Not for the Faint of Heart

The Holy Ground Highlander Forum Midweek Challenge

Archivist’s Note: The stories and vignettes offered here from various Rysher Forumlanders have not been edited or changed other than having a spell-check performed and being reformatted for this website.

Contents

The Challenge by Leah CWPack
Future Plans, Present Realities by Draconian Bluebird of Glamorgan
A Girl’s Gotta Do… by HonorH
Hard Sell by vixen69
Inside the Mind by Robin
Abomination by celticangel
The Conversation by SBO
Blank Canvas by Wain
Until It Sleeps by AC MacFru (Link to story)
Lost Child by Ghost Cat

MID WEEK CHALLENGE: NOT FOR THE FAINT OF HEART

Posted By: Leah CWPack <bizarro7@aol.com>
Date:
Wednesday, 13 December 2000, at 11:21 p.m.

In Response To: Hey, what is the MWC? (HonorH the Arctic Wolfe)

Your challenge, should you decide to participate, is a REAL challenge to stretch and grow. Only the serious need apply.

Take a character from HL:TS that you *dislike* (preferably the one you hate the most), and write a short story or scene either from their point of view, or revolving principally around them. You can add any other character you like, if necessary, but the object is to prove that you can 'get inside' and find the character's mind and motivations.

Good luck!

MWC: My first and probably last...

Posted By: Draconian Bluebird Of Glamorgan <MryLyon@gateway.net>
Date:
Thursday, 14 December 2000, at 8:49 p.m.

The muse got really mad at me this morning after I read Leah's MWC, especially since I haven't written the first two stories it gave me. So to appease the muse, I offer this. Takes place during CAH and I think you can identify who is who.
Enjoy!!

Future Plans, Present Realities

It isn’t as if I don’t know you’ve gone, brother. I know when to tighten your leash, and when to give you enough jut enough room to let you think that you’re in control, as in the old days. I remember those days very well. You controlled all our raids. When to strike, where the best spoils were hidden away, the fastest horses to take and most comely of women to keep for ourselves. When did our life stop being enough for you? I believe that scrawny wench had little enough to do, and too much time to warp your thinking. You always did think too much, dear brother. I needed your brains then, but not now.

I almost didn’t expect to find you so soon, but after hearing those rumors of your continuing existence, I could not resist not searching. Following the witch around the world was an unexpected bonus, I knew one of us would be successful in tracking you down. There’s nothing like a determined woman, is there?? I must thank Cassandra properly when I see her again; she made this hunt so enjoyable and profitable.

And to find you in such close friendship with MacLeod. I thought it would complicate matters, but you’ll kill him soon enough, won’t you? He really isn’t one of us; He doesn’t have the desire for the power and glory that we do. I know he’s taken a few heads, so he’s more dangerous than most other immortals, but still no match for your cunning or my ambition. Or maybe I’ll take care of this little complication myself; I still owe him from chasing me through the American Southwest a hundred years ago. But despite my distrust of you (And I do not trust you), you will dispatch MacLeod to stay alive. And you still want to live, that has never changed.

It’s too bad your brothers aren’t here, but they wouldn’t enjoy this. Silas is too single minded to appreciate irony, and Caspian too obsessed with his own demons to appreciate this little melodrama. I miss the old days, despite the conveniences of the 20th century. It’s been too long since we lived as kings of the universe. The world today has too much clutter and noise. Who can hear the wind and feel the sun today?

My plans are unchangeable; the virus I have so carefully manufactured is safely stored. It’s regrettable so many will have to die before the leaders of the world find I am a force to be reckoned with, but they’re only mortals anyway. They breed like rabbits, easily repopulating any losses and fulfilling my desires. Oh yes, I do have desires, brother. Not the puny ones of 3000 years ago, the world is a much bigger place and it is time my place in the world is recognized.

Are my other brothers alive and well? And would you tell me if they were? I hope their quickenings are causing hell for who ever has taken their heads. The only disadvantage to this plan is that there are no immortals I trust other than my sworn brothers. Caspian and Silas would have their uses. I would use them to guard my back, provide muscle power, and wreak terror and havoc in the coming weeks ahead, these things they thrive on. Even their bickering would be entertaining. Their rewards would be adequate; it would not be wise to cheat them of their just desserts.

Oh long lost and newly found brother, I sometimes hunger for the day when you have outlived your usefulness to me. That day when your schemes fall short of reality, when you finally cross that line in truth and try for my head. I wonder what your quickening would be like? Such power after 5000 years would be considerable. Yes, I know your true age; I can feel your strength. I know you long for the return of the old days, despite the meek appearance you portray to the world. I have always known your true self; it is a mirror to me.

For trust this brother, if nothing else, there can be only one, and I have no doubts as to who it will be.

Ahh, I feel someone coming, have you returned at last??

The end.

MWC--at long last!

Posted By: HonorH the Arctic Wolfe <ksheasley@yahoo.com>
Date:
Friday, 15 December 2000, at 3:14 a.m.

I had to think back to the only character I could remember truly disliking: Michelle Webster from "Rite of Passage." I risk aping Melina Clark's wonderful "Even Better" with this, but here I go anyway.

~~~

"A girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do."

There you have it, the story of my life, as summed up by my teacher, Amanda. I'm an Immortal, and I do what I have to do. No bones about it. Sorry if that gives you problems.

See, I was always into trouble. Bad guys, fast cars, controlled substances--around about the time I hit high school, I just couldn't keep away. It was just me, much to the chagrin of my parents.

I'm sorry for what I put them through, I really am. At the time, I had my Issues, though, so I couldn't see what it was doing to them.

I grew up an adoptee. My parents were wonderful, but I always had this thing in my head that wondered. When I started asking questions about it, my parents would only tell me that they got me when I was a baby and didn't really know anything about my birth parents. For awhile, I accepted that.

Then, when I was 14, I suddenly started wondering if they were telling me everything. I kept my suspicions to myself for awhile. I wondered if my parents were keeping something from me. It's enough to give a girl a real head-case, having a thing like that knocking around in your brain.

Anyway, it was high school. I was getting invited to parties where there were drugs and boys and all that bad stuff, and I figured hey, if my parents were going to keep something from me, I didn't have to tell them everything either. I got deeper and deeper into the party scene, and things fell more and more apart with my family, and finally, one day it all came to an end on a winding road.

Duncan had always been there, of course--at least since I was 12. I'd had a terrible crush on him. I mean, face it--he's the hottie to end all hotties. So when I woke up in a morgue with him telling me all sorts of weird stuff, my first instinct was to glom onto him. In a big way.

Yeah, it was a pretty rotten way of coping with things. When he turned me down, though, it hurt. Enough so that a guy like Axel with his smooth talk and his way of treating me like I was older than I was had the chance to slip in. Hey, you try dealing, okay?

The short version of the story is that Axel would have done me in if Duncan hadn't been there. When I watched Duncan take that Quickening, I was so scared. What kind of world had I just come into? I wanted worse than anything to wake up in my own bed with my parents there to reassure me it was all just a bad dream, and I was okay. I swear, if I had woken up, I would have been Little Miss Responsible Teenager for the rest of my high school career.

But I didn't. Instead, Duncan took me to Amanda. Amanda, in case you didn't know, is the coolest of the cool. Over 1,000 years old and knows every trick in the book for fighting, stealing, getting the guys, and having fun. She taught me everything worth knowing for an Immortal woman. How to fight, how to get out of a fight, how to get men to not want to fight you--hey, it's a useful thing to know. You try being an Immortal woman and not using every trick at your disposal, and we'll sit back and see how long you last.

So Amanda taught me, and I learned, and long story short--I'm still here. Hey, I even went to college! Two years at USC and two years at the Sorbonne. Amanda pulled some strings, blackmailed a friend into writing me a letter of recommendation, and next thing I know, I'm a European college student. Cool, huh?

Mostly, I do what I want to do. I speak great French and Spanish and I'm learning German, so I can go where I want and be understood most places. I discovered that I'm pretty good with computers, my specialty being web design, and that keeps me in work.

That and a little petty larceny. You try being Amanda's student and not picking up a taste for it.

Long story short, life is good. I don't know when a challenge will be my last, so I do what I have to do and try to last another day and not worry about tomorrow. Not a bad way to live at all.

Hall of HonorH

MWC--wow, a toughie.

Posted By: vixen69 <mcvixen_69@hotmail.com>
Date:
Friday, 15 December 2000, at 12:08 a.m.

I don’t really strenuously dislike any of the characters of Highlander enough to say I * hate * them. Genevieve caught me looking at the blank screen, and gave me grief over it.

“Your two favorite characters to play with are Kronos and Cassandra, for crying out loud! Actual quote in regards to Dr. Anne—‘Yeah…but she should find a nice normal guy and settle down….’ You even don’t completely hate Kenny. And, might I add…that leaves Kantos and Horton for being your usual suspects…”

I stopped her there. I spent a little time in their heads in my AU—I’m not going back there. Besides, the big problem with me is that I don’t really find bad guys all that…unlikable. Or unwritable. The more sinister, awful, or downright nasty they are…the more I see them as “effective” characters. It’s characters who * don’t * do it for me in the creative sense—ones who seem like dead ends, that irk me. But heck…

“You and the ‘not-hating-anybody-enough’ thing,” she continued. “You remind me of somebody.”

Sigh. I never believe these when she lays them on me. But she’s dead on by bringing him up—not exactly my cup of cake. I was bugged by the message, the fact that he was still alive, that he copped another guy’s name to spread his message (yeah, you’re a great pacifist—so, you lie a little bit a lot?), that apparently some people must have bought into the message (okay, breaking what in some cases might have been years of being in the Game?), and…like I said, I figured him for a dead end. But if even Stickboy has a story…

Hard Sell

(Coffee Tree Restaurant—1996)

He looked at the young one—it was her, all right. He had seen a glimpse of her before in the midst of a battle, even watching the Quickening—although that sight had come to sicken him in the last few decades. In the midst of it, perhaps she didn’t even notice the presence of another Immortal, but he certainly noticed the way she acted after that fight. She had promptly left the scene, climbing the auto yard fence with all the grace of a juvenile delinquent expecting the cops to be coming at any minute, and then drove aimlessly, probably cursing herself for the violence, wondering why she did it, all the usual mental arguments. She was distracted enough not to notice his car following hers. He considered approaching her in the diner she eventually retired to—but that was rarely his way. No, he had found it was better to try and get to know his intended students first—that way he’d better understand how to deliver The Message.

Sometimes he thought of it that way—in capital letters, sometimes gold-leafed. When it had finally hit him—it was an “on the road to Damascus” moment. He could never see the pointless Game that he had once lived for in the same way when he realized it—the Quickening, whatever it was, flowed through all of them and was a gift—not something to be wasted by violence. There had to be some reason for that gift, and so every Immortal life had to have some value—far too much value to be lost in petty challenges and heated combat. He hoped that his message would change face of their world and end that Game. That was why it was important to him to teach that message in such a way that it would make an impression. This girl was still young—there was hope for her, yet.

Her face bore the typical suspicious look that he had come to know—accepting the challenge before it was even proposed. He noted the magazines she had on the seat next to her—“Popular Science” and “Business Week”. Her pale blue eyes met his for a moment, deliberately hard, and then she looked down to the newspaper that she was currently reading.

“Don’t know what you’re after, but I’ve had my quota of crap for the week.”

“I’m simply interested in talking,” he replied. “Not in taking your head, but in what’s in it.”

She viewed him quizzically for a moment, and then shrugged. “There’s a lot of things in my head. Lyrics to lots of TV. theme songs. Some frog in a blender jokes. Several of the most common protein markers for a host of blood disorders—current interest of mine. Life is like that when you’ve one of those funny memories. Funny, do I remember you from anywhere?” He could sense that she was being intentionally rude, unable to see this as anything but a potential fight in the making. It was time to bring up what he was here for.

“No, you wouldn’t. What I want to talk about, is peace.”

“Piece of what?”

“Peace of mind, perhaps?”

She sighed in irritation at having her own pun turned back on herself. “It could well be a piece of my mind.”

“Does your mind sometimes feel like it’s in pieces, Genevieve Fowler?” He took a seat—not without a bit of drama.

It was the sound of their own names that sometimes impressed them—or bits of information that seemed too particular to ignore. Of course, there was occasionally added suspicion, skepticism, and the need to know why he had any information about them—but they would get over it. Knowing what he did showed that he cared—and what good salesman wouldn’t try to understand his customer first? Strange to find himself likening it to that—but there it was. Genevieve’s reaction to the sound of her own name was immediate.

“What, do I already have some kind of reputation? I don’t think I’ve made that kind of bones in this Game yet.” Her eyes narrowed to a cagey squint. “There’s some guys I know…in regards to a little capital venture I’m in the middle of. I haven’t lost anyone’s money or pocketed anything but my necessary operating fees. If you’ve been sent after me for that.” She crossed her arms, waiting for a response.

“This wouldn’t be about any of those interesting things you’re doing with other people’s money—not that I approve. This is actually about Michael Hunt. What if I told you that that challenge could be your last?”

“He was a friend of yours?” Her lips twitched, and she raised the cup of coffee to them. From the froth, it looked to be cappuccino—from the scent, she seemed to have spiked it with something.

“I said I wasn’t interested in taking your head, but in peace. What I’m offering you is the possibility of not accepting another challenge.”

Her face brightened at that. He was momentarily heartened by the look, but then she said, “I get it. We’re talking protection racket. Well, look, I’m not a big guy like yourself, and I could probably afford you, but I kind of do my own dirty work. Not interested.”

He smiled at that. So used to a life of violence, that the very notion of no one getting killed was remote, if not impossible. She would learn. They all did.

“I stopped taking challenges years ago. I no longer take heads.”

“Get out of here,” she replied, in disbelief. Then, she leaned in closer. “So, what do you do? You got somebody else to take them out of the picture? What’s the deal?”

He leaned in closer in response. “I simply say ‘no’.”

She sucked in her breath. “Wow. Just say no. The Nancy Reagan approach. You know, that never really worked with me. You mean—you don’t…” she clenched her hands around an imaginary sword handle and made a tiny swoosh. He shook his head.

“It is possible to turn your back on the killing. You have a very important gift—you could put it to a lot of good use. You could make a big difference. Wouldn’t you like to do that?”

“Big differences and me don’t get along real well—but run it past me. I’m listening.”

“What I’m suggesting is that you lay down your sword. Just lay it down. If enough people do that—we could end the Game. Imagine a world without the killing. I know you hate it.”

“Lay down my sword…” she mused in a quiet voice. Then, a bit quickly, she added, “A person could get real bad killed doing that.”

“There are ways to fight without a sword—without taking a head. Ways to disable an opponent and get away—I could give you a demonstration, if you’d like. I could make you my student.”

Genevieve’s face got a faraway look. She thought back, eerily enough, at the picture of Kronos on the floor of his hotel room with a pair of handcuffs on and her pantyhose still stuffed in his mouth. She had her ideas that it was quite possible to disable an opponent and escape—funny how they came back, though.

“I know. This is the bit where you demonstrate by taking me out to an alley, and ‘pffft!’” she said, making a slashing motion across her throat with her index finger. “I’ll pass.”

His face grew serious at that. She was a hard sell, that was for certain. But he knew she had to have some respect for a higher power—after all, there was a silver crucifix around her neck. He reached over and fingered it.

“Not even for the greater good—whatever happened to, ‘Thou shalt not kill?’ The finest teachings of the greatest churches have been that taking a life is wrong. In fact, aggression itself—‘turn the other cheek.’”

“And you get two red cheeks. Look, I hate to play front-pew lawyer, but I think I do have the ethical right to self-defense. Truth be told—I see the Game as a war—and the Church recognizes that war…happens.”

“Are you saying you see a future in the Game?”

Genevieve shrugged. She eyed the cappuccino. She imagined it would be cold. The idea of cold cappuccino was eminently depressing.

“I see a future in electronic trade. The possibilities of the Internet are endless. And genome-derived pharmaceutical research. Or at least, that’s where I’m putting my money.”

“You aren’t even willing to investigate the alternatives?”

She appeared to be thinking about that. “Or go long with Microsoft—I think in two, three, a couple years, Gates is gonna do it again—especially if Apple comes up with a new big thing.” She noticed the polite stare she was getting. “You hate the Game, I hate the Game—look, I’m not a Game hag. What I’m saying is—a girl has to do what a girl has to do. If I lay down my sword and get whacked tomorrow—where was the good I did?”

“What happened to the good of the seven human beings who have lost their lives to you? Every time you take a life—the world is less one soul and is a harsher place because of it.”

She looked down briefly, as if trying to fathom her own actions by reading her future in the light-brown, lukewarm beverage before her. As she looked, her face began to redden. Seven? What—he kept count? She had her reasons to keep count—but he had no business flinging it at her. She was getting the creeps.

“Next you’ll be telling me Quickenings put holes in the ozone layer. Look—I’m doing a little research over here—fine-tuning my system. I’ve got places to go and people to do—so if you don’t mind.” She made a dismissive hand wave.

He rose, but then realized that there was still a chance. He hated pulling out this last stop—it was kind of showy, but it made an impression on most and lent the appropriate * gravitas * to The Message.

“Perhaps you aren’t quite ready yet, but there will come a day. Once you’ve lived a few thousand years. As I have.”

She gave him a look of interest. “A few thousand years? I don’t believe I caught your name.”

“My name is Methos.”

The look of wonder he got in return made him certain that he had made his impression. And when she rested her head on the table in front of her and shook with violent laughter, he got the distinct impression that the impression he had just made was the wrong one.

But in Genevieve’s eyes, this whole experience was well worth it. He so completely looked nothing like the guy in that grainy photograph Kronos had shown her! Why—that other guy was almost cute, in a kind of—“with the nose” sort of way—but this guy? She tried to imagine him riding and wreaking havoc with the Horsemen—and simply couldn’t. He reminded her of her childhood dentist. She sniffed deeply, and then spoke.

“Oh, look, I’m sorry. You just aren’t. I mean…look, you didn’t know, okay? But uh…the guy’s still alive. As far as I know. You ain’t him. Look, the whole thing—it’s a little tooo-- * conceptual * for me, all right? I’m just really traditional, and…I kill people. Maybe, I dunno, you should take this act out on the West Coast or something.” She shrugged. Agitated, he turned. Sometimes, you have to realize you can’t save them all.

But as he walked away, he heard her mutter something to herself. It sounded vaguely like, “Does he get chicks that way?”

Some days, it was very hard to remain a pacifist.

(Sorry. My sense of humor...it runs away with me.)

Vixen's Den

MWC Inside the mind.

Posted By: Robin <Catnature@yahoo.com>
Date:
Thursday, 14 December 2000, at 11:43 p.m.

"They call me crazy. They say I'm out of my mind. They don't understand why I do what I do. And if they were truthfully, they don't want to.

"The forces that drive me are powerful. They are a constant hunger. To feed them takes great planning and patience. To find the right one could take weeks. To find the one that will give me the power and control and everything that makes they unique including their very lives.

"I wonder if my brothers understood.

"Silas was too weak, too tender hearted. Craving his wooden animals, always craving. I would have killed he but for the others and the fact he could strike terror by just being there. Oh the feel of that terror.

"Methos, the thinker, may have understood, but I don't think he really wanted to. He feed me, he was Death, he was power and they knew it.

"Kronos, my dear Kronos. We were gods and he knew it. He saw me needs and kept them feed.

"Cassandra the witch. Now she feed my needs for a long time. I watched as Methos slowly broke her. Her shame, her pain, her terror was like a buffet. She loathed me. She feared me. I enjoyed every minute of it. Methos used her fear of me to bend her to his will. If I could have her in my power now she would feed me for a very long time.

"They keep me in chains to protect the world. Their fear is a small morsel to my hunger, just as the fear from the bugs I eat."

Finally! My MWC-

Posted By: celticangel <celticangelusa@yahoo.com>
Date:
Friday, 15 December 2000, at 4:00 p.m.

It's taken every break and lunch but it's done! I, like several of you, couldn't think of a character I really hated- except the mortal from the Zone- and who cares, right? So, he isn't an immortal- tell you the truth we don't know what he really was. Here goes-
________________-
Abomination

An evening walk through Paris in the winter can be quite chilly, but one has to have time to think, to get away from the others. What we do is not easy but it must be done. They've invaded our planet. They've infiltrated our lives in every respect. For as long as there has been written word- perhaps even earlier- we have known they were here. They've married into our families, learned our ways, disguised themselves as human in every respect. We don’t even know how they reproduce, but their numbers continue to grow. They can be found throughout society. No country has ever been free of their influence. No war has ever been won without their help. They've gained our trust, our loyalty. But I often wonder if everyone knew of their true identities, would they still be trusted? I'd wager not. I've often thought of exposing them to all of mankind. We could certainly make short work of them if others were to help. But think of the panic, the innocents who could be harmed in that level of a witch-hunt. Chaos would rule and that would defeat our purpose.

We must continue to go about our mission is anonymity. We must track these alien creatures, these abominations. We must destroy them before they destroy us. They can not be allowed to take control, to rule this world, wielding their power like the gods of ancient myths. They are not of this world. Whether from another planet or the depths of hell they must be stopped. They are only here to use our world as their playground. Tromping out the human bystanders who get in the way of their vicious power plays and sadistic games. Why they chose our earth for their demonic sport, I'll never understand, but they can not be allowed to continue. They sneak about, unnoticed by anyone but their own kind. Hiding as doctors, lawyers, teachers, truck drivers, historians- the ones with a sense of humor anyway. They live their reputable lives by day, a cover for their true murderous desires as they play their evil game by night. So much like the legends of vampires and other hideous monsters. They care little for the mortals they hide among. They marry- adopt their children- all for the purpose of concealing their true identities. When a lover or child dies, they easily move on to the next and re-establish their lives. They are committed to no one, but an occasional few friends, who they rely on for support, banding together like thieves or the wild animals they are. It's nothing for them to turn on their friends, their students. They all live by one rule and for one purpose, and nothing- not love, not wealth, not any treasure or any emotion known to mortals will prevent these monsters from devouring each other. The greedy bastards want nothing but to rule a world of mortals. It is the goal of their existence.

Of course they're not all bad. Many can't help what they are, but surely they must realize there is no escaping their chosen path except in final death. Most of the good ones end up the victims of the rest game players anyway.

Walking along the Seine always relaxes me. I wonder if MacLeod feels the same way? According to the Chronicles he comes to Paris often. And then of course this is the home of his dearly departed beautiful Tessa Noel. Poor woman. I pity her really. She was taken in by his charm, his looks, his money, his power- just the sheer uniqueness of him. What mortal woman wouldn't be? Or immortal woman for that matter? But one must realize that is the danger of this Highlander. He pretends to be a kind and giving lover, a caring teacher, but he is no different than the others. Under the cloak of good, he has killed more of his own kind than many evil immortals in this ungodly game they play. Good or evil matters little when the stakes are so high. Some of my own kind have divided them like teams in some bizarre sport. The good, the bad, the indifferent. They cheer on the so called good guys. We've kept score of their competitions for millennia and for what purpose? We all know that in the end there can be only one- and that one will be the most tyrannical leader this world has ever known. No man- immortal or mortal- could not be corrupted by that much power.

Immortals must be vanquished from this earth, before they destroy us. We must continue our secret battle alone. The world must never know what we few have done to save it from chaos and destruction.

Time to join the others. Killing the ancient priest in his own church won't be easy to do, but there is no other way. He has hidden on holy ground for centuries. Such a desecration can not be allowed any longer. Lord, forgive us.

______________

Okay so this presumes the demon only presented itself as Horton and Horton wasn't the demon all along. Otherwise it wouldn't work.

CelticAngel

Okay, my take on the MWC...

Posted By: SBO <oertlingt@aol.com>
Date:
Friday, 15 December 2000, at 3:10 p.m.

this is my first "serious" MWC, so be kind *g*

THE CONVERSATION:

"That's an odd last request, Watcher," Kalas' voice croaked, "why do you want to know that? Why would you want to know about my hatred for MacLeod?"

"Call it morbid curiosity," Roger replied, tied to the table in Kalas' lair and still reeling from the latest round of torture. He smiled faintly at the pun, realizing he didn't have much longer to live. He wasn't really sure why he wanted or needed an explanation. Maybe it was the idea that he was about to die and the man holding the electrodes could live forever, maybe he just wanted to know if MacLeod had the stuff to save the world from this maniac immortal.

"Don't think that this will, in any way, postpone the inevitable, dear Roger," he smirked, "but I will grant your request." Kalas pulled a chair up to the table and began.

"It's quite simple. MacLeod took away everything I ever had, everything I ever loved--my whole life as I knew it. I've had centuries to perfect in my mind's eye what I could do to gain my revenge against him. He did it to himself really, made it so very easy for me, endearing himself to immortals and even more to mortals. They are so much fun to play with. Look at the woman doctor and what a fuss a simple signature could cause.

"I have to admit I rather enjoyed MacLeod ‘dying' in front of her, not so much for her grief as for his--in having to give up his life with her. You know that's one of the hardest parts of the Immortality Game--giving up your life--MacLeod did that to me--having me banished from the monastery and later destroying my gift." Kalas pulled his turtleneck away from his throat. "See *that*, Watcher--something from which even an Immortal will never recover!" Roger sickened at the sight of the ugly scarred gash that had severed the Kalas' vocal cords, and averted his eyes.

"How I celebrated watching MacLeod grieve over that irksome English buffoon, Fitzcairn. You say that Methos exists--well I'll just have to see about that--I'm sure if anyone knows where he is it, would be MacLeod.

"Oh, yes, dear boy, you've quite convinced me that he is real and when I have his Quickening I will be unstoppable--but you won't be around to report to your Watcher friends that you've given up his secret as well as your own. Pity. Ahh... speaking of that... now you and this organization you seem to hold so dear have appeared, what am I to do about that? How shall I use you and this information to my advantage, hmm? Now that *I* know about the Watchers--what's to stop the rest of the world in finding out about Immortals and Watchers?"

"We are sworn to secrecy under the strictest of codes--under penalty of death!"

"How can you be so sure? I found out about you--are you the only weak link? I think not--after all you are only human. And it sounds like your dead no matter what happens!"

"I may be human, but you're insane!"

Angered, Kalas struck the Watcher hard in the face and growled "AM I? What difference does it make--sooner or later the world will know our ‘little secret'--might as well go out with a bang I say. I do believe our little talk has given me an idea, but first I need more information. Who sent you?"

Roger refused to answer again and again, and as his world faded to black for the last time that night, he prayed not for himself, but for the world who would have to pin its' hopes on Duncan MacLeod.

MWC: Blank canvas

Posted By: Wain <wamba@fast.net>
Date:
Friday, 15 December 2000, at 11:39 a.m.

Kristin finished smoothing her sheer pantyhose and emerged from her dressing room. When alone, she amused herself by cataloging the centuries she had lived in and trying to decide which was her favorite. Despite pantyhose, the twentieth century was much to her liking. She mused, "If pantyhose are uncomfortable, at least they let me wear this gorgeous python skirt that's cut up to . . . here."

This century, now nearing its close, was certainly better than the fourteenth, the century of her birth. Ah well, she supposed, there were some advantages to the Middle Ages' lax bureaucracy. No one questioned her childless foster parents when they presented ten-year-old Kristin as their daughter. In modern times, you would have to file adoption papers, find a birth certificate. Kristin's foster mother had known the moment she saw her, a filthy and bedraggled beggar girl in the streets, that here was a diamond in the rough, and she took Kristin home and began to polish her.

Kristin took a seat before an ornate table and magnificent gilt mirror. Arrayed before her like ladies in waiting were dozens of bottles of lotions and creams, all promising youth and beauty. Kristin adjusted the lights and sighed. Candlelight had been so much kinder to the skin, casting a golden, radiant glow that covered a multitude of imperfections. She uncapped the concealer and applied it under her eyes, traced the lines from her nose to the outer corners of her wide mouth. Next, she smoothed foundation over her face, a warm, sun-kissed color. She had seen so many trends--from lead-enhanced whiteners to deep bronzing gel--and knew that she preferred tanned skin.

"Stay out of the sun, child," Maman had told her, "or you'll become as brown and freckled as a peasant. And then who will pay attention to you when we visit the Duke's château?" So she dutifully obeyed her mother; it would be ungrateful not to after all of Maman's hard work to turn Kristin into a lady. And when they visited the château, it was the Duke's son, Philippe, who paid attention to her. Hers was the most beautiful face on the continent, and the Duke was always quick to provide the best for his spoiled only son.

"And that was the problem with the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, with every age until this one," Kristin told her reflection in the mirror. "Married off at sixteen. I was definitely born too soon." The twentieth century was much better suited to a single woman who liked to wield power and run her own life. It had taken three marriages until she found a doddering old man who would leave her some property in defiance of that blasted Salic law.

Kristin brushed a lock of hair carefully over her forehead, twisting it so it covered her roots. It was time for another touch up. When Maman found her, Kristin had pale, shining tresses. The same color hair as that trollop had, the one that Philippe had dared to bring to the château. Hair the color of flax, empty blue eyes, and hips like a brood mare. Twenty-six was considered past child-bearing age, but Kristin felt rage that she might be put away and replaced with that vapid child. "It was their fault," Kristin assured herself. "I didn't mean to hurt Philippe; I was just so angry. How was I to know he would try to swim out to save her? And she had already drowned anyway." Sometimes when she could not sleep at night, she would see the girl's pale hair floating in the château's lake and, even after so many years, could not abide its color. There were no Kristin girls with blonde hair--black, brown, red--but never blonde.

She thought of all she did for Philippe. She taught him how to behave like a gentleman, how to appreciate the finer things in life. He was rich, he was titled, but he was a boor until she polished him. How could he have been so ungrateful?

Flipping the makeup mirror to the magnifying side, Kristin began to tweeze a few stray hairs that marred the perfect arch of her eyebrows. "They're all ungrateful," she fumed. "I know how to make money, and I know how to make people. Managing money is easier than managing people, though. They never stay to finish the work I start with them." It happened to her again and again. How dare they? Wasn't anyone committed enough to accept her artistry and emerge as a new creation?

Kristin lifted her chin and yanked out the single coarse dark hair that grew there. "If I was born too soon, then I most certainly died too late." Forty-five forever. The twentieth century's advances in plastic surgery had looked so promising at first, but her Immortal body always returned itself to its original state. Collagen injections to soften the wrinkled edge of her lips disappeared in a matter of minutes; breasts sagged again in hours; the corners of her eyes resumed their lined appearance before she left the physician's office. When Philippe brought that girl to the château, Kristin threatened to kill herself. If she had known she would have been reborn into Immortality, she would have done so. Twenty-six was better than forty-five, especially when her models seemed to grow younger every year.

Enough of that! She had a new project, and he would arrive soon. Kristin applied eye makeup and lipstick and finished dressing. She took out her reading glasses to check her appointment book. A young lover, a sexy outfit, and a new project would all make her young again. He would be here any moment, a lovely blank canvas to become her next work of art. And she was sure that he would be the one to stay with her forever. She would start the transformation with his name. Most nicknames lacked dignity and style. The bell rang, and she opened the door and gifted him with her beautiful smile. "Richard," she said, "you're late."

CORRECTED VERSION!

Posted By: AC MacFru <thequeen@astrochick.com>
Date:
Monday, 18 December 2000, at 6:30 p.m.

In Response To: My answer to the MWC (AC MacFru)

I forgot that the forum don't like it when you include thoughts in << >> symbols!

Here's the full version posted on my website.

Until It Sleeps

MWC (one week behind) "Lost Child"

Posted By: Ghost Cat <ghost_cat@hotmail.com>
Date:
Friday, 22 December 2000, at 11:49 p.m.

OK, so it's not a Christmas story, but when I write a MWC, I post it. It's a matter of pride. When Leah asked for the HL character I hate the most, there was no question: Kenny. I despised that little brat.

"Lost Child" is the second story in the Festival Season series which began with "Folk Forever". I hope you enjoy it!

-------------------------------------------------

Lost Child

Running, always running: running had taken him North, to Alberta and finally to the land of the Summer Festivals. Street Fest this one was called, not that it really mattered to him. It could have been called the Festival of Fools for all he cared; all he needed were the crowds, the barely controlled chaos, and best of all, the unarmed volunteer security. A kid could get away with murder in a place like this.

The biggest problem with being perennially ten years old went beyond the fact that he would never have a car, a girl, a drink, or anything that even remotely resembled respect. The real problem, he had soon learned, was being forced to spend time with kids his own "age." The screaming, the giggling, the infantile pranks and the potty mouth humour could drive a person mad. More than once he had just wanted to strangle one of the little Mortal brats, but some of the security volunteers were smarter than they looked and so he didn't dare act out his impulses.

He wandered around the open park and no one even blinked at the sight of an unsupervised child. He could definitely get used to this kind of freedom; too bad the festivals only lasted through the summer months. He watched a street performer's show begin its crowd-attracting finale; some part of him still reluctantly attracted to the excitement. He had to be ready though, because as soon as the crowd around the performance started to disband, it would be time for him to start his own routine. The old Lost Child act, he could do it in his sleep by now. While the crowds watched the performers, Kenny watched the crowds. He was sure he'd be able to find someone today; Immortals loved crowds: the ability to hide, for a few moments to pretend that they had normal, happy lives-- weak-minded fools!

A voice announced, in rolling tones, that "I am a professional Street Performer, and THIS is what I do...for a living!" As if on cue, the back of the crowd started to shred, as the disappointed or the just plain cheap tried to slip away without paying into the hat. One such miser, concentrating on avoiding eye contact with the performer, ran straight into a straw-haired young boy with a quivering lip. He looked down at the poor frightened child, swiftly scanned the immediate area for a parent and, finding none, sought escape. Fearing he'd lose the man, Kenny let a convincing tear drop slowly from clear blue eyes; "Please Sir, I'm lost. I can't find my Dad anywhere!" Male defences never had learned how to deal with crying; the man dropped to his knees like a felled tree, desperately trying to get the boy to stop his bawling.

Trying to ignore the half-hearted reassurances, Kenny reached out with all his senses... nothing: no Buzz, not a trance of power. Cursing silently but creatively, he dried his false tears and let himself be led to the Information Booth. While the man spoke with one of the Info volunteers, the other one looked down at Kenny with recognition and something that came uncomfortably close to suspicion. Glaring up at him long enough to fix both his features and his nametag in mind, Kenny swiftly ran off to join another crowd. That Ron could be trouble. Of course, if his abilities weren't so vague and unpredictable, he wouldn't have to play these foolish games. The range on his Buzz was short at the best of times; crowds seemed to confuse it completely. It wasn't fair!

Kenny tried his teary-eyed routine again and again, with men, women and even a few teens who seemed reckless enough to possibly have died once or twice, never with any success. He snatched a handful of coins from a show hat, ready to drown his sorrows in self-pity and snow-cones. Rushing to the food tents, he passed a knot of Rovers, wandering characters who made the street-shows seem normal by comparison. He brushed past what seemed like a cross between a Newfie fisherman and a giant carp and, to his own surprise, Felt something. He looked back once, only to find the Newfie giving him an out-of-character frown from behind his (her?) thick novelty glasses.

Immortals among the performers? He'd never even considered it. Things had become more complicated, requiring serious thought; more than he could do while dodging Immortals and avoiding the attention of suspicious volunteers. Forgetting all about the snack booths, he rushed off the site, stopping only long enough to retrieve the bag he had hidden in a group of trees. He'd be back tomorrow and by then he'd be in control.

Kenny had just crossed the street, officially leaving Sir Winston Churchill Square, when a scruffy-looking hobo clown gave him what could only be described as a leer. He had the distinct look of a dirty old man as he offered a very unpleasant invitation. The "boy's" lip curled in disgust; he'd seen this kind of predator too many times in recent years. On the other hand, he could use a way to let loose the day's frustrations. Feigning shy innocence, he allowed himself to be led away from the crosswalk. Meanwhile one hand slipped into his pack, reaching unerringly for the familiar grip of a small but quite functional short sword.

§ § §

Danny the Clown was dead; the news spread rapidly while the site was still being set up for the day. According to the rumours, "cut up" didn't begin to describe the body that had been found; "in pieces" would be more accurate. Not that many people would mourn the loss of Danny; he had been a known pervert, a suspected pedophile and, at the time of his death, had been banned from almost every festival site in the city. But a death, any death, was bad news for a festival; volunteers and performers alike braced for the onslaught of media vultures.

Patti Stiles, who'd worked the festival circuit for years and been an entertainer for much longer than that, was still at the Performers' Tent when the news reached her. Her reaction to the tragic announcement was a thoughtful frown that her fellow performers wouldn't have recognised and some choice words only a few of them could have understood. She considered Danny's well-known habits and, remembering the boy she had seen yesterday, didn't like the conclusion that immediately came to mind. She had known right away that the boy wasn't a boy at all, but now it seemed he might be dangerous. She decided to slip a little something extra into her costume today and keep an eye out for any other Old-timers who might be working this year.

Kenny had changed his strategy today and came early, before the crowds. Before even the first shows he was out on the Square, much to the irritation of the volunteers. One familiar face gave him a patronising smile; "Why don't you come back later, little boy? The shows don't start until around 11:00. You shouldn't be around here right now." Him again, Kenny returned the smile with a sneer, "Or you'll do what Ron, call security? I'm not doing anything wrong." He paused with a grin, "I think I like you better in your info booth."

He raced off in exactly the direction the man had been trying to herd him away from; straight to the Performers' Tent. The one he had Felt the day before was there, and he discovered she was woman, a very attractive woman in fact. He was about to launch into his whole I Need a Teacher speech when he heard a burst of unforgettable laughter. Giving Ms. Stiles a convincingly fearful look, he disappeared where he could watch without being seen. Around the corner came one of the performers, the self-styled Checkerboard Guy, laughing and talking with a shockingly blonde woman who hadn't been there yesterday. They talked with the easy-going familiarity of old friends reunited.

"David, the last time I saw you, you were juggling to pay your way through college. I can't believe you're still doing that old routine!"

"It didn't take me long to learn that juggling pays better if you play your cards right. Besides, everyone knows if it works, don't change it. I have fans who come every year just to quote my own act back at me."

She smiled warmly as she looked at her old friend; "They still want that old stuff: the Smelly Shoe, the 6-foot Unicycle of Death; 'Seven balls, two hands, one juggler, no brains'?" The final quotation was recited in stereo, and by the end they held onto each other to keep from falling down laughing.

The hair might be different, but the voice was unmistakable, She was here! Amanda, who'd been like a mother to him, a mother and...so much more. Kenny frowned angrily, but what was she doing with him?-- That second-rate juggler, that walking tablecloth, that Mortal! He didn't deserve to stand near Amanda, never mind speak to her that way.

The two were still talking with shocking intimacy; "You know, when I showed you the amazing things that the human tongue can do, I was hoping you'd do a little bit more with it than just a ping pong ball routine." It was his turn to grin, "It came in handy for other things too. I am a father after all." In the shadows, Kenny's anger turned to rage: how could she, how dare he!

If there was one thing that 800 years of being the Little Guy taught, it was patience. David Aiken, aka The Checkerboard Guy, was preparing for a show and thoroughly distracted when Kenny finally confronted him. "Hi," he said shyly, all wide-eyed innocence; "do you think someday I could do what you do?"

The juggler hardly looked up from his prop box, "Well, I've been performing for almost twenty years now, but if you work hard and practice every day, I'm sure you could learn what I do. It's not easy, though."

The boy shuffled a few steps closer, eyeing an item he'd been admiring before. He laid on the Hero Worship thick, though it sickened him to do it; "Do you really think so?" A few steps more and he was within easy reach of that particular prop. "What's that?" he asked, pointing vaguely, trying to keep the gleam out of his eyes. His thoughts still miles away, Aiken looked over at the boy. "That's a replica battle-axe, I use it in my act. Be careful; it's small, but it's very sharp."

Kenny flipped the axe once experimentally; his voice had a hard edge to it, "Oh, I could definitely use this..." For the first time, the juggler got nervous, "That's not something you want to learn on; give it here." A wicked grin was the only warning, "My pleasure."

He put the strength of his entire body into the blow, only wishing he could have aimed a little higher. An inarticulate sound of pain attracted attention from all over the square, including two Immortals and several undercover Watchers. Patti rushed forward to the aide of a fellow performer, resulting in the first case in Immortal history of a sword being drawn from the mouth of a fish. The weapon, nonetheless, was real and she used it to chase the boy away from the bleeding body. "Security!" she cried, dropping everything to cradle her comrade, "Medic!"

People were rushing in from all directions; Kenny's window of opportunity was closing rapidly. Dropping the little axe, he pulled out his own weapon, aiming for the devastated woman kneeling on the grass. A voice from behind stopped him instantly; "Don't even think about it, Kenneth."

He looked up at his former mentor, a touch of a whine entering his voice in spite of himself; "You can't do anything here; you wouldn't dare. Look at all the people." Amanda laughed once, a bitter sound, "Are you kidding, they'd probably throw money." Kenny turned back to his target, but Amanda was there, "I warned you." He started his swing, but she finished her stroke first, a look almost like remorse in her eyes. Clouds gathered out of a clear blue sky as she braced herself for the onslaught. "My son," she whispered, the words lost in the storm.

Amanda came to her senses with a pile of coins at her feet and a dozen men trying to disperse the crowd. A few of them were suspiciously organised for volunteer security, and she thought she glimpsed a telltale tattoo. Ms. Stiles looked at her with a relieved, but regretful smile as a blade swiftly disappeared into her costume; "I'm sorry, you had no choice."

One of the volunteers, a big man with a shaved head and a bemused expression turned to his neighbour; "Does that woman have a permit to use pyro on this site?" The second man tugged his sleeve down over his wrist and started to lead him away; "Wilkin, shut up."

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