A tale of a tail

March 05, 2018:

Miss Moreau sneaks into Sally Stojespal's apartment looking to find out more information about the wisewolf of Sokovia.

Stojespal family apartment

A fairly expensive and large apartment cluster that takes up the 16th floor of its building, plus a little extra.

Characters

NPCs: Khoro

Mentions:

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

It had taken quite a bit of cash, and a few well placed threats, but Miss Moreau and her minions finally found the tantalizing truth of the odd girl they'd encountered that night. One Moreau found herself thinking of, and intrigued by the grand spirit that seemed to protect her. The White Roses aren't SHIELD, but they are well connected and dogged when they want something.

After some tailing by one of Moreau's birds and finding that Lotus, it was almost child's play. Finding the security company in charge of the Stojespal apartment, slipping in a techy Rose, and getting them in on a routine maintenance call a few days earlier. A killswitch and alternate feed, just enough to give an hour or two alone whenever Moreau desired. The rest was planning how to get in without being noticed. The answer was spiders. Just before Sally's likely to come home? Moreau and a clutching web-slinger descended from on high, the spider used it's bone-razors to gently cut out an entrance, and daintily in Moreau hopped. A few seconds of webbing to seal it back up? Killswitch engaged, spiders gone, and then some tea made ready. She almost predictably invades the music room with the help of a few summoned minions that fade into the dark.

A building across the street, Snipe uses night vision goggles and occasionally her scope to survey. While grumbling in annoyance. Ever a jealous heart, she's hated Moreau's recent obsession. A pattern with the pair, always made up for. Snipe even knows that, logically, this will benefit them and their goals. But the White Roses are emotional beasts.

And so it is that, as they wait, Snipe occasionally stabs the vaguely Sally-shaped doll near her with a knife. She's no Vodun, so it does nothing but act like a very violent stressball.

Poor Snipe. It was a perfectly good plan, it just so happens that it had run afoul of the Joker's mad schemes. The white and black Lotus was easy to spot, especially with its driver's particular style - the precise, almost dancer-like moves from the rare machine clinches that it's the personal ride of Rusalka Stojespal, except…it's not there. She'd gotten it running, tuned back up to the performance she likes, and then tonight of all nights decided to take a taxi home.

In fairness to Snipe, it's because there's a second round of engineering to be done on it. With permission from Stark, she's been working on an armor envelope for the sport machine. It may not be able to defeat the kind of antitank firepower the Joker has set aside for himself, but most lighter small arms won't be the threat they are now. The only trick is not compromising the sportscar's fantastic performance, of course.

Such is the tribulations of the petrolmancer.

Whether Snipe spots her in the darkening light of New York's evening or not, the Sokovian trots from the curb to the front door. Up to the sixteenth; she's dressed in a fairly typical outfit for the cool weather. Racing jacket, long sleeve shirt, a pleated wool skirt and boots keep her warm - and since she's not driving, she can relax a little.

Eventually, the elevator settles on the family's floor. The 'thugniks' are off enjoying pizza somewhere, and Aunt Lena is doing business in Boston overnight; she has the night off and all to herself. Or so she thinks; it won't be hard for the group in the music room to hear her arrival and make whatever moves they intend as she flits through one of the kitchens, looking for leftovers.

STAB!

Snipe smashes a full on wine bottle down on the voodoo doll of Sally. She knows well that Moreau is going to be angry over this little hitch. She is /so/ sleeping on the proverbial couch tonight as she misses Sally heading up.

Snipe makes a mental not to slash the heck out of those Lotus tires if she ever gets close enough. VENGEANCE!

And so it's her semi-invisible pets and Moreau's sharp ears that clue her in to one Sally Stojespal's presence. She barely manages to keep herself from tsk'ing at Snipe's failure. No matter. Objective achieved. She lets the young woman pace about, go for some food, and generally hunt as if nothing is out of the ordinary at all.

The soft spoken villainess grins as she hears that fridge opens. Everything is normal, mostly.

With the exception of a single chilled red velvet cake with white icing in the form of a rose. A white one. And beside that? A now chilled bottle of rare white wine.

"Would you mind pouring tonight, sweet Fox? Our little dinner date took quite some doing, sweetling. I find myself parched!" Comes the far-too-cheery tones of Miss Moreau, before she starts playing a light little number on her violin. Nothing famous, simply testing the acoustics of the Music Room which she's procured a table and two seats for. Her Tome lays on her lap, open, ready as needed.

"You have such fine taste in apartments, Rusalka Stojespal of Sokovia. Join me." As sugary as the tones are, it's very obviously an order.

Poor Snipe. Though in fairness it's a break in routine that hadn't been expected. For all she knows, it's because those tires were already slashed? Something to take cold comfort in, perhaps.

It's a shame there wasn't anything left of the enchiladas from the other day, but Sloane's appetite lived up to its usual reputation, and she'd made sure to make Sally's interest in Ms. Marvel worth her time. Well, she deserves it, and meanwhile…meanwhile things are very odd. A cake? A chilled cake with wine? Andriy and Bohdan are out carousing at the pizza hall, and this is totally not their style. Aunt Lena perhaps, but…she's not even in the state! What is this, some sort of love letter?

Why yes it is, when the voice cuts the silence. Sally spins, hands up in a ready pose as she grabs for a knife on the counter - if it were a rapier it'd be a passable opening guard, but the blade's a little short. "Who is there?!" she demands.

And an answer comes unexpectedly, by violin instead of voice. A familiar one, actually - and upon recognition, her eyes widen and the grip on her knife tightens slightly. "Dvoryanstvo zobov'yazannya does not apply to a thief in the night," her voice hisses. "The obligations of nobility come to those who deserve it." She glances left and right; the last time Moreau had run across her path she'd had a whole team with her.

Blue eyes narrow in a chilly reaction. "Though I appreciate your compliments upon my home, I have not given you permission to be within its walls." Rock-steady, that knife remains where it is, pointed forward as if the shortest of swords, while her legs prepare a spring in whatever direction.

Before you lies not the threat, pup.

Hm. Very well. "Tell me why I should, then," she adds, giving one last glance over her shoulders to make sure they're alone."

A sweet laugh, boisterous even, filters through the apartment. "How rare that I find myself agreeing with those born to wealth and prosperity! You truly /are/ such a precious find, sweet Fox! Ohhh, and your tongue is as silvered as such a brilliant canid aught be! Mmm, so lovely!" Another giggle, long, drawn out. As if she's tittering at a joke only her dark, angry heart knows.

Fingers snap. She sniffs, smelling metal and hearing the grab of /something/. Even before her pets speak in her soul, she can sense both purpose and object. To live, to protect herself at this thief.

"You are entirely correct. But you raise a point as well. I am, among other things, a thief. So tonight I steal the pleasure of your company in the walls of your home. Because that is what I hunger for beneath the moonlit sky. For now. I wish to share tea, cake, and wine with you." She starts.

Moreau doesn't move, aside from putting aside the violin and taking up her Tome in one hand. Her smile is confident in the music room.

In the darkness, five figures shimmer. Feet clinging to walls and ceiling, tucked under chairs, six eyed wolves mixed with the abilities of chameleons lurk silently. Ready to pounce, but only on their Mistress' command.

"On my Power and the beastly souls that have put trust in me, do I swear I shall bring you no harm this night, Rusalka Stojespal. So may it be!" The room gets ten degrees colder at her proclaimation.

Never trust a mage. She didn't mention her pets.

"You will do as I ask, because you are both curious and have the…makings of a hunter. And bluntly, you would rather not have your family enter into our entertainment. Understand? Wine, cake, swiftly now! You have a story to tell."

Her grin makes her scarr ugly and her tattoos writhe as the serpents they are.

"First, tell me all that you know of Wise Khoro of Sokovia, sweet Fox of Unsharpened Claws!"

Those blue eyes don't change a whit, despite the snake-smile she puts on. Neither does the blade move, as Rusalka addresses her companion. "I am of Stojespal. I am born to honor and duty; prosperity and wealth are the sole pursuits of fools." In point of order, she doesn't accuse Moreau of that - she knows otherwise. Her entire point at the 'charity' event had been to put a final reckoning to those same fools, the party only spoiled by SHIELD's presence.

Specifically, Sally's.

The visitor puts down her violin, and there's a shiver in Rusalka - she sees those familiars, those beasts of hers. They're not alone, and the hiss she gives will be a fine tell that she's seen Moreau's beasts. "I have your vow upon your blood that we are, otherwise…" She glances back at those freaks of nature, even Khoro unsettled by their presence. And remembering that Moreau also keeps a small bevy of humans as well. "Alone." She knows the truth of it will be weighed by another, whose ears she trusts.

There's a long deep breath, as Rusalka weighs her options. Her name…what she knew about her from the charity event, and what little she'd been able to track down. "Sophia Crowley. For this night, I invite you within, and permit your - and only your - presence. My patience ends upon midnight, and I shall see you departed before then. Until such time that you are not, then, you are a guest."

There's a flip of the knife, now held away as Sally relaxes. Moreau has her own code of honor, even if it is a violent one - those she respects, she's been kind enough to. Even helping SHIELD, indirectly, with that little USB drive. Another thing she'd been tracking down, even if many of the leads had turned up nothing but literally dead-ends as the beastmaster had laid down her handiwork. But not even the dead escape justice, even if it only comes to filed and closed cases.

Wisewolf, I must come to you-

The reply overrides her, an imperative command as if it came from Dragana herself. Eat.

There's only one thing that her demigoddess might be speaking of with such force. Sally retreats to the kitchen once more, taking a moment to use that knife to cut the cake and serve three slices, as well as bring the champagne and a single glass. Only a few more seconds, as she plucks the soft pouch from her neck and chews the still-fresh wheat kernels within.

Moreau would hear the clink of the glass, the wine bottle, and the plates. Silverware - real silver, no less - is set out, and there is something else she might hear. Almost silently, under the tread of Rusalka's soft boots, is another pair of feet clad in soft leather.

A tilt of her head, and there's a whistle of approval from Moreau. "…Part of me really does want to believe you, sweet Fox. Yet, you are young. Untested. Claws unsharpened and…mmm…" Sniff sniff.

"Claws only slightly blooded, if my nose does not lie. Still! Well said! Wealth should be a reward. The off-givings of one's works meant to uplift those with less Power than you. Such is the law of Survival. Devour, feast as sustains a proper Beast and your Pack, but no more! An Alpha's duty is to ensure life and to leave a Territory better than when she first took the position." Solemn words, coached in her theories of humans as yet another beast, and she believes them so much.

And then she sighs. "You have it so, and never let it be said that Sophia Crowley is not a woman of her word! Keen eyes to spot them, or are my pets' camoflage so weak yet? My, my, my! I am shamed!" A hand to her chest, she leans back in the chair, and she is /way/ too overdramatic. Proper drama queen. She'd do great in theater if it weren't for all the bloodshed.

The Tome snaps closed, and the presences fade. Moreau crosses her legs, settles her skirts, and just has this far-too-pleasant look about her.

She waits, as Sally sets out everything. Tome set aside, her superhuman senses are long gone. But that eventual touch of a second set of feet greets her sharp ears. When cake and wine are offered? She sips one, and then lightly snaps the other to her mouth. A pause.

Then she raises her glass. "A toast. To a Kit just about to learn what it is to Hunt! And…mmm, our Honored Guest of the evening, if I am any judge. Let us all be open with ourselves! Either way, I wish to hear the Tale of the Wisewolf, sweet Sally." Offers Moreau far more forcefully. Right at her shoulder? Her cane is just slightly loosened so that metal can be seen. Not to threaten Sally of course.

One can only keep claws open in the presence of a predator.

Slightly blooded, yes, though there is the mark of Cain upon her soul. A young terrorist in Ukraine, trying to steal a literal truckload of enriched uranium; it took quite some time for the stains of Sally's first combat - and first kill - to come clean. If, perhaps, they have at all.

"The law of survival, and the way of nobility." Lessons on this are far too easy to recall, if only that they were constant. "One cannot be baron of a deserted island. It is the place of a lord to care for and protect their people, to lead them and defend them. Take what is needed, and make sure that those of your fief have as well." A small, rough summary of such teachings. And maybe it's true that she indulges a little…the Lotus, of course, being the most visible aspect of that.

Maybe it's also true that her noble obligation, and her path in life, has also placed her in a position where much more than Polyuchyn is at stake.

There's a small smile at the dramatics, and one might well think that the Lady Macbeth is the perfect role for such a creature. The toast, meanwhile, gets a pause, and for a moment blue eyes seek red. There's a comfort there, and the expression on her companion's face is guarded but clear. Let her continue, the other girl says silently.

A second glass is procured, and Moreau's ears might just pick up the soft swish of a well manicured tail. This for their third, who settles in alongside Rusalka at the other end of the table. "I will admit, I will pass upon the wine. It is not yet permitted for one of my age, in this land."

"I, meanwhile, will happily assauge your guilt by accomodating your portion as well." Red eyes twinkle with mirth. "And yes, Rusalka of Sokovia, family of Stojespal, do tell us the tale of the beautiful Wisewolf of your homeland? I am sure there is much to be proud of in such an epic, is there not?"

The look on Sally's face says so much. Mostly things about vanity.

"Nor can one be an Alpha without a Pack or a wolf without Territory! All noble sentiments, of course, but many a Lord has sought nothing but their own fulfillment and there has been many a hedonistic lone Wolf that lays these concepts to ruin! I myself much prefer a land of the wild, the open field, the place where even those deemed…" Moreau's features grow dark. A light crack runs along the goblet she has, and there's this angry snarl to her voice.

"'Criminally insane' may roll and play and /love/ amidst the warmth of the sun! Instead of being forced to feast on festering scraps and chained up by little arrogant chiroptera and the tamed dogs of the GCPD!"

A rant, low, and she devours wine and then pours for herself. Twice over, in fact, She doesn't mind the cut to her lip at doing so.

With a sucking breath, she smiles again softly. "But forgive this foolish Beast her ravings." Toast made, she gives an honest chuckle.

"The young should seek forbidden fruit while they are able to pass over the consequences. New experiences, to see that which your heart desires is what you should do now, sweet Fox! How very /noble/ of you to deny such that lurks in the beast within!" She's outright mocking here, her tone one of disdane. And yet there's a serpent's seduction to it. Her blind gaze all but begs Sally to drink, to taste, to /feel/ that which is said to be horrid.

"I could teach you so many things, sweet Rusalka. Mmm!" The light flush to her cheeks is evidence enough, but her attention turns to the one of red eyes.

Clap clap! "A Lady after my own heart! Well, let us not keep her waiting! Play the bard for us, little Sally! Spare no detail! A story is better told with passion and experience, I say!"

The madness finds its way burbling to the surface, and there is a slow and measured reaction from Sally - namely, continue doing what she is doing, and let the woman rant. If worse comes, then she will be ready, but it does not. There's another glance at her second companion, who seems to think back fondly upon such times herself…though, not quite in the way that Moreau seeks. The freedom of wildness also gives up much of itself to be so wild, and in the end she'd made her decision so very, very long ago.

"To forgiveness, then." Sally does not fall for the serpent's touch; for all she knows that wine is poisoned or drugged. Then again, the cake may be as well, and with careful aim of her fork she samples the first bite. "And to nobility," she adds, swallowing the first bite. The beast within? Clearly this girl knows nothing of true Sokovian alcohol, especially that near-poison that her family calls Samogon. When one's social drink is vodka, one must work exceptionally hard to find 'that which is said to be horrid.' And Polyuchyn is nothing if not hard workers.

Another look between Rusalka and her brown-haired friend at the mention of teaching things, the look on Khoro's face one of pure feral whimsy - she might just be curious about those things as well. Sally spares her a glare before the demand for stories comes once more, and she sits up to consider.

The legend. Should she speak of it properly, or…no. There's a winked red eye, and Rusalka grins - Moreau is a dramatic amongst all things. Then, give her drama. Not that the betailed third at their table is anything less herself, admittedly. "Upon the Foundation of the world, many things did God create. Some grew fierce and terrible, while men became fearful. In a time when less than a hundred lives of men passed since the Foundation, the gods of the boar ruled much of the land."

A slow breath, drawing it out a bit. Watch Moreau's reaction, and let it guide her telling. "Great beasts, wild and feral, devouring without limit. Mere men tried each season to protect their lands…they tried and died. Soon the people turned to their lords, beseeching for protection, but what could man do against such power? The lords turned to that which some call gods," she adds, with a glance at her companion. She knows the wisewolf has no desire to be worshipped as such.

"And when they called they heard nothing. Perun, the thunder, only rattled in his heavens from afar striking blindly. Others were equally silent, as the beasts rampaged. Some even spoke of the Stalker of the Moon, the Honey Eater that preyed the world from even before its foundation. None of these prayers were heard, except one. The Carpathian mountains, upon which Sokovia sits, was home to another, known as the Wisewolf. She listened. And she came, leading her pack, and many more packs."

Rusalka relaxes slightly, half-eying the wine…which is disappearing quickly, Khoro's promise of two-for-one libation to take her place being quite enjoyed.

Hedonist.

Jealous?

"The great wolves of the mountains, of Meshkaty Vovk, came forth. Led by Khoro herself, a spectacularly beautiful creature the height of the trees and cunning that no man could dare to match. Her unmatched wisdom, even more than her terrible vanity of course, was her greatest benefit to-" Ow. That might be the sound of soft leather shoes stepping hard on the toes of a suede boot. Fawning does not suit you, child. "The world of men. She became one with Polyuchyn then, as the boar were driven away forever. The fields and farms prospered, and one so wise," glare, "was much sought by the people."

"Perhaps she simply had a taste for fine sausage," adds the brown-haired girl. "After all, who would not? All of the rest, simple legends told across more than five hundred lifetimes of men. But the past is only that, and we are a part of the present it seems. Why, pray tell…" And this time there's a sense of dread, as if Khoro were sizing up whether to simply devour their visitor right there.

"Wouldst a foreigner be interested in such ancient stories?"

Luckily, neither cake nor whine are kissed with the serpent's venom. Moreau has no desire to lay a trap of deception tonight. No, it's only in silver tongued words, and worse that she plays!

It's one heck of a cake. She baked it herself, in fact. Moreau takes two forkfulls at a time, smiling gently, all like a happy eccentric Aunt with a side of Gotham madness.

No, no knowledge of such divine drink yet, but surely Moreau will one day bring it back to her lair. Probably to make horrible mockeries via animal and general 'shine like quality that she so prefers. For all her airs, she is an animal, and she revels in such qualities.

Legs cross, skirts ruffle, and she /listens/ with the kind of attention only a story-gatherer can manage. Her lack of sight has only enhanced her ears, and she soaks it all in with appropriate nods, licks of lips, and general 'mmm's' of attention that never seems to lack for love of a story.

Never once does her face indicate that she isn't taking it entirely seriously. This woman is one for fairy tales. When the story ends? A hand to her chest, and tears fall from her eyes. They're not crocodile ones.

"How beautiful! At man's ends of wits, they call upon the Gods, and who but answers!? A savage beast to route a beast! A sweet, beautiful, elegant, DEADLY wolf comes from her high perch upon the mountains and brings her pack to drive out such feasting creatures! I…I am truly humbled to know that another such fierce heart yet exists in this world!"

She's laying out her cards here, just a bit. She wipes tears upon her heavy sleeve, and then? Well, she reaches for the wine bottle and then drops all pretenses.

Miss Moreau sucks it down in about twenty seconds, only drained about a third of the way. Perhaps a bit /too/ like Khoro, she is a hedonistic wolfess.

Bottle to the table, she blindly reaches out, and tries to outright /tickle/ one of Sally's ears in a motion that's overly fond. A chuckle.

"Why should I indeed? Perhaps I am a foreigner who takes heed of old tales and uses their wisdom to ensure my own Pack is kept safe!" Pause. A cheshire grin.

"Orrrr…perhaps the tale is a lure. Towards a young soul that keeps such stories alive. The truth is? I crave Wisdom, Power, and those who deserve to Hunt beside me." On that, she stands up, cane tapping as she kicks the seat back to the table. Then she curtseys to the pair formally.

"Rusalka Stojespal, pray you sharpen your claws little Kit. I have nothing but contempt for SHIELD, and frankly? That their chains of Law that wrap upon your neck only ensure my rage at such base attempts at taming your heart! And so I give you a test, sweetling! Your collar, or my freedom? Which shall be Law? You have the makings of real predator. Pass my marks, and I shall deem you one, whether or not you break the chains holding you back. I will contact you soon."

A wink first to Sally, and then Khoro. Then she turns about, and starts to walk off.

A heel to glass, and she's ready to leap out the window. She doesn't Summon here. That would break her Word, after all.

"…Do you not get bored Wisewolf? Perhaps a greater hunt and a greater purpose awaits, should you join a far more ambitious Pack!"

A laugh, low, unhinged, and lustful.

Magic flares. Miss Moreau hides nothing, though Rusalka might not feel it. Khoro may well understand. This broken, sick, angry yet loving human? Lurks a terrible hunger and beastly magic, every single bit of evolution and savage instinct wrapped up inside.

It might well have been inevitable that Sophia Crowley lost her mind given that burden, among the far more human ones heaped on her soul.

Once Khoro had gone for the wine with her usual delicate aplomb and gusto, it was pretty clear its purity was evident. Same for the cake, which Rusalka will admit is quite good. She'll have to save some for later, if the thugniks don't annihilate it for desert. Boys. At least they manage to keep their alcohol limited to proper Sokovian social drinks, if only because most of the distillation equipment is hard enough to come by. The fact that an ex-Soviet armored assault-gun carrier happens to be the other part means it's downright unique, when the Stojespal make their own moonshine.

Perhaps, though, something similar and equally dangerous to brain cells might be possible for the mad summoner.

She's certainly entranced by the telling of the tale, and Khoro approves, eventually, of the story. And of Moreau's reaction to it; while Rusalka may have been a churlish one who played up things to needle her companion, the summoner brings a very wary smile to the wisewolf's face. Such passion, linked with blatantly clear madness, a heart that she can see quite clearly.

The unexpected reach for Sally's ear gets a sudden jerk back, keeping Moreau's fingers away - at the moment, with that much alcohol, the Sokovian doesn't know just what her ersatz visitor might be thinking of. When Moreau explains, there's a twitch of lupine ears atop Khoro's head, picking out the truth in the lie and the lie in the truth.

"Ambition is its own reward and its own punishment, child." The first time Khoro's addressed her directly, the words to Moreau are cool but not harsh. "And I have grown fond of these, as well. Your head is not only for putting a hat upon; some so-called freedoms are merely an excuse for nothingness." A pact made much more recently than her own deep history might suggest is what keeps her here. Among, of course, other things.

Rusalka stands as Moreau approaches the window, watching and glancing nervously. Just what the hell is she thinking…?

"Is it so, mmm?" Offers Moreau at first, pausing before the now blanked window. Winds sweep in, her skirts and long brown locks flutter. She shakes them wildy out of her face to no avail. Then she gives a long little stretch as her ears focus on the pair.

"Then may Ambition cleave my limbs, tear my skin from my body, rip my tongue from my mouth! I should feast forever upon maggots and die in agony should it suit my aims! My own freedom is a mere treat, a fringe benefit if you will, sweet Wisewolf! Let me say it plainly!"

She points at her own chest. "I am but a mere Alpha! A leader, the top of a simple pecking order, sweetlings! If it would carve out a place for those whose hungers are so beyond mere 'society', and give us succor and to lay in the sun openly? My life means nothing to achieve that, or the safety and love of my Pack! There may well come a day where the lowest Omega's worth is beyond even a peerless Alpha!"

A final bow. "If that were the case, then perhaps nothingness will be a salve on an aching heart." She then casts herself out of the window with the surity of the mad.

Four stories down, just to ensure she's kept her Word, does she summon a gigantic bird. The impact has her screaming in pain, two ribs shattered, but away she goes.

Snipe, meanwhile, breaks a rifle in half at the fact she can't put a bullet through Sally Stojespal's skull. The only relief is what she could do if Sally /fails/!

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