Disclaimer: I don't own any of it, I'm just paddling in their playpool, please don't set the dogs on me.School of Hard Knocks
Xander grunted as he landed on his back for what felt like the hundredth time that afternoon. Giles had been training him for nearly a month now, and although the old Watcher had expressed pride in Xander’s rapid improvement, still the young Immortal felt useless and clumsy in comparison to Giles. It was understandable; Xander had only ever seen Giles the Watcher fight, or the occasional glimpse of Ripper. He had never seen Rwpyrt in battle, and after four millennia of combat he moved with a grace that was almost ethereal, his blade becoming one with him, its movement a blur.
In an attempt to prevent a further ass-kicking, Xander lay on the mat for a moment. “I’m never going to get any better.” He opined.
“Not lying on your arse you’re not, no. Get up.” Giles responded.
“What so you can knock me onto my ass again? No thanks.”
“Get up.” Giles ordered. When Xander failed to comply he slapped him across the thighs with the flat of his blade, the sword producing a loud thwack as it connected. It had the desired effect and Xander leaped to his feet.
“Ow! Jeez, no need for physical abuse.”
“Was your teacher such a hard-ass?” Xander asked, as much in an attempt to stall as in genuine interest. Giles smiled a wry smile.
Somewhere in the Middle East
Rwpyrt rode across the desert in silent contemplation. He had learned the local languages, and the Bedouin had been hospitable in an inhospitable land, but it was time to move on. He had heard tell of a great wonder in the land of Kemet, of places for the burial of kings that were built of stone and reached up to the sky. Perhaps he would visit the land and learn of its culture and language, of the civilisation that could make such a thing possible.
He was torn from his reverie by a painful sensation in his head, the shock of which caused him to tumble from his horse. As he got to his feet he could hear approaching hooves and he looked up to see four recognisable men on horseback approaching. The Horsemen he thought to himself and he grabbed his sword from his saddle. They may have been the most feared warriors in the known world, but they had not yet met Rwpyrt ap Aerwynn in battle.
He braced himself, sword at the ready. The Horsemen galloped toward him, visibly changing their course to do so. Rwpyrt smiled to himself, certain that they could not kill him. But instead of charging down on him as he had expected, they stopped a little way off. Then one, dressed in white and wearing a skull mask, dismounted and walked toward him. When he was within speaking distance, the Horseman took off his mask, revealing a handsome face, half covered in blue wode as Rwpyrt and other Celts often did when going to war.
The stranger drew his sword and spoke.
“Do you seek a challenge?” He spoke in the tongue of the Bedouin, presuming Rwpyrt belonged to them from his dress.
“I do not seek one, but I will answer if challenged.” The Horseman smiled at his answer. He turned and called out to his companions in a language Rwpyrt did not understand. They called back and then galloped off in the direction of the setting sun.
“My name is Methos. I am Death.”
“I am not afraid of death. I am Rwpyrt ap Aerwynn.”
“A Celt?” The stranger asked, speaking, to Rwpyrt’s surprise, in Rwpyrt’s own language. Rwpyrt nodded. “You’re a long way from home Rwpyrt ap Aerwynn.”
“I have wandered long and far.”
“Yes, of course. But tell me, why do you call yourself son of Aerwynn? Surely you know that our kind have no parents.”
“What do you mean our kind?” Rwpyrt asked, puzzled. Methos smirked.
“Men who have a hard time dying.” Rwpyrt looked at him, stunned and confused. “Don’t you know what you are? Don’t you know about the Game? The Rules?” Rwpyrt shook his head. Methos sighed. “How old are you?”
“I cannot say for certain, but at least five hundred cycles of the seasons have passed since I left my home.”
“And in all that time you never met another like you?”
“I do not think so, but I cannot be certain.”
“Yes you can. That feeling you had when my brothers and I approached, that is how Immortals recognise each other.”
“Then no, I have never met another Immortal before today.” Rwpyrt tried out the strange word, Immortal, yes that was what he was, and so was this stranger.
“There is a great deal you need to learn. I will take you as my apprentice for one year and one day. After that time you will leave and if I ever see you again, one of us will die.”
“But how can we die?”
“As I said, there is much you have to learn.”
“You were trained by Methos? The oldest Immortal?” Xander asked, stunned. Damn, Rupert thought, I really have to restrict his access to the Chronicles. He sighed before answering,
“Yes Xander, that Methos. Only I’d prefer it if you didn’t broadcast it to the whole of Greater London.”
“Sorry. But wow, I mean Methos! What was he like?”
“Then? An evil manipulative bastard. Later, just manipulative.” Now though, Giles thought, well recently he had definitely changed for the better. Something to do with his prolonged exposure to the Highlander, he mused. Still a lying manipulative bastard though.
“If he was such a bad guy, why did he take you as his student?”
“I’ve asked myself that question a million times over the millennia. Maybe he was impressed that I wasn’t afraid of him. Maybe he saw something of himself. Who knows.” Maybe one day I’ll summon the courage to ask him, Giles added mentally.
“I can’t even imagine being that old. Do you think I’ll ever make it anywhere near as old as you guys?” Giles smiled and performed a low kick, sweeping Xander’s legs from under him and sending him crashing to the mat once again. He placed the tip of his blade at his student’s throat.
“Not if you don’t start practising.”-*-
“That is the Game. The Rules are simple. Only one Immortal may challenge another.”
“That’s why the others rode away.”
“Yes. The other rule to know is that no Immortal may fight on holy ground. That is the one unbreakable rule. It has only been broken once in my lifetime, and both Immortals were swallowed by the very earth in punishment. Do you understand?”
“Yes, I understand.”
“Good. Now, I have rules of my own that you must follow while I teach you. Break them and I will pass you to my brothers to use as sport, and believe me when I tell you that you’d be begging for me to take your head before they finished with you. Rule one, my word is law. No matter what I tell you to do, you will obey. You will also obey my brothers, but my word overrules theirs. Lay down your sword.” Methos commanded. Rwpyrt did as ordered and lay his sword down on the ground. Methos picked it up and swiftly ran it through Rwpyrt’s chest. He grabbed Rwpyrt, supporting him. “Lesson one; never ever let your sword out of your grasp. Without it, you’re dead.”
Rwpyrt awoke to find himself lying across the back of his horse, which was being led by Methos. He groaned, and Methos turned round in the saddle. “You’re awake. Good. Set yourself properly in the saddle, we’re almost at the camp.” He set off again, closely followed by Rwpyrt. “Rule two, you live as long as you please me. Displease me and I’ll kill you. If you displease me too often, I will take your head. Understand?”
“Yes my lord.”
“Good start, you learn quickly. That pleases me.”
“The year in the Horsemen’s camp was long and hard. I was basically a slave. I did all the chores that Methos commanded me to do. When Methos was in a good mood, he would teach me what I needed to survive as an Immortal.” Giles stopped at the look on Xander’s face. “I’m not exactly proud of that time Xander, but I didn’t know any different. Methos was my teacher, without him I could never have survived. I’m not trying to make excuses, but the world was different, I was different.”
“But Methos killed. Not for revenge, or money even. Not because they were demons. He killed innocents because he wanted to.”
“Xander, don’t be so quick to judge Methos. He was weak, a good man fundamentally, but with an overriding sense of self-preservation. At least he killed them quickly, prevented them from being raped and tortured by Kronos and Caspian.”
“Well that’s okay then. He did them a favour really. He should get a medal.” Giles thrust his sword at Xander, who clumsily parried, sending Giles’ blade skittering across his own and cutting his arm. He winced and took a sharp intake of breath in pain.
“Today’s lesson. Never let anger get the better of you in a fight. An emotional fighter is a sloppy fighter. Here endeth the lesson.”