From the personal memoirs of Doctor Stephen Strange
My time in the Ancient One's temple passed at a quick pace from that point onward.
Using the Book of the Vishanti and other tomes provided by the temple's library I found I had an almost supernatural talent for the mystic arts. By the end of my first week I could only summon a spark of flame to appear on the tips of my fingers, yet by the end of my first month could summon a whirling dervish of fire capable of incinerating whatever I thrust it upon.
The Ancient One taught me what reading could not, helping me learn to enter a meditative state at will and even taught me in various forms of martial arts.
"You do realize I'm a cripple?" I had asked during our first session. Like he always did in the face of stupidity the Ancient One chuckled and then offered his wisdom.
"You do realize the universe doesn't care?"
That had been something I learned fairly quickly, in truth there was very little to do in the temple but learn and I had always been a keen student. One fact that stuck out to me was that our reality was but one of many and the other realities, countless in number, were home to endless horrors that the Ancient One himself protected us from. As the Sorcerer Supreme of this dimension the One had been given to indescribable powers and gifts to protect our reality, from what I've heard he's done a pretty good job.
Yet just hearing about the mere existence of these horrors was enough to keep me up at night and motivate me to study my spells all the more. Even the names of such dangerous realities were enough to strike fear, names such as the Dark Dimension and Cancerverse would all come up in my studies and fill my imagination with indescribable images of torture and torment.
By the end of my fifth month I had become more skilled with magic than I ever could have dreamed.
I wasn't the only one who noticed.
"A task for me?" The Ancient One had been standing in front of my door one morning waiting for me to leave, his sudden appearance had given me quite a start.
"That is indeed what I said Strange, I hope you're not becoming hard of hearing."
The task would turn out to be a unique one. My instructions were to leave the temple the next day and make my way to the top of the mountain for some unknown purpose. Nothing too odd except for the fact that Mordo was to accompany me.
Other than our brief interaction at the end of my first day I had barely seen Mordo, other than the odd occasion when we were both perusing the temple library yet nothing had ever been said. I'd always gotten the impression that he detested me and lacked the desire or motivation to try and work around it. When the next day came around I found Mordo waiting for me by the temple entrance dressed in snow gear and wearing a backpack filled with supplies. The two of us began our journey without speaking and it would remain that way for many hours.
The trip to the mountain peak must have been a common occurrence at one point or another as there was a stone path to the temple's right leading upwards. There was a nasty wind in the air that only increased my nerves, Mordo however didn't seem to mind as he lead the way forward. He was a strong man, I realized. Much taller than I could ever hope to be. After some time passed we paused to take a break and finally caught sight of the mountain peak above, there was definitely something happening there. In the dark of the early morning a bright golden light shone from the mountain's top and filled me with a curiosity that would only be sated by reaching that point. This very nearly didn't happen, as when I stood up to continue walking my foot wound up slipping on a piece of frozen stone and I found myself staring down into a black chasm of death.
A slight tugging on my foot however told me my time wasn't up just yet.
"That's two you owe me." Mordo growled as he hefted me back onto the mountain top. I stared at my surprise savior in a state of shock but he simply laughed and carried on walking. Feeling a chill I rubbed my hands together, placed them upon my shoulders and muttered a spell of warmth that removed the cold.
"Strange fellow." I thought to myself before carrying forth.
As we began to reach the peak the winds became a storm of cold and ice that forced us to take shelter within a nearby cave. Battered by the wind we both sat meditating for a while and when that grew tiresome we began to talk. Ironically Mordo seemed to have... warmed to me during our trip.
"Why did you come to the Ancient One?" Mordo had asked. I told him what he wanted to know, told him about my hands and past career which prompted the man to ask why I'd wanted to become a doctor.
"Because of my sister, April." I told him. "I watched her die on the operating table and some small part of me wanted to make sure nothing like that ever happened again." A moment passed and then I asked: "What about you? Why did you join the Ancient One?"
Mordo smiled at this, his smile turning into a grin as he began to tell his story.
"My family were rulers of a small area of Romania. Nothing large but we were happy enough. One night my father went out drinking and never came back. He had gotten into a fight and been murdered." As he spoke the wind outside seemed to get stronger. "Soon my father's killers turned their gaze towards my family. They crept in while we slept and burned them all alive." A well crafted lie, but I wouldn't know that until later.
"I'm sorry to hear that." Was all I said.
"Don't be. It gave me purpose."
We didn't talk much following this. Eventually the winds outside returned to their normal harmless din and we carried on with our journey.
I was the one who reached the peak first and therefore the first to witness the wonder that it held. In the golden light two tall figures stood talking to one another, neither noticing the small audience they had garnered.
"My God!" I said, stunned.
"Yes. I think it is." Was all that Mordo said.
I recognized the two from books I'd read, two celestial beings well beyond the common lives of mortals. One, the weaker of the two was a tall being dressed in white robes. He had a flat, bald head and piercing eyes of blue energy. Throughout my later years I would wind up meeting him many times and come to know him as Uatu the Watcher.
The other figure was much more impressive in appearance, an almost godly being. He wore what appeared to be bright gold armor and a purple hood that was wrapped around his neck. Three faces were etched into the being's skull and my soul shook just looking at him. This one's name was the Living Tribunal and from what I'm told he's second only to the creator of the universe.
As the two spoke their cosmic riddles Mordo and I simply watched in silent awe. Though we could not hear their words we knew they discussed matters that were well and truly above us.
"Perhaps we can get closer..." Mordo muttered after many minutes almost absent minded. My hand shot out and grabbed him before he could move any further. The man looked at me questioningly only to understand as the golden light cast around the two divine beings began to flicker violently.
"We should go." I said, cautious of possible danger. As the seconds passed the light began to shine and shift more and more violently. Not only that, but the bodies of Uatu and the Tribunal flickered similarly. By this point I'd started to back down towards the path we'd used but Mordo remained where he stood. "Mordo, come on!" I yelled angrily.
"But imagine what we could learn..." He began to say only for the sound of cracking thunder to drown him out. Atop the peak the two figures vanished, resulting in a burst of wind and light that came hurtling down towards us. Taking action I grabbed Mordo by the shoulder and pulled him down to the path below. A mere second later the light from the Tribunal's departure passed overhead, bringing with it a force that would have surely knocked us both from the mountain to our deaths.
Mordo lay upon the ground covered in snow. "You saved me!" He gasped.
Looking down at him I smiled, exhausted. "Don't worry. I still owe you one." Then he laughed, and after a moment I joined him. The two of us sat laughing at the top of the mountain and for a moment, the briefest moment, I thought we could be friends.
(to be continued).