Immortal Haven by jtt
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Author's Notes:
Joe Dawson, Methos, Amy Thomas and other canon Watchers (Dr. Amy Zoll and Timothy Wyatt from the Watchers CD) and assorted OC Watchers when necessary. Inspiration for the setting comes from summers visiting my aunt at her awesome dig site (dinosaurs, mastodons and clovis people, oh my!), many cave tours, and playing the Myst URU game though this story has no direct connection to any of the above. I haven't visited Croatia yet, but it sounded like a pretty location in Europe for this story. Please be merciful of anything I goof up on that score.

Excerpt from the Watcher CD:
Report from the Methos Project's team leader, Amy Zoll, 1998.

It's my sad duty to place Methos on the Missing List once again...

...We'll institute the standard protocols, but as he's quite familiar with all of them, it could be a while before we find him again. At least this time, we've got those ID photos to work from.

...o0o...

Two years later.

Joe Dawson stretched his back while trying to hide the fact that he was stealing a glimpse at the time on his wristwatch. Not much longer now. He looked over the audience of his fellow Watchers, continuing the speech he'd given so many times in so many cities around the world now, he no longer needed his notes. Last month he was making the rounds of each regional headquarters in China, this week he was back in the States touring the midwest. After this lecture, he'd have a nice long break before his next booking in South Africa. Joe hadn't seen his own home or bar in months and had only seen Duncan MacLeod because his friend deliberately flew out to visit Joe when he was in Singapore. Oh, how Joe had wanted to invite Mac to that day's lecture and give the Watchers' attending it a shock.

Joe was coming up on his favorite part now and not just because it was near the end.

“...Out of all the Immortals MacLeod has introduced me to,” Joe said with a wry grin, “the most memorable is Methos.”

There were a few surprised gasps and some disbelieving looks, but for the most part this audience had heard enough rumors in the last couple of years to take his statement seriously.

“Not because of his wisdom, survival skills, or aura of mystery,” Joe let the sarcasm drip as he listed the favorite topics when Watchers usually discussed Methos. “It was how normal he seemed. I'm sure you all noticed when Methos appeared on the Active Immortals List for the first time in centuries... only to go right back to Missing a few weeks later.”

“Still no photo of him on it either,” someone three rows back commented.

“Not for lack of trying,” Joe lied in what he hoped was a convincing tone. “The oldest living Immortal's reputation for elusiveness is well deserved. A team of seven tailed Methos when he left my bar and they all lost him.” That part was the truth and seriously irritating. Worse still, MacLeod had laughed after Joe told him what Methos had done.

“Remember the dreaded 'Find the Immortal' exam?” Joe asked rhetorically.

The most crucial test given at Watcher Academy tasked students with picking out an Immortal in a crowd without the benefit of ever seeing a photo of said Immortal before. It counted heavily towards whether you qualified for field work or not. When Joe was training, they arranged the test in the field with a Watcher assigned to a local Immortal. Nowadays, students viewed one of a handful of a news report videos that just happened to include an Immortal moving in the background. Determining which random person, all of which were wearing long winter coats capable of concealing a sword, was the male or female Immortal was tricky. Depending on which video you got, there was the added distraction of a mortal news reporter in the foreground talking, moving vehicles partly blocking the view or it was an aerial shot of the people passing by. Students hated the test. Not only were they judged on whether or not they found the Immortal at all, but also on their speed and how many details they could remember if they did guess correctly.

“I think everyone can agree that the longer we're in the field, the better we get at spotting the little mistakes Immortals make when they try to blend in. Most of them can't help moving like athletes, some fumble with technology, have outdated manners of speech or unusual fashion choices — and not everyone uses a coat to hide their sword. Get close enough and the look in their eyes alone will give them away. But believe me when I say that if Methos was sitting in this room none of you would know it.”

A few people scoffed at that, there were always skeptics, but Joe was undeterred. He had to say the next part carefully so as to not indicate exactly when he first met Methos. It was safer to imply he only met him recently without actually saying so.

“I wouldn't have guessed he was Immortal when I met him, much less that he was Methos, if MacLeod hadn't told me,” Joe revealed that humiliating truth with a sigh. “Methos blends in so well that his Watcher had a hell of a time convincing the higher ups she'd identified him and I don't envy the team working to relocate him now. Methos is just a guy... who after five thousand years is exceptional at hiding in plain sight.”

That was the end of his little lecture and the local director walked on stage to thank him for coming. The crowd clapped appreciatively as Joe ambled away tiredly, not wanting to stay for any questions from the assembled Watchers. Jet lag was still plaguing him. He checked his cell phone at the base of the stairs outside and saw that his daughter Amy had called during the lecture. He punched in her number and waited for the overseas call to go through. Amy answered after the first ring.

“We found him!” she exclaimed, breathlessly skipping over the usual pleasantries in her enthusiasm. “Somebody recognized him from the 'Ben Adams' alias we put on the Missing List.”

“Where?”

“An archeology site in Croatia.”

Joe booked the first flight out, jet lag or not.

...o0o...

After centuries without a credible Methos sighting, once the Watchers officially did rediscover the oldest living Immortal, very little actual Methos watching had occurred. Not by the team of Watchers assigned to him anyway, just as Joe had told his lecture audience. Occasionally, Methos called Joe or Duncan MacLeod, even dropping by to visit them unexpectedly a few times. Yet the most the Watchers had kept up with him was a few months in 1996. Methos then vanished for a year, resurfaced in Paris giving every indication that he was settling there again, only to disappear again not long after he'd taken Morgan Walker's head and the O'Rourke incident. The situation was likely exacerbated by the journal debacle. Not the Watchers' finest hour, but at least no one died.

Joe was the only Watcher to catch more than a fleeting glance of Methos since then and the 'really old guy' was careful not to give his mortal friend any forewarning of his visits or stick around long enough for Joe to call for sufficient backup most of the time. It was much easier to watch Methos when Joe was the only Watcher who knew who Methos was. It had gone a long way towards vindicating Joe's choice to keep a secret chronicle on Methos rather than turn the guy in like any other Watcher would have all those years ago. Didn't mean Joe wouldn't rather see his friend though. Everyone was cranky at Watcher headquarters, especially Joe, at Methos' continued absence.

Presently, Joe's primary concern was the less than stable looking elevator contraption they were going to use to descend a deep shaft into the ground. Apparently, miners installed this lift in a natural, nearly vertical shaft to survey the mountain for oil and copper. What they found instead was evidence of past human habitation.

Not what Joe imagined when he heard Methos was working at a cave site in Croatia.

He'd thought they'd be perched on the slopes or in a valley, viewing ancient hand prints on shallow cave walls and finding a scattering of mostly broken pottery. Looking down the dark hole in the mountain, he did not appreciate what was clearly a deliberate lack of warning about what they'd be getting into here.

“Welcome, I'm Dr. Jelena Conrad,” a middle-aged woman, possibly a little younger than Joe despite the streaks of gray in her short brown hair greeted them. She held up her wrist to show them the edge of her Watcher tattoo peeking out of her coat. Joe and the three other Watchers with him did the same. As was proper, she'd stayed with the Immortal and asked a non-Watcher to drive them to the site.

The wind was loud and biting, even in this sheltered part of the mountainside. Joe strained to listen as Dr. Zoll, with the air of a serious business woman, introduced herself as from Research. Timothy Wyatt, balding early and thoroughly fitting the nerd stereotype, was labeled her assistant. Joe's daughter, Amy Thomas, the youngest here by more than a decade and looked very conscious of it, was presented as the 'Ben Adams' Watcher. Zoll described Joe as an instructor looking for new material. A rather flimsy cover for him, but it was all they had come up with on short notice.

No mention was made of Methos.

“Mr. Dawson,” Jelena said over the wind and shook his gloved hand politely. “I attended your lecture this summer in Segedin. It was quite interesting.”

“Thank you,” he answered in kind, not sure if she meant she liked it or not. He didn't remember her from it, but then he'd given several lectures this year. Even a Watcher couldn't remember every face.

The archeologist then caught them up to speed on what 'Ben Adams' was doing. “He is going by the name Dr. Douglas Adams here. At first, he only showed interest in the pottery. I'm sure you've seen it all over the news. It's early bronze age, or copper age as some have taken to calling it, and similar to the famous Vučedolska ceramics. Yet this cave is far from other places we've found it,” Jelena told them. “Current theory is these cavern people traded their copper ore for the pottery, grains and other goods.”

Joe vaguely recalled a small mention on the American news recently about newly discovered artifacts believed to be between 4,000-6,000 years old. The reporter sounded bored next to a single picture of a cracked bowl covered in simple spiral designs. However, this find was clearly very big news in Europe. Joe was not an expert on ancient dishes, but listening to Dr. Conrad continue to detail the significance of the artifacts they found made Joe aware that this was regarded as an amazing discovery. What is more, the location was being kept secret for now to protect the site from damage.

Though Joe couldn't imagine what damage could be done to an archeological site so very deep under the ground. Were they fighting against oil companies wanting to drill in the mountain? Or a ski resort wanting to build on top of the entrance? Was it a burial site down there? For that matter, wouldn't everything have broken from the fall? He couldn't see how ancient people could climb this fissure in the ground or reach the bottom without technology. It was too deep. They must have used a different entrance into the cave no one had found yet.

“For the last few days, Adams has mostly wandered up and down the streets,” Jelena finished her report waving her hand in the air as though shooing away a fly and shrugging one shoulder in bafflement.

“Streets?” Joe asked, wondering if he'd missed something in the conversation due to the grinding sound of the lift, but the other Watchers looked confused as well. Why were they going underground here if Methos was back in the nearest town?

“Yes, streets,” Jelena answered with a secretive smile. “We found a city.”

…..o0o.....

The cavern below was stunning in both its size and beauty. Comfortably cool, almost warm compared with the surface and startlingly quiet, it was a welcome change after the rough weather outside.

The archeologists had set up camp in a section of the cave floor that was surprisingly level and away from the more intact limestone formations. Thick electrical cables sat in coils on the ground and supplied power to free-standing light poles.

“You are living down here?” Amy asked, astounded as she looked around at the tents, tables, portable toilets and cook stoves.

“It's better than riding the lift to sleep on the cold mountainside. Chose your tents,” replied Jelena as she pointed to a row of empty tents already assembled for them. “I'll be back.”

Jelena left to talk with a few of her colleagues and returned just as the other Watchers finished putting away their baggage. She began issuing each of them battery-powered lights, hard hats, hand-held radios, a rudimentary map of the excavation site and other assorted gear.

“I've told the director the usual cover story. You are museum representatives looking to display what we find. I'm responsible for you and will vouch for your movements, though I doubt anyone will question you. Enjoy looking around, talk as much or as little as you like to the other archeologists and don't touch anything. Adams was assigned to the Orange Road today, but didn't return with the others for luncheon. This way.”

Joe hoped the city wasn't far, as he could only walk so long on uncertain terrain with artificial legs. But Dr. Conrad had assured them beforehand on the phone that wouldn't be a problem. Now he saw why, there was a vehicle that looked like a bizarre cross between a roofless army jeep and a small lorry. Joe had the privilege of the bench seat because of his legs, while the other three squeezed into the small flatbed.

“Normally, we wouldn't bring even electric carts like this one down here,” Jelena explained as she took the driver's seat. “But there is nothing for the tires to damage on this dry riverbed.”

Riding it saved them a great deal of walking. The headlights showed more of the large electric cables running along one side of the path. As they traveled, he saw the dirt slopes on either side change to sheer cut stone that became shorter as the riverbed grew shallower. From their low vantage point, there wasn't much to see beyond obvious man made stone railings until their route widened at the top of a gentle hill. Jelena stopped the cart a moment for them to take in the view. Twinkling lights showed where others were working and a scattering of enormously bright spotlights were set up in one courtyard, but otherwise the rest of the city was hidden by darkness.

“See the highest lights,” Jelena pointed out teams of people exploring. “We've counted nine levels of living quarters going up the west wall to the cavern ceiling and have yet to find the back of this chamber. Too much debris. Most of the cavern floor is covered in what were once shops and other public buildings. We've found remains of rough cloth stretched across the tops of some, the houses probably, but we think most of the buildings never had roofs. What for, when there is no weather? There are numerous copper mirrors mounted on pedestals that would reflect light when polished, but we're not sure yet how it would be enough to comfortably light everything.”

She stopped the cart next to a sloped divide in the river's stone wall. It looked similar to a boat ramp and allowed Joe to walk out of the riverbed and up to the street level with ease. Although there were boulders and other pieces of the ceiling scattered about on the ground, it was amazing how many of the rock walls of the buildings were still standing. Bright, reflective caution tape marked unstable ground or sections of road below precariously leaning pieces of stone.

“Travel in pairs and don't venture beyond the marker flags and cones. There is a lot of ground we've not covered and the director doesn't want any accidents. When you need a cart, make a general call on the handset. Go down that street,” Jelena said pointing to her left. “And turn right when it ends. Hopefully, Adams hasn't wandered off it again.”

They thanked her as she left them to return to her assigned part of the excavations.

“Okay, time to re-plan how we're going to do this,” said Dr. Zoll tapping her foot on the roadway. “I thought we'd be mostly on the surface with plenty of high vantage points to watch from without being seen and an inn to retreat to at night. Thoughts?”

“I won't get distance photos here,” Timothy Wyatt replied. “It's too dark and I don't fancy falling down a hole.”

“Everyone is too spread out for us to blend in as random archeologists,” pointed out Amy Thomas. “Besides, we'll be sharing a campsite now and Methos already knows our faces.”

Joe shrugged and said, “I wasn't instructed to hide anyway, so my job is unchanged.”

“Very well,” said Dr. Zoll. “Amy, you go with Joe, but keep back while Joe talks to him. Tim and I will explore the main part of the site for safe watching spots. If Methos doesn't spook entirely, we can at least be as unobtrusive as possible while he is down here.”

Joe and his daughter left the other two consulting their maps. He ambled along surprisingly well on this ancient roadway. It was smoother and more level than he'd expected. There was plenty to see as they went, the lights from the square behind them were bright enough they didn't need to use their flashlights yet. Joe wanted to stop and marvel at the scattered remains of this forgotten culture, but there was work to be done first.

Amy scouted ahead to and came back from looking around the corner. “He's there,” she confirmed. “Want to sneak up on him?”

“He'll recognize the sound of my cane.”

“I could create a diversion,” Amy offered slyly.

Joe grinned at her and replied, “Your boss wouldn't approve, but thanks.”

Amy stayed out of sight to listen and take notes, while Joe turned the corner to enter a dust covered road lined with orange painted buildings, hence the nickname the archeologists gave it. That the paint was still there after thousands of years was astonishing until he remembered that this cavern was protected far from the ravages of sunlight, water and weather. Yet something had destroyed it enough for people to abandon it long ago.

Methos was sprawled on the ground by himself, but still within sight of a group of archeologists working on a pile of stones further down the street. Dressed like the others, he still managed to look a bit like his Adam Pierson persona to Joe. Methos' face was pensive as he leaned against one of the sturdier looking walls while writing in his ever present journal. Joe almost felt bad about disturbing him. Almost.

Joe didn't make it three steps before Methos looked up at the sound and his face transformed into astonishment. It was always nice to surprise the really old guy.

“Didn't think we'd find you?” was Joe's greeting.

“Didn't expect you down here,” Methos replied slowly, eying Joe as though he didn't quite believe what he was seeing. “How are you, Joe?”

“Good. You?”

“The same.”

“Where have you been?”

“No where.”

“What were you doing?”

“Nothing.”

“Who did you see?”

“No one,” quipped Methos like a teenager unwilling to tell his parents what he'd been up to while out all night. “How is teaching at the Watcher Academy going?”

“Fine.”

“And?”

Fed up with the pithy answers, Joe gave Methos his 'I'm not telling you, you're Immortal' look. Which was mostly meant to be only annoying, not serious. Getting information out of Methos wasn't insurmountable. You just had to know what to trade, be very sincere or be Duncan MacLeod to persuade him. An assessment that Joe was well aware could also be applied to himself.

“Come on, Joe?” Methos almost, but not quite pleaded.

Joe stared him down and said, “You first.”

“Fine,” Methos conceded. “Half the acquaintances I contacted have heard rumors about Watchers. Mostly from from someone they trust: a friend, student, or teacher. Galati told a lot of Immortals, far more than MacLeod has, and they're asking around to see if anyone knows more about you guys.”

“What kind of rumors?”

“The usual drill. A group of mortals who are aware of us. Some know what you're called, but most aren't certain why you follow us. A few know about the tattoo. They now are rethinking the times they've dismissed the feeling that they were being watched. The policy of rotating temporary Watchers will need to be implemented more.”

Oddly enough, that recommendation was exactly how the Watchers were trying to handle Methos, so far without success. When they did know where Methos was, Dr. Zoll swapped out the people following him so often she couldn't even tell the Watchers she sent the real name of who they were watching. Eventually, it would look suspicious to keep calling out for massive reinforcements to track 'Ben Adams,' an Immortal with a very unremarkable chronicle. It was hard enough keeping quiet those who recognized 'Ben Adams the Immortal' as 'Adam Pierson the former Watcher.' Watchers were compulsive gossips and Joe dreaded the day someone else pieced together the mystery the way Dr. Zoll had.

“Who did you talk to?”

“Not giving you names, Joe. Your turn,” said Methos pointing a finger at him.

“Responses to my classes at the Academy are mixed. I cover all the dirty laundry - Horton, Shapiro and more. Mostly, I let the students debate the consequences of my experience with Mac to other Watchers who died at the hands of their assignment.”

“And the benefits?”

“Are mostly discussed in the other class I teach.”

That made Methos grin. “So,” he said drawing out the word. “They're really making all the field Watchers attend your lectures?”

“Oh, yeah. The researchers and historians, too. I'm traveling to all the regional branches around the world.”

“Don't they resent the remedial lessons?”

“Not at all. Its a packed house,” Joe said with an evil grin. “I get to talk about finding you.”

Methos froze up at that for a moment before saying, “You didn't find me. MacLeod tattled.

“True. Actually, Dr. Zoll gets official credit for locating you. She did the research after all and properly reported you to the Tribunal, unlike me. No, I'm allowed to tell the more experienced Watchers how my friendship with Mac gives me access to long lost Immortals. No one sees your picture and no mention is made of your stint pretending to be a Watcher.”

“Of course not, that would be too embarrassing. What do you tell them about me?”

“Sorry,” Joe answered in a sing-song voice. “You have to take my class.”

“Not likely,” Methos replied. “What's MacLeod up to?”

“Spending this week on his island. I left him a message that I'm over here.”

Methos laughed and said, “A Watcher telling his assignment where he is going... though I suppose it is only fair since Mac practically watches himself by reporting his activity to you.”

“I put a kid on him when I'm gone,” Joe defended himself, but grinned as well. “Mac is good practice for trainees.”

“Bet he loves being Watcher finishing school.”

Joe was unapologetic. “Better than putting them on you. How did you lose the Watchers in Hong Kong?”

“Didn't they tell you?”

Joe just raised one eyebrow at him and waited expectantly. If he played this right, Methos just might be tempted to boast.

“I wasn't there,” Methos confessed.

What?!” Joe exclaimed.

“I hired an actor, paid for his ticket and swapped clothes with him at Heathrow airport. I never boarded the plane. It was a one way flight, so Dr. Zoll had two options: try to get one of her team on the plane by flying standby or rely on the Hong Kong Watchers to be waiting when it landed while she took a later flight. From your reaction, I'm guessing the second is what happened.”

“They thought you disappeared in a group of tourists the next day. That guy had to resemble your photo a lot.”

“Foreigners all look alike, Joe.”

Deciding to think more about that later, Joe gestured to the cavern they were in and said, “Next question. Did you once live down here?”

“Yes.”

Joe was a little surprised at the straightforward answer, but also disappointed by the lack of detail. “Is this your homeland, where you are from?”

Methos laughed and said, “You just want to put 'caveman' in my chronicle, don't you? Truth is, I don't know. I mostly remember re-reading what I wrote about this city.”

“Has seeing it again jogged your memory?”

“A little, yes.”

“What happened here? Why did everyone leave?”

“Isn't it obvious, Joe? Earthquake.”

A commotion from the archeologists at the end of the street stalled Joe's next question. They'd cleared the fallen stone they'd been laboring on and were well rewarded for their effort if their exclamations of delight were anything to go on. Methos stood up and went to see what they'd found with Joe following. Amy, he knew, would quietly keep her distance and watch.

...o0o...

Entering the large, roofless hall the archeologists found, Joe vowed he would never think of cave paintings the same again. It was nothing like the simple drawings of animals, stick figures and hand prints occasionally found in caverns.

The Gallery of Ancient Immortals, as the Watchers would later come to call it, was decorated with pictures you'd expect to see hanging in any number of portrait galleries around the world. Life sized, individual images of people were beautifully painted on the walls. They were a mixed medium of paint and glass or semi-precious stone mosaics and metals. Though only five main colors were used, they were still blended well enough to create depth. Not being a painter himself, Joe could only suppose the stones and glass were mostly for when they couldn't mix that particular shade of paint or to give more of a three-dimensional look.

The realism of the faces was astounding and rarely found in ancient art. Most of the subjects were not looking at the viewer nor smiling, typical of most portraits throughout history. Care was taken to detail the sophisticated clothing for the time and the items each person was holding. Some of the objects in the pictures were likely symbolic of the character of the subject, others he supposed were literally things the people owned or represented professions they were known for. Copper axes, spears, maces, clubs and knives were commonly featured. There were no swords at all.

So accustomed to seeing swords in general, it took a moment for Joe to remember why there wouldn't be any represented on these walls. Swords as he knew them were not invented yet. Even the early bronze swords were more like long knives compared to the Immortals weapons today. How very different the Immortal battles with axes must be. He'd read of such duels in chronicles, but few Immortals were left from ax wielding cultures. Or like Methos, they adopted the sword over time.

Getting close, you could feel like you were standing beside a real person. As he watched, one of the younger assistants did just that, comparing his height to one portrait of a brunette woman. A long coil of hair fell from a high top knot on her head with loops of beads around it. She wore a knee length white coat-like dress with vivid green stones representing two rows of spiral embellishments. In one hand she held up a bowl shaped lamp gilded with what looked like real gold and the other hand was holding a spear. Her expression was determined and her eyes looked slightly to the side at what her lamp was presumably illuminating.

“Can you believe this woman was as tall as I am? Weren't ancient people supposed to be short? Take my picture, will you?” the assistant handed over his camera to a friend.

His friend obligingly backed up to snap a photo of him posing next to the portrait and stated, “Awesome! Hey, is that more of the new writing next to her?”

Most of them started taking photos with the ancient paintings, only to freeze at their leader's harsh order of, “Stop!”

Joe only half listened to the archeologist berate his team, lecturing them about 'respecting sacred places' and 'harming artifacts with flashes from their cameras.' Something Joe considered total bull. A handful of small camera flashes from the kids working down here couldn't be worse than the large spotlights they were busy setting up to fully document everything. It sounded more like they didn't want personal photos getting out.

Moving further down the wide hall and away from the barking leader, he shined his light along the wall until he found another portrait of a man holding a mace and shield. He gave each work of art a long look of appreciation. Though he knew the Watchers would eventually obtain a copy of photos, video and other documentation the archeologists were making down here to look for clues of Immortals, this could be his only chance to see these artworks in person.

Speechless, Joe gazed in wonder at the ancient faces. Most of the people were very pale skinned, with dark hair and brown eyes leading him to think that was likely the ethnicity of these cave people, until he came across a portrait of a darker skinned man with a curled beard, like he'd seen in Sumerian art. A sheathed, long dagger was at his side and he was in the act of drawing a bow and arrow. Either it was a picture of a man the artist encountered while visiting a major port city elsewhere or the subject journeyed very far to get here.

Next to each portrait, a portion of the wall was covered with inscriptions that were unlike anything Joe had ever seen. Someone ahead of him began asking for paper. A group split off from those taking photographs, pulling out artist's charcoal and blocks of wax to make rubbings of the wall inscriptions on long rolls of paper. Once they had enough standing lights in place, Joe expected they'd begin taking video of the hall.

Between the pictures were long stretches of blank wall presumably to allow for future writing or additional portraits. How much was written next to each picture varied widely between them. Halfway down was a portrait of a barefoot woman wearing a crown of yellow flowers on top of her short black hair. The gentle appearance was rather spoiled by the flint knife she was poised to throw in one hand and a dagger hidden in the folds of her wrapped gown she was drawing out with her other hand. Her section of the hall was entirely filled with text. To compensate, a short wall about his height, obviously added later, projected outward to continue her story. He supposed that once the wall became filled, another would be added to it until her portion of the hall was divided off into a separate enclosure. What had they planned to do if they completely ran out of room?

Rounding the wall, Joe was startled to find a portrait of Methos.

It was a good likeness of Methos in profile to better show off his distinctive nose. He was gazing slightly downward at a stone tablet in one hand and holding a stylus down at his side in the other, a pose Joe had seen Methos make many times when writing in his journal or reading a book. He had a short, neatly trimmed beard and most of his hair stopped just above his collar, excepting two narrow, beaded braids hanging behind the one visible ear and draping down his back. Matching beaded bracers were on his wrists and likely only decorative from the number of sea shells threaded on them. Falling from his shoulders was a cloak made of pieces of leather sewn together and clasped by a copper pin so large it looked like it could double as a weapon. The knee-length tunic was a dull blue, possibly sleeveless as his arms were bare below the cloak and held closed with an ornately woven cloth sash in many shades of orange. Dark gray wrappings wound about his legs instead of trousers and the short leather boots were covered in tooled geometric decorations. There was a conspicuous absence of weapons in the portrait.

A long-suffering sigh drew Joe's attention.

“I forgot about this,” Methos said plaintively from behind him.

Joe turned his light away from the painting to shine it into the face of the original subject who squinted and protected his eyes with one hand. In his awe of the pictures, Joe had momentarily forgotten who he was with and why. Very bad for a Watcher, he didn't need to make a habit of it.

“Sorry, man,” Joe murmured as he lowered the light. “Seriously? You asked to work on this road. Weren't you searching for it?”

“I couldn't remember what I was looking for. Now I do. Anyone else seen this?” Methos asked quietly and gesturing to the painting of himself.

Joe shook his head and said, “Not yet.”

“Good.”

A cold feeling crawled over Joe's skin. He had a terrible idea that he knew what Methos was about to do. Acting on instinct, Joe swung his cane straight at Methos' head. The Immortal ducked and stepped backward on silent feet into a combat ready stance Joe had seen Immortals use a hundred times in duels. Methos didn't pull out a weapon though.

“Don't you dare,” Joe hissed angrily, drawing out each word and this time deliberately shining the light in Methos' eyes to blind him.