1963-11-25 - Exchange of Favors
Summary: Crystal and Lorna meet with the Sorcerer Supreme to discuss defenses.
Related: Maximus stuff
Theme Song: None
crystal lorna strange 

Crystal has had a very unpleasant few days. Of course there's the political unrest that comes with an assassination. But there's also the fact that her cousin arrived at Xavier's just yesterday. Saying things, saying things about things, that he had no reasonable way of knowing. Technology and money can only do so much. But when a door closes, sometimes it's time to open a window.

One of the benefits of keeping the Institute running is that Crystal has access to the rolodex of connections. She flipped through then put in a call to one Doctor Strange, setting up a meeting in the city presumably to speak about security.

She's seated at one of the tables in the shop, a pot of hot water already waiting in front of her, along with a small tray of sandwiches. It is, after all, only polite to provide snacks.


The Frost Institute was still officially off classes for the day, for the holidays, in fact. So Lorna had little reason to drive back down the following day. Yet, as much as she wanted to spend time with her father, she didn't want to appear clingly. Or annoying. The poor girl had spent a good amount of her time just /bored/ or idly reading books and flopping around in the guest room Erik had set her up in.

So when Crystal mentioned going into the city to see some Doctor about figuring out /something/, Lorna really wasn't sure about the details; she jumped at the chance to go with Crystal.

The downside being that the teen then had to sit at the table awkwardly with her father's girlfriend who was also a princess. The manners drilled into her since she was young made it difficult for Lorna to decide exactly /what/ to call Crystal. Which led to several awkward and sheepish jokes as the girl tried to process the fact that her dad was going steady with someone that neither human, nor mutant and was actually exiled from some strange place she'd never heard of.

But the tea was nice at least.

"Uhm.. soo, this Doctor guy, have you met him before?"


When he'd answered the phone this morning, thankfully awake after some mediation and a nice cup of breakfast tea, Dr. Strange had been surprised — and then pleasantly surprised — to speak with Princess Crystalia. Of course his brows had knitted at her queries regarding an all-too-nosey cousin (royalty?) and of the possibility of spells to aid in keeping her private life private.

Perhaps the princess notes the disruption of the air in the small alley beside the tea shop, for that's where Strange steps from the crackling Gate. It's summarily dismissed and then the tall, lean Sorcerer steps into the shop, preceded by the ringing of the door's little bell. He returns old Mrs. O'Riley's greeting with a wave and pauses only long enough to locate the two young woman. Ah, this must be the Princess — but he's unfamiliar with the other young lady.

He walks over to the table and gives them both a professional smile. For now, scarred hands are kept in coat pockets. "Am I speaking to Princess Crystalia then? You seem to have the green eyes and reddish hair described to me over the phone." Clearly, he's teasing as he adds, "Of course, last I saw you, it was before the Court of Asgard." His grin deepens and gives his steel-grey eyes a bit of a twinkle. He settles in the third chair at the table and pauses in unbuttoning his coat as he eyes the second woman. "I'm sorry, I don't know you. A relative of her highness?"


"I haven't formally met him, no," Crystal answers Lorna. "But he's a friend of Charles', and I did see him at court in Asgard. Which was…a somewhat stressful event, so I certainly couldn't blame him if he didn't recall much about it." Her chin rises slightly, a shift in her posture as she feels the displacement from outside. It isn't until the sorcerer steps through the door that the frisson of extra tension dissipates.

"I do apologize for dragging you out, doctor," she smiles warmly as he reaches the table. "Please, join us. It's a lovely green tea from Tibet, but we can always order something else. Doctor, this is Miss Lorna Dane, a student." Some things are really too complicated to explain. "Asgard was…Well. It was a bit of madness, wasn't it? And yet, somehow things have gotten even more mad."


A small furrowing of her brow follows and Lorna cocks her head to the side. "Asgard? What's that? Does that have to do with those weirdos that shot the president?" She asked, clearly in all her education, Norse Myths had never been that important. It was entirely over /her/ head.

But then the magnetic poles did something strange and Lorna sat up, and she could feel the distortion in the natural flow of the Earth's field as the Doctor arrived outside. She gaped, blinking as the tall, lanky looking fellow approached. He decidedly did not look like any doctor that /she'd/ seen before. Confusion knit her dyed brows higher, though some green was peaking through. She hadn't brought hair dye with her, and as a result it was quickly washing out of her hair.

Still, as Crystal introduced her, she had to fight the urge to frown faintly. What was so complicated about the fact that her dad was going steady with Crystal? After all, if things kept up, Lorna supposed she'd call her a sorta step-mother.

Wouldn't that be fun?

Still, she knew better than to slouch and she smiled at the Doctor, "Hi, it's nice to meet you."


"Same to you, Lorna," the good Doctor replies, finally giving her the same professionally-charming smile. The black coat is shucked to reveal a white dress shirt beneath; the crimson scarf, however, stays on. It seems to settle more comfortably about his neck — of its own accord?! Or no, maybe it was just gravity's weight pulling on the fabric. Regardless, he pours for all three of them before settling back in his chair. The steam rises around his face as he sips at the green tea and then sighs slowly.

"Excellent choice in tea, your highness. And yes, Asgard was…madness, though most diplomacy involves a little madness, I think. Though if I'm remembering correctly, your current situation involves someone other than an Asgardian?" His sharp gaze settles on Crystal across the table as he sets down his cup, but leaves hands wrapped around it. His fingertips inscribe random unfinished rune on the surface while he listens.


"Diplomacy," Crystal echoes ruefully. "Yes."

She takes a sip of her own tea, setting the glass down carefully before she looks back to Strange. "I'm not sure what you've heard, but my arrangement with Asgard was…resolved in another matter. Thor has decided to pursue one of his own people. Admittedly, some small relief to me, though I suspect there may be some in Asgard who still hold a grudge. Anyhow."

A flick of her fingers dismisses that. "You called yourself the Sorcerer Supreme. Told Asgard you could protect us yourself. Which was brave, and welcome. And then Loki walks onto the Ed Sullivan show and-" Clearly, her mind is a whirl with all the complications of diplomacy. "Regardless. Are you familiar with Attilan and Inhumans? I should really explain first, if not."


Lorna reached for the tea with a small thank-you as Strange pours for all three of them, her eyes locked onto the fabric around his neck with a sharp intensity, as if waiting for it to move again. Just to make sure that she /wasn't/ going crazy. When it didn't move immediately again, she turned her attention back to the converation at hand, sipping at her tea as she held the cup with both hands to warm against the cold. She was always cold!

Annnd there was diplomacy again. What was it that her father had said? She wrinkled her forehead in thought, and failed to remember exactly what he had said the previous evening. But there it was, and she was grossly out of her depth.

And then Crystal mentioned the Ed Sullivan show and she squirmed. Finally! Something she'd seen for her self.

"Do you think he did something?" She edged out, softly, hesitantly. A brow lifting in question.


The good Doctor has the grace to look pained for the Princess at the news of the broken engagement. He hadn't known of this beforehand. Fair enough though; it wasn't as if he shared news with the Embassy on a weekly basis. He doesn't expect to be kept continually abreast of events.

Now…the whole Ed Sullivan business. Strange sighs and slowly shakes his head, eyes momentarily averted to the amber surface of his tea. "It was no lie, your highness, what I said to Odin One-Eye. With my title comes the power of the gods - three of them, in fact. However, with this power comes rules. One of the rules is that I may not meddle with the Fate of this reality." A sip of his tea and he rolls his lips for a moment. "I was…informed that Prince Loki's reveal of the Asgardian society was Fated. The blessing is that his actions do not resonate with implications beyond that which is Fated. I informed him in person that his actions were ultimately trivial in the scheme of things." He wrinkles his nose slightly. "Likely not the most diplomatic of terms, but we did part on neutral standings."

Another sigh and the Sorcerer settles back into his chair with an air of quiet, indolent interest, his gaze briefly flitting to Lorna. "What is done cannot be undone, unfortunately. We'll need to band together as needed to combat the repercussions." Back to Crystal. "I'm familiar only in the basest sense of this culture, your highness. Please, remind me once more. Your first-person explanation will fill in gaps where literature has failed."


"Goodness, I certainly don't blame you for Loki," Crystal laughs with a roll of her eyes for the prince. "He's a creature of chaos. There's no blaming anyone for him. Except perhaps Thor. And his father. Who I don't feel particularly in the position to admonish on the topic at the moment." As if giving gods a stern talking to was something one did at all.

She nods, though, to his last. "Very well, then. Thousands of years ago, when homo sapiens were only just emerging, a group of alien scientists landed here. They conducted certain experiments on the locals, attempting to create warriors for their conflict with another alien race. The short version is that we, Inhumans, are the result of that tinkering. Along with a bit more of our own in the interim.

A glance to Lorna, including her in the explanation. "My cousin Blackagar is the rightful king of Attilan. But ten years ago, in a conflict with his brother Maximus, we were driven out of our home. Exiled. For a long time, we were occupied with searching for my sister, Blackagar's betrothed. In the meantime, Maximus has ruled over Attilan. The problem is more than just one of rightful inheritance, though. Maximus is mad. Whether it was a result of his change or something else, his genius has been twisted to madness."

She traces a finger along the rim of her cup, frowning into the surface of the tea. "A week ago, I heard he was in town and looking for us again. Just yesterday, he found me at the Institute. Worse, he had heard of the attempted alliance with Asgard. He echoed words I had spoken only the night before. Now, since the only people who could have told him about Asgard were Asgardians, and since the only other person who heard what I said the night before was Lorna's father, I have reason to believe that he has acquired some means of spying upon me."


Lorna fell silent again, sipping her tea as her gaze shifted between Strange and Crystal. She soaked in what both of them had to say with a rapt interest, her brows furrowed in thought. Then, as Crystal mentions the fact that her cousin was in fact mad, and continued with her explanation everything started to make a little more sense. Not much, gods and Inhumans and princes and princesses were still beyond her scope of daily life, but she was doing a decent job of accepting these things as truth rather than some cooked up news story.

"He also left some packages at the school." She added, "Presents I guess.." She bit her lower lip, looking worriedly at Crystal. "It was creepy." There, she added her own two cents.


The Princess is given a small, satisfied smile. At least Strange isn't the only one who recognizes the Asgardian Prince's potential for sowing unpredictable plans left and right.

As he listens, his steel-blue eyes narrow until they're nearly hidden behind his lashes. It's an expression of concerned consternation, one that leaves no question as to how much respect he has for this mad king's actions.

"Spying and presents. He sounds charming," the good Doctor mutters before taking another sip of tea. "No wonder you're looking to have me cast wards or protection spells of some sort. Your highness, does this cousin of yours possess any magical capabilities? Any chance he would sense my castings?"


"It was very creepy," Crystal sighs in agreement with Lorna. "It's a specialty of his. I wouldn't get rid of it," she adds. "But I wouldn't keep it near my person, either. There's no telling what sort of technology or gadgets he might have designed and snuck into it, but I assure you, you don't want to insult a madman by throwing away his gifts."

To Strange, she shakes her head. "Unless he's picked up something new in the last ten years, Maximus' gifts are genetic and scientific. Not magical. Though given he must have learned of things from an Asgardian? I'm not ruling out that he has access to magical resources."


That magic was even a thing was news to Lorna, and she gaped for several long moments, her gaze jumping from Strange to Crystal and back for a while. Then she wisely shut her mouth and sipped at her tea and kept her million other questions to herself. For the moment.

But then as soon as Crystal mentioned /not/ throwing out the creepy gifts she pouted, her lips parting as she looked up at the other woman. "Do I /have/ to keep it?" She whined, and Lorna, by a rule generally did not whine often. Nor pout. But it was a creepy thing to wake up to in the morning.


Whoooops. Strange notes Lorna's expression and sighs, his shoulders slumping in acceptance of possibly needing to offer an explanation as to said 'existence of magic'. He had assumed that she was part of the Attilan retinue as well as student. Teaches him to assume.

The good Doctor shares his ten cents regarding the presents. "I'd put it someplace safe, dark, and secure, Lorna. I've received my fair share of odd presents over the years and if you can't trust it, squirrel it away. Don't let your curiosity get the better of you." An emphasis on that last sentence; sounds like there's some personal experience in the matter.

"Good to know though that he doesn't use magic, your highness," says Strange with a single-finger point towards her around the curve of his tea cup, "because that means we can get creative as necessary in order to keep him out of your business. What are your preferences? Spells? Enchanted jewelry? Sketched runic wards?"


"Just as the doctor says," Crystal nods to Lorna. "Possibly somewhere…isolated. I honestly don't know what he might have done with it, but you'll want to be able to retrieve it with some sort of plausible deniability. My mother says it's much too nice for someone my age, I've had to put it in storage, or something like that," she suggests before looking back to Strange.

"I'm afraid my knowledge of magic is rudimentary, to say the least. But if he's somehow seeing, tracking, or overhearing me, then there are others who might be in danger. My sister, especially. Something portable that I wouldn't need to…activate somehow would be ideal, but I haven't the slightest idea what I'm asking of you," she admits, smile crooked.


Lorna squirmed in her seat, making a face as both Strange and Crystal offer her the resounding 'you have to keep it'. She frowned faintly down at her tea, her nose wrinkling up. "I can't keep it at school then, I have too many people in my room on and off. And if it's a problem then I don't think Miss Frost would want me to keep it at the school. Where should I put it? Can I just have Tata keep it with that furry hat he got?" She tilted her head to the side.

A sigh pulled from her lips as the subject returned to more important matters. Like how Crystal's creepy cousin had found her in the first place. Magic. Right. Lorna wanted to tune it out, honestly she did, but she was also horribly curious and as such, continued to listen quite intently.


Tata. Hmm. "Like her highness says, storage may be best. Absolutely away from the school, especially if you have inquisitive roommates."

"Something portable will be best disguised as jewelry. I would say a hat or perhaps a scarf — " and the crimson scarf wiggles the gold-tipped ends of itself in apparent glee at receiving a mention, much to the flat-lipped chagrin of its master; the garment receives a stern glance before Strange shakes his head. "As I was saying, I would suggest clothing, but wearing a scarf in the summer is suspicious enough. Jewelry will do best. Necklace, ring, earrings, what? Barette? Hair tie? And, not to take away from the fun, but this is a bargaining. What do you offer in return for my services?" He gives Crystal a small smile. "I'll add to be careful, your highness, with your words. Words are binding in the world of the Mystical Arts and have more weight than in average conversation."

Something clicks in his mind and he glances back at Lorna once more. "School. Charles Xavier's school? Would you happen to know my ward, Illyana Rasputina?"


Crystal's smile quirks when Strange mentions a price. "I would expect nothing less, doctor," she agrees with a solemn tip of her chin. "And jewelry sounds like an excellent option. A ring, perhaps. Less likely to be lost or come loose should there be some sort of confrontation."

As he asks after a ward, providing a name, she tilts her head slightly. Connections. Illyana. The girl from Muspelheim, with the sword. Yes, she had been his student. "I'm not certain what a proper price for this sort of work is, doctor. And I'm afraid I have few magical resources to offer. Something of science, though? Our people have been studying genetics and technology for millennia. Or resources. I'd be happy to obtain something from a place that might be otherwise inaccessible. My talents grant me access to earth, air, water…"


A pause, "Yeah, Illyana is my suitemate at the Frost Institute though, not the Xavier school." She bit her lower lip, "She wouldn't let me paint her nails the other day. I don't get the big deal with it.." She trailed off staring at the scarf as it moved again.

Her brows shot upwards, and she had to fight off the urge to reach out to see if it would reach. Her hands remained firmly wrapped around her tea cup instead. Yep. It would be rude to reach out and touch the Doctor's scarf. Crystal's talk of her powers though gained her attention and she shifted to glance side long at the woman beside her. She certainly didn't know that Crystal had control over four elements.


The Sorcerer raises one imperious eyebrow at Lorna's statement regarding which school Illyana currently attends. "Frost Institute," he repeats in a decidedly unamused manner. His ward clearly hasn't told him of the swap. "It seems Miss Illyana and I will need to talk. Thank you, Lorna, for telling me this."

His gusty sigh blows away the steam from the remaining tea in his cup as he shakes his head, closing his eyes at the impetuousness of youth. He sets it down instead of taking a sip. "Apologies, your highness. I have enough on my plate without my ward not communicating things to me. I can see a swap being…useful, especially if your people have access to certain genetic sciences." Strange watches the runic symbol he draws so lightly on the table glow briefly before smoothing it away beneath his scarred hand; clearly, he's thinking hard and fast. "Would you have anything to determine relation? Blood relation? It would need to be extremely accurate, your highness." Chin tilted, he looks up at her from beneath his brows, granting a shift towards caution in his demeanor.


Crystal quirks a brow at Strange's reaction to the news, storing that little tidbit away as well. "Miss Frost is ambitious, it seems," she says neutrally, taking a sip of her own tea. At his request, though, both brows rise. "Yes, of course," she agrees. "We could certainly run those sorts of tests. They require a sample from both sides, of course. But if you were hoping to find out who the father of a child was, for example…" She trails off, turning a rueful smile on Lorna.


Lorna turned red from a combination of Strange's reaction, to Crystal mentioning paternity tests. She bit her lower lip, and dedicated a good amount of time to looking down at her tea cup. Illyana would be /so/ not happy for getting her into trouble.

"Uhm.. erm.. are you like Illyana's dad?" She blurted out, her brows shooting upwards as she looked over Strange again. He'd said ward. That was kind of like an adoption, right? Or foster parent? Was that who he was?

Then her gaze was sliding toward Crystal and she fidgeted with a lock of stray hair that had escaped her ponytail. It had an oddly green tinge in the sunlgiht. She really needed to pick up some more hair dye..


"No, I'm not Illyana's father, just her teacher," the good Doctor replies to Lorna, giving her a small smirk. "She's supposed to have been at the Xavier Institute for further learning. That I wasn't informed is inappropriate. Don't feel badly, you didn't do wrong. She has no right to be mad at you. It was her decision not to inform me." After all, how many times has the Sorcerer cautioned the Queen of Limbo that actions have consequences that one must consider? Enough times, apparently.

The fact that the Attilan Princess needs samples is something that doesn't sit well with him. "I was hoping that you might have a kit that I can use myself. I have to use discretion in the matter and sharing biologic samples isn't something I'm comfortable with. Please understand, I mean no insult. However, in the school of the Arts, a drop of blood can kill a man if the right curse is cast." Strange finishes his cup of tea and sets down the cup with a quiet clink on the table. "I am a doctor, your highness, previously a world-class neurosurgeon. I'm perfectly comfortable around medical devices."


"Ah, of course," Crystal dips her chin at Strange's explanation. "Well. I believe we have the appropriate resources at Xavier's. We could always perform the tests there and you could be present for the subsequent destruction of samples," she offers. "Otherwise, the remaining technology is in Attilan. I could conceivably retrieve something, it would just be…difficult. And a risk. Sneaking into what is essentially enemy territory, even if we still have friends and allies there."


Lorna bit her lower lip, squirming in her seat beneath Strange's gaze as he smirked and tried to assuage her guilt at having possibly gotten Illyana into trouble with her.. teacher? It was rather confusing to her, but Lorna accepted it as it was and moved on.

Or tried to. The talk of evil curses that could strike a person dead with a drop of blood had her shivering and cringing at the thought. Magic was real. So too, it would seem, were all the little folk tales that involved wicked witches and evil sorcerers. Lovely. Gods, witches, wizards, time travel and vampires.

Was anything /actually/ fiction? Lorna wasn't quite so sure anymore.

Still, she fell silent as the conversation drifted onwards and she sipped at her tea.


"I wouldn't ask you to risk yourself, your highness, not for a simple medical kit. I can solve the problem on my own, with my own resources, I merely though to…assuage the patient in question with real-world science rather than the Arts. It's a hard thing, wrapping your brain around the fact that magic exists." A knowing glance over at Lorna, not unpitying. There's the inklings of an idea that revolves around Illyana bringing along her roommate for a discussion.

A sigh and one-shouldered shrug as Strange meets those green eyes once again. "No matter. I'd be just as happy to accept a contract in information. You warn me of incoming dangers and warnings pertaining to your people or mine, of Earth," he clarifies. "A magical ring — or two of them? You did mention a sister — in exchange for immediate and truthful notification of problems that involve me in any capacity as Sorcerer Supreme, whether they actually pan out to need my aid or not. This implies a neutral diplomacy between our realms, your highness. How does that sound?"


"Oh, well." Crystal presses a hand to her cheek, flushing. "I didn't- I…" She pauses, then reaches for her purse, pulling out a notepad and a pencil to scratch out a note.

"I told him I hadn't found her yet," it says. "And as I'm not sure if he can see or hear us now…"

Palming the note, she lets it combust in the palm of her hand, turning to ash which she surreptitiously brushes to the floor. She's just full of tricks, isn't she?

"I would be happy to pass any such information along to you, Doctor. I do after all have your number, it seems," she smiles faintly.


Lorna remained silent, still, she was fascinated by the idea of magic as Strange spoke more of it. Still freaked out, but paying close attention. "Can anyone do magic?" She asked softly, cocking her head to the side, green eyes furrowing lightly in concentration.

Then with Crystal's fire that crumbled the paper to ashes, she oo'ed softly under her breath.


Strange nods at the written note shown in a flash to him. Of course, caution is necessary. The abrupt burning of the note? Proof of her earlier statements in regards to controlling the elements. So the Princess really was an Elementalist — very good. An excellent reason to continue to engender respectful contact between him and the realm of Attilan, even if said Princess is currently deposed.

He glances over at the counter. Mrs. O'Riley's back was turned for the demonstration, thankfully enough, and she seems much too up to her elbows in dough to notice the fading scent of burnt paper.

"Then we have an accord, I suppose," the good Doctor replies with a faint smile. He offers a hand across the table with the spoken warning of, "There may be feedback if you shake it. I won't be offended if you don't."


"Well now I'm just curious," Crystal laughs, reaching forward to take the offered hand in a comfortable grip. Firm enough for confidence, but more gentle than otherwise. Much like the facade she projects to the world. "Thank you, Doctor," she says warmly. "I don't think I can properly express my gratitude for your assistance with this."


Surprisingly, little feedback. It makes sense, given that she is of Elemental ilk while he is of Mystical Art; the two areas of study aren't quite identical. At most, she might feel a little frission and a breath of wind tickling at the hairs of her arms, like the first spring breeze. He returns her grip, professionally-firm, and leans back into his chair.

"I can use all the information I can get, especially if the current King of Attilan is a few bolts shy of a full toolbox." Joy. "I'm happy to exchange rings for information. How would you like me to get them to you? Would you accept a package from the Sorcerer Supreme at the Institute?" Asked with just a hint of cheek. No apologies save for a half-smile and a bit of a twinkle in his eyes. Trust him to make light of something serious.

He glances over at Lorna again. "Miss Lorna. If the concept of magic is new to you, perhaps talk with Illyana. She's heard enough of my explanations that she'd likely do a good job explaining in turn. As for anyone doing magic…" His dry smile turns more understanding now, as if bolstering her and granting her points for bravery in the face of newness. "If one studies hard enough, perhaps. It takes great willpower and many years of practice if you're starting from the beginning."


"I believe such a package would have no issues getting inside, yes," Crystal smiles crookedly, settling back in her seat and taking a sip of her tea. "And I will keep you apprised of any new oddities as they come up. Just when I was beginning to think that my life might be approaching uncomplicated, Maximus has to come out of Attilan. And he is always complicated," she sighs. "When he stopped by the school, he spoke of something to stop humans from attacking mutants. Probably a lie, but almost certainly not what he claims. I'd like to say I won't see him, but…I think he'll be seeking me out now that he knows where to find me."


Lorna bit her lower lip, looking up from her now empty tea mug toward Strange and she flushed. "I barely have control of my powers, and I was born with them. Not sure how anyone could spend years on something that might or might not work at all.." She mumbled, wrinkling up her nose. "I'll ask Illyana after the Holiday." She bit her lower lip, glancing toward Crystal.

"What do you think he'll do if you.. I dunno, just ignored him? Can you ignore a King?"


To Lorna, he tilts his head and his smile deepens more. "Sometimes, you have to have a little faith, Miss Lorna. Keep working. Find someone to teach you. It's easier than going at it alone."

Strange begins slipping his coat back on as he thinks about the offer placed before the Princess and eventually shakes his head. He gets to buttoning it up as he talks. "No, I think you're right. If he's always complicated and not quite sane, I'd never trust a word from his mouth. If you can get him to speak sense, see if you can have him expand on how to stop the attacks. I might be able to do something with the information." After all, his unspoken mantra is 'First, do no harm'. "I wouldn't ignore him, but…neutral territory is best if he wishes to seek you out. It's what I would do. Pick ground that acts in your favor if push comes to shove." He delves into his pocket and pulls out a few bills, clearly intending to pay for the tea he drank and sandwiches he never touched. Fickle stomach, due to the mantle and heavy practice of the Arts over the years. "No doubt you know this, your highness, forgive me for assuming otherwise." He places the bills down on the table. "I can have the rings for you…likely by tomorrow. Will that do?"

The crimson scarf, with the same cheek as its master, wiggles its end once more towards Lorna before Strange pins it flat against his coat with a snort.


"It's not generally advisable," Crystal answers Lorna with a faint smile. "A mad one even less. Powerful people are dangerous. Madmen are dangerous. Madmen with power? Exponentially so." She looks up as Strange stands, too polite to protest as he pays. "It will more than do, doctor. Thank you again. And if there's ever anything I can do to help your own pursuits, please don't hesitate to call me at Xavier's."


A small smile pulled at Lorna's lips at the scarf's movement, and she had to stifle a giggle as Strange patted it down. "Does it always do that?" She asked, gesturing to the sassy article of clothing.

Crystal's mention of how dangerous it could be to ignore powerful madmen made her smile sober somewhat, and she bit back the urge to sigh.


"Only to those it takes a liking to. Perhaps you remind it of someone." Beneath his pinning hand, the scarf's golden tips riffle like the waving of hundreds of tiny braided fingers. The garment is given a final arched eyebrow (don't pay any attention to the ghost of a smile on his lips, the one that quirks at his goatee — he's sore with the thing for breaking its inanimate predilections) before Strange glances up at both women.

"Thank you again, ladies, for meeting over tea. I won't hesitate in a moment should I need your assistance, your highness. Watch for my package." Granting both of them a polite nod and a smile not quite entirely professional — make that 'just shy of charmingly-sly' — the Sorcerer then waves to old Mrs. O'Riley and departs from the tea shop.

Not a moment after sunrise the next morning, there's another riffle in reality, likely one that reminds either woman of the initial Gating arrival of the Sorcerer in the alleyway. A small box is deposited on the doorstep to the Institute's doorstep, too obvious to be ignored by anyone who steps out the doors. It's labeled "To Crystal, from A Friend." Inside, three smaller boxes and a note that reads:

Your highness,

Please find two rings, one for you and for your sister. The red stones are garnets and embedded with a spell that allows you to cast an aura of interference around you; any magical attempts to scry will be deflected, any electronics will break. It has unlimited uses but draws from your energy, so use it wisely. It is not in constant use. Merely touch the stone and think of becoming blurry. Please give the final ring to Miss Lorna. The purple stone is amethyst; it imparts a sense of becoming grounded and ability to reach for potential.

Sincerely, the Doctor.


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