1963-12-10 - Abyss III: Sea
Summary: Before Strange can reach the missing mage, Leandra, he must confront what he dreads the most.
Related: Abyss I: Earth and Abyss II: Sky
Theme Song: Sam Dillard - The Gods Awaken
strange wanda mordo 

In a dream

He lies in the sea, warm as blood, and the waves barely bob around him. The immense weight of his suit - - robes? - - hauls him down, pulling him under the surface as they form great wings around him. Waterlogged sails billowing from a sinking craft.

The salt lies upon his lips, a thick rime, and even the slightest surge pushes him under, forcing him to spend his energy staying afloat, gasping for air. Thick and sticky with petrol and burning oil, every abrasive breath scours out his lungs with fumes.

He can cry out loud as he wants, the sounds are distorted and bent. Yet somehow he is lighter, spiritually if not physically, that great familiar weight lost from him somehow. Imagine losing the burden of a long carried toddler, and finding the extra inch or two in height after relieved of forty pounds.

Flotsam lies around him, some still burning. Whatever inferno came to pass, was it the sinking of a ship on the Pacific front? Escaping the Battle of the Atlantic, at a time when men slightly older than him went to guard the convoys from predatory sea wolves and never came home?

In the distance, a slim grey shape cuts through the water. Shadows move under him. Strange can make out displacement below him, and perhaps it’s no battle of the great war, but something far more immediate, otherworldly. Great scales twist and churn, immense, spiraling down into the deeps.

A shock of green lightning tinged in citrine forks across the gloomy sky, pure where the sooty haze gives a sickly miasma. A snap of power clear even to him, and the tentacles writhing from a central shadowy mass retreat, hurried on by the flexible arc of orange and black lava presence — as much arcane as mundane — landing with an echoing, booming crack.

The Staff of the Living Tribunal. The man wearing it carries the citrine favour of the gods.

One who would have seen him wed to a spider battles over the sea while Strange is caught in the watery doom below.

The mind is slow to react when placed in such a circumstance. Waterlogged clothing means fighting for the refracted lightning muffled by a sheen unnatural. Breaking the surface of the lightly-roiling water gives cause for a whooping gasp and Strange spits out errant salty-oily water, fighting for a full breath of air.

What in the seven hells in the umpteen dimensions is this?! He was sleeping! He was resting! At least the water surrounding him is warm — OH GODS!!! A startled sound warbles across the expanse as he realizes that he’s not alone for the movement of fluid beneath him, the backdraft of a great body passing by and away.

“Oh gods! What the hell!!!!” He might not be too far off. Blinking the burn from his eyes, he keeps up the sculling of arms and legs alike as the images all come to him. Another near-blinding webbing of chartreuse lightning illuminates what the sullen fires licking at various lumps on the water do not. He learns quickly that looking up means a fight to avoid his jaw dropping open when a wave flips a fresh wash of oily saltwater within; precious energy is wasted coughing it up, his mouth and lips drying further still for the effect.

Above him, across the expanse of the domed sky, titans clash. The fear of what swims beneath is lost for the shock struck into his heart at the sheer stretch of the inky mass that might shriek on a level heard maybe by ears alone or perhaps only on the wavelengths of the soul which flinches away. The thunderous impact reaches him, the smack of darkwood upon giving flesh magnified a thousand times, and seems to riffle the waters. He knows well that snaking pattern of weaponry, banded sea krait in gold rather than bone-white. It disappeared from his Sanctum on his watch.

“Karl!” He has barely any voice as it is and disappearing briefly under the water means emerging with a splutter and a hack. “Karl, dammit!” It catches up to him moments later when another crackling splits the haze. “NO!” Bubbles pass in the wake of his sodden clothing as emotions surge adrenaline through limbs. “F — ” Another splash of seawater on his face causes him to abort the curse. “Goddamn it, NO!” A nearby bit of flotsam seems to have burnt out its fire. He aims his paddling for it, attempting to find another means to stay afloat other than determination.


Tentacles retreat from the blurring coral light and the seething darker-than-darkness shuttled towards it, but even the celerity of a near-godling cannot compare to the wrath inflicted by that supple, deadly relic. Not with the fuel of the Vishanti behind it, a blending of dangerous purpose and the volatile magics wound together. Shaking the supernal vault overhead, the Staff unleashes its wrath and limbs start to separate from the main body of the vast inchoate darkness ghosting sight of any stars.

Then Strange might realize the absence of those familiar constellations marks not the sight of being underground but on a sea staring up to the body of something vast and horrific. Falling limbs disintegrate in their fall, chunks of ichor blasted into the sea at the speed of Cretaceous meteorites. Impacts send up sickly plumes of ocean water contributing to the foul stench, thick on oil and spilled gas.

He can swim to one of the floating bits of wood not charred by fires on the water or the celestial battle raging overhead. An incoherent, shrill noise resolves into a furious shriek from no organic mouth, and a glimmering brass lash erupts around the sorcerer in green. His garments snap and flare in the unseen wind, force deflected off the dome thinning out into long contrails behind him. No signs of any building stand here, only Mordo facing down an eldritch terror the likes of which have kept every Sorcerer Supreme sweating in their beds since the first accepted the burden.

Whatever lurks in the water completely avoids bits of hellish spawn falling out of the heavens, diving at speeds fit to cut a foamy wake that stirs up detritus, as much organic as inorganic. Metal cables flash by, a partly consumed stop sign spinning around into the void and dragged down. Papers float by and Strange, upon looking down, sees the flickering lights of a drowned city or town, perhaps just a cluster of buildings somehow inundated by the boiling ocean.

Another volley of unfurling pseudopods fly around the perilously small man, enveloping him in a vast knot, writhing shadows consuming any hint of his presence. Dead. He must be, facing something overwhelmingly large and horrible, even to Strange’s salt-rimed eyes. The vast monster eagerly crushes and squeezes the life out from the broken mystic.

Or does it? He lashes out, the great chain of the Staff’s supple body creating another eruption of gore and spell-sparks. It is not enough. It cannot be enough. The sheer amount of energy needed to attack and sustain the guarding spell might prove lethal, especially to someone as inflexible as Karl von Mordo. He knows this. He knows this.

Yet citrine and amber sparks coalesce, bleeding chartreuse, a hole blowing through the side as the blinding circle on the man’s chest shears away a portal. Banded light bleeds out through holes and fissures not there before.Only then does that thing shriek, and the world groans, bedrock and ocean both thrown into upheaval.

He may as well be stranded in a swirling sky himself for all the faint glows of drowned lights seem so very far down. Clinging to a spar of wood very much like a drowned rat, he takes a second to scrub at his red-rimmed eyes before the plonk-KOOSH of something hitting the surface near to him causes Strange to flinch. Wiping off his face again, he realizes that there are goddamn tentacles raining down, great lengths of several if not tens — dozens?! — of feet.

One breaks upon some iceberg of upturned metal with a sick clanging thud and he has a moment to watch it writhe out its remaining lifeforce with oily slaps like a beached fish before the upturning means the loss of the air pocket keeping the heavy material afloat against odds. Down it goes, blub-blub, like the rest of the falling bits.

“You can’t — Karl!” A hoarse bark of the Warlock’s name sounds more like a seal than a man. “They didn’t choose you, you CAN’T — ” Slapped again in the face with salt water. Swiping it off, he’s in time to see Karl both disappear and reappear within the second of heart-stopping entanglement.

His teeth buzz in his skull, his eardrums threaten to burst and the Sorcerer’s own ragged yell of pure pain is lost. Choppy waves grow choppier still, washing over him and threatening to drag him from his poor excuse of floatation. He needs something bigger, more buoyant, something he can paddle towards Karl. Even if his ears are bleeding, he’s going to help that assumptive, staunchly-stubborn warlord in the Arts. But first, these waves need to calm the hell down.

Assuming they do come to a point where he’s no longer white-knuckled in grip on said floating flotsam, he casts a bleary look around for the nearest larger bit of flotsam, maybe something flat. Like a door. But without any sappy dramatic lines about never letting go. Because he’s sure as hell going to let go if a tentacle threatens to slam down upon him once he’s splayed across it.

Didn’t they?

Those bleeding-bright smears on the afterglow of the vast, celestial entity blotting out the sky speak to grievous wounds. On a lesser being they wouldn’t even be visible, for the corpse might be a smoking wreck or smoldering into noxious dust. Soot streaks his forest-green robes and the hem lies in tatters, scratches gouged into his heavy black pants revealing hints of ashen skin beneath. But Mordo looks remarkably well for hitting this high above his weight class, and he swivels rapidly to swipe the staff upwards to block another exploratory jab from an unseen distended maw on a stalk. A huge spray of sparks replaces those absent stars for but a moment.

In his ringing baritone, authoritative Words fall in rapid sequence: “By the Seven Suns of Cinnabus!”

Soaring green globes enfold his hands as the Staff winds itself around Mordo’s forearm, and allows him to poise his fingers in the precise formations needed to channel the immense solar energy into an impulse shock sent pouring through a triangular aperture of thumbs to forefingers. Coronal discharges from a septet of suns ignites, flung outwards in a burst so brilliant no human eye can stand against it.

A divine Eye certainly can, widening, allowing the buttery skein to pulsate with citrine energy.

He falls to one knee, floating well over the water, as the dome flashes and glitters, erupting out the back of the bulbous body presented to him. Or a portion of it, as the cracks developing in its surface appear like those in a sickened star. His grin is scintillating in the darkness of his face, in the mildly brighter realm above.

Below Strange, the waters stay eerily warm, the waves not so deep they overthrow him. His clothes still drag, and there’s the matter of whatever shark or sub was lurking around.

A door it is then, cast adrift from its moorings by whatever cataclysmic act of nature did in with its original mounting. Kicking with vigor, Strange works his way over to the floating island and clambers up onto it, at least halfway up his body. A pause for rough panting and then he hauls himself up more, able to lie lengthwise along it. Balance is an act nearly as difficult as staying above the water originally was and he basically needs to flatten himself upon it to keep from flipping back into the warm waters.

It leaves him subject still to the various pats of saltwater to his face, being this close to the surface, and that glower is ferocious. The world whites out around him suddenly and even as he’s blinking visual static away for some time, attempting to keep calm in the face of possibly being blind in the middle of a freakin’ ocean, he’s listening. That was one hell of a spell Karl just used; it would have taken up a good chunk of any Sorcerer’s inherent collection of willpower without the bolstering presence of the Eye.

Oh yes, that’s still in contention.

“I did not do anything to lose it!” Who is he yelling at? “You didn’t choose him!” This is true — at least, in his own Reality. “Karl, you’re using too much power, stop!” Another truth; there’s bulling one’s way through a Mystical fire-fight and then there’s conserving one’s might for critical points of weakness, sussing them out and then slamming the daggers of incantations home.

Anything, anything to get through the battle reappearing now before his returning vision. Baring his teeth, the water-logged Sorcerer attempts a voice-magnifying spell by rasping out Words himself. They’re so soft as to be lost to the sounds of conflict above him and the thunking splash of waves. Maybe he’s able to project louder, maybe not. Either way:


A megaphone in stentorian tones? Or a blown voice box to leave him coughing?


The spell is no less significant than the Crimson Bands of Cyttorak, or any of the mighty selection in his private collection, endowed by previous Sorcerers Supreme back to Merlin and beyond. Seven Suns of Cinnabus delivers a devastating punch from a mortal’s poised hands, for the daylight of multiple luminous sources burns a wicked glimmer into the marbled sky through the ichorous blackness filling the atmosphere with opaque smut. Striations leave pale streaks, grey brindling meeting the eye.

Strange can paddle his door along with a kick, though grey-ash foam flicks up behind him, and multiple shapes below blot out signs of skyscrapers or towers drowned beneath the waves. Maybe it’s better not to focus below, but above. A lesson of the Ancient One, if ever.

The shouting from the bobbing seas alive with submerged shadows and a man on a door might eventually give notice to the forbidding man floating on high. He stoops to observe the speck of colour in a dark, restless waterworld, ragged sylvan-green robes flickering about him. Bending forward gives him a point to orient on, and he descends, the Staff of the Living Tribunal restored to a straight, stiff length of banded metal.

Karl has seen better days, but looks surprisingly hale given the magnitude of the battle. He doesn’t spare the energy to repair the rips in his pants or the rough edges on sleeve or hem, and there’s a life and colour to his dusky cheeks Strange can recall from early in his stay at Kamar-Taj. Possibly enhanced to an unknown degree, but he radiates authority and might. Hints of neon green witchfire burn in his fathomlessly dark eyes.

“What manner of fool takes himself to the heart of a battle?” he calls out, his voice strong and infused by a mighty range. The staff remains firmly in his left hand, and the celestial horror in the sky continues to convulse in its death throes, at least for now. It may be premature to call it dead. Paralyzed, yes.

Mordo grits his teeth, scaling his fingers skyward to draw a circle. An enormous dome dimly takes form, almost invisible against the gloomy sky. It remains there, full of potential, its runes not drawn fully. “This is no place for you to be, or anyone. Can you gate yourself back to safety?”

“Karl, you know me.” It’s the first thing out of his mouth, after Strange is done giving Karl a pointedly-incredulous look. “Stephen. Stephen Strange. You were…we were…you tutored me at Kamar-Taj!” Like the mistaken Warlock Supreme needs to be reminded of the fact that the Sorcerer, drowned rat that he is, was once garbed in the hues and plainness of apprenticeship and not wielding the clout of the Vishanti.

Speaking of THAT. This is a dream. It’s clearly a dream. No way would the Vishanti ditch him for another, much less Baron Mordo, he who has most definitely delved into Arts darker than anything most Sorcerers dare touch.

“Look, none of this is real. You’re not the Sorcerer Supreme.” Even as he says it, Strange is fighting a weird sense of arguing with some aspect of…himself? No, his psyche? A dread hidden but for deep in the night, when confidence fails and marrow quakes? “You’ve killed it, good job. Now give me my mantle back.” A weak point to accent his point.

Surely, to Karl, this man is utterly mad, driven out of his mind by some loss or perhaps the cataclysmic damage to the Earth strewn around him in swirling pieces of debris and sea-serpents that should have remained deep in their stygian morasses, not cruising the middle- and upper-reaches of the murky ocean for nibbles.


Peering through the drowned rat attire, smears of white salt and dark water, Mordo breathes out through gritted teeth. His nostrils pinch upon drawing in another deep lungful of oxygen. The reaction only underlines the surprise showing in the widening of his eyes, firefly sparks coalescing into a solid sheen electrified upon the impossibly deep, dark irises. He adjusts his grip on the staff, then lowers its end to tap lightly against the sodden doorframe. It stops bobbing about maniacally in the water, taking on a much more solid foundation prior to his intervention.

“What are you doing out here?” he asks, daring to look away from the sky for a moment. Strange will have to put up with his distraction on a fairly regular basis. With tentacle-fall onto the turbid waters, properly deflecting unwanted gibbets of sickly flesh is important. He throws his shoulders back and barks a Word — “Ikeldis!” — to send a viscous acid-green bolt forking at one coming uncomfortably close. Lime distortions flow through the convulsing tank-sized chunk and incinerate it from the inside out. A vile smell rises, thick and oily, coating mouth and nasal passages in a revolting tincture.

He looks less than pleased. “Nothing I can do for that. Breathing through your mouth should help.” Wiping his mouth on his sleeve is beneath his dignity, after all.

Once more he gives a faint shudder, drawing himself to a tall height, braced floating midair. “Stephen, I have no guarantee it is dead. A breach of this severity means a massive power source. So, please, answer: can you transport yourself to safety? I can for you.” The closest he comes to acknowledging Strange’s rough state.

Another shadowy filament breaches the surface, a liquid-dripping limb covered in pointed, sharp scales and barbs better suited on a squid’s limb rather than the serpentine backbone. What it belongs to must have a considerable head, and Mordo grasps the haft of the staff firmly, swinging back the suddenly flexible body back over his broad shoulder. A backslash brings it down and the accrued kinetic energy flaming in an amber-tinged light. The explosion radiates through the water in a compressed shockwave visible as a ripple on the surface.

Lights wink out far below. A tower shears off from its metal infrastructure, and there goes a sinuous figure at all the speed it can muster, destruction chasing it away. “That won’t keep them gone for long. Jormagandr’s spawn. If you think you can help, then I shan’t say no. But this fight is my duty.” The cold words of duty and responsibility have ever been near to his heart, and he speaks almost with a pang of reverence. “I ask it of no other.”

You can’t give back that which was given. Gifts are by nature not refundable.

The Sorcerer wants to snap back with all the swift impact of the relic in Karl’s hand that this is, in fact, his dream and ergo, the Baron had better not get used to such powers — but then comes the need to break up the approaching tanker-sized lump of squalid flesh. That is one odor Strange will never forget, Astral dimensional dream-world or not. He swallows carefully after the slick bits disappear beneath the waves, perhaps drawing up the very serpents he deliberately ignores for the sake of his sanity.

“Karl, I know you revel in pointing out the obvious, but — ”

Then comes dispersing said roiling sea-creatures and the man flinching on his floating door, the only thing keeping him from those hooked scales and uncaring hunger. Splashed by water, he coughs and spits, gagging on an empty stomach. How…pitiful he seems.

Spitting from a dried mouth, Strange glares back up at Karl. “I’m not going anywhere. Tell me what happened. Then I can help.” Maybe if he figures out how the mantle went from him to Karl…aw, hell, no no NO.


He still possesses all his graceful wits and tremendous self-deprecation. Strange will never be far from his roots. Mordo might be ready to tear his hair out by the roots at the insistence upon staying, but he isn’t going to argue loudly upon it. The somewhat depleted energies in the Staff of the Living Tribunal recharge over time, feeding on the latent primal forces channeled through sea and sky.

“Wards alerted me to the incursion of Phemous, one of the Lords of the Splinter Realms. It attempted to intrude on this dimension,” he murmurs, spitting out the name. Disdain coats Mordo’s posture and his expression blackens, face upturned to the dolorous sky. “That’s what remains of it. Completely destroying a realmlord requires something I cannot do, chasing it back into its own dimension.”

It’s enough to slam the door on its tentacles and insist nothing hit its pudgy demonic-deathly ass on the way out. The brittle flex of his jaw matches gathering his will, preparing for an onslaught that might come. Telling Doctor Strange anything but what he wants to hear. “You can not be consumed by one of the bastard children of the serpent down there. We aren’t far offshore. Try not to be a liability, yes?”

He’s already gathering himself for the next sortie, ready to go over the mystical top, and with all that brings. No one can claim Mordo doesn’t have a hell of a lot of gumption, though his willingness to steep himself in the dark arts is another matter entirely. It might be on show now. Maybe not.

Lifting his hands, he braces himself against a rising wind that rattles through the stinking, oily night.

“At least it wasn’t the Kings of the Outer Darkness…or Molgotha,” Strange mutters, the words likely lost to the slap of water upon the door and various sounds of agony from the vast Lord, still flailing in its death-thrall.

“And I am not a liability! I don’t know how you managed the Vishanti’s blessing, but it’s not — ” No point. It’s bitter medicine, the realization that this dream isn’t going to allow him any leeway with misplaced mantles and beleaguered Barons. If his stomach wasn’t already nauseated with the amount of oily seawater imbibed, it would be swallowing that realization down. “I am not a liability,” he emphasizes, carefully making his way to his hands and knees, balancing as best he can if the stabilizing presence of the Staff is not present. “I can still cast. None of this is above my pay grade.”

The arrival of the wind, perhaps easterly, may just bring the foreboding feeling of Damocles and his Doom with it.

“You do not have to do this, Stephen. But arguing over it in the middle of the sea, in a battle, is futile. You always have been stubborn as a mule,” Mordo grumbles, head tipped to hear something not fully there. He is straightened, proud and regal in the manner of ancient kings, his expression set in the rocky lines of the Ramessid pharaohs or monarchs carved into stone reliefs in lost jungle kingdoms.

He scribes a complicated circle, filling the internal ring with a series of overlapping upward-pointed triangles, the rotating disc filling out as he goes. Encoding his will upon reality leaves a sheen of citrine over the building spell. “Can you?” A furrow forms in his brows. “Intriguing. But no matter, we can take care of that latter. Do what you think you can from down here. The serpents are a nuisance compared to Phemous, but preventing them from calling their destructive father would be welcome.”

Is he throwing scraps? He might be throwing scraps. Does anyone even know if Jormungandr has come to Earth, or is he just an Asgardian byblow?

Far be it from Karl to speculate, but he watches as a splinter of darkness forms upon the sooty sky. It draws him like a speck of ink on pristine vellum, the fly in the soup. “Round two. I had hoped this would happen. I have just the very spell to deal with this so-called realm king.” A leonine grin spreads over his features. “Time to bury him in the sea with reminder there is no running from the Sorcerer Supreme.”

On his way to put Phemous in his grave, the mere sight of movement makes the Staff of the Living Tribunal practically come alive in anticipation. The stretching links quiver and vibrate, a languid arch running through the relic.

He arches an eyebrow at Strange, and then storms aloft on a glittering acid green trail of excess energy bled from levitation spell.

Are you sure of yourself?

For the sea is stormy and wild. It is quiet and serene. It is dark and moody. And in all its moods, the sea will not be tamed.

“I can take on some serpents. Easy.” Ignore the sudden near-overbalancing and consequential rapid shifting of the door. Ignore the surprised grunt. Pay more attention to the stabilization again and how he manages to even get to a kneeling position in the dead center of the floating platform, intuitively finding that point of equilibrium.

Even decked in salt and oil-smudge, Strange watches the formation of the spell drawn upon reality with the gravity of knowing judge. That is one humdinger of an incantation and his eyes shift up to Karl’s face, made closed for the concentration needed. He too observes the ripping of the sky to a Darkness unknown to but a critical few and swallows — hard. Not very useful, not with how his lips are set to bleed again and he’s considering summoning himself up a bottle of water; but not now, he can wait. He needs to conserve energy, not go about clouting willy-nilly like someone who isn’t managing his willpower properly — at least, according to Strange.

“Don’t be an idiot.” This earns him that eyebrow and dismissive flight path up towards Round Two, where the Sorcerer expects to watch the convulsions of Mystical might and Splinter Realm radiate across the sky.

For the serpents? Nothing like a little bait…rigged with the magical equivalent of a timed explosive. Should there be a floating chunk of tentacle around, it’s the target of the spell. He takes a note from Wanda’s book and forces the crack in his lip open again with a wince and curse. It takes a bit to get the willpower flowing — it seems sluggish out here, upon the waters, but perhaps he’s harried for his recent dreamings — but once his salt-shrunken palms glimmer with faint golden light, he brushes the first two fingertips of each hand across the gash. Ow. OW. SALT. OW.

The muted sound of discomfort vibrates his chest even as he sublimates his own blood into the spell, the marigold hues literally bleeding towards rust. Much like forming a snowball, he crams the incantation into a tightly-fizzling orb between his palms, glancing up at Karl’s retreating figure every few seconds.

A careful lob towards the chunk, a hope of luck that it lands upon the blubbery, bulbous boat-sized bit, and then he waits. If swallowed, the spell is triggered and after five seconds…detonation will be rather…climactic. And messy.


Karl von Mordo, foolish and whimsical? That will be the day. The Sorcerer receives a look from the green warlock mantled in the full might and authority of his office, tinged by a midnight sky, and no more. It will be a matter resolved later.

How often Stephen and Karl have hinged their beginnings on ragged ends, roughshod ‘laters’ that never turn out terribly well.

Grey clouds light up with sickly greenery on their underbellies, the thunderous pulses forming more regular beats. Clashes of polarised ions make the very sky shake, dragging down the heavens to meet the man rising into them. A rising wind moans among the thickening cumulonimbus ceiling alight. The counterclockwise force churns around him, the man at the focal point a mile below, the speed building fastest on the inner vortex and forcing outer strands to follow suit.

Phemous is not to be denied this time, the shorn tentacles hardly a trouble for the shape-shifting, reality-warping realmlord come to bestow deliverance on an adjacent reality to his own. The blinking shapes of mouths form all along the flexible mass that can’t be called a body, so much as a satellite, held together by its own sickly gravity. He pushes repeatedly against the weak points in the world, performing unlikely acts of mass compression to attain the feat of shoving a camel, and the whole of Saudi Arabia, through the eye of a needle.


Yellowish blights spill over the scorched sections of his ‘flesh’ attacked by the virulent lightning forks, surging from the dome of the heavens to vibrate and crash into it again and again. Even so, falling nets coat his being, and the realmlord probably laughs, were such a feat possible for countless gaping maws full of devouring teeth and lashing tongues that in turn sprout more mouths, more komodo tongues, more toothy maws, and so it goes.


The surging sky bends down to meet the focal point, the increasingly amber-bright disk laced in neon green that Mordo holds up between himself and Phemous. Laughter scores the shrieking wind as the rotating storm funnels itself down through that narrow lens, turning all its primal, immense fury against him.


With their blessing.

Whirlwinds become cyclones, cyclonic motion whipped into a total typhoon. Impossible to hear his incantation as the water forms a gyre in slow mirroring of the storm front, supplying the moisture needed to unleash the gargantuan spell. What does it do? What purpose does it serve? Sheer, airy violence on a scale even Thor the Thunderer might nod approvingly of.


Get out of the water. Get out, if you wish to find your lost path!


The immensity of the midnight comes alive as foxfire explodes from Strange's detonated spell, Mordo’s rage, and the realmlord lashes out, mouths again gibbering and shrieking madness, hungry for the taste of man flesh. Raging winds hurled back at them come alive with far too much lightning for any single storm to contain, raining down from every direction, as citrine and blackness mingle together, and Mordo raises the Staff.

Poised for a breaking, to unleash the retributive force contained within that relic, sucked up from Strange’s own magic, Mordo’s, even the interdimensional horror.

All of it.

It seems the lure has been effective. A monstrous mouth rises and engulfs the boat-sized chunk with ease; the mouth itself was more than large enough to contain any size of floating tentacle he’s seen hit the surface thus far, even the ones nearing tanker-length. Thank the gods it dives deeper in those five seconds. The spell detonates, KAFOOM, the resulting effects muffled by water — and one down, so very many more to go.

But he’s barely paying attention to that.

Having been in similar situations before and having never been watching from the bleachers, Strange is left to watch with the whites of his eyes beginning to show and cracked lips slowly opening in a gape of awe up towards the sky.

So that is what it looks like when he’s throwing about some Supreme clout. Damn.

His heart rises up into his throat, teeth bared in gut-deep fear for what Karl is currently facing down. The Realmlords are nothing to play lightly with, but they’re canny bastards and this one has likely factored in the Warlock’s propensity to use as much force as possible in a moment of need.

“Karl! Shit, Karl — ” He chokes down the warning, having to now curve up a shoulder and squint for the sudden rising of the wind, carrying moisture at speeds to begin making impressive impact, shy of stinging. He’s never been in a hurricane before, but those seawater-sucking tornadoes are familiar enough. Holding up an arm to attempt to shield himself, Strange gets the distinct impression that this is coming to a head and he’s…in trouble.

With blood thrumming through his veins, he accesses the font of willpower within and quickly hisses out a basic levitation spell. This is the one he relied upon for the very short time between learning it and the arrival of the crimson Cloak into his life. Bunching his legs beneath him, Strange takes a ridiculous risk before launching himself off the floating door and into the rough air around him.

Immediately, for enough time to worry him, he’s topsy-turvy, chaff in the wind. Again, by sheer force of intent, he’s able to find a directional flow and then grind himself to a halt, the effort bringing sweat to the silvered temples. Wet rust-red robes slap in the hurricane’s breaths and there’s no staying carefully in one spot. For every adjustment he makes one way, he’s buffeted another, and it’s a huge strain. Still, that mulish man insists upon remaining airborne, above the waves and mess below, and fists his hands at his sides.

It’s like Kathmandu all over again. The lectures flicker in and out of memory, Karl reminding him that there are rules that cannot be bent or broken, Wong silently watching on in stoic agreement. Acid graces the back of his palette; denial has such a taste and he swallows hard.

Endure. He’s going to have to endure whatever cataclysm results of the collision of powers. Too far away to have a prayer of reaching Karl in time to abort it. Without his mantle, he has no hope of reaching that same megawatt-charged level of spell-casting and avoiding the risk of literal death, burning his soul out of his body.

Endure behind the shield he summons up around himself — and prepare for the worst. Water drops spatter upon it, heavily enough to turn sections of it blurred.
He waits — and slows his breathing as time itself seems to halt and skip forwards like some demented record.


Two stories above the storm-wracked sea and ascending, Strange is treated to a more horrific sight than lying in the blood warm waters. Writhing shadows coil in the depths, frosted in a pale grey green foam. A serpent jerks in its death throes while the detonated spell rips out its gullet and leave the remnants of its head attached to its spine by nothing more than sinews. Unaware of its skull’s fate, the massive tail slaps flat against the depths and stirs up sediment while its kin form a knot.

Blood splashes out from myriad wounds, and the opportunistic scavengers bite deep into thick flesh. Narrow ribbons fold and unwind, a complex Mobius strip stretching a hundred feet side to side. Water boils in the gobbet- and fat-speckled maelstrom.

Bobbing off in the distance, a spit of forested ridges go plunging deep into the waters. He can spy lanterns buoyant on the graceful descending arch swept from a bridge’s supportive struts. Worn steel stands proud, a black stretch of tarmac hanging over the tormented ocean, as a last bastion of human civilization. So far, oh so far, but safely tucked away from the maelstrom.

The suspension bridge’s metal wires hum and moan in longing, a requiem for the mighty. Large, slick bodies burst from the water, great eel-like sea serpents snapping and fighting over the bones of their kin. Gruesome, leering mouths full of needle-like teeth match the wobbling slap of their sinuous bodies, percussive slaps sending quakes running down through the sea and the bedrock.

Strange is so very small in the middle of such unbridled rage. He is thrown about, witness to a devastating cataclysm between warlock and the realm lord, channeling the blazing might of the triune gods. The very air begins to vibrate.

Roll on, thou deep and raging blue sea, roll!
Hoggoth, loose your hosts’ wrath upon Earth’s bane, //
Phemous scars a world with ruin; his control
Ceases by Chthon’s grace on the mortal plane
No trace of your befoul’d taint shall remain
Blazing Eye, cleanse the ravage, save your own
Abjure the harbinger to realms unknown!//

The words roll across every gathered pip of lightning caught in an airy cauldron. Sprites amble into loose chains streaked from the low, cottony ceilings down to the supercharged conduit opened by Mordo. He clings to the storm, withholding its wrath in vehemently churned clouds and pelting lances formed of ice and rain.

For a moment, Strange can see the bliss upon his features. For this was he forged and reforged again. Powers divine arc through his extremities, spilled through the technicolour jade and cyanotic blue, phosphorous burned cloak of his aura.

Both hands flex, and the Staff of the Living Tribunal folds around so both ends practically touch. Wood cracks along splintering fronts, copper bands splashing out in great firework showers. Those embers descending onto the wave tops continue to burn, blazing through rough serpentine scales and swallowed concrete, down, down, down. Enormous floods of sustained power explode in a hemispherical shock, the contained fury of a star released.

He is magnificent, he is terrible, and he revels in the proud command over the violence he unleashes to banish Phemous in a tempestuous battle turning every drop of rain and sliver of ice into a dramatic weapon.

The vacuum in the atmosphere pops, throwing Strange up and down as oxygen rushes in or out, and he is hurled about like a rag doll in the hands of a particularly motivated and active toddler.

Pain surely sizzles through as the barrelling storm tears into the gibbering mouths and turns them back on themselves, twisting a metaphorical corkscrew right into the very heart of the realmlord until he pops.

If he’s stayed anywhere within reach, Strange is bound to be caught by the falling sky pinning him into the ocean. Hopefully he had the sense to fly.

Apparently, hanging about was a bad idea. Even as the first cranking shift in barometric pressure catches him off-guard, causing him to clap his hands to his ears in a silent scream of agony, he’s twisting a shoulder to retreat.

Run. Those who fight and run away live to fight another day.

Karl chose his fate. Even as Strange fights the air currents and a vicious case of vertigo, he catches sight of the storm-blurred lights of a distant bridge and wonders if he can make it to that place beyond reach of the clashing titans.

Streamlining himself and feeding in an extra pulse of willpower from the wellspring within his sternum, he attempts to outrace the expanding wall of air visible behind him through the twisted grace of rainfall. It’s times like this where he wishes that he had the crimson Cloak.

Wait. Wait. Isn’t this his dream?

Even as he slices his way on a path likely deviating at all angle for errant sheer gusts of wind, he calls out mentally as he would in the quiet stillness of the Sanctum to the near-and-dear relic. Its presence would be both grateful aid and the solidarity of partnership in a fight that fears to engulf him in turn.


Hope is a slender thread in the raging, crumbling night, even as Strange is pushed forward from the shockwave tearing a visible wall of foaming, bloody water.

Hope is the burn of faith and mental discipline to withstand even complete chaos, forcing aching hands bleeding again from his descent through the forest to shape the mudras. Salt cracked lips must form the words. Without them, he is dead.

Hope is the spell trying to accelerate him beyond something moving past the speed of sound from its epicentre. A star’s conflagration throws out a huge rush of supercharged spell energies in pivotal rotations, ripping apart the storm brewed overhead for the explicit purpose to fuel the kinetic lance rammed through a godlike being’s chest.

Turned around and around, willing himself to the bridge is about the best Strange can manage. Streaks of daylight alight in the auroral curtains sweep under his feet, and another bobbling oscillation makes him well acquainted with the damnation waiting behind him. The collection of mouths has shifted again, taking on a vaguely humanoid form with a great, bulbous head and a huge, gaping maw devoid of a bottom jaw, only the blackest void draining out the storm and the awful energy hurled straight through him. Realm Lords are not to be tampered with lightly, and still Karl von Mordo fights on.

His spectacular corona illuminates him against the flowing clouds, the double-layered disk and the thrashing, broken Staff of the Living Tribunal overcharged against the being caught captive between two dimensions.

Stephen Strange calls out in the night.

In the House
Blood starts to run from the nostrils of the meditating Sorcerer, guarded by the Maximoff girl’s salted circle. The entire house groans and shudders, broken glass floating off the floor and boards warping in unnatural serpentine ripples. The hallways echo and groan, and the walls bow inwards, distorted alterations shuddering all the way down to the foundations.

Hollow rattles convulse the estate. Something comes, and the Witch stretches her palm outright, fingers upright, at the man in his blue battle leathers. “Anugraha uthna!” A vivid spiral of light stained by a red-violet blush springs up around him, not fast enough to spare him a few chunks of plaster and dust raining down.

Wanda drops to her stomach with a buck of the dusty floorboards, halted in her pacing for hours across the once lovely rugs. Hands cup the back of her neck as the tower fills with moans, cracking picture frames raining down from above. She rolls to her back, thrusting her arms out in front of her, setting off a curiously tent-like burst of energy to deflect the debris aside.

In the Astral

Hope is a gossamer presence standing on a soaked, barnacle-studded outcropping barely worthy of the term islet, almost swamped by the upheaval around its rounded shores. Flotsam tossed on the wine-dark ocean collides upon the slip of a beach.

While the hurricane rages, Strange goes tumbling through wave and sky, striving for the bridge. One wild billow dips him down, down towards the red waters, seeking the scarlet redemption, a promise across the distance…

Can he hear the snapping through the screaming winds, the Sight gone ecstatic and furious with so much energy unleashed? Is that a sparkle of patterned argyle from the corner of his salt-stung eye?

Stone rears up too close, and he veers perilously close to crashing into the island, held captive by the ferocious imbalance of gravity. Something nudges him, something almost weightless knocking his soaked body away from impact.

The shade reaches out to grip Strange’s wrist. Cold, the touch is so terribly cold, as peculiar as the moment he passed through its ephemeral, incorporeal shape. Somehow its words pass to them as they’re both hurled past a frisson of wailing steel and flattened pine boughs.

Look hard enough, he might see a clearing where stands a man, turning through the graceful kata of a martial art, bringing order to chaos.

It’s all at a blur that’s simultaneously slow, destruction accelerating time and halting its flow. The suspension bridge rears up, a great beast, and spilling energies rip at every edge of Strange’s senses. Bleeding poppy hems tease at the edges of his peripheral vision, and the shade yanks him up, up, up.

“You cannot let go. You cannot wake up,” says the shade in a low, hoarse whisper. Hooded and still contained within those grey, grey robes, the only difference is that this time it’s tangible, and clinging for dear life to his scarred hand. “Rules different here, Stephen Strange, rules we dare not violate. This is not a dream.”

Reality jars him against the asphalt with a hard collision, a thump that seems to throw his body sideways twenty feet in every direction, leaving him quivering to the vibrations of universal superstrings on sixteen dimensions. He pulls apart at the seams in every colour, witnessing incarnations of himself accelerating away at light speed through technicolour slip streams.

They all come tearing right back in reverse, slamming into the self.

Cloak pats his wet, bruised cheek with a corner of his upturned collar.

Continued in Abyss IV: Void.

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