1963-11-19 - Primadona Package
Summary: Chthon 1, Agamotto 0, Amordo -5.
Related: Indecent Proposals
Theme Song: Knife - Grizzly Bear
strange wanda 

Weekends for most people spell a time to relax, letting their hair down and shrugging off the weight of work or social obligations. Chill winds drive wispy clouds steadily eastwards, throwing freezing rain onto the windows of a certain lovely building on Bleecker Street. A fire ought to be roaring in the hearth, bestowing heat and badly needed light upon a room rendered somewhat less snug by the uneasy darkness drawn up close to the chin of the night. Frost speckles the treacherous steps outside, and a glimmering of oil oozes off a bottle put down on a table. Work never ceases when one is the Sorcerer Supreme, or part of his halcyon circle.

No rest for the wicked, especially not Wanda Maximoff. She hunts down one of the fraying spots in the Sanctum that should not be, a spot along the floor where a rug and the floorboards intersect. Rubbing orange oil into the fissured scar along the wood leaves a polished sheen into the scratch. Slim fingers methodically pour more out, even as the fine-tuned work requires immense concentration to feel for the imperfections, the minute weaknesses in the makeup that somehow ended up so badly wounded.

A tiny pair of shears — actual shears as would be used by a weaver, except bizarrely made of bone — rest in a silver bowl beside her, a shaft of moonlight originating from, well, nowhere glowing over them. What might those be for? Probably the same thing as the oil.

On her knees, the witch rubs the fragrant concoction in with a kneading gesture. A clump of sheep's wool has more than absorbed the liquid on one side, but the massage rolls the surface over and reveals specks of an ephemeral blight to the Sight.

Baron Mordo's taint is only going to last so long. Even if this is awful, painstaking busy work.


The wards are quite familiar now with the scent of orange oil and hover behind Wanda in a facsimile of curiosity. Perhaps it's more than there is a lingering psycho-magical bruise in their make-up and they are wary of her work, even if she's as gently-confident in her ministrations as their master was in his suturing.

Silvery spells perk and then swish away towards the doors. They linger for a breath before racing up through the expanse of space in the foyer to the Loft.

The footsteps resound shortly after, brisk but not especially hurried. They circle around and then down the grand staircase. Yawning and scratching at one side of his goatee, Strange, dressed in daywear, walks to the doors and opens them. The influx of chill night air, threatening with winter's sheer touch, is enough to make him huff - the sigh clouds before him - and then he stoops to pick up the package with one hand.

The sound of the door shutting echoes quietly. The good Doctor pauses in the short hallway before the vast foyer and frowns down at it. A box, clearly, by the specific register of a hollow thump via the tap of a fingertip, probably shipping cardboard. It's wrapped in brown butcher's paper and all tied up with a perfectly-knotted length of twine. The writing on it is precise, clear in black ink, and simply reads of the mansion's address. No return address listed.

"What do you make of this?" Of course, the first thing out of the man's mouth as he walks into the living room, still turning the package to odd angles and squinting at its bottom and sides, is a question. A murmured Word and the fireplace flickers to brilliant life, spilling sudden heat and light into the room. He's mildly heedless of her presence — though don't think he can't sense Wanda, no matter where she is (shared auras tend to enable that sort of thing) — as he walks over to a rather large and rounded table near to one of the taller windows. A pull on a drawstring, click, and the corner of the room grows brighter still via a reading lamp that rises a head taller than him. "It showed up just now, apparently," he adds, steel-blue eyes finally rising from the mysterious parcel now resting on the table's surface to her, wherever she is within the room.


Poking at the wards at the fundamentally lowest levels with magic is probably fairly safe. Reconstruction of their essential makeup by pushing one atom back into place at a time, not so much. The latter will wait until they recognize her as the lesser moon around the sun of their liege, and no sooner. This, however, is an endlessly old remedy, one part Roma and two parts Persian, speaking to an antiquity that transported citrus fruits down the ancient Roman trade routes between Iberia to the mouth of the Ganges and the Brahmaputra. Besides, the concoction smells ridiculously appealing to someone with a taste for bergamot and sandalwood, something that also makes the floor shine as smooth as glass. The wool is not something particularly scratchy, either, but its natural liniments assist in the process.

All she needs is a distaff and she's a spinner of fate.

Wards fleeing tell her all she needs to know. "This," she speaks to the floor, "is why we have no cat. A proper warlock needs a cat. But no, the wards are the cat."

Her position concealed behind the various tables and display cases does not in any sense conceal her from sight or the other senses, any more than she cannot see Strange tramping about with his wrapped parcel, peering at the packaging, staring at the twine. But sometimes one needn't think too hard to know the disquiet, especially someone as oddly sensitive to emotional changes in a place — and perpetually tapped into the Sight, let's be frank — as Wanda. The witch purses her lips, crushing a faint smile from forming. Her own weaknesses are apparent.

"No one entered the house. There was some kind of disturbance out that way," a finger points west, "maybe a block, a flare that felt like fear. Spook spell, maybe, weak." When she leans back onto her heels, he'll see the top of her high ponytail first; with the garnet headband, she looks like a flashy gogo dancer cleaning the floor.

"Hello, «beloved»."


It's actually the scent of the orange oil that initially draws him up from his musings on the package. Then, his eyes pick her out even as her words reach his ears.

The faintest blush touches his cheeks as Strange realizes that he was most definitely caught up in his own little world, circling around the package with as much unspoken delight as is usual for the naturally-inquisitive personality.

"Forgive me, «Beloved». I didn't mean to ignore you. Thank you for what you do for the Sanctum." An apology offered in truth and Tibetan title with warm fondness. Flashes of a recent memory before his mental view: scarlet stars reflected a thousand fold within the swirl a misted floor. Perhaps she can figure as to why his expression is momentarily distant and so slackly affectionate in manner.

Though, with a sharp inhale, he grants her one more quick grin and glances down to the table. "I wonder if the spook had anything to do with this," and he taps the package's top a few times. Cue the knitted frown and lightening of eyes towards silvered violet with the Sight.

There's not really any sort of tell about the parcel from the outside. Maybe…maybe there's the faint afterglow of ephemeral fingerprints, the touch of the Mystical courier who delivered to the Sanctum with little warning and no ring of bell to signal a successful deposit onto the doorstep. The briefest sliding glance is given to his hands; no poisonous or fungal residue lingers on his skin.

"Hmm. What do you think?" the Sorcerer asks, glancing up at her with irises of amaranthine. Clearly, he's not opened it yet and inquired after an opinion more than once because suspicion has reared its slithery head.


Lessons for later: presents without a return address are catnip to Trishul. Wrap up something he's never seen before, add a bell, and he'll start rolling around on the floor with his hands in the air, or dash around like a lunatic with huge dilated eyes.

Checkmark for next week.

Wanda muses on this experience a little longer than absolutely necessary, a knowing look in her eyes as timeless and classic as any new entry in the Book of Woman.

"Why do you apologize?" His questions she meets in like. Settling back upon her heels, her knees rest against the floor and her hands discard the wool. The moonlight glittering over the shears in a bowl she dares not touch, the tiny aperture allowing the undiluted radiance to spill down far too carefully focused for her to just knock about unthoughtfully. Her mouth curves up. "Speaking clears a full mind. Pietro does it all the time." At a mile a minute, too. She allows the apology even as she dismisses its necessity and offers Strange an escape should he want to take it.

Floating motes of cranberry in her amber gaze widen in a sunset stain over her pupils. Cue response to knitted frown, though her joints aren't quite up to bounding over to his side and assure all is well. No, her survey goes where it is, pupils brightened to a shade.

"The rope is tied too well for my liking." So says someone who laces a corset every day and ties the neatest bows. His impasse at figuring out the contents brings a slight frown, the proposal hovering at the forefront of her thoughts spoken slowly. "It feels… heavy to me. The portents may be troubled."

Again she reaches for the fleece and teases out a length of the flossy yellow-white wisps stained by the orange and herbal concoction. Twisting a few strands around her fingers, she smoothes them out. "Easy to do with my harp. This is best I can do." Harp? Oh, he's probably never seen her tucked over one, plucking at the strings with both hands. But a hint of it happens here. "Help me up? There's an old trick I can try."


As if he ever had his Rakshasi all figured out. His brows unknot to nearly disappear into his hairline.

"Your harp?" he asks, even as he crosses the room with nary a second's hesitation to offer a helping hand in rising from her task. Of course the Sorcerer has filed away all of her other thoughts and he mulls swiftly over them even as his grip lingers about her citrus-scented fingers, so softened and matte-radiant with the oil. Heavy portents and neatly-tied twine is summarily tossed aside as he meets her gaze once more. "You never told me you played the harp."

Perhaps tie up the parcel in harp strings and you've got yourself one nipped-out Sorcerer.


What, the master of the sorcerous universe has not written the final chapter on his little hellcat? There are plenty of materials, hidden tomes and forgotten bits, he has yet to pen.

Billy, for example.

Holding out her free hand, Wanda awaits the assistance to get up without disrupting her careful work or slipping. A little smile is given to Strange, the rare shifting of the mask enough to be earnest if a tad self-deprecating. She definitely smells of the pinch of mouthwatering cinnamon and cloves imbued into the oils, alongside rarer scents including saffron and datura. Once on her feet, the act of casting is actually easy.

Witchcraft of this brand is old, common to Celtic culture and ancient Greek. Weaving comes rather quickly. She pinches strands in couplets and pairs, dragging out the tuft of wool into something like a spiky comet. "For a very long time, yes." A nod throws garnets sparkling like bloody tears, the crown of a battlefield. "I could play the music without any instrument. Father gave me one later."

No doubt this is an understatement, and there's probably something akin to torture involved in there.


"That's impressive, playing without the actual strings present. You'll have to show me sometime, if you're feeling up to it - and not too shy," he adds, with that little bit of teasing. Patpat-swat, without claws, and then he leads the way back to the still-tied package. It sits within the circle of light cast from the reading lamp with an odd sort of presence and now…now he can sense the heaviness that the Witch spoke to earlier.

Even the Sorcerer Supreme stops short of the table, not half an arm's length away, and slowly hums out a sigh. "I hate saying it, but I have a bad feeling about this," said even as he plucks at a taut line of twine. It vibrates for a half-second before dulling against the butcher paper.


"Maybe outside the Sanctum. You might not want me to change things." A drop in the bucket, a tumble in the rainstorm, Wanda implies a certain blending of arts and mystic science almost reluctantly. It pinches out the smile from her lips, a retreat back towards neutral, though her teeth imprint her inner lip again in thought. Where does a girl drawing only a limited salary as a consultant obtain a harp?

Aside from stealing it from the New York Philharmonic or the Royal Orchestra? Hmm…

She follows Strange a few moments later, pushing the ephemeral thoughts away. Even observing him rounding a corner of curiosity and setting upon the package like a cat teases unfamiliar emotions, leaving a fluttering deep in her belly. "Use a knife." Recommendation from the sword-dancer there, she finally raises her fingertips over the delicate filaments spread from the cat's cradle of her fingers. Cocking her hip in his direction is invitation, where no doubt a sheathed blade is anchored at her lower back — the thigh sheathe isn't likely when cleaning!

All said and done, though, the real reference point of the performance is tying the lines she's bound to the celestial symphony of her aura and the vastness of creation beyond. The world exists in vast, grandiose sweeps of sound between the stars and the spiral of the galaxy down to the giggle an infant, and she joins them. Stellar vibrations whittled down to a lower hum fill the air, a sound that defies the ready swell of a string section accompanied by woodwinds or the brassy alarm of trumpets and trombones dueling. This is the song of a pulsar, the soughing of Saturn's hexagonal polar winds, murmuring and vibrating at a heavenly key. It sounds familiar and not at the same time, surreal to the low, moaning chime of Pluto's distant spin and Betelgeuse's vibrant red sheen.


His movements are all slowed by the near-complete focus on what the Witch is doing with this cat's cradle of wool threads. Even his hand lingers at the hidden knife at her lower back, fingertips pressing lightly into the muscles there that Strange can feel rise and fall with her breathing. Sharp eyes flick from uneasy music-producing charm to the innocent-looking package on the table.

"Right…be careful," he murmurs, finally slipping the knife from its sheathe. The air nearly vibrates with the intensity of the fluctuating planetary hum and he walks back over to the package with narrowed glare.

The silvery wards swish into view over his shoulder and linger there, ready to fall like a stooping peregrine at a pin-drop should an enemy spell emerge from the wrappings.

Wanda's knife gleams with unforgiving sharpness that slits the twine like a heated edge through butter. Barely any resistance. In fact, Strange's hand even travels a half-inch farther in unexpected reaction to unnecessary force and he glances over to her briefly with a singularly arched and silently-impressed eyebrow. Well then. No teasing about dull blades to the demon hunter. The butcher paper parts with equal ease as he draws the knife criss-cross atop the paper and it folds back placidly. Indeed - cardboard box, meant for shipping. Already, the tabs have shifted open, no longer held shut by the containment of the butcher paper.

The Sorcerer uses the keen tip to lift up one piece of the lid…and the other…and frowns at the sight that greets him.

The last two flaps, smaller, are flipped away to reveal the cover of an old book. A book he's seen before - somewhere. But where?

It fits near-to-perfectly within the confines of the box. Strange sets aside the demon-hunting knife and reaches in carefully. No curse latches onto his fingers or zaps him with some Mystical booby-trap as he wrinkles his nose; it's taking a bit to shift the tome around with how tightly its fitted, but finally, it rises up into view of all.

"'A Treatise on the Midnight Callers of Val'shai'," the Sorcerer reads aloud. Where has he…oh. "This — this was taken from the library at Kamar-Taj." The Witch is given another glance, this one dancing the merry line between thrill and agitation. "I was — "

As spritely as he'd been speaking, Strange's voice is suddenly cut out by a sharp swallow as his eyes acknowledge the second item in the box. Frozen, as surely as a hiker coming upon a rattler, he pauses there before pressing the book back down atop its partner-in-packing.

No lie that he's turned a shade lighter, even as he closes off his eyes and swallows hard, hands resting atop the cover of the tome as if to use it to crush what's beneath it.

It's that relic.


All honing and no stabbing makes Wanda a dull, dull hunter. Posties everywhere will live in terror of her effective evisceration of packaging, gutting duct tape and slashing through red tape with fingernails that shine like bleak justice. They should. Tempered steel treated by the odd spell to reinforce durability is important.

With the wards playing sentry, Strange is well defended. All the same, precautions layered are precautions redoubled. The frisson crawling up and down the musical spectrum settles on a low, rolling sextet of notes that thrum, disquieted and melodious, pivoting to a higher tempo that favours an erratic vibration. Chiming bells and steady arpeggios conveying delight are nothing to this quaver in the fabric of the universe.

Her fingers drop, the wool spinning away once disentangled. It falls to skim off her leg, puddled in a burred roll at her feet. The music slips away from hearing within several heartbeats, still felt for a magnitude longer than that. Stooping to clean up after herself will follow, but not yet. Not until the doctor opens the package and determines its contents is it safe to let her guard down, and a shield practically hovers on her lips for its invocation.

Terrorism by any other name does not go down well when someone is prepared to jump on the proverbial grenade for no other reason than she distrusts boxes. Or books in boxes. Anonymous boxes, in particular.

Oh, Christmas is going to be fun.

"Your look says this is not good." Understatement of the week, girl. His profusely deadpan response does not satisfy to calm a response. Especially not with him proclaiming the title.

English goes down sometimes hard, and puzzling over it, the witch repeats, "'Bad visitors in nightmare?'" At a flick of her fingers, the knife launches back into her hand, wreathed in a sixteen point scarlet lotus around the handle and power rolls all the way down to the point of the blade. Unimportant whether there's a humour in using one knife against another in a fight for a relic, she is fully prepared to launch into action if need be.


Strange is still retreated behind his eyelids in the moment that the demon-flaying knife returns to its mistress's hand and thus, misses his opportunity to jump like a scalded cat. Shame. It might have been amusing in hindsight.

"'Nightmare' is an understatement," he says with quiet intensity, even as lids rise hesitantly. It seems to take actual effort to once more lift the book from the box and set it aside. The good Doctor never takes his amaranthine gaze from the relic within the bottom of the box.

It sits there, so still and blameless in its inanimate state, the Fangs of Xal'that — a wickedly-curved, two-pronged dagger. Its surface is tarnished since last the Sorcerer beheld it and not only by time, but by use. There seems to be some sort of residue on it, in a shade of green close to moss, almost like dried ink of pine needles. The tightness around his lips is an indicator of the nausea beginning to grow in his twisting stomach.

"I can't believe…someone got it back," he finally states. His hands rest flat on the table's surface now, on either side of the box, and his locked elbows keep them from shaking visibly. "But who would have done that? It's been years since…"

He averts his face away from Wanda and mutters sharply, "We went after it."


The Sorcerer Supreme closes his eyes in the face of non-apparent threat: headline news for the Global Mystic News Network. Be glad this is no age where photographers hide in the bushes and throw peephole scrying windows through the attentive wards.

Wanda thumbs the hilt of her knife, an almost loving caress on an item by no means worthy of the designation relic. Her magic floods through the vibrating steel core, hardening the edge against casual damage, and tweaking causality by purely arcane means. The atonal hum on her lips is merely an accessory to the proper formation, thoughts focused upon manipulating the arcane.

Her first eye-contact with the Fangs of Xal'that produces a curl of her lips into a slightly hostile expression, the Sight completely drilling through her vision as much as she can allow before the Sanctum itself overwhelms her. Strange, too; she's learning to filter him out through her own commingled aura, strands winding together like ivy around an ancient, solid oak planted deep into the rich loam of southern England. The amaranthine fringes speak to at least an unconscious volition to soothe the razed serenity once enfolding him, a healer's balm driven from the deepest levels of the mind.

Conclusions drawn aloud guide a simple statement. Coruscating bands of luminous cherry superheat to the infrared spectrum, lotus petals spiraling in another band of sixteen points, sliding down the triangles in a neat, precise execution of Indo-Tibetan magical arts. "A message to you. Mocking brotherhood? He tells you he is powerful enough now, without you. Showing off he can do this while you are tied to your duty." And her. It's the wordless thing unsaid when she looks up to the good Doctor, face as cold and malevolent as Durga staring at a demon.

"This?" A shrug twitches her shoulders with an electric spark. "Boasting. Decide the motive. Or we send it back to him in a box of carrots and sage."


The tactile smoothing brushes of her aura against his own as well as his skin cause him to bring his gaze back to her, now standing so near. Strange listens, but it doesn't register fully - there's an odd sort of disconnect between what he's hearing and the tumult within his mind.

"You think…the Baron retrieved this. By himself." Color him dubious for only the fewest of seconds before another piece of the puzzle falls into place with a cringe-causing click. "Nope. I forgot. Not by himself." The table resounds as he gives it a mild thump with the fleshy outside of his fist, frustration manifested.

His steel-blue eyes narrow and then he gives an audible growl. "No. This is not how this goes. He does NOT get to hold this against me. He will NOT be telling you his version of things or implying any other sort of bull. There's a story behind this goddamn relic and here it is." The good Doctor folds his arms tightly and grinds his teeth visibly before continuing. He can't bring himself to look dead into her face; rather, his glare is aimed over her shoulder, somewhere into the middle distance behind her.

"The short of it is that this relic has multiple abilities imbued to it through the Arts. When used in ritual sacrifice, it can bring back the dead in any dimension. Somehow, it rips through the veils and summons the beings you wish as ghosts - or souls or pure energy or however they manifest. That being said, it will strip you of your Astral Form if it cuts you. One cut." And he holds up his pointer finger. "That's all it takes and snap," the corresponding gesture to accent the word, "you're in the Astral Dimension. It was stolen from Kamar-Taj by a former student while I was studying there, a student who wasn't fully human. K - - The Baron and I were sent to return it. I was severely injured."

Cue the subtle darkening of the room around him. The wards, having never left, hug closer around his shoulders, watching warily. "My Astral Form was separated and nearly lost to me. It is dangerous to be away from yourself for more than a day; the body can't take it and…tries to give up, in a sense." His voice is quieter now, reluctant. "I was brought back to Kamar-Taj in a coma. I found my way back, but it was cutting it close. The Ancient One wouldn't let the Baron leave to try and fetch me. It was…one hell of a f — mucked-up test." He won't curse before her. She is respected. "Needless to say, we failed. Like you said…this is probably him sending some sort of reminder that I'm not all-powerful or - or - or, gods below, I DON'T KNOW." With each accented word comes accented gestures, until he's thrown up both hands into the air in visible desperation to understand.

Strange scrubs at his face and leans hard against the table now. His shoulders slump. "And no, we can't send it back. It's a relic. It needs to stay here." A heavy sigh and then he drops his hands and chin. "Just…don't touch it. Let me deal with it."


The dangerous tool is reframed several times by the time he finished talking, and she does not bother seeing it for anything other than what it is: harmful. Deleterious to those who rely on their higher souls to travel, it is no more welcome here than a rat in a prestigious Michelin kitchen. While he talks, Strange's audience does nothing more than bat an eyelash, and hold onto the spell burning through forged steel.

"Alone or aided." Wanda does not shrug, the honed focus needed to sustain the spell around her knife allowing for no idle gestures without purpose. "A trade or ambush. Pay other to get it." She leaves the options open, casually ticking them off while Strange's broader awareness pieces together bits of a puzzle that previously refused to come together, a better than worm's eye level view assisting in ways the witch cannot.

Angry outbursts do not, in her line of work, cause much bother. Strange has not set the wards rattling or the Cloak flying off its stand to throw them both off the Anomaly Rue-facing balcony. The thump of his fist earns a pause, devoid even of reproachful looks or bitten off words. Equilibrium between his unsettled state and her calm may be a necessary exchange now, for inverted times later.

Waiting until Strange pauses, she repeats the good doctor, "Tell me his story." Beat. "Why would he talk to me? He has no interest about me. Not anything to him, no master, no power, no influence." These are facts laid out one by one, the house revealing its hand to the players on a table. Dispassionate words don't carry anything more than dull fact. "He does not care about me. You do, he does not."

It's that simple, signed in a quetzal and a dagger of the dead.

Peering at the dagger slightly closer, she says flatly, "He gives you doubt. The sanctum? Doubt. This? Doubt. Your strength comes from faith and confidence. When you are in doubt for yourself, then you lose the focus. A little but this weakness gives him strength." Going quiet, shutting her mouth with a snap, she leaves him time to parse those opinions without pushing a point. Pushing might be rude, and his frustration breaks over her in a wave, pulling back a little of the assurance in him, reflected through those glowing heliotrope eyes.

Then a thought dawns, and she speaks it, a touch more vibrant. "It is like an angry boy throwing stones at your window. A fly biting you. He is a bigger boy, a poison fly. Know this. He wants your attention. He needs you to see him having his fit in anger. What makes him do this except needing you? So he is the one made weak and distracted. You have all the power. You answer or you do not. Respond to the tasks the Vishanti gave you, defend us, be loved at home. He must be watched so he cannot do great harm. When and how is your choice, not his. It's going to drive him to anger and sadness. His magic is poisoned. So it is seen."


There's a goodly-sized portion of the Sorcerer that wants to give her a scalpel-edged glare and spit out some sort of defensive retort in the face of the reminder that he might as well be enabling the Baron to take him apart at the seams. It was an excellent move on her part to not push further regarding it; she's coming to know him quite well and, distantly, he acknowledges this mercy on her part.

"So…what, then, you're suggesting that I should stop caring about him?" Strange glances over at her with that same heavy-burdened weariness she's likely seen before. "He was my friend, Wanda, my brother-in-arms. He taught me nearly everything at Kamar-Taj. I still don't…understand," he grinds out even as he rubs at his temples with thumb and fingers across his eyes. "Fine, yes, he'll be watched. Ungrateful son of a - - beeeeach," the good Doctor hedges, elongating the word with bared teeth. "I'll get this goddamned dagger put away and then tea. Or something. I don't know."

Pushing off from the table, he turns around and reaches in for the dagger's hilt. There's a momentary pause, clearly a gut reaction from past experience, but then he narrows his eyes and finishes the motion.

The moment his hand closes entirely around it, fingertips to palm around the decoratively-carved handle, he goes rigid and seems to be fighting a compulsion of sorts even as his eyes go distant.

For his ears only, the following words, spoken by the dagger itself:

« I was in his hand, in his hand - His knuckles pale, his grip a vice - The killing stroke, to pay the price - In blood, in soul for sacrifice - The altar runneth over… - - I was in his heart, in his heart - His fingers pale, they grasp the hilt - In Death. In dying blood was spilt - For vengeance sake, to right the guilt - His sorrows runneth over… »

Message passed. The dagger is dropped as if burning into the palm of the Sorcerer's skin. It clatters back into the box and rocks back and forth for a moment before becoming still once more. Strange stares down at it before holding out a hand towards Wanda.

"Stop, don't - it was just a message. I'm fine," he adds, glancing over at her.


His question is given a blunt look and a shake of her head. Wanda murmurs, "Give him less open attention. He wants it too badly. Ask why he does. It is not a question I can answer, he is not a man I know well." Or rather, not well enough to put her finger to that pulse point, though she might have tools in the arsenal to understand all too well. The faults in her system, the very making of her creation, gives an unhealthy insight.

Quieter, still, she says, "It is hard. He is in darkness and tries to give you a lesson. But is it really his place?" No need to tap the answers in a rhetorical question, but the opportunity remains if the doctor wishes. Withdrawing from him leaves him space to simmer away in darkness, raging at the unfairness of creation when a friend turns loathed enemy on pretexts unclear. Betrayal still stings. She is not time. She cannot mend that wound.

Maybe better to be silent all the while.

Silence then gives him a better stage for the message stated in such powerful, confined meter and harsh syllables, like the coming of a prophet's voice giving voice to God's mandate. Yet no god above gods wrote that. Her eyes narrow and her aura howls, suddenly riotous rather than suppressed. Rings within rings strike outwards in a pierced halo of tangled lines around her head and flowing towards her wrists, searing to the Sight and barely visible, contained as a piercing rays.


The quiver of power recoils up her arm, reabsorbed into herself, and the borrowed power from the ambient world sent gently outwards along sixteen petal points to disperse harmlessly without more than a faint ripple to speak of its passing.


"Thank you," the good Doctor breathes in regards to the bone-rattling amount of power that he watches flow away like melt-water. Rather, not melt-water, but plasmic star-blood. It's enough to make him pause again, what he saw via the Sight, and consider her in a rare moment of caution. He forgets very easily just how much Mystical energy she can draw to herself.

Poor Mordo and any acquaintance who dares to cross her. Carrots and sage would be the least of the things found in a box once she was finished with them.

With a visible steeling of will, he reaches into the box and grasps the dagger again. It remains silent. He holds it up to the light, taking in the dried substance on it before grimacing.

"It's blood, Rakshasi. The non-human's blood. The dagger - it said that someone stabbed it into the being's heart, as a sacrifice." Oh gods… With a thick swallow, Strange places the dagger back into the box and very pointedly closes all of the flaps. The book remains out, ignored until just now. He picks it up and flips it open, hoping to hide the extreme discomfort of the unspoken conclusions coming to his mind within the perusal of the pages.

Karl killed. The Baron killed to send him this dagger. Killed for him. Oh gods.


That amount of power has a price, even released. The familiar ache in her stomach, the encroaching flutter of dropping blood sugar, speak to a slow but pervasive need to refuel. She may not have used what she summoned. All the same, her body still wants its immediate fix. Coral lips bunch into a rosette at the physical reminder, the lightheaded surge passing and fading away in a pair of waves to remind her nothing is without cost where she is involved.

Message received. Somewhere must be a captivating snack, a few leaves sprinkled in honeycomb.

She pushes her fingers along her shirt collar, shoving it down against the cap of her shoulder and rubbing at the red marks punched into her golden skin. Circulation will not restore immediately to the pinched point, but the massaging distracts her from the sick response colouring Strange's words and face, painting such rigid lines from his tall frame. How the news rattles him is not specifically lost upon her, though this is no situation she can remedy with a healing hex and reconfiguring a few perceptions in speech or dialog.

"Yes, green blood. What did he sacrifice to?" No question is ever appreciated. Nor is the question possibly of who received the sacrifice, and who came back. "Who did he pay for his revenge?"

One small droplet of rose blood shines in her pupils, flaming so hot its wavering lines radiate over her irises entirely.


"I don't know and I don't want to know."

Strange sighs. "…not right now." The book is snapped shut in one hand and then set atop the box. His fingertips linger on its cover, magically preserved to near-perfect state despite being a literal first-edition. "You're right. This is one hell of a stupid game and I'm not playing it anymore."

Tonight…at least. The conviction holds as he walks away from the box, with its dubious contents, and book, and then enfolds Wanda in a hug. His sigh gusts into her hair.

"I'm sorry that you got dragged into this, Rakshasi. I suspect they know that we are not merely roommates anymore…" Cue the quiver of fear in his stomach. Maybe his arms tighten around her just enough for her to notice.


Acceptable logic. No pressure comes from the witch whose existence is predicated upon tearing open secrets and peering into forbidden grimoires written in blood: blood of her own people, her father's torment, her nation's tears.

He's a man born to a different time, a privileged life and definitions of hardship honed in another way. She does not know about the car accident or the sister or the suffering on a mountainside, only the broadest sweeps of hurt and pain that forged him. No additional fire is called for here, the gods-chosen suffering so clearly in his way now.

The brunette tips her head up towards Strange as he denies the game's grip on him. She nods, her eyes still wide and dark as a syrah poured fresh from the cask and swirled against a candle.

Pulled into his arms, she finds herself the right spot where her nose brushes his collar and her chin rests in that little hollow carved out above the sorcerer's ribs. Arms encircle his waist and settle naturally where the tapering cage of his chest settles them best, wrists crossed over his lower back. Curled fingers impart a graze of nails against his skin, blunted by the fabric of his daywear shirt, and her thumb idly plies varied sigils and symbols meaning comfort and nothing long after her fingers otherwise go still.

A muffled sound still can be authoritative. Witness. "St'p." Her cheek is warmed by his skin, the blend of his natural masculine scent and soap addling her train of thoughts in a way no one else ever does. Mind you, she was commiserating with Pietro for most of her life and you don't smell your twin like this. "You call me oour cnsrrrt, an ayyam."

Extricating herself from his shirt, she tips her head up slightly. "Consort always, not the safe and good time only. Was the Hellmouth not clear enough?" Her eyes clear, fading back to amber, her hair idly floating around her shoulders in a dark nebulous haze. Licking her lips, the witch holds his gaze unless Strange tries to look away from her, guilt or shame or refusal writ large there. "I stand by you always. Maybe behind you when the gods make me." Or it's just wiser. Dormammu, she's riding piggyback, ignore her!

A wisp of a smile forms, but the rest of her expression carved by sharp edges is deadly serious. "I am there for you. No excuse. That is love, ja? Always for you and Pietro, you are my family." End of story.


The drawing of random sigils is comfortingly familiar, in a variety of ways. Perhaps something she's seen him do time and time again when idle fingers are left to their own devices? Nearly every surface of the Sanctum has been privy and parchment for unfinished or erased runes drawn by whorled and scarred fingerpads.

Her muffled words are somewhat difficult to understand, but it's by tucking his chin slightly and listening carefully that Strange catches most of what's spoken into the base of his throat. Her voice vibrates lightly against his skin; his consort purrs even as she lightly admonishes him for trying to take possession of worries that he has no right to touch. His steel-blue eyes never waver from her even as he nods in agreement. The Hellmouth was more than enough.

"Yes, no excuses whatsoever - and no one will make you stand behind me, «Beloved». No one," he repeats with a tone indicating an unyielding stance on the affair. "And you are my family as well, Wanda. Always."

The wards are no longer needed, clearly - this business belongs to the Sorcerer and Witch now - so they disappear into the woodwork of the Sanctum once more and leave the gods to judge SO HARD about what happens next.

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