1963-09-30 - Knock, Knock, Who's There?
Summary: Drawn to the Hellmouth is an old friend, Baron Mordo, who becomes the newest player in this Strange game of chess.
Related: None
Theme Song: None
strange mordo 

Ever since the Hellmouth opened in Central Park, New York City, the leylines have been… disturbed. The leylines form a network of magical energies underneath the ground, much like any other network. They can go on for miles, intersecting in places of power all over the globe.

People build those places of power because the leylines are there.

Normally, the magic resonating from them is like unto music, but on this foggy Autumn night, they vibrate like out-of-tune guitar strings — as if impish toddlers were fiddling with the tuning knobs and pluck-pluck-plucking away…

The cacophony calls to anyone and everyone who can hear it… something is wrong. Something is wrong. Before long, the music will change, and New York itself will play a different tune altogether.

Hidden by shadows, not far from the Hellmouth, a crack appears in the ground.

In the same moment, water — opaque in hue, a deep, dark green — bubbles up through the crack until it forms a circular pool. In the moments that follow the water rises, and rises until it becomes a veritable statue of rippling, swirling energy —

— and then it drops as though someone had burst a bubble full of the miry liquid, leaving the figure of Baron Mordo, garbed all in green, standing there. "So this is what has been making all the racket," says he with a smile. "There, there," he continues with a forward step, looking toward the Hellmouth. "I'm here now; you needn't worry."


The conditioning of the Sanctum's wards has recently changed. Only those continually present in the house would note it and they would likely stop whatever menial task they were doing in a moment of realization: the normally-harmonic resonance of the Dragon ley lines beneath the house is muted. It was Strange's latest response to the Hellmouth and its disastrous effects on the surrounding city of New York. The man himself has been pouring over tome after tome (when he isn't busy making sure that his apprentice stays far enough away from the place…it's insidiously attractive to her, somehow, and that chills his blood…) and in this moment, he's still at it.

Strange hovers, cross-legged with a spectacularly olde and rare tome open across the X of his shins, with half-lidded eyes that are shadowed with meditative focus. This particular text is an utter pain to decrypt, since it requires more than one set of eyes on it (literally - he's having to utilize his Mystical vision granted by Agamotto to see between the lines, as it were), but he has this faint memory of a brief discussion on portals to hellish underworlds somewhere within the pages.

Ambient light from outside shines onto him through the Window to the Worlds. As he slowly turns one of the fragile sheets, with its faded brown script, his gaze slowly rises up towards the ceiling of the Loft. The expressions on his face shift smoothly from disconnected calmness to concerned consternation as he senses…the ley lines dancing to a different discordant tune.

"What in the name of Agamotto…?" he mutters as he unfolds himself from the Lotus position. With clearly-distracted movements, he steps down from the platform and manages to find a flat surface to set the tome on before turning back towards the window as something tugs at him insistently.

In response to another recent spellworking he's done within the confines of the Sanctum, his 'trip alarm' goes off, and immediately goes to work showing Strange what caused its reaction. The view of the city beyond the Anomaly Rue window whites out and each individual glass pane-shaped ray of light angles towards a central point about eye-level over the wooden platform, inscribed with its sigils of warding. The good doctor watches, with bated breath, as the beams of light begin to weave themselves into a form: human and male, by its build - and then the colors begin to fill in, lightened, not-quite-true to hue, mostly in green. The magical hologram of this man is being projected in real-time and his focus is apparently somewhere beyond Strange's left shoulder, as the projection turns to face it…

And Strange's world momentarily drops out from beneath his feet.

His heart thud-thuds loudly in shock and his long-held breath is released in a near-to-choking laugh of conflicted emotion. "What…??" he breathes, taking a step towards the magical projection. He knows that face, he knows that self-assured stance, he even knows that expression - that thoughtful expression shadowed with knowledge and assuredly sub-machinations. The last time he'd seen that was — Strange's brows suddenly dive down into a sharp frown and he turns on a heel towards the Eye of Agamotto, lying within its cage. It takes a wave of his hand to summon the necklace to his person and the Cloak of Levitation darts over like a bloodied bird of prey to clasp about his shoulders.

It's easy enough to gate his way to the site of the Hellmouth and the Sorcerer Supreme arrives with a dramatic opening of one of his signature portals, rimmed in golden lightning, and sending a wave of Mystical energy before him, like the first gust of wind before a thunderstorm. His eyes quickly find the man and he stands there, lips slightly parted in voiceless consideration, clearly hunting out the words to say, before he glances quickly behind him. The portal collapses with an audible crackling and spark into nothingness.

Finally, with subtle hesitance beneath the deep timbre of his voice: "I didn't expect to see you here."


"…any moment now…" Mordo finds himself murmuring, still in that same, crooning tone of voice, like a mother soothing her mewling child (the child being the leyline-convergence beneath his feet). When Strange appears through his portal, the baron looks over his shoulder at the man, then turns around to face him.

"And yet, my brother, your arrival is entirely predictable," he remarks in that aloof voice of which he is so fond. He holds the tone, and the placid expression upon his face for just a few seconds longer before breaking into a wry laugh.

Mordo steps forward and clasps Strange by the shoulders, pulling the man into a fierce, brotherly embrace before stepping back to arms-length once more. "It is good to see you once again, Stephen," he exclaims with a final slap of both hands against Strange's shoulders. "Although one wishes it were under better circumstances…"


Strange is momentarily hesitant to return his old friend's hug, but muscle memory born of long-influence and fondness overtakes him. He grunts as he returns the brotherly hug and returns the friendly swats on the shoulders with a one-handed squeeze of Mordo's arm.

"I can't agree more," he replies wryly. He glances over at the distant glowing cavern of the Hellmouth and if one looks very closely, they would see the tiniest quiver in his frame. Fear? Anger at this otherwordly intrusion? With a roll of his shoulders and a sigh, his steel-blue eyes flick back to Mordo. "But honestly, Karl, what are you doing here? I would be beating a long-dead horse, but that…mess over there," and he sweeps his hand dismissively at the Hellmouth; "is nothing to meddle with. I don't want to have to save you again." The lines of Strange's goatee quirk as he gives his friend a teasing grin, even as he folds his arms, a subtle hint of warning to his body language.


Mordo smiles at the jibe, but it does not reach his eyes — which seem hollow, sad, if only for a tiny moment. Instead, he takes a step toward the Hellmouth, his footfalls landing upon solid…


One, two, three… four… each step carries him a little higher into the air, and each step falls upon… a brick, a paver, a numberplate… a newspaper… Each one is drawn mystically up from the ground to serve the man walking upon it, and he moves as if none of it were happening.

The baron pauses, hands once again upon his hips, gazing at the Hellmouth speculatively, almost trance-like. One could hear a pin drop in those moments, before he turns back to look at Strange and gestures to him with a hand.

"We are, both of us, masters of the arcane, my old friend," says he with just a subtle hint of 'school-teacher reminding an errant pupil' in his voice. "We do not merely 'meddle'."

He stops.

He frowns. A crooked finger goes to his lips, and he laughs. "No. No, actually we do. We meddle quite a bit, you and I. Meddle, meddle, meddle… Come now, Stephen. This is exactly why we were trained, why we were cho — why you were chosen. Are you really going to say no to a little help?"


One of Strange's dark brows slowly rises up as he listens to Mordo 'lecture' him. It unburies deeply-lost memories and plucks nerves he hadn't felt in a long time. It wouldn't be too far from the truth to say that he's hard-pressed to keep his posture from closing off further. A bubble of ego rises up and nearly spills from his mouth in terse words during the brief pause in Mordo's spoken thoughts, but then, hot on its heels comes further memories, gently-spoken and painfully-true reminders by the Ancient One that he must attempt (if not embody) patient wisdom in order to wield his mantle.

A breathy huff of a laugh escapes his parted lips as his gaze slowly rises from the first of the floating bits of debris and up to Mordo's form. Always the subtle show-off, dear Karl.

It takes the merest whisper of willpower and the Cloak of Levitation allows Strange to take a graceful step from the ground. He then rises up to hang before Mordo, hands relaxed at his sides. "I've put aside meddling for more important things over the last few years…unless you would call 'banishing a portal to hell' meddling. In that case, I just can't contain myself." There's that same faint smirk as his focus slides briefly to the glowing cave and back to Mordo. "I appreciate any help you can give me that leads to its complete removal from this Realm." His old friend then receives a look that his apprentice Illyana would be very familiar with: the keenly-intelligent, scalpel-edged, blue-hued attempt to see beyond the mask everyone wears when they speak to him, whether they know of their mask or not. "It calls to you, doesn't it."


"It is a Hellmouth," Mordo explains to his brother in the arcane, without looking at him. The man's eyes don't leave the Hellmouth at all, for the time being. He walks a few steps forward, each time his feet falling upon an object of some kind drawn up from the ground below.

"It calls to everyone — from the curious to the carnal. Those who turn away find themselves tormented by thoughts of what they 'might have seen' had they strayed just a little closer, peering inside… It is the 'forbidden fruit'…"

Mordo's words fade away into the wind, and he falls silent. After a handful of eerily quiet moments, he smiles and looks aside at his friend. "Which is why it must be closed, yes? I'd like to know how it came to be here. Who would open a Hellmouth and why? I should like to meet them!"

He turns about to look fully upon Strange, smiling. "But first things first, I am famished. How do you feel about Ch — ?" The baron never has the chance to finish the sentence, for his words are interrupted by an inhuman shriek that rising up from within the unholy cave beneath them. So twisted is the noise that it does not so much pierce the atmosphere as it molests it.

It is a sound that has no business being heard in this plane of existence. No doubt there are wards about this infernal gateway to the Nether. No doubt there are precautions. Whatever steps the Sorcerer Supreme has taken to keep things from coming through the Hellmouth, it does not stop denizens of the Other Place from trying…

The first tentacle to thrust its way up and out of the Hellmouth… goes for Strange — followed by several others.


Strange tucks his hands beneath his folded arms as he watches the Baron approach the Hellmouth still more. The wrinkle between his brows has not faded, perhaps become deeper; he doesn't like the amount of draw that this Hellmouth has on his long-time comrade, for reasons both friendly and dutiful.

At the question regarding the opener of said blight-in-the-Park, his light eyes look beyond Mordo's form to the infernal cave. They narrow in a clear moment of pure hatred. He still hasn't forgiven himself for exposing his back so broadly to the psychic dagger and he sure as hell won't be forgiving any spawn of the Hellmouth any time soon. Revenge is a dish he salivates for in terms of any dealings with demon-kin. Petty though it might be, and perhaps the Vishanti would look poorly on him for it, the good doctor cannot let go of the heavy weight of it, and it turns his mouth sour with every mention and interaction with the Hellmouth.

The mention of food, a neutral and light-hearted suggestion by Karl, brings Strange's focus back to his friend and his lips had just begun to form a friendly smile, his dark thoughts momentarily dispelled, when —- that sound!!!

Strange's instincts (and the warning clang of the wards he set around the edges of the Hellmouth's immediate reach into this Realm) allow him a crystallized moment of adrenaline-fueled response time and he's able to flit to one side to dodge the first reaching tentacle. Black, covered in a sort of putrescent ooze, it scythes the air between the two Magi and slams into the Earth with a meaty thud. Any straggling grass hisses and withers beneath its touch. Even as this one drags back towards the glowing cavern, clearly stung by the defensive capabilities of Strange's laid wards, others are flicking towards him with murderous intent. "Karl, BACK!" he yells, white-gold power suddenly lacing his aura. "Shield of Seraphim, at my call!" The three, no - four - wait, six tentacles all SMASH into the kinetic Mystical energy shield he's thrown up in a translucent orb about himself. Each impact sends a ripple of refracted force around the glittering globe and Strange grunts in time, both hands held up in counter-signs of self-defense. There's no reactive response to this shield, no sort of 'zapping' punishment, and only the wards can continue needling the tentacles back towards the Hellmouth. They all retreat and seem to regroup, writhing at the very edges of the defensive spells embedded into the pure Earth.


Baron Mordo… glowers.

Not at the Hellmouth, nor even at the mass of tentacles attacking them. No, he glowers mutedly at Strange — for telling him to 'get back'. <Am I a dog, to be ordered thus?> he wonders privately, but the man's ire is quickly turned upon a better target:

The demon.

Eyeing the Sorcerer Supreme out the corner of his eye, Mordo reaches behind himself and grasps the hilt of Sherab, made of pure darkwater from the Fountain of Knowledge itself. Drawing it forth in a single deft motion, and the nightemerald blade seems to leave a trail of dark green droplets and rivulets in the air. "A shield, Stephen?" he inquires in a raised voice. "For Vishantis' sake, fight back, man!" To demonstrate, the baron allows himself to drop from the air, and slashes with the morphic blade at the nearest tentacle.

The attack does not stop there.

The sword leaves a trail of watery substance in the air, a trail that quickly takes the shape of a rune or sigil as Mordo continues to wield it. It slices through one of the tentacles… and when the sigil is complete… it flashes once in bright green, and then violently unravels.

Every strand that breaks free, slices at a tentacle. More of the demon — clearly a big one, possibly a Circle Lord or the pet of one — slithers and tries to pull its way out of the Hellmouth. Every second it does, the wards batter away at it. The stench of seared… flesh? bubbles up from the thing, causing Mordo to dry retch briefly. He attacks with the sword again, getting in close to the Hellmouth.

The tentacles part — though still trying to break through Strange's barrier, and retaliate for Mordo's Word of Wounding — and the entire space of the hellish cave is taken up…

By a single, baleful eye.


Wreathed in shadow.

It stares directly at Mordo, and then past him at Strange. The next sound to roll out of the Hellmouth… is the beginning of an incantation of unravelling aimed at both sorcerers, invoking the name of a demon Strange knows… just as two tentacles wrap around Mordo.


”I will fight back, just give me a goddamn mo – KARL!”

Strange’s edged retort to his old friend’s battle-goading ends in a shout as he sees the tentacles make another effective push beyond the edges of his wardings. His focus has been defensively and watching Mordo wield that darkwater sword of his like a fell pen (though he’ll never admit to feeling grudgingly impressed with the show, not aloud).

The heavy gaze of the single demonic eye falls on him like a deadweight and his heart momentarily cringes in his chest. His mouth drops open in shock before he grits his teeth in a bulldog’s snarl and drops his Shield. The magic coalesces into dancing golden fireflies about his hands before melting into plasma-bright lines of ancient Mystic spells that rotate in sigil-bearing discs before each hand. “Let me shore up the wards!” he calls to the other Magi, hoping he’s heard through the wicked battle between Mordo and the tentacles attempting to squeeze the life from him. With a focus lance of will that has a literal effect on the world before him (his wards ripple visibly against this fabric of reality in cool-hued auroral shimmer), he begins a loud counter-chant to this demonic entity’s attempt at breaking through.

Your words are weak, your customs fail, begone fell fiend, beyond the pale!!!” And so Strange continues, reciting a powerful banishing spell in a language long-since lost to human knowledge and the passing centuries of time. His voice, deep and resonant, takes on a distorted tone, as if his vocal chords and Earth’s chilly air are not-quite-perfect for channeling the sheer depth of force demanded by the inherent composition of the casting. It’ll take a banishing spell of this magnitude to counteract the creature’s attempt, seeing as it called upon the name of B’terak, one of Chthon’s demon generals. The discs of neon-green before his hands flash brightly, like a stroke of verdant lightning, and the demonic eye flinches and rolls its gaze from him, unable to stare in the face of such light.


How the tentacles squeeze…

The sheer strength of them is horrific in enormity, and Mordo has two of them around him. Even amid the pain, to hear his friend and rival call out in concern for his wellbeing… elicits a smile on the baron's face. As the tendrils lift his body into the air, threatening to tear him asunder, Mordo closes his eyes…

And vanishes.

In fact, it appears as though the sorcerer is squished into an oily cloud of dark-green vapour that billows above and below the tentacles while they try to find a grip on him once more. The oily cloud churns and swirls, becoming something of a miniature whirlwind… and from it, the baron spins free.

And again.

And again.

And again.

Multiple images of the same man, each one seemingly acting of its own accord, break from each other like cells dividing. They are all clothed the same, look the same, they all bleed, all sweat… and all attack a different limb of the monstrosity. Not all are successful. One limb impales a 'Mordo' illusion, whose death-cries are disturbingly life-like — for an instant. It vanishes in a puff of oily smoke. Another illusion is torn apart, while another is thrown into the Hellmouth, yelling.

Regardless of their 'deaths', each illusion accomplishes its task: to by Stephen Strange time to force the demon back. Another 'Mordo' dies, his limbs ripped from his body, while another…

…raises his darkwater sword in the air, firing a beam of black energy into Stephen's own, reinforcing the banishment incantation. Mordo — the real Mordo — speaks:

"Ih'n yhl na'ffekh ftaghn, B'terak! Ftaghn! Soh'k. M'ehn!"

He may have just insulted the demon in its own tongue… and its mother.


It’s horrifying for Strange to watch the unreal copies of Mordo succumb to various injuries caused by the reaching tentacles that batter and momentarily breach his strengthening wards. His upper lip begins to twitch as he narrows his focus further, shutting out the world around him other than the potent leaf-green magic being funneled at the demon eye.

Then, thankfully just after he’s finished calling out another heavy-Worded ward-amplification, he hears his old friend tell the demon that its mother – oh gods below! A reel of laughter emerges from the good doctor and he has to quickly bite it off and swing his intent back towards the spellcasting or else lose the thread of the magic. He can feel the very moment that Mordo is able to send in an equally-effective bolt of his own flavor of magic and that is the final push the men need.

Strange’s translucent wards solidify in a split-second flash of auroral silver and SNIP – any tentacles remaining outside of its unforgiving wall are sundered. The demon’s cry shivers in the air, once against causing the hairs on Stephen’s body to rise. His Mystically-glowing eyes half-disappear as he winces at the sound and the lingering nausea-inducing smell of burnt flesh from the tentacles that writhe in slowly-dying wormy squirms upon the ground. Their last stand seems to bode well for them. The eye glares impotent death towards both Magi as it pulls its tentacles back towards the glowing Hellmouth. It seems to be on the retreat, well and truly thwarted. Strange keeps both hands raised before him, allowing the magic of banishing to very slowly trickle away into his reserves, just in case of one last rush by the Hellmouth’s denizen.


Severed tentacles and protuberances without name batter away at Strange's wards, like an undersea creature at the viewport of a submersible. Upon hearing Strange's laughter, Mordo glances up at him, his eyes gleaming. Without turning toward the Hellmouth and the demon trying to break through, Mordo raises his sword and makes an abrupt, dismissive downward cut with it.

The wards instantly turn opaque, sparing anyone else the sight of the monstrosity trying to break through. The baron waits there, sword held outward and down as though daring the demon to try again… and eventually the battering stops.

The Hellmouth grows still.

For now.

With another swish, Mordo slides the Sword of Sherab into its scabbard at his back, and picks his way across the ground to his friend's side. "That was bracing!" he exclaims with another smile, then breaking into laughter of his own. Immediately the man winces, putting a hand to his ribs. "Ftaghn!" he swears in the language of the Other, doubled over a bit. "I may have… cracked a rib. Or three, old friend." Mordo offers Strange a tight, rueful smile. "Also, I think I've lost my appetite."


The good doctor drops to the burnt grass with stilted grace as he dismisses the magics entirely, cutting off the levitating power of his Cloak. Trusting in Mordo’s outstretched sword and further shoring of the wards, he glances at the area of battle around them both.

Debris is everywhere. The tentacles and their smashing have sent the charmed aerial steps made of various bits of trash as far as the trunk of a tree, over thirty feet away; the numberplate sticks from the bark with two-thirds of the metal revealed, a disturbing show of physics. Strange doesn’t remember seeing the spellwork become dismantled by said demon and he’s soberly reminded of the after-effects of tornadic weather. He kicks at the remains of a mostly-dissolved tentacle tip and scowls down at it as it writhes weakly; a small push of will, flick of his wrist, and simple fire spell leaves it a bubbling puddle of indeterminate origin.

Movement in his peripheral – oh, it’s Karl. He picks his way towards his friend as well, stepping over a rather large branch ripped from a nearer tree and offers a white-toothed smile as he replies, “Bracing, I suppose.” The sight of his friend clutching at injured ribs turns his smile regretful. “I don’t think I’m up for dinner either, not after… Not after this very bad display of seafood. Calamari will never be the same.”

His steel-blue eyes flicker to the Hellmouth. The wards are still opaque, but he can make out the glow of the cavern through them. There’s no movement, not right now, and the knot in his stomach eases more. “Still, I would be remiss if you left this place hunched over like the old man you are,” he added, glancing back to Mordo with a twinkle of humor in his eyes despite the neutral set of his expression. “Allow me to heal them?”


Mordo hesitates.

He has healing magic of his own, but not the kind Strange would like to see… and for a moment, he entertains the notion of merely stubbornly putting up with the pain. He does not need Stephen's help. He does not need the Sorcerer Supreme's help. He does not —

"Thank you, if you'd be so kind."

Mordo smiles, despite the voice in his head yelling in protest. Stephen is his friend; he should allow his friend to be helpful…oh, how it riles him — and pleases him at the same time. Standing up straight, the baron lets his arms fall to his sides, and gives Strange a crisp nod.

"You had to mention calamari, didn't you…" he chides with a faint wince. "Thinking of noodles was bad enough. However…" and he pauses for another painful breath. "I'll gladly join you for a glass of wine — unless you've… already drunk the good stuff."

Again, he smiles.

Somehow, all this — coming back to New York, pondering the causality of Hellmouths and banish demons — at Stephen's side… it feels 'as it should be'. Such a pity it cannot, will not, last.


It’s as simple as the whispered word of “Changa” and the sky-blue magic that has been wreathing Strange’s fingers is wafted towards Mordo by the rolling gesture of both hands. It suffuses the man’s ribcage and the good doctor thinks that he already sees his old friend breathing easier for it.

“I couldn’t help it,” Strange says with a shrug as his hands return to his sides. “Though your noodle mention is far worse. Ugh.”

A faint laugh is given and then the Sorcerer Supreme shakes his head. “No wine at the Sanctum – sorry, old friend. Just tea and certainly nothing that would leave one hungover the next day. Though, there is that xochipilli mix…” He strokes at his goatee before flashing a grin. “I don’t idly play with that blend.”

Strange gives the Magi standing across from him one last searching look, trying to see beyond the dark eyes and into his intentions. The grin on his face fades to something tinged with…sorrow? “It’s good that you’re back, Karl. I can use all the aid that I get now.” A revelation not shared lightly with an old friend. Pity indeed that it could be used against the Sorcerer Supreme and throw yet another wrench into his future intent for the Hellmouth.

Plans upon plans… It’s all one giant chess game and the pieces are moving.


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