First Steps
Roleplaying Log: First Steps
Participants
IC Details
Synopsis:

Akari Takahashi brings her newly discovered magical mystery to the doorstep of the Sorceror Supreme himself, Doctor Stephen Strange. As is so often the case, Strange's help brings little in the way of immediate peace of mind… And is likely to set Akari's life on a new, weirder course.

Other Characters Referenced: Tony Stark
IC Date: January 07, 2019
IC Location: The Sanctum Sanctorum
OOC Notes & Details
Posted On: 08 Jan 2019 05:55
Rating & Warnings: PG, for general wizard weirdness and somebody mentions LSD.
NPC & GM Credits:
Associated Plots

Mid-Afternoon finds Akari Takahashi in New York City, bundled into a warm coat and scarf to match in the midst of what constitutes an east coast winter. At least, there's a little bit of warmth in the form of gloved hands. One of which presses the doorbell before tucking it away into an empty coat pocket. The other has her phone - which does not give off any sort of heat whatsoever. Unfortunately.

In the intervening time, Akari does take a moment to regard the outside with interest. Tony Stark said to come here? She supposes there's a very good reason for this, given that she set off his magical alarms. Whatever that meant.

It's not hard to find the Sanctum Sanctorum, really. For one thing, it has that very distinctive skylight, and for another most anyone in the neighbourhood can tell a visitor exactly where to find Doctor Strange. Even without directions, people who need to find the place have a habit of discovering the old Victorian townhouse without realising it. Which is weird enough.

What's weirder is what happens when unwanted visitors try to find the place.

But Akari, it seems, is not someone seeking out the home of the Sorceror Supreme for purposes nefarious: As such, she finds a completely normal building, insofar as she can tell. A completely normal building, with a completely normal doorbell. It makes a tinny BZZZT when she presses it, which hardly seems magical at all.

Then, the door opens.

On the other side of the door is a man only a few inches taller than Akari herself, his dark hair streaked with grey at the temples, his facial hair precisely groomed. His shirt is blue, a bit tunic-like, with a white emblem on the front of a curiously stylised cross; a red cape with a high collar is draped over his shoulders, though for whatever reason he's wearing perfectly normal black pants and then a pair of combat boots.

"Oh good," he says, seeing the young woman. "You're right on time."

And then he tries to pull her inside.

The inside is… Well it doesn't look like what should be on the other side of that door, because it looks like a stone dungeon out of a cheesy fantasy painting, like there should be some huge ripped dude in a fur loincloth fighting a beholder while an improbably proportioned woman in a bikini clings to his leg: Instead, there is a burly Chinese man with close-cropped hair wrestling what appears to be a large lizard, while a young woman with glasses and a knit cap helps him hold the thrashing beast down.

The man in the red cloak hands Akari a shield, metal-banded wood carved in faded old runes.

"Hold this," he says. "Its breath is slightly, ah, fiery. I'm going to cast a spell to help hold the beast, and then you need to get close enough to feed it this." He holds out… A pill? It's a big pill, though. Like a Tylenol gel cap sized for a horse.

"Just keep the shield up, and you should be fine."

So, he's just assuming she's here to help, then?

Yep.

Ah. This began all normal enough. The buzzer. The man opening the door. All of it lasts long enough for Akari to feel rather normal about this visit until…

The unknown man reaches for her arm and pulls her inside abruptly. "Wha-?"

Ah. Um. It's bigger on the inside? Wrong analogy but nevertheless true as she tries to regain her footing. And mental balance. One of those is bound to fail as the shield is thrust into her hands, gloved fingers unconsciously curling about the edges before looking at the dark haired, but well-dressed man with a puzzled and almost alarmed question.

"What?!" Okay. Cue alarm. "You want me to put this in THAT'S mouth?"

"What if it decides to eat /me/?"

"If you could do it a bit faster, that'd be really geat!" says the bespectacled woman - she's probably of an age with Akari, maybe a little younger, her Bronx accent coming out clearly with the strain of helping to wrestle a very large lizard. Both her and the burly man are wearing what look like heavy gauntlets, covered in glowing runes, but even then…

The beast thrashes, tries to throw them off to no success. His maw opens, letting out a sulfurous puff of flame.

"Well, yes," the man in the red cloak says, as though he's not quite sure how to proceed in the face of Akari's fairly reasonable questions. "He's just cranky because he needs to take his medicine, it's a bit of an infection, once he takes his pill he'll get very sleepy. Just, er… Try to keep your hand out of the way of any snapping jaws. And lead with the shield, it'll absorb the fire."

Encouragingly, the Sorceror Supreme gives Akari the coveted double thumbs up.

And then he takes a big, lanky step back.

"Go!" he instructs, as his hands trace arcane gestures, runic symbols drawing themselves in midair out of sparks: Lines of red force snake out at the lizard beast, wrapping around its top and bottom jaws to hold its mouth open as he invokes the Crimson Bands of Cytorrak.

Notably, this does not prevent the creature, now quite agitated, from breathing fire.

Which it does.

So now, it's all up to her.

Oh. That makes it better. Calm woman. Seems nice. Now the rest? It's a tiny, itty bitty … lizard??

It's also never good when the person giving the instruction backs away carefully.

With the pill in hand, Akari gives the shield another dubious look before adjusting its position and considers the pill in her other hand. It's only a lizard. A grumpy, some might call cute, lizard. "Alright…" When she inches closer with the pill as a peace offering, she's mindful of keeping the shield up and her hand slightly out with the pill.

And…. Fire?

Tony Stark, you keep odd strange friends! That's what she'd tell him upon their next meeting. If she survives, that is.

That unlady like squeak is Akari trying to put the pill into the Grumpy Lizard's mouth. That was before she saw the fire. Then … said fire avoiding her as something kicks into being around her. Protection?

Whatever it is, she's quickly throwing the pill, not offering it to the lizard in a bit of .. neverending panic.

It's only a lizard.

A lizard big enough, and strong enough, that two adult humans with strength-enhancing magic gauntlets are barely able to keep it restrained. And it breathes fire.

The shield hardly seems like much in the way of protection, since it's not very big, and it's mostly made out of wood, but as the flames get closer the runes decorating it start to glow - and whatever of the flames don't get deflected by the woman's own protection gets hungrily devoured by the shield, without any of the signs of heat that should be cooking her skin or burning her lungs from the inside.

When Akari throws the pill at the lizard, there's a faint sigh from Strange, who releases the Bands. Thusly freed, the lizard's mighty jaws SNAP down, catching the pill out of the air and lunging at the panicking visitor, though now that same red magic is holding the thing's jaws shut, making sure it has to swallow the pill.

And slowly, slowly its thrashing calms, and slows, and then there's a sound like paper tearing.

Because it's snoring.

"Ah, excellent work," the Sorceror Supreme says. "Well, a bit dodgy at the end, but it all worked out. Cryptoveterinary medicine might not be the field you want to go into," he adds, to Akari, while the other two slowly disentangle themselves from the lizard. He frowns, pensively, his brows furrowing. "Wait… You did come here to help us with the dragon, right?"

Akari Takahashi is a lousy thrower under pressure. It's been thusly proven.

At least, in the end, the pill was shoved in the creature's mouth and has been dealt with if the snores are any indication.

As to Akari? She's standing there with the shield still being held tight as ever in a state of stunned shock. At least, it's somewhat shock as she stares at the lizard before looking to the other assistant that appears to be human enough. And then back to Doctor Strange, who finally receives a very steady and tired exhale of breath.

"No. I was referred to you by Tony Stark," she says rather deflated now that all of her energy's been focused towards not being baked. Lowering the shield, it instead becomes hugged against her instead. It did, proverbially, save her life. "He apparently thinks you can help with a mystery of sorts."

"Oh," says Strange, though he doesn't sound the least bit sorry about getting an innocent person involved in giving a pill to a baby-ish dragon.

How embarrassing.

"Tony Stark did? How curious. Well, miss, I've helped with a mystery or two in the past. I'm Doctor Stephen Strange, and these are my associates, Wong," the burly man offers a fairly cheerful wave, before busying himself with draping a blanket(???) over the sleeping dragon. "And Zelma Stanton," the woman wearing glasses grins at Akari, though then she starts helping Wong, because apparently being Strange's 'associate' means doing all the work he doesn't want to do.

Which is probably sort of like working for Tony Stark, but definitely don't tell him that. Wizards, quick to anger, etc.

"Why don't we head up to the living room, and you can tell me all about your mystery, eh?"

That red cloak, the Cloak of Levitation, swoops dramatically as Strange turns and heads towards the stairway, expecting Akari to follow. Once he gets there, though, he stops, and turns to look at her.

"Oh. The basement is a bit… Weird. Try not to look in any one direction too long on the stairs, or you might go insane or suffer an aneurysm."

The reason for that warning becomes clear pretty soon, as the stairs 'up' are a weird Escherian nightmare, occasionally giving the unnerving sense that they're walking along the ceiling, or walking along a section that loops over another section, despite there having been nothing above before; there's definitely a few points where an unlucky look to one side or another will let Akari see herself walking in another direction.

So honestly, it's probably a relief when they step out into the kitchen. Although one of the fridges (there are two) is covered in chains and a sign that reads DANGER DO NOT OPEN IF YOU LIKE BEING ALIVE.

And then, if she's managed to keep it together this long, they step out into the living room… Which is carpeted in living grass, and has several very much alive trees growing in it.

"A pleasure to meet you." Now that there are no fire breathing lizards to contend with, Akari's manners are back even though they still seem to be slightly shaken from the entire incident of feeding medicine to unknown creatures known as 'lizards'. But it's not the fault of neither associate. Nor her host, for that matter.

Turning to follow the Strange Mage, Akari is still holding that shield but now may be shifting it under one arm as they move up the stairs. Disconcerting is not accurate. Very Disconcerting is not even the word that she'd use as she sees odd unnerving sense that had been mentioned before. As long as the red cape - living or otherwise, doesn't give her additional senses of being turned upside down, it'll have to serve as a stable point between glances.

"If I might ask.. what /is/ this place?"

Then there's the trees. Her statement stands.

What is this place?

"The Sanctum Sanctorum," Strange answers, as though that explains everything. Which it does, if one were familiar with it already. 'The Holiest of Holies', in Latin, which probably doesn't answer much. "Sorcerors aren't much for mundane real estate," he elaborates. "Even if we don't actively change our homes, they have a way of doing so on their own. The Sanctum is built on a mystic confluence, you see. The space here is very… Malleable." In the living room, he indicates a couch that sits under the spreading branches of a green-leafed maple; there's a coffee table there, and some chairs, and even a modern television on the wall opposite. It is a living room, just a big one. That looks like a forest.

Between one glance and the next, there's a tea service sitting on the coffee table, one of the cups already full. Strange lets Akari help herself, while settling down in one of the armchairs.

"Now. What's this 'mystery' Stark sent you here about?"

Akari Takahashi does not have any basis to place the name with anything currently known. Hence, she takes the explanation with a nod. With another exhale, she finally sets the shield onto the very normal looking sofa before sitting next to it. Perching on the edge is more like it, leaning forward to accept one tea and saucer set before adding only one spoonful of sugar.

"He seems to be convinced that I have some measure of magical ability. Or, at least, he noted that I set his sensors off. Why?" Both shoulders lift into a shrug. "I have no idea."

The stunt just now, not being part of her awareness.

In this, Akari gives Strange two interesting tidbits of information: One, Tony Stark has some kind of sensors that can detect magic, which makes him feel a headache developing at the very back of his head. And two, she herself apparently has some measure of the talent, or something that had tripped these same sensors. Assuming they actually work, which the sorceror isn't entirely sure they do. In fact, he'd much prefer that they didn't, and that magic and science remained mutually exclusive magisteria.

Unfortunately, he knows things seldom work out the way he'd prefer.

"Interesting. Just a moment," he says, in what he hopes is a soothing tone, as his eyes close. Well, his visible ones do; depending on her own sensitivity to these sorts of things, she might even be sort of aware of it, as the metaphorical, metaphysical 'third eye' in the middle of the Doctor's forehead opens, invisible to normal sight. It lets him see the young woman, seeing much of the usual - the tiny astral fauna that collect around pretty much everyone, like the microscopic mundane life that crawls on everyone's skin - even as he searches for something else, some sign of what might be behind this mystery.

"Have you eaten anything unusual?" he wonders, the questions distant and clinical. "Made any enemies of mysterious sorts, witches or old nameless travellers? Made any deals without specifying the terms? Accepted any gifts from someone you might term as 'inhumanly beautiful'?"

That may be a future… ooops. Ah well. He didn't say to not mention it. And, it was important.

Besides, how else would she have been believed otherwise? It made sense to the scientist in her. With the questions, there's a bit of confusion. The fairy tales are true? Well, in so much as such things exist. As she lifts the teacup to her lips in a moment's sip and an unseen shake of her head. She, at least, presumes he can't 'see' her perform that action. "No. At least, that much I know for a fact. Hence, the confusion surrounding the conversation with Mr. Stark."

And nevertheless, there is some magical aurora around her. Blue, like her eyes. Almost gem-like in its nature and non-threatening.

"Interesting," the sorceror repeats, watching her in that way. Auras were always fascinating, in one way or another - they told you all manner of things about the other person, about their emotional state and spiritual health. He didn't see any of the telltale signs of damage you'd expect from some kind of astral parasite, or any sort of curse, but of course it was important to go through the questions. He was a doctor, after all, and he had a duty of care.

"I believe, Miss Takahashi," wait, did she even tell him her name? "that you have a second aura. It doesn't look like a case of possession, perhaps something benign…" His regular eyes open, as he talks, as he remembers that it's probably kind of unsettling to talk to him like that, with him acting like he can see normally even with his eyes closed. "We may need to do some additional study. Though I am curious… How long have you had powers?"

Yep. Clearly a doctor. Though, probably not one that anyone would consider going to on a normal basis. On hearing her name - something that she had not given him, she thinks. With all that had been going on, the last thing that would have happened would be an exchange of names. The expression of surprise which subsides into nonchalance, is probably her response to Doctor Strange knowing things as mundane as that.

"Forgive me… a second aura? Is that even possible? Granted, all I know of things like magic is from television and the likes. I… "Akari has to consider the question now as a scientist. "Have no idea. There haven't been anything as odd as what I've seen with Chase. An acquaintance of mine," she clarifies. "The most that ever happened in any semblance of recent time are odd energy readings during our experiments at work but given that we work in communications, those are bound to occur. Anything can cause that." So, she thinks. "I have not spent any time in hospitals, as a patient, since before completing my doctorate in Japan."

Is that even possible?

The smile Doctor Strange gives Akari, when she says that, is extremely wry. Oh, it's a question he's heard before, more times than he could count. It's a question he's asked before, though not for a long time. That's the problem with being part of a larger world: There's all sorts of things out there that don't give a fig for mortal notions of possibility.

"It's unusual," the Sorceror Supreme confirms. "There has to be something else generating the second aura. But it doesn't seem to be a malevolent one… You're probably not carrying around a demon in the back of your head. On occasion, individuals have been temporary containers for a second soul, though I don't recommend it. This seems different than that, however. Less complex."

This probably isn't helping. Akari doesn't seem like the sort of person who's spent years poring over various magical treatises and seeking inspiration in corners of existence that would drive most people mad. Given what she's said about herself, she's clearly some sort of scientist - a Ph.D., at that.

"When you were helping with the dragon, I saw something peculiar. Though the shield there protected you from the flames, something else was trying to deflect them. Something you, Miss Takahashi," he doesn't call he Doctor Takahashi because as far as he knows she isn't an M.D., and he's kind of a dick, "did. Without even relising it, it seems. Very curious. It seems Stark was right to send you to me."

Oh. All of that is so helpful. Akari is not playing host to anything that can veritably destroy the world. That, is good. Excellent, even.

"Complex." He says. "At least, I can be thankful for that. Although scientifically, it would make sense as far as a self-defense reaction." Hopefully, that does not give anyone any ideas involving the lizard.. er, dragon. "I suppose that I should introduce myself properly," she says with hints of a genuine smile as the cup is set onto the accompanying saucer. "Doctor Akari Takahashi. And…" Now, it's her turn to be bemused. "I believe Mr. Stark should have told me a little more about you. Or at least, I think now I should call before arriving."

"Hmm," the Sorceror Supreme muses, as Akari follows her natural instincts: To think about something unscientific in a scientific manner. He remembers what that was like, of course. One might think that fifty years would make those memories hazy, make the person he used to be seem like someone else entirely… But that wasn't the nature of his effective immortality. Maybe once he gets a few centuries under his belt, but for now? For now he can recall all too clearly trying to wrap a scientist's mind, a physician's mind, around matters mystical.

"You might look at it that way, yes. But I'd be careful about it, were I you… It's possible that whatever the source of this second aura is, and whatever its abilities are, it was trying to protect itself and not you. Benign and non-threatening doesn't necessarily mean beneficial. Tumors can be benign, after all. Doesn't mean you'd want one."

Kind of a downer there, Doc.

She introduces herself, although he did seem to already know her name somehow; Strange offers a polite smile of his own, though it gets more strained when she brings up Tony Stark, sending her into the proverbial lion's den with little in the way of foreknowledge.

"He might not know as much as he thinks he does," said the pot of the kettle. "As you might've guessed, the particulars of my business can be a bit… Unusual. Still, I admit, Akari - may I call you Akari? - your case has curiousity. If this is mystical in origin, it's important to figure out the source, for your own safety. And, of course, to make sure you can gain at least rudimentary control over it, before you accidentally kill someone."

Well, he wasn't a successful doctor because of his bedside manner, anyway.

It's natural to think in such a manner. At least when it comes to scientists. Even physicians. Though, Akari is more the former as she turns the saucer slowly between both hands before stilling it to be balanced on both knees.

"How else would I consider it? It appeared to occur while I was trying to defend or at least keep myself from harm."

And yet, he does bring up a rather good point - in keeping herself from killing someone or herself in the process. "I can gather where I have traveled to but I doubt that it would bear any results." As to calling her by name?

"I suppose so…" He's going to be helping her out, apparently. "What am I supposed to call you?"

It appeared to occur while she was trying to defend herself, she says. Which is fair, but…

"In matters like these, you should always be wary of what a mysterious force is protecting you for," Strange replies, continuing with his earlier line of caution that's really kind of difficult to distinguish from outright cynicism. "Though I suppose you shouldn't look a gift horse in the mouth, either."

What am I supposed to call you?

"Stephen," the Soreror Supreme tells her. "If you like. And actually a list of places you've visited might help a lot. Any ancient ruins, or places reputed to be haunted. You'd be surprised how often superstitions are closer to truth than we'd prefer. If all else fails, we might need to arrange for a closer mystical examination. Have you ever done any transcendental meditation? Or LSD? Going on a trip into the essence of your own being is a bit like that, except not."

Useful explanations are, it seems, not necessarily what you get from wizards.

"I can find no fault in that line of caution."

There's no denying the truth of what he says. If… what he says is true.

"I think that it's also fair to say that I never wanted to be able to do anything extraordinary. What are the odds of this being fairly benign without causing any long term effects? Or, is it too early to say? I can get my passport records… mostly because I have traveled a lot in Japan and the countries around it a few years ago." In all, not outside the realm of possibilities for anything Odd to have occurred to her.

"I never went to places that were haunted, Stephen. But I do have an interest in ruins, museums and things of a historical quality while traveling."

LSD?

"As to meditation, I cannot say that I have. It would be entirely unethical to do as a scientist." In her mind.

Long term effects are, of course, a sensible concern.

Doctor Strange gives the woman a helpless shrug in response, which is probably not the reassurance she was hoping for.

"Too many unknown factors to hazard a reasonable guess. It could be all sorts of things, after all… And it might not even remain benign. Or whatever it is could be powerful enough to fool even my senses, and in fact be something quite dangerous. Sadly, rumours of my omnipotence are greatly exaggerated."

Again, maybe not helping.

"Ruins and museums are a good starting place. There's all sorts of things you might find in them, just waiting for a chance to get out. Relics, trapped spirits, that sort of thing. Old magics have a way of lingering, you know. But really, any information like that could be useful. Here."

In between blinks, there's a business card sitting on the table in front of Akari, next to the teacup and saucer. Doctor Stephen Strange, Master of the Mystic Arts, it reads. 177A Bleecker St., NY.

Below it is a gmail address.

You know, like you'd expect an octegenarian wizard to have.

"Well, don't worry. I might need to arrange for a bit of backup if we're going to be delving into your soul, but if we're lucky it won't come to that. As for the meditation, I'd recommend starting… If you're going to learn to control that whatever-it-was, it's a good methodology. Centering yourself, breathing control, that sort of thing."

So. It can still be a Bad Thing (TM) when everything is said and done. Yeah. Not helping.

Yet, it's better than what she knew walking into this townhome of the strange and unusual. Setting the cup and saucer onto the table, Akari leans forward to accept the card between thumb and index finger to inspect it before being tucked into her coat pocket. It's proper mannerisms to at least read cards before tucking them away. "I'll send you the list via email. Unless, I'm really a permanent commuter between here and Metropolis." Frequent flier miles and all that jazz.

"Meditation? I can accomplish that, quite easily enough. But, it still doesn't begin to explore what else, if anything, this second aura has in store for me." But, that might take a lot of laters. Over time.

And before any of that… just how is she going to manage getting out of here without going through that loopy loop staircase again?

"I need to caution you," Strange says, seriously. There's no wry humour now, no attempts to soften blows, not even any inadvertent callousness: This is direct, the sorceror's grey eyes locked onto the woman sitting across from him, his gaze carrying some of the weight of the years the rest of him doesn't show. Half a century embroiled in the world of magic and mystery, for all that he looks barely older than Akari herself. "This may not be quick, or easy. Simple solutions are hard to come by, in my profession."

"Even if we're able to discover just what it is that's caused this, you may be stuck with it for the rest of your life. You will need to learn to control it, if only to manage it… And yes, you might be able to learn to use it, whatever power it carries. But that will change you forever. These might be your first steps into a larger and more dangerous world than you can imagine, Akari. So please, for your own sake, just… Be mindful of that."

Then, and only then, does he give her an encouraging smile.

The exit, it turns out, is… On the other side of the living room, past the trees. Strange opens the actual front door for her, letting back out onto Bleecker Street, without her having to encounter anything else particularly threatening to her sanity.

Although, when she steps outside, she'll soon enough notice that she was only in there for about five minutes.

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