|Ain't No Love In The Heart Of The City|
|What: Doctor Strange investigates a wave of mysterious illness and killings in a transient communiy.|
Whatever time of the day - morning, afternoon, evening, night - that Strange would plan on visiting the community, it would be mostly the same. Just the decor would be different. It was a 'clearing' such as it was, between a high rise and a building next to it, where the zoning commmision hadn't quite planned things out properly, and there was a large area - maybe a little under a square acre, of blank asphalt.
At least, it used to be.
Tents had sprouted up all over the landscape, cardboard boxes - what have you. It was a homeless community. Numbering about 10-15 people, they were mostly men. There were a couple women, certainly, clustered in a pair of tents in one corner of the community; but even the women weren't spared from what befalls this community. Sickness.
Men and women both were haggard, pale - and a great many were bed-ridden, by the look of it, being taken care of by the few others that could presumeably still move, with stunted, shuffling steps - and there were rumors in the community. Rumors of a tall, black-cloaked man in a white mask, who visited these people, leaving sickness in his wake.
One of the things an observant man might notice on the alleyway walls, as they entered, was the graffiti. There weren't any gang signs here, nothing of the sort. Instead, there were elaborate crosses, sigils that strange may recognize as protective - but done by someone without any power. Only the occasional one glowed with the faintest hint of power.
Strange rounds the corner into the alleyway at the crack of dawn, and immediately halts to press his gloved fingertips against one of the sigils; when he pulls them away and sees smudges of paint staining his gloves, he frowns, shakes his head, and proceeds into the clearing itself. Just as the lot and its makeshift village have no real place in the city around it, the Doctor - with his bright red vest and jacket, glittering golden brooch, and black slacks - very clearly does not belong here, but he presses on regardless, winding his way through the tent city as quietly as he can.
He'll worry about waking - and tending to - the inhabitants momentarily; for the moment, his focus is on getting a feel for the place's energy. He did a measure of research before coming, but as it turns out, there are a /lot/ of references to black cloaks and white masks to be found amongst his tomes.
Black cloaks and white masks were kinda a trend amongst the magical, weren't they? From avenging angels to old cults of assassins, from cultists of some god or another, black cloaks and white masks have withstood the test of time. And while it narrowed the possibilities - at least the possibilities of connection to a major cult or something - down, it could be something entirely different as well.
He clearly did not belong here.
Not that the inhabitants seemed to be able to do much about it. Or care.
The ones who were mobile were kinda shuffling to and fro, zombie-like, empty expressions on their faces - unless Strange drew too near them. But not all of those who were mobile, as Strange may find out. He would certainly be allowed to get his sense of the place - and it was as if the place had a mask of normality to it - a cloaking spell of sorts. Far more impressive and powerful than the magic of the wards, but for a sorceror of Strange's power, easy enough to shatter - or even just to pull one corner of the mask up, and stare beneath.
Beneath that spell was a soul-crushing, dark void. An oppressive nothing that felt, perhaps, as if it were trying to draw all into it. It wasn't actually a physical force, but just a nothing - a void. The same sort of void that might be felt from the population.
Karen Starr has partially disconnected.
About a quarter of the way into his walkabout, Strange rubs his stomach with a grave frown and tries to ignore his creeping feelings of nausea; about halfway in, he begins to feel something rather like gauze wrapped ever so gently around his eyes, filtering out just enough of the world around him to make it blurrier, less defined than it ought be. His frown deepens as he draws to a gradual halt and brings his circled thumb and middle finger up over his amulet. Something is deeply, terribly wrong here, and he intends to learn what.
"By the Eye of Agamotto," he murmurs as a seam spreads across the center of the amulet, "let these dread--"
He catches a shambling man's eye as he passes by; his partially opened amulet cats bright beams of light out over his haggard body, and that's more than enough cause for him to draw back and give the Doctor plenty of distance. Even with his spell interrupted, Stephen can feel the horror beneath the surface of this neglected corner of the world nipping at him; plenty of reason to draw his fingers - and the amulet - shut, rather than cast the concealment aside. He'll worry about root causes later; there are actual patients who need tending to.right now.
"Good morning," he gently offers, along with an outstretched hand.
The man was murmuring. Looking closer at him - he had sunken, red-rimmed eyes, a handful of wrinkles, and an unkept beard, twisted and full of dirt and grime. His clothes were in a state, as well. He was wearing a suit jacket that must have adorned a high flying businessman a handful of years ago, a turtleneck shirt, and a scarf. Snow pants complete the picture, tucked into well-worn shoes. He wasn't wild-eyed - but his eyes had a certain faraway glance to him - even as he actually turns his eyes back towards Strange, brow furrowed as if uncomprehending.
The noise of the greeting - and the spell, seems to have awoken someone in the tent he was near - there were groaning and scraping noises from that.
"Gotsomechangemister... coulduse somechange..." the man says, voice a dry, slightly fast little mumble, his words slurring into others as if he were drunk. "I'm-so-hungry..." he says, stepping forward towards the Sorceror Supreme, palm held upwards, covered in a ratty old driving glove. There was a pause, and the man looks bewildered again, as if his mind was catching up to what was before him. "Whaddaya..." he says, drawing in a deep breath. "Whatareyadoin' here? Come to... sleep? No beds here," he says, a faint glimmer of consciousness touching his features. "No beds here, no sir."
The Doctor slowly shakes his head as that extended hand falls. "No, not at all," he answers with the same warm, inviting smile that once comforted patients about to go under the knife. He slowly approaches the man, palm facing him to show that he means no harm. "I've no money to give you, but I may be able to offer you--" He turns his head towards a rustling tent. "--all of you something more valuable--if you'll allow me, that is." When he's a few feet away from the man, he stops and tries to lay a gentle hand on his shoulder.
"Something is amiss here, and I intend to see it fixed. I'm a Doctor; you're /safe/, now. I promise."
The man jumped again - one imagines that Strange moved slow enough to not startle the man, but it had happened anyway. There was a moment, and his eyes track towards the Doctor, his mouth opening to hang, slack-jawed on his face.
A long moment, and that rustling in the tent fades away.
"We're only safe if we stay here - if we go out. Go out there," he says, his voice tracking lower and slower, bringing a hand up to point back towards the very alleyway that Strange came from. "He'll find us. He'll end us. He'll end you too, you know. But you can't help it - there's no more beds here. You've /got/ to go."
"I welcome him to try; from what I've seen, he has quite a lot to answer for, here," Strange replies. He gives the man's shoulder a (very) light squeeze try and settle the man's nerves, but there's still a note of sadness underlying his words that can't possibly be conducive to lifting his spirits. It's difficult to keep it at bay; just /being/ here is begining to make him want to find a dark corner and weep for a while.
His bedside manner is, perhaps, a little rusty these days.
"I've no interest in taking you from your home," he quietly continues, drawing his hand back, "if this is where you wish to be; I simply wish to help. Anything - anything at all - that you could tell me about the man in black - about what you and your friends are going through - would help immensely, sir."
In fact, by the moment, that soul-sucking nothing, that aura of dread and of sadness that was drawing the energy out - in spite of the cloaking spell, in spite of the mask - Strange could probably still sense it grow stronger. Step by step. Step by step. "Don't want to go home," says the man, his head lolling. "I don't... I got to get back to the office. Lunch break is almost over. No wallet. Wrong clothes. Need some change for the meter. Change? You... you..." he says, his words drawing off again. He reaches up to grab Strange's forearm if he can before the Doctor pulls his hand back - it was a strong grip, not the one of a wastrel - but still one easily freed from if Strange prefers it. A strong grip that was fading as that background feeling was intensifying. He finally matches eyes with Strange - and in spite of the wrinkles, in spite of the wear and tear of his body, the Sorcerer Supreme might be able to tell that he was staring into the eyes of a young man.
All throughout the tent city, one might hear the beating of fists against the walls - and that hand in the rustling tent near the pair of men lifts, and one can see the impression of it against the wall. "Supposed to catch the man in robes. Supposed to catch him, and beat him against the ground, beat him against the ground, then he will let us go. Then he will let us go," the man says, his voice starting to slip and crack, as if on the verge of tears.
"There are no beds here..." he says, his eyes finally going faraway again. Strange might feel a dropping sensation without actual movement - and the wizened Sorcerer may know that someone, or something - drew him somewhere else, no doubt without his permission. Even moreso - that this place might be a place of thinness between Earth and... somewhere else. It may be easy enough to step back again.
Everything looked the same, though - except that the entrance to the alleyway no longer existed. Instead, there was a brick wall that stretched up, and over the top of the place, forming a box, essentially - and the brick wall glowed with a sigil. A mark. A brand.
And in the back of Strange's mind, he may sense... something else as that aura grows even stronger.
"Of course," Strange quietly begins, hoping to soothe the man. "Then I won't force--"
--but the once-upon-a-time salaryman keeps rambling, and the longer he goes, the harder it is for Stephen to look him in the eye--or at all. The Master of the Mystic Arts begins to draw back as he's begged for change, yet again; what right does he have, really, to stumble in here throwing promises and weird lights around as though they /need/ him?
Given the way just one of them degraded within mere minutes of making contact with him, who's to say that they wouldn't be better off without him after all?
"--I--" The Doctor tentatively murmurs as he presses leather-clad fingers to his brow. "--these magics are--?!" The vagrant's too-strong grip around Stephen's wrist snaps him out of his fog; after pulling himself free, he takes several steps back to put some distance between the two of them.
"Sir," he sharply begins, "I assure you: whom or /what/ever has put you on this path is using you; I'm here to /help/ you!" he repeats. "You needn't--" He stops when his heel hits one of the echoing tents' stakes and nearly stumbles when hands start clawing at the material in a vain attempt at grabbing his leg. He stares at the bulging shapes for a moment before looking back to the vagrant.
His breath catches for a moment, and once he recovers, Stephen quickly turns in place to verify what he already knows: the Sorceror Supreme has walked directly into a trap.
"Curse me for a novice," he mutters beneath his breath as his eyes fix on that burning sigil. Exhaling, he slides his hands into the pockets of his jacket, the ends of which begin to flutter a little on a breeze that wasn't here before. "Alright, then," he speaks up. "You have me, now: you may release these people from your grasp." The amulet on his chest cracks open and motes of golden light bleed from the split.
"This is not a negotiation; I haven't the patience this morning, I'm afraid," he quietly adds.
Some of the tents can be heard unzipping - other 'homeless' drag themselves out of the cardbord forts they have created. And when they stand, and look around bleary eyed, one can see they are a microcosm of the city. There - a video store clerk, overweight and panting, his torn-open shirt showing ragged scars from his own fingernails beneath. There - a police officer, cap long abandoned, his eyes looking towards the mouth of the alleyway - uniform all scuffed and ripped, unused gun still holstered at his side. There an actual homeless person, unless he has been there some time. There, a pedestrian - a busker. They were murmuring, the jabbering voices creating a cacophony.
But in an instant, they stop - eyes searching the ceiling, eyes searching the ground as they seek... something that wasn't there.
But there it was - and amongst the men and women a wail comes up, most falling to their knees as that presence is just felt.
"STRANGE. WHAT A SURPRISE."
It was a voice unspoken. It was a rumble in the walls, in the very fibre of one's being, and it was a rumble that each of the homeless cry out again in agony to hear. "I HAVE A BETTER OFFER. WHY DO WE NOT COME TO TERMS, YOU AND I?" says the not-voice, "YOU FELT THAT SPELL, NO DOUBT, AS YOU ENTERED. BREAK IT, AND I WILL RELEASE EVERYONE HERE - INCLUDING YOURSELF, DEAR DOCTOR," it says, and one can almost hear the cloying poison in its voice.
If one were to glance back towards the alleyway wall - although one could be forgiven such things, they may see a point of light, as if there were a candle in the wall, magic flowing through it.
As the ruined, chattering masses of those the city forgot crawl out of their tent, Strange tries to keep his horror, his fears that their ravaged bodies are beyond even magical aid at bay--for /their/ sake, lest their captor grow any stronger. That he can barely keep his eyes off of them makes it that much harder to keep his emotions in check; when he sees the video clerk's shredded chest, he takes a step in that direction and begins to reach before tentatively drawing his hand back.
Treat the disease, and not the symptoms, the Doctor tries to remind himself. /Tries/; it's getting difficult to think about much of anything with every voice in the tent city jabbering at him at once. As the last few people come out, he's grinding his teeth together and fighting the urge to clap his hands over his ears to shut out some of the noise--just in case their captor is /present/.
He is, as it turns out, a touch premature, there; to his credit, though, he manages to weather the rising howl without buckling, despite the ringing in his ears.
"Hh--!" he grunts as the creator's voice slices through him; after swallowing and smoothing the grimace from his features, he glances around at the tentfolk, then fixes his eyes on the sigil. "Ah," he breathes out as his amulet snaps all the way open to reveal the glowing, golden eye within. It slowly sweeps to and fro, revealing all that it can about the magics at play here. "A simple offer and a /generous/ one, at that; I'm impressed." He manages a small, tight smile. "I've not met many of your ilk who're nearly so reasonable."
Whether or not the people were beyond help would be the opinion of a professional, no doubt. Torment at the hands of some unknown thing, living in a directionless haze for weeks on end. Strange reaches for the video store clerk, and there was conciousness in his eyes - those brilliantly blue eyes of the man looking towards Strange, before he grinds his own teeth and grunts out wretchedly. But all the chittering, all the moaning, all the dissodant craze of the sound comes to a halt, as each and every one sinks to their knees - collapsing to the ground. Not the once-salaryman, though. He sinks to his knees, and reaches up to Strange, his empty eyes searching and his fingers wobbling - before he just kinda lets his arm sink, his head hanging loose.
"SLEEP. JUST FOR A MOMENT, PRECIOUS, PRECIOUS CHILDREN..." comes a long whisper, many of those twitching and moaning softly - much more softly than before, as if in a disturbing dream. And in the very back of that tent city, several of the tents - some of the cardboard boxes start to vibrate, and then pluck themselves out of the ground, flying towards the alley wall.
When it strikes - it was if someone threw hamburger at the wall - but that 'hamburger' starts to slide together. Starts to form hands, delicate hands - a feminine shape - a dress. "PRECIOUS, PRECIOUS C...hildren," finishes the voice in a far sweeter, but no less poisonous tone, stepping away from the wall that it formed against. Hair wild and floating free behind her, pallid, grey skin, pointed ears - red eyes narrowed with a malevolance. She was dressed in darkness - a blouse of nothing but void, falling down into a skirt of emptiness that never quite turned into legs, just an empty blot on reality bearing her up. She smiles, showing off twin rows of razor sharp teeth, and turns her head just a bit to the side. "It seems a far, far better solution than letting my dear children beat you to death - then neither of us win, hmm? Beyond the favor I would gain by having your HEAD ON A PLATTER, STRANGE," she says, a low grating tone rolling across the tenuous scape towards him. And at the edges of this alleyway, one can see that void start to inch in - nothingness start to enroach on the space of the real.
"Break the spell, dear Doctor, if you would please? I wouldn't... want to have my children break you, hmm?" she adds, as sweetly as her demonic tone will allow.
That light, beneath the sigil? It starts to glow brighter, and the whole wall starts to shake, as if someone were hitting it with a hammer, a low rumble rippling through the scape, the walls all starting to shiver with the blow. "And... I would make your decision quickly, if /I/ were you," says the feminine shape.
"No--!" Strange cries out, hurrying to slip his arms beneath the clerk's to - if not arrest his fall - at least slow it somewhat. When a dozen or so other bodies all hit the ground at once a split-second later, he just squeezes his eyes shut, lowers his head, and murmurs a few sorrowful words in a long-dead language.
Once the clerk is resting on the ground with the others, he opens his eyes and begins to rise--and is face to face with the kneeling salaryman; his breath catches for a moment, but once he recovers, he tries to reach out and take the former office worker's hands in his own, but they fall just before contact can be made. The Doctor balls his hands up and reclaims his feet, then; he keeps his head bowed out of respect for the victims. Even as the malevolent force reveals itself in all its - her? - terrible glory, he does not raise his eyes to meet--her.
"Ah," he murmurs once she's finished, his tone far, far darker than the affected wryness with which he greeted her moments ago. The Eye of Agamotto slides shut and its light fades a moment later; the encroaching laps hungrily at the dimming space. Slowly, ever so slowly, he tilts his head up until he's staring right into those infernal red eyes.
"And if - rather than freeing you from what I can only imagine is your prison - I were to destroy you were you stand?" he wonders, as conversational as one can be while tossing death threats. "What then?" His head lowers again, and he draws his hands - already twisted into bizarre, seemingly uncomfortable shapes - from his pockets. Whether he abjures the demon or frees it, he is running out of time, and he knows it; he glances to the creeping nothingness just to check his progress before looking back to the fiendish female. "/I/ would be comfortable with only one of us winning."
The spark in the entity's eyes could only be considered dark amusement as she watches Dr. Strange attend to the fallen people. As for them, however - the clerk's eyes flickering to Strange's, with something akin to desperation in his eyes, and a handful of murmured words on his lips, heard as a whisper, "God. I am just working until 10, Ann. Just working until 10. Be right home with a pizza. Be right home with a pizza." Likewise, the entity watches cooly as he goes to the salaryman - there was a brief contact of touch, however brief, and his own eyes fill with something more. He doesn't fall entirely.
The Doctor would be forgiven for thinking so, there was a long moment where he slumped down - but he starts to get to his feet - achingly slow, achingly sure - before the entity turns her(?) eyes upon him, and he just collapses as if his strings were cut. Unless the Doctor did something to stop that, of course. The entity turns to look straight back into the eyes of the Sorcerer Supreme, and for a long moment, she just hovers there. And... she flinches.
Eyes go to the side a moment, but they level back with far more threat in her own gaze, slowly hovering backwards. A moment, and her face twists into a mask of anger. "Children," she whispers, and unless Strange had some plan up his sleeve, she would murmur again, in that not-voice that ripples through the soul. "KILL." she says, still images, only seen for a moment, flickering across the minds of those present. Strange included. Before, that was suppressing of the soul? Now, there was more. There was hope. There was anger against their imprisonment. Anger that she was linking mentally with images of grabbing the Doctor. Images of bashing him against the asphalt. "KILL!"
But her eyes flicker to the policeman most of all, as the alley begins to fill with the voices of people, crying out, begging for release, calling for loved ones that aren't there anymore. The policeman was different, however - if this whole sequence was not averted... somehow, he would unstrap his gun - and lift it to point at his own head.
But independant of that was that wall, with the sigil. The nothingness eating at the edges of the alleyway - for whatever reason, that selfsame nothing was not going near the sigil - nor the corona of light that was pounding through it. With one final punch that seems to ripple through this little pocket of not-reality, a hole bursts open in that wall, break and mortar flying every which way but nowhere. And dipping down, to peer through the hole, was a man in a black robe, wearing a white mask shaped in an anonymous human face. He held a staff in his left hand, and that staff radiated /power/.
And beyond that hole, lay a rather normal looking alleyway.
Just before the salaryman hits the ground, the Doctor's arms circle around his body to hold him upright; after easing the man to the ground, he glares up at the entity from his crouched position. "You can't possibly--"
Its voice pushes whatever declaration he was going to make aside and nearly brings him to bitter, painful tears. And then she starts shoving images in his head--trying to /push/ him. To manipulate him. Beads of sweat pop out across his brow as he brings a hand up to his temple; soon, the amulet opens and the Eye of Agamotto stretches up from its confines until it's at once an honest to god third eye grafted bloodlessly to his forehead and a golden icon of power floating inches away from his brow. The Eye(s) blink(s), and bands of swirling light spiral out from it as her influence is pushed from his thoughts.
Now all he has to do is deal with these lost, abused people trying to kill him--and, apparently, themselves!
"Stop this!" he demands, waving a hand towards the police officer. Just as he's pressing the barrel to his own head, the metal begins to give... and then it is metal no longer; rose petals rain from his hand, some littering the ground at his feet, others blowing away to be consumed by the void. "Release them--I /demand/ it! I--" His eyes flick between the lost souls shambling towards him and the oblivion eating away at the edges of the world around them all. "--I--" His (human) eyes squeeze shut.
"--call upon the Hoary Hosts of Hoggoth!" Now it is his turn to let his words - tinged with defeat as they are - echo from everywhere at once. "Raggadorr's seven rings, let the chains that bind man and monster alike--" Six glowing circles of varying colours and sizes begin spreading along the ground throughout the tent city; a seventh - larger than any of the rest starts to trace itself into the air just before the sigil.
Before it's even halfway complete, the man in black breaks the barrier and the Doctor starts a little. One of the rings flickers and nearly sets the tent sitting atop it on fire, but Stephen brings the sorcery under control with a sharp, inward gesture. Even as he looks the man - and his staff, /especially/ his staff - over, he finishes: "--be undone!" One by one, the six circles on the ground complete themselves and send bright rings of light up to the heavens, or whatever passes for them here; the seventh is drawing to a close. The circles thrum periodically, keeping time with some arcane rhythm. With each pulse, his magics clash against the enchantment laid over the alley, straining to shatter it; his hands lower and he sadly shakes his head.
"/Release them/," he repeats in a quiet hiss, tearing his eyes away from the man in black to glare at the entity again.
The first sign of surprise passes across the Entity's features as Strange pushes her entirely from his mind. Turning her eyes towards the police officer, one of her eyes twitch, and she hisses a word in an evil, lost tongue - and the officer pulls the trigger of the weapon - just to send a torrent of petals towards his head. Again, and again - holding his hand as if he still held a weapon, he squeezes a now invisible trigger, tears streaming down his face.
The rest were lurching towards him - driven on by madness, driven on by torment, by the hopeless promise of release, they were wasted - weak. Hardly a challenge at all. Especially when those rings slide into play. "KILL!" she screeches, her entire form wavering as she throws her arms out to the side, tearing at the air.
Enter the man in black. "Oh, Saint Michael, be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the devil, and..." Strange finishes his incantation, and the beams of light start to fill the pocket dimension. "...power of God thrust into hell... ahhh!" The Man in Black was turning on his heel, and running quite the other way, the mask tumbling to the ground, and falling, empty, against the asphalt there. He does not slow, does not stop - even as the hood falls to reveal a short-cropped head of brown hair.
But the Doctor might be forgiven for not having the attention to spare for such minor details. Those bright rings of magic chase away the nothing, cause the entity to fall back, screaming against the wall and bringing up her arms to protect her eyes, screaming and shouting in the harsh words of that demonic tongue. The Lost and Abused were likewise stunned by the lights - those that wander into those rings just pause, only to fall upon the ground, weeping. Some were still trying to approach the Doctor, desperation and madness filling her gazes, their expressions, even as Strange makes that final proclamation.
And around the entity, her world crumbles. The nothing is pushed away from everything, the cage of brick disappears, and she is left standing on two feet - her features sharp - but far more human now. Long black hair, sharp, pointed features - and wearing a long black dress, she brings up her now human hands, and closes her eyes - breathing in the air and letting her jaw fall open as she releases a pleasured little sigh.
But there was that glare. And her eyes snap open, to gaze at the Doctor. A beat, and a cruel smile touches her features. And then, in the next moment, she turns to shadow and she is gone - unless Strange has something to do about /that/.
Regardless of such things, there were about three of the Lost who had not fallen into a ring, and they still intended to grab ahold of Strange, to bash him against something until he was dead - but a lot of the fire was leaving them. She had released them, in a sense. It should almost be trivial for him to banish the remains of her influence from their minds.
"You will be seeing me again," Strange quietly promises her when their eyes meet. He makes a sharp turn to catch an incoming spindly-armed blow against his forearm; when he turns his head to look to her again, there's nothing there. The former neurosurgeon sighs wearily and gives his full attention to keeping the other two Lost from hurting him(or themselves) by gingerly snagging one's wrist as it thrusts towards him, then releasing his hold so that he can deftly sway backwards and let the last woman's fingers grab at empty air just above his arched torso. His own fingers rush out to gently touch her cheek once he straightens up; the glowing icon floating above his brow opens wide. and a soothing wave of golden light pulses out from it.
"Gaze into the Eye of Agamotto the All-Seeing," he whispers as his non-radiant eyes dart back and forth for signs of the other two coming at him again, "and let it take the burden of knowing that demon's madness from your tortured mind." The words come slowly, and his tone remains even throughout--flat, even. "Breathe in. Out. In. Out..."
It'll take some time--and that's /if/ she cooperates all the way, /if/ the others don't find some vicious second wind and lunge at him. Still, he'll repeat those two words for as long as it takes, letting them guide her thoughts - and his magics - in pushing the entity from her mind.
And once he's done with her, there's the rest of the village to see to. He's going to be here for a while; plenty of time to ruminate on ruminate on how to undo whatever damage he may have caused by freeing the entity. He lingers with some of his patients - the policeman and salaryman in particular - a little longer than he does with others, just to be sure, and while he offers a few scattered words of encouragement or promises of safety, he mostly remains silent unless addressed.
Now and again, his eyes trail towards the fallen mask as it works--assuming that it stays where it fell, of course; /another/ mystery to ponder before breakfast. He will be sure to collect it on its way out, if it's there for him to collect.
Between his martial arts ability, and the soothing light of his magic - they really weren't there to kill him, or anyone. And with that overwhelming, energy-sapping dread gone, mostly, they felt relief. So why did they lunge forward, why did they try to kill Doctor Strange? One wonders if they would be answer that question themselves, coherently. Regardless of such things, they would be in desperate need of attention. But it was not a night without casualities, perhaps - if Strange were to explore the remains of the tent city, he would eventually find a collection of bodies. Dried-up, shriveled husks of various kinds - in a shallow pit covered by a tent.
They weren't in a state of decomposition, however. More like mummies that were slowly disintegrating into nothing - if his curiousity led him enough, he might find odd personal objects that one might even be able to date to Pre-Settler days, arrowheads and knives, mostly, leading up to antique timepieces and so on.
Of those that had shambled out, there were handful more in the tents proper, who lacked the energy to stand still. Without the entity's presence, however - many of them had released their grip on life, at least one for every tent-bound person who was hanging on. Of note, perhaps, was a man still wearing priest robes - he had died clutching a crucifix - melted as it was around the edges of the device, and not from Strange's fire.
There weren't many questions. They weren't blabbering, for the most part, and some had enough of their wits to go for help, to go to a hospital and the police to come help the rest. They would get the medical attention they would need - and one imagines access to whatever support they may need, mentally.
But that would come later. No doubt after Strange was long gone. The mask would not vanish by the time Strange passes it - but he would immeadiately be able to feel the flimsy plastic material it was made of. Further examination would determine more of those amateurish protection runes and sigils against the inside of the mask, but perhaps worse - the imprint that one can find on the mask.
'Made in China.'