Author: Danielle Frances Ducrest <sword_girl[at]>

Disclaimers: Buffy the Vampire Slayer belongs to Joss Whedon, Marti Noxon, Kuzui Enterprises, Sandollar Television, Greenwolf Corporation, Fox Television Productions, Mutant Enemy, and UPN. Highlander: The Series belongs to Gaumont Télèvision, Rysher Entertainment, and Davis/Panzer Productions. Any copyright infringements were not intended. This story was written for entertainment and not for profit.

Spoilers and Timing: This takes place before "Wild at Heart" on Buffy, a year after the end of Highlander: The Series, and not long after Highlander: The Raven. It contains spoilers for the Highlander episodes "Archangel," "Comes a Horseman," and "Revelation 6.8" and spoilers for the Buffy episode "The Pack".

Note: This is the sixth story in my "An Immortal Life" Series, a fan fiction crossover series between Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the Highlander movies and TV series, and Angel. It would be helpful if you read the five stories that take place before this one. They fall in this order: Too Late, Need, An Alternative, Mes Amis, Merging, and then Sidelines.

Special thanks go to my beta readers, Kimberly Lynn Workman, who has beta'ed this already, and Diurnal Lee, who will beta this as soon as he finishes reading the other stories/has time to do so.

This story is dedicated to Rob Clark, Teri, and DumbOldDork, three of many fans I owe a lot to.

Summary: Imagine: Six Immortals, some of which are mere acquaintances while the others are close friends that know all the right buttons to push. Now imagine all six of them thrown together without any easy chance of escape, and all of them still have their swords on them…

In the light of shadow, in the dark of day,
The demon brings to light what was hidden away
And the Merged One and his companions of old
Will face evils and perils never before told

In the blackness of sunlight, in the shining eclipse,
The demon's master will come to exist
The Merged One and his friendless crew
Will face troubles in lies and perilous truth

In the dimness of dawn, in the blinding dusk,
The Earth will crumble with the Merged One dust
What has always been, will disappear forever more
And the Earth will become what is at its core
Unless the Merged One and his friends of new and old
Can band together and face the heat and cold

In the light of shadow, in the dark of day,
The demon brings to light what was hidden away
And the Merged One and his companions of time
Shall either Triumph or Forfeit at the End of the Endless Rhyme


Everything had gone so unlike anything I ever would have expected. It was a nightmare.

Marie, one of my students, had gone catatonic. Marc had almost been taken over by a Dark Quickening that wasn't even his. As for Amanda and Duncan…I had no idea what they were doing, or even if they were dealing with what had happened to them.

As for Methos…

Methos' dark secret had come out. The secret he'd kept from me so cleverly, so…I'd trusted him more than anyone, more than the Sunnydale gang, Amanda, Marc, and Marie put together, and he'd lied to me. He let me believe he was someone he wasn't.

And now, he was going to pay.

I didn't know how. I didn't know if one of us would end up dead when this was over, or if we'd both walk away without the friendship we'd formed over twenty centuries. I didn't know if we'd recover from this and move on.

All I did know was that I was the one holding the sword, and I was the one standing above Methos with the sword posed to strike. Methos, just awoken from unconsciousness and half sprawled on my couch, was at my mercy. His fate rested solely on how the next few minutes played out.


Twenty-four hours ago, Sunnydale

Methos ducked under another vamp's fist and blocked its next move. His fist connected with the bloodthirsty vampire and the demon's head snapped back. Methos quickly staked him. There were no more vampires that I could see. Methos turned and shot me a glare. "You'd better get back to full strength soon, Alex, or I might just have the urge to let them tear you to pieces," he growled.

I stood leaning against a tree, trying to catch my breath. Ever since Jake Melville, one of my enemies, attempted to kill me through a Quickening draining ritual, I haven't been at my full strength. That was over a month ago, but although I'd improved I still tired easily, and no matter how hard I tried I could never get my hands to stop shaking. I was feeling considerably better, but there was no way that I would be winning any fights until I had all of my strength back.

"Relax," I said between pants. I was breathing heavier than he was, and I had done very little of the fighting. The thought made me wish that I could slow my breathing a little, but my attempts to do so weren't accomplishing anything. "It would be harder to put me back together, wouldn't you think?"

"Who said anything about putting you back together?"

I glared at him and glanced at Marc's prone body. He, Methos, and I had been on our way back to my apartment from one of Sunnydale's fine drinking establishments when we were attacked. All of them were dust now. I hadn't done much of the dusting; after delivering one punch I ended up watching the rest of the fight from the sidelines. Marc got drained and had yet to revive, and it looked like the old man was planning to blame me for living in a place like the Hellmouth. It wouldn't be the first time.

My breathing returned to normal, but my body was still shaking. Gods, I felt as old as my age. I hated feeling weak, and I wanted to get back to full strength soon. Damn Melville and his rituals. I felt so useless in any fight. I was Immortal. I knew how to handle myself. I wasn't supposed to be useless. The last time I felt useless had been…when was it? Oh, yeah. My senior year in high school, before I became Immortal. All I was good for back then was a demon chew toy. Looks like I hadn't seen the last of that.

I felt a Buzz and glanced down at Marc's body. It spasmed and Marc gasped for air. He slowly sat up, groaning, and pressed a hand to the side of his neck. "Please tell me that someone staked the guy that drank me."

"He did," I said, pointing a damnedly shaking hand at the old man. "I socked him, though, if it makes you feel better."

"Yeah, thanks," Marc said as he stood up and rubbed his through.

"Can we go, please?" Methos asked impatiently. "I'd rather not run into another group of Xander's friends."

He was really starting to get on my nerves. "Me? It's you who's attracting them, Adam," I accused. "You with your Welsch accent. Vamps can't tell it apart from an English one, and around here, that translates into 'Watcher's Council Member.' It's like you're holding up a big neon sign that says 'bite me.'"

"Okay, knock it off," Marc said, stepping in between the two of us. "By the gods, you two are worse than Amanda and I!"

"We are not!" Methos and I shouted together. Our heads snapped back to face each other's, and at the same time, on impulse I think, we both said, "Jinx."

Marc rolled his eyes and threw his arms up to the heavens before giving up. As he walked away, I heard him mutter, "My elders act like children. If I'm going to be like that when I turn Alex's age, someone just take my head now."

Methos watched him go before turning to me. He sighed. "I'm sorry, Xander. Let's just get out of here, shall we?"

"Yeah," I said, feeling tired. If I didn't get to my own bed soon, I was sure that I would collapse.


Ever wonder what it would be like to meet your future self? You see it often enough in movies like Time Cop or in TV shows like Star Trek. I met my future self once. It was over half a year ago, actually. He shot me in the chest, tied me up, and left me in his motel room for a few days. Why? So he could prevent a part of his past from occurring again in my future. He got sent back in time two thousand years, and during those few days when I was tied up in his motel room, he was able to break the cycle and I never went back in time like he did.

Then, five months after that little incident and only a few weeks ago, he and I merged. How, you ask? I got all of his memories, his personality, and all the little neck scars he'd collected over the years, all in only a few minutes one lovely morning. So now, I'm both people: I'm Alex LaVelle, two thousand year old man who has collected quite a few enemies over the years, and Xander Harris, nineteen year old friend to the Slayer, who has acquired quite a few enemies himself by associating with Buffy. Both of them are me now.

So not only do I know what it's like to meet my older self, I also know what it's like to meet my younger self. It's been a really strange year in both of their-er, in both of my-experiences. The morning after Methos, Marc, and I were attacked, there was another Scooby meeting scheduled at my apartment. Anya woke me up around nine with a kiss. I don't know why the ex-Vengeance Demon was even attracted to me. She wanted sex and always managed to mention it in every conversation no matter what the topic was. She understood that I couldn't give it to her yet because I was so weak, but she was willing to wait. I didn't know how long she would wait, but if she stuck with me this long, she might just be in it for the long haul.

"Hey," she said. "Time to wake up. Your friends will be here soon, and I am not letting any of them see you naked."

"Right," I said, yawning as I sat up. I got dressed and ate breakfast as quickly as possible.

The gang had taken to meeting at my place since Melville performed that ritual on me. They did it not only because it was "easier for me" but because of my library. It was small, but I had quite a few books that Giles had been searching for years. Many were even originals, and the ex-Watcher hovered around them whenever he was at my apartment. It was amusing since he couldn't possibly understand half of the languages the books were written in. Even I couldn't translate one or two, and I'd lived for two millennia.

Buffy was the first to arrive that morning. "Hey Xander, Anya," she greeted them as she sat down at the table. "Ooh, muffins." She greedily reached for the tray of blueberry muffins Anya had placed on the table. When she leaned forward, Buffy winced in pain and placed a hand on a spot on her back.

"You okay, Buff?" I asked her, concerned.

"Just a little sore. Ran into a particularly nasty demon last night."

"What did he look like?" Anya asked.

"Yeah, maybe we can help. We've both had quite a lot of experience with demons," I said.

She blinked and glanced from Anya to me. "Right. Forgot that in all the pain. He had three horns, one on top of his head and the other two on the sides, and he had this red scaly skin."

"Did he have a tail?" Anya asked.

Buffy shook her head 'no.'

"Sounds like a Gillardo Demon," I said. "Better be careful. If one Gillardo came to Sunnydale, then his family is probably nearby."

"Great," Buffy muttered. "Thanks, Xand," she said, smiling at me. "You wouldn't happen to know of an easy way to kill it, would you?"

"Go for the eyes," Anya suggested. "If that doesn't work, try to pierce his genitals. That tends to work with anything."

Buffy gave her a grossed out look, glanced down at her food and pushed it away, apparently having lost her appetite. Anya was right about either of those places being very effective, but in light of Buffy's expression, I decided not to say anything.

The doorbell rang again and Anya answered it. Giles, Willow, and Oz entered, in that order. "Ooh, muffins," Willow said, mimicking Buffy in words and expression. The redheaded witch was already biting into one before she sat down in a chair. Everyone else grabbed one of Anya's homemade muffins and the meeting began.

Buffy told everyone about her encounter with the Gillardo Demon and Giles confirmed my guess after Buffy gave him a description. She seemed to trust his opinion more than mine. Not that I could blame her; for years, I'd been the guy who wouldn't know a thing about a certain demon until after hours of long, boring research. Then, suddenly, I have two thousand years of memories and experiences with so many demon types, not to mention the human kind, that even Giles had trouble keeping up with me.

My Sunnydale friends were getting used to the fact that I had information, but they hadn't quite broken out of the old routine just yet. As for me, well, when I merged with my older self I knew that nothing would be the same again. I decided to use all of my knowledge to the best of my ability; not only knowledge I'd gained through two millennia as Alex LaVelle, but also the knowledge and insight of my younger, less jaded self, Xander Harris. I've been getting used to it for a month now. The rest of the Scooby Gang were simply getting used to at a slower pace. It didn't take long for the meeting to finish. I told the gang about the vampires Methos, Marc, and I had come across the last night, and then the meeting was over. Giles decided to stay behind to take another look at my library. Anya left to go somewhere, she didn't tell me where, and Oz and Buffy headed off for classes. Willow stayed behind, which was unusual. Usually, she'd be leading Oz and Buffy back to the UC-Sunnydale campus, eager to get back to the learning.

"Everything okay, Wills?" I asked her as I stood up, leaning against the table for support.

"Sure, sure, everything's good," she said, trying too hard to sound chipper. She dropped the act and looked uncertainly at me. "I need to tell you something."

"You know you can tell me anything, Will."

She looked over at Giles. He was looking through a book written in a language that I knew he understood. It was obvious the ex-Watcher wasn't paying any attention to us. She turned back to me. "It's just…I know we haven't been really supportive of the whole merging thing and I just wanted to let you know that we're getting used to it, me included."

And I was just thinking of that. I hadn't expected her to bring it up, but it made me smile anyway. "I know," I assured her, and she smiled gratefully before continuing.

"It's just hard, 'cause I grew up with you, and I knew you. Then suddenly you're two thousand years old and I don't know you as well as I used to. So I, um…I want you to promise me something."


"I want you tell me everything. I've seen you get this far away look in your eyes sometimes. Not like when another Immortal gets close - it's more like you're thinking of something else. Adam and Marc do it, too, so I know it's got to be an Immortal memory thing. Whenever you do that, I want to know what you're thinking about. I want to get to know you as well as I used to know you. Can you promise me?"

I promised, even though I wondered exactly how much I could tell her. There are bits of my past that I wasn't proud of, and I was unsure that Willow would understand if I ever told her about them.

If I had to edit out those bits, I'd do so, but now was not the time to make that decision.

"How about we get together tonight? It's been awhile since we had a one-on-one," I suggested. Willow's face lit up. "Sure. That would be great."

I felt the Buzz, warning me of the approach of another Immortal. There was a knock on the door. I slowly made my way over to it. If it was an enemy, I didn't want Willow to answer it and risk getting hurt.

It was Methos. "Hey, Adam. Where's Marc?" I asked casually, at ease. Last night hadn't been anything unusual, not really. Our bickering was hardly worth mentioning, so why waste words on apologies after the fact?

He sauntered in. "Well, he was headed over here with me, but then he spotted some young girl and decided to spend the day with her instead of us."

"That just breaks my heart," I said, deadpan, before grinning.

"I'd better get going," Willow said. "I've got a class to get to in another hour. See you later, Xander, Adam, Giles."

"See ya," I called after her.

Seconds after she'd left, Giles looked up from his book and spoke his infamous line. "Oh, dear Lord."

"What is it, Rupe?" Methos asked him as he settled down on the couch. I could tell that he was trying to suppress a groan; he'd learned quickly in the weeks he'd been here what those three little words meant. I felt the same way.

Giles glared at him. Methos had quickly found a nickname Giles hated more than G-Man, and never missed an opportunity to use it.

The ex-Watcher walked over to me and held a book open for my inspection. "See this inscription here? Below this picture? Please tell me that I was wrong in the translation."

"Depends on what your translation says," Methos told him sagely, nodding his head as if he'd just imparted some grand piece of wisdom. I merely ignored him while Giles gave him an annoyed glance.

The page was written in Old French. I began to translate:

"In the light of shadow, in the dark of day,
The demon brings to light what was hidden away
And the Merged One and his companions of old
Will fight together against an evil never before told."

"Great," Methos said, rolling his eyes. "I guess the 'Merged One' would be Alex, right? And his 'companions of old' would have to include me." He sighed. "I should have stayed in Paris." I also felt like groaning. "Giles, can't we go for one month without a prophecy? Is that too much to ask?"

"It's not like I control them, Xander," Giles said, defensive. I knew that, but complaining had always been a favorite past time.

Methos took the book from me and scanned the book, then scowled down at it when he confirmed that my translation was correct.

Giles looked worried. "Our translations more or less match. This is not a good sign." I fought back another groan. "I'll have to look into this." He stood and placed the book in the crook of his arm. "I'll get back to you as soon as I find something, maybe schedule a research party this afternoon after Buffy, Willow, and Oz get out of classes. Hopefully, there won't be anything to worry about."

"Giles, how many 'Merged Ones' do you know?" I asked him, resigned. He wisely decided not to reply and left instead.

"'The Merged One and his companions of old,'" Methos repeated. He was deep in thought, and his chin rested on steepled hands. I don't think he realized that he was speaking the Old French dialect the page had been written in. When he spoke again, he hadn't switched back to standardized English yet. "I do not like that prophet's word choice. Not at all."

I didn't like it, either. That line wasn't the only one I had problems with. It said that the 'Demon brings to light what was hidden away,' and I was worried about what that meant. I pondered over it as I entered the bathroom.

A thought struck me as I was closing the door behind me. It was a memory I'd half buried, and it showed a rider dressed in white, sitting astride a pale horse. In my mind, I watched as a short movie played in my mind. The pale rider drove his horse over a hill and down into a burning town, screams accompanying his sword's path whenever it slashed on either side of the charging horse, leaving behind a path lined with corpses…

I jerked my hand away from the doorway. I'd forgotten all about the disturbing memory of Methos that I'd received from Samuel's Quickening during the whole Jake Melville situation. Samuel had been so sure that the masked rider was Methos, and I'd picked up that certainty in his Quickening. I also felt a surge of anger, also originally Samuel's, when the movie played through my mind.

I shook my head to clear it. I could ponder about what it meant later. Right now, I had a brand spankin' new prophecy to worry about. Oh, the joys of being the 'Merged One.'

I was opening the bathroom door again when I heard a scream. It was Methos, and he was screaming in pain.

Adrenaline coursed through me and I flung the door open as fast as I could. After getting that intense flashback, a scream from my oldest friend set me even further on edge and made me very impatient to get back to my living room.

I quickly exited the room, only to almost lose my balance when my legs gave out from under me from the exertion. Damn Melville and his power hungry balls. I was panting no matter how hard I tried to stop. When I looked up, however, I froze, my eyes mesmerized by the first thing that caught my eye.

A box sat on my coffee table. It was at least 12'' long, 9'' wide, and 10'' tall. How it got there was beyond me. It hadn't been there even ten minutes ago. I looked around the rest of the room. On the other side of the coffee table, my black plastic couch was splattered with beer, and its former container lay on its side on the seat. Methos was nowhere to be seen; when I concentrated, I found that I could no longer feel his Buzz. Where the hell did he go? I thought, worried and bewildered.

I approached the box cautiously. It could have been some sort of booby trap for all I knew. I've seen them come in smaller packages. It could have done something to the old man.

I realized, as I drew closer, that it wasn't really a box but a chest, painted black with gold trimmings. Demonic symbols of some sort decorated the sides, and an intricate design made up of spirals, curves, and dotted lines surrounded a drawing carved into the lid. The drawing was of an ordinary house cat poised to strike.

As I approached it, grabbing onto furniture to avoid falling to the floor, the cat's eyes glowed a deep, scarlet red. I stopped and watched it warily. That was when I heard the chanting. It was soft and seemed to come from the air surrounding the small chest. I recognized it as a demonic language, Hilliacticanese. My Hilliacticanese was a little rusty, and several minutes passed before the words clicked and their meaning became clear in my mind.

Piilla, hooroos, Pilaa, Loorom. Piilla, hooroos, Pilaa, Loorom.

Demon, Immortal, enemy, depart.

My eyes widened. A thousand thoughts flew through my mind, but one of the primary ones was, Oh, shit. This is so not good. The chest was chanting an ancient prayer that asked a Hilliactican god to dispel demons and other supernatural creatures, and I had a feeling that it was about to be answered.

A mist rose from the cat's eyes. Before my weakened body could even walk out of the way, the gas had traveled straight to my eyes. I jerked at the contact. Everything appeared out of focus. The entire room spun before my eyes, and before I realized it the box was getting closer and closer to my field of vision. It seemed to get bigger as well. The cat's figure dominated over mine. I couldn't tear my gaze away from its eyes. I watched as they grew in size until they were all that I could see.

I screamed. All I felt was terror and pain. Something was happening to me. I was being sucked into those eyes, those huge, overpowering eyes…

Everything went black.


The Buzz returned me to consciousness. Well, that and a stinging slap to the cheek.

"Xander! Xander, wake up!" Another slap against the other cheek accompanied the command. The hand was about to slap me again but I caught it before it made contact. I looked up into the eyes of my torturer. It was Marc.

"What are you doing-," I began, annoyed and confused, before I got a look around. "Woah!" I quickly sat up and took a longer look at our surroundings. We were in the middle of a valley coated in sand. Sand dunes surrounded us on all sides, but they did not offer protection from the hot sun beating down on our backs. "Where the hell are we?" I wondered.

"Beats me. We could be anywhere from the African desert to another plain of reality right now."

Great. That was not good. I'd had my fill of alternate realities, thank you very much.

"How did you get here?" I asked him.

"I got sucked into the glowing eyes of a cat pendant. Found it on the dresser in my hotel room. I think I scared the hell out of my date. How about you?"

"I got sucked into the glowing eyes of a cat picture carved on a chest. It felt like I was sucked right through them."

"Same here," Marc said, wiping sweat off his neck as he glanced around.

"Have you seen Methos?" I asked him, wondering where the old bastard had gone. "He got sucked through ahead of me."

Marc shook his head. "The only one I've seen here is you, and we were lying next to each other." He glanced around at the dunes bordering the valley on all four sides. "We need to find some shade and some water soon. I don't feel like dying of thirst today. We need to get up on those dunes and see if there's a waterhole nearby. I'll go to the one on the north, and you go to the one on south, and-"

He paused and turned to stare at me, his eyes wide. "What?" I asked.

"You're back to normal strength."

He was right. I was so preoccupied with our situation that I hadn't even noticed that the shaking had stopped and I could pace without losing my balance, and I wasn't breathing heavily yet. I was back to full strength. It felt good.

Huh. After all the time I'd spent thinking about how much I hate Melville for what he did to me, you'd think I'd notice before now that I was back to normal. I guess being sucked into an alternate dimension will do that to you.

We climbed to the top of the two sand dunes. I looked to the south but couldn't see a thing that didn't remotely resemble sand. I turned around to see Marc hurrying back from his position on the northern dune. I ran back down into the middle of the valley. Once there, I grinned. I could get used to this very quickly. Take that, Melville - may you stay in Hell this time.

"You need to see this," he told me.

"What is it?"

"Something very, very bad."

He led me back up the dune. I stared down the slope at the sight below. The dune sloped down into another valley, only this valley was not lined with sand. The sky was painted black, and lava coated the ground. Some of it had cooled and hardened, but the rest flowed down to the west and over the edge of a cliff that was only ten feet to the left. Off in the distance, I could make out a volcano that was still erupting. Ash burst up for thousands of feet from its center, and more lava and ash poured down the sides of the once dormant mountain, assuming that had ever been dormant. If the desert had been hot, the lava made me feel even worse.

I looked behind me, back down into the valley. The desert was still there, and the sky over the valley was a cloudless blue.

"I don't think we're on Earth anymore," I said. I felt like I was stating the obvious. "We still need to find water. I'll check the dune to the east, you check the west one."

We turned around and headed back down into the sand valley before heading in the two directions. The eastern dune was considerably steeper than the ones to the north and the south, and it took me ten minutes to climb to the top. When I did, I was glad that I had, because I had hit the jackpot.

At the bottom of this dune was a forest. The sand floor collided with a dirt ground crowded with overgrown grasses, plants, and trees so tall that I wondered why I hadn't seen them from within the valley. I heard insects calling within the forest. A shallow river, whose two shores were splattered with rocks and stones, rushed past right before the treeline began.

I turned and signaled to my student that he should head over here. Fifteen minutes later, he'd reached the top of the dune. He grinned delightedly down at the river. "Shall we?" I asked. He nodded, and we started down the dune.

Five minutes later, we were dropping to our knees on the riverbank and drinking our full. I felt a soft wind blow past us after I'd finished. The temperature here was pleasantly cool.

I looked behind me. The sand dune still stood only four meters away. "What was on the west?" I asked Marc.

"An ice world," he answered. "Full of freezing water, snow, icebergs, and I'm pretty sure I saw something resembling Bigfoot's demonic cousin. Alex, do you know how the hell we get out of here yet?"

I gave him a puzzled look. "Why should I know how to get out of here?"

He shrugged. "You always have before. You've faced more demons and other things than Methos, Amanda, and I combined, and you're the one who knows all the spells."

Well, he was right about the spells bit. I hadn't told Giles or any of the others that and wasn't sure if I should. The reason why is that I knew some pretty powerful ones, and I didn't want any of them to use them except in a last resort. There were a few safer ones that I could tell them about. I had to get back to Sunnydale first, though.

"Okay," I began, "The chest that sent me here was chanting a prayer in a demon language. If I can remember the counter spell or chant or whatever, I might be able to get us out of here. Then we can track down whoever sent those cat-engravings to us."

"Sounds good. That damned pendant sucked me here while Stephanie was in the bathroom. I hope she won't think I set her up. We were certainly having a great time."

An Immortal Buzz hit me six seconds before it hit Marc. I could tell that the Immortal was approaching from the other side of the river, from within the forest. Two familiar figures emerged from under the tree canopy.

"Alex! Marc!" Methos called across the river. "I knew you two would be here."

Relieved, Marc and I waited for them to cross the river via the stones protruding out of the water. Once they were on the other side, I got my first good view of Methos' companion. "Marie." My eyes traveled rapidly from hers to Methos' and back again.

I gave him a questioning look. Methos nodded.

"Are you all right?" I asked her, concerned. Before now, my four hundred-year-old student, Marie de Champagne, hadn't had any knowledge of the supernatural. I had known she would handle the news very badly, and therefore hadn't told her before now.

She looked to be in shock.

She gave me an uncertain smile. "I'll live," she joked. "At least now I know what you were hiding from me, Alex. It's good to see you. Do you know how to get us out of here?" her eyes pleaded with me. She was freaked, but she was keeping it together.

I had to word my response carefully or she'd break down. "It's good to see you, too, Marie. I'm sorry about all this. We'll get out of here soon, promise. Then we'll talk."

We felt the Buzz again and glanced around. "Hail, hail, the gang's all here," Methos muttered when Duncan MacLeod and Amanda came into view. They appeared farther down the shore, but when they stopped arguing long enough to see us, they picked up their paces and made it over the river to us quickly.

"Alex! You're back to full strength!" Amanda said, smiling.

I nodded. Before I could speak, though, MacLeod beat me to it.

"Could someone please explain to me what's going on?" he demanded. He spared two wary glances for Marc and Marie, whom he'd never met before, before his attention returned to Methos, Amanda, and me. "Amanda seems to know something, but she's been dodging all of my questions."

"I have not dodged your questions," Amanda protested. She gave Methos, Marc, and me exasperated looks. "I'll explain it one more time. We're in another reality. We were sent here through magic. We could meet anything here from cavemen to Mallioc Demons, and trust me, you wouldn't want to meet either group. Honestly, Duncan. You would think that you'd be more accepting of these things after recent events."

MacLeod visibly stiffened at that. I recalled one evening, not long before I merged with my younger self, when Methos had shown up at my doorstep with the horrible news that Richie was dead. Then he told me how it happened. I'd only met the kid a couple of times before that, but it was still a shock. But let's get back to where we were before. Amanda was right; after dealing with Ahriman, the highlander should have been more open minded about these things.

Marie leaned in close to my ear. "I know Amanda can be blunt about a lot of things, but…couldn't she be a little considerate?"

I smiled reassuringly at her and swung an arm around her shoulders. I held her tight for a moment and whispered back to her, "Don't worry. Amanda doesn't mean anything by it; you know that. It may seem scary and hard to believe now, but you'll get used to it."

"Promise?" she whispered back, in a voice full of fear I haven't heard her use in so long. She was really freaked. It made me proud to know that she could keep it together in front of the others.

I nodded. "Promise."

We turned back to the others to see the highlander gang up on the old man. "Don't tell me you believe all of this, Adam," he said, looking for the voice of reason from his elder. I smirked. Looking for wisdom from the old git never worked. I should know; I've seen way too many Immortals try to get advice from him over the years, myself included.

Methos met MacLeod's stare straight on. "MacLeod, look around you. You got here through the eyes of a cat picture. There are plants in this forest that even I have never seen before. There is a sand dune only a few meters to your right. Feel free to look for a scientific explanation. You'll be looking for a long time and you won't find a thing. We arrived here through magic, MacLeod. When we get back to Paris, you're welcome to go into as much denial as you want. Live with it while we're here."

MacLeod's jaw dropped, then clamped shut. He glanced around uncertainly before turning back to Methos. He looked about ready to argue some more but sighed instead. He nodded, once, in asset.

"Okay then," I said, taking a seat on a large bolder. "Duncan MacLeod, may I introduce you to my students, Marie de Champagne and Marc. You may remember Marc from that whole Ian Madison mess from three years back." Duncan nodded, and the three of them shook hands and did the whole 'I come in peace' song and dance. After that was over, I said, "Now that we all know each other, why don't we go over what we know. I'll start."

I told them about hearing Methos scream and then getting sucked into the chest just like he was. Then, one by one, everyone retold his or her own version of events. Everyone had discovered a carving of a feline where it hadn't been only moments before, then they heard chanting and were sucked through the cat's own eyes to another dimension. Marie's cat carving appeared in a wall hanging in her bedroom. MacLeod and Amanda had discovered the carving on a wooden bead of a necklace that Amanda had acquired one way or another.

After confirming that they'd heard the same phrase chanted, I told them its meaning. "So how do we get out of here?" MacLeod asked me.

I raised my hands to the skies, exasperated. "Why does everyone assume that I know how to counteract a dispelling ritual that just happened to be performed by an inanimate object? Pick on Methos or something."

Methos glared at me. "I don't know how to get home any more than you do. I say we pick a direction and hope it leads us to some clues."

"Hold on," I told them, looking around again. Something about this place was beginning to feel familiar. "I think I know where we are." Yes, I was pretty sure by then that I did. Too bad the name of the place wasn't coming to mind. It couldn't be Beliasia. That reality had mountains and pterodactyls more or less reined its skies. We weren't in Hilliactica; that world had quite a few forests, volcanoes, and lots of ice, but it didn't have a single desert.

"Well?" Amanda asked after a pause. I gave her an annoyed glare; she'd interrupted my chain of thought. Her response was to cross her arms and tap her foot. She gave me an expectant raised eyebrow.

"Did any of you see any huge trees covered in black leaves in the forest?" I asked. Amanda nodded. "Yes. It was one of the first things that told me that we weren't in the right reality anymore."

I could think of only a couple of possibilities now, and neither of them were looking good. "We're either in the Vale mans Peradios, the Valley of the Scorned One, or we've been sent to Killion gar Tarmiente Imartaleete bar Justillianavos, Justillianavos' Land for Eternal Sufferers." "Justillianavos? Peradios?" Methos repeated, his voice rising with each syllable. His body tensed as he looked around in unease.

Amanda's crossed arms wrapped around her body. "You know, I'm voting on neither." Marc nodded in agreement.

"Who are they?" Marie asked. She didn't sound like she really wanted to know the answer.

"Really bad news," Marc answered.

I went on, "If this is Peradios' Valley, then we need to figure out which direction is east. Then we need to walk in that direction and eventually we'll find a way out of here."

"Why east?" Duncan asked.

"Not sure, actually," I admitted. "All I remember is that we want to steer clear of the other directions. Anyway, if this is Justillianavos' Kingdom, then it doesn't matter which direction we travel, but we still need to be very careful. Justillianavos is the master of illusions, and he also loves torture. He's come up with a few techniques that not even a Pyardo Demon could stand." Everyone gave me confused looks. "Sorry. Demon breed that died out eighteen hundred years ago." Thank you, Slayer.

"So, the best direction we can go is east," Methos concluded. I nodded.

Marc asked, "How do we know which way is east? This place has four different suns, remember? And none of them necessarily have to rise in the east and set in the west."

"What about that direction spell?" Amanda asked. Marc, Methos, and I looked at her in puzzlement. "You know, the one that wizard performed when we got stuck in Sippius' Catacombs?"

I vaguely remembered what she was talking about. I could remember that the four of us had run into Sippius C. Simone seven hundred years ago, but that particular memory was extremely hazy. All my mind came up with was the memory of being trapped inside a labyrinth of corridors. I also remembered singing several songs off key in a tavern with Marc and Amanda after we'd gotten really, really drunk. My memory was telling me that those two events were related, but don't ask me how.

"It would help if you remembered the words because we sure don't, Amanda," Marc told her.

Amanda gave a frustrated growl before returning to her thoughts. "Let's see, uh…Spirit Guides of the new and old / Your wisdom and guidance has been through these lands forever told…"

Oh, really?

"…Help us on our way through this unfamiliar place / Guide us to the exit, we of the Immortal race."

Regardless of whether or not the Spirit Guides had ever been discussed in this reality, the spell seemed to work. There was a flash of multi-colored swirls of light in the center of our group. It seemed to hover in front of our eyes before moving at blinding speed to hover over the river. Once there, the light broke down into its component colors, ultimately forming a picture of a compass in the air. It was a picture of a four-pointed star, with each point labeled North, South, East, and West. The eastern tip was flashing red. It pointed down river.

I got back to my feet. It would be a long day. "Let's get going, shall we?"

I began walking in the direction the handy hovering map indicated. After a few yards, the others began to follow me.


I stayed in front, occasionally talking to the others, but most of the time they kept their own council. Amanda and Marc had talked in length to Marie about various demons they'd faced over the years. MacLeod had taken a part of that discussion for awhile before pumping Methos for information about the Valley of the Scorned One. I could hear the obvious doubt in his voice, but the fact that he was asking about it proved to me that he was trying to accept it all. Marie seemed to have accepted it but she didn't sound all that excited about it. I wondered if she was in shock, and dropped back to keep her company.

Several hours of walking passed by. Strangely enough, although we often became thirsty, we didn't get hungry at any point during the long walk. During our third water break to get drinks from the river, I told the others my suspicions. "I was wrong. We can't be in either the Valley of the Scorned One or the Land of Eternal Suffering."

"Wonderful!" Methos exclaimed, throwing up his hands. "He waits until we've been walking for several hours before he shares this with us. And what led you to this conclusion? Pray tell, because you were so convinced three hours ago."

I gave him a look. "Have you gotten tired during that three hour walk, or hungry? Peradios and Justillianavos are both heavily into torturing their victims, which would be us. They wouldn't drag us here and then make it so that we'd stay at our best. We're somewhere else, which means whoever brought us here and whoever is playing with us now is someone completely different."

"Is that a good thing or a bad thing?" Marie asked.

I sighed. "I don't know. I say we keep going. Eventually, we have to run into something. If we don't find anything in another few hours, we can come up with a different plan."

We got back to our feet and continued onward, wondering if there was any point in doing so. Ten minutes had passed when I heard Marc call, "I think I see something."

Our attentions snapped forward, trying to see what he had seen. It was a rock face, obviously the side of a cliff, and it stood directly in our path. The river met with the rock face, but instead of stopped there it traveled up the side of the cliff. Instead of a waterfall, the river seemed to be flowing upwards, defying gravity.

"That's impossible," MacLeod commented when he'd noticed the water's path.

"In our reality, it would be," Methos corrected him.

Marie stared with wide-eyed awe at it. "Mon Dieu…we're really in another universe."

Off to the left, half-obscured by trees, was the mouth of a cave several meters wide. "I wonder what's in there," I thought out loud, causing everyone to focus on the cave.

"Let's find out," Duncan said.

He reached into his coat and took out his katana. Amanda and I pulled out our broadswords, Methos pulled out his Ivanhoe, Marc took out a scimitar and Marie took out her rapier. "It has to be a cave," Methos muttered as the six of us approached the entrance. "It always has to be a cave."

"I hear ya, old man," Marc told him.

Duncan and I led the way into the cave. Amanda and Methos were right behind us, with Marc and Marie bringing up the rear.

It was an ordinary cave, that much was obvious. However, I felt a sense of foreboding, as if I just knew we were getting close.

"Everyone stay alert," MacLeod said. He'd obviously felt it, too; so had everyone else, if their attentive expressions were any indication.

The cave was concealed in darkness. "Know any light producing spells, Alex?" Methos asked me.

"We don't need one," Marie said, staring forward.

We all turned and looked. A red-colored light, growing bigger and bigger the closer it got, approached us from deep within the cave.

"Shit! That better not be another one of those cat's eyes!" Marc exclaimed.

"Everyone get out of here!" I shouted.

The red light, so close now that I could see that it was a field of prickling energy stretching from one side of the cave to the other, rushed over us before we could even turn around.

It hit me first. The red wall impacted me with the force of ten thousand needles. I convulsed, and I wouldn't be surprised if I had screamed.

The force field had passed over me in microseconds, but by the time it had left me and attacked MacLeod, I was on the ground, unconscious.


When I woke up again, I felt multiple Buzzes everywhere around me. It was also very noisy. I recognized the noise as several swords clashing against each other. That's when I sat up, glanced around, and realized that there was something wrong with what I was seeing.

I was seeing double. Or triple. Or quadruple. Or whatever the next one is - quintuple? I blinked a couple of times, but my vision didn't become any clearer. I was sitting on the hard, stone floor of a fair-sized room, most likely somewhere in the cave system, although I had no idea where. All around me were my friends. They were fighting copies of themselves and each other.

Each combatant had his or her trademark sword. Methos, or a copy of Methos, was engaged in a fight against two copies of himself, one copy of me, and one of MacLeod. Amanda fought against a Marc clone and a MacLeod clone or vise versa. Marie, Marc, and MacLeod, or copies of the three of them, had similar combatants.

Even as I categorized each person into one side or the other, the groups broke truces and switched sides. It was clearly every man or woman for him or herself. I had no idea who was who; I felt a Buzz coming from everyone in the room. It was either one huge mirage or five of those Buzzes belonged to my students and friends.

I got to my feet. I no longer held my sword and reached inside my coat. Surprisingly, my fingers found the hilt of my broadsword. I pulled it out and took up a battle stance, not that it ended up mattering. No one challenged me or rushed at me. They didn't even seem to notice me.

A group containing two Marie's, one Marc, and a copy of myself was the closest. As they fought, the Marc clone/original pushed one of the Marie's away from him. She stumbled backwards and into me… …and continued through me as if I wasn't there.

I stared at the copy of Marie lying half-submerged in my legs. I cursed. This was just wonderful. I was an apparition. Or maybe they were the apparitions. That thought was more comforting than the former.

Marie didn't even seem to realize she'd just stepped through me. She got back onto her feet and rejoined the fight.

I looked around at each of the groups. No one had taken a head yet. None of them had even been mortally stabbed, and not a single one of them appeared to be tiring. I sheathed my sword, fighting the illogical impulse to join in. There wasn't much a non-corporeal Immortal could do for friends that I couldn't distinguish from the enemy.

Or was there? I did know some spells. If any of them could be of any use was another question. Maybe if I changed Amanda's locating spell a little... If it didn't work, no one would know.

May the Gods bless Immortal memory. I closed my eyes and began to recite. "Spirit Guides of the new and old / Your wisdom and guidance has been through these lands forever told." Now for a little editing.

"Help me find my friends in this unfamiliar place / Guide me to them, they of the Immortal race." My ears were met with silence.

I opened my eyes to discover all but five of the fighting Immortals had disappeared, and they weren't the five Immortals I had in mind. They were five copies of myself, and each appeared to have noticed me. They turned toward me and slowly began to advance.

I hastily pulled out my broadsword. Two of them attacked at once. It wasn't often that I had to deal with five opponents at once, and I was a little out of practice. I did my best to block and parry, but a third gave me a flesh wound before I could back away from him. I blocked his next move, barely dodging the fourth's swing at my neck and then barely blocking the fifth's attack. At least none of them were stabbing me in the back; all of them were fighting me face to face. The bad thing about that was they all wanted to fight at the same time. Everything became a blur as I blocked and parried, blocked and parried. I couldn't even think about what was happening, much less get a breather. I didn't need one, anyway. None of us were tiring, even though we'd been fighting for several minutes, and despite the fact that five copies of myself were fighting the original, neither side was getting the upper hand. I may have started off slowly, but I was quickly remembering how to fight several opponents at once.

This was feeling like something from the Matrix Reloaded. At least no more copies were showing up. Finally, I said, "Enough. Enough!"

Amazingly enough, it worked. My copies backed off a few paces.

"I'm on your side!" I blurted, thinking wildly. I pointed to one of them at random and said, "He's the one we want!"

The copy I'd singled out looked indignant while the others looked uncertain. After a few moments, however, the other four turned and began to close in on their friend.

I stood there with my mouth open, dumbfounded, before I shook myself out of it and looked around for an exit. I spotted one in the closest wall and ran for it. Reaching it, I kept going- -and ran smack dab into someone on the other side.

I caught my balance but the man I'd run into didn't. He toppled over onto a sandy ground, spraying sand everywhere.

I could no longer hear the clash of steel against steel behind me and turned to see that the entrance was gone; in fact, the stone wall was also missing. Before my eyes was an endless stretch of sand.

Not another desert.

I felt heat behind me and turned back around to see that the roof of a hut, several yards away, had caught fire.

The man on the ground before me hastily got back to his feet, ran around me, and continued on his way, away from what I could now see was a burning village. I suddenly realized that the heat I felt wasn't coming from the setting sun behind me, but from the fires. I breathed in and instantly felt dread; among the smell of burning wood was the smell of rotting and burning flesh. I heard a scream, muffled behind the noise of the flames. I ran around the first hut and into a clearing on the other side. There, in the middle, were a group of dying and dead villagers. They were dressed in clothing from before my time. Only experience kept me from barfing on the spot, although the younger part of me wanted to do nothing else.

What caught my attention even more were the four riders sitting astride horses. It was clear that these four people been the cause of the village's destruction. Two of them chased after fleeing villagers, cutting them down with their blades. A third rider set fire to more huts, while the fourth stood over the pile of villagers in the clearing. His sword, whose tip pointed down toward the villagers, was coated in blood; he'd clearly just impaled one of the villagers on the sword's tip. He was dressed completely in white and wore a white bone mask.

The rider looked up and across the square at me. I felt my knuckles tighten around my sword. The horseman directed his mount around the bodies and toward me, stopping when he was a few feet away from me. I felt the Buzz as he approached.

I regarded his mask for several minutes. Neither of us said a word. Finally, I held my breath as the rider lifted up his mask. I already knew what I would see. I'd seen that rider before, in the Quickening induced memories I'd received from Samuel, Jake Melville's Immortal lackey. It still came as a shock.

I looked up into the face of my friend of two thousand years and saw a stranger. "Hello, Alex," he said in the tongue of whatever time this was. To my ears, it sounded like Ancient Greek, the oldest human language I knew.

"Who are you?"

His expression turned from cold to malicious. "I am Death of the Horsemen."

Everything clicked. A rush of receded memories from Samuel's Quickening came rushing back. For the first time, I saw the entire story. Death was a member of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. The Horsemen rode three thousand years ago, and Methos was one of them. Samuel had been only one out of thousands of their victims.

"No," I denied. I couldn't accept it. I knew that Methos was and never could have been a good guy. I knew that there were parts of Methos' past that gave him nightmares - parts he refused to talk about. But I'd never considered something like this.

"Why?" I had to know.

A wicked grin appeared on his face. "Because I wish it," Death answered with mirth in his voice. With that, Death turned his mount around and headed off back across the clearing to join his brethren. I stared after him.

Halfway across the clearing, however, Death brought his mount to a halt. He made the horse turn around, then urged the horse into motion. Horse and rider raced for me. My heart pounded in my chest. I couldn't move. I was glued to the spot. Death raised his blade. As they barred down on me, he swung.

At the last minute, I regained my freedom of motion. I rolled to the side, missing both blade and hooves by inches.

Everything was quiet.

I got back to my feet and looked around. I stood on a sand floor in an empty, stone room. I stood there, staring wildly around me. A mantra began in my mind: Methos was a Horseman. Methos was Death. Methos was responsible for killing a third of the world's population three thousand years ago. Methos was Death. Methos was Death.

Methos had lied.

There was only one exit. It was in the far wall. I tightened my grip on my sword and advanced toward it. If Methos was in the next room-the present day Methos, that is-I didn't know what I would do. It wouldn't be pleasant.

I couldn't believe what I had just seen. It made me furious to think that Methos had ever been like that. No, that was only part of it. It made me even more furious that he'd never told me about this. I'd always known that Methos was not a good guy. Sometimes, he'd play the knight in shining armor, but that was usually my role - he's said so himself. I can actually quote him.

"You, Alex, are the stupidest person I've ever known."

"Excuse me?"

"It's amazing you've managed to live this long considering how often you've thrown yourself into a battle with some demon terrorizing the locals. The last one almost got away with taking your head!"

I knew that, long before he met me and long after we had met, he spent most of his time looking out for himself. I, Giles, and Anya - the ones who had grown old and died two millennia ago - somehow managed to get him to change his tune, but we never changed it completely. Regardless of all of that, I never would have suspected him of ever being a mass murderer. The clues had always been right in front of my nose. How easily he could shrug off the possibility of stopping a demon or mortal who had been killing off the inhabitants of an entire village. He'd always made excuses, saying that they were mortals - they'd die eventually anyway, or saying that he'd rather keep his head instead of dying by the hands of a demon. At the end, I'd always convince him to help, only because we were friends - nothing more.

I never considered that the reason for his unconcern for the helpless was because he used to kill them for fun.

Maybe he stopped because he felt disgusted with himself. Assuming he did stop. No, he had to. There was no way I could have been a friend of an unconverted mass murderer.

Damnit! I couldn't think. I couldn't think about this. I couldn't believe that my best friend of two thousand f***ing years had lied to me, had pretended to be something he wasn't.

The next room beyond the sand-floored room was a stone passageway. It was also very cold; light from the room behind me provided illumination but not warmth. I hurried through it quickly. A door was at the other end of the hall. It was the first door I'd come across in the cave system. For some reason, in a place carved out of stone, the door had been constructed out of wood. I could have cared less. All I cared about was finding Amanda, Marc, and Marie. Then I'd hunt down Methos and get some answers from my so-called friend.

May the gods aid me during whatever came after that.

I reached for the door handle and turned it. As I pushed the door outward, I felt a Buzz.

A second later, I heard a scream.


It sounded like Marie.

I slammed the door open and raised my sword, looking in all directions for the source of the scream. I stuck one foot out the door. When my foot met only air, I hastily pulled it back through the doorway. Looking down, I saw that the floor ended inches from the wall, becoming a cliff that overlooked a canyon at least twenty feet deep.

I could hear a low, dangerous laugh down in the canyon. The laugh didn't sound human; it was more animalistic…

…like a hyena.

I glanced over the edge. Down below, I saw what I'd hoped I wouldn't see. Marie had her sword up in front of her, keeping the animals attacking her at bay. By animals, I meant my hyena-possessed self and the other members of my little 'pack,' four bullies from high school. During my sophomore year at Sunnydale High, hyenas possessed four other students and myself. I was the leader. The five of us together ate the school mascot, a pig. Later on, the other four attacked and ate Principle Flutie. Thankfully, I wasn't with them at the time, but what I did do was just as bad - I had attempted to rape Buffy.

Just as I'd experienced a time from Methos' past, Marie was living a scene from my past. The side of the cliff looked climbable. I sheathed my sword and sat with my legs hanging over the cliff. Then I turned and began the slow, careful process of climbing down the rock face. Half-way down, I heard the hyena's laughs become snarls. I heard one of them whine. Marie must have cut one of them.

I dropped the rest of the way down and turned around, taking out my sword. I saw that one of the girl hyenas had been harmed. The other members of the pack looked furious.

I ran. My hyena self posed to strike. He leapt just as I reached him. I swung my blade. My hyena self fell to the ground, clutching his throat. The other hyena-possessed humans crowded around him, checking to see if he was all right. I grabbed Marie's arm and ran. A second wooden door was in the opposite rock face. We raced for it, threw it open, and slammed it shut behind us.

We stood in another stone passageway. An open doorway stone at the end, and I could see what appeared to be a marble floor beyond it.

Marie pulled her arm away. When I looked at her, she was staring at me. "What the hell was that?" she asked me.

"That's me when I was possessed by a hyena," I answered. "I wish you didn't see that. I wasn't a very nice person."

"A hyena? Is that what that was?" She was trembling. She was afraid of me. "S-so what he said wasn't true?"

"What did he say?" I asked, dreading the answer. The things I told Buffy when the hyena possessed me…

A hyena laugh penetrated through the door. "You're a weak little girl, Marie de Champagne," my hyena self called through the door. "You were a terrible student. I can't believe how long it took you to learn how to hold a sword, let alone swing it properly!"

Marie was stunned by the words. "It's not true," I assured her.

The pack laughed. I ignored them as best as I could and focused my attention on my student. "Marie, you know I wouldn't say things like that."

Marie had her sword half raised as she backed away from me. "Je le connais," she assured me. I know that. She continued, "He said you never told me about any of this because you knew I wouldn't be able to deal," she told me. "You may have never voiced that, Alex, but I know you felt it. That…thing didn't make up all of those insults."

"And you're right. I can't handle this. Yesterday I was worried about editing hours of film of a sitcom episode down to twenty minutes. Now I'm terrified that the boogey monster will get me. I just…need some time."

With that, she turned and ran through a doorway and out of sight.

"Marie, wait!" I ran after her.

I raced after her down the corridor and into the marble room.

I entered a marble hall. Rows of tall columns stretched like giants from the floor to a ceiling cast in shadow. Only the center isle was completely visible; to the right and to the left, columns merged with shadow, making the room feel as big as the Grand Canyon.

I could hear Marie's running footsteps, but I couldn't see her anywhere. "Marie!" I called, but she didn't answer. Eventually, I felt her Buzz fade away, making me panic. I thought, desperately, about the path I should take. I remembered walking down rooms like these, long ago; their purpose had been to make a person feel small and insignificant before entering the temple of one of the Greek gods. There should be only two doors: the one I came through, and one on the opposite end of the hall. The only places for Marie to go, if this room was true to form, was back through the doorway behind me, or through the door at the opposite end of the long hall. I peered down the center isle; the far wall was barely visible and appeared to be only a dot of white.

I hurried down the hall. My footsteps echoed off every surface, louder to my ears than Marie's had been.

Half way down the hall, I felt a Buzz. I slowed.

Suddenly, a man's shout echoed everywhere around me. I raised my sword and looked everywhere. Marc came flying out of the shadows on the right. He soared past me, stopping only when he collided with a column on the left.

I rushed over to him. Once again, as I had been with Marie, I was certain that this was really Marc and not an illusion or memory of him.

I wasn't going to leave Marc behind in pursuit of Marie. Hopefully, I'd catch up with her later. No, I definitely would, but it would have to wait until Marc had revived. He had died on impact. I pulled him away from the column and checked him all over for anything that would impede his healing process. Several shards of marble from the column were stuck in his back, but it wouldn't keep him from healing; they would come out without my assistance.

Marc woke up a few minutes later. He gasped, and his body spasmed, as per usual. Then he started screaming again.

He rolled about on the floor, obviously in great pain. I knew it couldn't be the shards; they'd already come out. It had to be related to whoever's memory Marc witnessed, which scared the hell out of me. Who's memory - Marie's, Amanda's, or Duncan's - had caused this?

I grabbed a hold of his arm. Instantly, he stilled. "Marc," I said, hoping to bring him back to reality…if this place could be called reality.

Marc blinked, gasping. He saw me. "Alex."

"What happened?"

I helped him sit up as he answered, "It was awful. I saw MacLeod take the head of an evil Immortal, only the Quickening didn't go to him. He was closer, but it still went to me."

He rubbed his eyes. Quickening lightening flashed across the back of his hand.

"It was like nothing I'd ever felt before. It felt like it was taking me over, making me…something I didn't like. I tried to fight, but every time I resisted, it would increase its attack and make it worse than before."

I knew exactly what he was talking about. "It was a Dark Quickening."

Shit. Marc was almost taken over by a Dark Quickening from MacLeod's past. Forget about Methos. MacLeod was going to get his ass kicked the next time I saw him.

"It's okay. It was just a memory - it didn't affect you."

I helped Marc get to his feet. He was pretty weak after a Quickening that never really happened. Marc had lost his sword during the episode, but he wasn't really keen on going back into the shadows to retrieve it, nor was he able-he could barely stand. I had no idea where to search for the missing sword, and I wanted to try to catch up with Marie. Marc slung an arm over my shoulders. I supported him with my left arm and held on tight to my sword with the other, in case we ran into something unpleasant. Together, we started off down the hall toward that distant wall.

It took us the better part of an hour to reach the end of the hall. By that time, Marc had regained his feet and was walking without aid. In the center of the marble wall at the far end was an open doorway. It led into a second marble room. From what I could see of the next room, it looked remarkably unlike any Greek temple I'd ever been inside.

I walked in first, holding up my sword, with Marc bringing up the rear. The room was oval-shaped, like a football field. There were drains spaced evenly about every fifteen feet along the black-and-white checked marble floor. Doors were also spaced evenly along the oval-shaped wall encircling the room; I counted at least twenty. We had stepped through one of the doors along the one of the two curves. Looking up, I could see a domed ceiling stretching up a hundred feet or more. Light from unseen windows high up in the dome provided illumination.

"I don't like this," Marc commented. "This reminds me of a stadium of some sort."

"Like a coliseum," I added.

Marc's eyes widened. "Almost like a Roman sort of coliseum?"


Marc cursed, long and hard, in Italian, Greek, Egyptian, Turkish, Arabic, Persian, and finally English. "What the hell is all of this?" he finally asked. "We've been led on some wild goose chase for what?" He looked up and yelled to the ceiling, "Why not just come out and face us? Cowards!"

As if answering his challenge, we felt several Buzzes. Marie ran into sight on the east side of the room. Amanda appeared in mid-flip from a doorway directly across from Marie. She completed a few more back flips away from whatever was behind her before she realized the scenery had changed.

Duncan appeared from a doorway several yards down from her. His hair had fallen out of his barrette. His clothes were torn considerably, and half-healed gashes lay beneath them. His sword was coated in blood.

The last of our little group to appear was Methos. He came, walking cautiously, out of a doorway at the far end, all the way across the atrium from where I stood.

The six of us stood there, staring at each other, for a long time. I glared first at MacLeod; it had been his memory, after all, which had harmed Marc. My gaze landed on Marie next. She looked away, but not before I saw the fear mixed in with a little betrayal and anger in her eyes. Amanda, I noticed, had glued her gaze on Marc and wouldn't budge. Marc didn't seem to notice; his own gaze was fixed, wide eyed, on the highlander. Methos and I were the only ones that were taking in the entire scene. Amanda's, Marc's, and MacLeod's gazes were all fixed on a specific person, and Marie kept her gaze on me whenever she thought I wasn't looking.

Suddenly, my gaze met the old man's.

I set my expression into stone. He was puzzled by my expression, I could tell. I waited. Surely he'd figured out already that each of us had experienced a scene from one of the others' past. Surely he understood that I was the only one looking at him, and that I had to be the one to see something from his past.

His eyes widened with suddenly understanding and fear. He gave me a hopeful, yet resigned look. I nodded back, allowing anger to settle onto my features.

That's right, Death. I now know what you were once, what you'd kept a secret from me for two thousand years. How much more time did you hope would pass before I found out?

I tightened my grip on my pommel before taking a step forward. I'd given him one chance to explain himself, but only one.

To my left, I saw, on the edge of my vision, Amanda take a threatening step toward Marc.

Suddenly, a breeze rushed through the atrium, circling around the large oval room hurriedly. As the wind whipped past my ears, I thought I heard a whispered word being carried on the breeze. "Milaali…"

Milaali was the Hilliacticanese word for 'Increase.' Increase what? I wondered. A second later, I found out.

Suddenly, I felt my hatred turn into a rage that took complete control over me. I couldn't think. I just acted. Before I registered it, I had raced across the atrium to stand before Methos and immediately swung at his head.

Methos blocked, easily and swiftly, with his own sword. I attacked again without pause and he ducked.

I wanted him dead. I couldn't think clearly anymore, but I knew I wanted that. It was all I did want. I was filled with a blind rage I hadn't been feeling seconds before, and I knew I was going to have his head, one way or another.

I swung at his legs in an attempt to make him drop to his knees. He blocked the swing. Methos, it seemed, had stopped thinking as well and was completely intent on his survival, something he'd always been good at. Neither of us said a word.

The others were no less affected. I have no memory of what happened to them. I was told later that Marc, suddenly intent on a sword fight with MacLeod, had started across the room toward the highlander, only to be intercepted by Amanda. Amanda, consumed by the same rage that had taken hold of me, had started attacking him, aiming for his neck with her broadsword, and he'd had no choice but to block and parry. His complete attention wasn't in the fight, unfortunately; he kept looking at MacLeod, keeping him in Marc's sight as much as possible.

MacLeod, after witnessing a tragic moment in Marie's Pre-Immortal life, had suddenly been overcome with concern for Marie's welfare. He ran across the floor to her side, barely missing a wayward swing of Amanda's sword that he barely registered.

I was too intent on killing Methos that I wasn't aware of any of that. I kept attacking, but Methos blocked every swing. I pulled back in frustration. I couldn't find a weakness in his defense. Sword fighting was no longer an option. I had only one option left.

If I had been thinking properly, I would never have considered doing what I did next. However, I wasn't thinking properly. I wasn't thinking at all.

I wasn't a warlock, or a wizard, or even a sorcerer. I didn't know spells for every instance of my every day life. I knew only a few spells, and these were spells I'd committed to memory to use only in the last resort, never before, and most times not even then. There were spells I knew that had been lost to mortals for centuries, and others that the Watcher's Council guarded from the rest of the world at all costs.

I didn't pick the most powerful one, thank god, nor did I pick the least powerful of the spells I knew. The one I picked was somewhere in the middle, not that it was any better. Methos had no chance. Then again, neither did anyone else for five miles around, once the spell would be complete.

I didn't care. All I wanted was Methos dead, and I would accomplish that however possible.

I felt a wind gather around me as I took in a deep breath, calling on the aid of the elements around me. "Great and Powerful Are Ye, Lightening and Thunder, Fire and Wind; I Summon Ye to my Aid!"

The light pouring through the dome grew dim and gray, making everything in the atrium hard to see. Outside, lightening flashed. A wind crew within the atrium, slowly at first before picking up speed to become a whirlwind.

Amanda ceased her attack on Marc in mid swing; she had no choice. The wind was too strong to continue her attack on him. She, Marc, MacLeod, and Marie turned to watch, eyes wide.

A circle of fire burst up around Methos. Buffeted by the wind, I watched Methos fall to his knees, half obscured by the hot flames and the smoke.

I raised my arms, shouting to the high ceiling, "Protect me from mine Enemies; Bring down Destruction upon-"

The windstorm my spell had begun carried another whispered, Hilliacticanese word. It brushed by my ears and everyone else's ears in turn: "… Piillaalan …" It was the word for Decrease. Instantly, I felt my head clearing as the rage receded. I was still angry with Methos but I wasn't seeing red.

My eyes widened as I finally registered the scene before me. What the hell did I think I was doing? I'd started the Eradicating Spell, a spell powerful enough to incinerate us all. I froze, petrified.


It was Marie's voice. It effectively broke through my shock, making me jerk. The spell broke as I stumbled to my knees. The wind, after blowing out the fire surrounding Methos, dissipated. The skies cleared and the lightening stopped flashing.

Everything was suddenly quiet. I felt drained, as drained as I was after Jake Melville tried to suck my Quickening out of me. Gasping for breath, I looked over at Methos. He was getting onto his feet. I stared at him. He stared back.

Oh, gods. What had I done?


"Oh, gods," I said out loud. I couldn't stop staring at Methos. "I am so sorry."

Amanda crossed the room in seconds and pushed me in the shoulder, almost making me topple over. "What the hell is wrong with you? You could have killed him!"

"I don't know," was all I could tell her. I couldn't believe how close I'd come to completing that spell. If Marie hadn't broken my concentration, I could have destroyed every room in this stone labyrinth and everything in it. I was angry at Methos, certainly, but I hadn't lost my mind to the point of self destruction - not until I'd stepped into this arena-like room and heard that word being whispered. Then I'd gone berserk.

"It's the room," Methos said. "It had some sort of effect on all of us."

I took in a deep breath, feeling tired to the bone with every inhale and exhale.

Marc continued, "We'd all seen something from another person's past, and what we saw made us feel afraid or disgusted or angry - all these negative feelings for whoever it was. When we all came together in here, something caused those feelings to increase."

"But now it's stopped," Marc concluded. He gave me a concerned look. "Teach, are you alright?" I wasn't sure.

"It was a wonderful performance," a new voice said.

A tall figure coalesced out of smoke only meters in front of me. He took on the shape of a demon resembling nothing like Justillianavos or Peradios. I had been right about that, at least.

This big bad was someone new, of a race of demons I'd never come across. He had dark purple skin that was almost black and completely white eyes. He wore only a vest, short pants, and boots. Red hair surrounded a pair of antlers with a pair of horns sprouting in front of them just above his forehead; three smaller horns went down the length of his nose.

As if that wasn't enough, he also had five piercings running in a curve down his right cheek, three rings in his right ear and seven in the other, and two more piercings in his chin.

I felt my anger rising again, this time directed at the demon. "Performance?" I repeated.

The demon must have cast the spell. It was his voice that whispered those words that made us all go berserk. Because of him, I not only could have taken Methos' head without even giving him that chance to explain himself I was planning to give him, but I could have easily killed us all…including the damn demon!

The demon spoke again, with contempt. If I hadn't been so damn drained, I would have charged him and sliced his guts out. He told us, "It's a shame it hadn't lasted any longer than it did, or all of you would be dead already. I underestimated the Immortal immune system."

He had an unusual accent, one that reminded me of something. It clicked after a few seconds - his native tongue had to be Hilliacticanese, the language of the incantation that had been the catalyst in sending the six of us to this other dimension in the first place.

The demon could be a member of any number of races, and not necessarily a Hilliactican Demon. I had no idea what its weaknesses could be, and if I didn't know, none of the others would, either.

"What do you want?" I demanded. I hoped it didn't require too much energy to fight the guy. I'd already spent all of mine, and only Methos and MacLeod were close enough to fight the demon. I didn't trust either of the two Immortals, not completely, not after what had happened.

The demon smirked, "Only for you to die."

It was the usual line, and all of us, whether we'd come into contact with demons before or not, were used to hearing it. To paraphrase Buffy, that line just wasn't even remotely scary any more.

"And who might you be?" Methos asked him.

"Master Rectanon," the purple demon introduced himself. "Servant to Lord Porat."

Great. He was a lackey.

"So, what?" Marc asked, impatient. "Plan to keep us here until we kill each other?"

"Nah. We only needed you for a few minutes, and you gave us more than enough emotional energy for our needs. I'm going to send you back to your world." He smirked. "I'll let the six of you work out your problems on your own, and if any of you is still alive afterwards, which I doubt, then I'll kill you." He turned to Methos. "Your biggest secret's gotten out, old guy. I'd say you're in the most danger."

Rectanon jerked his head in my direction. Methos looked from him to me. Surprise didn't show in his eyes, only acceptance and resignation. If he hadn't beforehand, he would have figured out what exactly I'd seen from his past after I'd almost blasted him with that spell; after all, what else would act as a catalyst in getting me into such a blind rage?

"Well, then, happy hunting. Oh, one more thing."

He waved an arm at me. I stopped breathing heavily and found my strength returning in full. I easily got to my feet.

Rectanon smiled gleefully. "Just to make things a little more interesting," he explained.

I raised my arm and took one step toward Rectanon, but after saying another Hilliacticanese word, I found I couldn't get any closer to him.

Rectanon began chanting in his native Hilliacticanese. "Piilla, hooroos, Pilaa, Loorom. Piilla, hooroos, Pilaa, Loorom."

His white eyes took on a red glow, reminding me of the cat's eyes I'd traveled through to get here. The effect was the same. Our gazes were glued to his; we couldn't break the connection no matter how we tried.

His eyes seemed to expand, encompassing me, growing ever bigger and bigger until all I could see was a haze of red. Then everything went black.


Someone was shaking me. "Xander. Xander, wake up!"

I opened my eyes and stared, confused, at a worried Anya. Was this another illusion? Where the hell was I?

I could feel only one Buzz nearby. I blinked and sat up. I suddenly realized that I was lying on the floor of my apartment. All of my Sunnydale friends were there, and all of them were crowded around me, looking worried.

"Are you alright?" Giles asked me.

"Yeah," I answered. Actually, I was feeling better than alright. I could breathe easily, and my hands weren't shaking one bit. I was back to full strength. Rectanon had given me back my strength, and then he sent the others and myself back to Earth.

I checked myself out. I wore the same clothes I'd worn in that other reality, from my shoes to my jacket. My right hand still firmly grasped my sword.

I glanced past Willow and Oz and over to the couch. Sure enough, Methos lay, unconscious, in a half sprawl on my couch. The beer he'd spilled when he'd been sent to the other dimension now soaked the bottom of his jeans. He, too, still held his Ivanhoe.

I easily got to my feet, much to my friend's surprise. "You're back to full strength!" Willow said, amazed. "But…how?"

I stared at Methos. "It's a long story. How long was I out?"

Anya, who was clinging to my arm, said, "Giles called an emergency meeting to talk about the prophecy he'd discovered about you. That was two hours ago, and when we got here you weren't here. We looked all over the place before coming back here and found you lying on the floor unconscious."

I glanced at my wall clock. It was five o'clock in the afternoon. We were stuck in that other world for sometime under eight hours. Gods, it felt like a lifetime.

"Are you okay?" Buffy asked me.

"I'm fine," I reassured her. "There's just…a lot of things have happened."

They exchanged looks. "Like what exactly?" Oz questioned.

Life altering things.

My phone rang, making us all jump. I walked over to the table and picked it up. "Hello?" I said into the receiver.


"Marie! Are you alright?" I asked her. I hoped she was. All of this had been such a shock for her in the other dimension, who knew what she was thinking and feeling now that it was all over. I glanced over at Methos. Well, it was almost over. He and I still had some issues to resolve. Big issues. I wasn't going to involve Marie in them, however.

"I-I'm fine," she said, sounding miserable. "Was it true? Did we really…"

She wanted me to deny it, to tell her it was all a dream.

"Yes, we did," I answered.

"Oh, mon Dieu." Marie took a shaky breath. "I…I can't deal with this. I need some time. Please don't try to come and talk to me. I'll let you know when I'm ready."

The line went dead. "Marie?" I spoke into the receiver, hoping she was still there.

I hung up the phone and stared at the wall for a long time. Marie was hysterical, broken maybe, because of something I'd kept her safe from for so many years. If only I'd tried to explain the supernatural world to her, then she might have been prepared for our trip to another universe. If only…I felt my anger rise as I remembered the glee on "Master" Rectanon's face. He and his master were going to pay.

"Xander, what's-"

A second Buzz blossoming in my mind drowned out the rest of Buffy's question. Marc burst through the door. His eyes skimmed over everyone before landing on Methos and me. "Oh, thank the Gods," he said, relieved.

I crossed the room to him. "You alright?" I asked him.

He nodded. "Stephanie won't speak to me ever again, but other than that, I'm okay. Have you heard from Marie or Amanda?"

"Marie just called," I told him.

His eyes widened. "Is she alright?"

I sighed and shook my head. "She told me she needed some time. She doesn't want to see me."

"I'm going to see her." His eyes darted from me to the old man. "Will you be-?"

"Yes," I answered him. "I won't do anything rash. Go, now, before she decides to run off. I don't want anything to happen to her."

He nodded before turning and racing back out of the apartment.

The gang was looking very confused now. "I'll explain later," I promised before they could say a word. I turned my attention back to Methos. "I just need some time with Adam. Could you guys go? I'll meet you all at Giles' tomorrow."

After several protests, my friends finally left. Anya and I kissed, passionately, before she would let me go and follow the others. "That's a preview of what we're going to do tomorrow night," she said, smiling happily up at me. "Now that you're well, we can finally do stuff I like."

I closed the door after them and waited several minutes to make sure they weren't coming back. Then I focused all of my attention on the eldest Immortal who was still out cold.

For several minutes, all I did was stared. I thought about everything that had happened. I didn't want to believe what I'd seen was true. Had Methos ever been one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, or had it all been an illusion, created to make us feel anger and betrayal so we would be more affected by the spell in the atrium? Or was it really, truly real?

I didn't want to believe it was real. I didn't want to believe that my best friend had murdered so many people. More than that, I couldn't believe that he'd never told me about it. If he really had changed, wouldn't he have tried to make me see that? Who the hell was this man that I thought I'd known for two thousand years? I'd trusted him. I'd trusted him with everything. I trusted him around my students, many of my wives and adopted children, and I suddenly realized that I may never have even known him.

I walked over to him and poked him in the gut with my sword's pommel. He jerked awake instantly, eyes going wide when he realized I was standing above him with a sword.

"Is it true?" I demanded. "Were you a Horseman?"

Methos didn't move; he simply stared up at me with deep regret. He didn't even try to deny it. "Yes."

"How long?"

"Over nine hundred years."

"When? Was it after you met me, or before?"


"So you gave it up?"

"Yes. I wanted nothing to do with it anymore."

"So why lie?" I ground out. My knuckles turned white around my sword's pommel. "Why didn't you ever tell me about it?"

He closed his eyes, tightly. "I was afraid you'd think I was a monster. And, as the centuries went by, I just wanted to forget. I didn't want you to hate me, and I didn't want to admit that I had kept something like this from you."

"But you've changed." I said, sarcasm in my voice.

He opened his eyes and turned a pleading gaze on me. "Yes, I have. Please, Alex. You know I have. I would never go back to that life again."

"What if your brothers came calling? What about then?" Methos was a first, and foremost, a survivor. If living to see another day meant rejoining the Horsemen, he'd do it. I knew he would. "They're dead," he answered. "They died two years ago. Kronos had tracked me down and forced me to rejoin them. I helped MacLeod kill them."

"Please, Alex, give me a chance to explain," he begged. "I understand if you don't trust me - there's no reason why you should. Just please, let me try to explain."

I stared at him for a long moment, thinking. I was torn. Anger still burned inside me, along with betrayal, confusion, and indecision.

Finally, I lowered my sword. Methos didn't move an inch. I walked over to my recliner and sat facing him, waiting, with my sword resting on my knees.

Methos sat up, slowly. I watched him twiddle his thumbs for a minute before he began his story. He took a deep breath. "Three thousand years ago, I was tired with life. I hated everything, and I was fed up with putting up with their fears and hatred. So I decided to give back what they'd given to me. I joined Kronos, Silas, and Caspian, and together, we formed the Four Horsemen."

"We pillaged and destroyed any village we came across and either killed or enslaved the villagers. After nearly a thousand years, I was getting tired of it. I didn't want a share of the spoils. All I wanted was to be left alone."

"Cassandra, however, was the one to make me realize that I didn't belong there anymore. She was a Pre-Immortal we found in one of the villages. I killed her and took her as a slave. She fell in love with me, and I cared for her deeply."

"Kronos was too suspicious of my feelings for her. As brothers, we shared everything, and one night he took her. During the night, she stabbed him and ran. I heard all of it, but I didn't try to stop her. I wanted her to escape, to find a better life than the life of my slave."

"That's when I truly realized I'd stopped being Death. After that, I decided to leave. It took some time and planning, but eventually, I got away from my brothers."

"Two or three centuries after I'd left the horsemen, I met you. At that time, I was avoiding everyone. The nightmares from my time as Death haunted me every minute, and I didn't want anyone near me. Then you rescued me from those vampires. You were the first Immortal I'd come across who didn't want my head, who did nothing but help people. You made me see that there were people who were good, that I didn't have to shut everyone out. I was afraid to tell you about my past. I was afraid you'd think I was a monster like the things you fought and, if I lost your friendship, I think I would have gone back to being Death again."

His eyes begged mine. "You know I'd never betray you. You can trust me. I'm not like that anymore. I've changed. You've helped me change."

I listened, stunned.

I thought of the memories he and I shared. There were as many bad times as good times, but I couldn't think of a single instant where Methos betrayed my trust to him. He'd never told me this, true, but he'd gone long distances to keep him in my good graces.

Still, every time I remembered another instant, I also thought of what I'd seen in the caves and what I'd seen in Samuel's memories. How could the two of them be one and the same? I still couldn't wrap my mind around it.

I rubbed my eyes. I suddenly felt exhausted. "Go," I told him.

He didn't move, although he did look surprised.

"I need to think about this," I explained. Marie wasn't the only one who needed time to process things tonight. "Just…go. I'll call when I'm ready."

Looking more resigned than ever before, Methos stood up. He automatically began to place his sword back into his trench coat's hidden scabbard, but stopped halfway through the motion.

I watched, unsure of what he was doing, as he pulled his Ivanhoe back out and walked over to the dinner table. I watched, stunned, as he placed his sword on the table and let go of the pummel. Then, without a word, he turned and left.

I stared at the Ivanhoe until I felt Methos' Buzz fade completely from my mind. Then, I stood up and walked over to the table. I set down my sword next to the Ivanhoe and picked up Methos' discarded weapon.

He was trusting me to do the right thing. By leaving his primary line of defense with me, he left himself vulnerable. He was telling me that whatever I decided, he wouldn't try to stop me.

God damnit, Methos! I could hardly think straight. How the hell could he trust me enough to make the right decision, just like that?

After a long moment, I put the sword back down. I stared at it for some time before I walked over to my fridge, opened it, and pulled out a case of beer. I walked back over to my recliner, set the case on the floor, and popped open one of the bottles.

Too much had happened. Marie didn't trust me anymore. Amanda could have easily have taken Marc's head back in the atrium. I almost destroyed us all, and my best friend felt like a complete stranger. Now that we were back in our reality, the worst part had yet to come to pass.

I chugged down half the bottle. I thought about how eager I was to get back to full strength yesterday, to be able to stop watching from the sidelines. Now that I was in the thick of things, I didn't like it one bit.


In the light of shadow, in the dark of day,
The demon brings to light what was hidden away
And the Merged One and his companions of old
Will face evils and perils never before told

In the blackness of sunlight, in the shining eclipse,
The demon's master will come to exist
The Merged One and his friendless crew
Will face troubles in lies and perilous truth

In the dimness of dawn, in the blinding dusk,
The Earth will crumble with the Merged One dust;
What has always been, will disappear forever more
And the Earth will become what is at its core
Unless the Merged One and his friends of new and old
Can band together and face the heat and cold

In the light of shadow, in the dark of day,
The demon brings to light what was hidden away
And the Merged One and his friends of time
Shall either Triumph or Forfeit at the End of the Endless Rhyme


Coming up next: "An Immortal Life #7: Bonds"