"Without delving into the whole Watcher lore aspect of things..."
"Thank goodness for that!" Muttered Xander.
Giles glared at him but refused to raise to the bait, choosing instead to go on as if he hadn't been interrupted. "The history of the Watchers can be traced back as far as the origins of the written word. They were already present in pre-dynastic Egypt, though even back then they were active in other regions such as Sumeria and through out most of the Mediterranean basin, so it's not unreasonable to assume that they already had a history stretching back at least a couple of centuries.
"Back then there was no need for the Watchers to be a secret society, that came a lot later. In the ancient world demons were known and feared so the original Council had no reason to hide. In fact in Egypt they were highly respected and sponsored by the Pharaoh, that's the origin of the Council's wealth.
"While not part of what could be described as the 'mainstream' religion at the time, the Council's place in society was assured. In a sense a certain distance from the most turbulent aspects of politics and power was deemed necessary, if only to keep the Council from getting caught in the quasi-regular periods of political upheaval that seemed to rock Ancient Egypt.
"In spite of numerous changes, Egyptian society allowed the Watchers to blossom for almost three thousand years, they even managed to survive Akhenaton's regime virtually undamaged. It was during the final years of the Egyptian civilization --during the Ptolemaic period-- that the Watchers had their greatest hour, but it was also then that the first seed of the schism between Slayer and immortal Watchers was sown. That was also the time in which The Library was built."
"The Library? What's with the uber-respect?" Asked Willow.
"Well, from what I've heard it was truly magnificent, with hundreds of thousands of scrolls... and mind you this was long before computers and at a time in which most people were illiterate."
"In other words, it was pretty awesome."
"It was more than just 'pretty awesome', even today its loss is mourned by those who have no idea as to its true purpose."
"What do you mean?"
"I think that what cryptic watcher over here is trying to say would make more sense if he were to mention just where this library was located. During the Ptolemaic dynasty the Watchers' headquarters were in Alexandria." Explained Methos.
"Are you telling us that the Library of Alexandria was actually the Watchers' library?" Dawn blurted out.
"Well, it was not just the Watchers', but the Watchers were one of the most important groups in it and the library also served as the Watchers' headquarters... at least until Julius Caesar decided to torch the fleet and set the whole city ablaze. There were some attempts at rebuilding after that, not just by the Watchers but by others as well, and it may even have worked if it hadn't been for the advent of Christianity... it was then that the book-burnings began in earnest.
"The thing is that while the destruction of the library by Julius Caesar was a tragedy, it was not a deliberate attack against what the Watchers stood for, it was merely 'collateral damage'." Explained Giles.
"Some collateral damage, it was pretty huge!"
"That it was, but still a catastrophic accident was in a sense less troubling than the deliberate damage inflicted by Theophilus some 440 years later which put an end to all attempts to rebuild. At that time two things became clear: The Watchers could not openly coexist with Christianity and being a state sponsored organization --while beneficial in a number of aspects-- left them in a position that was far too vulnerable.
"Over the millennia the Watchers had managed to acquire a wealth that surpassed even that of the pharaohs, who insisted on being buried with their treasures rather than passing them down to their descendants. That wealth allowed them to salvage some volumes and finally flee Egypt, choosing to resettle in what were remote provinces of the Roman Empire at the time. The Immortal branch headed for what's now France, the Slayer branch relocated to Britain and both branches turned into secret societies."
"So, it was then that the branches went their separate ways? Makes sense." Said Joe.
"For the most part. I suspect some attempts were made to keep in touch and maintain a common network, but those were turbulent years. The Roman Empire was about to fall, tensions were running high and in the end that network was not sustainable... not that either branch was all that interested in keeping it in place."
"It was only a couple of centuries after that that I first infiltrated the Watchers." Added Methos.
"I would have thought it would have happened sooner than that, Old Man. What took you so long?" Asked Joe.
"Well, I didn't really need to infiltrate the Watchers back in Egypt simply because there was no code of secrecy. The library was basically open to all scholars and the non-interference rule hadn't quite been established yet, then for the next couple of centuries after the Watchers fled Egypt I was somewhat concerned about the Methos Chronicles."
"What about your Chronicles?"
"I feared they might have survived? I mean, my appearance was not such a big deal back then. It's not like Egyptian portraits were accurate enough that they would have actually made me recognizable --that has been a problem only in the past five centuries or so, and especially in the last two hundred years with the advent of photography-- but even back then I didn't want to take any chances. When the two branches went their separate ways I took that as an opportunity to disappear. There were too many headhunters, my 'brothers' were still around and the distance between Watchers and Immortals was growing rapidly. I wasn't sure about where that was going and at the time it seemed like an all out war could be a real possibility so I decided to try and lay low for a while. It was only after I infiltrated the Watchers for the first time in the VII century that I confirmed that my Chronicle had been lost in the fire and I've remained a myth ever since."
"So you've known all along that the Watchers had gotten out of track? Then why didn't you just say something?"
"And what was I supposed to say? Was I supposed to approach them and say 'Excuse me, I am Methos and I've been watching you for thousands of years... I hate to bother you but I suspect you may have lost track of your true purpose somewhere along the way'? That would have worked... if I had been trying to determine how long it would have taken the Watchers to order my execution. By the time that happened the power had become much more important than the mission in both branches. The Slayer Watchers had implemented the Cruciamentum and the Immortal Watchers were enthralled by the fact that they had a secret and they had already developed their current paranoia when it came to Immortals learning about their existence. Saying something would have costed me my head, just like trying to stop Immortals from slaughtering each other for no reason would have done."
"But if you knew about this you should at least have done something to help Mac out back when..."
"I'm the first one to admit that I made a mistake, a big one." Methos said. "I was arrogant and I got caught up in the twentieth century. I may be over five thousand years old but I can only be in a single place at any given time. I had heard stories of champions and millennium demons before but I had never encountered one myself... I have seen so many religions rise and fall that all too often my first instinct is to dismiss them. How can I believe in the Bible when I'm in it? Ahriman was no different. As far as I was concerned he was just another myth that kept popping up every now and then and the fact that his name kept changing didn't exactly help matters either. It's not that I didn't believe in demons, I knew about slayers and the ones they fought but I had never encountered a demon that was to be fought by an Immortal and I had never paid much attention to that aspect of things before the schism. Back then all I wanted to do was to steer clear of my brothers and at the time I didn't even think that the whole Ahriman thing was worth looking into. The thing is that up until a few years ago I had never encountered an Immortal champion but I had seen plenty of insane Immortals so when Mac started talking to people he had fought --people he had already defeated-- it was easier for me to accept that he was losing his mind than to believe that there really was a demon posing as dead people... at least until after Richie died and by then it was too late. Mac took off and there was nothing I could do."
"Wait a minute, a demon posing as dead people?" Interrupted Buffy.
"Ahriman... or at least that was his name according to the zoroastrian myths, why?"
"It's just that it kind of reminds me of the First... the Big Bad we fought when Sunnydale was destroyed. He used to do the same thing and it was way creepy. I was just wondering if there could possibly be a connection between the two... or maybe I just wish that the bad guys would get a new script, I don't know. Did he stick to the dead or did he sometimes look like the living?"
"Mostly the dead, except when he pretended to be Richie... that's what got him killed in the end. He was extremely loyal to Mac but Mac just couldn't tell the real Richie from Ahriman's impersonation, he got confused and the wrong Richie lost his head."
"Lost his head? So this Richie was Immortal?"
"Then he was dead and fair game."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, the First used to impersonate me all the time."
"But you are not dead!" Exclaimed Joe.
"No, not now, but I was... just another one of those long stories."
"Yes, well, there seem to be a lot of long stories that need to be explained, but I suspect we should leave those for another time. I believe we should focus on more Immediate concerns. There will be time to trade long stories later, right now I am more concerned with the fate of the Council." Said Giles.
"Does that mean that the history lesson is over? Please someone tell me that it is over. What are we supposed to do now? I don't know about you, guys, but as far as I can tell we've been here for a while and while this whole history deal is all nice and good, it doesn't really help us much. We know how the Council split, and we know that both branches of the Council should probably be forced to merge again but we still have no idea of how to achieve that."
"Yes, well, I am aware of that, Xander, and I also realize that at this point the Slayer branch is vulnerable, any open attempts at merging right now would almost certainly lead to us being absorbed and that would be a worst case scenario. Both branches lost sight of their original purpose long ago and we pretty much need to start from scratch, which means that the Immortal branch will have to be basically destroyed before we can move forward."
"Destroyed!?" Exclaimed Joe.
"Well, I don't mean that we should plant a bomb like the one that took out the Slayer branch, but its structure must be undermined from the inside... that's why it was so important to have your presence here."
"You want my help to destroy the Watchers?"
"No, not the Watchers, just their current incarnation. It's more like we need your help to get the Watchers back on track."