Old Acquaintances Made New Again
Roleplaying Log: Old Acquaintances Made New Again
IC Details

The Swamp Thing, unable to locate Giovanni Zatara, opts for the next best thing and invades Sanctum Sanctorum with his precious cargo. Takes place immediately after this cutscene.

Other Characters Referenced:
IC Date: November 25, 2018
IC Location: New York City, New York
OOC Notes & Details
Posted On: 26 Nov 2018 08:20
Rating & Warnings: PG-13 for swearing and blood.
NPC & GM Credits: The Swamp Thing, Zelma, Wong
Associated Plots

Even by the standards of magical residences, the Sanctum Sanctorum was an unusual place.

It both was and was not at 177A Bleecker Street, simultaneously corresponding with the physical site and the three-storey Victorian townhouse that stood there and also being completely different. The home of the Sorceror Supreme stood on a nexus of leylines, on a site with a colourful and bloodstained history, and that would make it weird enough on its own… But the presence of the man himself, of the things he did, warped it still further.

For example, the living room. Or, at least, a living room.

It was Saturday night in the Sanctum, and several creatures of varing sizes were stirring, though apparently they hadn't stirred themselves from the house itself. It would, perhaps, be the very image of the living room you would expect from the Sanctum's exterior, with the foyer and a large sitting area and of course an enormous staircase leading up to… Somewhere… But the image was ruined a bit by the trees. And the carpet of living grass. The trees grew tall in the cavernous living room, thick enough around that they must surely be older than the house itself, except that it was just as obvious that the roots were growing along the floorboards under the grass, that they had paradoxically come to be after the house they were older than. Scattered among the trees were a couple sitting areas - to one side, an enormous comfy-looking armchair with a table beside it, and in that chair is curled up a young woman in her late 20s with glasses and a knit cap, engrossed in an enormous tome; elsewhere, a coffee table sits in front of a wide couch and another less enormous armchair, the seating opposite a large flatscreen tv that honestly looks more out of place than the trees do, somehow. On the couch is seated a burly Chinese man with close cropped hair and a bag of chips.

He's watching the NY Rangers game.

"I really don't see why I have to do this," comes an aggrieved voice from another room, though it would be impossible to say whether that room was close or far.

"It's your turn," the young woman and the hockey-watching man reply, in unison, with the offhanded manner of people who've said this already in the last half hour. Neither of them look away from what they're doing.

From the other room, there's a sigh.

The Sanctum Sanctorum was one of the most secure places on Earth, you know. Easier to break into the Raft. Safer to try sneaking into Birnin Zana. But there were always odd mystic confluences, and there were a few beings who could access the place simply because their causes were fundamentally aligned: If one were, for example, the Protector of the Green…

There is nothing left of the man once known as Alec Holland.

Or if there is any trace of him left, it would be his occasional, if not somewhat reluctant, willingness to help the human beings that he, in his present incarnation, has long deemed a blight upon the very planet he was sworn to protect. To say that the elemental-something known as the Swamp Thing may be somewhat callous in his disregard for human life is a gross understatement at best, but some exceptions do exist. For an overgrown and somewhat isolationist vegetable, he keeps particularly well-known company and is well-known in the mystical circles in which the likes of Giovanni Zatara, John Constantine, and Dr. Stephen Strange operate. That isn't surprising, either, his very being is teeming with some of the oldest magic known to mankind, and other beings outside of it.

The entire living room seems to move when he finally makes his presence known; the trees, the vines, the grass - all of them react to the presence of said Protector of the Green when a nest of vines start to slither like snakes, pooling in the middle of the earthen floor. Wood creaks at the wake of each twisting movement, cracking here and there, before the floral construct starts rising upwards to take the shape of a hulking, vaguely humanoid form, smelling of various blooms, the mineral notes of turned soil, and dripping with moss. What passes off for a browline scrunches together, eyes of gleaming ruby-red pushing outwards, a stark contrast against the various shades of green that make up his body.

And he isn't alone.

Carried within his arms is the slender figure of a young woman dressed in black, raven curls spilled from the hooded jacket she wears. She would be familiar also. Her breaths are slow, but shallow, clearly injured by the splatter of blood evident on one side of her face and neck. Alive…and despite the bullet wounds, she doesn't seem to be in any immediate danger. Some kind of healing magic is in effect already, if not just to make sure that she doesn't exsanguinate while being transported to a safe place.

What passes off for a maw opens up, the Swamp Thing's low, slow and drawling tones filling the cavernous room, his red eyes fixed on Wong.

"Doctor Stephen Strange," he rumbles. "Where is he?"

It's a curious thing: A place where two sovereign domains overlap. It might even have been an intentional move in the Sanctum's construction… Or the influence of deeper, more inscrutable forces.

Either way, the result is the same. As the Swamp Thing begins to take from inside the Sanctum Sanctorum, the living forest inside the room responding to its presence, the television flickers, briefly disrupting the game. The floor trembles, cracking in places but ultimately holding as one magic makes accomodations for another.

"JESUS H. CHRIST," shouts the young woman in the armchair a bit more shrilly than she'd prefer, dropping the book - its cover reads 'Il Libro Di Cagliostro', with a strange emblem beneath - onto the floor. "IS THAT THE MAN-THING?!"

Wong, at the very least, seems relatively unfazed by the Swamp Thing interrupting the hockey game, though the broad man's attention moves almost immediately from the visage of the Protector of the Green down to the precious cargo it carries, a woman - a girl, really, from the perspective of that gulf of years - younger than the armchair-sitting reader and familiar enough to produce a sour twist of fear and worry at her current state. "Stephen!" Wong calls, given the possibility he didn't notice the appearance of the Swamp Thing. Or the shrieking.

"What?!" demands the Sorceror Supreme as he steps into the living room, wearing… Track pants and a faded NYU t-shirt, under an apron decorated an adorable cartoon devil barbecuing with a pitchfork. He has yellow rubber gloves on his hands, and a wire scrub brush in hand, suds dripping from the implement. Apparently, it was his turn to do the dishes.

His outrage does not survive the sight of the injured Zatanna.

"You know they took my medical license away forty years ago," Strange mutters; it's more for his own benefit than anything, he'd never known the Swamp Thing to be much for banter. Between one step and another, one blink and the next, the apron, gloves, brush and soap suds are all gone. He's hardly in his working clothes, but there's nobody left to impress, now. A whisper of rustling air passes by as his mental command is obeyed, a length of red cloth fluttering by and stretching itself out flat about four feet off the ground in front of the Swamp Thing, the Cloak of Levitation as rigid and sturdy as any metal table. "Set her down there. What happened?"


Swamp Thing's ruby-red glare turns sideways to fix on the young woman on the couch at her exclamation, though he doesn't deign to give her a response, much less correct her. He does look rather irritable though but then again, he almost always does whenever he's forced to interact with human beings. There is, however, a glance at the book she drops from her hands and onto the floor.

Still, when Wong calls for Strange, the hulking mass of green everything remains rooted - ha ha get it - in the center of the room, with Zatanna Zatara dangling in his arms unconscious. He takes in Stephen immediately the moment he comes in; he doesn't blink, probably because he doesn't know how. But the elemental does what he is bid, vines slithering like live serpents as he finally takes a few steps forward and sets his cargo down on the Cloak of Levitation. She doesn't look like she's dying, at the very least, but blood does spread over the fabric, camouflaged handily by its color.

It is only then that Swamp Thing deigns to answer the Sorceror Supreme: "I heard her call and found her like this. If it is answers you seek, you will have to ask the daughter of Zatara herself, when she wakes."

After a pause, the green, leafy visage turns towards the man once more. "I could not find her father," he continues, every syllable stretched out in those slow, drawling tones. "He is nowhere in this world. You will have to do, Doctor Stephen Strange."

Right. He often addresses others either by title or their full names.

The look the young woman in the knit cap gets seems to cow her… Though a few moments later, her large brown eyes can be seen peering over the back of the armchair at the proceedings.

Wong stays back but close at hand - there are areas in which he remains more skillful than Strange, but it's perhaps not too surprising that the doctor makes a better healer than the monk does. His once-shattered hands are no good for surgical work anymore, but he wasn't planning on stitching the girl up in a mundane way, in any case. Motes of orange light form around his fingers, tiny runes that trace themselves, as he seeks out Zatanna's physical injuries; those grey eyes of his look only at the daughter of Zatara, now, but he nods faintly at Swamp Thing's words.

"No one has been able to find Zatara," Wong confirms quietly, not wanting to disturb the work as he agrees with the Protector of the Green. "Though there were some tales of him in the underground, almost two years gone now. Ominous ones."

Strange lets out a snort as his fingers move, drawing out any fragments of the bullets that remained in the witch, coaxing out dirt and debris in tiny orange bubbles. Healing was always complicated, always dangerous, and he preferred to do it in a mundane style with magical tools, whenever possible.

"The Cold Flame? That gaggle of thugs and burnouts doesn't have enough real magic between them to fill a thimble," the Sorceror Supreme says, his tone rich with a well-practiced disdain… But a faint furrow develops in his brow despite his flippant attitude. "Magic cults are always like that, a bunch of idiots with just enough knowledge to be blunt instruments, and usually some half-trained apprentice pulling the strings in the hopes of world domination or some other such nonsense. In any case— "

"Sutures of Saragon," the sorceror intones, his voice warping oddly as he calls upon a forgotten divinity, a small god willing to lend healing power, causing Zatanna's wounds to knit and mend without pain, without stress on her body.

"— I should put 'I'll have to do' on my business cards," Strange remarks, looking up at the Swamp Thing, before very seriously: "I'm not going to wear a top hat, though."

"Yes. Ominous," the Swamp Thing says in acknowledgment of Wong's comment. "This is not the first time that Giovanni Zatara has left this world in order to ensure nothing from without threatens it. But this is the first time that he has been gone for this long." There's a slight tilt of his head towards Strange when he mentions the Cult of the Cold Flame and while human affairs are usually beneath his notice, the name is familiar to the Protector of the Green because…

"That was not Giovanni Zatara." A pause, and he gives Strange an inscrutable look - it's hard to find an expression within all those vines. "Though you do resemble him when he was much younger."

But infuriatingly enough, the elemental does not explain the comment, or how he knows. Instead: "I will leave Zatanna Zatara in your care, Doctor Stephen Strange."

And with that, the creature formerly known as Alec Holland simply seems to unravel. Vines disengage from the overall body, unspooling into lengths of endles and fibrous green. Its hulking form slowly sinks into the ground until there's nothing left but berries, twigs, leaves….and an organic mess in the middle of Strange's forest-like living room, soon to be swept up by the rest of the flora growing within.

For a while, there is nothing but silence save for the dull clatter of spent bullets as they are pulled from Zatanna's back, leaving holes in her black clothes. Healing magic at least has the advantage that clothes don't need to be removed in order for obstructions to be removed and for muscles and skin to knit. Her color improves at the dispensation of Dr. Strange's deft mystical touch, but to say that it returns would be an exaggeration - the young woman was so pale, her pallor rivals freshly fallen snow.

She remains on her front, arms pressed to her sides while the Sorceror Supreme works. Once he's done, however…

…ice-blue eyes snap open. Whatever cosmic sphere Saragon holds sway, he certainly works quickly when it comes to putting someone together.

"Ugh…" the young witch groans softly. "…what hit me…?"

Fortunately, dealing with inscrutable cosmic forces is pretty much a day to day part of Strange's job, so the onetime surgeon isn't too put out by the Swamp Thing's behaviour. He can appreciate it, too. There's an enjoyment to be found in a good ominous pronouncement that you never follow up on. Being a cryptic asshole is like crack for wizards and supernatural entities.

"Did he just crack a joke?" Strange wonders after the Swamp Thing vanishes, the Sanctum already starting to clean up after him. He looks towards Wong as he asks this. Wong shrugs helplessly. "I mean, I'm older than Zatara, but maybe he doesn't get that since he just perceives humans in terms of entropy and decay, and…"

Wong pats the Sorceror Supreme on the shoulder.

With the Avatar of the Green gone, the other occupant of the room has slipped off of her chair, padding over to see what's actually going on. She has no idea about pretty much any of the stuff the sorcerors and the Swamp Thing were talking about, but she knows from firsthand experience that waking up to see magic weirdos doesn't make for the most stress-free recovery.

"Looks like a 9mm," Strange answers Zatanna's question, the bits of one of the bullets he pulled out of her forming together like pieces of a puzzle, assembling in midair. "I suppose that team you're running with gets shot at a fair bit."

The bespectacled woman shoots Strange a look, before offering Zatanna a hand off of the Cloak, and a bright reassuring smile.

"Hi!" she says, with an obvious Bronx accent. "Don't mind the Doc, his bedside manner comes and goes. I'm Zelma Stanton."

If Zatanna looks at the two men, Strange is frowning thoughtfully. Wong offers a cheerful wave.

His voice is not familiar, but his look is. Zatanna's eyes widen from where she's lying, before she slowly lifts her head to regard the greenery blossoming all over the living room in utter defiance of the wintry landscape outside. Normally, there would be drowsiness, sluggishness - a slow climb to wakefulness, but the fact that she's being addressed by the Sorceror Supreme (or a Sorceror Supreme, she knows many who would contend for the title) could only mean one thing.

She is in the middle of Sanctum Sanctorum.

"…holy shit." The first two words from her lips.

With Zelma offering her a hand, her paler own takes it, slowly slipping off the Cloak of Levitation and giving it a curious look. "I…hi. I'm Zatanna Zatara." There's a hint of a smile, a slight apology there - she is very much aware as to how ridiculous her name sounds. "Nice to meet you, Zelma." She was never the sort to be so rigidly formal that she would address her as a miss.

Having found her footing, she turns around to regard Strange, though there's a hint of disappointment on her features. Save for their fantastic surroundings, and the feel of magic ensconcing her within its addictive bosom, with his NYU t-shirt and track pants, he looks almost…normal. What happened to the blue robes, the big medallion and the gloves?! He's just as casual as John Constantine…

…there's pain there, at the thought. Something inside of herself reaches out for the link they once shared, finding only a void. It is the emptiness that deflates her awestruck expression.

"…we haven't met," she tells Stephen, managing to keep her smile, her hand lifting for a shake. "I'm Zee. Your reputation precedes you, Doc. Thanks for the assist. Where's…" She looks around the living room, brows furrowing. "…is he camouflaged, or…? I can't tell with all the…"

At Wong's wave, she waves back with her other hand.

The age difference is clear, between Zatanna and Zelma, the latter woman probably of an age with Jessica Jones; still, when Zatanna gives her name, she meets that apologetic smile with a bright, girlish one. "Nice, we're the Z Team," the librarian jokes. This close, Zatanna would be able to tell that Zelma isn't a magician of any stripe, but there's still something there… Something which is, admittedly, a little hard to pick out amidst the magic of the Sanctum Sanctorum, especially with everything going on.

Once she's off the Cloak of Levitation, the red cloth floats away, possibly to go get rid of the blood.

Of course, it cleans itself.

Picture that.

"Swamp Thing left once he was sure you were all right," Strange explains, taking the offered hand and giving it a brief but firm shake. "The living room always looks like this. It's soothing."

'It's weird, Zelma mouths silently, out of Strange's field of vision.

"Though I wouldn't be so quick to assume we've never met before, Zatanna," the Sorceror Supreme says, and oh yeah there it is, cryptic smile. The extremely casual clothes do kind of undercut the mystery of it a bit though. "Wong and I have both worked with your father in the past. A man of great skill and courage." And probably a sore spot for the girl, he reasons, so he tries to change the topic maybe a little bit too late. "Now, about your injuries. Is someone after you?"

The Z Team. The words have that earlier malaise banishing, for a moment, the younger woman flashing the librarian a broad grin. "Oh good, then I don't feel so weird," she jokes as she grips Strange's hand, releasing it after the shake.

Surveying her surroundings, she can't help but follow the multicolored trails of magic that she sees - places steeped with such is all the moreso to her, blanketed by a rainbow aura that does serve to obscure whatever secrets Zelma keeps. Speaking in a tone that is low and almost reverent: "I've heard of the Sanctum Sanctorum many times, I never thought I'd actually find myself here…not until I was older anyway. Much less accidentally." Zatanna lifts her fingers, to touch a wandering mote of pure magic. "I figured you at least had to rack up a few decades of experience to be even be counted as a worthy visitor."

At the news that the elemental had left, the raven-haired witch nods, sliding her hands in her pockets. "He's always been that way," she tells the man - it almost sounds like she's apologizing for the Protector of the Green for his ill manners. "He's more inclined to listen to people who take good care of their gardens, or bother to keep one. I think your living room counts."

The implication that they could have met before, followed by that damnably cryptic smile - and one that can't help but remind her of her father - has her tilting her head at him, curiosity suffusing her alabaster mien. "…really?" she wonders. "But I would have remembered….wouldn't I have?" Then again, she knows there are specific gaps to her memories - things that scare her too much, lurking from behind locked doors.

Still, when the man moves on, she follows the thread, albeit somewhat reluctantly. She's still looking at him with that same inquisitive expression. "Well, when aren't there people after me?" she mutters. "There's been plenty of that throughout my childhood, and double the last two years. I'm amazed my friends haven't gotten sick of it…I'll figure out the real reason why that is, though, apart from the obvious. One day."

She reaches out to touch the floating fragment of bullets swirling near Dr. Strange. "This case though…I didn't want to be involved, with what's going on in the city right now," she confesses. "I thought it'd probably be better to keep my head down for the time being, but…I came across an arrest that was about to go really wrong. Either the woman the cops were arresting was going to die, or she would lash out and kill officers trying to do their jobs. I didn't want either to happen, so I intervened. But it was a sting. I didn't realize until it was too late."

Her nose wrinkles faintly. "I'm no lawyer, I wonder if that's legal…whether they can entrap unregistered metahumans that way. But I mean…cops do the same thing with drug dealers on the street. It just means I should probably alert my teammates though."

Perhaps the witch was even simply too young to remember, during her girlhood days travelling the world with her father. Stephen Strange had a way of losing allies during the course of his appointed duties, but especially in his early days after succeeding the Ancient One, a man like Giovanni Zatara would've been extremely useful. They were both, after all, sorcerors who defended the Earth from threats most would never even know existed.

And Wong, at least, was probably very good with children.

If there were other reasons why Zatanna wouldn't remember, well, Strange doesn't bother to dwell on them; some things had to be come to in their own time, especially things that might've been sealed off for very good reasons. Similarly, the ageless sorceror keeps his thoughts to himself when Zatanna muses on what the 'real reason' she's so often pursued by malign forces might be.

Everything in its own time.

"A sad truth of human nature is that we often let power get to our heads," Strange says, with a wry look on his face. "And we often fear what we don't understand. Perhaps some see this new legislation as an opportunity to put 'metahumans' in their place. To overcome their fear by inflicting fear. To make themselves not feel so small in a world of mutants, and gods, and aliens, and wizards."

It was a distraction he didn't need, really… But what were they going to do to him? But he did have a certain responsibility to the rest of the magical community, he supposed. It wasn't like the vast majority of them were on his level…

Faintly, the Sorceror Supreme sighs. The fragments of the bullet crumble to dust, tossed onto the currently cold and dark fireplace.

"Perhaps you're right, though, Zatanna. Perhaps you should warn your teammates. If the authorities start gunning down young metahumans in the street, it's not likely to make calm prevail. Especially if they kill 'superheroes'."

Maybe all she needs is time. The Cloak of Levitation does look familiar, and so does Wong, especially, and she can't help but watch the man's wake whenever he bustles around leave the two powerful mystics in the room to speak with one another.

"It's not as if I don't understand where those who are in favor of it are coming from," Zatanna tells the ageless magician, lips playing into a frown as she returns her attention to where it belongs, no matter how overwhelming the urge to venture forth and explore the secrets of the Sanctum Sanctorum. "I just thought that after everything our lot has done to save the city…the world…that we'd have earned a little bit of faith. Admittedly, there's all sorts of extremely bad and dangerous sorts out there, but it's not as if they're going to follow the rules. How effectively are we going to stop them when we're being regulated and scrutinized?"

Her frown deepens. "Plus it isn't as if we've not seen anything like this before…history, I mean. And it always turns out poorly."

After a moment, she shakes her head. "Anyway, I'm sorry…for invading like this. I thought when I called Swampy that he'd take me to my teammates…or John." Which would have been awkward, considering the state of everything. "Believe me this was the last place I expected to end up. But I guess when you're the Protector of the Green, your memories can be pretty endless, huh? He must've remembered you and Daddy were constant associates when he was younger."

That was complicated, too, but her sadness is briefly palpable. Like any child towards a parent, she has had her disagreements with the older Zatara, but it didn't diminish her adoration. Nor had she stopped missing him since he disappeared.

Truthfully, by this point Wong has gotten back to watching the hockey game: He's got the volume turned down, at least.

"People in fear grasp for any little bit of control," Strange says, possibly just playing devil's advocate at this point - though that can always be a lot more literal than you'd want, in their line of work - on the subject of the motives behind registration. "Between the bombings in Hell's Kitchen, and the demon invasion - one I, personally, should've done more to prevent," there's a kind of arrogance in taking the blame for everything, but Stephen Strange was a man who struggled with humility at the best of times. "They're understandably afraid. They want to know more of what might be out there going bump in the night. But you're right, playing by these new rules will hobble you. And they will scrutinise, Zatanna. They will label and study and categorise everything until they can put it all in neat little boxes."

It always turns out poorly, she says.

That draws another wry smile from the Sorceror Supreme.

The apology merits a lifted hand and a shake of his head, though the blue-eyed witch might notice a faint twist of his mouth when she mentions 'John', as anyone in their community who keeps their ear anywhere even remotely near to the ground would know exactly who she meant.

"The Swamp Thing and I have collaborated on occasion," he says, putting on a bit more of the Sorceror Supreme despite his dressed-down look. "Helping to maintain the balance of the world is part of my duties, after all. But maybe I was just easiest for him to find quickly… It can be difficult to say just what's going through his mind. There's nothing for you to apologise for."

He notices, of course, that obvious sadness from Zatanna at the topic of her father… But after the discussion with Swamp Thing about it, he doesn't elaborate here, instead just leaving it.

"It's weird to think about, right?" Zelma says, jumping in, because she also noticed Zatanna's emotional state, but isn't a dick. "Your dad and Doc and Wong all fresh-faced and young, getting into wizard trouble? I kind of imagine them in really bad early '90s fashion, or maybe they were all grunge and Doc's got his cloak on over a flannel shirt and torn up jeans?"

Doctor Stephen Strange, M.D., Master of the Mystic Arts, Sorceror Supreme of Earth, looks extremely offended. He practically bristles.

Wong, sitting on the couch, snrrrks.

"I know," Zatanna tells the Sorceror Supreme and to her credit, she looks less angry and more sad. "But I guess we'll end up doing the same as what we've usually done. The best we can with what we've got."

There's a keen interest present when the Sorceror Supreme provides some detail about his own relationship with Swamp Thing. "John used to tell me that the higher you climb, the smaller the circle gets," she says, though there's marked relief on her features when the man doesn't seem to mind her bloody and surprising intrusion. "Thanks Doc, I appreciate it, honestly."

Zelma gets a grin, as if her earlier melancholy about her father had never existed. "Daddy would have rocked the pastel suit," she tells her. "And the cape." She doesn't dare expand on the visual that the librarian posits regarding Dr. Strange himself - the man just helped her out, not to mention the fact that she was in his domain.

"Anyway, I don't want to wear out my welcome, so I should probably get out of your hair. Thank you so much again and I know I'm not my dad, but if you need any help with…" She gestures around her vaguely. "Just let me know. Okay?" To Zelma, she wiggles her fingers. "Hopefully I'll see you again later, too." And turning her body sideways to regard the television and the Chinese wizard: "Bye, Wong!"

If there's nothing else, she will move for the door.

…wait, how did she know his name was Wong?

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