Summary: Rumors of her death were greatly exaggerated. She’s spent the last 3,000 years in search of power, and she has her sites set on the man who can help her get it.
Disclaimer: I own nothing; please don’t sue. This is just a wicked idea I had and couldn’t get out of my head.
Emerald eyes watched Duncan MacLeod winding his way down the street. His grace and the confidence of his stride pleased Arabella Nuthroe. The Highlander would suit her purposes nicely – if she could get past his annoying habit of having a conscience. But, considering the interesting little tidbits of information she’d found on his activities a couple of months before, the task didn’t seem too difficult.
A self-satisfied smile crept over Arabella’s countenance as she remembered how she’d found Duncan in the first place. The Watchers as they called themselves, a pitiful band of mortals who followed her kind, were foolish enough to build a database of every known Immortal – complete with histories. She’d discovered their existence several decades back, but largely ignored them until she needed information. After she heard about the database, it was easy enough to hack into and take what she needed. Amusingly, Arabella had stumbled across her own file. The stupid mortals didn’t realize they had her origins completely wrong. They’d swallowed the name and history she’d fed her second teacher a full century after her first death!
Arabella followed the younger Highlander, careful to stay out of range of their sixth sense, and watched as he joined a thin young man at a table outside a small café. Seeing her “chance meeting” slip out of her grasp, Arabella started to leave but the familiarity of the other man stopped her once she’d gotten a good look at his face. Her eyes widened in shock as memories began to surface.
She watched the men before her though she paid them little attention, distracted by her own thoughts. It seemed impossible not to smile when things were finally going her way. After four hundred years, she was a queen again, albeit the country was different, but she didn’t care. More than anything, it was wealth, power, and the appreciative looks of men she craved, and she had them once again. These mortals were so easy to manipulate. One little murder, and everything just fell into place.
Her current husband, Alexander, hadn’t had the stomach for what had to be done. He wasn’t opposed to killing, he was the leader of an army after all; he just didn’t have what it took to order the death of his father. So, she’d had to take matters into her own hands as always. It was easy enough to set up with a fair amount of anonymity. No matter the country, no matter the time, there was always at least one servant discontented enough to end the life of their master if shown how to do so. And now, Alexander was crowned king, and she was a queen again.
A new warrior took the field, his name called as one of the commanders in Alexander’s army. He wasn’t an overly large man, but she knew better than to underestimate such a soldier. She remembered hearing Alexander speak of this one, praising him for his tactical mind, fearlessness, and unfettered ferocity on the battlefield. She watched with rapt attention as the largest and arguably the most skilled of Alexander’s warrior’s took the field like Goliath to the other’s David, and the match began. Such a duel hadn’t been seen since Achilles faced Hector outside the walls of Troy. Her heart pounded in her chest as the smaller man evaded the other’s sword, employing techniques she’d never encountered in her long life, and eventually struck the finishing blow.
It was fortunate the combatants fought with blunted blades. Good, battle seasoned troops with the ability to plan tactically sound strikes were too valuable to waste entertaining the king and his guests at the coronation feast. Otherwise, one of Alexander’s generals would now lie in the dust – headless – instead of merely bruised. The Immortal woman licked her suddenly dry lips, realizing before the victor came within her range that he was one of her kind.
Arabella shook herself and fastidiously turned her attention to the storefront beside her. It had been centuries since she’d encountered another Immortal of her age, and the experience shook her. She rifled through her memories of her time with Alexander the Great, all the while doing an impression of an earnest window shopper. Perhaps her decision of approaching Duncan was a bit premature. What she couldn’t do with the aide of an Immortal of her own caliber, and one capable of such wonderful things as she remembered of him!
She ducked into the shop, deciding she needed a bit more time to think and wanting to prevent the other ancient from becoming suspicious. Perusing the trinkets for something that caught her eye, Arabella went through the list of her past routes to power. Nero, Attilla the Hun, William the Conqueror, Tokugawa Ieyasu, Napoleon, Rasputin, Hitler, and so many others lost to time or simply too painful to think about. She’d gained power over them all the same way she had her first husband. How fortunate her first death had occurred before her beauty had faded!
Arabella purchased an exquisite but vastly overpriced designer bag without the intention of actually using it for anything other than a prop for now – and to sell at auction in perfect condition for three times the price in a century or two. Then, having her purchase for creditability in the event the other ancient Immortal noticed her watching before, Arabella stepped out of the shop and made her way toward the two men now enjoying their orders.
She slowed her steps as she felt the presence of the other Immortals and cast her eyes about warily as if she didn’t expect to encounter another of her kind. Duncan and the ancient she knew as Intrales did the same. Three pairs of eyes locked and silent recognition passed between them, a slight tensing of muscles hidden by layers of clothes against the early spring chill their only reaction. Arabella walked closer, watching for any sign of recognition in the elder’s eyes.
“Roxane,” he said with a voice still as smooth as honey. “It’s been a long time.”
“Very,” she agreed. “It’s Arabella Nuthroe these days,” she added as she accepted his offered hand.
“Of course,” the ancient agreed, placing a chaste kiss on the back of her hand. “Adam Pierson.”
Duncan discretely cleared his throat, quietly asking for an introduction. He looked somewhat amused by the older two Immortals’ behavior. Adam’s mouth dropped open for a moment and he umed before he spoke. Arabella took it this was part of the persona he’d taken for Adam Pierson; he had never hesitated as Intrales. So, she simply smiled and enjoyed the ease with which he changed his mannerisms.
“Duncan, this is Roxane, the beloved wife of Alexander the Great,” he introduced. “And this, is Duncan MacLeod.”
“The younger Highlander?” Arabella feigned surprise as she shook his offered hand. “I’ve heard much about you.”
“Good I hope,” he returned.
“As always, that depends on who you ask,” she teased. “I’m sure we all have as many enemies as we have friends.”
The two men grunted their agreement, Duncan standing to pull out a chair for her. She slid gracefully into it, dropping her shopping bag beside her chair with an auditable thunk.
“What brings you to Paris?” Adam asked.
“Shopping of course,” she joked. “That and updating my French. Languages change so quickly these days.”
“And in the worst ways,” Adam agreed, his voice carrying his trademark ruthful edge.
“What about you two?”
“Work,” both men answered at the same time.
“Really?” she pushed. “Doing what?”
“Antiques dealing,” Duncan answered while Adam admitted to doing research without saying what he was researching or for whom.
“To each their own,” Arabella continued. “I’ve never been one to look back.”
“What do you do then?” Adam asked. “When you’re not shopping or working on your French?”
“I write,” she answered. “Mostly mystery and romance novels, then publish them ‘posthumously.’”
“I suppose you would have a lot to draw from,” Adam drawled over Duncan’s chuckling. “Woman like you, must have spent centuries in one court or another.”
“A few,” she answered with a dismissive wave of her hand. “Though life among the middle class as become much more interesting in the past century or two. Wouldn’t you agree?”
“Much more,” Duncan agreed and rolled his eyes.
“I try to avoid interesting,” Adam stated. “Tends to be safer.”
“This from the great Intrales?” Arabella teased, unable to keep the disbelief out of her voice. “I thought you a warrior.”
“I changed,” Adam shrugged, his eyes turning cold if only for a split second. “I suppose you're still a spoiled princess?”
Arabella leaned forward, reaching out to trail one finger along Adam’s jaw and favoring him with a smoldering stare. “Only when I’m treated as one,” she said, letting her voice grow husky with practiced ease. “We’re chameleons you and I. It’s how we’ve lived this long.”
Methos slid into the chair across the table from Roxane, or Arabella, or whatever she called herself. He’d done a bit of research after returning from the café earlier that afternoon, and he was sure the “true” name listed in her chronicle was as fake as all the others. The woman had a penitent for lying. That much had been clear back in Macedonia. But, more interestingly, she seemed completely inamored of fame and power. How she’d lived so long was a mystery to Methos, but he was more curious about her sudden interest in MacLeod.
“I was beginning to worry you wouldn’t come,” Roxane smiled. “I took the liberty of ordering us something to drink. I hope beer’s acceptable.”
“Yes, of course,” Methos agreed, forcing himself to smile warmly. Perhaps he’d been wrong about her interest in MacLeod. No, no. It was a simple enough guess given his current persona. Adam Pierson wasn’t the type of guy to drink anything else, even if he could afford it on a regular basis. “I’m sorry I kept you waiting.”
“Don’t think of it,” she answered and waved her hand as if dismissing the thought altogether. “I’ve gotten used to waiting over the centuries.” Her demeanor eased its formality and she leaned in over the table. “So, tell me, is Duncan your student?”
“MacLeod?” he asked, eyebrows arching toward his hairline in real surprise. “I’ve tried to impart the occasional lesson, but the overgrown boy scout’s too stubborn to learn,” he half-growled. A grin tugged at the corner of his mouth and a wicked glint came to his eyes as he saw an opening. He leaned in conspiratorially before he asked, “What about you? Any students?”
“Of the Immortal sort?” she asked and he nodded. “No, not for a while. I usually have more of a tendency to take mortals under my tutelage.” Her voice became more excited as she got into her explanation. “They just start to learn and ‘poof.’ They’re dead. How can they ever be great if we don’t teach them?”
“Oh, really,” Methos drawled. “And what exactly did you teach Hitler?”
“Oh,” Roxane exclaimed, shock evident not only in her voice but her expression as well. Methos inwardly smirked. He loved throwing someone off balance, but his glee was short lived as she recovered her composure. “You’ve discovered the Watchers’ database,” she whispered, all awed female.
“I helped build it,” Methos grumbled, pulling up his sleeve just enough to show her the tattoo he bore on his wrist.
“You joined them?” she gasped. “Didn’t they recognize you?”
Methos chuckled and slumped back in his chair, unable to fight the temptation to show a little well deserved arrogance. “They’re somewhat divided on the subject of me,” he crowed. “Some think I’m still out there somewhere, but most of them believe I’m long dead. You won’t find me in the database, not just because I didn’t include anything on myself, but the Watcher’s lost track of me a long time ago.”
“Brilliant,” she cooed. “Absolutely brilliant.”
“You never answered my question,” Methos steered the conversation back where he wanted it to go. Roxane’s head jerked back slightly and she blinked at him before he elaborated. “What’d you have to do with Hitler?”
“He was a nutcase before I met him,” she answered primly. “I should have killed him outright, but…” she trailed off gesturing wildly with one hand while she searched for the right words. “I’m ashamed of my weakness, but I was so angry then despite the centuries. Some of us have a little trouble getting over our first life.”
“Oh?” Methos prompted. “I figured you were some type of princess.”
“I was Queen of Israel,” she hissed, turning her chin up as if insulted. “And how was I rewarded?”
Palace at Jezreel
“Jehu is coming!”
She started when she heard the cry ringing through the halls and rose up immediately. Her life was forfeit, and she knew it. She was the wife of the old king and the new one was at the door. Death did not frighten her, but she wasn’t ready to give up.
Her hands trembled slightly as she reached for her brush to paint her eyes, but the weakness didn’t show through, practiced skill guided her hands as she completed the task and adorned her head. She crossed the room and flung the window open to lean out.
“Is it peace, Zimri, murderer of your master?” she called down to the man entering the gates.
His attention snapped to her, his eyes blazing with distaste and hatred, and he snarled. She watched as he pulled himself straighter atop his mount, and her heart filled with dread when she heard him call out, “Who is on my side? Who?” And, when several of the servants answered, he ordered them to throw her down.
Her heart pounded in her ears as she turned to run. She only made it a little ways down the corridor when three eunuchs grabbed her. The former queen struggled, screamed, and fought to free herself, but she was unable to break their hold. They took her back to the upper room, to the window, and tossed her from it as if she was garbage!
Awful, burning pain throughout her body greeted her as she sucked air back into her lungs. She became aware of the stench and growls of dogs even as one tugged on the flesh of her arm. Fear turning her heart to ice, she flailed at the beast, only to see a small blue spark jump from the gaping wound to strike the dog’s nose. The mangy animal yelped and backed away, as did the others, deciding to be satisfied with the blood sprayed against the wall of Jezreel.
She looked up, seeing the window above still standing open and Jehu nowhere in sight. Terror gripped her as realization struck. There was no way she could have survived such a fall!
A tiny frightened gasp to her right dispelled the terror and redirected it as anger toward the young woman who had witnessed her revival. The servant girl’s face carried a hint of sympathy as her eyes dropped to the raw, bloody mess of her limbs where the dogs had begun nibbling at her flesh, and she made the mistake of moving to help the former queen. Knowing Jehu would hunt her down if he didn’t believe her dead, the queen lashed out with the only thing she could think of through her confusion. She grasped the girl’s throat with both hands and squeezed even as she realized it wasn’t a servant but one of her former husband, Ahab’s daughters by one concubine or another. It didn’t matter. The girl struggled for a moment, but eventually went still, and she threw the body to the waiting mouths of the dogs.
“You were Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal, king of the Sidonians?” Methos asked. It took every ounce of control he’d earned over the millennia to mask his disgust. He’d already discovered the woman was an Immortal harlot, selling herself for power, but even he hadn’t guessed the depths to which she would sink. If her lust for power and contempt for mortal law weren’t enough, her bigotry and utter lack of morals as evidenced by history were sickening. How could she still be bitter after nearly 3,000 years? Hadn’t she come to understand? Her actions would have warranted death in most countries over the world in the present age, and such actions were all too common in the old.
“I’ve been horribly misrepresented,” she huffed, lifting her chin proudly as she turned her head to the side. “I was only serving my gods, and that horrible little man had the nerve to judge me!”
“And what would Naboth say?” Methos drawled.
“He refused the will of his king,” Jezebel answered defensively. “Besides, my husband wouldn’t eat without that vineyard. What was I supposed to do? Let the king starve himself to death?” She watched him with her emerald eyes narrowed, daring him to contradict her. Oh, he was greatly tempted, but he prolonged the silence, waiting for her to continue or change the subject.
After a moment, Jezebel settled again, putting on a mask of normalcy as the waiter brought their drinks and took Methos’ order.
“I’ve seen you fight,” she began again after the waiter left. “You can’t tell me you’ve never done something similar.” She paused a moment, sipping at her cocktail. “So, tell me about your first death. An encounter with the Horsemen?”
“What makes you think that?” Methos asked warily.
“They were running rampant throughout the known world in our time,” she answered. “I’m sure they helped many a pre-immortal into their immortality.”
Methos watched as she waited expectantly for his answer, finally knowing for sure that her interest lay not in MacLeod but in him, even if the boy scout had been the one to attract her originally. She seemed inordinately interested in his militaristic past, and that unsettled him. What was she after? He had his suspicions, but he could only think of one way to find out without wasting precious time.
“We usually just killed the males outright,” he answered, absently watching her reaction as he took a swig of his drink. He took another hard pull to force back the bile that rose in his throat at the mixture of shock, awe, and joy ghosting over her face. “Every now and then, one would show enough promise to let live, but mostly it was the women. We liked having slaves that couldn’t die, especially if they didn’t know what they were.” Methos pulled the memories of those days to the forefront, using them to make his expression wistful even though he often wished those were the memories he had lost over the years.
“You were one of them?” Jezebel breathed.
Methos turned his head slowly to regard her with a menacing expression. “I was Death.”
“You were amazing,” she cooed slowly bring her hand to rest on his own. “Riding freely wherever you pleased with the world trembling at your feet! Why’d you ever stop?”
“Boredom,” Methos drawled. He had an unsettling idea of where this was going, but he found it hard to believe. “When you’ve sacked, raped, plundered, and burned one pathetic village, you’ve sacked, raped, plundered, and burned them all. It got very old after a thousand years.”
“Imagine what you could do today?” Jezebel whispered. “With all the time and knowledge and money and power at our disposal.” She giggled, her demeanor giddy. “All the world would bow before us, paying tribute as to gods!”
A localized electrical storm started several minor fires in the small park across from the bistro that night.
Methos pushed himself off the ground. The exertion from the short battle and the heat from the nearby fires left him drenched in sweat as he recovered from the aftereffects of the quickening. She had been surprisingly weak for an ancient, and the fight ended barely five minutes after it began. A noise from the shadows caught the old man’s attention, and he turned to search it out. Five large, half-starved dogs wondered in from every direction, their eyes trained on the headless form lying prone on the bloodstained grass.
Methos shouldered his sword and backed away as the dogs descended upon the body to devour it. A wry smile crept over his face as he bid the cursed woman ado and ventured into the night toward home with one thought ringing in his mind.
Not even immortality can spare you from the will of the I AM.
Not familiar with the story of Jezebel? The infamous temptress' story is recorded in I Kings 16: 29 - II Kings 9:37.
Thank you for reading. Please, let me know what you think.