Power Play

Alucard had few weaknesses, but Integra knew it was only a matter of time before she found them all. She'd discovered his weakness for books very quickly, when he acted too casual – 'pointedly disinterested,' she'd told Walter later – about her magnanimous declaration that he would be free to roam the house and grounds of the Hellsing Estate. She determined that there was something in particular he wanted access to, but was loath to let her know about. She'd quickly made her room (though not her father's office) off bounds, but she knew there was something else he was eager to get his hands on. The first time she found him in the library, she had her suspicions. He immediately closed the book he'd been reading, and gave her his rapt attention. Since he generally ignored her when she walked into a room (or at least pretended to), he had to be hiding something. Her suspicions were confirmed when she punished one of his indiscretions by banning him from the library temporarily. He looked crestfallen, for a moment, before he was able to hide his true reaction from her in his usual taunts. Alucard could smile through anything.

She later learned that he made up for lost time by reading about the places he had never been and the events he had not been part of. For someone who had lived for such an extraordinary amount of time, it seemed strange that most of his knowledge was academic. But then, he could not learn from others as normal people could. He didn't get out much. Absorbing people's memories by drinking their blood after slaughtering them wasn't quite the same as discussing current events over tea. Integra had every intention of relying on personal experience rather than academic knowledge…but she would have to finish her schooling first. For now, reading history textbooks was as much a part of her duty as signing the guards' paychecks.

She loathed it. History was all about people who had died. Most of them in idiotic ways. Some wars had reasons, but most of them were ridiculous. It was like watching fatal flaws play out in gruesome detail, but being unable to do a thing to stop it. As far as she could tell, the main cause of the murder of Thomas Beckett was drunken knights. It wasn't even the direct result of a legitimate conflict between church and crown, as one might suspect. There was no reason for it to have happened, but to read about it so many years later gave the event such an inevitable feel. She sighed noisily, and did not have to turn around to know that her servant was in the room. He had a chilling presence that she'd grown accustomed to, but still found difficult to ignore. That, and he could never quite mask the scent of death that followed him around. It should probably bother her that that reminded her of her father, but she was far from squeamish.

"What's wrong?" he asked, immediately picking up on her frustration.

"Nothing. Just stupid history and pointless wars."

"Why would a war be pointless?" he asked her.

She turned in her chair to face him, not realizing that she looked more like a child than ever in the high backed chair. "If it doesn't achieve its goal, it served no purpose. Most wars don't actually resolve conflict."

"Of course not; they are designed to cause conflict, not alleviate it."

"But men don't wish to stay at war forever. It is only you monsters who enjoy that." These debates with Alucard could go on indefinitely, but his perspective was…unique. She'd gotten over being shocked by his views over the past couple of years.

"Perhaps. But you would not know that to read your history. English soil is drenched with blood."

"I know. That doesn't make it excusable." She paused, not knowing how to convince him. "Fighting off invaders is one thing, but there is no honor in fighting without a just cause."

"Who would fight for that? You need a better motivation to enter battle. A thirst for blood…."

"Alucard," she began patiently, as if explaining to a child. "You are thinking like a monster, not a man. Wars are not fought by vampires. At least, not the ones that make these history books," she said, gesturing at the stack of books next to her desk in the library.

"You're certain of that, are you?" He walked over and chose a book from the stack. "What launches a war?"

"Building tension leads to outbreaks of violence, which…"

He cut her off abruptly, "No." He leafed through the book without looking at her. "Not what events. Who?"

"The leader. The president, the queen, whomever." She gestured impatiently, not wanting to get bogged down in yet another conversation about his interest in bloodshed.

He stopped when he found what he was looking for. "Close." He handed it to her, and she looked at the page marked by his gloved thumb.

"The Melifluous Doctor?" It was a nondescript black and white drawing of a monk, but the caption labeled him honey-tongued.

"Crusades are launched by leaders, but not by kings. Men of vision, who can carry others along with them to destruction. Until you understand that, you will not truly understand war."

"But it was the pope who declared this Crusade…."

"He didn't fight in it, though, did he? Who raised the armies? Who led them to battle? Not him, I assure you!" He smiled enigmatically, and then, to her surprise, left her to her studies. She supposed he found it taxing to be up and about at all at this time of day. Another weakness, but at least she'd be spared the 'ode to war' lecture.

It was true, though, what he said about raising armies. The Crusades had many leaders, kings among them, but the people who fought were far removed from the heads of state declaring war and peace in due season. They fought for more immediate reasons – land, honor, redemption. Her own men fought for their country and their paycheck, but she had never really stopped to think about what truly motivated them to fight the undead. In her case, it was a family duty, but her soldiers were not constrained by such a heritage.

What interested her in the history book, if she would admit it, though, were the false crusades – more inevitable disasters that should have never happened. The People's Crusade, the crusade-before-the-first, led by Peter the Hermit, in which a bunch of peasants grabbed whatever was at hand and went off to find the heavenly Jerusalem by the will of God, pillaging as they went. The mob got surprisingly far, and took out quite a few innocent Jews and Christians along the way, but the entire endeavor ended in a massacre when they finally did meet the Turks. Nearly a millennium ago. Ancient history, and yet, she could see Alucard's point in all of that. All it took was a charismatic leader. Peter the Hermit was nobody special. He wasn't a lord or a pope. And yet…he raised an army of farmers, and led them to their deaths. There was something macabre about that, almost monstrous enough to be vampiric. Much creepier than the honey-tongued monk who had preached about the need to free Jerusalem, but stayed home himself.

But even the People's Crusade was nothing compared to the Children's Crusade. That had almost taken on the status of myth, in which an enigmatic instigator came into town and stole the children away. It was almost amusing to think that the French and the Germans would have the same idea at the same time. But the story tugged at her memory, reminding her of something else she had read, but so long ago that she'd forgotten it. What kind of story would be about a bunch of kids forming an army, marching to the sea, and then being sold into slavery before they ever reached their goal, though? Or so one version went; this era of history was confused, with no one really knowing what had happened. She shook her head and pushed it away. Maybe another day; she'd put more than enough time into studying history for now.

She opened the top desk drawer and took out the cigars that she kept there. Her father had always smelled of cigar smoke, and she loved that about him. You had to have leisure time to smoke a cigar, and anyone doing so always appeared so relaxed. She knew that most people disapproved of a young woman smoking them, but it was one way for her to remind the world that she was not a typical young woman; she was Integra Hellsing.

She stood and left the library, but paused in the open doorway, neglecting her cigar as it wreathed her in smoke. Someone had put on music. She hadn't heard it behind the thick doors of the library; the sound was too faint. But now…she walked down the hallway and opened the door of the empty meeting room. There was an old record player set up, playing Dvořák. She smiled, and leafed through the dusty stack of albums beside it. Where had Walter gotten these from? They were her father's, and she hadn't seen them in ages. The record skipped, and she gently removed the needle, switching it out with a big band record. She supposed no one listened to this old music anymore, but her father had danced with her to these songs and told her how pretty she was. She had just laughed at him… oh, it was so long ago now. She would not laugh now, but she could not quite bear the thought of stopping the music, either. The music begged to be danced to, but she simply listened.

She startled from her reverie when she realized she was not alone. "Do you like it?" said a voice from one of the chairs. It swiveled around to reveal her servant.

"Alucard! I thought you were sleeping," she chided him.

"Who do you think put the music on?" he asked her, amused.

"It would be rather unlike Walter…but then where did you get these?" she gestured at the stack of albums.

"I…found them," he said, not elaborating. He swiveled back and forth in the chair like a restless child. "Do you like this music?" he asked again.

"Yes, some of it. These were my father's."

Alucard nodded. "I know," he said, amused by something.

It very belatedly occurred to her that if she had the opportunity to learn of Alucard's weaknesses, then he would no doubt learn hers as well. Only the folly of being a teenager had led her to think she had none. She could hope that none of hers were fatal, though.

Integra stopped the music. It wasn't the same now that she knew she wasn't alone. "I should get back to work," she said, turning to go.

"I knew the music would lure you away for a moment," her vampire teased her.

She stopped. "That's what it was. The Pied Piper." She remembered which story about a monster luring small children to their demise she'd been thinking of earlier. To be fair, her father had read her many such stories as a child. She looked at Alucard more closely. "That is the type of leader you were talking about. Someone who puts his charisma to devious uses."

"From Hamelin? He was before my time," Alucard protested. "He was already a legend when I was growing up, about how he had led the children under the mountains to Transylvania."

"Really?" she asked, surprised. "I didn't know that part of the story. I had no idea there was any connection."

He looked at her, but not her eyes. "Oh yes; there were certainly blond-haired children among the Romanians in my day. Now what lured them there…I cannot say."

"Not a vampire, surely."

"Their children's children followed one, though," he reminded her. "You just need to know what people are willing to sacrifice their lives in exchange for. Once you know the price…the army is yours to do with as you will."

Integra shook her head. "There are other ways to command armies. The goal should never be the death of your own soldiers," she said in exasperation. She turned and left then, before he could continue the argument. Apparently, he wasn't as sleepy as she'd thought earlier.

Alucard smiled at the closed door she had just passed through. He was so very glad his master was not a monster. He couldn't let her know that just yet, though.


Author's Note: Written as an exchange fic for Nightsmoke. Hope you like it! The prompt was pre-Hellsing (teenage!Integra) and something with music. The original title of the piece was 'Pied Piper,' and when I learned that legend had a connection to Transylvania, I couldn't resist.

The Melifluous Doctor is a title of Bernard of Clairveaux, a famous monk of the Middle Ages who, among other things, preached the 2nd Crusade. He's actually an amazing guy, and I have a lot of respect for him, despite his politics.

Oh, yeah, and I should probably mention that I have a minor in medieval history. Not that you can tell or anything :P. I enjoyed playing 'connect the dots' with this.