A teenage girl dressed in ugly, shapeless clothes hitchhikes somewhere in the Midwest. When nobody stops for her, she pulls down her hood to reveal long, blonde hair and a pretty face, and is soon more successful.
In the meantime, Dr. Strange follows the trail of someone who has been attacking people magically.
Later near a hotel, the driver demands sexual favors from the girl. The girl, Illyana, grabs a broom and easily takes the man out. She grew up in a place where they cut each other for fun, she tells him. She briefly manifests glowing eyes and horns.
That moment, Dr. Strange accosts her, telling her that her reign of terror will come to an end this night. He attacks her with an axe and demands to know why she has been terrorizing the local yokels along the interstate. She retorts she’s been defending herself. Strange magically freezes her before she can run away.
Strange admits he thought the malnourished poor thing was just a ruse, but neither form seems to be a disguise, so why does a teen girl have the stink of hell about her? Possession? No, her soul is intact. Her aura checks out as well. He can see that she’s Russian. Moments later, he gasps and asks what has been done to her. He apologizes. Illyana uses his break in his concentration to teleport away.
He follows. She jumps again and again, only to see her last jump took her to a strange house she didn’t mean to teleport to. Strange explains he brought her here. She is a danger to herself and others in her current state… She teleports again but cannot get out.
Does he think he is the first sorcerer to trap her in his home? she spits exhausted and threatens to destroy him. He suggests she stay for lunch first. He’ll let her leave, if she’ll let him feed her. She has that pitiable unfed runaway pallor on her.
He walks ahead, introducing himself and asking her not to touch any of the magical artifacts. Strange? Illyana repeats critically, to be told he had that name before he became Earth’s sorcerer supreme, a fact Illyana has a hard time to swallow. Ignoring her manners, he calls out for Wong, telling him that they have a lunch guest. Does she like pastrami? He changes the topic. She has no idea what that is. Strange again shouts for Wong, claiming she is feral and has no idea what pastrami is.
Then he takes away the sculpture she is handling and informs her this is the Artificer’s Argot, a device created with the express purpose of killing magic wielders. She asks why he has something like this on display. It’s pretty, Strange replies.
When Wong has brought a ton of sandwiches, Illyana asks him if he likes this master. He yelled at him and Wong went out to get all those sandwiches. So, does he like his master or just like being a minion? Wong corrects her that he is Dr. Strange’s assistant, not his underling He’s here because he cares about the work he does and the people he helps.
While wolfing down the sandwiches, Illyana tells the two men her story, how as a little girl she was kidnapped by the sorcerer Belasco and taken to his dimension Limbo. Belasco was a servant of the Elder Gods. He made her his apprentice and told her he loved her and that it would all make sense when she got older. But when she got older, she developed her mutant gift to create teleportation circles. So, after seven years as Belasco’s apprentice she escaped.
Having heard the story, Dr. Strange offers her an apprenticeship and Wong puts his face in his hands at his insensitivity. Furious, Illyana walks away after she notes she still cannot teleport. He runs after her and explains it’s the Sanctum’s wards to keep the wrong people out.
She goes ballistic and asks what kind of person offers her a sorcery apprenticeship after hearing what she went through? Strange apologizes as he accompanies her outside. He wasn’t thinking of that. He only wanted to help the remarkable sorceress he had lunch with today. He also offers her the Sanctum to stay as a safe place while she gets on her feet again. The choice to accept either is hers. Illyana accepts both.
They begin meditating together in the protected space of the Sanctum. Strange informs her she is one of the strongest sorcerers he’s ever met. The signal and strength of her magic was like an auric earthquake as she was traveling down the eastern seaboard. Any magic-minded inhabitant in the area could feel her coming from miles away. It made them very nervous… and with good reason. She’s got savage black magic growing in her (not her fault). She will have to learn to channel that before it becomes destructive. They will never be able to eliminate it from her soul. But since she’s forced to play host to black magic, they’ll at least make it earn its (#/%$ing keep to her. They’ll proceed as she becomes more comfortable using her magic in healthier ways, but for now let’s start with the basics, starting with creation magic.
Conjuring something from nothing, an object that is the purest extension of the sorcerer’s soul. It comes naturally to most of them. He urges her to try to make something. She is trying! Illyana snaps, but to no avail.
They move to something else and Illyana learns quickly as the months pass. But they keep coming back to creation magic and she keeps failing.
Strange changes the venue to a tropical island and Illyana vents about creation magic. He tells her to relax. In other venues, she has improved at a pace that shows she might one day become the most powerful sorcerer on Earth. She will manage. it He thought maybe the change of venue would inspire her. Or would she prefer the cold of her homeland? Did she have a favorite toy growing up? Rock? Dagger? Erm… entrail?
Illyana snaps that he doesn’t get it. She was raised to be the ultimate tool of destruction. Of course, she cannot create! She was built to bring ruin! Why does he bother? No one is this altruistic. At least Belasco’s intentions with her were always clear. Or does he also just prefer the company of little girls?
He replies she is right. His intentions aren’t wholly generous. He is the reigning sorcerer supreme of this world… and he is tired. He wants to retire. So, let him put her mind at ease. He is training her to become the next sorcerer supreme, and it is not a gift. It is a sentence. But it will never happen, because she thinks she is too broken to even do creation magic… and she prefers to stay that way.
Illyana turns away and concentrates, trying not to think of the destruction she was mean to bring. Finally, she creates something, a beautiful magical staff, made from part of her soul.
She smiles in triumph at being able to create a thing of such beauty, despite Belasco’s attempt to bury her. She turns around, to see her worst nightmare: Belasco holding his sword to Strange’s throat. “Hi sweetie, I missed you,” he leers at her.
He’s been looking everywhere for her. Shame on her for making him worry like that. No one knows her like he does. He loves her so much. He has been scrying for the scent of her sorcery across the universe for the past year. But today he finally finds her and she is with another sorcerer? he shouts.
Strange easily frees himself and has Belasco swallowed by the ground. That’s enough of that, thank you, he tells him. He only let him speak so long, because he wanted to find out how Belasco found them, but it seems he just plain lucked out. He congratulates Belasco sarcastically for only managing to find them on the one day they were working outside his home.
Strange turns to Magik and tells her that her creation magic is particularly potent. How about they show her former tutor all the offensive new magic she has mastered? Illyana doesn’t reply. In her mind, she still feels like a helpless child.
In the meantime, Belasco has freed himself and Strange faces him. To his surprise, however, Belasco’s blend of black magics gets the better of him.
Suddenly, Illyana stabs Belasco with her staff, realizing it is particularly deadly to sorcerers. But with Belasco dead, to her horror, she starts manifesting signs of black magic like horns. She just wanted to be good! she cries before her powers break loose.
Dr. Strange cradles Illyana to himself and orders her to let go. He has brought her to a blight plane and – when she senselessly insults him he tells her to listen. She is dying. She is so wound up in her grief and rage and hatred that she is using her considerable magical ability to kill herself. She has to let some of that go – right now! She worries that she will hurt him.
Does she think he can’t handle a little teen angst? he scoffs. He is the #&%$ sorcerer supreme! He’s brought her to a doomed dimension because killing it would be a mercy, so if she doesn’t let go of what is killing her right now, he will ground her! No more late-night kitchen privileges! When she protests he orders her to do what he tells her and stop dying! Illyana lets some of that self-destructive energy go.
The two are stuck on a rock that is left, cartoon-like energy beings she created floating around them. What now? she asks. Lunch, he believes.
Life turns normal again. Illyana lives and trains with the two men and Strange gives her a cloak similar to his own. Illyana thinks that Belasco tried to bury her, but she was demanding to grow. This is her beginning…