'No! No! NOOOOOO!' screams Wanda Maximoff the Scarlet Witch, as her nightmare grows worse – she sees Nyx the Mother of Night turning Hercules and the Vision to dust. Wanda sits up, rubs her head under a star-filled Hyborian Age sky above her. 'Are you -' Conan the Barbarian asks as his hand grips his mighty sword hilt tight as Wanda screams, awakened by the visions that cut her to the core. 'No! I'm...I'm all right, Conan' Wanda assures the powerful warrior. The muscular Cimmerian has heard such cries before, a burning pain that erupts from within one's soul – he knows it well. There are no words of solace that he can give, so instead, he focuses on the immediate, looking at the wound in the back of Wanda's head, he tells her that it is still tender. 'It's probably a concussion...' Wanda supposes. 'A what?' Conan asks. 'Never mind' Wanda replies.
The sun begins to rise behind sand dunes miles away and Wanda remarks that they have traveled for three days, yet she senses that back in her world, mere moments have passed. Conan sheathes his sword and replies 'Wherever you come from, Red Witch, it lies out of reach'. Conan then stands on their fire, putting it out as he suggests that they should ride, as they will cover more ground before the heat rises.
When Conan found the blind sorceress, she was being ambushed by bandits. He slew a pair of her attackers, while the rest scattered like rats. Wanda told the Barbarian of the treasure stolen from her, worth more than anything a dozen merchant lords of Baalur could afford, so he agreed to help her get it back – in return for a half share of the fortune, of course. A powerful steed carries Wanda and Conan across the scorching land as Wanda informs Conan that once the shard is within their grasp, it is crucial that she does not look at it – not even for an instant. 'I thought you were blind' Conan replies. Wanda explains to him that, in a manner of speaking, her sight has been taken by a great evil, and that it is important this evil not see the shard through her eyes. 'Fair enough' Conan responds.
Conan knows that finding the bandits means crossing the Aranza Desert, a desolate plane of scorching sand. What few travelers they come across in their trek hew to two distinct ideologies – survivors, and savages – who Conan makes short work of, slaying them before they can harm Wanda or himself. But, there are other threats beneath the dunes as well – monsters – such as the enormous tentacled creature that rises up from the sand, and grabs Conan's horse as it's large jagged-tooth mouth grins at Wanda and Conan. This is just one of the many creatures from times long forgotten and lands long buried. 'That's right, clawed one – I am your prey' Conan calls out to the enormous creature, whose shadow engulfs Wanda in darkness. 'This Cimmerian-born will keep your gaze and carve your innards!' Conan boasts as he leaps over the one of the creature's tentacles, then up, onto the large creature's back, while Wanda fires a hex bolt at the creature's claw, freeing the horse. Conan knows that Wanda can hear the horse's cries, which guided her magic to its target.
'My companion may be blind, but you must be deaf – I said look at me!' Conan shouts at the creature as he plunges his sword into the creature's head, causing the beast to thrash about on the sand. 'Conan?' Wanda calls out. With his sword still in the creature's head, Conan calls back 'Ready your foul magics, Witch... and aim them toward the sound of my voice!' Wanda begins casting a hex and replies that she will try, although she sounds hesitant. 'You will, woman, else we'll both end up sun-bleached skeletons in the middle of nowhere! Do it...' Conan declares, looking behind him as one of the creature's pincers reach down towards him. 'NOW!' Conan shouts as he removes his sword from the creature's back and leaps from it, as Wanda's hex sphere strikes the underside of the behemoth, which soon collapses onto the ground. 'Ha! A demonic bolt for a demonic beast! Well met, Wanda Earthborn' Conan remarks.
Later, night has fallen and Wanda and Conan sit opposite each other, a small fire warming them and providing light in the darkness. Conan leans back against the body of the horse and tells Wanda that the nomads who passed them earlier follow a predictable route, that they will have stopped for the night, so if they are careful, they can catch them and barter for one of their steeds. 'Barter? What do we have to trade?' Wanda asks. 'My steel or your beauty. Either way, they'll help uus or I'll cut them all down' Conan responds as he holds his sword with some meat on it over the flames of the fire. 'You can be quite cruel, Conan' Wanda utters. 'I am whatever Crom needs me to be to survive' Conan responds.
Wanda asks Conan who this “Crom” is, to which Conan informs her that Crom is the God of the Great Mountain, that he gives his people the power to strive and to slay. 'And you pray to him?' Wanda asks. Conan frowns as he replies that Crom doesn't need their prayers, and he would never ask. Wanda moves closer to Conan and asks him if this is his life – money and murder? 'It is now' Conan replies, keeping his eye on the meat at the end of his sword. 'But it was not always this way?' Wanda asks. Conan ignores the question, instead he hands some of the meat to Wanda and tells her to eat the horse meat while it is warm, and then they will be off.
Under daylight now, Conan leans against a tent as he watches Wanda, creating a magical illusion of horses which several travelers look at in awe. Conan notes how the Witch's enchantments dazzle the desert travelers. A deal is quickly struck, with no need for threats or thuggery. Two more days across wind-blasted sand stretching off toward the horizon, Conan and Wanda ride across the sands on the back of a camel, cloaks over their faces to shield them from the sandstorms. Conan knows that the bandits who stole the crystal could not have made it far, and soon enough, with pressure exerted in a manner the Cimmerian finds pleasing, a way forward reveals itself after Conan threatened a bandit by putting a dagger to his throat. Shortly, Wanda and Conan lay on the edge of a cliff and look down at a makeshift camp that the thieves have set up on the edge of the River. Wanda quietly tells Conan to go first and find the shard, and once he has hidden it from her sight, she will move in to assist him.
And thus, the swordsman and the sorceress prepare to steal back that which had already been stolen. As the walk into the camp, the stench of fresh blood fills their senses. The sound of wind rippling across torn tarps and loose fabric – it appears that the thieves had already been looted. Conan looks at a body on the ground, a crow already stalking it. 'It seems we're not the only ones searching for your precious treasure...' Conan tells Wanda, who asks 'Are they -' 'Dead? Indeed' Conan confirms. Conan goes over to one of the bodies and informs Wanda that their bandits fought men in red robes – and a flock of crows as well. 'A strange combination' Conan remarks, before noticing something. Wanda asks Conan if he has found something, to which Conan looks at a skull on the red cloak, and reports that he has seen this marking before. The man in the red robe suddenly stirs and reaches up to Conan, who knows that even though many years had passed, there are some symbols which refuse to fade – this stylized skull still burned like a butcher's brand in the Barbarian's mind.
'You serve the night-god' Conan declares as he grabs the man by his head. 'Eyes of midnight come for all of us...' the cultist utters. 'You know him?' Wanda asks. Conan tells her that he knows his ilk, and thus he knows where they have taken her crystal. 'Look there... her eyes like ink... such glory...' the cultist gasps as his body begins to crumble into shards. Conan stands up, 'Shadizar' Conan announces. He tells Wanda that it is a city of wicked wealth, bloody bounty and magic – rotten magic. He takes Wanda's hand and leads her onwards as a crow circles them. Conan reports that the city is a day's ride from here – provided the weather cooperates. 'You'll take me there?' Wanda asks. 'I said we'd get the shard, didn't I? A Cimmerian forges his promises like steel. Let's go' Conan tells Wanda.
Wanda's mind wanders back to her friends, and the nightmare of their demise still lingers. If she could open her eyes and see the light, she wonders if it would fade – but her gaze is ever dark and her future equally uncertain. The Barbarian is harsh, unyielding and clearly carrying a darkness of his own. They travel on the back of the camel, Wanda's cloak up to protect her from the winds as Conan sits behind her. The sun rises and Conan holds Wanda close helping her to guide the camel as Wanda senses Conan would march through the gates of Hell itself before letting any harm befall her. Travel is a bond shared between the road and its passengers – replying on one another and the solace of the shared experience. They stop at a market where they are provided with water and fruit. Conan helps Wanda guide the canister of water to her mouth.
Later, they rest, as night begins to fall. A sprawling city can be seen in the distance, but as he leans against the camel, Conan remarks that even though Shadizar beckons, they should wait until night falls completely before they enter. 'Won't that look suspicious?' Wanda asks as she sits cross-legged, meditating. Conan reveals that he is not welcome in the wicked city, so it is either entering under the cover of darkness – or not at all. 'I see' Wanda replies. Conan moves onto his side, lying down, he suggests Wanda rest while she can, as they will need their senses sharp tonight. Would that Wanda could rest and be at peace – but unresolved mattersstill twist deep within her mind – the fear that she would never see her friends or loved ones again – and the rage. But, Conan slumbers as well, and in his dream, he is an archer, walking through the ruins of a castle made of nightmares in a land made of nightmares. There is a nightmare in every stick, every stone – the nightmare is all around him. And the nightmare has a face. A demon's face.
Elsewhere, the place known simply as “Nightmare's Realm”, the Immortal Hulk sits facing the corner of a room, where the body of Nyx's son, Hypnos lies broken behind him. 'Oh. God' Clint Barton a.k.a. Hawkeye utters as he comes across Hypnos' body. 'You mean him? 'Cause that guy's not the god of anything anymore. Or did you mean me?' the Hulk grins as he holds up one of the shards of Nyx's soul, and turns to Hawkeye, grinning. 'You... you killed him. Hypnos. You just snapped his neck...' Hawkeye exclaims, shocked.
Rocket Raccoon enters, perched on a piece of broken wall, as the Hulk jokes that he should have hid in a tree and shot Hypnos with an arrow while he was a 90-pound scientist. 'That's how a real Avenger does it, right?' he snarls at Hawkeye. 'Whatever. So somebody died and left a cool magic gem behind – happens every day' Rocket mutters, before asking how they make it work. 'Would Nightmare know, or -' Rocket begins, when suddenly, 'I would not' Nightmare announces as he appears behind Rocket, grinning, he makes Rocket jump with fear.
'What?' Nightmare asks, declaring that this realm is his again, he is always just behind anyone when they sleep. 'But as for this bauble... it is a power for the waking world. I only kept it as a bargain with Zeus' Nightmare remarks, adding that he fears the key to unlocking it died with him. 'You're overthinking it' the Hulk grins as he looks at his reflection in the shard. 'You don't untie the Gordian Knot. Andi don't bother with keys' the Hulk declares. Hawkeye moves closer to the Hulk, who holds the shard between his hands. 'Just think this through, okay? Think anout what you're doing...' Hawkeye utters. The Hulk tells Hawkeye that he is thinking about endless night. Endless night – and then the end of the human world. 'Know what I think about that?' the Hulk asks as he slowly shatters the shard, breaking it in two – and plunging Nightmare's realm into darkness.
Hawkeye, Rocket and Nightmare look in on shock, as dark bonds of energy spiral around the Hulk, who clenches his fists and declares that it is a good place to start. There is a god who lives on a great mountain. He is grim and savage and hates weaklings. It is useless to ask his aid, for he brings only doom to mankind. And in his dream, Conan knows this is his creature. A creature of Crom.
'Bruce!' Wanda gasps as she wakes from her nightmare. 'Demon!' Conan calls out as he wakes up, too. 'What was that, woman? Did you send that vsion into my head?' Conan asks, after witnessing the Hulk's scheme. 'No! I...I...' Wanda utters, hanging her head, she tells Conan that she is seeing another shard, and its power taken to feed a monster. Conan remarks that he saw that monster, and that he is strength incarnate – one of Crom's own dooms, set to punish mankind. Conan wipes a tear from Wanda's face and asks her if she has always seen such things from worlds beyond. Wanda tells Conan that she hasn't, but that the dark goddess who cursed her eyes connected her to the pieces of her broken soul. 'No soul survives this life intact' Conan utters. Wanda turns to face Conan and tells him that he has endured much pain and death. 'Yes. It is the way of things...' Conan replies as Wanda touches his face, and they lean in towards each other, ever closer, they almost lock their lips together, before Wanda whispers 'We can't.
Conan pulls away, as Wanda informs him that back home, there is someone – she can't. 'No. nor could I. In my heart, I am still...' his voice trails off and he turns away from Wanda, revealing that there was a pirate queen named Belit, that she was his, and he was hers. They built a life of passion and plunder set against the thunderous waves of the Black Coast. 'And then?' Wanda asks. 'And then death, despair and a lesson' Conan responds as he looks up to the star-filled sky, and remarks that nothing will last, that all will be forgotten – and darkness always returns.
Behold, Shadizar. In the writings of the ancient Zamoran scribes, it is referred to as “The shining jewel upon the sands”. Lights glow from the city, and smoke rises from various fire places. It is said that the ancient Zamorian scribes had a well-developed sense of humor. It is also said that to live in Shadizar, the Wicked City, you must keep four eyes in your head – two in front and two in back – and never close a one. Outside the massive walls that surround Shadizar, two guards stand in front of large doors. One of them yawns, when suddenly, sand rises up around them, and blows in their eyes. 'Really? Yours as well? What are the odds of that, eh?' the other guard replies as they both cover their eyes, enabling Conan and Wanda to run past them.
'We're through the gates, thanks to your sorcery. But not out of danger yet' Conan remarks as they walk down a busy market area, Conan informs Wanda that his face is well known to the night worshippers. 'It's not just them we need to worry about' Wanda points out, reminding Conan that her enemy can see through her eyes, and that she is looking for the shard. 'If she sees it, she comes to get it. And then we die' Wanda utters, while Conan watches a man who is standing nearby in the shadows.
Shortly, Conan and Wanda enter the merchant's quarters. Conan searches the signs above the storefronts for the symbols of a particular trade. He looks for the mortar and pestle, the star-in-circle, the sign of five – the mark of magic. 'Unless we block her view...' Wanda remarks, before they walk into a store, a little bell above the door dings, and Conan informs the merchant that his friend is under a curse, that they need something to hide her from sorcerous sight. The bald man with a snake symbol across his forehead 'Say no more, friend. I've an adept's cloak with the right properties. A fine piece, though. Hard to part with...for less than fifty gold' the merchant smirks. 'Ten' Conan frowns. 'Ten? You're murdering me where I stand! Forty' the merchant replies. 'I will murder you where you stand' Conan snaps, before offering the merchant fifteen gold. 'Do wereally have time for -' Wanda begins, before the merchant raises his hand and announces 'Thirty-five. And not a groat lower. Under torture'. 'I know some dark tortures' Conan warns the merchant, before offering him twenty gold. 'Thirty. Final offer. And I mean that' the merchant replies. 'Spread my entrails for the Crow Cult, I'll still not -' he begins, before Conan tells him to wait. 'Crow Cult?' Conan enquires.
'Oh, you know – the night-god worshippers. Local religion' the merchant replies as he opens a cupboard and removes a cloak from it. 'Used to be a Bat cult, but then someone killed the bat' the merchant remarks. 'So, thirty is it?' he asks Conan. 'For the cloak – and information – where in town I might find this Crow Cult?' Conan asks, telling the merchant that he seems like a man who knows such things. The merchant places the cloak on the counter and boasts that he does know things, but tells Conan that if he is wise, he will stay away. 'I'd hate to send you both off to die' the merchant remarks. 'Especially in as fine a cloak as this one' he adds. Conan holds the cloak and agrees that it is fine, before asking which part has the magic in it. 'See the edging? Every rune on that – hand-stitched by master mages north of Messantia' the merchant explains, revealing that it will block out scrying pools, crystal balls and even the vision of the gods. Suddenly, Conan tears the cloak down the middle, to the shock of the merchant. The cloak is now a long piece of cloth, and Conan hands it to Wanda, instructing her to tie it around her eyes. The merchant reminds Conan that it is thirty for the cloak – but sending them to die, he will throw in for free.
Conan leads Wanda down a darkened staircase, and even with the merchant's information, their search takes them through the night. Shadizar's underbelly concealed more than one sacrificial chamber – as the Cimmerian learned all too well over the years. Wanda reports that she hears voices ahead, but doesn't understand the language. With the cloth covering her eyes, Wanda tells Conan to stop for a moment, then she can perform the same translation enchantment that she used on him. 'Don't bother' Conan replies as he rounds a corner, and sees several cultists wearing large crow masks, standing around a raised platform where a blonde woman is shackled. Several real crows fly around the chamber. Conan tells Wanda that all that matters is that the cultists be stopped, and quickly, before their ceremony takes the life of a helpless girl. 'This is not the time for words' he remarks, before one of the cultists raises the stolen shard overhead, and calls out to Ma'kannta, God of the Talon, calling the shard the “ebon key”, he declares that they present it to him, throbbing with eldritch power. 'Too long have the bastard children of the Akah Ma'at been forced to hide' the cult member exclaims, beseeching the god to protect them from their enemies as they reclaim the skies over Shadizar. 'Let us pray!' he cries out.
And, the cultists do, with a skull-piercing sound that strikes like a fist to the senses. As one, the wretched avian-worshippers emit a deafening shriek, a caw, a keening reminiscent of nothing other than flint scraping bone. 'Do they have the fragment?' Wanda asks as she and Conan cover their ears. Wanda reminds Conan that he must retrieve it without letting her see it, or else the Night Queen will home in on them in an instant. 'Oh my God, that sound!' Wanda gasps, before Conan grabs his sword and rushes forward, pointing out that at least this way they will not hear his approach over their clatter. He instructs Wanda to stay here, 'But -' Wanda protests, while Conan declares that he has had enough eldritch filth for one day. 'Let this be done with sinew and steel!'
The leader of the Crow Cult raises the shard above the trapped blonde woman, as a crow perches on her legs. 'Ma'kannta, with this key we unlock the prison that has so unjustly kept you from us, your faithful! We summon thee in blood and -' the cult leader begins, before an expression of shock fills his face, as he looks down to his chest and sees Conan's sword plunged into him. The cultist drops the shard, which falls to the woman chained before him. 'No!' Conan shouts, and although the shard misses the woman's heart, a cut is still made when it strikes her wrist, spilling forth a sliver of crimson blood. A slither is enough, as a seal around the avian god is cracked, and two large sets of talons drop down from above, jolting out from some demonic realm all but forgotten – the deific beast shrieks and fans the flames of pandemonium. There is no retreat, only combat – and the mettle of a warrior born. 'Away with you, shadow of death!' Conan roars as he slices several talons from the god creature, before turning his attention to the Crow Cult, 'Away with you all, gods or monsters!' he shouts, knocking the cultists backwards. 'Surrender to the savage sword of Conan!' the mighty warrior declares.
'Conan!' Wanda calls out, while telling herself that she must do something, even if she has to blindly cast a hex. 'Help!' the blonde woman calls out, as she rushes over to Wanda and exclaims 'Whoever you are, please help! They tried to kill me! I have to get away!' Wanda tells her that she will try, to which the blonde woman offers to pay her, and hands her the shard, 'Take this! It's their treasure!' the blonde woman explains, placing the shard in Wanda's hand. Although Wanda's eyes are bound against magic, the touch of the shard called The Night That Is upon her skin causes Wanda's stomach to suddenly lurch – for there is more than one way to see. 'NO!' Wanda gasps as energy radiates around her, and a force knocks both Wanda and the other woman against a wall, causing Wanda to drop the shard.
The remaining cult members are tossed about by the strange force, too. 'What madness?' Conan wonders, while one of the cult members calls out to their god, only for a sword to slice their head off. There is a terrible sound above, and blood begins to rain down from where the god creature hovers above. Wanda protects herself from the weapons that are hurtling around the chamber by throwing a force field around herself and calls out to Conan, telling him that they have to run before it is too late. But it already is, as Conan frowns, a portal opens, and from it steps Nyx, the Queen of the Night, with three of her children, Apate, Dolos and Oizys, who has Voyager trapped within her slithering form. Cult members lay dead at Nyx's feet as she grins and declares that she has done them a favor – freeing them from the misguided burden of worshipping anything but her. 'Your allies put up a fine struggle, you simpering shrew...but for all their supposed might, Hercules and his Avengers could not stop me. What chance do you two have?' Nix asks as Conan and the Scarlet Witch move towards her ready for another fight....