Strange Eons: His Vienna Rose
Posted on 07/09/22 at 8:30am by Private: Julian Bathory
Event: ReVival 11
Private: Julian Bathory
Shanahan inclined his head, gazing into the clear night bejeweled with stars. He wondered how many of those billion-year old specks were dead, and of those, which had died by the hand of ancients stirred to life to reclaim them. Entire systems doomed to cosmic dust.
He pondered these things not because they were central to any thesis he was working on, or even that they related to any of his apocalyptic sermons. It felt rhetorical, beyond even musing about, rationally. Instead they came to mind just because he was blind, staggering drunk, for the first time since he could remember. Since before the lost boy from Hungary had landed on his doorstep and become his prized ward, dictated through esoteric prophecy.
The fauna of Vermont were active tonight. Here they were usually still; such was rarely the case back in West Virginia since the advent of Julian Bathory, burst from his chrysalis, as Roane County’s wildlife seemed to rage against that unnatural birthing. The entity called the Dream Broker had latched onto his pupil and fed the darkness inside, nurtured his animosities and insecurities, spawning a devil now beyond his control.
Bruce looked down at the edict penned by the director, the original left for him directly prior to having it proliferated across the organization. He could feel the mockery coded into the ink, and felt hopeless to contend with what was happening around him.
Circumstances have dictated that MESSIAH International alter course in the approach of our mission objectives. Let it be noted that all pretenses of passivity and submission are hereby suspended, and recruitment efforts will be far more aggressive with an eye toward a more distinctive and targeted audience. In short, the mask is coming off of the organization and its larger goals. Additional notes are attached to this missive.
Furthermore, headquarters for MESSIAH International have shifted to our former satellite camp in Abel, West Virginia, with the Wyatt Manor location’s resources to be committed to other pursuits. Father Shanahan and associate staff will take lead on these projects, with all decisions to be adjudicated by myself.
More details will come at a later time. Thank you.
Director, MESSIAH International
He took another long pull from the bottle. The infamous Violence Jack was a man forsaken, a once venerated patriarch now condemned to quiet exile. Someone had to collar the monster he’d given life to, but it wouldn’t be him. Not tonight, not anytime soon. He’d seen hellfire smoldering behind those eyes, and all of the abyssal favor he’d incurred.
It was going to take time, scheming. But he wouldn’t see all he’d build through the years crumble. Julian Bathory wouldn’t deny Bruce Shanahan his legacy.
Another long pull. A hazy toast to those things beyond the outer reaches, and the civilizations they’d cast into extinction.
The storm roared around the MESSIAH facilities in Abel. A torrential rain drummed on the roofs, bursting neglected, shaky gutters. Thunder cracked with such consistency that it was akin to an unrelenting chorus. Rarely had there been tranquility in the elements since the director had emerged into town a couple of weeks back, his clothes drenched, and impressed upon the faithful that a great communion had taken place.
Tonight he defied nature and its fury, pressing his limits in the tempest. In his mind, part of his destiny lay in challenging Heaven and daring its masters to smite him. Donned in his glorious ascendency, shielded by infernal patrons, non-subject to any divine wrath. Poised in the center of his creation, a makeshift outdoor ring, slick with rain and strewn with detritus, alone against the initiates that had come to Abel to join his latest project.
A stocky bull of a man burst from the pack of would-be contenders, shorts matted to his thighs, and reached out to grapple the Hungarian. He was slow, uncertain, sloppy; Bathory swept his clumsy charge aside and leveled him from behind with a sweeping lariat.
The force behind the strike caused the next entrant to pause. A man of similar build, tattooed, with hair and a grizzled look that screamed ex-Marine, pushed his hesitant partner aside and rushed the head of MESSIAH. He fared only slightly better, a clever feint before his attack, managing to knock Julian off balance with a forearm shiver. He used the moment to shift in behind Bathory, seizing him in a rear waistlock, aiming to snap him back on his skull.
Bathory’s elbow plunged down into his neck. He tumbled over like a sack of potatoes, limp from the crushing blow. More rushed through the ropes, attacking from different directions, eager to earn their pound of flesh and the approval of the lord of MESSIAH International.
He lamented Marko’s points of ambition; his Other spread out his duties almost frivolously, entertaining many while mastering none. In no area did Bathory perceive deficiency as much as he did presently in physical strength. A deficiency in violence. He lacked the thirst for it, tried too hard to play the tactician and suave diplomat. It just wouldn’t do. This body still lacked sufficient aptitude to overtake PRIME. He’d battled Jiles at his peak and still only reached a stalemate with that smug, fucking prick.
That said, not one of these graceless goblins were in line with that shades-wearing shitbag. None matched up to Jiles’ surprising finesse, Impulse’s wily intensity, and certainly not Youngblood’s decades-honed prowess. Not a single contender back in Vegas would be hard-pressed to ice any of these bums in less time than a commercial break.
He continued his onslaught, a dynamo warring within a maelstrom. Men pulled themselves to their feet only to be brought down from myriad angles, Bathory running through the catalog of his considerable in-ring arsenal. He thought he heard a bone break beneath the howling wind, felt teeth break at the height of his fury.
From under his umbrella, Dimitri Gouskos frowned. He’d thought this would be little more than an intense try-out, a proving ground for Julian’s personal cadre of destroyers and enforcers reared to fulfill his bidding in PRIME. Instead it more resembled a killing pit, a massacre administered personally by its mad king. Worse yet, the glee animated on his face as he decimated these prospective minions was unsettling.
“Any word from Father Shanahan?” Dimitri had asked Krauser that morning.
The stern-faced German shook his head, denoting the negative.
“He’s been a ghost since the director walked into Abel that night, raving about that ‘rider of the black stars’. Went back to Wyatt Manor in the early hours the next morning. He was spooked by something. Gone completely dark. Then the director put out that notice, the change of plans.”
Gouskos had watched the black clouds rolling in over the horizon. More inclement weather. Ever since that night of the meteor it was like a curse had fallen on the countryside, as if this sleepy town needed more calamity visited on it. How much damnation was enough?
“The night in the gym,” Gouskos said, rubbing his chin. “You remember, Wilhelm?”
“My arm still tingles when I think about it.”
“Mmmm. Those eyes, they were like coal. So strange. Thankfully it was – what’s the word? Fleeting.”
“I have a hunch. A bad one. The director has changed our course, set us adrift in dangerous waters. There will be consequences. Remain vigilant.”
Bathory flashed back to Horace Tully, broken before him, the facade of a warrior left wanting. His gladiatorial arena was littered with bodies, self-professed thugs and tough-guys and men of malice, all resigned to defeat. Some barely moved, a couple offered groans reminiscent of death rattles, others shivered in the relentless downpour. It was a putrid display. He grabbed the nearest challenger, a grim-faced kid with a pony-tail, gripping his hair back in a knot, exposing his throat to the blackened sky.
“Enough. You’ve proven your point, Director Bathory.”
Wilhelm Von Krauser’s voice broke the tension, interjecting before that potentially crippling elbow strike found its mark. Pony-Tail was dead to rights on his knees, defenseless, and Krauser himself had experienced the jarring force of that maneuver from a far better position. The director, visage twisted cruel, dropped the prospect in a heap.
“I wanted lions and was fed mere pups. I demanded killers and you delivered to me only failures. I expect better in the future. Find me my horsemen.”
Krauser met eyes briefly with Dimitri. He shifted back to Bathory, eyeing the wounds that the arch-heretic disregarded. A gash ran along his arm, shrapnel caught on the wind and launched into him amidst the melee. He may have defied Heaven with this stunt but had caught a couple minor strays regardless. “Rome wasn’t built in a day, director. Nor was this organization. Filling the ranks of the gym remains a work-in-progress.”
The monster inside Marko spat blood on the ground. The fire within was fizzling out as he reached for an umbrella of his own.
“I trust you will. MESSIAH won’t be denied its empire. Our boot will end up on PRIME’s neck one way or the other.”
Static and a crackling in Gouskos’ ear.
He drew himself to full height and squared his eyes with Bathory, the latter unwinding tape from his wrists and hands. They were soaked, and not entirely in rainwater.
“Director, you need to return to your quarters immediately.”
Gouskos shook his head.
“No. You have a visitor.”
The familiar scent of lavender and spices. Her scent.
She sat on a cushioned chair, draped with satin, and arose as his footfalls first crossed the rug. In her hair was a single red rose, thorns sliced from the stem. Just as the one he’d given her so long ago, a gift for saving his mind, healing his soul. He’d taken the time to remove the thorns lest he risk her being cut. Back then he couldn’t stomach the thought of her wounded as a result of his carelessness.
Both paused as their eyes locked. It had been years since they’d met in the flesh, since she’d salved his wounds and seen him off on his journey guided by dreams. Padraig rattled his cage, seething and despairing and afraid all at once. Julian Bathory only offered a toothy smile.
“Nadia. It’s been so very long.”
“It has. Jesus…I…”
Nadia Riegler’s smile was a thing that could bring a tyrant to his knees with its beauty, or quell a storm in its tracks. The rain even seemed to slacken outside the window as she nestled into his arms, tears of longing trickling down her cheeks.
“This is unexpected. I wish you’d given me notice, time to prepare. I’ve been so busy, love.”
“I…I needed this.”
“Distance makes the heart grow fonder, yes?”
There was a coldness to his voice, a distance. She’d expected passion, ecstasy, and received only ice. Even when they’d met, his mind still reeling from the horrors he’d encountered outside of Vienna, Padraig had shown more vitality. This felt too terribly like a shallow act, a particularly wooden performance at that. He’d greeted his fiancee with all the spirit of a schoolboy reciting an arithmetic problem.
Something else was missing. Her hand ran under his jaw, down his neck. Pulling back, blinking away the burning in her eyes, her eyes settled on his chest.
“Where is it?”
“The coin, Padraig. You told me that you never removed it.” There was a pale outline of where the chain and talisman usually hung from his throat.
He chuckled, dismissive. More cool aloofness that did nothing to allay her fears. “Silly me, I misplaced it.”
She stepped back, the initial bliss eroded away and a sense of melancholy settling in. Melancholy and startling unfamiliarity.
“I came here because you stopped writing letters. And the last couple you sent me were…” She bit her lower lip, rubbed nervously at a circlet on her wrist. Another trinket he’d gifted her during their time in Austria. “They were unhinged. Paranoid. When I found you back home you talked about demons from Hell, monsters, nightmares about possession. You were petrified. But these…” She pulled scarred-up envelopes from her purse, holding them in front of his face with trembling hands. “…there is no fear. If anything there’s excitement about the same things. I’ve watched you on television, Padraig. I sat in a pub and watched that last big show. The man I saw wasn’t you. I don’t understand what you’ve become. I don’t see what the game is!”
He bristled, sentimental veneer discarded in a blink. “The game? The game is power, Nadia. Power and control. I’m trying to expand MESSIAH’s influence and conquer PRIME. You wouldn’t understand what we’re aiming for.”
His callousness cut deeper than a thousand thorns. Her shoulders sagged
“As long as you’re here, love, stay awhile. I plan on taking my crown soon. And every good king needs a queen, right?” His laugh was menacing as he swept out of the room.
Denied her joyous reunion, Nadia Reigler lowered herself back into the cushioned chair and wept.
I’ve been denied several times in the early days of PRIME. First by that ornery old bastard, Knox. I -well, that fool Padraig- walked into the Almasy Invitational with an invincible and unearned swagger, and Impulse nearly took his jaw off. Did the same thing again at Culture Shock. And now, again, as the spotlight shines on that despicable Jiles and his farce of a main event run, PRIME relegates me to welcoming panic-signed outcasts.
In the end it’s just like that old adage: it’s not about how many times you get knocked down, it’s how many times you pull yourself back up. When you’re denied, how do you respond?
The history of wrestling is marred with never-was’s that turned one bad break into a career death spiral. Bruce has recounted countless tales of blue-chip, starry-eyed rookies that strutted into the Primetime halls with Hall of Fame aspirations, only to quit the job, forlorn and battered, after a single bad outing jerking the curtain on a house show.
This is your PRIME debut, Mitch. I’m going to make it a memorable one, for all of the wrong reasons. Sin City has changed, evolved, and plenty of those old institutions are memories. There’s no going home again when all that’s left are graves.
As you stare into the ember valleys of Hell, don’t abandon hope. Not yet anyhow. Drag yourself to your feet and resolve to face the next dawn. And with the rising sun in your face, embrace your salvation. Embrace MESSIAH. Or choose denial and receive annihilation. Bask in our cathedrals, liberated, or be defiled on our altars, condemned.
Deny me at your peril.
Forever the crown.