What If?: Strange Tales, Prologue.   Posted by Dr. Strange.Group: 0
Dr. Strange
 GM, 16 posts
 Earth's Sorcerer Supreme
Thu 11 Jul 2013
at 14:39
What If?: Strange Tales, Chapter I
With a heavy sigh and a heavier heart, Doctor Stephen Strange tread slowly down the steps of what used to be his Sanctum Sanctorum, now the Stephen Strange Memorial Metaphysical Institute.

He allowed the world to believe him dead.  In his heart, he wondered if he wasn't truly already.  As a surgeon, as Earth's Sorcerer Supreme, Doctor Stephen Strange (now "Sanders" to the world at large) had spent his entire life trying to save the lives of others...and now he had taken one.  Vishanti help him, if only he knew it would be the last.

As the cold New York rain lashed at his cheeks, Strange pondered his next move.  A vast array of ancient, powerful mystic items had been destroyed at his own hand to prevent the universe becoming that vile Urthona's plaything, and now the consequences must be faced.  Eldritch things would be clawing even now at the fabric of reality, and the man most responsible for holding them back had crippled his soul, crippled his abilities, and may have damned the world that is his charge.

Strange needed help.

He could not risk his friends, no matter what darkness his path need turn now; he would not put the innocent in danger.  Let Wong and the others believe what they must.  And let more...appropriate allies be turned to the task.

As he faded from view with a simple word and gesture and prepared to make a trip that would take him beyond our mapped dimensions, Doctor Stephen Strange, Sorcerer Supreme, wondered just how far he would really be willing to go...

This message was last updated by the GM at 14:39, Thu 11 July 2013.

Interloper
 GM, 61 posts
Thu 11 Jul 2013
at 05:28
Re: What If?: Strange Tales, Chapter I
The Borders of the Land of the Dead

Valkyrie leads us against the unending stream of all the corrupted spirits under the control of the Dragon of the Moon.  With a fierce battle cry, she leaps into the next cluster of enemies, her sword Dragonfang disrupting their ectoplasmic shells, while her power as Chooser of the Slain sends the freed spirits on to their final destination.

Manslaughter is capering about nearby, laughing maniacally as he backflips over the head of one spirit, landing feet first into the chest of the next, and spinning to bury a knife into the third.  On Valkyrie's other side, Andromeda's sea-spawned strength is put to good use as she knocks two spirit forms together so hard they collapse into nothingness, their true essence being channeled through the Valkyrie to their rest, as with all the others we've defeated.

I hang back from the fight for a time, seeking after the spoor.  It's just grown weaker, and that troubles me.  Focusing my will, the cosmic energies that are the birthright of my people flow through me, but I direct them into channels that few among even the nigh-immortal Eternals have ever explored.  My kin have always had more interest in the sciences than in mysticism, inspired by a limited understanding of our creators, the Celestials.  Yet in my long life, I've found that there are many forces at work in the universe, and I know the Celestials are not so one-dimensional.

As my power sharpens my senses and my mind reaches out to encompass the world around me, the spoor of the Dragon becomes clearer, but I know that I'm only detecting remnants.  My foe is no longer present.  It was here, recently, flowing through and among and within its pawns, but now it is gone.  All that remains is its foul corruption, which will stain these souls for eternity if we do not free them of it.  Yet how did it escape, and where did it go?

"Valkyrie, the Dragon has fled.  It has found some way to leave this place."

The valiant warrior maid pauses, then continues with her assault upon the dead.  "Verily, it knows we are overcoming its forces and I doubt not it would choose to flee if it found a way.  We cannot allow it to re-establish itself in another plane, yet we cannot abandon yon souls to eternal corruption either."

"Shield me, brother and sisters in arms, for what I must do now will take all my concentration and leave me vulnerable."

As they fall back into a ring around me, Valkyrie says "Aye, Interloper, no harm shall come to thee while we guard thee, but what do you?"

"I am going to attempt a ritual that was shown to me by Algaram of Asyria, a sorcerer I knew long ago, to aid me in my hunt.  It may reveal how my quarry has fled this place."

* * * * * * *

Some Time Later

As I complete the ritual, I stand up from my sitting place and look around me.  My compatriots have been busy, the ranks of the enemy closest to us have been significantly thinned, although countless enemies remain throughout the Borders.

"What did your meditations reveal, friend?" Valkyrie asks as she finishes off the spirit she is fighting.

"There is a... crack or a weakening in the walls between the spirit realms.  I do not know the cause, although I do not think either the Dragon nor any of its brethren had a hand in its origin.  Whatever its source, the elder demons of Earth are already taking advantage of it to return to their spawning place, for I recognize the spoor of many beings that I have not encountered in millennia.  The world is in dire danger."

"Then the time has come to split our company, Interloper.  My duty as Chooser of the Slain is to remain here and clean this corruption from the Borders, yet methinks your duty must be to return to Midgard and investigate this breach, aye and to plug it if you are able!  Yet, warrior of Asgard though I may be, even I need rest betimes, and I cannot withstand alone the entire horde that still remains.  Andromeda and Manslaughter, wilt thou remain to finish the task before us, whilst Interloper returns to aid the defenders of Midgard?"

"Yes, Valkyrie, we will not abandon you or these wretched souls while we are still needed," Andromeda answers, while Manslaughter merely continues capering among the last few spirits in the immediate vicinity.

"How shall I return to the world of the living, Valkyrie?  My Eternal nature may well be sufficient to restore my body, if only my mind and spirit can be returned to it.  But I know no rituals to achieve such a thing."

"Perhaps an old friend and trusted ally of mine shall know a way.  And by my power as Chooser of the Slain, I may reach out to him, even from here, when next he is in the presence of death.  In the meantime, my friends, we have work to do!"

OOC: My thought is that Valkyrie will contact Strange at a dramatically appropriate moment to ask him for his aid.  Presumably either the good Doctor has to be seriously wounded, or more likely, someone around him is.  Maybe someone he failed to save, or even someone he had to mortally wound.  Either way, it can be a pathway for the Valkyrie.  Once she's asked for his aid, you can decide what might be involved in opening the path back for me.  If you want the drama of it requiring a death (maybe the death of the mortally wounded person that let Valkyrie reach you?), or would rather something less traumatic, that's up to you.  Once my spirit is summoned back, I was thinking Interloper can restore his body.  That'll put me somewhere out west, Arizona or Nevada if I remember right, but I can find my way back to the group or be summoned by Magik or someone else  Does that sound reasonable?
Nico Minoru
 GM, 58 posts
 When blood is shed...
 P: -; M: - ; E: -; 1 PP
Thu 11 Jul 2013
at 06:30
Re: What If?: Strange Tales, Chapter I
Stranded in Broxton, Oklahoma with the others, the Runaways gathered around before Nico raised her staff. "Alright, enough Frost Giants and Magic Hammers for one day. Let's Go Back!" With the spell to take them home in place, magic surrounded each of the children in turn, before a flash blinded Nico, before she opened her eyes to a sprawling city scape.

-

Of course she hadn't ended up in sunny California or the Runaways base. And from what an hour of scrounging Newspapers had told her, she hadn't even ended up in the right year. "Go back..." she sighed, as her mind tried racing to how to fix the situation. This was even worse than the Zombie Knot spell. At least punk was still in and she didn't seem too out of place.

Her mind focused on the other Runaways as she walked along the streets, not knowing New York well, but merely strolling where she saw others walking around. The others weren't with her. They could be safely at home in the far off future of 2008. They could just as easily be fighting alongside Roman legions. Either way it was bad and she didn't know a spell that could undo it all.

She could seek out her parents, but that'd just as likely get her killed. Dark Wizards meeting a daughter they wouldn't have for another 5 years? Well, her great grandmother had recognized her the last time they had time traveled...but she'd rather be dead than face that trial again.

As the teen girl slipped in an alleyway, a quick cut of her finger on the blade she carried around and she spoke out "When blood is shed, let the Staff of One emerge." There were two things she needed to do...even if she immediately began to fear what she might do with another mismanaged spell. "No spoilers," to protect the future. She learned her lesson meeting the Yorks in 1907. A blast of sparkles seemed to surround her face. It did nothing to change her appearance or inhibit her speech, but it would guarantee a slip of the tongue wouldn't mean robots controlling the future. Next, she held the staff firmly, and thought about who she needed to meet. She wasn't about to try another travel spell, so she needed "A very Strange compass," transforming her staff with the words to a miniature version that fit in her hand, pointing her, hopefully, to the Sorcerer Supreme's location.

This message was last edited by the GM at 06:30, Thu 11 July 2013.

Magik
 GM, 27 posts
Thu 11 Jul 2013
at 08:50
Re: What If?: Strange Tales, Chapter I
Click. Whirrrrr. Click.

Illyana Rasputin's eyes burned. She had been focusing them for hours, barely blinking. Her jaw was clenched so hard that the muscles above her cheeks twitched at roughly ten second intervals. She ignored it.

Click. Whirrrrr. Click.

She pressed the rewind button again. Then, exactly 2.8 seconds later, the play button. Thought was no longer required at this point. It was just muscle memory.

Click. Whirrrrr. Click.

“We're back to this?” asked a male voice behind her. She knew it was Magneto's, but she didn't know how long he had been there. She didn't care.

Click. Whirrrrr. Click.

Click. Whirrrrr. Click.


“I know what you did,” he said, leaning against the doorway, arms folded across his chest like a lecturing father. “What you tried to do...”

Click. Whirrrrr. Click.

“To Forge.”

Click.

Her eyes shut, not out of desire for rest, but out of anger.

“Who told you?” she spat, her jaw still clenched.

“No need to run any of your classmates through,” Magneto said, not even he knowing if he was making a joke. “I have ways of finding things out.”

She opened her eyes again, then glanced to the side, as if she thought she could look at him without turning her head. Then, back to the glowing screen.

Click. Whirrrrr. Click.

This time, Magneto watched with her. He had seen it dozens of times, which meant that she had probably seen it hundreds: Illyana's brother and his teammates stood before the demon known as The Adversary. The mutant called Forge made a gesture, an inaudible chant, then a flash of light appeared before him, encompassing them all. Then the screen went black. The whole thing took less than ten seconds.

Click. Whirrrrr. Click.

“Why are you doing this to yourself?” he said. Illyana detected a note of frustration in his voice. She responded with her own.

“Am I not entitled to my rage?” She spoke in a way that sounded nothing like a teenage girl. It was the voice of a demon, and it was unnerving, even to Magneto.

“Of course you are,” he said. “What you're not entitled to do is wallow in it. You're useless to us this way. You're useless to me.” Suddenly, he felt a little guilty. That may have been too far.

Click.

He put a hand on her shoulder and was relieved that she did not pull away. Or turn to fight.

“I know loss, Illyana Rasputina,” he said, softening his tone. “And I know pain. I know that it can burrow into you and hollow you out. If you let it... it becomes who you are. Don't become me, Illyana. Even you cannot change the past.”

“Yes, I can,” she whispered, her voice quivering. “My power...”

“No,” he said, turning to leave. “You may be able to bend time, but even with all your great power, there are lines you may not cross.”

She sat, holding back tears, and she thought of the last time she went back in time to undo the death of great heroes. The first time she saw the X-Men die... the battle with Kulan Gath... Dr. Strange. She stood and switched off the TV, then turned to make sure her teacher had left. Confident that she was alone, she held out her hand and watched as a portal of her creation stretched open before her.

She took a breath, then stepped through...
Doom
 GM, 41 posts
Thu 11 Jul 2013
at 14:26
Re: What If?: Strange Tales, Chapter I
Doom looks over his ritual chamber, checking on his preparations for the upcoming battle with Mephisto.  The arcane symbols are inscribed to perfection and he has several arcane weapons at his disposal.  Most important of all, is his secret weapon recently acquired from a secret warehouse in america.

A deep chuckle emerges from the armor as he thinks of his purpose and then speaks as if to himself.

"No mother, I did not steal the Arc.  Nay, Doom requested it from the UN as part of some paltry inspection concessions.  The american's grumbled but acceded to my request although they really wish to know how Doom knew of their little stash."

Doom makes some final preparations then sits in the center of the largest circle.  "Doom will not sully protecting you mother from Mephisto's attempt to reclaim your soul.  Nor will he attempt to face him in his own realm unless absolutely necessary.  Let us see how he fares against Doom without having absolute control over the battlefield"

Then Doom begins the ritual that will carry him to the astral pathway between heaven and hell.


The battle against the demons was difficult, but Doom is no ordinary man.  He had prepared an army of his own - the spirits of Latverian warriors and gypsy witches fought on his side.  But something was amiss, Mephisto never made an appearance even to gloat.  There were only the rank and file demons.  While he still made the attempt, obviously Mephisto's's heart was not in it.  What could be more important than his battle with Doom!?


Doom stands before an assembly of scientific and occult devices in one of his labs.  "Yes, this test confirms it to.  The walls between worlds has weakened.  Perhaps Doom should ask Dr Strange why he has been lax in his duties."

Walking over not to some arcane circle or super-science, Doom picks up the phone and calls a number that he was never given.  Doom never promised to acquire everything legally....

Once the phone call fails, Doom sighs then takes the stairs to the roof and gets in his private jet.  A spell reveals the right direction... of course Tibet.   The hypersonic jet leaps into the sky heading east.

This message was last edited by the GM at 03:13, Mon 22 July 2013.

Bride of Nine Spiders
 GM, 26 posts
Thu 11 Jul 2013
at 14:45
Re: What If?: Strange Tales, Chapter I
"You called for me, Spider Mother?"

There were few for whom the Bride of Nine Spiders showed reverence. The ancient and terrible Spider Mother, most skilled and focused seer in all the Capital Cities of Heaven, was one.

"I didhavewill, child. Terrible things havewillare happenhappenedhappening. The Sorcerer Supreme haswillis loselostlosing his way. He haswillis turnedturnturning to magic forbidden to him."

The Bride of Nine Spiders narrowed her eyes. Such matters were beyond the normal concerns of the Capital City of Heaven and the Immortal Weapons. However, the thought of a being such as the Sorcerer Supreme turning to dark magics was... disturbing. Also, exciting. Maybe even arousing. Such potential for mayhem.

"Je je je je je." Bride of Nine Spiders titters.

"There iswillbewas no humor in this, Immortal Weapon!" The Spider Mother snaps, angrily. "A corrupt Sorcerer Supreme threatenswillthreatenthreatened everything."

The Spider Mother turns her blind eyes to the Bride.

"You willhaveare traveltravelingtraveled to the mortal realms." The Spider Mother inhales and focuses, locking herself to one timeline with effort and pain. "Stop him or we all die, child. Or everything dies."

"Show him the right path or kill him."
Conan the Accuser
 GM, 66 posts
Sun 14 Jul 2013
at 02:56
Re: What If?: Strange Tales, Chapter I
The sound of steel slipping a leathern sheath was quiet, but still audible in quiet of the treasure vault, and Conan sighed heavily before he even bothered to look.

"Even for a jackal so greed-addled as you, Armal," he said, not whispering as he slowly turned to face his former partner, "This madness beggars disbelief."

"How can you be surprised, Cimmerian?" Armal mocked, his drawn blade shining red in the torchlight as his comrades leveled their swords at Conan as well. "There is no honor among thieves, especially not among those who would rob the gods, even if Chthon is more demon than deity."

The barbarian's rage showed only in his eyes, and looked more like irritation than the stinging fury of betrayal. There was no tension in his posture, his leonine sinews, or even his voice as he spoke. "Your treachery, filth of Stygia, is not the surprise. You were all jackals when we met and jackals you remain. The surprise is that even you are fool enough to double-cross me before we escape with our spoils."

Armal was smiling his toothless grin. "When the Chthonite hierophant questions them, the guards we bribed will use your corpse as evidence of their tale, that they were set upon by a dozen hulking Northerners instead of letting in a few local brigands and their hired thug."

"Hired thug? Your fellow jackals make you too bold, little man. I owe you two deaths now."

"And what do I owe you for your defiling of Jacinda?" The bandit leader was still smiling, but his eyes hardened. "Or did you think I wouldn't discover that a white barbarian had stolen my daughter's virtue in my own house?"

Conan roared with laughter before Armal could even finish his sentence. "'Stolen'? I stole Jacinda's virtue? I have stolen many things in my time, but never something so freely offered without my even asking, and never something so many others had obviously stolen before--"

The taunt had the expected effect. Armal charged in to strike at once, his curved Stygian blade aimed forward like a lance as he ran, screaming, at Conan.

Immediately, the man’s comrades followed suit, moving into attack. Conan, still laughing, did not draw the sword at his waist, but his left hand had drawn the dagger from his shirt and hidden it before he had turned to speak.

He waited to move until the last possible moment. With a speed Armal did not expect in a warrior of Conan’s size, the Cimmerian leaned to his left, avoiding the bandit leader’s sword just as it would’ve struck the right side of his torso. At same time, he shot his left leg back to brace himself and twisted his upper body clockwise, keeping his front toward the attacker passing by him. His empty right hand shot out as Armal passed and grabbed his sword-arm at the wrist.

The men who had been at Conan’s back were already close enough to strike. Continuing to spin clockwise, the half-orc had added his own strength to the momentum of Armal’s furious attack. Pivoting on his right leg, he pulled the bandit leader along so quickly and forcefully that the man’s feet almost left the ground. Instead of continuing on past the barbarian after his failed strike, Armal was moved around him, along the arc of Conan’s spinning body.

Swinging the bandit leader around by his arm, the way a child might swing a rag-doll, the barbarian flung Armal at three of his fellows like a ball on a chain, blocking their strikes. Then he let go of the man’s wrist. Conan’s arms were of such strength—and his instinctive calculation of the maneuver of such precision—that all three men fell backwards onto the ground, the prone form of Armal sprawled on top of them.

Another attacker, narrowly avoiding his hurled comrade, managed to maintain the stride of his attack. He was holding a large scimitar with both hands, and had it cocked up over his right shoulder as he ran, ready to strike.

But the bandit leader’s body was not Conan’s only weapon. Still spinning with same motion he had used to hurl Armal at his comrades, the young barbarian’s eyes locked on this new threat. Head turning from right to left as he spun, he adjusted the arc of the long dagger trailing in his left hand to pre-empt this fifth would-be attacker.

The treacherous thief was shouting a battle cry when he caught Conan’s blade across his open mouth. It cut through the man’s right cheek, then he briefly felt the metal between upper and lower teeth, taking off the tip of his tongue before it slit open the left side of his face as well. The blow turned the man’s head, and his body followed, involuntarily bringing his scimitar down to slice empty air. The disfigured brigand fell howling to the ground.

Conan ended his whirl of destruction facing the same way he had begun it. As he’d hoped, the sixth bandit-- the smallest and most cowardly of the Stygian traitors-- was too scared to charge, instead holding a falchion too large for him forward as his only protection.

Breathing hard, but not yet sweating, Conan stepped sideways, surveying both his standing opponent and the fallen ones as Armal tried to regain his feet. He knew the sword at his hip was worthless, and had known it from the moment they gave it to him, without even having to extract the steel from its scabbard.

After three careful strides, Conan shouted at the men. "I insulted jackals before, calling you such. Jackals fight harder and smell sweeter!"

With that, the barbarian sprang away, like a bolt from a crossbow, sprinting deeper into the treasure vault. He knew he could pick off the demoralized men as they came for him, using their fear and the darkness as his weapons, but to make it easier he now sought a second blade as well, a larger one.

When he was deep enough into the shadows, the Cimmerian slowed his pace to walk on noiseless feet. He stalked through the treasury, over-stocked like a gourmand’s larder with coins and gemstones, artifacts and relics, racked with jewel-spotted scepters and rods whose majesty ill-fitted the worshippers of such a foul entity, though kings and emperors alike had been seduced by Chthon and his successive hierophants. This temple was said to be the elder god's richest, its vault a repository for the oldest of his worshipprs' deceitful plunder. The hoarded wealth tempted Conan's imagination and his avarice alike, but he did not stop to fill his pockets. Nor did he pause at what appeared to a necromancer's laboratory, festooned with phylacteries and amulets, populated with familiars and homunculi, walls inscribed from ceiling to floor with runes in alphabets that were dead before the rise of men.

He did not stop until he came upon an armory, with majestic armor of Atlantis and strange weapons of Khitai, some plated in platinum or orichalcum. The gloaming light from his former allies' distant torches combined with the cold blue light that limned a rack of unearthly shields, and they revealed a panoply of centuries-old weapons to Conan's cat-like eyes. He picked out a pedestal upon which rested a sharp-looking green-hued sword.

The barbarian grinned, curving his fingers around the handle. The sword flashed with a green light... then grew brighter, too bright...

His eyes blinded in the emerald surge, Conan heard a metallic, inhuman voice in his mind: Chronal energies detected, wielder contact protocols initiated, seeking nearest temporal beacon. Initiating exfiltration in 5,4,3,2...

Then, the world vanished.

This message was last edited by the GM at 01:07, Sun 21 July 2013.