From the personal memoirs of Doctor Stephen Strange.
The musician John Lennon once stated "There's nowhere you can be that's not where you're meant to be."
Growing up I was a fan of the man's work and that quote always stuck with me. Every step that a man takes is a step towards his destiny which is something that I was distinctly aware of when I awoke in the Ancient One's temple. Everything a man does leads them to their destiny, regardless of whether that destiny is a positive one or a negative one.
I didn't know it at the time but I'd been asleep for little more than two days. Given the pneumonia and frostbite I had suffered during my trip up the mountain it should have taken me a lot longer to recover. Blissfully ignorant of this medical factoid I rose to my feet wearing my bed sheets as a makeshift cloak and made for the door at the end of my room. Thankfully it was unlocked, yet I still felt terrible pain whilst opening it. My hands, while re bandaged were still broken, and that pain reminded me of my reason for being there.
To say I found the Ancient One's temple 'odd' would be accurate while also being an understatement, as soon as my gaze passed over the hallway something in my consciousness seemed to click. Moving through the building's halls I noticed many strange statues, paintings and artifacts that seemed otherworldly in appearance. Figures in the paintings would move and talk behind my back whilst also depicting events on other worlds and realities, statue heads would shift ever so subtly as I walked by and some of the artifacts depicting strange, frighting images would make my mind ache and my grasp on sanity slip just by looking at them.
Reaching the end of the hallway after what felt an endless eternity I finally found the one that I sought. Of course if it hadn't been for the throne that the Ancient One sat upon I doubt I would have known who it was. In my mind I had been expecting an old, wizened monk but the person who sat before me bore the appearance of a young man in his twenties, younger than even me. At first entering the room I thought there had been some sort of mistake but upon hearing the One's voice I knew that somehow this was the man I'd been looking for.
"Enter Stephen Strange." The One had said in a deep, booming voice that shook the building. "You have been expected."
I did as I was told and asked who the Ancient One was just to be certain.
"Though there are many upon this Earth who have known of me there are very few who know me. I was one of the Earth's first and am now it's last, true Ancient One."
"But you're just a boy!" I remember saying in utter disbelief.
"And you are just a man who stands before your betters! Betters who know more than you. Who even know you are here."
The Ancient One had risen from his seat by this point and approached me, his head barely reaching to my chin. In his hands he gripped a black, metal staff, a purple crystal sat at the staff's top and seemed to blink as he approached me.
"Y... you know about my hands?" I stammered out.
"I know a great many things Stephen Strange. Your life. Your past. Even to some degree your future. I knew you'd come to my home at the peak of the world before even you did."
There had been a great deal of confusion filling my mind by that point, not to mention I was still exhausted from my trip up to the mountain and so by the time the Ancient One had finished explaining the many things that he knew the only real thing I could think to ask was how he knew these things.
"Magic." Came the reply that left me stunned. He saw the look on my face and chuckled in the nasty way he did, a mocking chuckle I'd become acquainted with in the coming months. "I harness the vast energies of the multiverse Stephen Strange, making use of spells and rituals for a myriad of tasks that involve the defense of this realm and many others just like it."
I didn't believe him, which I promptly told him. Even as a boy visiting the circus with my siblings I'd never been one for magic, it had just never made sense to me. In many ways it still doesn't, yet while the Ancient One was wise beyond words he was lacking greatly in patience. With a sudden flick of his fingers and a yelled incantation he let loose a burst of black flame from his wrist that shot up into the ceiling before dispersing as if it never existed.
Again the Ancient One looked at my stunned expression and again he chuckled the laugh that reminded me of shattered glass grinding together.
"Believing is good Doctor. I believe you were mistaken." With another yell the One whipped his arm around through the air and unleashed a torrent of crimson coloured butterflies that fluttered down the hallway I'd come from. "Training in magic is a powerful tool used by few. Its possibilities are endless, for it manipulates the universe itself and it has the potential to save life or corrupt it. That is why there are few allowed to wield it." He cleared his throat in a manner that did not reflect a young man and then looked at me as if he could see my soul. "I am offering you a chance to be one of those few."
"Are... are you saying I could use magic to fix my hands?" I'd asked that as a few tears began to drip down my cheeks. The Ancient One had simply given a wry smile before returning to his throne.
"I'm saying that when you're ready, you won't have to. Now return to your room!" He commanded in a terrible tone. "Your instruction shall begin at dawn, for that is when life and therefore magic is at its strongest."
I left the room in a rush, muttering quick farewells and thanks in an almost gibberish like manner. My mind wasn't quite sure what it had just witnessed and was having trouble rationalizing things. I'd been a man of science before hand, I still am. Yet seeing something so far from the realm of tangibility had thrown me completely into an almost manic state. Yet as I walked back through the halls I noted that the statues and decoration didn't fill me with as much dread as they had before.
On my way back to my room I came across the one who'd saved me on the mountain, he was wearing green robes and barely regarded me as he locked his room.
"H... hello." I had said, intimidated by the stern, almost cold look he gave. The man who would come to be known by me as Mordo said nothing as he stormed past and approached the Ancient One's chambers to have a conversation I wouldn't know about until much later.
Just writing the man's name fills my heart with dread. Yet whenever I feel my heart turning black with despair I think to the words my father once said and remember that it's not just our hands that shape destiny but everyone that we meet.
Magic. Sometimes I still struggle to believe it.
(To be continued).