1602 #5

Issue Date: 
February 2004
Story Title: 
1602 – Part Five: In Which a Treacherous Course is Plotted

Neil Gaiman (writer), Andy Kubert (illustrator), Richard Isanove (Digital Painting), Todd Klein (letterer), Scott McKowen (cover artist), Joe Quesada & Nick Lowe (editors), Joe Quesada (editor-in-chief), Dan Buckley (Publisher)
Special thanks to Nanci Dakesian and Kelly Lamy

Brief Description: 

Fury prepares his men to take Javier’s Witchbreed without violence. Strange seeks him out via magic to inform him tat his agent, Matthew, has failed and the Templar treasure is now in the hands of Otto von Doom. Thanks to Petros, King James learns of the Javier’s students having been in custody. Petros reminds him that they had the deal that James would give them to the Inquisitor. James is not happy at the thought. The Inquisitor is ready to take them by force though. Strange contacts the old man Donal imprisoned by Doom and learns that, while Doom has the Templar treasure, he doesn’t realize what the treasure is and is diverted by another object. As he returns home, Strange mentions having felt something familiar at Doom’s castle and he and Clea wonder whether Sir Reed and his crew of adventurers who are believed dead are actually Doom’s prisoners. Clea tells Virginia the story of Sir Reed and his three friends who gained strange powers on the Sargasso Sea. Strange meets Fury and Javier at the Tower of London, where they decide to confront Doom directly. They use a sheep seemingly to down the Witchbreed and, with Scotius’ and Jean’s powers, raise it into the air to travel with it to Latveria. On his way back home, Strange has a spell of weakness and his astral form is drawn to the moon, where somebody tells him he owes him an explanation.

Full Summary: 

Neil Gaiman himself gives a synopsis of what happened so far:
We are in the Marvel universe it’s 400 years ago. For reasons not yet known, people and events are coming into existence at the wrong time. Sir Nicholas Fury, the head of Queen Elizabeth’s intelligence organization and Stephen Strange, her court physician, were unable to prevent the Queen’s death at the agency of Count Otto von Doom, the ruler of Latveria.

On the continent the Inquistion under the leadership of the Grand Inquisitor persecutes the Witchbreed. In the past, England has offered a haven to the Witchbreed and turned a blind eye to the activities of Carlos Javier, their leader. But Elizabeth’s successor, James VI of Scotland, hates the Witchbreed and blames the Queen’s death on them. He has sent Fury to capture or kill Javier and his Witchbreed. Fury sent his young assistant Peter Parquah to warn Javier.

In Trieste, blind ballad singer Matthew Murdoch, Fury’s top agent, has been betrayed by the mysterious Natasha. The Templar Weapon he was sent to retrieve is now in the hands of Otto von Doom.

And all the while, strange weather phenomena threaten to destroy the world: phenomena that Strange is convinced center on the girl Virginia Dare, newly arrived with her Native American retainer, from the Roanoke Colony in the New World.

Fearfully, artist Andy Kubert asks what all the tiny dinosaurs are doing here if this is the Marvel Universe. Later, Andy, comes the reply. Kubert expresses his concert that he hopes Neil knows what he is doing!

On a hillside, Nicholas Fury addresses his men, stressing that Javier’s people are to be taken alive. If any of them are hurt or killed, he will have the skin of the man who did it. This said, he then orders them to eat. They ride at dawn.

He walks away from the others to run into Strange, who greets him. How did he find him? Fury exclaims. He is the master of certain arts after all, Strange points out. Fury still refuses to believe in magic and assumes Strange gets by on guile and trickery. But he should speak his point.

Whether Fury believes in them or not, his arts have shown Strange things happening far from here, comes the reply. Fury’s agent has failed. He lies! Fury exclaims. He wishes he did, Strange replies, but he and the old man were betrayed. They and the Templar weapon are in the hand of…

Doom, Fury finishes his sentence. Strange congratulates him on his guess. Doom! Fury cries with clenched fists. He killed Her Majesty, Fury will swear to it. He was dangerous before, now he fears for all of them.

He explains that he was about to take Javier into his custody. He and his creatures need to be kept safe. From the new king? Strange asks. How will he accomplish that? Fury admits that he doesn’t yet know. He is an Englishman and he cannot betray the crown – no more than he can betray the God who places the crown on the head of the unworthy.

Strange hopes that their new king feels as kindly towards Nicholas’ future health and well-being as Nicholas does about him. He would advise him to come up with a plan and fast. Strange continues that he has taken Virginia Dare to his house in Greenwich, where she will be safer. He shall concentrate on unraveling this mystery with his magics.

Fury refuses to hear any more tales of magic. His ignorance is invincible, is it not? Strange sighs. Very well, enough. He can hear Clea calling. It is time he broke his fast. And Fury’s soldiers will be coming with food for him. Fury asks what he means, but is interrupted when his man Dougan comes with bread and cheese. No sign of Strange. Was he asleep? Fury asks the solider. No comes the confused reply. Was anyone with him? Sir Nicholas is scaring him, comes the reply. He scares himself, Fury admits. Too many ghosts in the morning mist. But nothing that cannot be exorcised with bread and cheese, he wagers. He orders the men to saddle up. They are riding south.

Soon, they arrive at Carlos Javier’s school for young gentlefolk. Looking at the school’s motto Omnia mutantur. Nos et mutamus in illis Fury admits that things change, aye. But some changes are harder than he dreamed. He knocks on the door, demanding it be opened in the King’s name. It is opened by his own man Peter Parquah. Seeing the bruises in his face, Fury asks if he is hurt. Only his pride, Peter admits. The guard last night was a trifle overzealous.

Fury enters and is greeted by Carlos, who asks if he would like to talk about what is troubling him. This is not the time, Fury replies. The King has sent him to take Carlos and his pupils into captivity. Will Carlos make it easy for him or not?

Javier stresses that, if he surrenders, it is because he trusts Fury to the right thing for all of them. Fury promises he understands. Javier prays Nicholas knows what he is doing. For there will be blood on his hands if he does not. There will be blood on his hand either way, Fury stresses grimly.

A little later, the Witchbreed walk out peacefully with Fury carrying Javier. The soldiers are more frightened of them than the other way around. As one soldier calls upon Jesus to protect them, Hal snarls at him what would be upsetting him. Has he never seen an Orkneyman before?

While they are led into their cage, Petros arrives at James’s and informs him that the inquisitor commends him for taking Javier and his monsters captive and wishes to remind the King of the second part of his obligation. To turn the creatures over to the inquisition.

His obligation? the King shouts and reminds Petros that he is the King of Scotland, soon to be crowned King of England. His obligation is to his conscience and to his God. Not to some Spanish offal-eater. Changing his tack with a smile, he asks about Petros. Why doesn’t he come and work for him? He’ll make him a Baron or an Earl. He’ll be a rich and influential man… How does the inquisitor know that Javier has been captured? Perhaps a little bird told him, Petros suggests with a smile, and he hopes James will not take it amiss if for now at least he keeps his current position.

Petros is suddenly gone and the King observes to his companion Banner that the pretty young man left in a quite a hurry. Next time… he does not think he should be permitted to leave quite so easily.

Soon, Petros makes his report to the Grand Inquisitor, who remarks that, if James will not give up the prisoners, he is quite prepared to take them from him. Soon it will be time for another journey across the North Atlantic. Now he has a message for Petros to give to his man in the Vatican. He is to tell him that the time the Inquisitor spoke of is coming and he will let him know when it is time to act.

In the Vatican, Petros informs a toadlike-looking monk of those words and the other man replies that there have been more enquiries about the missing papal envoy. He has advised the Holy Father that he did not arrive in Domdaniel but was most likely killed by bandits in the mountains. He doubts that he was believed. But at the moment there is too much attention on Count von Doom’s activities for his Holiness to worry about the affairs of the Inquisition. Those of them who are loyal wait only for the Inquisitor’s words…

In Latveria, Otto von Doom welcomes his prisoners, the mysterious Matthew working for Fury and the old man whom he was supposed to lead to England with his Templar treasure. Otto informs his prisoners that he is grateful to them for bringing the treasure safely to him. He has examined it but cursorily. Enough to tell him that it is a rare and strange device with many secrets. It was in the hope he could persuade the old man to divulge some of those secrets that he brought him up there. Is there anything he wishes to say? The old man remains silent.

He sees. With a broad smile, Otto decides that he still shall not be tortured because he is too fine a fellow to torture him, and the old man is too old and frail to survive it for long. And because he already owns the finest mind there is for all matters alchemical and mechanical. So, whether he wishes to unlock its secrets or not does not matter. He shall unlock them and he shall continue with his grand adventure and very soon he shall tell the world. They shall talk more soon. As they are led back to their cell, Matthew observes wryly that Doom thinks a lot of himself, doesn’t he?

Later, Doom talks to his prisoner Richard Reed. How does the globe glow? It casts light into the darkness. It’s not glass. He has never seen anything like it. There must be a way to break it open, to get inside. He could weaken it with Aqua fortis… What does Reed suggest he try? Why doesn’t he just lock it away in the darkness and forget about it? Reed suggests. Otto doesn’t know what it is or what it can do. Everything he has told him about it sounds wrong, like it’s not from here. Otto spits back that Reed is a coward and a fool. It is why he is locked away in darkness while Otto shall have light everlasting.

In his sleeping chamber, Otto stands naked before an invisible column, while Natasha waits in his bed. Still, his thoughts are consumed by the glowing orb. He cannot break it. The acids failed. Perhaps the galvanic energy will open it… Power is all. And when he controls this power, he will be unstoppable. As he puts on his armor, Natasha replies that he already is unstoppable All around them, the world falls into chaos. He writes a new world on the ruins of the old. But he must be careful. There is no careful. There is no right, no wrong, there is only von Doom, he replies as he puts on his hood.

Matthew and the old man are chained in their cell. The old man awakes when he the image of Dr Strange appears to him. He greets his as “old friend.” Calling him “Donal,” Strange asks how he is. He’ll live, Donal replies. The thing he was about to bring Strange is in the castle. Doom has it, but he does not have it. For now, his attention has been distracted by a curiosity. He brought it with him, hoping that it might distract attention. A golden ball. It fell from the sky some fifteen years ago and was a gift to the Order. He hopes it will keep him occupied, while he and the Irishman get out of here. But it seems to him that Doom’s prisoners do not escape. Then they will have to remedy that, Strange decides.

Hey, old man, what’s wrong? Matthew calls. The old man was dreaming. He informs Matthew that he saw Strange and all will be well. They will free them. Well, isn’t that good to hear? Matthew replies. If it wasn’t for his dreams, given their situation, he might feel almost discouraged.

In his home, Stephen Strange staggers down the stairs, informing Clea, Rhojaz and Virginia that he has spoken to the old man. Each mirror journey makes him more and more tired… and so cold… He has been to that place before. It was a castle built into a mountain, but when? When was he there?

Clea gives him something warm to drink and reminds him of his words from his prior trance. I am in the heart of a mountain, far from here, a place built to hold Earth and Air, Water and Fire…

That was it, Strange agrees, but what can the four elements signify? Everything that is, is made of those substances… What if it was four people, Clea carefully suggests. One who burns like flame, one who flows like water, one made of rock, one of air…

Them? Stephen exclaims. They are dead. And if they aren’t? Clea asks. Stephen admits that she is wise. It is almost dark and he is late for the meeting at the Tower. He fears that she will soon have a dead traitor for a husband. He says goodbye to Virgina and asks Rojhaz to protect her.

Virginia asks Clea who those people they were talking about are.

Clea’s tale:
Sir Richard Reed was one of the most brilliant men who ever walked. Ten years back, he mounted an expedition to the New World, seeking not gold or treasure, but knowledge. His ship, the Fantastick, was of his own design, captained by an old friend. There were others on the ship with him. A young adventurer, Master Storm who had killed a man in a duel, they say and had been sent abroad by the Queen, and Storm’s sister also, fleeing a man in London town to whom she was betrothed, and whom she did not love.

The present:
As she combs Virginia’s hair Clea tries to think of the ballad:
There were four brave souls rode the ocean abroad, T’was on the Fantastick they’d sail…

Virginia interrupts her. She’s heard that song. The sailors on the Virginia Maid used to sing it. She could never understand the story. Something about a light which changed them and saving people from a huge monster or something…

Clea’s tale:
There is a sea called Sargasso, and it was on that sea that the ship was becalmed. It was adrift for days. Until ahead of them they saw a curtain of light, which rent the world. The terrified crew thought their doom had come, and taking the ship’s boat, rowed themselves away, but Reed and his two friends stayed with the ship, and so did the brave Captain. The Fantastick drifted through the curtain of light and when they reached land, they found themselves changed. Changed in ways no man could have imagined.

Reed being Reed, they continued their journey westward around the world. They would send messages home from time to time. They were heroes who gave help to the weak and troubled. And then one day they vanished. The word went out that they were dead… but no man could say where they had died. And in time, hope faded as well. But hope like heroes can prove hard to kill.

The Present:
In Latveria, Doom remarks to Reed that, when he touched the golden globe to the galvanic hair, it seemed as if faces swam in its golden surface. Perhaps if there were a greater galvanic force… What if he were to put up a rod made of silver, above the castle and then run it to the sphere… When lightning strikes then they would see fireworks, eh Reed?

At the Tower of London, Javier’s students have been put away. While three of them are playing cards, Walter sits at the window. John Grey asks him why he isn’t playing with the others. Walter explains that he doesn’t have the patience for it. He’s scared and angry and fears for his life. His wings are bound and the cloth constricts him. He is tired of looking like something he is not. He is sick of this pretense. What about John? He feels the same, John admits.

Scotius has noticed their exchange. Aggressively, he asks Walter why he is talking to master Grey. He is talking to Master Grey, because he wishes to, Walter replies pointedly. He may talk to whom he please. Does he wish to fight him? Scotius asks.

Henry breaks them apart, telling them this is preposterous. Two men preparing to fight over nothing. Surely, if they fight each other they’ll be doing what pleases King James the most. Now for himself, he’d make him work a great deal harder for each drop of Witchbreed blood he wishes to shed.

Doctor Strange enters, walking through the room and advises master Somerisle to listen to his friend. His anger may soon become their most powerful weapon. He should keep it for their enemies. He walks to join Carlos in the adjacent room and the youngsters wonder who that was and why he knew Scotius’ name.

Strange greets Fury and Javier. He’s not a ghost this time? Fury asks, or a dream? Strange invites him to touch him if he doubts. Fury introduces the two men.

So, Strange starts, the three traitors are gathered together in the Tower and, when King James reaches London, he will place their heads on spikes over Temple Bar, and crows will take their eyes. Traitors? Fury is furious. Strange interrupts him. They are there to discuss acting in defiance of the crown, are they not? That’s treachery, any way Fury cuts it. Fury stays silent.

Strange addresses him: Fury asked him before when the Queen was still alive if he thought the world was truly ending. Well, he believes it is. Creation is coming apart at the seams. They have very little time to stave off disaster. And if this is true, what can they do? Fury asks. Strange admits he does not know. Perhaps this Templar treasure can help them. Perhaps not. But if any man would know, it is Reed.

A bleak jest, Fury replies. Reed is dead. All four of them vanished after leaving Russia almost five years ago. Strange whispers: and if he told Fury that Reed was alive? That he is a captive of Doom? Just as the Templar treasure is and Fury’s agent.

Fury grabs Strange by the shirt. If he could prove it… then nothing would stop Fury from going to Latveria himself, and ripping down Doom’s mountain fortress stone by stone to free them all. He can prove nothing, Strange replies calmly. He is merely a mountebank. Fury said so himself this morning when he was a hundred miles away. Did Fury enjoy his bread and cheese?

Javier speaks up, insisting that Strange is speaking the truth. How can Carlos know for sure? Fury demands. He can’t. But he knows that Strange believes he speaks truly. And he trusts him. Fury decides that then he’ll believe Strange as well. Although he fears that he is signing his death warrant. But to raise the army of men he would need to attack Latveria… to lead it across Europe, with all hands against them would be impossible. And James would never give him an army. Nor cold he get an army there fast enough.

He is wrong, Carlos replies. He does not need an army. And it does not have to take weeks. But, when this is over, he wants Fury’s word that he will find a safe haven for Carlos’ people. Somewhere neither James nor the Church will be able to harm them… those of them that are still alive. And if they help Fury, then every hand will be against them, both their people. Does he understand that? They will be traitors and fugitives and monsters forever.

Fury snarls that he does not believe the world is ending. He neither likes nor trusts Doctor Stephen Strange. He failed to protect his Queen and now he finds himself betraying his new King. But Reed was his friend. And Carlos is his friend. He shakes his hand. He has Fury’s word. Then he’ll need a ship, the strongest, fastest that he has, Carlos orders.

As they leave the tower, Strange informs Fury that he believes the girl Virginia is important. He believes that in some ways she is causing the strange weather. Then they should kill her, Fury muses. Strange does not believe this would be a good idea. It seems perfectly straightforward to him, Fury points out. He is certain it does, Strange replies wryly. At heart, Sir Nicholas is a military man and so most problems can be dealt with the death of those that trouble him. But if the death of the girl also meant the death of the world, what then…?

Strange suddenly moans and falls. Nicholas and Peter who has just joined them make him sit down. Fury orders Peter to get Strange home safely. He hesitates, then orders the boy to get home to his village, his aunt and uncle afterwards. Get an honest job, making chairs or building bridges… and try to forget he ever worked for Fury. Does he understand? No, Sir, Peter replies honestly. Fury shakes his hand, telling him he worked well and hard. He wishes him farewell. And if he thinks James is onto him he should slit his own throat. It’ll be cleaner. God be with him.

Some Tower guards watch as the Witchbreed are being led onto a ship in the Thames in chains. The idea is to scuttle the ship and send them all to a watery grave.

On the ship, the chained Carlo asks Fury what the name of the vessel is. The Eagle’s Shadow, Nicholas replies. It’s a god name, Carlos decides. Let’s hope their chains hold. Addressing Master Grey, he asks if he is ready. Grey hesitates. It is so much more than has been asked before. From those who have much to give, much is demanded, Carlos replies. He will be besides grey all the time, reinforcing will and power. He orders Scotius to begin and an optic blast propels the ship away from the harbor. Now Jean! Carlos shouts and lifted by telekinesis the ship rises into the air and moves.

Not too far away, Strange moans he cannot breathe and falls in front of a helpless Peter. In his vision, he awakes on the moon, where a giant’s voice tells him he is welcomed here. Perhaps he does owe Strange something of an explanation.

Characters Involved: 

Nicholas Fury
Peter Parquah

Stephen Strange
Clea Strange

Virginia Dare

Matthew Murdock

Carlos Javier
Hal, Jean « John » Grey, Robby, Scotius, Werner (Javier’s Witchbreed)

Richard Reed

Grand Inquisitor
The Inquisitor’s toadish agent in the Vatican

King James VI

Count Otto von Doom

Fury’s soldiers

The Watcher (unseen)

in Clea’s tale:
Sir Richard Reed, Captain Grimm, Jonathan Storm, Susan Storm

in the prologue
Neil Gaiman
Andy Kubert

Story Notes: 

“Aqua fortis” was the name given by Medieval alchemists to an acid used for dissolving silver, among other metals.

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