1965-08-10 - Talking within a Mirror
Summary: In order to aid Halgrim in reaching a point of balance with his 'houseguest', Strange takes him into the Mirror Dimension for a discussion with the beast, Fjorskar.
Related: None
Theme Song: None
halgrim strange 

It's been a stressful week for Halgrim, between paper submissions and grant deadlines and helping rotate collections in the university museum…and, of course, the most awkward moment of his life so far, involving a pack of young mutants very nearly discovering the truth of his situation in the second worst possible way. But he's survived it, and with the memory of getting *very* drunk with Dr. Morbius on Jaimaican rum to drown his sorrows still fresh in his mind, he pulls out Stephen Strange's simple business card, looks up the address, and walks to it. Adam has declared Strange someone who can be trusted, and as Halgrim hold's Adam's opinion the highest in New York City (and because the thought of killing someone he knows is nearly enough to make Halgrim drink two more bottles of whatever he can get his hands on), he decides it's best to get on with things.

He arrives out front, dressed in the simplest version of his 'university' clothes (a simple, white, button-down shirt and black khakis, and a pair of worn leather sandals with good soles), and doublechecks the address on the building with the card. He hesitates, though, eyeing the door, because of course, he's made no appointment, and should he have? Does he knock, or ring a doorbell? How does one interact with a sorcerer: this wasn't part of graduate school, and hes yet to find a runestone with instructions for it.

A silhouette high above, mostly hidden by the fine workings of the Rue Anomaly window on the third floor Loft, moves away from its placement behind the glass. Not a moment later, rather eerily, one of the two darkwood doors slides open inwardly. The hinges are oiled, given the lack of sound, and no one stands in sight upon immediate inspection from outside.

"Professor." Halgrim may recognize the voice from their brief discussion over a raven-black feather at a library table. "You're welcome to enter — and have no fear of the warding spells. They'll simply…sniff you over and mark you as guest rather than intruder." At this point, should the man choose to brave entering into the mansion itself, he'll feel a gentle coolness sweep around him, as if he's standing before an open fridge. It's the wards of the Sanctum, guardian spells laid down centuries ago, and they go their best to look him over for any weaponry, physical and metaphysical alike.

The sound of footsteps descending down the staircase visible in the large foyer beyond precedes the arrival of Strange himself. He's dressed in his master-blues, complete down to the wrappings of belts and tasseled boots, and looks very counter to what mundane persona he last presented. "Come in," he echoes again as he reaches the main floor of the foyer, his voice sounding much closer this time — must have had the wards project his previous words.

Halgrim takes half a step back as the door opens and Strange's voice reaches his ears. He hesitates, fingering the card, and exhales sharply. "Oh, get on with it, Lindvist," he mutters to himself in Swedish, and steps over the threshold and into the waiting arms of the wards. He looks around himself as the chill embraces him, wary for a reaction from his passenger, but none is forthcoming. Any examination of his surroundings stops as Strange comes down the steps, and Halgrim frowns at him, somewhat surprised. "Thank you, for seeing me," he says. "I wasn't sure if I should make an appointment, or…" He pauses, pockets the card. "You were dressed a bit more, casually, I guess we could call it, before. Is this more," he gestures, "how a sorcerer dresses?" It's an honest question. How often do you get to talk to a sorcerer in his own abode?

Under Halgrim's shirt the amulet glows to the Sight with the same light Strange saw before, and around him the maelstrom of the spirit churns. Its a little less fragmented and erratic than last time Strange saw it, though perhaps its moods come and go; that, or it's reacting to the new setting with an abundance of caution.

The tall man with his silvered temples gives Halgrim a knowing little smile on approach before it smoothes away into his usual polite facade. He stops short of the man, off to one side of the short entryway, and replies,

"Not all sorcerers, no. I hold the ranking of Master at Kamar-Taj, where I did my…schooling." Yes, he'll call it that, and smile around the eyes for it. "Consider it an academic stole, if you will. It matters only to those who ascribe meaning to it. To the Mundane on the street, I apparently look the part of a…Shakespearean guru?" There must be a story behind that one, but Strange simply shakes his head as if to dismiss the thought. His hand raises and gestures idly towards the door behind Halgrim; it swings shut without touch. "You're not intruding upon my day, Professor. I haven't had a predictable daily schedule in nearly a decade." His eyes slide over Halgrim with an impersonal nuance, brightened briefly about their centers with the Sight. The frosted-lilac hue fades within the next blink and then he tilts his head towards an open side-door in the short hallway. "Come, we'll take tea and discuss your needs." He leads the way into a small parlor intended indeed for small-talk, given the paired wing-back chairs before a fireplace sans blaze. The rolling tea serving cart is parked on the bricks of the heart and it's here that Strange takes up station. "Preference in tea? And have a seat." It'll be the chair on the left he denotes as the guest chair, apparently. "Tell me what brings you for a visit."

Halgrim tilts his head, brow furrowing at the notion of someone calling Strange's outfit 'Sakespearean guru'. He tries to come up with a reason that might be, some picture in a text he read when studying English literature, fails, and shrugs. The notion of the outfit as 'academic wear' makes far more sense to him; if there's one thing he can appreciate, both as a professor and an archaeologist, it's that the width and breadth of academia's uniforms is vast and unpredictable. Following Strange, he says, "Well if there's one thing I can relate to it's a complete lack of a regular schedule," somewhat absently as he takes in their surroundings.

The question as to what caused him to darken Strange's doorstep brings him out of the trance of explortation. "I wish I could say I'd simply decided to ask you to look into things more. But unfortunately it's more serious than that." He sighs. "A young man — a mutant — who can heal, came across my houseguest when it was injured. He used his abilities on it, and I have to assume they worked because I never came back to myself to find any wounds. But the act of healing it was seriously detrimental to his health."

"Hmm." A thoughtful little sound from the man currently working on the fixings for tea. The teapot, a decorous number in polished fired red-clay with scrolling gilt-work in lotus plants upon it, appears to be already steaming despite the lack of burner beneath it. He pours water into two cups and begins to flick through the small sachets of tisanes present in the re-purposed notecard filing box.

"That's indeed unfortunate to hear," Strange finally comments, frowning lightly down at the collection of teas "I didn't get the impression that your…houseguest would be opposed to receiving energy devoted to healing, especially if it meant continued existence in terms of yourself, being its host. The young man is alive still, I presume?" He looks up even as he selects a packet and works at prepping it for submersion.

"Yes—he and his friends indicated he was on the mend. Apparently that's how his ability works. He takes the injury and then heals himself. Only, it was healing much slower than he anticipated, and he," Halgrim pauses, trying to remember. "He said it had 'done a number on him', if you will. He seemed to be implying it was more than just the injury itself, but I wasn't in a position to inquire after specifics. Something about it being a bear trap." He grimaces, because this can only mean someone is putting bear traps out in the city, or more likely Central Park, and the list of things which would invite such a move is quite short and he occupies one of the top slots. He takes to warming his hands on the cup, because just thinking about that day has made them cold.

"A bear trap." Strange's frown deepens even as his glance slides to the amulet about Halgrim's neck. "That could have many meanings." Tap-tap-tap, he lightly knocks loose tea from the spoon he used to stir in honey and then takes up his own clay mug. Mmm, warm on sore fingers, always a pleasure, even in summer. "A literal trap, absolutely, though I haven't come across any lately in Central Park. I walk its paths at least once weekly, you see, in order to ensure that nothing escapes my attention," he informs his guest.

He takes up standing on the hearth proper, almost militaristic in bearing now as he considers Halgrim. "It could also be metaphorical, as in your houseguest wanted to take more of this young man's ability than was being offered and not release him. I suspect the latter, given what little I know of your amulet." He nods at the archaic jewelry.

Halgrim selects a satchet and drops it in, gently nudging it with his spoon to encourage the tea to steep. He toys with his beard, looking thoughtful. "It could be—the injury had been stitched, so I really had no way to judge what it looked like, what might have lead to it." His tone is briefly apologetic, then he's back to the particulars. "But certainly the amulet or, whatever's in it, doesn't seem to have anyone's best interests in mind." He dips the satchet once, twice, sets it on a saucer, and drinks the tea plain. "Ah. Thank you for the tea. It's amazing how much it helps when you're thinking about things like this." He sighs. "So. I don't I can't afford to have it entirely out of my control anymore. I don't know that I need to be completely *in* control," he laughs, bitterly, "really that's probably too much to ask for. But I do need a way to…direct it away from these situations. Keep anyone else from getting hurt. And I need to prevent it from taking control whenever it can find a foothold. I can't trust myself to be upset about anything right now. Even a little anger can let it get away from me, and I wake up to something much worse than I blacked out to."

The Sorcerer inclines his head in a nod of acknowledgment to Halgrim's gratitude about tea and remains quiet as the man waxes further.

"It doesn't sound impossible to me," he eventually comments, staid and wearing a small smile of delight. He does enjoy a challenge. "I'm minded of a comment that my mentor once overheard. We never lose our demons — we only learn to live above them. I believe I can aid you in this quest, Professor. We'll have to start at the beginning, of course, and that's with introductions." He lifts his cup of tea in a salute before sipping at it.

"I have a place where I can meet your houseguest without allowing it intent or effect on reality around us," he then continues. "You'll need to trust me. You are also welcome, at any time, to decide that this approach is not to your liking and I will cease my efforts. There are many routes up a mountain, though few are shorter than others."

Relief flashes over Halgrim's features and is just as quickly reigned in. He's learned by now not to set his hopes too high. "That—that will be fine," he says, and has more tea. "Introductions make the most sense, and, there might be things it's willing to tell you if we're in the wilderness. When I was first…" He falters, not sure what phrasing to use in English. "Back home, in Uppsula, I would always wake up in the forest, and it's definitely been keeping to the parks here. So perhaps it's more comfortable there." He finishes his tea, sets the cup aside. Puzzled, he says, "Shorter?"

"Yes, shorter. It's an old saying. Or at least, part of one," Strange explains. His smile grows for a passing second. "It made little sense to me either, until I realize that it's something closer to a koan or riddle that pertains to the Mystical. Pay it no mind." He meanders now away from his place upon the hearth, apparently establishing a pacing walk along its outer edging where brick meets thick carpeting.

"Thank you for telling me of its predilections towards forested areas. I have just the place in mind, I think…but, before we travel, is there anything that you need to discuss further with me? Any tasks that need be completed? I will forewarn you that if your houseguest intends to come to blows with me, I have no compunction leaving it stranded until it ceases to be violent towards me or others." And he's completely serious by the set of his jaw and faint frown as he glances to Halgrim.

Halgrim shakes his head. "No, that's part of why I waited for today—no one expects me for the weekend, and the change seldom lasts more than part of a day. And I can hardly blame you if you need to leave it somewhere so it has time to, maybe hunt a deer, or something, and think about its decisions." His eyes widen. "Though, there's, one thing I should warn you of." He winces, raises his eyebrows. "My clothes tend to be a casualty of the change." He pauses, hoping the implications don't need to be spelled out.

"It wouldn't be the first time I've seen a naked human being." Strange delivers this with no teasing insinuations in the least, all professionalism despite wearing a pair of boots with tassels. "I was, at one point, a neurosurgeon. If necessary, we can locate an extra set of clothing for your person before we continue on. I intend to find answers, not to leave you wandering about as guileless as the day you were born."

He then takes a large sip of his tea and then seems to become more solemn yet, if that's possible. "I don't believe you understand what I mean about stranded, Professor. I owe you clarity. There is a pocket dimension that I can access as Sorcerer Supreme. We at Kamar-Taj call it the Mirror Dimension. It is a reflection of the world around us without infringing upon it. I may watch from within as well as corral the more dangerous beings of this reality when desperate need comes to be. This is where I intend to strand your houseguest should it become hostile towards me and unresponsive to my commands."

Again relieved, Halgrim says, "If you're comfortable with naked people I'm just as happy to take things off before you try having a conversation with it. I'm running out of spare garments." He considers this with new understanding, rubs at his neck. "Mr. Constantine did something similar once, when I almost…well. When it, almost made an appearance unexpectedly. So I think—that will be alright. If nothing else, and if it's that bad, you can tell Dr. Morbius or Mr. Constantine where I am, so they can tell others and I won't be reported 'missing'." He looks at Strange directly. "You must understand, that's far more security against its violent tendencies than almost anyone has ever been able to offer me. Even interacting with Adam and the others is risky. It could always just run away. If it's contained, well, that's only an improvment. It takes, what it takes."

"Ah. Yes. John would be involved," the Sorcerer mutters into his tea mug under his breath. He sighs, resigned, before glancing back to Halgrim again. "I know of Doctor Morbius and Mister Constantine both — this Adam, I am not aware of, though if they socialize, I'm certain that will amended within due time. You have my word that I will inform them of your location, should your houseguest misbehave." 'Misbehave', that's what he's calling it.

He finishes off his tea given the angle of tip and then sighs once more. "Alright then, Professor. Since you accept what security I can offer, let us begin posthaste. I would rather tie up this loose end than let the frays dangle in the wind. As you've mentioned before, your houseguest is prone to fits and your inability to remember what chaos it causes is concerning to me in turn. I bear you no ill will," he's certain to add as he walks his mug back over to its place on the tea stand. "If anything, I am pleased that you choose to be the stronger man rather than let the amulet run roughshod over your will."

"Adam is a…I suppose you might call him a golem? He was created." Halgrim hesitates, decides not to go into detail. "An amazing indivudal who is I suppose my opposite. He's considered dangerous for how he looks, and yet is anything but."

He sighs, nodding. "Though of course I'm glad to hear you don't bear me ill will, I wouldn't expect that you did. After…" He swallows, his jaw tensing. "After, everything it's done, I couldn't blame anyone for needing to protect themselves, and others. I'm the collateral damage in that, which is just how things are. I would hope anyone would want something like this remedied—but thank you, none the less, for the kind words. I simply can't afford to let it ruin any more lives. I hope others would feel the same."

The information about Adam is filed away into the Sorcerer's memory. Perhaps it'll be time to visit Monster Town sometime soon. It's been some time since he slipped in and made an appearance, fairly low-key as he generally is within the shadows there.

"Sometimes, men do not wish to put forth the effort to contain the darkness that inhabits them — inherited, cursed, whatever be the method of its attachment. It's in these times that I find my mantle the most difficult burden to carry. You…you'll be fine, Professor. I can tell that you sincerely mean well," Strange replies quietly, one side of his mouth curling just enough to warrant a dimpling. He then folds his arms lightly. "Whenever you're ready to leave, let me know. Actually, do you have a preference for what you may take as your separate clothing?"

Halgrim studies Strange for a moment, and smiles, the first time since he's been there. Genuinely, even. "Thank you," he says, quietly. He looks down at his clothing, back up at Strange. "Not particularly—really, anything which keeps me decent is fine. I've had to do enough, ah, awkward walks to somewhere safe that even a bathrobe would be a welcome change at this rate." His mouth twitches with another smile. "The first time here, in New York, I had to borrow clothing from Dr. Morbius."

"You seem to have a similar enough build to Doctor Morbius." This, Strange allows as he looks Halgrim over from head to toes and back. "If a bathrobe will keep you from feeling exposed, then that's a very simple fix." He lifts his right hand, scarred lines and all running along its back, and gestures in a small circle off to one side of himself. The brilliant sparkling of reality parting in an oculus allows him to squint and then reach through it. There's the sound of rummaging and then he pulls through a man's bathrobe. It's nothing fancy, a forest-green plaid in black and cream patterning, and drapes over his arm. "I had a spare upstairs in one of the guest rooms, you see." A counter-gesture on his part brings the small Gate to a close and it fizzles out upon empty space.

"That will be our manner of travel too, by the way. You won't feel a thing stepping through it. It's not anything like a spell of transportation or attempting to will oneself present in another place."

Halgrim watches the process with complete fascination, from the gestures to the digging to the production of a bathrobe. "Amazing," he murmurs, in Swedish. Then, in English, "You're—are you warping space when you do that? Folding it, as they say?" He catches himself becoming an academic, pulls a face. "Apologies. We can go, now, if you wish. I can bother you about the peculiarities later, if you're inclined." He puts his cup back in its place and does his best to not be nervous. After all, he's never actually let the beast have control intentionally.

"No time like the present — and let us discuss the peculiarities of my schooling over tea at another date. It is more than a five-minute explanation." He gives Halgrim a faint smile before looking away. It seems that the space where he just drew the Gate is weighed and the implications of his decisions calculated.

"I think Uppsula, as you mentioned before," he explains, glancing back to the Professor with a half-nod, " — but within the forest you mentioned, or even close still to your dig where you uncovered the amulet. Familiar territory will provide comfort or confidence, though I would prefer the former than the latter."

For a moment Halgrim plainly looks like he's going to balk. One of his hands forms a fist, he takes a deep breath, and lets it out. "Ah, Uppsula, that's where I'm from. But, the dig, was in Norwary—quite a ways to the north, near Skjold. We could go to either, I think, though I'm more familiar with Uppsula." Despite what he says, he clearly has a preference, and it isn't for Skjold.


Since the preference was not for Skjold, the place of the dig gone so very wrong, the Sorcerer Supreme instead turns to a scrying globe in order to visualize the more favored forested region. No need to put the Professor out of sorts over a simple thing like location — and the calmer the man is, the calmer his houseguest will be…at least, in Strange's personal theory.

Thus, the firefly-sparkling of his Gate opens upon the very region he saw within the clarity of multi-layered and enchanted crystal. With the deep-green bathrobe still slung over his arm, he simply walks through from the Loft of the Sanctum Sanctorum, in New York City, and into the northern reaches of Europe. Just like that. Magical, isn't it? There's the quiet sound of rustling cloth and thwip — through slips the crimson Cloak of Levitation to alight upon his shoulders even as he rolls them, the motion as familiar as adjusting a tie about one's neck.

Halgrim has a variety of things to be amazed by before he follows Strange: the self-propelled cloak, another feat of magic beyond his imagination (self-donning clothes! Ingenius, really…); the portal itself, a shining gateway across the world; and the forests east of Uppsala beyond it, where he spent so much time in his youth. He can't deny he's longed to be there again, despite that it too holds troubling memories (if none so horrible as Skjold), so he takes his last steps without hesitation.

These aren't the heavily trafficked tourist woods one finds in much of America; the sense that these woods stood thousands of years before humans dared enter them is impossible to miss. It's there in the smell of pine and rotting needles and leaves. It's mid-summer and yet the temperature difference from New York City is easily thirty degrees, particularly where they've arrived: they've stepped out onto the top of a gentle slope overlooking a valley, and a brisk wind greets them. The hillside's grass carpet gives way behind them to looming pines like a wall into undiscovered country, while below the becomes interspersed with shrubs and rocks from some long-forgotten landslide. There's a lake in the valley, slate blue under the cloud-dotted sky, ringed by brighter, shorter trees than those on the hill (spruce and birch, and a stubborn stand of aspen cling to the eastern shore).

Halgrim takes in a deep breath and lets it out very slowly. "Ah, I've missed this place," he says, voice low and more than a little homesick.

"I can see why," the Sorcerer replies with equally-quiet reverence. The cool breeze plays within the volume of the Cloak — or maybe it plays with the wind? Regardless, it banners before settling down about its master as if behaving itself. "While I don't mind the hustle and bustle of the city, this has its own peace to be found nowhere else upon this green earth. Reminds me a little of the hills," he adds, off-handedly and half to himself. Having gestured the Gate shut once Halgrim had completely stepped beyond it, he then turns away from the majestic stretch of alpine beauty to consider the seemingly-limitless stretch of evergreen behind them.

"I presume this is the forest that your houstguest prefers over most else?" he asks of Halgrim, glancing to the man.

Halgrim stares out at the lake a little longer, then shakes himself and turns to look at the trees behind them. He nods, says, "Yes—I woke up not a few miles from here the first time it happened after I came home from the hospital." He grimaces to think of that, sighs, and laughs with regret. "That was one of the worse walks back I had. Quite uncomfortable." He faces Strange. "I'll have to warn you, I've never tried to let it out intentionally before. If you know how to hypnotize someone I suppose that would work, but otherwise, it might take me a moment to sort out how I'm going to do it."

Strange gives the man a smile that, while polite, also holds just enough sympathy without it being overt when he's told of the Walk of Shame. Tilting his head to one side, the Sorcerer then slides his gaze back to the layer upon layering of sturdy pine trunks reaching back miles and miles into grey-green obscurity.

"I'm certainly familiar with the art of mesmerism and its various applications. While I don't usually condone it, I am open to its use if you find yourself unable to…" He pauses briefly, searching for the right words."Unable to coerce your houseguest to show. I won't be using any form of violence or threat to entice it to show. I require it calm enough to attempt communication with me," he explains, keenly considering Halgrim again.

Halgrim nods in agreement. "No, bringing it out with fear or danger will provoke it. That much I know from…unfortunate experience." He takes a few breaths to steady himself. "I'll try meditating. Or…" His gaze goes unfocused. "Ah. I've an idea."

He takes a few steps away from Strange and sits on the grass, pulls off his shoes and socks. No need to sacrifice them, after all. He shifts so he's kneeling, facing the lake, hands on his knees. For some time he stays that way, breathing in and out, slow and steady. And then, eventually, he starts to speak. It's German; a prayer or a poem perhaps, by the measured way he's speaking. "Everything is far and long gone by. I think that the star glittering above me has been dead for a million years. I think there were tears in the car I heard pass and something terrible was said."

The Sorcerer remains silent in his observations of the preparation at hand. He recognizes the motions as something akin to meditation, especially in the manner of seating and then in the measured spoken words. German isn't his favored foreign language, but he recognizes enough words and the cadence to realize that it could be a trigger of sorts.

Allowing the bathrobe to slide noiselessly from his arm and to the thick grass below their feet, he then reaches out with practiced fluency of motion. It might feel as a fine prickling that glides over Halgrim's skin, like the breeze flirting closely against it — mind, Strange is trying very hard not to interrupt the spoken koan — and then the ambient light around them goes odd. Reflective. Hazy and broken and beautiful like the sunbeams falling through tropical waters and onto white sand beneath the surface.

The Mirror Dimension. Sounds take on a half-echo here and the air, while still, is pure and piney and not at all close. Beyond the ghostly refraction of the slowly rotating prism-faces of reality proper, the world continues on without knowing they are there. The countryside remains beautiful in its northern glory and the shadows of the trees still reach for them. However, now…there's no escape but for what the Sorcerer decides. A perfect HazMat zone in which to have a discussion with Halgrim's houseguest.

The poem is familiar, like an old friend, and despite its subject matter it relaxes Halgrim further. He falls into rote recitation, barely noticing the sublte shift into the Mirror; his eyes blink once or twice, but he remains focused entirely on what he's saying. To the Sight, the omnipresent cloud of the spirit around Halgrim, which until now has been billowing and formless, begins to spin, contracting and coalescing. It draws close around the amulet in an ever-tightening swarm. His fingers dig into his knees.

"A clock has stopped striking in the house across the road. When did it start? I would like to step out of my heart and going walking beneath the enormous sky. I would like to pray. And surely of all that stars that perished, one s—" He stops, sucks in a breath. Bright yellow floods his irises, and he whispers in Swedish, "Oh…there you are," and the shift takes him.

The spirit collapses inward, falling into the amulet and his chest, and out flows something else, a rippling circle of green and gold threaded with dark silver. As these forms transition, so does Halgrim's body. His face elongates into a that of heavy headed wolf, with ram's horns curling back from its forehead in a broad arc that brings the tips nearly to its chin. His body grows larger too, and his clothes are lost in the process, shredding without a second thought, for the beast is significantly bigger. Much, much bigger; though it's hunched when it takes shape, it's nearly eight feet, and will be taller if it bothers to straighten its stance. A mantle of the raven feathers Strange has already become acquainted cover its shoulders and run down its spine, and bronze-opalescent scales gleam beneath the ash grey fur, forming an armorlike coat over its torso and down to its knees and elbows. Its claws have a distinctly metallic sheen to them, as do its teeth, and the eyes glow sulfurous, hateful yellow. Across its chest is the same scar Halgrim bears, angry and twisted, warping the scales it intersects, from one shoulder down to the opposing, lower ribcage; over the scar's midpoint hangs the amulet, larger on the beast than the man, glowing with a harsh light. The green and gold and silver light settles around the creature's neck, lying along the amulet's chain, rippling like swift, deep river.

For a time the beast crouches there, surveying Strange and the Mirror landscape by turns, spirit made flesh. Despite the fact that its entire being bleeds unspent ferocity, it makes no move, and signals no threat beyond that implied by its fangs and claws. It studies Strange, waiting.

No stranger to beholding transformations, the good Doctor merely brings his arms into a loose folding of arms. The readiness comes in the plant of his booted feet, one slightly behind the other, and the confidence projected towards the eventual complete manifestation of Halgrim's 'houseguest' is shield against any predatory tendencies on its part. Prey flees. He does not.

He looks the being over, noting its various beastly components, and then eyes the amulet especially. It doesn't take the Sight to see the energy flickering about it here within the Mirror Dimension and then he meets the creature's eyes.

"We'll start with spoken English." His words, while soft, are perfectly enunciated. "My name is Stephen Strange. Your host asked for my assistance. Are you aware of your recent actions?"

The beast's lip writhes in dusgust, and the mantle of feathers flares. "Of course. I am." It forces the words out in a strangled snarl, tilts its head. "This. Speech. Is vulgar. Do you. Know. The spirit tongue." Disdain is more severe on a dire wolf's face than it would be on a man's. "Or is. Your teaching. Incomplete?"

The amusement twinkles through his eyes rather than slips from his lips. No laughing at the creature and its refreshing if brutal frankness.

"I will admit that English is a difficult spoken language," Strange comments before reaching up to touch at his throat. Beneath the light impress of his scarred fingers, a golden-red light glows from within, and then the next language to flow from his mouth is the equivalence of spirit-tongue trade jargon. "«Not incomplete, no. Simply allowing you to express your preferences. You mentioned that you were aware of your actions. Why the bloodshed? Were you in need of defense in those instances?»"

With a grunt the beast stands, looking around itself once more. It lifts its head, scenting the Mirror Dimension's wind, blows out a breath. This time when it speaks, the sound is a riotous cacophany of noise: a croaking, bleeting, snarling, hissing sound, and for all that mess, entirely understandable as spirit speech. ~Imagine a cage with no light, no sound, no smell. Only the crush of earth. Only darkness. Silence. Imagine the words that would free you, gone. Your tongue dead. Imagine yourself in this place, for *millenia*.~ It growls, and turns to Strange again. ~And when you have become one with that place, imagine the defilers that put you there opening that cage.~

The Sorcerer doesn't appear to outwardly increase his caution even as the beast begins to move from its crouch. Calmness exudes from him as a cool mist might rise overtop a sheet-flat pond in the early pre-dawn morning. Don't let the thing with teeth see you flinch, rule number one of Sorcerer Supreme-ing. He squints as the syntax clarifies through the animal sounds and then nods slowly.

"«If I may speak with presumption, I do not believe that Professor Lindqvist had any part in your caging. I do not make mockery of your plight. It is a hardship to have been endured. Why then the Professor as your host? Why not another body?»"

The creature waves a clawed hand to the side in a casual, dismissive gesture. Strange's committment to calm helps it maintain its own; without stimuli to encourage rage, the forest alone keeps it grounded. ~The host is the one who opened the cage.~ No sooner has it said this than it stops. If a beast can look thoughtful, it does. The feathers ripple along its back. ~Or perhaps it was a key. An unwitting one. Only those who made the cage would know.~ It sneers. ~The host is a vessel. Nothing more. Nothing less. Does the seed choose where the thrush drops it, where the wind carries it?~

"«Then do you know your reason for existence? Are you merely a reflection of a desire come to life or do you keep your own sentience?»" The Sorcerer asks. Even the crimson Cloak seems to recognize the importance of staying still. The air might be bright and clean, but it makes no effort to betray its ability to move of its own volition. It hangs heavily about the man's frame, obscuring him but for the narrow strip of blue belted tunic and pants.

"«I would aid your vessel in attaining a harmonious balance between his self and you. This is the reason for our discussion,»" he further explains. "«If you are aware of a method to obtaining this, I ask that it become a task practiced regularly. While he may not understand the why of your actions, his life, in turn is at risk when there is an inability to communicate.»"

In response, the beast lifts its head and…barks, sharply. Once, twice, a third time. It's laughing. ~The reason?~ It chuffs and paces. ~I exist, because of you. Your kind, did this, to us.~ The sense that a huge, spirit-speech rant in the offing crowds the hilltop, yet vanishes just as suddenly as it began to form.

The beast settles, breathes heavy for several seconds. It sighs, takes the amulet in one clawed hand, and crouches down. It's not so much taller than Strange like this, and it holds out the blood dark gem towards him. ~Can you see?~ It clarifies its meaning by pointing one claw at the center of its forehead.

Strange's sigh is long and nuanced in rue when he hears of the beast's reasoning. Always. Always with the practitioners who strive to reach farther than their wisdom would grant, whose pride engulfs their ability to see the consequences of the future and beyond their own deaths. He seems ready for the rant by the knitting of brows that betrays mild concern, but it never comes, and the Mirror Dimension breathes.

"«Yes, I believe I understand what you're asking of me. The Sight — to See what cannot be seen by mundane eyes,» the Sorcerer replies. He strays no closer to the beast, however, keeping his place within the dimension. A marked blink and his irises bleed entirely from their steel-blue into a far more vibrant frosted-lilac hue. He squints at the creature before dropping his gaze to the amulet's glinting gem.

As Strange looks at the gem, the metallic inclusions stir and shift. The spirits contained inside curl, and he hear's the beast speak again. This time, though, he hears only one of the voices: the raven, alone. ~Can you see?~

Strange and the beast remain there, on the hilltop, in the Mirror Dimension, but within the stone is a vision of somewhere and somewhen else. Another forest, another time, when humanity in this place was young. There's a small village of stone and thatch huts, and a bonfire, and around that bonfire are several villagers. In particular, a man, and two women. The man is young, with curly, strawberry blonde hair and pale skin; the women are somewhat older than he, in their prime. It's difficult to make out their features; they're indistinct, like the background characters of as dream. But the man, he is plain as day. They're arguing, having an academic debate of some sort. There's no heat in the women's words, only exasperation, and likewise the young man's bearing is all stubbornness.

~Can you see?~ the raven asks again. The sense that it is waiting is apparent.

He watches the scene unfold, his eyelids gone half-mast in concentration. There appears to be no reading lips in this moment and what language is being spoken is beyond his current sense of Sight, but Strange understands the gist of what is being revealed to him.

"«Three humans, in a place long ago. Male and females, both discussing…something, I'm not sure what. The male has red hair. He appears to be…the focus of this vision. Whatever they're discussing, he believes himself in the right,»" the Sorcerer reports, voice gone distant as if he himself were half-lost to the trance of attention this requires.

~Brilliant,~ the raven says, in agreement. ~Foolish.~ The vision ripples and changes. Further within the stone, the young man is elsewhere, alone. Another fire pit, this one for ritual, with marked bones forming a pale ring under a blade-thin moon. He's allowed it to burn down to coals, and placed small bushels of something on them to make a thick curtain of smoke. Though Strange can recognize the markings on the bones as runes, they're illegible. Any attempt focus on them renders them into incomprehensible lines. Out of the corner of his mind's eye, though, they have form and function.

The man holds an obsidian knife in one hand, and before him, on four stones, are offerings: a rabbit, freshly slain; a fish, similarly prepared; a small chunk of a geode, cracked open to reveal the amethyst within; and a clump of wild oats. Above the stones hover four spirits; the four which comprise the beast, Strange can see, or what they were in this earlier time. A sea serpent, her bronze scales glinting in the wane moonlight; a dark furred, heavy dire wolf, hungry for what comes next; a raven, fixated on the bright stone the man has offered; and a ram, wary of the serpent and the wolf, but drawn by the ritual just the same.

The man sets the knife to his sternum, and the vision fragments, splitting apart like cracked glass. Someone screams, something roars. There is pain and blood and where there was a man and four spirits, there is a husk, a body with no soul, and four torn, ragged things frenzied beyond comprehension. The vision collapses, and Strange is staring at the stone, and the beast is watching him, waiting.

Strange feels as the ghost of conscience over the young man's shoulder. Unable to decipher the runes, but perfectly able to put two and two together even as he realizes what components are present…and what are missing. His Sight-brightened eyes go wide, even distanced as they are, and then nearly shut in metaphysical flinch to the detonation of the spell and its resulting backlash within the vision. He can almost feel the wash of chaotic energy along bared skin like a high wind, taste the metal of a bitten tongue, and his innards squirm in sympathetic reaction to the whole mess.

His breathing has increased in speed to a mild extent and he swallows even as he looks up from the now quiescent gemstone to the beast. "«It collapsed upon him. He knew not his limits…and you were birthed, were you not?»" He returns to his composed state within seconds, now more wise and having earned it for the potential for nightmarish repetitions in his sleeping dreams in the future.

The beast settles back, lets the amulet drop to its chest. ~I am what remained. He wished to give what he did not have. To take what he could not hold. That made an emptiness—a void. We became one to survive it. Used his body as the first host.~ It narrows its eyes, looks out at the forest. ~Before the cage, each host would succumb. There would be me, and no other. Their spirit would wither, leaving their flesh mine to use.~ It snorts. ~Not this time. The host remains, clings to being. I force my way out when I can. And when I tire, the host reclaims itself.~ For a moment the beast seems truly weary; its ears lie flat, its eyes slit, its feathers lie smooth along its back. It shakes itself, stands up. ~Unbalanced. As you say. Rebalancing that which was made warped will be difficult. But if we remain this way…~ It looks down at the amulet, blows out a breath, and lets the result go unsaid.

The Sorcerer's attention slides off and away from the beast once it appears to show some form of weariness. He has no need to acknowledge it, though it heartens him to see that its energy is not impossible to exhaust, if simply for the potential need to lay it to rest at some time in the future. He considers the extensive reach of the forest's edge through the weird and shifting facets of the Mirror Dimension.

"«That your host has the strength to remain himself should be a relief to you, I would think? Company when proper communication is established between you and him? I suggest considering him less of a 'vessel' and perhaps…a companion. I was told that he did not intend to stumble upon you in any malevolent manner. If anything, he is learned in the ways of the time displayed within the gemstone's vision.»"

The beast grunts. ~It is not a relief for the host spirit to fight for control. It is painful. Wearying. The change is taxing.~ It growls and jerks its head in frustration; the feathers on its mantle lift a fraction. The very idea of companionship with the same manner of thing that made it is distasteful. Still, something Strange has said interests it. ~Can it use the old words?~ It licks its muzzle. ~I cannot use. The one who built the cage, bound me against them.~

By the perking of Strange's expression, complete with lifted brows, that's a thought indeed.

"«It may be possible that he could use them, or that he may know them in a more modern sense. I have the ability to find their older forms, if need comes to be. Please,»" and the Sorcerer gestures with carefully-controlled movement towards the grassy earth. "«If you would write out some example runes, I will memorize them and, in turn, report them to your host. We may yet find a way to harmony between you and avoid the continued taxing of both your spirits.»"

~Cannot.~ The creature snarls. ~In the vision, they made no sense to you, yes? That is why. I do not know them anymore. The forms are dead to me. Her geas binds me still—to not speak, to not read, to not write, to not hear. My tongue is dead.~ It digs its talons ino the ground, frustration building. Again, though, it stops itself just short of true fury again. ~If, you can speak to the land-memory, or a spirit of the dead, you might ask her.~ It looks askance at Strange. ~She was a priestess of Freyja. One of the most powerful of her time. Such spirits do not fade quickly. It might linger. The land may remember her.~

"«Ah,»" Strange murmurs firstly. He doesn't flinch as he watches those knife-like claws disappear into the tundra turf as easily as scalpels into butter, but boy howdy. The little shift in place is enough to betray his concern.

"«That is unfortunate, but yes. It is entirely possible that I may contact this priestess, especially if you believe her to be present still. The strong souls do linger if their roots run deep,»" he agrees quietly. "«Would you have me speak with you again, here, in this place, once these old words have been discovered?»"

The beast surveys Strange critically, turning its head so only one eye is on him, as a raven might do. ~Yes,~ it says. ~Her village was not far from the cage. That land may remember her best. I spilled her blood there, and she mine.~ Its lip trembles a moment, stills. ~To your kind she was called,~ it pauses here, forces the name out in English, "Magna. Beastslayer. Draugslayer. Willbinder." It huffs a breath. ~She will bear the sacred bough, and the hallowed blooms.~

"Ash and linden," Strange echoes to himself in English of the specific flora mentioned by the creature. He slips back into the spirit-tongue in his next thought.

"«I shall plan to speak with you again once I know more. In the passing time, if I may… Should you know any method, any manner of communicating with your host that he may understand…exercise it? Like the hunt, it may not bear succor when first run, but in time, the ease will come. He would have peace between you and him, not scorn and trial,»" the man in the Master-blues and crimson Cloak urges with gentle firmness.

Unease with the very notion permeates the beast's response, but it does offer something. ~It must not refuse. It must go to a place I may be, and allow.~ The creature hesitates, snorts. ~It refuses, always, and I must force my way. When it knows rage or fear it is easiest to step through.~ Clear in its eyes is the suggestion that this is usually how the killing starts. ~But. If it will permit, then, I need not grasp for every opening. That begins balance. That is give, and take.~

"«I believe that your host will take your requests to heart. I was informed that you prefer places like this, with aspects of the wild. There is a place in our city where you may do such a thing: be. It is the first step of many, yes, and a fortunate one at that,»" and Strange nods with a nuance of archaic formality towards the creature.

"«I ask too that you attempt patience with your host. He is foremost a master of the books, not of acting the vessel for a creature of your presence. He may need time to overcome initial concerns.»"

~I have gone to the Green Heart in that foul place many times,~ the beast says. ~To hunt. To watch. To learn. It is one of the only pure places in that filth.~ Its ears flatten at Strange's description of Halgrim; book-learning is as close to being a sei%<240>menn as yanking out a knife and putting it to proper use, as far as it's concerned. ~If it will permit me, freely, I will not force my way.~ It blows out a long breath. ~And I will be patient.~

Another inclination of Strange's head is still formal recognition of an accede on the beast's part.

"«I truly believe this is the beginning of a solution to the dissonance between you and your host. Now, I ask most respectfully: I need to speak with your host. Is there anything else that you wish to address with me?»" His expression is open and expectant, his stance still loose and yet readied. The crimson Cloak continues its silent watch from where it hangs from his shoulders, most loyal of outerwear.

The beast's jaw works as a man's might. ~This shape is named Fjorskar.~ And that must be all it has left to say, because it takes a half dozen steps away from Strange; just enough to be polite, and kneels down. It sits like, waiting for something, and as time passes the river of green and gold and silver around its neck churns and ripples with increasing speed. The beast exhales sharply, the light collapses in and the storm of red and black smoke boils out out of the amulet. Its body shudders, collapsing and reforming into the man from before.

Except, of course, Halgrim's clothes are gone, a tattered pile of cloth and thread that the beast has cast about in all its walking, so he's naked. Naked, and shivering, as he's also covered with sweat, rendering what was a brisk summer breeze into an arctic wind. He blinks for several seconds, confused and disoriented, and examines his hands in confusion. "I don't—I don't think I've ever been awake when…it's let go…" he says, more to himself than to Strange, as it's in Swedish.

Fjorskar. The silver-templed man echoes the name wordlessly before adding in the spirit-tongue, "«Rest well.»" After his short farewell, he observes the transformation in reverse, noting the differences here and there. Most noticeably, the change in size is most startling, if he had to choose an aspect. One moment, hulking and dangerous on par and beyond to a polar bear; the next, back to the comparatively-weaker frame of the Professor himself.

Once he can't sense any further lingering influence of the beast about the clammy-skinned man, Strange turns and whispers something to one of the collars of the Cloak. It lifts from his shoulders even as he's walking towards Halgrim and disappears through the malleable wall of the Mirror Dimension. A fetch quest! It returns with the deep-green bathrobe slung over a fold mimicking the human arm even as the good Doctor takes one knee off to one side of Halgrim, eyes flickering over him impersonally.

"I can report that it's impressive," he says by way of first comment, smiling thinly to himself. He glances to the Cloak as it offers out the bathrobe. "It's sentient, that's for sure, and I'm not surprised at all that you've been in a state of imbalance with it."

Halgrim watches the cloak leave and return on its quest, blinking in equal parts amazement and uncertainty. He accepts the bathrobe, hands trembling, without a moment's hesitation, and wraps himself in it. It takes him several seconds to gather his wits about him. He has to speak English. Well, he probably should. And he has to remember where he is. What they were doing. But first, he has to stop shaking.

Gradualy he stops huddling under the robe like it's a blanket and begins to settle it about himself more properly, putting his arms into the sleeves and wiping the sweat from his face. "I've…Adam, has said much the same." He's speaking English agian, but his accent is much heavier than Strange has heard previously. He shifts from kneeling to sitting, wincing as stiff joints complain. Finally, Halgrim gives Strange a proper once over. "Can I safely assume it behaved itself?"

There's no rush from Strange. In fact, he settles onto the other knee and takes up a kneel wherein Halgrim unfolds himself. The Sorcerer appears very comfortable in this seating, with scar-lined hands resting on his thighs, and patiently waits until he hears clear English spoken. The accent isn't impossible for him to muddle through and he nods, his smile deepening. It takes away from the aloof mystery about him and makes him appear approachable yet.

"It was very diplomatic, even if it looks rather foreboding. Not a scratch on me," and he momentarily lifts hands up and out to a degree to showcase that nothing on his body is touched, not even the storm-blue ensemble. "I gave it no reason to attempt an attack on me. One doesn't flinch before predators, metaphysical and mundane alike. I did learn a good number of things from our discussion after some initial language confusion." He looks Halgrim over again and adds, "However, I'm not about to flood you with you looking as you do. Respectfully, Professor, you looked like a half-drowned rat." Can't take the blunt Midwest out of the good Doctor, even after years in the city.

Halgrim takes all of this in with dawning comprehension. He laughs at the description of himself, and runs a hand through his hair, pushing it back from his face. "Ah, well. With your robe, at least I'm not a…mmm. What are they called in English. Kalratta." He thinks on it, snaps his fingers. "Mole rat. A shivering one, for that matter. So, thank you." His accent has softened some, back to it's usual subtle lilt. He pulls his knees to his chest and wraps his arms around them.

"I'm glad that it wasn't, troublesome. And there's no hurry, if you need to consider anything it said because we discuss it. I'm not sure I'd be able to remember it accurately, right now." He rubs his eyes again. "Maybe it's not a coincidence I find myself waking up after it's let go. The process was exhausting."

The Sorcerer laughs quietly at the concept of a mole rat. Oh yes, wrinkly weird things that they are, obscene teeth and all. "You're welcome," he says in a subdued volume, mindful that even ambient noise might be jarring to a mind so recently put through the shapeshifting blender.

"Not a coincidence at all," he informs Halgrim. The Cloak gets distracted by something outside of the Mirror Dimension and flits over to one of the slowly-refracting walls. Strange watches it for a second as a handler would a dog before looking back to Halgrim. "I have dabbled in the transformative tree of spellwork many a time. It's a drain on the physical body, and even an equal draw upon the soulfont. I call the natural store of energy within the human body that can be tapped in order to access the Mystic Arts. You may have heard it called something else entirely." He glances up at the hovering relic and as if hearing some silent whistle, it flits back to both men and lingers nearby, awaiting some next command. "For now, it may be best that you rest. I can mull over what information I was given and perhaps bring further clarity to it."

"Soulfont," Halgrim repeats to himself. He shakes his head, saying, "I know very little about magic. Actual magic, as you have done," he gestures around them at the Mirror Dimension's boundaries, "and not the old traditions I was raised to. My parents and grandparents didn't pass those on with the understanding that any of it was…" He pauses, searching for a phrase, and settles for, "World shaping or will working." He nods, satisfied, and continues, "It was just proper behavior, as a member of society, to leave your offerings, say prayers to the relevant dieties, that kind of thing."

He ducks his for a moment, resting his forehead on his knees, and sighs. "Yes, I think that would be best. I suspect I may do little more this weekend save sleep."

"Rest then, Professor. You have endured much today, despite the relative lack of danger present." Relative lack of danger, yes, that's what the silver-templed man is calling the past conversation with something able to bite his face off if it won the quick-draw. Confidence, ahoy! "It would be best, I think, if you called next you're in the proper health to have this conversation with me. As I mentioned before, I have no true concept of a daily schedule anymore. Fate and the flow of it through reality does not use a planner."

He grunts as he gets to his feet from the kneel. The crimson Cloak lands on his shoulders again and hangs closely about him, content. "I suspect that even your ancestors had a better idea of what it was like to shape the world than you think. Consider their beliefs in the aurora borealis, hmm? No better time to tap into the spiritual energies present than during a solar storm. It brings the earth itself to life," Strange quietly shares with a knowing little smile.

Halgrim rises as well, slowly and with more than a little wobbling. He says, "Yes, I'll be sure to call next time. Or, if I've waited too long, please feel free to…" He pauses, stretching his back and making a face. "To call me, at the University. School will start soon, and they've increased my class load significantly, so I must be doing something right."

He smiles, ruefully, and indicates the amulet. "Given my current situation, I suppose they must have." Thinking of the aurora (another thing he's missed dearly since moving to New York), he glances overhead, though of course there's nothing to see. Still, his eyes move with a memory. He makes a low sound of understanding, or maybe just acceptance of the information, filing it away for a time when he can form more complex thoughts. Say, after a day of sleeping and some coffee.

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