Story by Gelfling21
Written by Gelfling21 (Additional writing by Robert Kidman, Zahir al Daoud and DragonWriter17)
Directed by Gelfling21 and CN Winters
Produced by CN Winters and Susan Carr
Editing by Susan Carr and Lilly
Sound by CN Winters
Art Direction by Robert Kidman
Artists - Robert Kidman, Zahir al Daoud, Isis, Mattxxx, and CN Winters
Cover Art by CN Winters
Manor House, Hungary – Dusk (Hungary, 1945)
The man under escort appeared to be in his twenties. His suit had been tailored and tailored well, fitted to his slender frame in such a way as to maximize an impression of power, of elegance. In his pocket a handkerchief was perfectly placed, while his tie of red and white and black was held in place by a pearl tiepin. His coat was lined with fur. In his hand was a briefcase of the highest quality.
His manner all but ignored the grimy soldiers on either side of him and their machine guns, not quite aimed in his direction. Likewise, he stepped over the debris and occasional corpse, as if this were merely Piccadilly Circus in the afternoon. The mud and often bloody snow hardly seemed to touch his boots.
As the soldiers escorted him inside the building where a large red flag now flew, the various gunshots and explosions became muffled. So too did the screams of women.
Dining Room – Continuous
Soldiers clad in green stood at attention outside the door. One opened the dining room door to allow the well-dressed young man to enter. Inside, a huge portrait of Joseph Stalin had been hung on the wall. A middle-aged man in uniform stood staring at it. He didn't have much hair left. Most of what was left had turned gray.
He didn't turn as the young man entered the room.
"Commissar-General Beria, I presume?" His accent was English.
The older man turned around. He wore round glasses. "Ah. You are the one Churchill sends us with warnings of new weapons, yes?"
"Not precisely that, no. Pardon me, but you are Lavrenti Beria? My briefing was for him alone and I wish to be sure…"
Beria nodded. "I am he," he said. "You are fortunate to find me so close by. More usually, I am in Moscow. My duties on behalf of the Soviet People's security rarely allow me to visit the front."
"Yes, I am lucky, I'm sure…"
The Commissar-General interrupted him with a wave of his hand towards the wall, and what lay beyond. "Budapest will fall within days. Poland, Austria, Eastern Prussia – soon Berlin itself. The Soviet People have suffered much in this war. Yet our victory is almost here. And now, the English seek our help? Now?"
"On the contrary, sir, it is we who wish to offer our help."
"Now that the war is nearly done? I can hardly call that the best of timing. Certainly not the most efficient."
"That, sir, depends."
Beria's eyebrows rose a fraction of a millimeter. "Upon what?"
"Upon the war about which one is fighting, of course. I should introduce myself. James Victor Albert Drummond Tyrell, esquire, at your service." He placed his briefcase upon the table and began to unbutton his winter coat. "While the British government sponsored my meeting with you, it is not the organization I have the honor to represent. In some ways, we are the opposite number of what you in the NKVD call…I believe its name is the Directorate of Shadows?"
The Commissar-General looked at Tyrell for a moment and then began to laugh. It wasn't a hearty sound, nor a simple one. Barely audible, in fact. But it did go on and on and on.
"I happen to know you are fully aware of my mission, Commissar-General," Tyrell said after a few moments of this. "It is deathly serious, I assure you. We of the Watchers' Council have long been aware of an unnatural faction within the Third Reich; an undercurrent of events, if you will, that pose a danger quite different from tanks or bullets. Different, but no less deadly. One your organization has encountered before now."
But Beria said nothing to this. He simply watched Tyrell from behind his table, the huge portrait of Stalin behind him. In response, Tyrell began to pace. "For over a decade we've been tracing it," he continued, as if giving a lecture, "a pattern of crimes and events that, while subtle, are incontrovertible. Some of my colleagues believe this pattern goes further, explaining the virtually pathological nature of the Nazi Regime. This pattern is clear; one of particularly cruel and effective corruption, evidence of some malignant force we have yet to identify. We've even sent one of our agents to investigate before now…"
"You employ young girls to do your fighting," said Beria suddenly. "Is that not so?"
"The slayers are repositories of certain occult abilities," Tyrell replied. "As such, they are uniquely qualified."
"And how did this girl fare, eh?"
"She died. We don't know precisely how. Her body has never been recovered."
"How do you know she died then?"
"Because her powers passed on," said Tyrell. "That only happens when a slayer dies."
"So, not so much help, was she?"
"The point," continued Tyrell, "is that we have traced the last area where this force or influence was felt. It is here, in Hungary. Given these facts, it is likely the Red Army will sooner or later encounter it. You needed to be warned."
"Assuming for a moment that what you say is accurate," said Beria. "What will you do? What can you do? Or, what can we do?"
"You must contact us immediately. I've brought a file of things to look for…"
"But," Beria interrupted. "What will you do if I do that? How will you deal with this…this force as you call it?"
"A slayer is ready to come here and act."
Without blinking, Beria stared at Tyrell. "Another slayer. A little girl. That is your solution?"
"I assure you that a slayer's powers are very real…"
"But you've already sent such a child to her death against this thing, yes? And she accomplished, what, precisely?"
Tyrell took a deep breath. "You are in danger. The Red Army is in danger. We are offering help."
"Thank you. How kind of you. The Soviet People offer their thanks to the representative of the fading imperialistic state that has decided for its own ends to do as little as possible to end the threat of Hitler's Germany. Your efforts, although not all they could have been, are welcome. Is there anything else?" He said this without even looking at Tyrell.
And Tyrell simply turned to leave.
The shutting of the door echoed in the empty room. Beria sank into a chair and began to take gasping breaths. Sweat broke out on his forehead. He blinked, unseeing, over and over again. One hand reached to his chest, clutching.
Another door opened. Varthrim emerged from the next room. "Commissar-General? You show great strength of will. Almost as much as I did. It will, I fear, only cause you to suffer still more."
Beria by now had managed to undo several buttons of his uniform, his fingers moving with spastic shakes. Under the jacket, hanging on a chain around his neck, was a crystal so dark it looked like a shadow given shape. His face turned red and every muscle in his jaw clenched as he tried to grab it, to pull it off. Clenching his teeth, he groaned with the effort.
"Do you know the most effective method of corruption, Commissar-General?" Varthrim's voice was almost gentle. "The worst torture of all? Seeing yourself for what you really are. That is what the Loathestone does, you see. Gives you the heart's desire you insist was never yours. But then, you find you cannot resist. And there is no fleeing from that terrible knowledge. None."
Hand dropping to his lap, Beria shuddered. A small bit of drool fell from his lips. His breath had stopped sounding like gasps, and had become whimpers.
"You already know that of which I speak, Commissar-General. Come with me. Your soldiers have found someone for you. She is quite pretty. Hair like spun and burnished copper. Eyes of hazel. Skin like cream. As it happens, today is her birthday. She's all of eleven years old."
Bulging eyes looked at Varthrim. "Where?" Beria whispered.
"Where else? In your bedroom."
Watchers Council Hallway – Early Morning
Gwen Raiden watched as Ethan Rayne looked up from the water cooler, where he bent over to get a shot glass full of ice-cold water. She saw him turn his head to her. A smile spread across his face until he grinned broadly and warmly at her.
"Gwen! What on earth are you doing here?"
"I could ask the same of you, Mr. Water-Cooler-Guy."
"I asked first," he teased.
"Always the gentlemen," she grinned. "I've been appointed to the new role as The Watchers Council's freelance security consultant and hired muscle."
"Kinda. At least I'm not stuck behind a desk. When I'm beckoned I come a-runnin'. Like today, I've been drafted as extra security for the games. And what about you?" She looked him up and down appreciatively. "You're looking well, considering the state you were in when Felix eighty-six'd the magic."
"Yes. Who'd have thought not practicing magic would save my skin, eh?" he chuckled.
"Are you still 'abstaining'?" she asked, looking amusedly at the shot glass full of plain water in his hand.
"From neither, no," he smirked. "But one must toe a line when one is in position of, shall we say, responsibility?"
Gwen made a face. "Responsibility and Ethan Rayne…" she said dubiously.
Ethan chuckled. "The Watchers Council has seen fit to…repay me…for my services to them in the matter of restoring the world's magic – and with it, of course, all whom they hold dear."
"Ah, I see. So what was the price? Are you the resident 'Defense Against the Dark Arts Teacher'?" she smirked.
"No…nothing so poetic."
"Hmm…I guess not, since you're not doing magic anymore."
"Actually, I am."
Gwen looked quizzically at him.
"You see, once 'the Missus' –"
Ethan cast his smile to the ground momentarily before looking back up to Gwen. "Yes."
Gwen slowly nodded her head, with a grin. "Oh. Congrats. Should have told me. I'm wicked cool at picking out wedding gifts. I would have got you a toaster."
Ethan reached out and placed a hand on Gwen's PVC-clad arm, a small yet warm smile still on his wizened face. "Thank you."
She returned the smile, her silk-gloved hand resting on top of his. "So…magic again, huh?"
"Umm, yes," Ethan pulled back his hand. "When C.K. saw how important magic is to the world – and to me – she had a bit of a reversal. Told me that if I wanted to take it up again, she was fine with it – so long as I didn't use it for selfish, immoral or illegal gain." He smiled coyly.
"What? You? No, never," Gwen said with mock indignation, smiling through her pout.
Ethan barked a laugh.
"So, you're consulting again?" Gwen asked.
"Oh please, nothing so droll as all that."
"Droll…?" Gwen smiled broadly. "Now I am intrigued. Pray tell."
"Technically, I'm a watcher, but that's only a matter of making me an official employee," he said blithely.
Gwen's smile held but her eyebrows quirked up. "Now who's cushy–"
"Ethan? Ah Ethan, here you are," Cameron Kreswell-Rayne approached from the other side of the water cooler. "I've been looking for you, ducks," she said, smiling. She looked past his shoulder. "Oh! Oh…I…"
"Ah! Yes, uh, C.K., you remember Gwen Raiden, don't you?" Ethan said quickly.
"Yesss," Cameron hissed with a tight smile. "How nice. Welcome." There was moment of tense silence as Cameron, the brittle smile frozen on her face, stared at Gwen. "Well," Cameron said flatly, "here we all are."
Gwen bit her lower lip, but couldn't hide a cocky grin. She batted her eyelids at Ethan. "Well, gotta go!" She began to walk away. "I'll be around the Council today," she called over her shoulder. "We should get together…" she stopped and turned to Ethan and Cameron. "The three of us," she said brightly, then continued on her way again.
End of Teaser
To Act One