1965-09-24 - A Rabid Dog is Not a Better Option
Summary: The Sorcerer Supreme has a few answers in regards to the clue of 'Siege Perilous', but not all, for a concerned Elmo and Halgrim along as support.
Related: None
Theme Song: None
elmo halgrim strange 

Halgrim makes an appointment with the Sorcerer Supreme, for once not for himself, and explains that while he understands Elmo does know Strange, Elmo's had one hell of a weekend (as has Halgrim, but he doesn't mention that), so Halgrim is helping him out with this small detail. He doesn't say this, because it will do nothing for Elmo's state of mind, but he also makes the appointment so he can come along and make sure Doug doesn't come back for an encore presentation in front of God and everyone. (Or, if he does, that he regrets it dearly.)

"It's just up here," Halgrim says as they approach the Brownstone. "There are wards, and while they've never bothered me or, ah, Herself, I've no idea what they might mean to a mutant."

Elmo is remarkably accepting of Halgrim following him around like a nervous mother cat watching her kitten leave the nest. Under most circumstances, it's the kind of thing Halgrim, or anybody, gets bitched out in Yiddish for. Today, he just lets him do it. He looks a little bloodshot and nervy as they approach the sanctum, but impeccably dressed in his vibrant blue suit and bright yellow shirt. "Okay," he says, and then as the wards begin to sniff him, stiffens up, eyes going wide and all the hair on his arms rising. "Cripes! It feels like just before a lightning strike. HEY!" he protests as one of the wards investigates his pocket. He swats at it, annoyed. "There's nothing for you in there."

"They won't hurt you." The gentleman's almost sonorous voice carries before him as he walks down the grand staircase of the Sanctum Sanctorum. The wards came to investigate at the very second that the two men crossed the threshold of the house and into the small foyer. The darkwood door shuts behind them in response to a nonchalant lift and wave of the Sorcerer's scarred hand on his approach. He wears his Master-blues, color of his mantle, and looks mildly amused at Elmo's reaction.

"Professor, good to see you — and Mister Rosencrantz," he says by way of greeting, stopping a polite distance from them both, still wearing the faint smile. "Alright, that's enough…" The remonstration is for the warding spells, who indeed alert him to the odd battery in Elmo's pocket before dispersing into the woodwork of the manor. "Hmm." Strange's keen eyes fall to aforementioned pocket and up to Elmo's face. "Something I should be concerned about?"

Halgrim watches Elmo's interaction with the wards with surprise that graduates into alarm. "I don't understand, they've never had a problem with the necklace, and I can't imagine you have anything near as dangerous," he says, tension plain in his voice. Before his reaction can become something worse, Strange appears, and Halgrim visibly relaxes at the sight of him. He glances at Elmo's pocket, concern fading to curiosity.

"Hi, Doc," Elmo says, anxious, looking over Strange in his blues. "Hey, that's a good look on ya. Call me Elmo, huh? Morbius always calling me Mr. Rosencrantz, makes me sound like a James Bond villain." He's rattling on from nerves. Digging into his pocket, he just turns it out—a few coin batteries, small flat metal circles. He shows them to Strange and Halgrim both, palm flattened. "Just…you know… just in case." Innocuous as they seem, given his mutation he can obviously turn them into weapons. "I'll leave 'em at the door, if ya want."

Strange considers the palmful of batteries and then glances between his two guests. By the look in his eyes, he's calculating the off-chances of why the batteries might be useful.

"No…no need to leave them at the door," he finally says. "I trust that you'll find no reason to be using them during your visit. I believe you have things to tell me, Elmo? We'll talk over tea. Chamomile does settle the nerves, trite as it sounds." He leads the way into the small side-parlor with the collection of wing-backed chairs. A fire glows merrily beyond the wide brick hearth and he walks to the tea stand in order to prepare what each guest wishes, should they indeed want a cuppa.

"Have a seat." He nods towards one of the chairs even as he's rifling through the collection of satchets. "While I get the tea steeping, regale me as to why you're here." His brief attention marks both Halgrim and Elmo as either able to step in and begin the explanation.

Well, of course. Halgrim raises his eyebrows at Elmo's personal choice of armament and gives him a small, sympathetic smile. "I don't think we will," he agrees, and moves to take a seat with an air of familiarity. "And I second the chamomile, it will do you wonders, Elmo." He settles himself in and sighs; for a moment, he looks excessively tired, then shakes himself out and sits up. He looks askance at Elmo, waiting for him to procede.

Elmo stuffs the batteries back into his pocket, along with turning the lining right-side-in. "Some stuff, yeah," he says, glancing over his shoulder at the door, as if thinking about making a break for it. "Some…ain't really mine to tell. Jay and Kaleb are the right guys for that." He fidgets in place, like sitting down is a challenge, then just does it, undoing his suit jacket with an absentminded little flick. He takes the seat next to Halgrim, without thinking about it. "On the other hand," he mutters, "it's kinda hard to start somewhere… Okay, hang on." Out of one of the inner pockets of his jacket he pulls a notepad and flips through it. "There's a thing. I think it's a thing. That we gotta know what it is. That's…okay, wow, get a grip Rosencrantz…The words are Siege Perilous." He turns the notepad around to show Strange how it's spelled.

Pausing in pouring the steaming water over the cups of tea, the Sorcerer frowns as he sees the notepad turned towards him. He cranes his head the better to read it and mouths the words to himself.

"Siege Perilous. Arthurian legend, if memory serves me well. The seat set aside by Merlin himself for the one knight who claimed the Holy Grail. Galahad's name was inscribed upon it and indeed, the knight completed his quest." There's a small little smirk on Strange's lips as he goes back to prepping tea. It won't take but a minute to steep, in the case of the chamomile blend set aside for Elmo. For Halgrim, something darker to combat the circles under his eyes. For their silver-templed host, a warmly-scented Chai blend. "Sir Galahad was indeed the very knight for the job," he comments almost knowingly. "The concern revolves around this particular phrase…?"

"Son of Lancelot, wasn't he?" Halgrim says, scratching his beard and frowning as he thinks back to his undergraduate years. (All the way back.) "Though I seem to recall the tale of him returning the Grail was a later addition, part of the Pseudo-Map Cycle; he's not in de Troyes or the others, I don't think." He doesn't sound certain of that, though, and who can blame him; it was a dusty old course taught by a pompous ass over two decades ago.

"Doc, I never figured you for a wiseass." Elmo grants Strange an exceptionally annoyed are-you-kidding-me-here look, eyebrows cocked, mouth pulled back. "Yeah, I know that. I'm at least 97% sure it ain't referring to the empty chair at the Round Table." He tosses his notepad down, flexing his fingers like he could really use a cigarette. "We ain't got no Galahad, in any case. Finding some pure virgin above reproach in New York City, might as well just go for the Grail."

Funny enough, though, the very academic approach the other two men are taking kind of calms him down. It's an intellectual problem. It's got to have an intellectual answer. He hikes his eyebrows at Halgrim, bleakly amused. "Yeah well, the only one I know is Once and Future King." Elmo heaves in a breath, then picks up the tea. Sips it. Struggles not to make a face. Sips it again. "The thing is, Doc… my buddy Doug Ramsey's got somethin' wrong with him. He's sick, like. And he told usme, Kaleb, Jay, and Jeb toothat the Siege Perilous could cure him. But he also told us no wizard with an ounce of conscience is gonna help us."

"Yes, son of Lancelot," Strange confirms to Halgrim even as he stirs the chamomile tea once. Each clay mug gets its own stir — and two spoonfuls of honey into the Sorcerer's Chai — and then he hand-delivers each cup to its rightful imbiber. Elmo gets a drily-amused little smile for his expression and comment. "Oh goodness — and here I thought I was supposed to be entirely wise and mild-mannered." Not this guy here, nope.

He deigns to not sit for this discussion, but to take up his drink and stand within basking distance of the radiant heat of the fireplace. The warmth of the clay mug will eventually begin to soothe nerves and stiff joints in his hands. Backlit by the glow, he snorts softly in regards to this…Doug's thoughts on things. "I think your friend has no idea what he's dealing with, if that's how his world view stands. Though, to the contrary, we did and still do have a Galahad, in a very…" He pauses. "…convoluted way that like as not does not pertain to the troubles at hand. That your Doug specifically mentioned a wizard, however? That already gives you your first clue. This Siege Perilous, named as it is, is likely either a spell or an item imbued with one. A relic, if I had to hazard a guess."

It fits that Elmo's shorthand explanation of Doug's situation makes about as much sense as everything else Halgrim has heard about what's going on there, so he just accepts it at face value. As he's been presented with an academic problem, he approaches it academically. At least he's been a professor long enough to do his thinking out loud. "Well, if that Galahad isn't the one we'd want to be concerned with, and this isn't the literal Grail " he looks like he really doen't want it to be, " but instead is a…code name, or a reference to something…" He pauses to collect his thoughts, taking that moment to accept the tea with a murmured, "Tak," and have a sip. He sighs gratefully and sinks back in the chair.

After a moment, he continues. "The Grail's overall definition has changed through time, but from de Boron on it's a communion chalice, which to Catholics and some other Christians transmutes wine into the blood of Christ — from the mundane into the divine. It's transcendence of what is known, into what must be accepted," he makes a face, clarifies, "consumed, really, to receive divinity. So the Siege Perilous could be the individual who discovers this secret, the secret of Becoming. Perhaps this is what Doug thinks he needs to heal himself—as you say, Doctor, a relic of…transmutation. Or something like that." He sighs. "Though with everything the Grail represents in the broader scope, I would assume there's some sort of terrible price attached to finding an object like that, or its use — probably both." He shifts in his chair, waits to see what Strange and Elmo make of that line of thought.

Elmo snorts, mutters under his breath, "Gentiles." Always with the transfiguration and the blood drinking. Weirdos. He keeps trying to drink the tea and keeps not liking it. Eventually he sets it down. "No offense, Doc, but I think that cup is fulla soap." He stays in his seat, although he's fidgeting like a young boy who can't wait for recess. "Yeah," he says to Strange, "I think he was tryin' to drop all kinds of clues. S'why the other guys can tell you better. I'm just trying to get this research angle nailed down. I figured it's some kinda magic thing, but I don't expect you to, you know. Do anything." He shrugs. "Necessarily. If it's that bad." He listens to Halgrim with eyebrows slowly floating ever higher. "That's…actually pretty smart. Like it acts like the Grail with healing powers?"

"It is entirely possible that this Siege Perilous is aptly named in its vein and does that very thing: a panacea for any and all ills, mundane and mystical alike," the Sorcerer confirms with an inclination of his head. "There have been many relics with this ability since humanity itself received the ability to manipulate magic and therein create relics. Any item can become blessed, cursed, charged…" He lifts a free hand in a mild shrug.

"The creation of the item itself is limited only by the practitioner's prowess, delicacy, and the sturdiness of the item. Now, do I know of items of this nature? Of course. It is part and parcel of my mantle to be aware of them and their locations. If they are threatened, I bring them here, to the Sanctum, wherein they are safe-guarded. Now…have I found all of them? No. I have eternity to do as such, however, so I am not overly concerned." Strange sips his looking precisely as such: only mildly concerned.

"However, your Doug should be. There will be, without a doubt, a price for utilizing this Siege Perilous, if he has located it," the silver-templed man is sure to add, his expression gaining a deeper shadow of disquiet.

Halgrim somehow doesn't choke on his own tea when Elmo refers to the chamomile as soap, but it's a near thing. He clears his throat around a laugh. "I suppose for you a beer, or some whiskey, would be better," he says, glancing apologetically at Strange.

He nods in agreement with Strange. "Precisely — would something like that really be lying around in a buried ruin somewhere, unnoticed?" As soon as he's said it he recognizes the irony, grimaces, shrugs it off. He opts, then, to approach Elmo's question about healing from another direction. "Since it's the Siege Perilous and not, say, the Fountain of Youth, it's important to ask what healing might consist of in this context. Again, thinking in terms of the Grail's ability to transcend—obviously if you change something which is injured into something else, it could be healed in the process. But is it healing if it's become something else entirely? Or is it more like, when a caterpillar goes into the cocoon and unmakes itself to reform as a moth?" He raises his eyebrows at Elmo to see if he's following. "If you fundamentally alter something which is out of adjustment, have you really healed it, or simply remade it, and discarded the damage in the process?" He glances away, adds, "And is the difference relevant?"

Elmo rubs the back of his hand against his mouth, his dark eyes unfocused as he thinks. "It doesn't got that name by accident. Only Galahad could survive sitting on the Siege Perilous. And the Grail only got found after a thousand deadly quests. It's danger and death all the way down." He grimaces. "Great. That doesn't actually tell me anything." Glancing up at first Strange, then Halgrim, he adds, quieter, "Doug's already transmuted. He's been turned into somethin' else. He….he came by the garage to fight me over Jay." Elmo flushes in shame, dropping his eyes. "Sorry to say I obliged him. Doug when he's well wouldn't ever do that, to me, or to Jay. Anyway I told the guys, and I still think it, that if he was an engine, I'd take him apart and rebuild him. So maybe what you're sayin' about the caterpillar ain't so far from the truth.

The lines of Strange's fine goatee break to the ghost of a smile as he takes note of Halgrim's contrite glance. Again, another little wave of his hand and Elmo's tea is now something more akin to mulled cider, with a liberal splash of whiskey in it. He attends upon both men, listening even as he feels tight joints begin to relax in the soothing heat emitted by his tea.

"If you've already experienced the man as a different person entirely, then something may be done. Or it may not. The Professor brings up a critical point. The difference may incredibly relevant, even crucial to the survival of this Doug beyond its use. A dog which survives being hit by a car only to succumb to rabies is healed and yet still beyond saving. I would rather this Siege Perilous remain hidden, if only because once it's discovered, it will need to be hidden once again." And that would be yet another box on his never-ending checklist of Sorcerous things to do.

Halgrim winces in symapthy as Elmo admits to what happened at the garage, toys with his cup. In regards to Doug's current state of mind, he says, "Well, that…does sound like the case," apologetic for being unable to offer much hope in that regard. He sips from his tea, turning Strange's comment over in his mind. "I wonder, then, does Doug intend to only use it on himself?" He looks at Elmo, then Strange. "Or does he see others as in need of 'healing'?" He hates that he has to put emphasis on the word like that, and yet.

Elmo blinks into the mug. "Wow. Now that's a useful transfiguration! Thanks, Doc." He picks it up to sip it and it really does seem to relax him better than mysterious soap tea. So when Strange talks about Doug like a rabid dog run over by a truck, he can take that fairly well instead of immediately freaking out. He pulls a face though, expressive and unhappy. "There's a picture." He nods, like he didn't expect anything else about the Siege. "He said it's the only thing that can cure him, but I don't buy it. He's lyin' about so much. Or…it's not lying, exactly, he's sayin' things that are true in a way, but don't hold up under logic. …Mostly." He winces. "Liiiiike when he called me everybody's side man." There's that ashamed flush again. Whatever Doug said to him, it's lingering. He tips the mug back to cover it up. After a couple swallows, uncaring of how hot the cider is, he gives Halgrim a hangdog look. "Yeah. I sure wouldn't put that past him. Are you guys sure you're not rabbis? I ask one question, I get ten answers and twenty more questions."

"It is one of the regularly obstacles I run into within the field of the Mystic Arts, Elmo. Always, overturning one answer leads to myriad other questions and branching courses of logic in turn. After all, the only limitation to what humanity can engender with the Arts is their own imagination." Strange smiles at the nervous man kindly in his aloof way.

"I cannot guess what your Doug may see in the world now, given that he is no longer the man you once knew. I won't hazard any guesses either, not when a life may be on the line. Would that I could do more for you, but…my hands are tied, figuratively-speaking," he says, almost regretfully. He then sips deeply at his tea.

Dipping his head at Strange, Halgrim adds, "Such is how all proper learning is achieved, something rabbis have been aware of for millennia." He sighs, offering no comment on the things Doug said to Elmo (because it won't be helpful) , and instead settles for, "I think — as much as I don't want to suggest this—someone needs to see if they can get him to tell them anything else. Not you," he says this firmly and gently, "but perhaps someone else who can get him to talk about what he's doing without alerting him to probing."

Elmo sets the mug down and stands up, running both hands through his hair in a gesture of utter exasperation. "He—okay, listen, this is important. His mutant power is language. Any language. Body language. Animal language. Computer language, he can read and speak all of it. I sure as hell can't fake him out. I don't know who can. He's dangerous." He looks unhappily at the older men. "He always used to talk about he wasn't. But he is. Oh, he is." He scoops his notepad off the table, tucking it back into his jacket, his eyebrows tilted up in worry. "Doc. Thanks. I appreciate you talkin' with us."

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