1965-04-23 - A Crystal on the Tide
Summary: On the whim of a note, Strange and Wanda sneak into another dimension to locate an intriguing crystal. Strange gets zapped. Wanda is far more successful at evading damage. In the end, it's a walk on the beach.
Related: None
Theme Song: None
strange wanda 

The tune, whistled, echoes about the large foyer of the New York Sanctum. It's some little ditty from out West, a country song better known by those of the fields and farm than the grit and grind of the city. A skip-step and up he goes into the air, the Sorcerer Supreme, lifted by the Arts and the indomitable Cloak. Strange lands, dainty as a lark, on the railing of the open-sided stairway along the second floor and then begins walking along the thin line of wood, intrigued by the small note in one hand.

The whistling dies away abruptly. "«Beloved?»" He calls out suddenly, glancing up from the chicken scratch. "I have an errand, care to tag along?"


Country songs aren't particularly Wanda's forte. She might carry a tune, if pushed; demonstrate some measure of skill, if thought unawares. Her talents lie more in the harp, and 'tis a long spring without those chords plucked. Perchance music does not lie within her soul or something in the fractured, unsettled resonance of the world around her seeps in. Either way, she has herself a cup of tea to finish for all the flavour is bitter and earthy, much more than her liking. She wastes very little when it comes to the things she purchases - - be those foodstuffs or aught else. Waste not, want not, the old saying goes. Her fingertips nonetheless drum alongside the saucer on the table, the better with which to convince herself to imbibe the worst liquid known to man this side of unmentionable fluids left in the wake of science experiments or biodegrading trash. Pinching her nose would offend her pride, but no one is here to see, are they?

Thus the Sorcerer Supreme catches her mid tip of the mug, too late to stop, fingers squeezing her nostrils and eyes wrenched shut, like she's trying to inhale lye. No, nothing of that sort, nor cod liver oil, castor oil or a dozen other oils starting with O. Gulp!

Now try swallowing when watched, and she manages not to spout a fountain up at herself like some kind of deranged, frightened porpoise. The click noise is almost cetacean, though.


He almost manages it. Almost. Still, the repressed laughter dances in his eyes like sunlight from frosted steel and the tiniest curve threatens the sanctity of his patrician features. Having stepped in upon the scene, after not hearing an immediate reply, the Sorcerer simply watches the attempt.

"No sugar to help the medicine go down?" he asks blithely, dark brows flicking upwards. Then follows the concern, a light-grey shadow through his eyes, and he steps over, a scarred hand coming to gently rest on the small of her back. "You're not ill, are you?"


Her throat closes around the ugly flavour of the tea. No way for her to escape the fact her stomach wants to crawl out her throat and run away; if only. Forcing the liquid down is an act worthy of Hercules. One of his great labours, that.

"No sugar," she mutters. Like that would be spoiling; one way or another. She puts the mug down on the table and grimaces, rather than wiping her mouth with her sleeve. That would be rude, and licking it clean would be terrible. Her eyes narrow fractionally. "Not too bad." The flare of her nostrils measures a dislike of the situation. «It is nearly weather I would let my feet be seen. But having healthy toes… yes? Good nails. That gives better nails." Because no one makes yummy keratin chewable vitamins. "What needs do you have?"


"Ah." The short sound is one of acknowledgement and understanding; the tea is likely on par with the chalky mess of a nutritional slurry that he downs on the days when it's needed. Leaning in, a kiss impresses against the chestnut curls, lingering there simply for the ability to wriggle his nose into their softness. The tip brushes against scalp and he inhales slowly, fondly, reminding his sense of her intuitive notes. It brings him to step in closer still, with the ease of familiarity, into her personal space. A soft hum and then he speaks again, having lifted his face from her hair.

"This here." Strange proffers the note, something in his own crabbed hand. "I found it tucked away in one of the books on the library desk." Which book? Likely only the wards know; the stacks number at least six and in each stack, at least a dozen. In theory. "I forgot that I wanted to step into one of the known dimensions and see if I could collect one of the rocks there. If you remember the dimension locked in eternal sunset? A crystalline formation caught my eye." If the good Doctor's scrawl can be interpreted, it says:

Collect sample of local rock
- stabilize if resonance counter to reality proper
- observe any attunements
- set into relic if possible


The proof of not going outside is probably found in the neutral scent around Wanda, the absence of any tincture of diesel fumes or the like. She still has her coat on, boots at the ready, prepared to prowl at the first opportunity when called upon, which the call of opportunity lights the way to. For how is anyone going to ignore that nose brushing against her flattened locks? The need to ruffle through her curls is suppressed, her hand flat on the table.

When this is revealed to be a piece of paper, she arches her brows. "This is you." Yes, it's his writing; that could leave the possibility of the man forgetting he left a note for himself weeks or months or hours ago. She frowns in thought, just a slight downward curve to her mouth. "Is it a rock in shadow or a rock in the light?"


"If memory serves me correctly, I thought I saw a glint below the cliff, towards the waterline," Strange replies quietly, still lingering at her side. "I would have missed it entirely, but it seemed to be emitting its own light — opposite of the sun's rays, which placed it in shadow."

A small smile breaks the lines of his carefully-tended goatee as he tilts his head, the better to see her face. "I thought you might want to come along. I sensed no intrusive presences beyond us last we visited. No hint of maleficence. I highly doubt we'll disturb anything with another visit." He looks off over his shoulder, attention gone distant, as he flickers through the mental card-box of dimensional anchorings. There — the one classified in ruddy light and broad skies, waving grass and the shushing roll of waves. An outstretched hand is offered as well, one empty of note in case it was not retrieved by the Witch. As always, it's an invitation to adventure, scarred as it is with his own trials and tribulations.


Waterline: a word that causes her to puzzle over its meaning for just a little. Then, wrinkling her brow, the witch tugs her fingers through her hair finally. Not much she can do without a comb, but she looks satisfactory and, for Wanda, that's really all she cares about. Things could be entirely worse. "Ah. No reason that we wait. I am happy enough to go." Her hands smooth over her coat, buttoning the hooks within, and she banishes the teacup with a wave of her hand. Off it goes to be ritually cleansed by water and whatever the wards do: form bunnies and prance around, maybe.

"Bad rocks and bad wards. I cannot think you would stay away from those." More than likely he'd return covered in shards of rock, at that rate. Her hand placed in his, she steps into the unknown and wherever Strange takes her.


There's something eternally significant about finding her hand within his own. Delicate, limber, with smaller knuckles, it still contains strength beyond measure. Always, this thrills him — humbles him — fills a portion of his heart with giddiness that seemed so long anathema to him; for who could allow the Sorcerer Supreme a measure of happiness, when it seems the entire outer-verse thirsts for destruction of all he holds dear, as Stephen, man, and human being of Earth? Apparently, one of his three patrons believes in the simple happiness of fingers intertwined.

"Unfortunately, no, a fatal personality flaw of mine," the man replies to her, grinning charmingly. The oculus is a lazy casting and its firefly-sparks opens to frame a familiar vista. Knee-high grass, slowly dancing in a sea-breeze no cooler than need be, holds strong lines of rubicund atmosphere. A handful of steps into the dimension proper and the rift falls closed. It brings them to a familiar cliff's edge, overlooking an expanse of sea gone gilded overtop its silvery depths. The sun at the far horizon sits eternally half-submerged. Strange inhales slowly, his eyes shut in a moment of peaceful ecstasy, and the lift of his ribs falls in time.

"Down below," he says quietly, not wanting to break the natural silence of the place, even as he looks over to Wanda. "Last I was here, I noticed the beach. You can't tell unless you lean outwards. Be mindful of that, though, the soil is loose."

Which totally means that the cliff gave out from beneath his feet last time and, minus the Cloak, he would have been a Sorcerous splat about three-hundred feet down.


Something incredibly satisfying about finding his scarred hand within hers, the way those gnarled and maimed fingers meet their ilk in straight, even lines. Not important to dwell upon perfection or the lack thereof. How does it matter, the injuries are things of the past. For them, those fingers point the way home, a ring or a clasp fit to connect them across continents and in the moments of uncertainty. Or country songs that make no sense. Loneliness is something they all understand.

Anyone who has bridged the gap of the pinnacle, or been deprived of companionship by a title, surely understands. Such emotional reciprocity is the ballast upon which all lives are built, a solid foundation for the future going forward. "Fatal?" Wanda wrinkles her nose. "No. I think not fatal. Trouble, yes, and the place where you may have a hole in your shield. Easy enough to use against you, maybe."

The strapping beauty of the place below has her rolling her free wrist and capturing a beam of sunlight, a nocturnal note that she signs into existence. Sharp lines converge upon one another and then she buoys up on that roseate air painted by the copper-fingered dusk, sister to dawn who guides out the chariots of her brother by every free hour. The mad gallop of their descent thus becomes nothing more than chaff on a mistral, and the air tastes sweet even though that humming note of the sea lends a hint of brine to mingle on it.


Booted feet land on the sand of the beach far below after a period of descent, gentle and composed of companionable silence in the passing. The grains are fine, glittering, as if someone envisioned a sprawling ribbon of quartz to capture and reflect back every errant beam of light in the warm spectrum of color. It's mostly pink and peach, terra-cotta in natural shadow, and the rocks themselves remain far darker, a color closer to dried blood and inked ichor in their shade. But there — and even as Strange points to one of the natural upwellings of rock, the crystal can be seen. The visible face is polished smooth, nearly to a mirror-like state, while the rest of it grows back into the rock it calls home. It glows in a counter-hue of some undecided blend of mint and viper-green, the very hues shifting even with every movement a body might make, down to breath and blink.

"There, the crystal." A sea-breeze catches in the Cloak and it billows happily. His hair riffles for it, catching the ruddy rays. "And a hole, in my shield? If you mean the ring, I'm not concerned, «Beloved». The soul heals over time, you see. Given in love, it seals in love." He eyes the jewelry in question with a proud lift of his chin.


This is something rare, a glimmering ribbon of bright shades painted from the end of the spectrum with varying shades of cream and bistre to cut through the unaffordable intense hues. Nothing moves but nature itself, the woman suspended midair while the waves answer the hum of gravity and the endless pull on the face of a distant world. Being weightless and loose, the witch allows the state of the curious, eternal twilight hour to wash over her. In such a place, their reds are almost garish, the vermillion of a gate struck on the natural greenery of a subdued, rusted out autumn. What ruin does black provide where every bit of grey has a cast of peach or apricot on the farmer face?

"Yes." She nods at it, shoulders rolled back. "It has not been hurt by weather." This observation made, she shakes her head to the question of the ring. "No. You are always interested in the unknown. It is something someone can use upon you."


A short laugh, though there's no mistaking the wry note.

"You know me too well, I think, «Beloved»," the Sorcerer replies, even as he begins to walk towards the twinkling crystalline curio. Sand shifts beneath his rolling steps, confident as they always are. "Still, at Kamar-Taj, even as an apprentice, I was informed that no knowledge is forbidden…only certain practices. In a way, it is my armor, the theoretical and practical understandings that I pursue. Has it been used again me in the past by potential enemies?" He throws another look at her over his shoulder, this one fully jaded. "You bet your pert little lips."

He pauses now, before the crystal, and considers it, one arm folded across his chest while the other drags two fingers along one side of his mouth. "…I'd almost bet a teapot and a tome that if I touch this with bare skin, something awful will happen. Hmm?" It's an inquiring little sound to Wanda, inviting her thoughts.


Of course she knows Strange's number. It may be 42, and jiving with the universe's meaning. Reduced to the universal number of 6, and that continues to be irrelevant for the purposes of the pose.

The Scarlet Witch, floating in midair, in a rose-red and petal-pink world, must surely feel a bit at odds with the strand over which she looms rather less than large. Sand barely settles where she goes, the flotation of telekinesis applied precisely underfoot. Perhaps an unnecessary expenditure of energy, but she has plenty to spare, and worse, not everyone has a flying cape to carry them 'round. The curio indeed warrants a second look from the ground, or close enough to count. "Knowledge is not bad or good. How we act, this matters. Good or bad comes out of those choices." Heavy words for a woman not much past twenty and some.

"It may. I see it likely." Is she even bothering to touch the fortunosphere? She should be.


"Likely, hmm?" The Sorcerer sounds contemplative even as he squints at the crystal inset in rugged rock. Another stroke of one line of his goatee and that is most definitely the man reaching out to touch it — with bare skin. What's it going to do, curse him or something? Nah, the Vishanti wouldn't be that unkind to their stalwart supplicant.

But it does, however, zap the hell out of his fingertips once they get close enough. A centipede scuffing wool socks on a carpeted flooring in the dead of winter might discharge the same amount of electricity.

"ACK!" Clutching his fingers to his chest, Strange grimaces out a little growl that slowly breaks into wry laughter. "You were right, it doesn't want to play nicely." His eyes flick to her, glowing lightly about their centers as they are with his own aura. "Care to convince the rock to spit the damn thing out?"


The Vishanti aren't unkind, but amused or unaware? Go ahead and reckon on trouble, and a gambler might not have a losing hand. Their champion needs to take a few breaks now and then, right? Wanda does not flinch exactly when Strange reaches out, but her hand is already rising to seize a handful of the threads of fate and yank them hard enough to make her will and whim manifest.

Do pay heed, wanton karma on the rise. Wincing at the unfortunate outcome of a scorching scent rippling outwards from a point of impact, she bobs out of the way like a buoy being helpfully floated out of danger's wake. "You are not damaged?" Not an idle question, that.

She turns to the rock. Earth to earth, at the end of the day, unleashes a certain measured response. The kind that begins and ends with Behave in as sharp and decisive a tone a girl like her can muster; to wit, Agatha Harkness bleeds through very much in the two-syllable command infused by her native Transian.


"Eh, the numbness will go away eventually…I assume," Strange replies as airily as he can manage, shaking out the fingers in question. Ow ow ow ow. That does sting on nerves already sensitized by surgeries and pins. On some plane of consciousness, he can sense the low-level rumblings of a command sent with all the mustard that can be summoned up and smiles to himself despite the complaints of his metacarpals.

"I caught that," he murmurs, grinning in a pleased manner. "Go on, see if the rock itself will detach from the crystal. I wonder if separating from its home will lessen the intensity of its reaction. Or maybe that was it; enough bite in the only bite to scare off someone interested…?" Hey, he's stubborn — and he wants that crystal. He's likely to touch it again, if not with the barrier of Cloak between his skin and gem.


Behave is a warning; next, the act is simple as one can get. Pluck a cushion of telekinetic force beneath the obdurate crystal, add a matrix of finely pressed thin strands to the face of the stone. With those in place, she can measure out the rough diameter of the crystal by sight infused by bits of elemental awareness. Wanda isn't much of a witch if she cannot differentiate relative values and densities of rock — to say nothing of her father, whose proclivities in the direction of magnetism may be a shared fault betwixt them.

Would Strange be an impatient man, he's likely to be pulling out the options by the handful, for Wanda measures up time differently when assessing things on a geological scale. Or mayhap searching for weaknesses in the stone, fissures and flaws to take advantage of using a sharp, hard tap to free up the rock from the gem.


It's a pleasure to watch another work at their task, especially one with her calibre of mastery, and Strange blinks the Sight fully over his irises in order to see precisely what's occurring about the crystal itself.

Within the confines of the Mystical vision, he can see the threading of elemental force and its precise webbing about the crystal. "That is…fascinating," he whispers, almost to himself, the comment thick with a form of envy and pride all in one.


The hammering of the stone would be an unrelenting, cruel mistreatment of the beautiful stone face. Undulating shapes laid out in breathlessly fair strata do not deserve anyone to deface their quality, softly polished layers absent of scratches.

Wanda thumbs her fingers in sharp revolutions, acute senses on to the limits of rocky weakness. She taps and pokes at the fissures in a calculated dance, slow to be sure, but respectful enough. Implanting two dozen thin spindles gives her a way to merely nudge the crystal out, if she were bound to be lazy about it. Though an easier route no doubt may be the prospect of singing the stone to quiescence around it, that way is different. Her goal there, no doubt, dependent upon the agreement of rock to give way as she nudges and wills it to contract a little closer, just a little more.


He squints and leans in to see precisely how the rock itself is responding around the crystal. As for the gemstone itself? It begins to…sing to itself, in a way, a counter-melody to whatever effect the Witch is having upon its surroundings.

A sentient stone? Fighting at the delicate disturbance of its encasing rock, still, it moves when ushered forth by her motions and abilities.


Yon flight of fancy ends rather dramatically when Wanda pushes back the stone, tension squeezing around the edges. The enormous landscape carved into minute valleys and thin, eroded pinnacles allow for margins that can shrink. Each spot shelters potential spaces she can reduce down enough to pry the fascinating little gem free, one good punt all she needs to dislodge their gift. Bam, there it goes, floating down to Strange.

«There.» She seems plenty satisfied by that.


Flinching when the stone abruptly leaves its mooring, he takes a moment to wrap one hand in the silky safety of the Cloak. As if entirely helpful to an ultimate degree, it forms a temporary gloving about his skin, as flexible as a glove itself, and he plucks it from the air as one might pull an apple from a tree.

"«And very well done indeed,»" Strange replies, nearly purring. Neener-neener, crystal, got you now. "«Back to the Sanctum, I think, for further research. Unless you have a reason to linger?»"


The crystal may have thoughts on its treatment, but one can hardly complain about being manhandled. First, woman handled; second, man caught. It works out together, their act of cooperation resolves the matter of a shiny sparkly now in the possession of the Sorcerer Supreme. As it stands, Wanda dusts her hands and eases back down onto the beach. Feet touch down in the sand and she slides a little, finally gathering her landlegs again after floating for a good long time indeed.

"Not so special," she says, as though every mystic is also a miner. She's been a mystic minor for a very long time indeed, no? "It is very pretty here. But you do not need to stay, yes?"


"I do not have a need to stay, no, but if you were to suggest a reason, I would be interested," Strange replies, even as he pulls his hand out from beneath the Cloak's coverage. The gloving of fingers remains, hollowed as they are about the crystal, and then the clever relic grows its own pocket. Blip — in goes the gemstone, safely out of touch and reach of any skin. Smugly, the Sorcerer pats at the little pouched section. Good relic, he implies. Collars wiggle finely like the antennae of a moth.

"We could stay simply for the view from up there," and he points upwards, towards the very top of the looming cliff, their point of initial arrival.


What is need, compared to desire? What is a wish, rather than a requirement? Questions for the philosophers, and no philosopher does Wanda pretend to be. Leave that to her volatile brother. Determining the mysteries of the world lies to the Sorcerer Supreme, as a matter of consequence, and she merely chews around the fringes. Drifting on a sea of liquid bronze and copper, the world they occupy is an outpost of stony outcroppings rehabilitated in the softening light cast by a dimming sun.

"Would you not catch that in a mirror? Perhaps something to see later?" The windows on the world would have no trouble peering at this, surely.


His dark brows loft high at that. "Actually…that's true," he muses, looking out towards sea and the setting sun. The waves continue to shush upon the shore, the pink foam ever scouring at the pristine white sand beneath their feet.

"Seeing as you have an exacting point, do you, in turn, have any reasons to linger further? Maybe a walk on the beach?" The suggestion is accompanied by a charming half-smirk, presenting a dimple for good measure.


Humming water pours over the deep beds, and the absence of any hulls or thick logs bobbing about, or gulls crying, creates an oddly lonely exploration. The long voyages into the unknown along the horizon beckon only to a suicidal impulse, no? Wave and swell patterns launch themselves upon the shore, mysterious maps laid out for those with the means to understand. But so much lies in a mystery; this is the very sort of place alien to Wanda. Somewhere not to stay in the bloodstained shadows as soon as the charcoal stained dusk tiptoes forward, assuming it can at all.

Her thumb skates around her lips. "To walk is good," she says, nodding to the languid shores. "Pretty, is it not?"


Linking an arm with the Witch, he begins to lead the way down the seemingly-endless expanse of pearly white, with its nuances in citrus and petal-pink.

"Not nearly as much as you, «Beloved»," he replies quietly, the fetching overtone of his smile softening into something seen more privately than elsewise: loving. Behind them, their footsteps disturb the sand for as long as the waves fall short. Then, inevitably, the rush of the tide washes up and over, smoothing away the proof of their passage. This, like the unfailing hang of the sun, is destined to forever be. Such parallels be drawn.

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