Istvan Czernin is the best surgeon in the world, an avatar of the First World War, and—tangled in shattered pieces between the two—the shade of a man, a 44-year-old Austro-Hungarian who met an accidental and gruesome end in 1904. Driven to heal and harm in distressingly equal measure since his apotheosis, he has been involved in nearly every major war of the 20th century. To allies, he was a miracle-worker; to enemies, a whirlwind of blood and wire.
In the present day, the Twelfth Hour regards him as one of their most valuable and dangerous assets, to the point where he is metaphysically chained to the organization and strictly limited in choice and movement. Istvan resents this but does realize that being incorporeal, indestructible, and capable of outpacing a jet fighter before ripping it apart from the inside-out encourages a certain measure of caution.
Torn between his love for violence and his desire to be a decent human being, Istvan prefers to turn his talents to his surgical work. He is able to draw off the pain and suffering of others, which to him acts as a stimulant and in sufficient quantities a narcotic (he has been known to act almost drunk in battle, though his tolerance is high enough it takes a massacre to severely affect his thinking and judgement), and can reach inside patients with no need for a scalpel and no worry of bacterial contamination. He is very proud of his skills and reputation, and likes to think of the lives he’s saved as a counterbalance to the lives he’s taken.
Istvan is brash, passionate, quick to anger, quicker to boredom, and extremely talkative, playing up his unsettling nature and violent history whenever he gets the chance. Despite this, he isn’t fond of what he is and is prone to bouts of self-deprecation and depression in private. Some have cited him as a bit of a drama queen, and that’s not far off the mark—he’s mercurial at best, and veers inevitably into dangerous extremes. He adores martial concepts like honor, glory, and self-sacrifice… and is simultaneously bitter of the reality, pessimistic and cynical. His sense of humor is pitch-black, and he isn’t above scaring the wits out of unwary newcomers. He’s fascinated with the new and exciting and has invented a variant of chess involving cannons, battleships, and zeppelins.A master embroiderer, he’s much more soft-hearted than he likes to admit.