1963-10-30 - Music of the Night
Summary: An agent and an asset of S.H.I.E.L.D. both end up in the same place, faced with the same problem — even if different reasons brought them here. Vampires! There will be blood…
Related: None
Theme Song: None
llew wanda 


Under normal circumstances, it wouldn't be wise or safe for a blind man and his dog to be sitting on a bench in the middle of Hell's Kitchen. At night. There is heavy cloud cover overhead this evening, although it hasn't rained — yet — and most civilians are already indoors.

This particular bench is situated near the corner of a street that turns into square of sorts. There's a small park area — strewn with rubbish — with a tree, and the street itself passes by different apartment-blocks on each side.

And all is not well.

Hunter — the blind fellow's black Labrador — is very ill-at-ease: ears back, tail pulled in and eyes furtive. Even the humming of 'his human' — namely, Agent Croon: Llew Griffin — is insufficient to calm him down entirely.

And while Llew Griffin hums, his invisible astral self floats across the little square, searching the apartments for something. Or someone…


Another person stands under this same dismal sky, staring up at the buildings crowded together. Hell’s Kitchen belongs unto itself. Even the tenements are tiny nation-states, independent of one another, this one claimed by Puerto Rico and that one by Taiwan, the one further down the way by a mishmash of African colonies barely pushing through the soil to be independent countries. It’s very much a patchwork where your tribe depends on your address, and stepping on the wrong turf is a great way to get punched.

Rarely does having copper kissed skin help, but in Hell’s Kitchen, Wanda gets a bit of a break. It never helps when her twin, fraternal, is the very embodiment of the Aryan prototype. She is the darker, sunny answer physically, anyways. But here it means fewer heads are turned in her direction.

Not that many would be turned up.

Legs dangle over the edge of a balcony. She sits there, honing her view upon the taller tenement building set back a few dozen meters from where Agent Croon sits. It’s unfortunate these two children of SHIELD are ignorant of one another. Or maybe they aren’t.

Binoculars wouldn’t help her much. A thin spool of rope sits beside her, and a bowl of all things, something she consults with alarming frequency if anyone watched her. That alone should warn she’s up to no good.


Movement inside one of the buildings causes the Labrador, Hunter, to sit up. Croon nods, having sensed it, and continues humming. Standing up, the blind man walks away from the bench and further into the little park-area in the middle of each of the tenements. Something moves again inside the building, and a shadow appears at a window several storeys up. It is the building upon which the Scarlet Witch is standing.

Croon stops.

"Found you…" he murmurs aloud in a sing-song voice, and concentrates. Inside the building, the figure at the window turns away. There is suddenly a feral, ear-splitting shriek as the figure… attacks something. The sound of items falling, breaking, is loud enough to be heard outside.

Then a figure comes flying through the window, out over the air… to land with a wet smack on the ground below. Croon tilts his head to the side, watching the vampire — for it is indeed a vampire — despite his blindness.

He never stops singing.

"…Jack fell down, and broke his crown…"

More of the creature appear in the smashed window then. Some look down at the dead vamp — and Croon — while others look up, their nostrils flaring with the scent of living flesh. These ones climb OUT of the window, and proceed to scale the building toward Maximoff…


Found her?

No. Found the vampire, the foul child of Dracula, crawling through a perfect hunting ground.

Wanda glances at the bowl, magic shining upon the liquid surface showing her a warning. Ripples form. She pulls out a long, sharp piece of wood slotted into a solid elastic groove. This is something like pulling a gun or a knife. Do so only if you’re prepared to use it.

A lifetime of being semi-prepared helps. Relentless drills. Shouts in the dark while she fumbled with the sleeping bag tied around her by her brother, an object lesson.

They’re crawling as she draws a series of lines in the air, sealing a protective shield around herself. A little time means a better shield, but the best defense is not offense.

It’s staying out of reach. So she glances at the railing where the rope is tied, then into the vacant apartment. Time to party.

The rope is tossed over, wiggling enticingly to the vampires. Clearly someone intends to crawl down. A good point to converge on. She’s rather counting on it. Grab the rope, vampire, vampire, vampire…


There's a hiss from the vampires — glee from some, hatred from others, and hunger from all of them. Two grab the rope offered by Wanda, while a third simply leaps from window-sill to window-sill. It clears several feet in a single jump.


As it nears the rooftop, the creature glares at Wanda with baleful, hungry eyes, and makes a mad 'leap 'n dash' at her legs. Meanwhile, two more of the nightstalkers converge on Croon near the tree. For an instant — and only an instant — it appears as if the first of those vampires on the ground becomes disoriented. Unfortunately for the singing blind man, the second stalker leaps at him, breaking his concentration.

The blind man dodges, and as he does so, a pearl-hued nimbus surrounds him, coalescing into an astral form — superimposed over his physical self. It is the same image, translucent, tangible.

"I say, that wasn't awfully cricket of you, my undead fellow…" says he in a light-timbred British voice. In point of fact, he rather sings it. Every spoken word. One vampire rushes toward him — he side-steps, quicker than a human should be able to. A twist of his cane, and out comes a slender sword, which he then swishes through the air.

Then he starts to sing:

Attende Domine, et miserere, quia peccavimus tibi.
Attende Domine, et miserere, quia peccavimus tibi.

The melody and lyrics are an old, old Gregorian chant, and the swordsman's movements seem to match the tone and grace of the song. As he steps toward the second vampire, another on the rope doubles its speed and will be upon Wanda in a moment…


Rope they clutch is thin, no more than a few centimeters in diameter, and neither particularly smooth or high-grade. The purpose it serves will explain why, for the young woman strikes a match against the inner concrete of the balcony.

The little yellow flame cheerfully bursts into being, showing itself to be ever so resilient and excited.

Then she flicks her fingers and murmurs an incantation: Creasca, copil, intr-un foc de tabara.

A tiny breath blown over it should certainly render the flame to smoke, and for an instant, it does, but the way her fingers paint skillfully through the rising ghost of a sulfur miasma makes use of its presence. She touches the rope, tenderly running her finger along the hemp cording.

It bursts into flames, and with the flames, the vampires correspondingly have much to worry about - like incineration. Two down.

One more, which dares to leap her way and meet Wanda’s burning scarlet eyes. “Bad choice,” she hisses in her native tongue.


Attende Domine…

The first of Croon's vampire attackers perishes on the end of his cane-sword. By now, the blind man looks nothing like a blind man — but an avenging angel, luminescent form, angular wings, although the fingers on his astral hands end in wicked talons.

As the second vampire makes a mad grab at him, Croon beats his wings and soars skyward — the nightstalker clinging to his boot. The last remaining assailant slashes with its broken claws at Wanda's leg — seeking to rend flesh, draw blood, and pull her toward it. Hungrily, it bares its fangs, red-tinged saliva flying in little globules from its mouth, as it goes for the bite…

… et miserere, quia peccavimus tibi.

As the vampires upon the rope combust, Croon looks in their direction. To his psychic sight, it seems as if two dark stains on the canvas of the universe have been washed away. The thin man smiles, and kicks the third vampire-creature with his other boot.

"For your sins, you are burning…" he sings at the thing holding on to his boot. The vampire looks confused for a moment. Then terrified. Then horrified. At the same time, Croon's form shifts from something bright and glowing, to something made from living shadow.

The creature looses a bloodcurdling scream — and lets go.

It screams all the way to the ground.


For reasons aplenty she wears leather. It may not suit with American fashion trends for young ladies, but Wanda isn’t fashionable. It may not meet with approval for classy gals about town, but Wanda isn’t goodie-two-shoes.

Her leather coat makes a good deflection against road rash and blades, without forming armour from blood or stranger substances. Her boots can take a licking and keep on kicking, to quote Timex. The corset… it’s not precisely gratuitous so much as practical body armour against creatures with tooth and generous claw.

Like the vampire tearing through the buckles and Jacob’s ladder of laces and charms. Charms that serve their purpose when the girl steers back from the balcony. She has little room to maneuver, maybe six paces by three. If that. A confined space must be what a vampire likes best.

Fangs extended, mouth open, she’s going to take that rather hard when it bites. A cry of outrage and protest erupts from her. The pain races up her leg, fueling the unholy wrath of terrestrial powers spilling through her hands. Blood runs down her calf, rich and thick.

A charm on her belt flares yellow, bright as daffodils in a rainy spring morning. Yellow light goes up so sharply the thing recoils, screaming at the incandescent illumination. Croon might see it from below, the spark of warm sunshine-bright light or a flare going off. It’s only a flash, a binding lasting a few seconds. All she needs there.

Two rings of carmine energy erupt around her wrist and she flicks index and middle finger towards the squealing undead. “Dispari cu tine!

Her hex bolt erupts with a sigh, reshaping the reality around the creature, altering its mass into a tight, heavy force that the teetering position on the balcony cannot support. The cheap building materials — stucco, plaster, wood — collapse under the weight as it, too, gets thrown from its perch.


It might be considered a mercy — upon the ears of those close enough to hear, such as the black Labrador, Hunter — that the falling debris of the broken ledge lands upon the already-screaming vampire on the ground.

It silences the creature for good.

No longer inflicting psychic torment upon the nightstalker, the shadowy wing-ed figure of Agent Croon returns to its more benign, luminescent pearl appearance. He continues singing a moment longer, and glides upon his astral wings toward the rooftop where he finds Wanda Maximoff.

He sheathes his sword back within his cane, and as his voice slowly fades away, so too does his vision. Croon dusts off his arms a bit, and then raises his rather prominent chin in Wanda's direction.

"Beastly things," he remarks with a curl of his upper lip, his fringe falling down over his eyes — not that it matters to him. "Are you alright?" he inquires. "Were you bitten?"


An astral anything gives the brunette moment to pause. She is breathing rather hard, the spellcraft taking a fair bit out of her. Nonetheless, she retreats back from the broken edge of the balcony towards the unoccupied suite. Pulling open the window to get inside the squalid living room would be easy enough, but no protection.

Her gaze fills with rubies in powdered suspension, spinning around her widening pupils.

“Who are you?” A question shot at him, even as she backs up, is not exactly joyous and glad. The bite on her leg still bleeds, and she can smell the copper, feeling the burning sting.

The sharp lines of her shoulders and stiff back speak to alertness, tension feeding her to a high level of anticipation. The Sight fills her gaze, assuring her of what is natural and what is not.

What are you?”

She doesn’t talk of the bite, but if he can sense it, it’s not exactly hidden. Poor boots and pants, you’re going to need thorough cleaning.


"Isn't that just the question?" Croon replies with raised eyebrows. Almost immediately, however, he frowns and starts humming. This time, there is no physical metamorphosis, but anyone with Sight into the psychic Plane would be able to see Croon's soul-self emerge from within him — standing/floating there, just a few feet away, watching Wanda Maximoff.

Meanwhile, Croon himself continues staring blankly straight ahead.

"Some enchanted evening…" he gently sings in a soaring tenor — dabbling a in a bit of South Pacific.

"… you may see a stranger…" the song continues.

"… you may see a — Wanda?!" Abruptly the song ends, the soul-self of Croon slowly fades away, leaving just the man behind. He turns his sightless visage toward the woman, now frowning quite deeply. He lowers his voice. "I do beg your pardon. Wanda Maximoff? This is… a twist of Fate, indeed. Capital!" Deftly, the thin man with the enormous chin dips into a jacket pocket and produces…

A SHIELD identification badge.

Agent Llew Griffin: Codename Croon, S.H.I.E.L.D. Level 5.

OOC: http://marvel1963mush.wdfiles.com/local--files/character:llew/CroonSHIELDBadge.png

Still holding forth the badge, Griffin continues. "I know you — or at least of you. Good Lord, what are you doing here? If there were another assignment in the same area at the same time, one would think — hope, rather — we'd be told. Oh — ."

He turns his blind visage downward in the direction of Wanda's leg, however, instead of merely 'checking her out' (which would be awful rude of the polite Englishman), he makes a single, perfectly pitched note… and observes. "You were bitten. Oh, you poor girl. We need to get you back to the infirmary."

As to what he is… goes unanswered for the time being.


The whole of it happens too fast. The peering, the response, the badge poked out with the tragically straightforward and earnest face grinning up at her.

Wanda’s head snaps up when he says her name, chocolate brows slanting down. Mouth tightly screwed into a rosebud, she leans back against the window. Yes, that name seems to be known, the flash of recognition painted over her ruby-sheened eyes.

“Shield,” she repeats. “Is that your name? Croon?”

The way she speaks indicates a very foreign origin, fresh enough not to recognize the bits. Little Odessa might claim her as a native, but likely right off the boat.

Her fingers tug on her pant leg. “Not bad yet. Infirmary?” Repeating, she clearly doesn’t know the meaning. Call it blank. “I can fix it. Maybe.” Maybe not. Then won’t that be a pretty pickle.

“Hell’s Kitchen, yes? Full of vampires. Not only for Shield to fix. Too many. I hunt them,” she explains, shrugging.


"'Croon' is my callsign," the now-blind man informs the Transian beauty. "S.H.I.E.L.D. is the name of the organisation for which I work — we… helped get you and your brother safely into the United States…" Croon's voice trails off, and he frowns at Wanda — clearly puzzled by her own confusion. Instead of trying to explain further, he sings a little more — and attempts to use his soul-self to communicate more effectively with the young sorceress before him.

There are no words — not in his song, nor even in the 'language' used in the astral plane — merely the Sight of a glowing representation of the man, standing/floating some feet away from Wanda, showing her in images what Croon had just tried to explain in words.

Perhaps it'll work. Perhaps not.

As for the message: SHIELD has already helped her; she can trust them. Croon represents her 'rescuers', and right now — anyplace is safer than right here, right now.

Down on the street, Hunter — the seeing-eye dog — barks. "We should go," says Croon, waiting to hear Wanda's response.


Her lips tighten slightly, the only evidence of pain stinging and burning its way up her calf. The slow coagulation of her blood flows freely from the twin cylindrical bites cut through muscle and flesh, the tear in her pant leg betraying the copper stain. Wanda does not ease away from the glass window into the empty flat. Staying off her wounded leg puts her at a disadvantage, one hidden the best she can.

Traces of incarnadine light flood around her fingers, and she presses her palm down against her thigh. Forcing out the dregs of power through her leg, heat blossoms down those networks of veins and nerves.

It makes her shake as energy turns over into pushing the blighted corruption and venom. Tiny droplets gather in sticky greenish-black masses, bleeding out from the open cut.

Superficial attempts to bind the worst of it will satisfy until she can get home. In the meantime, she gazes up at Croon. “Yes, SHIELD. I know the organisation. You are a stranger. This card says you are Croon. Do you all have these names that are not your real names?”

Perhaps it accounts for the suspicious reaction he gleaned, the distrust shining out her ruby-flecked eyes even now.

“I do not have this kind of name. Are you supposed to be hidden from me? Or are you my agent now assigned?” She squints at Croon’s astral form, lips curved. His answer may dictate a great deal. It already has, if she expects a handler.


The man stops singing; his soul-self fades from view, and he places both hands upon the pommel of his sword-cane before him — lightly leaning on it. "I'm sure you can understand the importance of a spot of discretion, yes?" he asks her after a brief pause, smiling benignly straight ahead. "My 'name that isn't a name' is something of a shield in itself, don't you know — but if it helps… you can call me Llew."

Perhaps he trusts her. Perhaps he is counting on the assumption that he can hypnotise her to forget his name, should the need arise. Perhaps he is simply hoping a little trust from him, will spark the same in her… in any case, after giving his real name, the blind man tucks in his chin and assumes a more serious tone of voice.

"Well, it seems we've gotten off to a start like that, doesn't it, wot? You're awfully …new in town, and you could think of me as a 'guide' of sorts. Shall we talk about it?" and he takes a small step toward her, motioning with his cane down to the street below. "But as I said before, not here. This is not safe."

He pauses so he can turn his blind face toward hers, and then takes a breath. "We need to go, Wanda. You've seen my soul now — decide if you want to trust me or not."


A slow nod acknowledges him. “I don’t like mysteries. I don’t like not knowing.”

Wanda chews on her inner lip, trying to concentrate upon the spell still doing its work knitting together the deepest recesses punched into her leg. The vampire did its work messily, an opportunist rather than a precision feeder. Helpful for missing an artery or vein, terrible for the ragged edges of skin starting to slip together.

Save the proper look over for later. It won’t be the first time. She chafes her hands against her thigh, and tests the weight on her calf. A limp, but it will hold for now.

“Guide, I have…” Mental calculations. “Five or six levels of stairs to go down. No one must see me. You wait there, maybe ten minutes.”

The glass door rumbles open, a cheap slip of glass not worth very much. Maybe this is a trust exercise. Does he risk hanging about for her to force her way down? Does he instead decide to rush off for safety?

Only one way to be sure: give or take ten minutes, with generous pauses to allow her spasming and cramped muscle to relax a little and the odd bit of hiding down the hallway counting diminishing footsteps, she forces herself to walk more or less normally outside.


Llew can relate to that — the not knowing. Still, he was practically raised by the S.S.R. and SHIELD… he's more comfortable with being 'in the dark' than most (and not merely because he is sightless without his astral-song). The joke is not lost on him, however, and he smiles; Llew just has to trust his superiors to give him all the relevant information…

And that does not always happen.

Letting Wanda go, the blind man starts humming again — and shifts into a shadowy version of himself… with wings. It takes only moments, but he alights upon the ground by the tree — and the dead vampires — and his faithful dog, and waits…

When Wanda does re-emerge, the agent picks up the harness his dog wears and assumes the appearance of a normal blind man and his trusty seeing-eye dog, smiling at the night.

They're alive.

Even with all the chaos about them, and the fact that Wanda is injured, that is still something worth smiling about. They are alive. It'd almost be a pleasant evening if it weren't for the hordes of ravenous undead lurking in the shadows.


Relevant information? The Maximoff twins possess a rather fat dossier between them, bookended by a host of faulty intelligence, images that show primarily Wanda and occasionally the pale, dandelion-fluff headed Pietro, and a host of other obligatory statements couched in bureaucratic terms that amount to “We have no fucking idea.”

Varied observational notes agree on one thing: she is distrustful, far more of the pair.

On her own that factors even higher, not the least because of her semi-injured state. Given time Wanda heals; her body reacts to the accelerated boost given by the sorcerous incantation. That will not assure her of fighting forever, an unlimited battery to draw upon. So she approaches carefully between the building and the one spot where dog and man await her, casting about looks in the event something decides to make an easy meal of them.

Wouldn’t that be a fine end: blind man disemboweled, witch struck down by one-legged vampire named Frances.

She walks up to them, shoulders rounded, stiff enough to speak volumes to how much she dislikes being in the open.


Llew smiles behind his dark glasses — worn only to hide his sightless eyes — and nods to Hunter. The dog stands up, and the pair of them walk over to Wanda, movements slow and deliberate: she is all but radiating distrust, and Llew would had to 'blow it' on a silly mistake.

"Capital," he exclaims softly in approval. "As I always like to say…when, you know, leaving a nest of vile blood-suckers behind… ugh, now there's a problem to make one late for dinner."

He grimaces again.

"Remind me never to mention 'dinner' in the presence of anything remotely… vampiric. I think I just put myself off my supper." Yes, he likes to talk — sometimes. "This way; I promise no harm will come to you — although you seem awfully talented in looking after yourself. So, tell me — do you like music…?"


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