"You know, I could jump from this vehicle and run off. Morocco is lovely this time of year."
Harry Hart shifted uncomfortably in the back of the sedan and looked out the window at the stretches of uninterrupted English hillsides at dusk. The precarious cliff on which the car was currently driving made for a spectacular view, the sun seemed to descend quicker than normal, leaving shadows behind the hills. The intercom system in the car clicked to life and the voice of the part time warlock and professional wiseass, Merlin, barked back at him.
"Don't be such a baby. Goodness, who would've known the great Harry Hart, hunter who doesn't flinch in the face of danger, is nervous about a simple diplomatic meeting."
"Not nervous, Merlin, simply dreading the monotony of having to kiss their lifeless asses for more than one day."
"Hey now, that's not how an ambassador of the Hunt should speak." Merlin's laughter filled the the car and Harry rolled his eyes. He glanced back out the window, the landscape even darker than before thanks to the thickening cloud cover.
"A cliff-side mansion in the secluded countryside," Harry scoffed, "do vampires attempt to be this cliche or is it just a part of their biology?"
"It's not cliche, Harry, the stereotype has to come from somewhere. As for how they are in the sack, well..."
"Merlin!" A feminine voice broke over the com and Harry stifled his laughter.
"Forgive me, Roxy, I didn't know you were listening in."
"Ha ha, sure Mer." Harry could see Roxy sitting at her computer with a stack of files in front of her while she flipped through the database. Although she was one of the newer recruits she was certainly gifted. Her fiery fey blood made her a match for the male dominated team, especially Merlin. Who absolutely knew Roxy was on the call and just said something to get a rise out of her. The day they finally shagged and got it over with the entire team would breath a sigh of relief.
"I hate it when you call me that." Merlin retorted, "Anyways, Harry, I was just buzzing in to make sure your objective was clear."
"Drink bad wine, die with boredom as I listen to the same stories that archaic group has been sussing about since the 18th century, daydream about actually getting real work done...oh and assure the court that the recent rash of supernatural killings across Europe are not our fault."
"I know it's not ideal Harry but they requested you as their diplomatic envoy. You'll do fine. Look on the bright side, I've got a bottle of mead waiting for you when you get back." Roxy honestly did sound sorry for him, also the prospect of some highly sought after honey wine fermented from the fey crops seemed like a suitable reward for such a taxing journey.
"Oy! How come I don't get any mead?" Merlin sighed.
The driver tapped on the glass separating him from the sensitive conversations that happened in the back of Hunter vehicles to alert Harry that they would arrive soon.
"Well maybe if you asked..." Roxy started.
"I'm arriving so I’ll sign off for now. Play nice while I'm gone you two." Harry turned off the com before he could hear anymore of their conversation.
The large wooden doors at the front of the mansion open inward to reveal a entryway with a grand hardwood staircase leading up to the second floor of the house. The home was one of the oldest in the country but the family had kept it in pristine condition. Oversized paintings of the family hung on the wall at the top of the staircase. The pillars at the bottom of the stairs had carvings of Griffins poised at the end, looking life like enough that Harry made a mental note to check them for spells when the time allowed. He’d never been to the Unwin estate before and he was mildly disappointed to find it was just as stuck in the past as it’s owner. Lord Unwin was notorious for being one of the hardest on the Vampire court while overseeing all of Eastern Europe and he was only second in pigheadedness by his father whose head had to be removed before The Unwins and the Hunt could see eye to eye.
Two butlers approached Harry, taking his jacket and bag. One of the men studied the bespoke suit Harry wore with a cautious eye. "Care for a evening drink before supper, Sir?"
"Yes, martini please."
"A martini! Some things never change." Harry looked up to see Lord Thomas Unwin descending the stairs. His form had aged enough now that the vampire took on the appearance of a man in his late sixties. Thomas reached the bottom of the stairs and extended a thin, well weathered hand. Harry shook it, keeping his eyes fixed on Thomas'. A bit bold when meeting a vampire, but despite being invited here for a diplomatic purpose Harry was determined not to portray the role a weak chinned aristocrat the council was surely hoping for.
"The classics are called that for a reason, Thomas." Harry retorted, letting go of Lord Unwin's hand and stepping back. Movement on the balcony caught his eye and he looked up again to see a young man in his twenties leaning against the railing, studying them intently.
"Ah, Gary. Come, let me introduce you to Mr. Hart."
A expression of irritation hovered on Gary's features for just a moment before he pushed away from the railing and walked towards the stairs.
"Although we've met on a few occasions I don't think you've ever met any of my children. Gary is my oldest and heir to all of this should I ever decide to leave this world."
The first thing Harry noticed was Gary's suit, modern cut with colors that matched some of the newer fashions in London. It stood in stark contrast to the black on black three piece Lord Unwin wore. The second was Gary's overall countenance, each step down seemed to weigh on him and although the young man kept his face neutral Harry could sense the unease underneath.
Gary stood next to his father and extended his hand to Harry. "Eggsy, please, that's what my friends call me."
That request brought a look of displeasure to Thomas' face. "In casual company my son likes to forget he is the heir to one of the most powerful families in Europe."
"Trust me father, that is never far from my mind."
Harry let go and he gave the young vampire his first genuine smile of his visit. "Harry Hart. Pleasure to meet you, Eggsy."
"Likewise, Mr. Hart."
Harry had never met the young Lord before but he did know a bit about him, or his reputation at least. Rumor was that Eggsy enjoyed escaping the mansion and hiding in places his family couldn’t find and throw parties where all manner of sin would take place. Now that Harry had met Eggsy in person, he certainly understood what all the fuss was about. He was the kind of man that anyone would be pleased to take to bed. Harry felt his thoughts towards the young Lord turn heated and he quickly turned his mind to other things. Just in case Eggsy was one of the few vampires adept at reading people’s thoughts. He changed the subject to something mundane on purpose.
“Your home is incredible, Thomas, I don’t think I’ve seen another quite like it.”
“I dare say you won’t. Here, let me give you a tour, there’s enough time before dinner is prepared.”
“Ah, a tour. Fabulous. Well, I’ll let you two chat while I check to make sure the kitchen’s not falling apart. They're not used to cooking actual food.”
“Yes, of course. Thank you Eggsy.” Thomas said, guiding Harry to the left towards a long hallway. Harry hazarded a glance over his shoulder to see Eggsy giving him a sympathetic look before vanishing, his supernatural speed taking him towards the direction of the kitchen no doubt. As they rounded the corner Lord Unwin launched into the history of the wood used to make the walls of the home and Harry realized the truth behind Eggys’ expression..
The stories continued after the tour ended in the dining room and through dinner which Harry ate alone with Thomas. The lord said that he’d sent the rest of his family to Bucharest.
“Alana hates politics and the rest of them…” Thomas waved his hand in a dismissive gesture.
“And yet somehow I’m still here.” Eggsy said as he entered the dining room.
“You’ve put off the responsibilities of this family for long enough.” Thomas said as Eggsy took as seat across from Harry.
“Did you enjoy the tour, Harry?” Eggsy smiled and again Harry couldn’t help returning it.
“Yes. It was quite...informative.”
Eggsy nodded, his smile sliding into a more mischievous expression. “Did he tell you about the slaughter in the garden? Scandalous.”
“Eggsy.” Lord Unwin’s voice seemed to take the warmth out of the moment and Harry wished the older vampire wasn’t there.
A servant walked through the door into the dining room and towards the head of the table. “Lord Unwin. Lord Müller and Lord Nassar have arrived.”
Thomas stood and Harry started to stand but the vampire motioned for him to stay. “Please, finish your dinner.” Thomas exited following the butler and Harry felt a weight lifted as soon as the door shut behind them.
He looked at his empty plate and then up at Eggsy with a raised eyebrow. The young vampire shrugged at him. “I’d say you’re lucky. One more day you don’t have to deal with that lot.”
“Have you met the court before?”
“Every time my father can drag me in front of them. Have you met them?” Eggsy sighed.
“Only twice, when I had to testify before the court.”
“Jesus and I thought they were scary when they were drilling me about when I was going to take on the title.” Eggsy shivered for emphasis. Harry laughed and leaned in to ask how such a charismatic young man could be the son of such a family but the door opened before he could speak.
Thomas entered. “Eggsy would you mind showing our guests to their rooms?”
“Good thought, but how about I show Harry to his room and you entertain the two boring ones.”
Harry pretended to wipe his mouth to hide his smile. Thomas was not amused, his face turned cold, and he held his hand out. Harry felt the air in the room chill and Eggsy gasped, grasping at his throat. The younger vampire coughed blood onto the table and Harry couldn’t stop the look of horror on his face. He stood abruptly, “Perhaps I should say good evening to your guests.”
That seemed to stop Thomas long enough for him to release his hold on Eggsy. The younger vampire looked up at Harry with and expression Harry couldn’t quite decipher. Then he stood and rushed out of the room, not bothering to look at his father. Harry walked towards the door beside Thomas but the older vampire moved to block his path.
“Please, Harry. Let the dreary task of politics wait until tomorrow. You must be tired from your journey.”
Harry didn’t move, he kept his right hand in his pocket balled up in a fist. He so desperately wanted to knock the vampire down and shove a pound of silver down his throat he couldn’t think of a reply.
“Forgive that display earlier,” Thomas turned and gestured to a second door across the room. “Spare the rod, spoil the child. I’m afraid I’ve been far too lenient with Gary in the past.”
Accosting the Lord in his own home would be suicide so with a measured slow breath Harry uncurled his fist and let it go - for now. Then he followed Thomas out of the room without a word.
Harry woke in the late afternoon and used some time to inspect the house and grounds. He’d been followed by servants the whole time but he figured that no matter how careful he was news of his daytime activities would make it back to Lord Unwin. After his inspection turned up nothing he ate an early lunch and went back to bed to rest for what he anticipated would be a long evening. He left the room past dusk and was greeted by one of the staff who showed him down to the dining room where he ate dinner by himself, much to his displeasure. Apparently the Lord's manners only extended for 24 hours and then he was on his own. The thing that irked him the most was the absence of Eggsy. The young man had been on his mind during his activities earlier and he’d hope they’d have some time to talk before the boring discussions of politics dampened the evening. Harry did feel a fondness to the young vampire which seemed amusing considering that Eggsy was at least a few hundred years older than himself. Even still when the council entered the room after Harry’s dinner place had been cleared he had to avoid craning his neck to see Eggsy as they filed in. The young vampire was the last to enter, behind his father. His outfit matched his father’s and his face seemed to have a tired expression, his skin was touched with a hint of grey.
Thomas immediately grabbed Harry, moving him through the council and making introductions. They sat, one by one, Thomas instructing Harry to sit to his left as Eggsy sat to his right. The first time Harry met Eggsy’s eyes he could sense something wasn’t right. It vexed him throughout the rest of the evening which remained unexpectedly uneventful until the evening was wrapping up and Harry was asked to speak about the murders across Europe. He presented the facts as he knew them to be, omitting a few sensitive details to the cases.
“Do you have any idea of who’s responsible?” asked a large vampire who Harry guessed would’ve made an exceptional rugby player back in his human days asked. The council looked to Harry with eagerness.
“The random selection of these victims makes it difficult for us to say. I believe it isn’t just one person but a group of people that are committing these atrocious acts in hopes of severing the tenuous peace between us all that we’ve worked so hard to maintain.”
“The peace maintained with our blood, with the blood of those who aren’t human.” Another member growled. Harry felt the tension rise in the air and he tried to maintain an air of calm while calculating the ways he could extract himself from the situation should it turn violent.
“Believe me council members, we have shed our fare share of blood over the years as well.” Harry thought of the many faces of fallen hunters he’d known over the years. His response brought several of the council members to their feet voices rising in volume as they spoke about about wars past and the unjust slaughter of non-humans by the human race.
“My Lords, the Hunt would not send one of their own into our midst if they weren’t certain they were not responsible. We must work to keep this peace, as unpalatable as it may be at times.” The council chuckled at Thomas’ thinly veiled reference to the feeding law created to corral in the random victims vampires had left in their wake over the centuries and also to curb the creation of new vampires.
“I think that’s about it for tonight, don’t you gentleman?” Thomas asked and the rest of the council murmured in agreement. Harry glanced at the clock, eleven at night and we're already finished? Yet he’d been requested to stay tomorrow evening as well. As they members rose from the table Thomas extended an invitation for Harry to join them in the library. Harry agreed as he watched Eggsy disappear out of the room before the rest of the group.
Harry looked at the clock on the bedside table, only a few minutes after one o’clock. The conversation afterwards in the library was dry and superficial. Harry had excused himself after a game of poker, knowing sleep would be a more stimulating option. The council meeting had been smooth, even when Harry brought up the changes to the borders within England. It didn’t sit right with him, this may be his first mission as a diplomat but he knew things shouldn't be this easy.
Something moved through the yard outside his window, Harry turned to see a figure disappear into the woods at the corner of the grounds. Just enough of a of an image for his mind to process blonde hair. Eggsy . The young vampire didn't seem comfortable with the current situation either. Perhaps he knew more than he was letting on. Harry put on his jacket and headed out the door, grabbing some vials of tracking herbs out of his bag and putting them in his pocket. If he could find the boy away from the watchful eye of his father he may be able to get some answers. Not really within the job description of a stuffy diplomat, but he was a hunter first.
Harry tracked Eggsy for two miles before he noticed the red smoke guiding his way seemed to evaporate into thin air. Eggsy must've noticed, then again he wasn't trying to be subtle. It was not his intention to sneak up on him or do anything to suggest they were enemies. Another smell hit his nose, the warm and earthy scent of wet fur. A howl pierced the air and Harry barely had time to react as a werewolf jumped out the darkness. His arms in guard position, Harry was able to deflect most of the blow. The force slid him across the damp ground slamming his back into a tree. He heard the snap of the bark beneath his suit jacket as the wolf lunged again. Wide jaws bit at Harry's suit, unable to tear through the enchanted fabric. The close proximity gave Harry an idea. He brought his fist down on the top of the beast's head, speaking an incantation. Flames ignited on impact and the wolf let out a howl releasing Harry. It retreated, thrashing its head in an effort to put out the flames.
"Stop. I am not out here for you." Harry pushed his hands together slowly, undoing the spell. The wolf only had minor burns but it pawed at it's snout to try and ease the sting. The calm only lasted a moment before the wolves hair stood up and a curled lip showed a row of sharp teeth.
"Have it your way then. I need to blow off a little steam," Harry longed for his gun but fists would do just as well.
The wolf lunged with a loud growl. Foreign words broke through the night, shaking the trees around them. The wolf's fur disappeared and by the time it landed at Harry's feet it had transformed into naked man covered in a layer of dirt. He looked past Harry with fear in it's eyes. The man scurried backwards with his head bowed. Harry turned to see Eggsy walking into the clearing, clicking his tongue. The human look of his form was gone and replaced with red eyes and fangs.
"Bartholomew, seriously, attacking our guest?" Instead of anger Eggsy's voice had a hint of humor behind it.
"He...he was following you, Master Gary."
"And doing a piss poor job of it, on purpose I suspect." Eggsy's posh accent fell away and was replaced with the rough tones usually heard in the inner city.
Harry nodded to answer Eggsy's question, happy that the young vampire had noticed.
Eggsy walked to Bartholomew and studied his wounds, "This is nothing a bit of salve won't fix. There's a jar in the kitchen. If anyone asks you who sent you there tell them it was me. Also, you need to stop following me like some nanny. I'm not fifty anymore."
"I'm sorry, Master Gary, but your father instructed me..."
"And my father wouldn't want his best man tending to the security of the house wounded. Go in the house and fix yourself up."
"Alright." Bartholomew stood and began walking out of the forest. He stopped near Harry. "Sorry about that."
"I can't fault you for protecting your master and I hope you can forgive the pain I've caused in return."
"Oh yes, it's nothing, sir. I've had worse." With those words the man ran in the direction of the house without looking back.
"A... servant?" Harry chose his words carefully, he would bet Bartholomew wasn't the only werewolf under Lord Unwin's command and suspected it was not of his own free will either.
Eggsy shook his head. "My father's lapdog and my nanny slash spy at times."
"You don't seem like you need someone to watch over you."
Eggsy shrugged, his eyes changing back to their natural color and fangs retracting. "I have a tendency to slip away at inconvenient times."
"So the stories about your...um...recreational activities are true?"
"Ah! So the rumors have made it all the way to the Hunt's HQ. That is an achievement," Eggsy clapped his hands together and laughed.
"Just a few."
"A few. Sure. For a Hunter you're an awful liar." Eggsy started to venture further into the forest, he motioned for Harry to follow, "Walk with me. I'm sure you didn't follow me into the night to talk about my time abroad."
A thought occurred to Harry, "Did you let me see you, expecting I would follow?"
"I thought you might."
"What did you want to talk to me about?"
"I dunno..." Eggsy paused, "you ever kill anyone?"
"In my youth, unfortunately, yes. Many. However, once I became a hunter things changed. Truthfully, the longer you're in the field the more you see that some of the beliefs ingrained in you from childhood just don't hold weight in the real world. A bit of compassion can go a long way."
"My father would laugh you out of our house if he heard you say that."
The cover of the trees stopped to reveal a large cliff overlooking a valley. The moon broke free of the clouds and white light touched everything below them. Harry paused for a moment, taking in the view ,"What about you, Eggsy? What are your beliefs about this dangerous game we're apart of?"
"I'd rather not be a part of it, to be honest. I mean, do I look like I belong at a table with that lot?"
Harry turned to see Eggsy sitting on a large rock a few feet from the edge. He'd forgone the suit for a collared shirt and jeans. Eggsy smirked up at him from beneath the rim of a baseball cap turned slightly to the right as he spread his arms out, encouraging Harry to compare his current dress to those of the faded and wrinkled elders who he'd sat with earlier. Harry was struck again by the realization of how handsome the vampire was.
"I wouldn't say that. They need a different, new perspective. God knows, there's certainly enough archaic ideas to go around." The last sentence got out before Harry had a chance to curb it. He opened his mouth to apologize but Eggsy held his hand up.
"Don't apologize. I fucking hate it. Everyone always ‘oh, Mr. Unwin, this’ or ‘if it pleases you, sir…’ I just..."
"Is that why you run away?"
"It's not running away. If you knew..." Eggsy sighed.
Harry's interest peaked at Eggsy's words but he didn't let it show. However, it was less his speculation about the illegal activities of the household and more the expression of sadness on Eggsy's face that made him sit beside the young Lord.
"Our fathers came from a very different time. A time of war. It was all they knew. Mine spewed hatred for your kind until the day he died. Hatred he taught me. I'm thankful that I was found by the Hunt when I was. You haven't seemed to hang on to any of those beliefs, so you're far ahead of me there."
"Gotta remember, mate, I'm a few centuries older than you as well."
"Ah yes. It's easy to forget when you're so..." Harry bit his tongue.
"When I'm so, what?" Eggsy tapped the rim of the cap so it road up his head just a bit. He looked up at Harry with a smile that said he knew exactly what Harry was thinking.
"Your looks deceive me." Harry leaned back, away from Eggsy's gaze to look up at the night sky. Silence hung over them and suddenly Harry wondered if this had been a good idea at all. If Eggsy were to make a move right now and he rejected him that would ruin his only source of information. On the other hand if he gave in, and oh how he wanted to, Lord Unwin would probably ring his neck.
"Joining the Hunt saved your life?"
Harry sat up, the abrupt change in tone catching his ear, "Yes, you could say that."
In a jarring movement and a rush of wind Eggsy was gone. Harry was left staring at the spot where the young man use to be.
"Mr. Hart," the deep tones of Lord Unwin filled the night air, "It's quite dangerous to be out on your own at night."
Harry turned to see the Lord's tall form stepping from the darkness of the woods into the moonlight.
"While I appreciate your concern I assure you that I can take care of myself."
"I've no doubt, but it would be poor form to have anything happen to you during your stay here. Allow me to escort you back to the house."
Eggsy had disappeared because of the Lord's presence. Perhaps the wolf had truly been sent to spy. But there wasn't any point in staying out there since he knew Eggsy wasn't going to return.
"Certainly." Harry got up and walked back into the darkness with Lord Unwin on his heels. He cautioned one glance back.
"It really is a beautiful view."
Harry startled out of a deep sleep when a hand closed over his mouth. He thrashed for a moment, hooking his arm around the assailant, trying to pull them off of him. His eyes took in every detail of the room as thin rays of sunlight touched the walls where the thick curtains didn't completely cover the window.
"Harry, it's me."
Harry stopped moving and the hand disappeared. "Eggsy, what are you doing? It's daylight."
The smell of copper hit his nose and Harry knew Eggsy was bleeding, the mere presence of daylight making him weaker by the second even though he was safe from the worst of the sun's rays.
"I can't explain, but you're in danger. Your team, they're outside the grounds in a warded area to take you home." Eggsy whispered.
Harry sat up and got out of bed, "My team, who alerted them?"
"I did, as soon as I knew something was wrong I sent out a message."
He turned to see Eggsy and his heart ached, tear like tracks of blood streaked down his cheeks. His ears, mouth, and nose all had the same trail of blood. He crossed the room in an instant, his hand cupping Eggsy's cheek. "You need to get to bed."
Eggsy rested his cheek in Harry's palm for an instant before gently pulling his hand away, "You need to leave before they realize I'm up. You can't do that without me. I'll be fine, Harry."
"When they wake and I’m gone. They will suspect you.”
"I’ve got a plan, but you have to leave.”
Harry nodded and fetched his bag of of the reading chair in the corner. He took his suits from the closet where they hung and stuffed them inside. He threw bag over his shoulders and turned towards the doorway, giving Eggsy a cautious look, "Ready?"
"Hold on, you're not going to change?" Eggsy regarded the grey monogrammed pajamas Harry was wearing.
"Now usually means right now, my dear boy."
The light came back to Eggsy's eyes at Harry's words and he opened the door. Harry relied on sound as they moved swiftly down the hallway, he trusted Eggsy's eyes in the dark more than his own. The hallway started to fill with more light as they neared the grand foyer at the center of the house. They reached the stairway and Harry felt a presence to his left he turned just in time to avoid the slice of a blade. The servant sliced again, cutting through the front of Harry's nightshirt but missing his skin. He grabbed for the servant's arm as they lunged again but only caught thin air.
Harry looked at the bottom of the stairs to see Eggsy with both servants slung over his shoulders like they were towels. Harry rushed to meet him.
"I'll need to wipe their memories when they wake. If we're lucky they haven't told anyone else and you won't meet any other resistance once you leave the house," Eggsy sat the two servants in a chair nestled beside the stairway.
Even though there was shutters on the front windows Harry noticed the stained glass dome above the entryway remained uncovered. Eggsy cursed as steam rose from his skin. Harry grabbed him and pulled him into the shadows. "You need to get back to your room. I can take care of them."
Eggsy looked back at the servants and then at Harry. "Pf, I'm not some damsel in distress. Centuries old vampire, remember?"
Harry chuckled. "How could I forget?"
They paused for a moment, huddled together. Harry looked down at Eggsy, he let go of the young vampire's arm and reached inside the front pocket of his bag. He took out a small golden ring and held it to his mouth, focusing everything he had into the incantation he breathed over the metal. He held the ring out to Eggsy. "Get away from here as soon as you can and this will lead you to where you want to go."
"To the Hunt?" Eggsy looked at Harry in disbelief. "You don't even know me, Harry."
"I know you've got too much potential to be trapped here."
"...and my deceiving boyish looks." Eggsy cut in, smiling up at Harry before biting his lip.
"That is not why I'm inviting you to join us. But it is a perk." Harry leaned down anxiously anticipating how Eggsy's lips would feel on his.
A door opened down the hallway and both men were knocked out of their peaceful moment, pulling away from one another to look in the direction of the noise.
Eggsy pushed Harry towards the door, "You've got to go."
Harry ran to the door and opened it, flooding the entryway with sunlight. He only paused for a moment to look back at Eggsy who was still huddled in the darkness. The young vampire gave him a wide smile and a wink before disappearing to deal with whatever had interrupted them earlier. Harry shut the door behind him and ran into the daylight hoping it wasn't long until he saw the young vampire again.