1964-10-29 - Snallygaster Disaster
Summary: Summoned by the local spirits of Storm King Mountain, the Mystics take on an ancient creature released by chance and risk bloody defeat at its jaws.
Related: None
Theme Song: None
wanda lamont strange 

On a Mystical whim (one of those fancies where the insistence lies in both the gut and the finger tap-tapping on one's shoulder), the Sorcerer Supreme stands in the middle of…silence. It's a calm, cool silence, one that hangs with a weight less than the Cloak on his shoulders — one that brings the low-lying culverts to fill with faint silvery fog over the trickling waters of streams that dance over bunches of bright leaves. The maples and oaks are shedding their treasury for the winter months and every exhale mists before his lips. Storm King State Park is in a timeless state of stillness, broken only by the faint mocking calls of blue jays and the rattle of wind in the trees. The sun is low, threatening to set in a few hours. It's a risk to be out here past its dipping beneath the horizon; dew will collect fast on the unwary and chattering teeth will be a lesser of the worries.

"Keep an eye out," he murmurs, glancing to his fauxpprentice, the Shadow himself. Strange is a bit of an eyesore here, really through complimentary colors than anything else. The storm-blues seem particularly vivid against the aureous backdrop of leaf-fall. "We're about to tread on sacred ground. Something stirs within it and I'm uncertain yet as to its intentions."

The Shadow….well, full drag is reserved for hunting in the streets of New York. So Lamont's dressed like a wealthy outdoorsman, which is precisely what he is - a dark green shootng sweater, dark tan canvas pants, heavy boots, and a green wool coat over all of it. The ring is on a heavy steel chain beneath his undershirt - this'd be a hell of a place to lose it. He's still as well, but his has that quality of blending in that's become second nature to him. Easy for Strange to lose sight of, for the eye to just slide right past him.

He has no armaments beyond a hunting knife at his belt. Lamont's head is lifted, as if he'd scent the air like a hound. Listening for any minds within easy reach, sentient or no.

Not much for the Shadow to hear within the range of his powers — perhaps a vole skittering away beneath the leaf-litter or a dozy screech owl tucked away in a small nook in a nearby oak. No humans for miles, a rarity and simultaneous balm and low-key irritation. It's not something that Strange is used to anymore, having spent nearly a decade in the city, even if Greenwich Village is quiet in comparison to many of the boroughs.

"Stay close," he murmurs. The need to speak any louder is naught here. Inhaling, he readies himself. By stepping across the little creek, nothing more than the wear of snowmelt from the high mountains, they're crossing into that aforementioned territory.

The very second that his boot hits the other side…nothing. The disbelief shows in the gathering of his dark brows and it's the second step, the totality of placing oneself upon the earth there — this triggers it. If Lamont's lucky, he's paused and gets to see the effects of such decision.

There's a brisk wind that whips up the leaves into a whirl of gold and quartz-like flecks of magic that surrounds the Sorcerer Supreme. He has time to throw up his hands, but that's for naught — quick-draw doesn't win out this time.

When the small cyclone falls, he's…definitely a bit shorter than before. And furrier. A rattling chirrup from him at first and he scrubs at his pointed face with a tiny, clawed paw. "It just figures. Gods below, it just figures." Such a deep voice to be coming from a mink, darkly-furred save for that ivory chin and whiskers. The silvery temples are seen at his button-round ears.

If the Shadow doesn't pause, well…he's inflicted with the same cyclone with rather different results.

Lucky, perhaps, for both of them that Lamont is too busy attending to the blessed quiet of a lack of nearby human minds. A tension that's almost always present in him relaxes….only to vanish at Strange's transformation. He focusses on the Sorcerer with wide gray eyes. "Doctor," he says, formally - not aghast, but definitely taken aback. "Goodness. Can you leap back, or….do you need my help?" Resisting any temptation to take advantage of that furry adorableness.

"No, I don't need help." Such grumpiness from the small creature. Wanda would pick him up and nuzzle between his ears out of loving spite for that attitude. Wiggling his nose, he rises up on his hind legs and looks about, button-bright eyes in a rather eerie silvery-lavender marking him as supernatural rather than natural alone.

"I can get back, but I see no reason to do so. If I change back, it's of no use to our task at hand. It lies this way," and Strange looks into the distant foggy depths of the gentle slope downhill, studded with the pale tree trunks. "Whatever is calling to me. You risk the same effect crossing over. Running water keeps the…charm? — at bay. Your choice, Cranston. Who knows, you may stay in your human form if…or when you step across."

Wanda is not the only one utterly tempted. Soft and pettable and pocket-sized Sorcerer. But Lamont restrains the impulse, and considers. Strange has just poked him right in the curiosity, when can he ever resist that?

A beat, an indrawn breath, and he mutters, "Strike the bell and bide the danger," before stepping across.

The magic hits him, dark and light mingling, a whorl of smoke and glittering magic. It takes a little longer, but the bright wins out. By the time it whisks away on the autumn wind, there's a much larger figure there. A white-tale stag with the multipointed crown of a deer who's survived several summers. He looks down at his dainty hooves, back along his pelt to his tail, and then shakes his head at the weight of antlers, before letting out a groaning creak of dismay. Someone has momentarily forgotten how to speak Human.

A few high, arcing leaps puts safety between himself and the charm-swirled Shadow. The leaves fall and Strange hops back over — and laughs. So sorry, but he's amused, even if he himself lets out a rather snarly scoff afterwards.

"I believe the charm played off your noble streak, Cranston. Your ability to speak English is there, I assure you — think beyond your current physiology. Your willpower can bypass the effects upon your form." He wends across the carpet of leaves with surprising speed, right up to the stag, and then lifts up to sits on his haunches again, little paws tucked as if attempting that oh-so-human arm-fold. "If I may implore that you drop your head, we would cover more ground with myself at your antlers, I believe. I'll risk the fall to hold onto them." He looks again over his shoulder and huffs, the pufflet of mist appearing before his whiskers. "We need to make haste."

He stares at Strange blankly for a moment….just long enough to call his sapience into doubt. Then, obediently, he dips his head to the ground, lets Strange the weasel clamber aboard. "All right," he says, finally, pinning his ears back. This'll be a sight to see. "Direct me." His voice sounds bizarre, coming out of that furred throat. It makes him sound like he's just regaining his voice after a bad cold.

Strange is careful not to accidentally drag small claws across sensitive skin on the stag's brows and ears. He aligns himself along Lamont's spine, with paws wrapped tightly about the left base of the branching antler, and the weight of him is slight and soothingly warm.

"Down the hill and mind your feet placement. The leaves are wet after the last rain and a tumble would hurt us both," says the mink, a velvety rasp to be found in his voice as well. "Once we reach the bottom, head due…north-east. I'll know more once we're getting close. It's…" He closes off those faintly-glowing eyes to limit his senses — they're madly accurate in mustelidae inclination and he really doesn't need to know who recently passed by on the loam, even if his teeth chatter faintly at the fading wisp of cottontail — and they open again to twinkle brightly. "It's an intrusion, of similar ilk to the magic it attempts to bypass. We are not of the magic, ergo our current states."

There's a honking grunt of acknowledgement, and then he's heading as Strange directs. First at a dignified pace down the hill, and then with more confidence. HE doesn't bound as the form urges him to - that's an excellent way to shake the musteline mentor right into the local shrubbery.

For as graceful as Lamont is in his current skin, there's still a bit of a jounce. Little puffs of breath follow in the air behind their passing as each step pushes air from the tiny lungs. There might even be quiet 'oofs' in time with the pacing.

"You can go faster, Cranston, I'm not fragile," grumps Strange from on high, tightening his hug on the antler's base. "It's still clamoring in my head and — " Even as the slope begins to level out, there's a distant chime that rings to both practitioners, like a rock knocking off a crystalline vase. To the north-east, gathering itself, is a wispy light, its hues trending tentatively towards yellow. It bobbles in place before darting off further into the trees. "Follow it, Cranston!" And a paw points a tiny clawed digit after the will-o-wisp.

He sure can. Strange's stomach is going to regret that order, because Lamont takes off like his tail was on fire and his ears are catching. He pins his ears back and hurls himself after it like it said something ugly about Lindon.

Up and over another hill, and he takes a leap over a ravine without missing a hoofbeat. Through the rustle of the golde leaves of aspen, splashing through water and startling ducks into quacking flight, until finally they come to a flatter, rockier little clearing in the mountains proper. He's only blowing a little when they reach it, and he walks himeslf in circles to keep from stiffening up too much, under the assumption that deer are like horses.

Like a furry pennant, that mink gamely holds on and clenches his tiny teeth shut. The stag has surprising clarity of knowledge as to where to place his hooves and maple leaves curls up in the wake of his passing. The will-o-wisp seems to retain a set lead on them both, never far enough to be out of sight, always near enough to entice further chase. Strange will not yell, he will not yell, he will not — ravine!!!

"CRANSTON!" That's the yelp as they're airborne, crossing yards in a single leap capable only by nature's most powerful legs. The landing is skilled, but still jolting. At one point, he's hanging from the base of the antler only by his claws dug into the strong growth and says something decidedly undignified before a swing brought on by motion allows him to clamber back up to the back of Lamont's skull. Splish-splash, there go the ducks, and some water slaps him along the back, cold and yet repelled by the thickness of his coat. Up and up and up, the tree trunks blurring by and hearing the whuft of each larger breath taken by the Shadow and then, the movement slow dramatically. Even as he's quivering slightly with retained adrenaline, Strange is looking for that bright glow and there — in the center of a clearing on a natural shelf of rock. A few stones that have just enough alignment to offer consideration of purposeful placement linger, but one…one is shifted ajar.

A low growl — very low, to rumble in bones, is suddenly heard from the shadows of a nearby outcrop and two red eyes appear from within its niche. It's too dark to see what is regarding them, but…it doesn't mean well.

"Cranston, don't lose sight of it. I need to draw it out, put me down. Keep your distance, it means to kill us," Strange murmurs in warning.

He ducks his head hastily to let Strange disembark….but his blood is up. Nevermind that he's dressed in a prey suit right now. The stagprentice shakes his antlers at whatever's in those shadows, and bellows a challenge, as if it were another buck foolish enough to come looking into his territory. He even paws the earth.

Slipping down like velvet ink, Strange is quick to approach the broken circle of rocks. All the while, he keeps half his attention on those red eyes that glitter dementedly out at them. Something shifts on the rocky terrain, sounding a bit like dragging multiple knife-tips across basalt.

"It broke loose somehow," he calls to Lamont, placing two small paws on the offending rock. A shove won't do it, not at this size, and they need the creature back inside the circle first anyways. The will-o-wisp chimes twice and the Sorcerer engages in some silent conversation, bright amaranthine eyes locked upon it.

In the heavy shadows, the creature shifts attention to the stag. Oh yes, prey-suit. It recognizes juicy flesh in this shape — it spent centuries hunting them at leisure. A long neck snakes out, the appearance an admixture of black swan and rattlesnake, and wings with archaic feathering not too unlike the ancient near-birds of fossilized lore extend across the stone. It crawls like a bat, with that same scraping sound emitted from the impact of three talons at the arch-joint. At the hinge of its mouth, not whiskers, but thin tentacles, like prehensile catfish whiskers, reach towards Lamont as if scenting him. Lizard-like hind legs drag along the lengthy tail, all muscle strong enough to break boulders much less a stag spine. A burbling hiss escapes it as it gapes, revealing cob-webby saliva caught around a predator's teeth.

Strange is still in deep tete-a-tete with the glow-light. Uh-oh.

Lamont is in the form of nothing more threatening than a healthy white-tail buck. The most delicious kind of game for oh so many species normal and not. Lamont, however, seems to have forgotten this. He's belling at it furiously, antlers lowered. He doesn't attack, however, not with merely physical weaponry. Not when he has his own magic to try for, to see if he can blind it.

Disruptions to the endless patchwork in tawny browns and radiant crimson radiate well beyond the initial sight of impact. Soothing melodies strummed by crickets in long grasses and insectoid orchestras for the pleasure of a fading hour cease at the shattering of peace. Boughs clatter together, tapping out Mother Nature's encoded messages upon silvery twigs and diminutive panes. Whatever embroiled magic rolls ribbons through the perpetual sylvan gloaming, it strikes upon more than just the two men.

"No humans for miles" Strange implied. Correct. A shapeshifted human presumably constitutes 'not a human,' and thereby the statement remains accurate as far as demons and infernal contracts go.

Thor himself might grumble about the clamour of unprepared hooves and shouting male voices that emanate from human throats. There'd be nothing to comment about the wide amber eyes flashing in the dark, emergent of the musty gloom surrounded by stones. Good luck even distinguishing the ashy cinnamon deadfall of mixed forests from puffed up plumage, even in the face of a big, unpleasant avian-reptile deviation. That went out during the age of archaeopteryx. Her plumes are superior, if absent of a certain fiery element that would make Cranston Vasilisa in disguise.

|ROLL| Strange +rolls 1d20 for: 11

|ROLL| Lamont +rolls 1d20 for: 6

The creature burbles back at the bleating stag, its ruddy glowing eyes slitting as proof of locking on to his aggressive self. It whips its long tail, cracking into a boulder without intention, and the craquelure through the stone is proof of its dangers. The sharp sound breaks Strange's attention and beady amaranthine eyes narrow in turn.

"Hit it hard and fast, Cranston!" He calls out, even as he's slinking the opposite way around the circle, looking for an entrance for his own attack. Limbs aren't so scary when tangled up in molten lightning, though those teeth will be readily available to snip through bones like shears.

The will-o-wisp dances in the center of the circle, its movements having some intention and pattern and…rhythm, dare it be noted? It flashes gold every fifth beat, a beacon possibly hypnotizing if watched for too long. The Snallygaster pointedly does not look towards it.

He tries darting in to stab it. It's half-blinded and very confused indeed, and a good raking in the eyes should help, right? It's a wonder he ever survived three wars, if this was how he acted as a human.

Lamont's quick on his hooves, at least, if unused to fighting in such a form. Last time he was a quadruped, he was at least a predator.

Any sort of light naturally destroys the finely-attuned strigine eyes accustomed to piercing the gauntlet of darkness and dream likewise. Those huge pupils catch glimpses of spells, the otherworld's shadows painted upon their vastness. Nothing the will-o-wisp offers entices the bird to turn her head that way, not when being ruffled up to maintain warmth where damp autumn induces a chill. A sort of distrust runs bone-deep and her blood tumbles a little hotter and fiercer when that monstrosity performs the lambada with a fate-cursed stag and a charming Slinky of fur and pointy citrine claws.

Feather-stockinged claws inch along the branch as the owl peers down at the crude serpent spinning around. In retrospect, the mongoose might have been an appropriate selection. She doesn't make any sound, the animalistic instinct of stealth and silence profound. On the other hand, Strange might be dealing with the bombardment too much to notice the faint zing along their soulbond. Wanda hasn't lost her immense gift for pattern recognition with the corset. There might be occasional sparks of alarm if she can discern how the thing moves, the most likely striking point.

Stunned by a metaphysical slap to the head, the Snallygaster shakes its beaky mouth about, flashing teeth in annoyance. The rapid approach of the stag is heard rather than seen and it rapidly extends one wing in that general direction, in the same manner that a swan might beat at a fox intent on cygnets.

Strange takes the opportunity to dance in place, his ruff a full-spinal arch of dark fur as he chitters unconsciously. Rising onto his hind feet, those little mink paws get to gesturing as best they can and — the molten surujin snakes out and about the two hind feet. WHUMP — the creature's collapse to its breastbone is audible and it screams like a wounded toddler, that tail doing some serious thrashing.

A flicker of half-self glitters and invariably, like the draw to peripheral vision, the mink arrows his pointed nose to the nearby tree. «Beloved»! Consternation, only a brush and stemming from protective nature, melts into relief and then pours through a quicksilver glow of prideful delight along the soulbond. Tiny but fierce, I see. At your leisure, my dear, join us. It needs to be returned to the circle.

|ROLL| Wanda +rolls 1d20 for: 17

He gets swatted, and goes stumbling sideways across the clearing before summarily falling over. Gods, that's embarassing. He snorts like a fighting bull stung by a picador, and lurches back upright. Deer can't composure groom, or he'd be trying. And then the Shadow stag is rounding on the beast again, though experience turned into bitter wisdom has him loath to come within reach again. He bawls anger at it - at least he can keep it distracted.

The petite owl is not particularly given to taking out giant cygnet-serpents in her current form. A mouse, absolutely. Short of Pietro's prodigious endowments and finesse, she would be well outside her comfort zone grappling with it physically.

Rather, she turns her small beak into her puffed plumage and rustles about. Grooming on high when they suffer below would seem the height of dispassionate folly, proof of a predator's nature. That would be entirely correct.

One of her small enspelled charms drops out from the downy underfeathers. Her claws shuffle and tighten on the branch to compensate for the loss of a roundelle of chipped seaglass. It bounces off the tree trunk and hits the ground, rebounding through leaf litter, past a tail, and probably ends up stamped by a hoof. The angry serpent will make the mistake of squashing the fragile glass, and thus, releases the howling hurricane-pressure wind from a headland.

Glass shatters into pointy shards that might scratch something to add insult to injury, but take a hundred mile an hour gale to the face, stupid thing.


Hogtied is an insult, to be sure. Strange bares dozens of small conical teeth as he keeps a tight mental grip on the golden line that sings to the Mystical ear with strain. The Snallygaster wails again, squinting and shaking its head, all ugly primordial disorientation. Those large wings displace air to shake the limbs of the nearby trees and then, crack — it puts the fleshy pad of its arch-joint down on the glinting chip of glass.

WHABOOSH!!! Nothing like a sharp slap of air redolent of sea and salt to knock one cross-eyed. The flicker of light plays from the needle-spears of embedded glass to boot and now the thing really wails, whalloping whatever it can reach with wing and tail and maybe even the blunt side of that beaky mouth thingie. Pray that no tentacles find purchase on pelt.

"DAMMIT!" The Sorcerer shouts frustration as he needs to dodge a slam of the tail that shakes the ground; breaking his resting place meant breaking the focus on the whip and it disintegrates, releasing those hind limbs. Lamont is charged first, blindly, the yellowed teeth appearing in a wide maw strung with saliva and blackened in hue!

He bounces out of the way like a rubber ball, snowy tail flagged to alert a herd that isn't there that he's in danger. Unashamedly running around the circle, content to play bait. If it's trying to make a meal out of him, it won't pay full attention to Hedwig or Emmet there - all the better to let them work their magic.

Well, the Sorcerer did say to return it to the circle. The means to attain knocking away the serpentine creature from its belly to a pile of shoelaces and frantically beating wings. She smugly conceals herself a little longer until a scary black tentacle appears to make life horrible. Perhaps black. The tiny saw-tooth Wanda flaps her wings and takes to the air, getting out of reach if she can. Cheep cheep.

The sound of collapsing jaws is a wicked thing and thank the gods it's empty air because that white tail makes a beautiful flag to follow with half-blinded eyes. After the stag the creature goes, intent upon rending that tan hide to strips and bloody venison, all the better to gorge on fresh meat. The tentacle that searches after the tiny owl, she of the glass-sharded slap, retreats upon reaching full extension and finding naught by empty space rather than soft feathering.

"The circle, Cranston, lead it to the circle!" The mink slips fluidly across the stony plateau and over to the single out-of-place rock, placing both paws on its again. The stone itself takes on a supernatural glow in bright spring-green and its pupils wash out in a similar hue, ringed still by frosted-violet of shared auras. The will-o-wisp dances on, awaiting its chance to catch the Snallygaster's fogged eyes. His heart still dances for what he saw chasing after the owl and across the soulbond, a query after her state in emotional nuances.

Lamont tightens his turns, still luring it with the signal flag of white. A spiral dance, if not in the classic sense….and he shows no sign at all of tiring. Fear will do that to you, mortal fear most especially. He even fakes a stumble a time or two, letting it all but snap white hair out of his tail. Come and get it, you greedy monster.

|ROLL| Lamont +rolls 1d20 for: 2

|ROLL| Strange +rolls 1d20 for: 20

|ROLL| Wanda +rolls 1d20 for: 20

Rude teeth, bad scales, ugly body. Catch me and I will burn for it. The witch sends a retort over the line linking her to the Sorcerer Supreme. She has little to give other than the pursuit of speed and dodging among the twiggy branches that pattern the far reaches past the circle, instead of trying to circle above it. The stag has speed and strength, whereas her particular attribute is helpfully cuteness.

Oh the indignities. This is proof Chthon is a bastard. Next she'll appear like a fennec. Whatever that wiggly horror launches at her, she is moving to keep behind Strange and find some opportunity to give it a bad day. That constitutes a neatly formed wedge of telekinetic force radiating out from her petite little claws in gnarled back. How that she so happens to nudge over the one ancient oak rotten to the core is one of life's great mysteries. Maybe she whisper-hoots at the Earth and Gaea sleepily rouses long enough to roll over conveniently. Perchance she was the one who bored the tunnels underneath the mountain and found the weak point for roots in a colony of aspens huddled together.

The big tree falls over. A behemoth groans when toppled, and its huge branches tear down several adjacent maples and the wiggly, wounded community of windblown deciduous trees. Just for added insult, some more pine cones pelt the Snallygaster, out of sheer offense at its name. Deadfall and a snag go crashing in the domino formation torn down to plow into the cryptid.

All this from an owl that tops weighs one hundred grams, one tenth of a kilogram, or two-tenths of a pound.

Atta girl, the Sorcerer thinks back to the petite owl, doing her good and adorable work.

CLAP thud thud thud whuft. A scrabbling turn and the ancient creature yowwwwwwwwls. CLAP, another closure of jaws on empty air and frustration mounts. A proper cervine killdeer, the Shadow, until a stumble is a stumble one too many. Led on by the scent of acrid fear from the stag's flight, the Snallygaster lunges and closes front teeth about the delicate tibia of a hind leg a second too slow to retreat. Looks like venison shank's on the menu tonight. CRUNCH — there goes the collapse of the long-bone, joints and all grinding together in a juicy mouthful of blood. No severing, but the creature whips its head to one side, dragging the weight of the Shadow across the flat shale surface. Red smears garishly along the stone and the stag in the process.

The lance of shock and gut-deep fear is bright across the soulbond, but it's promptly shattered by the acid sledgehammer of Sorcerous rage, catching like a flashfire through his mind. The shrill shriek that comes from that small mouth echoes tenfold and like his mongoose cousin, the mink flies across the distance and latches onto the Snallygaster's fugly face. In reaction, it drops Lamont in an arc — the stag should tumble away a good number of feet, all the while bleeding. It backs away, flapping ineffective wings and screeching as Strange buries glowing citrine claws into its soft skin, heedless of tentacles swatting and swiping. The thing stumbles into the confines of the circle, blotting out the will-o-wisp and then —

CRRRRRAAAAAAAAAAAAAASSSSSHHH!!!! That gigantic tree finds its home across the creature's back. Reaction traveling along elongated neck flips the bulldogged mink from its face and expelled air leaves in a blurping sound. Trapped in the circle, it scrabbles futilely with broken vertebrae by the dozen. Not a single other rock has been moved this entire time. Strange is quick to ditch the creature and weave over to Lamont, pausing up by the stag's face. "Cranston, you stay awake, you hear me? Don't you dare pass out. Stay awake!!!"

«Beloved», if he falls unconscious, do whatever is necessary to wake him, he calls to her across the soulbond, even as he darts away again. The foxfire has returned, lingering about the one stone nudged aside, and with all his minky might, Strange puts shoulder to it and shoves.

The crunch of monstrous teeth, the snap of bone….and then he's shaken like a rat caught by a terrier. The creature may have torn and bled him, but that's clearly not the most critical injury. That last whiplash snap has broken something else, internally - when he tries to get up to at least three feet, the other hind hoof refuses to obey, and he collapses on to his side, sides heaving. The dark, liquid eyes are glassy with pain, the deer's tongue already lolling out as he pants for air. But he does seem cogent enough to understand the Sorcerer, twitching an ear in response.

Bad Scallywiggle! The little saw-whet owl swivels on the wing in its hasty flapping to build some altitude after the tree goes over. Unlike a hummingbird, Wanda in her present form cannot hover or recoil backwards so easily as swoop on a sharp trajectory or bank away. Her outstretched feathers tickle the air, sensitive to the slightest variation like an updraft localized from a collapsing tree. Would that her job be done.

But no, Strange's emotional outpouring whites out the sylvan darkness undermines whatever lofty ambitions propelled her to watch on high. Nary a sound escapes her, given her species' propensity not to randomly shout about anything. His anger drowns out the sense of self in ways so familiar, tethered as often as she has been to her twin, a sun eclipsed by the sky and…

… Tiny claw feet hit the ground where it's most dangerous for her. One hop and the wee bird is atop Cranston, wings out in a flat, unhappy mantling, the avian "Fuck off, Bob" to anything else in nature. Fear the robin-sized owl. Tapping the earth is rather easy, remembering who she is is not, right now. Sing to soil, ask to give up the sloe-smooth pulse of life into the blood-swept veins and furry nooks and feathery crannies, please.


All is safe beyond the reach of the weakly-snapping jaws, the collisions more due to nerves firing at speed of agony in key of 'something is broken, dear god'. This is a sacred place, well-known to those who would reach for Mother Earth beneath the shell of shale and veining of quartz, and the power that Wanda calls upon reaches back fingertips of most beautiful and gentle faith and healing.

Meanwhile, the final shove knocks the small rock back into its place. With a sharp scrabble, the Sorcerous mink gambols backwards, his back one sinuous arc of ruffled fur that crackles with thin webbings of citrine light. The will-o-wisp appears again and splits into many, a total of twelve in all. Connected to its neighbors, each ball of light completes the circle in supernatural flicker-flash. The strand of pearly beads begins to dance, hopping a stone on each beat of whatever drum song it hears, and the Snallygaster's cry is abruptly cut short as a cylinder of translucent sheen surges upwards into the gloam of twilight. It throws its head back over its shoulder and attempts to flap one wing in denial of its prison — but for naught. Scampering back to the fallen stag and angriest of tiny birbs, Strange bares his teeth one last time before the image of the Snallygaster simply…vanishes. The vision of the creature collapses in upon itself, a sun going dark and sucking into the smallest fracturing of reality — leaving behind a fallen behemoth of an evergreen and a perfectly undisturbed ring of stones. No sign of the will-o-wisp.

Strange flicks his tail once, a snarly huff escapes him, and then it's to Lamont's head he goes, placing two small paws on the broad plate of the stag's jaw. "Cranston, stay awake. Thank you, «Beloved»," and he looks to the small owl, not in the least perturbed or amused in this moment by her state. "Keep the energy flowing, I will utilize it along with my own." Closing off his eyes, the mink immediately finds the thread drawn in by the owl and braids into it. It's a soul-song blended, perfect harmony amidst the cacophony of a heart beating hard to keep life's candle alit. The mild warmth of new-spring finds counter-melody to the planetary waltz and Gaia's loving pulse and rushes down towards the bleeding leg, to broken bones and tendons torn.

He's trying, though they can feel life ebbing almost faster than they can reweave it; the heart faltering, pain like lances along the nerves. Had he been alone…..well. But then the tide turns, oh so slowly, bones reknitting, veins resealing, though not before there's a sizable puddle of blood beneath him. Life is seined from death's dark waters, and when he opens his eyes again, they're far clearer….if utterly exhausted. He huffs a breath, words beyond him, for the moment.

Wanda remains as she is, feathery eyes shutting. In lieu of eyelashes, the downy plumage of her oversized, huge gaze offers a sort of softness to her mien. Her wings remain in perfectly crescent-cut arches meeting at their horns, tips overlapped. Other than the ridiculous position executed by her feathers, she might just tuck her head under one and be assumed asleep. Instead, she looks like she fell asleep in the airflow of a fan, ignoring the fact her talons are bloodied and her body a compressed, small channel.

Strange can feel the encroach of sweet darkness, that lethe that so desperately wants to gutter the scintillating life within, and he won't have it. The final push is like levering open a large wooden door against standing water: a slow, concentrated effort, but the odds are ever in his favor when the Witch allies her abilities with his.

When a vague sense of normalcy returns to the stag's aura, Strange counts himself content and opens his eyes. "Good…" he breathes, not nearly as worn as the anemic stag, but enough to warrant a heavy sigh. A pat-pat of the deer's cheek could count as a friendly swat on the shoulder. "You'll make it after all." What a mentor. Good job, you lived, have a cookie. He winds his way up to the small owl and attempts to gather her softly-feathered form close to himself, nuzzling a nose into that dusty plumage. "Cranston, you may owe your life to her," he murmurs, glancing back at the deer's head again.

There's a rustle of a patent-leather nose against the leaf-mould, the scrape of horn against the dirt. Deer aren't made to agree by nodding, but he's still nonverbal entirely. He shows no inclination to lever himself upright. Still exhausted.

Let the others sort out which way is up. That ruined pelt is not an ideal nest, but has anyone seen what the littlest of owl species nests in, anyways? Kneading with her talons would shred even the thickest leather to pieces, so she has to flatten herself from risking that route. No, better is tucking her wings in and more than not going to sleep herself. Using magic strategically is not so tiresome, and neither is calling up the energy of the earth to heal. Doing so while in a very small form that somehow manages to burn rate even faster than the Roman candle of a woman does means there's no way in Hell Wanda would ever stay awake.

No tiny snores from wee beak. Only the "Tyuuu" rumble-peep and she's fast out.

He hears that soft sound of sleep and realizes shortly thereafter that the Witch-Owl is plum-tuckered-out. The mink gathers her up more, looking a bit like a thief attempting to make off with a rumpled armful of adorable that's just a smidgeon too big to carry.

"Cranston, can you make it to your feet or do you need another spell? I can't guarantee that it won't make you taste pennies for a few days," cautions Strange, even as he's rubbing his whiskers against those feathers. So soft!

"Another spell," he says, in that bizarre clogged, almost rubbery voice. "Please." It's galling enough to admit that he closes his eyes and snuffs in irritation. "I'm very weak." What a hateful phrase….but truth won't be denied.

"Of course," the Sorcerer replies quietly. As carefully as he can manage, he settles the little Saw-whet owl back into her place while keeping a paw upon her wing. He can sense that the channeling is still at play, that wonderfully deep and ponderous thump of Gaia's heartbeat resonating through her aura and small body. "You won't need much more, Wanda has tremendous capacity as a conduit in her own right. You should still feel your energy returning, though it won't be quickly without my additional casting."

The other small paw is placed against the tan hide of the stag and the mink closes off violaceous eyes again. It's a more concentrated jolt of healing this time, the pizzicato trill of a run along the highest cello string in combination with the punch of a shot of high-octane liquor and effervescence of carbonate — just enough to encourage the ability to rise, but not enough to send the stag up to his feet and blundering like pure adrenaline to the heart. Wouldn't want to dislodge the tiny owl-birb — that would be rude.

He gasps, pants, gulps air like a landed fish. Then he's trying to heave himself upright, drying blood chill on his leg and flanks. "There," he says, and he sounds much more human. "Better. Thank you." He turns to look at the dark stains, Lamont's nearly feline fastidiousness absurd in this context. He can't send his own deerhide to the cleaners, can he?

"Hold, hold!" Strange isn't too loud, but he does hold out a blood-stained paw briefly to encourage the stag to pause, if only for a second. The owl is gathered up again, sleepy bundle of soft feathers, and as carefully as he can, the Sorcerer slides down the deer's torso and to the stone. It's an awkward, penguin-like shuffle forwards holding the saw-whet to his chest, but he manages and glances back over his shoulder.

"Try your feet now. If you can stand, we're Gating back to the Sanctum. Our work here is done." Indeed, there's a sense of peace that lingers in the air despite the metallic tang of spilt blood and disturbed resinous pine. The chilly wind of autumn blows about, seeming to lift the stain of battle from their vicinity.

He takes a delicate step, then another. The crowned head comes up, slowly. "Yes," he says, "Good. I couldn't take that ravine again, even with your help."

Ever hear a mink laugh? It's very odd.

"I wouldn't wish you to, Cranston. That was…" Strange just shakes his head. "We'll no doubt shift back to ourselves after leaving the land. Be prepared for that, at least." He takes another moment to rearrange the sleeping owl as best he can for the attempt at a Witch slung across his arms once they cross the glittering threshold of golden oculus and then summons up said rift.

It opens upon the Loft and immediately, the warm redolence of incense and lemony wood polish wafts out. Strange sniffs and sighs before waddling across. "Home sweet home…"

A counter-swirl of silvery blue returns his form to its usual state and the owl in his arms is now a loose-limbed bundle of Witch, gathered up most carefully. Another flexion of bicep attempts to pillow her head against his chest and Strange pauses, looking weary himself but absolutely set on making sure that the Shadow returns to humanity intact if not a bit blood-stained.

He steps through, and there's the click clack of hooves on the Sanctum's floor. Until the fourth makes contact - whereupon the magic that's bound him unknits entirely. His balance goes out entirely, caught on the transition from stable quadruped to dizzy biped, and he falls forward as if tripped. Manages to partially catch himself on a forearm and then tucks into a half-roll. Covered in blood all along one flank and leg, but he's whole enough.

Let it be known that had Strange not had a sleepy, warm parcel of Witch in his arms, there would have been no impact to the floor. He winces as is before sighing again. As the portal collapses closed, he adds, "Give me a moment to get her tucked in, Cranston, and I'll get you back to the manor. Please, a minute." With a carefully-leveled stride that still manages to ruffle the crimson Cloak, he crosses the Loft and disappears into the master bedroom. There's the sound of quiet speaking before he appears once more, pulling the open door shut behind him. "She'll be out for hours at this point," he murmurs, almost to himself, before he makes his way back to Lamont.

A hand offered helps the man to his feet while yet another rift upon reality opens to the front door of the Cranston household, hopefully not triggering a defensive response from the Shadowy wards. "If you have any tea containing nettle and dandelion, drink this before taking any iron supplements." The good Doctor is on duty. "Rest. Don't be stupid." And he's blunt too. "And thank you, Cranston. You were vital in getting the creature captured. I will return to check, but the circle was a sturdy one and the local spirits will be thankful for your efforts as well." There's that clap on the shoulder, even though it's light. "Go, rest," he repeats once more, before gesturing for Lamont to walk on through the portal.

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