1964-01-19 - A Touch of Darkness: Part IIa
Summary: A Doctor and a Warlock chase down a Darkness… This sounds like the beginning of a joke.
Related: http://marvel1963mush.wikidot.com/log:1964-01-11-a-touch-of-darkness-part-i
Theme Song: None
mordo strange 

The resounding answer to the Baron’s question, posed within the confines of Castle Mordo’s tea room, appears to be a resounding and prideful “Why the hell not!” — Shared by both parties, of course.

It brings our intrepid heroes (hero + anti-hero? Not-quite-hero? Diet coke of hero?) to stand where they do: in the middle of what appears to be nowhere.

The good Doctor’s sigh escapes in a slow, irritated hiss as he glares at the heavily-shadowed entrance to the building. Twenty miles in every direction from the nearest habitation, somewhere in the Midwestern United States, and his tracking spell has led him to a dilapidated barn that still stands. No doubt it’s one of the locations of utter absence of magic; even at a over ten meters away from the yawning blackness of the open doors, he can sense the creeping nothing that lurks.

Strange looks around again, not exactly confused, but absolutely on-edge. This is a ghost of a farm, a remnant of the Dust Bowl’s impact on a family who could no longer survive on what nature afforded their tear-stained efforts. A rusted-out truck is parked under a weather-beaten tree whose branches rattle in the evening wind that gusts by, bringing the scent of dry earth and wild grass. The farmhouse itself is an empty shell with windows pocked by hail damage and two of the five steps to the raised porch collapsed in. It might not be haunted, but it’s damn eerie nonetheless. That his own family made it through such trying times seems sheer luck in the face of this location. At his shoulders, the crimson Cloak catches in the breeze and flags in bright hues, almost a trespass within such a bleak locale.

Despite the abandonment of the property, it was clear that someone — or someones, maybe even somethings — had once utilized the barn as a place for preparing very difficult evocations. With the complete obliteration of the magics once present there, it’s impossible to determine the type. The echoes of the willpower are what exist and he can pick up on those if he focuses just right, squinting off into the hollowed barn with Sight-brightened eyes.

“Well…hell if I know,” he finally mutters, glancing at the imposing figure beside him in green battle-leathers. “This is what you were talking about, right? Someone was casting here, but whatever seat of power they held is completely erased.”


A ghost farm.

Except it is empty.

Empty of ghosts. Empty of humans. Empty of magic. Empty of… life. It is the Empty Farm.

I hurt myself today
To see if I still feel…

"Music," Mordo remarks in a quiet voice, standing beside Doctor Strange, his hands clasped lightly behind his back. He is clad simply — green tunic, pants and boots — and bears the Staff of the Living Tribunal in a sheath over his shoulder. Mordo raises his chin, surveying the area with expression of calm upon his face that belies the alarm in his heart.

I focus on the pain
The only thing that's real…

"I believe it's coming from the house," says the baron to the doctor. He turns aside to look over his old friend and arches an eyebrow. It is clear that the barn is the site in which the… attack? Accident? Phenomenon? occurred… although it is equally strange that something should be coming from the house as well, when there is no sign of life anywhere else.

The needle tears a hole
That old familiar sting
Try to kill it anyway
But I remember everything…

"It is an odd place for magic to be practiced, is it not?" the baron suddenly exclaims in mild exasperation as he turns to face Strange. Gone is the demeanour of perfect calm, in its place a veneer of surprise, confusion and amusement — something of the 'old Karl' that Stephen would remember. "I wonder who these people were…"

Mordo extends a hand outward, and immediately the mailbox falls open, and a handful of letters fly out of it… like birds disturbed from their roost. The letters come to hover in front of both men, and Karl nods toward Stephen to have a look at them. "Most kind," says he — to the mailbox.

What have I become?
My sweetest friend
Everyone I know goes away in the end
And you could have it all
My empire of dirt…
I will let you down
I will make you hurt…


“Yes…it is odd…” Strange replies with the tone of distraction in his voice, with how he’s weighing the chances of approaching that freak space of null-magic located within the barn. Currently, the risks weigh equal to his inherent self-confidence and he glares at the empty building. Wait, music?

With his focus on the music he can now hear with the mentioning by the Warlock — how abnormal that he didn’t catch it before, perhaps it needed literal mentioning to be heard by the Sorcerer Supreme, a lock or passcode of sorts? — he isn’t privy to the gesturing of the Baron towards the rusted mailbox, still aright but for the drunken tilt of its post in the dry earth. What a disturbing set of lyrics —

“Oh.” The short word acts as the sole indicator of his startled reaction to the letters hovering before him as if waiting to be plucked from the air; that one word and a miniscule jerk-back of his head. They are scanned for Mystical influence by his Sight-brightened eyes and he finds no curse, no lingering malediction, no magic at all.

The first piece of mail to be lifted from its space in the air is a bill, unpaid and water-splotched even within its envelope. The next, another bill, and the next. Six bills in total, each with language increasing in severity as to the claiming of said money by the government and then, finally, a letter. A simple letter, with an address in scribbled handwriting that Strange can just make out if he looks closely at it and holds it up to the natural light.

Johnson Family.
3869 County Road 9.

The rest is smeared and blurred, like the rest of the addresses on the envelopes holding bills. The elements haven’t been kind to the untouched missives.

The Sorcerer’s sigh is sharp. “That is possibly the most common last name in America. Unhelpful.” He doesn’t toss the letter aside, but instead slaps it against his other palm and looks to Karl. “Bills meant the original family didn’t make their harvest and probably had to move. Foreclosure. Maybe someone else took over the property after it was sold…or abandoned, though why abandon it…?”

The music plays on, a dreary song, and he eyes the empty windows that stare back at him with sepulchral cheer.


Baron Mordo raises his chin, scrutinizing the derelict farm with his eyes for several long moments. He looks grim. Very grim. "So it was sold, used — for something — and then… this? It appears as if whomever bought it, bought it for… nothing. Those broken steps — the dust piling up — no hands have touched this place in a while, no cleaning, no…'living'. And people think Transylvania is bleak."

He falls silent, just watching.

After a minute or so of staring back at those windows, he murmurs: "The corpse that the necromancer rejected…" That's what this place makes him think. Mordo shrugs, letting out a sigh. "Let the autopsy begin. I don't suppose we're going to like what we find in either place, but… house or barn first? Barn?"

Without really waiting for an answer, Mordo begins walking forward with uncommon apprehension. This man braved the dimension of Sham-Horoth and made it his own — but an empty farm in the American Mid-West? That unnerves him. It could largely have something to do with the fact that the magic has been drained from this place — as if it were the victim of some ritual blood-letting.

Whoever heard of blood-letting magic?

It is colder.

It is darker.

The closer anyone comes to either house or barn — but especially the barn. It is also not a physical chill; one might expect the hairs on one's arms to stand on end, but the effect of this cold is much deeper. Any 'hair-raising' here would be attributed to the 'wrongness' in the air. The doors are slightly ajar, but it is impossible to see within (from standing without).

Should Strange follow after his old friend, that sense of 'wrongness' — biting, gnawing, salivating and snarling at his heart — becomes worse with each step. The chill is painful — and from the grimacing on Mordo's face, he feels it too — right down, deep in the soul. It is like walking into a vacuum — but who does that? One cannot breathe in a vacuum.

Mordo lays his hand upon the slightly open door, about to push it inward.

For Strange, reality sinks in: it is an astral vacuum. While the magic in the area is… damaged all across the entire farm, it is dead inside that barn. Anything with a soul entering there will perish in minutes…

"I see a body," says Karl peering within, grimacing again. "No, three bodies. All male, lying on the floor as if mid-ritual. If the ritual didn't kill them, then whatever did took them entirely by surprise — minions of Xendor it is cold. Do you feel it, Stephen?" And he goes to step inside…


“Transylvania is bleak,” Strange mutters, lowly enough that it could be taken more as grumbling of discomfort than side comment. The house continues to stare back at him, eye sockets devoid of presence behind them. It’d be an excellent jump moment in a horror movie to have life suddenly flare up within them, but no luck. As Karl so aptly puts it to receive a silent nod of agreement from the Sorcerer: the corpse the necromancer rejected. The bills float gently to the ground and shuffle away on the wind like dry leaves; all but the letter, which the good Doctor tucks into his belt.

He’s not far behind the Warlock, not keen to be left alone with the apprehensions of being jumped by something that simply isn’t there. His steps slow as they near the pitch rectangle and on his toes, he watches Karl make himself the sacrificial lamb for whatever ungodly-awful nonsense lashes out.

But nothing does and in an odd sense, that frustrates the ever-living hell out of the Sorcerer Supreme. All keyed-up and nothing to blast to smithereens. The deep lines of his frown shadow his eyes, turning them to the bruise of clouds at dusk, and even as he entertains the sensation of frost growing in his marrow, it clicks: there is literally nothing within the interior of the barn. Not even on the plane of souls. No wonder no ghosts exist to interrogate as to a physical body’s demise.

“Karl, stop.” The tone is enough to make anyone pause, though the ones less inclined to friendship with him might glare and presume him a pompous know-it-all — he does have his moments, true, but he shakes his head. “It’s cold and you’ll die if you go in there. There isn’t a single ghost. Remember the rules about ghosts? Traumatic deaths mean they linger. No ghosts,” the Sorcerer emphasizes again, folding his arms, “means no Astral plane. No Astral plane means it is deadly to enter.”

Without a life-force, one cannot live.

“Just…here, hold on.” With a grunt, he is suddenly in motion. A few steps to close the distance between his point of pontification and the rust-flecked barn door and he presses his palm against it.

SO COLD. The ephemeral scream of a soul-fire extinguished and it cutting out with the finality of a record dropping its needle. The void between the stars.

Inhaling for a breath he apparently lost as if punched in the kidneys, he blinks hard a few times and glances to Mordo in silent reassurance that despite his gasping, he’s fine. The Sorcerer Supreme is fine. Another grunt and the barn door keens a screeling sound of iron-pitted dismay as it opens further. The ambient light outside, dull and grey, doesn’t reach far into the depths and he flexes his hand as the sensations of pins-and-needles bound and rebound in his tendons; ah, the joy of old battle wounds.

“Use a spell to pull a body out here. We can examine it and not erase ourselves from existence.” A sardonic lilt and smirk to boot, as if he were implying, ‘Duuuuuuhhhhh.’


Karl does indeed stop.

Damn it all, it would appear that Stephen is right… and the consternation shows on the warlock's face. So he does not go into the barn, instead he backs away and calls upon simple telekinesis to push the barn door inward, just so they can see a little better within — and manoeuvre one of the bodies out.

The door does not move inward.

Karl frowns, looks over at Stephen — wordlessly — shrugs his shoulders and tries again. Gripping the door with his mind is easy. He can grip it… but he cannot move it. "One of the greatest warlocks of this Age and I am thwarted by an impudent door…" he mutters aloud, only to close his eyes when he realises he had intended only to think those words, not speak them.

With the door still in his power, Mordo pushes again… and this time, it moves. Downward. Into the earth. Mordo blinks. He looks — nay, stares — at the barn-door now half-imbedded in the hard-packed soil, and then at Strange. "I… very specifically tried to simply open it," says he to his old friend. "It is not a difficult spell, so…" Mordo tries again with even more force, and the barn door snaps where it meets the ground, scythes across the barn to the far side, through the opposite wall and out into the paddock beyond.

Mordo blinks.

He looks at Strange. "Right," he remarks, clapping his hands together. "So that's open then. You can remove the cadaver of your choice, old friend; I'm… going to stand over… here." And he walks several paces away to what he hopes will be a safe distance.

Then he grins.

"Whenever you're ready, Stephen."


The resultant warped destruction of the barn door was unexpected by Strange as well. Each glance by Karl is returned with silent unease and as he watches the ante get upped in terms of willpower, his brows war between gathering to a glower and raising in incredulity.

“It’s okay, performance anxiety is nothing to be concerned about,” he murmurs, the humor all but lost unless Karl should meet his eyes; there, it glitters, fragile but present, a light in the gloom of the situation.

The sheering of the rusty metal in half, as cleanly as if done with scalpel, and the disappearance of it through the far wall makes the Sorcerer take half a step back, eyebrows crawling nearly into his hairline. A crisp punch of grey light shows across the distance and allows a bit more illumination by which he can locate the nearest corpse visually with moderate ease.

In the stunned silence that follows, Stephen nods hesitantly. “That’ll do.”

That Karl puts space between himself and the yawning darkness of the barn entrance, with its warped doors and psyche-rending hunger, should give any practitioner pause. If there’s an aspect to the Warlock one can always count upon, it’s the brutally-honest weighing of risk and consequences. Very few Mystics share his level of circumspection when it comes to wielding the more dramatic magics and their collateral effects on reality around them.

Not Stephen Strange though. Not when the challenge has been as cleanly laid out as a patient on a table and a reflective set of surgical tools lined up on white sterile cloth at his fingertips.

Rolling up sleeves with a ‘hmph’, he gives the Warlock a significant look — Watch this, oh destroyer of doors. — and then narrows both eyes and focus towards the nearest of the dead bodies. Simple telekinesis as well, Mystically imbued rather than basely psychic, uncoils like a rope thrown to a swimmer and…evaporates. Poof. Not even halfway to the sprawled form, it disappears like dew in hot morning sun. Jealously slurped up like a spaghetti noodle by the nothing composing the atmosphere of the barn.

Taken aback, the Sorcerer sighs audibly and then gathers what remains of the inherent energy around him. It can be felt like the sudden rush of a wind, enough force to make one check their balance, and loose fabric on him undulates subtly. Another cast and the line of willpower wraps around the upper torso of the dead body haphazardly. To the Sight, it looks of white-blue woven starlight, all slung under armpits, overtop shoulders, once around a neck that he doesn’t need to be careful of strangling.

A bit of sweat darkens his silver temples; the void continues to absorb even as he gives and it’s a steady drain on his resources. No ley line to draw upon here. Whatever used to be here was either burnt out or cauterized beyond reach by some back-splash of magic gone awry. Pure, bullheaded, human willpower will need to do.

The cadaver, in its clothing eerily untouched by the effects of time and elements around it, rises up like some demented marionette. The head lolls about, eyes unseeing and lacking the expected cloudiness of death; the limbs pivot and swing according to gravity’s pull, oddly still present within the barn. Strange extends one trembling hand, scarred fingers curled into claws, more of a physical pantomime to support his mental labors than actually necessary, and rotates his wrist slowly as he stares, eyes going nearly unfocused for the effort. The crook of his gesture was meant to accent the retrieval of the corpse.

Instead, the thing jerks towards him a paltry meter and then comes to an abrupt halt, loose arms and legs flailing about like a crash-test dummy caught by a seatbelt.

Amaranthine-hued gaze shutters to mere shining slits behind dark lashes, and the Sorcerer fights against whatever is keeping the body in its hovering place. Just…a little…more…


The sudden snapping of the tether of Mystical telekinesis is inaudible, but the resounding collision of the body flung sideways into the barn wall is anything but. Strange ends up stumbling away a few steps before standing there, shoulders still risen up about his ears at the terrible sound — no living person would have survived that — and stares wide-eyed at the shadowy interior of the barn.

“I don’t think it wants us to see these bodies,” he finally mutters, looking to Karl in disquiet unimpeded by title and history in the moment.



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