Otiz by Wajag
Very old story written for a story challenge "Whenever I feel the first fall of snow, I'm back there...reliving it..."
Joe stood leaning against the bar drinking a cup of coffee and reading the morning newspaper. It was a lazy Monday afternoon and the bar wouldn’t be open for hours. His chores were done and his two Immortal friends had stopped by to visit and enjoy a beer. The conversation had been relaxed and eventually became a companionable silence. He and Duncan were reading portions of the newspaper while Methos sat quietly.
Always good at self-entertaining, Methos didn’t care that his friends were involved in their newspaper. He was quietly trying to decide what to do with himself now that he’d defended his doctorate. Maybe he’d disappear for a while and visit his Greek villa, it was always nice in Greece.
Joe had just finished an article he thought would be of interest to his two much older friends. His voice broke the silence. “It says here the Sorbonne is going to get the Iceman exhibit in August, they’ll have it for the rest of the year. Seems the Curator has been trying to get it for some time now.”
“Is that the ice mummy those hikers found some ten or so years ago?” Duncan asked, not finding anything interesting in the Finance or Arts & Entertainment Sections of the paper. He was willing to talk about anything to break the monotony.
Joe nodded. “At first they thought it was a hiker that had been lost the year before, only to discover when they went to dig him out that the mummy was from the Copper Age.”
“Want to go and see your competition for the old fart record?” Duncan teased Methos. When Methos didn’t rise to the bait, Duncan looked over at the silent Immortal. Methos was staring at his beer bottle lost in thought.
“Methos?” Joe asked. It was unlike Methos to lose track of a conversation like this.
“No, I don’t want to go and see him.” Methos said, proving that he had been following the conversation even if it hadn’t appeared that way.
“Jealous of the competition?” Duncan teased trying to irritate the older Immortal and draw him into the conversation.
“I don’t want to see him in a glass exhibit case. That would be like seeing your head pickled in a jar at the Watcher museum. Otiz wouldn’t have wanted this.” Methos said and hurried to down the last of his beer.
“Wait a minute. Are you saying that you knew him?” Joe asked incredulous. Methos nodded without looking up from his empty bottle.
“But he died in 3300 BC.” Joe said doing the math. That would make Methos older than his admitted five thousand years.
Methos nodded again.
“You’re fifty three hundred years old.” MacLeod stated, not sure if the older Immortal was pulling his leg for his own amusement.
“I said it was give or take a few centuries. We didn’t measure time the same way back then.”
Joe grabbed another beer bottle and walked stiffly around the bar. He put the beer down in front of Methos and sat down next to him. It was rare for the Ancient one to offer anything about his mysterious past. That he’d admitted that he was older than believed was astounding. Not willing to let this one go by, Joe asked. “You said his name was Otiz.”
Methos narrowed his eyes and looked up at Joe. “If I tell you about Otiz will you drop it and never bring it up again?” Methos asked. Maybe MacLeod would see a lesson in this story, not be so eager to trust just anybody. Or maybe it would make them both stop and think about what it meant to have people you knew just be anonymous fossils and curiosities.
Joe knew that he hadn’t fooled the older man. If Methos was willing to tell the story to have it never spoken of again, it meant that it had struck a nerve. Curious to see what would cause the old man to offer a story like this, Joe agreed.
Methos gently rocked the beer bottle in his hand, looking at the gently swishing amber liquid. “That’s why I hate the snow you know, it’s not just about being cold. It reminds me of Otiz. He was a wealthy shepherd in a village where I lived for a few seasons. I was just passing through on one of my trips around the world. I’d reached the village too late in the season to make it over the Pass before the winter storms hit. Even being Immortal, I knew I’d never make it over the Pass, I’d just freeze to death and not revive until I thawed out.” Methos snorted. “Good thing, it took Otiz fifty three hundred years to be found.”
Taking a drink of his beer, Methos continued the story. “The village wasn’t very friendly to strangers, preferring that they just kept going after they stocked up on supplies for the trip over the Pass. The world was a very unfriendly place back then. Otiz wasn’t like the others, he was curious about the world even if he had no interest in leaving the mountains he loved. When he learned that I’d traveled to far away places, he offered me food and shelter while I waited for the seasons to change.”
“Otiz was in his late forties which was pretty old back then. Other than the normal parasites and worn teeth, he was healthy and happy. I stayed all winter and into the spring with him, helping him around his home, caring for his flock and talking over the fire. He was interested in hearing about the places I’d traveled, the things I’d seen and the skills I’d learned. Back then, you had to be able to do a little bit of everything just to survive, reading the weather and the seasons, metalworking, tanning, basic medical training, animal husbandry and knapping.”
“This was before the Bronze Age, so copper was the metal of choice for tools and weapons. The copper I had with me was a finer quality than anything he’d ever seen before. Being a metal worker in his spare time, he was especially interested in my methods of smelting. We spent many evenings working with copper until he was satisfied that he’d improved his skills.”
“Once Otiz had welcomed me into his home, people left me pretty much alone. Otiz was one of the wealthiest and respected men in the village. He was a man of considerable interest to the matchmakers in the village, but he was quite infatuated with a girl from a village on the other side of the Pass. She was a few months away from being of age, but Otiz visited her as often as he could.”
“We’d become pretty good friends during the wait and I decided to stick around for a while longer. I enjoyed Otiz’s company and he mine. He had a zest for knowledge and life that I understood because I had it too. Otiz told me that he’d buried two wives in his long life, but when he’d seen Hidelde he knew he wanted her for his wife. He’d agreed to pay an unusually large bride price for the untried girl. Normally you wouldn’t pay that high a price unless the woman had already proven herself with children.” Methos explained. “Otiz didn’t care. He was looking forward to seeing her again after a long winter and spring.”
“Finally it was early summer and the Pass had cleared. We decided to travel together as it wasn’t safe for men to travel alone. That was part of the reason the villagers had been suspicious of me, they didn’t know I was armed to the teeth and knew how to use every one of my weapons. We armed ourselves with our axes, flint knives and Yew bows before setting off. Otiz left his flock in the care of a young man from the village. Then with leather pouches of journey bread, hard and roughly ground cracker-like bread, some dried vegetables and meat, we set off. Since there was permanent snow at the peak near the glacier, we had to carry our winter clothing with us.”
“It was a ten hour hike up winding trails. At the peak it became rocky and full of switchbacks. As we went further up into the mountains, we had to put on our leather leggings, and add two layers of the fur clothing we’d brought. On the lower elevations, we’d stuffed our leather footwear with hay and grasses for insulation, wrapping it up with woven hemp cords to keep it shaped around our feet for comfort. Finally it got so cold we had to put on our bearskin caps and wrap ourselves in the capes of matted grass that were common in that part of the world.”
“When we arrived at the village on the other side of the Pass. Otiz enthusiastically introduced me to his intended Hidelde, a short, plump young girl with long blonde hair. Not at all to my tastes, but Otiz adored her. I stayed with Otiz through the summer; we traveled over the Pass several times so that he could visit with Hidelde.”
“It was near the end of the summer, when we made our last trip over. Hidelde was of marrying age now and Otiz wanted to take her home and get her all settled in before the Pass closed. This trip, Otiz was bringing the last of the bride price and making the final arrangements to bring her back with him. I was only going to stay for the wedding and then continue on with my travels. I didn’t want to intrude on the newly married couple, and I really didn’t like Hidelde. She flirted with every man including me, and nothing seemed to make her happy.”
“It was obvious to me that Hidelde didn’t want to marry Otiz. She didn’t want to leave her village and her friends. Her father had insisted because of Otiz’s wealth and the large bride price. I’d heard later that Hidelde had convinced her brothers that if they robbed Otiz of the bride price, he wouldn’t be able to take her away and they would still have the bride gifts. Being gullible and unruly, the brothers agreed to rob Otiz.”
“That morning we had our normal breakfast of unleavened bread and setting out early, traveled to Hidelde’s village. When we arrived Otiz was anxious to see Hidelde, but I was called to look at an injured boy. I’d become known for my healing abilities. While I was away, Hidelde’s brothers attacked Otiz. Surprised at the attack from his future in-laws, they caught Otiz off guard. He was strong and competent with his weapons, but they somehow managed to crack several of his ribs in the fight before he shook them off and fled back up the Pass to his own village. They shot him in the back with an arrow as he fled from them. I’m sure he’d only run because he couldn’t bring himself to hurt Hidelde’s brothers.”
“A shepherd boy had witness the whole thing from some nearby trees. He’d heard Otiz try to talk to them, and run away when they wouldn’t listen. Back then there was no shame in leaving an uneven fight. It was expected that you survive first.” Methos said with a bland look at MacLeod.
“It was nearly half a day later when I returned to the village and heard what had happened. I hurried after Otiz when I heard he’d been shot in the back. It was a hard and tiring walk for a healthy man, deadly for a bleeding and injured man. Otiz must have been exhausted when he reached the peak. He fell or lay down in a protected gully to rest.”
Methos took a long drink of his beer. His voice was slightly deeper when he continued the story. “An unusual snow storm rolled in as I walked. As the snow started to fall I quickened my pace, practically running up the Pass, I was so worried about Otiz. By the time I’d reached him, he’d died of exposure and blood loss. His best ax leaning against the rocks nearby, his hat where he’d dropped it. The snow was nearly a foot deep then, I almost missed seeing him in the gully.”
Methos took a deep breath and cleared his throat. “I covered him up with more snow to keep the animals off him and returned back the way I’d come. I returned to Hidelde’s village and denounced the brothers. The shepherd boy stepped forward to tell what he’d seen. The village took care of the whole family according to their laws. Rather than wait in a village that I couldn’t stand the sight of, I continued on my way. The village elder promised to send someone over the Pass to tell Otiz’s family what had happened to him when the storm blew over.”
"Now whenever I feel the first fall of snow, I'm back there...reliving it...worried about Otiz and trying to find him on the Pass. I just wasn’t fast enough to save him."
“You did your best Methos.” Joe said quietly.
“You did what you could. It would please him to know that you still remember him after thousands of years.” Duncan said.
Methos nodded and finished his beer. He said, “That’s why I don’t want to see the Iceman. I remember him when he was my friend Otiz. When they found him in 1991, I broke into the office where they stored their records. I inserted a few references to Otiz as a name rather than ‘the Iceman’. They picked up on it and liked it. It was something I could do for him. At least he’ll be remembered as Otiz and not an anonymous mummy found in the Italian Alps.”
Methos stood up and slipped on his long coat. Even though it was summer, he suddenly felt chilled. He quietly left the bar with only a murmured goodbye to his friends.
Joe looked at MacLeod. “Is it like that for you when they make a archeological discovery in the Highlands?”
Mac nodded. “But not nearly as lonely for me as it is for Methos. I have Conner to remind me, and most of the people I knew and loved were properly buried where they’ll rest undisturbed with their loved ones.”
“We lost some guys in Nam. We may never find them. I hope to God they don’t become someone’s museum exhibit someday.” Joe said, suddenly understanding Methos a little better. This wasn’t an isolated incident for the ancient Immortal. So many people and civilizations he’d lived in were now dead and buried. Every archeological discovery must be a painful reminder of friends and loved ones he’d lost.
Methos wandered the streets of Paris. He fingered a copper medallion on a cord at his neck as he walked and remembered his friend. He’d taken it from Otiz’s body when he’d found him. Otiz had claimed that his spirit would go into the medallion at his death. The medallion was meant to be passed on to his children but he hadn’t had any. Methos had taken it so Otiz could go with him and see the world he’d been so fascinated by.
Methos smiled as he felt it warm in his fingers. In his mind he could hear Otiz’s bellowing laugh of joy and gratitude.
For more information on the Iceman see: