Passing the Mantle

Eight Years Ago

Theodosia Maximoff sat fully dressed at the foot of her unmade bed with her legs curled beneath her as she considered the large box that lay before her. Agatha claimed it had arrived that morning, but Theodosia wasn’t so sure. The box was in good shape, but it looked aged and had recently been wiped free of dust. Theo suspected the box had been hidden away in the house for years, only revealed at this time for reasons unknown to her. Not that she took offense to the lie; in her short life she’d been faced with many truths that were best concealed and denied. Her life hadn’t exactly been normal.

“You look so much like your mother.” Agatha said from the doorway with a touch of nostalgia in her voice. “I see her in you more each day.”

Theodosia smiled and tucked an errant strand of long auburn hair behind her ear. “You’ve been saying that for as long as I can remember, Aunt Agatha.” Agatha wasn’t actually Theo’s aunt and they both knew it, but it was a comfortable moniker that had easily fallen into use. When Theo was a child Agatha was something like a nanny to her then a private tutor as the child grew older. When that child became curious about her absent parents Agatha shifted roles to that of an Aunt and when specialized instruction could no longer be put off, Agatha revealed herself to be something more yet again. Agatha confessed she was no relation to Theo, but that she had helped Theo’s mother learn to control the gifts of magic which Theo had also randomly displayed signs of throughout her youth. And as those displays were becoming more frequent and destructive in nature, Agatha was compelled to disclose the source of her own hearty, enduring nature; that she was something less than living, but more than dead, a nigh indestructible astral projection or ghost of her former self. Theodosia had taken that revelation in stride; part of her had known for some time that Agatha was different in particular ways and that made it easier to accept that she herself was peculiar. It was also a great sense of relief to know she would not accidentally kill her Aunt in the process of learning to control her magical influence. And for the past two years she and Agatha had made steady strides in that regard. Agatha assured Theodosia that complete mastery of her powers was an unattainable goal, but a worthy ambition. She spoke in more detail of Theo’s mother’s exploits than she ever had in the past and some of those stories seemed too impossible to believe. But Theo listened and tried her best to trust in their truthfulness.

“Open the crate, Dear, when you’re ready. It may not answer your questions, but it will help you to understand.” Agatha Harkness withdrew from the room and only when the doorway was empty and Theo was alone again did the thirteen year old resolve to unfasten the lid which came off reluctantly. There was the smell of stale air from the box when Theo laid the lid aside, noticing an envelope taped to its bottom. She pulled it free and unfolded the handwritten letter inside.

~My little Theodosia. I do not expect you to forgive the vacancy in your life that my absence has caused, but it is my sincerest hope that you will try. Please know that I have made many mistakes in my time, but I hope you do not see my leaving you in the hands of Agatha Harkness to be one of them. Heed her council, but always follow your benevolent heart. Where I have failed you will perfect my wrongs and fulfill the people’s needs in ways I can only imagine. You are my salvation and cherished daughter, but I must give you to the world or they will surely take you.

I love you always, Wanda.~

They weren’t particularly emotional words, but they were the only ones Theodosia had ever received from her mother who had always been an obscure figure far removed from Theo’s own life. It was enough to make her cry despite the promise to herself that she wouldn’t. She wiped at her eyes and folded the letter, set it inside the crate and started gently sifting through the other contents.

Taking up most of the space inside the box was a large vacuum sealed pouch which she extracted and turned it over in her hands, feeling the heft. She found the ripcord and with a firm tug it was open, smelling of leather and perfume. Theodosia tipped it upside down and shook the contents onto her bed. Indeed there was quite a bit of leather, though she couldn’t imagine her mother wearing any of it. The word that came to mind was provocative - was this all of it?! There was a one piece strapless leotard, opera gloves, tall boots with dangerously high heels and a strange “M” shaped accessory that Theo decided must be a headdress. She noticed each of the articles held intricate stitchings that appeared to be tiny shapes and flowing diagrams; but she recognized the language of magic when she saw it. They certainly didn’t look or feel like simple decorations. That aside, the clothes resembled fetish-wear more than a uniform and Theo quickly shoved them back inside the pouch, but stashed it under her bed at the last minute. She was blushing when she returned her attention to the crate.

The rest of the contents didn’t exude the same promise for scandal. There was a thick folder full of photos which Theo spread out across her bed, amazed to see so many of her mother of whom she’d only heard stories of until now. She saw right away the uncanny resemblance she bore to her mother and found herself studying the face as though she had but this one chance to memorize its features.

She also saw her mother did more than wear the uniform, she rocked it. Way to go Mom, flaunting that body in public, but there’s no way I’m wearing a headdress. I love the jacket, though. Wish that was in the crate. Almost more shocking were the companions her mother stood alongside. Two years prior Theodosia had been pulled from school and was then tutored at home and while that did not mean she was on house arrest, it did imply a certain level of seclusion and sheltering from the outside world. She had access to the internet and television, but Agatha kept her engaged and focused so much of the time that she had simply never taken the opportunity to explore the various heroes of the world. Most were fading from the people’s minds already so it hadn’t felt like Theo was missing out on much, especially when she herself was learning to utilize magic first hand. Still, had she probed the subject before now she’d have known the company her mother kept, but so much about her mother remained a mystery to her.

Theo left the photos scattered across her bed and pulled out an elegant book bound in some sort of hide. She could feel it’s magic instantly and it wasn’t entirely pleasant. Clearly there were things inside that would cause her to recoil. She did work up the nerve to pop it open to a random page; it was full of elaborate patterns and arcane blueprints to spells she hadn’t believed possible. She quickly flipped back to the cover and a simple sheet of parchment slipped lose; it was a list and reference to essential spells penned in the same script as her mother’s note; concussive blast, abstract matter manipulation, neuro-electric interface, etc. Aunt Agatha definitely hadn’t been teaching Theo the good stuff.

She tossed the book onto her pillow and pulled out a packet of papers that turned out to be a comprehensive financial portfolio. There were credentials to a trust fund established by Tony Stark with Theodosia as the beneficiary along with a few other financial institutions managing investments setup by her parents. The pages she thumbed through didn’t mention any specific dollar amounts, but the notes indicated redundant measures had been taken to make sure she was well looked after. She hesitated to look into the matter any further, it was probably best not to get caught up in the possibilities of assets and revenue right now. She felt like she was on the precipice of a decision that she hadn’t realized she was even considering. This decision involved factors like right and wrong, strong and the weak, not dollars and cents.

Theodosia squared the edges of the sheets and stacked them back inside the file before setting them aside and going again to the crate where she pulled out two framed photos which she had not noticed before. One was labeled as her father, Stephen Strange (Doctor Strange) though she had to trust this, knowing nothing of him personally. He was a handsome man even if he had a cocky smile and arrogant manner about him. She couldn’t say she saw any of him in her own reflection, but she wouldn’t have been the first abandoned teenage girl to feel that way about a father. The other frame held a photo of Pietro Maximoff (Quicksilver), her mother’s twin. She found no difficulty accepting that, the resemblance was undeniable. She didn’t know if any of these people were still alive, but the sentiment of family and belonging was almost palpable.

Theo finished going through the crate which held little else of interest; a few trinkets and such. All said it felt more like a box crammed with the personal contents of someone’s desk at the end of their last day of work. Theo wasn’t sure why she’d expected anything more personal, but she had. She put most of the contents back in the crate and placed the lid on top. There was an acronym stenciled on top which she hadn’t noticed earlier in her eagerness to get to the goods inside: S.H.I.E.L.D. She knew that name, they were still featured in the news along with Stark Industries. She’d always known she was different and been told that her parents were people of some renown, but she hadn’t expected to find out she came from a line of superheroes. She could chew on the idea forming in her head for a while, but it would demand action before long and Stark Industries seemed like the best place to start. Right after her allotted hour for piano practice. And two hours scheduled for finger exercises. On second thought, she’d probably be too busy this week to start being heroic.

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