To be totally honest, Trevor wasn’t really worried when the screaming started.
Not at first.
And yeaaahhhh so he might have been a little high, but that’s what he was there for, right? The drugs, the booze– the work was good, it wasn’t hard, and they gave him everything he ever could have asked for. Plus, his face was covered most of the time, so facial expressions weren’t even really a thing, and the scenes they wanted to film were generally short and over in just one take.
Honestly, the ‘Mandarin’ was probably the best thing that had ever happened to him.
He had got in a spot of trouble about two weeks earlier because he’d gone outside the mansion, but he’d run out of booze and it seemed that his keepers were too worried over something else to have the time for his drinking habit. It wasn’t like he’d done anything, and he hadn’t even talked to anyone except the cashier. They only even noticed that he’d left when he came sauntering back through the gates. But they hadn’t taken any of his privileges away. A slap on the wrist and a promise to not do it again – at least until his contract was up, right? – was all he got. With everything he got in return, house arrest in the name of secrecy was a small price to pay. He had absolutely no desire to try and leave again.
He didn’t care about the noises that came from the rest house either, because. Actors. Trevor knew very well himself the sorts of things they got up to, so a few screams weren’t all that…
They weren’t all that…
Were they getting closer?
Whatever, part of being an actor meant getting used to the noises that came from other sets, and when the gunshots and bloodcurdling screams began to reverberate through the huge – honestly, it was huge – and actually pretty marvellous house, Trevor simply shrugged his shoulders with half a thought to the actor’s skill and downed another can of beer. It would help him deal with the pounding headache that had been persisting for a few weeks, now.
God, the screams were not making that any better.
“What do you reckon they’re doing out there?” Trevor asked one of the girls. (Nellie? Nettie?) “Sounds like one hell of a fight scene, don’tcha think?”
She shook her head, her eyes wide.
Was she afraid?
Trevor frowned, and glanced at the door. It was true that the screams sounded more real than anything Trevor could have managed, he was sure, and the way they sounded like they were coming closer, echoing through the whole mansion…
Well. They were, uh. They were very impressive, actually.
He continued to tell himself that as he fidgeted in his chair, and he told the same thing to the two girls.
They were both glancing around nervously, scared, and—
“It’s fine,” he told them. “It’s the movie, it’s completely—”
The door crashed open with a loud bang, only to be slammed shut again by the man who had entered. Trevor recognised him as one of the camera guys, though he’d never known a camera guy to cover himself in splashes of fake blood before. He must have been really trying to get into the mood—
The camera guy’s eyes widened as he spotted Trevor, and he crossed the room in hurried, desperate steps. “We’re being attacked,” he gasped, “By– by something—”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” Trevor said, rolling his eyes. “It’s only a—”
“I should have known you wouldn’t help!” the man muttered, still looking around, still terrified. Then he had the gall to grab at Trevor’s favourite armchair—
“Hey!” Trevor complained. “That’s my favourite armchair!”
“Yes, and it’s heavy,” the man snapped. “Give me a hand!”
Trevor crossed his arms and put on his best glare, and he was about to start with a now, now, there’s no need to be rude—
But one of the girls – oh, Nessie – hurried over to help him push the armchair across the floor toward the door, and when the other girl saw what they were doing she went to help as well.
“That probably won’t be enough,” the camera guy said, his breath still coming in loud pants.
“Enough?” Trevor asked. “What are you trying to keep out? Genghis Khan and a Mongol horde?”
The camera man’s red spattered face was haunted as he said, “Worse.”
“What do you mean, worse—”
“I don’t know, I didn’t get a good look, okay?” the man snapped. Trevor thought he probably should have worked out the guys name, after all these months—
But before he had the chance to wonder on it there was a bloodcurdling scream from right outside the door—
And then, suddenly, nothing.
The only sound was the harsh breathing of every person of the room. It was like some kind of second-rate orchestra, the echo of nails scratching against blackboards and the screech of wind through trees, heralding the ghastly melody of death itself.
Then, sharp and harsh in the silence was the sound of a light knock on the door, a small rap first on one side, then the other, as if testing for sturdiness– or simply letting the occupants know what was coming.
“Oh no,” the camera man whispered, backing away. “Oh—”
His words melted to a terrified whimper as green light began to seep under the door, almost like a mist. Trevor gulped at the sight, a shiver of fear finally running down his spine.
“Okay,” he said, swallowing it down and trying to focus on the fact that logically– “That was clearly some really good stuff they gave me this morning—”
He was cut off as the armchair began to creak across the ground, moving away from the door as if pushed by a ghost—
And then the doors crashed open once more with the suddenness of a tropical storm, and a tall, dark figure strode into the room with deadly purpose.
He was wearing a long black coat with a hood that pulled over his head, and there was something strange about his face that just made it… difficult to see. But it was still possible to make out long dark hair and eyes so green it seemed like they were actually glowing, as if he were some kind of demon come straight from the bowels of hell itself. The wicked knives in each of his hands glistened a bright, menacing red, the sort of colour that made it difficult not to know exactly what they had just been used for.
Trevor was starting to realise that, maybe, all of this was real.
His hands were shaking as he backed away, but he couldn’t tear his gaze from those eyes, so bright and piercing and inhuman. He still couldn’t have described what the demon looked like, but Trevor saw the flash of teeth as it grinned.
“I am looking for Trevor Slattery,” it said, and its voice was low and amused, with something incredibly dangerous lurking underneath.
“Take him, then,” the camera man blurted. “He’s there, just—”
His words cut off with a gurgle as a knife landed solidly in his throat, and Trevor felt frozen with fear. A man had just died, and this monster, this thing– it was there for him?
The girls were cowering against the wall, and the demon hardly gave them a glance as he strode toward where Trevor was shaking in his dressing gown. It had two knives again, and a quick, frantic glance proved that the dead body near the girls was bleeding freely from the neck, with nothing to obstruct the wound– but the demon had not gone anywhere near it. How was that even possible?
“Hello Trevor,” it said, leaning forward menacingly. “Oh, we have so much to talk about.”
“Do… do we?” Trevor asked, his voice shaking so hard he would be surprised if the demon could understand him.
But the demon was smiling again, his darkened features sharp and horrible in the way they twisted, and Trevor was waiting for him to say something else when—
“There’s more,” someone called from outside in the hall, and Trevor’s thoughts echoed the words in pure horror.
Bloody hell, there’s two of them.
“One moment,” the demon called back, its tone laced with anticipation now. And then, it turned that terrifying green gaze back to Trevor and ordered– “Stay.”
The single syllable rung loudly through Trevor’s head like the chime of a bell, echoing and thrumming. The demon gave him one last frightening glance coupled with a feral grin, and then he turned on his heel and strode back the way he had come. The doors swung shut behind him, closing with a click that indicated the demon had somehow managed to lock it without a key or a touch.
And Trevor… couldn’t move.
He’d expected his knees to give out at least, or, if he managed to hold on to his control over his muscles – unlikely, considering he had long since lost control over his bowels – he would be able to run. Not out of the house, of course, he wouldn’t do that again, but just… he’d run away. But his legs felt frozen solid, and even though he wanted to get across the room, to reach for his panic button – because oh god but if there was ever a moment to panic this would be it—
But maybe it wouldn’t have done any good, anyway.
Maybe there was no one left—
But no, that couldn’t be right. There had to be—
The screams had started up again after all, though they seemed further away now, in a different part of the house. They echoed right down to Trevor’s bones, and he was shaking and shuddering and wishing he could just curl up into a tight little ball, but he couldn’t, because his legs didn’t seem to be his own and whatever the demon had done to him had taken away all control over his body.
Trevor couldn’t say how long it was before anything else happened– it could have been any span of time at all, because it felt like a terribly long and agonising wait and yet, when the time came, he wished that he’d had far longer.
They arrived in a flash of that menacing green, three figures in the middle of the room, dark and dangerous. The demon was holding a man by the neck, his feet dangling from the ground as he choked– and then a moment later he was thrown to the ground with enough force that Trevor heard bones crack.
Trevor recognised him– he was the guy who was generally in charge around the house, but not in charge of the whole… thing. He’d always followed instructions from a few others that came in and out, but otherwise, he’d been the top dog—
But now he was a snivelling mess at the feet of the demon and, and another guy, who looked slightly more human but no less dangerous.
The demon’s companion wore a hooded coat as well, though instead of simply appearing dark and difficult to focus on the lower half of the man’s face was covered with a bright red scarf of some kind, the tails of it tucked neatly into his hood. His brown eyes didn’t glow but they were sharp and intelligent, and burned with a rage that almost hurt to look at. He had been staring down at the man on the ground, but as he glanced up his gaze came to rest on Trevor.
“Let’s get started,” he said, bringing up his arm– but he wasn’t holding a gun. He had something bright and round sitting against his palm, burning hot enough that Trevor shuddered and asked—
“Are you magic?”
“I’m not,” came the reply. Then the scarf moved, as if he were grinning, and he jerked his head in the direction of the other creature. “He is, though.”
The green almost seemed to pulse as if pleased by the attention.
“Demon,” Trevor spat– or, well, he tried to, but it came out as a bit more of a gasp.
“Oh, he’s not a demon.” The man in the scarf chuckled darkly. “He’s a lot more than that.”
The not-demon brushed a light hand over the man’s arm before stepping toward Trevor properly, his blade glinting as it headed for Trevor’s cheek.
“You mortals once worshipped me as a god,” he said slowly, drawing out the syllables and pressing the tip of his bloodied knife into Trevor’s skin. “Perhaps I should show you why.”
Trevor’s breaths were nothing but quick gasps, his heart beating so wildly it was hammering through his ability to think straight. “Bloody hell,” he gasped, “Bloody fucking hell, okay, calm down, I can tell you whatever you want, just please don’t hurt—”
“We don’t need you to tell us anything,” the god crooned. “No, we have a message for you to give to the rest of the world.”
The god turned to look around instantly, the knife slipping slightly and pulling away from Trevor’s face as he did so. The man in the scarf had been crouching over the snivelling mess that used to be Trevor’s boss, and he lifted the man’s hand by the wrist, twisting it to show what adorned the thick fingers.
“Another one?” The god left Trevor and went to kneel beside his friend. The two shared a glance, reaching toward each other so that the god’s fingers touched the man’s bare wrist, just above his weapons. There was a beat of stillness before—
“Hold still,” the masked man said to the broken, whimpering figure. “This might hurt a bit.”
Then, without any more warning than that, there was a flash of a blade and—
“Oh, that was unnecessary,” Trevor said, speaking over the pained cry. “You didn’t need to cut off the whole finger, you—”
Every word caught in Trevor’s throat, almost making him feel like he was choking as he watched the god lift the severed finger and pull off the gaudy piece of jewellery that rested upon it. The ring was large and pink and decorated with a Chinese symbol, and Trevor had always thought it an odd fashion choice for such a surly guy.
Both men considered the ring for a half a second, their hands brushing together again, before they caught each other’s gaze and waited in silence for several long moments.
Trevor watched, wondering, thinking that if they were distracted maybe he could—
Except he still couldn’t move, so—
“Later,” the god said suddenly, and then he twisted his fingers and the ring vanished in another flicker of green. “We have things to do.”
This time, the man moved toward Trevor while the god remained by the shuddering mess of flesh on the floor, though his gaze followed his companion’s every move.
“So, Mr Slattery,” the man said. “Are you ready to talk, yet?” As he leaned down, he lowered his scarf, showing off a well-kept goatee. It was familiar, but– through the fear and the haze, it took Trevor a few seconds to recognise it.
“Tony Stark?” he asked disbelievingly. “What—”
“Surprised to see me?” Stark asked. “Surprised that I’m not still kidnapped? I’m sure the news is still singing about the loss of my pretty face, even down here.”
“I… I don’t watch the news,” Trevor said nervously. “Why are you looking for me?” He couldn’t help the way that his gaze flickered to the other person, his green eyes still gleaming strangely as they followed Stark’s every movement. Why was a person who had supposedly funded the Avengers working with such a creature of nightmares?
Nothing was making any sense—
“I have a very simple question, Trevor,” Stark said. He leaned in, his eyes gleaming darkly, the silver metal of his hands glinting in the corner of Trevor’s gaze as they pressed threateningly upon his shoulders. “Who is the Mandarin?”
Trevor frowned, confused, his head tilting even though the dread. “Do you mean the character?”
“The character,” Stark echoed, straightening. Then he turned his attention to the broken man on the floor. “So JARVIS was right, and this one lied to us.”
“Of course he did.” The god smirked, and raised his blade. “And he shall come to regret that.”
Trevor squeezed his eyes shut, not wanting to watch. There were a few questions and some hoarse pleading– but the man wasn’t pleading for his life, and the sound of a gurgle and then awful, awful quiet as the whimpering suddenly cut off was more than enough for his imagination to fill in the rest.
There were two dead men in the room, now, both victims of this monster. Trevor just hoped it wouldn’t be his turn, next.
“I don’t know anything,” he said, panicked. “I don’t, honestly, I just– I only know what’s in the film, there’s nothing—”
“The film?” Stark asked. “Oh, Trevor. There is no movie, this is all real.” He turned to the god, arching a brow. “Do you think he needs another reminder?”
The god’s eyes weren’t glowing any more, but he looked no less menacing as he smirked and crossed the room to grab the cowering girls by their shoulders and shoved them toward the bathroom.
“Inside,” he hissed.
The door was left open, and the sound of the girls’ terrified screams shook Trevor to his core. It didn’t just sound like they were being murdered– it sounded like they were suffering through the greatest pain imaginable, like they were being flayed alive, turned inside out, burned at the stake or disembowelled or, or every other thing that Trevor’s imagination conjured at the sound of a horrifying, ghastly screech.
“This is the second Ten Rings cell we’ve devastated, and there’s nothing to give us more locations,” Stark hissed, seemingly unmoved. “The others know nothing, but you’re a nobody. Maybe they wouldn’t have noticed you noticing something—"
“I’m not much of a noticer,” Trevor pleaded. “Please, oh god, stop, don’t—”
“My friend will stop hurting them if you tell the truth,” Stark said simply, almost blandly. “And if you do not speak before he is done with them, he’ll start on you, next.” Then his lips twisted into a feral grin as he twisted his metal fingers in front of Trevor’s face. “Or perhaps I will.”
“I don’t know, I don’t,” Trevor begged. “There’s– there was something a while back, something with the president, I think, maybe if that wasn’t a movie— but they changed their plans, there was a rewrite—”
“Something changed,” Stark muttered. His eyes flashed with realisation. “Like they had a new goal?”
“Yes,” Trevor said. “I don’t know, I don’t– they wouldn’t tell me anything, they wouldn’t even trust me with a real gun—”
“Why would you want a real gun for a movie?” Stark asked suddenly. “Why would they even have a real gun?”
“I don’t know,” Trevor said again, praying that Stark would recognise the truth in his words. “I don’t, I’m just an actor. It’s not real, none of this is real.”
Stark’s eyes narrowed, but before he could say anything there was a sudden crash in the bathroom, and then the god was stepping back into the room. He looked no more blood-spattered than before, but Trevor saw the cruel satisfaction in his gaze and couldn’t help but cringe.
“Time’s up, Trevor,” Stark said lowly. “Last chance.”
Trevor simply shook his head, his gaze flicking from the two men, to the open bathroom door, to the corpses on the floor and then back again. He was absolutely flipping terrified, his mind was a mess, and he didn’t know what else he could do.
“You really don’t know a thing, do you?” Stark asked, tilting his head. “Well, that’s unfortunate.”
“No,” Trevor said, grasping onto that chance with every single piece of desperate hope that he had left. “No, I really don’t. I’m sorry, you’ll have to… I can’t tell you what you need, but, if you let me go, maybe I can help?”
The god stepped behind Stark, touching the man’s wrist again. Stark’s eyes gleamed he stepped away, and the god’s smile was tauntingly kind as he took his place.
“Oh,” he said, one hand coming to rest on Trevor’s sweaty forehead and eyes glowing bright with emerald hellfire. “Do not worry. There is another way for us to get what we need.”
And then, amongst piercing pain and the sharp bite of agony, it was Trevor’s turn to scream.