London, April 1944
Stephen sat across from the General as if he were completely unaware of the war raging outside. The General stirred repeatedly a man not used to being kept waiting especially by their kind. Finally the doors to the office opened and a young officer was ushered in, his RAF uniform fit snuggly over his thin and powerful frame.
“General Bard, Sir. Commander Dherling reporting as ordered, sir.” Peter snapped as he saluted the two seated men.
“Commander, I have requested you here to provide us a report concerning the status of your units on the continent.” General Bard ordered.
“Sir, We currently have half a dozen agents in place, four with in the borders of occupied France and the other two in Germany itself. In the next week we will have two more making their way north out of Rome.”
“That will not be enough.” Stephen snapped.
“I’m sorry, sir, what do you mean?” Peter asked.
“Sit down, young man.” The General ordered. “Have you been briefed on the invasion plans?”
“Yes sir, my agents are to remain in place until the assault begins, then we are to take out as many of the Offspring as possible.”
“Colonel Bathory has just provided new intelligence that will cause a change in those plans.” The General said gesturing to Stephen.
“A spy I had long ago placed in the high command has passed me word that not only are they aware of the invasion plans, they are preparing for it.” Stephen explained.
“So we are not going ahead with it?” Peter asked.
“No, thankfully their intelligence is faulty and they have the incorrect location for the landing. However that might not be enough if we do not deal with these.” Stephen rose from his seat and gestured to a map on the wall. Six red triangles were marked on locations across Germany and Poland. “Each of these is a camp where he is feeding and bringing forth more offspring. Their plan is when the invasion begins to open the floodgates and let them spill out over the allied forces. It would be a slaughter.”
“We need your existing units and a dozen more in place to handle this threat for us.” The General stated. “We want your troops to go in as groups of three.”
“Your attack will begin the day before the invasion. The initial assault will only have to deal with the Thralls.” Stephen explained.
“Excuse me, sir. What are Thralls?” Peter asked.
Stephen sighed heavily. “The Thralls are those that have drunk of their master, but have not sacrificed themselves. On some level they are still human, but their addiction controls them. Since they still retain their souls they will have some immunity to your fire. They will not have been fed on so they will appear healthy. Do not turn your back on them until they are beheaded. Otherwise as night falls they will rise up as offspring and the plan is done for. Once inside you will need to deal with the Shades. They are the ones who have both been fed and fed on, it destroys their minds so that once they rise up they are simply brute tools, but since they need no sleep it is they who will guard the crypts. They will fall to the fire but not easily. Our best intelligence says that each location could hold two or three dozen offspring. If they are not dealt with at every location it could spell doom for any hope of recapturing the continent.”
“We will have a full briefing for the members of your team yet to deploy at eighteen hundred hours, at that time they will begin preparing for the insertion.” The General instructed.
Peter rose and saluted again, marching from the room to gather his team.
The General returned to his chair and momentarily closed his eyes. The smell of lilac and lavender flooded his nose and he could feel the sun beating down on his face.
“Thadius, Thadius you have a visitor.” A voice called to him.
Opening his eyes Thadius Bard looked around the garden of the estate that had been his home for the past twenty years. Taking it all in his thoughts turned to the fact that he would miss this place once he had moved on, but he had maintained this identity for too long as it was. He tried to lie to himself that the twenty-first century made it too difficult with all their records, but in his heart he knew that when people were involved with their fallible ways, anything way possible.
His maid, Francine approached him cautiously “Sir, a young gentleman has arrived and is waiting in your office. He says that he is a distant relation.”
The General rose and marched himself into his estate with a presence that could not be dimmed by mere time.
The well-dressed young man was standing with his back towards the door looking out the windows towards the lawns.
“So he has gone to Chicago.” General Bard stated.
Turning to look at him Robin seemed genuinely startled at his arrival. “Yes, so you have expected that he was up to something.”
The General crossed to his desk and lowered himself down in his chair before responding.
“I was aware that Bathory had left his estate here and was bound for America. His destination and ultimate plans are not shared with a lowly creature such as myself.” The General mocked. “I knew that sooner or later one of your kind would come here begging me to punish Bathory, or the Demon Son, claiming that this is a violation of the truce. I have not patience for your whining today, so I will simply inform you that Bathory was not a signatory to the truce. This does not involve the Demon Son or the Highfather. So it would seem that it is up to you to deal with him,” The General locked eyes with Robin, “And only him, yourself.”
“That is my plan, Bard.” Robin responded. “I have only come for information.”
“Really, does the trickster think he has a chance against the Schemer?” The General mocked.
“I have been more than enough to stop all of your plots.” Leaning across the General’s desk Robin whispered. “Or didn’t you realize who thwarted the Physician and the Magician.”
The General allowed the look of shock to cross his face for only a moment before it slowly turned into a grin. “So the trickster still has a few things up his sleeve.”
“Why, did you think I had become dull witted since I became a father, hot-tempered and unreliable?”
“No, that is not it at all. Fatherhood has not changed you one bit. You changed the day you became heir to the throne.” The General smiled. “You were never raised for this, could even the Highfather have seen it coming. First the musician dies, then the Warrior leaves. You always pretended that this is what you wanted, but then your brother walks away and there is no choice but you, How does that make you feel?”
Robin stared him in the eyes as if he were trying to reach into his soul, even though he knew it was pointless. “I can see now that I have come on a fool’s errand. I thought you might have some concern that Bathory was trying to start an all out war.” Robin turned and prepared to leave as the General spoke.
“Bathory has studied you. He knows what your weaknesses are and will use them against you. He will have spies; so only trust those closest to you. But at the same time do not play your hand too soon, for he is adaptable. The best advice that I can give you is that you must be who you were in the past. He was more than enough to face Bathory.”
Facing the door Robin spoke without looking back. “Thank you General. Your wisdom is greatly appreciated.”
“I have one final question for you Trickster.” The General interjected. “Which is worse to surrender your soul voluntarily, or never to be born with one at all? If you do not keep control of this you will not appreciate my further involvement.”
The final thought hung in the air as Robin left the room.