1964-07-16 - Perchance to Dream: Nexus I
Summary: Wanda Maximoff has been running from her fate for a very long time. Now her fate comes due.
Related: The Nexus Arc
Theme Song: Sweet Dreams - The Eurythmics
wanda strange 

The dark of the morning is soft throughout the Sanctum. It breathes with a life of its own, slowly inhaling and exhaling in the silence as only an old building can. Nothing creaks, nothing squeaks, nothing darts about on padded feet to play merry chase with the sentient wards of the mansion — Aralune is curled asleep beside Big Fluffy’s shoulder. A long splay of limbs claims his arm as her own even as whiskers twitch in restless sleep. On his other side, curled in against him as is her wont, his Consort rests however deeply she can given what life has thrown at her as of late. The light that slips from between the near-completely drawn curtains in the window is slight, pale, more an illusion of dawn than true sunrise; that’s at least another hour or two away.

The sleep claiming the Witch is a thick blanket atop her psyche. The weight of it was slowly built, layer by layer, slippery skein by downy dusting, until waking from it immediately is near impossible. Thus, the fever-bright vision takes effect. It is brilliant and near-tangible in a way only lucid nightmares can be.

Is she awake? What has woken her? Surely it’s not the gentle movement of cool night air, tasting of burning logs on a large fire. Perhaps the closeness of a blanket well-loved and smelling of honest sweat, woodsmoke, horses, the lingering spices of garlic and paprika from dinner. The camp is still, bundles of haphazardly-sewn patched quilts marking bodies in rest in the shifting shadows of firelight within a circling of covered wagons. The slumbering weight of Pietro is there beside her, his chest rising and falling in markedly slow breaths in press-retreat-press-retreat; a little twitch of his hand to brush away a ticklish lock of his hair is no more than a blur.

But where’s Tata? One of the horses whickers, shifts its hooves, gives enough reason to pause and weigh what the animal’s concerns might be.

Something’s wrong. It festers in the mind and gouges claws into the space beneath one’s breastbone. The taste of metallic fear is strong now. Another horse awakens, stamping, tossing its head and rattling its head-halter. It sidles, bumping into the side of one of the wagons with a thud that manages to echo.

Thud-thud…thud-thud…thud-thud… Impossible to ignore the beating of a heart that slowly increases with each scythe-like swing of time’s pendulum. The horses — the horses are screaming now, rising onto their hind legs to grapple with empty air in such slow motion. Why isn’t anyone moving?!


The fire cracks like a gunshot and drops low, wreathing the camp in shadows.

Rattling — iron chains chime with disgusting clarity as shadows slip overtop all. The horses drown as the inky blackness slides over their twitching hides and into their open mouths, cutting out the whites of rolling eyes. A stygian curtain drops between the self and everything else.

The hooting of an owl becomes a mournful lullaby in the background, akin to musical accompaniment to the sudden premonition to look just a little more to the left across the ember of the campfire…

Lie, ciocârlie, ce ţi-a venit ţie — sings the owl in a woman’s voice, a doina mutilated.

There kneels a black-haired man, chin tucked, shoulders about his ears.

He is bound in chains around his entire body. They bite into skin where exposed from torn clothing; raw welts show the wearing of many, many days. He is gagged with a length of cloth already rusted with old blood and browned with other stains.

— de cânţi pe câmpie singură pe lan, fără ciocârlan?

Firelight flashes from a long, thin ornamental dagger’s flat. Cruelly, it glints against the underside of the man’s jaw, forcing the Gypsy face up to her.

A new voice slides in with the hush of snake scales beneath it. There’s no catching a glimpse of the owner, shadowed in void-black behind his captive. Even the long, precise fingers holding the dagger are gloved in black…leather.

“You’ve run long enough, Scion.” Implacable calm steadies the voice with its Germanic lilts and mimics the unerring stillness of the sharp blade against the warmly-hued skin of the Gypsy. “It’s time you stopped avoiding your duties to our Lord and Master.”

Plugul n-a ştiut cuibul mi-a stârnit, puii mi-au murit. On sings the vesper bird-woman.

“Cohabiting with that…filth. Spawning with him. Your vile offspring will be dealt with soon enough. They are but distraction from your duties.” A tear slides down the man’s cheek, trickling over weathered lines that crinkled in laughter and now do so in sorrow. It hangs, a liquid diamond graced by fire, before falling to nothing.

Şi mi-am pus în gând ca să zbor în vânt, să dau de pământ — The plaintive song rings out, its intensity of volume ebbing and flowing.

“Come post-haste, Scion. His life means little more to me than a rabbit. I will twist his neck to hear him squeal and savor the sound. First, however, I will skin him.” The dagger’s keen kiss draws a beadlet of blood. “Alive.” The runnel slowly makes it way down the side of the Gypsy’s neck, outer trespass against rapidly-flitting pulse visible beneath skin. “Roma skin makes the best binding leather for necromantic tomes, you know,” the voice muses thoughtfully. “All the better if the donor begs for mercy. The slow loss of hope adds an oily texture to the leather. Such a sheen, finer than calf-skin.” A curl of thin epidermis appears, not too unlike the shaving of a cheese. It gives the captive cause to utter a choked whimper behind the filthy gag. Swallowing forces another ruby beadlet forth. “So very brave. Hardy. Polite. He’s been nothing but the perfect prisoner.” The thumb tests the opposite edge of the dagger’s blade with a subtle press, not unlike a chef ascertaining if a paring knife will cleanly separate outer skin from fruit. “Your brother will be next, of course. A simple blood-curse will prove your faith otherwise. Slippery paraziti won’t run beyond the reach of our Lord.” The word in Romani is caressed lovingly in its speaking.

Parasite. Trash. A creature to be put down for its lack of use.

Another tear slides forth and the apple of the man’s neck bobbles in a muted sob.

“Now, now, Django, hush…she is well enough, can’t you see? Despite her multitude sins against our Lord, she is alive. Hush now,” purrs the voice. The chains rattle beyond view, as if the one behind the shadow-curtain is testing the bonds. Another black-gloved hand shows, petting the sweaty, matted black hair back, as if soothing an animal. “You’ll see her soon enough. Or you will die. Either will benefit our Lord.” A sharp, rageful motion grasps the hair to its roots, pinning the head in place.

Dark eyes are reflected in the blade’s flat planes before being bisected by fluid lines of red. Red, red, as the roses, it blends to deepest combination, petal-soft by firelight’s spark. Another long curling of skin appears, deeper cut than before, and the man screams into the gag. The sound rises, circling about until it’s palpable, brushing crow’s feathers against skin and rasping along scalp with needled talons.

să mor mai curând!

The scene collapses in on itself. The nightmare breaks.

(http://mahala.utopiabalcanica.net/lie-ciocarlie/#more-67 - translation of ‘doina’/song)

It will be a fight to awaken, clawing through the fog of a mind trapped beneath the surface of true consciousness while the body still lies loose-limbed as if paralyzed or waking-dead. In the mire of it all, a blip, a muffled “!?” across the diamond-weave of the soul-bond. Emerging from such a thing means the realization that she is alone in the sprawl of the bed. The sheets still hold a ghost of warmth from where the Sorcerer slept not so long ago. Something different, however:

Placed upon his pillow, the small page of lined paper is stark against the black silk.

Dealing with a little problem, back soon. Don’t wait on me. - Trishul

The paper upon the black silk pillow may be stationary. The pillow itself is not. Nor the silken covers tucked neatly into the mattress each day and kicked free by an intrepid foot, nor the knife under the pillow or the bric-a-brac collected on the nightstand. All that floats inches above the nearest surface in chaotic bubbles of motion, falling in space and buoyed up again on an effervescent champagne pillar.

Minus the knife. Old habits die hard, especially when inflicted on a child sleeping in pine needles in a boggy Lithuanian forest. Or the teenager hidden behind fallen walls or a partially collapsed hut.

Instincts harbour lessons drilled until reflexive, tempered violently. The young woman swings the blade in a brutal slashing arc in front of her, jabbing up in a sharp trinity that might leave feathers suspended around her. She lashes out with a savage kick, more untempered fury than finesse. Bedpost or flesh limb matters not, any connection prompts her to strike again. She rolls aside and arises in a crouch, eyes dark and narrow in contemptuous wrath, easily three feet off the ground.

Nothing. No roiling column of darkness or bewinged creature greets her. No sight of blood or her brother’s lolling head pinned to a body savaged decorously.

Her pale bisque cheeks flame slightly and she slides forward, snatching up her coat and hauling it on. Leggings follow, fierce, sharp tugs forcing snagged material over feet and knees, all those places where accumulated fabric tends to catch and puddle. Speed trumps elegance or beauty.

She’s out the door at a cagey run, searching for those remnants of shadows rising to dream. The wards might not even bestir themselves to any undue presence, and some part of the Maximoff child knows this fact. But within the sanctum are dangers far worse than anything in the greater world at large under the right circumstances. The wards aren’t so much to keep others out as those unholy things in.

And they just woke up a hunter, literally, who slinks through the hallways, staying low and covered, searching for signs of the awry.

The wards themselves rise to her alarm, colored as they are by washes of their master’s stance on things. Slip-silver bright, they rise from the walls and heavy beams of the Sanctum’s structure and swirl to her, around her, linger behind her shoulders like a demi-sentient stole of minky static.

Consort. Search. What.

That the guardian spells need inquire as to her agitated state might impress the saying ‘it was all a dream’. However, every once and a great while, malevolence slips past the protections cast upon the Sanctum in the form of relics. Containment, indeed, involves careful ritual and rules followed closely to keep contagion from spreading.

Still…sometimes mistakes happen. Sometimes, the initial corralling of imbued objects fails to a power level incorrectly gauged. Wrapped in a gauze of innocence, the true nature slips forth given a perfect combination of factors.

Like a ray beneath the sand, something lurks. Silent, giving off minimal presence as to save its disposition and continue to slowly gain force again. Glacial increments of time mean nothing to it. It simply exists to simply absorb and simply transmit.

From one of the practice rooms emerges the Malk kitten, all ears and wide jade eyes. Something’s drawn her forth again from whatever faux sunbeam warmed her fur. Food? The curious ‘prrrp’ is sure to indicate an interest in the Witch stalking the halls. The Fae cat shows no sign of agitation beyond flickering attention between the scarlet coat and the stairs of the Loft. Another belling ‘mew’, deeper than a standard housecat, and she’s light-footing it up the stairway again, tail held high.

How well do the wards respond to direct inquiry? It’s a factor Wanda does not try often. She stands on edge, golden eyes narrowed and sharp, the pressure waves around her body fluctuating in microbars of potential. Bestirred from sleep rudely, she is the victim fighting against the black tide. The visions do not fade out to forgettable grey shadows, still painted in impermeable stone images carved on granite and baked under an Egyptian sky for a millennium.

Django’s horrified eyes. The curl of his flesh.

The doina song, captivating, miserable.

Horse flesh stinking with sweaty fear. A voice tolling in the dark.

She scrubs her palm against the side of her temple, forcing stones to bite in against her scalp through a thicket of generously heavy, curling dark hair the shade of good coffee or walnut dye. Banishing memory is hard. But with the wards attentive, she hisses, “Outsider.”

They must surely understand that. Her clarifications come in Tibetan, impression and will expounded. “«Infernal? Astral?»”

The one thing she hates to do, she does. How can she show but to expose herself? The knife is brought to the pad of her ring finger and pushed down, splitting skin on a sharpened dart. Ruby wells up, massaged. Her blood is what it is, permeated by much. Mutant. Mutate. Witch. Twin. Demon vessel. Her hypersaturated aura being shoved into a medium of blood is not difficult to do, but she has to concentrate, and concentration is not her friend right now.


Foreign. Present. Many. Relic?

It knows of the concept, yes, that which does not belong. One of those things not like the other. The Sanctum is a repository and beneath the muting enchanted glass and behind the solid doors of the basement, nothing truly needs must exist within this reality proper. Many an artifact comes from another dimension entirely.

Well that she pricked and spread the wine-red across her skin — bless the wards and their literal nature, blood will do best a thousand times over in this instance.

For all that Aralune may be an unerring bad luck seeking missile, the draw on the farthest tips of capillaries within her body is away from the Loft. Towards the library and its row upon rows of books. What devilry wrapped in innocence could hide there? Easily a book, perhaps. Wrap a grimoire in the lambskin of normalcy, set a trap to be sprung when the right person opens its pages?

The Witch will simply have to follow the siren call in sanguine welling in this direction.

Once within the expanse of the holy place of Mystical academics and priceless titles in the back shelving, it’s possible to not only feel the tug of sympathetic energies, but to entertain the whisper of the flat of a knife being slowly drawn up the tendons of one’s neck — to resist craning one’s head to see if the ghosts sounds of flapping wings means a furtive nocturnal bird loose in the shadowed heights. Parallels abound…

On the table last utilized for her studies lies the spread of objects. Paper to write upon, be it loose sheets, notebook, graph paper. Possibly a few stones, maybe an anchoring object.

And a pen. A fountain pen, glossy and black, golden in decorative coloration at the nib. Strange keeps many about, prone to his fancies about proper ink flow and the quality needed to inscribe his notations in his own studies.

A single droplet of ink hangs at its tip. The grey false-light of early dawn peering through one of the high windows free of drawn curtains catches in the stillness of the gathered liquid.

It seems to note her presence — exhale on some metaphysical level in…relief? Trepidation?

The upwelling falls to blot the paper beneath it. Dark as the nothing between the stars at first. It runnels suddenly down the paper, seeming to find crenulations invisible to the normal eye. A circle begins to be inscribed upon the page, a dozen lightning bolts raggedly expanding out.

Even as it suddenly begins to oxidize to incarnadine at triplicate speed, the fury of the silver wards appear like a wrathful ghost behind her. They are more than ready to back the Witch’s next action, whatever it may be!

Passing through the sanctum while bleeding does more than focus her direction on the simple finding spell. Her blood is the sympathetic lodestone, an arrow spun around the rosy blight on her fingertip to show her the true path.

It also leaves a few drops possibly stained on the ground as she carries the knife in one hand, wounded in the other. Stains to follow, if this all goes south.

Leave your brother a trail. He’ll follow you.
Right to the wicked witch’s hut?
Watch your mouth, girl.

Memories are never far from the surface. Her path skids and slides into the library on the same padding, wary gait as all along. Aralune is on her own, lovingly banished from this corner of the house. Priceless books about, and her bleeding.

A wonder there’s no ward to banish that, wipe it up and leave a plaster stuck to the tip of her finger. Wanda feels the oppressive tension mummifying her in saran wrap, preventing any internal influence from escaping out. Heat ticks up under the coat. Sweat runs down the long arch of her spine, pooling at some point beneath the coat.

There is no one she can trust here. Nothing she can count on, not even herself. The pen sticks out in vision, of course, and something she approaches with the incantation of an ethereal shield pulled from her misfiring brain. But more importantly, she scoops a mirror, cheap and tin backed, from her inner pocket. No woman is wisely without a mirror, least of all a mystic.

An underhand toss lands it on the table, threatening to roll right over the side back to her. When it strikes and lands, maybe the glass shows her an ephemeral hand. Perhaps the writing, something she can try to decipher without leaning over it. Otherwise, she’s standing on a chair to look, not approaching immediately.

She’s not stupid.

And she’s also expecting a noose.

The mirror, in one of its rotations, reveals a flicker-flash of sinuous shadow glowing impossibly about the edges in sickly blue-green. It wraps about the pen that drips even as the writing utensil lies diagonally atop the page. A slow, forced volume of liquid escapes it, invariably completing the insignia in its ruddy glory centrally on the piece of paper. The black smoothly transitions from traditional ink to the bright red hue and turns…organically tacky.

Oh yes, she’ll know the expanding lightning bolts in a wheeled formation very well. The view from atop the chair will be impeccable.

No noose. The only things curling about behind her are the thunderously metaphysically-growling wards, waiting for her command in lieu of their master, gone as he is.

The sigil upon the paper is wet with the freshness of its eerie ink, glinting oddly in the faint light of the early morning. It seems to glow internally, not too differently from the muted shine that travels through one’s hand when a flashlight impresses upon it. To look upon it with the Sight tickles a sense of the familiar — not from the horrifying stamp, but from the ink itself.

Mystical sympathy is a bitch at times.

Emotion is a luxury the Maximoffs cannot afford. Always a weakness, her adoptive father insisted. Exploitable. It makes you vulnerable. You cannot be vulnerable. Your vulnerabilities are our deaths.

Fair to tell a six-year-old that, isn’t it?

She needs only to see the transition from flowing black to rust, the iron load suspended in watery substance, for her anger to flip on the poles to ice-cold endurance.

Only a few books vibrate. An advantage, no cracked panes. Her glare nails the paper to the table and she hisses in low, foreboding sibilance, “Get out of my master’s house.“

The specific words are intended to sting that worse.

He whom is master over them all by virtue of the Vishanti is the lord over this warded atoll, claimant victorious to all that binds her. The underlying message is a physical fatality to obsequious hopes, all but saying, I am already claimed. You’re too late.

Let the wards take wing.

”Your master, girl, does not exist in that bastion of disgrace. Your Lord protests his attempt upon your soul.”

The clipped voice issues from the empty air about the fountain pen, each word seeming to force a minute surge of ink from the nib. The lines of the ruddy sigil begin to brighten and darker, in time with some unseen conductor. Like embers frantically blown upon, as if…

It matches no tempo to be found within the Sanctum.

She’ll recognize that language of the Rhine from not minutes back, when a knife flashed with firelight beyond ken of waking.

”Do not test my patience, Gypsy witch.”

Even as the silvery wards take their cue from their mistress, another communication sings through the obdurate emotional shielding of the Witch.

It’s a slivered knife to the kidneys, a parting shot fired even as the messenger fails to the fury of the guardian spells. Through the blizzard of shredded papers being eaten faster than a cesium fuse and the dismantling of pen into blistering, white-hot speckles that disappear smaller and smaller into utter nothingness:

Anguished disbelief with salty cavewater’s drowning crush upon the collapsing star beneath a heaving chest followed by the vacuum of silence.

Pain is an old companion, pain the dread trainer. In the hands of Agatha Harkness, a lash across the spine. In the personage of her twin, delivering stinging blows too fast for her to rouse adequate defense against. The needles under bruised and skinned knees. The gnawing hunger crossing the Afghani ghats, cold slipping under her nails better than any torture devised by an uninspired Nazi guard.

When is someone’s mettle not revealed but in pain?

Teeth clench. “I am for Gaea and Lady Oshtur,” she declares, singular names brittle and broken on her tightened lips in the rictus snarl. Tiger fangs bared in defiance when the cracks show and the claws come in, she will not curl up in tears and sour-bile fear, clutching her stomach.

But the old shadow races up her spine and jams the gears, a lever thrust into the grinding teeth unable to smoothly descend. She goes to her knees as the wards do their work, flipping through the pages of a sickened annal and tearing out the lies, bursting flames and explosive flares guttering all around her.

This is going to call for a lot of honey.

In that early morning wane light, the fury of the wards finally blows out. Afterspots may remain upon the sight for some time. The spells retreat from the desk, leaving behind a surface scoured of the single page and the fountain pen. Nothing remains of the invasive presence from beyond the Sanctum’s defenses. The wolf beneath the sheep’s wool has been harried back to the long shadows of the misty woods.

The wards slither about her in silver-sylph grace, reporting:

Outsider. Erasure. Permanent. Master?

The mansion itself seems so very still.

Where is the Master? “I do not know where he is,” she admits, not nearly ready to concede to a defeat.

On tenterhooks and agitated, the young woman orients upon the nearest hallway to the kitchen. Betimes the Sanctum reshapes itself and such a new layout may be unwelcome now with bleeding fingers and shining knife, embers of power present in the thrumming bloodstream and a dire need for more. For less.

Trishul.” A statement made in clarity, calling on their link on the off chance he responds to the inherent threat or cannot respond at all. Doors open to her touch, the passageways linking her eventually to the kitchen. It will be a jar of plain honey, liquid and raw in the warm summer air, that pulls her to the cabinet, a spoon procured from a drawer. Almost immediately, she twists the lid off and slumps to the countertop. Dip, lick. Dip, lick. Profane for any circumstance of hygiene, but utterly commendable here.

Where is he?

Where is he?

It bubbles through with the fluidity of cold tar. Who knows when it was projected originally?

It bursts with the tartness of bile.

Raksh —

Something heavily mutes the soul-bond. It’s like attempting to hear through the crackle of a terribly weak radio signal; there are spoken words, perhaps understandable, but they filter through with irregularity. The emotions are washed with the same brush of muffling.

— don’t —

A break in the signal for a few breathless seconds.

The astringent spectre of eucalyptus and ammoniac solvents.

A flash of ruddy gold edging against muted stone wall.

A spike of icy terror, pure and crisp as a free-fall from a cliff.

A firework of brutal contact —

A sudden deadening of it all.

Metal spoon strikes glass jar, dropped into a sink that they never quite meet. Ruffled vibrations prohibit the objects from kissing steel, though they wobble upside down and around again.

A whole house of enchanted objects at her disposal, and Wanda is armed with a plain athame and sticky lips after a morning snack. This will never do.

When you act in fear, you’re driving the blade into your brother, girl. I taught you better than that. Fear kills the intellect. What are these lessons, if not to teach you to harness your reason and overcome the weakness of what you are?

Hollow words from a man dead some many years.

Remember, remember… Her fists close and she takes a deep, cold breath cloying with the unfamiliar.


Transian words come aloud, the comfort of her own voice a distant thread. Recorded to the perpetuity of the wards. “Eucalyptus trees grow in Australia. High forest, wild flame.”

A wall. Imprisonment. Unconsciousness. Not enough to go on for direction short of a continent which her feet have touched but twice, neither in a friendly locale.

Eyes shut and she turns, orienting herself. Twin thoughts; the Book is not hers to touch or hold. Its authors see to their own until otherwise noted. Back in a purposeful stride from the kitchen to the loft, she takes the stairs two or three at a time. Seeking the washroom, she hunts for a comb or his razor, anything with bits of hair.

Like to like. The simplest of those spells is the finder, the compass globe honed in on whatever offering she provides. Sharp gestures with her right hand form a series of mudras, simple shaping accompanied by resonant words.

Lead me to Stephen Vincent Strange, the Sorcerer Supreme.

The globe might simply fade, it might explode into fanciful lilac profusion. With it, she has a starting point, imperfect. Next, the collection of weapons and a passing fancy for a certain brutal axe, a known sword, a host of relics that might be useful if only she had permission. But no permission is had; they are not hers. Not right.

Armed with those things rightly hers alone, she walks out to the nearest thing passing for a garden unless the globe stays solidly inside the house or insists on another route. One place might have better hope for her than others; the Witch Road.

And failing that… Agatha Harkness.

Within the confines of the Sanctum’s walls, the shimmering ball of lilac light gains volume until it becomes the size of her closed fist. It drips excess starlight in the floral hues of love-lies-bleeding as it keeps pace before her, never farther away than the reach of her arm from her body. It steadies, holding at a pulsating glow in time with her heartbeat. It insists upon the back door of the Sanctum.

The nearest garden happens to be what constitutes as a backyard for the mansion of Bleecker Street. Much larger on the inside than it seems from the high fencing (and curiosity-aversion warding spells about the wooden planks), it burgeons with spring life. The various plants, both common and rare, decorative and useful alike as tea blends and potion ingredients, bloom or are well on their way to doing so. The small trees, still growing, show their leaves in pale greens and variegated patterns. The grass is thick, spongy, sweet to smell and pleasing to the bare sole.

Once outside, things get potentially complicated.

The finder orb begins to vibrate, whatever acts as its compass arrow north wheeling about not on a horizontal plane. Three-hundred and sixty degrees of free movement is available to it and through it all it rotates at a quick speed. The line shivers and tears, multiplying itself over and over until it seems that the Mystical construct can barely hold itself together for what it’s attempting to convey.

Five solid cardinal directions are discernible amidst ghostly echoes of the original quintet. These faded arrows continue rotating about the three-dimensional field contained within the sphere’s radius.

Find the Sorcerer Supreme indeed.

Should she focus on one particular arrow of the five, the chance of another burst of sensory information may come of a complete sympathetic connection to what it tracks beyond sight and possibly reality proper.

A five point walk makes for no easy task. She frowns to herself and the simple task of turning to the Witch Road won’t be simple outside the dimension. Or rather, it’s folded within Oshtur’s footsteps through the realm shared by her sister Gaea, leaving the winnowing route too uncertain for her to step into. The finder isn’t superior for crossing dimensions. Not without serious aid, and truth told, it might be wiser not to put that much of herself into the magic yet.

Not when the keening in her veins bubbles away, a temptation she ignores for the moment. Wanda abandons that role to follow the path indicated by the orb, with one sufficiently different purpose. She goes airborne, pulling a simple telekinetic spell to buoy her over the ground and the streets laid out beneath her.

It guides the way; she follows at a fairly healthy clip.

|ROLL| Wanda +rolls 1d5 for: 3.

Up into the sky first and the seeking spell follows. Its five solid arrows never cease to point in their directions, following the Witch’s intent to the inflection of her words.

One comes to light, brightening towards silver, and off it shoots, a star slicing across the early morning sky in ultraviolet hues. It tracks towards the ocean, towards the rising of the sun. Neighborhoods pass by below as does Carnegie Hall and the Zoo on the fringes of the well-known greenery so centralized and appreciated in the middle of sprawling metal and glass. Very few are out and about on the paths before dawn and there’s a slight chill to be burnt away once the sun has properly risen.

Beneath the scrambled heights of an old oak, budding in a profusion of new leaves, the lavender orb dives and then stops. It pulses brightly and emits a profusion of silvery sparkles.

Ding-ding, you have arrived at your destination!

Tucked into the roots of the old tree is a small bundle, no bigger than a matchstick in length. A carefully-cut ribbon of dusky-blue cotton wraps about a thatch of raven-black hair. Blood has dried into the crisp ends of the bow. The fabric has drunk up enough to act as a solid signature. Flecks of iron are sprinkled overtop it, obscene glitter on a marker.

Touching any part of the mocking present brings forth a brief flood of delayed sensations across the soul-bond:

Vertigo — parting of skin without sedation — the sickening fight of low-burning fever — inky threads hunting through capillaries even as light-fire eats — Don’t! No, stop, you can’t — sweet musky rot of undeath — the squall of a newborn — taut thin pressure at wrists — silence.

A sudden rumble of frizzling laughter dances through, sickeningly familiar, activated once the inundation across the muddied connection sludges closed.

Within the darkness between the stars, in an abyss that the Sorcerer Supreme once looked into and leveled judgement…something stirs.

What is it like to find a piece of yourself elsewhere that you never remembered losing? A chunk of hair, a sliver of skin, the splash of blood and no corresponding memory offers explanation.

Wanda stoops to take that piece and hold it to her breast, closer to her heart. Anomalies remain, too many questions stacked up.

«Where are the Vishanti? Do they protect him?»

This is bait. It might as well come with a hook and a translucent bit of fishing wire. Her thumb strokes over the hair. She could run back to the sanctum and martial its resources, or await his return like some helpless medieval maiden in a pointy hat.

A wave for her hand and the slightest push of energy beckons the Witch Road. There is a tree, and through its roots she can step into that other realm, inheritance to those who follow her tradition.

Surreal shades appear around her, engulfing the greys of the city in spectral greens, cyan, shots of violet from the fresh lobelia in bloom. Here a breath comes easily, but not for long. Here, blood calls to blood, and she adds the wounded stain on her own finger by massaging the ill-knit cut open again.

“Where are you?” A fundamental question of any parent separated from child, any man cleaved from woman.

Where are you?

Using blood and his to set the path, she does the only thing one can in such situations: she walks the Road.

Within the interdimensional plane of the Witch Road, the power feminine reigns more than all else. The light, impactful gracings of the mother of the Vishanti exist in every aspect, even in the air itself. Fresh, clean, above all else, gentle as a spring morning and soft as eider-down — a pleasure to inhale.

Calling aloud knocks the shimmering droplets of dew from many a leaf and stem. The faint pitter-pattering rises and falls for it. Calling across that specific wavelength causes a sudden discord. The ground beneath feet may feel to wobble as if under the hooves of a day-old horse; the air to become thick and heavy with a choking amount of moisture that tastes of the underside of caverns; the ambient light to dim with the falling shadow of approaching aerial doom — but all in passing.

As the plane rights itself, it become more apparent that blood will out.

It always does in the Arts.

Hair makes for a fairly good means of finding, but the iron-rich liquid can tell very few lies. Immediately, the finder sphere oscillates violently as if suddenly overloaded with energy. A surge-wave flows from its center and outwards, erasing all but one hyper-glowing arrow in frosted-violet.

It moves at a decent pace, requiring her to walk quickly or perhaps jog, even rise from the dimension’s earth itself. Regardless, the first thing to notice after that snapping band of connection gains a predictable thrum — the rapid beat of a heart, laboring under stress, its rhythm counter to her own — is the sneaky glistening of rising water. It’s mostly clear, silty ever so slightly, and cool. It rises steadily counter to the expanse of the Path around it and as it does, the tease of reflections become visible. They slip in and out of view, as if dancing behind the curtains of each ripple or as if she lay beneath the water’s surface itself, looking towards the sky.

The undulating image of a castle shows, nestled in spring greenery of the northern hemisphere. It has a triangular layout with massive walls and towers at each angle-point. Small houses expand beyond what little forest acts to separate the behemoth structure from the town it sits within. It escapes behind a swathe of water, fed by distant glaciers for its temperature, and the image of candlestubs appears — they are all melted nearly into the floor of a stone room that bears the circular marks of a ritual circle drawn in fresh blood. The view blurs, tilts, as if seen through another set of eyes fighting against lethe. The tug at her wrists is a test of bonds not shown. Another foam-line erases this and the image of a heavy cowl completely hiding a personage in shadow appears. It glares out from beneath the surface of the water with perceptible weight and a slithery impatience.

“Fly, little skylark. Fly.”

A splash of water seems to slap up at her, its droplets perhap even reaching her face. The slowly-rising tide about her ankles is chilled; what lingers on her skin is as warm as tea…warm as blood.

Just what is that face going to do if she decides to sit down right here and take a nap from which she was so rudely awakened? If she were to camp? Hours and days spent here are out of sync with the real world, time operating peculiarly. The thought crosses her mind, none too strongly in case a tent just falls out of the sky.

What indeed. Not that she can do it, not on the hunt, but sometimes the ornery side of the young woman raises its contrary head and sticks out a forked tongue at the powers that be.

Cruel immorality strikes a particularly nasty note in the world. Wanda’s offense is reflected in her snarling lips and grinding teeth.

Let them pause, but a moment, and remember where the water licks around her boots. “Trishul.”

Stephen Vincent Strange, father of William and Thomas. Bound to Wanda Maximoff. For life, for love, for time.

Let the foundations of the world shake firmly they assault that. Don’t even let them dare. Her conviction rattles around in her skull, humming through her bones, and tests the dimension around her. “I love you. Wait for me.”

After all, the leather-handed grip is not going to come for him. He won’t beg for her. He will not dare. Not with the goddess and the gods on his side.

On her part, Wanda dashes after the finder orb to its logical conclusion: the doorway out.

With the forgiving grace of the Bright Lady, the Witch’s sentiments may sizzle along the diamond-weave of the soul-bond to reach the one she chose above all else.

For now, there is still an empty silence from the other side.

The quick dart of the Witch’s progress sets the shallow surface of mildly-silty water, that imperfect scrying surface, to splishing up about her. Each impact seems loud in the immediate air around her — crystalline almost, as if to place one’s weight down is to fracture a plating of wet ice. The lavender-hued finder orb zips along merrily, trailing stardust in its wake, until it makes a boomerang’s veer to the left, towards a thicker patch of greenery reflective of low-lying wilderness. To delve into its shadows is to be scratched with broken twigs, slapped by a moist fan of leaves, and…

…to emerge within the self-same gloaming of a heavily-overcast day on another continent entirely. It rained — or may still be so, it can’t be certain with the sharp spat of falling water from the canopy above, disturbed by a breeze. Grey clouds hold all the promise of more gloom to come above and one of the three towers is silhouetted against them. Before her, the high walls of the castle in question might beg for a memory, even in passing, perhaps in another bad dream entirely. The chest-high foliage provides an adequate visual shield from the stalwart eyes of two sentries posted outside at each side of an original-looking door in heavy wood. It even comes with an iron-ring means of pulling it open, though the additional moorings of steel above it imply a more modern locking system. The two men carry semi-automatic machine guns, perfect for strafing the woodline before them and drilling holes into any interlopers. The weaponry runs very counter to the black robes wrapped tightly about them, underneath which show the crisp lines of uniform slacks.

Soldiers? Occultists? …this has the decided foul taste of a wheeled sun, especially when the weak sunlight flashes from a metallic inscribing of said very symbol over the hearts of each man’s robes.

“«I hate the damp,»” complains one in German.

“«Shut your whore mouth, Edvard. It’s just rain,»” replies the other, tired of the complaining that has likely been going on for hours given the amount of saturation in earth and on them alike.

When the cool, wet clime greets her, there might be something striking a resonant note for Wanda. She spent so much of her childhood in similar conditions with dark, primeval forests and shell-pocked fields that never quite recovered from the roaming armies salting the earth in tears, blood, and lead slugs.

She ducks down into the ferns by slowly bending her legs, allowing their fronds to break over her head like the verdant sea swallowing up a sunken ship. Through their imperfect jade curtain, her surroundings can be perceived at leisure. Earth supplies a tether, the deep line of energy tapping into the soil and bedrock.

«I am sorry.» One cannot be sorry enough for the damage done by humanity on its mother, its foundation.

The Scarlet Witch combs her fingers along the ground, water pattering on the plant life around her. She watches for several uninterrupted minutes, assuming she hasn’t triggered anything, deciphering the rhythm and routine of the robed men’s watch.

This is not the first time she has cleared such a location through painstaking observation, ignoring the gnawing in her belly and certain fear of discovery for hours. Days. The Beloved knows she comes, even in his potentially unconscious state.

Some part of her crumbles to the darker shadows. Walk in willingly? Those wearing the sonnenrad would be out of their minds to turn the barrel of the gun on her. But that means walking in under their watch, and that limits options.

She rubs the damp soil and water between her fingers. Better to get a lay of the land, first, rather than storm in. Sight blinds her eyes for a moment, and then she sneaks away to trace the perimeter. It’s neither fast nor perfect, but stealth is a friend to a girl in the dark.

Even as she walks, she may wish to ignore the feeling of unseen attention on her person. No alarms are triggered; the occultists here are certain within and without their bastion, down to the two guards who allow her to slip away from their immediate intervention, no wiser for her presence.

It’s a phantasmal sensation, this feeling of observation. Dry like the rasp of discarded snakeskin, slick as the drag of a clammy sweat droplet down one’s spine, light as the brush of cobwebs in one’s hair. On high, it waits. She would be forgiven to checking the walls of the castle for a giant craven raptor of sorts, sure to be eyeing her with empty sockets and emaciated, shoulder-crooked frame.

Nothing — nothing visible to the mundane sight, anyhow. The earth beneath responds willingly enough. Sister, it seems to emote to her. A sheen of oily darkness pervades it, runoff from whatever has occurred or is occurring within the castle’s property itself. The ley lines beneath it aren’t tainted yet, but it’s a matter of push-against-shove. This is pure Mystical energy, after all. It know no morals, has no qualms. It is there to be utilized by those knowledgeable enough to do so.

Sneaking out of view of the parapets and crenulated walls, she will be able to make a complete circumvention of the location within time, if choosing to do so. The rain continues to fall intermittently, covering any sounds with the staccato impacts of chilly droplets. The castle has one large tower to its two smaller towers, each marking a corner of its triangular layout. A single door exists at each tower, guarded in turn by two more armed occultists in their robes and uniform. All look more than ready to shoot on sight. These are the most obvious entrances, but others exist beyond the mundane.

Still, at each door comes the lurking betrayal of an inclination to slip into the conscious thought-stream:
Walk out. Identify yourself. Kill them. Reap the weak. They will bow to you, name you Queen — Arch-Witch — Scion of your Lord.

Silence still from the other end of the diamond-weave bond.

Little does that voice know how much it pisses her off to be called arch-witch. She is not. Maybe high priestess of a coven. Perhaps arch mage if she claimed such skill, as she doesn’t. And Sorcerer Supreme is not a mantle she owns, nor does she wish to.

Its future recipient walks around New York, and he should be in perfectly fine health. It’s not time for the current one to surrender and — if he does — she will have Words that begin with “By the flames” or simply one cataclysmic eruption that resets all by saying He is alive.

Wanda’s shoulders tighten and her already steadily dark mood flattens into a rejection of the whispers at the door. She reaches down to touch the poisoned earth again with her own energies, pushing them through the quagmire of moody Uranian notes to bestow a greeting, an affirmation, promise of stability and growth.

Affinity, in case the leyline cares to lift back up and meet her, bolstering her aura with a charged particle. Mana is sought, quietly, to reinforce her own skill but not so greedily it awakens another caster.

Her gaze slowly opens to the flowering of the Sight. Simple logic: can’t go through them, then go over them. Or under. Are those walls and towers warded? Best know.

|ROLL| Wanda +rolls 1d100 for: 5.

Gossamer tendrils of ley line respond to her call, magnetized to her fingertips in threads that drip dollop by dollop of power into her aura and general wellspring of energy.

Looking upon the castle’s walls and towers indeed shows a ward, a delicately-strung spiderwebbing of crisscrossing lines set to clamor the very second they’re tripped. Certain species of eight-legged arachnids weave similar traps between tree limbs in the rainforest to capture avian prey.

To her benefit, there is a sympathetic resonance to them that may give her an advantage should she attempt to slip between glimmering strands limned in sickly black fire touched with blue-green. They call to the deepest well of her soul sweetly.

To her disadvantage, it’s not the casters she awakens. It’s one of the clever weavings within the wards themselves, a little dusty to respond, but — the reaction to the brush of the Sight and her presence in particular. The guards at all doors jump in place, hearing an unspoken command, and the ratio of fearful to fearfully-confident is about 60/40.

The commands fly in German:
“«She’s here! Find her!»”
“«Hans, the woodline, go!»”
“«The Oberfuhrer does not want her harmed, do not kill her!»”
“«But what if she hexes us?!»”
“«That isn’t my problem, Edvard, just do your damn job.»”

Flashlights click on to penetrate the general gloom of the area and begin to sweep outwards in slow, careful arcs. The guns are readily-aimed, ready to fire, and one must wonder what type of ammunition they house if they can shoot but not kill.

What if she hexes them? It’s going to be an ugly show at that, if she bothers. But Wanda knows the lessons of Agatha Harkness very, very well.

“Bless yourself and right your balance.” It was a lesson well-earned, to be sure, after all the cuts and bruises. She has given Pietro grace and others benefits, but the pearl brightness of a gift from karma waits.

Not when lights go on and the darkness is strobed. Fantastic: the battlefield made out of the forest is hers to reckon with, and death is a hideous truth here, too powerful a temptation to rouse that hanging monster on his parapet.

She drops down to one knee and, Witch that she is, sings to the earth in low, soft tones.

“Rise from your wracked slumber,
Breathless sister cast aside,
Raise jade arms without number
Round the bloodstained inside.”

Her beckons calls to the tendrils of grass and the vines held dormant in the soil, branches and seeds sprouting into abandon. Thickets and hedgerows, untamed trees are welcome to awaken. Let those awaken to the summer queen as she pushes her will outwards in communion with the earth scorned by the black stain.

It won’t kill them, no, but good luck shooting grass. Mowing down a tree takes a heck of a lot more than bullets. And, worse, they’ll potentially just be mummified or unconscious inside their sylvan wrappings, and not dead at all, but not helpful, either.

|ROLL| Wanda +rolls 1d7 for: 6.

The spread of her call into the depths of the earth is wide, encompassing the immediate perimeter of the castle itself. The foundations of the architecture may repel her call entirely being so deeply inundated with a blackness of Dark Arts, but around it, the floral life springs in accelerated growth.

“«HOLY SHIT!!!»”
“«Don’t shoot, don’t — »”

The spray of gunfire is abrupt, white-fire bright, and whatever ammunition they use disappears into the willful rise of greenery around them. Bullrushes weave up and about boots and shins. Tree limbs droop and swat and ensnare. One enterprising soul makes a muted cry when a volley into a nearby sapling’s trunk ends in a sharp twap against his skull to knock him to his back. The wicked briars of the blackberry bushes cause agony for their canes lashing about, strafing as much as the guns can with each sweep to sides and arms. They leave behind embedded thorns and yelps.

“«Run, run!!!>”
“«Edvard, you fucking chicken, get back — »”

Whomever chastises the fleeing figure disappearing in a dead run away from the castle is silenced by some hyper-growth with glossy leaves that quickly nets about him, crunching his gun against his throat in the process. Awkward, yes, but not deadly.

When all is said and done, in those few critical minutes, the remaining six officers are all in various stages of disarray. A few are desperately entangled beyond identification save for a nose here, an ear there, a hand twitching and clawing at ungiving vines or branches. Some handful of others are knocked flat, one dragged into a pile of leaf litter deeper into the woods, and one hanging upside down, cursing up a blue streak as he tries to cut at the whippy twigs that bind his legs haphazardly with a bowie knife. He earns a brief respite in the hangtime of his drop to the forest floor, but a nice root upon impact head-first does the job of ending his flailing.

If she wants to risk opening a door, no one guards them now…at least, from the outside.

That finder spell, the orb of many arrows, reappears in a translucent manner, nearly a ghost of itself. It aligns towards the castle proper, towards the tallest of the towers, and flashes three times.

Something, a blob of consciousness, oozes across the soul-bond and then explodes upon the psyche with the searing pain of saltwater upon open chest wounds to rip one to wakening — vision going to sparkles for the overload of receptors — unspoken, projected like an icy knife, What did you do?! — muffled speech, nearly lost to the frantic heartbeat: “I did tell you that I could not have you wriggling about. The ceremony went as planned, the first half of the invocation is complete. Your…possessed handkerchief…has been contained. We will see if you retain…” It begins to break up more still: “…within our tend…care.” — another solid blow shattering the world — silence.

The force of that blob puncturing her inner defenses doubles Wanda over, an arm wrapped protectively around her midsection as though she anticipates another knife stabbing in. Gods, it hurts.

Her eyes sting and the salted kiss dampening them blurs the world, even as she struggles to ascend above the pain like a bubble. Rather than fight it, she rides the distinct throbbing in her temples and the staccato piercing of her vitals until some clarity seeps through the gaping wound in the psyche.

She can hear her adoptive father’s voice deep in memory, the conscience cast in drippings of slagged iron: This is why you never give way to sentiment, stupid girl. You want to live, you always be prepared to leave behind everything.

She pushes her hair off her face with a shaking hand. If she could see herself, she would possibly be alarmed by the pinpoint black holes in her amaranthine eyes. Troubled by the stark red motes swirling around on a bed of plum.

Trishul, I come. Call your gods and we rise together.

Some part of her psyche screams and some part knows the secret. It never really mattered in the first place, the link, given something else has always been there in its place.

It takes little more than a touch to put one of those hated robes over her clothing. The gun can be forgotten; she knows how to use it, but pointless, really. Wanda stalks to observe the net, seeking the spot of weakness. And that, with the Sight, she is very good at seeing. Fate bleeds over her eyes and shines dully, pointing out where the gap is big enough for her to slide through without triggering the ward.

The Scarlet Witch is going home and for the one time in her life, she’s out to be a homewrecker.

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