1963-11-21 - Establishing Neutrality
Summary: Dr. Strange speaks with Loki about current affairs and both meet Skali in the process.
Related: A Really Big Show
Theme Song: None
louis strange skali 

There is a certain pleasant aspect to the routine, to build up a steady progression of events from moment to moment. For the white poodle, such a creature lives for it. The steady knowing of what time the master will be about, what time they'll offer exercise and treats, when they'll have a good walk, and when they'll be returned to the kennel with their mates. It all creates a sense of things being right in the world, and for Fluffy it certainly is a pleasant thing.

For Loki the routine serves another purpose. The world knows of Asgard now. It knows where they are. And thanks to the reporters and their stories, as well as the protesters, people know what time things happen in front of the embassy.

It starts with the door opening and the sentinels snapping to attention. Pictures are taken, just in case matters are different. A profile on Loki's fashion sense has already been created and critiqued in a few places in Paris simply because the man does cut such a silhouette. He descends the trio of steps, walking past the soldiers. Fluffy trots along at his side nicely. They head off and to the dog park.

The locals know not to be at the dog park at this time, none have had the gumption to approach him and there is a palpable fear when he's out and about. Not that he presents himself in such a grim manner, simply that is what has passed in events, a reputation gained. But once he reaches the gate, the dog rushes off and begins to run around, sniffing… digging, leaping. It's a good time to be beside the master.


The Sorcerer Supreme reeeeally just wants to stay home. Read a book. Research. Drink tea. Maybe even meditate. But - no. Fate won't leave him alone and now the Asgardians have been revealed to the world by the one and only youngest Prince of Asgard. He's been keeping tabs on the events and the atmosphere around Greenwich Village, home to artists and activists alike, is prickly enough to make the Sorcerer feel just about the same.

The Embassy is known now to all, including him, and it's easy to open a careful Gate into a nearby alley just down the street. Emerging and blending with the foot traffic is easier still, seeing as most every male wears a winter coat against the chill. The only limitation to successful amalgamation with the general public is the crimson scarf. A masquerade, of course, distinguished easily enough as the relic Cloak by anyone with an above-average sense for Mystical energies.

Just in time, apparently, and Strange narrows his eyes at the back of the youngest Prince. A glance around him, to check for other unnecessary attention beyond the paparazzi, and then he follows at a comfortable distance. The white poodle accompanying Loki is given a lingering look of quiet amusement. Certainly…not what the good Doctor would initially peg the man for owning. But, no doubt - much like the crimson scarf, the wee little dog is not quite what it seems. He would expect nothing less from the Trickster God.

Noting the apparent lack of attendees at the dog park, the Sorcerer wrinkles his nose - wonderful, he's as conspicuous as the Prince once seen conversing - but still, he forges on. The gate clicks shut behind him as he approaches, hands shoved into the pockets of his black Belstaff and then steps up beside Loki.

"Your highness," he says quietly, with fogged breath. "I'd ask you what you've been up to lately, but apparently, you are the 'talk of the town'." Not once has he looked over at Loki. His eyes, instead, follow the path of the delighted poodle about the park. "Respectfully - what in the Vishanti's goodly name are you up to?!" His volume never rises; rather, the inflection sharpens until he bites out the last few words.


There's a spot on the bench that's near to him that Loki has taken up each time he's been there. If one were to be curious a'tall or perhaps perspicacious, they might even perceive what looks like… why yes upon closer observation there's an etching in the concrete in front of that bench, as if someone took a powerful laser and carved out a depiction of the Nine Realms in a relief upon the ground.

There's Earth in the middle, and Asgard, Muspellheim, Jotunheim… all of them marked out rather exquisitely underneath the feet of the Prince. Apparently it was made some time ago, perhaps a day or so. Yet for now it's forgotten as he takes his seat and casually rests his feet upon the edge of that hewn map.

"I do not act on my own, Dr. Strange." He says those words calmly, levelly. And for once he might not be given the impression of the jovial trickster. Instead there is a certain weight to him, a strength in regard as he lets those green eyes follow the frolicking of the poodle as it starts to rush around the edges of the park, seeing how fast it can complete a lap.


The creature should have been on a leash.

All swagger and heel click, sway of hips and idle coil of smoke from cigarette dangling between her fingers. No adornment on the secretary as she sauntered down the sidewalk, pedestrian traffic parting by some unspoken notion of fear that her presence commanded. Or perhaps that of the beast that loped at her side, a tawny mastiff whose ancestors tore open the throats of indigenous peoples' and claimed a new America for the conquistadors. A blackened muzzle dropped here and there, unhurried in its pace as it crossed and re-crossed the sidewalk in the wake of the woman who led it on invisible strings of consciousness. The two moved as one, apathetic to those they inconvenienced with their presence, the smile wreathed in cigarette smoke begging for a challenge of her supremacy. It was an expression that was all hungry teeth, and no courtesy.

A sharp right was taken before the traffic of the embassy could swallow their progress whole, distracting down a street she had walked many times before for these purposes. There was an idle hum of energy in the air, a smell of juniper and Asgardian magic that had burned itself into her nose over the last few days from the prevalence of fellow wayward gods and enchantresses and whatever manner of other things kept arriving on Midgard. It chewed at her bones, made her fingers twitch and her voice catch in a low growl when she least expected it. She ignored it. Skali had wet her tongue on acquaintance with fellow Asgardians after a few millennia, and found it still did not appeal. Isolationism suited the wolf, so long as she could have her juvenile fun.

The dog at her side bristled and she whispered a soft word of calming, before opening the gate and allowing it to enter and go about its dogly business which involved singling out whatever animal looked the smallest and most helpless and seeing if enough prodding could make it start to squeak. Usually she ignored this procedure, sympathizing with an animal designed to open throats being kept as a couch adornment. Yet today, she paused in lighting another cigarette and stiffened considerably at the sight of the white poodle. The end of the stub never caught and she stowed it away, calling back the mastiff without saying a word as her eyes flashed gold. She looked like she had swallowed a fish. The poodle continued to do laps unmolested while Bragadin stared up at his mistress in puzzlement as to why he was not allowed to vivisect it.

Skali wished she had put something stronger than cream in her coffee this morning as she realized it was time to meet one of the Odinsons.


The good Doctor's lips thin as he watches Loki disappear from his peripheral and the sigh escapes him like the curling exhale of dragon-smoke. Turning about in place, he watches the youngest Prince take a seat. Joining the Asgardian is considered with gravity before the Sorcerer wanders slowly over, kicking at a small rock along the way. It jumps tufts of grass and skitters beneath the bench with a fast tik-tik of contact.

He too sits and slouches back against the framework of the bench. The crimson scarf draws up closer to his chin and ears in defiance to the cold air.

"I would hope not. Surely your brother had some say in this and surely it was argued against it? I can't fathom what you're trying to accomplish, honestly, other than kicking a hornet's nest."

Okay, curiosity wins out. Blinking the Sight over his eyes, he once more locates the white poodle - okay, rather, a wolfhound. It's enough to make the Sorcerer crack a sudden smirk that flashes teeth and that sharp exhale could have been a laugh. "Nicely done with the poodle," he adds, nodding towards the dog.

A new presence is enough to make him glance over his shoulder towards the woman in heels with the mastiff now recalled to her side. "One of yours, I think," he murmurs, giving her a raking look with the Sight.


The poodle is instantly on alert and spots the mastiff. Oh smaller dogs do often suddenly seem to play at a size bigger than they truly are, and the breed of dog that's evident would indeed probably misbehave with the presence of such a big dog in its normal territory. But then it casually trots right over towards Skali's companion and seems to merely chuff a greeting before the token dance of dog meeting dog begins.

For his master, however, Loki's attention is brought to Skali and her entrance. He answers strange with a tilt of his head and a light, "I nearly believe you are correct." And as easily as that those green eyes fall heavily upon the wolf goddess, his head cocking to the side as he realizes here is another foundling, and what is more here is one of the blood. His response is a simple 'hm.'

To Strange he turns and murmurs, "I understand from your place it might seem confusing, and indeed it would be difficult to discern a following step let alone an end game. But perhaps you will trust that such exists?" Then a gesture, fingers lifting lightly, "And, perhaps a step further, that the goal could in the end be a positive for Midgard as well as Asgard?"


For all the strangeness that held canid counterparts in rapt attention or made the hair on the back of the neck raise, Skali appeared entirely human. And she acted as such, an audible groan leaving her lips despite her better efforts to disguise it. Glancing down at the mastiff that wagged stubbed tail at her side, she mumbled quietly about 'it's like rats but ones you have to curtsey to.' The beast huffed in an answering note of disapproval and regarded the approaching plaything with a distracted ambivalence, as if trying to copy the haughty attitude of handler.

It wasn't like she could say that she didn't see them. The dog park boasted 3 warm bodies, and at least one of them was regarding her with a measuring intent. Pursing together her lips in a final consideration of how stupid she would look trying to run out of here on heels, combined with the lack of an actual need to, she succumbed to politics she would rather avoid.

It had been a few thousand years, but she feigned diffidence well enough. The act wasn't finely tuned enough to fool the Trickster himself, but it was convincing enough that most humans saw her as a polite secretary. She smoothed her skirts and approached with a,


The voice was young, unharried by the tobacco she frequently abused given the accelerated rate of healing her kind boasted. It didn't belong in polite conversation, recalling ale on the tongue and the warmth of a packed tavern from times long past, but she managed. Her golden eyes shifted to rest quietly on the likely progenitor of her line, a smirk pulling at her lips as she seemed to waver on platitudes and settled instead on saying,

"And you."


The Sorcerer Supreme can sense an Asgardian anywhere, especially given the amount of time he's spent interacting with them lately. Given that he's met the Prince of Wolves before, the pale-furred Hrimhari, it isn't a huge leap in logic to assume that this young woman is, at the very least, of the ilk of said Realm. However, this particular ring of politics isn't his purview, and so he pulls his gaze back to the far side of the park as he settles back against the bench once more.

"Believe me when I tell you, your highness, that any endgame of yours concerns me purely from the perspective of my mantle. You meddle and it's annoying." He could have chosen other adjectives, but the two men are basically diplomats for their respective Realms. No need for language. "The only thing that confuses me is why you continue to muck about in my Realm like it's a play thing to bend to your amusement. It will only bring you and the Asgardians trouble." He doesn't know of anything regarding SHIELD currently. He means in the context of his own Mystical ilk and responsibilities as Sorcerer Supreme. "What else do I need to do to keep you from sticking your fingers into our business? The Hellmouth is closed."

He stops speaking to eye the young woman standing before them now and gives her greeting one arched eyebrow. "Definitely one of yours," he mutters.


A wry smile lights upon Loki's features as he murmurs towards Skali, "Dr. Strange, might I present to you my… grand daughter." He says as he looks upon her, as if only now discovering this. His eyebrow lifts curiously as he takes in all that she is and more with such a calm measuring glance. He rises to his feet and then with a flourish he offers her the seat he only then had vacated. "Please, do be so kind as to join us."

Loki then turns away and sets foot lightly upon that etched depiction of the 9 realms upon the cement, even as the Poodle makes a break for it with the mastiff chasing it. Yet the green eyes shift towards Strange and he says levelly. "Your choice of words is incorrect. For to meddle it implies that one has no right of influence nor stake in a matter. As much as you may wish for it, Midgard is not alone and never shall be in its struggle to exist. Its survival is important for much more than even you can perceive."

A small shrug is given, "I am not playing at a game here. I am not affecting a tone to influence your actions, for I need nothing out of you, and can ask nothing of you for your own safety. You perceive what I allow you to perceive, at least in this case."

There's a pause and then he adds with a faint smile, "I just hope you may trust that our interests do follow with Midgard's."


Skali casts her attentions wide with a huff to ensure they wouldn't be joined by anyone else for a family reunion, introducing her name with a succinct, "Skali" before claiming the seat. Despite the fact that abandoning her feet in such a company made her teeth grit together, she disguised it in a persisting smile and pretended languid recline on the bench, like a large cat settling onto a perch.

Legs crossed, heel dangled on one toe, her focus shifting to regard the hounds as they completed another circuit. Despite the facade, she never offered her back to her grandsire in full, turning as he spoke and wandered in his speaking so as to keep him weighted by her consideration. The other individual was an unknown, and though she should have demonstrated equal caution, she could only split her focus so many ways.

"Perhaps the man simply needs a ten year plan. Twenty year. Fifty. What's your lifespan?"

The wolf's focus shifted lazily back to the stranger, regarding the good Doctor with a humor that echoed her familial ties. His frustration was drafted in with a cursory sniff, and her smile widened at the acrid tang it added to the air. Suddenly she was grateful to have abstained from the second cigarette.


Strange watches the grand-daughter of the youngest Prince sit down on the end of the bench and hmphs quietly. How these Asgardians age is a total mind-bender. No wonder the general public and tabloids aren't sure who is older than whom or relations, etc, etc.

He shifts in his coat and then grants the Trickster his full sardonic-seeming attention. Slowly, ever-so-slowly, the corners of his lips begin to rise. He suddenly looks…very pleased at the word choices offered to him.

"Damn, that's uncanny. Not exactly what I was shown, but close enough," he says with a sudden short laugh. "Oh, good, I feel so much better now."

The sly grin is turned on Skali, mirroring the edge seen in hers, and he replies to her question with, "Long enough to concern your grandpa enough that he needs to placate me, apparently."

Back to the youngest Prince. "Your influence on our fate will apparently be…trivial, your highness. I appreciate you taking the time to speak with me."


For a moment, Loki looks to Strange and it might seem like he truly would like to reach some sort of meeting of the minds. "Strange, I have never felt the need to placate you. I enjoy our talks. It mislikes me the times I've had to manipulate you," For a time he looks down, then he looks up. "I appreciated your aid with Sigrunsdottir, and consider what debt you had with me to be paid in full."

He steps forwards and offers his gloved hand to the man, looking at him levelly. "I understand if your responsibilities would make contact with me and mine difficult, and shall presume not to occupy your time nor attention unless matters of state so require it."

If the hand is accepted and there is the chance, the Odinson will then clap the man on the shoulder and murmur quietly. "You are a good man, sir." And there is something… final about those words.


Skali wordlessly considers the exchange, details filed away as they leak from the lips of both men. Her hands twitch occasionally, the motion reminiscent of typing or scrawling, committing things to memory instead of further commentary. Strange. A being of some import. Of use. If Loki pretended companionship, or perhaps harbored notions of it in earnest, it made him remarkable. A dignitary. Titles were exchanged while familiarity was flirted.

The woman watched and waited, as only the best secretaries do, making herself small and keeping her attentions on anything but them while she listened and nibbled at the tidbits of information with a curiosity that was hard to deny.


Is an explanation not partially placation? Reassurance in the face of suspicion, mollifying distrust? Regardless, the youngest Prince is correct. Manipulation is a cruel game and sows deeply-seeded distrust. It's a relief to hear the debt is repaid. Perhaps that's the push needed for the good Doctor to end this on a more polite note.

Rising to his feet, Strange looks from gloved hand to royal face and pauses only for a moment. Diplomacy requires tact and he's already flirted with the hard line between respect and cheek. The Asgardian's hand is grasped and the handshake returned with neutral pressure. No need for shows of physicality here; after all, he wouldn't win the crunch-the-fingers contest.

"I wish I could trust you, Loki Odinson, I really do," he replies. "You seem like you'd be a great friend. Maybe once you stop springing things without telling me first, I'll consider it." He returns the slap on the shoulder with a similar motion and then considers the two dogs romping about the green in pensive silence and with pocketed hands. "However, yes - for the good of both of our Realms, don't hesitate to contact me as needed. I'll do the same for you and your brother at the Embassy."

A final sigh that ghosts in the air around him and then he glances over at Skali again. "Have fun with Granddad here. Make sure he tells you the truth the first time around." With that, the Sorcerer Supreme leaves the two Asgardians to play catch-up. He has other Mystical mysteries to unravel now - like how he gained yet another roommate at the Sanctum.


For a time Loki watches after Strange departs, and after a time the poodle comes trotting up to lightly nudge at the Asgardian's hand. His brow furrows for a time as he looks down at the animal, lightly patting its head before he turns and takes up a place on the bench beside his granddaughter and in the place Strange sat but a moment ago.

He lifts a leatherclad fingertip and lightly scritches along the curve of his beard thoughtfully, but then he looks sidelong towards Skali and asks her idly, with little warning that abruptly she would be quizzed and tested. "Why did I say to him what I did, child?"

The words carry upon the wind in the park, and for a time it might seem like it's only them there, that even the faint chirp of the crickets far off in the bushes were holding their breath. Loki, however, leans forwards to smile and pet the scruff of the poodle, affectionately.


Of course her silence had not gone unnoticed. Indeed, all the proper pleasantries had been satisfied. There was a nod and a laugh, a passing jest about truth being relative to follow the Doctor on his way; all the while her foot bouncing slightly, the heel bobbing in the air. The motion stilled as Loki's voice edged into her awareness, her eyes having never truly left him now turned to regard him in full. A tilt of her head and then a faint smile, some undercurrent of surprise chased away by a willing enthusiasm that sarcasm guarded.

"Everything offered was intangible. Hope. Trust. Perception. You bartered with a theory of intentions aligning, without actually betraying your own. He sleeps tonight, hoping you are an ally, but there has been no promise brokered. Your debts are even. He owes you nothing and in turn, nothing is owed to him. Including transparency."

The tongue rounded on the last syllable before her teeth pressed it into submission, the human aspect of her nature acquired from a time spent on Midgard rebuking the wolf for such a sycophantic effort at praise. Distracting to a cigarette, she pulled loose one of the sticks and lit it in an effort to busy herself with something besides looking at Loki. His attention made her hackles stand up and her gut churn in a way that her acquired individuality from Asgard recoiled from.


A look is given after where Strange was, but then Loki's eyes return to Skali and he cants his head to the side. "I can see how you could perhaps come to that conclusion." There's a pause as he looks up as if watching what the sorcerer supreme once was, but then he looks back to her. "And it is a fine cursory read of sorts."

Loki gestures again to the poodle, sending it off to rush away from Skali's mastiff, letting it dart around the dog park for a time, enjoying itself and the presence of a playmate. Such a rarity for these excursions.

"I spoke as I did because to press him would be to push him further to one course of action that would not aid our efforts. And his honor holds him strong enough that placation or flattery would serve naught at all." The prince of Asgard looks to the side and then as she finishes fidgeting with the cigarette and lights it, he ever so rudely reaches over and relieves her of it, taking it for himself.

He eyes her askance and takes a drag before offering it back to her and telling her. "It left us with a moment, a rarity, when there was naught to be gained by playing games and you will find that as you get older an opportunity for a brief moment of honesty, however unimportant, can be a lovely thing."

He looks away, "We live long enough that at times it is possible to lose oneself, so take these moments and embrace finding who you are."

Once those words float there for a time, his smirk springs back to life as he looks to her. "That having been said, who are you, Skali?"


It was a paltry resource, and still the woman stiffened as he whisked it away. Much as a dog may glower over a lost bone, so she seemed to be considering sinking her metaphorical teeth into his hand. Or literal ones. Yet the lesser monster knew caution, and though she scowled, her displeasure wasn't noted in more obvious tones than an indignant grunt. She waved off the return of the cigarette, bidding him keep it in possession while she drew out another one and leaned back while lighting it. His words ebbed against her like waves, lapping at her ankles as she exhaled the first drag and followed his focus to the romping beasts.

"There's always something to be gained. Perhaps the stage was set to manufacture a sentiment of equality, but-"

She trailed off, quieting as she simply shook out her dark curls and decided not to broach an argument with royalty. Let him have his moment, and call it what he cared to. Maybe he wanted to feel less immortal, more relevant, as if his grandiose puppeteering would come to some final consequence of note. She tapped the ash away from the end of the burning stick and looked at him from the corner of her eyes with a smirk.

"Nobody of note. I've been here long enough to be feared, loved, worshipped, and forgotten. I see you are only now taking that first step, Odinson."

Her dialect, her mannerisms, her regard of his position was all so delightfully human that the magic lingering on her skin and the scent of wet fur and fresh blood stung when it could be sensed underneath the masking haze of tobacco smoke.


A casual chortle slips from him and he ashes the tip of his cigarette to the side further just to make sure it's suitably clean. "Oh they have legends of you do they? Temples?" He rolls to his feet and gestures to the poodle with a light whistle, a whistle that causes the creature to hurl back to his side, ready for an affectionate pat.

"You'll have to show me them some time, they must be squirreled away in a bus station somewhere." As he says this he gestures for her to walk with him even as he starts his way towards the first of the two gates that lead out of the dog park.

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