1963-09-17 - An Unbalance to Redress
Summary: Doctor Strange, after being laid low, is reminded by the Vishanti that he has no time for weakness and the world awaits his actions.
Related: [http://marvel1963mush.wikidot.com/log:1963-09-16-welcome-to-the-hellmouth]
Theme Song: None
strange illyana 

((Note: Illyana tagged per mention in cutscene.))

”Donna, please! No, Donna, no!” No matter how hard he shoves his sandy hands against her chest, she won’t breathe. She’s too pale, her soaked hair clinging to her face in uncaring whorls, and he grips at his sister’s shoulders to shake her harder. “Wake up! Breathe!” Adult hands, the rough hands of his father, pull him away from her with panicked strength and he stumbles, being caught from falling by his mother, who holds him against her shivering warmth and he buries his face in her dress …

Until her bulk vanishes and he catches himself on cold, hard cement with bare, clean hands. He looks down at them and recognizes them as being older. That is the wrist watch that his brother gave him. Strange realizes that someone kneels before him and he knows those shoes, the pants… With mouth agape in uncomprehending shock, his gaze rises to see Victor offering him a helping hand. He’s whole, alive and well, and laughs in light humor as he pulls the young adult Strange to his feet.

“Long time, no see, brother,” he says, his voice so familiar and with the same jaunty lilt it always had. He hasn’t let go of Strange’s hand; in fact, his grip tightens painfully. The bones of Strange’s hands creak and his knees buckle as he chokes at the sudden ache. “Come with me.” Now his brother’s face morphs, flattens in, loses a huge portion of road-burnt skin to reveal ivory skull and grey matter and it’s hideous and the bus is bearing down on them both! Strange can’t escape! “Quid pro quo, big brother,” Victor sneers through fractured jaw, a line of mashed brain matter slowly creeping down alongside one bloodshot eye. The bus’s horn blares loudly as the bright lights bear down on them both and all Strange can do is hold up his other hand in denial and …

He’s standing in utter darkness. Cool, inescapable, pitch-black darkness. All around him are voices that whisper terrible things. Despairing things, bleak things, frightening things, and he can’t force them out of his head no matter how hard he presses his shaking hands against his skull. He falls to his knees and closes his eyes – or does he? The world around him is unseen. The voices goad him to guilt, raze his self-esteem to ruin, grind his happiness to sharp-edged dust and then rub it into his weeping soul like salt on a wound. He is a failure. He has no right to the power given to him. He left behind an apprentice doomed to end the world and it will be entirely…his…fault. Why continue to live?

On the circular platform that lies beneath the articulated shadows of the Anomaly Rue window, Dr. Strange’s body lies, still breathing but ultimately unmoving. The jerky rise and fall of his chest is the only indicator of life. The blood that had flowed from his nose has now clotted and dried in rusted-iron-red rivulets down one side of his face and chin. Other tracks, those of tears, have not yet dried. The good doctor weeps in his unconscious state. Feebly, the Cloak of Levitation wraps itself about him, attempting to shield him from any chill that lingers about the Loft.

The voices suddenly drop away, leaving Strange in that grave-like silence that rings in his ears. A softer voice, feminine and echoing as if speaking across time and space itself, is heard from around him:

“Not yet, Sorcerer Supreme of Earth. Not yet, our valiant servant. You still have much to do for the Vishanti and for your Earth world.” The darkness becomes soft, gentle, like a warm summer’s night, and the scents of sun-warmed grass and soil pervade the air around him. Strange inhales and exhales slowly and as he looks around, he finds that there are twinned sources of light before him. They are shuttered and revealed again and he realizes that he is looking upon the guise of a deity attempting to spare his sanity. It is Gaia -– no, Oshtur? -– and the subtly-lit face gives an enigmatic smile, as if knowing that Strange cannot name her. It is too big to comprehend and now small enough for him to rationalize even as he blinks. “You must search out an answer to this wound you have taken, for it will not heal completely, not while you remain unshielded and unsettled. There is an unbalance to redress, Sorcerer Supreme, and you must return your world to its state -– or we shall intervene.” Words fail to describe the bone-deep, gut-watering implications of the deity. “For now, return to yourself, and remember that you are OURS.” With that utterly-unapologetic statement of fact, the eyes flash white and he’s blown back, caught in an explosion of sound and blinding sky-blue light.

With a gasp that quickly turns into a hacking, wheezing, wet cough, Strange rolls over onto one side, clutching at his bicep with one hand while the other attempts to cover his mouth. He gags and spits out the taste of metal. Even as he swallows, his coherent medical mind tells him that he’s had an awful nosebleed and he stares woozily down at the semi-wet red swear on his knuckles after wiping at his upper lip. A final throat-clearing cough escapes him and leaves him to look around him blearily. The Sanctum’s Loft… The Sanctum?! Illyana!

He tries to get to his feet, but quickly collapses with a hollow thump and pained yell as his right knee tells him that it’s just not happening. Not only that, but he’s having an awfully hard time moving the fingers of his left hand. Panting and wincing, he tries then to clear his mind enough to summon up the magical ‘Lo-Jack’ that Illyana possesses, thanks to the Vishanti. For a second, he’s left dry-mouthed in fear…and then he locates it. It pulses distantly but with normal vigor, telling him that his apprentice is indeed alive. His head makes another hollowed sound when he drops it back against the wooden platform in relief and then he lets out a quiet groan of agony. That had not been a good move.

But…he is alive and with a few hours of restful reclining and a particularly potent cup of tea, he should be able to summon up enough magic to heal the aches that plague him. He wipes against at his face, noticing now that he has been crying and frowns once again at his quivering hand. The frown fades into abject weariness and he decides that, for now, thinking of nothing is best.

It takes him some time and he looks like a shambling undead with how he’s pale from exertion, but he makes it to a nearby settee by his small collection of personal arcane lore. With another moan from behind bared teeth, he settles himself into place before he attempts to summon over the wheeled tea stand. It takes him two tries, but the stand finally moves within reach and he’s able to pull the correct satchet of leaves from the small decorated wooden box on the second tier of the stand. It takes more effort still (and reminds him that he’s done something awful to his upper arm) to pour the steaming water over it, but he finally finishes and puts the kettle back down with a clatter that almost upends it. He lies back, breathing hard and still coughing, while the tea steeps. The painful knee is palpated with tender, trembling fingers and Strange isn’t quite able to determine if it’s his meniscus or his ACL, but either way, it hurts – a lot. The tea tastes terrible too. He wrinkles his nose at it, but continues to sip it down, attempting not to burn his tongue in the process. Once he’s finished the entire cup, dregs and all, he just lies back, eyes half-shuttered and glazed with discomfort.

The teacup eventually falls from his loosened grip. It rolls off the settee and onto the floor; the impact on the wooden surface cracks one side of its walls, but it does not break entirely. Strange is too asleep to notice it. Between the aftereffects of the vicious psychic attack followed by a twelve-foot free-fall onto solid earth and the heat of the tea in his stomach, he’s toast –- but restfully so. No harried breathing, no twitching eyes. Just rest. For now.

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