Summary: After the events of Archangel, MacLeod is lured to Las Vegas.
Disclaimer: Highlander belongs to Davis/Panzer Productions.
Warnings: Violence, canonical character death, and communing with ancient evil
Original Story: Desert Mirage by teresa_c
The city is a green stain on the desert. It was built by men with dreams beyond avarice and pockets full of blood money. Sin City they called it, as if to entice me.
I have been worshiped under dozens of names through the ages, all across the globe. But no chant has brought me more pleasure than the clanging of slot machines and the moans of whores. No incense smells sweeter than the desperate sweat of those losing their life savings at the tables. The desert holds the bones of those who look too far beneath the glittering surface.
The city feeds my power. For now I am but a whisper in the mind. A brief vision to madden or deceive. Once I was more, and shall be again. Soon. Very soon.
I have drawn Duncan MacLeod to my city. I can taste his Quickening. Fear of me. Fear of his own madness. Rage turned inward. Guilt. Despair. He bears the mark of Cain, brand of the Kin-Slayer. There are other ways to destroy a Champion, but none more satisfying.
It needed only a whisper for him to take the boy in. But for the Champion to kill Richie Ryan – that was something I took pride in. My first attempt, Garrick's sending of horror, was too easily shaken off. My second was a Dark Quickening. Ah, the Champion had come so close then. A mortal and Immortal had worked together to rescue the Champion from himself. Ryan's head remained on his shoulders. But I was patient. After all, Duncan MacLeod had taken the head of a friend.
Mortals these days know little of the energies surrounding them. But even they say, "Third time's the charm." The third time, my own strength amplified by the approach of the Millennium, raised by the power of Three, I was more direct. The Dead are mine, and MacLeod had enemies clamoring for vengeance from beyond the grave. I revealed myself to the Champion. Gifted the two who hated him most the power to appear to MacLeod in visions, to tease and torment him. The fierce warrior responded according to his nature, with his sword. It wasn't difficult to lead the boy right into its killing stroke.
It is a memory I treasure. The beginning of a Millennium of triumphs.
The Champion pauses to watch the eruption of a false volcano. It reminds me of Vesuvius; the proud citizens of Rome choking to death on terror and ash. He enters the Mirage casino, drawn into its maw with the tourists. He sits down at the bar and orders some water. I send out a call and create a vision. The Champion asks the bartender for a Scotch when he senses its approach.
The Immortal lover first - Amanda. She is sleek and elegant, quicksilver in temperament but caring. The Champion seeks comfort from her. I deny it.
The Amanda-vision grieves for sweet young Richie. Fails to hide her fear of the Champion before her. She warns him of a non-existent manhunt in France, to keep him from his friends there. Feeds the Champion's doubts about his own sanity. It is a fine performance, and once the vision leaves him Duncan MacLeod orders another drink.
Yes, drink, Champion. Dull the pain. Dull your senses. Dull your wits. Make this easy. I allow him time to down four more shots of whiskey before my next visitation.
The Immortal friend should be second - Methos. I recognized this Immortal from an earlier age. He was once a servant of mine, unknowing but effective. Perhaps he will be again. Adaptable, that one. Cunning. Gifted in inflicting terror. Fearful of powers beyond his ken. Already he tries to hide himself from me, a terrible suspicion building in his mind.
The Methos-vision taunts the Champion with the boy's death, just a touch crueler than the original would ever be. He reminds MacLeod of the day they first met, each offering the other his head. The distrust of a sword-brother is a deadly blow. I can feel the Champion start to crumble. His self-doubt is a heady elixir.
I take a moment to celebrate. In a sumptuous suite above the Champion's head, I guide a sobbing woman's hand to a bottle of pills. In a green velvet room, an honest cop is poised on the edge of a decision. A gentle push, and he accepts his first envelope.
In an alleyway behind the casino, a man leans back against the wall, a boy on his knees before him. With a whisper, the man acts on his true desire, hurling the boy to the ground. A knife glints in the low light. Blood spatters. The boy's screams echo through the alleyway. On the well-lit street beyond a couple hear his agonized cries. They hesitate, and then hurry away from the alleyway. Ah, Las Vegas.
I occupy the killer's mind for a moment, reveling in his dark joy as the light fades from his prey's eyes. He caresses the open wounds with trembling, excited hands. It was too quick, but I can teach him to make it last, next time. I return my attention to the bar.
A mortal approaches, a faint hint of power to her. I fold the Methos-vision away before she can reveal the deception. The Champion knows her. Her interruption is not welcome. I whisper fear to her, but she feels nothing. The hand of the Other protects her. He is subtle, always, but strong.
The mortal recalls the Champion's lost love, and then reads his past, present, and future in the Tarot. The mortal warns him of illusions and evil. She tries to give him hope and tells him to leave my city.
Finally, I sense Cassandra's approach. Few can see the dark magic boiling under her fair countenance. But the little mortal – she looks, she sees, she flees.
No matter. I will find her, once the Champion falls.
There are so few these days with Cassandra's power, her training. And of those, none with her purity of hatred, polished over thousands of years. The plans she has for the Champion and his Methos are inspiring.
Humans, both mortal and Immortal, are far more imaginative in their cruelty than I. Without my influence, those depths are often mirrored by heights of compassion. Once the Millennium is mine, the balance will shift. Humanity has reshaped the world in the last handful of decades. I am eager to see what they can do with their new toys under my guidance.
MacLeod is confused and suspicious. He was expecting his mortal friend Joe next. He was bound in the pattern of my visions, but the mortal card-reader has disrupted it.
Cassandra denies the prophecies she made to the Champion when he was a boy. She says he is not chosen. Just delusional and dangerous.
MacLeod stands up and leaves the bar. I create a vision of his Immortal teacher on the Strip to lure him, but he slips away.
The Champion has been warned. He escapes my city and retreats across the sea, to Holy Ground where I cannot see or influence him. It will make no difference. He will be mine. The Champion, and then the World.
In the alleyway, the man carves a keepsake from his sacrifice's corpse. In the desert beyond the city, a vulture lands on the glassed-sand of the testing ground where mortals brought a new purging fire to the world.
I am impatient for my Millenium to begin.