This is where it ends: a cemetery in France, a shovel, cold dirt and cold wind, shivering while you sweat.
This is where it ends. You have been running from him for a long time -- from him, from yourself, from what you were and what you still might be, if you let yourself. Here and now, you tell yourself, you are burying it in his grave. Orpheus had it backwards; where he has gone, only you now can follow him. He cannot chase you any longer.
You tell your stories. You take comfort in their disbelief: it was not real, it did not happen, you are Methos, the liar. It does not matter if it was real, if it happened. You survive. But you do not always remember.
You know where it began: with a flood and kinkilling. You have blood on your hands from the start, but that was normal, that was your life. They all died and you with them, endlessly.
You must have been back uncountable times. You must have walked the same worn paths you used to walk with your brothers. You must have looked up at the same stars you used to admire with your wives. You must have been back thousands of times before.
You must have been back. You have only never recognized home when you have seen it, when you have stood atop their graves. You have returned, you must have returned. You have only not known it.
(This you must believe, or else you will go mad.)
To begin at the beginning requires you to define beginnings and endings; it requires you to remember where things start. You must decide where it started. Here and not earlier. Here and no further. Here is the beginning and there is no other.
(The only beginning was your birth. Everything else overlaps, water dragging sand.)
You trace events and memories through the sands of time, trailing a thread behind you to find your way forwards and backwards. But it is not simple; everything is intertwined, until, abruptly, it ends: the knot cut clean through.
You have cut off all ties before and begun anew. But a thread always ran through it, even when you pretended not to see it. Something always remained, pulled forward constantly. You never buried it with your old chronicles, no matter how many times you tried.
There was always Kronos.
To begin to speak of Kronos requires you to define brotherhood, and this you cannot do. You know who is we. You know who you are and who stands beside you. You can define it by its negation: you know who you are not. But you cannot explain how that line is crossed. It's merely journeys, but the crossing between them and me is one you do not understand.
A civilized man would speak of shared humanity; you aren't civilized. You weep over killing a brother, but never an enemy. You can define an enemy, but never a brother.
Perhaps that's where the line is. Perhaps not.
MacLeod would say you are deliberately misunderstanding your own history, and perhaps he is correct. Sometimes you think you are too old to understand anything anymore.
You know that everything has a beginning. You can contemplate your own death thoroughly and with detachment: you know everything has an end.
Here, at your feet, is your brother's headless corpse.
Everything is intertwined and everything ends. You pick up a shovel and begin to dig.
When you left him, you remember, you left angry.
Kronos used to know to never let you grow bored. You were always at your most dangerous when you were bored. Too much time to think, too much time to let grow what would have been better never sown. Perhaps that is the tragedy of your life: you have had too much time.
And one day in that overabundance of time, that day at your most dangerous, you had wrapped yourself in cold cunning and colder rage. On that day, you decided to leave. You decided to rain destruction down on your brothers, to tear asunder what blood and years had drawn together.
It was a prelude to what came after, a prologue to the hell you raised in France. But once, your destruction was not absolute. Once, you could not bring yourself to do what was necessary. You did not kill.
You would like to think you would not have made that mistake again. You would like to think that, on your own, by yourself, you could have reaped what you had sown long ago and taken that final step. You would like to think that you would not have been weak again.
Thousands, certainly, died for that weakness. You have not allowed it to be millions. That is not a comfort.
Few things are.
In your past, you left him, and in your present, you did not kill him. You still wrapped yourself in anger and weakness, but this time, at least, this time you knew it. This time you made plans. This time you foresaw your weakness and planned accordingly.
Perhaps you are learning.
In your past, you paraphrased and prevaricated and preyed, desperate to exit a brotherhood you still cannot define (cannot bring yourself to define, cannot confront defining). In your past, you do not kill them, and you know the price you will pay for that mercy. For that humanity. For that cowardice.
You are Methos. Your cowardice is the horror of legends.
You know these legends:
You destroyed the Horsemen, but you did not kill them. You left them free to rise again. You left them as they were, but without you. All you cared about was: you left them.
And you left them free to leave, as you left them. But that is a mere euphemism, you know, and that is unbecoming: you destroyed them. They could not imagine your betrayal, and you betrayed them.
And you have just done it again. You are Methos: you stab your enemies in the back once, but your brothers twice.
Here is the truth:
There is no shared commonality. There is no peace, only smaller wars. You fight with Kronos, with Caspian, with Silas, with yourself. MacLeod fights with Richie, both of them so tame, both still Immortal.
You are tame, too, these days, but perhaps less Immortal.
Perhaps this is civilization. Perhaps Kronos was right. This is nothing but the embrace of weakness as ideal. When you destroyed the Horsemen, you destroyed them all. You destroyed Kronos, Caspian, Silas, and most importantly, you destroyed Methos. You are merely a tattered remain, and you like it that way. (This you do believe.)
The patterns are too familiar; you see them everywhere. Your brothers were incomparable, what you were is incomparable. It does you no favors to pretend otherwise.
Nothing is the same; everything is the same. It is all a pattern you have traced before.
Careful, you think. That's how you die.
You know where you began: you know your birth and its time. This, MacLeod understands. MacLeod understands birth at auspicious times, at foretold times, at times generations will remember. MacLeod understands generations never knowing the day of their birth and what it means when an orphan does.
Joe can understand calendar confusion and you let him assume it is that. A day is always a day, one and one making two but becoming uncountable. Days are like words; they can be impossible to translate. Years rise and fall with languages, but go no further.
You count your years with the dying of the daylight and the rebirth of the sun. You have never cared about counting age, but you mark the day. Days are important, years never are.
One night, every year, you remember your mother.
My gift, she whispered into the darkness, once a year, and every year you responded, I am.
One night, every year, you mourn.
There are things you want to believe: that once you were a benevolent god, that once you knew loyalty that was not bred out of fear, that once you had known innocence.
This is the age where they have vanquished the night and banished it utterly from their realm. You are Methos, born of silent shadows. You are Methos, who cleans his teeth with knives and tears. You are Methos, and you walk among them.
You are a creature of darkness as fear always is. You slide and slip among them, intangible, invasive, invisible. It is so easy. They don't understand. It is so easy.
They kill the night, they kill their fear, but somehow, they have not yet killed you. You wonder at it. You worry at it like an ache. You are Methos of shadows and lies and death, and you are still alive.
You are still alive and your brothers are dead.
You are still alive and you tell your stories, your flaws on display, and the strength of the tales draws them in. They listen despite themselves and afterwards comfort themselves: it was not real, it did not happen, you are Methos, born of lies. But all stories are truth. You embrace your contradictions and, sometimes, you are willing to explain them. Joe understands; there is no truth, but all stories are true.
You lie less than they think you do, but it doesn't matter.
You prefer your vision of the past -- of course you do. It is your creation and you have crafted it to your desires, to your weaknesses. You know yourself well enough; sometimes it's better when no one remembers. Not even you.
But you survive and you tell your stories. You have no other purpose: you are the example, you are the monster, you are the story. Stories breathe spirit; stories are always true.
The past matters, matters like a knife in the chest, matters like breathing once again. It matters like blood in your veins, throbbing deep and vital. It matters like hooves pounding earth, it matters like rain and dust and dirt. It matters like the grave you dig for Kronos.
And the Watchers want trivia. Details. Facts. Their idol is the truth and most of the time, you'll play their games. But not now. Never now. The Watchers kill the past and display it in a museum.
You live it. You breathe it. You are it.
You are Methos. You have been a god, a murderer, and a thief. You are currently a scholar, a historian, an immortal made low. Made fallible.
You have been as you are for years uncountable. You decide the truth.
A thousand years ago, the horsemen rode together for the last time. Now, you write in your journal and you call it a comeback tour. You write five pages of sarcasm and cynicism and pain. You finish it with a flourish. Your hand is not shaking.
Later, you begin on the alternating page: I can hear Darius laughing at me still.
From there, it continues. (From there, it begins.)
You go on.
The last time you saw Kronos, he was chained to a prison floor. You had the key hooked on its thread, safe around your neck, and you had left him there. You had kept the key with you until you had crossed into a different continent, and then you had thrown it aside.
You are naked and robbed and newly revived when you meet Kronos for the first time, and he stands tall above you and he extends to you a hand of friendship and brotherhood. You are bound together by the fraternity of Immorality long before the first time you cut your palm open and press it against his. You are bound by promises and pain and Quickenings and a thousand mornings, riding into the sun. Between you is a thousand years of friendship. (Between you is a thousand years of fear.)
You make your oaths and seal them in blood and slaughter, and you keep your oaths to him long after you have lost the taste for both.
Your dreams are full of the power, but you are no longer willing to pay the price.
The world has changed too much. You look to MacLeod and you see a survivor, but he has been tempered by his age, not yours. But this is his age, not yours, and you must remember that. It is important to remember that.
It is absolutely, desperately, necessary for your survival that you remember that.
It's not culture shock, you think, not really. This isn't a differing of cultures, it's of realities. MacLeod cannot understand yours, you do not think you will ever understand his. The gulf is too wide, too deep, too vast.
It is a gap five thousand years wide, a legion of lifetimes deep.
The champions of this age are soft-hearted, tender, and all the more dangerous for it. You had understood Kronos's feints, his jabs, his thrusts. Kronos was imminently understandable. Dangerous, in his way, but you could predict him. You could always predict him.
Kronos was a child of necessity, a child of unconstrained, uncivilized power. He had the freedom and simple-mindedness of a tyrant. Never weak, always severe. And it had called to you with the song of a siren. For all of the years between you, for all that you were always unfailingly his elder, you were brothers. You could never have been anything but brothers.
Kronos understood the hunt, the slaughter, painting your face with the blood of your enemies. You and your brothers had shared everything, you could ride and rejoice as one. You were one monster with four bodies and, oh, how you were feared.
Today, you are Adam Pierson. You are immortal made man, you are power brought low, you have made yourself low. You have made yourself bend. You do not understand this age, but you can adapt. You will survive it as you have survived so many others. You will not allow it to be otherwise.
(Perhaps in a thousand years, you will ask MacLeod how many men he has killed. When he cannot answer you, choking on the lack of memory and all it entails, you will smile.)
You have lived your life between the wars. In finding peace, you have always found constraints. There was freedom in the past, freedom in the slaughter, freedom in the horse beneath you and the brothers beside you.
In your past, in your dreams, Silas asks you about the sands of time. You are in the desert with him, Caspian asleep beside you, Kronos looking at you with the fire light reflected in his eyes, and Silas asks you about eternity. You answer, life is a fire, it must consume or it will die. And Kronos laughs. He says, you live with fire in your very bones, Methos, you cannot be tamed.
It was a compliment, then.
You live within your constraints, the external bounds that civilization places on you, its price for living within it. But they are nothing compared to the bounds you have placed on yourself, the ones that keep you here. You cannot survive without them, not in these lands, not in this time. To be civilized is an internal process. It must be.
You could not civilize Kronos. He could play the game, but it was never real for him, and so he died. (This you believe. This you have to believe, or you may very well go mad.)
Somewhere in the past, Caspian asks you to explain humanity. You cannot recall the answer you gave him.
Perhaps that's for the best.
Your muscles ache.
You keep digging.
Knowledge is never an absolute. You have known languages once that you cannot even hear in your dreams anymore. Keeping journals has taught you about languages, about writing systems, about change, and about yourself. They have taught you about forgetting and its value. Your journals are grouped into five major languages. Your major project for this century is cutting that down to two.
Translations are never exact, never perfect, and they breed errors like rabbits. But your journals are not history, they are memoir, and sometimes not even that.
(You run your fingers across the binding and you feel the heat; you live with your fire and it will not consume you. Not anymore. You are Methos and you will it; so it shall be.)
Your journals are yours and for you alone: you decide their purpose. You dictate their use. They are yours like nothing else, because words were yours, the scholar, the sandstorm, the spirit of the east. You thundered down from the mountains and you brought writing with you in your grip, more powerful, more precious, more dangerous than any sword.
This is power and it is yours, unquestionably, unbegrudgingly, unthinkingly. Your brothers had never understood.
You write your journals; you maintain your past.
You are Methos and you decide the truth.
You can dream in obsolete languages. You can translate your own thoughts, now completely incomprehensible to the modern era, from Sumerian to Egyptian to Latin to French. And they stretch and compress, they change with the dictionary, but you are content so long as the idea remains true.
It's all threads in the dark. It only needs to lead you forwards and backwards. You don't need to see it to know that it's there. It's feeling, only. Only feeling.
You can describe strange vistas, deserts, earthquakes, and floods. You can describe your families, your children. You have shorthands for them all, for the ones who survived and the ones who didn't, the ones who left to war and the ones who came back as strange and different creatures, born anew in slaughter. Your kin, made newly kin by the transformation.
You can translate your life from experiences to glyphs on a page and you can read it a thousand years later and smile because you cannot otherwise remember. You have given yourself this gift, this gift of memory, this gift of your own past.
Sometimes you have only recoded details. Sometimes you have recorded conversations. Sometimes you have gaps of a hundred years and more, gaps of horrors you knew at the time must never, ever be recorded.
Those are the things you cannot forget; those are the words that scream at you in your dreams in obsolete languages, and you can read the words from behind your eyelids, you can read entire volumes in those dreams. Your victims scream at you in languages you don't understand anymore, and you wake up in a cold sweat, because some things need no translation, and what you were is one of them.
You have seen darkness and you have been it as well, you have been that nightmare that thunders into a life and destroys it. You have ridden out at sunrise into a stark, brisk, beautiful dawn, and before the day was out, you had been the monster that had given life to your name. You were a horseman and you brought death to the world.
Your brothers called you by a name that your mother gave you, a word in a language you will never forget.
You know how to forget your own name. You can translate everything but years.
(Monsters. The lot of you.)
You live with fire in your bones and you dig their graves with grunts and groans, forcing the shovel into the dirt, forcing the frozen ground to give forth.
You can hear it, still. You can hear it on the wind, in the whistling cold. You close your eyes with the thrust of the shovel and you can feel Kronos's fingers in your hair, pushing it back over your shoulder. You can feel his hands on yours, taking the shovel from you. Let me, brother. You can feel his ghost wrapped around you and beyond him, you open your eyes and you see them all.
You bury your brothers in the cold packed dirt in France, so far from where you had once ruled. Here is the unknown land. It's not fitting; you should be raising them up in a mausoleum, you should have built them a pyramid. But you are not who you used to be and you can never be him again.
You lay Kronos to rest at three hours past midday and you can feel him still. You will carry his ghost with you for the rest of your life, but you do not carry his Quickening and you are grateful for that. You can see him standing in the mist; you don't want him in your head as well. He will haunt your dreams; he must be content with that.
Memory, and your brothers, have faded and frayed like old threads never mended. Blood-stained and shredded, like bodies never buried.
(There are battles you will never allow yourself to lose.)
Your pen hovers over the page and you pause and you write: There are battles I will not allow myself to lose.
You are a man without brothers now. You cannot fool yourself that it is for the best.
In your ear, the wind whistles a lament for the ages, the voices of a thousand unburied enemies, the roaring of a thousand rivers that were born from your flood. You are Methos and the problem with this age, you decide with a furious scrub at your fingernails, dislodging the cemetery dirt, is that they ask the wrong questions. Endlessly.
You write, with the sound of swords and Kronos's laughter in your ears: Because something always survives.
From there, it begins. (From there, it continues.)
You go on.