It was Zen-Driving

December 30, 2018:

Moon Knight and Blade drive to the Sanctum for a chat with Dr. Strange about dark gods.

Dr. Strange Sanctum

Characters

NPCs: Wong, and a sneaky snake called Penelope

Mentions:

Plot:

Mood Music: None.


Fade In…

"I'm telling you, Blade, sometimes it's better to just … not know where you're going. Especially if what we're trying to do is evade whatever sort of malicious omnipotence Chernoborg turns out to be."

Behind the wheel of his limousine, Moon Knight tugs his mask halfway over his face as he looks to his partner in the back.

"I heard it once called 'zen driving,' but it's really more like … I don't know. Reading the map that the moonlight creates. You know?" He chuckles. "We can't all just follow our noses to vampire lairs."

The limo swerves across multiple lanes, other drivers honking angrily and veering to get out of the car's path.

"Anyway," Moon Knight adds, "it's past time we called in help. My usual contact - he isn't really the best at providing clear answers."

Suddenly wrenching the steering wheel hard, the limousine's tires screech as the vehicle fishtails into three parallel parking spots on Bleecker Street.


Blade is silent during most of the trip. He doesn't complain or really engage, aside from a grunt once in a while that acknowledges that he is in fact aware of Moon Knight. It's a good dynamic. Marc talks, Blade listens. Or at least, feigns it.

He doesn't react except to brace himself when the limo fishtails and is out of the vehicle almost before it stops moving, covering Marc's back and scanning for threats or issues. His duster flares with the motion, revealing the grip of a submachine gun under his arm and numerous silver stakes on tactical gear.

The perimeter sweep is done fast and Blade turns his dark sunglasses towards Marc. Lips purse slightly. "Your contact, the voice in the moon, isn't giving you clear answers." He makes it statement, more than question, and lets it linger.

"Go fuckin' figure." He shakes his head and looks around, then gives Marc an expectant look and swings a gloved hand outwards. "Waitin' for the red carpet, your majesty? Let's go."


Bleeker Street is one of those streets that does not quite follow the order of the Big Apple street grid. In the Village it runs Norwest to Southeast then it would twist itself more eastwards, but that is past this point.

177 Bleeker Street is a peculiar spot. Sometimes it is an apartment building built in the last years of the Nineteen Century, other times 177A appears and it is a townhouse built in the Art Deco style of the late 20s. Like today.

And Mr. Knight careless driving style almost makes him run over a tall, middle-aged gentleman in a black suit and an old-fashioned coat. Doctor Strange has been making house visits in the neighborhood. Mostly to exorcise minor entities from the oddest places, a left over from the recent invasion. It was almost like being on vacations for a day given the busy last few years.

Being run over by a white limousine would have been somewhat anticlimactic, to be honest.

But then again little happens by chance. What Spector (or is it Lockley?) calls zen-driving magicians call riding the synchronicity wave.

Things happen. Like having a frowning wizard peering inside the limo through the side window. "Ah, good evening," he offers as somewhat of a compromise.


Vivienne closed the door to the townhouse down the way, bidding a quiet farewell to the elderly woman who was locking the door behind her. At the least, she wasn't running out, and as a result, one could intimate that the meeting had gone well. The last of her assigned duties, as it were. The screech of the limo she missed, but not the sight of Strange bending down to greet whomever was inside. The vehicle itself she did not recognize, but then, she hardly claimed to know all of the odds and ends that tended to find themselves drawn to 177 Bleeker Street.

She approached the Doctor and his apparent guests with an easy gait, though she did tug her long leather coat closer around herself as she made her way across the street. Partly out of a desire to escape the chill the open coat could not really avoid, and partly to mask the armor she was wearing. It was the more understated urban black she tended to wear, but it was still jarring, in comparison to what the man himself was wearing. The movements of the man in not quite similar armor and sunglasses did not go unnoticed.


Pulling on his white suit coat, Moon Knight adjusts his cuffs as he steps out of the limo to talk to the wizard over the car's roof.

"Evening," he replies. "We were just looking for a doctor." Moon Knight glances to Blade. "What did I tell you? Zen driving, man." The fabric of his mask distorts, obscuring the man's grin.

"We come with a /strange/ request." Moon Knight pauses and clears his throat. "I couldn't help myself. Okay. We're looking for some help tracking down an ancient power. A god or a monster or something incomprehensible, etc. You probably know the drill better than we do."

"We've been tracking vampires doing … something … for some time across a good portion of the world. It looks like there's going to be real some bad shit going down." He glances to Blade. "That fair to say?"


Blade grumbles just a little. The only thing worse than a crazy Marc is a smug one. At least it's a subvocal rumbling and not sincere complaint. A real stoic, this one.

He looks back at Marc, then at Strange. One wrist rotates slightly from his arms, folded over his chest, palm up.

"Czernoborg," he says. One word that should shed a lot of light on the issue.

He hears Vivienne's approach quite a ways out. She's hard to miss, and his head turns minutely her direction as she closes the gap with the trio. A sharp eye would observe his hand drifting closer to the butt of the SMG under his arm. Just in case the woman walking around New York at night in full plate armor under a heavy duster is, y'know. Crazy or something.


"I am a doctor," confirms Strange evenly, apparently not entirely unused to have the oddest people arriving at his doorstep driving limos. "And you are the current Champion of Khonshu, aren't you? I had heard…" he pauses when Blade makes his entrance.

Chernobog, he said? A cursed name better not said in the street. "Please, lets go into my 'office' so we can talk." He turns and walks up the short stair to the door of the townhouse, unlocking it quickly. "Wong, we have two visitors," he says as he steps in.

"Welcome to my sanctum. Please, do not talk to the snakes," he offers, holding the door open. "I am Doctor Stephen Strange, this is my friend and associate for supernatural troubleshooting, Vivienne Benoit."


Neither the exit of the man in the white mask from the limosine, or the movements of the man in sunglasses went unnoticed by Vivienne. Her general demeanour did not change, however. She seemed as relaxed as she had been when she crossed the street, though she fell back as Strange invited the two guests into the townhouse, a hand freeing itself from the folds of her coat to make an 'after you' gesture, so that she would be the last one inside. She took the time to close the door behind herself, before she moved to slip off her coat, setting it on the coat-rack that stood beside the door. She wore no modern weaponry tonight. A pair of katanas at her hips, the harness built for them keeping them close to her sides so that they would not break the line of her coat, and a harness held what looked like a handspear at her back. Her armor was, for a wonder, rather plain, and bore no insignias or marks of allegiance. "They have a terrible sense of humour," she offered, in her mellifluous, French-accented voice.


"That's right. I'm Khonshu's field agent these days," Moon Knight says as he enters Strange's home. "Moon Knight. This," he adds, gesturing to Blade, "is Blade. He's my -" The vigilante in white pauses. "- he's his own independent representative."

"Anyway. Czernobog. The name keeps coming up - in eastern Europe, in South America, in Gotham, you name it, we've heard it." Moon Knight sighs. "I can get /some/ info out of the moon god, but he prefers being aloof and forcing me to find out answers on my own. It's really quite frustrating."

Moon Knight looks about. "So, any info you're willing to share? Am I missing some sort of five-dimensional sigil-mapping that's going to unlock the doors to an infernal void? Is Czernoborg some sort of crowdsourced swarm-entity that will overwrite humanity's consciousness? I'm at wit's end here, doc."

He shrugs and turns to Vivienne. "Sorry. Doc and associate. Any diagnoses?"


Blade moves on silent boots into the Sanctum, with the unhurried pace of someoene who truly does not give a shit. If he's bothered by Magdalena taking up the rearguard, it certainly doesn't show. Unlike her, he doesn't remove his duster. Or sunglasses.

He takes a meandering path around the main room, examining everything with an intense focus. At no point does it seem Blade is ignoring anyone around him, either. He's the sort of guy who seems like he can see around corners.

His circuit concluded, the dhampir finds a corner of the room with unobstructed sight lines to the doors and folds his arms across his armored chestplate again. If his features weren't so utterly lacking emotion, one might think he was scowling. Brooding, certainly, and for the moment makes no effort to correct or contribute to Moon Knight's explanation.


"Well. He is a dark entity," replies Strange, leading the group into the living room. "Worshipped, or at least appeased, by the Slavs of ancient Eastern Europe. Death deity; or perhaps a demon. I have to consult my library."

The geometrics of the house are all subtly wrong. The windows are not showing the street they should be showing. And for that matter the room shouldn't be so large, it would invade the corner street. Yet there are doors in that direction, hinting rooms beyond. Not a place that feels safe for paranoid people.

"That his name is being mentioned in three different continents likely means he has formed a new cult and… nothing good," Strange tsks, "Czernoborg. The very name feels heavy and acid in my soul. I suspect it is one of those words that can be used as a curse or a warning by those of strong will. Please, sit down and tell me about those incidents you have witnessed."


Vivienne, for her part, seemed to have become so accustomed to the house that she did not seem to give much consideration to the tricks it attempted to play with physical space and geometry. And when Strange moved them towards the living room. The glance the masked man sent in her direction was answered with a shake of her head, "I am afraid I am a much simpler tool than our good Doctor. In most instances, when we work together, it is his job to find the threat, and mine to help him to eliminate them." It was not quite everything they did together, but it was as simple an answer as the woman could give for what her association with Strange normally boiled down to.


"Human trafficking. Maybe sacrifices? Blood harvests. Data accumulation. To what ends, exactly?" Moon Knight sighs and shrugs. "Not sure."

He leans forward on a glass case. "I mean, it's clear that nothing about this is good. At best, maybe the vampires are creating their own bogeyman under the name of an ancient being. At worst … maybe they're trying to bring it here?"

Moon Knight looks to Vivienne again. "Oh, man, you should probably avoid giving Blade here any linguistic ammo to use against you. Or me." He effects a poor imitation of Blade's voice. "Something something I'm also a simpler tool, yadda yadda."


"You *are* a tool, Knight."

"Vampires. Covens. Old blood magic," Blade tells Strange, speaking bluntly. He has a curious way of speaking. It's a low, sibilant voice, hissing slightly through a gravelling roll of his voice. He barely moves otherwise. No shifting of his weight, creaking of leather. He doesn't clear his voice from his level, controlled monotone. He barely *breathes*.

"All over the world. Stinks of them. Shipping human cargo here. Tribute."

"Or ritual sacrifice."

"If Czernoborg is asleep, they're waking him. If he's locked away, he's being summoned. And if he's dead, they're trying to revive him." He turns his head minutely towards Vivienne. "You know how to kill a god?"


Human sacrifice. Old blood magic. That is necromancy. Often called just 'black magic' by the common people. Life energy and souls are a powerful fuel for most mystic rituals. The easiest fuel to find, actually.

"Awakening or resurrecting is often the same thing for some of these alien entities," notes Strange. There is nothing in the glass case Moon Knight is studying. Then there is a snake inside and the snake smiles to the masked man. And then Strange appears at the knight side and ushers him away from the case. "I think I will need more details, please take a seat, I will bring some drinks. Whiskey? Or would you prefer tea?"

Funny Blade asked Vivienne about god-killing. That is one she clearly should answer herself.


"Stop showing off for the guests, Penelope." Yes, Vivienne was talking to the snake that appeared in the case. And yes, she had given most of the odd creatures she had encountered in the Sanctum names, even if they were not names anyone else used. Rather than taking a seat, Vivienne seemed content to prop herself up against the back of one of the loveseats which filled the space in the room. The living room was clearly a space intended to host as many people as Strange needed whenever he needed it to, and it adjusted itself accordingly. She offered nothing more to the conversation save when comments were directed her way, "Thankfully, I long ago learned how to turn the other cheek," that drew something of a smirk from the woman';s lips, "And so, insults and insinuations rarely hold the power to draw my ire." That, was to the Moon Knight's comment. Blade's, though, that drew less of a smile, her expression as deadpan as the delivery. "I have killed a god before. One, I think, who was likely older even than this Czernobog of yours." She does glance in Strange's direction, "Blood and soul magic, I think, are more my demense than Strange's." She lifted her shoulders in a throwaway shrug, "Part of my calling, you might say."


Squinting at the suddenly appearing snake, and then at Vivienne, and then back at the snake, Moon Knight moves to stand in front of a bookcase. "Okay, so - waking or resurrecting this thing. How do we stop it? Or do we have to let it get resurrected /first/ and then take action?"

He folds his arms across his chest and clears his throat. "I know Blade might want to slit its throat, but I'd just as soon deadbolt the universe against its arrival. But knowing how to do that's a bit above my pay grade. Or maybe I'm just in the wrong department."

Moon Knight puts both arms forward, palms up. "Point us in the right direction, at least. We're almost certainly running out of time, and we're definitely running out of options."


"Plan A is to kill every vampire in Gotham," Blade says, bluntly. He doesn't seem to be boasting, either, any more than Vivienne was. "Might take me a while, though. Don't mind causing a war. Would create a power vacuum in the city if I did it over a weekend," he clarifies.

"Then you've got the mafia moving in to take over businesses. Other vampires sending resources into the area to slow things down. Or take over empty territory."

"Everything that bleeds can die," he says, with a dread finality. "I don't care who this Czernoborg is. Need to know what makes it bleed and where I can find it. You help us, maybe you save me some time I'd waste doin' research. Lets me spend more time savin' lives."


"No, the god of the moon is an enemy of the gods of the darkness, this is not above your pay grade," remarks Strange. "Stopping the cultists should be enough to keep away the dark god. If he is not personally involved it is because he can't or does not care enough."

Again, research would be needed to know either. Truth to be told Strange has been in the field so much lately his library is getting dusty.

"With the walls between worlds so weakened the use of sacrifices might mean Czernoborg is indeed incapacitated, or maybe trapped," and lets keep him like that, please. Building prison for major entities is slow and painful spellwork. While murdering them, as satisfactory as it feels, does create a power vacuum and empowers other threats.

"If the vampires of Gotham are involved, then perhaps that is where you should go first," because he needs to do some research, definitely. "Perhaps I should call again our friends, and seal the Shadowpact compact. I have been delaying it too long."


"There are few places in this world I dislike as much as Gotham." Vivienne will just throw that out there. Still, it did bring her to her feet, just in time for tea to be delivered, in the form of dear Wong, who seemed happy to pass off the tray to Vivienne, so that she could carry it towards one of the tables in the room. The two had long ago set aside their competition over the tea service in the Sanctum. And likely, knowing Wong, there were other refreshments to be gathered. "I have a feeling though, that if we kill enough of the foot soldiers, the generals may make themselves known." She poured a cup for Strange, one for herself, before she looked towards the masked man and his compatriot, as if to ask if they also wanted tea, "I think what we will also need to discover is if Czernobog is actually wholly on his own plane or half in this one. If he has been drawn into this world enough to reside within a vessel, it will have to be destroyed."


"Just to make sure that I'm hearing everyone correctly," Moon Knight says after a pause, "you want us - me and Blade - to go ahead and drop the hammer on vampire activity in Gotham City."

He nods. "Not that I'm complaining, mind you. Just confirming the plan. In the meantime, you'll find out what you can about a more long-term solution to this problem. And hopefully, Czernoborg won't manifest itself before we're ready to deal with it."

Moon Knight looks to Blade. "I guess meat's back on the menu."


Blade bares his fangs at Moon Knight. It's hard to say if he's snarling or grinning. "Told you," he reminds his ally.

His grin fades, disappearing with all other expressions behind his sunglasses as he addresses Strange and Vivienne again. "Most of the vampires here are descended from European stock," he tells them. "Crosses, silver, garlic. Relics that are sanctified by holy men."

"Or fire. Not much survives a cookout. Supernatural or not. You see any strange arson in the news… well."

He looks at Marc. "Think we're done here." And without so much as a 'thanks for the tea' or a 'by your leave?' he turns on a silent boot and heads towards the door, his stride fluid and unhurried.


Strange meant the three of them, and Wong if he is interested too. "I will join you shortly… and perhaps not alone," since he can see several of their associates wanting to stop yet another chaos god from doing his dark business in the tri-city area.

"As for wholesale slaughter of vampires, I'd advise some restraint and mercy. Not all the accursed deserve destruction. If this cult has a following among the undead, it is likely more than a few are actively opposing it, too." And maybe he is an optimist. But Doctor Strange is rarely a fan of terminal solutions.


Vivienne looked up from her tea, glancing to Blade as he offered his advise on weaponry, the look on her face all amusement, before she glanced at Strange, "I do not think either the holy relics or the fire will present any problem for me. Or the holy…man, all things considered. If, however, you are both on your way there now, I think I will see you in Gotham soon enough." She sipped the tea before she continued, "I will contact the Vatican and see what information I can glean from their records on Czernobog as well as on whatever activity they might be tracking in Europe that might offer us some clues as to where we can search for the head of the snake." To her credit, she did not attempt to stop anyone from leaving the room. She had, after all, tea and would soon have cookies. Or scones, or crumpets. It really depended on how creative Strange's assistant/butler was feeling.


"Well, ah, we'll keep that in mind," Moon Knight replies as he watches Blade exit. "Thanks for the help, both of you. Really. It's appreciated."

He smiles again beneath his mask and shrugs, moving to follow his hunter companion. "I'll stay in contact. Here's a card." He slips a business card for 'Steven Grant' from inside his coat jacket and sets it on a table before reaching the door.

"Hope to hear from you soon. And, perhaps, to see you out there." Moon Knight offers a quick salute and then heads outside to the parked limo.

"Frenchie," he states in a calm voice, "start up and plan a route to Gotham."

The car roars to life, and Moon Knight slips into the rear cabin.

---

Blade doesn't respond to the commentary sent in his wake. And by the time Moon Knight goes outside, Blade's nowhere in sight. Not in the limo, either.

But Marc Spector would be used to the dhampir's vanishing act, by now.

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