(Flashback, prior to Mighty Avengers #21, also narrated by Quicksilver in the present time through the Darkhold)
My name, if you must know is Pietro Maximoff. But to most of the world, I am the mutant speedster…
‘Quicksilver! We’ve located the last page of the Darkhold, my lord!’ one of the Knights of Wundagore reports to Quicksilver, who replies ‘Well? Don’t waste any more time announcing it, knight. Tell me! Where is it?’ Pietro exclaims. The knight replies that it is in the Vatican library, ‘I’m on it!’ Quicksilver exclaims as he races across the world to the Vatican.
The last thing I remember? I was running an errand. Literally. An errand for the Knights of Wundagore. We were trying to stop Modred, the mad mystic…before he could reassemble the Book of the Darkhold!
But, arriving in the Vatican, Quicksilver finds he is too late: ‘Blast it!’ he exclaims, as Modred hovers before him, carrying the last page of the Darkhold.
We were far from successful.
‘Too late again, Maximoff. The sacred text is mine once more!’ Modred exclaims, as Quicksilver’s arm passes through his form, reaching for the page of the Darkhold. Modred boasts that he now has almost everything he needs to summon the Dark God, Chthon, back to this plane. ‘Almost everything? Then there’s still time!’ Pietro exclaims. ‘Mere moments’ Modred replies as his form fades from view completely. ‘Arrogant fool. Moments are all I need!’ Quicksilver boasts, before radioing to the Knights of Wundagore and asking them where he must go now. One of the knights informs Quicksilver that he must return to Wundagore, as Modred has just re-appeared here. ‘He’s heading for the Darque Hold!’
‘The Darque Hold?’ Pietro asks as he races back to Transia. One of the knights explains that the Darque Hold is a cavern, deep inside the mountain - the very chamber where wherein the God of Chaos wrote his book - suddenly, the knight’s communication cuts off as he screams. ‘Knight? Can you still hear me?’ Quicksilver asks as he approaches Mount Wundagore. ‘He’s too powerful, my lord! Help us! We can’t -’ one of the knights exclaims, before being cut off.
In the past few years, I’ve failed far too many people: my fellow mutants, the Inhumans, the Avengers, my sister…. When the knights reached out to me, I didn’t just welcome it. I saw it as a chance for redemption. Like myself, they were born at Wundagore. The were the last family I hadn’t let down…until that day.
‘Dead? They’re all dead?! How could they -’ Pietro exclaims, shocked as he enters the Darque Hold, where Modred stands amongst the bodies of the Knights of Wundagore, ‘Please’ he remarks. ‘They’ve been dead for hours!’. ‘“Help us, Quicksilver! He’s too powerful! Argh!”’ Modred mocks the deceased Knights of Wundagore. Chained in the corner of the cave, is Bova the cow-woman. ‘Pietro, my dear boy. Why did you come back?’ she asks. ‘Because that was the plan, Bova. I said I had almost everything I needed!’ Modred exclaims, before casting a spell, knocking Quicksilver into a contraption and trapping him there. ‘What? You can’t mean -’ Pietro exclaims. Understanding what Quicksilver is about to say, remarking that words alone cannot summon Chthon, that he needs a vessel.
‘A child of Magda. One who entered this cave of their own free will. Welcome to your final failure, Pietro Maximoff: the end of the world!’
That’s all I remember. So I have to know…what happened next? Where am I?’
Transia, where the Incredible Hulk booms ‘What is Hulk doing here? Tell me! Or Hulk will smash!’. Dr Hank Pym a.k.a. the Wasp increases his mass as he calls out to the Hulk, telling him and everyone else to calm down. ‘Pym, what in God’s name is going on?’ Johnny Walker a.k.a. USAgent - formerly of the Avengers West Coast and Force Works - and up until moments ago, leader of Canada’s Omega Flight - asks. The robotic Jocasta reaches out to Hank, while the new Vision hovers in the air, behind the Hulk, holding his hands up to Cassie “Stature” Lang, also increased in form, telling her to wait, as Stature lunges towards the glowing Scarlet Witch. ‘Wait nothing! That’ the Scarlet Witch! She killed me dad!’ Cassie shouts. ‘Madame Stature!’ Jarvis calls out to the Young Avenger, while Amadeus Cho - sidekick to Hercules - calls out to the Hulk, asking if he remembers him, while Hercules grabs one of the Hulk’s fists.
‘She’s not here. That’s her astral form’ the Vision explains moments before Cassie’s fists passes through the astral form of Wanda Maximoff. ‘Oh…’ Cassie mumbles. USAgent declares that he has had enough of this, but, surprisingly, runs towards Hercules and Amadeus Cho, announcing that they are both fugitives from the United States Government, and therefore, he is bringing them in. As Johnny lunges at Hercules, pulling him from the Hulk, Jocasta grabs the Hulk’s other fist and calls out to USAgent, addressing him as Captain Walker, and telling him that this may not be the best time for that. ‘Brainless dolt! Are you mad?’ Hercules asks USAgent.
Hulk suddenly punches Jocasta, causing her to fall to the ground, something wrong with her functions. ‘Jocasta!’ Hank calls out as he rushes to her side, telling everyone else to stop right now. ‘Dr Pym? Is she gonna be…?’ Stature asks as she and the Vision approach Pym, who shouts ‘I SAID STOP!’. Hercules, who is punching Walker in the face, replies ‘Aye. Very well, Pym, but…what of the Hulk?’. Everyone turns to where the Hulk Is striding away. ‘Hulk wants nothing to do with you, Beard Man. With any of you!’, before he leaps into the air, and is simply gone. The astral projection of the Scarlet Witch tells Pym that she brought the Hulk here for a reason. ‘He’s the strongest one here and you’re letting him go?’ Wanda asks. ‘Leave him’.
On a nearby slope, Chthon - possessing Quicksilver - stands with Modred and Bova as he remarks ‘This is the army you were afraid of?’. ‘But, Chthon…my lord, the Scarlet Witch is among them!’ Modred replies. Chthon reveals that she Is simply an astral projection - the shadow of a being who is still very much beneath him. ‘These Avengers…last we met, they were organized. United in cause and purpose. But this motley band? They’re pure chaos!’ Chthon smiles. Chthon remarks that this is entertaining, but that there has been enough distractions. ‘There is work to be done. A world to unravel. And a reality to destroy!’
Using Quicksilver’s power, Chthon speeds away, leaving Modred to remark ‘So it begins. Come along, Bova’. Modred adds that while their Lord Chthon fears not the sudden arrival of these champions, he would rather be good and done with them. ‘Come, we must prepare’ Modred adds. ‘Yes. Shhh. I know’ Bova whispers to the book she clutches in her arms.
The astral projection of the Scarlet Witch notices Chthon race away. ‘Hmmm’ she rearks, before vanishing. Stature sees this and calls out to the Vision, who also saw it. The new Vision informs Dr Pym that the Scarlet Witch has vanished, to which Amadeus Cho shouts ‘Oh this is just great! We still have no idea what’s causing the Chaos Cascade, and we’re already down to three Avengers!’ he exclaims, referring to Dr Pym, Hercules and USAgent. Dr Pym holds the wounded Jocasta in his arms, as Cho tells him that they have to do something. ‘The world’s at stake here!’ Cho adds. Hank just tells Cho to worry about his own world, while he worries about his.
For one entire day, the book of the Darkhold was read aloud - and the Chaos Cascade spread across the Earth, But, this is different - this time, a mad God races around and around and around the world - scarring the ground in his wake. Rewriting reality in his name - and remaking everything in his own image. Chthon races past some women in a dessert - and the giant plant creature he has been creating moves towards them.
The effects are no longer random - thanks to a grinning Chthon, they are uniform, and the entire world transforms into living breathing chaos: In England, Captain Britain, Spitfire and the Black Knight do what they can against the ever-growing chaos. Somewhere in Russia the new Red Guardian, new Darkstar and new Crimson Dynamo - all of the new Winter Guard - find themselves overwhelmed by the chaos. Elsewhere, She-Hulk and two of her fellow Lady Liberators - Thundra and Samantha “Valkyrie” Parrington do what they can to stop the chaos spreading. There is no safe haven. And when Chthon is done - no corner will remain untouched - save for one, of course…
‘Wundagore!’ Tony “Iron Man” Stark exclaims as he approaches the mystic location. Using his monitors, Stark notices some kind of recurring fractal pattern emerging. ‘If I didn’t know any better, I’d say it’s taking on the form of a schematic’ Stark tells himself, before programming in an update to be sent to him every five minutes. The Scarlet Witch’s astral form materializes, surprised that Stark has arrived, she remarks that she may have been too hasty in choosing Pym as her champion. ‘Fine. Two birds with one stone’. the Scarlet Witch remarks, before casting her powers and remarking ‘For Stark, a test. And for the Hulk…a shiny bauble to get his attention’.
Indeed, the Hulk, leaping nearby, glances upwards as he sees the shiny bauble in the sky, which forces his attention towards Iron Man’s facility which has landed alongside him. ‘A rocket, and the metal man…Stark’ the Hulk exclaims, which triggers memories in his clouded mind: Stark being one of those, along with Reed Richards, who was responsible for exiling the Hulk to the planet Sakaar - and for killing his bride, Caiera. The Hulk howls as he leaps towards Iron Man, causing the Scarlet Witch to frown as she remarks ‘Ah. That might’ve worked a little too well’, before vanishing.
Iron Man remarks that the first thing he has to do is figure out who is behind this, ‘With Wundagore involved, it could be anyone from the High Evolutionary to Chthon, Modred, Puppet Master, Django Maximoff, or…oh no!’ Tony exclaims as he sees the Hulk bound towards him - too late to react, as the Hulk’s fist slams into Tony’s faceplate, knocking him backwards. ‘Stark! Hulk is going to crush you, metal man! Crush you until you can never hurt Hulk again!’ the Hulk roars. ‘Again? I’d settle for right now!’ Iron Man mutters as he is slammed against the ground. ‘Of all the times not to have extremis tech! All systems brace for impact!’ Tony announces.
Meanwhile, a few miles to the East, at the Ram’s Head Inn, Walker, Hank, Hercules and the others have entered, and Walker is having words to the owner: ‘Yesterday, this was your place. Tomorrow, God willing, it’ll be yours again. But right now - this is our temporary Avengers HQ, got that?’. ‘Of - of course’ the barman replies. ‘Good. Now what say you rustle up some provisions for me and my men?’ USAgent orders. This causes Hercules to march towards Walker, ‘Is this how Avengers comfort themselves now? I should -’ he begins, until Amadeus stops him, suggesting he take it easy. ‘Or at the rate we’re going, pretty soon it’ll be down to the two of us!’ he exclaims.
Hank lays Jocasta on a table and tells her not to worry, as he brought as workstation with him, and once it is re-enlarged, he will have her fixed up in no time. Stature stands with Jarvis and the new Vision, while patrons go about their business. Cassie exclaims that all she is saying is that the Scarlet Witch shows up - someone who has been clinically insane - someone who can rewrite reality, and now it is as if they are all being led by the nose. ‘But no one’s asking why! Why should we do what she wants us to do?’ Cassie asks. The barman overhears this, and remarks that the girl is right, for those Maximoffs have been nothing but trouble. ‘My Frieda, she saw one of them heading into the Darque Hold earlier’ he adds, telling the Avengers to mark his words, and stay clear of them altogether.
‘The Darkhold?’ the new Vision remarks, announcing that his data banks say that is a book - the unholy grimoire of all chaos magic. ‘No, the Darque Hold. That’s what we call the caverns below Wundagore’ the barman replies. ‘Oh, come on! Led by the nose. Tell me somebody else sees this!’ Cassie exclaims, to which Jarvis remarks that he will inform Dr Pym. Approaching Pym’s makeshift workspace, which has grown to full-size in the middle of the inn, Jarvis announces that he thinks they may be on to something. ‘My word!’ Jarvis gasps as he sees Hank on top of Jocasta, operating on her. ‘Oh, Jarvis!’ Jocasta exclaims, surprised. ‘Excuse me, I -’ Jarvis begins, as Hank remarks ‘One moment’.
Soon, everyone gathers outside Hank’s workspace, as Hank tells them all that he is sorry for the delay, but that it is time to move on. Hank informs Jarvis that he would like him to remain here to keep an eye on the boy and Jocasta. ‘”The boy”?’ Amadeus retorts, exclaiming that he is sticking with Hercules. But Hank tells him that he can’t, as he needs someone to remain behind who can monitor Jocasta’s recovery. ‘That’s you’ he informs him, before declaring that the rest of them are enough to save the world. Hank calls back into his workspace, asking Jocasta if she will be all right in there. ‘Yes, Dr Pym. I will be…now’ Jocasta exclaims as she fixes her internal mechanics, before wishing everyone good luck.
Meanwhile, on the other side of Wundagore, Hulk stands his ground as Iron Man blasts him with a powerful repulser ray. ‘Hulk, listen to me! We don’t have time for this!’ Iron Man exclaims, telling him that there is a greater force at work. ‘Yes. There is a greater force here’ Hulk replies as he claps his hands together: ‘HULK’ he booms as the shockwaves of his hands send Iron Man careening backwards. ‘That’s not what I -’ Iron Man replies as he smacks against his facility.
Not too far away, entering the Darque Hold, USAgent remarks ‘And here I thought you were the guy with all the brains…so tell me, why are we just waltzing in through the front door? Where’s the strategy in that?’ he asks Hank, while Hercules, Stature and the Vision follow them. ‘John. It’s the end of the world. There’s no time for subtlety’ Hank replies. ‘All right. Looks like you’re finally showing some sack, Pym!’ Walker tells him. USAgent pulls out his weapon: ‘M9 semi-automatic. What have you got?’ he asks Hank, who holds up a small red weapon and replies ‘The stinger. It focuses my bio-energy into a powerful stun-beam’. ‘Stun-beam? No time for subtlety my ass’ Walker replies.
Suddenly, the cavern walls begin to change - glowing with a strange blue light in the form of various mystical symbols. ‘Interesting’ the new Vision remarks. ‘What is it, Vision?’ Cassie asks. The Vision replies that none of the carvings match any of the language in his files. Hercules remarks that it is a pity they left Cho behind, as he would have deciphered the markings by now. Suddenly, a voice exclaims ‘Yes, a pity. Then you would have read the warnings…of what happens to those who enter the Darque Hold of their own free will!’. It’s Modred, who stands before the heroes and begins to chant, while the chained Bova warns the Avengers to stay away from the walls.
Modred tells Bova not to make him regret sparing her, and as the fallen Knights of Wundagore - re-formed by the strange markings - begin to surround the make-shift Avengers, Modred exclaims that it is time to watch the new Knights of Wundagore - referring to the heroes - fall, just like the last. ‘Modred! Avengers, he’s your target. Quick rule of thumb…when you’re up against magic, take out the spell-caster, you take out the spell!’ Hank Pym exclaims. ‘Gotcha. Cut off the head and the body dies!’ Walker exclaims. ‘Right. Tell that to the Lernean Hydra!’ Hercules jokes.
Stature strikes one of the knights, but finds them hard. ‘Jonas? Can you get through?’ she asks the Vision, who replies that, for some reason, he cannot phase through the creatures. ‘Magic’ Hank exclaims as he blasts his stinger gun at the knights. ‘So, Dr. Stun-Beam, any more bright ideas?’ Walker asks as he shoots his M9 semi-automatic at the knights. ‘I’m working on it’ Hank replies.
Outside, the Hulk holds a huge rocket above Iron Man, exclaiming ‘Stark! You shot Hulk into space with rocket! You killed Caiera with rocket! Now Hulk will use rocket to kill you!’. Iron Man informs the Hulk that he is actually holding a rocket booster - a Stark Macro Booster, to be precise, and that it is leaking enough high-yield propellant to go to Mars and back. ‘Shields up!’ Iron Man exclaims as he fires a small repulsor-ray at the Hulk, causing a massive explosion.
Half a world away, Chthon suddenly gasps ‘Wundagore?’ before speeding back towards Transia, screaming ‘What are they doing to Wundagore?’
Back inside the Darque Hold, Cassie calls out ‘Uncle Hank?’, to which Hank replies that he felt it too. ‘Whatever it was, we’ll deal with it later’ he exclaims, before informing everyone to concentrate on the knights’ markings, explaining that is what is probably animating them - like symbols on a golem - or code for a primitive form of android. ‘Ha! Magic as science, eh, Pym?’ Hercules exclaims. Modred smiles and mutters, ‘Clever man. Shame he doesn’t speak the language’, unaware that Bova is whispering to the book in her arms: ‘Are you sure?’ she exclaims. Yes, Bova. Do it now! suddenly appears on one of the pages.
Modred tells Dr Pym that he may as well surrender. ‘Even if you make it past my rune army…what chance would you have against me?’ he asks, boasting that he is the living embodiment of the Darkhold. ‘Every chapter and every verse. I fear no power on Earth!’ he exclaims, turning to Bova and adding ‘Especially not a cow with a large empty book!’. He grabs Bova by the wrist as she raises the book overhead. ‘Really, Bova. Did you really intend to strike me from behind? Me? One of the most powerful sorcerers on -’ Modred is interrupted as he suddenly screams when a blast of energy strikes him in the face.
‘Good shot, Pym!’ Hercules exclaims, to which Hank quickly replies that it was not him. ‘Then what just -?’ Stature asks, to which Hank announces that it was a repulser ray. Suddenly, Iron Man drops the unmoving body of Dr Bruce Banner - the Hulk’s human form - on top of the motionless Modred. ‘I believe you lost someone’ Iron exclaims, before turning to the heroes and remarking ‘Gentlemen, Stature. If nobody minds, I think I can take over from here’. No one says anything, and everyone’s attention is turned from Bova, who looks at the book and whispers ‘No, it worked, child. Well, mostly. As it turned out…we provided a much-needed distraction. You should be very proud of yourself…Pietro!’
And the words of Pietro appear on the book: It doesn’t matter, Bova. Just take me over to the others. One of them has to know a way to get me out of here!