1963-11-28 - Strange Tales II: High Priestess and the World
Summary: Just when Stephen Strange thought the night ran out of surprises, he misjudged his consort.
Related: Strange Tales I: Death and the Tower
Theme Song: Tegan & Sara (feat. Monsieur Adi) - Stop Desire
strange wanda 

Tenderness is something of a foreign language, much as English or Russian or Tibetan. Wanda learns its nuances by practice, and a very good instructor to tutor her in the finer points. "You had your sleep broken, and I am already up." See, she came off the bed to assure he did not break his nose in the sudden descent and ruined the fine line of it. How droll, if Doctor Strange must face off with the horrific denizens of other worlds with a plaster glued from cheekbone to cheekbone, and a horribly ducky, nasal voice. Dormammu would not be especially impressed.

Helping him up to the bed by dint of standing and dropping back into a seated position at the end of the rather spacious furniture — the bed's larger than anything she's ever owned — leaves the witch capable of supporting Strange's return to her side. Not that she is eager to leave behind the kisses, and not once does she release his shaking hands from her own. "Wait here. I am coming back once I find the stand." And the cups, and the tea leaves, and have no doubt she'll whisper to the wards for an assist if she happens to be lost. A butler like Wong might be easier, but she can search on her own just fine.

Extricating herself takes longer than it does to pad out into the corridor, incidentally taking one of the sheets with her as a makeshift toga or robe, flooding behind her in a cathedral train. A few choice knots assure the garment doesn't fall from her, at least. Locating something in the dark is an old game of the twins'; she has half the Loft memorized backwards and upside down, so locating their essential tools to make a pot, including the Tibetan gift she offered, takes little time.


There's always a hex in case he ever does give himself the marking of a raccoon and misaligns that precious nose of his. Dormammu might be impressed with the momentary reactions from the Sorcerer in the face of such a fixing.

He sits on the bed now and watches her leave. Only once she's gone does he let out the gut-deep sigh of emotional scouring. Hands hide away his expression as he rests elbows on his thighs. At a ring of faint memory, the good Doctor emerges briefly to examine the lamp. Not broken, he thinks as he sets it upright and briefly pulls at the beaded string. Click once for on, once more for off. The room goes back to moonlight and shadows, all the better. The momentary blinding light of the test has blitzed his night vision and he hides away behind hands once more.

Of all the nightmares to have, that one. It couldn't have been the tentacle demons of the Thirteenth Realm or some Circle-Lord attempting to wipe him from the face of this earth before sucking the marrow from his bones. Nope, not even the ghosts of lives he neglected to dabble surgical fingers in who stop by to recriminate him for selfishness.

That odd sense of self, though… Normally, it was incredibly vivid and it was, don't get him wrong — he feels at his throat for the phantom marks of knuckle bones — but there had been the impression of…someone else. Perhaps a question for Wanda, when she returns. Did her hyper-alert senses ping to anything odd, even if she'd been asleep during this entire sequence.


Imagine Dormammu's expression if she hexed his face in. Maybe he'd have six noses while complaining about the different ways to destroy the most insubstantial mystic, provided the dread denizen gave the least concern whatsoever for her existence. For all the treacherous waters they navigate together, preferably that being preoccupies himself elsewhere for a long, long while.

The cluttered clank of her armful issues before the young Transian sorceress reappears bearing her ill-gotten lot. Stand placed upon the ground shall serve as the beginnings of a proper cup of tea. Water has to naturally follow next, once the stand is set up correctly. Additions soon enough follow, the tin of leaves given a good shake to separate and distribute their contents properly. She busies herself in this familiar dance, leaving Strange to adjust to whatever situation remains in the bedroom, distraction if he desires, or discussion to be held by moonlight.

"I could find a few options for the tea," she says simply enough. "I brought two. I hope it will satisfy?"


"Of course. I can't complain. Wouldn't do me any sort of good anyways." There's that peek of the old humor and it comes with an attempt at a faint smile. Perhaps she can catch it despite the shadows cast by moonlight.

His chin drops as he studies the floor…the pattern of the rug lining his side of the bed…how his toes wiggle into its soft depths…all while the clink and clank of tea prep goes on. Finally, a short sigh and he looks up at her with slightly-narrowed eyes.

"Did you…sense anything while I was asleep? I'm used to — oh gods," and Strange laughs with a note of pain, "that sounds awful. 'Used to it'." Rallying himself, he continues on. "I'm used to having early-morning dreams and nightmares, but not with the vague feeling that someone else was watching."

All the while, those steel-blue eyes, caught in moonlight, never leave her face, be it head-on or profile. He watches with the quiet intensity of a hawk.


The pointed look from his amber-eyed beloved speaks volumes that no poetic or philosopher can touch in a short phrase. Try Wanda does anyways. "Lightening your burden with me is a gift of love." For him and herself, for different reasons in each circumstance naturally. Love has no boundaries or restrictions save what they choose to impose. Tipping her moon-silvered face in profile towards him, her cool gaze marks affectionately those features bereft of their usual keenness. "You give me a privilege to be with you."

Scoured by truths and hostile threats, their endurance is tested by such experiences. Yet, a few special brand of devotion rises to the occasion presented by eldritch foes and unimaginable circumstances to breed a nightmare such as Strange's.

How to phrase the answer to the question without leaving traces of distrust and anger? "No magic. Nothing infernal or like me. I checked with the Sight." The lid on the tin drops to the floor, bouncing off her foot corner-on, and flipping away to sit unaccosted in the middle of the room. She intends to fetch it after doling out the loose leaves and dried flowers, a good shake stirring them up. Scooping out generous portions by tea ball and setting this aside in the cups follows her. "For certainty I…" A pause here could garner greater suspicion, did she not sound out the words in Tibetan, the second language in common and, in this case, choice for technical terms. "«I walked the star road to the celestial mountain, and sat in the lotus seat of the Sri Yantra.»" In Tibetan and Buddhist lore, its sisters in Hinduism, Jainism, and several other permutations less preserved, she wandered up to the mental seat by transcending her body and threw herself into the universal unconscious until she found her target. "«You received a kiss of compassion when I found no imbalance or dark influences upon you.» Your suffering is my sorrow always, in body or heart. I feared that the dead bride poisoned your dreams as she has Pietro's, sometimes. That I could bar."


It's nearly enough to cause him to rise to his feet and get to pacing. First, the smack of realization that she was indeed in his dreams - - no wonder there wasn't a sense of active notice to her presence, she's all but blended perfectly into his aura and vice versa, being consort and Beloved. Of course there's the prickle of annoyance at invaded privacy, but….ultimately all smoothed out by the fact that it was done with loving concern and expert care. He can't find any lingering vestiges of her within his mind, even as he closes his eyes and does the Mystical version of a CAT-scan throughout his psyche, nor the entrance or exit paths of her travel.

Hmm. Enough to make him leery, if there wasn't trust between them. …okay, no lie, that's enough to make him properly pensive. For another time.

"So…" Word drawn out in a long vowel sound before dying into silence and being cut by a pop of his lips. "You saw what it was about then." He's not frowning in anger, more in concern. Only one other person than himself knows of that particular affair, of how he attained immortality, and only because they previously held his mantle.


No hint remains. All that was transferred by a dream pathway was visibly cast out, and flung back into her body. Any extra pieces, if lost, would be floating confused around the bedroom. The spell signature might be there in the fading annals of the past, but its underpinning effects lacked much strength in the first place.

"I know you dream very strongly, and you were in distress," Wanda says. She is not measuring her words, only the tea leaves and need to translate them. Hot water from the pot stings her fingertips and she adjusts her grip on the handle, pouring out a generous amount in each cup. "I should not have walked. I did it to know you were not assaulted when most unprotected and most open to some kinds of dangers. But now I am sorry for not asking you." Stepping in it, isn't she? The regret lingers in the words, though the results are partly reasonable cause. It's him, though. Hmm.

"Yaga…" Her breath escapes in a blown out sigh that rings her loose bangs. "Yaga taught me how young. Maybe I was still a child? Sometimes stepping beside into a dream is easy. Her method to talk to me and teach me when she left us." That's right, he's heard her correctly: an ancient sorceress using dreams and astral projection to remotely instruction the twins, or at least one of them. Presumably orphaned twins, somewhere adrift in the world, whom she abandoned.

Rubbing the back of her hand over her lips, she looks up at Strange in slightly grim expectation, almost anticipating something. Hard to precisely say what or the source, but someone who can peek into oneiric realms is doubtfully disquieting. The road goes both ways, though, on account of their intimacy. "Your hurts are deep. When you cried out… ah, Trishul, I wanted to bleed so you would not be in such pain." Her hands still on the handle of the teapot, setting it to rights, shaking slightly before they quiet. "You are important. So very much. My pledge is still my vow."


This Yaga. Again. He'll come back to it, he's heard it before, but he has to know what she saw, down to the detail. This is a rare opportunity to pick flecks of gold from a pan of potential disappointment.

"I don't trust you any less, «Beloved»", Strange responds quietly. He can tell she's sorry and the apology is accepted. "If…if you can warn me beforehand, that might be best, though I would be asleep and it would defeat the point of it all waking me up, I suppose." His chuckle is faint, mocking his failed line of logic. Shaking his head, he glances up at her again.

"What did you see? At what point did you enter it? I…know this dream backwards and forwards, Rakshasi. Give me details. Maybe you saw something I did not." Hands lifted palms up fall once more to knees with an audible slap.


A nod follows Strange's request, grave and deeply rooted. She taps her finger against her cheekbone. "You do not know my signature. I am the moon. The full circle has its black and grey seas. Look at the opposite of the seas and my sign is inside there." Wanda traces a delicate curve midair, outlining her profile in the mare. "You worry you are watched, look up, yes?"

It will have to do as a description without an actual practiced session. Two cups of tea brought to the bedside mean she can give one to him and set the other aside on the table beside the restored lamp, and climb up herself. "The things I saw. You in the hospital prepared to save yourself, your astral soul hanging over your body. Blood came from so many cuts and wounds. You shouted with pain and called death." Of course she knows death. What child worthy of Slavic lands does not know that reaper, when so many of her kinsmen and forefathers and foremothers fell to the scythe too soon? Death, death in abundance, fueled her very conception; from the instant of her birth, Wanda Maximoff killed and stole the life's breath of her own mother. Evil deeds, evil ways. "You denied your time. This amused her. Charmed her maybe. Can death be seduced? There is another word… interested her, somehow. She came for you anyways, and hurt you, but you passed her trials. You said you had life and love, a duty in the future. Your rank does not protect you. Your task does not protect you. You said no. She listened. Though refusing her now," assumes the brunette, "will make you seek her gift one day."

Her eyes are dim in reflection, glassy pools drawn into the contemplative state of herself. Standing is easy, sitting easier, but the in-between state means she lands with a thump and none of her usual grace. "She runs you down, you crawl away. Through your blood you drag yourself, and maybe she smiles on you the way I do. She takes your throat in hand to strangle you of your weakness. Not like the goddess put Achilles to the fire for thanks of kindness, oh no. It was oddly done, to speak true. But the years stop. Sand falls no more on you, it cannot see you. You do not blind her eye to your existence, so much I think as you stand halfway in and out. When the time comes you choose, and that doorway shuts, and you lose whatever gift she gave if you can take its torment no more?"


His expressions change, of course, throughout her retelling. She saw most, if not all of it, same as he did. She didn't see the same as he didn't and this is what simultaneously guts him and makes him nearly nauseous with relief.

This wasn't the flavor of particular nightmare where he is subjected to Death's deadly-serious warning about never ever telling another soul, living or passed, of how he earned his dubious reward.

Sipping at the tea in his hands, Strange's entire body downshifts a level in anxiety. The liquid is nearly a literal psychological drug to calm him. He licks at his lips before glancing over at her again, brows knitted. "That's…nearly it, yes. She warned me that the time would come when I would embrace her with open arms. I'm…immortal, Rakshasi. I am, but…I can still die." An anguish to him now that draws more lines and shadows his eyes. Not quite all for naught, but close enough to taste bitter. "As long as I can heal myself, I will never age. Stuck forever…at 36." He sips at his tea and swallows as if to draw out the inability to speak. "I'm sorry that I didn't tell you earlier."

The Sorcerer hangs his head, peering down at the tea cup held laxly between his knees. His reflection stares back at him in somber sepia.


Does Stephen Strange trust in the vessel of a demon, the font of all ill-gotten knowledge, for the tidings of his very darkest hours? Oh, what a game he plays.

Message received, assuredly, on some wavelength by a being incarnating the horrors of plagues and desires upon all lesser citizens of this dimension. Death reprogrammed the Sorcerer Supreme for her own purposes. No one ever said Papa hated a challenge. At least no one still capable of speaking in coherent sentences.

"You are unaging." That nice, neat package the scion to feckless charms wraps up the statement in comes off simpler than 'immortal but dying.' "Like elves, you die by violence. You look better than an elf, however." Is this attempt at levity likely to crack open the prickly exterior of someone sealed off from the better part of humanity by dint of his battle with an ideological personification over universal forces. Her lips form a moonbow smile, eyes borrowing the eternal lustre of soft gold and sunshine trapped in a bronze mirror. "Why do you apologize? Do you think it will change my heart? The sun cannot go backwards in the sky, the galaxy cannot become an egg." Odd sentiment, but then so many of those Roma and Slavic phrases are peculiar in their fashion. Logic resides under the surface.

"Stephen, listen to me. Listen and hold this to your heart." She reaches to touch his hands with her own, clasping his wrists in an invocation of peace as old as time. "I do not care about your immortality. I care for us, and you. Suppose Billy Kaplan is true, I give up raising a child for our sake. What more can be said? If you were a very large sea monster that eats stars, it would be a surprise but still my love for you is intact. You are a very charming sea monster." Humour is not something she knows how to wield well, but the uneven crescent smile is close. Her mirth is merely about as dry as the Namib Desert, 55 million years old and going strong.

Softening, though, her tone grows more reflective in retrospect. "Is this my gain for everything I went through, all the bad times of childhood and losing Father, Yaga, even Pietro for a time? That I am gifted you? Then I will walk that path and pay the price all over again. It is not too much. Crazy, incomparable, proud, mad man of my heart, there is no one else. There will never be anyone else. Keep your secrets that must be kept. Give me what you can of yourself, maybe a little more as a gift. But oh love, it is not for me to be angry or upset. I am not."


He catches the humor, he does, and the good Doctor appreciates it, but it does little to dent the remaining pall of distress.

"But you aren't immortal," he manages to get out and immediately thins his lips. Tea cup is transferred to one hand so the other can return her grip, find her fingers and interlace with them. Her pulse beats at his skin in a rare moment of perfect alignment to feel such a thing. "I don't want anyone else but you, Wanda Maximoff, you scarlet-loving, reality-bending, incomparable minx." He laughs brokenly. Some tea sloshes out to the carpet at his feet. "I can't lose you. I would…waste away if I lost you."

And isn't that something coming the man who basically flipped off Death and continues to poke her Valkyries with sharp sticks.


Chips on the table, cards played in a hand. Fate pauses. The stars rumble their songs through the lens of her aura as it teases around him.

She smiles. What else is there to do inside that circle, for a man who literally just declared life in this moment is defined within the encompassing circle of their eternity, his love? "No, not immortal. Unaging?" Her shoulders twinge slightly higher and Wanda huffs out a breath as the pain in Strange's voice reaches the point he spills precious tea. An opium addict tossing milk-of-the-poppy in the air, the Victorian laudanum drinker dumping vials down the drain would be as out of keeping. "You have seen what my other gift untrained does in a teenaged boy lacking any sense. We don't know what mine can do."

Her lips thin in turn, and she licks her lips, approaching the precipice between all secrets and ends. "Your Merlin is thirteen centuries old, maybe. You are thirty-eight. Pietro and I think we are twenty-three." How grim a thing not to know, but spoke aloud, it seems less so. Fragmentary cracks, maybe, skim under them both now, or she walked over the edge a few minutes ago and hasn't reason to know it. "Yaga gave me girls' songs, that maybe I would focus my arts better." She almost smiles. "She taught the maids to sing them on the dragon island." Almost, as her eyes seek his. "Before it went under the waves."



"Before it went under the waves," the Sorcerer repeats dubiously. An island. Under the waves. Under the waves.

Not often she gets to see that utterly-gobsmacked look on his face, even as he draws up taller, leans away slightly and gapes. "You can't mean… Your Yaga, the one you keep talking about teaching you things, was around when Atlantis existed?!" So much for idly considering if the island existed. Surely it exists if this Yaga exists and so far, he's never seen Wanda smoking any sort of hallucinogenic herbs.

The second splatter of tea hits along his instep and he winces, suddenly paying attention to the cup which was tilted far enough to allow for a mild thermal burn there. Humming behind thinned lips, he sets aside the offending vessel and looks back at her. Then he looks at her, narrow and sharp and glinting with just a bit of the Sight.

"I can come to two conclusions here pretty quickly, Rakshasi. One, that you're implying that you can manipulate reality around yourself to make you immortal, and two, that there's more you need to tell me about this Yaga of yours."

And he ain't takin' no for an answer.


Before it went under the waves. So many lands famed for that unfortunate turn of events: the Isles of the Blessed, Hybrasil, Lemuria, Mu. The great ports of the Mediterranean fed by Thera's violent eruption vanished, and the inundation of the Black Sea through the Hellespont could have fed legends that came down in the epic poems, scattered throughout religion and cultural sagas.

"Why would Yaga lie to me?" It's a question as old as time between mentors and students, parents and children, or any relationship defined by a bond of such trust in nascent, formative years. Wanda crosses her ankles, tucking her calves flat to the side of the bed. She draws herself up a little, not from indignation, but to fully force herself to awaken rather than slosh around in the draining waters of slumber.

Her eyes widen when Strange sloshes his tea about, the cup insufficient to hold back the tremulous brew slopping about in response. His hands must be shaking terribly, and her habit might be to start wondering about towels and handkerchiefs. Instead, she casts about in search of any sort of cloth suitable for dabbing up the mess. No spell but the one rune faded away lingers about her, and the Sight shining on her aura reveals its transformations. Close proximity gives it a persistent amaranthine stain, stardust lying on the sunset swaddled around her. Surprisingly she is calm, a beacon of warmth in proximity to him. How else can it be said? The man just offered to be miserable without her, and it registers on some level, her heart chiming in time to the emergence of the sun over the horizon for her. Through such pointed inquiry, he has a direct bead on how to hurt her very badly, if he ever decided to.

Tucking a strand of hair behind her ear is a necessity given the lack of her headband, and the flouncy waves want to clot her brow in their sepia abundance. Meeting the penetrating weight of Strange's regard when he taps the mystic arts, even for this, is never entirely easy. Steeling herself for the overwhelming weight of it takes a moment for her to find her voice. "I do not know about turning back age. I have not tried. A theory I could do it. Nothing I ever read said I could make Pietro undead, or turn him back, and still we did." Whether it's a function of their twin bond, genetics, or something entirely different is purely unknown, but the magnitude of the statement and the uncertainty about the principle remains. The teacup nearby, hers, is lamentably far, meaning she'd have to cross his lap to reach for it, and given the propensity for burns and shock, probably not the very best of ideas. Back to him those lambent amber eyes return.

"Father took us to the Baltic Sea for Yaga. We were very small. I remember so little about the trip except we were hungry, always hungry, and hid everywhere. The Soviets wanted blood, you see." The great exodus of Germans through the Eastern Front, with the ghastly loss of life on the Cap Arcona and Wilhelm Gustloff were but fractions of the terrible price paid in the aftermath of war, spectres that few Americans ever think about nowadays. Nor then, as it happens. Just some dirty Nazis dying. Ignore those evacuees dying by the bushel, shot dead, drowned in the icy waters, run down by pitiless subs flying the hammer and sickle proudly to their home port. "Yaga cannot be her name. She wore it for the place and time, and I called her a different name in Persia or Tibet than the forest." The forest. He found them in a forest, Pietro begging for death as the monster longed for her blood. A northern forest of fen and shadow older than Christ. "She taught me control in the arts. Then I only knew small things. Gifts as a child knows them. She and Father had so much work to get Pietro and I to know control. I was a little easier. Her voice is like iron, sometimes, as I think Illyana maybe hears you. I had to listen. But Yaga's witchcraft, her sorcery, is very good. She does not use magic how you do, so rigid and formed into lines, though it is beautiful. Hers comes from nature and floods out around you in waves. It's witchcraft, there is a difference. I could show you the witch road, and you would understand a little more what it is to lie at the earth's heart. I imagine Oshtur that way, and Gaea, alive and vibrant in green shade of the trees." A smile reminisces upon it."


In retrospect, Strange, subjected first to the wiles of the Ancient One and then again to the knighting by the Vishanti, will mutter and rub at his temples when he remembers his shocked response to the reveal of Atlantis. Is not the expansive concept of an 'impossibility' his to define? He's still learning, forgive him. It's a little satin marker in his book of "How to Be the Sorcerer Supreme", found under "Gaping Mouths Catch Flies, Don't Do It". The whole response will be attributed to rude awakening and melting adrenaline.

Even as he listens to her entirely fair responses to his curt questioning, he mulls over the concept of mentors lying. Of course. Of course this Yaga would and possibly (probably?) did. Some things a student shouldn't know and won't ever know, especially if their potentiality changes tack entirely should the truth be revealed. Like the wind catching in sails, the entire direction of journey changes and a pleasure cruise in the tropics becomes a rough ride through stormy seas.

She finishes speaking and he eyes her with the import of mentor and concern of Beloved. The need to mull things over is bolstered by his motion to return her tea cup to her hands. Once delivered, his own return to his lap. Eventually comes the small smirk and softening of that steel beneath it all.

"Oshtur is indeed a bit like Gaia, though…in the same way that the sun and the moon both share light. The Mother Goddess is…bright, hot sunlight incarnate." His gaze goes distant beyond her, clearly remembering his last encounter with the deity. "She could burn both of us away with a blink and a smile. I've always felt Gaia is gentler, though it doesn't take away an iota of her power. Green, though, yes. Channeling her feels like…being washed in green waters, that same color as the alpine lakes. I always get the taste of loam and midday grass in my mouth afterwards." He smacks his lips subtly at the memory, making a little face. Mmm, loam. "Regardless, yes, another time — show me the witch roads."

Not knowing if she can use her abilities to manipulate herself is something that makes him approach the topic with respectful concern. He's not supposed to be encouraging any sort of reality manipulation. "I — me, personally, would not go about rewriting myself, especially if I didn't know of the results. I'd be concerned that you might rewrite the ability to undo the changes to yourself and then be…stuck in that existence. Don't…try it on yourself," he hedges. Damnit, curiosity, of course he wants to know if she can. "Though…if you figure anything out, it may help us teach Billy more about his powers and what not to do." A single hand lifted and dropped in tired resignation that maybe a little experimentation isn't such a bad idea. …please don't smite him, Vishanti, please! "Surely reality manipulation was in your lessons with this Yaga? And you don't know her real name?"

After all, he does have a mind like a steel trap. Maybe, somewhere waaaaaaaay back in there, he might recognize this ancient witch's name.


Strange brbs for Muppies.


Sitting there with the tea in her lap, Wanda ignores the beverage entirely while he speaks. It's not only how Strange speaks that fascinates her, but the whole process of thoughts coming to vocal formation. She covets those visual impressions as much as he savers hers, the animation in his expression or the lines forming at the corners of his eyes when forced to think. His distaste for earthy greens by the mouthful warrants a mutual smile, a familiarity found there. Loam is better than peat, and so much of Estonia's coastline is boggy. Even if they were inland some, it wasn't always in the same area. Fenlands from Gdansk to Saint Petersburg — proper names here, thanks! — meld brackish seas and thick earth, of which she's had more than a mouthful. Trying tapping that all the time for leylines.

The silence almost passes her over, and she shakes her head. "No, Father taught me more about manipulation. It emerged long before we met Yaga."

Crunch data sets there. She thinks she is twenty-three, she met the witch as a child, and remembers the great upheavals after the war. So when, exactly, did reality manipulation come into play? Let's wait for that seed to spring into a multicoloured horror bush any time now.

"Yaga was my instructor in magic, first and most. I am a witch, she knew it from the beginning. As I told Billy, my mother and my grandparents were witches. My grandmother's mother, too, as far as I know." It's no point of great pride for her, recited without the basis for knowing these relatives who exist in theory, rather than fact. Her gaze fades out watching his reactions to her, the dance so instinctively saturated by the Sight he, and the Sanctum, are effectively blinding the half-dressed young woman on the bed. "Yaga we called her in those lands. She insisted on being Agatha in Germany and among westerners, Sunita in India, Xiang in Tibet. She used Eudora and Eudokia too, not often though. They all mean the same thing, you know. Yaga is easiest. The children called her Baba Yaga and she would laugh so."

That horror bush is probably mentally on fire now. "Agatha, that's what I was to call her now. But she will always be Yaga to me, and yes, her magic was truly something remarkable. I think even Morgan Le Fay would be weak next to her, in those things she cared for most. Now, as to me, I've used my hexes in the past to change myself." She tugs on her hair. "Once I wanted it to be very curly. I was very jealous of a picture of a girl with lovely curls. I made it so. And then it was such a bother I put it back. Sometimes I make it straight. Sometimes it stays the way it is."

Just ignite the bonfire of the vanities, shall Strange?


Not quite a horror bush, but definitely something to consider in the long run when judging actions and reactions from the Witch. Maybe she can see the wheels silently turning behind those lightly-lilac'd irises, even half-hidden behind a mask of interested somnolence, weariness and all. He watched young assistants at Kamar-Taj perform magic with acidic envy. It's not impossible that her abilities manifested that young, just rare…and coveted likely to the point of abuse, whether she knew it or not at that age.

Atlantis…and now Baba Yaga. The night is getting better and better for reveals! What next, that dragons exist?! Kidding, he already knows about those. Backstory, of course, for a rainy day. A slow nod even as he watches her tug at her hair that she can apparently change in texture. Color then is clearly an option as well. Length too, without a set of shears. The bane of all hair stylists, no doubt!

Baba Yaga. Maternal figure, ancestress of Slavic magics, enigmatic figure in fierce visage who brings feast or famine in her supernatural wake. The Baba Yaga. Her teacher for witchcraft.

"You'll have to show me this with your hair, of course, but — but hold on." A beseeching hand upraised, halt. No more dancing around it. "If your mentor was indeed Baba Yaga, the one I know of, she picked you out amongst…gods know how many other potentiates. You. By yourself, except for Pietro? I haven't seen hide or hair of this woman. She just let you go? She's not keeping track of you?" He tsks abruptly and sighs sharply. "I remember, you ran. The Black Sun, they gave you no option. But where is she?"


"Maybe she is the Baba Yaga. She was only ever Yaga, or Agatha, which is a Greek name for 'good' or 'goodness.'" Wanda finally lifts that teacup to her throat, ridding herself of the parched state of her throat and the dryness in her mouth after so many words. Maybe she remembers the flavour of moss, the desperate peaty gulps of water when dragged down in a swamp by something old and malevolent, once fed on human sacrifice. The witches of Lithuania were so dreaded, the Pope declared a pogrom on them and the Teutonic Knights happily marched to burn out the heretics. Less happy were their bleached bones rotting under grey skies in the long nights at high latitude.

Her cup is set aside. "She abandoned us in Tibet. Pietro and I lost our father by then. We thought we might learn who we were there. The Ahnenerbe had been active in Tibet. Other signs gave us hope." Hope and murder, but who is counting? She pulls her knees up until her feet clear the bed, and slips back towards the pillows, getting herself somewhat more comfortable. Patting the silken sheet, she encourages Strange at least to do the same. When in Rome, right? "Yaga — Agatha — keeps to herself and her ways, even with a student. She and that cat go where they wish, when, and how. Not that I could keep her. One day she went and never came back."

A pinnacle of moral authority, Yaga can speak to all the illustrious turpitude of mankind through the centuries, apparently. Wanda flattens her mouth. "We made do." They obviously didn't starve to death, there's not much distance there. "Tibetans revolted against Chinese abuse. Three years. She called me a few times. Never in flesh, only astral. I do not know what she did, but she kept up my practice. Every so often now, she comes up and what triggers her care, I have no idea any more."

Her voice is a sigh around the basin of the cup, liquid drained in one thirsty sip. "Maybe it was fledging from the nest. That is what I told Pietro. She never taught him. He did not have the gift of our mother. Mostly she was very impatient with him. That one was too fast, never patient, but he thought too slow. Her interest was only me in Tibet. After Father died… We lost the only person who was like a mother. A grandmother, properly." It's hard to tell whether she is more miffed, wistful, angry, or bothered by it all in her nonplussed manner.


Easy enough to follow in her footsteps. Er, slide-steps. He's tired again, body and mind alike. The nightmare is this fuzzy numbness on the edges of his thoughts, now so preoccupied with Baba Yaga and the ancient Witch's scion that he watches pat-pat the silken sheets.

He too drains the tea from his cup (not so easy, there was quite a bit left despite the spilling, but he doesn't choke at least) before setting the vessel aside and swinging his long legs up onto the bed. His feet were getting cold anyways. Under the sheets and cover alike for him and his entire self seems to relax back in the pillow. Only his mind seems to be stubbornly, wearily awake still, reflected in the slightly-manic glassiness of his eyes.

"I'll have to watch for cats now, I suppose, if she has one as a familiar…" he mutters, shifting to get more comfortable. Punching the pillow a few times into bulky support seems to help and he sighs as he melts into it. "I'm sorry that she left you. That wasn't responsible, fledgling or not, especially if it was in Tibet." A scarred hand reaches out to find her hand, holds it, and strokes a soothing thumb along the lines of her tendons. "Apprentices need to be comfortable in their powers before being left to their own devices. Tsk. Definitely the learn-the-hard-way approach…"

Clearly, the mentor to Illyana is not amused. His brows knit and then relax as he meets her eyes. "You said, back when we first worked on combining auras, that she never had you practice with another." What's this, the little light of amusement growing back behind those drowsy lashes? That faintest quirk at his lips? "I'll bet you a rare box of tea that she wouldn't approve of me in the least."

Stephen Strange, dirty little secret. How it delights his ego.


Inexcusable he gulps his tea, but Wanda will overlook it. He's the Sorcerer Supreme, not the doorman at Harrods or the chief servant at Buckingham Palace. Standards differ when one can be expected to fend off tentacle monsters with broomstick appendages and eyes made of jelly and radiator oil.

Her shoulders lift and drop. "We have always been alone, Trishul. No one keeps us. Father taught us to trust in nothing but each other. Not even him, or Yaga. Half their lessons meant to toughen us up. You are far easier on Illyana." It's not damning praise lilting upon her lips there, and she holds fast as he finds his place to sit on the bed, a solitary palm while the storm reshapes the reef and changes the depth and contour of their black silk lagoon. Tucking her feet under the flapping hem, she folds her legs sideways and slides into Strange, bumping his hip with her backside, and nestling down into the valley separating them. Someone need only rotate slightly to be the big spoon to that invitation, though if he proves stubborn, she can stretch and flip over with all the insouciant feline attitude of meaning to do that, thank you. "We are hunted. We survive. It feels safe here in your arms, but I never stop looking for someone to come after us." Us has gone from two to four, doubled by a choice in the present and a choice in the future. Still, she is remarkably sanguine for being a wanted woman. Sanguine, or foolhardy.

Fingers remain curled into his, though, refusing to relinquish that in a night of terrors and revelations. What secrets will ever be left? Smoldering amber reduced closer to coppery embers focus upon him, her drowsy lashes hiding the true impact of her gaze. Dirty big secret, in fact, one due to come on a collision course. "I spoke true. I came pristine to you. None had me but you, and it was verboten to even inquire. Yaga would have my head for even considering it. Odd, though, given we fit together very well. Is it the same for all mystics, or is it a quirk of fate for us?" Easy questions to ask, especially when a rotation either way — his or hers — literally puts her nose to nose with him.


All that shifting around. Geez. It's like she's trying to get comfortable while never losing contact with his skin. He'll humor her, though, and rotate to mirror the Witch, face to face, amber to steel-blue. It leaves Strange to sneak one arm beneath her pillow, the other to disengage carefully from her grip to brush whorls of chestnut hair from her face.

"If it's Fate, it's a beautiful quirk for once," he murmurs, still wearing that ghost of a charming smile. "Normally I get slapped upside the back of the head by Fate. I'd rather be kissed by it instead." The smooch on her nose is quaint and affectionate. Even as he thinks, he returns to her grasp and his thumb rubs lightly over her knuckles. Careful, he might wear a groove there.

"Someone will come after us, Rakshasi." It hurts to say it, but she was inundated by the unfairness of life long ago. Shared wounds pang in time this night. "I don't doubt it." Gone now is the moment of charm, succumbed to melancholy. Life sucks sometimes. "All of us. If it's your Yaga, I wish her the best of luck." He meets her gaze again and softens a bit. "I get the distinct impression that you'll have something to say in the face of her scolding. Count on me to back you up, of course. I don't care if she was around when Atlantis hadn't sunk yet. She doesn't scare me."

Big words? Bluff? Nope. Bring it.


The tenderness displayed in the privacy of their room may be something never seen, unknown to even their close associates. Though to be fair, Merlin probably knows it all anyways, though he claims to know everything about everyone, and insists upon being mean to Strange anyways.

Technical components fit them together, and she winds her feet around his calf in order to anchor Strange in place, though the coolness of her instep presses down upon the muscular ridge, finding an appropriate anchorage. Fingers wound together fill his palm, shaped to the cupped basin and wound around the digits together. He can smooth out the mountains of her knuckles, and it will no doubt cause hardly a sound of protest. Instead, her tongue flicks over her lips to leave a lacquer shine, and she chases his thumb with a kiss.

"Do not sound sad. All I know is hunt or hunted. Father prepared us for every possibility. All he could imagine, some he could not." Her voice is light enough, tying back to the confounding nature of her upbringing and survival. How he worries and broods on the future is his right, part of the sacred mantle for the Vishanti's favourite, but not here always. "Good you are not afraid. What claim does she have on me anymore? I am my own. She has my respect but not my obedience given without thought. She will appear, I am sure. So will Amordo." Oh yes, that's a portmanteau. "Many things can come. I do not live in fear of it. We stand together. I want to see the surprise in some of your enemies' faces, if they have faces, realizing you don't stand alone. You never do." She rubs her nose lightly to his, Eskimo kisses between moon and sky. "I can peek out behind the cloak. Or shoot them with a rifle."

Oh yes. He probably doesn't know she's halfway decent with a gun. Or actually pretty damn good. Trajectories and probabilities are stock in trade.


"Still…hell of a way to grow up." He'll never stop pitying her upbringing, whether she likes it or not. It makes his soul bleed in the same way she'd rather not hear him in pain. No one deserves what she went through. Though, without searing heat and unfailing pressure, nature would never grant the world its diamonds. She shines in spectrums of scarlet and unyielding faith.

Strange laughs with half an effort since he's getting so comfortable lying there, close enough to catch the scents of black roses in her hair and feel the puff of each exhale on his face. No doubt her heart beats with graceful resilience. "I think they'll be damned surprised with you at my side, Rakshasi. The Sorcerer Supreme and a Witch who can rewrite reality? Our enemies should quiver in their boots. A rifle seems so mundane though, in light of our magic." One last tired attempt at a jaunty smile even if his eyelids are hanging heavily near-shut. "Maybe they'd never see it coming…just like you, if you hid behind the Cloak. It tends to…billow dramatically…and stuff…" A yawn, stifled by his pillow. "You and me…against the world… Kind of…disturbingly romantic somehow…"

His voice peters out and she can likely see his entire expression grow slack as sleep pulls that canny mind finally beneath the waves.

Against the world? How about against the Multiverse, Ego Supreme? Not like that statement is going to haunt him.

Not at all.


"Always and forever," she whispers, kissing his cheek, and tucking herself in against him. That Death might hear that in all the dimensions, that her own forefather might take pause for an instant, does not change the fact of what she promises to a man so scarred by circumstance and his own damn pride.

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