“Before we go in,” Methos said to Duncan MacLeod as his hand hovered on the door handle, “We use titles, even amongst ourselves at these meetings, for safety. Amanda already knows this.”
“Because I wasn't a thousand yet, I spied on a meeting while traveling with Rebecca,” Amanda piped up from beside him.
“Why am I not surprised,” MacLeod muttered before asking. “Wait, a thousand years old? Why am I invited then?”
Methos didn't answer his question, but opened the door to a slightly overcrowded room of Immortals. They were sitting in a rough circle of chairs, the other furniture pushed out of the way against the walls. A variety of different races were represented, men and women both. Like Methos, some of them gave off a stronger 'buzz.' It was difficult to pinpoint which ones in the face of so many Immortals together though. The only thing they all seemed to have in common were the deceptively youthful appearances most Immortals were blessed, or depending on your perspective, cursed with.
“Raven, Highlander,” Methos said ushering in Amanda and MacLeod, “Welcome to the Old Farts Club.”
“Oh, don't call it that,” someone across the room said exasperatedly.
Methos only grinned and announced, “Everyone, I'd like to present to you a new member, the Raven.”
There were murmurs of greeting around the room.
“Thank you, I'm delighted to be here,” Amanda said an awed tone like she could hardly believe she was getting to sit at the cool kids table.
“And a special guest, the Highlander,” Methos finished, introducing MacLeod. That garnered several raised eyebrows and gave MacLeod the impression that everyone here knew exactly who he was, or at least, were aware that he was much too young to join their little club.
Not sure what to say, especially as he felt like he wasn't meant to be here, MacLeod only nodded politely as he was welcomed as well and took a seat next to Amanda. There weren't enough chairs left, but someone ducked out and returned with one more from the sanctuary for Methos. MacLeod wondered at first why they didn't sit in the sanctuary instead of trying to fit in here. They didn't seem to expect this many people. Or perhaps they'd always met in the back room of Darius' old church.
Without prompting, the Immortal next to MacLeod began introducing himself followed by the others around the room.
“I am the Sysselmann,” said the massive Viking. MacLeod wasn't sure, but it sounded a little like an old noble title no longer in use. He didn't have time to puzzle it out further before a woman he'd not noticed when they'd first walked in, hidden as she was by the giant, leaned forward.
“Hello again, Highlander,” Alex Raven beamed at him and her eyes slid past him to give Amanda a frown. “And Raven. Curious title you picked for yourself, I would have thought your preferred profession to be more accurate.”
Amanda looked like she'd swallowed a lemon. MacLeod carefully did not say a word, trapped as he was between the two women and the Sysselmann appeared to feel the same.
Yet another familiar face came to Amanda's rescue. “Peace, my student,” Ceirdwyn admonished to Alex. “You could have chosen a different name.” Leaning forward to better see MacLeod and Amanda, she said, “Welcome, both of you, I am known as the Aife in this room, for my warrior upbringing. My student here is the Spy.”
Amanda snorted in a very unladylike fashion at that and MacLeod couldn't help but smile.
MacLeod tried to remember everyone's titles, but a few especially caught his interest. A small Greek called himself the Archon, a word MacLeod translated in his head as 'ruler.' A wiry African held the title of Bwana-kike that she kindly explained meant 'master.' A man whose round face and brown skin didn't quite match any of the ethnic groups MacLeod was familiar with, said he was named the Erech after his home country. A land MacLeod had never heard of and suspected might no longer truly exist if it vanished in ancient times. Likewise, the Quechua with his Chilean accented Spanish and the Cholula with her distinctly Pueblo tribe features had named themselves after their homes.
MacLeod studied their faces. Most of the Immortals had at least one or two distinctive features that stood out in a way he'd be sure to remember even if he didn't encountered them again for centuries. Rather like Methos' nose or Amanda's beautiful eyes. For all he knew, they might have been common traits among the people of their youth. Today, however, the contrast marked them as uncommon. MacLeod could sympathize, he'd never possessed the ability to transform his appearance with a simple change of clothes or hair. Whereas, most Immortals around his age could still blend in with a crowd of mortals, MacLeod could not. He no longer even resembled the descendants of his village.
Most of the titles presented sounded like they were in each Immortals' native language. Not everyone translated their name for him, but 'leader,' 'warrior,' or their homeland seemed to be the most common choices. Only Alex, Amanda and himself used English words for their title, until the introductions came around to Methos' turn.
“And what do you go by here?” MacLeod asked Methos.
“The Doctor,” Methos explained. “You've heard others call me that,” he reminded MacLeod. Byron had indeed called Methos 'the Doctor,' but Byron hadn't lived long enough to join this group of ancients. Perhaps it was coincidence, many Immortals had taken to calling MacLeod 'the Highlander' and he'd not known of this club's penchant for titles. Methos had been a medical doctor at the time he'd taught Byron. Sometimes titles were just titles.
Amanda seemed surprised as well and asked, “Doctor who? Of what?”
“Just the Doctor,” Methos replied, grinning, but giving no further explanation.
“Its after the Latin for teacher,” the Archon told them, rather unnecessarily as MacLeod knew Latin and thought Amanda did as well.
Since the introductions were done, Ceirdwyn stood up. “I'd like to be the first to give remembrance tonight to those lost since our last meeting,” she said with formality. “We remember the Shifu.”
With a jolt, MacLeod translated the title to himself as 'master teacher' and he knew at once who they were speaking of. He felt an echo of pain as he recalled his former teacher and lover.
Ceirdwyn continued speaking, “Some of us knew her real name as May-Ling Shen and she lived 1,210 years. Though she had only one meeting with us, she will be missed even by those who did not know her well.”
“She will be missed,” was echoed around the room and another Immortal stood to offer up a memorial. “We remember the Roman, whose name was Marcus Constantine and his age was 2,437 when he died. My friend...”
MacLeod listened as more names were given first by the title known to the group, followed by revealing the true name and age of the member who'd died since they'd last gathered. He couldn't help but feel a little shocked at how long the list was given it was only the recently deceased. Many of the names he didn't recognize and wondered how many more ancient Immortals not part of this little group were out there successfully disguising their age. He still believed, and Joe had confirmed it for him, that most Immortals didn't live to see a millennium, but sitting here made him realize they had been slightly less rare than he or the Watchers thought.
Until this past century that is. It was a long list of millennium old Immortals now gone.
He couldn't help feeling startled by the number of dead members who were Immortals he'd known. In addition to May-Ling and Marcus, there was Rebecca, Darius, Jin Ke, Sean Burns, Auberon, Kamir... Even Amanda took a turn, standing to remember her teacher and revealed Rebecca's age had been a staggering 3,196 years when she'd died. Worse still, MacLeod realized he'd beheaded members of this club. He worried if that was the mysterious reason Methos had invited him here tonight.
After it had gone quiet, Methos observed, “Sixteen of us here tonight. Quite the crowd for us.”
“Why is that?” Amanda asked and then clarified her question with, “You've lost many to the Game and few live to be old enough, but surely there ought to be more here?”
“Not everyone can make the journey each century.”
“Not everyone gets an invitation,” the Archon said defensively.
“Must you bring that up again?” the Cholula said and turned to address Amanda and MacLeod. “Current members can block their enemies from joining, it is only practical.” She then looked back at the Archon and stated bluntly, “You weren't the only one here invited late.”
“Only because half the world forgot your continent existed,” the Archon said with a roll of his eyes. “I was deliberately excluded.”
“I'm sorry you and the Thracian didn't get along, but you took his head centuries ago,” the Bwana-kike said shortly. “We've been happy,” she stressed the word in a way that implied she at least was not pleased, but tolerated him. “To have you with us since then.”
“Yes, yes. You aren't the only one here that didn't get to join upon their tenth century or had to take an extended hiatus.” Methos turned to Amanda and MacLeod and explained, “Members who develop a feud between them refrain from attending until its resolved. Usually by a challenge, but not always.”
Given Methos' time running with the Horseman, MacLeod could imagine several Immortals didn't want him at the meetings back then.
“Now, other things you need to know, Raven,” the Quechua said. “We try to assemble on the vernal equinox in the 15th year of each century, normally in Constantinople.”
“Istanbul,” the Erech corrected the Quechua in a condescending tone. “We must accustom ourselves with the new name.”
“We've met there twice in the last six hundred years,” the Sysselmann said holding up two fingers.
“So, we've missed a few,” Methos said with a shrug. “A nasty little thug named Cotoro challenges anyone who enters the city. Bit difficult for so many of us to slip in unnoticed.”
“It isn't even his homeland,” said Alex petulantly. “But he's claimed it as his own, like some animal pissing all over the bushes to mark his territory... all because we won't let him join our group.”
The Erech added, “And if he won't stop challenging us, he'll never be invited.”
“Since none of us can be bothered to just take his head,” explained Methos. “We've had to come here to Paris, its our back up location. Which meant we couldn't meet at all in 1915.”
“That's why this is my first meeting,”Amanda whispered in MacLeod's ear.
“Paris just hasn't been viable alternative for the last two centuries,” said Alex. “Revolution, the guillotine, world wars...”
“It is fine now,” said the Quechua.
The Sysselmann shook his head and said, “No, we just need to choose new locations and be done with both of them.”
“Or have two meetings a century in case you miss the first?” the Quechua suggested.
The Bwana-kike spoke up, “I feel we should return to meeting in Varanasi.”
“Yes,” agreed the Cholula. “Who else feels we need to change years or venue?”
Chaos erupted as different members discussed or outright argued with each other.
MacLeod leaned closer to Amanda and Methos to ask, “Why not meet in a different city every century?”
“With today's technology, we could do that I suppose,” Methos conceded.
Amanda agreed, “If everyone is willing to share contact info that is and inform those who miss a meeting where the next is scheduled.”
“Or if the postal system doesn't change. Phone numbers are already different from last century. Who knows what will become of email.”
“Why not meet on opposite sides of the world then? Places that rarely close their borders or become war zones with regularity?” asked MacLeod.
“We did once,” Methos told them quietly. “Well, opposite sides of the world as we knew it anyway. My first meeting was in Mohenjo-daro with Dimasqu as back up.”
At MacLeod's and Amanda's blank looks he clarified, “They were in what is today Pakistan and Syria. Later, it was Xi'an, China and Varanasi, India. A few times in Alexandria, Egypt then Lisbon, Portugal became the alternate. When trade dries up, or foreigners are barred from entry, or times of war, travel becomes difficult. We've tried other cities for short times due to conflicts, I can't remember them all now. It has been Constantinople or Paris for the last sixteen centuries, I think.
“Not Rome?” MacLeod asked.
“Not after the Romans burnt the Library of Alexandria.”
Someone began shouting over the din and the distraction pulled MacLeod and Amanda away from Methos' miniature history lesson. The rapid fire of people talking over each other still made it difficult to keep track of who was saying what. No one sounded happy about the situation
The Cholula was trying to calm everyone down saying, “Now, now. I think that is unreasonable.”
“Could we just not meet in Paris next time then?” asked the Archon. “It doesn't feel right without Darius, Marcus and Rebecca.”
“I'm not a fan of trying to meet in Turkey anymore myself,” Ceirdwyn said.
“I say we pick a different continent,” stated the Quechua.
“I agree,” answered the Bwana-kike. “Europe has been dreadfully unstable these last few centuries.”
“Unstable? Compared to where exactly?” the Erech asked, insulted.
Ceirdwyn tried to placate them saying, “Progress of any type is not the easiest of transitions, but I wouldn't label it unstable.”
“Can any of you name a large, easy to reach city on this planet that fits your definition of safe?” Alex asked, silencing the room with a sneer.
Awkwardly, the other old Immortals looked around, down, up or away from each other. No one answered.
Amanda raised her hand a little and asked, “Not to go off topic, but is there a leader of this group?”
“Not since the Labriu-desh lost his head to Darius. What was it, fifteen centuries ago?” the Erech said, then translated the title for them, “The Old One, also known as Emrys.”
“Wait,” MacLeod said confused. Sure, he had liked the older Darius he'd known, but some of these people knew Darius before he'd given up his warlord days. “You let Darius join even though he'd taken the head of your group leader, the oldest Immortal back then? But you won't have anything to do with this Cotoro guy for parking himself in Istanbul to spite you all?”
Methos explained, “Darius never threatened the rest of us after becoming a monk. Cotoro is a head hunter who would use joining this club as a means of beheading every single one of us. He's already tried to corner the Bwana-kike and the Archon.”
“The eldest was always the leader,” the Erech told them. “By the time Emrys died, no one liked to admit their age anymore.”
“Paints too large a target on your head,” the Cholula agreed.
“So, yeah,” Methos said. “We all just prattle when we have something to say.”
Figures Methos wouldn't bother taking the lead and be content to listen to his fellow ancients ramble instead. Though considering that none of the ancients in this room, or apparently anyone else at these meetings for the last fourteen or fifteen times they'd met had wanted to take the lead either... MacLeod supposed he ought to cut Methos some slack. They all had a reasonable paranoia about their ages after all. Too many Immortals would challenge these millennium old people for that alone.
“Sounds fun,” MacLeod observed sarcastically, giving the oldest living Immortal a wry look.
“It can be rather exciting,” the Quechua answered cheerfully before giving Methos a pointed look. “Why have you brought an underage guest, Doctor?”
“Because of the Watchers and Hunters,” Methos replied simply.
MacLeod felt like a load of bricks had been dumped on his shoulders. “Can't you answer any questions they have, Doctor,” he addressed Methos tersely.
It wasn't an unreasonable suggestion. Methos had recently spent time masquerading as a Watcher, something MacLeod had never done. Not to mention Methos had known about the Watchers longer than MacLeod had been alive if the journal he'd given up to the Watchers in his attempt to save MacLeod and Joe was anything to go by. What could Methos possibly need him for?
“Are you qualified to tell us?” the Erech asked MacLeod.
“Yes,” MacLeod had to admit. “But I won't promise to answer every question.”
“The Watchers murdered Darius, just down that hallway,” the Cholula pointed toward the sanctuary with a hard look in her eyes. And that is how MacLeod got his answer as to why they were packed in this tiny room rather than the more spacious sanctuary where Darius was beheaded by Horton.
“I know,” MacLeod bit out angrily. “It was I who found his body.”
“I heard a rumor that it was Darius' own Watcher,” the Archon commented in a growl.
“No, it wasn't,” Methos insisted.
The Bwana-kike asked,“Are you sure, Doctor?”
“Yes! I am!”
“We relied on Darius to watch the Watchers, so to speak,” said the Sysselmann and turned to Methos to add, “You've always been a bit too biased in their favor, Doctor. Why the Highlander?”
Methos didn't deny his affection for the Watcher organization as a whole. “The Highlander is not biased and a Watcher helped him avenge Darius,” he said.
“Are you considering a war with the Watchers?” MacLeod asked, jumping to the most logical conclusion.
“It depends on what you have to say,” the Cholula responded.
Judgment. MacLeod was so tired of passing judgment on others. Yet, they weren't just asking him to judge the Watchers alone, they wanted to judge the mortals themselves. “Where were all of you twenty- two years ago,” MacLeod said accusingly. “When Horton was slaughtering Immortals. Where were you?!”
If MacLeod expected shame or defensiveness, he received neither. They were all very calm, as though their lack of action were perfectly reasonable. He'd never seen any sign of help from them during the years he'd fought the Hunters. If it mattered so much, why had they done nothing?
“News travels slow,” said the Erech. “I wasn't told until tonight when we were waiting for the rest of you to arrive.”
“It shouldn't have happened at all,” the Bwana-kike murmured. “By the time I heard about it, it was all over.”
“Absolutamente,” said the Quechua shaking his head. “You saved us all from the Hunters, Highlander. The responsibility shouldn't have been on you alone, but what could we do afterwards?”
They appeared genuinely saddened by it. Yet, they made it sound like MacLeod was a child subjected to a horrible trauma and their inability to prevent it was through no fault of their own. He supposed to their ancient eyes, he was inexperienced. That acknowledgment didn't stop it from grating on his nerves and wounding his pride. Amanda gave him a sympathetic look. Her own run ins with rogue Watchers hadn't been a picnic either.
“How have you dealt with Hunters before?” Amanda asked the group.
“We haven't. Watchers so rarely turn on us, you see. Isolated, unexpected incidences where one Watcher preys on an Immortal do happen. We defend ourselves or the Watchers dispatch their rogue colleague for interfering,” said Erech. “Either way, it is over quickly for the Hunter seldom lives long enough to strike a second Immortal. Even when one of us kills a Watcher who followed too close, the organization doesn't retaliate. Not even against evil Immortals, they accept the risk they take by stalking us unawares.”
“What the Highlander and the Doctor experienced is most unusual,” said the Archon. “Has anyone else heard of a group of Watchers attacking several Immortals?”
In the room full of negatives, only Amanda answered with, “I was attacked during that time. My Watcher tried to take my head to steal from me. He wasn't part of Horton's Hunter group, I don't think. He and other Watchers held the Doctor for ransom and he nearly lost his head as well. The Highlander and I had to rescue him,” she admitted with a worried glance at Methos.
“So in the span of a few years, conditions allowed at least two groups of Watchers to turn on us separately. If the Watchers can no longer police themselves, then they are a threat to us,” the Sysselmann decided.
“Nothing has happened in almost twenty years,” Methos argued. “I think that proves that the Watchers effectively dealt with any Hunter sympathizers left.”
“That doesn't mean it won't happen again,” Ceirdwyn pointed out.
“What I want to know is why did these Hunters flourish? What circumstances made it easy for them to form groups at all?” asked the Archon.
“Technology,” Methos supplied. “Ease of travel, long distance communication. I suppose there has always been individual Watchers who wished us harm, but most would never act alone and had no means to find others like them. Horton was a leader and gathered recruits around the world.”
Ceirdwyn shook her head and quietly stated, “As I said before, it could happen again.”
“I agree with the Aife. We try to respect their presence in our lives, their desire for secrecy,” said the Bwana-kike. “I don't tell my students about them. Perhaps I should now.”
“Be prepared for some awkward conversations if you do,” warned Alex. “Two of mine heard about the Watchers elsewhere and were none too happy with me when they found I'd left them in the dark.”
The Cholula lifted her hand in the air and asked, “Who else thinks we should reveal the Watchers to our friends and students?”
About half the assembled Immortals raised a hand in agreement. MacLeod didn't move, as he wasn't actually a member, he didn't think he should participate. Methos, as he expected, had a hand up. Methos' friendship with Joe was just one in what MacLeod suspected was a very long line of Watcher friends the old man had collected for centuries, or millennium. Amanda did not raise her hand. Like the other half of the room, she looked pensive and unsure. Not frightened, but not happy with the idea either. Though she liked Joe, MacLeod knew Amanda hated anyone spying on what she was doing. She valued her privacy and probably was always a little worried a Watcher would turn her into the authorities.
“If we do tell everyone we know, many of them will outright avoid, or worse, threaten the Watchers. Not everyone is a tolerant of them as we are,” pointed out the Archon.
“I don't know how much longer any of us can slip by them even when we want to,” said the Erech.
“That's what worries me,” the Sysselmann said. “What would the Watchers do if suddenly many Immortals began dodging them? I expect they'd be angry at the loss of their secrecy. As word spreads, some of the more volatile of us will turn on the Watchers and potentially create the very war that we narrowly avoided thanks to the Highlander.”
The Bwana-kike asked, “Would they resort to using this new technology to track us better if we make it hard for them to find us?”
“No, no,” Methos reassured them. “The Watchers do their best not to break laws when following us.”
“Except for the following part, you mean?” Alex added sarcastically. “Last I checked, stalking is illegal just about everywhere.”
“I think some of you have seen too many spy movies,” Amanda said, giving Alex the Spy a superior look. “Tracking devices they show on television aren't really like that.”
“My Watcher assured me that they don't record video of challenges,” said MacLeod. “And I believe him.”
“What is is like?” asked the Quechua. “To be friends with a Watcher.”
MacLeod, Amanda and Methos looked at each other, unsure of who was being addressed, or if all of them were. They were all friends with Joe, but Methos had been friends with other Watchers before. And Joe wasn't Amanda's or Methos' Watcher.
At their hesitancy, the Quechua politely backed off with, “Only if you wish to tell us, Highlander.”
“Its complicated,” MacLeod said. “Sometimes I forget he is probably writing down everything, or at least a lot, of what I say and do. Other times, I can't think of anything else. If it weren't for the Game, it would be easier to be friends.”
“Is it worth it?” the Sysselmann asked.
The entire room collectively held its breath, every face eager to hear what MacLeod would say next. He glanced at Amanda and then at Methos before saying, “What do you two think? You're both friends with my Watcher.”
“Yes,” Amanda said. “But I am only because of you. Its more of 'in spite of' him being a Watcher. I like him for himself.”
“Me, too,” MacLeod admitted with a sad smile.
“Well,” Methos spoke up. “I think everyone here knows my opinion on the subject. If it weren't for the Game, I think it would be wonderful to always be friends with our Watchers.”
MacLeod expected more to come of the discussion and the earlier impromptu vote, but everyone was too lost in their own thoughts to say more. In fact, as the meeting wound down, MacLeod realized the lot of them hadn't truly decided on anything. Not about how often they met, where to meet next time or about the Watchers. For that matter, no one bothered to tell him the proper name for this little club either. Maybe they'd never agreed on a name in the thousands of years they'd had this club? They didn't seem to agree much on any actions to take or not take, so why not? He supposed it was a miracle they managed to find each other every century or so at all.
MacLeod wondered if someday age would make him become so lackadaisical, so content to allow the world to move him along and lose his need to change things for the better. Even Amanda was becoming more like them compared to how she was when they first met centuries ago. The sheer power these ancient Immortals could have if they just got up off their rear ends and did something about the troubles in the world. Yet none of them cared, or perhaps they just needed someone to poke them into action the way he'd often had to do with Methos. Someone to remind them that there was a world out there to begin with.
“If anyone wants to have a beer and catch up on old times,” Methos offered before everyone walked out the door. “I know a great little Blues bar nearby.”
MacLeod's eyes went wide at the thought of a bunch of ancient Immortals invading Joe's bar and what an earful the Watcher could potentially get over the rest of the evening. Whether Methos would inform his peers that a Watcher owned the place or sit back and enjoy the show, MacLeod didn't know.
Which brought him to his next question, but Amanda beat him to it and she asked, “Do you think the Watchers know about these ancient Immortals meetings?”
“They probably don't know it has to do with our ages,” Methos said. “But a dozen or more Immortals gathering in one place? The Watchers couldn't miss noticing that.”
Somewhere across town, a group of Watchers huddled excitedly as they listened to, at the moment at least, a rather illegal speaker. Using audio surveillance to bug Immortals, even if it was only in public places and not on the personal property of Immortals, was still a controversial topic in the Watchers. It had been the same when photography was invented. Yet, that had turned out to be a boon. It was far easier to identify Immortals with photos than the old sketches and copies could be given out to other Watchers around the world.
Now, they were listening and preserving the sound of the Immortals' voices for the future. With camera surveillance becoming common on city streets, it would only be a matter of time until they could start video recording Immortals as well.
As they heard the ancient Immortals argue, only Joe Dawson said what all the other Watchers in the room were thinking.
“How the hell did we not know about these meetings? Damn, I better get to my bar.”
This is an old one shot that was lingering unfinished and I stumbled across it and revamped it to present day (which worked great since 1815 and 1915 were rough years for most of Europe). I always wondered what would a bunch of ancient Immortals talk about if they got together. Old times for sure, the future probably. So, I gave them a present day issue to yak about instead and at the Watchers' expense, too. I love the Watchers.
I didn't want to make up too many original character Immortals and would have used more than two canon ones if the Highlander weren't so prone to decapitating them. So, I created six to talk and decided that there were five more in the room who listened. Not everyone talks in meetings anyway. Somehow an OC baddy Immortal slipped in too before I knew it.
Apologies if I got translations dreadfully wrong (though I'm not worried if they are just slightly off).
Not sorry for the Doctor Who reference though. No, Methos is not THE Doctor, he just happened to be referred to that way in two episodes. I couldn't resist. :)