Cursed, Probably Dead


cat_icon.gif francois_icon.gif lyuba_icon.gif

Scene Title Cursed, Probably Dead
Synopsis Francois and Cat return to the clinic in search of someone with information about the rusalka. Her assessment of Sasha's outlook is grim.
Date December 13, 2009

A clinic in Ryazan, Russia

The clinic of an afternoon looks like it did before — different faces, same crowded press of people. The weather has taken a dive since their last visit, 'freezing' being comparatively warm to the present wind-chilled climate; even inside, the cold can be felt. There isn't enough money at this clinic to keep the lobby at the luxury of standard room temp. It still smells like antiseptic and alcohol, and too many people; the too-little-washed gray of the walls, however, looks a little lighter in comparison with the dreary overcast sky outside.

There's a different receptionist at the desk from when Francois was last here, a man whose mouse-brown hair is beginning to go gray, wire glasses balanced on the bridge of his nose. His attention is currently held by — presumably a patient, an older woman with features barely visible in the shadows of drawn-up hood and thick woolen hat, talking in the droning voice of someone who likes nothing better than a captive audience for her opinions, troubles, and grievances.

When Francois had made token reassurances that he would not come back here, he'd been lying. He'd known it at the time, too, always conscious of the lies he mouths to get what he wants, as sparklingly delivered as the truth. Somehow, he doesn't feel guilty when he enters the clinic, and the fact that he has a woman with him who is not his neurotic, jittery partner in tourism is telling to the point of chafing. But it was as Carlisle Dreyfus said — he usually improvises.

Leading the pamnesiac inside, the Frenchman tucks his hands into his pockets as he steers towards reception, knowing minor victory when he sees a different employee at the desk, although not about to get his hopes up.

He's polite, too, coming to stand at the desk in pointed proximity, but not about to cut the patient off. Busies himself with unraveling his scarf a little, enough to tuck the loosened ends into his jacket.

Eyes are alert, as are the ears on entering the place, though she downplays the fullness of her attention and seeking of details to perceive. Cat is to one side of Francois in approaching reception where man and woman are in conversation. Or man is listening, and the older woman converses. Gloved hands clasp behind her back and remain there, she being wordless while they await recognition.

And if the conversation is audible, she translates whatever language it occurs in mentally to English. Then French, Spanish, German, and even Hebrew.

A flicker of brown eyes shows that the receptionist is aware of the new arrivals, the man and the woman whose definition of 'proximity' is more generous than the conventional Russian one, whose appearances mark them foreign as much as their behavior. He doesn't show any intent to interrupt the woman either, as his attention shifts back, her monologue in Russian seeming to continue without need for breath; the receptionist isn't speaking, only she. The elderly woman is currently in the midst of criticizing her grandchildren's choices in associates and paramours, something she can probably do for the entire rest of the day without any help at all — so much the worse for them.

In the rest of the lobby, activity proceeds without any attention being given to the foreigners loitering by the desk. Not that there's much of it: people waiting for their turns in the small clinic rooms, coughing occasionally; a few staff or volunteers loitering around the edges of the lobby; others move to and fro on one errand or another. The profile of Lyuba Kolosova, as bundled up as anyone else in a couple layers of clothing, her brown hair bound back in a braid, is visible briefly as she crosses the room with a bundle of light-colored fabric in her arms.

Ratatat. The sound of Francois' fingers against the edge of the desk is a restless sound but not particularly rude, dull and quiet as he patiently~ await the conclusion of the woman's one-sided conversation, tuning in and out as he glances back at Cat with a companionable and somewhat apologetic smile. What if he were dying, old lady? What then?

Fortunately, green eyes track to the familiar profile of the woman he's after, readily pushing himself away from the desk, shoulder bumping into Cat's only mildly. Mostly to get her attention, discreetly nodding towards the woman breezing through the waiting room. "That is Kolosova," he confirms, and spares a glance to the desk with a look of distaste. As much as he likes to think it's only the children who are impatient—

He takes a step, "Come on," and begins to sift through the crowd, to get close enough to be heard with— "Miss Kolosova?" and a glance back to Cat to confirm her presence.

Feet go into motion after her shoulder is impacted mildly, the eyes shifting to settle on the Russian politician with her bundle of light-colored fabric. Details about the woman from her research into local figures at the library and internet cafe some time before are called up and held ready, while Cat still speaks not. The lead is left to Francois, a deference stemming from him having met her before.

The name is heard, cutting above the background ebb and flow of idle conversation; the young woman in question pauses, twists to see the person who is the source of the summons. It hasn't been long enough for her to forget the planes and angles of Francois' features; thin brows draw together in a disapproving frown. "If you come looking for more medicine for your friend," Lyuba says, nodding towards the woman she doesn't know and is perforce suspicious of, "you will need to go to larger hospital." To her mind, that is Francois' likely purpose; having dismissed it, the young woman turns to go back to her errand.

And Francois is quick to follow, though manages not to have the audacity to grab her arm, as much as the instinct is there to do so. His hand, incidentally, does go up, and hovers in the air between them with his fingers curled. "I have not," he insists, putting a youthful kind of earnestness into his voice that doesn't quite match his expression properly. It would be better, probably, if Elisabeth was with him, a thought that only glimmered to mind when he first entered the clinic, and occurs again just now, but no matter.

"You said something, the last time I was here. You mentioned the rusalka of Svyato." There's more words than that, but they stop taking flight, mouth shutting to see if that makes any kind of impact.

Silence is broken, words in Russian emerging by her voice. "I'm not one to partake of medicine without need," Cat offers solemnly; perhaps a subtle critique of persons taking such compounds for psychological reasons. "And I too have some interest in this rusalka, in local lore regarding it. I find it makes a solid subject to write a song around."

Music, and the mention of it, brings a measure of passion to her eyes and features. She at the very least seems truthful in so saying.

She turns again, not for sake of the reaching hand but at Francois' final words. Narrowed blue eyes study him a moment; then direct their attention elsewhere. A jerk of Lyuba's chin brings a polite young man forward, military-unifomed, his appearance as neat as most of the lobby populace is not. She passes off the bundle to him with quiet instructions in Russian: take this to room 204, please. He gives the duo behind Lyuba a courteous nod before departing, fabric in hand.

The young woman turns back to the inquisitive tourists, a disdainful glance given to Cat. "Song. Doctor Koslow is missing three days and you want to write a song?" Lyuba's gaze flicks to Francois. "Forgive me if I hope your business in Ryazan is finished soon. It is not a safe place for foreigners to wander on silly little errands." She turns, the shrug of shoulder and tilt of head expressing permission for them to tag along. "Come, then."

If criticism is served in equal parts of storytelling, then Francois doesn't seem to mind nor bat an eye. A glance to Cat, with a faint twist of a smile, before he's following the politician silently. The other foreigners would probably agree with Lyuba, too. "I'm sorry to hear about Kozlow," Francois states, not untruthfully, as he moves after the woman. "And for taking up your time again — we're not planning to stay in Ryazan for much longer, non."

There isn't a need to speak now, with the politician having seemingly agreed to speak with them, and so Cat returns to silence as she follows wherever Lyuba may lead them.

The little room Lyuba leads them to is a lot like the last one Francois saw the inside of — old, much-used, and indeed very little. There's a stool in one corner and a platform in the middle too coldly metallic to be called a bed; an examination table that's also seen better years. Lyuba takes the stool, leaving her 'guests' to either perch on the table or stand. "Sasha, he would not be gone so long without saying. There is no report of body but we all know he is cursed, probably dead."

Francois takes a seat in the form of, yes, perching on the edge of the examination table, with enough room for Cat to have either option as well, hands braced on the edge. He blinks a few times at the woman's assessment, as much as his expression mostly remains impassive, carefully so. "There are a lot of things that could have happened," he suggests, gently. "But you are convinced that is the likeliest?

"Cursed— " His head tips forward in a prompting nod. "Because he saw the Svyato rusalka?"

Standing works for Cat, to one side, with her eyes moving from one to the other and back again as they speak. Inner speculation is over the power of Zhukovsky's illusions, the way he seems to have used the myth of rusalkas and his ability to draw memories out of the observer for enhancement of believability.

"It is what rusalka does," the woman replies simply. "You are foreign; I do not expect you know our legends. She is dead and she wants others dead also." Lyuba pauses, looking between the two who have come to her for the rusalka's tale. "It is old story, from when there were still monks in Svyato monastery.

"A woman came for healing, but they did not heal her. Some say relics would not touch her, or burned her skin, that the Holy Well was only water for her. Some say the monk at the door turned her away; I do not know if this could be true, but would have lost favor, protection. Morning after, they find her body in the Well, and a curse on Svyato for it. Then, few people go to monastery for fear of curse; monks age and die, and no new ones come. For years now, longer than my time, no monks left at all; only empty building and rusalka's ghost."

He listens as avidly as someone who came here for such answers should listen. A glance traded to Cat, because as much as she's the world's best recording device, her expression is quickly assessed as the ghost story is unraveled for them. But for the main part, Francois keeps his attention on Lyuba, hands folding and caught between his knees and expression perhaps a little too serious, all things considering.

The probable death of Kozlow making for an adequate weight on the situation, anyway. "Is it because Sasha was a healer, or something else, that he saw the rusalka? If you do not mind me asking — it is the only recent story I've heard of any rusalka."

She still isn't speaking, her voice not an interruption to the story or the questions Francois asks, but the glance at her face does suggest a measure of thoughtfulness, as if the tale has caused her to wonder and speculate about something relayed in it. If Cat has questions, she's content to save them a bit longer.

The gymnast turned politician and clinic volunteer scowls at Francois. "You are foreign. Tourists, you see what of Russia? Know what about rusalka?" Lyuba answers her own question for them, with all due disdain for arrogant and presumptious representatives of Western Europe: "Nothing."

For all that she disapproves of the foreigners, the young woman seems content enough to keep speaking, in that she does. "Rusalka does what she does. Maybe he and Faina go too close to monastery one day, wake her. Maybe he is just unlucky and gets attention. Others have seen also; she is not just story, fable like Western fairy-tales."

Likely if Francois were to argue he knows puh-lenty about the rusalka, and has the papercuts to prove it, it would sooner get him pointed to the door than divulged more information. Being an ignorant tourist works fine. Which doesn't mean he doesn't have to actively school his expression, and direct his gaze downwards as he listens. "I know not much of rusalka, aside from small myths and stories," he says, his voice one of conceding to her disdain. "That is why my friend and I have come to talk to you — to hear more than simply that." A pause, head tipping a little to the left as he asks, "This monastery — where could it be found?"

She has a question, which is now quietly given voice. Her features don't show skepticism about the Rusalka. "How long ago was the woman turned away from the monastery, Miss?" Cat's eyes rest upon the storyteller, while thought processes continue behind them.

Lyuba falls silent, regarding the Frenchman and the Englishwoman for a long moment, her expression pensive. Finally, she shakes her head; although her look is neutral, the thought behind the headshake is clearly some suspicion that they might just go there despite every warning the young woman can give. Also, it's not her place to save strangers from themselves.

"It is north, and east. Not far, just up in the foothills. It is a big brick building on a cliff, the only one; very easy to see." Her attention shifts to Cat, brows creasing in a frown as she considers the question. "I do not know," Lyuba replies. "My mother grew up with the story; I do not think my grandmother did. Maybe… fifty years, sixty; maybe more." She shrugs. "Maybe much more. It is not recorded that I ever saw, not in certain words."

The look Francois passes over to Cat is probably the look Lyuba might have exasperatedly expected from the stupid tourists — want to go on an adventure? His feet land heavy against the cool floor once he levers himself off the table, listening to her answer regarding Catherine's own line of interrogation as he fixes his scarf a little in preparation for braving the winter cold outside, as much as the clinic isn't as cosy as it could be.

"Merci, for your time, Miss Kolosova. Though I feel I should ask you, what would you recommend one do, if one were to find themselves facing a rusalka?" It's minorly facetious, as much as any efforts to warm the woman's demeanor, Francois knows, will ice over rapidly.

She's quiet again, mulling over the given data, and not seeming averse to such an adventure as Francois has non-verbally suggested. Feet move slightly, indicating Cat is also preparing to depart. There's just a slight turn of her head when the French man asks how to defend versus such an apparition.

It's not that she's cold so much as — disgruntled and irritated. Exasperated, also, the young woman shaking her head again, slow and resigned. "If you cannot run? It is said that rusalka may be laid to rest if her death is avenged. Some say she might die without water. A cross or prayer, a relic with God's or some saint's favor, may help. But it is always best to never see her at all." Falling silent, Lyuba watches them get ready to leave.

"Oui," is mild agreement, and if Lyuba wants to take that as reassurance, she can — Francois is making no further effort to make sure it is taken as such. His smile is brief and warm, a hand up in a quick still wave before it slips back into his pocket. "«Thank you, again,»" is spoken in Russian proper, before, with a look to check if Cat has more to say, he starts for the door.

As she moves to exit with Francois, Cat is adrift in thought. She seemingly has nothing to add, as evidenced by silence, while speculating as to whatever Zhukovsky wishes to hide from the public, in the monastery, under cover of the Rusalka story.

"Spasibo," she offers to the politician just before both visitors step over the doorway's plane and are gone.

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