1964-03-11 - Stranger Danger part I - Unpredictable Things
Summary: Dabbling in the power of dreaming takes two powerful practitioners on a trip through time…
Related: None
Theme Song: None
mordo strange 



Peculiar things, dreams.

Having just come out of one… one that had felt eerily 'real' to him, the Baron Karl Mordo finds himself in his castle (in Transylvania), experimenting with artefacts related to dreaming… And he is on the verge of a breakthrough.

"I need to see it again…" he murmurs to himself, as the final pieces for the incantation are laid out around him. He sits cross-legged in his 'lab' for thaumaturgy, surrounded by these items — some of them absolutely pilfered from his old friend, Doctor Strange.

"I hope you're ready for a long nap, Stephen," he remarks with a smirk. The spell will connect them both — in a memory of the Past. With any luck, they'll experience what Mordo wants to experience…

The incantation is spoken; sleep calls. The Dream awaits.


"How long do you intend to leave him out there?" a much-younger Karl Mordo inquires of his master. The figure standing beside him is pale, slender and bald — but not tall, and yet possessed of a Presence so formidable as to be downright unnerving. Mordo's master could easily pass for either male or female — and in truth, Mordo has never found out which is the 'right answer'; he has never asked, either. The apprentice thinks of his master as 'he' and 'him', anyway, even if the 'new blood' disagrees.

The Ancient One turns his eyes toward his swarthy student and gives the merest hint of a smile, and a shrug. "As long as it is necessary," says he with a turn to walk away.

"And if he dies?" Mordo presses.

"Put the kettle on, my student," is the Ancient One's reply as he slowly departs.

Mordo sighs. He glances about at his home — the temple of Kamar-Taj, high in the mountains of Tibet, hidden from all but those who know where to find it. The wind tugs at tunic and robes, and he puts his hands on his hips, looking disconcerted. "This is the wrong time," he mutters.

Then he blinks.

Now why would I say that? Odd. "Hurry up, Mister Strange…" he mutters aloud. "If you don't return soon, you won't return at all…" Why did the Ancient One saddle ME with this over-privileged, prancing pony of an American…?



The Master of the Sanctum has no interest currently in falling asleep again. In fact, Strange is going on 72 hours of no sleep, driven by blackest tea and the whip of his own stubborn nature. Giddy from riding on caffeine and adrenaline, like a float of cream atop dark brew, he’s distracted even as he attempts to read over a scroll recently delivered to him by an apprentice from Kamar-Taj. He blinks and squints hard at the minute written text.

“Come to bed,” Wanda had said. “Don’t stay up too late studying.” Three nights in a row now he’s done everything but actually slip beneath the covers. Cranking up a slipping bathrobe sleeve, he leans his jaw on his palm as he holds up the scroll to the ambient light. It’s not a form of secret ink, not a form of pidgin-speak (for all the variations he knows, multi-dimensional as well), and frankly, boring as the seven hells. Actually, he takes that back, the hells are never boring. Never a dull moment there. Always someone after your aura or soul or wanting to eat your still-beating heart in your chest.

Regardless, the hand holding the scroll flumps to the table’s surface in the library and he stares at nothing into the middling distance. Lids slip lower…and lower…a little lower still…and an insidious little lullaby slips into his mind, with defenses lowered as they naturally are in exhaustion. The opening comes via connected memories, an indelible bond unacknowledged in the moment, and Strange’s lashes flutter as he consciously fights the pull of gravity. At least he’s sitting. His slack-limbed body would have made an almighty thump hitting the wooden floor.

Just a short nap, the cajoling tune implies. A few minutes won’t hurt.

Okay, just a nap. A little one… The Sorcerer curls his forearms up beneath to pillow his cheek and the second his head hits them, zonk — out like a light and sinking rapidly beneath the surface of Lethe’s pond.


The snap of the chilly wind slips through the minor heating spell he’s called up around himself. The pick-axe strikes a weak point in the stones and they crumble, coated through and through inside cracks with thick ice that weakens their symmetry.

“If there’s supposed to be some bullshit lesson here, I don’t know what it is,” Strange snarls, hauling the bowling ball-sized chunks to the growing pile. This is an old section of the wall, standing against the elements for who knows — actually, the Ancient One probably does — how long and it needs some upkeep. Right now. In the middle of an incoming blizzard. Another slap of wind makes him turn his back against it and shudder. He should have grabbed a coat. He really should have — but that would have been a bitter pill to swallow, though pride is proving more bitter still. “Come back when your ardor has cooled, hmph. I’m not supposed to be here anyways.” Pausing in the pull-back of a swing, the Sorcerer — apprentice blinks and frowns, having a moment of blatant confusion. The task at hand reasserts itself and he brings down the point of the tool with vicious strength. Sparks fly as he hits a vein of strong stone and the pick-axe rebounds, the impact jarring up his arms. “Well, what the hell?!” Flung to one side, it clatters away a good dozen feet and Strange folds his arms. “No. No more.”

The wall of white hits him — hard — and knocks him sideways even as it curtains off the world around him. Raw elemental fury rips away the woven incantation of springtime’s warmth and he shrinks into himself, tucking aching hands away beneath his armpits.

“Son of a bitch,” he snarls, squinting through the swirling flakes and howling wind. “This is insane!” Extending a shaking arm, sore for exertion, he attempts a Gate…and fails. Teeth bared, he tries again. Orange fireflies sparkle and die away, a connection unable to be made for his low reserves of willpower and their disruption by soured feelings. Cringing against another gust, he aims himself towards where he thought the front doors of Kamar-Taj exist and begins a stumbling journey back.

Time will tell if the subtle degrees of off-set direction will spell more trouble for him. For now, his teeth chatter and he trudges on.


"There is a foul voice on the air…" Mordo remarks quietly to himself as he stands on the battlements of Kamar-Taj, in the blizzard. In his case, the storm moves around him — which is just one of many incantations yet to be mastered by a certain new apprentice. Then Mordo frowns.

"No. Not a foul voice. Foul language." he sighs. That would be Mister Strange alright. Picking up his staff, the young baron spins it in a circle, causing rivulets of greenish darkwater to form in the air. In moments the portal is open — a standing pool of dark green water — and he steps through.

To an outcropping just overlooking the broken wall where Strange is slaving away.

He will freeze to death in moments, Karl thinks to himself, frowning. This, he does not approve of. The Ancient One has gone too far with this snobbish American. What could the Ancient One be thinking, allowing the doctor to come here… only to commit him to his death in the freezing, blinding cold?

The storm worsens.

Soon, Mordo's spell will not be enough to hold it off. At this point, he cannot see Strange anymore through it. But he cannot leave him either. Focus! he thinks emphatically at Strange. Forget the storm. Forget the cold. There IS no storm. There IS no cold! There is only YOU… and the power you wield like a limp-wristed orangutan — but that's beside the point. Focus, American. Focus!


The wind whips away each exhale before it can even fog properly, sometimes so fiercely that it seems to suck the very oxygen from his mouth. Stumbling as he walks, Strange squints through the dizzying atmosphere of swirling white around him. Individual flakes are visible for the grace of the sun somewhere above, its rays faintly shadowing at appropriate angles. The path was well-worn when he walked up it earlier and the walls of Kamar-Taj easily visible even from the old outlying architecture of the property.

Visibility has dropped to less than a meter. He stumbles over another ice-encrusted rock, cursing and wincing as licking his lips makes them immediately begin to crack. He’s got to keep moving, find shelter, at least get out of the immediate whiteout. Remembering stories from Nebraska, with brutal winters and no trees to break up the swat of howling winds, brings fresh adrenaline to his veins.

Suddenly, a voice. Pausing in place means being subjected to the pain of nerves reporting that it is too damn cold.

“What the hell is that supposed to mean?!” His words are immediately torn away, lost to the storm. Squinting hard, he feels the frost on his lashes and shoves fingers harder up into his armpits. Wait, Strange recognizes that voice, even if he’s uncertain of its origin, be it on the snow or via his mind. He tries the second one when the realization comes a second later that there’s no use yelling.

“What the hell is that supposed to mean?! And I am not an orangutan!” Trust Strange to be arguing in the middle of being lost in a blizzard. “Some teacher you are, giving vague instructions like that. In med school, if you were vague, people died. WHAT A SURPRISE.” Extra tart, this one, even if the projection is heavily staticky for his lack of strength in the skill.


You… should not have been able to hear me… Mordo replies, although he isn't quite sure he is actually 'replying' at all. Had the American heard him? His thoughts? An untrained American? Astonishing. Perhaps there is something to this man after all…

Mordo lifts his chin, peering down his nose quite literally at Strange, slaving away in the freezing cold. He'll be dead soon, buried by the snow. The last great labour of Mister Stephen Strange. Oh, Mordo thinks to himself. He didn't hear THAT, did he? And he takes a breath. Focus, Mister Strange. Okay, NOW he is deliberately projecting his thoughts toward the new apprentice.

Focus. And you ARE an orangutan until you prove otherwise. Karl throws that in just for good measure; it makes him smile. Forget where you are. You are not here — and this is not MEDICINE. It is MAGIC. You are not a doctor, Mister Strange. You are a student of the Mystic Arts — and frankly, I shouldn't even be talking to you now…

True. The Ancient One will no doubt rake him over the coals for interfering in the American's 'lesson'.

You are not HERE, he presses upon Strange. You are… elsewhere. Pick a place — but do not 'go'. Pick a place… and BE. Or perish. How can he be more clear than that? Mordo, putting action to words, summons another portal for himself — and emerges back inside Kamar-Taj.

Where the Ancient One is standing there. Watching him. Waiting.

Mordo swallows.

The Ancient One lifts an eyebrow at him.


The terrible psychic reception goes both ways. For how badly Strange projects back, emotions and primal fear of cold snarl up the receiving of Mordo’s message as well. It’s garbled and the missing words make for a hell of a time completing sentences. It leaves the apprentice still standing there, huddling against the wind and slicing snow, no happier than when he first stomped out to the derelict wall.

VAGUE!!! The last projection for the moment is needle-sharp and crystal-clear for its singular wording. He peers through the swirling white, towards where he thought the main temple existed. Doubt and painful realism paints his insides colder still. It’s shelter or…trouble. — Wait-wait-wait. Magic. That came through the thundering of his heart in his ears. Right, magic, he knows about that now. It’s not habit yet for the man clinging to his past — as if his scars leave any choice in constant reminding anyways. He tried Gating earlier, but…it didn't…

Oh yes, he can Gate! It’s hard to keep anything from shaking at this point, but he extends his hand and gets to stubbornly inking his will upon the canvas before him, pristine as it is in muted pale-greys and silvers. Spackle-spark, in collisions of intent upon reality proper, and the crackling window opens despite the serious resistance of the world around him. The courtyard of Kamar-Taj emerges and Strange trudges into it. The tense control on the Gate is relinquished the very second his other foot hits the snow-dusted stone and it swivels away into nonexistence. Rubbing at his upper arms jerkily, he’s quick to notice how the air is more still here, with the walls blocking the worst of the wind, and warmer to boot. Still, the limbs of the jacaranda tree rattle against one another irritably.

Inside…inside is a sauna in comparison. Into the small foyer, with its left and right paths, he stomps off the excess snow seemingly shoved into every damn nook and cranny of his clothing. A good ruffling of his hair dislodges most of it and a palm slicked over it puts it back in place — mostly. Still shivering, he makes his way to the main receiving room of the temple and steps into the room, glowering up a storm.


"…anything to add now, since you clearly have an issue with my methods," the Ancient One is saying, as Strange enters the room looking like something the snowcat dragged in. The bald, androgynous figure has his (or hers) hands clasped lightly in front of him, head tilted a little to the side, fixing Karl Mordo with a stare that makes that snowstorm seem like an afternoon in the tropics by comparison.

Mordo… stands there, hands also clasped before him, and head bowed in contrition. He only looks up when Stephen walks in. Still, he says nothing — not to the Ancient One, nor to 'the American'; however, there a subtle shift in his facial expression, one that might indicate a hint of pride — and admiration — for Stephen, having just accomplished Gate-travel in dire circumstances.

"No, Ancient One," he eventually replies, lowering his gaze once more.

The Ancient One turns to fix their stare upon Strange. It lasts for all of an eternal 2.5 seconds, then shifts into… a smirk. "Well, you are alive. Karl was correct in what he told you — at least about the concept of 'presence'. The orangutan remarks…" And the Ancient One's eyes gleam with just a hint of mischief. A hint, and no more. "Attend, Mister Strange," says he/she — and immediately moves an arm in a circle, forming a wide Gate in one go.

On the other side is the old ruin — the very same old ruin where Stephen had been slaving away, dismantling a certain stone wall that never seemed to go away, then learning how to Gate…

Only this time, there is no wall.

At all.

It is no illusion; the Ancient One, Karl and Stephen are looking through an open portal from the warmth of indoors to the bone-chilling chaos of the blizzard that is in progress. Right now. Outside. The heat from the room vanishes, and clouds of snow blast inward — only the Ancient One never so much as flinches.

"What do you see?" they ask of Stephen.


Clearly, he’s interrupting. A good majority of him doesn’t care, but this is the Ancient One. Despite being the one to hand down the punishment, the cool logic behind the ruffled passion reminds him that the eldest of Masters present would not summon up a lethal blizzard. That would be rubbing salt into a rug-burn. But, then again…

Strange has the presence of mind to give both of the Masters a curt nod, though his eyes don’t conceal one iota of his irritation at being caught out in such a storm and they glint for it. He’s not far along enough in his studies or Mystical growth for the literal glow of magic within them, but boy howdy — the man has ‘unamused glare’ down to a science. Being directly addressed seems permission enough to enter the room properly and he walks over, heedless of melting snow-drops left in his wake, to stop a respectful-enough distance from the other two. Mordo is given a moment’s scrutiny under a penetrating stare from Strange in regards to the ‘orangutan’ comment, but he soon enough returns attention to the Ancient One.

He does attend — and winces away for the flakes of snow befriending him once again, despite the fact that he clearly had no interest in getting cozy with them. Water droplets traveling down his spine make him no happier for the sudden blast of cold.

It’s difficult to see through the swirling snow, but he shifts his weight to one side, all the better to see through the summoned Gate.

“I think you’re confused.” Karl might suffer a minor aneurysm. “There’s no wall there. The wall I…cooled my ardor on — ” A beat for subtle snark. “ — was a good hundred feet long. The storm came in before I could finish the task assigned to me.” He looks steadily upon the Ancient One, hands clasped behind his back, attempting to be unfazed for the random gusts that slip through the opened Gate.


"What storm?" inquires the Ancient One abruptly, lifting their chin and peering down their nose at the former doctor. There is just a hint of a knowing smirk at the corner of the master's lips, teasing, testing… even tempting Strange to match the Ancient One's wit and will with his own.

True enough, through that open Gate there is no more storm.

Even the snow that had clogged the doctor's clothes and exposed orifices is gone — as if it had never been. The weather is still cold — it is, after all, winter outside, and Kamar-Taj is situated on a mountainside amid the clouds — but there is absolutely no sign of the tempest that had nearly killed Stephen Strange mere moments ago.

Karl hangs his head. The man murmurs, "Gods, he did it again…"

The Ancient One steps up to Strange, their presence thrumming with power — like a vibration through the stone floor — and gestures to the open Gate. "The wall remained only as long as you saw it. It is the same with the storm. This is magic, Mister Strange. Not medicine. Now… look at me. Look at me, and tell me what you see."

Another test.

Probably more serious than the storm.

Definitely more serious.


…what storm?

Frowning, he brings his hands around to pluck at the apprentice robes that are still soaked with snow-melt — and wouldn’t it be beautiful fate if he managed to flick a splat of half-melted snow onto the Ancient One in the process, self-righteous Master that they are — and grips dry clothing.

Perfectly dry. Looking downwards, Strange slowly completes the motion of pulling the cotton weave of the tunic outwards, uncomprehending of what he’s seeing. The tart words die in his mouth even as he looks up at the Ancient One, over to Karl for a moment, and then back with the beginnings of trepidation.

The Ancient One emits energy like a live wire. The hair on his arms rise in time with those on his neck. He swallows, never dropping the gaze shared between them, and tucks his chin slightly. The memory of a certain interdimensional jaunt is a blunt reminder that he’s nowhere near able to predict or truly understand how to defend against another reminder of the power held in the wily, limber-fingered grip of the Mystical guru before him. Not yet, anyways.

Still — it’s a grudging retreat on his part and while he should probably look humbly down at his feet like the other Master in his green leathers, the apprentice can’t choke down the resentment just yet. Not enough practice. What does he see? No, wait, what does he see. Emphasis. Quickly, his memory flicks to reading through a tome regarding the Sight, the Third Eye utilized for observing what cannot be seen by mundane vision.

Craaaaap. Crap-crap-crap. Okay, remember everything he can, right now. Squaring his shoulders, he folds his arms tightly and replies,

“I see…” The Ancient One can likely see him struggling mightily with his sharp tongue. Karl might be holding his breath. “No — I see — ”

And the world goes technicolor crazy with random blobs of ultraviolet incandescence and the Ancient One is this blindingly-bright radiance in inverted prismatic hues and he throws up his hands with a gasp.

— and stumbles backwards, only to land on his keister. One hand is still outstretched as if to block out the light of the sun itself and Strange averts his face, squinting for how his vision is still refracting things around him. Even the vase on the desk across the room has a weird aura around it!!!

“Oh my god,” he croaks, closing off eyes gone icy-blue, nearly silver around the pupils. “Turn down the lights? Please?!”


The Ancient One does not move.

They stand there, watching Strange as he fumbles about, falling on his posterior, not moving a muscle — only their eyes track the apprentice's movements. Moments pass, letting the man suffer as he experiences something new, something… potent for the first time, until finally…

The master smiles.

Turning to Mordo, the Ancient One raises their eyebrows and chin, and remarks: "He's ready." and then waves their hand, blocking off Stephen's Sight, or at least dulling it a fraction.

Mordo blinks.

"Just like that? — Master," he adds hastily. "He's…" and he leaves the sentence hanging, although there is a sense of… wonderment in the man's dusky face. Clearly, Strange has impressed him.

The Ancient One turns about to glance at the young, swarthy warlock-in-training, and then back at Stephen. Those eyes gleam again, and the smirk at the master's lips returns. "Since you seem so intent upon interfering with our young student's progress," the master muses aloud. "So he shall interfere with yours."

Karl blinks again. He can't be serious…

The Ancient One's smirk turns into a full-blown, lopsided grin. "Mister Strange, meet your new… tutor, and study-partner. The young baron has been with me a while, and — make no mistake — is a gifted sorcerer; I think you will be… just what each other needs."

Mordo's eyes go wide as he stares back at Strange, occasionally looking askance at his master. In that moment, reality twists and bends; mists roll in from all sides as something critical in the shared dream shifts. The last thing Mordo sees in that moment, is Strange's face — gaping back at him in equal shock.

"Oh what now…??" Mordo breathes.

"Shared dreams are such an… unpredictable thing," murmurs the Ancient One in the mist. "Don't you boys think?"


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