Strange Breakfast Pt1

May 30, 2018:

Because the Book of the Vishanti, the Wand of Watoomb and breakfast there is another odd meeting at Strange's Sanctum where several problems are talked about.

177A Bleecker Street, New York


NPCs: Wong

Mentions: Witchblade


Mood Music: None.

Fade In…

It is early in the morning and outside the Sanctum the Big Apple is… not quite waking up, since the city never sleeps, but definitely getting on the city equivalent to a caffeine jolt.

But inside the Sanctum it could very well be another planet. The place has its own rules and rhythms. Sometimes even time seems to slow down, particularly is some rooms that are so strongly saturated by magic like the deeper recesses of the library. Places most people can't even find.

Like the room where the Book of the Vishanti is kept. Today Illyana has finally been invited (or maybe earned the right) to read from the famous compendium of 'white' magic. In truth her studies have become somewhat of a guided research lately, as Strange seems to be always busy putting down mystical fires here or there, or assisting the Justice League.

Illyana was offered six hours with the Book. A candle was set in a corner to measure time in a more reliable way a mechanical or electronic watch could keep here. And Strange bookmarked a few pages for her.

The Book of the Vishanti is heavy for any mage, but for demon-tainted Illyana it feels like a marble slab. Even reading the arcane runes is somewhat painful to the eyes, and the pages Strange wanted to read are hellishly hard to read, having been penned by Agamotto himself before the sinking of Atlantis. Agamotto did had some original ideas about how to construct paragraphs, or maybe with the passing of the millennia all the verbs of the pages decided to run away to the end of the chapters. Weirder things happen to mystical tomes this old.

At least it does not bite. Some dark magic tomes have teeth.

The narration is very interesting, however. It tells the tale of the Elder Gods. Mystical beings that came from the raw energy of the first alignment of Earth with the Axis Mundi, just as unicellular life began on Earth. Raw force and power, shaped and animated by magic, it took millions of years for these beings to achieve sentiency. Agamotto speculates this was also the birth-time of the Proemial Gods of the Kyln and the Promethean Titans of long-shattered Urgrund.

The story of the fall of the Elder Gods comes by the discovery of necromancy by Ch'thon. Many gods became predatory demons that hunted and devoured their own kin. And finally they were defeated by Atum, the first of Gaea's children. The Sun Invictus.

The story seems to go deeper into details with each new rereading. As if more sentences sneaked in into the paragraphs. There is a deep analysis on the nature and abilities of those wondrous, monstrous beings, their association with astral phenomena, weaknesses and strengths.

And Wong is knocking at the door of the room, just as the candle is sputtering the last remains of fire. "Ms. Rasputin, you have been there all night. May I suggest you to take a break. I made tea…"

His words are interrupted by a knocking at the door. Which feels odd it can be heard this deep into the Sanctum. But somehow it always does. "Ah, looks like we have a guest. And the Doctor is not in the house yet," he points out, with a frown. Then he heads downstairs to open the door.

A guest indeed. And bearing gifts. If one is neither allergic to gluten or lactose intolerant. Or allergic to nuts. Or…well, then it's a guest bearing death pastries. That, however, remains to be seen. For the nonce, it's a woman who may or may not be familiar to those within the sanctum. Vivienne Benoit, having accepted the invitation she received, come a-calling to the Sanctum. And in keeping with the more social setting, she's left off the more traditional armor, and opted for a new outfit, a white version of her usual black modern jumpsuit, armored, but with the protection built into the weave. So she looks less like a medieval re-enacter with a distinct lack of funds for actual armor plating. A matching white almost knee length trench coat provides some protection from the still early morning chill, as she waits at the door, the hand she used to knock falling to her side, the other holding a box full of freshly baked French pastries.

Illyana's been trying to get some alone time with the Book of the Vishanti since she caught her first glimpse of it in the Sanctum. Part of that, say about two fifths, has been the sort of natural curiosity that you'd expect from someone studying the mystic arts under the tutelage of the Sorcerer Supreme. The remainder has been the lure of power that the book represents for Illyana's tainted soul, and the promise of knowledge she might be able to use against the Elder Gods when they come calling for the parts of her soul that remain at least relatively pure.

That's probably why she's never been able to find the tome, even after Strange gave her a license to wander the Sanctum. It probably didn't want to be found. Until today.

Six hours seemed like a pretty good deal when it was offered to Illyana, and she didn't even try to negotiate for more time. Of course, she didn't expect the book to be so… difficult. Five hours and fifty-some minutes after entering, Illyana's arms feel like she's lost an arm-wrestling contest with her brother, a spike of agony behind her eyes accompanies ever flicker of light from the guttering candle, and still her attention is fixed on the book, hungrily devouring every sliver of knowledge she can tease from the impenetrable text.

She doesn't look up at Wong's knocking, or even when he speaks. "Later. Busy." She says, distractedly, her eyes flicking up to the nearly spent candle and then back to the book once more. The more distant knocking pulls her mouth into an unconscious grimace. "Unless they're selling candles and you want to help me lie to Stephen, tell them to go away." Illyana finally shoots a glance to where Wong… was, only to find he's already gone.

In that moment of inattention, the candle gives a final flicker and goes out. Illyana looks at it, eyes narrowed first with annoyance, then in thought. Stephen isn't back. Reluctantly, she decides against testing him. "I'll be back." She tells the recalcitrant book. "Get used to it." Massaging her temples as if she could smooth away her headache, Illyana heads off after Wong.

With a last look back at the Book of the Vishanti from the doorway.

Can a book look smug? This one does. It has been giving headaches to students of magic for millennia. But Illyana didn't go blind or insane, so maybe she is not that unwelcomed.

Wong appeared just as the candle faded, though. So there were some safeties enabled, or maybe a dose of distrust behind the ever-polite stance of Strange's Tibetan aide. Regardless, when Illyana descends the staircase that today leads to the Sanctum lobby, instead of the living room, she can see Wong by the main door. "Ah, good morning. You must be Vivienne Benoit. The doctor told me you would be visiting for breakfast," he hesitates, then invites the woman to come in. "He had to leave for Gotham late in the night, and has yet to return. But please, come in. I am Wong, Doctor Strange's manservant. We can wait over some tea?" He offers. "I am sure he will be here soon," adds the oriental man. A brief glance is directed to Illyana, who looks certainly very tired to Wong's expert eye.

Vivienne, seeming as per her usual, looks as though she never gets less than the minimum eight hours of sleep. Everyone has a gift. Once upon a time, an ancestor of hers used to turn water into wine. Clearly, her particular miracle is always looking poised and put together. Or, it could just be that she's a Frenchwoman. They're so annoying that way. The smile she offers as she sees the self-proclaimed 'manservant' is warm and friendly, "I am very pleased to meet you, Wong. You may call me Vivienne, if you like. And please, there's no need to apologize. I can imagine that the doctor often has duties which require his attention. I hope that I wasn't amiss in bringing a few small offering to add to the table?" As Wong allowed her to step into the hall, she did so, moving with an easy grace, though she did not step in much further than the man himself. She had much too much respect for the Sanctum to assume she had more invitation than that. As Wong looks behind him, Vivienne's eyes also move in that direction.

Illyana hadn't felt tired the whole time she was fighting with the Book of the Vishanti. It's only when she leaves the room that houses the book that she starts to feel like she's been awake for the whole night. Staying up until the morning isn't exactly an uncommon occurrence for her, but usually she's doing something more relaxing than concentrating fiercely for six hours straight. And usually she can fall into bed and sleep it off, which isn't so much an option here.

With a yawn, she wanders down the stairs after Wong, not making much of an effort to catch up. There's more than a suggestion of dark circles under her eyes, and those cold blue eyes themselves aren't quite as sharp as usual. Her outfit of skull-motif black top, shredded black skinny jeans and heavy black boots doesn't help to dispel the impression of goth who's pulled an all-nighter, and she doesn't really match the Sanctum's aesthetic.

She's yawning again when she feels Wong's eyes on her, and then she feels something else. Her eyes move past Strange's manservant to find Vivienne, and the fuzziness in both eyes and mind is banished. Illyana holds her position on the stairs for a handful of seconds, her eyes focusing intently on Vivienne, and then she smiles faintly and resumes descending, her steps a little less lazy now.

Reaching the hallway, Illyana leans against the banister at the bottom of the stairs, still looking at Vivienne. "Hi." Illyana says, the Demon Queen of Limbo raising a hand to give a little wave. "I'm Illyana. Stephen calls me his disciple, sometimes."

The blonde goth look does not fit the Sanctum aesthetic, really. Strange's house looks like a upper-middle class residence. Maybe old-fashioned. Perhaps opulent in some regards. It is best not to focus too hard how the rooms seem to extend in ways that do not fit the outside geometrics of the streets of New York.

Wong leads booth women to the living room, where a carafe with tea is steaming. Vivienne pastries are a welcome addition to the collection of freshly baked delicacies. Looks like Wong had been cooking for a couple hours.

Which he was, as Strange woke him at five in the morning with an odd (even for Strange) request which also had the effect of killing all the man's sleepiness.

And speaking of the devil, as soon as the woman have seated to enjoy the cooking, Strange comes in stumbling into the living room. His right arm is on a sling and his face is a mess of cuts and blood, only half-treated. Also, he obviously didn't expect visitors, as he freezes at seeing Illyana and Vivienne. "Oh… er… good morning," Wong hurries up to help him into the closest couch. "I-I forgot I had invited you," mentions the mage. "Had a difficult night," he explains lamely.

Vivienne, still only just in the foyer beside Wong, follows Illyana as she makes her way down along the staircase and onto the landing. There's no judgment in her eyes, as her gaze skates over the goth attire, and indeed, the smile she offers the other woman is as friendly as the one she offered Strange's manservant. Whether or not the Daughter of the Son recognized something of what the Demon Queen was, she kept it scrupulously to herself. "I am pleased to meet you. And you may call me Vivienne as well."

As they walk through into the living room Vivienne's attention shifts to the building itself, taking in the art and architecture, never probing too deeply, and seeming content to settle onto the seat to which she'd been directed. "Breakfast looks wonderful, Wong. I will have to thank—" And then, whatever else she'd continue on with is stifled, as she catches sight of the Sorcerer Supreme stumbling into the room. She, of course, moves immediately towards him, though not so quickly as Wong. She keeps her hands free, of course, and makes no sudden moves, "Good Morning, Doctor." She is, still, unflappable, "So I can see. If I may have you permission, I can offer you healing."

Illyana bears Vivienne's inspection without comment, and her faint smile becomes a bit more pronounced when the other woman offers her a Wong-level smile. Illyana, being part demon and all mutant, is well aware that she has two strikes against her in the eyes of some who call themselves religious. Considering the power she feels from Vivienne - which is a bit like talons on a chalkboard for the demonic portion of her soul - she'd been curious which way she'd jump.

She's not particularly disappointed with Vivienne's choice. Wrecking Stephen's foyer would be a poor way to thank him for trusting her with the Book of the Vishanti, after all.

Illyana offers a nod when Vivienne introduces herself. "How did Stephen find you?" She asks, pushing away from the banister to follow Wong into the living room. "Or did you find him?" Once inside, Illyana flops down into a chair as if she owns the place and leans back, looking very relaxed… aside from the still watchful gleam in her eyes.

Stephen's return gets a quick glance, and then a quirked eyebrow, but she gets to her feet much more slowly than the others rushing to offer aid. "You look terrible, Stephen." She tells him frankly, as she wanders over to inspect the damage. "I'd have helped for another hour with the book."

Strange looks like he lost a fight with a lawnmower, yes. The Cloak of Levitation is out, and it looks perfectly fine, but his expensive outfit is torn and dirty with weird chemical substances. And that he has not fixed the damage speaks volumes, since those are simple cantrips for him.

"Thank you," he says to Vivienne, accepting the offer of healing. "I had a… meeting with a wight. I had not seen one of those in thirty years," than to Illyana. Then he looks at Wong and nods. The face of the oriental man, usually the perfect poker facade, has visibly darkened. "Your chakras are badly out of alignment. It hit you," points out the aide, it sounding more like an accusation of extreme foolishness.

"Yes. It took me by surprise," admits the sorcerer. "The corpse was saturated with synchronicity and dark magic, but the Witchblade was there, too. She destroyed the undead."

If there was ever a single requirement that rose above all else for Vivienne, it was the ability to multitask. And so, even as she approaches the good Doctor, she holds on to the thread of conversation Illyana has begun, "I think it was a bit of an accident, really. I was killing demons in Greenwich Village as they came through a rift there. Not far from the Croft residence. The Doctor happened upon me and closed the rift for me, as that sort of ability is not easily within my wheelhouse." Given the location, and the company, Vivienne clearly saw no reason to pretend to be other than she was. And that was part of her function.

As Strange accepted her offer of assistance, Vivienne came close enough to take a knee, on the side of the him opposite Wong. She reached for no weapon, only used with her left hand to throw back one side of her coat, revealing what looks a bit like a segment of spiked metal affixed there. She seemed to pay more attention to the injured man than her own hand as she raked her palm across it, bringing the tang of blood and a momentary crease of pain between her brows. There was a price, it seemed, to be paid, even for divine healing.

Still, Vivienne made no mention of such cost, only offered a soft murmur of sound, French, not a prayer, only a soft entreaty, before she set her left hand, already healed, on his arm. "Aidez moi." And it seemed to be enough, as she allowed her eyes to fall closed, a soft radiance rising from her skin, finding those places where Strange was injured, illuminating them if momentarily, the physical wounds closing and leaving behind nary a mark. "I am not versed in such things as chakras, and so I will leave such estimations to Wong." Vivienne finally opened her eyes, studying Strange's face, "There is some residue of the evil that attacked you still within you. I can draw it out, but it will entail a small amount of pain." Clearly, she means to wait for Strange's permission before she begins.

Illyana doesn't have much to add to the efforts to heal Doctor Strange - at least, not outside Limbo - so she concentrates on not getting in the way. Her steps take her in a somewhat circuitous route until she winds up on the other side of the Sorcerer Supreme than Vivienne, a pace or so back, craning her head to one side to look past Wong. She doesn't seem particularly concerned, more like she's cataloguing his wounds from professional curiosity.

She also keeps up her side of the conversation. "I'll give you my number. Next time you want demons banishing and rifts closing give me a call." The smile she's been wearing hasn't quite vanished, even when the ripped-up Strange made his entrance, and it broadens into a quick, amused grin. "Unless it's me you're after next time, in which case I won't take it personally."

Illyana falls silent, but her gaze sharpens on Vivienne when she spills her own blood. And she takes a deliberate step back when that light begins to emanate from her. Still, she can't argue with the results. "Not bad." Illyana says, a note of actual approval in her voice, before she spoils it. "But I prefer it when I'm not the one who has to bleed to make the magic work." The suggestion that there's something evil left within Strange seems to get her attention, and she switches her gaze to him. "Are you up to catching it before it gets away, or do you want me to try?" She smirks. "I'm not sure that'd be a good combination." Her dark magics and the pure power that Vivienne wields.

Strange seems also curious about how the holy woman goes healing his injuries. That kind of supernatural power is not one he can easy understand. Doubly frustrating as a sorcerer and a healer. A sorcerer that pointedly avoid the strongest healing magics because he believes they are too close to necromancy.

He got burned badly once. Stephen does not talk about his younger brother, Victor Strange.

"The touch of a wight is toxic for humans, and moreso for magic-users. But I will be fine after a few days meditating, he offers." No need for anyone (else) to get pain. "Thank you, Ms. Benoit."

Illyana's attitude draws a glance and a long-suffering sigh from the doctor as he stands up. "I see I interrupted your breakfast. I hope you allow me to join you. I was busy tonight and I need to remain alert for a few more hours." He looks at Illyana, "you had to come tonight, hmm? Interesting coincidence."

"I will have to keep your offer in mind. Though I would be remiss in my duties if I contracted out for outside help every time that I was called to fight the demonic or the supernatural." Vivienne looks, briefly, away from Strange and the state of his healing and towards the blonde woman now standing looking across at her, "Also, I think you would not appreciate the eyes of the Church turning in you direction, so I will attempt to refrain from bringing their attention to you unless absolutely necessary." If there was any doubt that Vivienne did indeed sense something of what Illyana was, that at least removed all doubt.

As Strange moved to rise, and the radiance around her faded, Vivienne offered a shake of her head, even as she leaned back to allow him free rein to stand, "I think that in this instance, I am neither human nor a magic user, Doctor. My blood is His blood. Between the power in my blood and the artifact that I carry, we can save you the pain and discomfort of a few days meditation. But that is your choice, of course." Vivienne will not be the one to force anything on Strange or anyone. She offers, in answer to Illyana's question, "It has never been my way to force my choices on others."

Illyana just offers a shrug when her offer of assistance is declined. It's about what she expected, but perhaps put more politely. What she doesn't expect is what Vivienne says next. Surprise flickers in her eyes, and a smile that looks a little too delighted - not to mention conspiratorial - flashes across her expression, there and gone again in the blink of an eye. She's getting a (somewhat) free pass from what she senses Vivienne to be? How interesting.

"Thanks. I'm not much of a Churchgoer." Illyana says it casually, and resists the urge to push things any further. There's not even a comment about how little she'd enjoy being burned at the stake.

She's trying, she really is. So of course Strange has to shoot her that quelling look and sigh at her. Illyana spreads her hands in a display of innocence, still wearing a bit of a smirk as she does it.

"Good luck." Illyana tells him. "I'll settle for staying awake through breakfast." After that… Limbo, possibly. For a few hours' uninterrupted sleep. "You offered." She reminds him. "Did you expect me to be able to resist?" She's not really hidden her interest in the Book of the Vishanti. At least, not very convincingly.

Strange nods politely to Vivienne statements about her power. Experience has taught him not to mix matters of faith and mysticism early on. His knowledge and theories on Christian mythology is best saved for later occasions.

"I thank you too for your discretion," he offers to Vivienne. "And assure you Ms. Rasputin is a very altruistic woman despite her persistent smirk and gloomy attitude. We forgive her since she is a millennial and… well." That comment was delivered deadpan.

Strange smiles briefly to Illyana while Wong serves tea to everyone and then joins them at the table. Which is unusual and probably means the Asian man has some news to deliver or advice to give. But it is Strange who speaks first. "Actually I expected you to come during the day, not past midnight," comments the sorcerer. Not that he has a regular schedule lately. "Not that it matters. Since you are not blind and in comma I think you were ready. Not to resist, but to learn." He turns to Vivianne, "we are talking about the Book of the Vishanti, a great compendium of mystical lore and spells that some would call 'holy'. It is not the kind of artifact a true demon can touch."

Vivienne, having done what she could, or, at the least, what she was allowed to do, settled her hand on her knee, pushing herself up to her feet and returning to the seat that she had selected for herself when Wong first led them into the sitting room. She moved, perhaps with just a touch more slowness that she might have displayed a few minutes ago, but she seemed, in all other ways, as right as rain. "I may work with the Church, but I am not, nor have I ever been, in my time of service, a mindless follower of their ways and beliefs. I have tried to judge each person that I meet on their own merits, rather than condemn them as a member of a group with assumed characteristics. Much as I believe He would have done."

As the conversation turns to more mystical topics, however, Vivienne sets down her cup, only held, but not sipped from, "It would seem that you are to discuss things which are well outside of my particular bailiwick. I would be happy to see myself out, so that I will not disrupt the work you need to do amongst yourselves." Not a third wheel, but a fourth, though she seems not at all put out by that.

Illyana looks sharply across at Strange, cocking her head to one side when he describes her as 'altruistic', then shooting him a glare when he describes her as a millennial. "I think you missed a bit." She comments to Vivienne. "Because he seems to be delirious." Whatever her relationship to the Sorcerer Supreme, she's not exactly the model of deference.

"I lost track of time." Illyana shrugs off the implicit criticism of the hours she keeps. It was daytime in Limbo when she left. Time flows oddly there. She makes a quiet, quickly stifled laugh. "So that's why you had Wong checking up on me." She lifts her cup of tea towards Wong in acknowledgement. "Thanks for being willing to scrape me off the floor, I guess." Her tone is light, but she seems grateful. She switches her attention back to Strange. "So I passed the test. When do I get another look?" She asks, but subsides when Strange explains what they're discussing to Vivienne. She even puts down her tea and raises her hands, wiggling her fingers. "Not even singed." She says, a touch smugly.

She should probably let Strange handle things, but when Vivienne looks to excuse herself, there's another quite snort of amusement from the blonde sorceress. "Trust me, he'll find a way to put you to work, too."

"So I would," admits Strange with a wry grin. "No, there is no need to leave. Whatever secrets we discuss this morning are best brought to light now and not after more blood is lost." He sips from the tea and leans back on his chair. "And since you were here and I rarely believe in coincidences, we can discuss any matter that comes to mind. Including demon incursions, the Book of the Vishanti or the Wand of Watoomb," and here Wong interrupts, frowning. "Which is secured in the basement under a dozen wards that have not been disturbed in years."

And Strange adds, "and yet it was also in Gotham tonight, or at least part of it. A murderer took a fragment of the wand and left behind a powerful undead." He shrugs, "time travel, perhaps?" Suggests the sorcerer.

Wong frowns even harder. Everyone hates time travel.

Vivienne actually allows herself a smile, a light curl of her lips, at Illyana's comment, her tone matching the amusement in her expression, "I am accustomed to being put into service. It seems to be the defining characteristic of my calling." She does, as she settles back into her seat, reclaim the cup of tea, holding it cupped in her off right hand, leaving the strong left free. And if she has little to, well, frankly, no experience with the items which they are discussing, she does at least seem to turn her attention to those things she is familiar with. Infiltration and tactics. "When was the last time that you checked the wards?" It was an honest question, and gently asked, "It is easy to assume things have not changed because we are accustomed to them being always the same." And then, more to Strange than to his manservant or to Illyana. "This place is warded, I would imagine, to most magical and mundane threats. But these wards must have a weakness. Some element to which they are more vulnerable. As you are vulnerable to the touch of the wight. Is it possible, knowing such a vulnerability, if it existed, for someone to come in and take something from the building?"

Illyana pauses, tea halfway to her lips, when Wong mentions the Wand of Watoomb's defences. With an oddly hollow feeling in her stomach, she knows what's coming next, and Strange's words confirm it. An artifact that should have been out of reach, appearing where it couldn't possibly be.

Illyana flashes back to a possessed Dani Moonstar, holding her Bloodstone medallion, which was secured in Limbo by the blackest, most powerful magic she possessed, and yet, impossibly, still right in front of her.

She'd convinced herself it was nothing more than a very impressive illusion, but now? Now she's been given cause to think again.

Illyana resumes her motion, taking a sip of her tea and putting the cup down. There's no sense of tiredness in her now, and she doesn't interrupt. Just listens intently.

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