1964-12-04 - It Came Upon A Midnight Drear
Summary: What happens when the Sorcerer Supreme and the Cheshire Cat meet? Mayhem. Of course.
Related: If there are no related logs, put 'None', — please don't leave blank!
Theme Song: None
keith strange 

The chill of an early December evening is pervasive. It feels to creep from the shadows and into the seams of every bit of clothing worn. Hats are most useful, as are scarfs. A tall figure walks with a confident, long-legged stride into the periphery of Washington Square Park because…frankly, something's up. Something's pinging at his Mystical senses, a rotten scent that licks slime up the nape of his neck in foreboding.

The Park is deserted, partially for the weather and more so for that despair miasm that lingers like the dew on the grass. Strange pauses next to a cement bench, hands in the pockets of his black Belstaff, and slowly surveys his surroundings. At his neck, the crimson scarf flutters up and wafts in a certain direction, not just a play of wind. Nope, the Cloak in disguise.

It erupts from the ground with the violence of a hidden land mine, throwing clods of thick turf and path bricks in the process. A reflexive step back leads into the air as the scarf unfurls and clasps to his shoulders, overtop the Belstaff. What is it? Undead, clearly, vaguely hyena-like despite the doubled pair of forelimbs and…its made entirely of human skulls. A thin and translucent skin holds the creature together more still; ropes of human innards act as tendons. It snarls, baring teeth that could be splintered shin bones. Four eyes glow orange within shadowed recesses in what counts as a face.

"Wonderful," the Sorcerer mutters as he throws up mandala shields of golden magic, already half-distracted by yet another beacon of interest — this one with a familiar, twisted taste of Chaos magic.

The Park was something that drew Keith to it. He didn't really quite understand why- the fountain was, of course, not operating in the winter months and the trees were already but skeletal silhouettes against the evening. It wasn't as appealing a view as it was in spring, lacking the blanket of snow that is part of the winter charm (soon, perhaps.)

He may get looks here and there because he appears to be terribly unprepared for the cold- a T-shirt and jeans, not even the concession of a scarf. The red-headed teenager seems completely impervious to the cold.

What people don't see, of course, is the the fur that is hiding under the illusion of skin.

He walks with a slow, deliberate pace, lost in his thoughts. He doesn't really sense much, at least not until something the hint of something /foul/ arose at the periphery of his senses.

"Hm? What-" He raises his head in a quick movement, like a predator catching whiff of a prey, and then the monstrosity bursts forth from the ground.

The strange thing is that he isn't afraid when it appears. Rather, something primal inside of him causes a growl to build up in his throat, and he finds that his claws are drawn- he doesn't remember when he took his hands out of his pockets.

He sidesteps quickly and hides behind the large trunk of one of those skeletal trees, just as another figure takes to the air.

"This isn't your business. This isn't…"

And then his fur stands on end. And he hisses.

"Oh, god damn it!" He takes a deep breath and dispels the illusion, leaving him in his feline shape. Then, he crouches low and leaves the protection of the tree, to get a better look at the scene, and to gauge the intentions of the other figure, around whom magic seems to gather in golden, regular shapes. He doesn't feel the desire to attack him, but that doesn't mean he's benevolent. For the moment, Keith sticks to the shadows, unaware that the Doctor has got a bead on his presence, even if he's not aware of his location yet.

The skeletal monster continues to eye Strange and the sound of a slowly-torquing long bone counts as a growl, apparently. He grimaces, his expression going thunderous. The Cloak spreads wide behind him, a threat display of its own, and the golden mandalas before his hands seem to kick up another few lumens.

But ah-hah — there be the other point of interest, tickling the good Doctor's senses like a cat hair stuck to his nose. The feline-like humanoid almost reeks of Chaos magic and garners a lingering look from Strange, with the man's irises gone frosted-violet in inundation of magic.

"Keep your distance," he finally calls out. The undead creature flinches at the loud sound and snarls, curling limbs beneath it as if to leap. Its back is open, devoid of defense.

There are two kinds of people in this world of ours. The first kind, who are people full of common sense and other things that make for thoroughly safe and predictable, write-a-letter-to-mother-every-week people, would take Strange's utterance as a warning.

The other sort of people can be summarized by the phrase 'challenge accepted.'

The feline springs forth out of the night, but he doesn't run all the way towards the monster. No- that would give too much of a chance of being discovered. Instead, reality parts before the Cheshire Cat as he summons a Rabbit Hole, which opens up behind the beast and launches the cat at its back, claws on hand and feet ready to grab, tear and rend.

We mentioned the lack of common sense, right?

There's no way for the skeletal monstrosity to dodge such an abrupt attack and thus, Keith lands with impunity once he emerges from his Rabbit Hole. The outer layer of the creature punctures as easily as over-baked chicken skin and its immediate reaction is to begin bucking and thrashing madly!

Strange, on the other hand(s), dismisses his shielding spells in favor of the length of chained lightning in sparkling, spitting gold. The surujin is whipped out and about two of the four forelimbs, hobbling the undead critter. Between the grappling Cheshire and the Sorcerer, the thing realizes it's in deep trouble.

"If you're going to be helpful, hamstring it!" The Sorcerer grits his teeth as he yanks hard on the length of glittering rope, keeping his target close and Keith out of reach of those fangs — potentially.

Hamstring it. Sure, NOW he tells him. The Cheshire cat ponders dropping from the back and onto the ground in order to perform the aforementioend hamstringing. He hesitates just enough that, when he drops down, the creature has seemingly anticipated his move and welcomes his descent with a backwards kick of sorts. It is a very impressive hit, to be sure, as the Cheshire cat is sent clear across, and he crashes into one of the benches nearby.

Crack. A flash of pain and he winces. That was a rib- broken, or just…? hard to tell right now. And he didn't really have the time to find out. "You f'n bastard!" he hisses.

As he stands up, he notices a broken bottle on the floor, under the bench. He reaches for it and eyes the monster carefully. His right side stings like hell, but he wasn't going to let his pride be wounded as well. Leaping forward again (ouch!) he uses another Rabbit Hole to appear near the creature from behind, and thrusts the broken end of that bottle with his left hand, aiming for a bona fide ham-stringing.

The parting tendon split by the ragged edges of the broken bottle sounds like a contained gunshot. The creature, thinking it had dismissed Keith most thoroughly with that well-placed kick, flips back its head in agony and tries to wheel, the teeth slamming shut not inches from his furry flesh.

Strange gives an almighty yank on the surujin and the charnel-creature drops abruptly to its stomach, off-balance and flailing. Its claws dig grooves in the brick pathway and throw up churned mud. What oozes from its injured back leg could be construed as blood, one supposes, were it not so thick like treacle.

"Alright, back! Give me space, it needs to be banished!" Already, the spare hand not holding the chained lightning has a neutron cloud of bright-violet light around it, a cat's-cradle of a spell growing in power. The air in the immediate area becomes charged, hard to breathe as the barometer drops a few ticks.

Keith's expression is absolutely priceless as the ichor begins to ooze from the creature. "You don't have to ask me twice-" he might just yark from the smell alone, the curse of having such powerful senses.

But then the UnSummoning begins, and he feels his fur standing on end, and he doen't quite know what's going on… but he knows there is something he doesn't like going on. Backtracking as fast as he can, he loses his balance and lands on the floor, eliciting another wince from that rib. Suddenly, his sense of balnce is compromised, so he begins to crawl away from the immediate area of influence of … whatever it is the man is doing.

Screeching to raise the dead (and maybe it would have been successful at it but for the combined efforts of the Cheshire Cat and Sorcerer), the sepulchral critter tries to find its feet further. However, it's going nowhere except back to the underworld from whence it came.

Strange's voice takes on an extra-dimensional echo, a subtle delay as if speaking from a great distance beneath the present Words, and even as he yanks the surujin free from about the creature's forelimbs, the banishing spell is cast.

The backwash rattles empty tree limbs and sends bricks rolling a few clunky times. Surrounded by small comets of bright violet light, their enemy freezes up and then seems to collapse in upon itself. Then, in a rather anti-climactic manner…poof. Reality momentarily catches alight and then snuffs itself out per the Sorcerer's willing.

The air is still now, the rotten scent of meat carried away on a passing breeze. With an audible sigh and gesture of hands, Strange descends back to the earth proper. "Alright then," he mutters, beginning to walk towards Keith, still fairly sizzling with power about his aura. The Cloak riffles contentedly about his frame. "And who would you be? You have a name, I presume?" He stops short of the other being and an upheld hand gains a gently-undulating blue haze about it.

Keith quickly gets to a sitting position, still edging away from Strange. He doesn't know if whatever it is that affected him is still clinging to the man or whether it is the after-effects of feeling it in the first place, but he doesn't feel stable enough to get to his feet. Which is a problem.

"…. an' why do you want to know?" Keith asks, warily. He's trying to focus, but he feels as if he were intoxicated, hard to focus at all. This meant that summoning a Rabbit Hole was out of the question, for the moment.

The good Doctor considers Keith from on high and slowly, an eyebrow rises. The magic clinging to his hand, palm-up, has a far different feel than the precise banishment of moments ago. It's balm-like, the kiss of warm mist and smell of astringent petrichor — healing magic.

"I'd like to know who to thank for the assistance, first of all. Secondly, you don't need to give me your Name." Subtle emphasis implies the capitalization and thus, the importance. Bandy about true Names with care in the Mystical world. "You can give a name instead."

A quick sigh gusts white before his lips and Strange now looks vaguely annoyed. "I'm not going to banish you or turn you inside out or whatever else you've heard that the Sorcerer Supreme does to people. You've done nothing wrong."

With a guarded look, the Cheshire cat considers. A name. Any name.

He knew what the man meant about his capital-n-ame, but he wasn't quite sure what that *meant.* Common sense told him that it wasn't the name everybody else knew him by, because that's what other people called him. A *N*ame was what he called himself.

And, considering how his magic made him feel, Keith wasn't about to give that to the man, definitely not. So he had to come up with *A* name for other people to call him. His friends at the Mansion had already done that, of course- Piotr was Colossus, etc.

"Vorpal." It is suddenly logical and quite natural. Of course. Carrollian, and it's far less generic than calling himself 'Cheshire Cat' which, truth be told, was a terrible name. Like a man walking around calling himself 'Human' for a moniker.

"I'm Vorpal… and you are?"

The healing balm makes him feel much better. There is far more nature and less rigidity in the spell, that makes him feel more at ease.

"Vorpal." The way it rolls off of his tongue tells Strange that it's not a true Name, but it'll do. He nods as if to himself. "You certainly do snicker-snack when you put your mind to it." Let that be a compliment as well as play upon poetry.

"Doctor Strange," adds the man per the rules of introductions. "Sorcerer Supreme." His lips tug to a slight sly and prideful smirk for all of a second before it's back to that stern aloofness he wears as easily as that crimson Cloak. "I saw you hit that bench hard. Care for a healing spell? Or do you have natural tendencies to heal quickly on your own?"

"Sorcerer Supre…" Vorpal pauses, and then raises his eyebrows. "Wait…. you are the 'Witch King'?" he gets to his feet in a hurry, and then winces as pain flashes across his right side. Oh yes… definitely something serious. "Unnnnghhh…" he tries not to breathe deeply, although he isn't sure that he could if he tried because of the pain. "… are you… I mean. Does the word 'Wiccan' mean anything to you?"

Witch…King. The good Doctor is well-read and Tolkien did, after all, draw numerous notes of interest from folklore both mundane and Mystical. He wasn't half-wrong about dragons in the end.

"You'll need a healing spell then," murmurs Strange, very much certain he's seeing the signs of a fractured rib at the least in the movements of the Cheshire Cat. "Wiccan. Of course, I should have known." His laugh is quiet and yet somehow warm. "Yes, the name means something to me. I presume then you know him?"

He extends out the scarred palm wreathed in the cool-blue light of the conjured spell. "Take my hand and it'll set things back to their proper places."

"Y-yeah, I know him. So you really are- I mean. I haven't seen him in a bit." Guilty pang. After he invited him to his club-house slash inn and everything. Vorpal kicks himself mentally and promises he will see Billy soon. Soon enough.

"A-alright." He reaches out to take the Doctor's hand, and suddenly the world becomes a blur to the cat. Although the healing power of the spell does short work of the fracture, its after-effects are a little more permanent. Namely, Vorpal suddenly finds himself leaning not just on the Doctor's hand but grabbing onto his arm with a death grip because, against all possibility, someone has decided to spin the floor on him. And the trees. And the sky. Which is the only explanation for why his feline sense of balance has left him for another man.

"Holy shit! Are you… like…. the wizard of alcohol?" he says, his words slurred, "'cause that spell … spell packs one helluva… hoooooo… I think I'm gonna be sick…" he takes a deep breath. He hopes not. Yarking on his friend's father is not an option.

The sudden tight hold bring Strange up tall and he puts a palm out against Keith's opposite shoulder, all the better to keep the suddenly jelly-kneed young man from apparently collapsing. Hmm. He didn't put that much pepper into the spell, did he? Ah, but of course — he senses it even as he begins to work his arm loose from the gripping.

"Yes, I'm his father — you should be sitting," the good Doctor opines. "Sit, right where you are. Breathe for a little. It's the confliction of the Arts. I recognize it well enough, Chaos magic. Billy's mother finds it second nature."

"But… you're not his father YET… right? Something something time…" the cat sits down on the ground right there and then. Strange probably meant a bench, but at this point he's not exactly in the best frame of mind. "Confliction of the arts… I don't get art. Saw a guy dripping on a canvas, calls it Extract Repressionism…. something like that. Don't get it. Looks like stuff I wipe my hands off on…" he looks at his hands. "You know how hard it is to keep these clean when you got fur? Like, all the time, grease and soot from the cycle, and then it just gets -everywhere- and I have to go and get…"

He pauses and frowns, and takes a deep breath. "… what was I talking about? Oh! …. Billy. You are his dad. And you punch monsters in the park…"

Having taken a step back, Strange considers the mess left in the wake of their brief skirmish. Eh, nothing a little rearranging won't fix…though the blood stains might be another matter entirely.

"Yes…" He sounds sufficiently distracted until he looks back to Keith and brings his attention back entirely. "I guard against incursions of the metaphysical and Mystical. That thing did not belong in this realm. Ergo, it was my duty to return it to its home, whichever facet of hell that happened to be. Damn demons leaving the doors open." Fingertips rub at a silvered temple for a second's indulging in exasperation. "Billy is indeed my son, yes, and time is a fickle mistress." Upon mental whim, the crimson Cloak detaches from his shoulders and swish — back to the scarf that serpents about his neck to snuggle up close.

"What a-about me?" the Cheshire asks, looking up at Strange and mustering enough focus to be sober. The euphoria and inhebriation from the spell were beginning to subside, but not fully, not yet. "I came from another dimension." A beat. "Well, half of me did. The other half was born here."

"In this time period, by the by. Just in case, because of fickle mistresses and all…"

"I trust that my son would have brought me any concerns regarding your presence within this realm." Still, Keith might squirm under the cool scholar's regard he now receives, the weighing and categorizing and machinations a thing to see behind Strange's half-shuttered eyes.

"You also seem morally inclined to defend this reality against interlopers, so I cannot fault you there either. No, Vorpal, you pass muster. Still…consider yourself noted, in light of your abilities."

"He said I was doing math. I don't like math," Vorpal says, his mind clearing a little more with each passing second. Billy's … unique way of perceiving magic had puzzled Vorpal. He still didn't really get it. "I gues… I'd better come clean. I am the Cheshire Cat."

He lets that rest there for a second, before he reiterates, "-The- actual one. Like in the book. I'm also… well. Your son's alright, so you gotta be, too. I'm also Keith. We're sort of… one person now. I happened to get myself killed by a shard of some magic mirror that happened to have myself imprisoned, and before I knew it I wasn't dead anym-" he pauses when he realizes what he just said.

"I'm sorry. Sometimes I get confused with… you know. I know there were two of 'me' before, but from where I am standing there was only one. Even if I remember it two different ways. But long story short… impaled by a shard, magic mirror. Woosh. Now I'm this…"

He doesn't know why he explains it like that, but the cool gaze reminded him way too much of Mrs. Badcrumble, his clarinet teacher in highschool, and he felt he needed to present his credentials as a friend of Billy's and ensure that, no, he wasn't going to destroy reality as they all knew it, and that he'd have Mozart's Clarinet Concerto in A Major (K. 622) memorized by next lesson.

"I've heard odder things and it does make sense, what you've just explained to me." Which is something no normal and mundane human being would say, much less the Sorcerer himself so many years back when his domain was the surgical ward.

"There would be some confusion, given the distinct personalities. You seem functional, however, and aware of your abilities. In regards to Billy…" Strange pauses and then comes that wry little grin, fleeting. "He is able to See the Arts as I can, as his mother can, and in his perspective, it shows as mathematics — hence, his description as such."

"Well, that makes sense." Sort of. He slowly gets to his feet, now that his dizziness seems to have passed. He rubs his forehead and blinks a couple of times. "I have never felt like I did until you did that healing thing. It felt like that time I got into a bender with that guy in London who played the ukelele…" he pauses and notices something, "Except no hangover. Is this going to happen to me anytime someone tries to heal me with magic?"

"Wait a minute… if Billy is a mixture of the two, how come he isn't loopy twenty four seven?"

A less kind persosn would add something along the lines of 'Who is to say that he isn't?', but Keith likes Billy. His eccentricities are probably because he's the son of wizards. People who treat reality like an etch-a-sketch probably make for an interesting upbringing.

"Billy was raised well." Strange seems content to leave it at that, considering it's part preen, part truth, and more Billy's right to level in on such an inquiry. "You may find that conflicting magics cause those physiological reactions in you. Not all magic is Chaos and not all Chaos is magic; some Chaos can heal while a disorgnized casting can be catastrophic." No wonder he drives his children nuts from time to time. But hey, it's a backwards sort of wisdom.

"As long as you count yourself healed, I count myself successful in this evening's endeavors," and the Sorcerer brings one of his hands out of his coat pockets. With a loose-wristed conducting gesturing, he begins to will the most intact of the bricks back into place with simple magic. "Mustn't leave a mess. The police will ask questions." His mutter is truly unamused at the idea.

"I… wouldn't want to be around when the police arrive." No particular reason, Vorpal simply isn't very comfortable with the boys in blue. "Do you… er. Would you be open to sometimes answering questions about…" he waves his hands in the air. "The magic stuff? I didn't know I'd feel like that, and it dawns on me there are a lotta things I don't know that I probably should. I try to stay out of trouble, but it looks like trouble finds me anyways. I should… probably know more. About this whole sort of thing…"

He looks at the Doctor. "If… you're open to talk sometime. That is." Of course, he can always ask Billy, too. And he probably will. But sometimes Billy lapses into references of things that won't be around for forty years, or so, and it gets really, really confusing.

"I don't mind, no, but you'll need to catch me when I'm not within the rights of my mantle." A.K.A. being "pointiest of the hats" as Guardian of Earth's Fate and Reality. "Billy might have mentioned it, but Bleecker Street, 177A." Strange glances up from re-laying bricks to point off towards that section of the neighborhood. "The Sanctum Sanctorum. You should have the phone number; if not, Billy can give it to you. I recommend calling beforehand. The mansion won't let anyone in without my explicit permission if I'm not on the property."

The last half-brick falls into place and it's not…terrible. It simply looks like a rugby team dug for lost coins while sweeping with metal detectors. Or someone dropped a wrecking ball with a diameter of ten feet on the section of path. No one will notice. Maybe.

"If you'll excuse me, however, this was supposed to be a short walk and I'm late." So late, for a very important date. "I suppose we'll cross paths again. As before, I appreciate your assistance and please, call ahead. Knocking may get you someone other than myself." Ah, but who?

The answer isn't forthcoming. The Sorcerer gives Keith a slight nod, the gesture old-worldly and yet appropriate, and then throws up a Gate. Through it he steps, back to the Sanctum, and the Park is quiet once again.

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