To Be of Service

September 18, 2018:

Sebastian Shaw and his aide Tessa, Madelyne Pryor, and Emma Frost meet to plan. On the docket: Magneto and Tessa's future within the organization.

Hellfire Club, Upper West Side, NYC

Characters

NPCs: Sebastian Shaw (played by Cyclops)

Mentions: Magneto, Selene

Plot:

Mood Music: None.


Fade In…

In a converted church in the Upper West Side, a party is underway. It is the sort of party for which it's known by a secretive membership: where wine and spirits flow, cigar smoke hangs heavy in several rooms, and the music from a Carnivale theme burlesque show in the main hall that was once the sanctuary. It's a hellacious affront.

Well. It's the Hellfire Club. So. It's a Hellfire Club sort of affront.

Which means that the wine is bottles of vintages ungodly hard to come by, the spirits the pricey and long aged sort, and the cigars and cigarillos the kind imported from places under embargo.

A good place to be a terrible sort of person.

And one of those terrible people has already retreated up to a private salon that her cabal has been known to prefer. She still wears the comparatively more modest long white skirt with her corset and cape and opera gloves, its single slit on the right hand side as high as ever. She's claimed a one-armed sofa as her lounging perch, feet clad in her stiletto boots crossed at the ankles as she drinks.

And rests her blonde head on that arm.

And casually sets her mind to drifting over the collection of horrible people down below.

The message out that Shaw had arrived goes through the converted church. It is only members of the Inner Circle that inspire the subordinates of their Club to begin a scramble, yet, no frantic fearful thing they are expected to be professionals. Efficient. Clean. Intelligent. They represent the elite… One does not walk around in unpolished ugly shoes.

Sebastian's powerful form stands above most those who cater to him on the daily, broad of shoulders, chin lifted, immaculate posture. The high-widows peaks only add to his feel of 'domineering' and majesty, a brush to the side of one suited man who doesn't move quick enough, barring his path into the salon occupied by Emma Frost; the White Queen.

A suit for once on the man, black, with under, a deep maroon tie that could under the right lighting appear black as well. His hair in to a tight ponytail, snug and clean. Like his face.
Those steel silver to blue eyes cast over the interior only to halt on Emma, "My dear." He greets in his casual baritone, that permanent sneer ever worn.

"Our guest has yet to arrive?" Maybe she wasn't informed. Maybe she was.

Clever ….

Devil.

Madelyne is below, and in the plumes of cigar, cigarillo smoke, drinks partaken, cards tossed, coins of ancient and those of recent scattering across the table from her hand that appears from beneath the cloak of black, lined in a pale fur - tipped in shadows that align with her position. Yet one she has not spoken, only acted upon thus far while she waits.

Impatient, but her bets slowly subside as murmurs of a White Queen pass around the "gamble", a murmur that has Maddy making her final lucky blow over dice and a hand of cards before it all gets thrown into the open! Win or lose?

"Sorry, I promised a King and Queen my presence." But the final syllable of that ending word comes in a hiss, while eyes remain on the woman clad in nothing but criss-crossed straps of black and clasps of metal beneath that fur laden cloak.

Her intent was to meet the other woman, Emma, before Shaw's arrival, before more 'Shade' can be thrown between them, but when she arrives her timing is (im)perfect.

No show of chagrin upon that facade as she sweeps a lock of wavy red from her cheek and enters the parlor, the only sound behind her is faded jeers of loss and the whisper of her cloak along the floor behind stiletto heeled boots that lace all the way to mid-thigh. "Got caught up in games, but I am here." Madelyne states to the King and Queen of this Underground Savoir Faire.

"Ah, my dear Mister Shaw." Emma draws her awareness back in towards herself, draws one knee up as her head lolls in Shaw's direction and an insincerely cordial smile curls her carmine lips. "She hasn't."

Informed of the vote that occurred in her absence, t'would seem. And why shouldn't she be? Her rook was in attendance the night it was held, herself on a foreign shore. Frost still feels the tilt of an unevenly weighted board, but that's a concern for another night.

As another psychic draws near, she'll feel the lifting of Emma's defenses, natural as breathing, until there's a mirror-like sensation where her thoughts should be. Icy eyes turn in Madelyne's direction as she crosses the threshold, and the blonde takes a leisurely sip of her wine. Once she swallows it down, she continues a beat later. "But how swiftly the matter is remedied."

Sebastian Shaw's wolf smile only grows at the timing of Madelyne Pryor, perhaps he is a little too amused at the tiny play on the woman being let into the Circle.

"Fantastic, as prompt as I had hoped." He steps towards the Black Rook, taking her hand to lift it and give a kiss to the back before releasing.

Emma getting a similar gesture with a lock of his eyes on hers during before he straightens and motions with two fingers and a snap for one of the wine glasses to be brought his way. His arms outstretching after the motion for his suit jacket to be taken off, the tie as well. The many faceless and hired servants setting to work. Paid well, all of them. Shaw takes pride in that…

"You two have met? I imagine you know or at least… recognize one another." He is not looking at them now as he speaks but forward, letting the final unravel of that tie take place before he is snapping off buttons around his neck, beginning to uncuff his wrists to similar freedom.

"Because whispers pass far more swift than the /look/ of a lie in paltry gambles." Madelyne states as one hand lofts and waffles in regards to what she was partaking in below this parlor of affluence and grandeur.

That flourished hand is captured by Shaw, embraced by affection of lips, and released to fall like an autumn leaf back to rest upon exposed hip. A thrum of digits, nails tipped in a predatory manner, but polished like that flash of canines in Madelyne's withdrawn smile. But a smile nonetheless! Towards the woman in White.

Those unseen canines bite an edge of her tongue, letting a sliver of blood. Madelyne knows how the arts of Intrigue work in "Politics" so let the truth and lies be laid out like a deck of Trumps. Figure it out!

A glass of wine is lofted from a servant, sniffed, discarded and another… Another… Different hues, ages, bitterness passed over; the choice made and she watches Shaw carefully while he undoes bindings that could be one of two options. One, makes her almost boil a purr in her solar plexus, but the other has a tension right her spine and ready.

No matter, she is taking care in this Duality.

Emma, though, ends her final resting place of those emerald eyes that flare a deeper ember hue in their focus. "Only heard whispers, but they can easily be interpreted as screams, considering…" A loft of her goblet in a cheers to them both and she sips slowly.

For Shaw's amusement, Frost grows colder still. Her smile is a fragile thing, a little too sharp at its points. She offers her gloved hand up for the contact with the barest lift of her proud chin, more than a little meaning tucked behind the stare that Emma doesn't pull back against the Black King's heavier one.

As he makes himself comfortable, however, she moves her eyes away to reconsider the newly arrived redhead. "Oh, goodness. No, let us please leave them as whispers." Her half-empty glass, following what had surely been at least a couple more, is lifted in kind. But it does lack kindness.

She considers Madelyne with a subtle appraisal in her half-lidded gaze. "But congratulations on the ascension. So sorry that I missed the affair."

"You were fairly indisposed, Emma." Shaw says if it's an apology for her part not theirs. "The new Rook has earned her placement, Selene's recommendation and just looking at her you can see why. It is uncanny… "

Done now with the getting comfortable those circling men and women scatter like a flock of ravens done picking a corpse clean. Sleeves of his white shirt rolled up to his forearms and several buttons undone he looks closer to the typical and expected Inner Circle 'theatrical' attire. Closer. Which over the years has become familiarity, comfort and keeps that expression of power conveyed, old power, regal… clean and before the world fell to its current state.

A quirk of his lips, the hard blue eyes study Emma a lingering moment then he's looking upon Madelyne, "We're stronger with your presence and you are with ours. It is only as it should be. I am hoping Selene has told you enough of our ways or perhaps… " He breaks his sentence. Unsure where his memories connect on that front, the X-Men, Jean Grey… Madelyne, it is old, confusing after the /Omega Shift/ timeframe they call that near catastrophic anomaly.

"As you wish," Madelyne utters, but as she does so, that cloak is gathered in a curl of fingers - a motion seeming more like a beckoning coil - to tug it in like a parallel gathering of shadows straddling her figure clad in an impartial gathering of attire.

Just as impartial as Madelyne's gaze seems to be when the tone (or lack thereof) is gathered, causing her to take on a bored and nonchalant gaze of the ceiling. /Sooo, not in the Cathedrals of…/ A button that skips from Shaw's sleeve skips across the floor in a loud *tic-tic-tckckck* until it hits an expensive oriental rug and falls silent. "It was a Grand affair, Queen," Madelyne states, as her gaze slides between the two and she takes her own seat with a haught cross of legs that leaves thighs bare to the hip and those falls of fabric captured in their own shadows of sin…. Despite the very surroundings and company!

"But I know how "much" /sorry/ means here." A glance to Shaw as the button is slid beneath her heel and flicked with a cock of her ankle towards Emma. "But this is so very cozy and Selene only made it that much more." A look between the two. King and Queen of Black and White.

The Red Head understands, even as she sips her Pinot Bitter.

"Quite uncanny," Emma superficially agrees, although she's hard pressed to argue on the point of actual physical resemblance. Her cool gaze not departing the new commodity in the room. "Of course, Shaw," she continues, still openly looking at Madelyne, "You know that I would never call your queen's judgment into question. She is a splendid choice for the role.”

Lies come so easily sometimes.

She absolutely would question Selene, in the right private setting. Make no mistake. But these are the lies and wars that make the Hellfire Club unique and particularly cut-throat. They are games with very high stakes. No one should expect any less, really, out of a cabal that seeks nothing short of mutant supremacy. Success in such a cabal - the ones that holds the ability not to survive, not even to thrive, but to conquer… above nearly all else - requires a certain skill set. One that Emma has been judged on multiple occasions to possess.

Emma’s gaze, which to the casual observer seems made languid by a liberal application of wine, is a piercing sort. It has a predatory quality to it, like a resting cat of the plains. Her blinks are slow and unhurried movements, and she lounges on her favorite perch as though she owned it.

“If Selene isn’t around, Miss Pryor, you should always feel most welcome to come to me with any questions or concerns. I certainly hope you find yourself comfortable in short order.”

But wise counsel would remind, just never *too* comfortable.

Shaw's chuckle is odd, out of place in the atmospheric near silence beyond them talking as he hooks fingers in to his drink and sips at the red fluid, swirling it in his mouth before taking it down.

"Emma is a fine mentor and most suitable for the task. I suggest you take her up on it, certainly more approachable of late as to /my/ Black Queen." Dry emphasis on that word, not a possessive or confirming pull in there.

"Yes, comfort is the first step. As one of us you have to learn this place molds to you, make of it what you will and can."

Sebastian's white shirt undone as it is feels sloppy to him but he doesn't have the power of just changing his attire on a whim or a focused thought, "My assistant should be somewhere near enough as well, Tessa, you may perhaps know her." Again, questioning Madelyne's memories out loud with a query of a glance beyond the redhead towards the White Queen. As if asking… has she attempted to delve in to the woman's mind herself yet. That is a conversation soon to be had. He would hope Selene properly vetted the new Black Rook.

The mentions of 'Uncanny', have Madelyne's gaze sliding between the two, cooly, without a hesitation in the rise of her drink. But it is downed instead of sipped.

A dip of her chin gives "acknowledgement" to every word said - down to the very syllable. For a moment she holds Emma's frigid capture and climactic lingering. "Oh, comfort does not seem to be the issue here," A brief pause for breath and a corner of her lips curls upward. "Just as comfortable as I should be anywhere." A wink. "Right?"

The lingering smirk falls a touch when she looks to Shaw again, a nail tapping the empty rim of her glass. There is a further need for more Bitter. "Should I know who she is?" A rock back in her seat in a repose that is just as casually languid as a predator in wait, but there is a chord that keeps something /struck/ inside Maddy.

"Creature comfort?" The tone says enough towards Shaw and his assistant, Tessa. A lift of brow and she casually glances towards Emma and away.

Throat cleared, smirk regaining, wine rim tap-tap-TAPPED!

At the tapping on the wine glass, Emma turns her pale gaze in Madelyne's direction with the start of disapproval, perhaps. She ultimately says nothing, but rather just takes a slow inhalation and lets it free again. "Mm," she says to the red headed rook, "I suppose."

And then there's a look cast in Shaw's direction, that communicates something deeper. They've been at this game a long time - or so it feels - and the meaning of it should be sufficiently clear. The choice of which she was not a part grates.

And yet, Emma Frost abides. She abides, but takes in another deep sip that finishes her glass. Slowly and carefully, but no less graceful for it, the woman begins to push herself back to her feet in order to go after the garage of her chosen vintage. And while they wait for the arrival of Tessa, she pours herself another.

"Did you get the invitation for the little soiree with the models next week?" she asks, seemingly hopping topics.

They would not be waiting long. Tess was not a woman given to dallying. A side door opens, and she steps out, the door closing behind her without the need for her to free her hands. In those hands, she held a neatly folded pile of clothes, all dark blue and crisp lines, everything neatly tucked and settled into place. Her eyes, though, were quick and sharp, even if Shaw seemed to elicit most of her attention, taking in Emma, the unknown woman, the surround, and then Shaw himself, whom she approached, pausing perhaps a handspan or two away from him, seeming content to wait, acknowledged or not, until he indicated that he had need for the clothes she had brought. She made no attempt to engage in any verbal conversation.

"Of course. " Shaw says to Madelyne, brushing off the smiles and somewhat taunting manner the woman is firing back at them, he assume due to the continued notice of her doppleganger look.

"I believe I did, a week away is a week away." Sebastian's flicker of gaze between the two women studious, weighing until Tessa is arriving, a forearm extending for her to drape the outfit over.

"Timely enough, say hello to our new Rook. This my dear, Madelyne is Tessa. She attends me and any others who require her when not in my services."

"This soiree, Emma, you set it up or is it another of /them/ trying to gain our attentions?"

He is looks at the door opposite them as a masked man peers in, a shotgun in hand. "Apologies, we lost several… of the sport." The man then vanishes behind that same door with a clang of closure. An arch of one brow does little to hide some of Sebastian's annoyance at the fleeting interruption.

Madelyne does not overlook the passed exchanges between Shaw and Frost. Fire and Ice. Black and White. But, wisely, she lets them go as menial and dismissed beneath the light loft of her chin and the downward dip of Cupid's Bow, despite the lingering uptilt of the very corners. There is Brimstone burning alight with amusement, in Maddy's eyes, and some things just do not need said aloud.

The silence aside from the rise of Emma has The Black Rook rising as well - exhaling a belabored sigh, pushing the edges of fabrics aside - and moving towards the spirits, but adjacent from Emma. "I accepted and sent my RSVP to the soiree, but after tonight…"

decanter is uncorked and poured into her glass as her eyes flick from it towards Emma, then Shaw…

Tessa is the reason her sentence goes unfinished. Every step is calculated, the assistant under a chilled scrutiny that only has her gaze slowly drifting back to cork the wine and set it gently aside.

"Let the games begin." Echoed even upon the brief message, her reaction hidden behind the rim of her glass.

The Black Rook was new, but she would learn, perhaps, in time, that Tessa, in addition to being punctilious, was also rarely effluent with her words, save for when she was actually speaking to Shaw. Or occasionally, when being addressed by Emma. And just now, she busied herself with draping the uniform she had brought for Shaw over his arm. Pants, crisp white shirt, cravat, jacket. Only once she had finished, did she finally turn back to Madelyne, giving the woman her own accessing gaze, every inch weighed and measured. Before she returned her attention to Shaw.

Tessa's arrival warrants little more than a glance of Emma's attention, and then the woman moves to take a place standing by the cold and lifeless fireplace in the room. "Oh," she says of the invitation once she's glowered daggers in the direction of the doorway and the intruder previously admitted through it, "It's a common enough affair. Would that it would be so interesting as to be something more. But it should be entertaining enough, I suppose, to watch them trip over themselves for the sake of a model's attention."

A beat passes, and then Emma shrugs. "It's something to do, anyway. And if they don't know about this," she circles to indicate the small gathering, "It does help to keep eyes looking elsewhere."

The clothing one by one inspected with a flip up of his other hand after his glass is set aside, he gazes over his clothe laden forearm to stare at Emma again, "Speaking of eyes elsewhere…"
The garb draped over a chair and he lifts a leg to likewise seat himself.

"Our current affairs in regards to Genosha. Have you spoken with Magneto recently?"

Tessa gets a nod of his head, motioning her to seat herself or see to the others present if they need anything, any extra bodies inside making themselves scarce. Disappearing as topics are about to shift to more things than just a new member being introduced around.

"We have a growing list of opportunities unraveling around us, ones we shouldn't be letting slip through our grasp."

He'll be at the soiree more than likely, it is support to his fellow Club members but it's a minor topic, one that would bore him and Emma knows it, Madelyne no doubt getting the same ideas about the man.

Tessa's motions towards Shaw are only skimmed (even though efficiently), and seem dismissed. No matter how robotic in nature, there is a 'calculation' behind the animalistic study of the people and the Den these Predators all seem to share.

With teeth bared, a tongue flicks over her lips and the glass is lowered, clutched in fingers that bare pointed nails painted a deep shade of ebony, a reflective shadow unmoving until she stops to reclaim her seat and just…

Stops.

Genosha.

The surface of deep red Pinot ripples and those nails curl in around the base of the glass.

A moment. One to slowly slip into her seat, unhook her daggers of a grip from the glass and bring it back to rest upon her upper knee, exposed beneath laces in the cross of limbs. "I would like to see these models," A mimic of Emma's gesture to 'This' Gathering and she looks back towards the woman, and then Shaw and Tessa. "Because that seems like a challenge. Considering!" A regard to the gathered bodies and a compliment, one bitten shorter by a sip of her wine and a slow exhale.

Tessa did not, in point of fact, look towards tending to the needs of Emma or Madelyne. She had learned the game too well, and knew how to read the room to see if she were needed. Instead, she took her usual place, the seat to the right and slightly behind any chair at which Shaw was sitting. Legs crossed, hands folded on her knee, she watched the functionaries departing, and the the trio who were now wading into deeper waters. Her expression was still, placid, showing neither alarm or, indeed, interest at the current topic of conversation.

"Not recently," Emma confesses, taking a sudden interest in her wine. "He's done a fairly decent job of keeping whatever struggles he's been having down there out of the public eye, however. It's a good sign."

The glass in her French manicured hand is lifted higher. Considered at greater depth as she swirls it around the sides of the crystal for a moment. The motion slides back her cloak a degree, but she still remains mostly nestled in the thick snowy fur at her jaw. And then she sips again. "I would like to revisit the matter of - given the current climate - inviting him into this gathering. I cannot imagine that Pierce or Leland would argue against it. It would give him more reason to continue to deal with us, were he one of us."

The lapse of composure from Madelyne doesn't get overlooked. If anything the shrewd mind of Shaw stores that for later, he'll retrace his words in there to find where it triggered exactly…
For now…

Tessa's position taken in to account he glances back at her, then to Emma, "I am not inclined to disagree, we could use him should he ever take himself out of politics or at the very least expand his reach again beyond his new corner of the world."

"I am also going to suggest a promotion for Tessa, she is under utilized and as an assistant, though pleasing enough, no longer what i require."

"I trust you'll find a proper position for her to over take, my dear Queen."

"I'm likely to be too biased in that decision and right now, as it stands odds are stacked, balance is off. I'll give you this small handicap."

Any other woman, under such circumstances, might have looked entirely elated. Tessa, though she had served well and faithfully, in her tenure with Shaw, had not always been best used by him. And she might well have been within her rights to look pleased at the mention of a promotion. That…was not precisely her reaction. Her eyes shifted from the room and the two women opposite her, relatively speaking, and returned to Shaw, the slightest crease forming between her brows at the way in which he had dismissed her. Because that both was what it was, and also not entirely at all what it was. But not a word of that escaped her lips, only her head, lowered in a respectful gesture to him, and then to Emma. She did not say thank you, because Emma had not agreed.

Madelyne, is simply sipping her dinner of Grapes. Fermented grapes. Liquidated…

Wine. Madelyne is of no appetite and having wine for dinner. Eventually she will go for her third helping, but not here, not now.

The mention of meeting these models gets no response, but she did not expect one, and instead she slowly rises to take her lingering gaze from Tessa to Emma and Shaw. "I am a bit exhausted from the night, and have many things to consider. Excuse me." And with a light tip of her head in a passable "bow" to Emma and Shaw, Madelyne seeks to leave, the Rook sliding sideways between the topics and towards the door.

One eyebrow pricks upwards, and Emma does not look particularly pleased for the offering. "I'll consider the matter," she offers with a flat tone after she's taken a long sip of her wine. As Madelyne departs, the White Queen grows colder still until she is every bit the force that makes her surname proud. She is suspicious by nature, and notoriously cagey. The present moment makes no exception to that reputation. "Of course," she offers politely to the rook, all the same.

And then her eyes settle on Tessa. Hmph. "It's no judgment upon your no-doubt countless services to our dear Mister Shaw, naturally."

Tessa watched Madelyn depart in silence. She also studied Emma in equal silence. When the White Queen finally spoke to her directly, she answered, her voice betraying no emotion in either direction, "If I am no longer of any good service to the Black King, and you can find no good use for me, I will accept your decision. I have never been under any illusion that my place here was one that did not include an end to my service."

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