1963-10-14 - A Debt Repaid, A Concern Conveyed
Summary: Liv has tea with Dr. Strange and passes along word from Loki as well as news of a larger threat to Hell's Kitchen than the Sorcerer originally suspected.
Related: [http://marvel1963mush.wikidot.com/log:1963-10-08-post-battle-revel]
Theme Song: None
strange liv 


It has been a few days since Liv had her post-battle revel with far too many members of Asgard's royal family. Far, far too many. And as if meeting them on Midgard hadn't been enough of a surprise, she'd gone and gotten assigned a task.

It's all just so terribly weird.

At least Liv hadn't had to travel very far to reach the address Loki had given her. As she makes her way up to the front door of the Sanctum, she looks — aside from her height and the braids in her hair — like a perfectly ordinary young woman. No sword or armor, just jeans and a cable-knit sweater. She glances down at the card one final time before reaching up to knock politely on the door.

*

Meditation, as always, the normal morning ritual. Hovering in the center of his wooden platform, Lotus position, dressed in everyday wear of black dress pants, white dress shirt, and crimson vest with golden trim, he attempts it with closed eyes and a blank expression. He's able to focus more clearly on the task at hand, though…there's an undeniable underlying distraction that keeps drawing him away from reaching that perfect balance point of enlightened peace and razor-edged perception of the world around him.

In a moment of abnormality, Strange hears the faint knocking on the front door before even the wards come to tap-tap on his shoulder. With a sigh that conveys some frustration at his inability to center himself, he opens his eyes and looks into the mid-distance as he hears what the wards convey to him about their immediate impression of his visitor.

New. Female. Young. Old. Business card.

Hmm. The Mystical ambiance of glow fades from the centers of his irises by the time he reaches the front doors and he opens them with the air of a gentleman, even if he wants to be left alone. Peace is such a fleeting thing for the Sorcerer.

He looks his guest up and down before offering her a professionally-cool smile.

"Yes, how can I help you?" Always helpful. Always, even if it's a burr in his side.

*

At least the blonde appears genuinely apologetic when he answers the door.

"I apologize for dropping by without making an appointment," Liv says with a respectful bow of her head. She extends the business card towards Strange, with Louis King's information on the upward-facing side. "I'm looking for a Doctor Strange. A mutual acquaintance of ours asked if I might come by to seek his assistance."

*

Strange takes the business card from her with a slight arch of his eyebrow in curiosity - her mannerisms strike him as familiar, archaic in a way he's seen before, but where?

"Mutual acquaintance," he mutters as he reads the flourish of the name written on the cardstock and looks at her again with a flat air of resignation. "I'm Dr. Strange. Please, come in. We'll have tea and you can explain what the youngest Prince wants from me this time."

He steps aside, allowing her to enter if she chooses to do so. The wards are held in check by a swift raise of a hand and directive point of his finger at the ceiling. Not now, he commands them mentally and they hover at a distance, eyeing the visitor with an emotionless sentience. Perhaps Liv feels it like a stare between her shoulderblades or as a brief brush of icy air.

"Please, shut and lock the door behind you," the good doctor says before leading the way to the living room. A fire burns, warm and cheery, and the tea kettle is enchanted ever-hot, always so in the case of unexpected guests. Two high-backed chairs, trimmed in crimson fabric, sit at a comfortable distance from the hearth, accompanied by two small side-tables to rest saucers upon. Should Liv feel comfortable enough to follow him, she's directed to the chair on the right, the guest chair, the space where company comes and tells Strange their tales.

*

"Of course. Thank you." Liv does, indeed, follow Strange inside once invited to do so, turning to close and lock the door behind herself.

As Liv follows him through the Sanctum, she tries not to feel too unsettled by that cool feeling of being watched. She has some experience with wizards and sorcerers, but it's been a long time. And she'd never gotten used to it in the first place. Still, she squares her shoulders and clasps her hands behind her back as she follows. Courage.

"My name is Liv," the blonde offers, smiling wryly as she moves to claim the guest chair for herself. "And it's to do with the Hellmouth. I rather got the impression that he was hoping you might know how to seal it so he needn't be bothered to fuss with it himself."

*

The good doctor grants her a nod for her name and then a long stare in regards to the message passed along from the youngest Prince of Asgard. With a 'tsk' of his tongue, he turns his focus to pouring tea rather than burning a hole in the chair over her left shoulder. The faintest quiver shows in his hands briefly, reflected in the slight splash of tea from his own cup, before he stills them with a slow inhalation of calming.

"I see," Strange finally says as he delivers Liv her cup of tea. He pauses as he stands before the young woman, slapped with two separate lines of thought at once. "I forgot to ask if you want cream or sugar." Silly him.

Well, no wonder. The last time he stood there, in this exact spot, he was slapped upside the face with a Mystical feedback vision from his latest guest. The deja-vu is enough to bring a tinge of color to his ears.

Clearing his throat, he at least takes a moment to set aside his own cup of tea - green, with hints of citrus and rosemary - on the side table beside his own chair. His attention flicks back to her as he hears her response.

*

A lack of cream and sugar doesn't stop Liv from accepting the cup. "Oh, no, black is fine. I like to taste the tea, you know?" She flashes him a smile, raising the cup slightly in a grateful salute. "Thank you."

She takes a sip before she also sets the cup aside, clasping her hands in her lap. One can almost see the gears in her head working as she tries to figure out phrasing — this, it seems, is not a task she is accustomed to being given. But Loki asked it of her, so what choice does she have?

"The Prince was thinking that perhaps opening another portal overtop the Hellmouth to redirect the creatures that are pouring out of it might serve as temporary fix," Liv says slowly, but she doesn't look too enthused by this notion. "I am not convinced that dumping these things into the ocean or the sun would actually… work."

*

He settles into his chair and sips at his own tea, returning her salute with a rueful smile of acknowledgment. He's being a prickly host and he knows it. Inhale - exhale - and he sets the porcelain demi-tasse on the side table before seeming to arrange himself.

Arms align on their respective rests, though his right hand remains idly busy, drawing patterns into the fabric and erasing. Doctor's tic. He rests an ankle atop a knee in a display of relaxation that he may outwardly project; internally, the chess player is in action. Possibly Liv can see it in the narrowing of his steel-blue gaze, not meant to intimidate, merely to gather all the information presented to him.

Her hesitance in the idea of redirecting the flow of demonic traffic is mirrored in the drawing-together of his dark brows and Strange shakes his head even as he replies, "You are correct. Funneling the demons into the depths of the ocean only works until the Hellmouth decides to spit out a giant leviathan and then I have to go banish something big enough to sink freighter-ships. I have enough on my plate with vampires in Hell's Kitchen and the occasional tentacled nightmare that attempts to break through my wards." A snort. "No. The only way that his problem will be swept away beneath the rug is total banishment of the Hellmouth from this reality. If he's so concerned about it, why doesn't he just do it himself? Save me the trouble?"

Probing words, edged with a defensiveness shown in the tone. "I wouldn't want to steal his opportunity to redeem himself as Protector of Midgard."

*

At the mention of vampires in the Kitchen, Liv's expression darkens. "You and I have been dealing with similar headaches, from the sound of it. The big one nearly turned one of my roommates last week," she mutters, folding her arms across her chest. "I'd love to know who opened the damned thing in the first place. It better have been worth it.

Liv draws in a calming breath, relocating her focus just in time for the probing words to give her pause. She blinks once, tilting her head inquisitively to one side. "Redeem himself?" she echoes, sitting a little straighter. "How so? Because the portal was opened at all, or have I missed more than I realize?"

*

Ah, the power of words. One choice of word and he's left to explain himself. Should've known better, what with him being literal keeper of certain Words.

Strange rubs at his temple with his left fingers as he closes his eyes briefly and then stares into the fire. Self-recrimination is obvious in his body language. He'll return to the topic of the vampires, especially in light of 'the big one', towards the end of their discussion. For now:

"Not the best choice of words, Liv. I apologize." The brief flash of teeth in a smile that doesn't reach his eyes. "Rather, Prince Loki and I have crossed paths a number of times before, most recently in the Court of Asgard. We do not see eye-to-eye on a number of things, but…that is to be assumed given our relative status within our realms." A thoughtful glance over to her. "The young Prince apparently spent some time in the dungeons at the whims of his father and while at Court, I got the impression that this bestowing of the title of 'Protector of Midgard' was neatly handed out as dual punishment. The older Prince, Thor, held this title previously."

He'd much rather deal with the blunt truthfulness of the older sibling any day; it shows in the subtle wrinkle of his nose. "I say 'redeem' because he has the opportunity to bring himself into a better light within the eyes of Asgard and to prove himself to me as ally rather than…political equal." Read as: meddler extraordinaire. "Your Prince had nothing to do with the opening of the Hellmouth from what I have discovered thus far. It is someone else entirely, someone with access to magics that call forth the Elder Gods. It took us all off-guard, but never again."

A flash of Mystical might in his eyes that ring his pupils in silver. He takes a moment to wet his mouth with a sip of tea. "But honestly, Liv. I won't deny that his powers are on par with my own." He sets the saucer down and meets her eyes again. "Why ask me? Laziness?"

*

The explanation has Liv waving off the apology, a lopsided smile coming to her face. "You have nothing to apologize for, Doctor. It was an honest question on my part. I've been living on Midgard for centuries," she explains, and it's her turn to look just a touch contrite. "I'm a bit… behind." She shrugs helplessly.

She reaches for her own tea, lips pursed in thought. "I don't know if I'd call it laziness where he could hear it. Delegating, maybe," she muses in a playful tone, smiling across at Strange. "Maybe something about diplomacy, I don't know. He did say that if you found a way to handle it, he'd consider your debt repaid." Another shrug; she has no idea if there is a debt at all.

*

Oh, there's a debt. It's the silliest little thing, turned from a token gesture of kindness between peers into a weight about Strange's ankle that he's been dragging for some time now.

You see, debts between practitioners are things not lightly given nor lightly taken on. To offer insult in the face of accepted benevolence is tantamount to stabbing the other caster in the back. Not only that, but if one makes the grave mistake of swearing by a Name or even by their Gods, the broken promise would follow them to their death - and that deep hole in the ground would come sooner than later. It's nothing too severe, just a reciprocal thoughtfulness that the Sorcerer Supreme will be ill-advised not to return. It's the manner of the return he's been fretting about.

This? This is the most delightful turn of events he would have never predicted.

A raise of both eyebrows followed by an edged smirk. "No, I'd call it laziness to his face if it was truly that. Diplomacy is another matter entirely." A thoughtful nod with twinkling eyes. "Absolutely, consider the debt repaid. After all, I am on the cusp of finishing out my method to not only ensure its entire banishment, but its inability to breach this reality again. You may take word of that to your master. Let him know that he needs only knock on my door and I will grant him an audience if he needs more information."

*

Liv can't entirely help but laugh. "Oh, he's not my master. But I do take your meaning, Doctor. Thank you." Still smiling, she takes another drink from her tea before setting it aside. "I know precisely diddly about magic, but if you need an extra set of hands in order to get the damned thing closed, please let me know. I actually live nearby. Serendipity."

Absently, Liv rubs the side of her nose with a fingertip, looking thoughtful. "On a more personal note, since I'm already here… I don't suppose you know of any good methods for killing ancient vampires, do you?" she asks, looking hopeful. "I had a rough time with one of this fellow's lieutenants. Even with Prince Thor along as backup, I am not eager to go and face the actual problem without some kind of a plan."

*

Strange salutes her disavowing of the term with his cup of tea and sips as she offers said extra set of hands.

"Thank you, Liv. I'll keep this knowledge in mind and contact you as need be." After all, it's an imperfect plan, with a few vital gaps that need filling.

Onto this rather depressing topic of vampires then. His steel-blue eyes half-shutter away and he sighs slowly through his nose at the harrowing import that Thor was needed as back-up in order to bring down one of the inner court of this Big Bad Vampire. Clearly, the things are more resilient than the average shambling corpse he's dealt with before; this speaks to him, as a practitioner, of necromantic magic and the advantages given to the undead.

"That latest advice, offered to me by a fellow demon-hunter, was to burn the nest to the ground. What she meant by this could be anything from the creatures themselves to the literal location of their home. It's not an unfamiliar sentiment. Fire is an incredibly destructive force of nature, even without being empowered by an elementalist or by a Magi such as myself. Most undead fear it. Their flesh has little resistance to it." The good doctor ponders in silence for a minute more, pulling forward all he knows about dealing with this species of undead. "Bram Stoker wasn't far off in his driveling on about the weaknesses of vampires. He wrote the book 'Dracula'," Strange informs off-handedly; no insult, just the tutor in him stepping forth. "Silver, white oak stakes, garlic… I hesitate to mention religious icons seeing as they only work if you truly believe in them. Lack of faith renders them useless. Holy water, of course. It is sanctified time and time again and imbued with a heavy amount of willful belief, even if its user has faith only in its abilities. The sun," and he gestures to the windows that line the outside wall of the living room. Warm autumn sunlight shines in. "Its light has the ability to render most of the undead powerless if not entirely dead."

Summoning sunlight is restricted to those of magical ability and she just mentioned knowing little of magic. "Your weaponry of choice could take aspects of these items, of course." He flicks out scarred fingers in counting off ideas, "Garlic oil within shotgun shells, silver blades, white oak bolts in bows or crossbows… Vials of holy water that could be thrown as a grenade."

*

The Asgardian rests her elbows on her knees and leans forward in her chair, blue eyes focused on Strange as he speaks. She asked for advice and sees no reason not to pay attention as it is offered.

When he mentions Dracula, Liv's lips twist slightly to one side in something of a smile, but she doesn't speak until he is actually finished.

"It's… funny you mention the book. The ancient vampire who tried to claim my roommate was Vlad Dracul," Liv says in a resigned tone of voice. "Stories have to come from somewhere, after all. Even if it leaves one feeling completely absurd."

She runs a hand over her face before reclasping her hands, her eyes drifting over to the fire. "His lieutenant was strong. Fast. It was almost like fighting someone from home," Liv admits, slowly shaking her head. "Frankly, I was lucky. He's bound to be far more dangerous than she was."

*

To even the Sorcerer Supreme, with everything he's seen in the years of wearing his mantle, this reality can still throw a curveball every now and then.

"I'm sorry, Vlad Dracul?" he asks, needing the confirmation for the sake of his sanity. "As in, Vlad Dracula? Vladislaus Dracula? Dragulia?" All the names that he's heard whispers of over the years are tossed out.

Tell the man it isn't true. Tell him it's all some masquerade by some spell-powered ghoul. Tell him that they were all smoking something potent and it's one big group hallucination.

His breath is held despite his relative composure, gaze focused on her with abnormal intensity. The silvering of his powers that swim beneath his skin in restrained anxiety lighten his irises further.

His guest grants him a silent, solemn nod in response and Strange settles back into his chair with a long-suffering sigh that seems to come from the depths of his soul.

If it truly is the Lord of the Vampires… Hell's Kitchen is in big, big trouble.

*

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