1963-07-25 - Strange Magik
Summary: Dr. Strange receives a task from the trinity of deities known as the Vishanti. It leads him to Siberia and his next critical challenge in his journey as Sorcerer Supreme: keeping a fledgling Sorceress Supreme, Illyana Rasputina, from succumbing to her inner demons and single-handedly destroying Earth's reality as we know it.
Related: None
Theme Song: None
strange illyana 

It’s dusk now and he realizes that time has passed by with the same slippery silence as it always does when he goes into his meditations. A grey light that beckons peace in its wake softens the edges of the foreign artifacts placed so carefully about his loft. He blinks a few times to clear his vision and realign his consciousness with this present time and place. With a subtle thought of command, his vibrantly-red cloak slips from about his folded legs, where it kept him warm, and hangs loosely from his shoulders. The empty space between its golden fringe and the sigil-etched floor beneath him draws stark attention to the fact that he is indeed not only meditating, but floating off the ground itself. He feels the blood begin to move briskly through his arms and legs once more, bringing more and more of the sense of here-ness to his body. Inhaling deeply, he sighs as he glances around the room. Nothing appears to have become warped, set on fire, grown extra limbs, or any of the other sort of extradimensional shenanigans that he has experienced in the past. He rolls his head in a slow circle to stretch out his stiff neck muscles and not long after is when his gut abruptly tells him that not all is right in the Sanctum Sanctorum.

The pervasive sense of lassitude changes slightly. Beneath his feet, the articulated cast shadow of the Anomaly Rue seems to become crisp, as if drawn in indelible ink on the circular raised portion of his loft floor. He is granted the chance to discern what it is that has passed through his wards with nary a warning. He closes his eyes to block out all vision of the room as it has become something he can no longer trust.
He hears the appreciative chuckle come from before him, to his right, beyond the edges of the raised platform, and his first instinct is to immediately strike at it. It has invaded his most personal space, the Sanctum itself! The Word for his Energy Bolts forms in his mouth and is expertly halted at the tip of his tongue by counter-Magic, a single word spoken by the intruder. He stiffens in surprise, both at the proficiency of this intruder as well as the familiarity of the voice itself.

“Yes, Sorcerer Supreme, you know me well enough.”

Strange opens his eyes, half untrusting of what he sees around him and true enough, his loft is no longer his loft. The artifacts are now similarly-shaped lumps of fungus, in colors he can see and others he knows are too different for his human eyes to perceive. On what was once the Eye of Agamotto, entrapped in its crystalline ball of protection, curls a rather large caterpillar. Its length is at least as long as a car and its width like the stretch of a tire. The crystalline ball has now become a bright-pink and purple dappled mushroom. The caterpillar’s insect face stretches into a bizarre mimicry of a human smile before it exhales a pungently herbal cloud of smoke from the hookah resting between its twiggy human-like arms. It takes one more inhalation from the long pipe and Strange decides that he doesn’t like the situation at all. Unfortunately, it seems as if this ancient deity doesn’t want to hear his complaints as his lips remain shut as if glued together.

“Long time, no see, eh?” The caterpillar asks after it blows another cloud off over its shoulder. Strange is limited to facial expressions and manages to convey a blend of irritation and resigned interest through his furrowed brows and wry twist of his mouth. “I know, it was a terrible pun, but you and your beings of Earth seem to enjoy them well enough. It is a fancy of mine to become fluent in them.” Strange rolls his eyes in response. He has interacted enough with this particularly deity to know that a little exasperation is allowed and even part of the deity’s game. The caterpillar smiles benignly and with one of its many long-fingers hands, draws a complex sigil. The loft around fades away into velvety blackness and he is left floating in seemingly empty space. “While I do enjoy our conversations, my time here is brief. I come bearing a task suitable for the…Sorcerer Supreme.” The way the deity lingers over Strange’s title makes him apprehensive; he shows it in the shifting of his posture though he remains in the lotus position. The caterpillar draws yet another sigil, this time in silver rather than blue, and a small window opens between them. The fabric of space and time slides aside, as easily as a set of curtains, and through the window, Strange sees something that turns his gut to cold water:

The city of New York aflame. The wreckage and carnage are nearly impossible for his mind to process. Bodies lie strewn about like fallen leaves, covered in ash and broken glass and unmentionable fluids. Some buildings still stand, hollowed in places as if bitten into by some giant creature. He realizes that the fire is not natural, not of this planet, but an eerie yellow-green, like in that animated film he’d recently seen, with the black dragon who spewed her fire against the prince. Seeing as he can’t sense anything living for miles through the window to this time and place, he can’t figure out what caused this horrifying amount of destruction.

“We, the Vishanti, task you with avoidance of this future,” says the caterpillar from beyond the rift in space. Strange finds beadlets of sweat on his forehead as the scene before him zips closed and the tear in reality vanishes entirely. “Not that you would disagree to averting said cataclysm,” the deity adds and hums as it exhales yet another plume of pinkish smoke. “You are to travel to Siberia as soon as you gather yourself. Have you anything to say regarding the enactment of your duties?” A light from within the insect’s multifaceted eyes twinkles as it gestures out the counter-spell to the lock of Strange’s lips. The man reaches up and adjusts his jaw with back-and-forth motions. Finally, he grumbles,

“You give me a task and a location, but no mark. Am I to treat this as a wild goose chase?”

The rumbling laugh from the caterpillar seems at odds with the form.

“We have faith in your abilities, Sorcerer Supreme. Do you doubt your patrons?”

“Of course not,” he says, his voice colored with minor resentment that the Vishanti would ever doubt him in turn. He has been ever the most faithful and grateful user of their granted powers. The caterpillar languidly shrugs its shoulders.

“’Of course not’,” it mocks lightly. “Do not forget that your thoughts are laid bare to me, Sorcerer. Oh, take this.” It is as if a beacon has appeared in the far distance to Strange’s heightened senses and he can’t help but glance in its direction. “You will be using my gift, of course?” It is referring to the Eye of Agamotto within the caterpillar’s crystalline perch. Strange nods and finds that the amulet itself suddenly weighs on his neck. The deity has summoned it to his person with nary a ripple of magic. He runs his fingertips across its latticed front and gives yet another nod.

“Of course, great Agamotto.”

“Then let us conclude our little chat that you may be on your way.”

With a cold smile, the caterpillar inhales a deep breath from his hookah. When he blows it out, the smoke roils and multiplies until it blankets everything in sight, including Agamotto himself. When Strange finishes coughing and waving the smoke from his face, he realizes that he has returned to his loft. A glance at the nearby grandfather clock shows that not many hours have passed, maybe only three or four, since he began his meditation. It is still dusk and he can see the city lights begin to come on through the Anomaly Rue window. Coughing once more, he unfolds his legs and the sensation of gravity pulling him against the floor is momentarily odd.

“Wild goose chase indeed,” he mumbles to himself as he strides over to the heavy tome lying closed on its pedestal. Opening the Book of Vishanti, he quickly turns the pages until he finds what he’s looking for. “No unstable space nearby. No record of any recent unknown beings. Nothing to it,” he says as he closes the book. Walking back to the sigil-inscribed platform, he closes his eyes. An unseen wind causes his cape to undulate and tugs at his clothing and hair. He raises both hands and by using counter-signs and spoken Words, he opens the fabric of reality in the open air above the platform. Sizzling golden energy sparks and crackles about the edges of the entrance to a tunnel. It is not lengthy, a mere dozen feet or so. A gust of icy wind greets him and he opens his eyes to see a barren stretch of land at the tunnels’ end. Within his mind’s eye, Agamotto’s beacon pulses to inform him that he’s quite close to his target. Taking in a deep breath, Dr. Strange walks through his passage with purpose in his steps and wariness in his demeanor. Anything could be waiting for him.

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