The dreams weren't nightmares — Donald never found himself 'afraid' in the strange and vivid experiences that occurred while he slept. But they were disturbing, at least, and a confusing welter of images.
All he knew is that a warrior, a woman wielding a sword, was in danger. Seeking someone. Possibly Thor, and it was almost certainly someone who was an ally of his God. Amora had been dismissive of the idea of finding her, so Donald had turned to another ally of the little disjointed band of allies of Asgard — Dr. Stephen Strange.
Finding 177A Bleecker hadn't taken terribly long, though the cabbie had insisted — roundly — that no such apartment existed. Thor was forced to wander several city blocks in search of it before locating the place.
The broad-shouldered fellow approaches the ominous edifice, brushing his hand through his short-cropped hair in nervous anticipation. Something heavy and bulky rides in the duffel slung over one shoulder, compressing his leather jacket, and he knocks twice on the door with booming a hammerfist.
Knock-knock at the front door and off go the wards to locate their master. Their report is quick, precise, and full of familiarity in word-choice. They wiggle in a sense for the understanding that they've met this person before. The sounds of approaching footsteps from inside can be hear within the last half-dozen and the darkwood door with hazed window-panel opens inwards to the presence of the Sorcerer Supreme.
"Ah, Donald." It's getting easier to throw out that name instead of the true Name of the Asgardian Prince, cursed with amnesia as the man is, and the duffel bag-bearing nurse is given a professional smile with far more warmth than the usual visitor gets. "I wondered if I would see you again…so soon." It's an enigmatic statement given even as Strange steps back into the short hallway, giving Donald unspoken permission to cross over the threshold of the mansion.
Once he does so, the silvery guardian-spells whisk around the man in a friendly manner before retreating off behind the good Doctor's shoulders and hovering, ever-watchful. "How's that scratch doing?" The parting of his lips flashes teeth brightly before hiding them away back behind an air of formality.
Donald walks into the entryway, and with an easy grin, offers Strange a thoroughly friendly wrist-clasp. No bellicose intended — he's merely a big, boisterous fellow, though at least he doesn't shake Strange's arm off.
"I'm well, Doctor Strange, my thanks again," Donald says, a bit too-loud, as ever. "Your magics were thoroughly useful. But I am here on another matter, and was hoping — well, nay, I am asking for your aid," Donald admits, following Strange to a sitting area. He unslings the bag and sets it down with a heavy *thump*.
Wrist-clasp returned, arm shaken just enough to warrant the tiniest appearance of crow's feet about the corners of his eyes, and then Strange leads the way to the living room. The blonde man has been here before, a long time ago, but he likely doesn't remember this nor will he note the lack of a round table. Instead, two high-backed chairs and one that clearly is open to him given that the Sorcerer takes his place in the right-hand seat. He leans back into it, clearly comfortable in his place, and crosses his legs to rest one ankle atop a knee. Dapper gentleman indeed, wearing his daily dress-wear in white button-down and black slacks, and he gestures to the open chair.
"Have a seat and by all means, regale me. Tea?" The scarred fingers also swing to include the stand by the fireplace, with the water ever-hot and brews ready to be steeped.
"Er… aye, tea is fine," Donald says, mostly masking his disappointment that Strange doesn't have something stronger on tap. He settles into a seat with a bit of awkwardness, clearly not someone accustomed to being 'received', and it's not until Strange cues him does Donald start relaying his tale.
It's not terribly long, and it's a bit rambling due to him not getting details all in order — Sif's hair, for instance, is alternately blonde and black, and the fragmented vision is told out of order at least once.
"…and Amora says, that Sif is a friend — an ally of Thor's?" he says. "Once his lover, or… fiancee, or the like. But I think she's in peril, Doctor — though if she lives or is dead, I know not."
Once the nurse begins talking, it's upon Strange to provide said cuppa. In a moment of indulgence, instead of the tea being delivered by hand, it's delivered by subtle tendrils of Mystical power. Not quite wards, not quite spell, all precise butler-like action. Donald's demi-tasse is delivered to the little table alongside his chair, within easy reach, and the good Doctor plucks his from mid-air before dismissing the incantation.
He Listens, as he always does, sipping at the black tea redolent of cinnamon and blackberry (his with a stir of honey), and if the shifting sets of his brows are any indicator to the disjointed delivery of said tale, it doesn't show much else upon him.
"So…that is where Lady Sif has been all this time…" he murmurs very quietly behind the rim of his cup before taking a larger mouthful and setting it aside upon the saucer resting on his own side-table. "Allow me to review what I've heard thus far. You've been dreaming of being contacted by a woman named Sif, with either blonde or black hair, and you have no memory of her." Interlacing fingers allows for one continuous bridge elbow-to-elbow across the space before his sternum. "Lady Amora is correct. The Eddas name the Warrior Sif as ally for certain, the other titles are less clearly-defined. However, be mindful that these stories are from the perspective of Mid — of Earthly scholars of long ago." His half-lidded gaze shifts to the fireplace. "In these dreams of yours, does she bleed?"
"Not — not contacted," Donald says, shaking his head. "Just… I saw her. Fighting, fencing, running. Almost… almost falling, once," he admits. "She kept… lurching. From dream to dream, but she kept saying 'I can't find him', or 'He'll be here'. Like she was expecting 'him'," he remarks. He catches the tea and takes a careful sip — it's a bit bitter for his taste, but he rests it on his knee without complaint.
"That's all right, yes, though," he agrees, chin waggling. "The bleeding part — I — I'm not sure," Donald confesses. "I think so? She was injured, but… she healed between each battle, so I don't know. She wouldn't listen to me until I interrupted her, but once I did, Amora and I were flung from the vision, so…" His thick shoulders imitate a mountainslide as he shrugs.
Strange nods slowly, looking into the flames and beyond them.
"A vision interrupted. A clash of wills within a plane inaccessible but for the sheer willpower from the one within it to draw you inside." He glances to Donald and sighs slowly. "When we sleep, our mental defenses are lowered. Thus, the easiest way to communicate for many beings is through dreams. Otherwise, if incorporeal, they must utilize the Astral Plane. That you haven't received communication through this manner suggests the idea of entrapment."
Pausing to scoop up his tea cup, he finishes half of what remains before setting it aside. "It is critical that you know whether or not she bleeds, Donald. That answers a good number of questions that would otherwise need direct intervention."
Donald closes his eyes, thinking. It looks like it hurts. Brow furrowed, jaw working back and forth, and one heel jitters thoughtfully. He even mutters a little.
"I — yes. I remember seeing blood on her brow," he says, finally. He hesitates, then nods decisively. "Yes. Bloodied, she was, Strange, from blade and fist."
"I think — giants surrounded her," he tells Strange, as the magician mulls it over. "And then I prayed to Thor to aid me, and he sent thunder and force to my hammer," Donald says, bumping the bag with an ankle. "It seemed to draw Sif's attention, finally, as she wouldn't acknowledge me otherwise. But it flung me from the vision, and Amora as well. But I take it as a sign from on high, I've performed my Lord's will."
The brief closure of his lids, in combination with a short sigh and minor slump of shoulders, communicates relief. Strange opens his eyes upon Donald and considers the rest of the information granted to him.
"It's certainly about will…" A slyness ghosts behind his steel-blue eyes before fading off into the formality of before. "I think you have your answers in what you've told me, though we need to first consider that this swordswoman bleeding is indicative of the possibility of a body existing if she is dead. A spirit separated from its home body will attempt to continue acting as if it had life, even if the body remains lost or hidden. Even a skeleton retains memories for an active spirit." The Sorcerer idly circles his thumbs about a small point as he eyes Donald. "You wish to save her? Is it your…Lord's will that you do so?"
Donald's eyes cross a little when Strange's musing veer towards the metaphysical. A perceptive person would see him almost completely tuning out of things entirely, until asked a direct question.
"Hmm? Er, yes, aye," he tells Strange, wagging his chin. "I believe it is. Else, why would he have sent me the thunder when I begged his aid? Why cast me into that vision at all?" he asks, with the rhetoricism of the zealot. "It must be to save her. But I know not where to start, and Amora… seems…" He frowns.
"Oddly tardy in her motions to aid her, which I utterly fail to understand."
"The gods have their reasons for including us…mortals in their games and it isn't all playing the hero and saving the damsel in distress, y — Donald." Strange's lips rise at the corners into what might be construed as a mildly sympathetic expression. "Lady Amora has her reasons, I'm sure. I hesitate to guess at her plans. Still, you do have your answers already."
He lets that statement marinade for a bit while his tea is finished off. The empty cup makes a clink in the silence of the living room before he settles back into his chair, hands refolded before him. "Do you need my assistance in the act of rescuing this woman? Or is it in reaching this place…?"
"I - I do?" Donald wonders aloud — but Strange is moving along already, and he shifts when Strange throws a question at him.
"Er… well, yes, I think," Donald says, a bit lamely. "I know not how to reach someone in a vision, or even what to do to help her," he says, with another shrug. "It seems the sort of thing a mystic would know best, and since Amora is disinclined…" He spreads his fingers at Strange in a 'there ya go' gesture. "Are you willing to aid her?"
"Lady Amora? Disinclined to be helpful? That's a shame. And here I always felt her the sort to get involved in everyone's business — especially yours," he adds, pointing a finger towards Donald momentarily. A brief flash of a smirk disappears as fast as it showed. "If you're still uncertain of your answers, perhaps meditate on your problem. I find time for such a thing every morning and when the necessity occurs. Surely Lady Amora would teach you if you asked after it?"
For meditation too can lower the barriers of the mind and allow a reach beyond the normal realms.
"You might find more answers that you seek this way. Should you be able to contact her again and your body is within this realm…I may be able to aid her."
The smirk and sarcasm is utterly missed, and Donald's chin wags. "Yes, I know — she's been quite helpful," he tells Strange. "So it's a peculiar exception to things thus far, and it has me puzzled," he admits.
"Still! We must focus, so — meditation, you say? I've no real talent for it, but I'll try anything once."
He screws his eyes shut, brow furrowing. "I call upon the Lady Sif! Are you here, spirit?" he says, a bit too loudly, and mostly in Strange's face.
Strange jerks back slightly for the overly-projected efforts of the mortal nurse and one brow lifts slightly higher for Mentor Brain clicking into place.
"You're attempting a seance and that will net you nothing — or a vengeful poltergeist tired of being yelled at. Meditation is sitting down, being quiet, and silencing everything around you — oh, seven hells," he grumbles, rubbing at one silvered temple with eyes tightly shut. "This is like Illyana all over again. Minus the reality-rending sword."
Clearing his throat, he looks back to Donald again. "You want an answer now. Right now? You don't want to ask Lady Amora for her assistance, as helpful as she's been?"
"Right now would be -very- convenient," Thor tells Strange, beaming wide as if the good doctor had just delivered the solution to all his woes. "As I said, Amora is being oddly evasive. Which I do not understand at all," he tells Strange, voice dropping to a conspiratorial booming. "She's lovely and kind, and generous of soul and spirit. Why would anyone be so hesitant to come to the aid of a warrior as obviously vital and strong as this Sif?"
"Anyway, what can we do to help her? How can I find her?"
The good Doctor is unable to keep a flat lack of amusement from entering his expression. It leaves him looking like the professor considering the explanation that the 'dog ate my essay' or 'I went partying last night and forgot there was an exam'.
"Donald, don't let her pull the wool over your eyes. She's hesitating for a reason. Think." With a sharp sigh, Strange rises to his feet and paces to the edge of the hearth. There's the sound of muted grumblings, probably some choice diatribe aimed at the burning logs, and then he turns back around, hands folded behind his back.
"A spirit needs a body in order to remain anchored and not deteriorate. So…?" He waits, seeing if a series of conclusions can be made. After all, this is dancing awfully close to crossing the line drawn by a certain trinity.
Donald stares at Strange.
And stares. And stares.
"Yes, that sounds right," he says, after a moment, drumming his hands on his knees. "This is most educational, Doctor, I pray you continue!" he says, beaming wide at Strange's improptu lecture — and utterly fruitless attempt at educating the man on the nuances of mysticism.
A little prayer for patience is sent off into the ether around the Sanctum and Strange chews on the inside of his cheek for a moment before continuing.
"Find the body, Donald. If you find the body here, on Earth, in my Realm, I will aid you. Otherwise, I — "
He pauses abruptly as the sensation of needle-cold pin-pricks suddenly align along either side of his head. Unseen but definitely felt, it gives the Sorcerer good reason to choose his next words very carefully. "I'm unable to help you further at this moment."
"I — I see," Donald says, looking crestfallen, and rises from his chair. The tea is set aside, largely unconsumed. "Well, I… suppose I'll be on my way, then," he says, clearly baffled by Strange's reticence. "I'll pester Amora and see what she can offer me for advice, though as I said — strangely unwilling to aid an Asgardian, she is," he frowns.
He offers Strange a clasp of the wrist. "Until we meet again, Doctor," he says, troubled thoughts clearly written on his brow.
Strange approaches and returns the grasp of the forearm, his own concern darkening his eyes and causing the smile to be wan.
"I have other avenues of assistance that I can provide you, Donald. Patience brings good things to those who wait. A time may come, and it may come soon, where I can directly aid you." Emphasis on the word, even if it causes the icy talons to threaten painful pressure against his skull. "Oh, and when you speak to Lady Amora, do me this favor: remind her that a friend of yours is a friend of mine and it would behoove her to aid you. Meditation," he reminds the nurse with a curt nod of his head.
Donald's fingers tighten a little on Strange's forearm, and his confused frown turns into a suggestion of a scowl. And for a moment, something a bit more than mortal lurks behind that furrowed brow, his eyes growing flinty.
"The Lady Sif, bethrothed of my Lord, languishes in peril or near death," Thor says, frostily. "Patience seems something we can ill afford, Doctor. I pray you hurry towards those avenues — or direct me towards them myself," he remarks.
And he releases Strange's hand, and smiles, a bit wanly, that stormcloud vanishing. "I'll speak to Amora, and pass her your words honestly," he promises Strange. "Farewell, Doctor — and once again, a pleasure to be in your company." With that, he collects his bag, slings it, and heads towards the Sanctum's exit.