Author: Hmpf
Title: Epilogue
Feedback to: hmpf1998
Rating: PG-13 ? This story describes the aftermath of a beheading.
Keywords: Lyric Wheel, Methos
Character listing: Methos, OC
Short teaser/summary: A Quickening, seen from *both* sides.

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Author's notes:
Warning: WeirdFic. An exercise in imagery, written under severe time constrictions due to a very full university schedule.
Disclaimer: I don't own him, alas.
Dedicated to Clan MacSlow
This was written for the Quickening Lyric Wheel; therefore it is unbeta'd.
Thanks to Carin for the Lyrics, 'Shake Your Foundations', which can be found at the end of the story.
Essays, fanfic, ramblings: .

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It begins with a ghostly mist, coalescing, as it seems, out of nowhere. Faintly luminous, it gathers around the body, casting a pale light on the wet tarmac, drawing a gentle shroud around the unmoving limbs and the severed head that lies in a puddle of blood and muddy water. The mist thickens and pulses, slow and viscuous, like blood welling out of a wound. It extends scouting, undulating tendrils my way. I feel perversely alive.

[I never thought I would be able to feel it. Not physically, of course. I am dead. Hearing, sight, smell, touch or taste do not concern me anymore. The universe has been transformed into a place that is not a place, that cannot be heard or smelled or touched or seen or tasted. *I* have been transformed. I have met with the cutting edge, and it has separated my being from my body.]

Time has stopped. This is the immeasurable moment before the Quickening hits. An endless second, every time - a little slice of eternity. A moment of a raised awareness so acute that it resembles a trance. A dangerous moment. The electricity in the air, waiting for release, is making my skin tingle.

[My life is leaking away. I am falling to pieces, pieces that are picked up by the air, tiny fragments floating lazily, charging the air with my self. I can feel the tension building. A pull like a tide is drawing everything that was me relentlessly towards *him*. I want to linger here, in this place, in this state, linger in the air, follow the wind wherever it will take me, *dissolve*. . . But I cannot resist his pull.]

As I stand transfixed, suspended in my slice of eternity, my senses are curiously heightened, and I perceive a thousand things at once, all equally intense: the smell of rain-soaked wood from the fence opposite me, too subtle to be smelled under normal circumstances - the strength and temerity of the tufts of grass in the cracked asphalt, stretching their roots down towards the hidden soil, patiently working towards conquering back that bit of town - the dampness of the air after a day of rain - a tiny pebble under one of my boots - the height of the sky, free now of the clouds that kept it hidden for much of the day - the smell of blood.

[I am approaching him. I can feel him even before I enter him. He is old. I cannot say how old, but certainly older than anyone I ever took. Maybe older than anyone I ever *met*. He is - ancient. I can feel it now. As I am drawn closer to him, and ever closer, I become aware of a multitude of voices surrounding him. They seep out of him, muddying the space around him, a roiling mass of conflicting emotions and desires. They withdraw before me, exposing the core around which they are orbiting. The core - no. Not the core. Only yet more voices, more confusion.]

Then time jump-starts again, and then, then it breaks down over me. My senses, opened wide to encompass even the tiniest pebble just a moment ago, for that eternal moment, are shrinking back into me like the limbs of a frightened turtle, losing their multiple focus so fast I feel as if I have lost all ability of perception. I grip the handle of my sword tightly, and then . . . the Quickening hits.

Car windows are raining glass all along the street.

[I am plunging, diving, going deeper,

deeper,

through layers of lives and layers of consciousness,

through a turmoil of memories.

I am going for the core.]

A radiant fountain surges from the body, bursts of light exploding outwards, invigorating my every cell. It is exhilarating. Excruciating. I am pierced by a foreign consciousness, jolted by a torrent of pure energy, pricked by a billion white hot needles. I am aware of her now. She is inside me, a new voice among the many, clear and sharp-edged among the amorphous masses.

[A swarm of excited moths are whispering at me, swirling around me, approaching and retreating erratically. I am passing through clouds of barely remembered lives, memories of memories, dimmed and faded. Passed on for millennia, they are mixed up and confused, surreal. I catch glimpses of roman legions clashing with modern armies in World War I - a Spanish galleon sinking in a desert, its sailors drowning in sand - a minstrel picking the strings of his harp on a festival stage, cheered on by a crowd of Hell's Angels -

But I am diving through, going deeper,

deeper,

heading for the flame.]

I stand braced on my sword as wave after wave of energy hit me. I am seared. I am torn. I arch my back and I scream.

[Who is he? He did not give me his name when I challenged him. He looked annoyed rather than frightened, and he drew his sword with an ease that told me I had been wrong even before our blades met. This was no easy prey. This was a hunter, or had been, once. The instant I raised my sword to attack him, I knew I had met my death. Finally. I was relieved.]

We are vampires. Legend has it wrong. - *This* is life's essence. It is not in the blood. It is this rush of energy - giddying - exalting - addictive.

[And still I am going deeper, towards the core, towards the flame. And still I do not understand who he is, still I plunge through myriads of lives, dating back to times immemorable, without finding the center.]

I can feel her confusion. I can feel *everyone's* confusion. For a fraction of a second, every life I have taken, every life those I took have taken, is spread before me, from the first breath to the severing sword - the memory of mankind, spread open for me to read, if only I could read that fast. Everything - everything is there. I see her life, four centuries spent looking for fights, playing the Game with a desperate zeal, with a terrible innocence, and I think, something went wrong here. Not her, not now, though - the wrongness goes back a lot further, back to the time when the first immortal took a head, possibly. I try to hold on to that thought -

[Something is changing now. The confusion is settling down, some sort of order is being established, though at first I do not understand how or by whom. - Then I understand that it must be him. And as I understand that simple fact, I become aware of him. He is *everywhere*. And he is Methos. The Eldest.]

A memory is rising, a memory that, in this lucid moment, I recognize for one that always returns to me in these milliseconds of absolute clarity in the middle of a Quickening. It is a memory that I have been running away from for a very long time.

[The eldest of our kind alive at this moment, but not the oldest that ever lived, oh, not by *far* the oldest. I understand it all now. My understanding comes too late for me, but maybe not too late for him. . . maybe.]

I remember myself.

[I see a boy, a very desperate boy, cowering by a fire, with empty eyes, and an old man across the fire from him. The man is small, wiry, dark. He is of our kind, and so is the boy. The boy is Methos. I hear the man calling him thus, and I understand that it is not a name - ]

- it merely means 'boy' in the language the man is speaking. It is a very old language, but the man is older.

[He is the Eldest. He is talking to the boy - ]

- explaining to me the purpose of our existence. A simple purpose.

[Oh, so simple, and we have strayed so far from it - ]

- so terribly far.

[I can feel his pain, his guilt, and his regret. He understands. We all understand now. A great stillness falls over us, touches us with icy fingers, as the realization sinks down into our collective mind - ]

So many millennia wasted.

[So many lives wasted.]

So many memories lost.

[There is no solace in understanding.]

Only sorrow.

[Sorrow.]

I must not forget this. I must not allow it to slip my mind. Not again - But the memory is already fading, obscured by clouds of lost souls that are held captive in another, just as lost. I am beginning to lose control. Unrest is rising among the lost ones. The truth unsettles them, as it is unsettling me. They begin to clamour for my attention again, greedy for an instant of borrowed life, of shared consciousness. Already, I can barely remember the quiet voice of the Eldest -

[But *I* remember. I remember. All my life, I felt there was something wrong. I was living in a world where nothing made sense, killing people I had never met for a ridiculous reason. I spent whole nights in dingy bars, my head in a whiskey jar; drinking myself under the table. I preyed on Immortals on the streets of the big cities, hunted them down to challenge them. I thought I understood everything. I thought there was nothing to understand. Now I know better.]

My revelation is fading, and so is the pain. I almost welcome forgetfulness, but there is still a voice, clearer and more distinct than the others, that keeps nagging at the back of my mind -

[I cannot allow him to forget. I cannot allow us to forget. I - He - We - shouldn't go back to that meaningless existence. We could change the world.]

I do not want to remember.

[It is so simple.]

It is impossible now, after all these years. No one can stop the Game now.

[We must try. You must remember.]

No.

[You are the only one who can remember.]

I do not remember anything.

[We remember. You can, too.]

*No.*

[He fights me, not wanting to remember, preferring to continue this absurdity. Already he has forgotten what we have just discovered, and he is pushing away the uneasiness that remains of the realization with all his might. Soon it will all be hidden safely away in his subconscious again, out of the reach of his waking mind.]

Something. . . There's something I should know. Something I've forgotten. Something crucial. . .

[And now I can feel my power waning. I can feel myself dissipating. I am fighting him, but he is stronger than me, infinitely stronger.]

Something. . . I do not want to remember.

[The voices of the dead are chittering all around me, but they are dissolving, too, losing cohesion as the Quickening is dying down. It is only the Quickening that has released them from the deepest recesses of his mind. His will is a heavy blanket smothering us, forcing us into submission.]

Slowly - though I know all this is happening in the fraction of a second - agonizingly slow I am regaining control. The turmoil inside me is quietening. As I am reasserting myself, I become aware of a vague, lingering unease, somewhere on the border between my consciousness and the subconscious. It almost feels as if -

[As his confused mind is almost, *almost* brushing mine, I pause in my struggle. I hold his memory, *his* revelation in my consciousness like a precious stone, like a bright flame. I stretch towards him, reach out for him with his own memory - offer it to him like a gift.]

It must be some after-effect of the Quickening, I guess. Some sort of memory I absorbed with it. Whatever. I guess it wasn't important.

[I have reached for him in vain.]

I am back in the real world now, scanning the empty street for signs of witnesses, but everything is quiet. The street is dark, the few streetlights went the way of the car windows when it began. There is a dead, windowless factory wall at my back, and an empty lot behind the wooden fence opposite me. If I was lucky, no one will have noticed the fireworks. I take a final look at the body, and suddenly I feel very tired. Not going-to-bed tired; tired-of-it-all tired. It's time to disappear. I bend down to pick up the sword that I must have dropped sometime during the Quickening. Then I leave.

[I will wait, Methos. I will keep your memory safe and intact for you. You can bury me deep in the darkness, cover me with the smothering blanket of your will, and I will lie there, like a seed, and one day, when you are ready, I will grow. . . and you will remember.

I am dead; I can afford to be patient.]

LYRICS:
SHAKE YOUR FOUNDATIONS
by AC/DC (1985) (Young, Young, Johnson)
You gotta see me leanin' on the bar
I got my head in a whiskey jar
Feelin' good 'cos the city's alive
I'm gettin' ready to rock and jive
I get up and I slide across the floor
You wanna come and I'll meet you at the door
No one can stop us 'cos we're feelin' too right
We're gonna steal our way around tonight
(Alright, alright)
CHORUS:
Aye, aye, oh, shake your foundations
Aye, aye, oh, shake it to the floor
Aye, aye, oh, shake your foundations
Aye, aye, oh, shake it
I was takin' no liberties
She's gettin' hotter off the heat on me
I was oilin', she was slick
Lickin' off the sweat, her favorite trick
She cried help me, help me, please
Tame this animal, help me to breathe
I said no, no way
You gotta come with me all of the way
(OK, I'll play)
REPEAT CHORUS
Solo
REPEAT CHORUS
We had the night, we had the time
She had the sugar and I had the wine
Took my hand, shook me to the core
Told her not to touch, but she was coming back for more
(You know what for)
Aye, aye, aye, aye
REPEAT CHORUS