1965-02-28 - Courtly Plans
Summary: Strange and Thor walk, talk, and hash out the difficulties of great responsibility and power.
Related: None
Theme Song: None
strange thor 

Walking easily down a relatively uncongested side street in New York, few are willing to obstruct the path of the Asgardian and the Sorceror Supreme. Perhaps it is some latent aura the two project, or simply the mass of one and the stern countenance of another. Buskers and street vendors hawk their wares from curbs and carts, and only rarely does a car putter down the roadway with a shrill *honk* of the horn to interrupt the jabber of the pedestrians enjoying an afternoon's sunshine.

"Thank you for taking the time to speak with me today, your highness." Strange speaks no louder than necessary. In his lengthy black winter coat and bright-red scarf, with dress shoes shined and black slacks starched, he appears no different than the usual upper-class gentleman out for a walk with a friend. He turns and continues walking, albeit backwards, to squint at the wares on one of the vendor carts. One item looks eerily like a little lost trinket from Mesopotamia, but thank goodness — just a twist of creative luck and it's entirely mundane.

Without missing a step, he turns about again and continues speaking. "I wanted to know if the Embassy has received any visitors lately, especially if they are from beyond Midgard proper."

Thor's idea of 'incognito' is jeans, work boots, and a well-worn leather jacket. It's the sort of thing someone would expect to see on any working man about town, and he makes no effort to refine his clothing to appear well-mended or even religiously cleaned.

The cane in his left hand is a similarly bizarre affectation, though the sheer metaphysical mass of the prosaic device is sufficient to make someone go crosseyed if they look at it for too long.

Also, his disguise does nothing for his sheer height and build, resulting in a generic working-class look that is half a head taller than anyone else in the immediate area.

"Visitors? Aye," Thor remarks, to Strange's question. "A young fellow, naming himself Kevin Masterson. The son of a doughty warrior of great reknown," Thor explains. "A half-breed, with the blood of Midgard and Asgard in his veins. Rare enough, though there are some who still walk Midgard with a touch of the Golden City in their blood," he acknowledges. "When last Asgard came to Midgard in force, there were some among our warriors who took mortals as lovers. Children, it seems, were an inevitable result of such union," he grins.

If anyone's looking closely enough, it's not the breeze flirting with the scarf, lifting its tassled ends in fitful movements. The Cloak has a decided interest in that walking stick and like a fretful dog told to sit-stay, it wiggles. Strange absently runs a black-gloved hand down its length, soothing the relic back into place gently but firmly as he nods.

"I did wonder if the blood of Asgard mingled with the people here. It's good to have my suspicions confirmed. I may have to speak with this young man, simply to see the results for myself. And of Asgard itself? How fares your family?" He glances over at the eldest Prince.

"My brother seems to have abandoned his penchant for foolery for a time," Thor says, convivially. "Mother is well, and nurtures all Asgard. Father remains eternal as the stars. All is well in the Golden City, eternal and for now, peaceful."

"It is but a short time that we can expect such peace, in my experience," he frowns. "When all is well is usually sign that enemies gather beyond the view of the gates. It is the way of our adversaries at times to wait until we relax our guard, then strike out when they expect us most unready for their wiles," he clarifies.

Someone hawking their wares hollers to the men about the latest pomade, guaranteed to bring a shine to their hair and attract the ladies with a manly smell. Strange snorts, frankly, and keeps walking. Let's be honest, Thor needs no products for his hair. Give him a few more blocks; someone's invariably going to ask where he gets it done.

"Stability is never a certainty," the Sorcerer agrees, placing his hands back into his coat pockets. "I sometimes envy the ability of our foes to wait as they do. To be granted the amount of time to devote to an all-out offensive rather than to be continually on the defensive…" He huffs a short laugh. "Some days, I feel like a beaver, constantly damming up the world against an influx of issues." He shakes his head dismissively. "Midgard isn't burning, so I have little right to complain. Still, it is good to hear that the Golden City is enjoying the peace. Is there any need for me to speak with your parents as of late? You know I enjoy diplomatic visits immensely," he quips with a dry little smile.

Thor snorts at the suggestion, then laughs easily. It's a brassy sound that carries for dozens of yards. "You are not a student of history, friend Strange," Thor tells the Sorceror Supreme. "It is a story as old as time itself, and it applies well to kings with crude moats to the gods and our golden city, itself."

"There are those who remark that high walls are the best security. Or deep rivers, or great guns. But all are a seige mentality, this idea that we can ring ourselves with security and be protected from all threats. But invaders build rafts to cross moats. They divert rivers under high walls and send saboteurs into the city to destroy the guns."

"Better, my friend, to think not of walls, but of offense. An army striking into enemy territory is far more a concern to them than breaching barriers leagues from their homeland."

"But," he says, switching topics. "If it pleases you to pay a visit to my home, I should gladly welcome you there. It is best for all parties for the Sorceror Supreme to be readily welcomed to Asgard, instead of merely upon the convenience of circumstance."

"Duly noted. I may call upon you within the near future then, your highness, in order to speak with your parents. In light of diplomacy, they are deserving of a personal update as to the status of Midgard. Plus, I'm certain that your mother won't mind if I peruse the libraries of the palace. I found an incredibly useful spell last time, complete with an astounding skip in sequential elements needed to complete it. Clever as the seven hells," he muses.

A small group of greaser-wannabe teenagers look like they're on a collision course with the two men, but then, they part like a small school of fish. The Sorcerer and company continue on, unmolested, while the youngsters wonder and grind teeth at the sudden inability to make them move instead.

"But you contend that I'm no scholar of history. An unfair claim to make. I may be a Doctor, but I know the nuances of war well enough. If you weren't aware of it, I am not entitled to offensive maneuvers. I tell you this to enlighten you, should you ever need my assistance in Asgard. The deities from whom I derive my power assign this limitation to keep a more brazen Sorcerer from mistaking this power as something to abuse. If you will, I am on the offensive often enough; our world is rich with life and there are many willing to risk my counter-move. Still — " and he lifts his gloved hands out to his sides briefly. "There is peace. I can focus on other things instead."

"It is well to know our strengths and weaknesses," Thor tells Strange. "And no insult was intended, my friend, I assure you — you knowledge of the mystic arts is without peer. I make study of few things — bookish pursuits bore me — but in the realm of war, there are few in the Realms who have the experience of Asgard. We have waged war across all of reality, against doughty and powerful foes who seek the conquest of all living things. In this respect, the expertise of Asgard has few equals."

"When would you make this visit to my home? If it is a formal court occassion, then protocols must be observed. Queen Frigga maintains that formalities are what separate us from the beast, after all."

"No insult taken, your highness. Know that you are a constant on my list of beings to contact in case I need to take a hammer to a nail, if you will." His is a sly little smile. Was that a hammer pun? It was. Shame.

"Insofar as visiting the Courts, I am uncertain of a particular time and day. My mantle does not allow me to leave Midgard in safety often. It may have to be abrupt and I understand if that causes undue stress. I admit that I'm banking on diplomatic flexibility in turn." He sighs, breath fogging faintly in the chilly air. "Though…if I were to bring another with me, would your parents consider it an affront?"

"In that case, best we not make a formal occasion of it," Thor remarks. "Simply a welcome attendance from a known ally and friend. If circumstances permit a formal visit in the future, we shall endeavour to make one of it on another day. But any ally you bring is surely an ally of Asgard as well, and would be welcome, I am sure," Thor tells Strange. "When might this visit occur?"

"I assure you, she is a staunch ally to Midgard at the very least, like as not Asgard by proxy. As to when…as I mentioned, I am uncertain, but if the Court requires a set date, then let us say within the next two weeks." Strange looks over at Thor again, back from being momentarily diverted by a clever demonstration of blown glass. "We'll arrive in our formal attire, I assure you. No one's going to speak before the throne of Asgard in their pajamas."

"Then we shall tentatively plan a date for your attendance," Thor informs Strange. "We are a pragmatic people, friend Strange," Thor reminds the man. "Mother holds us to customs and courtesies because it is tradition that divides us from the animals and barbarians. But we know well that custom holds no hold over duty, and will welcome your attendance even if it lacks the pomposity that certain courtiers prefer," he says, with a tone of wry derision. "The bureaucrats hold sway in my Father's court, but they will never control it as long as a warrior sits on the throne. We know full well the eloquence of the blade over a flurry of a thousand words."

Thor's last thought brings a sly smile to the Sorcerer's face.

"Mmm, I rather think that the pen and tongue are mightier than the sword, but we can agree to disagree on that front. I admit a bias towards Words — and if I'm not being too forward, does your mother not balance both the sword and the Word in her wiles?" A fondness for the mother-Queen appears to be strong in him. "Still…yes, formality. I would not tarnish the reputation of Midgard and appear in anything less than the mantle of Sorcerer Supreme. She will be equally prepared."

He goes silent, perhaps long enough to draw attention, before he speaks again. "Your highness, I would…have your thoughts on another matter entirely. I'm not too proud to admit that my circle of confidants is small and fewer still rank amongst those with great power and responsibility, be they metaphysical or royal-born, as your own." Strange pauses beneath the awning of a clock shop, its window filled to the brim with various faces and dials. Finally looking back to Thor, he appears…contemplative. "What are your thoughts on marriage?"

Thor gives Strange a look of some measured surprise, both golden brows arching high to his forehead. "Marriage? Truly?" he inquires, then laughs brassily and clasps Strange's back, pounding on his shoulder with one hand. "Hah! I would not have guessed you the marrying sort, my friend," he booms at the Sorceror Supreme. "Dedicated to musty tomes and ancient knowledge as you are, 'tis passing difficult to comprehend a maiden even gaining a share of your time, much less rising enough to merit your attentions."

"Are you speaking in jest or in truth has some lady capture your eye? Marriage is a daunting covenant, my friend, and one entered into only with the gravest of certainty," he warns Strange. "Does the concept frighten you so or are you merely contemplative of all possibilities?"

Blinking at the resounding impact of the god's favoring pat, Strange regains his measure of dignity after staggering slightly.

"Your faith in my sociability is resounding, your highness," he starts in a droll tone, but it evens out as he continues. "I wouldn't say that I've got cold feet, but — " A car driving by hits one of the many puddles formed around winter-clogged drains and the splash barely hits the shine of his dress shoes. Glowering down at the wetted hem of his pants and then at the departing car, he deadpans, "Very funny." He probably has conversations like this with Fate all of the time. "Contemplative is the kinder of the two options. I'm actually a step ahead of the contemplating part… She wears the ring, you see." Chewing at the inside of his cheek, he then mutters, "Alright, so perhaps there's a bit of chill at my toes, yes, but — this is why I ask. You are another mind entirely and can no doubt cast light in matters that I have not yet considered."

"Then it sounds as if you've already made up your mind," Thor tells Strange, with an uncharacteristically sly tone of voice. "And merely seek someone to confirm that you are in fact in full possession of your faculties."

"If I were to tell you 'do it', would you feel relief? If I were to dissuade you, would you object? Or even resent my thoughts?" he inquires.

"I can tell you that pledging yourself to another is more than merely a ceremony — that a wedding is nothing compared to the feelings in your heart for another person," he explains. "But it is the act of pledging that gives the oaths substance — to promise yourself to more than just a person, but to pledge your fidelity in front of all your friends and allies."

The good Doctor's eyes slide sideways to consider Thor before he glances away again, apparently finding something of great interest across the way. It could be anything, really.

"I'm fully aware of how binding such a thing can be. Allow me to frame it in yet another perspective. My benefactors, the trio of gods that I mentioned before: whether I protest or not, they have great sway in whom I choose to bring into my life. It would matter less to me to pledge myself to her in front of friends and family than to do it before the gods. It is an immortal pledge, your highness. If it is an incorrect decision, there will be consequences…if not immediately, then in the future. I…" He fades out and his cheekbones show for the teeth gritting. He has to speak around his own pride. "Yes, I would feel relief if you agreed, as irritating as the opinion of a peer may be to me. I honor your thoughts on the matter, even if you did object. Hence my asking."

Thor snorts. "I am grateful that you deign to welcome my advice then," he remarks, rolling his eyes skywards in supplication to the Fates. But his smile is still a tolerant one.

"To all who are given power, we are given equal measure to abuse such power."

He rests a hand on Strange's shoulder to stop his stride, and by dint of momentum turns Strange to face him. He pauses, thinking, and taps the handle of his cane against his broad, Nordic brow.

"Let me ask another question, then, and answer it only in your heart. If you brought her to your masters, and they forbade such an arrangement — would you heed their desires? Or would you follow your own path, and consequences be damned?" He taps the cane's handle against Strange's sternum, pointedly.

Summarily paused and turned about, Strange stands there, his expression gone mildly vexed. People wander past, not many of them interested in the conversation between two men, one looking as if he'd licked a lemon and the other gesturing with his cane.

"Right, so…if I answer in my heart, that's not necessarily aloud, your highness," he replies. "I know what I would do." The addition comes with a lift of chin, as if he's ready to take a blow. Prickly thing, the Sorcerer, though perhaps that reaction gives away the answer in turn.

"Good!" Thor beams a sunny expression of approval towards Strange. "Then your mind is decided, and no man or god or immortal can unmake your decision for you," he tells Strange. The butt of the cane drops to the ground, and Thor rests his fingertips on the legendary weapon's currently disguised affectation.

"Cheer up!" he says, slapping Strange's upper arm. "It is a rare thing in this life, to have some absolute certainty of something. Embrace the fear! There is none more unnerving than knowing you are set upon a path from which you can not turn back!"

"You are the paradigm of Asgardian optimism, your highness," Strange replies, but there, ever so slowly, is the beginning of a relieved smile. "Odd of you to remark on certainties. I made a similar comment to one of my apprentices not a day or two back. What's the quote…the only certainty in life is that there are uncertainties. I am but human, I suppose," and he lifts one gloved hand to accent his shrug.

A scheming sparkle comes to light in his eyes suddenly and he glances over at the Asgardian. "She is whom I spoke of earlier, when I mentioned bringing along another individual. I don't believe you've met her…?"

"You have not mentioned a name, friend Strange, so it is difficult for me to say one way or another," Thor reminds the Sorceror Supreme. "But it seems the way of wizards to speak in riddles and confound clarity with vagueness," he grins.

"So who is she, then? Some lass of Midgard? A strange visitor from distant lands?"

Strange's chuckle is parts contrite.

"Forgive me, I'm used to bandying words with entities who would sooner pluck my living heart from my chest and eat it before my eyes. Her name is Wanda Maximoff, of Transia, here on Midgard. It is a small, contested territory in Eastern Europe. She and her brother made their way here hoping for safety and security a few years back and…I think, sometimes, a slice of the American Dream. Whatever that is these days." The bitterness eases away from his expression after a moment or two.

"She is quiet, in the way of the deeply-touched, and the gods only know that making her laugh is sometimes more difficult than arm-wrestling one of your physique, but…she is steadfast — loyal to her bones, and…even as this may stretch your belief, your highness, there are children. From the future. Here and now, courtesy of a broken line of time itself. One of them shares her powers which are…incredibly singular. There is no one else in this reality — not just planet or World Tree, but reality, who has these abilities. There can be no other answer but a union when this young man even shares some of my own in turn." He gives Thor a significant if not slightly strained look. "I hate the idea of being a pawn of Fate itself, but I cannot think of any other answer than we were Fated to be together."

"An uncomfortable proposition," Thor says, mouth twisting a little in sympathy. "The idea of a child appearing, from a future you did not portend, would unsettle me greatly. Amora, was one who dipped frequently into the play of prophet and oracle alike," he remarks to Strange. "She saw visions of children down the road, though I confess I wonder if that is more a mystery of the feminine mind — and a vastly more complex mystery altogether," he says, wryly, and with a glance skywards for protection from such projections.

"The Fates conspire to weave us all into the Tapestry," Thor reminds Strange. "There are things that are, and things that must be — and things that must never be. At times we serve the obvious needs of Fate, but there are surely times when we serve a higher calling without being aware of it. I have found, though, that Destiny seeks us all equally — whether we are ready for her or not."

Strange snorts quietly and remarks to himself, in regards to the riddle of the feminine mind, "Unsolvable." Still, he glances over and seems to assess the Asgardian prince in a new light.

"I remember Amora well enough. I can never look at an apple again without being haunted by our meeting of the Fates, with their Loom of Destiny. Would that Fate — the Fates — continue to test us all equal to our mettle. I can't imagine someone being confronted with a problem of magnitude on my personal scale. Gunfire does very little to the Lieutenants of the Seven Hells." He runs his fingers back through his dark hair, mussing it from its usual tidy state. Realizing this, he finds a reflective surface in another shop window and pats it back into place.

"Twin boys," he adds, glancing back at Thor. "Fraternal twins. The boy who doesn't share mine and Wanda's powers shares the abilities of her brother, Pietro. I'm not sure how much more certain we can be that we're Fated together. I just…thought that a ring would make it more acceptable in the long run…to society at least. Hating nosy people is at least one thing we can agree on. Would you attend, if we held a wedding?" He pauses, hands jammed in his coat pockets, to ask this of the Prince.

Thor shrugs at Strange. "My friend, you know well how I feel about the needs of society and their desire for certain comportment. Is it really the opinion of your peers that concern you, though?" he inquires, pointedly. "Or are you discovering something about yourself, and you find that possibility frightening? That you are not only destined to be with this Wanda, but that you wish to be with her?"

"In either case," he says, heading off Strange's response. "If a wedding is to be had, I will happily be there to witness you pledge your devotion to one another," Thor says. A beat passes. "Just because I don't care for ceremony doesn't mean I cannot enjoy a party," he says, a little defensively.

The Sorcerer's surface shielding of aloof interest wavers.

"Perhaps I am terrible at sharing," Strange throws back blandly, in reference to the society's wishes, "and merely wish to make certain that the world knows that we are together." The laughter can be found in his eyes rather than his face, where his lips attempt to keep the smirk away. "Or so deeply concerned with the proper flow of Midgard's reality and future that I have opined that to deviate from it may cause great trouble. Woe betide me, having to be with her," and he places a scarred hand to his heart, calling upon Shakespearean theatrics.

"And I do not intend insult or question your opinions," he amends, patting Thor on the arm once and firmly. No doubt this is nowhere near the strength of the Asgardian. "I would have you attend if you can. We need someone to lead the revelry. Between myself and Wanda, I am the more social, but I would be hard-pressed to meet your enthusiasm in celebrating good tidings." And there's the endearingly crooked grin on full display!

"Aye, I will attend, gladly," Thor assures Strange, clasping his shoulder. "It will be my pleasure to represent Asgard at such an august occasion. When you have a date in mind, please let me know and I will attend with pleasure."

"In the meanwhile, I should return to the Embassy. I will inform my father that you intend to pay visit upon the court— and I will look forward to meeting your fiancee," he grins.

Strange returns the warrior-like grip of the Asgardian's shoulder with a short nod, his smile having not faded.

"This sounds like a plan, your highness. I look forwards to seeing you again in a more formal fashion. In the meantime…thank you," he says gravely. "Your council is wise. Your parents should be proud. When I am able to attend upon the Court, I shall contact you at the Embassy first before traveling of my own accord."

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