Illyana’s felt a strain on her heart as she watched her teacher comfort the young girl. The way he knelt down onto one knee to get onto her level. The bemusing and whimsical chime of his voice that made any explanation regardless of how far fetched it may seem, immediately believable. The way he smiled and acted as if everything in that instance was ok. It was exactly how Strange had acted when the two of them had just met. When he had found her cold and alone, just after she had escaped from that hellscape.
His interactions with Christina made her think. Was this how he had viewed her. As a helpless child? A child in need of saving?
She stood watching in silence, her eyes glancing precariously towards the impending army every so often. She flashed her teeth angrily if any got too close, twirling the soul sword in her hands with the grace of a majorette. They growled in retaliation, their piercing eyes staring in fear at the unknown blade of blue that she held.
“Then let's do some magic!”
Strange’s words drew her back in. A smile escaped her lips as she watched the look of pure joy that had consumed Christina. She looked so happy at the thought of casting a spell; a childhood daydream come true. Illyana imagined it must just like in some kind of fairytale to her right now. It was sweet. It was all a load of nonsense, of course. Strange couldn’t really imbue this girl with the magic of the cosmos. No, that was too much. This was merely a ruse to lift the girl’s spirits and give her hope. It was a skill that Strange was good at, as Illyana knew well.
It wasn’t necessarily a bad skill though.
Giving her mentor a nod, she got down onto one knee and took the young girl’s hand, smiling gleefully at her. Both she and Strange rose up in unison, with the three now standing hand in hand, the butterflies around them beginning to fade, along with the whispery veil that held the creatures back.
“Keep your head high, Christina.” Doctor Strange instructed, giving the girl’s hand a squeeze. “I want you to think of your happiest memories. Your mum. Your dad.”
“And your friends.” Illyana continued, swinging Christina’s arm slightly, leading to her to giggle cheerfully.
“What if I don’t do good enough?” She asked, peering up at Illyana wantingly.
As she spoke the power of the veil faded further, with the swarms of nightmares beginning to rile themselves up. They flowed towards the gaps like sharks; bloodthirsty and relentless. Illyana could feel Christina begin to tense up slightly at the thought.
“You are the most poverful person vere.” Illyana spoke calmly, speaking words she wished she could believe herself. “Fail or succeed, vou’ll alvays be good enough.”
She avoided the gaze of her mentor as she spoke, focussing on Christina instead. Her ideas had widened, and a confidently childlike smile had spread across her face.
“Ok then. I am ready!” She declared, beaming into the destruction ahead.
“Perfect.” Strange smiled, bringing his spare hand up before him. His fingers skimmed the air, producing sparks of energy and the visage of runes before the three of them.
“Now, Illyana…” He began to speak before Illyana cut him off.
“I know, I know. Pronunciation.” She groaned childishly, rolling her eyes as she raised her sword arm into the air to mirror Strange.
He simply nodded, much like teachers do.
“Remember to roll your tongue on the R sounds.”
As Illyana released one last scoff of annoyance, the magical veil finally broke, and the two began their incantation.
Their voices flowed vibrantly as the hordes soared towards the trio, radiating words incomprehensible to the mortal mind. Their arms moved in unison, each touch against the air sparking a small wave of pure light and spirit. Yet despite the light show, the beasts grew ever closer.
Fifty feet. Then forty. The threat of what was to come lost on them.
As they spoke in tongues, Magik and Strange began to channel the energy before them.
Thirty feet. Twenty.
The energy took form. It was not a shapeless cloud of energy now, but a blinding, dazzling, silver creature.
The majestic butterfly sprouted into life before them, it’s body radiating in silver light. The creatures reared back on their approach, their nightmarish screeches racketing their eardrums. But it was too late. One second the butterfly was flying before them, the next it had erupted. The whiteness that emerged engulphed everyone, rushing outwards like a tidal wave of energy.
The nightmare’s scattered, their spectral forms rocketing to get away. Yet despite their speed and determination, they were no matter. Much like the previous veil, as soon as the light hit them, they found the smoke of their forms dissipating into nothingness. Screams and shrieks echoed around the dreamscape, fading away with their bodies.
As the light died down, the magicians looked over their handiwork. Seconds ago an army had floated before them. Now there was nothing. Or so they thought.
A shout from Christina broke them from their admiration.
“Oh no…” She cried, visually distressed. Her finger pointed out over to the distance within the dreamscape, where the form of two lone nightmares could be seen slithering away. They looked feeble now. Weak.
Strange simply put his hand on the girl’s shoulder to reassure her.
“It’s fine” He said. “They’re just running scared.”
A scowl spread across Illyana’s face. Those creature’s had terrorised this child’s dreams before they had stopped them. If they escaped, they could regrow their numbers and return. Magik wasn’t going to let that happened.
“No.” She stated angrily, conjuring the glowing yellow light of a stepping disc beneath her feet as she brandished her sword. “Not on my watch.”
Strange’s pleas for her to stop fell on deaf ears as she vanished from their sight. She emerged in a fury, appearing directly before the smoke of the nightmares, her sword swinging wildly above her head. The beast’s let out a shriek as their bodies moved to avoid their newfound obstacle. But the daughter of Limbo was too quick. With a swing of her sword, the nightmare to her left found itself inflamed as her blade chopped it in two.
She turned on the second as the first dissolved around her, her face filled with anger. Her body had changed slightly now, a thick row of black plated metal armour encasing both her sword arm and legs. What's more, a pair of small hellish horns had sprouted atop her head, emerging violently through the blonde bangs of her hair. Her breathing had heavied, growing brutish and angry. The nightmare seemed to squeal in fear as the demonic woman prowled towards it, her sword fixated on her prey. Her eyes burned like fire as she raised the blade above her head.
Yet before she could cut down her target, she found her arms entrapped. Thick red bands of energy had wrapped themselves around her wrists, stopping her from finishing her swing. Her head snapped to her left in anger to follow the source of the tendrils, until her eyes stopped on the shape of her teacher. Strange’s face was cold and unloving as he drifted towards her, his eyes filled with disapproval.
Illyana anger rescinded into fear, her eyes widening. Her armour faded away as the horns retreated into her hair. As he grew closer, she felt the tendrils loosen on her arms, allowing her to break free from her shackles. Embarrassed she stood still, her eyes glued to her feet. She didn’t want to see the look her mentor was giving her.
“Go.” The Sorceror Supreme commanded. Illyana finally glanced upwards to see him facing the nightmare now. She felt relief wash over her, yet part of her knew this wasn’t over.
“You’re done here.”
The creature whimpered, being turning in haste. Its forms twisted, as it fled from the dreamscape, disappearing back to where it had come from.
Illyana couldn’t help but wonder whether that command was also directed at her.