Love and Magic 1

A young woman walks down the New York City street, pulling a rolling suitcase behind her five foot two slender frame all bundled up. The weather wasn't helping things either. It was around thirty degrees and the snow was lightly falling. She had to hurry for it was close to three in the afternoon and had to be at her destination by three thirty. All Meredith Graham had to go on was a slip of paper with an address: 177A Bleecker Street.

With a little help from the locals, she was relieved that the place was only a block away. Coming upon it, the view took her breath away. A huge brownstone house with a large window up front towered above her and she stands there for a moment before approaching the front doors. She recognized the emblem of Agamotto and that this was the New York Sanctum Sanctorum. One of three that shielded Earth from mystical attacks, the other two being in London and Hong Kong.

She nervously walks up to the door and raps the big knocker three times before being suddenly pulled inside. What Meredith saw inside took her breath away. A grand staircase was before her and artifacts were openly on display. Very organized and neatly set up, not a thing out of place. It looked more like a museum than a private residence and reminded her of something out of Gone With The Wind.

"Hello, is anyone here?" Meredith calls out, "I have a letter for the Master of this place." Her voice echoes across the hall, leaving her to wonder if this was the right place. Nobody answers but after a few moments she sees a portly Asian man come out from a side hall. It was Wong, her old friend and mentor from Kamar-Taj and he was surprised to see her.

He greets Meredith with a big hug and asks why she was at the Sanctum. "I was sent here to study as an apprentice under the new master," she says, "Tragic that Master Drumm was tragically taken by us by Kaecillus and his zealots. Got a letter for whoever is in charge here now. Do you have anything hot to drink? I felt like a popsicle on my way here." She removes her long coat, hat and gloves, placing them in her backpack before shaking off any remaining snow off her mop of shoulder length dark brown hair.

Then she casts a spell that changes her casual clothes into formal robes. Deep purple with a red sash around her waist, but her boots stayed on, she wanted to make a good first impression. Meredith never cared much for formalities, so it was almost always casual for her. Her Sling Ring hung on a chain around her neck tucked under her robes.

Wong remembers her when she was at the monastery, very studious and disciplined but very casual at the same time. Unconventional would be a word he felt fitted her very well. He takes her to the modern kitchen and fixes a pot of herbal tea with honey and cinnamon. It was just the trick to warm up her insides. They talk and wait for the new Master of the Sanctum to arrive. "He was called away at the last minute, a minor problem in one of the other dimensions. It shouldn't be long before he gets back." Wong explains, preparing an exotic chicken dish for dinner, "We knew that an apprentice was going to come here sooner or later."

The Ancient One was the late Sorcerer Supreme that lived on for centuries, teaching and overseeing the training of many generations of magic users. She was strict but very compassionate and caring, beloved by those under her watch. Kaecillus had killed her in a fight and she finally got her eternal rest.

Meredith was one of the few who knew the source of her longevity: tapping into the energy of the Dark Dimension to extend her life. But was sworn to secrecy and amazed her mentor hadn't done anything to unleash the demon Dormammu from his prison doing so or worse, turn evil herself.

They go quiet for a moment and give a toast to her. They were very close along with Wong at Kamar-Taj, with Meredith being one of her favorite students. The Ancient One had come to her and offered to help unlock her potential and it was rare, usually it was the other way around. Most had to go into the Himalayas and have to show a drive and determination to study the Mystical Arts.

Four o'clock rolls around and still the Sanctum Master hadn't arrived. Meredith helps Wong with preparing the meal and it wasn't long before the dish was simmering. It would be an hour and a half at the very least before everything would be done. The fragrant smell of a home cooked meal soon fills the kitchen. That was one thing she loved about Wong, he knew how to cook and often would oversee meal preparation at the monastery.

Then, at four forty-five, the familiar sparks of magic appear in mid air. A portal opens and out steps a man and Meredith was stunned at how handsome he was. Tall, dark and very handsome with a goatee, it seemed he could have anything he wanted just on looks alone. He looked like he had been in a scuffle and was covered in dirt.

So, this is Master Drumm's replacement, she thinks seeing him, awfully young to be promoted. But man is he hot, those cheekbones and that little bit of grey on the sides..." She stands there a little bit stunned for a moment. This was Stephen Strange, the talk of the monastery. He had not one, but two magical relics at his command, which was quite an honor for someone promoted so soon.

Stephen takes a glance Meredith's way and notices her. "I see my new apprentice is finally here, it was bound to happen sooner or later. I apologize for being so late. Have your letter for me?" He extends a hand, ready to receive it.

"Yes sir, here it is," she gives him the envelope with his name on it, "I'm Meredith Graham, and I was impressed with how you dealt with Dormammu. You basically made him rage quit. It is an honor to study under a legend like you." Her nerves were clearly showing, making her feel more like a giddy fan girl finally getting to meet their teen idol. She had heard some of the other women at the monastery whisper about him.

"Well, guess you're stuck with me. I will call you down to the study after getting myself cleaned up, these conflicts can get really messy sometimes." Stephen grabs a napkin from the counter and pressing it against an oozing cut over his right eye. "For now, Wong will show you to your room and I will see you in about an hour. Just need a shower." Then he goes up the stairs, clearly looking tired.

It wasn't long before Meredith was in the room across from Stephen's. It certainly was bigger than the one she had at the monastery, antique oak furniture with a medieval style queen sized canopy bed, sheer white fabric surrounding it. Her closet was huge, fitting for a single woman. This could easily be rented out for at least a thousand dollars a month with the adjoining bathroom in this town.

She knew Stephen from the monastery though they didn't interact very much. He had given a moving eulogy at the Ancient One's memorial, expressing how thankful he was for having met her. Everyone was moved by his words, and Meredith felt the same way. All she knew about him was that he came to Kamar-Taj after a car accident ended his career as a neurosurgeon. Seeking a cure for the damaged nerves in his hands that left a slight tremble, sought out magic and found a greater purpose.

After settling in, it wasn't long before she was called down to the study. Wong shows her there and warns about how easy it is to get lost in the Sanctum. "It's much bigger inside than what everyone sees out there in the street." he explains. They come to a big door that went into the study. Then he leaves Meredith alone, she opens it up and goes through.

What she saw amazed her. Shelves and shelves of books lined the walls, loads of glass displays with artifacts giving it a certain museum charm. Outside the Kamar-Taj library, the Sanctums had the largest collection of mystical tomes in existence. And unlike most libraries, this didn't have that old book smell, instead there was a light scent of citrus in the air.

Stephen was floating cross legged in mid air, reading the letter she gave to him earlier. The Cloak of Levitation he wore floated behind him like it was in water. Meredith sits down in a plush chair across from him and it takes a few moments for him to notice her presence. "Good to see you came right away, I like punctuality." he mentions taking his eyes off the letter. "I want to know about you."

She started to feel like being at a job interview with all the personal questions he asked. Family, background, her dreams and aspirations, it seemed to go on forever. Master Strange certainly is the through type, guess it was his background in medicine. I hope we can wrap up soon. Dinner certainly smells good and I am starving.

"I see by this letter you are a prodigy and if you're willing to be patient and put up with me, we may get along quite well. I'm new to this whole mentoring thing." Stephen says with a twinkle in his eye, "But I have to warn you, I can be a douchebag at times. Wong can testify to that. Now demonstrate some of what you can do, just make sure it doesn't damage anything in here." He brings them into the Mirror Dimension to ensure safety.

Once in there, Meredith conjures up a magical doppelganger of herself, something few who were non masters could pull off. Then she creates some weapons of pure magic for good measure and finally, she asks him to let her take off his bandage and lays a hand on the cut over his eye and heals it. "I have a gift for medical and fighting magic. That wound looked pretty nasty earlier, but there should be no scar."

Stephen was impressed, but what drew his attention right away was the color her magic manifested as. Usually, it's orange-yellow, but here it was a dark blue/white color. He had read about magic having different colors on occasion depending on the person. There was debate to why this happens but it was a rarity. He would have to research it further.

She then feels something tickling her cheek and turns to see the Cloak of Levitation actually poking her with a corner. It seemed like it was making sure she wasn't some kind of monster in disguise or something. "The Cloak has a mind of its own, it is very protective and picky at times. But it means well, and it seems to be flirting with you." Stephen says, then it gives a version of a thumbs up, as in giving approval. Then it comes back to him, draping around his shoulders.

"We are done here, go get cleaned up for dinner. You can ditch the formal robes, I will join you and Wong in a few minutes. By the way, please call me Stephen. Save the Master title for formal occasions." The Sorcerer Supreme wraps it up and she is dismissed. They come back to the real world and Meredith goes back to her room and changes back into casual clothes, she had the impression he seemed to like her.

Of course, he didn't have to go through them in the traditional sense. He went face to face with Dormammu and used the Time Stone to make a bargain with it. The creature killed him over and over in a time loop until it gave up and removed Kacillius and his followers from Earth and into the Dark Dimension. It also had to promise never to invade Earth again before the loop was broken. Usually, using the Stone's powers was strictly forbidden but this was an exception.

All those deaths tested Stephen and he managed to master all he had learned, while finding ways to defend himself and even developing some spells of his own. As a reward for his accomplishment, the other Masters decided to promote him into their ranks and gave him the title of "Sorcerer Supreme". It was a great honor given to others much older than him that also came along with great responsibility.

With the information given in the letter, he was now starting to create a plan of how to train Meredith for the trials within a year at her advanced level. It was going to be very interesting at how this will turn out for Stephen was more of a lone wolf type and it was difficult for him when it came to training others.

The three of them enjoyed Wong's dinner that they enjoyed greatly. Meredith told them some of the stories from her trips around the world finding magical artifacts. One involved having to deal with a curse that released creatures protecting the item in question she described as "a hybrid of a pig and wasp, with an extra dose of ugliness and wings." That made Wong laugh hard enough for tea to come out his nose.

Afterwards, she goes back to her room and finishes unpacking, A expansion spell allowed her to bring almost all her possessions in just the bags she brought. Soon the room started to feel more like it was her own. All that was left to do was call her mom, who had been worried since leaving home just hours earlier using a portal. The stress of the day just wore her out.

Meredith was ready to crash, no studying or roaming around while in astral form, just a good night's sleep was what she needed. She could only think about how honored she was chosen to be trained at a Sanctum, hoping to make her Master proud. The Ancient One had seen her hard work pay off. Now she had a way to honor her memory and make her proud by getting her Master status and continuing studying afterwards.

Since day one, Meredith never imagined how far she could go, building up to this point. There was infinite potential inside of her and had only barely scratched the surface. This was also the first step on a path that led to something that didn't involve magic, something she never would have expected.