elisabeth_icon.gif ethan_icon.gif francois_icon.gif grigori3_icon.gif teo_icon.gif

Scene Title Izvinite
Synopsis Francois leads Teodoro and Elisabeth to the Syvato Monastery, intending to check out a potential lead related to Vanguard's Russian cell.
Date December 16, 2009

Svyato Monastery, Ryazan, Russia

Svyato Monastery was founded by missionaries in the 12th century. For hundreds of years, the miraculous properties of its reliquary collection — from the ancient icon of St. Ioann the Divine to the wonder-working Blessed Virgin icon named Znamenie-Korchemna; shrines with relics from George the Victor, Panteleymon the healer, Nikolay Wonder-Worker, and a host of other saints; and relics from the martyrs Mihail Ryazanskiy and Iuvenaliy Ryazanskiy — brought many travelers to the monastery, along with the money its monks needed to live on. In the past few generations, however, the monastery has dwindled; the elder monks succumbing to the inevitability of age, and then their successors, until finally only the monastery itself remained, barely-remembered monument to past wonders.

//A long, low brick building situated near the edge of a limestone bluff, its profile anchored by two squat towers roofed in black and a slender central tower capped in white, the monastery shows signs both of age and enduring care. The exterior brick is beginning to crumble in places but the interior corridors are well-patched; and while its windows completely lack any semblance of glazing, the still air inside the building is markedly warmer than the outdoors. Old, age-faded tapestries on the walls attest to the hobbies of long-dead monks, scuffed floorboards to their habitual tread; in some of the more obscure corners can be found dust-covered dishes, or a scrap of moth-eaten cloth that was worn sometime in the distant past. The shrines, strangely enough, remain intact despite passing time, preserved by local superstition and caution; rough-hewn effigies, ancient half-burned candles, small ceramic or glass containers bearing the bones of long-dead holy men.

Situated below the monastery is the Holy Well, a water-filled pit lined by meticulously-laid stone, purported — like so much else at Svyato's monastery — to be imbued with the power of healing. Behind the Holy Well are the caverns, worn out of the limestone in ages past, undecorated and unadorned save by the bones from generation upon generation of monks… at least so far as anyone in the area will attest, for few care to broach the monastery's grounds anymore.

Not too far beyond the city limits, urban development gives way to farmlands; mostly snow-covered pasture now, drifts cut by the sparse tracks of livestock. There are roads to be had, kept meticulously clear of snow; doesn't save them from a coating of ice, however, on this frigid and moonless eve. The sun has only recently descended past the western horizon, leaving a dull orange glow slowly leaching from the sky; it still illuminates the eastern bluffs, the irregular natural terraces up which a single road winds.

Its sinuous curve isn't much to speak of, mostly because the bluffs themselves are windworn and eroded, steep in places but generally not much of an obstacle to anything. At least on their western flanks. The eastern side looks like it might drop off more abruptly, there where the sun's fading light reaches only indirectly at this late hour.

On the crest of the bluffs is a long silhouette of a building, its outline blocky and angular, the details of its architecture hidden by darkness. No lights burn in its windows, be they fire or electric; no illumination hints at the presence of life within its walls, unless it's the small and scurrying kind taking shelter from the winter wind's icy caress. That bitter wind whistles faintly through mostly unglazed windows, the tones of its passage resembling some distant soul's mournful cry.

Lyuba had advised crucifixes and running away. The silvery sidearm resting heavy beneath Francois' coat has a little less finesse, if equal in cowardice as the latter, but a reassurance all the same that the two pieces of advice could not grant him. Fighting the impulse to stamp warmth into his feet, the Frenchman turns up his collar a little higher as the group of three push through the winter cold, Francois moving where the road melts into the rural terrain the monastery resides in.

He keeps his words to himself as they move, the only thing leaving his mouth being reedy breaths that turn to steam on the exhale; really only lifting his head to observe their destination when it comes into range from the very dregs of a late sunset. It looks as dead as promised, but this still moves Francois to put out an elbow in a nudge to Teo, silent inquiry.

Despite melodramatic notions on his encroaching numbness and frostbite, Teodoro feels it very soundly when the other European's Arm Of Encouragement impacts his torso through the fabric of his coat. He exhales, and it comes away from his face in a diaphanous trickle of vaporous white to second Francois' sigh. He had looked up even less over the course of their trek, putting some faith in his Evolved ability to convey what eyesight, increasingly these days, can not.


He grates boots to a pause in his tracks, turning a brief arc, considering, and he moves up into the ragged little copse of denuded trees to set his shoulder against. Cuts the wind, provides— a chiefly embarrassing essence of cover, though frankly, not enough to excuse the tired grasp of Teo's hand to find his own weapon. One tucked into his garment, the others left to their original distribution as he huddles. Lets the focus out of his eyes.

Bringing up the rear, Elisabeth is acting both as rear guard and as watchdog. Her senses are stretched out to listen for anything coming from any direction that's not the crackling of trees under ice. She specifically finds it useful to listen for heartbeats more than anything else. Though she cannot sense thoughts, that is just as big a giveaway as thoughts. And it's in a sound pattern easily isolated from the crackling of the trees, unlike footsteps. The weapon and extra clip that she's carrying seem, to her, woefully inadequate to this task, most likely. She's been quiet the last couple of days, withdrawn. But her focus on this is tight and very mission-centered.

"There are a lot of people inside," Teo says, at last. "More than ten, at least; I'll have to get closer if we need more than that. No one holding weapons. The rooms all look the same. Rough. Not much conversation, no one staring in our direction through the windows— yet.

"I don't know what the fuck they're doing in there. Doesn't sound like fun to me." The Sicilian's eyes blink back into clarity, and he grips hold of his sleeve's cuff with his free hand, pulls it down to reduce the length of the firearm's muzzle that juts out before packing it into the pocket at his hip. Rounding out his shoulders, he sniffs through his nose, a noise like a dog whuffing through its water bowl. "Wanna knock?"

Glancing at Teo, Elisabeth murmurs softly, "I can't hear anything through the stone, it's too thick. But there's no one behind us." She shrugs slightly. "I guess we may as well knock. Is Zhukovsky hiding something up here, or do you suppose that it's something else? A rusalka myth might be a good way to scare off ANY locals if you're trying to hide, as an example, a group of Evos in a country where they're pretty much hated." She's musing aloud, not really suggesting that it's actually happening.

Francois regards Elisabeth a moment, doubt making his eyes narrow some, but when he draws in a breath, he only lets it out as a sigh instead of a protest. "But with Grigori's illusions, it could be the same, non? I do not imagine they would enjoy trespassers either." The look traded from the audiokinetic to the astral projectonist is one that communicates exactly what they do know — which is that they do not. A brisk scratch to the back of his neck, before Francois tilts his head to the building.

"I am not one for knocking — let us see if we do not have to." And with that, he moves off from the thick of the rural terrain to approach the building, the night's darkness not quite making him feel secure, but he goes swift and determined all the same, headed for one of the less obvious entry ways to check its locks unless protest brings him to an exasperated halt.

The small door is indeed unlocked, its wooden surface much the worse for wear. So too are the hinges, stiff with rust, allowing it to move inward only slowly and with a noisily high-pitched squeal of complaint. The hall inside is as unlit as the exterior of the building, walls coated roughly with off-white plaster; brackets in the walls once supported torches, sconces candles and lamps, but all that is left now are traces of old soot and pooled wax. Dust carpets the stone floor in a layer that doesn't look to have been disturbed for years, perhaps decades, and the many, many cobwebs in the corners are nearly all long since abandoned by the spiders that spun them. The passage leads in perhaps eight feet before meeting a crossway, a larger arterial corridor… which doesn't seem to have seen any more traffic than this little side entrance. It isn't any better-lit, either.

As the door wheezes open, enormous blue eyes turn like satellites from over the Frenchman's shoulder. After a protracted moment that decidedly lacks for screeching witch women or ghosts or a small flotilla of torch-waving, jabbering Franciscans, his features flatten into a facsimile of disappointment. His eyes fall to the velvety membrane of dust that overlays the floor, walls, genuine— those look like genuine sconces, though long since derelict.

He can only imagine how long it's been since sunlight has touched this hall. "If I was a shrivelled Eastern Orthodox priest, I—" he extrudes a gloved thumb, counting off. "Wouldn't be in a monastary that's supposed to be fuckin' closed, and," two, still in a whisper, "would be kind of pissed to find tourists crawling in my woodwork. What do we want to do? Punch out a sentry for Liz to interrogate, or just have a look at the grounds?"

There's a soft snort of laughter at Teo's words. Elisabeth can't help it. It's the kind of nervous laughter you get when you're expecting all hell to break loose and it doesn't immediately. She looks around nervously and peeks over the two men in the doorway. "Just go," she murmurs. "You're dawdling."

"You may go first," is facetiously, and close to whispered over Francois' shoulder. He does not, in fact, concede the lead - just continues on moving through the dust coated hallway, nose wrinkling upon feeling the compulsion to sneeze, an internal struggle for the time to takes to it rub said nose with his sleeve. In retrospect, a flash light would have been a brilliant idea, and the gun under his jacket, not for the first time since he's been here.

At the crossways, the Frenchman lists arbitrarily to the left, peering down it, then right, then back at the other two — one who looked up the layout, the other with spider senses. Being a technophobe and now utterly human, he defers the pick to them.

He doesn't, also, feel silly enough that his pistol doesn't somehow find its way into his hand, tapping restlessly against the side of his leg.

As they go through the dusty antechamber, Elisabeth pauses long enough to focus her attention on the hallways. There's still a lot of stone in the way; sound travels through all mediums, but some are obviously harder than others to utilize. After a long moment, blue eyes turn to one of the halls, and she says, "That way — there's some kind of a hum. Maybe a generator. Definitely not birds, bats, and rats." Elisabeth gestures that direction and nudges the boys. "Age before beauty, Francois."

She just insulted Francois' looks or something. Is hilarious, except for the fact that they are crawling around the bowels of a highly suspicious and relatively recently reinhabited historical haunting site. The corner of Teo's mouth jerks upward, before flattening out with a stubborn squaring of his jaw.

Okay. "The hum," he suggests, lowly, his fingers tightening on the weapon still hidden halfway up the hose of his sleeve. He palms a little meltwater white out of the bristle of his inchoate beard. "Electricity means people, eh? I'll push a scout out when she thinks she hears somebody."

There's a comeback, somewhere, but coming up with one would probably undermine the oh, children glance Francois trades back towards them. "Oui," he grants, chin lifting, before moving on down towards where, apparently, the hum of electricity is coming from. He doesn't move slowly, no achingly paced cautious sneaky steps - just swiftness as well as relative silence, both of which can go hand in hand pretty easily, as much as the only thing that can help creaky floorboards is light-footedness. The group presses on.

It does not take Elisabeth long to detect something over the thrum, but that something isn't what she might expect to hear glancing off the stone walls down here. Too big to be a bird, bat or a rat, a large shape moves through the darkness and clicks nails — claws — against wood. Beneath that, haggard breathing and the crackle saliva makes when strung out between wet teeth and a curled lip. It has a heartbeat, too, low and muted, interspersed between the thud of what sounds like paws striking the ground.

There's a brilliant moment of WTF? as Elisabeth catches the sound, and then she hisses, "Oh fuck… animal. Maybe a guard dog or something. Big. Not sure how big, the sound's echoing around too much." Well, if shooting an innocent kid to save Teo's life can happen, sure as hell she doesn't mind shooting a dog. But she'd rather NOT. Really.

All right; that is decidedly freakish. Teo's gun jerks upward, narrowly avoids actually firing into the thing's face— and the absurd secondary reflex there is to get down on his knees, pat the floor and make baby-voices until the dog chooses to be friends. Quelled, fortunately. Third, of course, the ghost of Teos past (if 'past' is the term for it—) kindles enough curiosity to inspire him to snatch a brief glimpse through. He fails to sink into the actual animal's head; Ghost couldn't grasp anything besides humans either, but surprise of surprises, the astral projection's pouncing slither careens into something else further behind the lumbering creature.

"—Something else is coming up the hall behind it. Fast," he says, raising the handgun. Teodoro steps sideways, flattens one shoulder into the wall, tracking the junction and doorway behind them with a haphazard glance oer his shoulder.

Francois is also moving, rather speedily at the word dog. Not exactly running away — he does as Teo does, shoulder bouncing off a wall as he moves aside and back, gun twitching up in his hand as much as he doesn't angle it pointblank down the corridor. Fleeing is backwards, giving up the ground they covered for want of going back around the nearest corner of the inset of a door passed by.


The doggie approaching, is as Teo most astutely pointed out, not alone. Three sets of footfalls echo the sound of the dog, three men coming down the hall. The man in the middle holding an automatic rifle in both hands. A half balacalava is pulled up past his lips, a black beanie pulled over his brow. Leaving only his eyes visible. Black boots pound along the monastery floor as the men approach behind the dog. The gun is gripped in both hands, one finger sliding around the trigger. And suddenly, the marching stops.

As the men and the dog come into view, puppy becomes less of an apt word to describe the hunkering beast that leads the trio without a muzzle or leash. It barely resembles the white Alsatians that patrolled the foundry's perimeters — this creature is a monster the size of a small bear and looks like one too, constructed from dense bones and cords of muscle that ripple beneath a bristling pelt with hairs like wire. Its ears are laid back, both its lips peeled around yellow fangs that curve inward and are as thick at their widest points as a grown man's fingers.

If it's a wolf, then it's the largest one Team Charlie has ever seen outside of a child's picture book, but even Little Red Riding Hood never faced off against something that smells as foul as this animal does. Decay wafts off its breath, filling the corridor with rot and the earthy sweetness of freshly dug grave dirt.

It pretty much takes everything Elisabeth has got not to scream like a girl. Seriously. She was raised in the city — she has never seen a dog (or a wolf!!) that fucking huge with teeth that terrifying. The pistol in her belt is in her hand before she realizes that she even moved, her finger on the trigger. "Christ," she gasps softly. The trick there is to overcome the panic — something Elisabeth's had a lot of practice at doing — and realizing that …. it's entirely possible that it's merely an illusion. Though "merely" an illusion is sort of a misnomer here. She isn't sure here who the bigger threat is — big big wolf or men with big fucking guns. So … her blue eyes flit from one threat to the next and she merely remains silent.

That dog is unrealistically huge, but despite that, it's terribly realistic. Teo's eyebrows have mountaineered to the top of his forehead and are threatening to jump off the roof of it without any sort of bungee. For every forward step the dog and its retinue of mere motals takes, he stubbornly scuffs backward another a half of one or so, which means that the distance between himself and the enemy is somewhat diminishing but it doesn't go unnoticed that they've yet to attack, so. So.

So Teodoro begins to lengthen his backward stride, politely, and not particularly discreetly opting that a good tactical retreat is the better part of valor, or at least drawing even with the audiokinetic who qualifies as their heavy-hitter with a sidelong swipe of a gesture at Liz to do the same. Awesome. Zhukovsky inhabits a variety of real estate. Would've, could've figured. "Izvinite. We were just leaving."

Francois has never been too much of a dog person in any case, having spent more time being chased away by them than taking care of one. His gun doesn't lower, but nor is he stubbornly pushing forward, and though his mouth twists into a scowl at the tactical retreat he's participating in. Scowl flickers away a moment later in favour of what is hopefully an encouraging smile.

It's all the same to the dog, probably. Baring your teeth. The compulsion to fire wildly is a rare one for the Frenchman. "Our apologies."

The rifle goes to one hand, as the man in the middle steps forward. Black glove sliding over the flank of the giant beast, before going over its neck and resting on its cute widdle head. The fingers of the gloved hand scritch scritch a little before coming back to hold the rifle once again. Dressed in all black, with a flak jacket over his chest, the man slowly goes to raise his rifle to point in the direction of Francois. A solid step forward is taken.


The rifle remains steadfastly on Francois, the man's eyes sinking in on him as if there wasn't a gigantic, vicious, surreal wolf standing at his back. The man says nothing, as of yet.

The click has Francois halting with a hiss of breath between teeth, not quite risking a glance back at the other two. The hold of the gun in his hand switches to one of surrender — :| — with it hanging loose from his fingers, palmed turned upwards as if in question. It's an almost instantaneous gesture in response to the threat of getting filled with buckshot, other hand going out to show his open palm. His stance is about as relaxed looking as it isn't in reality, muscles tense and the gaze he squares on the masked man avid for hints of what's to come.

Taking the closing steps of the empty space the rifle remains on Francois' head. The rifle comes back to get balanced under the man's armpit, one black gloved hand coming forward to point at the Frenchman's gun and then points very promptly down at the ground. And then a single accusatory finger points up at Francois, and then whirls around and then flips up and then points back at the ground. Apparently the man wants Francois to do a pirouette and a skip hop before landing in a double-axle. Either that or he wants him to turn around and lay down.

The safety is switched on before the Frenchman lets the gun fall with a petulant clatter. Caliban is never going to lend him weapons again. Turns out, Francois isn't going to do a pirouette, but he does raise his hands compliantly and slowly start to turn around. The look he shoots Elisabeth and Teo is one of urgency, bidding them to do something, anything, that he cannot, before green eyes go on to take in the rest of the corridor, judging distance, judging where to go.

He's also not lying down, or seems to be taking his sweet time doing it, muscles in his back curled with tension and listening to what's going on behind him, dog and men both.

A few silent shuffles as the man with the rifle takes a few steps forward. Looking back a clean motion with his head tells the other boys to go play nice with Elisabeth and Teo. While the main black clad man throws one hand down on Francois' shoulder. Jerking him back some, a low growl emits into the Frenchmen's ear. "Frankie. Come this way you French fuck."

Merde, is almost what Francois says, going rigid under Ethan's hand as if in preparation to twist away from the grip, hands curling. Words don't quite make it, close to growling right back instead, but reluctantly, he takes a step in the direction of the tug, turning to deal the masked man an incredulous and accusing stare.

How is this happening again?! "Where?" he hisses back, teeth practically bared.

Teodoro and Elisabeth either follow Francois' lead or their own instincts, weapons laid down on the floor at the command of the other two men. The only alternative is to open fire or run, and running wouldn't get them very far in a narrow space like this.

The leader's voice is one that Francois will undoubtedly recognize, even accompanied by the throaty snarl of the wolf — if that's what it's meant to be — as it circles around the Frenchman's legs without touching him. It's melting into shadow the next instant, fur transforming into an inky substance that vaguely resembles the form Teodoro has sometimes seen Gabriel take, but this does not last for more than the time it takes the swatch of blackness to disappear behind one of the corridor's support pillars and emerge on the other side as Richard Santiago — Kazimir Volken — complete with a headful of dark hair, generous black mustache and three-piece business suit the colour of charcoal and the texture of vicuna wool, made to measure.

"Where, he says."


It sounds as if Ethan is honestly questioning Grigori's taste in illusion, brows knitting behind his beanie. Gripping his rifle with both hands he gives a little roll of his eyes. "These old guys always so theatrical right? But y'would know all about that. I bet you follow people in dark alleys and…" He trails off giving a staccatto 'hm'. That is just before the butt of the rifle is flying hard at his stomach. Ethan stepping around the man cleanly after the attack to then shove the barrel of the rifle into Francois' back.

"This way, I says."

The blood drains from Francois' face about as quickly as his pent up, wolfish anger dissolves away. Mouth pinched and hands frozen in that semi-surrender which goes ignored in favour of staring. The sight is impossible, of course, Kazimir dead and even before that, his hair silvered and skin weathering as his power did everything that Francois' did not, but it still manages to capture the imagination of—


Francois doubles over as the hit to the stomach is executed with far too much ease, gasping in a breath and a hand going out to steady himself against the wall, straightening up again by the time the gun is pressing against his back. It serves a little to snap him out of his reverie, although it would have only taken a pinch. "Don't disdain a little theatre, Fenrir," is muttered, green eyes focusing again on the ghost before him. "You aren't bad at it yourself."

Kazimir — or Grigori, depending on how you choose to look at things — falls into step beside Ethan and gestures for the other two Vanguard recruits to lead Teodoro and Elisabeth along with after retrieving their weapons discarded on the floor. "I had begun to worry," he says, starting to move down the corridor in the direction where the thrumming noise originates. It has to be a generator for anyone to live and operate comfortably here at the monastery — the world is not as simple as it was when its walls were first erected, and as the group heads deeper inside the stone labyrinth, the air grows warmer and less stale, though not by much.

"Miss Beauchamp was too," he adds, unable to keep the corners of his mouth from curling into an expression that would resemble a smile if it were placed on anyone else's face, "but I'm sure her spirits will lift right up when she sees your faces."

"Well that goes without sayin' on most things." Ethan rumbles, pushing the barrel forward a little in Francois' back. Pushing him forward, looking slowly over at Kazogri, Ethan's lips behind his black mask fold into a frown. "Like I told you before. I prefer more breasts with my illusions. And less…" He shrugs a little. The obvious word is wrinkles, or maybe testicles, but Ethan obviously doesn't feel like finishing it, now.

"Yeah. Maybe you can 'elp 'er out a bit. Someone broke 'er ankle on accident." Whoops.

He follows. There's a gun at his back sees to that much, Francois glancing towards Teo and Elisabeth before setting his jaw and resolving to go along compliantly, for as much as he has little choice. You live seventy plus years with a balance between doing stupid things, and occasionally, doing the smart thing — as much as it's Ethan who happens to be holding the gun. It's not terrible reassuring.

There's no visible response to the news about Abigail, and her broken ankle, save for silence as they move down the warmer, crawling hallways. "Ah, oui, and what of Kozlow? Will he be happy to see us also or too dead for it to matter?" That voice, too, made of gravel, has Francois digging his nails into his palms - whether to contain anger or panic is up in the air.

"Kozlow," Grigori echoes. He tilts a look in Francois' direction, past Ethan, and lets out a low, sandpapery chuckle. "Did your people enjoy my rusalka, Mr. Allegre? I think it was a little too convincing for the doctor's tastes. Not my best work, admittedly. Both she and the Beast of Gevaudan need work, but you should see the Nidhogg. He's beautiful."

The soles of his leather shoes click against the floor like the wolf's claws did, producing a sound that glances off the walls and can be heard in adjacent passageways when the whistling wind shrieking in from outside isn't deafening their ears. Abigail and Sasha could be anywhere in here — if they're even being held at the monastery. "Do you mind my asking why you didn't attack the foundry as soon as we took him? One of my operatives anticipated you might. He's quite disappointed and I've been at a loss what to say."

Glancing over to Grigori, Ethan lets out a sigh. "I feel like you're avoiding the breasts issue." Giving a light shrug, he goes to lock his glance on the back of Francois' head. "God. I can't wait to break your ankle too, fucker." With that the weapon is lowered, and Ethan reaches up to give his back a firm shove with one hand. Motioning with his hand to the others, Ethan falls out of line. "I'll be wankin' in my room, Grigori. Give me a shout when y'need me, eh?" And with that, Ethan is moving down the hall.

"Oh, and Frankie. I'll be seein' y'soon."

The shove gets token resistance before he's propelled forward those few steps, Francois knifing back a vaguely urgent and disdainful glance. If there's any kind of reassurance he can take from that promise, it isn't dignified or acknowledged in any visible manner. Instead, he steals his gaze forward and takes a breath. "We have been busy," is a facetious response, but spoken simply. "You should choose another form, Grigori. You do not deserve his."

"I'll keep your critique in mind." Grigori slows to a halt around the same time Ethan is disappearing, and snaps out a terse command at the soldiers in Russian, which he accompanies with a vague gesture of Volken's hand. The wolf's head cane that the Vanguard's leader so often carried is conspicuously absent, and not just because the shape he's in now dates back to a time before Ethan Holden was welcomed into the organization's fold. Perhaps it says something about the nature of his ability, or maybe it implies something different — there isn't a lot of time left for Francois or the others to scrutinize.

Like a light going out, he blinks into darkness and is gone, though if Team Charlie's audiokinetic listens closely, she may hear those same claws clicking against the wood once more somewhere at their backs.

That too, fades.

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