Aurora holds onto the gold covered body of her lover and teammate, Dr. Walter Langkowski, sometimes known as Sasquatch, after he went missing from her for mere moments. The mysterious woman whom Aurora met moments ago, Lillian von Loont, also known as Gilded Lily, she is a great aunt of Walter’s. Gilded Lily tells Aurora not to distress herself, as her handsome friend is not harmed, in fact he is safe, preserved forever in a cocoon of gold! The moody Alphan turns to Gilded Lily and asks her who she is and what she is doing here, as Walter told her this house had been deserted for almost one hundred years. Her French accent gets especially heavy, something Aurora tends to cull as it separates her form her other persona, Jeanne-Marie. The gold-faced woman remains calm as she supposes it has been one hundred years, and begins to tell Aurora her story, something no one has ever heard and that began back in 1875.
Flashback – 1875
Lillian von Loont and her first husband were traveling by motor car through the Transylvanian Alps, when suddenly, disaster struck. Lillian’s husband was killed instantly, yet she survived, battered and broken, but alive. This first experience with death frightened Lillian, who wandered an uncalculated time and distance through the dark Balkan woods – until she came to a castle. Despite her delirium, Lillian could tell that the castle was ancient, that the vast weight of centuries crushed down on the great stones it was built from, blocks of granite seeped by an evil power.
Lillian tried to reach the portcullis, but she was too badly wounded and stumbled before she got to it. As darkness began to overwhelm her, her last sense told her that she was not alone. She awoke days – or perhaps weeks – later, her wounds had healed and with her mind clear, she knew she was somewhere within the great dark castle. It was then too that she realized she was no longer alone. Sitting up in the bed she starts to talk, but the figure in the shadows hushes her and tells her not to be frightened, as he will not harm her. Lillian asks him who he is, and stepping out of the shadows, Lillian sees his soothing, almost hypnotic smile. He introduces himself as Esteban Diablo.
Despite the man having the Spanish name for the Devil, Lillian’s fear of him vanished immediately, his accent also told her that he was native of that country. However, he nursed Lillian back to health and behaved exactly as a proper Victorian Gentleman should have. Esteban’s manners were exquisite and Lillian was ashamed when one evening he coaxed her into talking about her poor dead husband. She broke into tears disgracefully at the dinning table, but Esteban completely understood.
Diablo took hold of Lillian and led her into the depths of the castle, down ancient stairways that looked as if no mortal had walked for centuries. Lillian’s heart pounded in the silence, but Esteban only smiled. Lillian is led through chambers, strange to her, Esteban tells her not to frightened as there is nothing in the castle that can harm her so long as she is under his protection. He leads her into his workshop, his inner sanctum where he weaves his little miracles – such as his potion for the infinite prolongation of life.
Esteban’s words astounded Lillian von Loont and she stammers as she asks him how he knows he has done such a thing. Diablo replies that he has been testing the potions upon himself for a very long time and reveals that he is one thousand years of age! Diablo notes Lillian’s astonishment and states that she should be astonished, for he is much more than he may seem. He declares that he is the greatest alchemist the world has ever known as a cloud of smoke appears around him, dissipating, it reveals Diablo in a grand costume.
He walks over to Lillian who is frightened and informs her that there is no need to fear him. He reveals to Lillian that he has grown more than fond of her over the past weeks he has been caring for her, and clasps her at her sides. He informs her that he has known many women in a thousand years but that their fleeting mortality has always denied him a lasting relationship. Diablo pauses before declaring that this had never bothered him much as he has never loved – until now!
Inhibitions leave Lillian von Loont as she forgets her proper upbringing and what it means to be a lady. She surrenders herself to passions much older than the structured mores of England and kisses Esteban Diablo. Diablo becomes von Loont’s lover and teacher, opening her eyes to the ancient arts and opening her heart to his love. They lived, worked, loved and grew together for nearly one year. However deep down, Lillian von Loont knew that while it was paradise – it was a fool’s paradise, doomed from the beginning.
Lillian soon learnt that the superstitious villagers feared her lover – and not without reason – as Diablo ruled that tiny corner of the world and the villagers feared him too much to do anything about it…until one day. The villagers had monitored their “master” well, for they knew that in the season, which his potions were at their weakest, his powers were at their lowest ebb. Diablo knew this too, which is why he fled into a hidden way to his workshop when the angry villagers mobbed him one day. His fleeing into his sanctum was exactly what the villagers had wanted, for they had found the laboratory and wrecked it. They then sealed him in it, powerless and doomed.
Lillian witnessed all of this from a high window of the castle and wondered how Esteban could have been betrayed so. The answer came to her when she learned that Diablo’s servants had spied on their master and betrayed him. The butler soon tried to capture Lillian, but she killed him by shoving the sharp end of a torch in his chest. Some hours later, Lillian returned to the tomb of her beloved Diablo, but it was hopeless, for the villagers had closed him behind steel and stone – forever.
Eventually, Lillian von Loont made her way back to England, where she used the fortune left to her by her first husband to create her own alchemical workshop. Diablo had taught all of his secrets to Lillian except for that of his longevity. Lillian knew that she had to uncover that if she were to have her revenge. She worked for ten long years testing and abandoning one thousand potions until one day when she discovered the greatest secret for which all true alchemists search – transmutation. Lillian managed to turn a block of lead into a block of gold, in which she realized that there was a link between the divine yellow metal and her quest for immortality.
With the key to her revenge discovered, all she needed now was only to fit it into the proper doors. So within the year, Lillian returned to Transylvania, and found out who had been involved in the betrayal of Diablo. She arranged to be introduced to the first of them. Lillian states that back in those days she was a rare beauty, and it was no problem for her to ensnare her victim, and within a month she was married to one of Diablos’ killers. They were supposed to honeymoon in Karlsbaad, which was one hundred miles away from the tomb of her beloved. On what would have been their wedding night, Lillian von Loont at last revealed her true nature.
For while Lillian had not quite discovered Diablo’s potion of immortality, she had discovered the link between impervious gold and an eternal future life. It did not matter to Lillian that the discovery had cost her her humanity, and she used her newfound powers to encase her new husband in gold, where he would stand, frozen in his frightened pose forever. Lillian shipped her newly acquired “statue” back to England and arranged for word to get across to the villagers that her groom had deserted her. Within a matter of weeks, that bait lured one of his friends, another of the betrayers into Lillian’s web.
What followed next was an odyssey that took Lillian von Loont around the world and back, for the men who betrayed Diablo had been young and adventurous, not content to stay forever in the small Transylvanian village. Lillian tracked them all however, across desert, mountain, tundra and plain until she had all eight “statues” in her collection.
Aghast, Aurora reveals that she saw the statues in the hall, and that they are all alive! Emotionlessly, Lily replies that to kill the men outright would have been too quick and clean, for she wanted them to suffer as she suffers, and how her beloved Esteban must have suffered. She strokes the cheek of the gold-encased Walter Langkowski and reveals that the men who killed Diablo live immobile and immortal, like the gold that coats them – just like Aurora’s handsome companion.
Gilded Lily grabs Aurora by the wrist and tells her that she has never had the pleasure of creating a female statue, for which they need to choose the correct pose for her. Aurora protests, and as she is being dragged away by the timeless and emotionless woman she calls back to Walter, pleading for his help. Gilded Lily tells Aurora not to fuss, as the process is quite painless, though she supposes it must get a trifle boring after a while. Walter suddenly wakes up from his unconsciousness and wonders what happened to him…
Walt remembers how he brought Aurora to Tamarind Island to show her the old family estate, which he thought could be used as a new team headquarters, what with Alpha Flight getting back together and all. No one had lived in the mansion for more than fifty years – or so Walt thought, for once they were inside, they were amazed at how tidy the place was, as if someone had been keeping it up. As Aurora explored ahead of Walt, he leaned on a wall – and then suddenly it opened up, and he fell through, finding himself in total darkness. Before he could even begin to find a way out however – he was grabbed by Gilded Lily.
Standing in the pose which Lillian caught him in, Walt doesn’t recall a blow or gas knocking him out, but whatever got him has got him locked solid, for he cannot even see! Walt realizes that something must be covering his glasses, and deduces that he must be covered in something, something that is also holding him completely immobile. Walt thinks that it is lucky there is one thing he can still do which does not require movement – unleashing the gamma energy stored up in his cell structure, which transforms him into Sasquatch! And he does, shredding the gold, and where once was a handsome man, now stands a shaggy beast!
Elsewhere, heading across Northern Alberta flies the serene goddess Snowbird! Narya recalls the changes that have happened within Alpha Flight since their team leader Guardian died. Snowbird believes that Heather Hudson – Guardian’s wife will make a good leader, but there are other things that have caused Narya to doubt her place within the team. Suddenly, Snowbird is struck by something, and keeling over mid flight she screams before uncontrollably plummeting towards the snow below, while the pain strikes her like fire and ice. Narya tries not to crash, but lands in the snow nonetheless. Gathering herself, Narya wonders what could have affected her like that – for she is a child of the Gods – and only they could strike at her very being like this – but Narya doesn’t know why.
Back at Tamarind Island, Sasquatch lumbers through a secret hallway, slightly confused as to what is going on, for the light panels are not even windows and do not seem to be the actual source of illumination. Walt mumbles that he cannot even figure out how so many tunnels can fit into one house – even if it is a mansion. Walt stumbles across something that seems to be a door, finding it locked, he decides that he is in no mood for being delicate, and barges right through the wall! The sight that he sees is shocking, a secret room filled with contraptions and devices, he sees Aurora tied helplessly up over a vat of liquid gold, and Gilded Lily standing beside the vat.
‘What a magnificent beast, but I cannot be bothered with you just now’ declares Gilded Lily and throws a couple of drops of elixir from a goblet she is holding towards the floor, and the stones themselves seem to rise and attacks Sasquatch. Nevertheless, Sasquatch smashes his way through them and tells Gilded Lily that it will take more than that to stop him. Sasquatch wastes no time in messing up the rest of the lab either, destroying all the equipment he can get his big furry paws on.
Not the least bit phased, Gilded Lily walks away from Sasquatch exclaiming that she doesn’t have the time to waste on him. Sasquatch sees Gilded Lily walking away from him and extends his arm out to her, grabbing at her cloak. It rips away, and both he and Aurora stare in shock at what is beneath the cloak. For there is no flesh, but a mechanical body on wheels. Gilded Lily cries out at Sasquatch, asking him if he knows what he has done. Walt takes no notice and walks over to her, placing a hand on her face, Lillian von Loont cries out some more, until Sasquatch pulls the gold mask off her face, revealing beneath it, a mutilated face, which quickly crumbles, to powder along with the rest of the “body”.
The laboratory starts to crumble, so Sasquatch pulls Aurora free from her restraints, and deduces that the house must have been tied to Gilded Lily mystically, and now that she is dead, the house is dying too. With Aurora in his arms, he barges through the falling debris, until they become trapped beneath tones of dust. Moments later, Sasquatch sneezes, and as the dust flies away from them, he grunts that he would never have thought to be grateful for allergies, but it would have taken ages to dig out of all the dust. ‘As always Cheri, a novel solution to any problem’ says the powder white Aurora.
Later, Sasquatch climbs up out of the hole in the ground where his mad aunt’s lab once stood and informs Aurora that there is no trace of the lab or the statues. It is as if someone scooped out the inside of the house and ground it all to a powder – which is pretty much what happened. He asks his girlfriend how she is doing, and she replies that she is fine, for Gilded Lily did not have the chance to do anything to her. Surprised, Sasquatch tells Aurora that he thought she must have done something, and reminds Aurora that she can fly and generate a blinding light, which means Gilded Lily would have needed a way to counter those abilities and tie Aurora up above the gold. ‘Wouldn’t she?’ Walt asks.
Aurora hugs herself before tells Sasquatch that it is late and she is cold and wants to go home. Sasquatch just narrows his eyes and realizes that something did happen while he was unconscious, and something must have got into Aurora’s head – but what? Walt knows Aurora has a split personality, and is constantly fighting to keep her “other-self” from gaining control – but this does not seem like Jeanne-Marie trying to take over, it as if it were something else – like a third personality starting to emerge…