1965-09-15 - Blood Magic
Summary: Strange tracks Kai down to a warehouse where a group of would-be cultists are trying to raise a demon.
Related: None
Theme Song: None
strange kai 

Kai left a note for Strange (in his mailbox, in flagrant disrespect of federal postal laws) that he was 'onto something' and would report in at such and such a time. He taped a strand of his golden hair to the paper for reasons that must have made sense to him at the time.

In any case, the time he's supposed to swing by comes and goes. It might be another prank. Kai does love his pranks. Though this one wouldn't be nearly as funny as the saran wrap, and the Elf does prefer to escalate. No, standing people up isn't his style. He's far too enamored of social interaction for that.

The mail must be checked daily else the postman come across something shipped via the system that certainly should not have been — like that one box full of millipede eggs from the Underlair of Culbruth Syrnax III. A present, yes, but imagine opening up a mailbox and finding it filled to the brim with juvenile millipedes big enough to eat your Chihuahua. Startling, yes. There was some memory-wiping involved with that one.

The time for Kai comes and goes. It's enough to make the Sorcerer begin to wonder. He's finished an entire clay mug of tea by the time it appears he should do something about this…odd circumstance. The hair was good forethought, for how better to track the one it came from? Other than blood. He wears the Master-blues and crimson Cloak at his shoulders even as he takes up the hair and begins to infuse it with Mystical energy. A few twists here, a braid and a knot, and…

The next Gate he opens allows him to step through from the Sanctum to see…

A warehouse, probably somewhere in the less gentrified parts of SoHo. It's abandoned, and there is one light shining down on the concrete floor, where a circle has been drawn in something reddish, rusty as it dries. The circle is done in runes, about big enough for a man-sized entity to be summoned within. Candles burn at the four quadrants. There is an offering of myrrh in a bronze bowl placed at the southeast.

In the shadows just outside the light, half a dozen robed figures mill, and there is someone tied to an X fame made from some kind of milled wood. Not that pine, in this intstance, is all that ritually significant, but it is plentiful. As a robed figure brandishes a curved dagger and another bronze bowl, the bound and bloodied figure spits and says, "I hope you weren't expecting a virgin." That voice, even strained, could only be Kai's.

The hooded figure ignores the Elf, preferring instead to chant. The others join, and magical energies start to gather. It's a summoning, that much is clear. As for what they're summoning, the energies carry a distinct note of brimstone. Kai's peal of laughter is almost childlike as he says, "You're all going to get in so much trouble."

This simply won't do.

The air immediately around Strange takes on a metallic taste as his aura supercharges in affronted anger at the sight before him. Briskly and yet as silently as he can manage, he strides towards the circle. For how much effort it takes to set up such a feat, a summoning from another dimension, it's terribly easy to bring down the house of cards. Simply scuff the circle itself, snuff a candle, kick the bronze bowl…

Readying himself for any backlash with a raised and scarred hand already a-glow in orange light, the other free hand pulls forth a molten surujin in brilliant-gold from mid-air with a soft crackle-hiss. SLAM — there goes the bronze bowl, careening away with a startling hollow CLANG of sound. His boot thuds firmly on the circle itself and it's like snuffing a cigarette on the sidewalk, along with the extra insult of Sorcerous power to vaporize the material painted. CRACK — that's one candle snuffed out, more than enough to entirely disrupt the procedure at hand. His eyes have taken on light as well, frosted-lilac through his irises, and the set of his jaw as well as thunderous frown bodes nothing good.

"I'm not going to ask what you're doing. You get one chance to cease and desist," he says to the cultists, voice sonorous and as snarly as a tiger.

It's blood. Surely Strange has seen enough ritual scenarios to know the stuff. A scuffed foot flakes the dried stuff, dragging it out of its neat circle. When vaporized, it crackles with a flare of innate magic. Of course, Elves have magic in their blood. The spell is compromised, and the hooded figures cry out in alarm.

Kai calls out, "Hello!" to Strange. He's pale, and his shirt is torn open. There are wounds on his chest, dagger-made. He's had better nights. But he's beaming. Until the hooded finger rounds on him with the dagger. "What did you do!" he snarls.

Kai eyes the dagger, and he quiets down. The better part of valor is discretion, and he's in no place to play hero just now.

Five of the cultists turn toward the leader, the one armed with a blade. He's an older man whose features are permanently set from a lifetime of bitterness. "Who are you to interfere?" he says. He's so small time he doesn't even know the big players exist.

"Kai," says the Sorcerer to the Elf beyond, taking quick note of the young one's physical status. He appears to be holding his own, despite being trussed as a sacrifical lamb, and the man's bright eyes flick back to the leader bearing the bloodied blade.

"…I really need to introduce myself?" Strange lifts a hand and looks…almost insulted in passing. That ego. "Right, well. You've desisted, so we can count that as progress. That personage there," and he nods at the blond Elf on the X-frame, " — is a good friend of mine. I would…really hate to have to banish you all to the dimension of your apparent choosing, so we'll keep this simple. I'm the Sorcerer Supreme. You all are idiots. Drop the dagger and we'll keep talking. Easy, right?" Rarely has Stephen's voice been less amused around Kai. Even the saran wrap incident didn't bring in this arid threat of tone.

Thank goodness Ljosalfar are hard to perish. He may not look his usual best, but they'll have to do more than bleed him to put him down. He works at his bindings, meanwhile, his wrists raw from where the ropes have dug in. They've got him trussed pretty tightly, but now that they're not paying attention to him, it'll only be a matter of time for him to wriggle free.

The other cultists gather around their leader. They're zealots. He's got them brainwashed into thinking he's their salvation. Poor dumb bastards, though how innocent can they be when they're trying to help the man summon a demon? Their leader, knife still clutched in hand, says, "I am Masteges the Horrible," he says. "What's going on here is no concern of yours. Your friend has the blood we need. It's nothing personal."

Strange's eyes shift to the wriggling beyond the distracted cultists and he makes a point not to react to it. Good. Once Kai is free, he's also free to join in whatever scrum may be ensuing should talking fail.

"I don't know of you," he admits to the lead cultist with no apology in tone. "It became my concern the very second you laid hands on him, and it is most definitely personal, considering you've put the life of a foreign being in danger. That's a breech of diplomacy from the beings of Earth and I cannot condone it. Admittedly, you were in deep shit once you decided to attempt to break through the veils, but all the rest is just frosting on the cupcake. So. Drop the knife and get to your knees. All of you." That's the whipcrack tone known to make the acolytes of Kamar-Taj pale and even the other Masters lift brows in surprise.

Kai's persistence will pay off. Just because his aura says he's prey, he's no damsel languishing in wait. The look on his face is pure determination, like it would never occur to him in a million years not to save himself. Within moments, once hand slips free, wrist raw, and he sets about untying his other hand. He doesn't make a sound.

The cultists hesitate, and again they look to their leader. The older man's features twist further into the deep bitterness that has brought him to this point in his life, where he would summon infernal beings to do his bidding. He's not a man to take responsibility. He's a man to blame, and right now he blames Strange for foiling his plans.

With a strangled cry, he lunges at the Sorcerer. "I kneel to no one!" Unfortunately for him, the thing about cowed followers is they're not willing to lash out at the one wielding that whipcrack tone.

Strange takes a step back to settle himself into a readied stance, knees bent, and the molten surujin takes on another lumen of heat and light. It readily sizzles in the open air of the warehouse and where it drags on the floor, it heats the stone briefly red until the weapon slides on and then the flooring cools again.

In reacting, he chooses to be silent. Instead, he aims the snap of the lightning-whip towards the glittering swing of the knife towards him, hoping to disarm the man before he gets any closer.

The dagger clatters to the concrete with the ring of metal. "Help me, you fools!" he calls back to the cultists.

The bravest among them stammers, "You never taught us magic, Master."

"Then use your fists!" Without waiting for his followers to reply, he snarls again and raises his hands to Strange. The blood on them crackles with its innate magic, blazing like blue fire, which he hurls at Strange.

The source of that magic, meanwhile, unties his feet and slips off the X-frame. He stealths up to the group of cultists and says, "What are we looking at?" When they turn to him, he punches one of them, then lifts another to bodily hurl at another. It's like bowling for dumbasses.

The molten surujin is sacrified for the doubled shielding of golden mandalas, crackling into being with a reality-warping THUMP to send the air around him to vibrating. The blue fire, bright in the dimly-lit confines of the warehouse, meets its match in the defensive shielding at the end of each of Strange's hands.

"You should desist," he reminds the leader cultist sharply, his voice carrying over the scrum that's broken out behind the fire-throwing madman. He grins toothily at what he can see of Kai wading into the fight. It's like a weasel in the hen-coop. No one stands a chance against the Elf.

They go down easy, those poor saps. At one point, Kai uses the third one to beat on the fourth, grasping his ankles like the handle of a baseball bat. This prompts the fifth to yelp and scramble away, off into the darkness, footfalls hitting the concrete. With the other for out of commission, Kai runs after the fleeing one. "Come back! I just want to love you!"

"Pathetic fools," their Master spits, and he rounds on Strange. However, he's burned away all the blood on his hands, and the source of more has bolted into the darkness, followed by a yelp from a very started human in a dark robe.

"Do you know how much you have cost me here tonight?" the one called Magistes claims. "Eternal life! Power unheard of!" Bereft of his dagger and what little magic he has, the man doesn't attack a second time, but he's a proud one. He's entitled to all this, see. It's his due.

Once he's certain that the startled shout he heard didn't come from Kai, Strange turns his attention back to the cultist leader. The golden mandala-shields haven't lessened in their intensity or slowed the travel of their rings filled with esoteric runes.

"I can tell you with certainty that if you're saying these things, you haven't thought things all of the way through. Whom were you summoning? Out of idle curiosity. I'll let you know what was in store for you, once it had its claws into your soul," he says to the man evenly, very much offering him the chance to come to the realization on his own as he remains poised and ready. The crimson Cloak wiggles its collars as lightly as the antennae of a moth.

There's a thump of a body hitting the floor, then Kai's voice saying, "I guess you don't want my love." Yeah, the Elf is fine. Probably having too much fun with his tormenters. The four that remain within sight are still alive, though, groaning or unconscious. He's not having deadly fun.

"Eligos," the Master says, "Finder of things, knower of the future. Great Duke of Hell." Like Strange is supposed to be impressed. Eligos, though, he's particularly bloody, and spending decades enslaved to a would-be magus is definitely not something he'd be thrilled about.

The man still shows no remorse, though there's a small slump of his shoulders, perhaps acknowledgement of defeat. His followers are neutralized, and without more of the Elf's blood to burn, what can he do?

Stephen nods knowingly. "Ah, Eligos. Yes…he's…a kick." Such a diplomatic answer, at least at first. "I think you know, in your heart, that it was going to end badly. One of the Great Dukes of Hell? Serving a human being? You would have ended up dead, not immortal, and he wouldn't have been quick about it. I thought, last I heard, that he was wanting to darn himself a pair of socks from human intestines. I have no idea how he'd manage that, but believe that your own would have become part of the knit."

He briefly glances away and into the darkness where he last saw the Elf disappear. "If you're done giving love, confirm that you're hale?" he says, raising his voice to carry again.

"I would have transcended," Magistes says, lifting his chin, but there's little conviction in it. Maybe he's starting to realize that even to his own ears he sounds like a petulant child. No, for him it would have gone differently! It does kind of ring hollow now that his followers are in a pile and his ad hoc empire has crumbled before it's had a chance to rise.

"Oh yeah, we're fine," Kai calls back. He emerges in the light with the mortal thrown over his shoulder. He dumps him on the pile and dusts off his hands. He then points fingerguns at Magistes in his dejectedness. Hunger flares in the human's eyes. The Elf is full of magic. Magic he could have.

Except Stephen is there, and Stephen doesn't seem to need Elvish blood to cast magic. With a sigh, he asks the Sorcerer Supreme, "What are you going to do?"

The golden mandala-shields flicker out as Stephen shakes his hands, almost as a cat with wet paws. He stands up straight and tall, still managing to look down his nose at this errant practitioner even at the distance between them.

"Like as not, you'll have a geas placed upon you. No magic until you've honestly come to the conclusion that you don't need what you're seeking after. You'll find something else instead, something more beneficial to humanity and its survival upon Earth, and you'll turn your magics to that instead. Or the geas remains. It's better than banishment from this realm entirely." He looks to Kai again and nods in a form of greeting, his expression still cold and distant as the peaks of the Himalayas.

Kai inclines his head to Strange, and his silence is agreement to bear witness without judgment. This is magic, and magic is Strange's purview. As much as the Elf enjoys a good meddle, in this case, he is merely here to see Strange's will be done.

Magistes grimaces. A geas to do good in the world? But.. but.. He sighs, and he hangs his head. "I was tricked," he mutters. "By the creature." He nods toward Kai without actually looking at him. "I should have known. He surrendered too easily." He gestures vaguely. "Do it. If you must."

"I must," and Stephen's voice is gentle. "You've a lesson to learn yet." It takes so little for him to weave the spell: a lift of hand, palm outwards as if in benediction, and a murmur of lilted words that float through the air as gently as falling snow and settle with the same leaden weight on the man's shoulders. It's a numbing effect, where the magic itself is simply out of reach of Magistes' willpower — like dipping one's hand into a pool and barely unable to touch the coin fallen within.

"I heard your followers. You were wise to keep the Arts to yourself. They will leave with a warning, having seen what comes of meddling with the veils and choosing to enact suffering upon the innocent." Relatively innocent. Kai did say he wasn't a virgin, after all.

Kai eyes Strange with a knowing smile as he's called innocent. The Elf's a troublemaking imp. A lesson Magistes has learned, and he regards the Elf with a rueful shake of his head. The blood holds no more allure for him, as it is useless to him now. Before the robed man can move toward it, Kai sweeps down and snaps up the ritual dagger. He brings it over to Strange, offering it to him hilt first. It's a blade of little importance, the most minor of relics, still not meant for mortal hands.

"I knew you'd come," Kai says. "You want me to wake up this lot?" He ignores the would-be magus, who now merely makes his way toward the warehouse door. God knows what he'll do with his life now. Maybe he'll learn to be a better person, or maybe he'll stew in misery. Either way, his wings are clipped now.

Strange takes the offered dagger and pauses to make certain that the practitioner under the geas leaves the immediate premises peacefully. …good. The dagger then gets slipped into his belt, out of immediate reach for an errant brush and slitting of skin.

"Your faith in me was rewarded. You're not normally late. I wondered if something was wrong after a while — and yes, please, wake them up. They should be warned against future actions, after all. You're welcome to do it yourself. After all, you did the clobbering; you're probably the far scarier of the two of us currently." He smiles, though it's thin and unamused.

"I was going to come see you," Kai says, "but they were ahead of schedule, and they cornered me." That strand of hair was his insurance, clever Elf. Scratching his head, he adds, "I don't know who they were going to summon, only that they were up to something." He wanders over to the pile of would-be cultists. "Oi, wake up." He kicks at them a little. They begin to stir, alive but well-thrashed enough they're not up for fighting any further.

Once Strange's audience has been roused to hear his warning, Kai stands back, arms folded. He's just the sidekick here, man.

They look scared enough, these fledgling would-be cultists, but Strange narrows his lambent eyes at them further. Silence holds for a tremulous few seconds before he speaks.

"Your…'master'," one can hear the quotation marks, " — would have led you down a path to your death. You are not sheep. You have minds of your own. Use them, gods-dammit. If I catch you at something like this again, any of you, there will be consequences." Better left unsaid because the imagination is so much worse in the end. "Think that you can hide? You cannot. The Sorcerer Supreme will find you." He says this with chilling and implacable honesty. "For now, go. Go back to what you were doing before you ended up involved in this mess."

Kai for once puts on his serious face, arms folded over his chest, and he regards the would-bes with a hard stare. No respite here from the happy go-lucky Elf. Not that the robed men looks to him for it. He's their merciless beater-upper.

They bob and bow their heads to Strange. One has enough courage to stammer, "We will. S-sorry. We didn't mean for anyone to get hurt." Kai snorts, then feints a step toward them. As a collective, they run for the door.

Kai watches them go, then tells Strange, "Nice guys. We had some good times." He pulls his torn shirt together. There are cuts that will be fully mended within a day or two. He's tough. The Elf looks Strange over to make sure he's okay, which of course he is.

The faint snort is an escaped ghost of a laugh as the Sorcerer watches the robed people depart post-haste from the warehouse. They did scatter like chickens and that, at least, he can find some nugget of dark delight in. Glancing over at Kai, he then simply sighs and shakes his head.

"'Good times', hmm? Do you need a healing spell? Ah, no, wait, you've the apple. How could I forget." He considers the broken circle upon the ground, ruddy and perfect out from the incinerated scuff-print where he broke it earlier. A click of his tongue and he kneels to one knee to touch the painted line with a finger. There's a faint sparkling from it, as if he'd set flint to stone. Like DET-cord set afire, his power runs through the blood stain in a bright and quick fizzle, negating all of the Mystical potentiality in the laid-down ichor. "I'm very glad that's over with. The idiot had no idea what he was getting himself into," Strange says as he rises again, giving Kai a significant glance.

Kai says with a rueful sigh, "I sort of have the apple. I gave it back to the All-Father, but Loki stole it again. Sort of. If he wills it, he can deliver it to me, but only if I agree and thereby become a thief." He shakes his head. What can he do? That's his baby. "It wouldn't have worked on me, anyway. I could only use it to heal other people. If you can heal me, that would keep Loki from asking questions that'll get those men killed."

He watches Strange depower the circle with interest. At that significant glance, Kai turns on the puppy eyes out of reflex. What? What's this about getting oneself into whatnot? "Another good deed done," he says, "and no one got hurt."

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