Lindsey McDonald was not a squeamish man by any stretch of the imagination, and still... his newest client unnerved him.
He appeared to be no more than 23 or 24 years old, tall and lanky, with short, unkempt light brown hair that stuck up in carefully cultivated spikes in every direction. He was deathly pale and heroin-gaunt, with sharp, odd-colored eyes of an unnaturally light, piercing gold-green that gave even the jaded lawyer--who had worked with some of the scariest creatures in this dimension--the creeps. He managed to capture every inch of space in the room with a swaggering bravado that befitted someone with an ego the size he was purported to have, and the combination of looks and attitude gave their meeting an air more like Lindsey was representing Rock -n- Roll royalty -- a member of the ultra-hip L.A. Trash Elite...
Rather than a creature who was, arguably, the most powerful immortal on the face of the planet.
The Prelate of the Sanguinati called himself Deacon Frost. No one knew his real name, either from when he was human, or any of those he had taken since he was turned. He was rumored, according to the dossier, to be some 800 years old or more--by far the eldest of his kind that Wolfram & Hart had ever dealt with. As a rule, the Old Ones kept to themselves, uninterested in humanity beyond as a source of cheap labor, food, and twisted entertainment.
Frost, however, was different -- a forward-thinking vampire with an eye to the future of his race. Lindsey's sources informed him that the Prelate had spent the past decade or so exploring ways to expand the ancient Council's influence, increase their loyal numbers, grow their financial foundation and holdings...
And gain victory in the approaching war. Hence the esteemed leader's late night meeting in the 9th floor office of Wolfram & Hart's brightest, most promising junior partner.
The lawyer took an instant dislike to Frost. His manner, his carriage, his slovenly dress -- everything about him screamed ultimate power, and the arrogance that so often came with it. He despised the way the vampire looked on him with such obvious disdain... ran his alarming gaze over Lindsey's suit with a smirk as if he had caught him wearing cast-off's from the Salvation Army, rather than Armani, before finally strolling across the office to stand by the picture window with his hands clasped behind his trim, silk-covered back, gazing lovingly out at the sparkling Los Angeles night.
"So, Mr. McDonald. I understand that your firm believes they might have some information of use to our latest project."
The young attorney shook off his personal discomfort and dislike for the demon, and focused instead on maintaining his usual unflappable, neutral businesslike demeanor. Frost might look like some slob-chic pinup boy, but he was still a potential client with a great deal of money and influence.
"We have some mutual interests, Mr. Frost. It makes sense for our two organizations to combine resources in reaching our common goals."
Frost smirked at Lindsey over his shoulder. "Hm." He turned back to the window once more. "And what do you think those might be?"
Lindsey quickly rifled through his mental notes on Deacon Frost and the Sanguinati. "For your part, a foothold in the United States. For both of us, some organization and authority over the demon population on the west coast, and leverage in... coming events."
The vampire chuckled, shaking his head, before he turned to face Lindsey fully. "You know, I find your profession's dubious talent for double-speak rather... well, boring, actually. Why can't you just say what you mean? Our "goals" and "interests", our desire for "leverage" in "coming events"... means simply this: we want to rule the world. To rule the world, we have to win the Great War. To win the Great War, we need an unconquerable army. In order to build such an army, we need The Great General." He ticked the list off on his long fingers as he spoke. "And *that*, my dear Mr. McDonald, is our common ground."
The human kept his poker face, but scowled internally. If it wasn't for the fact that this particular case might get him the biggest promotion of his career, he probably would have told the vampire king to go fuck himself.
"Of course," he agreed amicably.
Frost circled slowly behind Lindsey's chair. "Good. Now that we understand why we're really here, what say we skip all the lawyer talk, and get to the particulars. What do you and your firm think you have to offer me? Besides your collective throats, that is."
Lindsey didn't even flinch at the threat. After all, he worked with bloodthirsty monsters every night. The simple fact of the matter was, Frost needed him. He could give the Sanguinati what no one else could -- beginning with the thick sheaf of papers that he pulled from his briefcase and handed to the younger-looking man.
The Prelate skimmed them quickly, then glanced up with an apathetic expression. "Now I'm so very bored," he complained, tossing them carelessly back. "Why don't you just *tell* me what you think you have there? In English, if you please. Or... the Romance language of your choice. I'm not picky."
The lanky demon sunk into a nearby chair and crossed his long, leather-clad legs, waiting with a cocked eyebrow for his new lawyer to give an impromptu presentation.
Lindsey was up to the task.
"We've recovered the missing passages of the Beldisian Annals."
A hint of amusement crossed over Frost's boyish features. "The Vampire Bible. And here I thought those texts were just a legend. Well. You learn something new every day, don't you? But... you're certain they're not a forgery?"
The other man nodded, feeling like he had just scored a minor victory in what was turning out to be a rather satisfying battle of wills. "Our experts assure us... they're authentic."
The Prelate nodded. "I'm impressed. And...have they found the rituals we're looking for?"
McDonald got up and strolled over to his wet bar, pouring himself a drink and rudely choosing not to offer one to Frost, before he replied. Being on his feet made him feel just that much more in control. He really, really hated vampires. This one more than most. "It shouldn't take more than a day or two to complete the translation. And we already have the sorcerers in place. Vampires, as you requested. By the time the Dark Moon rises, you should be ready to go."
Frost reclined further in the chair, kicking his booted feet up onto the edge of the black lacquered desk, ignoring the lawyer's dark frown at the action.
"Well, then, I guess your firm really has earned its sterling reputation. I have to say, this makes my job a lot easier. Scouring the planet for magick that might not even exist is a big misappropriation of time and money... not that we don't have plenty of both. I just hate seeing either go to waste."
Lindsey leaned back against the bar and watched the ice cubes clinking around in the bottom of his untouched scotch. He never drank when he was with supernatural clients. The tumbler simply gave him something to do with his nervous hands. "I assume you have particular... historical figures in mind for the resurrection," he mused aloud.
The cold, piercing sage gaze lit on him, sending a shiver down to the depths of Lindsey's soul. "Indeed, we do. The prophecies are very clear about the Great General, Mr. McDonald. And in order to draw him to our ranks, there are only particular ones who will be of any use."
"You seem to think that turning him is going to be easy. That kind of attitude is a serious mistake, believe me." Lindsey had barely lived through more than a few run-in's with the infamous souled vampire himself. Sometimes, he could still feel the rope around his throat from one of their more heated... discussions.
At that, Frost burst into laughter. "Really! And how did you become such an expert on The Aurelius, hm? They teaching vampire history in law school now?"
Lindsey scowled at the arrogant vampire. "The Senior Partners know how important he is. We've been watching him for a long time. He can't be bought. Or cajoled. Or convinced by force."
"Of course not. He is a strong and honorable man. Or... whatever it is he's passing for these days. But really, use your imagination, Lindsey. The key to Angelus' loyalty -- indeed, to his accursed soul -- is easy even for a lawyer to figure out."
"The Slayer," he guessed, ignoring the slight.
"Mm. The legendary Chosen One. I find their alliance an amusing irony, don't you? Imagine," Frost got up and strolled to the back of the office, glancing at Lindsey's framed credentials on the wall as he spoke, "The greatest weapon of the forces of Light, mated by blood and soul bond to the darkest, most malfeasant creature ever to rise from the dead." He spun and laid a brilliant smile on the young human. "It's better than reality TV, you know? I have to say, I've always been a big fan of Angelus. I followed his career for years after he and his Sire left the Order. Nest was *livid* when a *whelp* ran off with his Most Favoured! But... I digress. Angelus is the pivotal X-factor in determining who will triumph in the End of Days. The passe-partout of turning him is releasing his stalwart soul. The key to releasing his soul is severing his bond with the Slayer. By gaining Angelus' allegiance and leadership, we will gain control of the Gate, and thus, the Old Ones will once again take their rightful place as kings of the earth." He moved away once more, examining some of the small statues displayed on shelves along the walls.
"I'm afraid that's easier said than done, Mr. Frost. There are *two* Slayers now -- more powerful than any others in their history. And Angel's friends are a formidable force -- deeply devoted to him and his cause. There's no way we can drive them apart. No matter what magick you have."
Frost didn't bother to turn around as he replied, "Not so, my dear counselor. Dividing their numbers will also be elementary: kill the Slayer, and Angelus will return to the fold as Master of both Aurelius and the Los Angeles basin, which, as you know, contains a mystical convergence of some power. An important advantage for whoever controls it. With the Order of Aurelius fully restored, the Sanguinati will reign." He turned at last. "The forces of the Powers That Be will be scattered without their beloved leaders, and your senior partners will have the entirety of vampiredom as allies."
Now it was Lindsey's turn to laugh. "Killing the Slayer. Now... why didn't *I* think of that? Oh, right! Because it's *impossible*! Not only is she one of the greatest warriors who ever lived, but she is bound to one, and guarded by several other, of the greatest warriors who ever... lived, for lack of a better word. Have you forgotten William the Bloody? The Secondary Slayer? Not to mention the Sierra Ridge shape shifters, the Watcher's council, and from what I understand, a top-secret arm of the United States Government, PLUS the prophesied Triad. All of these forces shield the Summers girl. It's not like your lackeys can just snatch her off the street. Angel barely lets her out of his *sight*."
Frost's smile faded. "You underestimate me, McDonald. Just because I *look* young and foolish, don't make the error of presuming that I *am*. I'm well aware of the details of Angelus' situation. Why do you think I've asked for the Annals of Resurrection in particular, hm?"
Lindsey snorted derisively, no longer caring if he offended his client. "What, you think bringing a bunch of dead vampires back from Hell is going to help?"
"No," the Prelate replied, his smug smirk returning, "It will only take one."