AN: Well, here it is. I've just started writing this and I can already tell its going to be a ball. In a good way, of course.
Mandatory Warnings and Disclaimers: This is a story about assassins and their jobs, as well as about superheroes and their jobs. There be massive amounts of violence ahead, so be wary of disturbing imagery both spoken by the assassins and committed by the assassins. This is a slash story and will be TonyxOC, CoulsonxClint and PepperxNatasha. Please be warned for the following triggers: Minor Character Death(Off-Screen), discussion of the crime of Rape, Murder and Assault, Semi-Graphic Depictions and/or Descriptions of Violence, sensitive emotional issues and slash. This is the censored version. All have been warned. If any of this squicks you, please skip those parts. I don't not own any publicly recognizable characters. Major and Minor OCs belong to myself, as well as the plot.
Thank you for reading and heeding this Mandatory Warnings and Disclaimers announcement. Enjoy the story and please review.
Raan Do Sivaas.
The Order of the Beasts.
It is a name whispered both fearfully and reverently around the world. An order of highly trained assassins, funded and protected in secret by the highest authority in all of the world, established and integrated into society over centuries. Known for their stealth, creativity and willingness to do anything or go anywhere, these beast-masked assassins inspire terror in all those who know of them.
Intelligent and physically able children are hand-picked by observers within the government and the Order begins the delicate process of turning children into hunters in barely over thirteen years. On May the first, of the year 1983, Howard and Maria Stark brought a bouncing baby boy into the world. On that day, neither parent knew that one day that boy would be a genius, a billionaire, a hero, an assassin. The story of Tony Stark is one that is long and colored.
This is that story.
Howard Stark was thinking. Granted, that was something he did often, but this fit of introspection was intense and all-consuming. On the floor in front of him, playing intently with a puzzle, was his three-year-old son, Tony. And therein lay the source of his consternation.
He was...concerned. Tony was a late baby, and he and Maria had him later than they thought they would have a child. Tony was also terribly intelligent. But that pleased Howard, knowing his son had inherited his intelligence. But Howard was faced with a terrible possibility. Tony, as the son of Howard Stark, founder of SHIELD and billionaire proprietor of his own company, would be the target of kidnappers the world over.
Now, this could easily be remedied by supplying his son with a bodyguard when he left the house but guards could be bought off by assailants with the means to do so. And then...there was the Order. Howard shivered. The Beasts. Assassins. Howard knew of them. Of course he did. They were unmistakable. Government officials, CEOs, magnates, crime lords and criminals lived with the terror that one may come after them.
And they wanted to recruit his son.
Oh, he knew they recruited the children of people with connections to the government. Heard the whispers from his fellow CEOs and consultants and the dignitaries from other countries, visited in the dead of night by animal-masked spectors. Howard shuddered as he remembered his own visit only the night before.
Howard was sitting at the desk in his shop, poring over a new set of blueprints for an improved rifle in front of him. Outside the window snow fell heavily, and he was thankful for the generators that kept the heat and lights on while the other homes outside the city sat in a blackout. So absorbed was he in his work, he didn't notice his visitor until they cleared their throats.
"Howard Stark." The voice was deep, laced with a german accent and slightly muffled. Howard spun in his chair and nearly flailed in panic. The man behind him was tall, clothed in an ebony tunic and pants bordered in crimson, matching sleeveless tabard and cloak caked with snow. His face was obscured by the hood of his tabard and the mask of what Howard assumed was a jackal, and Howard froze.
Sunvaar. Hunter. A member of the Beasts. In his house. In his shop.
"Peace, Mister Stark. I am here with no ill will. If you were an assignment, we would not be having this conversation. I am only here to talk." The man rumbled, the sightless eyes of the mask staring back at Howard, before the inventor nodded. Howard got the impression of a smile from the man and he watched the hunter reach into a pouch that hung off a belt at his hip, coming back with a scroll.
"It came to our attention, three years ago, that your wife gave birth to your son. Young Tony turned three eight months ago. He's very bright, your Tony is. His intelligence and his energy are very...important qualities that my Aak is looking for." Howard felt as if ice water had poured down his spine.
"What are you getting at?" He asked lowly, hands tightening on his knees. The hunter snorted and tossed him the scroll from his place across the room. Howard caught it, barely, and turned it over in his hands. It was decorated black, bordered and patterned in crimson and the paper felt smooth and thick in his hands. It was sealed with red wax, stamped with what Howard assumed to be the Order's insignia, two crossed blades with a wolf's head over top.
"I believe you know exactly what I'm getting at, Mister Stark. However, in the end, the decision lies completely with you and your wife. We will not steal a child to be trained against their parent's wishes." The hunter spoke lowly. "Within the scroll is the method of contacting us, once you make your choice. You have four days, Mister Stark." And with that, the hunter swept out of the room in a furl of his cloak and the soft scuffing of his boots on the floor.
Now, Howard palmed the scroll in his hands and watched Tony intently as he successfully completed his second puzzle of the hours, and moved readily onto the third. Mind made up, Howard broke the seal on the scroll and began to read. He'd tell Maria his choice in the morning.
A month later, there was a heavy knock on the door, and both Jarvis and the maid were surprised when Howard answered it himself, Tony trotting behind as he tried to keep up with his father. The door opened to reveal a tall man with a head of spiky black hair and razor sharp blue eyes, which stood out against his barely-tanned skin brilliantly. He carried a duffel and a backpack sat comfortably on his shoulders.
"Mister Stark? I'm Alexander Norgaard, Tony's teacher." He was young, Howard noted, probably no more than twenty-five, and his voice possessed an odd sing-song quality that Howard associated with those he'd met from Scandinavia, though his cadence most likely suggested Norway. Howard shook himself back to the present and made a sound of assent.
"Yes, please come in, Mister Norgaard." He said. Alexander chuckled and stepped inside, smiling brightly. "Maryann, please take Mister Norgaard's bags up to his room. It is the one to the left of Tony's." Howard ordered. The maid nodded and approached Alexander, who looked slightly discomfited at having his bags stowed away for him, though he thanked the maid gratefully and she smiled back kindly. "Shall we move this to the study, Mister Norgaard?"
"Just Alexander will do, Mister Stark. It'll be a long ten twelve years if you call me Mister Norgaard all the time." Alexander spoke lightly and Howard was surprised by the warmth that suffused the younger man's voice. How was it possible that an assassin, one that had seen many years of death and been the dealer of a percent of those, could still be this warm? Before he answered Howard's question though, he knelt down to Tony's level and smiled. "Well hello there, Lille Valpen. You wouldn't happen to be Tony, would you?"
Tony shyly hid behind his father's legs, but giggled and smiled at what he thought was a nickname. He nodded. "I'm Tony!" He said brightly, coming from behind his father's legs and holding out his hand. "Nice to meet you, Mister Alexander!" He chirped brightly, and Alexander marveled at how developed his word pronunciation was. This child was truly smarter than almost any other on the planet.
"And it is nice to meet you, Lille Valpen." Alexander shook the tiny toddler's hand and Tony practically beamed back at him with blinding enthusiasm. Howard was looking in silent surprise before he tapped Tony lightly on the head with two fingers.
"Run along, Tony. I promise that you can speak with Alexander later and tonight, we shall go to the shop and you can help me." Tony nodded to both adults and went hurtling away, almost tripping over his socks as he ran towards Jarvis, asking permission to go outside and play.
Alexander followed Howard into the study, where the maid had put out a tray of tea and cakes, and both men settled into the comfortable chairs, before Howard leaned forward, steepling his fingers and gazing at Alexander intently. "Tell me, Alexander, what are the Order's plans concerning my son?"
After that day, time flew by in the Stark household, and Howard and Maria watched as Tony learned and grew, almost completely under the tutelage of Alexander. Tony adored Alexander and Alexander adored Tony, and most of the time both mentor and student could be found together. Howard was astounded at how absolutely subtleAlexander's training was. He had expected physical training, complicated thought exercise, anything but what he actually got.
All through the remainder of Tony's third year and well into the fourth Alexander focused on teach Tony patience through board games like Operation, strategy through games like Battleship. He taught him to read and do math, though Tony was much smarter than any other kid his age. Alexander took him on long walks, or played manic bouts of tag in the yard. And it hit Howard, like a ton of bricks.
These men and women were geniuses. They integrated training directly into the child's everyday activities, so it was no different than an average day, but with underlying meaning. Even now, as Howard watched the yard swarming with children, he had to smile slightly. Maria and Jarvis had worried that Tony wouldn't be getting enough interaction with other children his age, but Alexander and Howard had already devised a plan.
Since his fourth birthday, Alexander had been arranging play dates with the other children from the Order that were Tony's age. Many of these children were orphans or their parents had turned their care over completely to the mentors and they could travel freely. And so, Howard would open rooms for the mentor-children pairs, and watch as his son enjoyed the company of the other children.
Alexander had explained that all the kids that visited, thirteen of them, were all Tony's age and part of his class, and most likely be the group of assassins Tony would work most closely with if he passed his tests. They were all Tony's age, of every shape, size and ethnicity.
Tony got along best with two little boys, one named Brad, whose parents were foreign dignitaries for the US in Sweden and the other named Robert, whose parents held over eighty percent of the stock in a weapons manufacturing company in England. Both boys had visited with their mentors at the same time, and almost immediately hit it off with Tony the minute they were through the door.
Now they were thick as thieves, and Howard worried for the sanity of his house staff when he heard the kids were all staying for a week. Howard looked up as Alexander's voice spoke, and silence fell. Tony was sitting on the grassy ground, surrounded by still-wrapped gifts. Alexander had something long and rectangular in his hands, which he presented to Tony with a flourish.
"Now, Lille Valpen, this is a gift from everyone here, including your parents. Go on, open it." He encouraged when Tony's fingers hovered over the paper in hesitance. Tony pulled off the paper with care, which revealed a long, ornate box. The wood was dark and smooth, and Tony opened it gently, before breaking out into a smile that lit up his entire face.
Inside, set in dark black velvet, was a carefully crafted bow with a dozen arrows. Both the bow and arrows were obviously handmade, from the fletching of the arrows to the elegant carvings that wreathed around the bow itself. Tony had expressed interest and enthusiasm to take up archery after he'd seen Alexander practicing in the yard, the six-year-old noticing the strength and intelligence it took to score a perfect shot.
And it hit Howard. Subtly wasn't an option anymore. In two years, Tony would begin spending time at the Assassin's Den, with the rest of his classmate's as their mentors readied themselves to throw them headlong into the Order. Alexander thought it was time to stop beating around the bush.
And that thought terrified Howard to no end.