by Keith R.A. DeCandido
The short man with the blond hair sat upright in his chair as he felt the presence of another one of his kind. It was late at night, and the hospital was quiet, so the man who called himself Joel Hunter put his hand to his sword, just in case it wasn't who he thought it was.
Then the door opened, and a tall, lanky man with short black hair and slumped shoulders came in. The blond man relaxed. "You're back," he said in a version of the Greek language that hadn't been spoken in over two millennia. "How'd it go?"
"Well enough," the man who called himself Adam Pierson replied in the same tongue, then continued in English: "MacLeod is more or less his old self. How is she?"
"Not much changed," was the reply, given as he turned back to look at the fragile-looking woman who lay asleep on the hospital bed, numerous tubes inserted into various parts of her anatomy. Her name was Alexa, and she had a degenerative nerve disorder that would leave her dead inside a month or two. The tall man had fallen in love with her, and taken her on a whirlwind tour of the world to try to fit as much living as possible for her before it all ended. "The pain's gotten a bit worse, and they upped the morphine a hair."
The tall man sighed and muttered an ancient curse, then said, "Thank you for watching her."
"No problem," the blond man said as he rose to give up his seat to the tall man. "It's not like I don't have experience in this," he added with a small note of bitterness.
Well over two thousand years ago, the blond man had been born in Corinth and given the name Iolaus. He would always think of the woman who gave it to him as his mother, even though he learned later in life that all of his kind were foundlings, and so he must have been adopted by that woman and her warlord husband. An agile, contentious child, he would become a sneak-thief as a teenager, a soldier as a young adult, and a hero as an adult. As all of his kind, he died a death that changed him from latent Immortal to truly Immortal -- in his case, at the hands of a brutal creature that called herself the Enforcer.
In almost two-and-a-half millennia, he had sat at many a deathbed vigil: Alcmene, his own mother, Gabrielle, Toshiro, Detlev, Marcello and Maria, Oscar, and so many others.
He thought of all of them while staring at Alexa.
But mostly, he thought of Gabrielle.
"I wish," said the taller man, who was born considerably more than two-and-a-half millennia ago, and had been called Methos when Iolaus first met him in Thessaly, "that there was more that we could do."
"It's possible there is," Iolaus said. "Tell me, have you ever heard of the Methuselah Stone?"
Methos frowned. "I seem to recall a mention of it in some Chronicle or other," he said, referring to the Chronicles of the Immortals kept by a clandestine organization known as the Watchers. As Adam Pierson, Methos belonged to that organization -- ironically, as a researcher in charge of the Methos Chronicle, Methos himself having become something of a mythic legend among Immortals. As he once said, he was in charge of finding himself, and he got to make sure no one ever did.
"That'd be Rebecca Horne's. She was the one who kept the stone."
"But Rebecca's dead," Methos said gently, knowing that Iolaus had been Rebecca's teacher. "So who would have it?"
"Luther, probably," Iolaus said with a certain amount of bitterness. He had been in Tasmania when Rebecca died. By the time he even found out that her former student had slain her, she was long-buried, her murder avenged by Duncan MacLeod. One of these days, Iolaus thought, I really need to meet MacLeod and thank him for that.
"What exactly is the stone?" Methos asked.
"Among other things," Iolaus said, "it's something that could save Alexa's life."
It's been too long, was Iolaus's first thought when he came within sight of the Amazon encampment. It had been decades since he'd been back this way. One of the joys of Immortality, as he had learned, was that you needed to move on before people started noticing that you weren't aging.
He had only returned when he did because word got to him that the Queen of the Amazons was dying.
I just hope that the news wasn't out of date and Gabrielle's already died. If so, he wasn't sure what he would do. The idea of Gabrielle dying alone without any of those closest to her nearby struck Iolaus as cosmically wrong.
Then again, he had no idea who was truly closest to her now. He hadn't seen her in years, and only knew of her recent activities by reputation.
Gabrielle had -- through a most bizarre set of circumstances -- become an Amazon princess. Though not born to them, she had been named as the adoptive daughter of their queen. After the queen's death, Gabrielle had the right to claim her throne.
She had avoided that particular responsibility for a long time. Gabrielle was also a Bard, and the companion to Xena, the warrior princess, and preferred her life with Xena to life as a monarch.
Iolaus cared for Gabrielle a great deal. She had comforted him when he lay dying of a wound that would not heal until Prometheus was unbound. Hercules and Xena had taken care of the latter, allowing Iolaus to live. (He hadn't known of his impending Immortality at the time. To this day he wondered how Promethueus's chaining would have affected him if he had become Immortal.)
As he came within site of the Amazon city, he saw that a funeral pyre had been erected, but the sticks were fresh and uncharred. Not dead yet, but expected to go at any time. At least I made it before she died.
He took a leisurely course toward the city, not bothering to conceal his movements, though not being too terribly overt, either. Once he got to a certain point, he said, "You can come out, now. I don't mean you any harm."
As expected, three women dressed in the warrior garb of the Amazons leapt out from behind the brush and trees. To a normal person, they would have been well concealed. But even as a youth, Iolaus had been trained in being aware of his surroundings, and he'd had quite some time to hone those skills.
"I'm impressed," said the tallest of the three, who held a short sword. Her companions both favored spears. "Few can detect an Amazon warrior when she is in hiding, much less three."
Iolaus grinned. "Or five. There's the one you left in the bushes to my left as backup, plus the one up in that tree with the crossbow aimed at me." In fact, the crossbow bolt was probably aimed unerringly at his heart. Amazons chose one weapon to specialize in when they began their combat training, and they either became expert at it, or did not become warriors.
The woman tensed. "What business do you have with the Amazon nation?"
Taking a breath, Iolaus said, "My name is Iolaus. I'm an old friend of the queen's. I heard she was dying, and I wanted to be with her."
One of the spearholders laughed. "A man claims to be an old friend of our queen?"
"Quiet," the leader said, then turned back to Iolaus. "Can you prove what you say?"
"The queen will recognize me when she sees me," he said after a moment.
"And what possible reason would we have to let a man -- and a dangerous man, at that -- anywhere near our beloved queen when she is at her most vulnerable?"
Iolaus shook his head. "First of all, she's dying anyway. I doubt I could do anything to harm her that nature hasn't already taken care of. Secondly, I think you know as well as I do that I could've just as easily gotten into your city and in to see Gabrielle--"
"You will speak of the queen with respect!" the other spearholder cried, lifting her weapon.
Holding up his hands, Iolaus said, "Of course, my apologies. In any case, I could've entered your city, paid the queen my respects, and left without you ever knowing I was there. As a gesture of good faith, however, I chose instead to approach openly and with your permission. I'd like to hope that the gesture would be reciprocated."
A very tense moment followed, before the leader finally lowered her sword. The other two did likewise with their spears.
"We shall take you to our city. There, Eleutheria will decide whether or not you are worthy to see the queen on her deathbed."
"Thank you," Iolaus said.
Four of the five Amazons escorted Iolaus into the city. They formed a circle around him, one at each "compass point" around him, far enough away that he couldn't reach them. Good form, he thought. The fifth remained in the tree, probably a sentry in case Iolaus hadn't come alone.
When they entered the city proper, Iolaus could feel the melancholy. Nobody was handling Gabrielle's death very well. As far as Iolaus knew, no Amazon queen had died in her bed before. Leave it to Gabrielle to be the first, he thought. She was as good as anyone in a fight, but she also only fought as a last resort. If anyone could bring peace and prosperity to the Amazons, it would be her.
As they approached the largest hut -- obviously the place where the queen lay dying -- the lead Amazon pointed at a large rock. "Sit," she said. "I will fetch Eleutheria and she will hear your request."
"Thank you," he said, seating himself on the rock. Not the most pleasant seat in the world, but he'd made himself comfortable on worse.
He looked around. The other three Amazons remained to guard him. I suppose I should be flattered, he thought. Other women walked about, some talking, some working, none of them laughing. Not surprising, all things considered, he thought.
Iolaus recognized none of the women around him, but that, too, was no surprise. What was it Ephiny said once? "There are no old warriors." Gabrielle was likely the first Amazon queen to die in her bed for the simple reason that a race of warriors had very few people period who died in their beds.
Then he felt it: another Immortal.
Just as the feeling hit him, a red-haired Amazon suddenly tensed and unsheathed her sword. She had been standing next to another Amazon, who asked, "What is it, Rebecca?"
"I -- I don't know," said the red-head. "I just felt--" She turned, then saw Iolaus for the first time. "You!" she said, approaching him with sword raised. Her friend followed. "What have you done to me?"
The three guards tensed.
"Nothing," he said, choosing his words carefully. He remembered his own first encounter with another Immortal, a woman named Penelope, and his reaction had been much like this Rebecca woman's. Obviously, like Iolaus back then, she had no idea what she truly was. "Why, is something wrong?"
Rebecca stared at him for a moment. She stood like a warrior, but her eyes betrayed her -- she was confused, and a little frightened.
She was also, Iolaus couldn't help notice, extremely beautiful.
Ideally, of course, he wanted to tell her exactly what she was, but he could hardly do that in the center of town, with four other Amazons in earshot and several others around.
"Never mind," Rebecca said, lowering her sword. "I'm sorry." She turned on her heel and left, her friend -- who looked even more confused than Rebecca -- following.
The three guards returned to their at-attention gait, but one of them, the spear carrier who had told him to speak of their queen with respect, looked at Iolaus with suspicion. Oh, well, it's not like they really trusted me in the first place.
The Amazon who had gone to get Eleutheria returned, along with a regal-looking woman who, he presumed, was Eleutheria herself. She confirmed this by giving her name and then saying, "I speak for the queen. Who are you who presume to name yourself for a hero?"
Iolaus couldn't help but smile at that. Nice to know someone remembers me. Then again, when your queen is also a Bard, one tends to keep one's history at the forefront.
"I was named for that hero," Iolaus lied with the ease of long practice. Penelope had told him that the easiest thing to do once you passed a certain age was to claim to be your own descendant. "He was my grandfather. He also spoke often, and fondly, of your queen. I thought I owed it to his memory of their friendship to pay my respects to her."
"It is easy to claim that the noble Iolaus is one's ancestor," Eleutheria said, and again Iolaus smiled. He had to admit to liking being remembered as noble. "Less so to prove it."
"My grandfather was born in Corinth. He first met your queen when they, along with Xena and Hercules, fought to unchain Prometheus. He helped your queen to protect Xena's body, fought alongside her against Ares and Strife when the Golden Hind was murdered, he--"
Eleutheria held up a hand. "Enough." She smiled. "If you are a fake, you are an exceptionally well-informed one. Xena's death, however temporary, and your grandfather's brief role in the afermath are hardly common knowledge. I will bring you to our queen. Come." She signalled to the four other Amazons, who stood at attention. As Iolaus followed Eleutheria into the hut, the four Amazons followed close behind, weapons ready.
There were many things about Immortality that Iolaus really disliked. However, the one thing he had always been grateful for was that, no matter how many years he lived, he would never grow old. His greatest fear since he was a child was growing old and decrepit, knowing that he would be a barely recognizable shadow of his younger self.
The woman who lay on a pallet inside the hut was a barely recognizable shadow of her younger self. White hair fanned out in wisps onto the pillow below her head, her paper-thin skin was a mass of wrinkles, and she had become so skinny that she seemed almost to be a skeleton with the minimal possible flesh draped over it.
For as long as Iolaus had known her, Gabrielle had carried the air of youth. That quality had caused more than one opponent to make the mistake of underestimating her -- a mistake that was rarely made twice. Seeing her like this made Iolaus's heart sink.
Then she opened her eyes, and he regained some measure of hope. Her probing brown eyes hadn't changed a bit.
"Iolaus?" she croaked.
She knows. From the second she looked at him, he knew that she was not going to believe any stories about him being his own grandson. Whatever nature had done to ravage her body -- and nature, it seemed, had had quite a field day -- her mind remained as sharp as ever.
Although her head never left the pillow, it did turn toward Eleutheria. "Leave us," she said. "All of you. I would speak with Iolaus alone."
"My queen, it is not safe. This man--"
"Eleutheria," Gabrielle said in a tone that would brook no opposition, "I can say with all confidence, and with no malice intended to you, that I am safer alone with this man than I would be with the entire rest of the Amazon nation."
Once again, Iolaus smiled. My day for being complimented, I guess.
Eleutheria bowed. "As you wish, my queen."
Within seconds, Iolaus and Gabrielle were alone in the hut. "How did you do it?" she asked. "The golden apples?"
"I'm afraid not," he said. At first he was going to say yes, concoct some kind of story about how Hercules had fed him the apples to save his life, but in an instant he abandoned that. He had lied to Hercules about his Immortality for decades, after all, and the discovery of that lie was the main reason why he had neither seen nor spoken to his best friend in thirty years. He wouldn't make the same mistake twice.
Besides, he owed Gabrielle the truth.
So he told her. He told her about Immortals and the Game, he told her about Penelope and the Four Horsemen, and he told her about his and Hercules's fight with a sandshark leading to Herc discovering Iolaus's Immortality and how that sundered a once-unbreakable friendship.
And then it was Gabrielle's turn to talk. She spoke of what she had done with the Amazon nation after Xena sacrificed herself to imprison Ares in Thespin's Cave, about the alliances with the Centaurs and the Spartans, about the wars she'd been forced to fight and the treaties she had negotiated when those wars went badly for their opponents.
She also spoke of her friends dying, one by one.
"After Joxer died, I thought there was no one left. I heard so many different stories about you and Hercules, I didn't know what to believe. I had just assumed that you had died in battle and that Hercules had gone on a quest or something." She smiled, showing brittle, yellow teeth. "I guess I was half right."
"Well, I couldn't stick around for too long once I got past a certain age. I mean, people with my lifestyle tend to age faster, not slower. So I left Greece. This is my first time back in a long time."
"I'm so glad you did come back. It means a lot." She put a leathery hand on his. "It especially means a lot to know that you'll go on. Someone will remember, and continue to tell the stories."
He laughed. "Still a Bard at heart, huh?"
"Always," she said with a thinner laugh, followed by a cough. "You know, I thought I would enjoy old age. I never liked the physical stuff," she said conspiratorially, and suddenly the dignified queen fašade fell, and the impetuous young woman who bullied her way into being Xena's sidekick came back. "But I really don't appreciate this whole body-giving-out-on-you thing. You're lucky."
"In some ways," he said. "On the other hand, I've buried more people than I ever thought I'd have to."
They talked until the sun went down. Iolaus hadn't realized how much he missed this. Since he and Hercules parted ways, he'd been more or less completely on his own, and he missed talking to people.
Remembering the red-head outside, he said, "Gabrielle, may I ask a favor?"
"One of your people, a red-head named Rebecca?"
"Yes, I know her. She was with a tribe of Jews who were massacred by bandits. She was the only survivor."
No she wasn't, either, Iolaus thought.
"We took her in," Gabrielle continued, "and she became one of us. She just finished her training with the sword."
"I'm afraid she probably didn't survive it," he said. "She's an Immortal, like me, and I don't think she's aware of it. With your permission, I'd like to tell her who she is."
"And train her?" Gabrielle asked.
He smiled. "Well, that's hardly necessary. Amazon training is as good or better than any she'd get from another Immortal, even me. But she does need to know the rules of the Game."
"Of course," Gabrielle said, just as Eleutheria came in with a woman dressed in the garb of a healer.
Iolaus realized he had overstayed his welcome. "I should go," he said.
"Eleutheria, this man is to be an honored guest of the state. Please accord him every privilege."
"As you wish, my queen." Eleutheria gave Iolaus an approving look. Obviously, if the queen thought highly of him, so too would she.
"Rebecca is to be his escort," Gabrielle continued.
That seemed to confuse Eleutheria, but she merely repeated, "As you wish, my queen," and gestured for Iolaus to follow her out of the tent while the healer moved to the pallet to tend to her patient.
Eleutheria led Iolaus outside and thence to a large hut that served as a mess hall of sorts. As they approached, Iolaus again felt the presence of another Immortal.
Rebecca looked extremely tense when Eleutheria and Iolaus approached her at one of the many benches.
"This is Iolaus," Eleutheria said. "He is a guest of our queen. You are to be his escort, Rebecca."
Iolaus could see the emotions raging on Rebecca's face. She obviously had no desire to take on this duty, and did not like the strange feeling in her head every time Iolaus came near her -- but she could not question a directive from the queen.
"Of course, Eleutheria."
When they were left alone, Rebecca hissed at him. "What are you?"
"That would take a long time to explain, and it would probably go down easier over a meal." Iolaus realized just then that he hadn't eaten in hours.
Within a few minutes, they sat across from each other in a remote corner of the hut, Iolaus with a bowl of stew in front of him. It smelled fantastic, which surprised him. He'd dined with Amazons once or twice in his time, but their food was always nutritional but bland. But he could make out several spices, some of them fairly exotic, in the stew. He smiled as he took a bite, suspecting Gabrielle's influence on the cuisine.
Rebecca ate nothing, but simply sat staring at Iolaus. She obviously did not trust him, but she also knew that he was a guest of the queen.
"You and I are alike in many ways," Iolaus said after consuming several bites of stew. "We both died."
Rebecca sat up straight, and seemed as if she would rise from the bench on which she sat. Her hand also went to her sword. "How did you--?"
"The queen told me that your people were massacred and that only you survived. But you didn't, did you? The same thing happened to me once."
"Your people were killed?"
Shaking his head, Iolaus said, "No, but I did die." He closed his eyes for a second, and once again he remembered, with bone-crunching vividness, the Enforcer's heels slamming into his back, his head crashing into a tree, the agonizing crawl across the fields to die in Hercules's arms. "And then I came back."
"I -- I felt the blade cut into me," Rebecca said hesitantly, and now her voice had lost the hardness that had been there each time she had spoken to Iolaus. "But then I awakened. I thought that the Lord had chosen me because I was the guardian of the stone."
Iolaus frowned. "Stone?"
"I cannot speak of it to an outsider. Suffice it to say, it is a sacred duty that I still retain, even as I live among these good people. Our murderers did not take the stone, and I keep it still." She shook her head. "But here you are -- I felt your presence. It is true, isn't it, that we are the same?"
"And we're not alone. There are many of us throughout the world. I've encountered quite a few. And we don't age, and we don't die, unless--" He hesitated. C'mon, she's an Amazon. She lives with the threat of death every day, even in Gabrielle's peaceful regime. "Unless our heads are cut off."
She actually smiled at that, and Iolaus saw that she had a most beatific smile. "I shall have to avoid beheading, then."
"It's not that simple," he said. "There is a price we pay for our Immortality."
And then he explained the Game and its rules, and that there could be only one.
Rebecca stared at Iolaus with a slightly stunned look on her face, which allowed him to finish his stew in silence.
"You're serious about all of this?" she finally said.
"You can choose not to believe me if you wish, but it won't do you a lot of good the first time you're challenged. Not all Immortals are considerate enough to explain things to you. Most would just challenge you to a duel and take your head."
For the second time, Rebecca smiled, but this time it was a confident smirk. "They'd certainly be welcome to try. But all Immortals engage in this ritual combat?"
"Some more than others. And some are more brutal than others." He remembered the Four Horsemen. He hadn't heard much of their exploits since first encountering them; it had been his hope that he and Hercules had driven them to go as far from Greece as possible. "But you need to be ready for them. I assume you know how to use that thing in your hilt?"
"Any time you wish to test my mettle, good sir, you are welcome to."
The next morning, Gabrielle still lived. Apparently, this is how the Amazons now lived their lives from morning to morning, wondering when their beloved monarch would finally go to the other side.
Iolaus took Rebecca up on her offer to "test her mettle," and he was impressed. She had tremendous skill with the sword -- but then, he'd expect no less from the Amazons.
She took a swing at him that left her right side completely exposed. Since she was Immortal in any case, there was no need to hold back -- he drove his sword right into her side.
Rebecca looked more than a little surprised at that.
As Iolaus pulled the sword out, she hissed, "Betrayer."
"Calm down, you'll live. But you shouldn't leave your side exposed like that. I can show you a way to--"
He didn't get a chance to finish the sentence as she snarled and attacked, even as the blood spewed from her wound.
"You will die for this!" she cried as she leapt at him.
Iolaus easily countered her attack, which was sloppier than before, due to both her anger and her wound. It didn't take much effort for him to once again plunge his sword into her, this time right at her heart.
Within a few minutes she awakened.
"I -- I still live?" she said, blinking in surprise.
"Of course you do. We're Immortal, remember?"
She sat up. "In truth, I had not. I thought you had betrayed us, that you had lured me out here to kill me and then murder our queen."
"I would never do that!" Iolaus said, aghast. "I've known your queen since she was a young woman. She was once a dear friend."
"I do apologize. I forgot that, should I die, I will live again. It has only happened the once, after all."
"Quite all right," Iolaus said with a smile, and helped her up. "You still need to work on your exposed side. Let me show you something..."
They spent most of the day sparring. Iolaus then visited with Gabrielle, and then he and Rebecca spent most of the night talking. He told her of the adventures he'd had, both before and after achieving Immortality -- some of which Rebecca already knew, as her queen had been involved in those selfsame exploits, and Gabrielle's life was well known to her people -- and she told him of her life with the Chosen People, including the honor it was when she was given responsibility for the item she would refer to only as "the stone."
"Well, I think it's time I turned in," Iolaus said after yawning for the fourth time in five minutes.
"Will you be leaving us after the queen dies?" Rebecca asked.
Iolaus nodded. As tempting as it was to remain in Greece, there were too many memories here, and just enough people alive who knew Iolaus to risk them seeing him as a young man.
"Can you take me with you?"
That surprised him. "But--"
"I have never felt comfortable here. I am grateful to the Amazons for rescuing me, but this is not my home. I thought my home was with my people, but from what you have told me, the Chosen People are not my people any more than the Amazons are. I am Immortal, and we make our own destiny. It is time I did so."
Iolaus blinked in surprise. This was a surprisingly -- well, mature attitude. "Rebecca, you may not want to do anything rash."
"There's nothing rash about it. As I said, this life has always felt wrong to me, but I stayed out of gratitude. Gratitude is not a sufficient reason to live a life a way that is wrong for one."
Iolaus found he couldn't argue with that.
The next morning, the healer came out of Gabrielle's hut looking unhappy. "She will not live out the day," was all she said to the crowd that had gathered around the hut.
Iolaus, who stood with Eleutheria and Rebecca, asked, "May I see her?"
"Yes, but not for very long. She is very weak."
"I understand," said Iolaus.
He entered the hut slowly, Rebecca right behind him. Eleutheria did not follow, for which he was grateful, and indeed, she almost stopped Rebecca from entering, but Iolaus said, "No, it's all right. I'd like her with me, if that's okay."
Eleutheria clearly did not think it was okay, but saw no way to say so without offending her queen's honored guest, and so said nothing.
Gabrielle looked even less substantial than she had the day before. Iolaus remembered the deathbed vigil he, Hercules, and Jason had held for Alcmene when she lay dying, but Hercules's mother never looked this decrepit.
He shook his head. Jason, Alcmene, Deinara, Serena, Salmoneus, Xena, Joxer, Iphicles, Ajax, Mother -- even Autolycus, the bastard. All dead. Iolaus had even been there for some of those deaths.
And Hercules is gone. Gabrielle's the last one left. Is this what it's always going to be like? Watching everyone around me die while I go on? Can I bear to live like this?
He didn't know the answer.
But he did know he needed to be here for her.
"I-Iolaus?" croaked a voice barely above a whisper. He didn't even recognize it as Gabrielle's.
"I'm here." He took her leathern hand in his.
"It looks like this is it," she said. "I'm glad you could be here."
Tears streamed down his cheeks. He didn't bother to wipe them away. "So am I," he said in a voice almost as small as hers.
"It doesn't need to be like this," Rebecca said suddenly.
"What do you mean?" Gabrielle asked.
"My queen, I have something in my possession that can cure you. It is called the Stone of Methuselah. It was my sacred trust when I travelled with the Chosen People, and I bear it still. It is blessed by the Lord and can stave off the touch of death. It kept Methuselah alive for hundreds of years, and his son Noah alive for longer. I can--"
So that's the stone she was talking about, Iolaus thought. He also truly understood the depths of the regard in which Gabrielle was held, if Rebecca -- who had only yesterday told of how she didn't belong among the Amazons -- was willing to tell an outsider of the stone.
"I said no, Rebecca," and as weak as it was, Gabrielle's voice still carried the authority of her position. "I am grateful for the gesture, but Immortality is your fate and Iolaus's, not mine. I have lived my life and am more than ready to go to the other side. Prolonging it any further would be arrogant."
Tears flowed as freely down Rebecca's cheeks as they had Iolaus's. "But my queen, without you--"
"You will continue as before. I'm not the first Amazon queen to die, and I won't be the last. Haven't you learned anything from my stories? People die and others carry on for them. That's the way of the world."
Rebecca bowed her head. "I am sorry, my queen."
Gabrielle's lips cracked into a smile. "You have nothing to be sorry for. You acted out of love. There can be no better motivation." She coughed lightly, then added, "I have lived as full a life as anyone can lead. I have no regrets now about dying -- especially knowing that you and Iolaus will carry on."
Iolaus smiled at her. "I just wish--"
"Shhhh," she said. "It doesn't matter. All that matters is that you're here." A pause, then: "You know, Iolaus, I wish you'd told me about being Immortal sooner. It would've made a great story."
Iolaus nodded. "After Gabrielle's funeral, we both left. We travelled together for about fifty years or so before she went on her way." He shook his head. "It's funny, of all the Immortals I've encountered, I always thought she was the most worthy -- and, honestly, the most likely -- to be the last one. I've never seen anyone with her skill, her compassion -- or her beauty."
"She was quite a woman," Methos agreed.
Iolaus smiled. "But she died for the life of her husband. She acted out of love. There can be no better motivation," he quoted.
"Gabrielle may have lived a full life, but Alexa hasn't," Methos said after a moment. "I think it's time I looked into the Methuselah Stone."
He hadn't heard from Methos since Geneva. He had no idea if he even found the Methuselah Stone, or if he had, whether or not it had worked. In truth, he did not know if the Stone truly had the ability to impart what it was supposed to impart. Though Rebecca claimed it would have restored Gabrielle, he never had the chance to see it in action, and Rebecca only showed it to him once.
After that, she had given shards of the crystal to each of her students.
Most of them were dead now.
And so was Alexa.
Shivering as the snow of this especially brutal winter started once again to fall from the sky, he zipped his leather jacket shut.
Someone else whose deathbed I sat at. Latest in a series, collect 'em all.
He wondered if he'd ever get used to it. He rather hoped he wouldn't.
The framing sequence of this story takes place between the Highlander episodes "Deliverance" and "Methuselah's Gift," with the final portion of the story taking place right after "Through a Glass, Darkly." The main story takes place some sixty or so years after the time of the Xena and Hercules series.
Iolaus's first encounter with Methos took place in "Protect and Survive"; they became friends in "Cold Wind to Valhalla." Iolaus's first death took place in the Hercules episode "Not Fade Away"; he learned of his Immortality from the Immortal Penelope in "Protect and Survive." Iolaus being present for Gabrielle's death was first mentioned in "Cold Wind..."; Alcmene died in the Hercules episode "Twilight"; Deinara died in the episode "The Wrong Path"; Ajax died in "War Wounds"; Serena died in "Judgment Day"; Xena's "death" imprisoning Ares in a cave is implied from the Xena episode "The Xena Scrolls"; Salmoneus's death was mentioned in "Cold Wind..."; the death (and identity) of Detlev will be shown in the forthcoming story "Occasional Demons." The other deaths mentioned (Jason, Autolycus, Iphicles, Iolaus's mother, Toshiro, Marcello and Maria, Oscar) are either assumed based on the time passed or are characters I made up. Iolaus first met Gabrielle in the Xena episode "Prometheus."
Rebecca Horne first appeared in the Highlander episode "Legacy," which is also when she was beheaded. The Methuselah Stone was first seen in fragmentary form there, both named and further explicated in "Methuselah's Gift."
Alexa Bond first appeared in the Highlander episode "Timeless," which is when Methos met her, fell for her, learned she was dying, and took her off to see the world. Methos's research into, and failed attempt to obtain, the Methuselah Stone occurred in "Methuselah's Gift." Alexa died shortly before "Through a Glass, Darkly."
Other installments of "The Methos Chronicles":
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