Chapter 5: Landfall

Rapture, 1959

"Wake up, Daddy. Please wake up! I'm so sorry for not coming with you. I promise you, I've broken the conditioning. Just wake up!"

The girl kept shaking the still body on the ground, but it didn't respond to her earnest pleas.

"Wrrrrrg" came a rumble from behind her, and the girl's world shifted instantly. Suddenly, there wasn't a a dead man on the ground - only a sleeping clown. Everything was fine, they could all go have tea and cake...

"NO!" the girl shouted, shaking her head furiously. Her father's death had broken through her conditioning and pulled her back to reality, and she would be damned if she let herself succumb to delusions once again. "The world is NOT full of pretty colors, clowns, and good food. I am not a princess in a tower with servants catering to me. Mr. Bubbles..."

She took a shuddering breath, fighting back the bile that was rising in her throat.

'Mr. Bubbles killed my father.'

"Wrrrg" - the noise was closer now. As the girl forcibly pulled her mind back to reality, she contemplated the gun on the ground by her father's corpse. Should she pick it up and finish off that monster? Her so-called protector had actually been her captor, after all; he wouldn't be happy to see her free.

Or maybe her prot...her captor DID care about her. Maybe he was conditioned just like she was. If so, she wouldn't have to be alone! She could have a daddy again! The very thought made her world seem brighter and happier again.

"WRRRRRRARRRRG!" A drill revved behind her, and the ground shook.

The girl turned around with wide eyes. "Mr. Bubbles..."

The behemoth just continued charging towards her, and she barely managed to jump out of the way.

"Mr. Bubbles! It's me. We've spent the last two years scavenging through Rapture together! Mr. Bubbles!"

The Big Daddy simply shook its head like an angry elephant and roared before charging towards her once again. It no longer emanated the warm, green-gold light that she had mistaken for the sun in her delusions; instead, angry red filled the room, expressing the creature's killing intent.

Again, the girl was extremely lucky and managed to sidestep the raging monster, ducking below the drill that it was wildly swinging at her head.

"I'm going to die, I'm going to die, oh god...," she whimpered when she stumbled on her father's body and fell to the ground.

The Big Daddy scented its prey's weakness and prepared to finish it off with one final charge. Fortunately, as the frantic girl lifted her head, her eyes caught a silvery gleam next to her father's belt.

Oh my god, ohmygod...Daddy, please help me. Please save me from this thing.

She grabbed hold of the silver ball and tossed it at the incoming mountain. It was too late for the Big Daddy to change course - not that it would have since someone had to pay for the disappearance of its Little Sister.

A brilliant explosion of sound and fury filled the room; the girl missed it as she had ducked her head into her father's chest immediately after throwing the grenade at the Big Daddy.

When the dust had settled, the girl lifted her head once again and saw one more body on the ground.

Once more, she was all alone.


Rapture, 1959

"Dad, stay with me! Please, I'm begging you -"

The man lifted his hand to the sobbing girl's cheek gently; it halted midway as he drew his last breath and crashed down to the ground with a thud.

Once more, she was all alone.


Columbia, 1912

"No, dad, no, no, no!"

The teen cradled the broken, bleeding figure of her father in her arms as the world around them dissolved into chaos.

She hatefully stared at the black-haired, blue-eyed lady leading a male away from the area (and dimension) through a tear.

Once more, she was all alone.


Mindoir, 2170

"We're sorry about your loss, ma'am. The Alliance is offering a decent sum to help survivors of this vicious attack get back on their feet; just sign -"

"Keep your pittance," she spat out contemptuously and span on her heels, storming out of the War Office. The worst part was that there were no witnesses to attest that her father had died at the hands of a black-haired, blue-eyed human warrior, not the Batarians. Not that the Alliance would have ever admitted that one of its precious soldiers had committed a crime, even if she had somehow gathered the necessary evidence; even if it miraculously did, then it would discover that the suspect had long since vanished into thin air.

Once more, she was - She was done reacting.


Four years ago

"I will not let you pass the threshold of this sanctum!" yelled the pale, elderly man in a swirling red cloak.

"You will try, I'm sure. Try and fail," retorted his opponent.

The elderly man quickly twisted his hands into a lotus-shaped mudra, and a beam of golden energy shot out; his opponent merely stood in place and swept his hands outwards, almost as though he were commanding the energy to split. And so it did.

But the elder was undaunted. Assisted by the fabled Cloak of Levitation that rested upon his shoulders, he launched himself into the air and whipped out blade-like air blasts at the opponent. Before the blasts could tear him apart though, the opponent mimed the creation of a glass box around his body, and the blasts dissolved around the invisible box, destroying the Ionic columns surrounding the pair.

The elder quickly shot back down to the earth and landed heavily, causing a shock-wave to emanate from the point of contact. Now, the opponent leaped into the sky and took to the air, twisting and sending out blasts of fire at the elder.

Given that the pair were evenly matched and that the opponent's emphasis on honor precluded deceit, this stalemate would have continued for much longer as the current state of affairs stood. Fortunately for the opponent, others were neither as honorable nor as patient as he was.

A crack rang out in the courtyard, and the elder turned around and held his palm out, effortlessly blocking the approaching bullet. Unfortunately, the startled opponent simultaneously lashed out at the elder with a whip of fire, under the mistaken impression that the elder was preparing yet another attack against his person.

Blood pooled onto the pristine floor tiles, and after a moment of silence, two thuds reverberated through the courtyard.

Dr. Stephen Strange, at the ripe old age of 150, was dead. His killer was none other than his erstwhile mentor and friend, Baron Mordo.


Mordo stared at the hooded woman warily.

"You should not have interfered. The duel was between myself and Strange alone."

"Pardon me, Mordo Rishi," the woman responded, bowing deeply at the waist. "I have been searching for you through space and time for a long while now, and in my joy at having finally found you, I overreacted to a perceived threat."

"Who are you? What do you want with me?"

"I am like you - a sorcerer and traveler. You and I both share the same aim - realigning magic with natural law. And for that, we also share the same methodology - bringing magicians to heel."

"There is a great disconnect between your words and your actions. I would never resort to guns for all my rightful wariness of magic," Mordo sneered.

"Unlike you, Mordo Rishi," the woman replied calmly and deferentially, "I have been subjected to the depredations of those who care not for natural law." With that, she removed her hood.

For a moment, Mordo stared at the woman's face in horror, but he quickly composed himself. "Very well. I can understand why you would eschew magic as a whole then. If you would have me as your rishi, then you and I can work together to restore order and balance; in the process, I can teach you to tame your own magical skills."

"I would be honored to become your sishya, Mordo Rishi."


Three-and-a-half years ago

The young woman had learned long ago that time was an illusion, and she applied that knowledge to its fullest. In due course, she and Mordo had eliminated over a thousand versions of Dr. Strange, all of whom were elderly and clearly past their prime.

"This is useless," Mordo said wearily one day, after they had defeated yet another elderly Strange. "We have defeated thousands of Stranges, but none of them are Strange in his prime as he is in my home universe. Unless we can defeat a Strange Prime, there is no way to prevent his faulty ideas about magic from spreading."

"Guruji, we could just kill him at birth or attack one of his younger, untrained versions," the woman piped up frankly.

Mordo's lips curled in disgust. "Do not ever make such a suggestion again; there is no honor in that. Strange may be misguided, but ultimately, he is an honorable man. As such, if we are to defeat him, we must do so righteously."

The woman stroked her chin thoughtfully. "My apologies, Rishi. On second thought, why are we even going after Strange? Our goal is to eliminate magicians from this world, so that natural law can be respected once more. Strange was corrupted by the Ancient One's example. Why not attack the first magician who violated natural law?"

"ALL magic violates natural law. At any rate, there will always be someone who will push the envelope and will eventually stray past what is acceptable. That is human nature."

"Well then, rather than attacking magic as a whole, why not focus on limiting magicians' capabilities first?" the woman suggested.

"What do you mean by that?" Mordo inquired.

The woman inhaled deeply and thrust her hand forward, almost as though she were shoving someone out of her way. Her form rarefied, and a second, transparent body appeared right next to it. Both started speaking concurrently.

"Right now, there are no limits on one's magic usage -"

"other than her own imagination and level of focus, -"

"and many magicians have plenty of both but possess little of the discipline -"

"necessary to apply them carefully, in a way that doesn't disrupt the flow of life."

At this point, the two forms fused, and the woman, once again whole, continued, "What I just did was an example of that. On a whim, I decided to split myself into two before expounding on my idea. It was absolutely unnecessary, but I could do it, and so I did. But -"

She paused and picked up a staff from a nearby table.

"if I had learned to only channel my magic through this staff, then there would be natural limits to what I can do."

Here, she held out the staff and tried to split herself once again, this time directing her magic through the staff rather than through her body itself. A wisp of amorphous smoke appeared for a few seconds on her left before vanishing.

"See!" she exclaimed triumphantly. "Sure, I could practice and perform rituals to enhance my connection to the staff and my staff-based capabilities. But where the imagination and the human mind have no limits, the staff does. I can only funnel so much energy into this dead piece of wood at any given time."

"What is your point, sishya?"

"My point, guruji, is that we should convince the first great magician, Agamotto himself, to utilize a staff or some other intermediary for performing magic. That way, all successive magicians will follow his lead and use staffs as well, never realizing that they could do so much more without them and thereby limiting the amount of damage that they can do."

"Brilliant, sishya! Let us put this plan into effect then."

The woman nodded excitedly and closed her eyes, searching through the innumerable dimensions for the right time and place.

A giant, metal bird swooping down on a fleeing pair, screeching its rage...

A masked man blinking up behind a guardsman and choking him out...

A man kneeling before a throne, pledging loyalty to Lord Veneficus the Eternal...

The woman from the duo in the first dimension that she'd scanned again - black hair, piercing blue eyes, a look of determination as she led -

With a snarl of rage, the woman opened her eyes again, shaking off any lingering threads to other dimensions. That woman, that...monster would pay for what she had done.

"Sishya, are you -"

The woman quickly composed herself and assumed her default, impassive mien. "My apologies, sishya. After a thorough examination, I have concluded that there are no openings to Agamotto."

As Mordo slammed his fist onto the table in frustration, she noticed a lingering thread. With a quirk of her lips, she seized it and took a look.

"But I might have found the next best thing..."


Three years ago

The pair watched as Camelot burned.

On one side, Arthur and his loyal Knights were in the middle of a fierce campaign against his bastard son, Mordred, who had usurped the throne in Arthur's absence. On the other, Merlin tore apart golem after golem while Morgan Le Fay threw everything that she had at him from the middle of the golem army, from lightnings and earthquakes to illusions and phantom whispers of fear, defeat, and failure.

Magical creatures had not somehow escaped the throes of this conflict either. Multicolored flashes periodically lit up the sky like the Northern Lights as dragons and their human riders grappled with each other in the upper atmosphere. In the forests, centaurs had long since abandoned formation and were now shooting wildly at rampaging pixies and giants alike; the pixies bit and injected venom into any unsuspecting prey in their path while the giants roared and crushed the smaller beings underfoot. They had all fallen victim to the sheer miasma of Merlin and Morgan's magic, along with the arrant hatred pervading Arthur and Mordred's battlefield.

Magic was in pain and thrashed about wildly, seeking equilibrium.

"Look at them!" Mordo exclaimed in disgust. "We followed your suggestion and taught Merlin to channel his magics through the staff alone, so successfully in fact that even his foe, Morgan Le Fay, unquestioningly adopted his principles for learning and applying magic. Those two still haven't even dreamed of other ways of utilizing magic, but they've already done so much damage."

"This is still progress," the woman stated simply. To Mordo's incredulous look, she added, "Imagine how much worse this would be if they could do even half of what we could."

"You may have a point," Mordo grumbled.

"Our plan continues unabated. This conflict will destroy a good portion of magical tomes and records, but Merlin's core idea of using foci to direct magic will endure. Over time, we just need to reinforce the message."


Two-and-a-half years ago

"We won the bet, fair and square, Death old chap! Now, do fulfill your end of the bargain, will you, hm?" the rotund, red-faced fellow boomed. His brothers, still shaken by the fact that they had, well, gotten the better of Death of all people, simply nodded furiously in tandem.

Death let loose a shudder-inducing rattle, and two skeletal hands popped out from under the black, flowing robes. One hand held a shimmery cloak and ruby stone while the other contained a warped, black stick of elder.

"That's it! A bloody stick, a drape, and - oooh, shiny stone. Must be worth a good amount. I'll relieve you of that trinket, thank you very much."

The two remaining brothers glanced at each other and shook their heads. "For the life of me, I cannot understand why Father had to stick to primogeniture and bequeath all of his possessions to Antioch. I mean, this is Antioch - the idiot who bartered away a horse once in exchange for a pin made of fool's gold, so that he could flaunt it about on his chest," Cadmus mumbled disparagingly to Ignotus.

"What? What are you saying about me?" Antioch asked suspiciously. He knew that those two good-for-nothing rascals accompanying him were up to something. Did they want his precious stone? Over his dead body!

"Nothing, Antioch. Go play with your stone," Cadmus retorted. "Guess I'll take the stick then," he muttered before snatching it from Death's hand.

The final brother, Ignotus, who had been practically hiding behind Cadmus the entire time, timidly stepped forward and gently extricated the folds of the cloak from Death's other hand. Bowing deeply, he then scurried off, following in the retreating footsteps of his brothers.

"WHAT DID YOU JUST DO? HOW DID YOU DO THAT? Never mind, Cadmus - as the eldest, I should safeguard such a powerful weapon. Give me the stick," Antioch commanded after Cadmus had produced a fountain of wine after casually waving the stick about.

"You already have the stone, brother. The stick is mine," Cadmus retorted smugly.

"Why don't we -"

"SHUT UP, Ignotus," the two yelled in unison before resuming their bickering.

And thus began the legend of the Deathly Hallows.

Meanwhile, as the Peverell brothers' voices faded off into the distance, Death flicked a hand, and the illusion dispelled.

"My god, those three were giving me a headache," the woman groused, rubbing her forehead furiously. "Well, the stick should convince wizards to forgo staffs in favor of wands; after all, if a squib like Antioch could do magic with it, then what could a " - she rolled her eyes - "proper wizard do with it?"

As for the stone and the cloak - well, they were useless trinkets anyway. The illusion magics on both should wear off within a day or two, but at least their possessors wouldn't have to fear for their lives like the owner of the "unbeatable" wand.

"Idiots."


Two years ago

"This is a risky plan, sishya, even if we do not take into consideration the fact that you will be sacrificing your life in this process!" Mordo cried out to the young woman who he now looked upon as a daughter.

"We have never been closer to our ultimate goal of ending magic!" the young woman averred. "With this step, we can harness the power to effectively unify all of the realities into a single branch. At the convergence point, we can practically dictate the rules of the new, single reality, even to the point of abolishing magic altogether!"

"No! It is too risky, and I will not let you sacrifice yourself in a fool's endeavor."

"Let me - guruji, this is my choice. We have worked so hard and so long to get to this point. The fact that Thanos, Strange, and countless other destabilizing influences no longer exist is a testament to the success of our approach so far!"

As Mordo opened his mouth to angrily deny her request, the woman hurried on, "Guruji, you know what magicians have done to me. These yellow eyes, which never blink and never permit me to get a moment of sleep or rest, and the poison running through my veins - they are an utter violation of my body and have precluded my ever living a normal life. At least, this way, I can ensure that my life has some meaning before I go."

She continued, "As it is, the poison's deleterious effects on my body have been accelerated through our inter-dimensional trips and general magic use. I only have a few more months to live, at any rate. At least, let me die knowing that my death has bought us an unassailable advance towards order."

Mordo blinked away the wetness forming behind his rapidly blinking eyelids - Mordo, Sorcerer Supreme, did NOT cry.

"Go then, Guruji," he stated as calmly as he could. "Go with my blessings, and know that you have both my thanks and that of the universe as you depart this Earth."

So, the young woman marched off to meet her fate. That very night, she fell, and Lord Voldemort rose once more.


Now

Pain blossomed in Mordo's side, and he coughed wetly, trying to spit out the blood forming in his throat. He stumbled through the halls of the sanctum, standing upright through sheer will alone.

But it was no use - a blast rocketed towards his unprotected back and spun him into the air. His body crashed through the corridor's brick wall and came spinning to a halt in the middle of the artifacts antechamber.

The Cloak of Levitation watched silently from the sidelines. Where it had once defended its erstwhile possessor and friend, Strange, from such a situation once before, it did not see the need to do so now, especially since the one on the ground had been Strange's killer.

Shadows gathered and congealed into the tall, serpentine form of Lord Voldemort, who sneered down at the battered Mordo. "Pathetic."

Face contorting in pure rage, Mordo pushed his entire will into raising his arm and firing off a blast of red energy, which would have incinerated Voldemort had it ever touched his body.

Voldemort simply formed red, glove-like shields around his hands and batted it aside, treating it like a minor irritant. He surged forward in the blink of an eye, intending to finish off his cornered prey.

But Voldemort had forgotten that such prey fight most desperately right at the brink of death. Mordo summoned every remaining scrap of energy and literally burst, filling the room with a blinding flash of light.

"AAAHHHH!" Voldemort fell to the ground, screaming in pain and belatedly covering his now-damaged corneas. But he was no stranger to pain; he quickly remastered himself and sniffed the air, his forked tongue slithering out in hisses in complement to catch the scent of his evasive quarry.

"There you are," he murmured. Voldemort bent his knees, and the air rippled around his feet; a second later, with a sound like a gunshot echoing through the courtyard, the ground and air pushed him up thousands of feet into the sky, in a manner that trampolines could only aspire to.

A few miles away from the sanctum, motes of light coalesced with a tinkling noise into the bruised form of Mordo on top of a hotel roof. Mordo promptly fell to the ground on his back, overcome by his injuries and his last-ditch effort to escape Voldemort.

His rest was disturbed though, by a nudge near his feet.

Groaning, he looked up and saw the Cloak of Levitation insistently tapping its corner against his ankle.

"Ha! Now you choose to help me? Go away," Mordo gritted out.

The Cloak ignored his words.

"I said, go away!" Mordo bellowed, loosening a wave of fire at the cloak; the cloak remained unaffected though even as the nearby shrubbery was incinerated. In fact, it seemed to redouble its efforts and actually wrapped itself around his body in a manner reminiscent of a straitjacket.

"What are you doing? No, let go of -"

"Surely, I am not so boring that you want to play escaped-asylum patient, Mordo?" Lord Voldemort's sibilant hiss rang out in the air. Before Mordo could reply, Voldemort fired off a bolt of lightning at the downed figure.

In the blink of an eye, the cloak unwrapped itself from Mordo and repositioned itself right in front of his body like a shield; it effortlessly reflected the lightning back at its sender, and Voldemort barely managed to swerve out of the returning bolt's way.

Before he could even process what had happened, Voldemort suddenly had to fend off the thousands of red needles that the cloak was firing off. 'Are those its threads?'

With a pop, he apparated to the opposite side of the roof, and pointing with one hand at the cloak, he made a pulling gesture with his other hand. The cloak rocketed towards him, and Voldemort shaped the air around his hands into fine blades before beginning to spin like Superman.

But the cloak had heart and would not be denied. It had seen its last friend die and Mordo and that fool of his apprentice perpetrate countless atrocities. The world was weaker and poorer for the damage that the duo had dealt magic, and this was its final chance to rectify the situation, even if it meant defending Mordo of all people.

So, it collapsed to the ground like a carpet and swept the tornado-like figure of Voldemort off his feet. Startled, Voldemort could brace himself for the ride momentarily as the cloak dashed off the roof and carried its surprised passenger towards a nearby concrete building.

Shaking his head and thinking quickly, Voldemort rolled his hands and thrust them outwards in a pushing gesture. The rapidly approaching building began folding away from him, descending towards the streets. Pedestrians in the sidewalks below screamed in terror as they saw a building tumble down towards them; others, who were far enough away from the building but still within the general area, pointed to the duo in the sky with shouts.

Launching himself off the cloak (now flying carpet) with a taunting shout, Voldemort rocketed off in the opposite direction from the cloak as the building stopped descending and shot back up like a spring. It hit the cloak head-on.

For good measure, Voldemort pounded his fists together; the world became gray, and time slowed to a crawl. He maneuvered around an adjacent skyscraper and made another pushing motion. With a groan, the skyscraper slowly began sliding across the ground, parting the waves of pedestrians as though it were Moses, and they were the Red Sea. As it gained traction and loomed near the cloak that was flattened against the face of the concrete building, Voldemort made the sign of infinity and shaped out several other mudras; the glass in the middle of the skyscraper shattered into a million tiny pieces, and with the solidifed air, formed a long, fine-tipped needle.

As the world once again regained color, and time resumed moving at its normal pace, the cloak had just lifted itself off the concrete building when Voldemort's dagger ripped straight through its centroid. The dagger span rapidly, and the trillions of threads that comprised the cloak slowly unraveled and floated off into the morning sky in wisps of red and gold.

'Hmph! I never liked Gryffindor anyway.'

With that parting thought, Voldemort apparated back to the hotel roof where he had left Mordo. Fortunately for him, Mordo was still there.

"Why...are...you...doing this?" Mordo croaked. "WHY?!"

Voldemort looked down at Mordo coolly; he formed his fingers into a claw and swept his hand upwards, and a blue field formed around Mordo's body as it lifted off the ground. "Because I can."

'This is it. This is the end. I should never have agreed to my apprentice's request. I was a thrice-damned fool for thinking that I could control this man by holding her contribution to his rebirth over him and thereby bid him to our ends.'

As he accelerated towards Voldemort, Mordo closed his eyes.

"POW!"

The cloak was back - a raggedy, tattered thing, barely held together from Voldemort's onslaught, a few wisps had proven to be enough to regain some of its former integrity. And the first thing it had done was to shove aside Voldemort and catch the upright, zooming form of Mordo.

After it had caught him in a tenuous hold, the pair dashed off into the distance. Picking himself up instantly, Voldemort let loose a roar of rage and exhaled a plume of flames. "I will DESTROY that cloak! What does it take to kill it?" Once again, he launched himself into the skies and followed his quarry's trail in close pursuit.

Mordo turned his head and saw a figure garbed in black gaining on them. He was quickly forced to turn his attention back to the front though as the cloak spun in mid-air, nearly throwing him off.

"Watch it!" he spat out. Further reprimands died in his throat though as he saw the cause of the cloak's maneuver - the rapidly approaching head of a Basilisk.

Mordo felt his limbs freeze as he saw its eyes. Feeling the mounting urgency of the situation, the cloak clambered around his body and attached its extremities to his arms and feet, forming a makeshift wingsuit.

As the basilisk snapped and thrashed about wildly, knocking down buildings in the process and crushing people underneath, the cloak twisted and turned out of its way. It was trapped between the basilisk in the city and Voldemort in the skies though.

"There is another way," Mordo wheezed out, regaining control of his vocal facilities through sheer will.

Catching onto his thoughts, the cloak moved Mordo's slider hand accordingly, and a portal formed right in front of them. The pair shot through, and the last thing Mordo heard before blanking out was Voldemort's scream of rage as the portal contracted into a dot.


When Mordo opened his eyes, he felt...content.

He wanted to shake off the feeling. He was NEVER content; that emotion only lead to complacency and apathy, which in turn caused stagnation and ruin. No, discipline, focus, and unceasing rage were the only useful things in life.

But he couldn't. As he sat upright and took in the verdant surroundings, he felt well. He swiveled his head and looked for the cloak, but it was gone.

'Heh. I suppose that now it was done saving the "lesser evil," it buggered off.'

"Daddy..."

Mordo bolted to his feet. "Show yourself," he shouted, forming fire blades with his fists. He was rested and ready for anything now.

"Daddy, it's me," a voice rang, and a girl stumbled out of the nearby bushes.

Bemused, Mordo dissipated his fire blades and crouched down towards the figure. "My sincerest apologies, little one, but I am not your father. Perhaps I can return you to him though. Who are you, and where are you from?"

"Daddy, don't you recognize me?" the girl responded petulantly, and Mordo gasped as she lifted her head and stared directly at him with her round, flashlight-like yellow eyes.

"You!" he shouted, eyes hardening. He grabbed the girl by the shoulders and shook her furiously. "How could you do this to me? Your plan backfired spectacularly, and you left me to deal with a madman!"

"I am sorry, Daddy. I am so sorry! I di..di..didn't mean to, I swear. It wasn't supposed to happen this way."

Whatever his faults, Mordo's heart melted upon seeing the little girl, a younger version of his apprentice and surrogate daughter, dissolve into tears. "I...I am sorry," he said heavily and released her, ashamed of his violent outburst.

The inconsolable girl continued crying though, and Mordo, wracked by guilt, reached out and wrapped his arms around her in a hug. "I am sorry, I really am. We'll fix this, sishya, I promise you that."

"Promise?"

"I promi-"

A fist ripped straight through his heart, and a spray of blood and gore filled the air. Mordo jerked out of the hug ever so slowly and stared at the suddenly grinning girl in shock and disappointment. As his spirit rapidly fled his body, he lifted a hand to the girl's cheek and exhaled one word. "Why?"

The girl's macabre smile grew wider, and her figure rippled and shifted back and forth between her own form and that of Lord Voldemort. Till that moment, Mordo had only ever seen Lord Voldemort's lips from under the cowl of his robes. But now that he actually saw his face, he couldn't help but reflect upon the startling similarities between his visage and that of his erstwhile apprentice.

"Because I can," came the response, the sound a perfect mix of Lord Voldemort's sibilant hisses and the little girl's melodious voice.

As Mordo's corpse collapsed to the ground, Lord Voldemort stared dispassionately, poked it with his foot, and commented, "And because I must, Guruji."