1965-07-03 - A Raven-Feather Dowsing Rod
Summary: Drawn by curiosity to the New York Public Library, Doctor Strange meets Professor Lindqvist and his collection of spirits.
Related: None
Theme Song: None
halgrim strange 

It's late afternoon in the library, and as the Fourth is tomorrow (and many people will be out celebrating) it's busier than usual as patrons rush to check out items for their pending vacations. Halgrim, however, isn't going to partake of such festivities; setting aside how fireworks might not be a great idea (considering his history and current situation), he's still quite Swedish, and feels it would be awkward. Maybe even a little like cheating. So he's at a large desk with a small stack of neatly typed students' papers, working through them at a steady pace. He pauses now and then to make a note in a margin or mark something in the text, but otherwise doesn't pay much attention to the bustle around him. The bustle notices him, though: occasionally someone will go out of their way to avoid his table, and give him a worried look.

"Hmm." Upheld between two fingers, the single plume is slowly rotated. Steel-blue eyes flick from it to the steps leading up to the front doors of the New York Public Library and linger. It's a warm day in the city. About the Sorcerer Supreme, the swirl of locals and tourists continue, he the odd point of stillness in a busy reef that still manages to blend. In jeans and a light black jacket, he follows the little tugging sensation at the meeting point of his collarbone — physical manifestation of a tracking spell — and travels up the tiers layers. The lions do not wink nor blink or shift about…at least to the mundane vision. To the Sight, one gives him a sliding glance before going back to its vigil.

Stepping to one side to allow a mother and child to exit, he then enters the hallowed place and sighs slowly. A small smile breaks the line of his goatee as he waits just inside the entrance, absorbing what he can of the atmosphere around him. Despite the bustle at the desk, there's still the hallowed expectation of study that clings to every polished and jacketed surface. The 20"-long feather is still kept before him, almost a dowsing rod, and with his other hand in his pocket, he meanders farther within. As he wanders past a seasonal display, the glass reflected his profile, with its silvered-temples.

"Where are you…?" he murmurs to himself, barely louder than a breath, and blinks markedly and slowly once. About the centers of his irises, a brilliant glow appears, backlit amaranthine-purple, and proof of the Mystical lenses in action. The pull seems strongest towards the back of the library, where the long tables are often occupied by university students and those wishing uninterrupted quiet for prolonged periods of time.

Ah…hah. The library lights reflect from the muted gloss of color found in patches on the feather, equally strewn with ash as it is; fire damage apparently occurred. Its tip points compass-north to a rather unassuming man seated before paperwork of some sort. Strange leans against the end of one of the tall shelves and simply…watches.

Halgrim himself is, truth be told, a boring subject. He's a middle-aged man in plain, black jeans and a blue Lunds Universitet t-shirt, grading papers and murmuring under his breath every now and then. His presence screams 'academic', which can hardly be a surprise in this part of the library.

But of course, there's not just him. There's also the spirit—spirit amalgamation, really, because it's a haphazard mess of a thing, containing parts of what may be four to five spirits all fused together. There's a clear suggestion of something dark and birdlike (the draw of the feather Strange now has in his possession, perhaps?), two others which are mostly teeth and claws, and a fourth with great, curling horns. Anything else is just shreds; atrophied remains of another spirit or spirits which were once caught up in the mass. It roils all around Halgrim, like a personal maelstrom, and seems anchored to the other interesting thing about him: an amulet that's tucked under his shirt, hidden from plain view but which glows a heady dark red to the Sight. Halgrim's spirit itself is bound in this same amulet, tangled up among the storm yet distinct by how it's not thrashing about.

If he's aware of this situation going on inside and around him, it's not obvious. Sometimes, though, he sees when a person scoots clear of him and his table, or watches him out of the corner of their eye, and a disquiet falls over him. In those moments, the amalgamtion spirit is at its most frenzied, and his is pulled with it. A second or so will pass, and he'll go back to his papers, and the storm will settle back to a steady churn. Each time it happens, he seems a little more weary, but presses on with his work.

The Sorcerer continues his vigil from the half-shade of the shelving, cast as it is by the fortuitous angling of interior lighting above. He watches the interactions of the girdling Wild Magic throughout and within the spirit of the man himself with a pensive narrowing of eyes. The were-glow about his pupils is dismissed with another marked blink and it appears that he's come to at least an initial conclusion about what he's observed.

Quiet footsteps announce him even before his shadow crosses the table and then the papers spread before and to the sides of Halgrim. "In your situation," he says quietly at his place of pause across the table, "I think I would be more careful about leaving bits and pieces of myself about." The tall Sorcerer's smile is nothing if not polite and aloof as he displays the fire-damaged feather in his scarred grasp. "I admit that I've never seen anything like this before," he adds, even tilting his head minutely to one side as he scrutinizes the conventional-looking man seated before him. If there's anything to be noted about Strange's general aura, it might be the subtle frisson of static to the Mystically sensitive — the cool dry air of a winter's cooped room.

Halgrim doesn't, in fact, look up until Strange starts to speak. People blocking the light is just one of those things you get used to, after all. The feather, though, and the words of cautionthose are both very new. His expression goes from mild confusion to reluctant understanding to wary concern in the blink of an eye, and he stills. He glances from the feather to Strange, and back. The spirit flares, dims, and flares again, flailing around, though this doesn't effect Halgrim himself overly much. He considers denying Strange's claimthe intent is plain on his face—decides not to, sighs, and shakes his head. He says, "You say that is if *I* had any say in the matter," and fiddles with his pen. He points it at the singed bits of the feather. "I remember when that happened, though. Woke up with a nasty burn." He raises his eyebrows. "Was that you, by any chance?"

"No, not I," replies Strange in the same respectful volume used by everyone well-used to interacting within the confines of a study space. "I work with magic of a higher calibre." He says this as easily as someone announcing a total as a cash register and something of no importance…at least, according in his lofty opinion. "It's unfortunate to hear that it came to such a thing, however." His frown is of concern, genuine to a good degree. "I presume that you ended up at the end of a pitchfork and some torches?"

The flame-mangled feather is set down upon the table and lies there, brilliantly stark against the cleaned surface, almost as a peace offering between the two of them. The Sorcerer pulls his red-lined hand away and now both are hidden from immediate sight. At the hip pocket of his jeans, a crimson kerchief hangs as if hurriedly stuffed…and behaves itself thus far. No need to reveal its true self yet.

Halgrim pulls back when Strange lays the feather down, looking at it with intense unease. His Swedish accent gets a little stronger than the gentle lilt it was before, though his tone remains low and even. "Oh, I've no idea. I don't remember anything that happens to—" He stops, shakes his head. "To, ah, my…houseguest. I wake up afterwards and reap the rewards." He blows out a breath and looks back down at the paper he was reading. "Such as they are," he mutters. He stays like that for a moment, visibly struggling, and his eyes move to the feather. "I don't even really know what it looks like. But, I don't think whatever did that came to severe harm. We'd have heard about it in the news." He smiles, bitterly. "It's hard to miss, my houseguest. I don't know that it would go unreported if it wasn't a mutant, or…" He eyes Strange, "someone of similar strengths, that it ran into."

"Houseguest," the silver-templed man repeats after a silence that stretches long enough to bode as uncomfortable. He then smiles again, a titch more broadly in wry amusement. "That's what you're calling it? No, I like it," he says quickly, lifting a hand palm-forwards briefly before hiding it away again. "I would have heard about this whole fiasco, I believe, if it had been someone with the ability to come to equal blows with your…houseguest." He still says the word rather delicately, as if deciding whether or not it fits into his personal definition of the entangled spirits.

"I believe it's Wild magic," he continues even as he shifts his weight to the other foot, entirely comfortable with the private discussion over a table in a public institution. "This makes it difficult due to the innate connection with emotions, right? Ah," and he suddenly clicks his tongue, a grin flashing in passing. "Here I am putting you through my own inquisition without introducing myself. She'd tell me that I was being rude. Doctor Strange, Sorcerer Supreme." He doesn't offer a handshake, but does incline his head in a manner almost archaic in its formality, but still entirely appropriate.

"Oh, I've no doubt of that," Halgrim agrees, and he doesn't seem to mind the immediate delving into particulars in the least. And why would he; he's an academic, after all. What's the exchange of names to a discussion of the specific forces governing the oddities of his everyday life. "I think it's taken to the Park, recently, which probably helps. There's not so many people there to run afoul of it at night, which is when I have the most trouble."

He listens to the introduction with a tilted head, switching tracks easily. He blinks at 'Sorcerer Supreme', trying to determine if he's heard the title before, and dips his head in similar gesture. "I'm Halgrim Lindqvist." He pauses, adds, "A professor at Columbia University, Archaeology and Anthropology." It doesn't sound nearly as impressive, of course, but credentials are credentials.

"I once knew a professor of Archaeology there. He's moved on now…probably for the better," Strange opines with a brief thinning of his lips. His expression smooths out soon enough into the mildly friendly formality once more. "Still…it's my alma mater. A pleasure to be acquainted with you, Professor Lindqvist. In regards to your…houseguest." The Sorcerer's still having a little trouble not revealing the dry amusement he finds in such a term. "I wanted to see precisely what the magic entailed. Some lingers about this feather, even with the fire damage to it. You would have been impossible to trace if it had been subjected to more heat." Reaching out a fingertip, he brushes along its surface alternated in brittle crack and supple sheen. "I see you're a man of control."

Bright eyes rise to settle upon Halgrim again. "As Sorcerer Supreme, it is part of my job to ensure that my presence is known here in the City and beyond to those with Mystical powers of certain strength. You're singular, Professor…this, I think you know. If you need my assistance containing your houseguest, it is available to you. Avoiding harm is my knee-jerk reaction when it comes to all things, including those dealing with a rather…" He pauses briefly, squinting. "Snarled-up hell of a mess."

"It's a fine university," Halgrim says, "and I'm glad they had space for me." He raises an eyebrow at the mention of a former colleague, but declines to ask Strange, at least. No doubt he'll be paying closer attention to gossip in the halls, though.

Halgrim settles back in his chair, rubbing at his eyes. "You're kind to say so, Doctor, but I don't feel particularly in control." As if in response to this, the spirit coils and spins like wind-flung smoke. "Your offer's quite welcome. I wouldn't mind help with, *whatever* it is. I don't have any memory of anything it does when it's," he makes a face, "in residence. I may not even be conscious. I can't direct it, or prevent it from hurting anyone. I know it's too much to hope I can get rid of it—I've tried to abandon this," he taps the amulet under his shirt, "but it always comes back. Maybe some way to direct it, though. Or mitigate its moods. It's incredibly violent. Or…" He sighs, looking utterly exhausted, and the spirit seems much larger. "Anything, really. Because what I feel right now, is that I'm losing a battle, and whatever outcome that might have, it can't be good."

Strange seems to chew lightly on the inside of his cheek as he listens. The Professor has an issue, well and truly, and it troubles him to hear that the aforementioned control is tenuous. The intertwined multi-spirited aspect seems nothing to ignore lightly or to set aside, even for a second, given what weariness the Sorcerer observes.

"Not good at all," he agrees solemnly. Glancing to one side, a few steps and a reach brings him a chair and, thus, a seat at the study table across from Halgrim. He seems comfortable there, arms lightly folded, as he continues speaking. "What can you tell me about how you came into possession of the amulet? Or, rather, how it came to possess you? During your work?" He hazards the guess. "An archaeologist risks running afoul of myriad enchantments. In my way, I understand. I recover many things that have been brought to light and are dangerous in the hands of the inexperienced or unknowing."

Halgrim laughs, quietly and ruefully. "I'll be honest, Doctorif anyone had told me taking up archaeology as a profession would pose a risk like this, I'd have become a librarian instead." He glances around them at the stacks, briefly regretting choices two decades or more past, and shakes his head. He studies the papers in front of him. "We were on a dig, in northern Nowary, near Skjold. Three…colleagues, and myself. It was a putative burial mount, though we all thought that odd since there were no nearby settlements on any of our maps." He pauses, clears his throat. "Inside there was, a large skeleton, from sort of creature. Bear-sized, at least. And a stone chest, with the desiccated remains of an arm caught in the lid." He taps just above his elbow. "Cut off, here. A clean cutlike with a knife." A glance at Strange, and he continues. "It was odd, but odd things usually have very mundane explanations. So the others set about the tasks and I was give the unenviable job of opening the chest."

Halgrim stops here to pull out the amulet. It's not large; maybe a a few centimeters long and around, lumpy and unpolished and gleaming with metal inclusions throughout. They chain it's attached to is rough-hewn links of bronze, old and scarred. To any common eye it probably looks like, well, an old piece of something an archaeologist dug up. To Strange, of course, it's much more: the spirit itself and even part of Halgrim are bound in it. "Inside was this," Halgrim says. "Or, I assume so, because I don't have a clear memory of what happened after I opened the lid."

Strange appears nonplussed to hear of the super-sized skeleton and the oddity of the hewn arm. He simply nods before asking, "No markings that were noted before the lid was opened? Runic lettering or phrasings or even scribbles? Someone always tries to scratch on a warning of some sort…usually," he amends with disapproval at the fact that it doesn't happen more often. "It sounds as if you've snagged yourself a curse — and a hell of a good one." The Sorcerer markedly blinks again and the were-glow returns to the rings about his pupils in a hue akin to frosted-lilac. He studies the amulet, old and worn and resounding with the clash of spirits to his metaphysical ears.

"And really…no memory whatsoever of after the lid was opened? Not even the wisp of a dream?" he inquires, looking now to Halgrim's face with those potentially eerie eyes of his.

"No," Halgrim says, shaking his head. "I expected to need to take a rubbing, but the chest was smooth and unmarked. Plenty of mildew and old spiderwebs, but no writing, and no lock. Not even scrapes from repeated use." He drops the amulet back under his shirt, which does nothing to bar Strange's Sight of it, but will probably prevent nosier passer-by from taking notice. His eyes go unfocused, and for a moment he stills. His hands clench and unclench, and there's a sense of tension building. The spirit writhes and curls, frantic, and the moment ends. Halgrim lets out a breath, shakes his head, leans back in his chair. "I've tried so many times to remember more. But in that moment, when I reached into the chest, there was just, pain. Excruciating and blinding, and everything was dark. And then I woke up in the hospital." He glances down where the amulet is, and pulls a face. "I've always assumed the pain was the wound." He hesitates, and tugs one corner of his shirt aside a few inches, allowing Strange to see the leading edge of a scar that's angry and twisted, a sure sign of skin torn open and never properly sutured. It starts right where Halgrim has revealed it, just below his collarbone, and appears to travel down in a diagonal path across his sternum.

The Sorcerer goes still himself when he sees the moment of confliction in the Professor, if only to keep from reacting on a knee-jerk habit to spirits gone out of control. The lambency of his eyes briefly flares up and then dies down as embers briefly blown upon might. He then sits up further in his seat at the sight of the runnel of healed skin.

"Seven hells," he murmurs softly and clicks his tongue with equal care in volume. "That's a doozy. I wonder if the physicality was part and parcel of the defense of the amulet itself or…" Long fingers appear to briefly rub across his chin, a thoughtful gesture. "A marking. The supernatural does like claiming its own through scarring." His smile is dark, in a way. Shifting in his chair, Strange then leans forwards to rest his folded arms on the table itself. His hands still remain out of sight.

"What would you have me do precisely then, Professor? Shall I take my scalpel to the amulet's grafting and remove it entirely? Or would you rather see if it can be controlled? Shall I suss out why it has taken to you with such fervor?"

Halgrim lets go of the collar of his shirt, covering the scar once more, and sighs. "I don't know that removing the amulet is an option. I can take the necklace off, and I've tried leaving it places—even back at the site. It…" His voice dies. His expression speaks volumes as to what all has transpired when he'd tried to abandon the stone. "It never goes well," is all he bothers to detail on that topic. "Perhaps a removal with seidr might go differently, though I'd be worried it could also turn out much worse."

Shifting in his seat, Halgrim says, "I suppose a start would be—communication with it. Of any kind. Does it want anything? I've never felt that it has any desires or inclinations, but I've no way to interrogate it either. Controlling it would be a blessing, though I suspect some manner of conversation has to happen first. Between it and," he gives Strange an apologetic look, "someone who can understand it."

"Oh, absolutely. The spirits seem almost…panicked at times — deeply conflicted about being contained, though we'll have to see what comes of attempted conversation with them. But not here," and he glances left and right. Folks are still scattered along the tables, either involved in their work or idly chitchatting with their study-mates or even staring off boredly into the distance, dealing with a mental reset or burn-out. "…and not now." Strange looks back to the Professor and slowly, small dimples appear. The rise and fall of his lids dismisses the Sight and he's back to his "normal" and mundane appearance once more.

"I like a challenge, Professor Lindqvist. There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in the philosophy of mankind…and few of them intrigue me like sentient curses. Seidr may be an option, in the future, but the time will come soon enough to see. I am not afraid of your collection of spirits. I have seen worse." At his hip pocket, the relic tugs gently, almost like a dog nudging beneath the palm of a distracted owner. The Sorcerer's attention shifts briefly diagonally to beneath the table and he then sighs; one hand is dedicated to gently rubbing along the hem of the Cloak and in handkerchief disguise, it settles down once more. "I have a place where an attempt at communication may happen in relative peace. There will be no lives endangered but our own and no way for the spirits to escape if they attempt as such. However, I will also need time to prepare and you as well. Do you trust me in this matter?"

Relief floods Halgrim's features, and for the first time since they've met his smile is genuine. "I'm not sure if I should be glad to know there are worse," he admits, "but it's heartening to hear I'm not necessarily a lost cause." He clears his throat after saying that; the admission that he feels like one has cost him something. He runs a hand through his hair. He watches Strange's momentary distraction with curiosity, but doesn't ask about it. Instead, he says, "Yes, I—of course I've not much choice to trust you, Doctor, but I also *do* trust you in this matter, because this is far more than I've much right to hope for. Or at least it feels that way." He's trying not to sound too pathetic about this, but, well, there it is. "So I'm grateful for anything you're willing to attempt on my behalf. Even if it doesn't solve my…problem." He toys with his pen, forgotten on top of the stack of papers. "Trying something will make me feel less helpless, after all."

"I intend to a find a solution, one way or another," the silver-templed man informs Halgrim with sudden gravitas. "Impossibilities are my specialty, so who knows? With the right application of the correct tools and some spiritual counciling, you may sleep yet again at night without the fear of waking to disaster." His lips curve into a muted smile, as if he's ensuring that he doesn't promise more in the expression. "No one is a lost cause, Professor. Some of us may take more effort than normalcy requires and sometimes the journey takes you far out of your comfort zone, but in the end, I believe we'll come to a worthy conclusion."

Giving the crimson handkerchief a little pat out of sight, he then places one hand briefly upon the table in order to stand. The speed is controlled, as to not shove the chair rudely across the floor and shatter the quiet with an equally-sudden wooden noise. "Here is my number," and with a flick of a wrist and a Vegas magician's subtle showmanship, there's a business card between two fingers. He places it down on the table before Halgrim and slides it forwards to the man. It is a deep violet in hue with golden writing that seems to shine a bit more than the standard metallic type, much more bright than the ash-dusted raven feather that still lies upon the table. 'Dr. Stephen Strange', the business card says, along with 'Medical Consulting and Esoteric Items' and a phone number. "Call me when you will and we can set a time and a date to discuss with your errant spirits. In the meanwhile…good luck with your grading. Oh, and again," and he pauses even as he turns to walk away, giving the Professor a knowing look: "Try not to leave anything lying about. Far too easy to trace." With that, the man nods in that formal matter once more and then walks away into the stacks.

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