1964-01-27 - Strange Resolutions
Summary: Merlin escorts Dr. Strange to a powerfully-enchanted lake for the removal of Amora's lingering magics at risk of all memory of loved ones.
Related: Strange Observations
Theme Song: None
merlin strange 

"Prepare ye the way of the Sorcerer Most Supreme…" The Old Wizard murmurs to himself as he braces his staff in front of him, the top of which begins to glow. "And prepare yourself, Sorcerer Most Supreme. For what is to come may not be pleasant. But the rewards are a-plenty" Merlin glances to the much younger man, giving him a firm nod.

Before them opens a giant aperture through which they can see a rocky beach that rests on the edge of a lake. The same lake to which Merlin had shown Strange through the power of illusion. "Shall we?" He says as he leads the way.


As prepared as he'll ever be, down to the small cardboard box of lemon-poppy seed scones with almond glaze tucked away within his tunic, Strange nods silently to the elder Wizard. The taste of anxious adrenaline is metallic in his mouth, but he follows beside the one who knows best how to deal with blights unknown until so recently within his aura. Behind him, the silvery wards of the Sanctum hover in quiet mirroring of the discomfort given off by their master. They dare not cross beyond and into the realm that expands in glorious nature.

Ahead of him, the lake in its glory. The beach appears pristine, no rock overturned by errant step or weather, and the solitude is made truer still by the lack of ambient sound. Even within the Sanctum, one can hear the distant sounds of traffic — there's always something rustling about with the number of bodies that call the mansion home.

Not here. This is a sacred place undisturbed by no one but the two Masters of the Mystic Arts, old and young alike.

It seems sacrilegious to speak, but finally, the Sorcerer Supreme speaks as he glances over at Merlin. "I assume that I'll need the incantation you gave me." In the same fold of fabric as the scones, the piece of parchment on paper so very old is tucked away.


Beach and lake before them, rocky barely green hilly terrain behind them. At first glances around, it would certainly seem that they're the only two around. Little bugs, here and there, flutter about and buzz, and a gentle cool wind blows. "Mmm." Merlin's eyes glow briefly as he looks about. "A place so ancient bathed in such magic. It has been an age since I last stood here." Well, since he last stood here as Merlin, anyway.

He glances at the parchment, nodding. "Yes, yes. You will certainly need that." He sighs. "The Old Crone should be here already." He taps his foot impatiently. "I shall go retrieve her. Wait here."


With small box in one hand and old vellum in the other, Strange stands on that rocky beach and considers very heavily just how crazy this all is.

A gatekeeper, in a sense, who he's never met, is apparently going to explain to him how to wash away the stains to his magical self. Hmm. Trust exercise to the extreme. He watches a butterfly make its lazy way along the shoreline, wings flashing reflectively in the ambient light, and there, tucked away beneath skin and aura alike, a fluttering answers. Yet another thumping answer that, deeper still and to his ears, the soft crescendo of harp notes glitters a gentle tune in time with the beat of his heart.

It's worth it, a thousand times over.

"I'll wait here. Should I…divest…or anything?" Oh gods below, what a question, but it had to be asked. At his shoulders, the crimson Cloak's collar patpats his cheek and receives a flat glare, the unspoken warning to behave.


Looking over his shoulder at Strange, Merlin raises an eyebrow. "Divest? This isn't a bath!" Well, it is kind of a bath. A bath to cleanse one's aura. "Only remove what you do not wish to get wet. Otherwise, you may remain clothed."

Soon he is over a hill and down it, hidden from view.

There are a few moments of silence before a crunching can be heard coming around the base of the nearest hill. An old woman, presumably the Old Crone, makes her first appearance, while eating the remains of some sort of pastry. She is dressed in old dark robes, and an old dark, ragged shawl which covers her head, though some of her grey hair does peek out from under it. Upon close inspection of her face, she seems rather familiar. Almost as if she's been seen somewhere before. "Yes, yes." She says in an old, cranky voice. "I suppose you'd like to use my lake, wouldn't you? Eh? Eh? While why should I let you, hmm?" She gets straight to the point, eyeing Strange as she approaches him. Her aura, should it be peered at, is strong, and conveys the presence of one quite adept in the healing arts.


The sigh that escapes him after Merlin is gone from sight is heavy with relief. Thank the gods. He was going to take minor issue with having to strip to his skivvies if pressed to do so.

Well…for the sake of ritual tendencies, the crimson Cloak hangs off to one side while Strange works his way towards bootless, tunic-less, and shirtless. The pants stay on. The small cardboard box of pastries holds down the piece of parchment in the case of an errant breeze on a nearby boulder.

His back is turned and his focus on the process of folding up the storm-blue tunic when the Old Crone's voice breaks the peaceful silence. Shoulder-blades jump up for a fleeting moment and then he assumes a cool composure as he turns around to glower at her. The neatly-gathered clothing hangs over his forearm while the Eye of Agamotto hangs at his chest along with an old bronze key on golden chain. Those steely eyes take on the ambient glow of his aura as he rakes her with the Sight — and finds naught but an incredibly similar sensation akin to his own healing magics. Sky-blue, airy, bright, cool and fluid, the caress of a mother's hand along fevered brow and the full breath after said fever breaks.

With a sense of self-recrimination for his suspicious behavior, the good Doctor nods and replies, "I would like to use your lake to…to…cleanse my aura." There, simple. "I was told also that you like treats, so I brought these." He takes the few steps to fetch the little white box and returns to offer it to her. "Scones, my lady, lemon and poppy-seed with almond drizzling."


"Why are you so suspicious of me?" The Old Crone snaps, finishing whatever it was that she was eating, noticing, and feeling, his searching gaze of her aura and being. "If anything, 'tis I who should be suspicious of you! Merlin, that danged old fool of a Rutanian, told me there was some man at my shores. Of course I told him I knew. I've got wards, you know! I'm not a fool like he is!" She waves a hand dismissively. "I've told him that I'd like to have a look over of you myself. Just the two of us. Can't have any distractions, you know!" She explains, as if knowing he'd ask where Merlin is. "And he knows better than to question my edicts!"

As she gets closer, her own Sight takes hold as she gazes at the man who stands before her. "So it's true, is it? You're the man who'd claim to be Sorcerer Supreme? Agamotto ever tell you about his dalliance with me, eh? He was quite the romancer, that one!" She chuckles as she stares at the Eye for a moment. "But best not to dwell on old times. Not right now. I suppose you'd rather like to get this over with."

She reaches out to accept the box. "Mm. Yes. These shall do as an offering." She responds as she sniffs them. "They seem high quality. Were they made for the King or Queen of the Americas?"


So much for asking after the old Wizard — and so much for his ability to keep from wondering precisely what she means by Agamotto dallying with her and NO STEPHEN STOP RIGHT NOW NO NO NO END THAT LINE OF THOUGHT. A tic at his eye gives away the derailing of the wondering.

"Er…yes, I'd like to get this over with and yes, they were made for royalty." With the hand-off complete, Strange takes a half-step back and eyes the Old Crone once again with total lack of Mystical intervention. She seems…familiar somehow. Like a feather tickling behind a knee, there's the suspicion that they've met before, but for the life of him, he can't figure out where.

"You said you needed to look me over. I claim the mantle of Sorcerer Supreme and here I stand, awaiting your instructions." He spreads his arms wide, displaying broad shoulders and musculature leaned by terrible eating habits and avoiding death by interdimensional interlopers alike. The tunic still hangs from a forearm; at his sternum, the Eye winks brightly once in citrine.


The Old Crone eyes the Sorcerer Supreme over. "Be careful. If you proceed with this magical cleansing, you mustn't permit your mind to wander. If it does, it could have catastrophic consequences." She croaks sternly. "If I do not think you capable of passing through unscathed, I will not permit you to enter the waters. Sorcerer Supreme or no, I hold supreme over this lake and its rituals. I shall not allow harm to come to those who seek its help. Especially if said harm comes from within their own minds."

In a puff of smoke, the box and its treats disappear as the Old Crone reaches to brush a strand of hair out of her eyes. She looks the man over with both plain sight and Mystical Sight, murmuring words of magic which seem to poke at the Sorcerer Supreme's defences, but never quite seem to make an effort to break through. "You are…adequate." She states firmly, nodding. "The ritual which you seek may be performed. Once the spell has been performed, which I assume Merlin prepared for you? You shall be required to submerge yourself fully within the water. You need only submerge and then come up. No need to stay under the water for any length of time. The water shall act as a vessel to wash away the desired portions of your aura and carry them away." She explains.


Ah, so that's what Merlin meant when the spell could collapse. A wandering mind was death to any complicated evocation and he has a long-lived dislike for the taste of peppermint as proof of it. A simple taste is nothing in comparison to amnesia, however, and he swallows reflexively. Not mint, but that bitter rise of his gorge, and the dark-haired man fights it down even as he's subjected to a close once-over that leaves his skin prickling in its wake. It's not far off from realizing that one's being observed by a large predator.

Lowering his arms to his sides as she pronounces him 'adequate' (ow, lady, that bruised his ego) allows him to finally decide what to do with his folded clothing. It joins the pile and is swapped for the small scroll of vellum within one scarred hand. He listens carefully to the instructions and then holds up the parchment. "I assume this is the spell. I'll just…go…read it off the paper and…walk into the lake?"

Honestly, he's not trying to be smart, he's never had to risk forgetting those he loves for the sake of erasing old wounds before.


"Go, stand in the water." The Old Crone instructs. "Halfway up." Which for the Doctor is a good little ways into the water. "And be sure not to stumble the words. Stumbled words are just as irksome." She frowns, shaking her head. "Once you are in the water, you may recite the spell. However, in the drawing out of the part of your aura which is undesired," her tone is even more serious than it has been so far, "You may be greeted with distractions dark and unwanted. Perhaps illusions of the one who affected you so. I shall make attempts to protect you from these. However, the power of the magic, and the power of the lake, is quite strong. Some may slip past my protection. Be warned, for if you permit these to sufficiently distract you, befallen shall you be to the ill affects of the magic."

With the warnings out of the way, the Old Crone begins to intone her own magic, even as the Sorcerer Supreme begins his journey into the water. The affects can be felt in the rising of one's skin, and in the slightest of vibrations in the water.


With a photographic memory at his disposal, the Sorcerer Supreme is quick to read over the runic language scrawled down the length of the page. It's an older version of a tongue not spoken for many hundreds of years, but as he mentally sounds out the offending syllables that could trip him up, it seems…not that difficult. The parchment is tucked beneath one fold of the tunic before he turns and walks to the edge of the lake. Her warnings swirl through his mind and he stands there, staring across the expanse of glacial-blue.

Oh gods below — and above — and all around. Strange isn't one for prayer, but in this moment, he hopes with all the susurrus of soul-song within his chest that it all turns out well. Across the time and space between them, a whisper: "Rakshasi. For all eternity, I shall shine for you. You are most «Beloved»."

The water is cold — cold enough that he hisses a little, but not so cold that he spends more than half a second in paused irritation before forging on. It swirls up around his battle-leather pants in crystal-clear eddies; no sandy bottom to cloud its depths, all smooth round stones that seem nearly contrived but for the inherent Mystical qualities of the lake itself. Deeper and deeper still, he slogs, until the water rises just beyond the edging of his pants. COLD.

The Old Crone's protective spell is realized even as the sensation of goosebumps takes on a more charged aspect. It feels like the hair is standing up on the back of his neck. Inhaling deeply, Strange closes his eyes and slowly lets out the sigh. He closes out the ambient sounds around him, transmutes the sensation of cold to something that simply is, focuses instead on the beating of his heart in its slow and steady pace. When he looks down at his reflection, irises of amaranthine glow back at him.

The spell is sweet and simple, not long and obnoxious in its wording:

"By glacial mere and undine's hymn,
Through purest gather of cloud-weave's brim,
I offer up my aura skewed — //
In Lagu's deluge be renewed.//"

And with that, he slowly inhales once more and slips beneath the surface.


From the beginning of the spell, it's evident that this is not to be an easy task. Amora's presence tugs at the aura, trying to stay with all its might. The Old Crone's words become louder and louder as she intones her own spell. Yet her fears are truly realized when, in fact, some illusions due break through. This is where danger begins and Strange must truly stay true to his task. Will he succeed? The Old Crone has faith, but the illusions are strong. She hopes that Strange can work his magic true.


Beneath the top of the lake, all is still. The pressure and silence press in upon his ears even as Strange allows himself ample seconds to remain completely submerged. Around him is the spell cast by the Old Crone and he notes, at a far distance, that it seems to kick up in intensity.

Strange opens his eyes to see nothing but the clear grade down towards stygian blackness, likely the fathomless depths of the glacial tarn. No flash of fish, no awareness of anything other than himself within its wrappings. Bubbles escape his lips and he glances up, following the silvery undulating spheroids' paths towards the mirror-like under-surface.

What looks down upon him is anything but his reflection!!!

Seconds slow to stretch into half-minutes that exponentiate to take on aspects of thousand-fold. The Enchantress, in all her glory undimmed, looks down upon him with all the coy interest he knows too well. Curves beyond description, glistening flaxen hair that begs to be interlaced between fingers, rubied lips that pout with just the right amount of insouciant smirk to encourage the masculine sex to accept the unspoken challenge, glittering emerald eyes the purest shade of ivy-leaves dappled in sunlight. He would have hazarded that nothing stood between them until another errant bubble breaks on the surface above and distorts her image in ripples.

Stephen Strange, how dare you. The echo of her voice is low and sweet, avoiding saccharine for its purring. Silly proud man, thinking you can cleave me from yourself. Don't you remember our kiss, under the palm tree? The traveling of her hands along the expanse of her skin and the drag of her eyes down his body speak of promises and heat. As if you could ever truly resist me. Come to me, Sorcerer, I will grant you release you cannot imagine. Another bubble slowly rises with the speed of molasses. The Witch is nothing but a mewling child compared to me, a bumbling fool attempting grace to shoddy effect.

FLASH — the illusion shatters as a blazing pain, much like ripping off a bandaging dried to an open wound, winds through his aura with the hues of scarlet; the waters around him cloud like blood and twinkle like starlight and rose petals he cannot smell but knows above all else.

Blink — and the Enchantress reappears on the mirror-like surface, dressed in the garb he saw her wear upon the steps of the Sanctum, when she came seeking answers for his absence. I offered you help, Sorcerer, and you denied me, all for what? The sake of your pride? Some perceived slight? Midgard will need aid and you cannot hope to stop all who invade your Realm. The shake of his head in the moment seemed ultra-slowed, jerky in stop-time, the cold water swishing through his hair.

RRRRIP — another brief agony and the water fogs in sky-blue and the warmth of passing spring-tide.

Once more, she appears, seems less composed and more anxious by the faint knit of her brows. Can't you see? I protect you by staying so very near! What is that Midgardian saying — keep your friends close, but your enemies closer? I am friend, not enemy, Doctor, I will protect you should you fall in repelling incursions upon Midgard. I will hold your loved ones as my own. Those dark eyelashes flutter even as she clasps perfectly-manicured hands to her bosom. Please, don't hurt yourself anymore. I am here for you.

TEAR — and her illusion shatters on the surface with the impact of an argent bubble that sends not ripples, but currents of citrine light radiating out. The milliseconds stretch longer still and only just now he can feel the aching of held breath beginning as she sparks into view, radiating icy disdain. Remove my magic from your aura, Sorcerer, and I will remove all aid I granted Midgard. All weavings of veils, prevention of invasions, all — and all upon your head. Is it worth it, the innocent lives lost? Her expression is that of a graveyard angel, beauty carved into infinite chilly stillness — and it shatters like marble as the lake-waters, in time with his final strain of willpower, remove the last of the invasive magics that plague his aura.

Time speeds up, bubbles break on his own reflection, and Strange pushes from the smooth-pebbled bottom to burst from the water with a whooping gasp. The whites of his eyes show as he coughs up water and flounders for a second, needing to reorient his addled brain.


When Doctor Strange looks upon the shores, the Old Crone will have now disappeared. With whatever time he spent in the water, with the illusions attempting to sway him, she decided that she was no longer required here. Instead, Merlin has returned, standing beside the Sorcerer Supreme in the cold waters, a hand outreached to help him regain his bearings.

"Stand tall, young Sorcerer Supreme. Your trials, your struggles, while mighty and difficult, have ended here. The Enchantress no longer holds sway." He speaks calmly, a tiny smile on his face. "The Crone sends her well wishes and desires that I inform you…should you ever require her assistance again, to please bring more of these sweets befitting royalty."


The swing of his arm glances off icy-cold water…and then scarred hand collides with gnarled hand. A firm grip, a grounding, a familiar Mystical presence, and the slurry that comprises his mental processing suddenly solidifies — as if Strange hadn't been subjected to the screws of momentary trial by lake.

With another gasp and a short cough, he looks upon Merlin with glazed eyes and mouths wordlessly for a moment before he finds his voice. It's decidedly uncertain, wavering a bit as if even he can't believe the results.

"I remember. I remember her." No need to ask whom he's referencing, for even as the Name flits across his mind, drawing up all the memories attached to it like cherry petals in a summer breeze, his aura flares purely amaranthine. No verdant splotches, not even a fleck. "Merlin, I didn't forget. Oh gods, I didn't." He's wiping lake water from his face, that's all. A final squeeze of those old knuckles, familiar in a bond of brotherhood and mantle alike, and he begins to slog back to the shore. Glancing to the Wizard beside, he narrows his eyes. "Where were you?"


"You do. You remember." Merlin's tone is soft, kind, gentle. He helps the young man back to the shore, speaking a spell as he does so to dry them off. "You did well, young one. Very well. I am proud of you. Never let it be said that Mister Doctor Strange cannot withstand the trials and tribulations this world, and others, throws at him…even in the face of loosing his most dear one."

He furrows his brow at the question. "It was…'politely requested' that I remain behind at her hovel. She felt I might prove an undo distraction to you. That if you felt yourself floundering, you might not summon yourself the strength which lay within you. She felt you might look to me for help instead, which she felt would be too much a distraction."


The water evaporates from skin and battle-leathers alike with the Wizard's evocation and the air takes on a balmy cast rather than clinging to him with chilled weight. Even as he makes his way back to his clothing, Strange frowns at the rocks he steps upon and over. He's not angry, just…pensive.

Sitting upon a neighboring boulder, he works his socks back on as well as his boots and it's as he's working on the second of the two that he glances up at Merlin.

"I'm glad you were here, even if you were politely requested to vanish for the duration of the trial. It's nice to…have a friend nearby." His smile is accompanied by a wrinkling of his nose, but it's a truthful statement, even if offered grudgingly. He finishes belting a length of leather into place and now it's into the undershirt. Pulling it over his head leaves his dark hair lightly mussed and he grunts as he threads his arms through the sleeves. "She seems familiar, that Old Crone. Any relation?" He gets to work on adjusting the tunic on him even as the crimson Cloak floats over, silent stalwart relic and companion.


"I was keeping appraised of everything. I've still got my ways, young man." The old wizard winks at Strange and chuckles. "Any relation?" Merlin smirks every so slightly, knowingly. "Perhaps…a distant relation on my mother's side." He says wryly. "Now…back to the Sanctum. I am sure that Miss Wanda shall very much like to hear the good news." He hums as he opens up a new portal for them. "After you, Sorcerer Supreme."


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