April 1602, London, the Bleeding Heart Inn. Virginia Dare finally awakens from her fevered slumber, calling out for her guard, Rojhaz. She asks the woman next to her who she is and what happened. Virginia tries to get up and stumbles, only to be caught by Clea Strange.
Clea puts her back to bed, introduces herself and explains that she is the wife of Virginia’s physician and has been her nurse for the past week. Her husband, Stephen, thought she would wake soon. He and Rojhaz are downstairs, making broth for Virginia in the kitchen. As for what happened to her, perhaps Virginia should save that until Clea’s husband returns. He has many questions for her.
Wide-eyed, Virginia asks if she hurt anyone. Not really, Clea calms her. But they were all worried. The Indian slept by her bed and would barely leave Virginia’s side. And Fury’s boy, Peter, was there, until yesterday.
Strange and Rojhaz enter with a pot of steaming broth. Virginia greets Rojhaz, telling him she’s very hungry. In broken English, Rojhaz warns her that the soup is hot and Virginia promises to let it cool before she eats it.
A little later she sits at the table with them, eating the soup and trying to recall what happened. She was going to see the Queen. And then… nothing. Not really. Just dreams. What happened to her?
Dr. Strange narrates: Somebody tried to kidnap Virginia. A man flying like a bird. Rojhaz brought him down, but Virginia had already … transformed into a gryphon. Rojhaz and Strange managed to capture her on the roof.
Strange continues that he bespelled her back into human form, before Fury could see her and all hell would break loose. How could he…? Virginia inquires. Strange reveals that, while he is a physician, he is also a magician.
(Strange’s narration / flashback)
As a youth, he was kidnapped by foreign sailors. He was taken to the slave market in Ankhara, where he was bought by a wise doctor. He learned much from him, but could not be satisfied until he was free once more. His master offered Strange freedom if he brought him back certain secret herbs from the East. It was a dangerous journey. His last two couriers had never returned.
Strange travelled high into the mountains beyond the Indies. He nearly died, but was rescued and taken to a remote monastery. In that place, he learned much.
When finally he was able to return, a free man, to England, it was with his bride at his side and with some small knowledge of magic and the body and the soul. And once he had done a small service for the Queen, she made him her physician.
At the mention of the queen, Virginia anxiously asks if Elizabeth is angry with her. She must talk to her. Father told her the things Virginia must beg her for. Her colony on Roanoke is depending on Virginia!
Strange grimly informs the girl that there is nothing she can ask of Queen Elizabeth anymore. There was an attempt on the queen’s life. And it succeeded. Even now King James of Scotland marches down from the north, to add the crown of England to his own.
There have been riots . Many people believe that the queen’s murder signals the end of the world. Given the strange manifestation they have been experiencing, he is no longer convinced they are wrong.
Virginia begins to understand. What does it mean if James becomes king? Strange muses that he and Clea will probably survive, as long as he practices no more magic. Drown his books, bury his mirrors and candles and wands. There are others who may not be so lucky. Fury sent a man to Europe to bring back a weapon, some kind of ancient treasure, guarded by the Templars. His mirrors and something deep within his soul tells Strange that this treasure may be all that stands between them and the Day of Judgment.
Virginia inquires after Peter. Strange replies that Sir Nicholas was ordered to ride north to Newcastle to meet with their monarch-to-be. He took Peter with him. Turning the subject back to Virginia herself, Strange asks who and what she is, and what part she plays in all this madness. Clea gently chides him to let the child eat first.
In Newcastle, Sir Nicholas Fury is taken before King James, who derogatively greets him as poor dead Gloriana’s spymaster. Sipping from his goblet, the soon to be King of England inquires whether Fury’s spies have found out who did that monstrous thing. Fury informs him that agents of Count Otto von Doom of Latveria are the culprits.
Theatrically, James asks if Fury has any evidence for this dreadful accusation. The word of another assassin, Fury explains briefly. He learned that a murder was planned, but not quickly enough to foil it. Well, he can educate him, James replies calling forth his man Banner to give him a paper.
You see, he turns to Fury, what killed her most wondrous Majesty Elizabeth, by the grace of God Queen of England – he makes a dramatic pause – was the servants of the devil. There’s a so-called school near Warwick. He hands Fury the paper with the address and orders him to capture or kill those creatures of darkness. Their leader is a monster called Javier. He is told that he can cloud people’s minds. And, Sir Nicholas? He adds that Fury did a piss-poor job of protecting the Queen of England. If he makes a mess of this, he might as well walk to the Tower, and pick out a room with a view.
About half a day’s ride from Trieste are Fury’s agent, Matthew, and his guide, Natasha, who are about to cross a precarious, hanging bridge, which spans over a chasm. As they lead their horses across the bridge, Natasha points out that he hasn’t told her where she’s taking him once they are in Trieste. What if she’d been captured? he points out. Then her captors would make her talk and scoop up the treasure and the old man and Fury would have his ears. On a plate. For breakfast. With a grin, Matt muses that he’d bet Fury would do that. He looks like the kind who eats ears. Not that he’s seen him, it’s more something about the sound of his voice that makes you think he’d be a bit of an ear-eater.
Natasha interrupts him. They are so close they can smell the sea. She needs to know where she is taking him. He admits she’s right and describes the way to the place were they are to meet the old man. Up in the hills. In an old temple from Roman days.
Natasha offers him some wine and asks him to sing for her while she gets the wine. She’s asking him to sing? She’s almost becoming human, Matt jokes before continuing the “Ballad of the Fatastick:”
But just as they think that their troubles are o’er
They realize what they’ve become,
For the captain’s a monster which irks him full sore,
The bravo’s a burning man, flames from him pour…
While the Lord was as pliant as gum, by gum,
With his lady -
That moment, Natasha smashes the wine bottle over his head. As Matthew falls into the chasm, Natasha cheerily waves him good-bye. Tell your gods or your devils that the most dangerous woman in Europe sends them her love.
Back at King James’s camp, Fury apprises his assistant, Peter Parquagh, of their future king’s orders. Fury is to take a troop of soldiers and capture the witchbreed. Kill any who resist. Take the rest to the Tower. Why would James give an order like that? asks Peter. Fear, stupidity? ventures Fury. Who cares. He orders Peter to head to Javier and inform him before Fury reaches the school. Shall he tell them to flee? Peter asks. That would be treason, Fury explains and gives Peter strict instructions what to say.
The Grand Inquisitor asks Petros whether James believed that they killed the queen for him. He didn’t ask outright, Petros replies, and he did not say so outright. But he has agreed to turn all witchbreed who survive over to the Grand Inquisitor personally.
Sister Wanda announces that there was a message from Rome, expressing concern regarding the missing envoy. It is too late for that, the Grand Inquisitor replies. Too late for anything. Now all their lessons begin.
At the High Castle of Latveria, Count Otto von Doom is holding a lesson himself. One of his gnomish varlets watches as Doom creates electric impulses using some vitriol and water, a rod of copper, a rod of Chinese zinc. Touch the rods to the frog cadaver and one sees the twitch of life. Doom muses over the practical possibilities of this: an army of dead men, their limbs moved by galvanic force, marching across Europe. They would be unstoppable…
His train of thought is interrupted by several booming noses and shaking similar to that of an Earthquake. Donning his hood, Count Otto orders his servants to unlock the vaults. He is going down. It seems that someone has forgotten his lesson.
Outside the castle, the dinosaurs fly.
Doom descends the stairs and tunnels and finally speaks through a hole in the wall. Addressing the person on the other side as “Captain,” Doom explains that, if he does that one more time, he will flood his chamber again. He didn’t like that before, did he? Or would he prefer the steam this time? Also he and his friends will not be fed this week to make up for the damage he caused.
That should teach him, Doom announces as he strides away. Hunger is a fine teacher. Now he wants to see how the others fare.
He looks into another cell, where a blond, bearded man is sitting on a small rock within a pool of water. Doom explains that he won’t have food for several days, but at least he is not short of water there.
Walking downwards again, he reaches another cell. Addressing the person inside as “old friend,” Doom tells him too about their punishment. Aside from that, how is he feeling today? As well as can be expected, the prisoner replies. And Otto? He is in a fine mood, Otto explains. His prisoner’s queen is dead. The little mechanical man did his job well. Who would have thought that a tiny pill dropped by a clockwork into a cup of aqua regia would have such effect?
I see, comes the calm reply from inside the cell. Otto did not tell him that was what he would do with the knowledge he gave him. Why should he? Doom asks haughtily. His prisoner lives because Doom lets him live. And he lives to serve him. His knowledge is Doom’s or his friends die. He will have his hands on the Templar Treasure very soon now. Within a day or two. Between their minds, he is certain it will give up its secrets.
He is a monster, his prisoner announces. Of course, Otto agrees and continues that, from this day’s experiment, he has several questions. The lightning that his prisoner’s “batteries” made caused the dead frog to move. What if dead men…?
The other man begs him to let them go. Where would they go? asks Doom. Their country is in turmoil. The common people say the strange weather signifies the end of the world.
What strange weather? comes the question. Nothing to worry his head about, replies Doom. Just strange weather.
Does he ever wonder whether light might have a speed? the prisoner wonders. No, Doom replies. There is light and there is darkness. There is no speed. Why would he wonder something so foolish? If the speed of light through a vacuum were a constant, it would explain so much, comes the reply. Enough of this nonsense, Doom decides, he wants to talk about explosives and poisons and machines. If he tells him about the strange weather, the prisoner demands.
Master Carolus Javier’s Select College for the Sons of Gentlefolk, Warwick England:
Peter tries to enter but is jumped by Hal McCoy, who inquires what the “reprobate” and “malefactor” is doing there. Is he a thief of the night? Or perhaps he has come to spy on them – harmless boys at a quiet school who hurt no man and are there under the good grace of her late Majesty (God rest her soul). Impatiently, he asks why Peter does not speak. It’s guilt, he wagers that stops his tongue. More likely, it’s because Hal won’t let him get a word in edgewise, John Grey points out. John identifies their guest as Peter Parquagh and asks him to come inside.
Not much later, Peter informs Javier and his students about Fury coming with soldiers the next day. He is going to take them all to the Tower. He wanted Peter to tell them that they should let him take them captive. Don’t fight back. Don’t run away.
So Fury turned his coat and does the biding of that monster, Scotius Somerisle announces grimly. He asks them not to fight? He’ll get a fight he’ll never forget! They have never taken an army before, Robert Trefusis points out. And if it takes an army to kill them, well, death comes to them all. But a hundred of them for each of the students they murder.
Why should they fight? asks Werner. They can outrun an army. They could be at the coast by dawn. They could take a boat to… to… somewhere. They don’t have to die.
Nor shall they die, Hal replies. They shall prevail! Does he think even a regiment of men could stand up to Master Somerisle’s eyes? Or battle a wall of ice? Or an overwhelming command to slit their own throats? Those who violate their Sanctuary must face the wrath of the Witchbreed. Any blood that will be shed will not be theirs.
Javier finally speaks, pointing out that Fury is not such a fool as to lead a regiment of men to their death. Nor does he wish to seek the slaughter of the Witchbreed that would follow such a massacre of their people. Addressing Peter, he asks if Fury wishes a bloodless surrender. Peter agrees. And they will be here shortly after dawn? Javier muses. Well, tomorrow will be most interesting.
Elsewhere Virginia Dare tells her tale to Stephen and Clea Strange.
Virginia was born just after the settlers landed in the New World, fourteen years ago. Her father said it was a miracle that they survived the first year. They did not know what to eat. They were colonists in a hostile wilderness. They did not know who their friends were, nor who their enemies. There was no food. The crops they planted did not grow in time, and the animals were so hard to find. They year before they came, Sir Walter Raleigh had tried to set up a colony on Roanoke Island – it had lasted only a few months, but those settlers had been cruel to the local Indians, and they have long memories.
Crouching in caves, they almost starved, but then one day several Indians arrived, with Rojhaz at their head. They saw the colonists’ plight, and returned several hours later with turkeys and a deer and grain. The people of the settlement ate that day and through that winter with the help of their friends.
In the spring, the other Indians moved on, but Rojhaz stayed. Virginia’s father said he was the settlement’s guardian angel. He told them when to plant, helped them build, taught them to hunt. When they were attacked by leatherwings, huger than eagles, he helped to drive them off.
After the Spanish killed Sir Walter Raleigh and Virginia’s grandfather, their first governor on their way back home from England, their little colony was almost forgotten. They had much to contend with – the new land and strange weather which scared almost all native people away from that area, but with the help of Rojhaz the settlement survived.
And then Rojhaz took a few of them across to the mainland to trade some of their fish and crops for meat. Virginia was eight, the other children were younger. And while her father and the rest of them smoked their pipes, the children wandered off, across the marshes. She climbed some rocks. There was something hanging in the air. Something glittering. She could almost see it better with her eyes closed. It was beautiful and Virginia touched it.
When she came to… Rojhaz had found her. He’d tracked her all across the marshes. He said the others said there was a white flash, and that Jackie Harvie had said that where she was a fawn had been. The others laughed at him. Rojhaz hunted the fawn and waited until nightfall, when Virginia became herself once more. That was the first time she changed. It’s happened twice since then – each time when she was upset or angered. Once into some kind of lion. Once into a white hose. Each time, Rojhaz found her and brought her back safely.
And her father does not know? Strange inquires. Only Rojhaz knows, Virginia replies. For most of her lifetime the colony had been forgotten. The strange storms discouraged ships and new settlers as badly as the stories about the giant-thunder lizards of the plains. They’ve scraped by as best they could, but they need more people. They need help. That was why Ananias, her father, sent her to England. He wanted Virginia to ask the queen to invest more money in the colony. He wanted her to raise some support for more colonists to come to the Americas.
Strange recalls that the strange weather only started in the British Isles less than a year ago. But Virginia says it has always been that way at her home. Virginia corrects him. It started shortly before the first colonists landed. Then it spread across the Americas. And now it covers the world, Strange concludes. He asks her to come to his house in Greenwich. He can more easily protect her there. Clea protests that Sir Nicholas wanted her to stay where she is. Fury has other things to worry about, Strange points out.
On a hill outside Trieste Natasha has met the mysterious old man with the Templar treasure and announces that she was sent to make sure he get safely to England. He is the old man of the Knights Templar? He is. He has brought the thing on his cart. Examining the box, Natasha remarks she understands it is a weapon. In the wrong hands, all tools are weapons, the old man replies. In the right hands, everything is a weapon or nothing is.
Natasha looks at the box, seeing something glowing inside. She calls her men and tells the old man the Queen of England is dead. A much more reliable monarch will be taking possession of his prize. She orders her men to kill the servant. After that is done, the old man is tied up and gagged. The others are to get the trunk off the cart.
Two of the soldiers drag the old man to a cave. Suddenly, something, or more to the point, someone, extinguishes their lights and very quickly takes them out. Matthew turns to the old man and whispers for him not to say anything. He’ll get him safely to England.
That moment, Natasha greets him cheerfully. She is surrounded by dozens of soldiers all training their crossbows on Matthew. Natasha describes the situation to him and suggests he pretend to be a statue. Don’t even breathe if you can help it. She apologizes for meeting again like this, while a soldier puts Matthew into chains.
Natasha continues she had hoped he’d have the grace to lie down and die. She had his best interests at heart. After all, if she takes him to Count Otto’s castle, he’ll just lock him up in the mountain until he takes all of his secrets and leaves nothing behind but a sad blind corpse. But it’s too late for regrets, isn’t it? Tomorrow, Count Otto will have the weapon, the old Man and the daring master-spy. The day after tomorrow… he’ll have the world.