Spoilers: Buffy to end, the Highlander Movies up to and including Endgame.

By the Sword, part 1: Head-hunter

She ran along the dark alleyway, her feet kicking up the puddles as he passed, her heart heating loud in her ear. Her hand gripped the curve-bladed Scimitar so hard her finger nails cut the palm of her hand. She glanced at the street-sign as she passed it, relieved to find that she was only moments away from safety. The lights of the Church came into view, offering the one thing she needed most: sanctuary.

Then she heard it again, the sound of someone following her, getting closer. She speed up, fear lending her extra speed. Just a few feet more and she'd be on holy ground, safe. She felt a tingle as she passed over the boundary, and relaxed, lowering her sword. She took a few deep breaths, hands on knees. The sudden silence was almost deafening. She span round, looking for her antagonist, but there was nothing there.

The sharp pain of the sword passing through her back out her rib-cage drove what little air remain from her lungs, and she was helpless as she felt herself lifted off the ground and carried back across the church boundary and dropped to the ground. Struggling the breath, she looked round to see a huge Vampire standing behind her, the long broadsword it held dripping with her blood. She was dead: there was no way she would heal quickly enough to fight back.

"Well, well, well, you lead us on a merry chase, didn't you?" A voice from the shadows asked, light reflecting of another blade, "What's the matter Isis my dear? Vampire got your tongue?"

"Annie?" The bleeding woman asked, the shadow figure finally coming into view, "Why?"

"I've grown inpatient of waiting for the Gathering." The taller woman smiled, "I want the prize now." Her arm blurred as it moved, her sword decapitating Isis like a hot knife through butter.

Blue lightning emanated from the cauterized wound, creeping across the ground. It earthed it's self in a nearby streetlight, the bold exploding in a shower of sparks. It touched a parked car, the windows and headlights exploding insistently. Annie lifted her sword above her head, holding it tight with both hands as the lightning reached her, almost lifting her off the ground.

Then, as quickly as it had started, it was over.

"What a rush!" Annie stretched, feeling the new flow of energy in her body.

"What about the body?" The Vampire asked.

"What? That? Leave it or eat it, it's all the same to me. But hurry: LA waits for no one."

"Good lord!" Giles looked at the paper, "Someone got Isis!"

"Who?" Buffy asked, sipping at her coffee, relaxing in the kitchen of the Hyperion Hotel.

"Isis Aziz, an Immortal I trained. She was found just outside a church about 100-miles from here..." Giles eyes narrowed, "Oh-no…"

"'Oh-no' what?" Buffy asked, suddenly taking in interest.

"The police think that it's the work of a serial killer." Giles examined the paper in detail, "In the last 2 months there have been several cases of people being found decapitated, sometimes drained of blood, in a line reaching from Chicago toward LA." He looked worried, "I think we have a Head-hunter on our hands."

"What's a Head-hunter?"

"A Head-hunter is an Immortal who goes around claiming heads all the time." Giles explained, putting the paper down, "The rush you get when you take another's Quickening can become addictive, and, well, some Immortal are just as unpleasant as you mortals. The more Quickening they gain, the more powerful they become, and the more dangerous they are."

"How many Quickening have you..." Buffy stopped when she realised just what she was asking.

"How many other Immortal have I killed?" Giles looked at her, "Not as many as some, but enough to grow tired of the Game…" He looked round suddenly, "Someone's coming: Immortals, at lest two…"

"Anyone you know?"

"I'm not sure: one seems familiar, but I can't place it."

"Aren't you going for a sword?"

"I had a Buddhist Monk bless the Hotel: it's now considered Holy Ground."

"What did Angel have to say about that?"

"He's the one who gave me the Monks phone number." Giles stood in the middle of the lobby, "Ok, show yourself."

"Hello Rupert." A Scottish sounding voice came from the shadows just outside the door, "What, no warm welcome for an old friend?"

"You bastard!" Giles spat the words, "What are you doing here Duncan?"

To Be Continued…