1963-12-08 - Something is Rotten: Part II
Summary: Strange gates to Wychwood House with the Scarlet Witch in tow, hoping against hope to find the guardians of the shrine of Oshtur.
Related: Something is Rotten: Part I
Theme Song: InFlames - The Truth
strange wanda 

Wychwood House, by all contemporary accounts, is a lovely painted lady from the days when Queens looked more like Long Island, home to more sprawling households for those who could afford it, like a widowed Englishwoman from the gentry.

In its current state, the repulsion that would have shoved Strange back to the manicured lawns or behind the wrought iron fence. Ivy licks up the turret on the left side, neatly clipped back from the bay windows. Landscaping worthy of Kew or one of the great country estates enfolds the narrow lot, stately elms and supple willows worked in among the border gardens. As suits a hedge witch, there are hedges, hedges, and more hedges. (Box is a sacred plant here.) A rowan stands blasted over a copse of lost herbs, dead by the season and fire used liberally in strokes. Deliberate efforts to smash the trellises and supportive wooden stakes leave a sense of disorder where nature’s order should rule.

That’s all visible through a gaping window frame. Glass that littered the polished wood floor has been swept away where the police conducted their investigation, if any, the rainbow shards already collecting dust. Dead leaves spill over their living counterparts in the soot streaked carpets that lead up the stairs. Broken statues holding lights on the staircase stare out mournfully. One decapitated statuette’s head rolled beneath a fallen curio cabinet caught at an angle against a wall, caught in a sticky pool of whatever spilled from there. It could well be alcohol.

The air is still and quiet, no hint of activity here except for an odd bird taking advantage of shelter in the rafters. It’s a sad state of affairs; age hangs as heavily as the mournful despair upon the air.

Wanda is technically behind Strange, and she allows the cloak to lick at her legs or side by proximity. A knife is pulled from her boot within a moment, the one at her back ignored for the meantime. Better to have a charm at hand, and the ring looped around the hilt is one she slides her middle digit through.

“Herbs,” she says, “black tea that way.” A gesture leads to the aisle cutting through the parlor. The distinctive Victorian and art nouveau furnishings have been ransacked and, in no uncertain terms, pissed on. At least by one or two unpleasant odors.

She looks to him, leaving the expert to decide a direction. Her gaze eventually flits up to the darkened ceiling, pupils wide in the glowing embers of the Sight to confirm what is apparent: the wards are dead, the spells fallen, scrubbed away.


Stepping through the crackling Gate and into the shattered corpse of the Wychwood House gives the closest impression to trespassing Strange has felt in a very long time. The Sorcerer is aghast at what he finds. Leandra would never have let something like this happen, not without dire need to escape whatever invaded with such heedless abandon.

The broken wards hurt the most, oddly enough, and he follows her glance up to ascertain that there is no remnant left to them. Clean, old vacated wood on the ceiling. The empty dog house. The inside air is chilled due to the broken window and it’s incongruent to see his sigh fog slightly beneath a roof.

“Yes, I sense it too,” he murmurs, unable to bring himself to speak at normal volume. It seems simultaneous sacrilege and caution. The old paintings with their shattered frames, splashed with urine, disturb him on some level. It’s when he walks light-footed into the parlor and sees its shattered state that the Sorcerer has to swallow around a lump in his throat. Leandra had shared tea with him here once, when he had first taken over the Sanctum’s keeping. The antique tea pot met its end against the wall judging by the stain of old tea on the wallpaper and how the shards collect against one side of the wall. The tea cups fell victim to similar fates, though elsewhere in the room.

“Leandra Hislop.” It takes him effort to say her name aloud, though he does it with shuttered eyes and an expression of great focus. Something chimes to the Sorcerer’s tentative summons and he turns to look in that direction, deeper into the house. “Leandra w…is Mistress of this house.” Hope springs eternal. “When I first met her, she had one apprentice, Bridget, still new. Herbs and black tea.” Strange looks to Wanda. “Leandra is a hedge witch and master herbalist. I doubt it needs saying, but no one should have underestimated Leandra. A hedge witch can be just as dangerous as a cultist or sorcerer when cornered.”

One of those plucky British women who established their reputation for gumption during the era of the Queen Mother, and now Elizabeth II, Leandra Hislop is an iron lady no more likely to tolerate an injured mage bleeding on her doorstep than roll over at the invasion of her island. Two separate stints in North America mark her history: as a young woman at Wychwood House in the Twenties. She came back to New York after the Second World War, having participated in the war effort, not as a war bride but a widow of means and respectable name.

She rules her small domain with a logical, firm hand and a no-nonsense approach towards magic. The proof lies around them: polished brass fixtures and walnut wood treated by lemon oil, dust free glass and handsome bunches of flowers or seasonal greenery. Everything has its place. Even with smashed cabinets and the hideous shape carved into the floorboards, Wychwood has the feel of a tidy, well-run household.

Given the time of the disaster, it lacks for the glorious evergreen displays of Yuletide; the sprays of autumn leaves and wreaths studded by acorns and dried berries focus on the season past, not the one to come. Vases lie sideways with withered ferns and bleached straw like flowers, water long evaporated.

Torn carpet on the stairs carries the same natural pattern, comfortably worn but not threadbare or faded. Broken windows and cracked panes hint at a naturalistic motif throughout, and a great gouge torn into the dark wood reveals where a banister was torn free, and another statuette lamp fell.

“All witches are shadow and light to sorcerers,” murmurs the one who technically is both, her gaze smoked over by a red plum glow. “We are the same under the learning. I taste the witchcraft. It goes deep in the ground here. She might have gone by the Witch Road.”

Glowing eyes flick towards Strange and linger upon his shoulder, then trail up to his face. “Enough of a garden here to cross over. It would be my first choice. Maybe she crossed inside if she needed.” Tension bleaches out her generous mouth from a natural line, aged ivory gone olive. “Why would she not come out? It is not promising.”

Wanda Maximoff, slayer of dreams, shakes her head. Her senses quiver in search of something that might not be there.

Strange nods slowly before looking towards the nearest window. This is true; around the little grounds of the Wychwood House, Leandra kept up a bountiful garden in comparison to its size. Her naturally-green thumb was undoubtedly aided by her magic.

“Do you feel safe enough crossing over to see if she’s there? If not, please, don’t risk it, Wanda,” he adds with some steel. It stems from his care for her, not a need to lord power. “There’s something else here still. It’s upstairs. When I attempted to locate her via her name, it called to me. We can find this first before you try the Road.”

“The Witch Road never harms me. One can be lost, but lost with the goddess.” Wanda tips her head slightly and then takes several steps over to a broken window frame, craning to look over the wooden crossbar that marked the sliding bracket. Now nothing impedes her view to the dormant grounds below except her own height, bits of ivy poking out from the trellis carried up the side. “Though if someone else followed, it would be as dangerous. A better place to die than out here.”

It might be a complete disservice to the poor house, but she puts her foot on the ledge and a hand on the windowframe, and hauls herself up. Though not as tall as Strange, the sorceress still ducks to attain her proper height. “She does not have stones here. I cannot see around the side of the house or the back. They could be there.” A pause follows while she squishes herself up against the door, gaining the maximum visibility short of half-hanging out the window, and five seconds later, she is doing that, too, holding on for dear life.

“No stones. Enough of those bushes. Her rowan was attacked,” she adds, voice mellowed to a low, rolling note. “Bad luck, that.”

Strange watches her climb up into the window with a mild wince of consternation. This is someone else’s Sanctum, one does not just mount window ledges and hang out of the broken panes. That she tells him in the negative about the entrance to the Witch Road is a bit of a blow to him. He looks sharply away, scrunches his eyes shut, and then sighs through bared teeth.

“Dammit…I was hoping she could have retreated that way.” He scans the parlor once more with eyes that catch nothing new. It is disheartening. “Leandra Hislop,” the Sorcerer whispers, putting as much willpower into the summons as before, and again — that upstairs beacon that calls to him. “We need to figure out what’s going on up there,” he murmurs, offering a hand to help Wanda down from the ledge.

“The Road does not require grass or soil. It only helps. Another kind of gate, if you think that way. Until I open the door, I do not know.” Wanda points her toes as she clutches onto the window, demonstrating a fair bit of flexibility and some strength to put herself at such risk a floor up from the soil and dormant beds covered in chunks of blasted branches, burnt bushes, all signs of botanical mistreatment. “We cannot say she did not open the Road. It is not certain. I have not seen any more of the grounds than you have.”

She reverses her grip and pushes herself back into the building with his assistance, landing on broken glass with a solid crunch undersole. Dusting her palms on her leather coat, she glares down at the offensive bent sunwheel on the floor still in sight. Nothing can erase that ugly stain on the elegant flooring.


Her palm is hot, as always, and fills his grip with delectable warmth emanating from her delicate fingers. There is a part of Strange that wants to kiss those knuckles, but it seems somewhat inappropriate given their surroundings, so he files the gesture away for a later time.

He grants the burnt symbol on the floor a moment’s condemning glare before beginning to make his way back across the parlor towards the foyer, intending to make his way up one of the two stairwells present. “Of course, the Black Sun. We need to be rid of them.” No doubt she’ll think this is a statement towards the extreme end of obvious, but it bears saying. His entire intent, ultimately, is to wipe the cult from the face of this reality — not only because of their actions now, but their actions in the past — and the effect they had on his Beloved.

His long strides take him past the mangled artwork and then up the carpeted stairs, stained with debris and littered with broken glass from the shattered windows at the juncture of each wall. It crackles beneath the soles of his boots, the sound muffled by carpeting and rugs alike. They emerge into a hallway with directions left and right to go. The Sorcerer glances over his shoulder at Wanda as he steps aside to allow entry, only after he’s made sure that the immediate space is safe.

“Right or left?” he asks her quietly.

“Right,” she says without the least hesitation. Left is sinister, confined to negative connotations anywhere Rome spread her empire and superstitions. Latin makes left a poor thing, widdershins and evil rising. Predictable as Wanda prefers not to be, she does have a preference.

Her footfalls trace the central runner carpet, a natural habit to silence their tread, though the fine pomegranates and spilling greenery stitched into the staircase’s covering show signs of destruction. Stains blot anonymous Rorschach illusions upon the organic contours, leaving impressions of screeching bats and struggling bodies, a footprint clearly outlined and dusted over by chalk to preserve it. The police clearly did not miss that. Nor had they any illusions about measuring the scratches carved into the banisters and the dark walnut railings, their arrow measures stuck to the tight-grained wood. Whatever happened came with violence and an air of destruction, one that still disturbs the natural order of a fine, sleepy Queens neighbourhood.

Doorways left shut by the evacuating residents — all three of them — or the police, more likely, give a sense of genteel living according to Old World standards. The first chamber opening from the landing contains a variety of floral sketches and watercolours done to standards of an Audubon, framed by the same delicate filigree. They lie on the walls over an assortment of low shelves, the handsome furniture a touch dated by modern standards but still well on their way to valuable antique status. Dark walnut again matches the deep stain, the paneling entirely suited to the elegantly done cream and sepia wallpaper printed by a modest palmetto leaf. It’s no bedroom, though it could easily be mistaken as such; by any distinction, this is clearly a reading room of some sort.

They’d call it a salon or a music room, back on the Continent. Some effort to restore the furniture upright shows little effort spent here to do much, the desk alone torn open to reveal an array of fallen creamy paper and pencils, pens, inks thrown and shattered in a Pollockian mess.


Right they go, the Sorcerer not quite stepping on her heels, but certainly close enough to wrap an arm around her waist and haul her to one side should the need arise.

He pauses at the footprint preserved by the local police force and frowns down at it. It’s too muddled now to be of much use other than to dictate, by its size and make, that the trespasser was likely male. Strange has never seen a boot print that large in anyone other than a man. Though…if it was made by a female, they are dealing with a juggernaut of a woman.

The first door is opened with a careful hand (the good Doctor most definitely checked for booby traps with the Sight first) to reveal the mess of the room once so organized by art and purpose. The sigh escapes lightly-bared teeth. “They were certainly looking for something… but I don’t think it’s here.”


The axial hallway runs the length of the house, or at least appears to, jogging at a ninety degree angle towards the left along the back wall. Directly opposite the music room is another door, obviously kicked in, the resolute old panel reduced to a ghost of itself by a good, solid boot. Other signs of damage abound in the dim light; no fixture that could shed light currently does, and the smashed globes and sconces speak to a general air of disaster. Someone clearly tried to replace a framed painting fallen from the tear in the wallpaper.

The hallway to the left speaks to the size of the front two chambers. A pair of double walnut doors stand on the same wall as the kicked in portal. They’re beautiful things, or they were, once; scarred and worm-eaten, now, whatever emblem that used to be on them has been totally defaced. The handles are molten slag, so preventing easy access. Another door faces the front of the house, accessing the right turret. Property damage here is heavy, and not all of it sensible to the untrained eye: scorches, cuts, bits of thorn embedded in the wood. Pollen lies in a layer of marigold dust. Bullet casings lie under a tall, narrow table broken in half. To the Sight, it’s a whole psychedelic spectrum faded out by time, but still stains remain.

Nature. Alchemical burns. Melting starlight.

The third note strikes hard in a loud chime against Strange’s senses, even though it may be remote as the Pleiades. It hammers some part of his soul. A piece of his mind amplifies the fading impression, magnifying the unmistakeable touch of one of Oshtur’s spells. Nothing as vast as his. But on the contrary, they’re there. Maybe a whisper of the wards gone. Maybe something used to shelter the inhabitants.

Wychwood slumps a little heavier on its foundations after that, its limited sentience — shared by any old building, according to some — seeming to react to the indignities inflicted upon it.


“Too much broken tells me they did not know what they needed. Or where they needed it.” Wanda’s guesses are made quietly, assessment based on a history of thievery. Possibly worse. Her upbringing focused on survival by any means necessary has some unintended consequences.

Her nose wrinkles slightly at another of those couches, as so many, all about thinly padded backs and floral upholstering. To her eyes they look as much like torture implements as a noose hanging in place of a chandelier. Nothing particularly stands out, though she does edge into the room for a look out the east facing window, a better look over the gardens afforded.

They are a desolate sight, rose bushes shorn down to canes with a few desiccated leaves browning in the frost. A swamp of briars lies over them, and the oblong shapes for the raised beds unnervingly akin to graves. Mass graves.


“Right,” Strange murmurs, joining her at the window after another minute or so of speculative observation to the room. The cold air seems to seep in here as well and pool about their feet to continue spreading beyond the ransacked room. He frowns down at the flower beds and the destruction wrought there as well. It seems to him that this particular attempt at obliteration was in a fit of temper, not as a need to stop a hedge witch from doing anything beyond perhaps calling the thorny stalks to her defense.

His turn swirls the crimson Cloak about his lean form and frames him in the doorway as he suddenly pauses, turning his head towards the faintest of beckonings. One can see in his face made profile the frown of slight confusion followed by intense focus with shuttered gaze and ferociously-knitted brows. The call tugs at the ever-bright space behind his ribs with a sense of incredibly singular familiarity that has him exhaling slowly even as he opens Sight-brighted eyes. “The wards just tried to tell me something,” he murmurs towards her, even as he takes a tentative step further into the hall, “one last message. There’s a touch of the Vishanti here, «Beloved», of Oshtur.” His lips thin in mild distress. “That someone could raze her touch from this place…” It needn’t be said: that’s a disturbing thought.

The hallway is a mess of splattered eldritch residue, bubblewrap-popping pieces of fractured defensive spells, and the pollen glows in the hypercolored spectrum of ultraviolet hues. The thorns embedded in the walls, like errant blowdarts, emit a faint shade of salmon-red. He gives the room across the way, lit dimly by grey cloud-light, a passing glance and dismisses it. The Sorcerer continues slowly down the hallway, listening hard for another message from the wasted wards. Nothing more comes to him right now and may not ever again. The fighting, to his Mystical senses, looks to have intensified as he approaches the double doors. Carefully, he reaches out to touch the slagged handles, feeling the odd texture of melted and reformed metal that still hums faintly with the invocation that originally twisted them out of function.

“Hello now, what have we here…?” Curiosity piqued. Strange takes a step or two back, stroking at one line of his goatee as he considers how to get past them. “Somebody didn’t want anyone getting in…” Then, he stills and drops his hand to hold both out at waist-height in sudden suspicious mudras. “Or out.” The Sorcerer wills his Mystically-heightened senses to slip beneath and through the thinnest cracks of the barred doors to the room beyond.

The handles are cold to the touch, but harbour the remnants of their reshaping. Acrid fire, a strange hue to the leaping flames. It probably makes the Sorcerer Supreme twitch his nose or sneeze.

Metal reshaped into a solid shield has no elegance or grace. They form a shield over the entryway, barring an easy kick open. Or a push out. They show no signs of a locking mechanism on their own, simply there to secure the once majestic, heavy walnut portals that lead into the western turret.

The Sight detects much and little. Odd scratches lie upon the very face of reality itself, leaving a cloudy feel to mystic senses. Deep gouges and repeated small ones fog the surface of the dimension, devastating rained across several patches within the room. Those scarred cuts lead to a certain point about midway into the room where someone or something deliberately scratched and scarred the world.

Or cauterized it.

No signs of life prevail here except for the smudges left by dead plants and greenery. Molten sensations crawl along the walls, and hot, bent light converging in a cage. The overwhelming impression is light, the singing surge, the flicker of incandescence, the spotlight and the glowing tungsten filament. Maybe a sizzle of electricity and the chime, the chime, the chime….

A watery clang. A familiar watery heartbeat clang.

Desperation. Righteousness. Revenge. Despair. They all gather on Strange's tongue in a furry fuzz.

Wanda stoops to pick up some of the thorns and a bullet casing, examining the flattened shell. It has an unusual shape, the round squashed at its snub tip and the warped ripples in the metal carrying all the way to the flat bottom. Fine scratches cover it, too, and she holds it in a fold of her shirt until she can get her handkerchief out.

They’re practically things to carry, an essential part of a lady’s arsenal if that lady hunts demons and accompanies the Sorcerer as his consort. Looking over her shoulder, she backs up against the wall to measure where the trajectory may have been. Her arm stretches out and she tests angles along the dim hallway. Without any windows, it’s hard to see in here, except for what little light pours through the shut doors.

Her heel taps the wall, and she gets as far as the music room and the chamber opposite it. “This,” she says grimly. “Good line. Hit that wall, anyone. But I think they aimed for something out of your room there.”

Her padding steps bring her back and a witch light forms on her palm, giving no shelter for anything at ground level. Flee, dust bunnies, flee.

It is one of the more disturbing things he’s sensed lately, the effects on reality seen through his probing Sight into the room. Like a pair of bifocals subjected to a toddler’s inherent curiosity with a nail in chubby hand. Blurred and impossible to make sense of. Strange withdraws the feelers of his Mystical vision in time to hear Wanda’s comment in regards to the trajectory of bullets traveled. Sharp eyes flick from arm projecting line of flight and then to the sudden brightness of witch-light above her palm. It’s not quite searing to his enhanced vision, but he does need to squint and eventually look away, simply to prevent a headache.

“Farther down the hallway then?” he asks distractedly. That track of mind is shoved quickly aside for contemplation on how to get these doors open, melted handles and all. He doesn’t want to blow the doors to kingdom come; not only is it inherently rude, but the House has already suffered enough destruction. Hmm…ah, that might work. Shaping his hands into a Prithvi mudra of stability and another mudra more attuned to acceptance, he whispers to the slagged panel of metal.

“Katanta tirumpa.” ‘Return to your previous state’, commands the Sorcerer Supreme, dabbling in a type of magic that the ever-cautious Wong would scoff and most definitely not laugh at.

True-emerald tendrils, in that shade nearing more towards deep ocean-blue than spring leaves, reach out and sink into the destroyed handles. The air around them wavers and then, the metal begins oozing backwards. Slowly, inherently resisting his will due to substance and prior Mystical touch, it withdraws from inanimacy and reforms into those decorative levers once more. Exhaling in a controlled manner, Strange withdraws his intent and flexes his hands which now sting with mild pins-and-needles. The tiger-bright blossom of a lotus-shield is far easier to conjure before him and he holds it before him even as he reaches for the newly-formed metal.

“Fortune favors the bold…” he murmurs as he rotates his grip and shoves a door open.

Immediately, the psychic wash of anguished capture hits him and as he steps into the room, he’s hyper-vigilant to the possibility of ambush. None, but - - that is not a normal cage at all!

“Wanda! The heartbeat!” Spoken quickly over his shoulder even as he approaches the conjoining of many refracted beams of light with the wariness of a cat, ready to retreat in a graceful arc and defensive swat in a moment’s notice.

The thudding of the sound is nearly sensed physically on his skin. The air tastes of potentiality and ozone even overtop the miasm of emotions.

Metal handles once more form graceful curves, extended like a woman’s hair in the wind, the central post a flower inscribed in fine detail. They look strange against the wormwood door panel, standing firm against the years while their guarded portal looks ready to collapse into dust or at least kindling with an intrusive kick.

Doors stand before Strange, impervious to his mundane senses, dividing him from the west turret. The chime plays out in a distant, fading echo, softer each oscillation of fifteen seconds, and then the louder one playing just at the edge of his hearing on the minute. That liquid heartbeat is another matter, the steady thump lasting a few seconds, fading away, building again as gracefully as any ocean ever ran against the outer shore of Long Island.

Inside is an abomination to anyone who values a proper gentleman’s study — or a gentry study, given the women who founded the place. Gorgeous wood paneling confines the upper space, the gilded volutes and meandering scrollwork of the decorative railings still maintained to the Sight. Not so in the real world, where the metal tears away from its brackets, wrenched forcibly out of place. Bullets pock mark the inlaid oak floor, a sick stream of them running all the way up to the walls. Shards of wood lie wherever the impacts gouged them out, the patterns without sense or purpose.

Clearly someone had a semi-automatic weapon to walk in here, and someone was joined by his friends a distance away. In complete disarray, the study holds fallen polished statues and shattered furniture reduced to useless splinters by boots and some kind of bludgeoning force. Twisted brass lamps are wrenched from their sockets, sconces fallen from the walls, a candelabra turned over upon an octagonal table like someone ripped it asunder. Smashed pottery annihilates the exquisite frame around the fireplace surround where shaped bas relief tiles formed some kind of natural motif in luminous detail. Now the cracked, glazed shards lie upon the ground, deadly to bare feet, and proof of a campaign of violence. (https://oddinarytiles.files.wordpress.com/2011/03/belam3.jpg | http://files.ctctcdn.com/78787fc8001/37684074-783a-429e-bb3c-0c98728d2fe9.jpg)

A unicorn tapestry over the mantle hangs in shreds, too, smudged in soot and corrosive bursts that leave whole patches eaten away to the wall behind it.

These surely are less interesting than the light cage, which to every impression, does not exist. Only in the Sight, and a formidable measure of concentration, do the bent angles and intersecting rays reveal themselves as an after effect. Whatever power was pulled came so harsh, so violently drawn, that it briefly scorched creation to its elaborate overlapping intersections. Viewed side on, it rather resembles a lightning bolt in three dimensions, zigzagging angles of radiance creating a narrow cuboid, rooted to the earth by a single vertical beam. Of course, the spell is cast, its after effect all that remains.

Whatever the spell was clearly served to twist an impressive amount of raw light in an entirely dark house.

And it apparently duplicated the hermetic shape of the sephirot.

No man goes into an unfamiliar room without backup. Wanda is that backup, which is rather like holding a candle behind a spotlight. Nonetheless, her rapid steps carry her lightly to the threshold, and pulling energy into her aura blossoms into a pair of double shields forming elegant, incarnadine lotuses of sixteen points. His may be somewhat more effective in their purpose, but hers give a sparkling edge, keen and hot to his Sight.

“Stairs clear,” she says, glancing up the tight spiral that winds down from the second floor.

It takes him a second to recognize it, but finally, from within the depths of his photographic memory, Strange superimposes the symbol overtop the near-perfect representation of the Jewish symbol. He frowns, drawing up and relaxing his guard enough that the shielding before his palm shifts from its perfect vertical axis before him.

The Sephirot, configuration of spiritual aspects pertaining to Kabbalistic belief in the divine’s continual creation of both physical and higher metaphysical realms.

Hebrew. Jewish. That blemish of a symbol one floor down scratched and painted into the wood of the House.

Occult. This was…an occult raid on the Wychwood House. Leandra. What had they been searching for?

If Wanda looks close enough at her beau, she’ll see his eyes clouded out in rapid-fire thought rather than involved in his immediate surroundings. With every bit of arcane knowledge available to him, he does his best to put two and two together as fast as possible.

Still, the distant pulse of the life-beat and still, he stares into the light, blinded not only by the radiance, but by how hard he’s thinking. It emanates from everywhere and nowhere, but he can’t shake the suspicion that the access to it is incredibly nearby.

“The Sephirot, Rakshasi,” he murmurs, mixing languages older than his own. “What do you know?” Not a test, more an opportunity for amalgamation of knowledge.

“A tradition that did not survive well in my country,” says Wanda slowly, her fingertips curled to her palms. A ring of power rotates around her wrists, the manifestation of her shield as restless as life itself, forever growing and shifting its formation while maintaining the same essentially appearance. Petals merge into one another, closing and opening, a blossom perpetually caught between creation and decay. That itself might be a lesson to the sorcerer.
What else is the invisible sephirah but halfway between them both, a measurement for the immeasurable? The appearance could spur the thought if he has not already walked in that direction himself.

She runs a look back around the room, paying especial attention to the corners of the furniture and the broken architectural details, as though somehow the destruction means to expose truths hidden in plain sight. “Yaga had little time for it. Ten spheres. Ten united by three trunks, and many branches. The feminine becomes negative, the man becomes positive, and then everything in the center is a balance point. I know more about the…” Her tongue has to work around the unfamiliar term: “Qlippothic.” Of course she would know the inversion of the tree of life better than the tree itself. “The spheres on the tree are supposed to be like the chakras, but they do not line up right. Crowley tried, but his system is not sensible.”

Opinions? Oh yes.

“There is some way to separate it into many parts. The top three, the middle three, the bottom three, and the last one like roots. Then the inverted ones, an upside down tree. Do you remember Abra-Melin? The Egyptian mage who harnessed the holy magic? Yaga,” and of course, Yaga always has an opinion, as does her apprentice, “thought he was a very poor scholar. His study of the demons of the qliphoth, the inverse of the sephirot, is still accurate in ways. Maybe if we reverse what is in there?” Assuming that a neurosurgeon reads, perhaps, one of the most influential daemonology texts short of the Keys of Solomon, who knows? Maybe he’ll strike one out of the park.

Strange glances over at the Witch and smirks. “I thought Abra-Melin did quite well for himself. Your Yaga might need to explain her lack of faith in him sometime.” Back to the Sephirot.

He hums out a pensive sigh as his gaze flickers from point to point on the symbol. Easy enough to overlay the scheme he knows best over it mentally and go about naming each glowing orb. Seven Sephirot of conscious emotions, three of conscious intellect…

Thud-thud, the heartbeat seems a bit weaker now and ratchets up the adrenaline still suffusing his system.

“Think, Stephen, think,” he whispers, squinting as the names and connotations scuttle over his memory. “Not Malkuth, not Hod, not Tiferet…” More muttering of the various titles before he inhales noticeably. “Da’at,” the Sorcerer repeats aloud. “All the Sephirot united as one, as the Tree of Life. Wanda, the tree. Leandra would absolutely consider this within this House.” His lips, though thin, offer up a ghost of a smile, a tentative sense of triumph tempered by trepidation. “Gods below, she would choose that one. No one within their right mind would attempt to access what she hid there without being very certain that they could cross the Abyss. Cross the Abyss, that metaphysical division of intellectual perfection from human pride, and you find purpose. The purpose. Whatever she hid there that has a purpose.”

The Sorcerer chews on the inside of his cheek for a moment before banishing the Mystical shield rotating before his open palm.

“Astral form. Separate the human body from the human soul and then attempt it.” His silvery-lilac eyes rest on her with a sense of quiet gravity. “I don’t ask you to follow me, Rakshasi. That statement has no negative bearings on your worth. I just don’t know what’s on the other side and…” He swallows. “If I don’t come back, the…the boys.”

The good Doctor doesn’t want to say more. No need to jinx things by announcing it to reality itself.

“One day you will learn I follow you always. You are not separate any more than I am. I give you love. My heart is yours and my spirit is you.” The arc of her brow speaks volumes. “Stephen, if we do not come back.” She corrects him without fault, and speaks in her quiet conviction.

Wanda smiles faintly, the crook of her lips serious but affectionate. One day he'll get that full smile out of her more regularly. “Then we will have done well, and the boys will know us, and we were graced to know them.” The fates might be cruel, but they don't jinx one who can change them.

She looks over her shoulder again towards the door and then stalks over to the staircase. A few steps down gives a look upon the first floor of the turret, clearing it for any signs of movement, though a sweep of Sight would reveal any magical presences. One can never be too sure. “Third floor is an unknown,” she says. They cannot access it from here, though the foyer had stairs and there might be another flight at the back for the kitchen and the servants who were about in the first years of Wychwood House, and indeed in all fine manors of the city.

“Leandra’s safety is first. Can we leave our bodies here?” There’s still a fair footprint unknown, but the choice is his.

Strange doesn’t respond immediately, content to chew on his knee-jerk words, and instead, watches her briefly leave the room to ascertain whether or not there needs to be concern about their presence in the House.

Maybe…maybe if he meditated very quickly, he could slip into Astral form and zip across the Abyss before she returns and then he wouldn’t have to fear for her. Unknowns are ulcer-causing incidents within his personal spectrum. That he has never dared the Abyss before is enough to make his throat sting with a bit of acid.

Too late, he hesitated too long.

She returns, asking after the safety of their corporeal selves and he hesitantly nods, lips thinned. “Yes, we could leave our bodies here, but Wanda, truly. I can’t be in two places at once. I’ve never tried to upkeep a defensive shielding spell in one plane while within the Astral plane. Nothing is here to stop another ransacking of the House, especially if the group decides to return for some bizarre reason and continue the search. Not only that, but we know they have the ability to at least touch upon some of the Arts, even if only within the spectrum of Dark.” A low laugh. “I am not able to dim my Mystical signature, not to someone who knows where to look, and an inviting target once in the Astral plane. Do not take this as insult, but I hesitate to leave you alone as well.” He gestures to the room around them as evidence to back up his statement. “Leandra is a very competent user of the Arts and they managed to make her retreat. However…I doubt they’d pull the wool over your eyes and catch you by surprise. Not you, «Beloved», out of everyone I know. You are…too canny,” the Sorcerer murmurs with a ghost of a smile.

“I don’t trust anyone but you to guard me when I enter the Sephirot. Anyone except you.” Emphasis to impress this upon her. He, the Guardian Shepherd of Fate and holder of all keys to all veils to realms and realities, will not place his life into the hands of anyone else but Wanda Maximoff.

“Trust me, Wanda. Let me go alone.”


The things he has asked of her are profound. The things he will ask of her are improbable, deeply pitched demands that force her heart to cry out in denial. It lies in the depths of her amber gaze, the right of refusal penned in every liquid honey turk of the ink, the tightening obsidian lashes narrowing the aperture through which her soul looks out. Wanda takes a breath at the explanation, affirming what already is known.

But one is witch, the other Sorcerer Supreme. At least acting as though she has a say in the matter is a courtesy, nothing more.

Rail against the fates all she likes, Wanda will deal with her emotions later. They belong to a place and a time other than here, a luxury rather than a necessity to get by on. Long habit makes packing away disappointment or agitation effortless. Her expression smooths out, blanking into a reserved mask, denied even the animation of firelight in a rather dim room. Her gaze flits over the shattered windows and cracked panes still intact, then travel towards the fireplace. Two major points of entry are assessed. Finally she gestures to the back corner. “That’s most defensible. I will leave by window with you, and take you into the Witch Road. Trouble will not follow me well.”

If there is anything her jacket is never without, it’s a quantity of salt, a knife, and a quantity of silver powder. Not much of the latter, but enough. She waits for Strange to sit before performing the simplest of tasks any woman or man versed in the arts can probably do, drawing a circle on the ground to seal them in protectively. Or at least Strange; the Doctor needs to be guarded, she doesn’t need to be in there with him.

Apparently, they will discuss this later. He’s not unaware of how she shutters off her reaction and it makes him swallow down a tightness in his throat. There’s no disagreement in her assessment that the corner in question is safest.

He squares his shoulders before walking across the room to the space. The soles of his boots make contact with several pieces of destroyed property, even as carefully as he steps, and he winces a little at each sound. So sorry, Leandra, didn’t mean to. Using his palm, he sweeps enough area free of debris that the risk of splinters in battle-leathers is minimal and then kneels down. The Cloak flips up certain lengths of hem to avoid being sat upon and then settles around him in an even, dignified manner. The end result, after more shifting, is the Sorcerer Supreme in meditative position, Lotus, his hands resting lightly upon his knees, palms towards the ceiling. Thumb to fingertip, optimal mudra of focus, and he watches Wanda encircle him with the stalwart guardians of argent dust and seawater’s bounty.

“Wanda,” he murmurs into the silence that follows. Hopefully she meets his gaze. It’s hard to explain with words how he feels; maybe his eyes, amaranthine wells of his soul, can say it best.

The cruelty of being told to stay back falls to all mates of commanding officers, the XO left behind when the CO goes marching off on a mission that may spell success or failure. No one wants to be left on the boat. No one likes being stood down, even for an important mission.

Her teeth settle into the inner satin corner of her mouth and nip in, barely dimpling the outer contour of her golden face. Wanda’s patience spools out along with the circle poured out on the ground. Once complete, she screws on the cap and tucks that away, neatening up the thinner point of the line to ensure a solid barrier against anything repelled by the substance or the silver powder beyond that.

“Go do your job.” She blows a kiss across the distance. “I will see you when you get back.”

How many women every day send off their loved ones to work that way? Nothing different here except this shift could well take place in another dimension and involve horrors beyond description.

He might be imagining things, wistfully, but the kiss feels to contact against his lips like the ghost of summer’s heat. Teeth show briefly in a flash of a smile and he offers her a cheeky wink in return.

“I’ll be back soon, no worries. Please dismantle anyone who attempts anything with either of us.” Meditating for him involves shutting off the world around him and he aligns his spine as he does so. It’s easy practice, though perhaps it takes a bit more than usual to separate himself from the clinging worries about his Beloved, but then…


His physical chin slumps to his chest a bit, but the stacking of his vertebrae keep him from slumping like a ragdoll and scuffing up the carefully-neatened protective circle around him. To Wanda’s Sight, he hovers before his body, knees lazily bent and boots just barely not touching the damaged flooring. He shines with starlight and hazes at the edges as if his Astral Form can barely contain the power of the Eye that now glows faintly with a penetrating wavelength of citrine.

If I fall over, that means trouble. Like you said, pull us into the Witch Road and hex me. Hard.” The ephemeral Sorcerer touches the side of his nose twice before smiling once more. “And now, I go into the light.” Maybe she can catch how he squints a bit as he looks towards the Sephirot. He flits towards it, Cloak trailing behind him in oddly-slowed flows of crimson fabric, and then around it. A tilt of his head, contemplative expression, and then his Astral Form burst into silvery twinkles like a detonating firework. Scattered through the motes are flecks of bloody crimson, deitic-green, and bruise-blue.

Looking rather like the protective wards that swish about, the mist-form Sorcerer then bullrushes the particular Sephirot, Daath, and is subjected to a singular experience.

Now it’s just Wanda in a ruined house in Queens, guarding the incapacitated body of her lover and beloved, with not even a cat to keep her company. Considering the cat which accompanied her through so much of her upbringing, consider this a positive step in the right direction.

She settles down after pulling one of her daggers, and a small chunk of stone suitable to serve as a whetstone. Nothing like running it along the cutting edges to assure they are honed sharp enough to slice through threads of fate, matching her talent for magic. It is the most she can do as the firefly sparks bumble away in the sorcerer’s wake.

Mother… A thought projected down into the earth comes with a pang of dismay, a deeper emotion under that. See him safe.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License