What The???

The Holyground Highlander Forum Midweek Challenge

Archivist’s Note: The stories and vignettes offered here from various Holyground 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
My First Time by dreamfish
Unholy by Ysanne
Rag ball by Wain
Oh, Say Can You Sea by Ria MacSpam
The First Vision by Robin
Encounter by HonorH
Accidents and Appearances by vixen69
In God’s House by Celedon
Misery and Monster Sightings by Ghost Cat
What The?? By Big John
A Werewolf in Seacouver by HonorH
The Dragon by Titania
Fetch by Daire
Passing Through the Fire by MacNairCDC

MID-WEEK CHALLENGE: WHAT THE???

Posted By: Leah CWPack <bizarro7@aol.com>
Date:
Thursday, 1 February 2001, at 9:07 a.m.

Your assignment, should you choose to participate, comes courtesy of a suggestion by Ghost Cat:

Write a short scene or story involving one of the HIGHLANDER characters, unexpectedly encountering a supernatural, allegedly mythical or strange phenomenon. This can be of any nature or form.

Remember that mood and reaction will be your focal points. Good luck!

My first time

Posted By: Dreamfish
Date:
Thursday, 1 February 2001, at 10:09 a.m.

I have never tried to write something like this...but here goes...

Duncan ran. Up the long stairway, through the park, and along the bike path. As he ran , he let his mind wander. He thought of all the years he had ran. Running through the Glens of Europe, of the Steppes of Asia, and the Old Growth Forest of the Northwest. As he paced himself, he decided to go off his regular route. He turned to the trees, and ran. Suddenly he caught a flash of white up ahead. He thought to himself, "What The Hell?" Speeding up his pace, he again saw a brilliant bit of white blur in the distance, but closer this time. Duncan slowed as he came near an overgrowth. His breath caught in his throat as he gazed at the creature standing before him.

She was small, only a couple of feet tall. She was bright white, her hoofs and the horn glowed golden. Duncan knew his mouth was hanging open, but there was nothing he could do about that, for here in front of him was the Legendary Unicorn. She looked into his eyes, and he could feel the warmth and hope radiating from her. In his over 400 years, he had never felt such peace and calm. As he stood , staring at the creature, she moved toward him. He slowly reached out to her, and she nuzzled his palm. A shot of pure energy went up his arm and he felt the worries of the day disappear. He gazed into her soulful eyes, and he knew his life would forever be changed by this encounter.

A sound in the distance make the Unicorn start, and before he knew what had happened, she was gone.

Duncan stood for a few minutes, staring at the spot where he saw the animal. Slowly he turned, and went back to the path. With a sigh, and a smile, he ran.

MWC -- Unholy

Posted By: Ysanne
Date:
Thursday, 1 February 2001, at 12:11 p.m.

As the old hermit's skinny, strong hands grasped Duncan's sword, the young outcast's eyes widened in fear. In a few seconds, the hermit's dirty, stringy head had fallen from his shoulders and Duncan stood clutching his bloody sword, staring in horror at the decapitated body in its ragged clothing. The hermit's mad words resounded in the smelly cave, words that were jumbled and strange, raving words that meant nothing to the young Scot. Only a madman would have killed himself on another's blade!

In those few still, silent moments Duncan wondered if he, too, would succumb to madness brought on by guilt, shame, and the terrible loneliness of being banished from his clan. He felt a strange presence then, one that brushed the hairs on his arms and nape upright, and he whirled to meet this next unknown horror.

Something was crushing his chest, restricting his breathing, and he gasped for air. A sudden flash of light blinded him, and his body felt seared with the same light. He raised his sword, flailing at the bolts of eerie lightning that assaulted him, but he was unable to prevent them from striking at him again and again. Each jolt was like a mortal wound, yet each wound burned with a deep, strange pleasure inside him.

The lightning struck fire from the stone floor of the cave, lighting it with a ruddy glow, ringing Duncan with its cold flame. His strength gave out and he fell, disoriented. As suddenly as it had begun, the lightning and the fire disappeared, leaving Duncan shuddering on the rocky floor of the cave, so frightened that he could not even pray.

He crawled to his small pile of possessions, gathered them up with shaking hands, and lurched to his feet. Without a backward glance at the dead hermit, Duncan stumbled out of the cave and began running. He slipped on the wet ground often, falling painfully, but he didn't bother to look at the wounds on his hands and knees. He knew they would be healed.

As he ran blindly through the trees his panicky thoughts tumbled over one another: had he sinned and killed a holy man in the cave? did the flames not burn him because he was a demon from the flames of hell himself? how could he have taken such unholy pleasure in the devil-lightning that wracked him?

His breath sobbing in his throat, Duncan stumbled to a halt and sank onto the wet undergrowth of heather and bracken. He lay, chest heaving, his lips forming the words, "Our Father..." over and over. He wasn't sure if he was trying to talk to God, or to the man he had known as his own human father, the one who had looked on him with fear and loathing that last day. His eyes burned as he remembered the words that his father had shouted at him, "Ye are no' my son!"

Perhaps he was not God's son, either.

Ysanne

MWC: Rag ball

Posted By: Wain <wamba@fast.net>
Date:
Thursday, 1 February 2001, at 2:17 p.m.

If ever there was something strange about life, Mary MacLeod thought it was the fact that you had to get so very dirty to make soap, which in turn was what you used to get clean. Most of the women of her clan hated the process as much as she did: the gathering of wood ashes, then dripping lye from them in an enormous tub, and finally the long boiling of lye and fat together to make soap. Mary stirred the enormous iron cauldron with strong arms, a sudden cool breeze whipping fumes into her eyes, which she wiped with one pink, sweaty forearm. She could only imagine how much worse the smell would be if the cauldron were placed indoors.

“Shall I spell you now?” Mary’s sister, Rose, asked as she stoked the fire, carefully avoiding the licking flames and iron pot.

Mary shook her head even though her back and shoulders ached. “I can wait a while.” She watched her ten-year-old niece run up behind Rose, thin arms shaking, pulling hard for air.

“Where’s the baby?” Mary demanded, a bit too sharply, because the girl swallowed hard and couldn’t answer for a moment. “Where’s Duncan?” she repeated.

Mary and Rose exchanged worried looks and started off to look for the toddler. As fast as their legs could carry them, they ran down the path Rose’s daughter had come, shouting for the little boy as they went.

A moment later, the dark-eyed toddler rounded a nearby house, two fingers of his left hand planted in his mouth, right hand waving a rag ball. He toddled across the uneven ground, following the voice of his mother, who was now completely out of sight. The ball dropped from his grasp, skittered toward the cauldron of boiling soap, and came to rest near the flames. Duncan’s two wet fingers dropped from his mouth in surprise. Determinedly, he started after the ball.

Mary and Rose had run the length of the village and set back toward their starting place. Mary caught sight of her son’s quick but unsteady gait taking him toward the fire, and she knew she was too far away to reach him in time. Her mouth went dry and her legs felt as heavy as stones as she started to run. Too far, she told herself, too far away!

Intent as Duncan was on catching up to his rag ball, he did not hear Mary’s cries. Duncan careened toward the fuming black pot. Before he could reach it, the ball disappeared. Perplexed, Duncan stopped running. Two dimpled fingers slid back into his mouth. He saw another ball then, above and to the right of the seething vat, colored like a rainbow and glowing as if lit from within. It paused as if undecided and then began to float away from the fire. The toddler laughed and turned and began to chase it as it led him away from danger.

Mary nearly fainted with relief when she caught up to her son. She hugged him tight against her began to cry and whisper prayers of thanksgiving.

In front of a blazing fire in a house in the woods, the green-eyed woman collapsed over her scrying bowl. She would have done anything to prevent the prophecy child from entering immortality at such a disastrously young age. Cassandra would need to sleep a whole night and part of the next day; the energy needed for a Sending was far beyond what she usually demanded of herself. The boy’s mother could care for him until then; between the two of them, Cassandra was sure they could protect Duncan until he reached manhood

MWC: Oh, Say Can You Sea

Posted By: Ria MacSpam <sirenep@hotmail.com>
Date:
Thursday, 1 February 2001, at 2:20 p.m.

Greek Island of Santorini

The water splashed onto the shore, the moon's rays causing twinkles on the waves. Methos walked down the deserted beach, hand in his pockets, contemplating what to do for the next century.

Having completed the renovation on his *hut* in England, he was now ready to try something new...do something new. After living over 5,000 years, there wasn't much he hadn't done or experienced or seen. He was totally bored.

His thoughts went to Alexa and how she had laughed and smiled when he had brought her to the island. As sick as she was she never wanted to leave, but he couldn't bear to bury her here like she had asked. Instead he had taken her to Paris where he could visit her whenever he felt the need.

A sudden change in the breeze made him pause. He glanced toward the rocks and adjusted his vision. He ran toward them when he saw a hand seeming to reach between two of the rocks.

When he reached the figure, he saw the hand move.

"Pl...pl..ease...help."

His heart stopped for a millisecond when he realized it was a woman. "I'll help you," he said. "Just be still."

The woman was wedged between two big rocks. She was clearly visible to him now. Her long, dark hair covered her face. He smoothed it back and her bright, green eyes looked appreciatively back.

"My l.l.leg is stuck," she whimpered.

"Hold on just one second." He positioned himself between the two rocks and lifted the smaller of the two as much he could. "Try and push yourself up with your arms."

She did as she was told and soon was free. Methos lifted her up and settled her on the sand. He took her leg in his hands and examined it. Being grateful he was once a doctor, he told her she would be fine.

"It's badly bruised, but you'll live."

The emerald eyes looked into his. "Thank you." When she tried to stand she immediately fell back to sand.

"Let me help you," he said, and offered his hand. "I'll take you home."

She shook her head. "It's all right..."

"Nonsense," he insisted. "I wouldn't be a gentleman if I let a damsel in distress find her own way home." He helped her up and put one arm around her waist while the other held her arm. "My name is Adam."

"Thank you, Adam." She looked longingly at the ocean.

It didn't go unnoticed. "Were you out swimming?"

"No, I was out walking," she said. "Please...can you take me to the water?"

"I don't think it's wise..."

"Can you keep a secret?"

This startled him. He didn't need any problems. Usually he minded his business and didn't interfere in anyone's problems...mortal or Immortals, but a woman needing help was different. "I guess I can."

"Then take me to the water," she insisted.

He guided her to the water and helped her sit on the sand. She wiggled herself closer until the waves caressed her feet. She kept inching herself closer and closer.

"I don't think you should do that. Your leg...."

Throwing her head back she moaned. If he wasn't seeing what he was seeing, he would have reveled in the glorious sounds coming from her mouth. The sounds a woman made when being touched by a lover.

But he was seeing it. Right before his eyes, her legs changed from two limbs into one tail. Even by the dim moon's rays, he could see the lavender iridescent color of it. The scales shimmering and the tail starting to flap.

"It's not possible," he whispered.

She smiled up at him. "All things are possible," she said. Making her way into the water she said, "Thank you for your help." She threw something at him and he caught it instantly. "If ever you wish to see me again, simply call. May you live a long life."

Then she was gone.

He looked at the water for a couple of minutes, but there was no trace of the woman. Opening his hand, he saw a small, conch shell. Had he imagined it or had he actually seen a mermaid?

Methos placed the shell in his pocket. If Immortals existed why couldn't mermaids.

'Time to go to the library,' he thought. His skills as a researcher would come in handy and just maybe he'd be taking a vacation under the sea.

The First Vision

Posted By: Robin <Catnature@yahoo.com>
Date:
Thursday, 1 February 2001, at 4:40 p.m.

She saw him, not as she knew him, but it was him.

He was dressed strangely with short cropped hair and a softness to his face and eyes. A man she could safely love.

Cassandra awoke with a gasp and in a cold sweat. She looked around fearfully and got to her feet. He was coming, she knew that and he would hurt her again. She ran and let the vision fade like a dream in it's place was the nightmare she was living.

MWC: Encounter

Posted By: HonorH the Arctic Wolfe <ksheasley@yahoo.com>
Date:
Thursday, 1 February 2001, at 11:34 p.m.

Come *on*, folks! You didn't think I could let this one pass without incorporating a few of my new muses, did you? With an opening like that? Pfft!

This takes place very early Buffy-time, before Spike and Dru find themselves in Sunnydale. HL-wise, it's fifth season. I don't know if those two timelines add up, but I think they do. Let's just say it works out.

Encounter

Duncan MacLeod loved the feel of Paris at night. Especially here on the walk by the Seine, there was a sense of timelessness--you could lose yourself in the moment and not feel the need to come up for air. He strode quietly, alone, giving courteous acknowledgement to those who passed him, but mostly allowing his mind to run free.

A flash of white caught his eye. He followed it, finding that it was a girl in a white dress, pressed up against the railing along the river. With some alarm, he realized she was also leaning far forward. She was going to fall in.

He rushed over to her, grabbing her and pulling her away before she could overbalance. "Are you all right, miss?" he asked in French.

Her eyes remained on the Seine. "I was listening to the fishes," she whispered in English, her voice flavored with a London accent. "They were calling to me. Did you hear them?"

As Duncan saw her eyes, he realized she was quite insane. They were blue-gray, wide and vacant. It felt like she wasn't in great shape physically, either. Underneath her lacy white dress, she was thin and frail. Her skin was without even a hint of a healthy blush--and cold. Her whole body was deathly cold.

Slowly, her eyes tracked to Duncan's face. She drew in a long breath, and her eyes grew wider.

"It's you!" Her voice held awe. "The Solstice Child, born in the north, come to defeat the Voice of Death," she chanted rhythmically. One icy hand touched his face. "Sweet baby, born with the sun. Who was your mummy?"

Cassandra's prophecy, Duncan realized. Why did this strange girl know it? And what was wrong with her, anyway? He took off his trench coat, then slipped out of his jacket and placed it around the girl's thin shoulders.

"Where do you live?" he asked her gently. "I'll take you home, okay?"

The girl laughed, starting low and ending in an unnerving giggle. "If I'd known I'd have visitors, I'd have set out cakes and ale."

Okay, maybe that wouldn't work. "What's your name?"

"He called me Drusilla," she answered, if an answer it was. "I don't remember what my mummy called me before Angel came and took her away. Then--all there was was Drusilla. You can call me Dru, if you'd like. That's what my Spike says when he's feeling amorous."

If Duncan was reading that right, her mother was dead, at least. The girl leaned in on him, seeming to listen to his heart.

"That was what my pappy's heart sounded like of an evening when I was little. Mummy would sing to me, then. What did your mummy sing to you?" She leaned back, closing her eyes, then sang, "Ushag vey ruy ny moanee doo, oh, where did you sleep last night?"

"Little Red Bird of the Moor," Duncan whispered. He had listened to that lullaby every night as a child. "How did you know?"

"I heard it in your heart." The girl placed her palm flat on his chest. "It beats with your mummy's words. Mine stopped when daddy found me."

An air of Ophelian innocence and tragedy surrounded the girl, and Duncan wondered what had happened to her to make her this way. One thing was certain, he thought--she needed someone to take care of her, or she was going to die.

"Let's find someplace warm," he offered. "You should sit down." He started trying to put the pieces together. The dress she was wearing was expensive, her hair was groomed, and her makeup was flawless. Somewhere, there was someone who loved this girl. If Duncan took her to a hospital or police station, that someone would likely turn up looking for her. Gently, Duncan placed an arm around her shoulders to lead her away.

"Drusilla? Dru!"

Duncan looked up to find that it was a young man doing the calling. He was running toward them, his bleached blond hair shining in the floodlights. Drusilla made a delighted sound.

"There's my Spike! Isn't he a sweet boy?"

The young man in question came skidding to a stop in front of them. He spared only a glare for Duncan before turning his attention fully to Drusilla.

"Dru, baby," he said in a matching London accent, taking her face gently in his hands. "I was worried sick about you. You know you shouldn't go wanderin' off like that, sweetheart. Not as sick as you've been."

"The river was calling me, Spike," she murmured, closing her eyes. "I thought that maybe if I went underneath, I could see my reflection in it."

Spike, for it seemed that the young man was called that, pulled her into his arms. "Tell you what, baby. If you have an idea like that, why don't you tell it to me before running off? I don't want you getting hurt again, Dru. I couldn't handle it."

"Ohhh," she moaned softly. "My sweet Spike. I've been a naughty girl, worrying you like that."

"No you haven't, Dru," Spike reassured her. "You're a good girl. Just stay with me, baby, until we can get you better."

Duncan caught the young man's eye. "Is she all right?" he asked in as low a whisper as he could manage.

Instead of answering, Spike held Drusilla at arm's length again. "Tell me who you've found, pet."

Drusilla looked at Duncan with glowing eyes. "Oh, I've found a special one, Spike. Older than my grandmother and still alive!"

Spike gave Duncan a skeptical look, and Duncan gave him a mystified one in return. Spike shrugged. "Okay, pet, whatever you say. Shall we go home? I brought you something to eat. Unless . . ." Spike gave Duncan a considering look.

"He's got a demon to catch," said Drusilla. "But he's got lightning in his blood! Do you smell it, Spike?"

Spike gave Duncan another skeptical look, then seemed to notice the jacket around Drusilla's shoulders. "This yours?" he asked Duncan.

"Keep it," Duncan told him, then turned his attention back to the girl. "Will you be all right, Drusilla?"

Drusilla leaned on Spike. "My Spike will make me all better. He promised."

"I do promise, love," said the young man, putting his arms around her again. "I'll do anything to make you strong again."

And he would, Duncan thought. The love in the young man's eyes was so fierce, so strong, that Duncan had no doubts he would move heaven and earth to heal the woman he loved. The Highlander smiled.

"Looks like she's in good hands," he commented, and held out his hand to Spike. "Best of luck to you."

Spike considered him a moment, then shook Duncan's hand. Duncan thought he must have been outside for awhile for his hands to be that cold.

"Thanks for lookin' after Dru," Spike said.

"No problem."

The couple turned, Spike's arm still around Drusilla's shoulders, and walked away. Suddenly, Drusilla turned back.

"Have you seen my Angel?" she asked, eyes bright.

Duncan noticed that, for the first time, a look of pure irritation crossed Spike's face at something that came out of Drusilla's mouth. Hastily, the Highlander said, "Can't say I have."

Spike turned Drusilla back around, saying, "Come on, Dru. Let's get you home. Get something warm inside you. We're leaving tomorrow for America, remember?"

Duncan smiled as he watched them go. Strange couple, he thought, but then, love doesn't always make sense.

Hall of HonorH (where my HL and Buffy muses co-exist uneasily)

MWC Accidents and Appearances

Posted By: vixen69 <mcvixen_69@hotmail.com>
Date:
Thursday, 1 February 2001, at 9:57 p.m.

Disclaimer (no, really?): You had to know it wouldn't be water babies or smurfs out of me, right? No offense meant to anyone who * does * worship demons...because, uh...you know. I'm not very brave.

Accidents and Appearances

There she lay, beautiful and dead. Her eyes had been the softest green, and her hair had shone of copper, just as the old ones liked best—and she bore no small resemblance to his old teacher, and that had been well to his own liking. She had been a nobleman’s daughter, a vain, witless thing. He had subdued her with words and charms alone, needing no other force, for she had been of the manner of woman who likes best—a rogue. Even when she had seen the room he had prepared for their * wedding * night she thought no harm would come to her, imagining this to be some playful dalliance—an “alchemical” mingling of essences intended to plumb the philosopher’s stone. No innocent, she sensed an intent behind his words, but knew not his secret cause. Long ago, his mortal lead had been refined to Immortal gold—now the workings he desired would be those that changed her blood for his dreams.

At last, he found himself ready to speak the words—to give them force, he would use the Voice. Perhaps through his practices even * they * could not resist him now. His eyes watered from the smell of the sulphurous incense prescribed, but he dared not lift them from the words on the page. The hour was at hand and the sacrifice had been made.

He had toiled long and hard for this moment, searching out those dread scrolls of legend and lore that spoke of names that bore no repeating, some in languages so obscure he wracked his brains for all * she * had taught him—she who knew the ways of those letters writ by centuries-dead infidels, having herself traversed the centuries. How she had mocked him when he first made mention of those skin-covered tomes written by sorcerers so depraved the very illusions conjured by their words would drive men mad! Haughtily, she had told him men needed no demon-inspired works to make them act in depraved fashion—greed, wrath and appetites alone untended might drive them to acts to make a demon’s pale in comparison. But then, what did she know? Instead, she taught him her simple arts—her ways with herbs and rocks and tongues—those she said would do no harm.

And now all these would be brought to bear in this great work. Her own undoing might as well have come from her own hand—for was it not she who taught him how to select those resins which burned even now? To look into the heart of a crystal, or gauge the paths of the stars, to select this dread hour? To teach him those dead languages which would bring the old ones to life before his altar?

Yes—if it rained the fires of hell, blame the witch, he thought. Even knowing the thirst for truth that once scorched his heart, she had declined to tell him of his own nature. In her selfishness, would she have denied him eternity? Would it have pleased her to watch him grow old before her, decrepit and weak, until the strength of his voice was the mere croak of a locust? Would she have taken his mortal life then, to have forever at her beck and call some pathetic pet? Would she keep him in a basket like a wrinkled Tithonius? Or perhaps, torture him in answer to crimes against herself—a vengeance she could not wreak on those who made her what she was—those stronger than herself? Or—worse, would she have watched him die of old age, slipping peacefully into that sleep of no return?

His impression leaned most strongly on that last, and that was why it pleased him when he watched her be burned for those * reprehensible arts of necromancy she had nearly lured him into. * (As, of course, he was only too pleased to tell those authorities concerned. He wondered even now had she had fared.) And that was why he did this now—try to insure his own success at this Game she informed him only too late of. Two hundred years did he study, watch and gather, carefully seeking out the appropriate rite.

He chanted, his voice carrying on the smoke-thickened air, echoing off the walls. Almost without consciousness, his body began to shake from the effort of his endeavor to invoke the old ones. He called their names, offered them gifts, beseeched them, swore his allegiance and aid to them. At the peak of his concentration, he drew forth the black-handled dagger he had kept close to his heart and then made his blood to flow—and lastly, most dreadful and serious of decisions, he wrote his own name on the parchment document he had prepared and consecrated with the seven seals and thousand names. This would be the pact that bound them to him and him to them. Would it only be found pleasing, any man who would come before him would be defeated.

And then! A breeze blew through the open casement, and his heart quickened madly in anticipation! Now, now was the time! And then, the heavy brocade curtain brushed the candelabra, which fell onto both book and blood-signed pact. The fire spread rapidly, and he beat out the flames. The last words of the spell—obliterated. The pact—a blackened mess, leaving only one thing legible—

* Roland Kantos. *

Suddenly, in a great rage, he cleared the altar of all its trappings of magic. The smoldering bowls of incense fell to the floor with a clatter, sprinkling ash and greasy residues. The altar itself he pushed away, and then, with manic energy, he grabbed up every book in sight—some purchased at great price, some stolen, some he had even killed for—and flung them into the fire. He watched them burn, panting, eyes wild. If they would not respond to proper offerings, perhaps this blasphemy would get their attention!

Silence was their only reply. Sick at heart, he retired to bed.

* * *

Years had passed, and Roland imagined himself recovered from his diabolical madness. Surely, the lack of attention from the old ones might well mean the very obvious—the lack of the old ones themselves. For two hundred years, he had chased the tail of a chimera, and found only the horns of a dilemma—how now to find success? In his own strength? He had forgone the study of the sword, preferring the study of spells, but it seemed that in the sword alone would be his salvation…only the sword would deliver him from those who pursued him in the Game. Only by defeating others would he grow strong, and so he took up the ways of a hunter. Young Immortals, old, gentle, belligerent, deep in their cups, unawares—it mattered little to him. They died, and gave their power up to him.

This was real power—a gift no demon could give. He would call them to him with his Voice, and claim them. With every success, he could see that death was his calling and the Prize itself perhaps was his to claim. He had no name for what he imagined that Prize to be; he only knew that his mouth watered when he thought about it.

It would be Knowledge, certainly. It would be Power over men, far beyond that which he now had. It would be the answer to every hunger pang, every thirst, every denied wish or postponed pleasure. It would be seeing Cassandra finally dead. (Oh, but would he touch her first, as she once refused him—denying the boy he was that taste of the thing he almost loved, oh, he would never forgive her that…) It would be…

It would be all he ever desired, beginning with tiny joys and ending with oblivion, because when he imagined power without limit, the very limitations even of that appalled him. Only darkness would satisfy.

But no one would imagine him melancholy on seeing him walk down the crowded street in his fine suit of velvet. He had cast aside a student’s rags and student’s cares to be a man of the world, to wear as best he could the face of a gentleman—some part soldier, lover, man of games, wealth, taste. In a way, he wanted to make up for the years he’d thrown away—sacrificed to shades and shadows and old wives’ tales. In another way, it was his armor—he was a man one did not wish to cross. And yet…

His confident stride was shortened by the sensation of a fumbling hand touching his cape as he turned down an alleyway. What was this? Was it some urchin thinking to make off with his purse? Hardly looking, he swirled, one hand on his sword hilt, and then, perceiving it to be someone (thing?) not quite elbow-height, he made to cuff the creature, which ducked. And then he stared. It was a dwarf.

“Roland Kantos—I accept,” the small man said, his voice tinny, but almost hypnotic.

Recognizing one of his own tricks—a fascination, Kantos shook off the effects of the voice and responded, “Accept what? My backhand blow? A kick in the a**e?”

“Your contract,” the dwarf answered, producing a piece of parchment. At this, Kantos’ skin crawled, and the hairs on his neck rose—he recognized it. It was the contract he had seen burned—and the signature at the bottom was his own name, just as he had signed it. His heart raced, but he remained leery.

“I can’t recall having made a contract…with you,” he said, with a sneer. In his studies, it was clear—be haughty with them, show them no fear. Let them know who is the master.

“Perhaps you don’t recognize me in this form,” the being said, transforming. Its shape shifted through many forms—a wolf, a man, a woman, and finally, a great satyr, snorting smoke and beaming baleful light from its inhuman eyes. Kantos resisted the urge to fall to his knees.

“Why hadn’t you shown yourself sooner?” he demanded.

The creature raised itself up, and breathed a stream of fire. “Some of us don’t care to be at the beck and call of mere…ephemera. But you have something to offer me…so I will give you certain gifts. In exchange for one favor.”

Visions of what the demon might require of him passed through Kantos’ mind, and evaporated into mist—he could not conceive of what some supernatural beast might ask in the way of a “favor.” Suddenly, it seemed clear—chanting, circles, incense, all these, even blood, might not be quite enough. What would that leave?

“Wha—what would you have of me?” he breathed, stammering in spite of the control he tried desperately to maintain.

“There will be a Champion. He will be born in…the Caledonian highlands…in the time of the winter solstice. He’s destined to cause me quite a bit of trouble. I want him eliminated.”

“A Champion?” Kantos asked, puzzled.

The being nodded. “Just kill him. But if you fail me…”

Kantos did not need to have that sentence finished. Being beheaded was one thing—having his soul devoured was something else altogether. Finally, at the request of his straining nerves, he gave in and sank to his knees. “As you wish…great…Ahriman.” Then, in a flash, the demon dematerialized before him.

“What tha--?” Kantos then asked, and struggled to his feet. “Wait! The winter solstice—the highlands of Caledonia…but when?” He paced up and down the alleyway, searching for a sign of the beast, but to no avail. He pondered at the unexpected turn of events—they * did * exist—the old ones! He had spoken to a demon—in the flesh! (Or…whatever passed for flesh with a demon.) Damn Cassandra and her lies—they existed!

He figured he would need to do a bit of research in astrology—perhaps the stars would tell him when the time was right.

****

Ergot, toadstool, and a few buds of that old assassin’s helper to keep it down—well, there were some things to be said for a little herb craft, Cassandra thought to herself, weary, but happy to be done with the practical joke. Impersonating a shoggoth was an amusing, but genuinely tiring bit of work, but it was worth it to watch Roland make such a fool of himself. Her potion, and the simple shamaness’ trick of creating a glamour were all she had needed and his runaway imagination and silly pride did the rest. A more alert magician would have sensed * something * was amiss.

She sat back in the chair stretching and yawning. She would sleep like a * bear * tonight. Strange, about the joke, though. She had been meaning to say, “In the deepest jungle of the Orient, when the moon is in the seventh house and Jupiter aligns with Mars.” Odd how it didn’t come out that way. She’d been rather hoping he’d traipse off to be head-hunted and parboiled.

Oh well. There were corners of the world where Immortal births were strangely * thick *, and that area seemed to be one of them. Odds were, eventually * somebody * would be born on the winter solstice. And he probably would lose to a well-trained Highlander--he never really *was* that good. The way she saw it, Kantos was sure to get his irritating little self killed before the Age of Pisces was up. Possibly before the end of the millennium.

“Winter solstice,” she muttered, before sinking into sleep. Surely, she would recall the significance of it in a bit. But right now, she was tired.

(PS: I know...I always make Cassandra *that* smart. Can't help it.)

MWC In God's House

Posted By: Celedon <celedon1@airmail.net>
Date:
Saturday, 3 February 2001, at 10:44 p.m.

Father Liam O’Reilly took a look around at the large chapel and closed his eyes to listen to the stillness that seemed to surround him here. It was almost eerily silent but he had the distinct impression that if he listened carefully enough, he could hear the voices of the past speak through the ages to him. Perhaps he might even be able to see those who had passed through this chapel centuries ago if he looked hard enough into the shadows and the differing shades provided by the simple lighting and the sunlight which streamed through the windows on either side of the aisle.

He opened his eyes and took a final look around, then clasped his hands behind his back and turned about on his heels to head back into the parish’s combination study/bedroom for the priests assigned here. Nodding with satisfaction, he smiled gently to himself. St. Juliens would be a fine place to be indeed and already he felt at home here.

Soon, he was immersed in the books of the church trying to get a feel for the church members as well the inner workings of what had worked here before his arrival. Perhaps he could come up with new ways to encourage new members to come as well as entice better offerings from the members and guests who came to pray and be absolved for their sins.

He paused for a moment and stretched while his eyes scanned the study. He knew that at one time it had been the lodgings of another of his kind who had been posted here at the church for centuries before his murder five years ago in the chapel. Father Darius had been well known in the community of both mortals and immortals and it had been a shock to hear that he had died in the manner he had died with his Quickening lost forever. It had been a dark and tragic day when it had happened; mankind had lost one of its greatest advocates of peace with the stroke of a sword on that day. “If only these walls could talk, “ he heard himself say out loud. “The stories they could tell…”

A great crash and the sounds of chairs being flung all over in the chapel made Liam jump up and run to the entrance of the study then out to the chapel. He found that all was as he had left it an hour—he checked his watch, no, it had been two hours ago. Frowning, he walked about double-checking to see that no one else had made their way into the chapel and was causing any mischief but no one was anywhere to be found. He was completely and utterly alone there.

He shook his head and headed back into the study but as soon as his back was turned away from the chapel the noises started back up again, startling him to no end. He flung himself back around to see what was causing the noise and ducked as a chair came flying by his head. In fact, the entire array of chairs that had been placed as seating for anyone who came was moving about as if a great struggle was going on by some unseen opponents.

Some of them were knocked about; some were seen to fly through the air without any means to make them do so while others toppled and collapsed where they stood as if something heavy had fallen on them. Liam crossed himself and stared at the sight, open mouthed in amazement. What in the name of Jesus was going on here?

He ducked again then decided the best thing he could do was stay down and out of the way until whatever this was completed itself and died down. In all his living days, he had never witnessed what he was seeing now although he was raised, being the good Irishman he was, to understand that some things did happen that were otherwise unexplainable to most.

A voice seemed to come from the walls followed by a second one. “This is a house of God and of peace. Why do you bring weapons into this holy space?”

“Because while you live, dear General, you defile it with your abominable immortality. God does not love those who are aberrations in His sight. Therefore, you must die.”

Before Liam’s eyes, two figures materialized out of a fine mist that appeared out of nowhere, each facing one another; one held a long sword, the other was dressed in a simple monk’s habit.

He rubbed at his eyes, unbelieving what he was seeing, yet knowing that it was indeed real. He let loose a long drawn out breath, saying as he did so the name of the monk who stood before him and who he recognized from descriptions he had heard. “Darius!”

The man, if you were to call the apparition that, who held the sword smiled almost benignly at the monk then shifted his weight and seemed to wait for something that Liam wasn't able to see.

"Why do you call me that? I am a simple man of God and of peace. And, in peace, I bid you to remove yourselves from here," the monk said to the other but the other man made no move to do as he was bidden to do.

"I know all about you, dear Darius. I spent many years just watching you and others like you. I've spent many nights planning and waiting for the right moment to strike while gathering a small but loyal group of men who believe as I do regarding your kind."

The monk backed up a couple of steps his face a mixture of confusion and of the knowledge that this was only one more battle to be fought but this time it would be one that would be forever. "Watching me? My kind? What are you talking about?" he said as he tried to calculate the distance to the door and the best way to get there.

Liam sat fascinated at the spectacle in front of him--too stunned to run away, yet too frightened and intrigued to even try to do anything about it.
He knew that he was seeing what no one else had ever seen and may never see again. He gulped hard as he strained to hear the voices of the apparitions.

"I don't have time to dawdle or play games with you, General. You who lead the Goth armies into Rome sacking, pillaging and looting her for thirty-six hours and causing the Dark Ages to fall upon mankind--you are the cause of the downfall of civilization and we know that you will be again should any of the immortals or yourself win the Prize. And that, is the reason why.." the sword was raised so that the sunlight bounced and glimmered down its length, "you must die. We will be saving mankind from another Dark Ages that will last far longer than the original one."

The monk stood his ground, spreading his hands to show that he was unarmed. "You would defile this place with my blood? Under the sight of God and all the saints? I haven't fought in centuries! My goal is to help mankind--not destroy it!"

Liam's eyes grew round and his mouth went dry as the monk paused for a moment then dashed off towards one of the large columns that supported the lead roof of the church. He wove his way through the chairs, pushing and shoving them behind him as he passed, pausing now and then to turn and throw one at his pursuer before heading back in the same direction as before.

He silently whispered a prayer for Darius knowing that it useless but feeling that it helped him if not the ghost himself. He swallowed hard with tears in his eyes as things continued to unfold before him.

The other man pursued him closely with the sword upraised. Both were screaming at each other and the screams echoed off the walls so that it was hard to understand what was being said. Liam stood to get a better view of the column where each had paused with his heart in his throat. "Mother of God and all her saints!" he hoarsely said as he watched in horror what happened next.

Darius stood with arms outstretched as if he were being held by someone unseen on either side of him. His face was white, his eyes wide in horror as he looked at the blade in the other man's hands. Then as if touched by God, he composed himself, drawing himself to his full height and asked, "What is your name?"

The man paused, hesitating to answer it but decided to. With a smirk on his face, he said in a emotionless tone of voice, "Horton."

"Your Christian name?"

"James."

One hand made the sign of the cross in blessing towards the other man then the monk smiled peacefully at his slayer. "I forgive you for what you are about to do. May God have mercy upon you."

The sword swung upwards and arced heavily downwards. Liam covered his eyes--he couldn't bear to look and watch any longer. Despite this, his ears still heard the quiet prayers that were being said by the monk till the final scream of pain assaulted them then silence.

He fell to the floor heavily, tears streaming down his face, his chest raw from the burning, gasping sobs that racked at his body. Never in his life had he ever seen such a thing and he prayed that he never would again. For a long while he stayed there--how long he couldn't say--time seemed to have lost all meaning in that place and both past and present had merged in a single horrifying moment in front of his eyes.

Finally, he managed to get up and made his way, still shaking at what he had witnessed to the column where Darius had died. He looked about as if he had never seen this chapel before then shifted about, one foot kicking something that lay on the floor that skittered off to lay gleaming in the sunlight.

Walking over to the shaft of sunlight he looked down at the small rosary that lay there, wooden beads polished from centuries of use by one man.
He bent and picked it up, turning it over to read the inscription that was written there but the runes were indecipherable to him.

One hand clutched the rosary into a fist while the other traced the path of the cross upon himself. "Rest in Peace, Darius." His brow furrowed a moment; he then said as if commanded by someone else but with utter conviction, "Peace be with you."

MWC: "Misery and Monster Sightings"

Posted By: Ghost Cat <ghost_cat@hotmail.com>
Date:
Saturday, 3 February 2001, at 8:14 p.m.

"I want to renegotiate my contract. The Health Plan sucks." Duncan frowned slightly at the puffy-eyed, red-nosed creature that used to be Felicia DuChamp. She continued her moaning complaint, "You heard me. If I have to worry about being killed every day for the rest of eternity, then I demand at least Immunity to Disease! I'm dying here."

"You are not dying. It's just a virus."

"It is not just a virus. It's a vicious, feral, Canadian virus! You don't know what these beasties can do." A massive coughing fit cut her off for several minutes. "If I'm not dying, then kill me now so I'll feel better when I come back."

MacLeod looked genuinely shocked; "You know I wouldn't do that!"

"Well then at least help me find my left lung, I think it landed somewhere over there." She waved vaguely behind the couch where she huddled in a nest of blankets. She'd barely been mobile for days and her little apartment was a mess.

She'd begged him to come over and take care of her, and now he was beginning to regret it. "Did you get any sleep at all last night?"

She groaned again, loudly; "I don't think so. Spent most of the night listening to Coast to Coast a.m.- alternative late night talk radio: UFO's, conspiracies, aliens, Remote Viewing, that kind of thing. Honestly, I think I only listen because I'm waiting for some Watcher to spill everything on the air." A slight smile looked very fragile on her pale lips; "Last night they were talking about the Loch Ness Monster."

"Oh, and what were they saying about Nessie?"

A burst of laughter soon degenerated into another hacking, lung-rattling fit. "Don't do that to me," she wheezed, "it hurts!" After a moment, she caught her breath; "I'm not surprised a Scot would be on a first name basis with the beast. You should have called in last night, they were asking for sightings…" Her words ended on a wistful note; even a storyteller likes to hear a good tale sometimes.

"And what makes you think I know anything about the beastie?" he teased. She frowned; "Loch Ness isn't that far from Loch Shiel… I checked once." He kept the joke going a bit further; "As the crow flies maybe, but we only had horses." Deb's smile turned to a pout and he finally relented.

Mac smiled for a moment at his own memories then turned his attention back to the suffering author. She needed something to keep her mind off her ills, and besides, anything would be better than listening to her complaints. "How about I make us some tea and we can have a proper Tell?" Her grin was all the answer he needed. "I'm no Bard, mind you," he added modestly, though he was already thinking of the best way to start as he headed to the kitchen…

§ § §

Flashback: 1625, Loch Ness

Duncan still wasn't sure whether to believe the man was really the Connor MacLeod of legend. Connor had lived and died (and supposedly lived again) before his grandfather's time. That would make him, what, his great grand uncle or some beastly complex version of a cousin? Yet the man looked hardly older than a brother, and asked to be treated like one. Actually, what this kinsman wanted to be was his teacher. A mentor to show him the ways of some horrible life and death Game, between warriors who cannot die except by having head and shoulder part company, for a mythical Prize that may or may not exist. Why, it was a story nearly as hard to believe as the tales of the Beast in the Loch, which supposedly swam in the very same waters through which they rowed.

Connor often spoke of his own teacher, whom he called Ramirez, but who apparently had more names than one man deserved, at least in Duncan's opinion. He didn't refer to the man as "Ramirez" very often though, more likely he talked about "the Peacock" or "that walking Haggis"; those two must have had a very odd companionship. Duncan had asked once if he had known his teacher long, but the clansman only answered, "Nay, less than a year," and refused to say anything else for the rest of the day.

As the boat moved closer to the center of the lake, Duncan vaguely remembered Connor's story about a trip in a rowboat, but that too had been hard to believe. Walking to shore-underwater? Ridiculous. Thankfully he hadn't been asked to stand up…yet. Suddenly his thoughts were broken by a feeling like his skull was being squeezed. He glanced over at his mentor, frozen like a startled deer, one oar half out of the water.

Duncan spoke in hushed tones that hopefully hid his unease; "This is the feeling you said was a Warning?"

"Aye, it is."

"Then why is it coming off the water?"

"You'll see." The ghost of a smile softened the wariness in his eyes.

Both men scanned the water, and the shore, with caution. There was a sense of the world holding its breath, of waiting for something. Without warning a shape rose out of the water to their right; rose and kept rising, bigger than anything Duncan had ever seen come out of a lake. A long, graceful neck, impossibly long, was topped by a head bigger than a horse's but slightly the wrong shape. The creature was almost close enough to touch and the wake of it rocked the little boat from side to side. It almost seemed as if the beast were watching them. Connor raised one hand in a salute, and the long neck moved in what might have been an answering nod- or a bow. 

Duncan's mouth hung open in an expression quite unbecoming a Chieftain's son, he could not believe his own eyes. "But," he stammered, "but the Beast of the Loch is a legend!"

Connor's laugh spread across the lake like the toll of a bell, yet Nessie didn't seem to mind; "Duncan, my lad, until a few months ago, I was a legend. The beast is as real as you or I. Show some respect now; Nessie is older than you are, older than I am. She might even be older than that fool Peacock was!"

The full implication of the Warning and the beast finally dawned on the younger Highlander. The creature was as real as they were, but more than that, it was as they were- Immortal. "Now that," he muttered, hardly aware of his own words, "is a head."

Connor scowled for the first time, "Don't even joke about it, lad. No harm will come to Nessie while a Highlander lives. She lives free, on her own terms; as Scotland will some day be free. No man will ever control her, and no outside force will ever control our people."

Duncan couldn't help but laugh; "You sound like William Wallace!"

"Why shouldn't I? This is the land of William Wallace, and The Bruce as well. Never forget where you came from Duncan, never forget. 

Eventually the beast slipped back under the water, and the strange feeling fading away. "What do we do know 'teacher'?"

Connor slapped him on the shoulder, almost tossing both of them into the water; "Now? Now we head for shore, and we find a comfortable inn, a good meal, and a strong drink!"

§ § §

Halfway through the tale, Deb broke into a grin, and by the end of the telling she was laughing out loud. Her misery was long forgotten, the illness no longer a tragedy. "Duncan my friend, that was incredible; and you say you're not a storyteller! It's settled, we're going to the Okanagan this summer!"

"Lake Okanagan?"

"Sure, you think you're the only one with a lake monster, Highlander? If you can tell me you met the Loch Ness Monster one on one, then I gotta see if I can get a Buzz off Ogopogo!"

A devilish gleam twinkled in those dark eyes; "Are you sure you want to be planning a trip? I thought you said you were dying?"

"Ridiculous! I'm Canadian, no cold bug is going to keep me down for long!"

Clan Northlander HQ

Re: MID-WEEK CHALLENGE: WHAT THE???

Posted By: Big John <highlander1015@aol.com>
Date:
Thursday, 1 February 2001, at 10:49 p.m.

Duncan MacLeod pulled his coat more tightly around him and watched the calm surface of the loch intently. Jacob Kell, the greatest Immortal scourge he had ever faced, was dead by the Highlander's sword.

But so was Connor MacLeod.

Three weeks had passed since Duncan MacLeod had, as he had done so many times before, salvaged triumph from the ultimate tragedy. Richie's death had been senseless. Connor's was one he could understand, even if he still hadn't entirely reconciled it.

Our bonds ... are all that hold us in this world. Don't break this one. Please, Connor ... I'm begging you ...

But Connor didn't want to break that bond. He'd only wanted to make it stronger.

I love you, Connor.

And now, on the shores of Loch Ness, Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod was ready to do something that he and Connor had talked about for centuries but somehow never got around to doing.

"Mac, do I have to eat this?"

Duncan smiled and turned around to face the row of lawn chairs lined up behind him. "Yes, Joe. Haggis sandwiches have always been part of the plan."

"Jeez," Dawson said, lifting the sunglasses from his eyes to study again the foul-smelling mess in his left hand. He closed both eyes tightly and brought it as closely to his lips as his nose would allow before finally dropping it back in the picnic basket and retrieving instead a wee dram of Snapple.

Beside him, Amanda ate salad from a paper plate. Only Amanda would lounge under a giant beach umbrella on an almost sunless Scottish afternoon. Methos, wearing the loudest Hawaiian shirt MacLeod had ever seen, stood on the shore and skipped stones across the water's murky surface.

"You're going to scare it away," Amanda said.

"Doubtful," replied the world's oldest man. "If anything it'll try to mate with your umbrella."

"It'll try to mate with your shirt, first," she mumbled. Methos' only reply was a quick, annoyed glance over his shoulder.

MacLeod smiled. Connor had been a loner. It was something that Duncan had tried before but could never quite handle ... it was his friends, and his love for them, his loyalty to them, that always brought him back. With Connor gone they meant even more to him than they already had. And it was with them that Duncan hoped to share something he and Connor had joked about for decades.

One of these days, Duncan, we will sit in lawn chairs on the shore of Loch Ness, and we will eat haggis sandwiches, and we will get a picture of that monster.

As he thumbed the flash on the camera in his hands, Duncan MacLeod knew that, even if they didn't see a monster today, it was the company, both around him and inside him, that mattered most.

MWC II: A Werewolf in Seacouver

Posted By: HonorH the Arctic Wolfe <ksheasley@yahoo.com>
Date:
Monday, 5 February 2001, at 2:18 p.m.

Just had to do this. Sorry, folks. BTW--don't try using the email addresses at the end.

A Werewolf in Seacouver

Joe's Bar was truly rocking that night. Duncan had come alone, but found himself sitting at a table with Joe while watching the house band. It was a pleasant situation, Duncan decided. Good ale, a good friend, and good music.

"They're just getting better, Joe," Duncan commented. "You should see about getting them a record deal."

"Yeah, Charlie's been looking into it," said Joe, taking a sip of his drink.

Duncan had noticed the big bass player was conspicuously absent, replaced by a rather small red-headed boy.

"Say, where is Charlie?"

"Had a bout with tendonitis," said Joe. "It's not bad, but he needed a replacement for a week or so while he recovered. New guy's pretty good, though."

Duncan watched the young man, for although he was quite small, it was evident he was full-grown. Nice-looking kid, very laid-back from the looks of him, and obviously very comfortable with his bass.

"Would you believe he never played the blues before he came here?" Joe went on. "He picked it up really quick, though. Sharp as a tack. Doesn't talk much, though."

"What's his name?" asked Duncan.

"Calls himself Oz," said Joe. "I'm not sure what his real name is. Charlie probably knows. Actually, since Charlie's coming back, Oz won't be around much longer. Charlie got him a gig in California with a cousin of his."

Duncan and Joe chatted for the rest of the evening. Finally, the band finished with its set, and Duncan decided it was time to head for home.

As he walked out the door, the Immortal Buzz hit him. Duncan tracked it to a figure in a long, white trench coat, waiting in the alley. Duncan approached him.

"Duncan MacLeod?" the figure asked. "My name is Marcus Remington. I've waited a long time for this, MacLeod."

"I'm MacLeod," Duncan responded. "Do we know each other?"

"Not directly," said Remington. "I've heard so much about you, though, that I couldn't wait to see if it was true." With that, Remington drew out a gothic bastard sword.

Duncan sighed. "If it makes any difference, I'm really not in the mood for this tonight."

Remington smiled. "Then die." With that, he attacked.

Duncan's sword met his. "Not in the mood to die, either."

The two fought, and although Remington was very good, Duncan quickly got the upper hand. The katana sliced through Remington's neck, and Duncan braced himself for the Quickening.

When it was over, Duncan knelt in the alley, catching his breath. He was startled to see a hand suddenly appear in front of his face, offering him help up. Duncan took it, stood, and realized it was the young bass player, Oz. Oz was looking at him with a sort of detached fascination.

"That's not something I'd ever have thought to see," commented the young man.

Duncan blinked. Most mortals, upon witnessing an Immortal fight, beheading, and Quickening, would be incoherent. This level of blasé didn't come easily even to experienced Watchers. "Uh . . ."

Oz pocketed his hands, looking Duncan up and down. His eyes rested particularly on a large cut Duncan had gotten that was in the process of healing. "So. Are you some sort of demon?"

Duncan's brain went to a whole new level of "flattened." "I most certainly am not!"

"Didn't mean to offend," apologized Oz casually. "Just curious. What are you? You smell human enough. Except all the ozone."

"I'm an Immortal," said Duncan, figuring the truth was the best way to go. "I'm around 400 years old. You just saw the only way my kind can die."

Oz glanced at the body behind Duncan. "Interesting."

Duncan looked at him, absolutely not understanding this young man. "You seem to be taking this pretty well."

Oz shrugged. "Well, I grew up in Sunnydale, California. I've got a good friend who's a vampire, and I myself am a werewolf. Not much shocks me."

Okay, so maybe the kid was just crazy.

Said kid had noticed Duncan's reaction. It apparently puzzled him. "You come from a race of people who live forever, and you just collected a bunch of lightning strikes, but you don't believe in vampires or werewolves?" he asked slowly.

"'Fraid not."

"Hm."

The two continued looking at each other for another few seconds. Duncan couldn't help but note that the young man's eyes looked surprisingly sane for someone who believed himself to be a werewolf.

"You say you're a werewolf?" Duncan asked.

Oz nodded, then sniffed. "You had sex last night with a bleached blond who wears Shalimar."

Now Duncan was truly floored. Amanda *had* come to visit last night, her hair was newly bleached, she did indeed wear Shalimar, and furthermore, she'd only been in town for a total of 24 hours, during which time they'd never been outside Duncan's loft.

"How did you . . ?"

"Werewolf senses. Been pleasant." Oz stuck out his hand. Duncan shook it, and Oz started to walk away.

"Oz." The young man turned. "Werewolves and vampires?"

"More common than you'd think," Oz said thoughtfully. Then he was gone.

~~~

From: ozwolf@yahoo.com
To: angel250@lanet.com
Subject: In Seacouver, WA

Angel,

I'll be heading your way soon. I just had an interesting time in Seacouver. I met a man named Duncan MacLeod there who seems to be 400 years old and can only die by beheading. Perhaps Wesley could shed some light on what he is, exactly. Interesting thing--MacLeod doesn't seem to believe in vampires or werewolves. Got pretty offended at the idea he might be a demon, too.

Speaking of which, I just got my hands on some candles that "quell the inner demon." They worked pretty well for me last lunar cycle. Since I'm heading your way, I could deliver some if you'd like. They work to sedate demon spirits. I thought that if they worked for a werewolf, they might work for a vampire as well.

How's unlife at Cordelia's digs? Have you found a new place yet?

Oz

~~~

From: angel250@lanet.com
To: ozwolf@yahoo.com
Subject: Re: In Seacouver, WA

Oz,

Your Duncan MacLeod must be quite a guy. Wesley went incoherent upon hearing his name. He's not only familiar with MacLeod, he's got a wealth of information on him. Says there's a subset of Watchers specifically set up to observe his kind.

By all means, come to L.A. I'm intrigued by your candles. As long as they don't put the wrong part of me to sleep--remember what I told you about the last time my inhibitions got lowered? It happened again, I'm pretty sure Cordy really would give me a holy water bath this time. Wesley can put you up for a few nights, and he can give you all the information on Duncan MacLeod you'd ever want.

Cordy and I are getting along fine as roommates, as long as I don't use all the hot water or get blood on the couch. She says you're welcome to drop by anytime. Come by early enough and I'll fix you breakfast.

Looking forward to seeing you,

Angel

Hall of HonorH

MWC "The Dragon"

Posted By: Titania <rthogan@gte.net>
Date:
Monday, 5 February 2001, at 6:29 p.m.

"What…what is it?" Amanda asked, unsuccessfully trying to keep the fear out of her voice.

The creature in the cage was unlike anything Amanda had seen before. It was like something you'd find in a fairy tale. A very scary fairy tale.

It was large, at least 2 meters long, most definitely longer. Its body was covered in scales that glistened in the afternoon sun. It kept thrashing its gigantic tail while it charged the cage door. A horrific noise escaped its flat head. Then a long tongue shot from its mouth. Amanda moved out of the way just in time.

Korda laughed. "Afraid of a little dragon are you?" he asked with a sneer.

"Now Andre" Amanda soothed, putting on the best of her charm "My experience with dragons has been a little limited up until now. Something to do with St. George slaying the last of them..."

Korda smiled and laughed. "You are the charmer. Do not let this one cause you any more fright. He has us to fear now. There's nothing to better prepare oneself for battle than to feast on dragon!"

MWC: Fetch

Posted By: Daire
Date:
Monday, 5 February 2001, at 4:47 p.m.

With Richie and Tessa safely on their way back home, Duncan turned to check out Watcher Pallin Wolf's computer records. An eerie feeling came over him, but he discounted it, Wolf's home wasn't exactly mainstream. What with all the animal heads...trophies...hanging on the wall. They could have been symbolic of the number of Immortal heads Wolf had taken, and Duncan's was next.

Thankfully, he had beaten the mortal. Now Tessa was safe with Richie.

He didn't know what made him look up, but he did, and there stood Tessa waiting for him. She should have been with Richie on their way home. He smiled at his lover, and told her he wouldn't be much longer and he'd be on his way. She seemed to nod almost imperceptibly as he turned his gaze back to the computer screen.

In the next instance, he heard a gunshot, then two more. Tessa. Richie. Perhaps Tessa would be all right, she couldn't have gotten outside that quickly.

His heart racing, Duncan nearly flew down the stairs and out to the street, slowing at the sight before him. There lay Tessa's lifeless body; Richie's a few feet away.

MWC -- Passing Through the Fire

Posted By: MacNairCDC
Date:
Monday, 12 February 2001, at 11:17 a.m.

MWC a week or so ago was "an immortal encounter with something supernatural". I loved seeing everyone's entry -- great stuff! A week later, out of the blue, my Muses took off! Hope you like it.

&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&

Passing Through The Fire [Missing Person - part one]

~ ~ Some things are born in the blood. Others are born through fire. The very rare are birthed in both. -- Duncan MacLeod. ~ ~

* Monday *

The phone call came at 2:35 am, rousing Duncan straight out of a dreamless sleep and into apprehension. Who would be calling at this time of morning, if it was not trouble? He was completely alert when he picked up the receiver … but alertness was no shield against the words on the phone in a stranger’s voice.

“And here I thought a Scot nearly five centuries old would be a challenge,” came the refined tones. “Your kinsman was as pitiful in a fight as he was in his life.” Click, the phone went dead in his ear.

Duncan was on his feet, towering in helpless rage and fear over the nightstand that supported his phone. The brick walls easily contained his shouted threat and the whispered entreaty that followed it. He sat down on the bed and stared at the tapestry opposite of him while he dialed in the darkness, fingers punching numbers by memory and long usage. Ringing, ringing, ringing, ringing, ringing … without an answer.

* Tuesday *

Walking through the deserted New York loft searching for clues, Duncan paused to regard the photo hanging near Connor MacLeod’s desk. It was a picture of himself, laughing over some poorly told joke of his mentor’s. How his older clansman managed to reduce a perfectly tuned pun to tatters, he would never know … and it dawned upon him that his kinsman likely slaughtered the telling and punch line of them because it was funnier to Duncan than the actual joke ever was. Connor drew merriment like a lightning rod when he was in Duncan’s company.

The calendar was blank. The answering machine held nothing but a telemarketer’s voice. The bed was disturbed as if his old friend had been roused abruptly out of sleep without time to tidy it and Duncan swore viciously at the sight. Connor was an old sea captain; he always kept his things neatly. The dark immortal, boots scuffing softly on the wood floor, heaved open the pocket door to the Rotunda and gazed in a circle at the treasure of the elder Highlander’s life.

Nothing amiss.

It took an hour to break into his computer, using every known code and ancient nickname they had ever tossed at one another in their 400 years of kinship to gain entrance.

Nothing.

The phone rang and the Highlander winced at the shrillness echoing in the abandoned loft. He let the machine pick it up and lunged for the receiver as the voice on the line came across:

“Looking for a corpse, are you?”

“Where are you,” demanded Duncan. “Name the place.”

“Ah-ah-ahhh. So eager to rush to the same fate as old Connor?” mocked the voice. “Tsk, tsk, tsk. You didn’t learn very well – or was he just not a very good teacher?”

Click.

Duncan swore in fury and hurled the phone across the room.

* Wednesday *

The next call was in the middle of the night like the very first one. Duncan burrowed out from the sheets that still held Connor’s scent of cologne and whisky to answer it. He hardly noticed that he reached for both his katana and the phone at the same time.

“Curled up in his covers, are you? Do you smell the fear he left on them when he knew it was me coming to call?”

“Are you tired of playing the mouse yet or do you always squeak this much before facing the lion?” Duncan sullenly baited back. Sword in hand, surrounded by his clansman’s possessions, the younger MacLeod had no fear of any man. If Connor was truly gone, this was just the first step on a long deadly hunt. He could feel the burn in his blood already beginning.

“Ahh, a little spunk from the cub? Very good,” returned the clever voice. “You really should have been there to hear him scream. I broke all of his fingers when I had him down -- one at a time -- just to hear it over again.”

Click.

Duncan put the katana away and curled up again to rest, wishing the pillow next to him was burdened with a familiar profile and breath. He hugged his arms around himself and dreamed of a hundred dawns waking with a missing person … and all of his fingers were whole.

At daybreak, the younger Scot caught the first plane back home after locking up and resetting the alarms at the Hudson Street address. If an immortal had baited Connor out and now was prank-calling to harass Duncan, there was no need to stay at the elder Highlander’s place … his tormentor would follow. He might as well be home where he could train and ready himself.

Sure enough, the phone calls began within an hour of his arrival back in Seacouver: taunts and words aimed to rattle his nerves and play on his grief. Duncan began hanging up and unplugging the phone for various lengths of time, reversing the frustration.

He had no time for grief -- not yet. No tears, no reminiscing, no pouring through old letters and photographs to laugh and weep alternately. No dealing with the terrible dark ache he knew waited for him somewhere inside once this was settled.

There was a payment to be made in blood and he trained and fought mental opponents for hours preparing to exact that price. Retribution kept every shred of grief from permeating his body and every tendril of sorrow that crept into his mind he sparred to a standstill in preparation for a showdown. He slept in exhausted oblivion night after night, waiting.

The taunts went on and he compartmentalized them without tumbling their horror around in his head. Celts were notoriously set in their ways and Duncan refused to allow himself to be rattled. He did some of his own taunting right back.

* Saturday *

They finally faced each other in the wilderness, surrounded by trees and rocks and wildness. Duncan spared the briefest thought that he may fail at this task for the man opposite him was built powerfully and exuded strength. They were unevenly matched in height and obvious muscle mass, but the Highlander was powered by single-minded purpose.

No immortal was going to hold Connor for long before Duncan took him back. He belonged to him; they belonged to each other by name and the lightning that sang in their blood. It was a matter of Clan vengeance – of tribal retribution. When a warrior fell, there was always a coup to be fought for and won. He would try even if it cost him his life in the end.

The struggle was titanic. The ground was torn up and bloodied, young pines hacked down and boulders gashed by steel. Duncan streamed crimson from a score of cuts. All of his skill was pressed to its fullest and he fought within the mental framework trained into him by centuries of battle.

The deadly process of thrust, parry, lunge and counter move all took place within him as well as without as he fell into the pace; planning ahead by a score of moves even as he launched the present ones. Variables altered his next motions, each categorized instantly and he changed his steps and sword strikes as they came. Powered by determination and leashed rage, the Highlander lived inside the blazing heat of an immortal warrior: a beautifully choreographed dance of death.

Unrelenting, unheeding, indomitable, burning with bloodlust and unaware of such petty things as fear and pain and thought beyond the present fight; Duncan was completely given up to revenge. He would have Connor's last essence.

It was only the superior power of the quickening, overwhelming and submerging him that finally pulled Duncan from that deep place within himself where the fight was powered and orchestrated. Streams of agony and thrills of ecstasy warred and washed over him, sending him staggering off the bank and into the river that meandered heedlessly through the battle zone. The icy water and burning lightning jerked his attention around until he found focus and searched through the pattern for the signature of something familiar.

Connor? Duncan’s inward cry sounded. Where are you, brother?

Nothing answered.

CONNOR! more desperate, pleading and aching as the quickening began to fade and settle towards the dimness within him. Brother come, before it’s too late! Show yourself!

Nothing remained of the elder MacLeod.

Not a tendril of his essence held its shape. The lightning wound down, losing power and slowing in its strike pattern. Duncan cried aloud with the terrible loss and opened his eyes to see the courses of fire billowing through the scenery around him…

… and saw him! In the fire, long coat open and his head up: Connor MacLeod, walking. Duncan was completely mute, staring.

“Why are you looking for me here, Dhonnchaidh? I am not among the dead,” came the surreal accented voice.

The Highlander in the water staggered, stunned, and went down in a heap, bumping down the current on rocks until swept to the bank again. By the time he waded ashore, both the fire and lightning were gone and with them went Connor’s apparition.

* Monday *

The email was short and cryptic, much like the terse elder MacLeod was when a little perturbed.

** What the hell are you doing? **

Duncan typed right back: **Checking your head. It’s a dirty job but someone has to do it.** He could have sworn he heard the old man laugh from wherever in the world he was. A clever pun delivered true, but on his own end Duncan put his face in his hands to thwart the wash of relieved tears.

End part one.

Passing Through The Fire [Missing Person - part two]

~ ~ Dig within yourself for the truth and it will come bubbling out. But only if you dig for it. -- Connor MacLeod. ~ ~

* Wednesday*

Connor was banging on his door within the week, unshaven and his hair unkempt. When Duncan opened it, the elder MacLeod reached for the stronger man and pulled him into a bear hug, folding his arms around Duncan in such a fashion as to temporarily give the impression of a blanket. For a moment, the younger Scot merely stood in the circle of it like a child surrounded by the moon or caught up inside an angel’s wings: content and peaceful and safe.

“What the hell happened, Duncan?”

“Some bastard was hounding me. He said he killed you.”

“You believed him?”

“I went to your place. It was deserted and your bed was unmade. I didn’t find any clues as to where you had gone.”

“All this from an unmade bed?”

“He knew where to find me and what would bait me.”

“I can’t be your price, Duncan!”

“Am I still yours?”

No answer.

“Quit riding me because I care, kinsman.”

“Quit caring so much that it puts you at risk, Duncan!” Connor retorted, releasing his grip. They stared, eye to eye, weighing each other and the words spoken. “Some day it will come, Dhonnchaidh, and you won’t be able to prevent it and you will take on more than you can handle,” the elder MacLeod said softly.

Duncan snarled right into his face, “Shut the hell up Connor. I won’t live false to myself!” It was a curious juxtaposition: the fierce visage of the younger immortal while at the same time he impulsively hugged the smaller Scot again, as if trying to verify that he truly was alive.

The elder endured the embrace without qualms: he knew exactly what this was. He had seen it in the chestnut eyes that had initially met his own. Duncan had feared him dead … fought to redeem his quickening for himself and found it not so. It was the living man that Duncan most needed to see, to touch, to hear. And Connor was definitely living.

They went inside. Duncan threw together a meal and Connor ate voraciously as usual and without comment. When it was over, they sat and relaxed and picked at their teeth with toothpicks, catching up on trivial news before the next round.

“Duncan,” Connor began, sitting close with his long fingers dangling off one knee, “you can’t hunt someone down simply because I lose a fight.”

<

“And you can’t tell me how to live,” the younger Scot grumbled back.

“And that’s precisely my point – I want you to live!”

“Then don’t get yourself killed!”

The old Highlander sighed. This was a pointless and circular argument. If he lost a fight, Duncan would hunt down his killer no matter what to avenge him and take possession of his quickening. It was a noble and touching thought, but that didn’t change the fact that it put the younger MacLeod at risk. How did I get to be such a focal point in this man’s life? I’m just the immortal who happened to be the first one to find him. Duncan is strong and wise and good. A born leader. Not like me.

As if to answer the unspoken thoughts, Duncan looked him fully in the face and spoke aloud: “there are a lot of people who call me friend and come looking for me to be strong for them. I can do that Connor; be the leader and be their strength when they need it.” He paused. “But only if there is one man in this world who can be my strength, my shade tree to rest beneath. Something solid to lean against when I’m tired and overwhelmed. I can carry all the rest of them … if you can just carry me.”

Connor felt as if he had taken a hammer in the chest, stealing his breath and pulse away. I knew all of this. I’ve known all along. I just didn’t realize that he knew. There weren’t any words to say and so he sat silent and gazed back at this man who had come full circle: protégé, kinsman, friend and brother. Sat and watched until the younger man ceased his inward muttering and registered that he had been heard.

“He said he hurt you, Connor,” Duncan whispered.

“He never even saw me. I was in Germany.”

“He said he broke all of your fingers to listen to you scream.”

Connor reached and placed his hand across Duncan’s. “My fingers are fine.”

“He said he burned your eyes out.”

“There’s nothing wrong with my eyes.”

One by one, cataloguing each injury aloud, Duncan drew out from behind the barred door in his mind the hideous words that he had been taunted with over the course of a week. Connor rejected each one until there was nothing left but the truth and when it was done, the nightmare was finally over. Duncan thumped him solidly on the back hard enough to pop his eyes wide and laughed wild and boyishly in the release of his tension and fear and rage.

They got roaring drunk and played cards and told stupid jokes made even worse by botched punch lines. They caught up in all the comings and goings of immortals through their respective towns. Duncan showed off a bevy of photographs and Connor switched from dialect to dialect in his inebriated state until the younger man swore at him because he was using four languages at once. They raided the pantry for all the snacks and fought over the chocolate. They toasted fallen friends and comrades and gazed blearily and silently at the fire.

Slowly winding down into exhaustion, Connor crawled into bed with his clothes on … it was the diligent younger Highlander who exasperatingly tugged the filthy sneakers off and put them on the floor. He stood over him for a moment, deep in thought, before piling the covers over his clansman and then settling himself down to sleep. There were no phone calls and no dreams -- just peaceful rest.

And in the morning, Duncan woke beside a missing person … and all of his fingers were whole.

MacNair
2/7/01

*** Story inspired by Fru, and powered by Muses who smiled knowingly the instant Duncan MacLeod ‘sensed’ something was amiss while performing a kata in Endgame. ***

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