Lord Breivhardt sat reading the newspaper in front of a large, moonlit window, just like he had done for years, as evident by the old boot-marks that scuffed the windowsill’s surface. Lord Breivhardt did not currently have his boots up on his sill, however. Rarely did he wear boots, anymore. The reason for this was provided by Lord Breivhardt’s armchair of choice, which had wheels attached.
He slammed the paper on the sill and wheeled across the room to where a laptop rested on a stately mahogany desk that shared the sill’s foot-based scars. Breivhardt tucked his legs beneath the desk, his brow furrowing as his index fingers pecked at the keyboard like a pair of old hens. It took him two tries to enter his password, and a few minutes to open his email. The video files sat in his inbox. He clicked on the first one.
“ROSEMARY!” He bellowed after a few moments, still focused on the grainy grey footage.
“Yes, sir?” Had Breivhardt still control of his legs, he would have jumped. He hadn’t heard his young assistant and protege enter. Or approach. Or stand directly beside him. All within ten seconds of his summons. He needed to get the girl a bell. She was a very tall woman, currently dressed in workout clothes and breathing heavily. Her eyes were grey, her jaw was strong, her hair was tied in a long damp ponytail.
“Have you read about the business in Breivhardt hospital? The one I funded?” The aging lord paused the video and reached for the newspaper on his lap before remembering he had slammed it on the sill.
“No, sir. I’ve been busy.” Responded Rosemary, handing him the paper as he opened his mouth to ask for it.
“…Ah! Well. You’ll recall a few weeks back they had to shut down a wing over that whole insect business.“ Breivhardt rifled through the headlines, hunting for the single article that had caught his attention.
“I remember, sir. You were quite enthusiastic about it.”
“Indeed I was! Indeed I was! Now…here! Look at this!” Breivhardt reached up and handed the paper to his assistant. It displayed a small aerial photo of the closed-off wing, its roof collapsed and smoking. “The paper says the hospital wasn’t allowed to say what happened. You recall I told them not to share anything about the insects. Didn’t want the public to panic.” Breivhardt stroked his old-fashioned handlebar muttonstache benevolently.
“Or for another hunter to have all the fun before you could.” Rosemary said matter-of-factly.
“Well, er, yes. That may have crossed my mind.” Admitted Breivhardt, his hand falling from his facial hair. There was nothing accusatory about how she had said it, there never was. She was simply saying out-loud a fact both of them were aware of. “Anyway! As I was saying! It seemed like someone else *did* end up investigating first, so I had Dave call up the place and erm… *borrow…* the salvaged security footage for the wing. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but…well…have a look!” He hammered the laptop’s spacebar to play the footage.
Even blurry and monochromatic, it was a sight to behold. A large man wielding an ornate glaive was hacking at a seething swarm of black scarab-like insects. They were climbing all over him, but their razor-sharp pincers couldn’t leave so much as a mark on his dark skin. This was impressive, but was immediately overshadowed as a short, slight woman with only one arm rushed into the room. As she approached the swarm there was a flash of light and a spectral limb sporting huge talons sprouted from her bandaged stump. She slashed at the insects, leaving an arc of fire searing momentarily in the air.
Breivhardt grinned up at his assistant as the footage continued to play. Rosemary didn’t so much as blink. Or move her face in any discernible fashion. She simply stared in that expressionless way of hers. It wasn’t cold, or disinterested, or slack. It was just…impossible to read. Breivhardt couldn’t for the life of him recall that last time she’d simply *smiled.*
She hadn’t been like this when she was young, back when he’d been a famous monster hunter and Rosemary’s mother had payed him for samples of his marks. He’d keep young Rosemary entertained with stories of his adventures for hours while her mother was off in a lab somewhere, studying the regenerative ability of a Scandinavian troll or something. Even back then he had considered himself a sort of unofficial uncle to the girl.
Things had changed since then, of course. Breivhardt had fallen out of touch for some time, she‘d grown up, he’d had his accident, and her mother…well…
He’d given Rosemary the position of assistant/protege for a few reasons, one being he’d hoped to crack that unhealthy poker-face of hers before she started terrifying his other staff. Also because she was the most efficient and competent human being he’d ever encountered, and Breivhardt desperately needed someone who knew how to organize things. But mostly because of the first reason. Mostly.
“I’m impressed.” She said after the video was finished. For her that meant she was flabbergasted, “you believe these are the people you’ve been looking for, sir?” Roused from his brooding, Breivhardt nodded enthusiastically.
“Just look at them! They’re inexperienced, sure, but there’s *so much* potential! The woman cut a table in half with that arm of hers! And the man lets that grenade explode in his *hand* and acts like it was just a punch in the gut! It’s unbelievable!” Rosemary was silent for a while.
“Are you certain about this, sir?” She said, eventually. Her tone was as controlled as ever but Breivhardt knew she was concerned. Or he guessed she was, at any rate. He closed the laptop with a click and ran his hand through his thinning hair.
“…I am, Rosemary. I can’t stand being cooped up in here. Our little trips have been fun, but there are so many bigger fish to fry.” *And I want you to learn how to work with a group,* he thought to himself, “besides!” He added in his more usual, boisterous tone. “You saw how they just ran in there! Like a couple of Neanderthals! If they keep that up they’ll get themselves killed! It’s our duty as fellow hunters to show them how things are done! Why, I remember back when *I* was starting out…”
Rosemary could tell when her boss was settling in for a long and exaggerated story, but she didn’t mind. Or if she did, it was very hard to tell. Beneath the bluster, there was a man who had survived forty years of monster-hunting…
“-it would’ve torn my throat out if old Spit-Fire Sam hadn’t shown up and walloped it! Then he walloped me for being so green! He was quite the character, Spit-Fire…”
She listened politely. She knew many of these stories by heart at this point, and although most people would see them as simply tales to entertain, Rosemary listened to every detail. She analyzed every account, learned everything she could about the hunt.
“One time I remember, we were in this dusty little bar somewhere in Africa…can’t recall where…and in bursts this hoard of feral dogs, lead by some bloke wearing animal bones standing right in the middle of them all…”
Some day, Lord Breivhardt promised, she’d inherit everything he’d gathered on his travels and be ready to hunt on her own, just as he had.
“And old Sam, quick as a whip, he’s lobbed his half-finished bottle of whisky at the chap before I can blink. Then he follows it with his cigar! Threw it like a bloody dart!”
She looked forward to that day, had been for a very, very long time. The day when she’d take everything she’d learned, and pay her dear old mother a visit…
“There was one hell of a light-show after that, let me tell you! And of course the dogs are pancaking…”
The pair stayed in that office late into the night, one wandering the past, the other focused on the future.