The Regretful Sorceress

March 25, 2019:

After months of absence and an Inferno, Illyana returns to Dr. Strange's house.

Dr. Stange Sanctum


NPCs: Wong



Mood Music: None.

Fade In…

A cab pulls up on Bleecker Street and after the fare is paid, the rear door opens and a blonde young woman dressed in a sharp business suit steps out onto the sidewalk. So far, so unremarkable, except this young woman is Illyana Rasputin, and she normally has her own methods of transportation. As the cab pulls away in a cloud of exhaust smoke that's not remotely friendly to the environment, Illyana stares at the imposing front door of 177A Bleecker Street as if she wishes she could see right through it, then looks aside, watching her taxi depart, her eyes straying across others that could be available for hire as she rethinks her choice to come here.

She doesn't let the indecision last long. Backing down has rarely been in her nature, even when it's the sensible thing to do. She sighs, and then makes her way to the door, her heels clicking across the sidewalk. She's sure she's been noticed by now, and for those with the wit to notice, there are no magical defences around her, and a perhaps familiar sliver of her soul is nowhere in evidence. She's come as unprotected and unarmed as it's possible for her to be.

She rings the bell.

It is not a very imposing door for most people. It is hardly as imposing as Xavier's School, for instance. Even for those with mystical senses; as little power escapes the building walls, even the ley lines seem subdued. But that is due to the wards and defenses of the Sanctum. The building is quite the invisible fortress.

Imposing, perhaps, for those who have been inside often. It was mid-Summer for Illyana.

But the door opens surprisingly quickly. She must have tripped some recognition enchantment when she touched the bell. Or perhaps just at coming close enough. It is Wong, as usual, the one opening the door, looking… not completely inscrutable today. In fact, he seems unsettled. "By the Blessed Vishanti," he mutters, opening the door wide.

"Miss Rasputin, finally back," he gestures her to come in, "welcome! Are you alright? That is a… interesting attire. Not what I expected." He manages a faint smile, though.

Illyana made her return to Xavier's School some time ago, and while things aren't exactly how they were before, on some level she's been accepted back into the fold. Probably because, despite how uncharacteristically open she's been about what happened to precipitate the Inferno that engulfed New York, she was telling her story to people who, fundamentally, knew next to nothing about matters of the soul, or the arcane. They didn't understand what she'd done, what she'd become, or what she still was and had always been since her first return from Limbo.

None of that applies here. The master of this house knows exactly what she is. The imposing nature of the door comes not from it's appearance, but the simple fact that she may never step back into the sunlight again after she crosses this threshold.

Illyana can't fault Wong for looking unsettled by her arrival at his door. She decided against calling ahead. Whatever happens here, she doesn't want the X-Men dragged into it. She smiles at him, though it's a manufactured expression. "I come in peace." She says, spreading her hands, palms out, to show she's carrying no weapons. The effusive welcome is surprising, but she covers it well. "If you expected the horns and the hooves, I'm happy to disappoint you." She tells him, keeping her voice light, but the banter is a little forced. "Is the Doctor in?" She asks, still not having stepped across the threshold.

"I am happy to be disappointed in that regard," replies Wong, giving her a once over when she is not stepping into the house. Despite his invitation. "You are welcome in peace. Come forward in peace, on my soul as the guardian of this Sanctum I swear I will allow no harm come to you."

That was pretty formal and Wong waits, hands behind his back, for Illyana to come in. "The Doctor is in the library. No doubt he has noticed your arrival and will be here in a minute. And then we can ask him why he didn't go to look for you and brought you back himself."

Illyana smiles, faintly, and it's a little more genuine than her previous forced levity, when Wong misreads her so completely. She gives a shake of her head, long blonde hair swaying slightly, bright against the black of her suit. "I release you from that promise, Wong." She says, equally formal. "I deserve any harm that comes my way. I just didn't want Stephen coming home and jumping to the wrong conclusion." Again, that faint smile. "I'd like to say hello at least before he burns me to ashes."

Illyana finally steps inside, but doesn't take a seat, or otherwise make herself at home. "I'm sure he could guess where I was. If he'd come for me there then there might have been a… misunderstanding." She shrugs, showing none of the impatience that usually attends her when she's kept waiting.

"Indeed," states Strange, coming down a staircase to the upper floors that wasn't there last August. "I didn't want to impose, or hurry you up. But if my intention ever had been to 'burn you to ashes' I would have attempted so when you had horns and hooves, Illyana. Not now." He looks quite relaxed, his usual suit jacket forgotten somewhere in the library.

Literally. He didn't bother to try to find it before coming down.

"But if I burned to ashes any of my fellow sorcerers every time a demon possesses or spell-binds one of them, not only would I be a very lonely magician, I would also be a hypocrite." He sighs, offering Illyana a sad smile. "In truth, I would have preferred you to come here much earlier. I am not just your teacher. I am your ally in the war against your darker enemies. And I hope I am also a friend."

Illyana looks up as Strange descends the staircase and grins, the expression sharp and a little feral. "Back then you'd have had to work for it. Now?" She spreads her hands again, despite her words keen to show that she's unarmed, even though she's sure he can sense that the Soulsword isn't currently on this plane of existence. "Wong would just have to mop the floor after you were done."

Thin, blonde eyebrows go up behind her bangs as Illyana listens to his words, but she holds back from her instinctive response, letting her finish. "I came back when the rifts took Professor Xavier. I hoped you'd give me time to show it wasn't my doing, and to find him." She snorts quietly to herself. "Not that I was any help, but at least no-one tried to storm Limbo looking for him. I'll take any win I can get, right now." Her voice is quieter as she says that, almost talking to herself.

"But that's all over, now. He's back where he's supposed to be, and I should be leaving too… but I don't much want to. So here I am." She grins again. "You really should rethink your policy on second chances, Stephen. Aren't you supposed to protect the world from things like me?" If she came here to mend fences, she's chosen a combative method of doing it.

Strange shakes his head, "no, because you came back. And no, you shouldn't leave. You have every right to live on Earth. Now more than ever." He sighs, moving to the side of the living room with the low table and the couches. "Please, stay for tea," he offers.

"What makes you so dangerous? As a sorceress you are barely an adept outside Limbo," points out Strange. "The danger is you willingly embracing the agenda of the Elder Gods. And that will not happen. Even when your darkest side took over, you weren't willing to bow to them. Instead you used New York as a buffer. Which was an acceptable solution. New York was well defended. Or should have been. I was chasing after Lilith at the other side of the world when you needed me here."

Illyana's expression could best be described as 'not sold', but at least she doesn't make her excuses and leave. Not yet, anyway. With a quiet sigh she follows Strange to the table and sits primly on one of the couches. She doesn't look particularly at ease, but her back goes rigid when he says the words 'acceptable solution'. "That much death is never an acceptable solution." She tells him, flatly. Her words are all the more final because, even now, even after what's left of her soul has been returned… sometimes her thoughts turn to the kingdom of fire and death and pain she gave up, Limbo on Earth, and she catches herself wondering why she did it. She knows, but sometimes she doesn't feel.

And worst of all, she knows that she'd do it again, if she was faced with the same choice. She understands now why she came, now. Banishment, or suicide by Sorcerer Supreme. Either way, she'd never have the opportunity to fall again.

"You mentioned tea?" She says, after a moment's silence. He's not going to help her, not in the way she'd unconsciously hoped, so she'll have to do this the hard way.

"There is always tea," murmurs Wong, who was playing the wallflower up to now. "In a minute," he adds, heading out of the room as Strange thanks him. Then the wizard looks back to Illyana. "Unfortunately, when dealing with the Elder Gods there is rarely a bloodless solution. Very often it is just the lesser evil. And we lose a bit of our souls. You, young woman, already carry enormous guilt on your shoulders. I don't know the details, but I can see it in your face when you allow that mask slip a little." He leans back, folding his arms, "well, I have been a master sorcerer for almost fifty years. I have buried friends, I have doomed family, and I have certainly failed to save or caused the death of far more people that died last summer in New York. Guilt has almost destroyed me several times. You have to learn to live with it. And learn from it. There is no other path. The world needs you. You are now their jailer, not their herald."

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