1963-07-27 - Retreat to Limbo
Summary: Illyana is fed up with Strange and decides to pack it in and head back to Limbo.
Related: None
Theme Song: None
strange illyana 

It isn't a pleasant way to wake up, not in the least. One minute, he's lying in bed, half-uncovered by his silk sheets to reveal a leanly-muscled form dusted with dark curls, hair mussed, expression slack with restful sleep, and the next…

In the next moment, the Mystical equivalent of a fire alarm jolts him away like a bucket of cold water. With incoherent cries issuing from clenched teeth, he sits up ram-rod straight with hands at the ready. The air around them crackles with deep red energy, the Sorcerer Supreme's version of a taser, and he blinks as he looks rapidly around his room. The whites of his eyes show as his brain comes into full understanding that the Sanctum is shrieking a him about many things at once: invaders, strained wards, foreign magic, and…

"DAMMIT!" he shouts, spittle flying, as he throws back the covers. He grabs the nearest article of clothing to him, a red silk-lined bathrobe, and races out into the hallway. The wooden floor resounds with echoing thuds as he tears down it. His fingertips slide and squeak as they grip the corner of the wall, helping him round the corner at top speed. He nearly knocks over a priceless vase in the process and juggles it. With a mistimed sweep of one hand, it gets flipped higher into the air and it's only the quick thinking of an adrenaline-charged spell that keeps it from shattering on the thick carpet. He heaves a quick sigh as he settles it back in place (thank goodness for that, he has no time to round up loose spirits) before turning and thundering to the Rose Room. He gives himself mild rug-burns on the soles of his feet as he comes to a stop and hammers his fist once against the door.

"Illyana! Stop this instant!!!" There is no response and the Sanctum continues to blare in his ears. He winces, half-shutting his eyes, as he turns the doorknob and shoves the door open wide. The room itself is intact, nothing out of place other than the mussed sheets left behind by someone who slept there, but it's the tear in reality hovering before the full-length mirror on the wall that makes him freeze up tall. "Gods below," he breathes, vacillating between astonishment and nauseating fearful anger that the little waif - that little blonde…woman! She's broken his wards and opened a path to…well, Agamotto knows where!

He rolls up his sleeves, a past habit he'll never be rid of, and stomps through the rift. The weight of Agamotto's Eye appears on his neck even as he crosses into the unknown plane.


The rippling break in reality leads to Limbo, it seems. Strange would of course recognize the planar area instantly— the lack of gravity, no cardinal directions, ambient light that comes from no specific source.

But there's an odd continuity to this 'area' of Limbo. There's a sense of 'top' and 'bottom', high and low, though gravity's still fairly notional.

The 'high' part is some distance behind Strange, curving off into an infinity of redundant fractal paths, while the 'low' area is probably the spiking, improbable citadel subjectively a mile or two away. It's a structure that'd be impossible anywhere that physics had a say in the matter, and looks like a madman or a child started drawing a treehouse and didn't stop. It's easily a hundred yards at the widest point, and asymmetrical rooms and chambers protrude like warts on a toad's back, connected by a maze of open and closed tunnels and pathways.

A tiny figure appears at one of the upper levels, and despite the distance, Strange can clearly make out the details of a scruffy yellow-haired crumpet scowling at him.

"Go away!" she shouts, her voice carrying across the distance between them. "Just.. just leave me alone!" She slams a massive door shut, closing the lines of communication between her and Strange.


Limbo. Of all the planes. Of all the places that overconfident teenager would choose. He stands there and glares at the distant monstrosity of a treehouse. It is silhouetted garishly against the starless sky. He glances up; indeed, the entire dome of far space above him remains stygian black. He runs a hand down his face and stares at his toes.

His toes. Strange sucks on his teeth as he realizes that he is indeed standing in Limbo wearing his bathrobe. No shoes, no shirt, just the bathrobe to service him. The Eye of Agamotto pulses against his chest, tingling against his bare skin that shows through the natural V created by the robe. It reminds him of the power he holds and he decides then and there that this simply will. Not. Do.

The ground beneath his feet bites at his skin as he walks slowly towards Illyana's odd abode. Well, it does for only a moment. With a curt gesture and minimal force of will, he shapes the land before him. Instead of ragged broken rocks, all smelling of sulfur and Agamotto knows what else, his envisioned path is of the softest white sand, like the beaches of the tropics. It invokes a sense of peace somewhere within him and he slowly sighs as the sand shifts beneath his steps. The stretch of serenity extends to the edges of the treehouse's shadow and then peters out as if his power is stymied by the aura of Illyana's creation.

He pauses at the end of his sandy modification to Limbo and cranes his head to look up at the door. He wants to leap up, smash it open, and shake her by her clothing until her teeth rattle. It is a very tempting thought. However, it is not something the Ancient One, his veritable past teacher, would ever condone. He will instead default to basic conversation. Teeth rattling would come later down the option line. Just before he speaks, he distorts the temperature and thickness of the air of Limbo and it makes his voice carry as clearly as if he held a megaphone to his mouth.

"Illyana! We need to talk!" he calls out. "What on earth were you thinking?!"


The palace is quiet for quite a while, after Strange addresses the sloppy structure. It looks to be made of something vaguely metal, but it's the stuff of Limbo focused into form. There are places evidence to an expert's eye where an idea was created but only half-formed before being made manifest, joints where panels don't line up and colors are a little off. Grown by reflex, not by intention.

Finally, a door bangs open again, and Illyana stares down at Strange off her balcony. "GET OFF MY DIMENSION!" she bawls at him, flinging a hand out.

Raw will power asserts itself around Strange. A /lot/ of raw willpower, though very little focus or discipline behind it. Limbo roils and churns as Illyana attempts to rewrite reality itself to accommodate a Strange-less Limbo, and the echoing shudder of her will on reality creates rippling aftershocks for subjective miles in every direction.


For all of his experience as Sorcerer Supreme, it isn't some hyper-sense of the plane around him that saves him. It isn't anything like an oncoming pressure wave or ringing in his ears or a flash of light.

The only thing that saves Strange from being torn to molecules and atoms by her destructively powerful attack is the hand gesture. The simple act of her bringing her arm up and behind her shoulder warns him of the impending assault and gives him enough time to ground himself in his own Mystical force. The red silk bathrobe is tugged violently by the swarming of the foreign willpower around him and all he can do is remain steady and allow it to rush around him, beyond the edges of the defensive effects of the rotating neon-lined glow of the sigil hovering before his outstretched palm.

The very realm seems to waver in his vision as if seen through a heat mirage. The ground beneath him wobbles and quivers as it changes from flat slate to liquid magma to scalpel-edged obsidian, but remains white sand within the confines of his protective sphere. In the sky above, eddies of blacker-than-black miasma whirl against the velvety dome. He watches the entire view before him fractal and multiply before folding it on itself and shrinking to the smallest pinpoint. The pinpoint replicates itself all around him, like a thousand beady eyes glaring at him, before they all rush back to a central place before him and explode outwards. He winces despite his impenetrable defense and when he opens his eyes again, Limbo has been reasserted. Illyana has will some changes, this he can see, but he remains alive and intact.

His first instinct is offense. To take offense in any way he can. Again, he reels in his temper and instead, calls out to her once again. His voice is as steely as she's ever heard it.


"Are you quite finished?"


Illyana looks shocked when Strange simply deflects her skill. She'd used that talent not a day prior to obliterate a Fire Giant with a firm gesture, blasting it into constituent magical particles. A creature of magic itself, and a formidably tough adversary.

"How— how did you do that?" she gapes at Strange, looking uneasy and a bit worried for the first time since he'd met her. Was it only a day prior? "This is my Limbo. You're not supposed to be able to stop me in my Limbo," she says, defensively, shrinking back on her balcony with a frightened expression.

"Just… just go! Please go!"


Strange can't help the smug little smile that curves the corners of his lips.

Good. She will take him quite seriously now. It's a shame that she's still pulling away from him. It's not like he's grown an extra head or anything. However, at least he's made his point. He dismisses his protective sigil from before his palm and as it dissipates, it causes a little ripple in the air around it.

"Your Limbo?" he asks, mostly himself. The ground itself reflects the enormity of her powers here: in at least 200 feet around him, the rock and sand are melted into sheets of glass. It reflects the starless sky above dully, making it seem like Strange is surrounded by liquid shadows. He stares up at her as he crosses his arms.

"Come down here so we can talk like civilized people." His voice echoes loudly in the strained silence of Limbo. He tries very hard to ignore the quiver in his stomach. This kind of power is most definitely what Agamotto and the Vishanti want to control. Illyana possesses the sheer magnitude of forceful will that he himself taps into innately when he uses his Mystical magic. He feels goosebumps briefly pebble his skin as he remembers the feeling of the willpower flowing around him. It had been like being trapped in a glass bubble as a river flowed around him - the same amount of heavy force and swift strength.

For everyone's safety, they must get back to his plane of reality so he can begin very quickly with lessons on self-control.


Illyana sniffles a few times, hidden from sight, and then with a *fwump-bump*, she teleports herself to a spot a few yards from Strange, on the same level. She's flushed and miserable looking, eyes red with tears and her fine pale features, blotchy and puffy. She's been crying, and she hugs her arms over her ragged burlap dress.

"It's- it's mine," she sniffles. "After I killed Belasco the whole dimension … sort of turned over to me. I can't describe it. I just knew it was mine. It started listening to me, and I banished or killed everyone who supported Belsaco. Except for his familiar— S'ym. He's hanging upside down in a nest of giant bees until I figure out what to do with him."

She looks everywhere but at Strange, humiliated and uncertain as he takes control of the situation. She cries a little more, than hiccoughs. "I just want to go— I just" There's no way to end that sentence 'home' is a memory, overridden by a charnal house stinking if sulfur, and Limbo is barely more than a child's imagination run rampant and given life.


Strange remains standing as he is, arms tightly crossed, as he listens to her explanation. The bees are a cleverly insidious touch and he files the idea away for future contemplation. He also makes a mental note to very clearly - and repetitively - explain how her powers can directly affect her surroundings as well as have lingering effects.

However, he can only remain stern for so long. The sight of the drying tear tracks on her face, combined with her wilting confidence and quiet snifflings, is slowly killing him. His grey-blue eyes shift to the nearest patch of inky glass as he slowly shakes his head. His lips are pursed as he makes eye contact with her again.

"Home," he finishes the sentence for her. "Home is shelter, food, and warmth. I can provide all of these things. You keep running off, running away, and I won't be able to help you." The dull light of Limbo shines off the silk bathrobe's sleeves as he shrugs his shoulders. "I see no real reason why I should take you back anyhow." His brows drop into a sharp frown. "You behaved abominably. You had to have felt the Sanctum resisting your efforts!" He cuts off his own voice as he hears the words become razor-edged. He runs his hands through his already-mussed hair and grimaces as he realizes that it must still be all akimbo. He subtly pats it down, masking it as part of rubbing at his temple, before continuing. "I need your promise that you will act honorably." Even with his bed-head and blatantly out-of-place red bathrobe, he does his very best to emulate the face he was given by the Ancient One more than once: obdurate strength in the lines of his jaw, tints of frustration in the line of his lips to convey his irritation, and the trick to it all, the soft understanding in his eyes. "Promise me, Illyana."


"You— /I/ behaved badly?!" Illyana's eyes snap open, then narrow to angry slits. The girl switches emotional tracks so rapidly it could give a person whiplash. "You locked me into the room! I wanted to go home and I could feel that whole… stupid… PINK thing not letting me!" she says, struggling with the words as her ire rises.

"I argued with it, and the Sanctum was all 'You can't', and I said 'I can if YOU LET ME'." She stamps a tiny foot on the bare ground, and the earth quakes in response. "I had to cut a hole to get out, do you know— I HATE not being able to teleport," she grates. "Belasco used to cut me off and keep me stuck in a room for weeks or MONTHS at a time. And then you did it too!" she says, advancing on Strange and waggling a pointing finger at him. Height differential be damned, she gets up in his face as much as her 5'5" self can, scowling up at him no nevermind of the fact he's in a robe, and she's wearing a potato sack.

She scowl at him. Prettily, but it's still a scowl. "I'll promise YOU I won't cut any more holes in the walls, but you better promise ME you won't cut me off from coming back here."


Strange never retreats from her jabbing finger that doesn't quite touch his chest, but he does look down his nose at her. His attempt at the wise and wonderful mentor facial expression dissolves into something more akin to him chewing on a lemon.

"Normally, when people deal with phobias of entrapment, they communicate it to their peers!" His arms are tightly folded across his chest again, the robe's sleeves cramping up around his elbows. He ignores the locks of hair falling down onto his forehead as he leans in closer, most definitely into her personal space since she has invaded his without so much as a thought.

"The room did not lock you in. The moment you lost control of yourself and succumbed to your need to flee, the room offered you security. Instead, you responded with panic. The Sanctum went into lockdown because of your lack of self-control." He grits his teeth as he tries very hard to think like his past mentor. Instead, he takes a chance and says, "Besides, fleeing is cowardice. You want me to promise you a way out? Always? Shameful." With that challenge flag thrown down, he draws away from her and waits.


Illyana starts to respond, but the statement about the room locking things down sets her on her heels- literally, she flattens her feet down, and a consternated expression flickers across her face.

"I… " She stalls when he walks away, scowling thunderously, and clenches her slender fingers into fists.

It takes her a good ten minutes of stewing to come around, but when she does, she walks up next to Strange, arms stiff at her sides and a scowl on her face. Not submissive, no, but… concessionary. For the moment, anyway.

"I won't put any more holes in things," she says, grumbling. "But I won't agree to being locked up. I'm not some stupid /kid/," she tells Strange, at her wizened age of just barely eighteen.

"…So, let's go, then." She waves a hand through the air and Limbo rearranges itself around them, taking them to the High Place where the barriers between worlds are thinnest.



While he is pretending to enjoy the view he's facing, Strange is actually dying to return to the Sanctum. He has been subjected to many, many things before his morning cup of tea and his body is telling him that this is unacceptable. A tension headache has set its spike-tipped tendrils into the muscles of his scalp.

He glances over when she appears at his side and this seems like a benevolent turn of events, even down to her subconscious choice of placement. He can't help but raise an eyebrow at her statement regarding her maturity. Only because she isn't looking him for a moment, he smirks in knowing amusement, since it reminds him so much of his own youth and its follies. He also doesn't argue because, in a facet of his own childhood experiences, she has had to become an 'adult' in order to survive.

"No, not stupid, merely uneducated," he corrects her quietly after she finishes rearranging Limbo around them. For a moment, he takes in the view of lower Limbo. In a very disorienting way, he is reminded of the wide open stretches of Nebraska, where the horizon seems endless beyond measure. The lack of stars is unsettling to him and he frowns once again. "You've grasped the rudimentary concepts of opening ways into other dimensions. However," and he glances over at her, "the Sanctum will be closed off to you. Remember this if you think about leaving again."

He raises his hand and with palm out, opens a pathway to the Sanctum, once again to the living room. No fire awaits them, just the morning sunshine that seems obscenely bright and warm compared to the dull glow of Limbo. Fully trusting in his prowess, Strange steps off the edge of the precipice and through the crackling temporal gate into the Sanctum. The house immediately greets him with the habit of a pet dog; he can feel its near-sentience scanning his entire body for foreign magics and it feels like the skimming of fur across his skin. He sends out a breath of willpower, a familiar greeting, and the Sanctum seems to draw back, to relax and return to its quietly-watchful state.


Illyana watches Strange slip away into the Sanctum, and eyes the voidspace opened between her home and his. She makes a face, but… she pauses and looks over her shoulder at Limbo. Big, and hers, and absolutely empty except for an Imp she intends to torture for a few centuries.

The tiny blonde exhales testily, turns on her heel and stomps into the Sanctum, trying to maintain an expression somewhere between disdain and surly chagrin.

Home safe.


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