No Such Thing As Routine
Roleplaying Log: No Such Thing As Routine
Participants
IC Details
Synopsis:

A minor change in Khalid's magic-side schedule has him running errands with Doctor Strange.

Other Characters Referenced: Zatanna Zatara
IC Date: March 06, 2019
IC Location: The Hidden Marketplace, Not The Sanctum Sanctorum, Greenwich Village, New York
OOC Notes & Details
Posted On: 06 Mar 2019 19:49
Rating & Warnings:
NPC & GM Credits: Latinger - NPC'd by Strange
Associated Plots

Thus far, Khalid's 'training' with Doctor Stephen Strange has involved very little in the way of learning magic.

Perhaps the Sorcerer Supreme sees that as just not the sort of guidance the young man needs; perhaps he expects the Helmet of Fate to take care of its own in that regard, or maybe he's just waiting to see if Khalid is ready. That's the thing about masters of the mystic arts, they get all cryptic and inscrutable over time.

Fortunately, though, having been through medical school himself (albeit decades before Khalid was ever born) the sorcerer has been considerate of the rest of his purported apprentice's studies. But what he has done at the Sanctum Sanctorum has been occasionally rather grueling, whether it was martial arts training with Wong (physical discipline was as important as mental discipline!) or tests prompted by Strange to see just what he was capable of. Other times it was easier, as Strange helped him with meditative techniques, or had him help Zelma with the library.

There'd been homework, too, of course. Are you really learning anything, if there's no homework?

But today, though, is different. Today, they were not in the Sanctum at all.

"I have a few errands to run," was Strange's explanation, and there'd been little choice for Khalid except to accompany him, the immortal wizard heading out in the late February chill in a nice wool coat over perfectly normal clothes. Almost like he wasn't a wizard at all. The only thing that really stands out is his 'scarf', worn mostly under his coat; it was a familiar gold-trimmed red, the Cloak of Levitation having assumed a more innocent form.

The real question would be 'what kind of errands did he even have to run, anyway?' but of course Strange doesn't say, just leading a course down seemingly random streets in the Village, until eventually they find themselves… In a dingy back alley. Which really doesn't look like the sort of place anyone would run errands, unless those errands involved multiple felonies. But there's nobody else there except them.

"Excellent," Strange says. "Here we are, Khalid. Now I just…" He peruses the bricks of the wall, looking for markings invisible to anyone who can't open their third eye, can't perceive the magical and the astral overlaid on top of the material realm. "Ah, yes, here we are." Fingers trace over the brick, following the pattern that only he could see.

And then, abruptly, Strange and Khalid are both falling.

—-

From what he's experienced so far, Khalid sort of expected some strange form of training from the Sorcerer Supreme. The cryptic-ness he's perceived has been a nuisance, but Nabu hasn't made that any easier; everything the helm's spirit inhabitant says has been equally evasive and he feels like he hasn't made much progress at all.

Despite his busy schedule being put upon by a 'magical' timetable, he finds it…palatable. Mostly. The martial arts part he can do without — if he's learned anything it's that Wong doesn't go easy. Unless he was. Then that means Khalid's just weak. Either way, he's sure the bruising hasn't completely disappeared after one too many meetings with the floor. (It's exactly why he favors the meditation and library sessions more often than not.)

But today…today is definitely different. Slightly perplexed, the med student shifts the weight of his overstuffed backpack, mentally phrasing that question even though he decides to follow after Strange. As he grips the bag strap with one hand, he stuffs his other hand in his jacket pocket, shuffling along without much hesitation. "Even you take a break from routine, eh?" he casually asks once he walks alongside the man, chuckling as he finally takes a glance up and away from the sidewalk.

Waitaminute. Why are they in an alley?

Oh god he's gonna kill me— NO don't be ridiculous. This is fine.

An awkward laugh escapes him as confusion colors his features. "We're here? You mean we didn't take a wrong turn somewhere— "

And then the ground ceases to exist underfoot.

Cue Khalid screaming for a bit, spiraling head over feet a few times. "WHAT THE HECK!?"

—-

"In this life, you'll find that there's no such thing as routine," Strange assures Khalid. "It's for the best, really. Once you get complacent, something really bad is bound to happen."

And that's definitely the voice of experience talking.

Anyway, Khalid certainly shouldn't worry about getting killed by the Sorcerer Supreme in some alleyway: If he was going to kill the younger man, he could easily do it in the Sanctum without anyone else ever knowing. Admittedly, that might not be a wholly reassuring thought.

So, the invisible runes, and then the falling. It's one of those curious things where the fall seems to take both a long time and no time at all. Like surely, they must be dropping some immense distance, and he should be able to look down and see the ground rushing up at them. What would it be? Would it be New York again, somehow, impossibly? Or maybe they were falling up, and they'd wind up crashing into the Moon. Or maybe…

Actually, what happens is they're both suddenly somewhere else. Strange, who has clearly taken this transit in better stride, is standing and looks like he hasn't moved throughout. He turns, with a befuddled expression, to see Khalid probably on the ground.

"…Well, I suppose the first time can be a little disorienting," the wizard allows, offering his apprentice a hand up. Zelma never fell down, he thinks to himself, and she doesn't even have a Lord of Order hanging around her. "Now, you've been reading those books I assigned you, yes? The malleable nature of existence. The sensation you felt wasn't really 'falling' as it was moving from conventional reality into… Think of it like a bubble, clinging to the fabric of the world you know, and inside is a little world. There are all sorts of places like that… The Sanctum Sanctorum, Shadowcrest, the Oblivion Bar." The Tower of Fate, but he leaves that one off the list. No doubt Nabu will let Khalid know about that when he's ready. "Often these sorts of places are used by members of the magical community as safe havens. Places where they can operate openly without fear of the torches and pitchforks brigade. And not just human magicians, either, but beings of all stripes with connections to the mystical. And thus…"

Khalid might notice now that underfoot instead of New York's cracked, ice cold pavement there are instead cobblestones. That there's a background hum - the sound of chatter, of conversation, of people interacting. Because outside of their little alleyway is a whole vast marketplace, with patrons and sellers of every description. Quite literally.

"The Hidden Marketplace," Strange says. "Some people call it the Bazaar of the Bizarre, but I've read that book and it's not a very flattering name. Come on, now. Try not to touch anything, it might be poisonous. Or someone might take off your hand."

—-

Being murdered in the Sanctum did pass through his thoughts early on. It could have happened at any time, really. It wasn't reassuring then and it sure wasn't reassuring now and he really needed to stop thinking about it.

The sensation (?) of falling doesn't help. Khalid takes a moment to stare at the still-standing Strange before turning again, eyes quickly darting downward just in time to see the ground coming up at them. In the last few seconds, he slips in a wordless prayer in right before he squeezes his eyes shut and braces for impact.

…But he lives. Sweet, sweet ground, never leave him again.

"I'm sure I read that one," he croaks and coughs, his cheek smushed against the cold hard cobblestones. Skimming was involved, but he did read what mattered. But his brain is still processing the difference in ground texture as he gets the hand up, trying to rub some feeling back into his face. "So in other words, it's basically the mind playing tricks on you."

As Doctor Strange explains, he bends his knees, reaching to pick up his backpack. In the middle of trying to dust it off, he gets a better sense of where they both are now, curiously casting his gaze out toward the mouth of the alley to confirm that this is for real. They really aren't in New York anymore.

All he can mouth is 'what.' His brow furrows at the other title of the marketplace, however. "Bazaar of the Bizarre? Wow. That's kind of offensive." Another beat passes before he realizes that yes, he should go with the wizard. Try not to touch anything, it might be poisonous. Or someone might take off your hand. Both hands are shoved directly back into his pockets. "Noted."

—-

So in other words, it's basically the mind playing tricks on you.

"I suppose you could see it that way," the Sorceror Supreme allows. "But perhaps more your mind trying to make sense of stimuli that simply don't. As you move deeper into the realm of the arcane, Khalid, you'll encounter more and more things that the human mind is not built to comprehend. You'll have to expand your consciousness, develop the tools and the language you need to be able to understand it. Otherwise, you'll go mad."

Once upon a time, he was the one who needed to develop those tools. The Ancient One had been a far better teacher than Strange would ever be, but the Ancient One was long gone, become one with the universe and exploring vaster, more bizarre horizons than either of them could fathom; just as with his duties as the Sorceror Supreme, Strange would have to muddle through as best he could.

Besides, how bad could it be?

As they move into the marketplace, Strange seems unbothered by the curious sights all around, as though he'd seen them thousands of times. A group of actual dwarves haggling over fruits that came from no tree Khalid has ever seen; a human-looking figure wrapped in varicoloured strips of cloth with inscriptions written on them, underneath a set of voluminous robes, examining some item whose purpose the med student couldn't begin to guess. Some of the others int he marketplace look like they could've stepped off of any street anywhere in the world, others weren't even remotely human. He hears languages that have never been spoken on Earth, some no human tongue could hope to form.

The master of the mystic arts, at least, seems to know where he's headed. He walks with the kind of easy confidence that would mark him as a local, if indeed anyone could be described as local to a place like this, with visitors from other places, other realms.

Khalid, though, is far more likely to draw attention whether he likes it or not, and eventually he gets jostled, bumped into. He sees who did it, a small figure maybe five foot tall, who spins away and then careens through the crowds towards another alleyway.

And then, he might notice that his wallet is gone.

—-

Khalid makes a slight face, frowning since logic doesn't even begin to fall into place when it concerns magic and its oddities. "…Wouldn't expanding the consciousness do the same thing?" He doesn't expect an answer for a semi-rhetorical question, especially if they're moving at a rate that calls for an awareness necessary to navigate the streets and its diverse consumer population.

If Strange said anything like this to him mere moments after he received the Helmet of Fate, all of it would make even less sense. Less believable. He still couldn't believe they were here now, but the weirdness factor had been bleeding over into his reality long enough for him to accept the fantasy as reality.

Sticking as close to the Sorcerer Supreme as possible, Khalid's gray-blue eyes can't help but wander. The people, the shops, the items — it's all very different from what he's used to seeing, but at the same time it feels familiar. He's been around farmers markets and tagged along with friends to visit flea markets whenever they appeared. Poking around cramped spaces filled with knick-knacks or fresh produce is normal, but that normalcy is upset by the tones and appearances of the strange market goers, a reminder to keep track of where he's going, what he's doing.

The bump is rough, leaving him a little winded as he tries to go around the figure who ran into him. "Ow, okay," he mutters, shaking his head with a sigh as he runs a hand over his ribs. Out of habit, the same hand slides down his side, dropping to rest against his hip for a second.

His fingers then twitch, like something's off. The stammer in his steps lead him look down, looking over his shoulder, his other hand now patting every pocket he has on him in a quietly growing panic.

It's hard not to look frantic when he realizes his wallet pocket is as flat as his other back pocket. Jerking his head back up, he barely catches sight of the culprit as they flee. "Hey— hey!" Oh no, he can't let the guy go, not with his ID and everything. Sneakers hit the cobblestone pavement with a jolt, swerving a bit to avoid colliding with some of the market patrons as he chases after the pickpocket. "'Scuse me, sorry— coming through!"

Sorry, Doctor Strange. You are now missing one (1) mentee.

—-

Perhaps it isn't too unusual that the Helm of Fate, created by and in many ways part of one of the most prominent Lords of Order, would fall to someone who wanted to apply logic to something so concertedly illogical as magic.

Not that Strange himself didn't try the same thing in many ways: He had spent his life before Kamar-Taj as a man of science, and even now much of his magic was about precise calculation, about knowing that action a and action b produce effect c. But he had long since accepted that there were things beyond humanity's ability to label, to put in little boxes.

But, maybe Khalid was right, even semi-rhetorically. Maybe Doctor Strange was, himself, a little bit mad.

Most of the other people in the Market hardly seem to notice as Khalid is jostled, this sort of thing being perhaps a common occurrence - at least, that people bump into other people. There were always crowds, despite the seeming sparseness of the magical community in the 'real' world. And wherever there were crowds, there would be people getting bumped into, right?

And wherever there were crowds, there'd be some poor tourist getting their wallet lifted. A tale as old as time.

It's only after Khalid runs off that the Sorcerer Supreme looks back over his shoulder for the med student, and finds that he's gone. Grey eyes scan around, and a faint frown tugs at the corners of his mouth.

"Hrm," the wizard muses to himself, stroking his mustache pensively. "I should've probably given him the 'no wandering off' talk."

"Kids today," agrees a hulking figure next to him.

It's actually less difficult than Khalid might've feared to give chase: There's only one other figure around moving quickly instead of at the leisurely pace of a shopper. Of course, things get in the way, keeping the med student from easily catching up: People walk in front of him, the pickpocket moves between stalls, and then eventually takes a sharp turn into an alleyway between two shops (one built from wattle and daub, the other out of orange-tinged stone) but eventually, finally Khalid is able to corner them.

Or, well, he comes upon them sitting on some crates, looking through his wallet now that they've surely gotten away with their theft. Webbed feet kick nervously while feathered hands sort through the med student's (useless in a place like this) cash. Wait… Webbed feet? Feathers? The hood of the figure's robe has fallen back, baring, yes, a head covered in green feathers, a dark ring around their neck delineating the break between the grey-white feathers on the rest of their body. "Pfeh… What's with all this useless crap?" the pickpocket complains, its yellow beak managing to frown.

Because, yes.

It's a five foot tall anthropomorphic duck.

—-

One never thinks they would be the target of a pickpocket. Once it happens, that belief suddenly turns into one of two reactions:

1) I never thought in a million years it would happen to me!
2)I can't believe I was stupid enough to let someone casually lift my @#&!ing wallet

(If anyone is wondering, Khalid is leaning heavily toward the second choice.)

The actual speed of the chase is something Khalid notices a little ways into the whole thing, blinking a few times as he makes sure not to crash into the next shopper on the path. He slows down, now striding instead of dodging and weaving at a hectic pace, finally getting to the alley after passing the last few stalls. Drawing in a sharp breath, he steels himself for the confrontation with the pickpocket, entering the alleyway with little fanfare.

…Again, his logical mind takes over, trying its damnedest to parse the fact that an anthropomorphic duck is sitting there rifling through the contents of his wallet.

The med student mentally slaps himself, finding his voice as he approaches.

"Hey, what's the big idea, man? Duck."

Now isn't the time to correct himself.

"That 'useless crap' is mine, by the way."

—-

Hey, what's the big idea, man? Duck.

Khalid's arrival might not have a lot of dramatic flair to it, but it still catches the duck's attention; that beaked face turns towards the medical student, beady blue eyes blinking once at the human. It's, honestly, a completely ridiculous situation, isn't it? Khalid wants his 'useless crap' back, the wallet tilts slightly in one of the duck's feathered hands; his other is holding the bills he'd found inside. Otherwise, he goes completely still as he regards the the chosen host of Fate. The moment stretches out. It gets distinctly awkward.

"Quack?" the duck offers, not very convincingly.

"Listen, buddy," it says - it sounds like a 'he', anyway. So let's go with he, unless Khalid wants to determine the physical sex of a humanoid duck wearing a robe. "I get it, I really do. You probably want your… Dree-vers lichense? Am I saying that right? That thing. But have you considered that maybe other people want it more than you? Whatever random portal you wandered through was just your bad luck, but there's all sorts around here who got a fascination with this mundane human junk. Enough that a guy like me can get something out of it, at least. Maybe you can trade whatever's in your bag there for somebody to get you home. Now scram, kid." The duck, apparently a hardened criminal(?) gestures dismissively at Khalid, waving him off.

Is he just going to sit back and take that sort of thing from a duck?

—-

It's moments like this where he wishes he's hallucinating under the influence of a high fever.

Unfortunately. UNFORTUNATELY. He isn't hallucinating at all. This is actually happening, and the duck is trying to talk his (yeah, his, we'll go with that) way out of it by using logic and common sense.

"Oh." Khalid lets his gaze drop as he sets one hand upon his hip, elbow cocked as a trying smile tugs at the corner of his mouth. "Oh, okay, I see what you're doing here. Because if I'm assuming correctly, trading human junk seems like a normal past time in a place like this."

His backpack, however, suddenly feels heavier when it's pointed out. A quick glance at it provides him some time to think it over, gently racking his brain to resolve this properly.

"Well…I could, but…" He expels a breath, puttering before pressing his lips together, forming a line that lasts for less than a second. Staying where he is, he crouches to set the bag down in front of him, casually opening it up to take a look at the helmet inside. "I don't think anyone would want this…"

—-

The duck sighs when it becomes clear that despite his best diplomatic efforts, Khalid isn't going to simply go away and leave him to rifle through the med student's belongings in peace. It strikes him as very rude, but well… He is a pickpocketing duck living, it seems, in an isolated magical marketplace.

"No, kid, it's like… Look, 'round here the only value anything has is what it means, see? Ya can't go around buying magical doodads and whatsits with gold coins or whatever this paper crap is. Dollars? That ain't even a word. Anybody with any real mojo can just make their own gold coins, or whatever. But you find some weirdo who likes stuff from Earth or I dunno would use some sucker's personal belongings to magic 'em, suddenly it has value."

His feathery brow… Furrows? Or as close to it as a duck is capable of managing, anyway, along with another of what passes for a frown on a creature with a beak.

Seriously, it's weird. How is he even talking English?

…Or is he…?

"Why am I even explaining this to you? I said scram. Nobody's gonna care about some mundane human who wandered in by accident…" He trails off, noticing that Khalid's pack settled on the ground with surprising solidity. And that when he opens it up, there's a glint of something in there.

"Kid," the duck says, creeping closer on webbed feet. "What you got in there…?"

—-

"Right. Because of magic," Khalid replies, brow furrowing since the possibility of making gold coins never crossed his mind. He's sure he's heard of it being a thing somewhere, though. "And it's weird how there's always someone who likes the mundane crap we use daily back at home. I don't get it. Any of it."

In a way, he means that. But it's nice to see that he does catch the duck's eye with what he still has on his person.

His brow arches. "This?" Hands widen the bag's opening, reaching in to show more of the helm's gold exterior. Ah, you know. It's old. An antique." Pulling it out fully, he turns it to face the duck, giving him a better look before drawing it back to slide it over his head.

"Or, to some — a relic."

With that, Fate raises a hand up, using his powers to shake and break some the crates apart. The pieces circle about the alleyway, divvying up to form separate walls to keep any and all exits blocked.

Blank eyes stare straight at the pickpocket as a deeper voice resonates from the helm.

"Shall I ask again?"

—-

It seems like maybe Khalid has a better sense of the dramatic than he lets on, the way he presents the Helm of Fate. And then puts on the Helm of Fate.

There are all sorts of corners of the magical world where that helm is recognised immediately, and clearly wherever the duck comes from is one of those, his beady eyes widening and his beak hanging slightly agape. He tries to back up, but those crates are torn apart by the will of Fate, the wooden boards repurposed to block the ways out of the alley.

"Strange!!" the duck shouts as he stumbles and falls right on his tailfeathers. "You didn't say anything about the kid having the frickin' HELM OF FATE!!"

"Heh," comes a chuckle from above, in the now-familiar slightly raspy baritone of Stephen Strange. Should Fate look up, he'd see the Sorcerer Supreme, held aloft by the fluttering of his Cloak of Levitation, now worn clasped at his throat instead of as a fancy scarf. "That would've ruined the test," Strange says by way of an explanation - it's certainly no apology. "I wanted to see how he'd react in a situation like this, and it would hardly have been convincing if you'd been terrified of what Fate might do to you. You might as well give him the wallet back… With all its contents," he adds, warningly.

The duck manages to glower up at the Sorcerer Supreme, despite… You know, everything. But he does start putting Khalid's wallet back together.

—-

Strange?

…Wait, what does Strange have to do with this??

There's no mistaking the sound of the chuckle, however. Despite being around Stephen Strange for a short period of time, that dry chuckle is very distinct. Through the eyes of the golden helmet, Fate does indeed look up to see his mentor and his full-blown cloak friend being even more dramatic than he is.

Underneath, he's trying not to grimace so hard.

"This was a test?" he asks, incredulity sneaking its way into his 'wiser' echo-y tone. A test that could have gone any which way depending on what he did, he thinks, just like those pick-your-own adventure books he's perused. And the consequences.

Yeah, he doesn't need to think about that.

Instead, he lets his head drop a little, exhaling a breathless sigh as he shakes his head. "Should I be surprised?" comes another addition as his wallet is being put back together. "Because I feel like I should, but…"

—-

This was a test?

"Yup," the Master of the Mystic Arts replies, rather casual about the whole thing. "Latinger here agreed to help me with this little act to see just how you'd respond. Whether you should be surprised or not, though, is up to you."

Latinger, apparently the duck's name, finishes putting the wallet and all its contents back together and - rather cautiously, and with a dirty look up at Strange - offering it back to Khalid. He gives it a demonstrative wiggle, wanting to get it out of his hand as fast as possible.

"Strange just told me he was bringing a new apprentice 'round, and wanted to see how they'd handle themselves. Generally we take what you might call a dim view of thieves 'round here, though it's a problem that usually solves itself, y'know?" Khalid was warned about touching things when they first arrived, after all. Surely that would apply to the contents of a magically savvy person's pockets as much as the otherworldly things in the shops and stalls. "But he didn't give me no details, let me believe you were just some dabbler."

He glares up at the Sorcerer Supreme again.

For his part, Strange seems wholly unconcerned, enduring the dirty looks with an enlightened grace.

"Stressful situations teach you a lot about who a person is - how do they respond when they don't have time to consider all the options?" the wizard says in a tone that is almost, almost lecturing. It certainly has an air of someone imparting wisdom, anyway. "You're impulsive enough to have charged off after the thief alone, and independent-minded enough that you didn't try to alert me or ask me for help. But you went directly for intimidation. Is that what the Helm is to you, Khalid? Is that your magic? A blunt instrument?"

—-

Whether you should be surprised or not, though, is up to you.

He sort of is. He sort of isn't. In all honesty, it leans more toward the former. Even after all of those homework assignments, nothing could have really prepared him for this.

"Thank you," Khalid murmurs, with Fate's voice, taking back the wallet with little flourish. His other hand waves away the impromptu blockade, stacking them neatly so that they aren't left all over the alleyway. He then takes off the helmet, tucking it under his arm so that he can look up at Strange with his own eyes. But the look flickers, darting Latinger's way for a second. "Yeah, that makes sense, with magic and all. But magic isn't like dealing with classes and studying for midterms you thought you had more time for." He then glances back up at the wizard, pointing an index finger into the air. "That, though— I blame New York for that one."

It's all excuses, sure. He probably deserves the lecture.

But there is a lingering silence, one that breaks up as he faces the music. "No," he answers. "I have a task to fulfill. But everything's just been learning on the fly and…I just feel like I'm not progressing fast enough."

—-

Almost a lecture, almost.

Strange is careful about it, not entirely certain about his own position as a teacher in general, nor especially when it comes to the new holder of the Helm of Fate. There was power there, after all, enormous power that few other mortals could rival, but it wasn't as though Khalid had been immersed in the magical world the way Zatanna, for example, had been. He was a neophyte, handed part of the power of one of the Lords of Order. Expected to become their champion, dealing with forces he probably didn't even believe in before he'd first put the helmet on.

And so, it came to this: Tests of character, because Strange needed to know who Khalid Nassour really was. Who he would be in stressful moments, in difficult moments, when too often the person we wish we were vanished behind something less pleasant.

"Magic is never exactly what you hope it will be," the Sorcerer Supreme explains, drifting to the ground easily, the red and gold of the Cloak of Levitation fluttering lightly about him as he does. "You could live a thousand years and not understand everything, a hundred thousand and still be surprised, some days, by even the most basic spells. But even all those years won't be enough. You'll always be learning, Khalid. You'll always feel like you're playing catch up with the great mysteries of reality. Some days it will frustrate you until you can hardly bear it… But you have to."

They had spoken before, about burdens not easily set aside. About responsibilities that cannot be shed.

"Magic… The very heart of it, the essence of what we do when we cast spells, comes from intent. To work true sorcery it's not just enough to believe that you can make something happen, you need to truly mean it, to know down to your bones that it should happen. That's why magic of a darker bent is so dangerous. To do harm, to steal another's will, to curse and destroy, you need to feel in here," he reaches out with one of those surgeon's hands, the scars of his injuries and the fruitless attempts to repair them long since faded, the tremble of damaged nerves distant, now, in his element. He reaches out, to tap Khalid on the chest, demonstratively.

"It changes you. I've seen good men become monsters, tapping on that part of themselves too often, too willingly. I don't say this to chastise you," Strange assures the young man; Latinger looks indignant, since he's the one who might've wound up turned into a fine mist if Fate had lashed out. "But you should be mindful. Magic costs, but the price of whatever you do as Fate will fall on you, not on Nabu."

—-

Some days it will frustrate you until you can hardly bear it… But you have to.

Frustration is a constant in the med student's current chapter in life, both within the realm of medicine and the newer realm of magic. But there is a hard truth behind that statement. His experience with it is the bare minimum among the wider scope; in other words, it pales in comparison to the thought of it ever overwhelming and coloring his thoughts, his feelings, his personal choices.

He uses magic, and he continues to use what he knows how to use, but only to the extent to resolve problems that can easily be righted in a matter of seconds. It's still far from what he can probably work up to. His choices are still too hastily made.

Khalid's eyes lift, briefly meeting Strange's gaze before glancing down at the man's hands. His expression says it all, going through a short list of reactions before falling somewhat neutral again. The scars tell stories, raising questions that can probably change the subject at the drop of a hat if he asks. Instead, he stays silent, barely feeling the pressure of the tap over his heart.

Sorcerer Supreme has a point: some choices can lead down paths Khalid doesn't intend to tread.

To have it change a person for the worse — to have his fate sealed — he wouldn't want that.

He doesn't want that to happen.

At this, he nods, brow slightly furrowed as the previously spoken words still echo in the back of his mind. "I understand," he says, "and I'll do better. The responsibility for falling short should be mine and nobody else's."

—-

The Sorceror Supreme usually has a point, it's one of the perks of the job.

Of course, it's also one of the hard parts, too. A necessary quality of a wizard is a certain amount of wisdom. It's right there in the name.

"Good," Strange says, when Khalid nods, and demonstrates understanding. His concern, though, is for more than just the possibility of the damage the younger man might do to himself by acting out of haste, out of anger: He also knows that the Lords of Order would simply seek out a new vessel after letting Khalid use himself up, if it came to that. Taking the long view on that scale, that absolutely, made cosmic beings - even ostensibly 'good' ones, and that included the Vishanti - callous on an individual level.

"Now I'm going to make it difficult for you, though, because you also need to never forget that feeling. The frustration, the raw humanity of it. When you live a magical life, especially when you're not born into it, it's easy to become aloof and detached to the world most know. It's like a high wire act you're performing now, finding a careful balance between the two worlds… And there will be things that try to tug you one way or the other."

In the background, Latinger makes a low quack of exasperation.

"Yer always so dramatic, Strange. Did it come with the cape or somethin'? Listen, kid," the duck turns his attention towards Khalid. "Just listen to yer gut. Especially when it tells you to not blow up yer old pal Latinger with the power of a freakin' Lord of Order. Next time you come to the Marketplace we'll get somethin' to eat, yeah? I know this great place that sells candied bloat worm." The duck waddles off, with a last, "and you're buyin'!"

It's like that sometimes.

Strange, in the meantime, has folded his arms pensively, though he aims a frown at the retreating duck's back. The moment is pretty ruined.

"Well, anyway," the wizard says. "Come on, we still have those errands to run. And when we get back, Wong said something about you practicing your stances…"

—-

Placing a hand upon his hip, Khalid blows out a breath. It's done more out of the fact that the frustration still needs to be put into play rather than being challenged to do so, but he can see where Strange is going with this in mind. "I feel like this is going to be the baseline feeling for everything I encounter from here on out."

His sardonic tone is genuinely honest, at least; he can hardly picture himself being so cold and distant, yet he feels like that's an image he shouldn't think about too much now that it's a possible route.

The quack allows him to blink and remember that Latinger is still with them, his eyes falling upon the duck as he speaks. While he can understand Strange, Latinger speaks at a level he's used to hearing on a regular basis — somewhat blunt, direct, with no frills or sugarcoating.

A weak laugh slips past his lips as he offers the duck an apologetic grin. "Yeah. And sorry about that," he says, bowing his head a little as he watches the duck waddle off. His grin sort of leans into a slight grimace, but he just goes with it. "Candied…bloat worm…" After a pause, he lifts a hand, half-heartedly waving despite the fact the duck is already on his way. "Yeah, sure. Okay."

Unlike Strange, Khalid sees no problem with this addition to the mysticism. It's a nice contrast. And very much like home.

Under the wizard's watch, the med student stuffs the helmet back into the bag, shrugging the shoulder straps on as he straightens up. "Right, the errands," Khalid repeats, the whole (other) point of the trip now the primary goal before they head back. But he stops again when Wong is mentioned.

"Stances?" He'll follow after and alongside Stephen Strange, but he obviously doesn't look pleased. "I-I thought he said we were gonna do that another day…"

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License