1963-07-26 - Strange Tidings in Siberia
Summary: Strange visits Siberia at Agamotto's behest, and finds… not what he was expecting.
Related: Strange Magik
Theme Song: None
strange illyana 

Siberia might be the most desolate place on Earth. Perhaps it has to do with the meager presence of so few growing things— a desert is a desert, and one doesn't expect much life in the depths of the Gobi or the Sahara.

But here and there, scraggly brush clings to life, tremuolously clinging to vivacity despite the dense permafrost underfoot.

Only one sound breaks the monotony of the groaning winds— a wailing sound. Not just something akin to wailing, but a human voice at the desperate edge of sanity, screaming pain to the skies and uncaring of who hears it.

The cold air carries the cries from the remains of a small fishing village at the edge of an ice-covered lake. Or, rather, what was a village. A dozen small huts have been levelled, and recently, at that. Fire groans upwards, billowing smoke and a charnal stench up from the permafrost. The stench of sulfur and burning flesh fills the air. The village looks to have been attacked by overwhelming forces in the last few minutes, though there is no trace of attacker and only bodies on the ground as mute testimony to the savage nature of the assault.

A single figure moves— a girl with ragged, tattered blonde hair badly in need of combing, and wearing the meanest of rags as a makeshift dress. She hauls two bodies behind her, one in each hand, struggling to pull the bodies away from a burning hut.


As Strange exits his tunnel, he is hit by another chill gust of wind and winces. This place is so barren at first glance and he scans the seemingly-endless horizon. Half-frozen snowmelt hides in the shadows of the few plant growths, mere stunted saplings and tufts. Within his mind, he can sense the beacon pulsating, acting as a lighthouse in this expanse of nothing.
As he turns his head towards this faintly-flickering signal, the wind's low groaning seems to rise in pitch, towards a shriek. It sends a shiver up his spine that has nothing to do with the cold and briefly innundates him with recollections of failures in the surgical suite - which he quickly banishes away to the darkest corners of his memories, never to be willfully accessed. The wind cries again and Strange is convinced at a gut level that this is no longer merely the weather, but a sound of suffering. He gives a careless gesture behind him that causes the tunnel leading back to the Sanctum Sanctorum to collapse. No use leaving such a way open for anything to find its way through. He's spotted something new now on the horizon, something that he hadn't been able to pintpoint before, not until the winds had lifted it higher: a plume of dark smoke, evidence of a distant fire. He flinches again, briefly holding his skull with one hand, as Agamotto's gifted beacon seems to white out his vision. It appears to be the thing's way of confirming his compass set.
He inhales slowly, careful not to let the cold air hurt his lungs, before beginning to jog. He lengthens his stride and then, with a grunt of effort, half-sound, half-Word, his Cape comes into play. The golden fringes briefly flash and then he's hurtling along the barren stretch of the tundra before him, leaving gritty dust in his wake. Flying in will let him avoid surprises.


The scene doesn't get better as Strange gains elevation. A dozen huts, most of them smouldering or afire. The village is the sort of grubby collection of hovels that's typical of the Siberian wastes— one working vehicle, a rusted tractor, is parked behind a hut, and it looks like a closed-top military vehicle from WWII is probably the only operable car for a hundred miles.

As Strange gets closer, he can see a heartbreaking sight— that grimy urchin digging a hole in the ground with a broken half-shovel, clearly trying to work through the tears to dig a grave for the two corpses she's dragged along behind her. The wounds are fresh and blood streaks the snow behind them. Whatever happened, it happened quite recently, but it looks like the tiny girl is the sole survivor of the attack.


The destruction of the village before him causes his stomach to twist. He's seen this before, to some extent, and the sulfurous tinge to the smoke confirms his suspicions: demons. From his altitude, he drops quickly and lands not far from the single survivor of this attack. His impact on the ground is muffled by the thin layer of snow covering it, though the wind that follows his wake blows up some thin flakes. He quickly looks around, hand half-raised and ready to deflect any sort of surprise attack. He is greeted with nothing but the sound of the wind urging on the remaining fires and the thumps of falling timbers, still glowing along their burnt edges.

Swallowing down bile and likewise lowering his hands, he turns his attention to the girl. She's so young and her hands appear covered in blood, though he is uncertain whether it's her own or from the two corpses she has lying on the ground beside her half-dug hole.

His mouth works for a moment before he finally finds his voice: "Hello." Gods below, his voice sounds so loud compared to the sepulchral near-silence in the village.


There's nothing wrong with the girl's reflexes— she explodes into motion, scrambling like a crab and trying to get some distance between her and this newcomer. She gets her back against a low stone wall and grips at the air, reaching for nothingness.

But Something responds to her calls, and a blazing font of purple-white energy coalesces in her hands, erupting into a translucent longsword that looses crackling sweeps of eldritch energy around her.

"Back! Get back! I'll kill you!" she yells savagely, in a surprisingly resonant alto voice. Her Russian's a bit slurred, as if a tongue she's not accustomed to speaking. Her hair is closer to straw colored than muddy dishwater. She's clearly in desperate need of a bath. Under her rough-woven dress, which looks like rough burlap or the like, there are just some hints of female curves. No child, then, this wild woman, despite her diminutive stature and bony wrists.

The sword in her hands, though, she holds like she means business, and the energies crackling around it are enough to indicate it's a major magical artifact of some kind.


He hadn't counted on a violent reaction from her. Surprise, absolutely, probably a scream or two followed by a bewildered look.
The sword that had literally formed in her hands from the bare chill air itself? This was not what he had expected in the least.

He immediately brings his hands into a stylized defense pose, fingers forming long-practiced gestures and Mystic energy beginning to hum in a barely-visible corona around them. She yells at him in some foreign language - European, perhaps Russian? - and he frowns as he considers the language barrier that could exist between them. He comes to the conclusion that body language is fairly universal and that they would get nowhere beyond threats if all they acted towards one another was like so. He trusted in his own long-practiced reflexes as he slowly lowered his hands and dismissed the Mystic magic from them. The Word, however, he kept fully in the front of his mind, ready to unleash at a second's notice. He turns his hands palm out and slowly brings them to his sides, hoping that she understands his meaning.

"I'm not here to hurt you", he says again over the low whispering of the cold wind. It seeps into his clothing and he wishes that he had dressed warmer before coming here.


The girl stares at him. Her eyes are bright, even shockingly blue against the dust and mud smudging her face. But not a terrified prey's eyes— a warrior's eyes. Watching everything Strange does. Closely. Waiting for a chance to strike.

She says something else in Russian, then the point of the blade dips along with his hands. She maintains her grip on the strange weapon, but eases her shoulders. Just a little.

She licks her lips, then speaks more, still in Russian, her words lost to Strange.

Realizing there's a language gap, too, she points her sword at the burning houses, then at the two corpses, then at Strange. Her eyes narrow— the question plain enough.

Was he involved in this?


He watches her utilize the sword not to attack him, but to lead his gaze to the smoking ruins of the buildings and then at the two dead bodies. It takes him a moment to realize that she's asking him if -he- had committed this attrocity.

"Blessed Vishanti, no! Never!" His voice is louder and sharper than he intends. The ferocious frown he wears now, along with the steely glitter in his grey-blue eyes, says just as much as his speech. "Demons," he adds, hoping that she might understand the word. He places his hand over his sternum, spreading the fingers atop his Eye of Agamotto, and shakes his head. "Never me."


"De-demony? Demony?" She seems to understand this, and takes a long breath, exhaling with controlled anger. She nods again. "Demony Belaskov. Ony vzyali menya," she says, in her tones sharp with the cold seeping into her bones. If Strange is chilled, she must be freezing.

"Tyur'ma," she tries again, a bit frustrated by the language gap. "Viz znayete— Belasko?" she tries again, repeating that name Belasco, the ire in her voice quite palpable.


Strange arrives from RP Nexus.


Strange has arrived.


Strange watches her breath fog in the air and his frown turns curious as he hears her repeat a word again and again:


The name is unknown to him, but it doesn't mean that he won't look into it the very moment he has finished solving this new conundrum. Since there is a chance that the owner of the name is tied up in this catastrophe as well as demons, he deems it of importance. Nodding to himself, he sighs and his gaze shifts to the bodies still lying beside her. His lips thin in silent concern. The young woman seems to care deeply for them; no sane person would be wasting time digging into the cement-like permafrost of the tundra if they had merely a passing relationship with another deceased person.

When his gaze shifts to her again and he really acknowledges that she's standing there in the saddest raggedy dress he's ever seen in his life while holding a truly arcane sword that vibrates with Mystic energy, the beacon within his mind bursts with a crackle of psychic energy, like the offspring of a firework and a bubble. His shoulders droop in a subtle gesture of dismay.

"You…?" he asks himself quietly. It isn't that he doesn't want to believe it, but it's beginning to seem more and more like the Vishanti have tasked him with - dare he say it - babysitting. He wants very badly to just turn around; to turn around, draw up a rift back to the Sanctum, and call it a day.


However, he's seen the repercussions of defying the gods and he knows full well that there is literally no dimension, time, or place in existence where Agamotto wouldn't find him.

Fine. To hell with it all. He must get past this language barrier first. She will not follow him down the length of a summoned tunnel without an explanation. Likely as not, she would chop at him with that sword and he doesn't want a fight. With a huff of a sigh that puffs white in the air before him, Strange meets her eyes while slowly shaking his head. "I do not know Belasco. No Belasco." He points to his temple and shrugs. He then shows her the palms and tops of his hands, slowly rotating them, before pointing at his mouth. "I am going to cast a spell," he says with clear enunciation. "We need to talk." He mimes speaking with his hands and tries not to feel like a children's puppeteer.


The blonde woman swallows, eyes wide open and flashingly alert to any sign or cue of danger. But something about Strange's manner seems to lower her alertness, just a little.

"Nyet Belasko," she agrees, processing his words.

Her sword snaps up a few inches at the convoluted motions his fingers are preparing to express. She's been around a spellcaster before, for certain. When his body language fails to express malicious intent, the point of the blade drops a few inches and she nods at him, warily. String bean or not, there's coiling muscle in her thighs as she digs into the ground with her bare toes. There's little doubt that she can't clear the gap between them with lightning speed.


The tenseness between his shoulders doesn't ease as he watches her warily accept that he means no harm. There seems to be a sense of familiarity in the wariness of her response and curiosity surges to the forefront of his mental processes once again. The irrepressible need to know everything about this incident and her presence at it is beginning to wrap tendrils about his psyche and he dually hates and loves it. Of course Agamotto would dangle this bait before him.

"Nyet Belasco," he echoes with a nod, certain enough that his unintentional mangling of the pronunciation will proclaim that he truly has no idea what she's saying. He then closes his eyes and brings to mind the spell he's looking for. It's an interesting bastardization of the concept of Allspeak, a power normally limited to those of Asgardian heritage. He crosses both forearms before his chest, wrists angled to direct the point of his fingers straight upwards. The stiff gesture turns fluid, dance-like, as he breaks at the wrists and rotates his palms to brush both sets of his fingertips across the column of his neck, across his voicebox, in opposing directions. With equally smooth movements, he appears to gather the essence of the spell between his palms, forming it together until it becomes visible to the eye, a mint-green cumulous cloud of undulating misty energy. Strange brings the circular wisp before his chin and opens his eyes. Within his irises, the color of the spell is reflected, turning them from steel-blue to a luminous celadon-blue. He breathes a Word into it before blowing it and scattering it to the space between him and the young woman. As he drops his hands, he takes one half-step back in unconscious readiness, uncertain of the feeling of the spell landing on her will be enough to trigger a defensive response from her.


The tiny blonde waif eyes Strange, and speaks again, trying the words. "Well? Are you done wiggling your fingers?" she asks, her voice a bit cross at the lengthy delay. She still speaks Russian, but the words flows as naturally as English to the master sorceror, now.

"If you're not one of Belasco's servants, who are you? How did you find me?" She keeps that sword gripped tight, though she's at a low guard, ready to lash out if the Sorceror Supreme proves to be a nuisance or threat.


Strange can't help the breathy laugh that escapes his mouth. The wind whips it away and causes his cape to ripple as he relaxes. He settles into a more nonchalant stance, but never completely allows his guard to drop.

"A little gratitude wouldn't be remiss," he replies as he folds his arms. His hands are a bit warmer now where they hide against his ribs, but not much. The spell-glow has faded from his eyes now and they return to steely-grey. "And yes, no more finger-wiggling for now." He glances behind him, gauging the area needed to open the tunnel back to the Sanctum, and then turns back to her. "My name is Strange and the Vishanti sent me." No use in mincing words since they now understand each other and she seems to be familiar with spellwork. "No one hides from the omniscience of the Vishanti. I am here to assist you, though in what way, we shall see, I suppose."


"Gratitude's for people who did something for me," the blonde waif rebuts, quickly. "All you did was scare me and mumble at me in some weird language," she says, in that bad, broken Russian.

She looks around warily, too, trying to percieve whatever it is Strange can sense or observe that's slipped past her hyperalert senses.

"I know the Vishanti. I mean, I've heard of them," she says. "Strange— that's a weird name."

There's a beat. "Illyana," she says, finally, introducing herself. "Why are you going to help me?"


"Illyana," he murmurs thoughtfully. Finally, a name to go with the ash-grimed face and wind-swept clothing. It seems to make things all too real to him and the answer to her question all too clear.

"Since we can now have a perfectly normal conversation instead of gesticulating like mutes, I'll answer your question briefly: because I have no choice." The timbre of his voice drops to nearly a growl. He doesn't like being denied the ability to act according to his manner of choosing. With a huff, he turns half-away and throws his palm outwards and away from him. The chill wind swirls around him, flirting with any loose fringe of clothing and cloak, as he accesses the waypoint to the Sanctum Sanctorum once again. Reality before him crystallizes into a crackling golden glow before expanding outwards and pushing aside the present fold of this plane. At the far end, he can see the welcoming flicker of the fireplace in the large room just off the foyer in his mansion. As if giving one final tease, the icy Siberian wind hits him sideways, not quite making him stumble in place. He drops his arm with a grunt and turns back to look at Illyana. "Your options are limited. I offer aid in whatever you wish, as long as you accompany me back to society and safety. Choose to stay and I'll have no choice but to make you come along." His eyes flicker from the eldritch sword still held in her small hands and back to her face. "I ask, please do not make me decide for you."


Illyana licks her lips, eyes darting back and forth. The fires in the blade slowly flicker and fade, until she's holding a longsword-shaped shard of glass that illuminates periodically from within. "My… I should bury my parents," she says, stiffly, as emotions come crashing back once her wary fear of Strange subsides.

She brushes at her eyes, which while wet, are not quite weeping yet. "Then I… I'll go. I suppose anywhere is better than here," she admits, looking around a little forlornly.


The slow fading of the Mystical sword in her hand is a good sign, he decides as he watches her posture begin to crumple. It means that he won't have to feel badly about restraining her after she's already experienced a large trauma. However, the moderate optimism fades when Illyana explains that the bodies are not merely neighbors or friends, but her parents. He drops his chin to his chest as he clears his throat.

Everything about this place and event and even Illyana herself keeps triggering memories he would rather remain forgotten. He closes his eyes tightly against them before straightening up and centering himself once more. He takes some steps over, careful not to move quickly or too assertively, until he stands beside the bodies. Even with his experience as a neurosurgeon, he can't bear to look at them for more than a second at a time. Medical knowledge is a double-edged sword and he hates that he knows how much they suffered before they passed.

"Allow me to bury them." He shows her his palms again, almost as an offering of goodwill. "I can open the soil much more easily than your shovel. We can say words and then leave this place."


Illyana's eyes flare with hostility at the thought of simply… waving the problem away with a flickering of Strange's magical fingers.

But then an icy blast of wind carrying a thousand miles of empty tundra from the northern icefloes blasts towards them, whipping at her hair and mean clothing. She shivers uncontrollably, the cold wracking her to her very core. It appears in that moment, she rethinks her position on the idea of scrabbling in the dirt.

"I tried magic," she says. "Something's wrong. I can't make my magic work right. Maybe you'll do better," she says, a bit grudgingly. She shivers again, trying not to hug herself to ward off the biting chill. Her voluminous blue eyes look down at the bodies near their feet and moisten visibly, unspilled tears clinging to her eyelashes. But, resolutely, she prevents them from falling.

His grimace says it all and he decides that time is vitally of the essence now. The medical professional within him can't watch her stand there and wallow in her own stubbornness while the winds slowly sap her of her health.

When she mentions magic, specifically owning to it, he becomes sure that he made the right decision coming here. He sees her in another new light now, as an experience Mystic mage discovering a potential fellow practitioner, albeit this one almost like an unshaped ball of clay. He needs to get her away from here, as far as possible. Her life force, like his own, is likely inundated with eldritch power and acts like a succulent beacon to anything lusting for a taste of magical blood. With the two of them sharing a close space, they are doubly enticing.

"We can discuss your magic more once we're out of the cold," he says with a nod. With nonchalance, he gestures behind him and shuts off the tunnel once more, with all of the effort of closing his front doors. He holds out his other hand to her. "Here, come stand beside me. I can block the wind." He will be able to tell even more about her once their skin touches; it is one of the more foolproof ways of identifying a true practitioner and getting a taste of their spells preferences. He wants to know precisely what he's bringing home to the Sanctum.


Illyana gives Strange a wary look, but the biting cold is swiftly making up her mind. Whatever she'd just seen in the hellscape of the slaughter around the village is still fresh in her eyes, but … it's cold. There's likely not another human around for a hundred miles in any dirction, and the barefoot blonde waif is clearly smart enough to recognize a potential ally in Strange, even if she's hesitant to move towards him.

She eyes the extended hand, giving him the most suspicious of glares, then finally relents and puts her dirty, callused fingers in his grasp.

A cavalcade of sensory information hammers against Strange's mystical senses. The girl is no mere amateur practitioner— energy courses around her as wild as a thunderstorm, resonating though her very person. Untapped, unaimed, but still dangerously potent. Fire and shadow coil against one another under her skin, a blackness darker than any night— and all of it contaning the wild, untamed energy of Limbo itself.

She's no minor magi. She's easily Strange's peer in terms of raw power, despite the lack of talent— and what's worse, she seems wholly unaware of the raw potential coiling inside her.


It's been a long time since he's encountered such dubiousness in response to his offered aid. He's hard-pressed to not add some smart comment about him not biting or something of the like. He has to keep reminding himself of his surroundings. He's dealt with demon attacks before, but perhaps Illyana has no history, no way other way to react. His hand never wavers from its outstretched position and his eyes drop to watch her cautious response of mirroring him.

The touching of her palm to his generates a feeling akin to grabbing a battery with wet hands. He keeps from jerking his hand away, but he can't help how his spine stiffens and his grip on her fingers spasms. His brows rise and his mouth opens slightly as he tries to take in account precisely just how much power he's going to be dealing with once they return to the Sanctum.

It's quite a bit. Yes, more than enough to cause the apocalypse that Agamotto showed him not long ago.

"Blessed Vishanti," he breathes, feeling uncertainty, that old friend, begin to creep in and color his confidence in his own abilities. He realizes that he's been staring at her, probably looking like a buffoon, and frustration begins to smolder in his gut. "Beside me," he repeats gruffly as he gently draws her around the two bodies. His intent is to quickly entomb them, as quickly as he can without seeming irreverent, so that they can leave this place.


Illyana snatches her hand away, similarly stung by the percpetion of magic that rolls off of Strange's fingertips. He's a man of no small power himself, and even the meanest of practitioners could sense the immense power at his beck and call.

She looks at her fingertips, then her attention's brought back to him.

She moves to stand adjacent to Strange, watching with a mute, almost stoic expression as the two bodies disappear into the dirt. It's graceful, in a way, how he buries them— the bodies just slip under the soil, as if vanishing into soft mud. In moments, there's no trace of them aside from the disturbed permafrost now churned into messy disarray.

She sniffles, once, brusihng her wrist under her nose, but it takes only a moment for the waif to gather her aplomb.

"Now what?" She asks Strange, her voice a little hoarse with stress and pain, deeply buried. "Did you just come here to bury my parents for me?"


Strange glances over at her as he drops his hands to his sides. She's taking this all extremely well, which he wonders about. He dismisses the thought as he meets her eyes once more.

"I came here for you, Illyana. As I mentioned before, the Vishanti sent me to find you." He turns and walks some steps away. For the last time, he hopes, he summons up the portal that leads to his Sanctum Sanctorum, to the foyer adjacent to the large room with the fireplace. The total sum of the recent spellwork has taken a minor toll on him, more likely due to the residual demonic essence left in the land around them. It causes a stress on any whose alignment goes against it. The very ground will be tainted for generations and likely become the source of local ghost stories. If he ever has time, Strange decides to come back and see if he can erase the sulfurous taint of it all.

He clears his throat and adds, to address her parents' recent burial, "And there is never any harm done in granting rest to the departed. Did you want to say any words before we leave?"


"No." And Illyana turns towards the portal Strange opens, and with the barest of hesitations, steps into it.

Inside the Sanctum, she hunches warily, looking around— trying to find a threat before it explodes at her from the shadows. None presents itself, of course, so she does what instincts direct— she moves to the big fireplace and practically stands in the flames, shivering violently at the contrast of heat to cold.

"You've found me. What do the Vishanti want with me?" she demands of Strange. "I'm not important. I'm no one. There must be thousands of people out there who need your help." She gestures vaguely at the energies swirling around where the portal had been opened.


The icy Siberian wind pulls at him one more time, as if trying to attempt to keep him from leaving, and Strange makes certain that no one will follow them through the portal. He waits a solid ten seconds. There is nothing left in the village - absolutely nothing. The sad little mounds of earth in the middle of what had once been the main road drive this point home with pitiless eloquence. His lips thin as he rolls his wrist and flicks his fingers towards the graves. Native rock turns briefly liquid before firming up again in the form of two small tombstones. It is entirely appropriate and civilized in this wild place. His steel-blue eyes take it all in one last time before he steps through the short tunnel and into the dry warmth of the large living room.

The portal's crackling golden edges begin to collapse inwards and rapidly come to a point which fizzles out as he draws a curt gesture across the median of the room. Safe. Perfect. Illyana's voice brings his attention back to her and he turns slowly, patiently, as if he has all of the time in the world.

He admits to being somewhat impressed with her stoic behavior. Somewhat. He has accepted the fact that he will be tutoring a powerful sorcerer. Her potential makes his stomach turn with parts honest anticipation and parts dread, the latter simply because he is dealing with such -raw- power. A future hinges on his ability to keep this power from spilling out unchecked.

"No one needs me. At the moment, at least," he appends as he walks over to the tall-backed chair. Upholstered in deep red leather, he sinks into it and the cushion seems to conform to him with heavily-used ease. He gestures at the mud on his boots and it vanishes, a minor bit of Mystical magic. The firelight plays off the sharp planes of his face and along his arms as he leans back into the chair, elbows resting lightly and fingertips touching the cleft of his chin. "The Vishanti rarely explain their plans, even to someone as practiced as myself. Insofar as I know, I am tasked with your safety. I shall know more as time goes on."


"So— what. I'm supposed to stay… here?" Illyana looks around the Sanctum with an expression that struggles to aspire towards disdain, but fails. The sanctum is /impressive/. Even to her amateur eyes.

"Your timing isn't very good," she adds, a beat later. "I spent years fighting Belasco. Studying him. Hiding from him. I fought him and took his home from him. And I did it without your help. Burying my parents is a nice gesture but… anyone who'd come along with a shovel could have done that for me, too."


"Agamotto, grant me patience," he whispers to himself, his fingertips sliding up from his chin to rub at his temples. His eyes open from their shuttered state and there is the tiniest glimmer of Mystical energy within them, right about his pupils.

"One thing that I require from you is respect. Basic manners. It causes no one pain to show politeness. Yes, you are to stay here," he continues calmly, his hands now paused at the height of his sternum, one cupped overtop a fist. "There are spare bedrooms upstairs and you may have your choice of either the Rose Room or the Blue Room. Both are currently empty." His posture is now nearly relaxed. He shifts back into the chair, wiggling his shoulders a bit in the process, and stretches out one foot towards the fire. His vibrantly-red cape seems to shift beneath him with a life of its own, so subtly as to look like an illusion itself, as if making sure it was comfortable too. His eyes darken as he lets a bit of steel into his voice.

"Pick your room. Continue to reject my assistance and you, young woman, will find yourself right back in that barren tundra with what little clothing you possess and your smart mouth as your only company." His irises brighten, like a light bulb slowly turning on, and he allows the innate power to flow along his skin. He knows that it gives him a slight aura and that anyone with a hint of magical talent will sense it like the barometric pressure change before an incoming storm. "Accept my assistance and not only will I teach you, but I will temper you until not even this Belasco can withstand your power. All I ask…is respect," he finishes quietly.


"Belasco's gone," Illyana says, her tone as cold as the tundra wind. "I killed him, I think. I ran my sword through his heart and out the back. If he's alive… he isn't happy."

She glowers at Strange, but his harsh manner seems to prick the ballooning defiance in her gut, and she retreats a little in the face of his stern gaze. "I didn't ask for your help," she reminds Strange, her tone finding a little backbone again. "I'm… it's… needed," she admits. "And I'm grateful." Almost a thank you? Barely-ish?

"Rose room. I'll go look." She shuffles off on dirty feet, following the directions he gave her to go find her room— and her new place in the world.


"You're welcome," he murmurs tartly, uncertain if she hears him. His head is tilted as he listens to her departing footsteps, her path taking her up the Grand Staircase. He knows that she'll find her way to the room. Each door is labeled in clear, elegant script, a little touch he found was needed during the last time he hosted guests. He knows also that the Sanctum Sanctorum itself will prevent her from doing any sort of unwise wandering by manipulating the hallways. He remembers the time when one guest continued to try his luck and the Sanctum rerouted the hallway to the front door. The house itself literally took offense to the guest's persistence.

Strange slouches fully in the chair, a posture he never lets anyone see, and his small amused smile fades away as he becomes pensive.

Illyana - and no last name. Not that the name will do him much good, thought Names do have power. Perhaps she will tell him and then he will know whether to look further into her Name. He strokes at his goatee as he stares into the fire.


Fire and shadow. If she truly has killed this Belasco, then she has more power than he did when he began his studies. He thinks of her phrasing, 'if he's alive', and it seems to imply demi-immortality in the creature. He shifts again in the chair, uncomfortable in both his posture and his feelings on matters. At least she is grateful. It's a breeding ground for a proper teacher-pupil relationship.

With a gusty sigh, he rises to his feet and also makes his way to his room. It is later than he thought; the Siberian lands are in a complete other time zone. As he makes his way up the Grand Staircase, he glances up at the circular stained glass window that owns a vast expanse of the house wall. The All-Seeing Eye of Agamotto, stylized in the center and surrounded by rays of light and arrays of stars, watches him unblinking. He gives it a hard glare as he passes beneath it.

"Gods and their games," he mutters as he shuts the door to his room with a snap. If he's lucky, he won't have nightmares tonight.

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