1964-06-09 - The Wastes of Persia
Summary: Investigating an oddity before the equinox. Incomplete.
Related: If there are no related logs, put 'None', — please don't leave blank!
Theme Song: None
strange wanda 


Strange has arrived.

How many miles to Babylon?
Three-score miles and ten.
Can I get there by candlelight?
Yes, and back again…

The Euphrates Valley is an ancient place. A place where once the King of Kings rested his divine head, and the most terrible empire in its day, and until the advent of golden Alexander the Great, arose from the bounties of the great rivers. Today it is a sleepy and quiet place, a forgotten one, where the many-times removed descendants barely understand the value of the brick walls and fired stones to history. Crystallised gypsum gives the bluffs a strangely pale texture compared to the surrounding blasted soils, strewn occasionally by the odd marker left by government agents. If any could read Arabic, they might see the messages: Flood warning. Site due for inundation 6/12/64.

How nice of them.

Those deep gulleys carved by dried up tributaries speak to the hot season in the middle of a country now called Iraq, but in ancient days, by so many other names. An ancient Athenian traveller long ago set his pen to scribe the truth of whom these low mounds and sporadic, unimpressive spark of brown soil littered by sooty pottery once amounted to. And, for no reason entirely apparent, there are the great walls and long, low gates. Against the lowlight sky, they are a formidable sight if still awash in the sense of ruin and forgetfulness.

Baked bricks twenty feet thick are piled row on row, a hundred feet high. The snaking line goes in a great axis, adorned by glittering bronze figures staring out to the compass points where the distant enemies of their empire yet stand.

He watches where he steps, mindful of not crossing any boundaries, mundane or Mystical. This place is old, vaunted, and the ghosts of old magics still cling to the architecture. So much life, no less brilliant and painful and thrilling then as now — it might feel like ruins, but if there's a sense of something watching from beyond view, one might not be wrong.

Hands stay in the pockets of his dress slacks, though he rolled up the sleeves and parted the fastenings at the throat of his white button-down some time back. Leanly-muscled forearms are revealed. Strange glances to his companion from beneath the shadows of his Panama fedora.

"The pictures never seem to do it justice." His comment is respectfully quiet, as if the walls themselves are listening. About his neck, the loose sling of a bright-red scarf remains inanimate and well-behaved.

Those bricks are tangible, at least to the hands who have witnessed them. They soar to the sky in a long, serpentine line. They come upon these great, massive shapes simply rotting in the dust, deserted, and forgotten. The walls are so high, the workmanship so elegant, that it might be confounding to know where it came from. If the locals could see, what might they tell the Doctor of the ruins? Nothing. No one even remembers where they came from.

She reads the account from a book, her eyes laboriously scrawling across one page to the other. The difficult tangles of English confound Wanda still. She cannot take in everything at once, but has to piece together more detailed figures, shaping the phonetics in her mind before piecing them together. Her finger ceases to trail down the long paragraph blocks.

"The base of the fortification is fifty feet broad and high. Its brick wall is fifty feet broad and a hundred feet tall above that. The circumference of the fortifications are eighteen miles wide. Nomadic peoples camp by, bringing their animals through." She licks her lips, her eyes narrowed and lifting from the stream of text. "What does the world look like without this piece of the wheel in it, a centre missing? It has a harsh feeling. Everything is ruined, and the broken stones are all we have left." Not that there is a stone to be touched by human hands, except the scraps of brick baked by ancient flames under the surface. But it must be a shock to see the past colliding with the future.

"Three great battles fought on this field brought Assyria down," she murmurs, flipping a page over. Xenophon has far too many descriptions for her to fully detail, especially with the sight laid out before her. The statues glower and the shattered front of the standing wall snaking across the plain.

His eyes linger on the text spread in her hands.

"Yes, battles by chariot and ancient bow and likely at least a few leven-bolts," Strange comments, squinting at the height of the fortification now. "I have some vague memory of reading that the Egyptians had a large part to play in it. This is — was…well, still is — " he finally decides, " — an area of land worth fighting over. The Fertile Crescent. A goodly portion of civilization began here…same with the Arts."

Scything chariots and galloping Scythians are a far cry away. Wanda looks up at the ancient wall. "Why here, why now?" The obvious questions to raise to the Sorcerer Supreme. The taste of ash and dirt on the air is profound, a tremendously clear olfactory signal. The ground is even hard and cracking in places, flattened to a pan, though centuries of poor farming techniques and eradication of the native vegetation, climate change, and drying in general might be responsible. Might not.

"Babylon," she adds. "There is a poem about Babylon. A beast that walks to it? Along, like so." Her shoulders rise unevenly, and she drags her foot, galloping at an odd angle.

Strange keeps the wattage of his smile and electrical prickling of amusement to a low simmer rather than outright laugh. He's never envisioned the creature in mention quite like that.

"It stumbles in like it's been run over by a herd of camels? Hmm. The author has a way with words. You ask 'why', though." Into the shadows of the wall he moves and he reaches out with one hand to rest fingertops on weathered stone with cautious pressure. That it has withstood time and the elements is a point of plain amazement to him. "…why not?" His voice has dropped to that low, melodious cadance, ample warning that he's half in another world entirely within his mind. Distracted by what rises before him. "Why not indulge curiosity and see what photographs attempt to convey? They never capture the essence of ruins… The loneliness and the fractured memories." He sighs before bringing his hand away. "The resilience of mankind's attempt to leave an unforgettable mark upon the world. I wonder…I wonder if the ghosts here realize that their efforts still stand? Or if they're simply memories caught in endless, looped time?"

Take that, Antichrist. If you exist, the universe just mocked you. And meanwhile, the Antichrist is probably loafing it with Daimon Hellstrom, all bitter about being unloved as he /rightly/ is.

The dust and the puffs of air running with the wind throw grit into their clothes and leave the messy image a mirage in darkness. Touching the wall makes it as solid as any stone if one has the sight. Otherwise there is no wall to see here, no evidence of the past come alive again. Clearly it stirred itself to be these heights, and no surveyor participating in a damn project is going to have this on their map. Which is surely the problem, in a sense. The much higher and broader collection of bricks mortared together is more like two centuries abandoned, rather than two thousand and six hundred years gone. There are Ghosts in the cracks and those unlikely bronze figures of their divinities glaring at time, empty eyed and rigid, their stiff postures and snarling mouths or grim tones a warning. Approach and despair if not bending in tribute.

Wanda puts the book into the little leather bag she carries, a relic of her old days wandering. It's in rough shape and not worthy of stealing, part of the point. "I see the place and it feels so old. So sad. It is like the triangles in Egypt." Translation is hard, okay? "They are so very old. I feel the hum of time there, like people forgot their maker but not the building."

"That's a good way to put it," he muses. "I wonder if it showed itself upon our arrival simply because we are here. You and I." Looking to Wanda brings more personable life to the aloof scholar's mien and chases away whatever encroaching shadows may have been slinking upon his psyche. Too easy to draw parallels to immortality and the world forgetting the vibrance of one that exists beyond what might have been left behind. "The triangles of Egypt are called the pyramids, at Giza. The largest is called the…Pyramid of Khufu, if my memory serves me right. Wily one, that pharoah. His court magicians knew how to weave the Arts and architecture together in ways we haven't seen in…oh, thousands of years. What a dynasty." Strange adopts a relaxed stance in the ethereal shadows of the wall, the very weird lighting allowing the faint glow of the Sight to be seen within his irises. Amaranthine, of course.

"I do not think a wall would care about me. Walls do not except when I fall." True fact, when tumbling it is common for walls to make their appearance and smash into people who are happily tumbling end over end. How rude. Walls are the villains of the world, and Spiderman is in collusion with them. She puts a hand on Strange's shoulder, and then hops up, using him as balance to see if she can get a foothold on the bricks and climb higher. The sensation may be a strange one as she pivots around his shoulders, and smack her hands for a grip, fingers curling and seeking purchase there will be little hope for finding short of gluing her hands like aforementioned arachnid. "The early dynasty? You would not like Hatshepsut? She was mighty. Her story is very sad; her son was a…." Her voice trails off and rises again. "If he were my son I would curse him to live in Spain."

Likely she can feel him better plant his weight, tense muscles in his core and thighs to indulge her in acting as her point of steadiness.

"I have no qualms against mighty women. I seem to be stuck with one anyways." And she'll feel the repressed laugh shiver through the line of the Sorcerer's shoulder if she doesn't glance back to see that silvery-charming grin of his. "You could use a floating charm." It's a light suggestion accompanied by the twiddling fringe-dance of the crimson scarf. "Or you could climb. It does keep the body limber."

With such brazen familiarity do those dark-lashed eyes travel over her body. Mmm. Leggings.

Boots scrape the front of the wall, but Wanda gazes up, up, up. It's not a ten foot climb, but a wall of fifty and more feet high. This invariably will not end well for her playing spider, and lacking the metahuman physiology to allow that. Her slim smile doesn't last for long. "It would be easier. How many can say they climb a magic construct? The cloak makes it too easy for you."

The gauntlet is thrown. Let his pride decide where it lands. Hers does not let her slow in the climbing, though it is tough. Rock gives very little handhold normally. Fired brick is even worse, especially /old/ giant bricks as these. Her mouth tightens and she keeps a tenacious grab, no doubt tired somewhat. Cheating would be easy, magic easy, and who knows if this thing even /likes/ magic. It might eat it.

"Hmph." Strange metaphorically watches the gauntlet sail by and waves at it. "You do your climbing, I'll be here if you fall." Note the 'if', not the 'when'. He might be a realist, but never a pessimist unless consumed by a case of the Byronic Broodings. "Or maybe I'll have the Cloak catch you instead and sling you over my shoulder in a sack. Or like a rug, like with Cleopatra and the Romans." Oh, the indignity. That smile hasn't lost a bit of its twinkle. Honestly, he does appreciate the view. Climb away, climb away…

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