In a dark, damp cave in a remote section of the Far East, there dwells a legendary man known as the aged Genghis. His studies have brought him great knowledge in the ways of sorcery. The years have brought him madness. ‘Please, exalted one, you must eat!’ exclaims Genghis another man, an acolyte of a nearby temple, for whom without, Genghis would have long ago forgotten to feed himself. Save for this acolyte and others like him, Genghis lives the life of a hermit - visited only by the occasional pilgrim and a few select errant spirits - like this one, the astral form of Dr. Stephen Strange a.k.a. Dr. Strange the Sorcerer Supreme.
‘Peace be with thee, aged Genghis! Doctor Strange bids thee greeting!’ Strange exclaims, before seeing the concern in the acolyte, Strange tells him to fear not, and explains that he is no a marauding demon, but a mystic of the Genghis’ own order. Strange explains that what he is allowing them to see is merely his ectoplasmic astral form, and that his physical shell resides halfway around the world. He remarks that this was merely the speediest way for him to speak with the aged Genghis. ‘Speak…with me?’ Genghis asks.
Strange explains to Genghis that he must know if he has perhaps recommended him to prospective disciples. ‘Disciples? I wouldn’t recommend disciples for anyone!’ the Genghis replies, adding that they are an ignorant, ungrateful lot, and tells Dr. Strange that he discourages all disciples, revealing that he got rid of his centuries ago. The Genghis exclaims that recently, several would-be followers came around, but he sent them on his way, telling them to seek out ‘A Dr. Strange in the Americas’. The Genghis reveals that he sensed Dr. Strange’s old disciple had left him. ‘Yes, Dr. Strange was his name…have you heard of him?’
The acolyte informs the Genghis that this is Dr. Strange before him. ‘Really? It is an honor meeting you!’ Genghis exclaims. Strange replies that the honor belongs to him, before telling Genghis that he would be doing him a great service if he would more completely discourage other such followers, for he neither desires nor needs a disciple at this time. ‘Good for you! Did I tell you what a nuisance they can be?’ Genghis asks, before stating that hw will not tolerate disciples around him, only allowing these acolytes to see him. ‘Acolyte! You there! I hunger!’ the old man exclaims. The acolyte sighs, ‘Yes, exalted one’.
Strange’s astral form floats up, and as he suspected, it was the Genghis who started the parade of would-be mystics to his door. Strange thinks that the Genghis is a poor old soul, having all this knowledge locked in his mind, yet being barely aware of it. Strange bids his farewell to the Genghis, ‘May the Vishanti smile upon you!’ he exclaims as his astral form dives into the Earth. ‘Smile? Oh, smile…yes! And on you!’ the mad man replies.
Unbound by physical laws, Dr. Strange’s astral form passes down, through rocky mantle and molten magma, slipping through the very substance of the Earth - and emerging thousands of miles away in the twinkling of an eye. Soaring up out of the ground, he floats into the very heart of Greenwich Village, toward an old dwelling - the sanctum which houses his physical body, which is currently hovering in a darkened room. ‘Doctor Strange? Can’t you hear me?’ exclaims the comely Amanda Sefton.
‘Quite clearly, Ms. Szardos…now’ Strange replies, addressing Amanda by her real name. Jimaine as she is known gets a fright, and drops to her knees before Dr. Strange, who tells her to rise, as there is no need to humble herself. Amanda apologizes and explains that with all that has happened, she supposes she is a bit spooked by magic. Amanda exclaims that she and her mother owe Dr. Strange so much, and tells him that the past few years have been a nightmare for her family, explaining that they were just poor gypsies when her mother became possessed.
Amanda explains that the possession worked its way through their bloodline and the power controlling her mother began to control her too. Strange tells Amanda that there is no need to apologize for her fears, and reveals to her that he once found the mystic arts frightening also. ‘Really?’ asks a surprised Amanda, while noting that Strange commands his cloak of levitation with a mere gesture, so it is hard to believe that he was not even born into sorcery. Dr. Strange informs Amanda that the power of mysticism is there for any who are willing to devote themselves to its study and use it wisely.
Amanda replies that it would be nice to exercise some control of magic, for her mother’s curse was that a magic force controlled her. Amanda exclaims that her mother was a mind slave to an enchanted wand of power that had transformed her mother. Amanda tells Dr. Strange that if he had not wrested that accursed wand from her, then she might have never returned to her true form. Dr. Strange asks Amanda how her mother is doing now. Amanda replies that her mother is well of the flesh, if not the soul, but she only sits in the room that Strange lets them stay in, seeking to reconcile with her past transgressions.
The old gypsy woman sits by a window and prays to the holy mother, asking for forgiveness in the name of the father, son and holy ghost. ‘May your prayers be answered, Mother Szardos!’ Dr. Strange exclaims as he enters the guest room and places a hand on the shoulder of the Sorceress Supreme. Margali asks Strange to be blessed also, to which Strange tells her that he only did which was his duty, before telling her that it is time she was on her way home.
Shortly, Strange’s servant, Wong, places Amanda and Margali’s bags into a cab and Dr. Strange informs the Szardos’ that the cab will take them wherever they want to go, before asking if they are sure that they need no more care. Amanda tells Dr. Strange that he has done more than enough, and informs him that she has an apartment uptown where her mother can rest for a few days before they head back to the old country. Dr. Strange’s secretary-of-sorts Sara Wolfe waves to Amanda and tells her to make sure they call when they finally get to Munich. Amanda replies that she will, and bids everyone farewell.
Sara looks at Strange and calls him a “big softie”. ‘I beg your pardon, Sara?’ Sara reminds Strange of how he was prepared to book them a first class ticket to Europe, and would have, if Jimaine’s status as a flight attendant hadn’t assured them safe passage. Sara remarks that first class to Europe for two would have cost a bundle. Strange narrows his eyes and asks Sara ‘What of it?’, before telling her that one should never be enslaved by material concerns. ‘One shouldn’t forget to pay the phone bill, either’ Sara replies. A he goes back into his home, Strange reminds Sara that is why he hired her to handle his business affairs, before telling her not to worry, as he promises not to become so helpless that he must be fed by acolytes.
Returning to the inner most halls of his sanctum sanctorum, Dr. Strange enters his chamber of shadows to begin his days work. ‘At my command, let the seal be broken…let the all-seeing orb of Agamotto be revealed!’ he announces. With an eerie, unnatural silence, the lid of the case splits open, allowing the enchanted sphere to rise. The glow is so bright that even Stephen Strange must avert his eyes for an instant. Then, he stares directly into the burning crystal - and the worlds of a dozen adjacent dimensions are laid open for his inspection.
Strange sees nothing wrong, everything seems normal in the universes nearest to Earth, before wondering what of the Dark Dimension? What of the Native Universe? And what of Clea? Strange recalls how Clea left him to lead a rebellion against Umar, her dimensions present ruler. He wonders if he should now look in on his former disciple…his lost love? After a moments thought, Strange decides against it, for if he was to scan Clea’s realm, Umar would become suspicious and he could imperil the entire rebellion, dashing all of Clea’s hopes. ‘That I shall not do. Much as I might want to, I dare not probe the Dark Dimension’.
The Dark Dimension…one would think it ill-named, for it is a surreal domain of kaleidoscopic light and color. But here, in the Dark Dimension, there is no joy…no hope. It is a dimension which harbors the darkness of soul. It is here that the G’uranthic guardian stands eternal watch over the burning gates of the palace of Dormammu, threatening all who would intrude on its monarch. And here, on the very fringe of the dimension stands the symbol of the ruling family’s power…a shimmering wall of mystic energies. In conjuring this barrier, Dormammu and his sister, Umar rose to power. This wall is all that protects the citizens of the realm from the awful savagery of…the Mindless Ones!
Tireless, indestructible brutes, they live only to fight, to crush and to destroy. Yet, it appears that someone has dared to pass into the compound of the mindless ones! For within the shimmering wall, now stands a crimson dome of protection.
Within that crimson dome, a group of beings have gathered together, and one of them exclaims ‘This is madness, I tell you! Madness!’ He points out that their lives - the very existence of the rebellion are all in jeopardy every moment they spend here. Another man asks the first, Modahr, what he would have them do. ‘Go knocking on Mistress Umar’s door and ask her to kindly retire?’ The silver-tressed Clea asks her companions to be still, reminding them that they asked her to leave Earth, to return her and your rebellion, which is precisely what she intends to do - but she will not tolerate any more of this bickering. ‘You follow me…or you follow Umar! Understood?’ Clea declares.
One of the men replies that they most assuredly follow Clea, reminding her that she was the first to ever defy the royal family and live. ‘You have our trust!’ Clea replies ‘Good’ before telling her companions that it will not be easy to bring freedom and liberty to this realm, but assures them that it can be done. ‘With your help, it will be done!’ she exclaims, before revealing that she has a plan.
Meanwhile, at that very moment, in the vastness of the mighty palace. The sinister Umar sits upon her throne and thinks that something is very wrong, though she is not sure what. Umar supposes that her foolish brother has undoubtedly met defeat on his ill-conceived travel through time, otherwise the flames of regency would not have appeared about her own head. However, Dormammu’s misfortune does not trouble Umar. Umar thinks to herself that at long last it is she who sits upon the azure throne - her birthright has been fulfilled and all is as it should be.
However, Umar suspects that something is still amiss with her realm - she can sense it. Getting up from her throne, Umar decides to isolate the disturbance, for nothing must threaten her reign. Umar uses her phenomenal powers to cast forth some strange flames. ‘Flames of Faltine join…cohere! Gain ye voice and be my seer!’ she cries. Green flames appear before the powerful woman, informing her that they hear and obey. Umar informs the flames that she has felt a psychic perturbation and asks if it is a danger to her rule. ‘A darkness there is, and a danger there shall be!’ reply the flames.
Umar orders the flames to name the cause, and the flames informs Umar that her own blood, her own flesh, will rise up against her. ‘Enough!’ shouts Umar, exclaiming that she asks for counsel, yet received riddles, she orders the flames to be gone. The flames disappear, and Umar wonders what they meant that her own blood and flesh would betray her. Umar has long been beyond the pains of the flesh, and cannot think of anyone who - ‘No! It cannot be!’ she thinks, but knows that there is no other answer. ‘My own flesh and blood…Clea!’
Back on Earth, Strange decides that the search must go on, for somewhere in the vast infinity of universes lurks and entity which has ever thwarted him, and although he has yet to truly meet it, he knows it exists. Time and time again Stephen Strange has been frustrated in his efforts to find it, and although he has defeated the lesser demons used as minions, he has failed to uncover the power behind it all - even the name eludes him. Strange thinks that this master force must wield a power beyond all known sorcery, for all he has been able to discover about the unknown entity is that it “dwells in darkness”.
However, it is not of Dormammu’s dimension…it does not seem to be of any dimension! Even to ponder the nature of this creature fills Strange with a dread greater than any he has ever felt, greater than personal despair. Therefore, Strange decides that he must find it, for he is convinced that if he does not seek it out and confront it, it will visit him - no doubt when he is least prepared to face it. Suddenly, ‘The time is now!’ cries a voice.
‘Forgive me, master!’ exclaims Wong, remarking that he would never have disrupted Strange’s contemplations, but that he had wished him to come get him on the hour of their session. Strange remembers that he did indeed, and assures Wong that his interruption was well timed, as he was getting nowhere with an unpleasant duty, so he welcomes the diversion. ‘Very good, master!’ exclaims Wong, before announcing that he will go prepare the room. Then, with a single mystic pass, Dr. Strange seals the enchanted orb away.
Moments later, he follows his servant into a noticeably sunnier room. The two men take off their shirts as Strange tells Wong he is glad he suggested this the other day, for the both tend to concentrate on the spiritual side of their lives, only to the detriment of the physical. Strange tells Wong that whenever he is ready, they can begin the workout. Straight away, Wong raises his foot to Strange’s face.
Suppressing a startled chuckle, Strange instantly slips into a stance he first learned long ago in the mountains of Tibet. Wong reacts just as quickly, no longer do these two play master and servant. Now they are equals. Wong is a man who spent much of his youth in the study of martial arts, and although that was years ago, the passage of time has done little to diminish his speed, or agility, which is proven as he leaps over Strange. ‘Wow!’ thinks a dreamy-eyed Sara Wolfe as she watches Wong.
Finally, after nearly an hour, Strange tells Wong to hold, pointing out that they do not want to overdo it. Sara tells the men that it was very impressive, and that she hasn’t seen anything like it since “Fists of Fury” played at the Waverly Theater. Sara goes over to Wong, telling him that he is a regular Jackie Chan, adding that she never suspected he knew moves like that. Wong replies that he who knows does not speak, and he who speaks does not know, before excusing himself.
Strange tells Sara that Wong is a good man and has served him faithfully over the years, and through Wong’s service, he has found a greater wisdom than most could imagine. Noticing Sara is acting strangely, Stephen asks her if something is troubling her. ‘Do you remember Douglas Royce?’ Sara asks. Dr. Strange’s mind races back to that night when Sara’s friend Royce met his end outside a Village nightspot, killed by magical means, though Strange was unsure who did it and why, until he soon tracked down the “who” - a pair of neo-demons revealed themselves and fell before Strange’s spells, however the reason behind Royce’s murder remained a mystery.
Stephen tells Sara that he remembers, to which Sara holds up a letter, informing Strange that she received it from the attorney who is handling Douglas’ estate, and he wants her to come see him at Douglas’ apartment uptown. Sara adds that the funny thing is the lawyer asked her to meet him after dark “for the ease of all concerned”. Sara tells Strange that perhaps she is just being silly, but there is something about this rendezvous after dark that sounds screwy to her.
Strange asks to see the letter, so Sara hands it to him and he reads it, deciding that everything appears to be legitimate, but that he is also picking up some strange vibrations, and offers to accompany Sara if she wishes. Sara tells Strange that he would be more than welcome, before reminding him of his dinner date tonight. Putting on his outfit, Strange replies that he can postpone it, and supposes he should get it out of the way with now.
Moments later, in a fashionable Soho apartment, Morgana Blessing strides to her ringing telephone, thinking that it never fails - every time she sits down for a soak in the tub, the phone rings. Morgana answers the phone, and Strange greets her, hoping that he hadn’t pulled her away from anything. Morgana replies that he didn’t before remarking that she didn’t expect to hear from him until this evening. Strange explains to Morgana that something has come up that requires his professional attention, so he will not be able to meet her at seven after all.
Morgana tells Stephen that is a shame, for she found a new sushi place that she knows he would love, and asks if they could perhaps meet later. Strange replies ‘Hopefully’ but that he cannot make any promises. Morgana tells Strange that she understands, and before biding him farewell, tells him to be careful. Morgana wonders if Strange’s old medical practice kept him as busy as his magic does, before thinking that it is so unreal to think that she socializes with an actual sorcerer. Morgana knows that the forces Stephen deals with are so powerful, and hopes that he can handle whatever it is waiting for him out there tonight.
The last fleeting rays of sunlight streak the skies over Central Park West as day ends. And as night begins, Dr. Strange and Sara Wolfe make their way up the wide boulevard to the former lodgings of Douglas Royce, amid the 19th Century splendor of the Dakota Apartments. Walking along a foyer, Strange asks Sara if something else is the matter, as she seems unusually tense. Sara replies that she thinks it is this building, pointing out that although Strange’s place is weird, she has gotten used to it, but that the Dakota has always struck her as sort of creepy.
Knocking on a door, Sara remarks that they did film “Rosemary’s Baby” here, and the few times that she visited Douglas here, she always expected Vincent Price to be lurking behind every door - suddenly, the door opens, and a man bids Sara good evening, telling her that he has been expecting her. Sara and Strange enter the apartment, and the man introduces himself as Henry Kagle of Kagle & Kenyon. Kagle asks them to excuse the mess, explaining that he has been trying to make sense of Mr. Royce’s papers for days now.
Sara smiles and tells Kagle that it is all right, but Kagle moves some papers from a chair and tells her that he insists. Sara begins to make her way to the chair, when suddenly Dr. Strange stops her, exclaiming ‘You’ll not want to accept this creature’s hospitality’. Sara is shocked, and Kagle asks if he has done something to offend. With a mere thought, Strange disperses the illusion which hid his outfit, before exclaiming ‘You cannot deceive a sorcerer, monster!’
A bright light fills the room, centering on Kagle as Strange tells him that he cannot hide his true nature from the all-seeing light of his enchanted amulet. ‘Behold, Sara! This man has no shadow!’ Strange exclaims. Strange tells Sara to fear not, and casts the scarlet screen of Cyttorak around her to protect her from harm. Kagle lifts up a heavy desk, telling Strange that he is pretty good with the light shows, before tossing the desk at him and asking how good he is with something solid.
Sara alerts Strange to the incoming desk, and Strange ducks just in time, surprised at how Kagle hurled the desk as if it were a toy, though he should have known to expect that kind of strength from someone of his ilk. Dr. Strange begins to cast a spell, trapping Kagle in a sort of cage. Kagle boasts that it won’t hold him for long, and as it fades away, Strange reveals that it was never meant to, before casting some green bonds, preventing Kagle from moving his feet or hands.
Strange then unleashes the light again, which Kagle tries to shield himself from. Strange remarks that Kagle’s kind have ever feared the light of truth, before boasting that by the Eye of Agamotto he shall discover what Kagle had planned for Sara. Kagle cries that Strange has got him all wrong, before declaring that he cannot stand anymore of the light, as it burns him. Suddenly, Kagle is free from the bindings, and turned into an ethereal mist, of which Strange had forgotten they could do, however Strange did sense a hesitation on Kagle’s part in assuming that state.
Strange also takes into account how quickly Kagle reverts back to his human guise. Kagle exclaims that he swore he would never do that, that he would never give into the curse that much. He mutters that he didn’t want to, but the light was so bright - even worse than the sun! Dr. Strange detects the revulsion in Kagle’s voice, and notes at how he shakes, like an addict going through withdrawal - but something about him is very different.
The Eye of Agamotto attaches itself to Strange’s forehead and Strange begins to probe his captive’s psyche - but more gently this time. After a moment, Strange releases Sara from her mystical protection, before helping Kagle to a chair. Sara tells Strange that she is sure he knows what he is doing, ‘But just what are you doing?’ she asks, pointing out that one minute he is going at it tooth and nail with this guy and the next he is acting like a long lost buddy.
Dr. Strange informs Sara that there has been an unfortunate misunderstanding, and assures her that they have nothing to fear from Kagle. Kagle thanks Strange for the testimonial, before remarking that he hasn’t been a real man in some time - at least not a living one. “Not living?” Sara asks, before asking Kagle if he expects her to believe that a ghost or something has summoned her to the apartment of a dead friend. ‘Can the icy tones, sister, they don’t suit you!’ Kagle retorts, before revealing that he is no spook, and introducing himself by his real name, Hannibal King, adding that he is a private detective.
Suddenly, Kagle - or rather Hannibal King’s - appearance begins to change, and he reveals that he is also what one calls a vampire! ‘VAMPIRE!?’ exclaims a frightened Sara. Hannibal jokes that he didn’t get his teeth in a novelty store, before telling Sara not to worry, as he has never sunk his fangs into any single living thing. Hannibal tells Sara that she doesn’t look so well, and suggests that perhaps she is the one who should be sitting down. Hannibal gets up so Sara can sit down, and he apologizes for pulling the old lawyer act on them, and explains that he wasn’t sure where Sara figured in on Royce’s life story.
Hannibal reveals that Royce was a friend of his and points out that it is looking more and more like a case he is working on might be linked with Royce’s murder. Dr. Strange assures King that he can count on them for any assistance. Strange them points out that they haven’t been formally introduced, and introduces himself, remarking that the public see him as an expert on occult lore, adding that King has seen he is somewhat more. Going over to a window and looking out if, King tells Strange that he has a real talent for understatement.
King reveals that he has heard of Strange, and remarks that he could use a little magical muscle on this case, as it is a crazy mess involving cults, demons and even worse. Hannibal warns Strange and Sara though, that they will be playing for high stakes and unless he has missed his guess, this all ties in with the resurrection of the nastiest creep who ever walked, bit or flew. ‘Maybe you’ve heard of him…a gent by the name of Dracula!’