A/n: I was browsing through Hellsing fics today and the sad lack of completed multi-chaptered stories made my heart hurt. Conveniently, I had this idea on back-burner for quite a while now.
Hopefully I've kept everyone in character, but this is my first long fic so please be gentle!
Don't forget to drop a review if you'd like!
Disclaimer: All characters of Hellsing are created and owned by Kouta Hirano.
The Witch House
In the muggy, sweat-soaked noon of 1830, a woman burns at the stake. She is not fair nor ugly, not loved nor hated. No one knows where she came from or who she is and no one bothers to know. She is simply going to burn.
"You'll pay for this!" she shrieks, writhing against the post, thin bloodied wrists chafing against thick rope, "You think I end here? HERE?"
The faceless peasants hurry to throw torches onto the wood pile. Some cross themselves and pray. Some will go to their deaths still hearing her screams.
"Filthy rats," she rasps, her throat half-charred, "I'll drown myself in your blood."
And then in that little insignificant village, in that country that has collapsed on its side, the woman without a name burns. She thinks in those last moments of the dark power waiting for her, the speed and teeth, the beauty that she will have forever. She thinks and grows giddy and cackles.
And then she burns.
"She killed another ten this week," a short, squat figure sat hunched over a dark table, "Half the village has already moved out. At this rate, the whole place is going to become a ghost town."
He fidgeted, fiddling around with his glasses as he sent nervous glances toward the shadowed figure gazing out a window across the room.
"How many men have you sent to her?" the silhouette asked softly, turning to reveal a tall, slender frame, hands folded neatly behind his back.
The short man's eyes widened slightly and he dabbed at his pale sweaty forehead with a limp handkerchief.
"Three squads," he answered, sighing shakily, "They were just...none of them returned."
"Does this surprise you?" the figure asked icily, "Sending mere men. They would not have stood a chance."
The short man released a distressed moan, leaning his elbows on the table to grab at his head.
"Mon Dieu, what on Earth is she?" he whispered, hands clenching in his thinning brown hair, "Where did she come from?"
"Where she came from is irrelevant," the shadow chastised, strolling across the room, "She is but a monster."
"How are we suppose to deal with something like her?! Mon Dieu, it's so hopeless, once all the villagers are gone, she's going to leave that place and kill us all. We're all going to die. Dieu, why do I have to be in charge of something like this? I-"
"Silence," the shadow snapped, and the short man's voice died in his throat, but he continued whimpering, mopping at his perspiring forehead. A corner of the shadow's thin lips curled in a disgusted sneer as he regarded the other.
"I would never expect a disgrace such as you to be capable of handling her," he said simply, "To fight a monster, one needs another monster."
"Get Madame Rosbif on the phone," the shadow suddenly said, walking briskly back to the window, "If those isle peasants wish to become such good friends with us then a few favors should be done first."
The short man's eyes widened into saucers.
"M-Monsieur, you can't be saying-"
"I find the whole arrangement rather irksome, truly," the silhouette turned back toward the window, "However, since we do not have a creature of caliber at our disposal, we are forced to ask the English for their dog."
"B-But Monsieur!" the man stammered, half-rising from his chair, "The place where she is, and what she can do there, i-it's-"
"It doesn't matter."
"But what if-"
"I said it doesn't matter!"
There was an audible, almost painful sounding 'click' as the man's mouth snapped shut. A long, stifling silence reigned. The shadowy figure didn't even turn around.
"As long as she dies," he finally said, quietly, "As long as she dies, it doesn't matter."
Integra Hellsing rubbed at her temples, feeling the aching pulse of her fourth migraine of the day.
"Are you even listening to me, Alucard?" she snapped, glaring at the dark, lanky form draped languidly over her couch.
Alucard, Hellsing's ultimate secret weapon, current source of her headaches, and usual bane of her existence, blinked distastefully at her.
"I still don't understand why I need to be up during the day for this."
Integra gritted her teeth, nearly mangling the fountain pen in her hand. She'd always thought of herself as a reasonably patient person-the nature of the events and people that surrounded her daily demanded it-but Alucard was gnawing quite thoroughly on her last nerve.
"I already told you," she began again through clenched teeth, "The jet will be coming to pick you up at noon."
"Why does it have to come at noon?"
"Because that's when they said they'd arrive."
"Why can't it be a later time?"
"Because that's when the fucking French said they'd get here."
"Well why does it have to be a French jet anyway? Why can't one of the British jets take me at a reasonable time that doesn't involve the blazing sun at the peak of the sky?"
Integra sighed, pinching the bridge of her nose hard. While Alucard's complaints were beginning to resemble a sulky child not wanting to ride in a different car to school, she honestly thought he had a point.
As if there weren't enough problems with vampires in the UK, now she was expected to respond to incidents in othercountries as well? Sometimes, Integra thought her Queen was a bit narrow-minded in her eagerness to improve national relations.
"It's a gesture of courtesy, Alucard," she explained, "They are trying to convey new alliances through their offer to take you. We would be conveying likewise by accepting."
The look her vampire gave her was thoroughly unimpressed and Integra had to repress another sigh. Given that his own management of national relations as a prince had involved impaling people on 18 meter spikes, she wasn't really surprised he didn't understand.
"Look, I know it's going to be uncomfortable, but the trip will only take two hours at the maximum. ...You can just sleep during that time."
She winced internally at the suggestion. Alucard was a notoriously heavy sleeper and once he was out, he was out. The image of oblivious French officials trying to rouse him was unpleasant.
"They're offering to serve you virgin blood as well," she quickly amended, "It should be relatively fresh."
Alucard sat up silently, the first spark of interest in his slanted red eyes. Well, at least she could rely on his never-ending hunger to respond. Thinking that the inevitable next question would be what his menu options were, Integra was just beginning to draw out the list of available blood types she'd memorized earlier, when he surprised her.
"It's interesting that for one who is doing a favor, Master, you are acquiescing to a great many demands."
Integra blinked at him. Her vampire was giving her a bemused, slightly puzzled look, like he was wondering where his usually strict and uncompromising mistress was. She sighed again in exasperation.
"It's an order from Her Majesty. She has wanted to improve relations with France for quite some time now."
"Hm," Alucard scowled slightly, "The Queen is surprisingly more weak-willed than I thought."
Integra's icy eyes flashed.
"Careful, Alucard," she warned, "That is your Queen you're talking about."
Alucard shrugged, and turned to stare sullenly at the dead fireplace. With his legs crossed loosely across the couch and his sleep-mussed hair, he looked much like a cranky teenager.
Which he is over the majority of the time. Integra closed her eyes for a moment and massaged her left temple.
Truth be told, she'd been as confused and annoyed as Alucard when she first received that call. Not only did the President of France apparently know about the existence of the supernatural, Hellsing and Alucard, he had wanted to call on them for some vampire problem of theirs, as if they were mercenaries for hire.
She'd been a thought away from refusing, when the Queen had told her she'd already accepted, and sounded both firm enough and apologetic enough that Integra had no choice but to obey.
"She's trying to improve our national relations, " she tried to explain, "Our ties with France have always been tenuous at best."
"She apparently doesn't understand the meaning of good relations then."
"You are the last person I want to hear that from," Integra snapped, "And how this country decides to handle foreign affairs is none of your concern."
"It is when you want me to get up during the day."
"For goodness sake, Alucard, it's just for two bloody hours!" she said, wanting to throw her hands up in frustration, "The sunlight doesn't even affect you!"
He had no problem with flying across the channel and no problem with traipsing through a swampy forest, but he was going to have issues with sitting on a plane for two hours at noon?
Alucard didn't even deem to look at her this time, making Integra's blood boil over.
"You seem to be under the delusion again that it ultimately matters what you want, Alucard," she said frostily, "This business with the French is not a friendly suggestion. I'm ordering you to go to France and complete this mission. You'd do well to not complain further and endure the discomforts."
Silence. Integra stared holes into the back of Alucard's dark-haired head. She didn't enjoy constantly lording herself over him, but her pet always needed constant reminder of his position within the organization. Getting him upset and sulky with her was an incredible pain in the arse too.
So imagine her surprise when Alucard suddenly turned back to her, grinning like the Cheshire Cat.
"Well, if it is an order from the Master," he purred, "Then I shall do as you command."
There was not a single trace of his previous irritation remaining, as if it were never there in the first place.
Integra slightly gaped at him, feeling a bit like she had just been struggling and struggling against an inflatable wall. She had spent nearly two hours coaxing and persuading him, explaining and re-explaining the circumstances. Two hours in which she could have made a sizeable dent in her paperwork. Two hours in which her favorite fountain pain was now nearly beyond repair. And he was just sitting there, with that incredibly amused grin split across his face, probably immensely entertained by how long it took for her to snap and simply order him into it.
Integra saw red.
He was gone before the silver ashtray could bounce harmlessly across the couch cushions, his deep moronic laughter echoing the office.
Perhaps you'll see me across the channel, Master, I will guarantee you quite a show.
When Walter came in a few hours later with the afternoon tea, he was forced to dodge an ashtray that crashed violently against the door frame.
"Get out, you demon! I'm busy!" she barked, eyes flashing furiously beneath her glasses, before she realized who it was.
"Oh my God, Walter, I'm so sorry!" she cried in surprise, anger melting off instantly as she began rising from her chair.
Walter waved a hand gently at her as he straightened from his crouch.
"Not a problem, Ma'am," he replied calmly, steadying the tray of tea and sandwiches in his hand. Not a single drop had been spilled.
He walked over to her desk, smiling wryly.
"Am I to assume you have already briefed Alucard on his mission?"
Integra snorted bitterly, looking slightly frazzled.
"I suppose "brief" would be the operating word, but a more appropriate description would be that he wasted two hours of my time being a difficult bastard for absolutely no reason."
Walter made a thoughtful sound as he poured Integra cup of Earl Grey; he was well aware of Alucard's childish inclinations.
"Well, I suppose his...eccentric personality will deter the French from asking for anymore foolish favors if nothing else," he offered, unable to conceal the slight cheer in his tone.
Integra eyed him over the rim of her teacup.
"Walter, you do know the whole point of this is to improve our standing with them right?"
Of course he knew. He knew, but that didn't mean he understood, and while others may claim his disdain for the French was borne from an elderly mind stuck in a traditional past, Walter simply failed to see gaining anything beneficial from having relations with them, and certainly not in doing favors for arrogant, pompous, skirt-twirling frog tossers that lost practically every war they'd ever waged.
"...I would love nothing more than for our nation to strengthen alliances, Sir Integra. It's just that I'm a bit unsure of the impression Alucard is going to make."
"That's an easy enough problem to solve, Walter," Integra replied dismissively, sipping at her tea.
Walter tried not to look disappointed. "Pardon, Ma'am?"
"I'm sending Seras and Captain Bernadette with him," his mistress said, "I suppose you could tell him they're there for back-up but really, he'll need to be kept an eye on if we're not to muck this up too badly."
The old butler's shoulders sagged slightly. "I see."
Integra's lips twitched in an amused and knowing smile.
"It is what Her Majesty wants, Walter," she comforted him, "And besides, the case is ridiculously low level. It would be a bit of an embarrassment if we declined."
Walter's slender eyebrow raised in surprise.
"Really? If I may ask, ma'am, what is the case about?"
Integra let out an unladylike snort, gesturing to the thin stack of papers she'd been attending to.
"A female vampire has taken up residence in a forest edging along a nearby village. Over the last month, she's killed over fifty people. The villagers are in a hysterical panic and the police are useless as usual. In general however, she has no known powers aside from the typical vampiric strength and speed, and no special abilities. Alucard should make short work of her."
Walter nodded, shuffling lightly through the papers. The vampire certainly sounded unimpressive enough; some of the reports even detailed her killing her victims with a physical weapon.
"It says here that she's residing within an ancient castle," he commented thoughtfully.
Integra nodded, but didn't look any more troubled.
"From what we've gathered from the French, it's merely an old abandoned relic from the 1800s. Nothing to be concerned over."