1964-09-11 - Purana Achamana Required Before Continuing
Summary: Lamont shows up for lessons and Strange must reconcile the Shadow's recent actions against the balance of Fate.
Related: Sparring logs, Evildoers
Theme Song: None
lamont strange 

He's due for another lesson, is Lamont. But this time, when he comes, even before he's changed into his usual workout gear…..the rusty streaks of old violence have added to them new scarlet slashes of newer battles, roiling with something almost like smoke. He doesn't seem concerned about it, if he's conscious of it at all. He's his usual cool, impassive self.

After having learned a lesson of his own in the last controlled kerfuffle they had in the Sanctum's sparring room, Strange finds himself particularly interested in seeing just how much progress of his own he made. Multiple days and nights had passed with him either in the library or hovering in the Lotus position before the Window Upon the Worlds, meditating upon his mental barriers that had enough holes to warrant trespass. Research and personal inclination has lead to a particularly interesting defense set up, should the Shadow ever attempt to test it again.

Down the stairs the Sorcerer travels, wearing a veritable cloak of peace about himself. His own aura is smoother than glass, absolutely unbroken by concern as it undulates about him in celestial hues. Heavier swirls of ultraviolet wend through it, as always. He finds Lamont below in the middle of the Foyer and as his eyes land upon the man, there comes the riffling of realization.

Strange has seen this before, in another person entirely, and it brings him to a halt halfway down the staircase beneath the stained glass window.

"Cranston." Is that…concern in his voice? Crow's feet appear about the corners of his eyes, now lit with the Sight. "To the sparring room." It seems the mentor expects no argument for how he turns on his heel and begins making his way back up the stairs.

No argument there. Not from Lamont. He inclines his head, almost a bow, and follows smoothly back up the stairs. Already removing his tie - he's got his sparring pants rolled up in a hand, very casually indeed. "Of course," he agrees. If he's marked that concern, it doesn't show. DEspite those fiery marks, the rest of his aura is calm, collected.

It's a silent walk to the sparring room upstairs and Strange himself is wrangling down an acidic swirl of disappointment in his gut. It's not the first time he's seen such blatant marks upon an aura, nor will it be the last with how Fate toys in his life, but…he had hoped. He had — and it's a blow, in a way, to see the bright lines in blood-red.

Into the room and he shuts the door behind them both with a rather sharp snap. Locking gazes, he walks by Lamont and then around. No folded arms, not like he would have with his last true apprentice, simply hands behind his back. In his storm-blues, he sets his jaw and his cheekbones become all the more pronounced for the subtle expression of distaste. Another few hanging moments of silence and then he speaks.

"You have killed. Why?"

It's out of respect for Strange's evident concern….even distress, subtle as it is…that has Lamont silent for a little bit. Clearly searching for words, as his gaze darts about the room for a moment. "They were selling children," he says, finally, looking up again. Which is apparently enough to render him judge, jury, and executioner. The Shadow is what the Shadow has been…..the records go back to the roaring Twenties, that scourge of the darker streets and darker hearts of New York.

He was ready for something far less inflammatory, to be honest — maybe a pickpocketing gone wrong or maybe an attempt on Lamont's life itself. However, children? Strange frowns and then sighs, closing off his eyes. He looks pained as he then squints off into one corner of the room. How not to be so? Innocent suffering grinds upon his soul like fractured obsidian. But death…

"I can't understand and yet I do. I do not excuse it, even though it's not my sin to pardon. Was there no other way?" The Sorcerer meets the Shadow's eyes again, those crow's feet a bit deeper still.

Again, he considers that, solemnly. No snappy or flippant answers. No matter how much blood on he may already have on his hands, every death is another weight on the karmic scale. Lamont's lips purse, then thin out again….and his gaze is utterly level, as he meets Strange's. That smoky darkness is there, too. "No," he says, finally. "We didn't kill them all," he adds. "One was only desperate to finance his wife's medical care. You do know I can see culpability….see karma's judgement on a given soul?" It's a tentative question - they've never really discussed what it means that he's the Living Shadow, as Strange is the Sorcerer Supreme.

Strange narrows his eyes ever so slightly.

"I was made very recently aware of your abilities in mental manipulation, but Karmic Sight? No. I haven't been given need to suspect it." Oh seven hells, he's curious as to what Lamont can see of him, but then again, the gods level their own judgent in matters regularly. To keep the mantle is to keep a balance. "Did you find the ones who died lacking?" His voice gets tighter.

He's got that faintly off-balance air now, a student who's aware his teacher is not pleased with his answers in the least. "Yes," he says, softly. The gray eyes are open, guileless….and there is no trace of guilt in either face or body.

"I see." The dreaded two word answer, always terse and clipped.

And Strange does, oh yes. The mentor in him squirms; where did he go wrong? There was never any emphasis on killing in the lessons, merely self-defense — and the tale thus far involves none of this. He banks a little faith in Lamont when he asks quietly,

"Were you defending yourself?"

"Well, yes," Lamont admits, still docile. Admittedly, he did wade in laughing like a maniac and brandishing twin pistols - it's hardly 'we come in peace'. "And others - Kai the Avenger was there."

That gains the Shadow a shift in the disappointed expression. His dark brows flick high.

"Kai? Hjuki?" Strange tries another name, just to be absolutely certain.

"Yes," he says, wthout hesitation. "Another woman was present….a killer in her own right. I don't know her name. She wanted to kill all of them."

The gravity of such a terribly final viewpoint is enough to drag Strange right back into Disapproving Mentor mode once again.

"She lacks imagination and I probably couldn't separate her Astral form since she lacks a soul as well." He gets to pacing now, a short distance back and forth across the room, with hands still behind his back. The scarred fingers can be seen to clench and unclench at random times. "I presume Kai killed no one." Don't tell him if the Elf did — he can only take so much letdown in a day and prevent the wards from reacting.

"No, he did not. Kai's a killer, not a healer," Lamont affirms, still quietly. He's poised and quiet, no tension in him, other than that almost doggish attending to Strange's mood. Senpai is annoyed, that's clear, and that's nowhere Lamont wants to be, but…

"Yes, he's not a killer." Confirming aloud himself seems to relieve the Sorcerer on some level and his pacing slowly by a marked amount. Still, he levels a searching look upon Lamont again as he stops and turns to face him entirely, almost like a general before a soldier. "You spoke of karma earlier. This doesn't add points to the positive scale, Cranston."

He spreads his hands, callused palms up and out. ALmost a gesture of supplication. "Look at me, Stephen," he says, softly…and it's very much a plea. "Look at my fate. Look closely. Maybe that will explain it better than I can."

Strange seems to check himself, in a way, for the way he becomes very still. His lips thin and there's a wary note in his tone even as he asks,

"Are you giving me permission to utilize my Sight as such, Lamont?" A forename for a forename then, to weld that familiarity in place.

Lamont inclines his head again, in assent. "I am," he says, gently. It's the kind of intimacy that warrants it, in a strange way. More of a revelation than any kind of baring of physical skin.

"So mote it be," murmurs the Sorcerer, tucking his chin and seeming to go into a meditative trance for a second. The downsweep of his lashes can be seen for closed lids and the air around the room seems to quiver, as if lightly electrified. A deep breath, down to the depths of his being, and when he opens his eyes again, they are unerringly aimed upon Lamont's being.

A knife's edge. That's what he Sees, in those crystalline moments caught beneath the gaze of the Vishanti's Conduit: a fragile balance between karmic good and evil. A thousand shards of Fate's frames wink at him, nearly all smeared with ash and a good number glossed with the syrupy ichor of spent lives. Threaded through, that darkness Strange has come to know and even spar against, the type that ate at his own brilliant life-force. Behind all, a weak light, like the dove-glow of impending dawn, and there appears a contour of the Shadow on the metaphysical floor of the vision. It encroaches upon Strange's toes, but no farther.

A blink and everything looks normal, back to his pseudo-apprentice standing there holding his sparring pants in the practice room.

"There is hope, I think, for you, Lamont." The piercing light in his amaranthine eyes fades to a tolerable level, though the weight of his attention doesn't lessen.

There's no flippant answer for that. Whatever his hardboiled sardonicism, it does not extend to that particular subject. The burden Fate, in the form of the council of Tulkus, laid on him is still balanced. "Good," he says, solemnly, looking up at Strange again, after a glance down at the floor. The earnestness there makes him look oddly young.

The aloof formality that seems part and parcel to the title of Sorcerer Supreme seems to abate noticeably for the fact that Lamont takes his proclaimation most seriously. Good indeed — it seems someone put the fear of Fate into the Shadow long before he came into Strange's field of interest.

"Good indeed," the Doctor echoes quietly, a faint smile showing at one corner of his lips. It melts away far too quickly even as he sighs again. "I recommend a cleansing ritual. You're probably aware of how to do one. Otherwise, Aralune may not let you out of here alive next time." There's not a lick of funning in that statement. "I locked her away when the wards announced your arrival. She'll detest me for a day for it, I believe."

Lamont dares rub that point between his brows. Apparently you can get eyestrain in your third eye. "I will make that a habit, before I come, in future," he agrees, as he lets his hand fall to his side again. "Though I'd be interested in any variations you might suggest." Things he can study on his own - especially considering he sleeps with his face nuzzled into the shoulder of the Fount of All Knowledge on most evenings.

"If you can muster the inner strength to attempt the Purana Achamana, that would be most effective. You may need to hunt for an acceptable source of purified or holy water first, but it will touch upon all of your chakras and cleanse them. If not cleanse, then realign them, at the very least," Strange explains. "I have nothing else to offer at the moment. Your Fate is your own."

There's a rueful amusement in the small smile after he lays the statement at Lamont's feet, maybe even a brushing of pity.

"I will attempt it," Strength and willpower aren't in any short supply, thankfully. "Will Catholic holy water suffice, do you think?" he wonders.It's been years since he darkened the door of any Christian edifice, but Lindon's still practicing…..and he's nominally Catholic himself.

The lean shoulders of the Sorcerer rise and fall in a mild shrug.

"I don't see why not. It should be cleansed through ritual words and truly fall under the definition of the concept. No exceptions. You don't do surgery with a dirty blade." There's a stronger quirk of a smile in passing.

That makes him smile, in return. And it's amused. There's the prospect of actually attending Mass with Lindon, and seeing if he can make the Archive blush through the entire service without actually doing anything. Finding new ways to scandalize the poor scholar - it's a hobby. "Of course," he agrees, sounding more cheerful.

The smile fades again.

"Lamont." Trust the man to puncture the growing happy bubble in the room with the utter gravity he instills in the name. "I can't have you attending lessons with your aura as such, not in the name of my mantle. Return at another time, once you've cleansed it. You are dismissed for now, but not permanently, mind this." Strange is certain to subtly stress that he expects to see the Shadow again — and soon. "I intend to touch upon the arts of mental manipulation again. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised." The Sorcerer looks terribly pleased with himself, that coy smirk granting him a challenging silver-fox charm.

No worse than he expected. Lamont bows deeply at that. "I'm sure I shall, sir," he agrees, tone mild as milk. He's still got his tie in his hand, and he stuffs it in his pocket, rather hastily. But there's no offense and no real chagrin in his face. Just that agreement

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