1964-05-14 - Gift of the Gab
Summary: A respite from sailing the seven seas leads to dares and Dragon Fire in the Bar With No Doors.
Related: None
Theme Song: None
wanda mordo strange 

No one quite appreciates the tiki bar like someone who hasn’t likely seen the perils of a palm tree in forty years. The jarred head of a bartender floats about in his cannister, looking over the regulars and keeping a smooth operation running.

At the Bar with No Doors, that may be considerably more difficult than meets the eye. Bits of dissolving ectoplasm and splats of suspiciously viscous marigold-orange smoke writhing in the air mark a difference of opinions about the drink, the native wards reinforced by the Sorcerer Supreme and his predecessors assuring the peace around the assembled patrons.

No telling where the last patrons went, and anyone wise knows better than to ask. A Yakut shaman sits with a Korean shaman blind as a bat, his dog currently looking out over the crowd with distinct interest. The conversation there seems sincerely troubled, though, and one of the omnipresent figures in the community pays more attention than he should. A huge bald mystic in a shaggy brown hide, for nothing that hairy and likely to climb off his back gets called a coat, leans in and grunts authoritatively, “Da. Is bad.”

White sparks converge into a darkening heliotrope gyre. Unlike the citrine gates of the Mystic Arts, this does not open a visible meniscus to another realm within a rim of demented firefly sparks. Petals open in a carpet across the dingy tile, and a concerned tiki mask grimaces down on a widening puddle confined within the aperture. Into oblivion enters a witch of no particularly beatific or noteworthy provenance.

Not particularly noteworthy, a soaking wet, windblown young woman in a waistcoat, breeches, knee-high boots, and a jaunty hat tilted wildly over her gilded face.

Save the staring for the man behind her. He looks much more impressive, given the kelp ghillie-suit.


Dripping seawater, he’s assuredly the sight between the two of them. It made for excellent camouflage, the seaweed covering wrapped with supernatural care about torso and limbs alike, but now that they’re in the Bar With No Doors and not the dimension of horrifying sonic bats or elemental griffins, it makes no sense at all. Some of the regulars might recognize the sober expression that leaves cheekbones present and steel-blue eyes on the colder side. The Sorcerer Supreme clearly finished up a fairly stressful task and should clearly be left to his own devices unless it’s desperate.

A scouring spell cast by the curt flick of one hand banishes away the kelp in a dissolution into nothingness and leaves him wearing a British naval officer’s uniform that has clearly seen better days. Or hours. Minutes — but who’s counting, really. Bloodied in places, rent in others, the bright belt of color around him could be recognized as the Cloak by those truly observant in the past. The relic seems content despite the adventure finished out, perhaps a little tired.

“Thank the gods we got it… I wasn’t certain for a bit there that we’d be successful,” he murmurs to the Witch as his long stride places him quickly beside her. He nods to their usual corner, unoccupied because intruding upon it and assuming that booth belongs to anyone other than the Sorcerer Supreme might be an unspoken sin. After all, it allows both an unparalleled view of the Bar as a whole as well as a clear view of the man himself, in case anyone gets the hankering to cause trouble or to approach him about trouble.


"Look what the catfish dragged in."

The voice is Karl Mordo's, and the man is seated at a table in the corner, sipping a drink that is likely not of this Earth. Garbed in a suit and tie, he looks Strange up and down — and then Wanda — and arches a dark eyebrow.

"Did you forget to disrobe before bathing again, Stephen? You haven't done that since… Budapest, nineteen forty-seven. Or was it forty-eight? As I recall, someone spiked your drink? What have you two been up to?"

Ask a charming question, get an answer with equal parts lemon juice, lime freshly squeezed, and a possible kick in the groin delivered by a steel-toed leather boot. Albeit not the boots currently trying to wend their way as far as Wanda’s thighs, an interesting addition considering the only piece of clothing on her remotely modern is her typical corset, and even the design there feels somewhat antiquated in a ‘I just can’t put my finger on it’ kind of way. Not like the technology has improved much since they replaced whalebone with steel.

“An invisible shark with a black fin, and nine rows of teeth made of ivory and fire-glass,” she helpfully clarifies the source, doubtful about this ‘catfish’ business. Another folly for English, and sad, given she and Mordo probably share more languages in common than English. His native proficiency in Transylvanian specific functions is nearly identical to her Transian, believe it or not. Maybe next time, get a barony in spitting distance of Mount Wundagore instead of the gloomy corner of deepest, darkest Ruthenia.

For all the world, Wanda manages to maintain some of the necessary swagger of a seventeenth-century buccaneer, which is mildly enforced by the lavish coat. Or the epees on her hips. Or possibly the fact she drips water, simply far less of it. Whereas Strange squelches into his booth, she perches upon the edge of the table. “Was that when you last bathed? Forty-seven?” Nodding, this amounts for much. “That would be how you reached the domain where that drink comes from. The gate is locked against too much soap, yes. You would have enough if you waited fifteen years. Very sensitive there to soap.”

Her fingers dabble against the air, and her feathered hat rakishly tilts the further. “We were having an adventure. Maybe I was being bad.”


The Sorcerer’s smile doesn’t begin to reach his eyes until about halfway through Wanda’s reply. He doesn’t have much to add after he sits down, squelchily, other than,

“Very bad.” The bartender, omniscient as always within the Bar, is already working on their drinks. He doesn’t have to sit long at all before a simple soda water in a highball glass shows. Leaning back into the booth, he shifts his shoulders, digging them into the plush fabric that soaks up saltwater without hesitation and takes a sip. “Mmm… perfect.” Throwing an arm along the back of the booth allows extra insouciance to his general air as he gives Karl a thin smile. “All dressed up and nowhere to go. Did your date not show?”


"She did," replies the warlock with a faint smirk, sipping his drink. "She also did not get me soaking wet, nor try to bite…" He trails off, and the smirk widens. "Well, that's none of your business, isn't it?"

He sips more of his drink and sets the glass down.

"So the Maximoff girl has been bad… this comes as no surprise to me, Stephen. If you're trying to balance Order with her Chaos — you're still a few quarts short of Order. Among other things." He looks up.

"If this… dalliance of yours is going to continue, I imagine the Ancient One is going to have something to say about it — if he hasn't already. I should like to be a fly on the wall for that conversation, I do confess. Would you like a drink, either of you? You can tell me about these invisible sharks."

The bartender may be left at more of a disadvantage to know what to serve Wanda, given her dietary peccadilloes are not common knowledge and scattershot orders in the past allow precious little to go on. He might be frowning from his chemical bath infusion when she sits on the tabletop, though with Strange right there not castigating her for misuse of perfectly suitable seats.

Crossing one leg over the other reveals just how high those boots go, glistening midnight against the steel comet-tail of her epee. Whatever sheath it normally possessed vanished in the transition, though a modified spiral of telekinetic energy through a simple spell keeps anyone from accidental impalement. Intentional, that’s another matter altogether.

“The Ancient One?” The name rolls right off the brunette’s tongue, and she pokes her finger at the underside of her hat’s brim. The ostrich plume wiggles fetchingly and rains a faint spray onto the tabletop. Nothing a napkin will not fix, and she nudges along Strange’s to absorb that particular puddle. “You know so great and wise a mind?” Lips round in a curious circle, and she leans forward, the coat containing what the corset can’t. “I confess,” sibilance, ahoy, “I cannot see how this balances with your current… disposition. What do you have to say of that, Stephen?”

Pride in the use of a long word? Not so much. She whisks a look aside to Strange, and nods, assenting to the ne’er-do-Mordo joining them.

“I say that if you’re going to expand further on your date’s kinks…please don’t,” and he gestures with a pointed finger from around his crystal glass. “And, quite frankly, all of that — is none of your business, Karl.” Another subtle shift for maximum comfort in the booth and his eyes twinkle. “You have other things to worry about.” He permits himself a confident smile, though its natural incandescence is muted for a faint shadow.

He sets down the glass after another sip and sighs. No reason to ask Wanda down from her perch — it allows a lovely view of lovely things, like those legs… His gaze travels up to meet her eyes and he returns the nod.

“By all means, Karl — drinks are on you.” Grabbing up his drink, he throws the rest of it back and licks his upper lip. The highball glass makes a quiet clunk on the table as he abandons it. “Surprise me.”

Uh oh.

And what’s the point of being squelchy at this point? Impressions made, he makes an idle gesture familiar to Wanda and the scouring spell gathers up all the lingering saltwater from their clothing and evaporates it — poof. Ah, dry and warm now, no longer smelling of ocean. It’s the little things in Mystical life.


"What are friends for?" Karl murmurs in response, eyeing Strange sidelong as he sip at his own beverage — something dark and a little too much like actual blood to be passed off as something 'harmlessly similar'. "Besides…"

And his countenance falls, momentarily. Sadness.

"You know how teachers can be." Mordo is likely referring to the Ancient One, but given that he also taught Strange for a while, it is just as likely he is speaking of himself. In addition to his own mistakes, not everything the Ancient One said was to be trusted — history had proven that to both students. Sooner or later the 'master' would come calling again, and expect them all to give an account.

Considering what both Stephen and Karl have done in their lives since completing their training, the Ancient One has actually given them a rather long leash — this is worth noting. It is entirely possible that the baron is bringing this up merely to razz his old friend — and his 'bit of crumpet', Wanda, a little.

Turning to said piece of crumpet, Karl remarks: "You are looking well, Ms. Maximoff. Some of the Old Gods are… put out with you — they won't say why, though. They don't really clue me in… anymore. I must confess, it is rather gratifying to hear the echoes of their complaints. An 'agent of chaos' on the arm of the Sorcerer Supreme… ahh, they misjudged you mightily, didn't they? Take it as a compliment."

He smiles, and sips more of his drink.

Is it just flattery? Or does he actually mean what he is saying? And does it mean he knows something about the darker side of Wanda's past? There have been alliances between Chthon and some of the beings to whom Mordo is (now, grudgingly beholden), but that does not mean they actually share information.


A goodly amount of the conversation probably goes over Wanda’s head. Entangled relationships between two peers, mentor and student, and now Supreme to master, she tracks with the effortlessness of a girl long accustomed to perceiving patterns as part of a wider web. She cannot escape what she is.

Twisting her dry hair around her shoulder, she slides gracefully against the rim of the table and drops down adjacent to Strange where his arm stretches out languidly in an invitation she means to take up. Inserting herself there comes naturally, assuredly drawing where she stands in her alliance.

“You plan to order, Mr. Mordo?” A query, left lingering, is not unkind, merely curious. The poor bartender might be running for the hills by now.

Whyever should the elder gods be wroth with the witch? Blithe, glittering eyes frosted heliotrope turn up towards him, shadowed by the deep slip of her brimmed hat. “I do not listen to words in flame and wind. They have questions, they speak to the Vishanti.“

No, totally hasn’t drawn a boundary and an alliance, not at all. Somewhere, Agamotto is probably burying his face in a bucket while Hoggoth prances around like a tiger cub.


Should the Ancient One actually turn up and attempt to lambast Strange for anything he’s done lately, the Sorcerer will simply look blandly at the Master of the Arts, probably shrug his shoulders with the fickle relic flapping its collars, and say something brutally-frank — probably along the line of, “It’s not your problem anymore.”

At least he wouldn’t insult the virility of the Ancient One. We all know how that ended.

“I do know how they can be,” Strange murmurs, meeting those dark eyes and holding them with a great amount of daring imbued within the gaze. Saved by the presence of Wanda settling against the line of his ribs and insert of pectoral to shoulder. Even if it’s a bit odd for the wide brim of the hat, it’s soothing somehow. One fingertip draws a lazy half-completed arc along the rim of his empty highball glass. She asks a pertinent question; after all, the Warlock did offer to order drinks and tsk, here the crystal tumbler is still empty.

And if she won’t take Karl’s musings as a compliment, the Sorcerer beside her most certainly will. Cue a cat-in-the-cream smile, pleased as pie, and it’s clear that he has no issue at all poking Old Gods with sharp sticks.

“The Old Gods have so little imagination sometimes,” he opines, glancing to the Witch and back to Mordo. “I think they underestimate human willpower.” And love.


"Yes…," replies Mordo stroking his chin. "That does appear to be a trend — one would think, after aeons have passed, that they'd have learned by now. There is something to the argument that demons and the like cannot stray from their respective nature… That would explain the repetitiveness of their tactics."

He pauses.

"Still, I would not be one to underestimate them either…" Particularly when he has made deals with some of them, foolish deals. Turning then to the bar, he lifts a hand to address the Head-in-a-Jar bartender, and says:

"A Jovian Sunburst cocktail for the lady — and a Dragon's Blood for the Sorcerer Supreme. Straight up." To his friends (for they are friends, or rather like family to him… now there is a scary thought) he smiles and comments: "I recommend an open mind and a strong stomach. And perhaps a fire extinguisher."


“ They need amusement. Nothing is new in the world,” says the Transian witch, her contribution to an argument as old as time. “We tell old stories to one another even when we know the ends. It is the same for them. Longer lives, more stories, and things said again.”

The hot caress of fresh-pressed beans subjected to a grind and brew saturates the air, cleaning away a melange of other fragrances of varied tolerability. Coffee holds a particular bite when subjected to hot steam, an interesting effect given there is no coffeemaker to speak of at the bar.

The bartender’s tricks are many, and why a Korean dog needs an espresso is anyone’s guess. Nonetheless, the blind shaman’s companion puts two paws to either side of a small bowl, and sets in with vigor. More esteemed cocktails will be delivered by a snake-scaled Mesoamerican server, who puts them down cautiously on warded cardboard coasters. One can never be too careful.

If these two are his family, Baron von Mordo better cough up some land and a title. The brunette watches him from within the protective crook of Strange’s arm, and documents the anticipated reaction. Her fingers pinch the wrong glass, and she is halfway to raising it to her lips before realising it’s Dragon Blood.

Mind, hers is the region which devised dragons in modern folklore, to some extent. And given who she is, perhaps the Sorcerer Supreme isn’t surprised. Another name for her forefather is the Great Dragon.

“This smells like berries,” she tells him, and hands over the drink. “Not poisoned.”


The Sorcerer accepts the drink from his Consort and sniffs at it, brows quirking together for a passing second. Indeed, the nose bouquet is dark cherries and berries. Maybe there’s a hint of tannins, more towards the charcoal end of the spectrum, but he can barely catch it and there’s the off-chance that it’s from the ambient air of the Bar itself. After all, a good number of patrons might emit smoke in some form or another.

“Thank you,” he replies, laughing entirely in his eyes at the additional comment of it lacking poison. Not aloud, of course. The duty of guarding the Sorcerer Supreme is taken seriously and thus not belittled.

“To tempting the irritation of the Old Gods.” He lifts the glass high enough to be considered a toast. “May we come up with novelties until they flinch to think we simply exist.” His steely eyes rest on Karl as he brings the drink to his lips —

— and throws back the shot.

Dragon’s Blood, pfft. Wanda was right, it smells like fruit. It goes down a little warm, but no warmer than —


It starts as a startled hiccup and finishes out like some demented sneeze-cough. The resulting gout of flame is spectacular, in a palette of sun-bright yellow, marigolds and electric tangerines, all threaded by silvery-blues nearing white.

Thank goodness for spell-proofed tables. Some of the patrons stare, others laugh in other languages, and Strange claps his hands over his mouth. Thin streamers of black smoke slip from between his fingers even as he coughs — no, laughs? — and sniffs, his eyes watering slightly. When he judges that it’s safe, he lowers his palms to the table and laughs.

A little flicker of remaining dragon-fire alights in front of him before sputtering out.

“You…rat bastard,” he coughs, this time emitting a pale cloud of smoke. “That actually had dragon’s blood in it!”


Mordo simply… smiles.

Then he tosses back his own shot-glass of the same beverage, and… smoke rises from his nostrils. When he opens his mouth to say something, more smoke escapes at the corners of his lips while his whole face tenses up to suppress the gout of fire threatening to erupt from him.

"It's an… acquired taste," he informs his old friend as he sets down the glass. "With a little practice — and some fireproof wards — one can usually down a shot or two without incinerating the furniture." The smile widens. "I'm sure you'll master it in time, Stephen."

To Wanda, however, the swarthy warlock arches an eyebrow and gives a little shake of his head. "Why would you think I'd poison my old friend, Wanda? I've known Stephen for longer than you have been alive, and then some. Seeing him slain is the very last thing on this earth that I would want. For shame." A pause. "Of course, someone else could have poisoned the drink before it arrived at the counter, so a little caution wouldn't go astray."

He orders another round and lifts his eyebrows. "How are you both doing?"


Without periodic excitement offered by way of questionable beverages, the world would be a very dull place indeed. Even the Sorcerer Supreme can lose his eyebrows to the scorching expulsion of dragon’s blood meeting stomach acid or saliva in sufficient quantities. Nothing like the efficiency of your prey roasting itself thanks to a high proportion of water. Makes one wonder how the bartender managed to put the dragon’s blood in the glass in the first place.

Then again, perhaps not. Some secrets are openly known in the right quarters.

“Common that bits of magic beasts make people sick. Or they are not made right.” The mirror pane smile that barely forms on the curvature of lush lips and cold, star-bright eyes could hardly be called unattractive. No ugly sneer consorts her features. She simply looks somewhat as expressive as a clockwork doll. “A problem, like those fish in Japan and China. Done wrong, you die.”

This is a girl who cannot adequately express herself at times to be able to describe depth, but knows about fugu, pufferfish sashimi. Go figure.

Her own Jovian Sunburst is radiation in a glass, emanating a stormy swirl of concoctions that refuse to settle. Eddying layers paint a striated turbulence helped little by the lazy churn she gives the drink by way of its plastic sword.

Proof plastic can survive almost any environment. Disturbing, isn’t it? One day they’ll find plastic beyond the remains of the melted down Statue of Liberty, probably by all the plastic statuettes on the seafloor or desert bottom, in ages when the next generation of saurids inherit the earth. Or more likely, the cockroaches, in the far distant future.

Humanity’s toils now, though, are extracting that stir stick and putting it to her lips, blithely cleaning away the liqueur with her face turned from the crowd. A modicum of privacy where none is to be found.


Stephen coughs a few more times for the tickling of remaining smoke in the back of his throat. It heats the stomach as well, wow. If he’s not sweating at his temples, he will be shortly. Southern Comfort has nothing on this warmer.

“I can’t imagine the bartender using fugu in any of the drinks, but then again, it’s likely some patrons have an immunity to that type of poison. The possibilities are endless.” His eyes linger on Wanda and the attentive cleaning of her drink stirrer. He allows himself a faint smile before glancing back to Karl, adopting that more socially-polite formality that he falls back upon when engaging the Warlock. For the most part. Other times, it’s with vicious snark — but that’s for another time.

“Karl knows better than to poison me anyways. I keep things interesting…and intact.” A subtle eyebrow to go with that subtle grin. “How are we doing?” His eyes rove the Bar around them and he acknowledges anyone who chooses to grant him a modicum of greeting with a nod, ever the Sheriff of Mystic-ham. The arm resting behind Wanda’s shoulders means he can give said bicep a gentle squeeze of affection with the hand resting there. “Reality is intact. I can’t complain.” He shrugs, glancing up at the drinks as they arrive again. Another Dragon’s Blood, heh. He’s forewarned now and, frankly, driven to best Karl at his own damn game.

Warlock knows him too well.


"That's it?" Karl retorts with a stifled cough, having downed his second Dragon's Blood. He goes to speak again, but a second cough grabs him first, forcing him to put the back of his hand to his mouth with a single finger raised in a 'just a moment' gesture.

"That's it?" he tries again. "Cannot an old friend inquire as to his friend's relationship, and receive a little more than just, 'reality is intact; I can't complain'?" The swarthy fellow looks across at Wanda, then down at her hand and back at Strange once more. Lifting a hand to order another pair of Dragon's Blood shots for himself and his friend, he remarks: "I'm hardly an expert on all Western customs and mores, Stephen — you remember the vows of celibacy most of the apprentices took back in Kamar-Taj? — but where exactly is this relationship going?"

He glances at Wanda, fully conscious that the question might earn him some ire on her part, but either he doesn't care — or the Dragon's Blood is having an effect upon his inhibitions (for better or worse).

"Shouldn't there be a ring? — Come to think of it, why is it just 'ring'?" The man frowns and taps the surface of the table with a finger. "Earring, nosering — toering — hmm…Fingerring." He waits for the shots to arrive and looks from Stephen to Wanda. "Is that what you're waiting for, my dear — for Stephen to give you a fingerring?"

Two tables over, someone chokes on their beverage.

He may be the Baron of Mordovania, and occasionally as dour as the fabled vampires who dwell over the border in the Carpathians, swanning about their gloomy castles in half-rotten Victorian robes striped by grave dirt for that especially organic pastiche. An affectation on the vaguely besotted Master of the Mystic Arts’ part would not register especially much for the daughter of two mingled bloodlines of deep antiquity, one of them parallel to Oshtur herself. But fishing about with all the skill of a 15-year-old boy for some chewy gossip does, in a sense, prick the tattered veneer of propriety.

Stephen can field that one, given he possesses the credentials of the silver fox, sly wise elder, in dealings with his erstwhile friend and former mentor. She has the Jovian Sunburst to contend with, the liquid still an atmosphere with its own gravity to match those in the liquid amber of her mirror-sheen irises.

“Is that the…” A pause, then she finds the word she wants with some degree of care. “…custom you pretend and practiced in Kamar-Taj together as boys?”

Lips to rim, she samples the flavour of the drink ‘ere committing to its full bouquet upon her tongue. It wouldn’t be appropriate to surreptitiously spill any of its contents; manners decree only one option for the largesse offered her, especially under the presumed auspices of her beloved’s hospitality.

It doesn’t mean she swallows without tasting, though. Transians know a thing or two about poisoned gifts and venom in a sorcerer’s smile.


Stephen takes notes from the Baron and, this time, manages to keep the fiery display contained in throwing back the second shot. A cough behind his own fist means curlings of bluish-black from the corners of his lips and the next sigh releases the rest of the subdued reaction of the shot hitting his stomach as simply a cloud of smoke. It dissipates over the table before them.

Dear gods below, it’s warm beneath his dated officer’s uniform and he pulls the collar of the undershirt away from the side of his neck to allow heat to escape. His natural inclination to always be moving ceases when Karl gets to prying. Suspicion is worn well by the patriarchal face, softened by faint expectant amusement. The Baron is out to prod his Consort with a sharp stick and there’s a goodly portion of him that awaits whatever is meted out in turn.

Though he can’t keep from chiming in, before Wanda speaks, with, “There were no vows of celibacy taken, Karl, what on earth are you talking about? If you distracted yourself, it was your own damn problem.”

Rings? What about rings? Why is he waxing philosophical on rings…?

Oh no, Karl, not that old joke from Kamar-Taj, wait! — too late. Far too late to stifle the snort all tangled up with conflicting offense at the insinuation. He rolls his lips inwards even as he scratches at a silvered temple, glancing to Wanda in mute apology for humor gone ribald —

— and then she fires back and he busts out laughing. With arm about her shoulder still, he wiggles fingertips against her jacket’s sleeve in silent approval.

“Rings are — ” Excuse him, another guffaw slips through. The Dragon’s Blood is misting through his blood and it’s difficult to maintain the serious expression. “Rings are symbolic. Why not have something else instead? A bracelet, for example. Or a necklace.” He glances to Wanda, mischief on his lips and in his so-blue eyes. “Rings require a precise fitting…sufficient polish to keep a shine.” The pointer finger of his other hand draws an idle sigil on the tabletop as he muses further, “Not to mention the stones. The family jewels require a very specific handler.”

Another shot is probably a bad idea at this point.

“And my focus was on my studies at Kamar-Taj, not other women,” he adds, squinting at Karl as if daring him to disagree.


"A symbolic fingerring?" Mordo inquires with a bemused quirk to his lips. "That sounds depressingly chaste." And he downs his next shot of Dragon's Blood. This one makes his face turn red, and smoke again escapes from his lips — but in billows. In this drinking game (if it were a drinking game) the loser is the first one to singe his eyebrows off… or someone else's.

Strange has already done that, or at least belched fire.

"I'll leave you to your strange western customs then," he adds with a cough, wiping tears away from his eyes. "Who am I to judge?" Then he looks at the oh-so-irritatingly-demure features of Wanda Maximoff, and arches an eyebrow. "Apprentices took the vows they feel they needed… or the vows imposed on them by the Ancient One. It was always different. Everyone's connection to the Mystic Arts is… unique. Sometimes outright bizarre."

As he says that word, he looks pointedly at Wanda.

"Are you enjoying your unpoisoned drink, my dear?" he asks innocently.

“My custom,” Wanda answers around the friction storm of atoms teasing her hard palate, “is strange, but as east as yours. Your holding is here.”

A slim finger stabs a point midair. She draws a fine line slightly north and then skims subtly west, though not by much. “Mine, here to start. Then…” The path goes much higher, away from her torso to over her head and distinctively east at least as Mordo faces. The glittering path of plum sparks settle around a spiral when she stops, throwing long, fine rays even further to the side, for almost a yard.

“You came first, Karl. You know these strange customs in the west best. So, I see you want to teach.“ She dips her head, the feathery plumes forgotten, ragged pirate skirt shifting as she uncrowded her legs for a moment and recrosses them at the knee, stretching out the leather boots to gain a bit of breathing room.

Her head is thoroughly in the golden-yellow clouds of a lime fizz and the darker surge of scarlet threatens to rotate on its axis anticlockwise. “So, then, we will not leave you sad. Tell us what you want to, Mister Professor Karl. Maybe the Doctor knows. I will hear you.”

The tip of her tongue steals a thief’s caress against the upper sunbow of her full lip. Chasing the track of the solar chariot, it skims a glistening trail from one corner to the other, repeated along the bottom. “I feel like going under. From the lips of a master, the… unique… wisdom.” A gesture of her hand encourages Mordo to speak.

“Let us see how bad my education was, or if you want to bind me with your own vow. Is it maddening to see such with no formal tie to you?”


“Don’t encourage him,” Strange mutters to her, loudly enough for Karl to hear if he’s paying attention through the smog of the Dragon’s Blood. The Sorcerer throws back his own shot and has to spend a few seconds coughing into his closed fist, smoke escaping with each exhale. His own cheeks redden as if profusely sunburned and eventually, the convulsions settle and he clears his throat sharply. “Gods below, Karl, why this drink?” He blinks away moisture in his own eyes. “You’re a sadist.”

Man doesn’t miss the traveling of that tongue. Or the lips. Distraction, success. Forgive the failed attempt to not stare, even if it’s somewhat side-long and paired with the moderately-suppressed smile.


"'Mister… Professor Karl'?" the baron repeats over the rim of his glass. The Dragon Bloods he has drunk already have already begun to blur his vision, and he is certain there is still smoke wisping out of his lips when he speaks, and from his nostrils when he breathes.

Or he could just be imagining it.

After all, Wanda isn't really a snake-haired gorgon. Is she?

And Stephen isn't one of those fire-belching tree-frogs from another dimension. Is he?

Karl… isn't so sure.

"Mister… Professor… Sadist. Wisdom. Wisdom Sadist — you know, you two. Have I ever told you… you string together the most peculiar set of words sometimes? First… the fingerring. Then… sadist." Yes, he is most definitely hallucinating. No. The baron of Castle Mordo does not get drunk this easily (ignoring, for the moment, the fact that a single Dragon's Blood shot is usually enough to floor a troll).

"Another," he tells the barkeep, holding up a finger.


The coils of those dark hair are more likely to capture the stars than snakes. Particularly given the jaunty hat with its feather plume angled rakishly across her brow. Whatever has Mordo done to himself?

Her Jovian sunburst is having the anticipated effect, albeit a bit strong. The light is pulled to her, painting the dim corner in shades of russet and peach, dragging all the ambient illumination from the rest of the bar. Patrons might complain. They can take it up with Professor Mordo.

“Him there,” the jarred bartender is likely to say. Does, in fact.

Wanda shines in the shallow glimmer of light around her, head tipped and chin raised slightly to allow the radiance to flood out and hopefully not blind Strange. She is far less likely to down the drink in a single go, for manners dictate that’s not the proper thing to do. That, and she might by genetic background have an advantage over two tipsy sorcerers. Did someone designate her the responsible Witch?

Doomed. “You do not cut your nails, Professor?” Her eyebrows arch, and there is not an iota of wincing. What answer her question solicits remains unclear.

“Or you like other sharp and pointed things?“

There is only a limited degree of perching to avoid leaving Strange uncomfortably pinned to the bench.


There’s apparently the unanimous unspoken decision that, indeed, the Witch is the responsible one. Karl orders yet another round and the Sorcerer in officer’s garb makes a disgruntled expression. He’s too far buzzed now, highly likely heading at a fast tack towards drunk, on the Dragon’s Blood shots to make any serious effort to be aware of his mannerisms. The fascinating factoid of the literal additive to this shot, giving it its highly-appropriate moniker, is that every individual is affected differently. It boils down to basic body chemistry.

Karl could be hallucinating and exhaling smoke, but Strange, on the other hand, is clearly more enamored with the fact that the Witch is settled basically in his lap now. Serendipity, when did this happen! A silly thing, the mind track of the inebriated. His arms slip with no stealth about her waist and he hugs her to himself, burying his face in her hair. It might not shine of stars, but it smells of comfort — and frankly, makes him feel fuzzy inside.

Or maybe that’s the Dragon’s Blood eating away at the inside of his stomach, but whatever, it’s cool.

Cue the possessive behavior, obvious for the fact that he’s not about to let her go anywhere.

“Your hat is in the way,” he informs said curls and yoink: he now wears the hat, rakish plume and all, most definitely at a cant upon his skull. “Why are we talking about Karl’s fingernails?” More nose wrinkling. “Actually, that reminds me. One time, Wong caught Karl trimming his fingernails in the library. Didn’t he use those clipping to curse you somehow? Oh gods, I can’t remember, but you were SO sorry afterwards.” He laughs, hard enough that he buries his face once more in the chestnut whorls, so soft and smelling of salt-sprayed black roses. It muffles the sound, but not by much. The feather dances like the fringes of a flapper dress.

Maybe to Karl it sounds like Strange is ribbiting repeatedly. Mrrr-errr, mrrr-errr!


Mordo glowers.

"Wong… swore he'd never tell anyone that story," the man mutters darkly. "My own apprenticeship was far less interesting than yours, Mister Doctor. …discounting the curly nails and the rearranging books… and other things. I was a model strumpet."

A pause.

"No. No, that's wrong. Trumpet — student! Ahh… what have I been drinking??" Head bowed a bit, he glances upward and across at Stephen in the next stool over, with Wanda draped all over him, and makes a rude noise with his lips. "Have I told you both how utterly… disg — ."

And he belches fire.

At Strange.

There goes the drinking game. Karl loses the game, while Stephen… loses his eyebrows. Mordo cottons on to this a moment later, and starts chuckling… amid wisps of smoke escaping from his lips and nostrils.


Between a rock and a hard belch sits Wanda Maximoff. A woman for whom devastating matters of protecting her lovely hair is not a small matter. She doesn’t possess much vanity, but neither is she willing to simply allow her locks to go aflame thanks to a snappy professor.

Every girl is a ginger at heart when her shining locks are imperiled.

The Sorcerer Supreme by his mantle vouchsafes the neutrality of the Bar With No Doors, and other precautions tend to be a whole lot smarter with a collection of volatile mystics. Chipped neige de sel flakes come raining down from overhead, white snow tumbling around to neutralise certain active smells. Then follows the crystallised dew, evaporating into a fire-absorbing mist.

Heat goes racing out in streamers shaped curiously like the coconut demons of Polynesia, and the Mesopotamian serpent server hisses slightly from his position near the Korean shaman and a Russian in a great hoary bear hide slurping down maple syrup shots.

Her own contribution: a clap of her hands generating a wild wind saturated in brine, pulling out all the dampness from a jaunt into a certain aquatic realm trapped in perpetual 18th century pirate excitement. It goes outward rushing and ruffling over Mordo, certainly no thunderclap or burst to knock him over, but it does propel any lasting flames right back. The corkscrew twist of her curls and the stiffening of her supple corset visibly shift, and the sublimated moisture literally leaves her…

… smoking hot.


The Witch is smoking hot (no argument from the Sorcerer acting as seat) and now the Warlock is soaking wet. Where does that leave him?

Sitting there, drunkenly aghast at the proceedings, still wearing that feathered hat and probably the victim of growing bemusement. Scratch that, he loses it again and laughs. This seems to break the fragile stillness of uncertainty within the Bar itself — after all, neutrality means no pointed assaults on anyone’s person — and the usual low murmur of conversations resumes. If the Sorcerer Supreme can laugh at a diverted blast of dragon-fire, all is well in the locale.

“Never a dull momen’ with either of you,” Strange finally says before hiccuping. A wisp of smoke escapes him. He has no idea that he’s won the shot-drinking contest, but he’s having a hell of a good time…even if the hangover will be absolutely ferocious the next day. “N’more Dragon Fire liquor, Karl…prolly a good idea, n’more.” Mmm, the heat in the Witch’s hair has added an extra depth to the natural floral heart-note that hangs about it and he nuzzles in again. “Wish it could be like this all the time,” he mutters before pulling back and sniffing.

It’s probably a terrible idea to sneeze right now. He wiggles his nose and sniffs again.

“Er, yes, wish it could be — NNNG-CHAAA!”

Off to one side, nowhere near anyone, but the poor little fern plant sitting beside goes up in brief conflagration before falling to ashes within its container. Strange winces.

“I can fix that, sorry, sorry!” The spell flies, the Jarred Barkeep probably sighs long-sufferingly at rules bent near to breaking, but hey, there’s the fern again! But it’s purple now instead of green and possibly hungry for the blood of jelly-blobs from the dimension of the ocean-inverted.

Problem solved? Ish — but it’s nothing new at the Bar With No Doors, home to sorcerous shenanigans and patient staff alike.


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