1965-02-09 - Somebody's Jealous
Summary: Discussions post-trial lead to revelations and long-lasting implications as to the possibility of apprenticing further. A.K.A. Someone fails a job interview.
Related: Finding the Prize
Theme Song: None
wanda lamont strange 

The Shadow has been caught. It was a trial in endurance and thinking upon one's feet, but on the suggestion (read as: direction) of the Sorcerer Supreme, everyone has returned to the Sanctum Sanctorum and back to the living room where it all began.

Strange is stirring honey into his own mug of tea when they tromp in and he glances up with an expression of mild expectation. Of what, precisely, the silver-templed Sorcerer apparently won't tell. However, he does offer tea to whomever wants it and the fixings are where they normally sit, upon the tea stand by the fireplace.

After being outside, the room is warm and drier, more comfortable than the gloom of February. Aleski takes up a mug and chooses to stand closest to the blaze, warming his front and feet on the hearth. Victoria too takes a mug and she adds a heavy dosing of cream to her blend. This leaves Lamont to do as he pleases to the tea he takes or does not.

"Well." The Sorcerer breaks the silence and both journeymen look up, emerging from their thoughts. "As I said before, congratulations are in order. You have completed the task alotted to you. I did not observe anything out of the nature of my request. You will be able to return to your masters bearing my good word. Are there questions?"

Of course Victoria's avoiding looking at Lamont entirely and she seems to want to say something, but hasn't gotten up the courage just yet.

Monty, for his part, is enjoying honey in his tea. He's sitting primly in an armchair, coat back in the hall. Hair still a little rumpled from the chase, but otherwise groomed back into order as carefully as a cat. The gray eyes are bright with amusement, but he's mostly focussed on Strange. A slightly more polite way of Not Looking At Victoria.

Way, way cooler: grey, ten kilos, pointy ears, fluffy brush tail. She rides on the shoulder of the damp witch stalking through the main corridors of the Sanctum Sanctorum. Outside is wet and cold, and so too the Witch Road Wanda walks reflects winter in all its vehement chill; at the entrance, anyways. Slush spirals around her boots, snow caught in clumps on the toes and the buckles and the laces. Aralune hungrily chews on her hair, normally an offense worthy of a curse, but the cat licks and nibbles over the strands to capture the thick veneer of ill-fortune that coagulates over time. Bad girl? Maybe. Her hat is stuffed in her pocket, grey-cobalt knit poking out, the better for the cat to looooove her. To looooooove more.

"Mrat!" announces the malkin. Twin pairs of iridescent, slightly metallic eyes swivel upon the flash of crimson. Hmm.

It seems that perhaps Victoria actually had the gumption to say what was bubbling behind her closed lips and she does open her mouth, but…upon the arrival of the Witch and Malk, the thought dies. Aleski glances over and immediately straightens another inch in place, his face betraying frank surprise and blatant curiosity. Wearing what could be construed as a rather smug little smile, Strange glances over at his other half.

"Ah, Wanda. Welcome home. Allow me to introduce two of the best that Kamar-Taj has to offer. This is Journeyman Aleski," and the blond offers the Malk-bearing Witch a short bow, his bright eyes never leaving her face, " — and Journeywoman Victoria." The young woman has clammed up again, her grip tight about her mug. She too grants Wanda a curt little nod, far less respect in the action. "You know Cranston, of course." Beware, Lamont, the Malk is absolutely aware you're present. "Victoria, Aleski, this is Wanda Maximoff, Mistress of the Sanctum."

Oh, but how the blond young man's face falls before he gathers himself. The young brown-haired woman? Now that's a mask of composure, but a brittle one at that.

"The journeymen recently completed a trial set before them. Cranston was kind enough to aid in their test. They passed and are headed back to the city soon. Again, any questions?" His attention turns back to the two in their rusty-reds.

Wanda appears, Lamont rises, to bow politely. The Malk's appearance only makes the mask flicker a very little, that rueful curl at the corners of his lips. IT was inevitable he and his feline nemesis would cross paths again, wasn't it. He doesn't try to hide behind the armchair, at least. The question of questions makes him look over, brows up, a silent addition of himself to that. Assuming they have any questions for the Shadow.

|ROLL| Strange +rolls 1d20 for: 4

The best Kamar-Taj has to offer meets the girl of no pedigree, unlearned in Tibetan letters, as unremarkable to the Ancient One's litany of chosen as a brick in the Crystal Palace. There she is, intense and grim and shadowy, unsmiling addition to a gracious Art Deco building deserving of greater care than what that golden-skinned haunt provides. Oh well, the decor changes by the occupying Sorcerer Supreme and the latter one prefers to collect oddities. See also Monty and the singing snakes, already hissing their perturbed, nasty tongue-in-fang pocket commentary about the children.

Aralune yawns, showing off her great white fangs, and proceeds to bury her grey nose back into the web of chestnut curls affording her all sorts of delicious morsels. Maybe Wanda uses Tresmalsemme, the hair spray of all ill-fated souls everywhere. Snow melts after her, and those wards dutifully descend to clean, fulfilling their gods-given purpose. Yay! Cleaning!

Her expression holds nothing but usual dour predilections with the finest cheekbones this side of the Grandmaster, Erik's endowment on his daughter plainly identifiable to anyone who knows him. "Journeymen," she repeats, English Slavic-cast. "Cranston." That name is said the same way a hungry teenager says 'waffle.' Could Wanda be the cat, and the cat be Wanda? Well…

Over by the hearth, Aleski manages a little wave of wiggling fingers and "Hello", carrying his Swedish accent, before looking promptly chagrined. His task-partner says nothing.

Strange raises his eyebrows slowly, glancing between the ones wearing rust-red. "Soooo…" he elongates the vowel, one arm tucked across his chest while the other idly fidgets with his mug of tea to make the dark blend swirl about in its own contained whirlpool. "Nothing." A subtle tilt of his head professes his doubts.

"Yes, I have a question." The Australian accent carries strongly as Victoria takes one step forward and arrests the motion, her grip about her mug white-knuckle tight. Behind her and at an angle, Aleski grimaces and hisses,

"Think!" This does make the brown-haired young journeywoman pause, but only to square her shoulders.

"Why not take an apprentice from Kamar-Taj, sir?" The silence that follows might have been void enough to swallow the entire mansion. Aleski, at least, looks like he wants to crawl away beneath a chair, embarrassed by proxy for Victoria. The Sorcerer sighs slowly and glances between Lamont and Wanda.

"Are you aware that there are two who receive tutelage present in this room?" His voice isn't necessarily cold, but is there a decided lack of amusement in the pursuit of this vein of questioning? Catch the glint in his steel-blue eyes and consider the answer 'yes'. Victoria's grey-green eyes flick to Wanda and she tucks her chin, unable to answer him; her body language says enough.

Polite bemusement rather than amusement. Victoria's attitude has been something of a curiosity to him. Yes, she can no doubt see the stained karma he has, ragged as the prayer flags that flutter in the high passes. He's mostly gazing down into his tea, as if to avoid seeing the slow motion disaster this conversation will no doubt become.

Monty can field those questions while the cat peers at the humans with its inscrutable majesty unimperiled by their interest or worries. Such lofty disdain for contemptuous mortal cares weighs into the conversation for three or four seconds, and then toebeans thrust into the air — somehow, on the narrow slope of Wanda's shoulder — as Aralune turns her attention upon grooming her already pristine fur. A spot of slush may have dotted her longer outer coat, and those hairs must be sanitized, conditioned, and groomed by the sandpaper tongue treacherously meandering here and there in long, lavish strokes.

Wanda's vision is partly obscured by fuzzy leg and pawpads sticking out into the void, vicious claws extended in a huge starburst. Kneading at nothingness shows how deadly a predator the malk is — oh, yes, fear those little jellybean pinks, flower petals among volcanic ash and silver. She could just shrug the cat off or adjust her position but no, not quite. "You study at Kamar-Taj." Witness the Transian making her point flat out in a kangaroo court, a girl born in the charnelhouses of Europe and raised in the vehemence of drifting revolution. Those embers stir even now, and it could well be the explosive violence churning up Southeast Asia calls the demon's vessel even now. Oh, and oh, and oh. "It sounds that you say 'I go to Harvard, why does this dean not give me lessons instead of my teacher?' Kamar-Taj is the very best. What can you want for?" Broken English makes the point as solidly as it should.

|ROLL| Strange +rolls 1d20 for: 6

The only sound following the point put forth by the Witch is the crackling of the wood in the fire, the pop and snap indicative of pockets of tree sap and rapidly-heated trapped air. Clearing his throat abruptly, Aleski steps up and beside Victoria, rapidly looking for the nearest surface to put aside his finished mug of tea.

"We should be going now. We thank you for the opportunity presented to us, Master Strange. Mister Cranston, thank you." He rapidly dips his head towards Lamont. "Mistress Maximoff, a pleasure to meet you." More hesitantly, he nods to her, properly wary of the Malk. It appears that Swede knows what specific species of Mystical Felidae she belongs to.

"Stop, Aleski." Victoria gives him a cutting glance. He gives her a narrow glare in return and shakes his head slowly. Further ignoring him, the brunette looks back towards the three other practitioners. "If Master Strange has time to teach two others, he has time for me. I have potential. I want to apprentice to the Sorcerer Supreme."

Strange's brows drop and his cheekbones tighten. "Really." There's the deliberate lure of false interest in his reply, bait for the unwary or unthoughtful.

"Yes, sir," she replies, her voice trembling the slightest.

"If I have time, I will consider it." Even Aleski stares. Those who know the Sorcerer well enough, however, will know that answer truly as…no. "For now, return to Kamar-Taj. I will send word to your masters."

He's not entirely conscious he's doing so, but Lamont is fading himself out. Not the abrupt, puff of smoke ninja vanish, but all but becoming part of the woodwork. Let them forget he's here. There's that sardonic gleam in the flint gray eyes. Let her go lay her plaint before the feet of the masters of Kamar-Taj. He knows they know *of* him, from his days as occult flotsam on the dark seas of magic in the hidden East. But then there's pity, as he picks up his tea again. She may not understand the answer, but he does….and Lamont, if anyone, knows precisely how hard pride and the longing for knowledge can prick.

Luna the cat gives no fucks. See? That is the face of a creature who does not care, grooming herself on every errant curve of her barbed pink tongue. The mystical Felidae breeds, be they cait-sidhe or malk or other fae felines between, have all the noxious pride bestowed by Bast upon all catkind. Her tail thumps softly between Wanda's shoulder blades, and there goes the paw even higher. She bloody well should have fallen off by now.

Wanda does what Wanda does best. She shuts up and looks blackly put out by the fact the universe is generally in a jumble of a mess. Unlike Lamont, there is no hiding in the shadows, not when anointed with a great big mouthful of syllables in a title.

With one last lingering look between Wanda and Lamont, the young woman does leave with Aleski. They know where to walk: out into the foyer and down the side hall, to the double doors that lead into the central node of Kamar-Taj. There, the world spins on, its flicking lights indicative of where the gatherings of magic are thickest, and two more sets of doors open upon the other Sancti.

Strange squints, staring as if he can see them despite the walls between them and the living room. Once the doors boom shut in the distance, he clicks his tongue and shakes his head.

"Spare me the turbulence of youth." His eyes flick to the Shadow and then to the Witch. "I'm more than half-decided that she has her master and with them, she will stay. I don't have time to spare for someone intent on looking down their nose at anyone who does not fit a paradigm. It's counterintuitive to the broad-minded approach one needs to cast. How she even manages to summon up a spark is beyond me. I welcome your thoughts on the matter." The floor is open to the others, even as he paces away a step or two, sipping at his tea, and turning back, his attention on them.

"She wants it so badly," Lamont's voice is light, but there's pity there. No….not pity, sympathy. "But you're right. Morality must guide, but it must not blind. It makes it that much easier for corruption to creep in. What's the phrase in the bible, whited sepulchres?" he asks. "I imagine she'll go back and she'll ask about me." No ego in the statement - his reputation is not one to boast of.

The walk of shame with the two traumatized apprentices is ungodly, something diminishing and telling for their retreat. No doubt they will return to Kamar-Taj, tails between their legs, muttering among the stacks about nasty sorcerers and frightening masters throwing grim, bitter looks at hopped up, self-important men and women.

Maybe they can learn. Maybe they won't. Wanda has no knowledge of these things. Her form of lessons usually ended with a smack on the head or sharp fangs and claws grinning in the night, a rotten Cheshire.

Aralune has not fallen off her shoulder. The cat could care less, for there will be hell to pay if she falls over. "They make a bad decision. They learn."

"Then we're agreed. I'll speak her master on the matter." Strange meanders over to stand by the fireplace, one arm half-extended towards the heat with palm to absorb it. It soothes the sore bones, beset by pins, prone to aching in the colder months. "It matters not if she speaks to the masters of Kamar-Taj about you, Cranston," he adds, glancing back to the Shadow. "If they have reason to be concerned, they should have approached me long ago. It has been no secret that I've taken you on. You are no secret either, Wanda."

With that, he paces back over and his entire demeanor relaxes in the immediate presence of the Witch. Aralune gets a little riffle of fingertips through her head fur, not pressure enough to dislodge her from her acrobatic feats. Wanda gets a gentle kiss on the forehead in passing as he steps around her and over to the window. Gathering up a small diary, he walks back over to the vicinity of the other two. A small black length of ribbon marks his last spot and he opens it, glancing around. Ah, there's the pen, on the side table. Exchanging mug of tea for the writing utensil, he scratches out further notes before closing it. "And that…is that."

"No, that wasn't what I thought," Lamont corrects, still in that thoughtful voice, almost airy. "She'll learn the story, and no, it's no secret at all. An object lesson, perhaps. She'll have her perspective reframed." He's even steepled his fingers before him in absent-minded thought. "I visited Kamar-Taj once before, in fact. Not as a student, but given healing and hospitality."

Wanda says nothing about Kamar-Taj, about her own past. Not precisely a secret but the webs of her life envelope the brighter moon to her neutron star. None of the tellings are hers alone except where the man in the blue robes is involved, and he speaks of it far better than she does. So suffice she acts as a cat perch until Aralune grows tired of frivolous cleaning and stuffs her snoot back into the web of espresso curls. Where be that tasty bad luck?

Thank god not all answers have to be oral, or else they might be in trouble. She frowns faintly at Strange, not for the kiss so much as the pain in his hands and the obvious discomfort. «For that I would be thrashed,» she points out helpfully in Tibetan.

Any questions why Billy is the good kid?

"Did you? About what year?" Consider the Sorcerer intrigued. "And I certainly hope that she does learn something from this. I have no need to be polite the next time, if she dares to bring it up again." His is little tolerance for the close-minded, with his own bitter experience in the limiting mind-set.

Strange places aside the notebook, exchanging it for the mug of tea, and decides that it needs a warmer. His is a halo in firelight where he adds the steaming water to his mug, glancing up at Wanda and adding, «The masters of Kamar-Taj do not prescribe to this. I find that particular approach to teaching abhorrent. It doesn't build respect, it builds fear.»

"Forty…six, seven, I think," Lamont's expression is musing. "I'd've died after the war as a result of some of the magic we had to use during it." The Battle of Britain wasn't fought merely in the mundane air, but in the ethereal. Bedknobs and Broomsticks isnt the half of it. "And no one in England could heal me fully, just buy me enough time and energy to get there."

Aralune hops down and goes scrambling out of the room, after giving a feline 'hiss-hee-hee' at Lamont. Let him never think himself beyond the long paw of the fae law.

Beridden of her cat, that witch must deal with the world on human terms. Pity, really. Cats make things so much easier. She clicks her tongue all but silently to her palate, smothering the noise behind closed lips and teeth. Eyes narrow at mention of the war, but then, they would, the strobing pulsation of her aura a shuddering cacophony of Mars the Warbringer and dreaded Bellatrix, hammering notes clashing behind in the fell influence of Pluto drifting through the era of revolution. Age of Aquarius, the hippies like to sing about, but they don't know the truth the way anyone with a jot of magic does.

Strange watches the Malk disappear with an expression of mild interest, but chalks up the sudden departure to feline fancy. The semi-tamed barncats of his childhood were similar. There was always something better to do than feign interest in human affairs.

"I remember hearing tales of the healing offered by the masters of Kamar-Taj. Well and good. The practitioners of the world suffered as much as the mundane soldiers did. You look no worse the wear for it all, Cranston," he adds, the ghost of a smile barely breaking the lines of his goatee. Somewhere, on a notion of wry Sorcerous humor, a record player's needle drops and begins to play, "You Make Me Feel So Young." Fortunately, no one can hear this. Sanctum plays on the Sorcerer's side, after all.

He sips at his cup of tea and silently proclaims it adequate. "Tea, «Beloved»?" he asks of Wanda, looking to she freed of the statuesque stance needed for Fae acrobatics.

"It was a long, hard few years," he says. An idle statement of fact, but no more. "And I was very grateful for their help." Let Strange seek out that record for curiosity's sake, on some future visit. He relaxes, visibly, when Aralune departs.

Toebeans are a sadly lost feature and Wanda, for all her dubious charms, cannot match that by sheer proximity. She nods at the offering for tea, happy not to say much. Then again, as the sole person without much in the way of living memory for the war, at least its actual fighting and sorcerous battle part, the most she can feasibly contribute is a tale of the harrowing follow-up and honestly, no one comes to hear such things.

Hazarding a guess at what might take a modicum of gloom from the Witch's aura, Strange mixes up a blend along with copious amounts of honey. Like, so much goddamn honey. Billy might even make a face and complain that Picard never used that much in his tea, Dad, geez. The mug is delivered with a fond smile.

"They were grateful for your service, Cranston, this I can assure you." Glancing to the Shadow, he offers his own respectful little nod. During that harrowing time, he had been neurosurgeon rather than out on the fronts, more in dread of failure at the surgery table then an end from a stray bullet. "I heard tell of the trials held at Kamar-Taj afterwards and…" He fades out and then shakes his head. "No more for tonight. To peace." The lift of his mug is for all to join and the wish heartfelt.

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