1963-09-25 - An Alternative Escapade
Summary: After an ill-fated excursion into an alternate Earth universe, Strange must locate and return both himself and his erstwhile apprentice to the Sanctum.
Related: None
Theme Song: None
strange illyana 

It's been a few days, at least, since Illyana missed her last check-in. Once more, she bangs on the walls of her cell with her fist— once more, she's rewarded with bruised fists. Her dress is filthy, and her hair, tangled and matted.

The cell she's in is huge, formed of stone and ice mashed together. It's weirdly warm, however, so at least there's no risk of frostbite. Food comes in the form of a slop of stew, served once a day, in a bucket— and the room is clearly designed for someone or something well over ten feet tall.

Illyana settles on her bed and crosses her legs, lotus style, pressing her knuckles together. She meditates. No stepping stones— no mutant powers. No sorcery, thanks to the presence of the shaman suppressing her magical talents. Limbo itself seems cut off to her, though her Soulsword still responds to her call.

She inhales. Exhales. Inhales. Exhales. She's not yet powerful enough to create a full Astral projection, but her voice echoes across the realities towards the Sanctum, towards her mentor.

~Strange… help. Trapped… world of ice and snowbears. Help…~


The Realm of Limbo resounds with the arrival of the Sorcerer Supreme of Earth. The air itself trembles along with the stones on the ground as the thunderous bow-wave of power that spills forth from his opened gate to the world floods out. Stepping forth from his lightning-framed rift, he is wreathed in the trappings of his mantle: steadiest of hands curled in loose claws at his sides, Eye of Agamotto glinting citrine at his neck, and blue eyes flashing not grey-blue, but ice-white in an expression of the Eldritch power crackling through his person. If any demon were standing nearby, they weren't anymore. A good many of them had noticed what happened to the last thing that crossed paths with him here and this distant patch of battleground was still charred black from his retaliation.

"Illyana!!!" Her Name echoes across the open spaces of Limbo, a summoning edge to its syllables…and Strange receives nothing in reply. Not even the barest hint of a response. Baring his teeth in a frustrated snarl, he wheels about and gestures the gate shut ferociously. It collapses with an audible crack of colliding realities. His nostrils flare white as he inhales sharply and then tries very hard to exhale slowly. He has to drag some semblance of focus together if he's to track her.

Before the darkness of his closed lids, he replays the message he received not minutes back. She spoke of a 'world of ice and snowbears'. Not her home, not the barren flats of Siberia. No - Illyana was blunt. She would not mince words or be confused as to where she was. As he focuses on replaying the message once again, the silent beacon of tracking (given to him as a boon by Agamotto himself) for Illyana sputters briefly a-light.

He turns sharply once again, the Cloak swirling about his legs. There, somewhere there, towards the High Place. It takes him only a minute to reach the highest point in Limbo and the weakly-spinning mental compass within his mind aligns towards…nothing. Uttering a huff of disbelief, Strange is stymied. Beneath him and extending to the horizon is the Low Place. Where could…how could she have…? His hair is left mussed after he runs a hand through it in aggravation.

It clicks. "Stepping Stones," he breathes, returning to the edge of the precipice. He closes his eyes and draws against the heavy resistance of Limbo's inherent magical atmosphere - THERE. He can see where her Stepping Stone has last left this Realm. It is tricky business, manipulating the threads of Limbo to suit his will and wants, but Strange finally aligns the distant arrival point of Illyana's spell with the harmonics of his Gating spell. His hand glows with verdant light as he utters a strengthening Word to help push past the wall between worlds, and…


The trip takes too long— the effort, immense. Strange quickly realizes Illyana's not just locked away somewhere, she's teleported herself into another dimension— another plane of reality. The voices of Agamotto and Oshtur wane in his ears until they're but far-off echoes.

His immense authority over the warp and weft of the universe, it fades, too, leaving him but an immensely skill magi— but merely a man, no longer Sorceror Supreme. He arrives on a dusky tundra, wind howling and the ambient temperature a balmy 40 degrees F. It's frigid, arctic cold, and yet the stars— the stars look the same as if he had just stepped out of his mansion in New York.

It's very obvious that this is no 'plain', but a glacier— and the towering castle of ice and crude rock nearby is very likely where his erstwhile apprentice has been stolen to.


"Gods…above!" he gasps as he takes in the sight of everything around him. He's thankful that the place isn't colder, though he still coughs and his eyes water as the action pushes unwanted pressure into his already-throbbing skull. It has taken much from him to get here… Strange closes his eyes against the pain and still, the little tracking were-light within his mental sight bobbles and dances and then becomes smaller as if retreating into the distance.

Strange blinks a few times to clear his vision…and then lets out a soft groan of despair as the monumental breadth of the task before him begins to become clear. Another scan of his surroundings shows him far above this Earth's plane - whatever this Earth's plane was! That distant fortress, clearly his goal and place of his apprentice's entombment. Fine. Everything was fine and would be fine.

He takes a few lunging strides and jumps into the air, sending a flicker of willpower into the Cloak of Levitation. It acts rather like a clogged engine and one can almost hear it cough and wheeze depressingly. His arms wave about to avoid faceplanting into the frozen earth beneath his stumbling feet and then he glares down at the crimson material. From a distance, a chime of apology; the Cloak is as tired as he is.

"You know what, that's just…peachy," he hisses, turning his gaze back to the glacial castle. He grunts. "Fine, jogging it is." His long legs, not entirely weak from disuse, carry him steadily towards his destination. It also keeps his extremities warm, for which he is grateful. The air temperature might be somewhat 'balmy', but the thin layer hovering above the rough icen turf is considerably cooler and he can feel it through his boots. His form is stark against the whiteness of his surroundings and he knows it. His brows knit in a frown of concentration as he moves briskly along. It's like pulling a sliver, all delicate maneuvering and slipping grasp, but he's readying his shields just in case something wants to jump out at him.


He makes it about ten long stride when the snow around him erupts. Shaggy, roughly humanoid— simian looking, with over-long arms and short legs. Flesh, where visible, is blue against the glistening, shaggy white and grey of their all-over fur.

Yetis. But these yetis, they wear crude leather mantles, hold tools, and a few even sport jewelry. All of them bear weapons (largely un-necessary— the smallest of them could rip Strange apart with his bare phalanges). One, wearing the fur of a giant tundra wolf, steps towards Strange and gnashes something idiomatic at him in a language the Sorceror Supreme has never yet heard.


With a whirling of his arms and instinctive shout of surprise, Strange manages to back away from the suddenly-looming forms before him. It's a miracle that he doesn't trip over his Cloak - or perhaps the thing has enough sentience to avoid tripping up its wearer. The whites of his eyes are bright as he takes in their ape-like forms and the only thing that pops quickly to his mind is…Bigfoot, of all things. No, and it follows shortly after: abominable snowmen. Migoi, Kang Admi, he heard them called during his time in Nepal.

Gods above and below, wait until he tells Wong of this.

His mouth hangs open as the one wearing what appears to be a monstrously-big wolf fur yells something at him. It's guttural and clearly full of warning. If the gravelly tone wasn't warning enough, the nearly-hidden glint in its dark and chillingly-intelligent eyes beneath heavy furrowed brows is enough to signal an unfriendly intent.

He slowly raises both hands and swallows thickly; the taste is metallic and laced with adrenaline and fear. How on earth to communicate with these things?! Strange has always had his personal twist of the Asgardian AllSpeak spell woven into the fabric of his tunic and his hopes first weigh on its efficacy as he shouts back,

"I mean no harm! No harm!" His voice, despite its deeper tones, seems small in comparison to these shaggy creatures.


They look shocked to be addressed in their native tongue— the leader of what Strange presumes to be a scouting party halts, looking befuddled. "How do you speak our language?" he demands, his tone full of guttural rasps, clicks, and snorts. It sounds more like a bear snuffling or a pig squawking— but Strange's magics make it comprehendable.

"Short and hairless. Like the other one," one of the scouts coughs, voice rasping. "Should kill and eat it just to be safe."

"No. Magog wanted the other one kept alive. Will keep this one alive, too."

The leader of the scout party aims his heavy, bone-bladed club at Strange. "If you're here for the reindeer, they're gone. The winter was too cold and we've no food or fat to spare with strangers," he gravels.


Other one?! They do have Illyana! His shuddering sigh of relief fogs in the air before his face even as his mind races wildly. He needs to convince these creatures to take him to the fortress without encouraging the one who wishes him on a plate and breaking the tremulous peace enforced by the pelt-wearing leader.

"I speak your language becaaauuuse…" and he holds out the word briefly until, "I am a god."

Strange prays that they can't read human facial expressions; he's still a bit too rattled for the perfect poker face. "I am here for my lady. My female half." Not entirely an untruth; after all, they both bear the title of Supremely sorcerous within their respective realms. "If you do not give her to me," he says, pointing a hand towards the clearest night sky, "I will rain down the stars upon this land!"

It takes a moment (and a twitching upper lip as proof of his efforts at the magic), but the open air above him lets forth a sudden clap of thunder that comes from no visible clouds.


The yetis look up, and they seem… unimpressed. One snorts at him. "Seen Tarkatuk make bigger booms than that after eating too much bison grease," he gravels at Strange. "Your magic isn't foolin' anyone, hairless."

"So he's a skinny, ugly shaman. I say we eat him," one of the lean ones covered in scars declares. They seem to be… ignoring Strange.

"Bad luck eating shamans," a fat one remarks.

"Yeah. Tarkatuk always says we gotta be polite."

"Tarkatuk is full of reindeer shit," a greyish one growls.

"Yeah, but he brings out the sun and calls the herds. You wanna be going hungry next time the herds show?"

"Maybe this one can bring the herds and the sun. Hey, little guy," the yeti says, stooping and peering at Strange. A blast of heat from his nostrils hits Strange's face. "You a caller? Tarkatuk ain't brought the herds in a while. Might need a new caller."


A glisten of ivory teeth shows through the corner of one side of Strange's silently grimacing lips. It figures. It just figures. While the Yeti-creatures argue amongst themselves, he strongly considers attempting to jog around them…and then dismisses that idea with a short sigh. Taller means longer legs, longer legs mean a longer stride…and he's no distance sprinter.

His hair blows back in the fetid, heated snort of the Yeti's up-close demands and he takes a moment to wipe a hand down his face, nose wrinkled at the whole business. This close to him, they smell like a combination of wet dog and faintly-herbal herbivore dung.

"It is within my power to call the herds, yes," he replies, glaring at the huge face before him. "I am a god!" With that, he turns and walks away a few steps. He approaches the nearest edge of the glacial cliff, where it fractured and collapsed onto the plains below however many eons ago, and stops.

Reindeer. Reindeer herds. How on Earth is he going to accomplish this?! In idle nerves, one hand travels to the Eye of Agamotto hanging about his neck and he freezes up as the voice of the god echoes from a very far distance into his mind; just the barest presence of the deity is enough to set his fried mind a-fire. A spell is whispered to him, a sussurus that only he can hear and only barely make out. It's followed by the chuckle of the god and the overlays of amusement in whispered words: Do not fail us, servant. The mantle belongs to one who fulfills his duties.

With a gasp, Strange stumbles back a step and shakes out the pins-and-needles within his right hand with a vicious curse. Still, there it is, hanging in the forefront of his tongue in a twisted jumble of mixed Words. With a roll of head and shoulders, he holds out both hands in counter-signs and dredges up the eldritch power from within himself. It comes slowly, bubbling up like maple sap from the winter trees, but once he has access to it, it sets his blood and form afire with Mystical magic.


The Words leave his mouth with volume beyond the capability of human vocal chords and reverberate across the land below. Once they've left him, he's temporarily speechless and numb of throat. Watching the far distance is painfully nerve-wracking. 'Agamotto, don't fail me now…', he mouths to himself.

It's felt in the glacier's icy core and in the soles of his boots before he hears it with his ears. It's the thunder of thousands of hooves, soft though they may be, and over the near ridge of the plain below comes a bobbling wave of antlers. The lowing of the reindeer also reach his ears and Strange lets out a strangled laugh of success. It worked! No…wait. He doesn't see any change in the far horizon and a lead lump settles in his stomach. He hasn't summoned the sun.

Slowly, he turns to face the group of Yeti-creatures. There's a stillness to his posture, a readiness reflected in the glint of his eyes. He's drawn the reindeer…but didn't tell them to stop. The approaching vibrations begin to resonate in the make-up of the glacier and he can't help but flinch as the first wave of reindeer surge up over the edge of the glacial outcropping. In a moment of crazed risk, Strange grabs at one half of a paired set of antlers. His arm is nearly yanked from its socket as the animal continues to surge forwards, bawling its disagreement at his sudden presence, and it's only with some fumbling lunging steps that he's able to get enough momentum to swing one leg up over its broad ribcage.

These are no Earth reindeer, these are a call from the olden days, and built like horses. It's with sheer luck alone that he manages to use the antlers of the reindeer he now sits astride to steer it away from the nearest edge of the glacier and towards the icy palace. The surging herd of reindeer continue to come up over the edge, hopefully blocking the Yeti-creatures from following him immediately if not distracting them entirely.


The yeti crow and hoot in joy as the reindeer charge them. They don't use very sophisticated hunting methods— they simply swing their clubs and weapons and kill them, nearly a score all told before the herd passes. Strange's arrival is forgotten in the wake of his departure amidst the arrival of their meals— the yeti reap a terrible bloody harvest. By the time any of them have the presence of mind to look for Strange, he's well and long gone, but none of them seem to care— they tear one reindeer apart on the spot and gorge themselves on it. Only Strange's magics allow him to catch the snatches of their words—

"—pretty good. No sun, but hey, I'll take food over warm any day," the big one gravels.

"Tarkatuk woulda brough the sun out."

"-think he can really do that, he just reads the clouds—"

"hear HIM say that, he brushes the clouds away—"

They fade out into the distance, leaving Strange atop a thoroughly irritated reindeer that seems a bit baffled about the temerity of the creature atop its back as he thunders towards the palace. There's nothing particularly clever about the construction of the place. It's simply big and hulking and squat, the walls at least ten feet thick and made of magically summoned ice and stone mashed into tall walls. There are no gates, either, nor a moat— just a big archway, with one yeti on duty.


These reindeer may be the size of horses, but they sure as hell don't ride like one. Strange nearly bites through his bottom lip as the beast beneath him stumbles and regains its cloven feet on the icy terrain. Puffs of jolted breath leave his lips as the animal careens towards the Yeti-creature on duty. It's utterly impossible to consider drawing on any sort of magical power, not with how it feels like his spine is about to be jilted from the base of his skull.

The whites of the good doctor's eyes are seen yet again as he realizes that this Yeti is bigger than it looked from far away. His initial plan of simply bowling the thing over is quickly tossed aside and he tries to yank back on the reindeer's antlers to cause the thing to stop. Nope - not happening. The large male reindeer is dead-set on going forwards (more in panic about the clinging threat on his back than anything else) and cranking back its head merely causes it to low loudly once again and begin to stumble. In an instinctive reaction, Strange lets go of the velvety tines and throws up his hands in front of him to act as a shield.


The Yeti's reaction is pretty violent— it just clubs the reindeer's skull in with a shocking celerity, stepping aside at the last momment so the corpse flies past and plows up a violent runnel of earth and ice with those huge antlers. Strange goes flying, too, and finds out quickly that the heavy frostfall on the ground covers very cold, hard earth.

"Hrgnh." The yeti approaches Strange, with equal parts curiousity and wariness in its tiny, squinting features. "Another one. You one of 'em hairless ones," he tells Strange. "You here for the yellow one? She bit two of us. Angry little thing for being so small. Tarkatuk's not gonna be happy that her sire is here, unless you got some kinda tribute in hand."


His breath leaves his body in a painful-sounding OOOFT as he impacts the frozen turf after flying over the now-broken antlers of the very-much-dead reindeer. Strange rolls a few times before coming to a wobbly splayed stop on one side. He lets out a soft groan and slowly pushes himself onto one hip; gods above, his shoulder - previously injured in the Hellmouth incident - is now burning as if someone had taken a baseball bat to it. Prodding the area doesn't help and merely causing him to bite at his lip.

Oh…wonderful. As the Yeti guard saunters over and looms above him, Strange smacks his lips in disgust; he's bitten the inside of his mouth upon landing. One of his cheekbones feels like it's swelling up despite the cold air swirling around them.

"Yes, I'm here for the yellow one," the good doctor growls, his voice sounding nearly as gravelly as the Yeti-creatures after nearly blowing his vocal chords with the reindeer summoning, "and just…take me to this Tarkatuk already." He gets to his feet with a grimace and then stands as tall as he can, shoulders back and chin tilted upwards, subtly posturing for strength and resilience. "I ask to speak with him as an equal, Caller to Caller."


"Caller, huh. Okay. C'mon, let's go talk to Tarkatuk. Been a while since I saw two Callers fight." The yeti seems… chill? About the entire issue. It rips off a haunch from the reindeer and eats the drumstick hungrily, bone and sinew cracking as it tears into still-warm, bloody flesh. There are no doors to the castle, just archways. It seems the yetis have never invented ironworking, given the preponderance of ice and rock in their architecture, and heavy bone weapons.

"TARKATUK!" the guard bellows into the hall, dropping the head of his club into the stone underfoot. It's a bit warmer inside, thanks to the dozen odd yetis in the cavern. It's large, by yeti standard, but positively huge by Strange's. A lean, emaciated looking yeti adorned in crude cold and much animal livery— furs, bone, teeth.

"A Caller is here! He's looking for th' angry little yellow one!"

The yeti steps aside to let Strange make his case to the skinny Caller glaring at him.


Strange can't help the mildly disgusted facial expression as he watches arterial blood pool out from the gaping hole left in the reindeer's hip. There's the briefest flicker of concern about the thing dying of blood loss, but then his frazzled logic catches up to him. It's clearly past saving.

He follows in the Yeti-guard's shadow as they make their way into the icy fortress. Despite the slight cant to one side, where he's favoring his shoulder still, his tired state masks a mind running on adrenaline. His eyes shift all about, weighing chances, making and scratching plans on the fly, noting all of the visible entrances and exits. He and his guide enter the most central portion of the castle, some sort of large throne room, and he can't help but be ruefully impressed. The domed ceiling is high above him, dozens of feet, and he can see the twinkling stars through decorative gaps. Dozens of smaller (well, to the Yeti standard of 'small') archways line each wall, roughly elegant somehow.

His Cloak swishes against the back of his calves as his guide comes to a halt and then steps adroitly around the Yeti-guard. His gaze slides from one side of the room to the other. It's disastrous, how many bodies are present. And that one in particular…

Strange takes a few steps forwards and pauses once again, within the Venn'd sweep of two circles of light from the hefty torches that line the walls on either side of the room. He offers a courtly bow, directing his wince at the floor, and then stands tall again; he makes certain to leave his feet in a skewed, readied stance, not entirely facing the one they call 'Tarkatuk'.

"I am Stephen Strange, Sorcerer Supreme of Earth, and I come for my ward, the female you call 'yellow one'. I speak to you as a Caller of the reindeer. Return her to me."


Tarkatuk gets to his feet, quivering with anger at Strange's intrusion. Weirdly the other yetis… just seem /bored/. As if they couldn't be bothered to intervene as Tarkatuk finds his dignity assaulted.

"Words are meaningless, hairless one," Tarkatuk booms in a resonant voice. "You are no /caller/. You don't speak to the Reindeer Spirit, or commune with the sun," he hisses. "Just a charlatan, like the yellow one— who fell among us like a snowflake and could harm not even the least of us."

"Don't you have new bite marks from her?" one of the yetis asks Tarkatuk.

"Silence!" Tarkatuk hisses. The yeti shakes its head and ambles off, leaving the two of them staring at one another.

"I am Tarkatuk ,and I am the Caller for this tribe. I bring the reindeer and the sun, and ward off the frostrains and the howlers from the north. I take the yellow one as captive, and you shan't have her back unless payment is made." His eyes narrow at Strange.


Strange lowers his chin just enough to give the impression of looking down his nose at the Yeti shaman. He's able to hold back the amusement of hearing Illyana resort to such an effective form of self-defense and then the following pondering about hairs stuck in her teeth, but only barely. His head tilts to one side as his eyes narrow across the distance between them.

"Words… Words mean much to the Callers of my Realm," he says in a voice that seems eerily quiet in the large room. It's the same tone that would strike terror into the bones of anyone who knew him well enough. He raises his left hand with a quarter-turn in the wrist that leaves the back facing towards Tarkatuk. "We do not take them lightly nor bandy them about meaninglessly." It takes him a few moments of time to draw the power needed for the spell from the Eye of Agamotto and the citrine gemstone within its caged design slowly comes to light. "I am Sorcerer Supreme, and I am Caller for my Realm. I bring justice and light, and ward off those who would harm my people." His Cloak and loose portions of clothing begin to ripple as if catching rising heat as do the dark strands of untamed hair on his head. A gloving of misty orange light appears around his upraised hand and seems to tremble in time with his own heartbeat - thudthud, the spell pushes pressure on the air around him; flashflash, the orange goes nearly white and back in measured cadence. "I will not say it again: return her to me."

The spell lays coiled, ready to strike with elementally-heated grace in the chilled confines of the room. If it seems that the torches dance a bit brighter, it may be true.


Tarkatuk chuffs at Strange, and the yetis look at Strange in surprise as he actually summons magic— real magic— to his beck and call.

"Still small. And hairless," Tarkatuk grouses. "You have power, but this is not /your/ realm. This is Tarkatuk's realm, the Frostfall Glacier," he booms. The yetis start to get a little roused as his words draw power, shaped and given form by them.

"I am the Caller of this tribe. I bring the sun, banish the rains. Can /you/ feed them? Can /you/ challenge me to bring to the tribe what they require?" he demands. It becomes apparent why they are so reliant on the angry yeti— not for his personality, but because he's the shaman who helps feed and protect them against the extreme climate of this world.


"I have no need to challenge you, Tarkatuk, unless you refuse to return the Yellow One," Strange replies calmly. He's quite comfortable within the radiant heat of the spell emanating from his outstretched hand. It was a task to pull the magic into being here, in this alternate Realm, but now that it exists, it's taken to staying within his control quite nicely. It seems to want to stretch sinuously about beyond the reaches of his limb, but only so far and nowhere enough to indicate a loss of direction. "Give her back and I offer my promise to never return to this place as payment. Continue to refuse and you will force my hand." A hissing, like the sound of a branding, issues from the spell wrapped about his fingers.

It's as simple and deadly as that.


"She is /mine/. Right of capture," Tarkatuk growls. "You want her, you must prove you're a stronger caller than me. She's meat— eventually. For now, she lives until I decide what to do with her. Her magic is weak, but she has the Call, and her sword left many of us numb and weak. Strangely, that blade that sheds no blood could not be held by any but her."

"But you're NOT a caller," he sneers at Strange. "You're a hairless ape with a cheap trick of glamour and illusion. You have no Blood, no right to Call, and the Gods do not favour you. So-" Tarkatuk grips the air, and shadows boil around his heavy, sharp claws— sharper than most Yeti, clearly a sign of rank or position.

"Ready yourself, /meat/."

Tarkatuk grips the air and flings a shadowy bolt of chilled frost at Strange, so sharp and cold that the moisture in the air cracks in its wake. The yetis scramble in panic— despite their disdain for him, they're clearly not going to stand around as the two magi throw down.


White-furred simian chaos! Strange is far more used to the magician's duels of his Earth, with ritual and pomp and circumstance and everyone staying quite still to avoid distracting the casters for fear of mis-aimed spells.

It's akin to someone smacking into another's elbow at a gathering: a frightened Yeti ricochets off of another of its kin and blunders past the Sorcerer, broad limbs sweeping to keep its balance. Its huge gnarled hand slams into his hip, squarely, and sends him spinning despite any of his body's attempt to remain planted. The spell's confines are displaced and it erupts out into a firecracker of swirling embers and phantom iridescent scales. Strange is lucky enough to be knocked aside; the Tarkatuk's deadly ice magic skims the edge of his bicep, leaving frostbite in its wake. Strange lets out a strangled yell, gripping at the painfully chilled point of his body, and bares his teeth at the distant form of the shaman.

The panicked Yetis of the lower court still run about, though they seem to be lessening in number, likely because they're disappearing into distant rooms and halls to avoid being hit by the flying spells. Strange throws up his right hand and uses the tingling agony of the now-weeping wound to crystallize his willpower. He aims for the gigantic panel of decorative ice sculpture that hangs down above the Tarkatuk and shouts, "DIJA'INA PATANA !!!" This magic is translucent and wings up in a tight arrow to the weakest points of the design, clearly intending for gravity to be the final decision-maker in its demise.


Tarkatuk flings a claw skywards and re-freezes the ice sculpture before it can do more than crack and start to fall— Strange now knows who the major architectural designers for the yetis are. And ice magic comes as effortlessly to them as breathing, it seems. The ice grows like a hideous wart, surging and plastering the injured column back together.

Tarkatuk doesn't stand around admiring his handiwork, either— he rushes Strange like a demented juggernaut, slavering and roaring with anger. The talons dig huge gouges in the earth, throwing up ice and earth as he barrels towards Strange with a shocking amount of speed to tear him apart with his bare talons.


Stymied by the Tarkatuk's inherent knowledge of the ice element itself, the man has but a moment to realize that the Yeti shaman is intending to gut him with his bare hands. Drawing once again on the eldritch power stored away in the Eye of Agamotto, Strange takes a leap off to an angle as to the approach of the enraged Yeti. His crimson Cloak swishes in a bull-fighter's draw and then…there are many of him.

Seeming to spawn from the empty air itself are five separate forms of Strange, all identical down to the scarring of his hands and the lambent glowing glare. Whichever form the Tarkatuk swipes at disintegrates in a fluff of colored sparkles, leaving four Sorcerers standing with hands raised in counter-signs of imminent casting.

"Tarkatuk!" they yell in perfect unison, "Stand down!"

Meanwhile, the main Strange is furiously attempting to will together a psychic ping to his apprentice. It's hard as hell, like scrabbling through layers of wispy stuffing in light of his divided focus on his illusion spell, but he finally gets off a short faint message asking which distant exit archway leads to the dungeons:

~ Here. Where? Left or right? ~


Tarkatuk comes up short, shocked at Strange's trick. He slashes through them one at a time, but it's such a disorienting tactic that he attacks two twice each— snuffling and without any sense of logic or procedure, claws tearing holes in the ground. "Tiny one! I will EAT YOU!" he screams, gathering more ice and shadow and flinging it in a badly aimed ball of raw frostbite that slaps into the wall like a clear tumescence.

Strange's spell gives him an instant response— up and to the left. It's not a complex architecture, laid out in straight lines and clear corners, and with giant, yeti-frriendly stairs. It's only two stories up to Illyana, and by the time Tarkatuk realizes he's been duped, Strange has more than enough time to get to his apprentice's cell.

Illyana sticks her face against rocks that have been carved into a heavy boulder, obstructing the entrance. It's a clever design— moving a single rock will allow even a weakling to slide the entire rock pile aside easily enough.

"Strange! I am /glad/ to see you!" Illyana says, face peaked and haggard with cold and hunger. "Hurry! Whatever you did to trick them, I'm sure it will not last long before they find your ruse!"


With a final glance over his injured shoulder, he sees the Yeti shaman fall not to magical prowess, but to simple frustration. There's no guard by the far left stairwell and he begins jogging up the larger-than-life stairs. No one impedes him on his way up and he leaves the sounds of chaos far behind. His breath puffs before his face as he climbs yet another set of stairs and finally bursts through the entry archway to the celled holding area of the Yeti fortress.

"Illyana!" He rushes over to the huge boulder and cranes his head to see its impossible height. He heard her voice from behind it and lets out an audible sound of anger at this barrier. His eyes dance over it to see the thinnest gap between the rounded edge of the condensed granite and the chiseled line of the icy cell walls. Darting to it, he lets out a sigh of relief. There she is, pale and shadowed of eyes, but alive. "Thank the gods," he whispers as he reaches towards it. He barks his knuckles in attempting to reach through it to her and dark blood wells in the scratches as he draws back his hand. "Illyana, hold on, we'll be home shortly."

When he goes to back away from the minute gap, his heel catches on a protrusion from the floor and he has to catch himself from falling. It's the smaller rock and he sees it now, the clever architecture that keeps the larger boulder in place. The wedge of granite weighs no more than a sack of flour and with a grunt, he removes it from its place in the sunken track. With it removed, the track is clear and he shoves his uninjured shoulder against the dense ball of earth in order to get it moving. It takes enough effort that color suffuses Strange's cheeks, making the growing bruise beneath his right eye darken further, but finally, it begins to roll. The darker hallway is brightened by the light shining through a space now just wide enough for Illyana to slip through.


Illyana helps shove the rock aside and crashes into Stephen's arms. "Bozhe moi, I thought I was dead," she sobs, clinging to him. "Every day, they talked about eating me. Then that Shaman, somehow— he cut me off. No magic, no stones, even. I could summon my sword but it's of little use against stone and ice."

She grips the air and summons her blade back to her again, exultation on her features as her unfettered magic returns. She swells with inky black power as she draws instantly on Limbo, refilling her reserves to all the strength she can physically top off.

"Did you put them all to sleep? Hex them? Trick them from the tower?"

She hears a roar and peeeeers at the stairs, then peeeeeeeers at Strange.

"He's still /alive/?"


Strange turns from pushing the boulder and has a split-second of time before she collides with him. He lurches a bit as her slight weight slams into him and a wave of pain crosses his face even as he wraps his arms about her. Oh, gods above…the impish waif is alive and sobbing into his vest. Still - his hand slides around to cup the back of her grimed hair and he lets out a slow sigh of relief.

Then she turns within the confines of his arms and he feels the draw of Limbo's presence along his bared skin as the Soulsword flares to life in her outstretched palm. Normally, he would tartly remind her of drawing on the dark Realm's gifts, but this is an emergency and he'll let it slide…for now.

"Yes, he's still alive," he grumbles as he leans to look down the stairwell, leaving one arm about her ribs. He can't see the Tarkatuk or his Yeti minions, but that roar sounded far less than friendly, so he assumes that they're on their way. "Illusory magic is a tricky thing and doesn't necessarily involve death. I'll teach it to you so that you can accomplish something beyond lopping off a head," he says aside to her, giving her a faintly-amused smirk.

What he won't tell her is that he's burnt through over half of his stores of magic already. They'll have a fight on their hands and he isn't beneath pulling another crafty move to get out alive. Still…perhaps they have a chance. Finally, he disengages from the soothing hold he’s had on her small frame, senses that she’s had enough time to feel control of her surroundings once again. Wiggling his fingers at his sides, he lets out a short huff. "Keep them in the stairwell, they can only come at us one at a time this way."


Illyana nods at Strange and grips her sword in both hands, eyes lidding. She summons Limbo to her— the magic of that plane flies at her even across worlds, and wraps her in shadow and light that swiftly resolves itself into planes of hard pauldrons, vambraces, and greaves. Not much core protection, but— she does have that terrible sword. Her skirt and leggings flow into existence around her, stealing that magic that Strange had accidentally demonstrated for her long ago.

Then she cries out in frustration. "Damn! He's still suppressing me!" she tells Strange, grating her teeth. "I cannot summon my steps, or magic beyond Limbo's power to my hand," she says, her accent thick with stress and frustration. "We must get away from him, quickly, or… I will have to find other solution for empowering myself," she say, eyes growing dark and angry.

More howls well up from below, and she looks at Strange in desperation. "Well, Rescue phase of plan is going well. Is Escape part of plan going to be a clever one?"


A short hiss presses through his bared teeth as he glances away from Illyana and down the stairwell. He can see the bobbling shadows of the Yeti-creatures. That the Shaman can continue to dampen her powers is a point of terrible fate to him; he had hopes lying on his apprentice's abilities.

"I won't lie to you, Illyana, I dearly wanted for you to be able to use the magic I've taught you, but we'll make do on the fly," he replies to her. "Check that far window," he points down the length of the jail room, in the opposite direction of Strange and the approaching hoard. "Tell me if we would survive the jump. I'll keep them in the stairwell."

Whether Illyana goes immediately or not, Strange will take advantage of the elemental interplay between fire and ice. Again, it takes him enough time that the furred and taloned hand of a Yeti slams around the corner of the bottom wall, groping blindly and defensively, but an orb of elemental fire about the size of a pumpkin is tossed down the stairs. It contacts the very bottom-most step with a KER-CRACK-SIZZLE of opposing factions and leaves a puddled, structurally-unsound area as well as singed fur and yowling pained cries.


Illyana checks the window. "Uh… survive yes, enjoy fall— not so much," Illyana says. "But is doable."

She grips her Soulsword tight and sets her jaw, hard, moving to Strange's side. "I can attack shaman again. If I can get my sword in him," she says, hefting her blade, "I can drain him— neutralize. Then, enough power for us to return home."

"Or I can summon Limbo to me," she tells Strange. "Would be very noisy and violent, but can blow down entire castle if we must. I cannot go home, so— home comes to me." She gives him a wary look— she knows well his feelings about using her darkling powers. "If you have better plan, now is good time to share."


Ack - it's almost literally a rock and a hard place. More like a crowded hallway full of angry Migoi or a fall almost guaranteed to break at least one bone in his body. He's not certain if he has enough power left to fight back to the main 'throne room', but…if the spell preceded them…

"No, no Limbo," Strange maintains with a half-hearted frown as he glances over to her. "Not here, not if we can help it." It's as tempting to him as to her, blowing this cold, unforgiving place to kingdom-come, but he doesn't want to leave that impression with the locals, just in case of the future impossibility of them ending up in this reality once again. "Let me…let me try this one more time, now that they can't reach us." His blue eyes are dark as well, but not with Limboan influence, with the shadowing of furrowed brows as he stares down at the half-melted landing. One Yeti-guardsman has tried to step across the fractured section, but quickly retreated when it began to crackle ominously beneath his weight. The bone-tipped spear is flung at him from around the corner with great speed, but careens off the wall and clatters short of the Sorcerer, now with one hand raised and a familiar-looking pounding spell of sunset and scales wrapped about his fingers. He glances to Illyana once again; the centers of his irises glow reptilian-red. "Ready for the final push?" he asks her softly, carefully, mindful of her previous interactions with these creatures.


Illyana nods, gripping her sword tight and settling her hips low and ready. The bone spear bounces off the ice and she ducks from it reflexively, almost slipping on the ice underfoot and risking a terrible disaster with the two of them atop the ice-covered stairs. She's tired and hungry, face drawn tight with fatigue from her long imprisonment. Still— she's standing up, holding Strange in one arm in an attempt to help bolster him as well.

"Da. I can fight. If you can get me near the shaman— I can fight better." She hefts her sword menacingly.


"I will leave the Shaman to you," Strange says as an aside. He's distantly appreciating her grip about his waist; his knees are beginning to tremble from the exertion of holding this spell docile. "And…here we go." His chest caves and then rises as he inhales and roars, "LASHINGA BAHRAHTA FINGUKU!!!"

This is the thwarted spell, the one scattered by unfortunate surprise and elbows knocked-askew. In a sizzling eruption of scything spectral light and writhing scales and multi-headed, dagger-toothed radiance, a three-headed Mystically-composed Pyredra rushes down the stairwell at the single wide-eyed Yeti who dares to peek around the corner. It's a huge creature, the size of an elephant, only able to bullrush down the stairwell due to its elementally-based composition. Ascertaining why the hairless small ones weren't coming down becomes a deadly mistake.

With a grunt and spasm of his hand in response to releasing the reins on this casting, Strange watches the Pyredra disappear around the far corner with a shrieking, sizzling cry. Panting, he quickly wraps an arm around Illyana's ribs and begins to dash down the rapidly-collapsing steps on the spell's literal tail. Between the two of them, they catch one another if a slip on the half-watered steps occurs. It's a quick though slick travel down the two sets of stairs and evidence of the Pyredra's passing is blatant in the deeply-melted claw marks into the walls, in the ashy leavings on any exposed rock, in the stink of burnt blood that has spattered the walls. His spell has pushed back the Yeti-creatures into the biggest room of the bottom floor, where the Tarkatuk held sway, and Strange comes to a sudden halt, wincing at the brief swing of Illyana's weight against his injured shoulder. The Yeti-guardsmen, all wielding bone-bladed weapons, are fearfully poking at it to no avail. Any sort of contact with the Pyredra's skin ends in a screeching lash towards the poker and a red-heated blade edge. Only the Tarkatuk stands firm, dark eyes intent on the spell-creature, a humdinger of an ice-and-shadow spell growing between his bony and taloned hands.


"Mine," Illyana growls, spotting the yeti shaman. She releases Strange's waist and grips her sword, breaking into a trot, then a run, then screaming at the top of her lungs. The shaman looks a bit /shocked/ of all things, as Illyana rushes him with sword in hand. She holds it over her head and indecision becomes his undoing— torn between a physical response and a magical one, the shaman ends up with a half-formed magical spell in one set of talons and his empty hand grasping the air with the other. Illyana leaps forward and slashes her blade through his stomach, magic rippling into his sword. He exhales like he was just gutpunched, collapsing to one knee, and Illy's second slash smacks through his skull and the shaman groans and slumps to the ground, unconscious.

"Catch!" Illyana sings at Strange, gleefully— and aims her sword at him. Magic ripples through the air and slams into him full strength as Illyana serves her mentor up a hot fresh serving of the magical energy she'd just stolen from the yeti, trying to recharge his mystical batteries.


Strange's eyes dilate to near blackness and then flush entirely ice-blue as he's smacked, full in the chest and centered overtop the Eye, with raw magic. It's like sticking a finger in an electrical socket. The Sorcerer lets out a cough of shock and falls to one knee, gripping at his heart as the magic realigns itself to suit his needs, to flow into his dwindling reserves and then into the gemstone hanging from his neck. A high-pitched ringing, pure like a finger-touched crystal glass, echoes around the room. The Pyredra, just pulling away from snapping at another leery Yeti-guard, hears this sound and whips around to hiss menacingly towards its creator. Tendrils of smoke leak from each of its three gap-fanged mouths; its eyes, pupiless and full of white heat, mirror the brightest of each breath in each throat, much like the fanning of a bellows.

The good doctor gets to his feet and immediately focuses on the rampant spellwork before him. It's enough raw magic for him to banish his errant casting and he shouts to Illyana beyond the flaming beast,

"Illyana, run for the door! Get outside!" He can see the delicate icy architecture of the place beginning to melt and runnels of water are forming around the edges of the Pyredra's stance; it's too hot closer to it and steam is rapidly filling the room. With white knuckles, the Sorcerer forms both hands into the counter-signs of banishing and yells, "/NIYANTRANA J'VALA!!!/" Strings of fiery light swarm out from his fingers and quickly lasso the three heads together. They collide skulls with a hollow-sounding klunk, more 'heard' in the Mystical sense rather than with true ears, and the thing utters a raspy howl before disintegrating into a gigantic pile of black ash. It crumbles to the icy floor and a few glittering scales flutter down like errant flower petals. Strange is left standing utterly victorious and nearly exhausted; his eyes are glazed with effort as he peers across the room for Illyana through the lingering steam.


There's a battlecry from across the room— it sounds like some fel incantation, and something ugly and green fills the room. Illyana rushes at Strange— no. She /flies/ at Strange, like a demented comet, and grabs him under his arms with two remarkably strong hands. Light streaks behind her as she flies at the castle's exit, amidst a yowl of screaming yetis.

"We should really be going! Forgot to cap the spell!" she shouts over the din of air and fury from a winter storm. "Not sure how long until—"

There's a massive ker WHUMPH from the castle, and even a hundred yards back the concussion sends them both flying through the air, to slam into deep but soft snowbanks. The castle bursts apart, stone and ice flying in every direction and pelting them with debris.

Illyana sticks her head up from the snowdrift, looking for Strange. She's bruised and cut, ears ringing, and looking dazed. "I always forget, remind me— trick to tying off spell. Is end on positive or negative?" she inquires, before flopping on her face in exhaustion.


He's able to keep track of what's going on up until the point of the concussive wave catching them up like errant foam in a wave and tumbling them through the air. Strange closes his eyes instinctively and then him and his strangled yell are stuffed unceremoniously into the moderate depths of a snowbank. He's landed back-first and bits of half-frozen rock, still fogging with that emerald smoke, land about him. One piece bounces off his shin as he's extricating himself slowly, feeling every one of his body's many complaints.

There's even snow down his shirt.

Biting at his lip, he tiredly shakes out the undershirt beneath his battle vest and glances over when he hears Illyana's voice to his left. The snow slips beneath one foot as he tries to get up and reach her before she collapses, but to no avail; he ends up kneeling in the snow instead and the poor thing faceplants into cold snow. He grunts as he gets to his feet and limps briskly over. His brows knit in concern as he reaches beneath her armpits to pull her from the snowbank with gentle force. It reveals her level of senselessness, that she doesn't move much even as Strange gathers her into his arms carefully, cradling her much like a small child, allowing her legs to hang over one arm and her cheek to rest against his chest.

"Home…and bed," he mutters, his voice nearly gone from willpowered battle castings. "And tea." As he adjusts her once more, making sure that she won't slip from his trembling grip, he glances over his shoulder. The castle is…mostly destroyed. Some sections stand, but he can see no movement save for the faint coiling green of the remnants of the uncapped spell. A chill breeze brushes against him, sending his Cloak fluttering and reminding him with an icy zing that he's also sporting a nasty cut somewhere along the edge of his right temple. "You tie off a spell on the note of intent, either positive or negative," he says quietly down to his apprentice, his gaze quickly flashing over her to make note of any larger visible wounds. If she replies, he'll hear it, no matter how softly she speaks.


"Yessir," Illy mumbles. Outside of the castle, she's shivering violently at the cold. They get to the passing point between worlds, and she buries herself in Strange's chest, hugging him for warmth unashamedly. She looks around, then holds a shivering hand out. A glowing, weak yellow circle springs to life around them— and two steps later, the two of them are in Limbo. The warmth is shocking after that profound, bitter cold, and Illyana stirs against Strange's side.

"Can… you get us… to Sanctum?" she asks, still shivering with exhaustion.


The heat of Limbo is welcome. Strange is glad to be back in this reality, this universe, and the Eye of Agamotto immediately flushes him with previously-restricted power. It's like a drink of water after a torturous trek. A shifting in Illyana's weight and he's unable to cradle her any longer. With a wince, he lets her body slide down his side until she leans heavily against him. Her feet touch the rocky terrain of her kingdom, but only barely - he's able to whisper "Changa!" and the wash of cooling healing strengthens him enough to provide a firm supportive hold around Illyana's lower ribs. Subconsciously, he can tell that he doesn't quite have enough human gumph left in him to risk healing Illyana; rest and tea will do them both more good than a chancy attempt that could leave him literally comatose.

He can see that she's trying so hard to be strong and continues to hold her against him without any sort of embarrassment-inducing acknowledgement. "Yes, the Eye can take us home," he replies roughly as he wraps his free hand about the encaged gemstone. This is different than a gating spell; it's more of the Realm of Limbo washing out around them in a disorienting veil of incense and a glitter of a thousand intelligent eyes and then, their vision returns. The Loft, upstairs in the Sanctum.

Strange helps her walk over to his settee, where he collapsed after the Hellmouth incident, and gathers her up on it. He unclasps the Cloak from his shoulders and drapes it over her; perhaps it will stave off the shivering. A hand is extended and then held aloft over her trembling frame in indecision. Then it descends, giving his apprentice's bony shivering shoulder a gentle squeeze. "We both need tea - and this time, you'll drink it," he rasps, ever the stern mentor. Still, as he limps over to the ever-warming tea kettle and pours for them both, he's smiling faintly.

For all this mess…they're both alive. She acted with thoughtfulness instead of pure battle-fury and — then he remembers the uncapped spell. His glance over his shoulder to her crimson-wrapped form is narrow, but still…the hint of a smile lingers.


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