1965-02-23 - Koschei the Deathless, Part II
Summary: The heroes continue their journey as they try and catch up with Koschei, who is up to no good.
Related: If there are no related logs, put 'None', — please don't leave blank!
Theme Song: None
josh illyana douglas hope piotr 

The gymnasium in the Xavier Institute is blaring with some top 40 music amidst intermittent bounces of a basketball. Inside, Piotr Rasputin is busy getting a workout in playing basketball. At his height it is most natural sport and also provides a decent calisthenic workout. He's dressed in a tank top and shorts as he continues to shoot balls from a rack located next to him.

Douglas has been busy with his endeavors in the city, but he still finds time to come by the school when he can — after all, it's nice out here, and it's a top-notch gym he doesn't have to pay for, which is always a plus when you're running a business and in work for yourself. He's jumping rope, at the moment — aerobics are important, because you might have to run for your life.

Hope has a tendency to exercise with less games and more…intensity. She's just finished up a workout involving several punching bags and a whole lot of jumping and climbing that probably looks ridiculous to everyone else. But when she finishes, she comes back to the court, a towel around her shoulders.

The truth of the matter is, basketball is not merely for the tall. It is also for the short and quick. And those who can teleport the ball away from the top of the basket. Really, the NBA should allow women to play. Particularly mutant women. "Rasputina with an unexpected steal!" Illyana cries from her perch, trying to affect a Howard Cosell voice and sounding more like Foghorn Leghorn with a hint of a Russian Accent. "If she keeps playing like this, she'll steal the MVP award from Bill Russell this season. The crowd goes wild!" She makes cheering sounds for herself.

The frustration from the tall Russian is that the shot felt so good coming off his hand. He just knew it would be a swish. The irritation fades, however as he shakes his head. "No powers. Cheater." As he looks over his shoulder he gives a nod towards Doug, but as his eyes fall on Hope, a look of concern comes across his face. He can't get that vision out of his head from the other day. For obvious reasons. "Hope," he low voice calls out.

Douglas sighs — as the rope hits his ankles. So much for effortless grace. He swings the jump rope over his sholeder, and walks over, to greet the others. "Pete." he says, to Piotr, and then he looks to Illyana, the corner of his mouth turning up in amusement. "Wilt." He gives Hope an off-hand wave.

For his part, Josh only spends about half his time at the Institute, though he does have a room there and has taken to teaching first aid to everyone, regardless of age or what their jobs tend to be. But, he wanders into the gym, and glances around with a mild expression on his face. He is currently not at all gold, just tanned and blond; All American Golden Boy is for once not quite literal, which means there's been no disasters in Mutant Town today.

Hope raises her hand toward Piotr when he calls out, walking over toward the others. "Hey," she greets, smiling faintly around the group. "Since when does using powers make it cheating around here?" she asks, amused. "I mean. I never spent much time here, but I was under the impression that learning to use powers was, you know. Sort of the point of this place."

"I am no cheater. You did not say 'no powers' to me. How am I to know no powers are allowed?" Illyana is the queen of more than Limbo — also the queen of dissembling. At any rate, she only teleported into the room moments before dropping the ball into the basket. Now it vanishes from the gym floor where it's rolling away, and reappears in a flash of light about two feet above Piotr's head, and a foot and a half in front of him, so he can catch it and do as he will. She teleports herself down to the floor and over to Doug. "We haven't talked in awhile, Oscar," she tells him. "Seriously? 'Club Atomic'? Ah say, ah say, Club Atomic?" At least she realizes she sounded like a cartoon rooster when she was trying to sound like a famous sportscaster.

Piotr makes a face at Hope as if to say that while technically true, the spirit of what she says is false and ethically wrong. Which, apparently is a face that Piotr makes around here. His chin dips as he side eyes his sister, "The obvious implication in sporting events has always been not to use your powers when competing." This could go on for hours, with conversation about how when Piotr first joined the house and blah blah blah blah blah. People who have been around have heard this all before. All is forgiven, though when Pete reaches up to take the ball back into his hands.

But the radio is interrupted by an all important BREAKING NEWS bulletin.

«THIS JUST IN: Daughters from six city councilman have been reported missing this evening, in what police call a coordinated attack. Only two of the young women know each other and authorities believe their fathers' work is their only link. More on this story as it develops.»

Doug shrugs his shoulders. "They already slur us by saying we're the freak side-effect of atomic bomb testing. Own the label, I say, and weaponize it against the bigots." Then he says, "Come by anytime, friends of the owner drink for nothing, and we've got a great music scene going. By the way, cassette tapes? Way of the future. Music you can put in your pocket. It's going to change the way music is distributed, and people will be able to record off the radio and mix their own personal albums." He frowns, at the message on the radio. "Huh."

Josh glances over towards the radio, and frowns slightly, his expression wavering between concern and uncertainty. But for the moment he has nothing to add to the situation. He does glance sidelong at Douglas, "I don't imagine the record labels will be very appreciative of that." he notes wryly.

Hope is notably silent on the subject of the music trends of the future, suddenly very interested in the radio. Conveniently, the news of missing women makes for a good excuse. "Why city councilmen?" she muses, looking to the others with a frown. "Maybe the mob is trying to make some sort of point?"

"They will never replace records," says Illyana, grimacing at Doug. "I feel the name is in poor taste. Not because we are mutants, but because most people are terrified of nuclear weapons. The crisis was less than two years ago." Still, she's been listening to the radio with one ear and glances toward Piotr. "We are going to save these little girls, da?"

"It is Koschei," Piotr says with a frown. "From the time we are little in our country we are told of the evil wizard and his adoration for the young women. He takes them, and kills them." He looks over to Illyana and nods, "It is our duty. This is my fault, afterall."

"I couldn't think of a better one that didn't sound twee or lower-energy than I was going for." Doug says, with a shrug. Then he says, "Well, as far as cassettes go, there isn't really anything they're going to be able to DO about it. And no, they won't replace records, cassettes don't have the same sound quality, just more convenience, so until they find a medium other than vinyl that'll provide high-quality sound…" He strokes his chin. "Koschei the deathless? Oof."

Josh sighs, his tone vaguely long-suffering, as he rauns a hand through his blond hair and shakes his head, "We let him go." he explains to Douglas, "..accidentally. You see a frail, coughing old man chained to a radiator, you don't think he's gonna jump up naked and summon a magic horse and wand and go cackling off down the street." He pauses, "Anyone know where to look for him?" He looks pointedly between Illyana and Piotr.

"Yeah, that was definitely the last thing I was expecting," Hope agrees with Josh, looking to Piotr and Illyana as well. "Also, any known weaknesses, preferences, and…you know. Ways to not end up killed. Him and his horse got me out of the way even with Pete's power going on, so there's obviously something going on there."

In barely more than an instant, Illyana is in front of Piotr, just inches away, glaring up into his face. She speaks in rapid, angry Russian. "What did you do, Piotr Nikolaevich?! What have you been playing with that Koschei byez Smyerti is attacking little girls in America?! Yes, I see that look, Joshua." She switches to English without a pause. "Yes, I can probably find the blyanitskii vyperdysch." She trails off into profane Russian mutters as she opens a portal and waves for people to enter. It's to Limbo, but that's where all her scrying stuff is.

Piotr folds his large arms over his chest, deep in thought, trying to think about someone who might know more about him. As Illyana offers to do what she can, Piotr nods. Action is better than standing around. "I didn't know it was him when I released him," Piotr mutters. He tosses the basketball and moves to enter the portal, despite not being dressed for the weather. By the time his friends get to the other side, he is metaled up, looking odd in his tank and shorts.

"I could probably find him." Doug says. "Magicians tend to create disruptions… people get weird and twitchy, and all the little things that make up reality from the way the wind is blowing to the behavior of rats gets all messed up — I can key in on all of that. It's all just information, after all." He shrugs. "Or Illyana could do it, that works too. Not that I'm much use against immortal russian archmages. I mean I could probably be good for a distraction."

"If this guy is immortal, there's a very slight possibility I might be able to, you know, turn that whole doesn't-die thing off. I'd probably end up in the black for a month, though." Josh winces, and eyes the portal for a long moment before nodding his head slightly to himself, and heading for it. "If doesn't-die is at all physiological and not just … magic."

"Probably magic," Hope asides to Josh as she goes through the portal into limbo, taking a curious look around. "And hey, maybe you can understand the crazy," she adds to Doug. "Because the guy was definitely a few screws loose. And there's got to be some sort of…language to magic, right?"

"Very slight," Illyana agrees. "It is absolutely magic. Koschei's soul is in an egg, in a duck, in a rabbit, in a chest on the island of Buyan. As long as his soul his safe, not only is he immortal, but he cannot be harmed. He is one of our legends. The sisters would help us get the egg, though, I think. The Zoryas," she clarifies for those who are not familiar with Russian mythology. "And I have met Russian legends," she adds. "Many of them are not nice." She pauses a moment, shrugs, then explains, "We are a depressed people."

The portal takes everyone directly to her scrying pool, and she settles before it, cross-legged. "Piotr, there is a mirror in the cabinet," she says, waving at a pillar of basalt with a door carved into it. "If they are feeling kindly, and you ask for them, the Zoryas may answer. Hope it's Vechernaya — she likes pretty men."

As Illyana mentions the depression of their people, Piotr asides, "It is very cold for long stretches of time." He looks towards the other men, who seem pretty, themselves. This is his mess, however, so if one of the Zoryas decides they're in a crabby mood, it's best they go after him. He nods curtly towards Illyana and moves towards the pillar of basalt and reaches for the door. "Zoryas…Will you come to us?"

"Oh, well, it's not so much that he's immortal per say, just that he cheated death. Koschei is what you'd call a Lich. Which actually is just an Old English word for 'Corpse', but it got attached to the idea of a sorcerer or otherwise dead thing… particularly one that persists by binding its soul up into a phylactery, an enchanted vessel… which is what Koschei did. The needle in the egg in the duck in the rabbit in the ironbound chest buried under an oak tree on the island of Buyan—" Doug muses, "Of course, in the folktale, the hero sails to the island, chops down the tree, digs up the chest, snares the rabbit, shoots the duck, cracks the egg and I think he sticks Koschei with the pin which restores his soul, then he beheads him?" He says, "Koschei's primary defense seems to be to make killing him an awful lot of work." Then he looks around, and says, "Oh hey, I'm here again." Then he looks to Hope, and says, "Yeah… I'm fine with the language. I'm still trying to master the Imago, which is the more important part."

Josh can't help but look profoundly skeptical on this whole soul business, even while standing with arms crossed over his chest in a magical dimension, even with Piotr talking to his own reflection. "I've still never found any reason to believe in souls, myself; seems to me if souls existed I wouldn't be able to do the more exhausting kinds of things I'm capable of doing. I certainly have no power to summon souls back to bodies, that's for sure." But he shrugs.

Hope watches Doug intently as he lists the full story. Her goal in listening is clear, though, when she nods. "Right. So find the needle, stick him with it to put his soul back, then he's killable. Do we have to destroy the needle so his soul doesn't just go right back into it? Because ghost crazy wizard is about the one thing I can think of that's worse than whatever he already seems to be."

"He is not a ghost," Illyana says to Hope, glancing in the redhead's direction briefly. "He is like Santa Claus, but not so nice. He is like Krampus. Or John Henry. Or Paul Bunyan. He is a story that enough children believed in long enough that it came true." With this she goes silent, and turns her attention to the pool before her, hunting New York for the powerful magic of youthful belief.

A billowing smoke can be seen within the mirror and eventually, two figures appear before the group. One, a fair haired women of angelic features, very beautiful in a classic sense. The other with darker features, raven haired, and gives the feeling of naughtiness. It looks like they got both of the sister.

"We are the Zorya's. Who dares to beckon us?"

"My name is Piotr Rasputin. These are my friends. We're hoping you may help us to find Koschei the Deathless, to free his captives."

The women look at each other, perturbed almost, as if the group is wasting their time. The darker haired one lifts her head. "And tell me, what do you wish to give in exchange for such help?" she asks.

Meanwhile, Illyana is looking deep within the pool in order to suss out where Koschei may be hiding. She feels like she's close. But not there, yet. Definitely near New York.

Doug gives a light shrug at Josh. "If I had an answer for that I'd be doing more than translating ancient Hyborian during the day and running a nightclub at night." He looks at the Zoryas, and says, with a shrug, "Unless they'd be cool with free drinks all night and free tickets to a Jay Guthrie show I don't have a thing for them."

"Santa Claus is not real, no matter how many children believe the lies their parents tell them." Josh says in a flat tone of voice. But, his attention is drawn to the mirror when magical stuff he can't flatly deny appears, and he moves up behind Piotr to get a better look. He nods to Douglas, "Unless they have someone needing healing then I don't really know what to offer a mirror being, myself."

"Yeah…I don't know any of those things," Hope admits when Illyana mentions the characters out of myth and legend. Shockingly, Santa Claus was not on Cable's list of important things to learn about. "Do you want the needle?" she asks as she comes closer to the mirror to see the women inside. "I mean, thing that had the soul of a powerful wizard has to be worth something, right? And we don't need it afterwards." A beat, as she looks back to Illyana. "Do we?"

Well, duh. He stole them in New York. He's not going to take them far. New York is a ripe hunting ground for the like of Koschei byez Smyerti. The mudak. She's focused on this, though — she can't warn Piotr not to make deals with sun goddesses. She's digging. Josh's comments on Santa Claus drag her slightly out of her focus, though. "Of course he exists," she mumbles. "Ask any librarian."

The blonde begins to laugh as she looks at her sister. Her eyes trail to Hope and she shakes her head, "We have no interest in the needle and, indeed, could take it for ourselves if that was our wish." The dark haired sister, Vechernyaya, chimes in. "We long for company, little one. How about the men you come with? They look like they might make fitting men to spend eternity with. Or, at least, to do what we will with…" Utrennyaya nods, "Is it worth it? Your lives for the lives of the captives?"

"Absolutely," Piotr says. He opens his mouth to agree to the demand, but is cut off. "Not you, you big lug. I like the golden one," replies Vechernyaya. "And I like the cute one," adds Utrennyaya, pointing towards Doug.

Doug flattens his lips, and gives Elixir a look. "You don't get invited to a lot of birthday parties, do you, buddy."

Doug raises his eyebrows. "Heyyyyyyy, she thinks I'm *cute*," He says to Illyana. "Score. Don't wait up…!" Then he says, "Ah… well… before I agree to anything, and politely requesting eternity be off the table, what exactly do you will? I mean I'd be happy to spend an evening reading depressing Russian poetry to you. I'm great at that—"

Josh eyes Illyana for a long moment, "I'm not denying there's no historical basis for the fairytale, that there wasn't a Saint Nicholas, but Santa Claus, no." He snorts, then gives a half a shrug over towards Doug, "I used to. I don't find lies, especially lies to children, good for anyone involved." Then he blinks at the mirror, "Wait, no— I'm willing to *risk* my life to help save the kids, partly because I have a habit of not staying dead, but I'm *not* willing to barter my life for theirs. I save more lives then theirs by living and doing my work. More then six will suffer and die *this month* if I'm out of the picture forever."

"Lives and eternities aren't on the table," Hope summarizes for the sisters, even if she can't quite help a faint quirk of amusement in her lips when Doug is flattered. "What about one night, as measured by those of us on Earth, after which they have to be returned to us in the same condition in which they were delivered? Assuming they would be amenable to that, of course," she adds with a look to the boys.

"Yes, Doug, I heard," Illyana says, still staring fixedly into her pool. "The goddess of the sunrise thinks you're cute. Joshua, my brother is speaking to goddesses. We are preparing to fight a wizard of ancient legend. Just because you have never met the man, does not mean he does not exist — even if he does not quite exist in the form the stories describe. I suppose he's probabably approaching that, though." She raises her head at last, looks over at Piotr and the sisters. "It seems awfully expensive knowledge."

"Well," Piotr reasons with his sister, "He is called Koschei the Deathless. The price would seem expensive, but that would be expected."

"Indeed," Utrennyaya. "The price is severe. And while I appreciate your ingenuity, girl, I have no desire to give up the virginity of myself or my sister for one night with your boy mortals. Those are our terms, unless you make a /good/ offer. Please do not waste our time."

Josh doesn't address most of that: goddesses? Please. His expression says that plainly, but he doesn't say it out loud, he's not completely stupid with his athiesm. But he does add, "Look, if you're not going to call me Josh, call me Elixir. There's only two people in my entire life who called me JOshua and you don't want to be counted in their company." He steps over towards Hope and murmurs, "Let's not pimp me out, I'm in a monogamous relationship which does not include quasi-divine entities of unknown origin exceptions." He coughs into his hand to try to cover this, pauses, and looks to the mirror, "Here's an offer. You may call upon me at any point in the future— and trade one *resurrection* of someone no more then two days dead, or longer if they're kept on ice— through Illyana, who will provide transportation. You may use this favor for any purpose you wish, provided the person is essentially human. You may not need it, but you can trade the service to someone else for something of similar value."

"Well I mean he's sort of a syncretization of Nicholas of Myra, and one of the faces of Odin, who is apparently a real guy, and who may have BEEN Bishop Nicholas of Myra while he was on walkabout" Doug says, "The one Asgardian I've really met, I wouldn't expect him to tell me the truth about that — truth not really being a thing he's so good at." Doug thinks about this, and then he says, "Okay. I've got it." He claps his hands together and says, "So…" He says, "…What if I were to write you a poem in a language only you could understand? Something you'd never have to share with anyone else. I can do thatit's easier if I know you well, but I can do it."

Hope frowns, lips pursing as she tries to come up with something that a couple of goddesses would want. "Or what if we could provide you with music?" She looks to the others, harkening back to their earlier conversation. "It sounds like it gets pretty boring where you are. What if you could listen to music any time, and it could be different sorts of music, and new music would be coming every week?"

Illyana rolls her eyes slightly. Josh doesn't know her very well. Telling her to call him 'Josh' or 'Elixir' will likely only result in him being called Joshua forever. But that's not the issue here. Nor is his atheism. She puts all of this aside for the time being before addressing the Zoryas. "You know, ladies, I could bring you to the city, you could go shopping and find men to bring home who'd be only too happy to stay with you for a very long time. The Morning Star and Evening Star are quite the catches."

The women seem taken aback by all these options. They begin whispering behind hiding hands, nod a few times, and then get on with their declarations. "Each of your offers intrigues us. But it is not the full measure of what we need. Therefore, we will agree to merely show you the way to the island where the chest is. The rest? You will have to do for yourself and you will owe us each of these. In full. This is our last offer."

Illyana begins to notice that she's zeroing in on where Koschei is…it's an island not too far off the coast of Staten Island.

"Deal." Doug says. He strokes his chin, as he starts to think about it. Well, one thing at a time. He leans in, peering closely at Illyana's mirror. "Huh. Is that the place where they kept Typhoid Mary locked up?"

Josh lets Illyana and Piotr make the final negotiations; he made his part of the offer, though he does add, "Is all of our offers together worht just a pointer to where its at?" in a questioning note. "My offer is one I don't normally offer to *anyone*; changing the reality of the human condition is not exactly my right."

"Who's Typhoid Mary?" Hope asks Doug, distracted for a moment. She does nod to the sisters; leave it to the visitor from the future to have an idea of how great the things that most people take for granted can be to people who've never seen them before. "I'll even throw in a jar of peanut butter," she adds. "Trust me. That stuff is the best."

Illyana doesn't shy away from agreeing to bring the sisters to New York, either — or anywhere else they want to go. It's good to have deities on your side, even if it means you play taxi service. "Thank you, sisters," she says as she returns her eyes to her pool and starts to focus on the location of Koschei — and, presumably, the girls. "There," she says. "Off Staten Island. I don't know, Doug. You're the font of knowledge."

"Yes," replies the raven haired goddess. "It is worth precisely that, and that alone," she says curtly to Elixir. "Before the clock strikes midnight in your realm we will reveal where the box of Koschei hides. The rest will be up to you. May luck be on your side." Gradually the goddesses begin to fade from view and the blonde one even waves to Doug before disappearing. Meanwhile, Illyana has now determined where the island is—it would be easy to get there via boat. Or Blackbird.

"I do not like the idea of splitting up, but I feel as though we may need to in order to ensure the six girls live," Piotr says. "Unless someone has a better idea."

"It's actually a nickname they gave to a woman in the city who was a Typhoid carrier, and she kept going to work for people as a cook and kept getting them sick, and she refused to believe she was the one spreading Typhoid wherever she went — so eventually they just said 'Look, enough' and confined her to house arrest on an island off New York for the rest of her life." Then he says, with a shrug, "I read a lot of books. What else am I gonna do with my time?"

"I should go for the girls, I think." Josh offers thoughtfully, "If any are injured, I can heal them. I feel I'm very ill-equipped to deal with this box thing— I'm a biokineticist, and I don't know if anything that's found around whereever crazy weird box thing is will be. But, if anyone on Team B gets hurt, remember: leave no one behind, even if it seems there's no chance of survival." He glances at Douglas a moment, "The important part there is the definition of 'carrier'; Typhoid Mary was asymtompatic, which is why she didn't believe she was causing anyone to be sick. Its rare, but not unheard of, for someone to be an asymptomatic carrier. It… complicates life. So Typhoid Mary is the source-of-disease who is not obviously sick." he adds to the other's description. Then again, Josh is a MD. So this one of Doug's explanations he knows about.

"Huh. Okay." Hope stores that information away for the next time it's useful, rubbing a hand at the back of her neck. "Well, I'll volunteer to find the box. I can track and hunt, so if we need to get a rabbit and a duck and stuff, I'll probably be more useful there than I would be trying to fight a crazy wizard."

Illyana nods. "Being the one with some serious amount of magic," she says, "I should probably go with Hope to get the box." She pauses a moment, considering. "And Doug, too. Sometimes these things have riddles and whatnot. Though according to legend, open the chest, kill the rabbit, kill the duck, crack the egg. And so on."

"Then I will go with Elixir," Piotr nods. "It is settled."

But as we know, dear reader, all great plans go to hell. And what hell awaits these heroes as they go on their adventure. Has Koschei already won by dividing and conquering? Or will our heroes rescue the princesses..I mean Council-daughters? And what will Doug's poem reveal? And what kind of music does Hope like? THESE QUESTIONS MAY OR MAY NOT BE ANSWERED IN THE FINAL SCENE OF KOSCHEI THE DEATHLESS (PART III)


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