A Legacy That Lasts


eileen_icon.gif walter_icon.gif

Also featuring:

kazimir_icon.gif munin_icon.gif past_sharrow_icon.gif yvette_icon.gif

Scene Title A Legacy That Lasts
Synopsis Eileen asks Walter for an unspeakable favor. He delivers.
Date November 11, 2011

Pollepel Island

"ARE YOU SURE YOU WANT TO DO THIS?" Walter Trafford does not mean to shout; it's just the only way Eileen will be able to hear him over the roaring wind and rain that pelts Pollepel Island. The Englishwoman told Barbara that she was going away for a few days without explanation, and although she's headed down the winding path that leads away from Bannerman Castle, she carries no bags or weapons, not even her wolf's head cane.

Eileen tugs her coat just a little tighter, bundling her small body against the building storm. "IT'S A HELL OF A TIME TO LEAVE," Walter adds, as if she was somehow oblivious the choppy river waters churning at the docks below. One of the boats crashes against the pier with resonant crash that sounds like thunder. No hoarse cries from the seagulls, not tonight. They're hunkered down in the parapets.

Walter interprets Eileen's lack of response as a yes. He chases after her, his footing sure on the rocks despite the slippery wet. Nimble feet and long, lanky legs have him bounding down the path until he's at her side.


Eileen's eyes close. Her ears prick. She holds the sound of the wind in her memory and seeks out a time when the cold numbed her fingers and ears, and rain transformed her clothes into a smothering weight.




Munich, Germany

Winter, 2007

They say that Schwabing is older than Munich itself; home to a plethora of musicians, painters, and other bohemians, it’s certainly considered by some to be the city’s cultural heart. Drooping flats defaced by graffiti proudly stand beside baroque, neoclassical mansions occupied by the descendents of Europe’s old aristocracy. Ornamental churches with oxidized copper roofs dominate the cityscape, which is interspersed with cozy little parks and a labyrinth of too-narrow side alleys that belong to cyclists and pedestrians. It is a perfect retreat from the new world, and home to one of the Vanguard’s many safehouses hidden throughout Europe.

Eileen has always had a fondness for this spot because of its small size and dark, cozy atmosphere. Aside from its high ceilings and polished marble floors, there’s something very humble about the flat and its faded, peeling wallpaper. Ratty Persian rugs feel like a luxury under bare feet. The fire burning in the yet-to-be-restored hearth is an old friend, as is the taxidermied stag’s head that hangs above it.

She warms herself by the flames, a wild tangle of dark hair plastered to her cheeks by the rain. Her clothes — black leggings and an oversized wool sweater fashioned from alpaca — are still damp even though she’s been sitting on the floor in front of the fireplace for some time. Her sopping coat hangs from a hook by the door where she has also left her shoes, mindful not to track mud into the flat.

She has all the time in the world to wait for Kazimir to return home from whatever business has brought them to this corner of Europe, and seems content to listen to the sound of the windstorm growing in intensity outside as she distractedly twirls a wilted pink rose between her fingers. It’s one of the last of the previous season, plucked from some sad bush or another. She would have put it in a vase if there was any chance of saving it.

Kazimir was always secretive, even among those he ostensibly trusted. Germany had been his home in his youth, which is as much as most of the Vanguard were ever aware. But returning to Germany has become a protracted affair. It began before spring, and now winter has come and the once mobile organization feels like it is hunkering down for something. Perhaps the news of the day is to blame, the “winds of change” as he would so often claim, were blowing.

A newspaper folded on the table by the fire is months out of date, but the headline Der Nukleare Mann says enough. Front page photographs of burning buildings have covered every periodical for over a year. But this far away from borders, from America, it feels as though nothing had changed. Kazimir himself, though, may not be as glacial as old Germany.

The sound of the door opening comes with a gust of cool air from outside. What should be a solitary pair of footsteps is tripled, and it’s clear that dziadzio has brought company back to the safehouse. Kazimir’s footsteps are easy to pick out among the others, a two-step and click of a cane in metered precession. Ethan once joked that Kazimir even walked in iambic pentameter. At least, joked as much when Kazimir wasn’t around to hear it. Secret smiles, hidden laughter, the kinds of familial bonds that would outlive Kazimir himself.

Through the doorway into the great room emerges the expected. Kazimir in a charcoal grey suit, a heavy woolen coat draped over his shoulders and wide, dark hat keeping the rain from his hair. The wolf’s-head cane in his hand leaves a clear report on the marble floor, interspersed between the cadence of two other pairs of footsteps. Yvette Volken is a relatively new face to Eileen, such as hers is, half-cowled by a scarf. The elderly man walking beside Kazimir, however, is something else entirely. Tall, thin and long-faced.

“…but, we can’t exactly consider it completed until — “ The newcomer hesitates, noticing Eileen lounging by the fire on his arrival. He raises one white brow, looks to Kazimir and ignores Yvette. Kazimir smiles, a measure used in a more primal way indicating comfort. Not to show his own happiness.

“Mister Sharrow,” Kazimir raises one brow as he motions with the head of his cane to the older man. “This is Munin,” his pale eyes sweep across the room. “She’ll be joining me in the States,” he informs, as if to level some amount of context to Eileen’s meeting. “Yvette, dear, do be kind and take Mister Sharrow’s coat and see that he’s comfortable.”

Yvette nods in the slightest of gestures, then holds out an arm wordlessly to Sharrow. While this dance of niceties plays out behind him, Kazimir makes a slow walk over to Eileen. Blue eyes track to the flower, one brow subtly raised in wordless question.

“Everything dies,” says Eileen. “I thought it looked pretty.”

A rumpled sparrow gives a flutter of its wings from its perch on the stag’s antlers, fluffing its feathers to better soak in the heat from the fire. It peeps, once, and is quiet. Eileen seems to watch Yvette and Mr. Sharrow disappear and listens to the sound of their retreating footsteps. Somewhere else in the flat, a door opens, then closes. Muffled voices drone in the building’s old asbestos-stuffed walls.

She ignores them with either the casual indifference of someone who has absolutely no stake in what they’re saying — or a nineteen-year-old girl. It’s Kazimir’s choice as to which Eileen is.

Wind whips the tree branches into a frenzy on the other side of the den’s window. Somewhere a wooden support beam creaks. In the low light, shadows play tricks; she does not look quite the same as the last time he saw her. Eileen’s features are somehow gaunter, more severe, and the circles under her eyes like bruises. She has probably had a long day and spent too much time wandering the city in the rain.

“Would you mind if I asked you something?” is a question itself but does not count.

“You’ve never asked permission before,” Kazimir opines in a way that is both chastising and gentle. As he does, he takes the back of a small, hand-carved wooden chair and drags it across the floor to rest beside the fire. Angling down into it, he uses his cane to brace himself before bending all the way down. Sometimes, it appears as though his mannerisms are an affectation. Other times, like now when it’s just he and Eileen, that it feels like he is just a weary old man. One step away from a sweater and a dog-eared book to pass the time.

Eileen curves the edge of her thumbnail along one of the rose’s pricklier thorns. It’s easy for her to forget how dangerous the old man hunched across from her is, not unlike the flower and its half-dessicated barbs. “You’ve a vision of the world and the way you think it ought to be,” she says. “You’d do anything to have that. Hurt anyone.” The words on their own might be misconstrued as criticism — or worse, dissent — but her tone is too soft, too deferent to be a mark of anything except respect. “How do you know when to stop?”

The question visibly worries Kazimir, not because of its content, but because of what it implies. Not doubt, not uncertainty, but maturity. He makes a noise in the back of his throat, that one she recognizes when she’s done or said something that’s going to get a lecture. One of Kazimir’s thumbs traces the notch on the brow of his cane’s wolf’s head. A familiar scar, a familiar tic.

“You don’t, Munin.” Always forward, Kazimir is like an avalanche in that way. “You achieve a goal, and then you look to the next horizon. The world isn’t fixed in one movement, isn’t saved by one victory. That’s where tyrants are born, in the complacency that they’ve done enough, that they own their victory.”

Leaning forward, Kazmir rests his elbows on his knees and regards Munin with furrowed brows and momentary scrutiny. His blue eyes wander her hair, appreciating something about it. Something he’ll feel was off later, but dismiss it off-hand. “You don’t stop, until they stop you. Because it will happen, eventually. The more you fight, the more you’re victorious, the more the weight of your victories pushes you down. Eventually, the inertia of your own successes are the chains that drag you into the deep.”

Blue eyes flick to the floor, and Kazimir’s shoulders slouch some. “But hopefully, by that time, you’ve done something that no amount of violence or regime change can ever undo.” He looks back to her, resolute in the way a statue is against the wind. “You build a legacy that lasts.”

There was a time when Eileen might have shied away from the lecture, cast her eyes downward and fiddled with the flower ready to fall apart in her hands to distract herself from the harshness of the message delivered by his words. Instead she is rapt, fixated on him with an almost predatory intensity that is no doubt the half of her genetics owed to Ethan Holden, Kazimir’s own pet wolf.

She is listening. More importantly, she understands.

The cage of her fingers and the rose trapped inside it are still. “I don’t like myself very much,” she admits, and even though Yvette and Kazimir’s guest are out of earshot, she lowers her voice another fraction as if parting with some great secret. “Sometimes I think you must not like yourself either, but I suppose that doesn’t matter, does it? A legacy isn’t other people’s memories of you. It’s what you leave behind for them to have after you’ve gone.”

“No, you don't.” Kazimir firmly agrees. “You wouldn't have been where I found you, if you'd come to respect yourself.” It's a sharp reprimand, if only just. “But you were a baby bird, still are. All downy feathers and fragile wings. I took you from that life, from the safety of your nest, so you could grow.”

Looking into the fire, Kazimir’s glasses reflect the orange glow. “You should not hold affection for the person you once were. They're dead,” he admits with some intimacy and personal familiarity. “What matters is future. Not the you who was, but the you that can be.” His attention drifts from the fire to Eileen again.

“I dont hate myself,” Kazimir finally clarifies, in defiance of doctrine. “I hate the possibilities I represent. The failures I hold inside of me. I hate the weakness, the loss, and the bitter resentment of the past.” His brows tense, voice joining Eileen’s quieter tone. “Hate is helpful, hate can teach, but hate is a mirror, Munin. Don't let hate become vanity.”

And Eileen is vain. “I won’t,” she promises. Hands brace against her slender legs and she unfolds from her position on the floor in a smooth, almost languid motion that brings her to her feet. She spreads her toes and curls them against the carpet, relishing in the familiar sensation of densely knit wool under her feet.

She raises her right hand and extends a crooked finger, ushering the sparrow down from the mount above the fire. It alights on her knuckle. “Thank you,” she says to Kazimir without attempting to conceal the tremble in her voice, which has taken on a raw, thick quality. She does, however, swallow it down before she feels it welling up in her eyes as well. “I owe you everything that I am.”

Two carefully measured steps bring her alongside Kazimir’s chair. She lays her other diminutive hand, still holding the rose, upon his gloved one and leans in to kiss the crown of his head. Does not flinch away when the physical contact stings at her mouth, lightly blistering the outermost layer of skin on her lips. It’s an almost welcome sensation, and too fleeting to cause any lasting harm because she’s pulling away from him the very next moment. “Good night, dziadzio. I’ll see you in the morning.”

“Goodnight, Munin,” Kazimir replies in a hushed rumble.

“Sleep peacefully.”

Eileen leaves the warmth of the den behind, the tips of her fingers trailing along the wall of the short hallway that leads to her bedroom. Throw rugs give way to smooth, polished marble. A chandelier flickers.

The power will go out in a few minutes, but she already knew that.

She enters the room and shuts the door with a decisive click behind her. The rail-thin slip of a girl fast asleep beneath several layers of blankets stirs at the sound, her moan muffled by the goosefeather pillow beneath her cheek. Eileen could have slammed the door and she would not have woken — the rohypnol in her system sees to that.

Eileen lingers a few minutes, watching herself through the sparrow’s eyes with something like envy until Walter Trafford’s knuckles rap against the window. She lifts the latch from the inside, steps onto the ledge and lets the storm swallow them both whole.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License