1963-10-23 - Something Wicked
Summary: Something wicked in Central Park draws two wizards to its location.
Related: Once Upon a Hellmouth Plotline
Theme Song: None
strange morgan merlin 

"Alright…now what…?"

The Sorcerer Supreme's muttered words fog in the cool night air as he steps through the Gate he's opened to the fringes of the Hellmouth's influence. He comes in full battle-gear, leathers, Cloak, and Eye and all. His eyes narrow, scan the area around him carefully, before he collapses it with a closing gesture.

Thank the gods for Duke's medicine. The vampire venom was burned out of his system the night before and it's left him in a state of health not seen since the beginning of this whole Hellmouth mess. His aura is kept low, at a simmer. There hasn't been much demon activity in this area, not since he enacted a tentative agreement with an escapee of the portal. It seems she's been successful - as have his wards. And don't forget his roommate, with her knives and scarlet-hued magics!

Strange steps over and reaches out, eyes going distant as he relies more on Sight than sight to check them. Solid, self-rejuvenating, no points of weakness that he can sense. His fingertips cause ripples of silvery light to spread in the invisible magic before him and then he pulls away with another sigh.

"So why did you ring…?" he asks the silent wards as he looks around once more.


And the wards offer nothing in reply. In fact, only evening crickets and the occasional frog issue peaceful reply in a chorus that doesn't befit the city landscape. The wards themselves, however, alert to something other — something akin and aloft.

The moon overhead seems to grow; even in its impossibility its white surface brightens full and round: a superman. Were they expecting one this night? The rest of the night, however, veils black as if the night itself has drawn across the horizon like a blanket. Perhaps the light from the city or the moon has drowned out the stars themselves.

In fact, without much issue, the world continues in its strange peace. The perimeter around the Hellmouth has mostly been respected, yet even this level of stillness bears with it eerie silence.

The quiet rumble from the ground below starts slowly. Nearly serenely. Almost forgettably. Yet prophetically, some in their most haunting dreams have made one accurate prediction that the earth itself issues: Something Wicked This Way Comes.

The tremor grows reminiscent of the night the Hellmouth had been so opened — a testament of ripped earth and malevolent influence.



With a turn in place that leaves him facing the ultra-brightness of the moon, Strange readies his hands in defensive mudras. The spells rests on the tip of his tongue, behind lips thinned in rapidly-growing suspicion.

His mind races as he watches the stars blanket out one by one and he hazards another glance around him. Illusion magic - strong illusion magic. He's hard-pressed to avoid falling into its grasp and quickly sets a mental mantra on replay: It is not real, think beyond sight - it is not real, think beyond sight. Rinse and repeat madly.

In his enhanced state of sensing, he first notes the rumbling in the marrow of his bones. It echoes there as it does through the deeps of Gaia's earth and stone and increases until his teeth feel like they're buzzing in his skull. The good Doctor grimaces and alters his stance to remain firm, even as the grass beneath him begins to literally shift from side to side, like a horse attempting to flick a fly from its skin.


The earth cries out against whatever work the world takes on. The cracks in the earth are unmistakable as the grass rips up in tufts along with large clumps of dirt, almost like something burrows beneath the surface. Yet no beast has taken up residence beneath the turf. Instead, the earth itself seems to split — once, twice, thrice — in large tendrils that all seem to spout towards the Hellmouth in long ley lines.

The wards seem to hold, even as the world separates and shifts, in rumbling growing pains from the earth beneath. The Hellmouth's platform — a large bed of rock — extends higher into the air to take on whatever miracle, if any, the earth offers.

The quiet hum of chanting trails towards the Park. Like a growing choir, the voices seem to come from multiple directions, joining in some kind of other worldly ritual for some nefarious purpose.


"What?! NO!"

This is his reality! Nobody starts manipulating the face of this Earth without his permission!!!

Strange's snarled words are lost amidst the groaning rumbles of the Hellmouth's ascension towards the blacked-out skies above him. He's thrilled, somewhere within the entanglement of panicked thoughts of containment, that his wards are holding, but they're starting to strain.

It's like the slow bending of safety glass - the shrieking creaks that shouldn't be heard, the minor-keyed splinters indicating that his weaving is beginning to fracture in places.

"Not this time!" he spits before grounding himself in a stance that allows his feet full contact with the shifting grass beneath him. Tendrils of his Mystical power streak down the recently-opened cracks and dig into the ley lines beneath the Park that have been revealed like pulsing vessels from beneath covering skin. Strange becomes a conduit for the power, his eyes whiting out as his entire aura becomes visible in a swirl of silver and ice-blue. It's literally electrifying for as second; his jaws stand out starkly as he accustoms himself to the influx of raw magic and then he conducts it towards a counter-spell to the chaos beginning around him.

"By Gaia's goodness, Oshtur's light - Hoggoth's rage and Agamotto's sight -" The Eye of Agamotto around his neck clicks into searing incandescence with an audible ring and grants a swirl of citrine within the silver of the waves of power blowing from his person and across the Park around him. "Begone, dark Chaos, off with thee - this realm and reality recall to me!!!!"


The horde of mystics that trail each of the cracks in the Earth's surface form a strange circle around the Hellmouth, and Strange. The energy emitted from the chant, however, bears with it that air of novice that Strange has come to associate with his most inexperienced apprentices. The baby mystics, with their shiny new powers, would be easy to defeat, yet the spell they spin together has some semblance of strength.

The incantation, directly from The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus lives in English, repeated again and again:
"Within the bowels of these elements,
Where we are tortur'd and remain for ever:
Hell hath no limits, nor is circumscrib'd
In one self-place; but where we are is hell,
And where hell is, there must we ever be:
And, to be short, when all the world dissolves,
And every creatures shall be purified,
All places shall be hell that are not heaven."

The band of light around Strange pings hard at the baby mystics, pushing them off their feet. They fall in a perfect circle around him and the Hellmouth. But even the ping of energy has some — through tears — reciting their incantation, as if unable to stop.

One of the mystics, however, manages to remain standing. The cloaked figure raises its hands, and again, the earth itself seems to move, yet something in this movement is entirely different. Root networks beneath the ground draw upwards as a large tree in the centre of the Park comes to life. The tree reaches down with its mighty branches, aiming to knock the Doctor off his feet to continue the mischief transpiring in the Park.


Walking trees. He's seen it all now. The falling trees of the Hellmouth's initial emergence into this reality have nothing on the creaking rush of the branches coming down at him like a vengeful dryad's scion.

With a grunt and leap to one side, he dodges the first and biggest of the branches; its impact in the earth is audible and visible, the grass torn and mashed a good few feet into the ground. Strange ducks the sideways-swat of another branch and then darts backwards beyond the reach of another limb bigger around than his thigh. This tree has no qualms in breaking its own boughs. Several remain impaled in the earth even as it draws back, writhing with an unnatural flexibility as the good Doctor rises into the air via his crimson Cloak. While he was never fully-smacked, he bears a good scratch down his face, just forwards of his silvered temple, on one side that bleeds in little beadlets and a snapping switch will no doubt leave a good linear bruise on the frontal rounding of his shoulder.

With a frustrated glance over his shoulder towards the one remaining chanter, he then shouts towards the tree,

"Ancient one, return to sleep! Let none than Gaia earn your keep!!!"

The spell, evocative of sunlight falling through spring leaves and laced with the warmth of loam, flies towards the tree's shifting trunk even as it rears back to make him flit through another round of falling branches.


The tree, when hit with the spell, bends towards the caster, longing for even a fleeting glimpse of warmth — an easily exploited weakness for something so prone to flame. A monster the mistress may have created, but its weaknesses remain in its makeup. A large branch rears towards Strange, aiming to know him off from the sky.

The mystics on the ground slowly begin to peel themselves from the earth, and mutter their chanting again. Evidently they will not be easily deterred — none of them.

But the one who had managed to stand through it all holds its ground. Two feminine hands tug at the hood around her face. Her hands again — a call to attention for whatever followers she's managed to glean in the weeks she's been wandering earth once more,
"The Mistress calls,
A promise she keeps,
Come alive those who sleep
Beneath the surface warm and safe
Out of Hell we will raise!

The earth turns again through the other mystics' incantations, yet the woman, one Morgan Le Fay, calls something else. Beneath the ground, in the New York sewer system, something stirs.


With a grunt of effort, Strange darts to one side and barely avoids the approaching branch. Wind whistles through the branching twigs and drags at his Cloak in the wake of its passing. The earth emits a muffled thud upon its contact that seems to shake the nearby stands of un-charmed trees; leaves flutter and fall like confetti to the ground.

"Stop it!" It's a silly thing to hiss at the thing, now slowly pulling back for another attempt to swat at him, and so he yells something in a foreign language that deepens his voice even as it fills the air around him. The magic, silver swirled with terra cotta red, is flung from doubled hands into the trunk of the ancient tree once more. It crackles over the roughly-barked surface and the movements of the oak come to a stuttering, grinding halt. He has canceled out the spell that brought the tree to life (with a spell's worth of 'KNOCK IT OFF, DAMMIT!!!') and it will forever remain in the oddly-tilted pose if it manages to retain life after the shallowness of its current rooting.

His crimson Cloak swirls around his body as he pivots in mid-air, hands held in loose claws out to his sides. His gaze narrows at the singularly-staunch hooded individual who rallies the apprentice mystics in time to cast yet another spell - and the last few words he catches unfortunately sound like a summoning to his ears.

He has to get back to the ground! Like a stooping falcon, he flies down and lands with a skidding stop on a patch of untouched earth. His silvery magics once more delve deep into the cracks and he releases another blow of power from himself that pushes out with the vicious hum of electrical lines.

The mini-mystics are knocked backwards in the wake of its passing. As he watches it wash over the now un-hooded female, he then pauses, panting lightly.

"I'm going to give you one chance - ONE," he emphasizes across the distance to her loudly, "to stop what you're doing and then apologize for this!"


With the apprentices all creamed along the grass, an amused passive-agressive smile tugs at the woman's features. It's tight, engaged, and altogether, assured. She takes a single step forward before loosing her arms from the robe, and shrugging off the layers of fabric, and exposing black leathers of her own — in an oddly styled tunic. Her green eyes stare at his form. "You must be the one the spirits tell me of," two dark eyebrows lift with that same mirth, subdued, but undeniably present, "the one I was warned of. Indeed," her chin lifts, "the powers of this realm have certainly surpassed what I'd encountered before. Yet," her voice hisses, "cunning and power would require you to know what you battle, would they not," her eyes narrow, "Sorcerer Supreme?"

Her grin bares teeth, exposing a grim caricature beneath the youthful guise, and a strange testament to whatever intention she carries with her. She begins to tread around the earth, encircling her own followers as she moves, "They were my creation. Only hours ago. Imagine, if you will, what centuries will do to this realm. We both know the scope will change. And it already has. Even now, your wards will break, and it will be impossible to contain what looms."

Clangs around the park call to further movement and draw a shrill cackle of delight from the woman. A fog draws into the Park, thick and heavy as footsteps trample along the earth. They start slow and soft — the simple beat of feet upon soft soil — and then crescendo, calling to spades more followers. But these followers' energy makes no sense.

Lifelessness invades Midtown.


Magical pangs such as these cannot be ignored. No matter how hard one might try. Merlin has shivered with a magical surge the likes of which he has not felt in many, many years. It's familiar, yet strange. It's something that feels so near, yet so far away. He can't shake the feeling that he must follow this feeling to its origin. Taking a deep breath in, he has prepared himself with magical wards surrounding him, just in case. In his many years, he's learned to be cautious of such feelings.

He's finds himself drawn to Central Park. The home of the darkness, of the Hellmouth. It's only as he gets within the Hellmouth within his sights that he stops dead in his tracks. A pang hits him, this time of shock instead of magic. Do his eyes deceive him? He blinks. Once. Twice. A third time. Should he leave this to the Sorcerer Supreme?

He shakes his head. No. He must face this, one way or another. Adjusting his pointy hat, smoothing out his robes, and making sure his sword in its sheath is is securely fastened to the belt around his robes, he begins to step forward once more. His staff taps lightly against the ground. "Well, well, well. Taking a stroll in the park, my dear Sorcerer Supreme? And you didn't think to invite me? How rude!" He grumbles. "Perhaps you didn't want me to meet your woman friend?" He shakes his head. "No, no. That can't be it. I think it's that your woman friend didn't wish for me to know she was here. Hmm? Could I be correct in that?" He peers at Morgan. "I can't say I'm not surprised."


It is very irritating when your foe knows who you are, but you're stuck hovering there and watching them smirk and pace about while all the while raking your brain for any gleaming of information as to who they are.

Finally, Strange draws himself up tall and readies a blistering retort - and then he hears a voice he never expected. Glancing over his shoulder with mouth half-agape in surprise, he watches the peaked hat and bearded form of Merlin make his way towards them with an agility counter to his old age.

"Merlin, what —" You know what? Never mind. The old Wizard does what he will and the good Doctor has never been able to convince him otherwise. With a slow sigh and movements of hands that insinuate the press of centering self, he releases the majority of the ley line's power back into their thrumming hearts, all save for enough to continue emitting that teeth-gritting, low-level hum in the air around him. An audible warning - the guard dog's growl.

"You know this woman?" he asks of Merlin tersely, all the while glaring at the lithe form wrapped in a stygian tunic.


An irritated smile replaces Morgan's serpentine one. Her chin lifts. "And here I thought you might finally have found a way for death to bid you forward, former Master," her tone takes on a sickly-sweet edge, only to fall into something more sinister, "or have you roved this earth like some kind of petulant disease spreading like cancer across the mystical field of this realm? Making promises of grandeur, well wishes wrapped in promises that cannot be kept in this life or whatever follows."

A small murmur builds up with a few of the apprentice mystics, and the rumbling continues once again. A cocky smile edges Morgan's mouth. She's pleased. Of course, her smirk only grows as the dead that had begun to come up from the manhole covers around the Park enter into it.

Varying degrees of decay allow different movement of the bodies. Several smaller ones, intact only as skeletons traipse up towards the wizards to assault each in turn. And more follow suit. Strong. Determined. Lifeless.

The chanting resumes again, and the world beneath begins to tremor. The cracks begin to grow once more.


"What…am I doing here? What am I every doing anywhere?" Merlin asks calmly. "Magic." To him, it seems like such a simple answer. He nods his head slowly, sighing. A pained expression crosses his face. "Oh, I know this woman all too well. In fact, I've known her most of her life." Rubbing his eyes gently, he looks back at Morgan.

"Apprentice." Apparently, Merlin still considers her a current apprentice, and not a former one. Or so it would appear, by the way he talks. "Death suits me not. I'd dare not let Lady Death visit upon my soul while there is still work to be done! And…" He pauses, looking at her with almost pleading eyes, "souls yet to save. I still have hope for you yet."

He frowns. "You are still one of my greatest accomplishments, and one of my greatest failures. I regret not being able to turn you from the darkness within, Morgan."

As the dead make their approach, Merlin unsheathes his sword. "I had hoped that I had enough of your respect that you would face me yourself, instead of sending your minions after me, Apprentice."


"Apprentice?!" Strange hisses, but his incredulous word falls unheard to the two practitioners glaring at one another across the lacing of small valleys in the earth around them. He looks between Merlin and the woman, apparently named Morgan, before it clicks.

Arthurian legends come to life - that's what this entire mess entails. This is Morgan Le Fay, enchantress Supreme, once beholden to the Arch-Wizard who calls her Apprentice.

Blessed Vishanti!!!

The good Doctor feels the earth beneath his feet begin to tremble and grits his teeth as he gestures with crooked fingers once more to draw from the ley lines. NOT on his watch! It's a different spell this time, one aimed very specifically at the mini-mystics that continue to get back up. "In the name of the Vishanti, who grant my might alone, I command you one and all, let your tongues turn to stone!"

The spell is whispered and slithers across the space towards the remaining supplicants of Morgan at blinding speed. Should it strike true, its fangs imbed themselves into the mouths of the hooded group and bind them mute.


"The apprentice has surpassed her former Master. Of course you already know that." She smiles slyly as her army vaults forward. "Regret nothing, Merlin. Except, perhaps, becoming so complacent in your old age. Senile old man."

The dead do not stop their onslaught at the sword. Claws come further as a small body — made solely of bone virtually sprints towards Merlin. It's strength reaches for his ankles to drag him downwards, back into the earth from which each of the zombies had risen. Others don't stop. In various states of decay, the dead roam forward. Their moans, like an eerie chorus resound over the Park.

Silence befalls the mystics, at Strange's spell. The magic binds them, creating mutes of the lot. No matter for Morgan, however, she reaches up with her own will, beginning the incantation she'd left to the others. Her murmuring of Mestophilis' words from Doctor Faustus continues to cause ripples, and the Hellmouth itself begins to expand. It is, indeed, growing.

Pangs of growth resound across the earth itself, prompting Morgan to float into the air. Her arms lift sky high. "Wards be damned. Feel the power of new gods in the place of the old! The world will incur wrath it never imagined — "


Hacking at the hand that reaches for him, Merlin begins slashing at the various zombies that are closing in. "Complacent? No. Complacency has always been your hubris. Being so smug in how powerful you believe yourself to be. You could have been even more powerful. As Mordred, too, could have been." Words…words will always be his own undoing. He does talk a fair bit. "Senile, however…well, senility would bring me a peace I've not known in a millenium and a half!"

Continuing to use his sword to hack down zombies, he lets out a frustrated growl. "Lady of the Lake curse you all! Why can I not remember the spells to undo these vile creatures?" He furrows his brow in concentration. "It's been centuries since I last dealt with them!"


Both practitioners Supreme are interrupted in mid-sentence, one airborne and one grounded and readying a counter-spell to the attacking undead.

"You're telling me that you can't remember a simple — " The sudden feedback of his own wards rakes his ears painfully and Strange nearly doubles over, clutching his hands to his head as he yelps. The pained screeches resound in quickly-arcing pitches as the Dark Artifice of the Hellmouth presses against them and strains them at their utmost limits.

Then, with the light of a hydrogen bomb's fission blast and the whalloping blow-back of a miniature tsunami, the magic poured into the wards slams into every living being within a quarter mile of the Hellmouth's blight.

The good Doctor is whipped back and away from the site with a viciousness unparalleled. He smacks against several other broken bodies — undead? — as he flies through the air and then lands in a tumble of limbs and cries before remaining still and silent for a minute but for his stunned breathing.

Silence reigns briefly and the ring of devastation around the Hellmouth is pronounced. Nearly two dozen of the undead move no more. Where is Merlin? Morgan?


The Hellmouth itself has grown in scope and size. It's influence emits dark magic the world hasn't encountered in centuries — the brunt of which seems to create its own cloud around the Park. Whatever the intention of the sorceress, she seems to have extended the influence of the portal.

Morgan Le Fay, is, however, nowhere to be found.


The screeching sound causes Merlin to drop both his staff and his sword, falling to his knees as he covers his ears. He nearly passes out, his extra senses working in overtime as they do. However, it's the bright blast that truly causes him to faint. It's a reprieve that his body gladly welcomes.

When he awakens moments later, there's a ringing in his ears that makes it difficult to hear. "I've remembered the spell!" He shouts, though to whom, he has no idea. He grasps his sword and staff from nearby, using the staff to help ease himself up once more.

He looks around, looking at the cloud that has surrounded the park. For the first time, a true look of horror crosses his face. He can only hope that they'll still be able to close it.


With a cough and a groan, Strange pushes himself first onto his knees. His ears ring as badly as if they've been boxed and he has a new gash across his forehead from where an errant undead joint smashed into him in mid-flight. The scalp wound keeps bleeding even as he wipes the blood from above his eyebrows with a snarling sort of grimace.

"Gods-dammit!" The force of the restrained emotion nearly tears out his throat, even in a guttural whisper, and he makes himself rise to his feet, even as his knees tremble. He picks out Merlin through the looming fog and walks as quickly over to him as possible, stepping over rapidly-rotting bodies and trying not to slip in effluence he'd rather forget.

"Merlin," he croaks as he approaches, wiping again at the leaking gash on his face. "Merlin. Back to the Sanctum. War Council — NOW."

The Sorcerer Supreme's tone books no argument and his face is thunderous as he opens a Gate that crackles open to reveal the Sanctorum's foyer. He strides through and leaves the remaining undead behind for now.

Blessed Vishanti, he's going to need all the help he can get.

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