’mon. I think we had enough time out on the town. Let’s go see Joe play while we still can. Hopefully, we won’t run in into anyone else who can recognize you.”
Duncan recognized that he would not get the answer and decided he would try later. He knew a few ways to get Methos to talk. For now, he just wanted to enjoy Paris.