Mystic Arcana: Scarlet Witch

Issue Date: 
October 2007
Story Title: 
Birth of a Witch

Jeff Parker (writer), Juan Santacruz (penciler), Inker (Raul Fernandez), Wil Quintana (colorist), Blambot's Nate Piekos (letterer), Mark Djurdjevic (cover artist), Brad Johansen (production), Nathan Cosby (assistant editor), Mark Paniccia (editor), Joe Quesada (editor-in-chief), Dan Buckley (publisher)

Brief Description: 

The young twins Wanda and Pietro are chased through a forest by the werewolf Gregory Russoff. He returns to his castle and his wife, Maria, who transforms him back into his human form. They are confronted by Margali Szardos, who asks them where the girl is, and Maria assures her that they will be seeing her soon. Arriving back at the mill where their father, Django, works, the twins are told to be quiet, and are reminded of their precarious living situation. Marya goes to her children, and takes Wanda away to meet with the Gypsy Queen. Wanda is introduced to the old woman called the Gypsy Queen. Wanda enters her caravan, and the Gypsy Queen, Lilia, reveals her other self, a much younger woman, who wears the Serpent Crown upon her head. The caravan moves towards Castle Russoff, while Lilia reads from the Book of Cagliostro. Meanwhile, in Morocco, Damballah arrives in the sanctum of Taboo, demanding to know why he had his most loyal acolyte slain, he shows the acolyte's head to Taboo. Taboo reveals the head to simply be a vase, explaining that he needed to get Damballah's attention. Damballah attacks Taboo, before Taboo urges him to accompany him to the observatory, and explains that this concerns something that happened two days ago, thousands of miles away. He casts a spell, which plays out a scene before them, of Margali, Lilia and Maria in discussion about a girl who straddles the world of magic and science and who would be perfect for their coven – an image of the girl as an adult appears before them – the Scarlet Witch. Damballah sees Lilia wearing the Serpent Crown, and decides that he must have it, for then his power would be unmatched. Maria is concerned the Serpent Crown is corrupting Lilia, and asks her to remove it, but she refuses. The illusion ends, and Taboo explains that his master, Chthon, wants the girl, too. He produces the Darkhold book, and a portal opens. Damballah agrees to assist Taboo so that he can obtain the Serpent Crown. When they vanish, the vase reverts to its true form – the severed head of Damballah's acolyte. Wanda arrives at Castle Russoff and is introduced to Margali and Maria. Lilia explains to Wanda that they want her to join their coven, but Wanda tells them that she isn't a witch. They go to the courtyard, where Maria explains to Wanda that divinations have revealed that tonight Wanda's abilities will manifest. A portal opens and Taboo and Damballah appear. A battle ensues, in which Damballah tries to pull the Serpent Crown from Lilia, while Maria casts a spell to raise skeletons to attach the intruders. Gregory is on site and transforms to a werewolf to assist the witches, while Margali protects Wanda. During the battle, Wanda raises a hand, and energy crackles around her. The Serpent Crown is removed from Lilia, as Chthon speaks to everyone. He traps the witches, Damballah, Gregory and Taboo, while Wanda watches in awe. Chthon transports Set's loyal servant, Damballah, away, tells the others that Chthon has now been awakened by the child's first hex.  He tells them that they will all bear children of significance, before warning them to fear him. He then vanishes, leaving Wanda unharmed. Gregory discusses the Dakhold with Taboo, hoping it may have a cure for his lycanthropy, and Taboo offers to meet him in Istanbul one year from now. The witches tell Wanda that she will need some training, but Maria is not interested. Margali tells Wanda that she will try to contact her, but that if she can't, there is an American witch that she should seek out. Lilia points out that no one even knows if Harkness is still alive. Margali, Lilia and Taboo return Wanda home and comment on what an impressive witch she will one day be, but agree that for now, she is a child. Wanda is reunited with her family.


Full Summary: 

Years ago, in Eastern Europe...

'Hurry!' young Wanda Maximoff calls out as she rushes through a dense forest, scarlet cape flowing behind her, she carries a basket, while her twin brother, Pietro, hair of silver looks over his shoulder, while calling out to Wanda to slow down. Several feet ahead of her brother, Wanda tells him to come on, as she can hear it. 'I don't want to take the shortcut again!' Pietro exclaims, while a wolf rushes behind them. 'You are sure the girl was the one we want?' a voice asks. 'Yes. She and her brother would have been gone for the whole day, but I sent them back to the place they call home for now' a second voice responds, while the wolf watches as the twins clear the forest and approach a small settlement. 'Ah! I told you we'd be okay!' Wanda tells her brother.

'Not an easy thing to determine with gypsies, Maria' the wolf declares, eyes glowing green. 'I should say not' the scantily clad Maria responds as she pets the wolf on its head. She calls the wolf Gregor and thanks him for this help. She declares that now the young lady will meet Lilia, and they will invite her to join their exclusive society. Maria kneels down and removes a pendant that hangs around Gregor's neck. The wolf makes a strange noise, and she apologizes to him, adding that she didn't mean to leave the lunar pendant on him any longer than need be. She casts a spell, and as she removes the pendant, declares that this is her favorite part. 'When you can't be as modest as usual' Maria points out as Gregor transforms into a man.

He stands naked before Maria, while the ram-horned Margali Szardos of the Winding Way approaches them, 'I expect despicable occult acts here, but bestiality?' she asks. 'Margali! I thought you were in the study!' Marie exclaims, nervously. 'Glad you can make light of my family curse' Gregor tells Margali, who asks 'Curse?' and points out that only a non-sorcerer would consider lycanthropy a curse. She gives him a blanket to put around him, and tells him that she sees that thanks to his wife, he has taken some steps to make use of it rather than being at the whims of the lunar cycle, before asking 'Where is the girl?' Maria informs Margali that they should be seeing her soon, and that she will now receive a summons.

'Papa! Papa! A wolf was chasing us!' Wanda exclaims as she rushes over to her father who is working at a mill. 'A wolf -' Pietro begins, but Django Maximoff tells his children that the miller he is working for is most generous to let them stay on his land and give him work, but they need to be quiet so he doesn't regret that decision.

'Mama! We saw a big wolf!' Wanda tells Marya Maximoff as she approaches her children. 'Yes, I heard' Marya replies, before informing Wanda that she needs to come with her. 'Can I come too?' Pietro asks, raising his hand. Marya touches Pietro's head and tells him that this is just an errand for Wanda. 'What errand?' Django enquires. Marya tells him that Lilia Calderu is in the valley. 'The Gypsy Queen? What does she want with Wanda?' Django enquires, while Wanda eyes her parents curiously. Making their way, Marya replies that she doesn't know, but that they cannot refuse her without risking trouble with the clan. 'She says she has an offer to make' Marya adds. 'Am I going to meet the Gypsy Queen? I didn't know she was real!' Wanda exclaims.

Several kilometers later, a mini-bus of tourists have come to a stop near where several gypsy caravans are set out. The gypsies go about their business while the tourists watch them, cameras ready. 'It's like looking back in time!' one of them exclaims. 'Show them your instant camera, Elsie. Maybe they'll think you're a god!' another tourist jokes. The guide informs the tourists that the gypsy folk of this region have changed little in three hundred years. 'Mind your valuables, please' they add. Marya pulls Wanda along towards the gypsies, and Wanda notices the tourists. She wonders why those people are staring at them. 'Because they have not seen such beauty in their cities' Marya replies, before telling Wanda to come along. 'There's the Witch Queen'.  A rotund tourists stands before a haggard old woman with a missing eye and several missing teeth. He drops a coin into a pot next to the old woman and asks 'Will this guarantee me a good life, grandmum? Or at least not get the evil eye put on me? 'You will have a very prosperous life, sir... before dying of testicular cancer like your father. Good day' the old woman announces, looking up from a bowl of dark liquid.

'Now, as I told you' Marya whispers to Wanda. 'Honors of the mountain, Gypsy Queen. Blessings of the river. Glory of the moon' Wanda tells the old woman as she bows before her, while the large man shambles up to the other tourists. Her broken face grins back at Wanda as the old woman replies 'Glory of the moon upon you, Wanda Maximoff. Your mother must go now. Come inside, dear'.

Wanda enters the caravan, followed by the Gypsy Queen, who asks the young girl if she would like tea, and whether she has ever had Turkish coffee. 'Oh, anything is fine for me, my Queen' Wanda replies, and as she looks around at the strange objects in the caravan, she turns back to the Gypsy Queen – who is no longer an old haggard woman, but a young woman, who wears a serpent crown on her head. 'OH!' Wanda exclaims, surprised. 'Please. You can call me Lilia' the Gypsy Queen tells Wanda, before reminding her never to let others see her as she truly is. Lilia taps on the window which leads to the front of the caravan, 'Niklas? Please take us to Castle Russoff' she instructs him. 'Yes, my Queen' Niklas replies as he sets the horses in motion, they pull the caravan behind them, and Wanda asks 'Russoff? You know state royals?'

Lilia informs Wanda that she is part of an exclusive group, and that Wanda could be, too. She adds that the Witch Queen of the gypsies has many connections and many duties.

'That's the largest book I've ever seen!' Wanda declares as she looks at a book, which Lilia explains is also the most useful, and that keeping the Book of Cagliostro is just one of those many duties. Looking at a page in the book, Lilia adds that she is actually from a family of such tome-keepers.

Meanwhile, at that moment in Morocco, another large book is read under candlelight, when suddenly, 'TABOO!' a voice booms. The man reading the book turns and addresses the warrior who approaches him, holding a surprised head in one of his hand, clutching his sword with the other. 'Ah, Damballah. I see you got my invitation. Welcome to my mosque' Taboo smirks. 'You dare kill my most faithful acolyte? Devils will tear your flesh for months!' Damballah warns Taboo, who raises a hand and casts a spell, declaring that he has done many things worthy of being tortured to death, but he doesn't think defacing a gourd should qualify. Damballah is surprised as the head he is holding suddenly reverts to the small vase, with a smiley-face drawn on it. Damballah angrily asks Taboo if he is in the throes of madness. 'Damballah is not to be tricked with parlor magic!' he warns Taboo, while the large snake that is draped around his body and across his shoulders hisses at Taboo. 'I require your help' Taboo explains.

'And this is how you ask?' the muscular Damballah declares as he easily lifts Taboo up into the air with one arm, wrapped around the older man's throat. Taboo admits that he is not a master of social graces, and as he looks at Damballah's large sword, raised towards him, he asks 'Before you behead me and defile my corpse, may I state my case?' Damballah lets Taboo fall to the ground and tells him to state it. Taboo rubs his neck, and asks Damballah to come to his observatory. They step out onto the balcony which overlooks the city, and Taboo explains that this concerns a meeting held two days ago, thousands of miles away. 'Avoid the torches, please' Taboo adds. 'What tor-' Damballah starts to ask, when suddenly flares rise up on the balcony, illuminating the observatory in a pink glow. 'Now, we will see as if we were there' Illusions appear before them, and Damballah declares that it is a witches' coven. 'The most powerful in Europe. Listen' Taboo tells him.

Three witches stand around a cauldron where scarlet energy rises before them. 'Look, and see what she will become. She straddles the worlds of magic and science. It will eventually give her access to such power as we can barely imagine. Now let us concentrate on the gypsy girl' one of the women declares, their hands connected, they concentrate on the gypsy girl and the energy rising before them.

As they watch the illusion, Tatoo points to each of the women, and informs Damballah who they are. 'That one is Lilia Calderu, Witch-Queen of the gypsies – and my niece, as it happens'. He points to the ram-horn wearing Margali Szardos, a disciple of the Winding Way, and Maria Russoff, Baroness of this castle in Wundagore.

'I can see her...  there!' Maria utters, as the scarlet energy forms an image of the gypsy girl – as an adult – the Scarlet Witch. Lilia declares that she will be able to change the world with a wish, and her power will manifest in two days, for her divinations with the Book of Cagliostro have foretold it. 'I do not believe it!' one of the women gasps.

Damballah raises his sword to Tatoo's neck and tells him that he does not see why he should let him live, or how this concerns him. 'The former because I am a harmless old fakir. The latter, well...look closer at the Gypsy Witch, my friend' Tatoo replies. 'The Serpent Crown!' Damballah exclaims as he sees the crown upon Lilia's head. 'Yes. I don't suppose as a serpent mystic that would be of any interest to you?' Tatoo enquires. 'The Serpent Crown does not lie!' Lilia tells the other witches, while Damballah declares that his power would be unmatched. Maria remarks that the Serpent Crown doesn't lie, but that it shows them what they want to see, always. 'You feel in control, but it is always the master of the host' and instructs Lilia to take it off. Damballah reaches out ot the illusion of Lilia, who exclaims 'NEVER! I – you're jealous of my possession of it. There will be no more wearers beyond me!' She looks into a mirror, and Margali puts a hand on her shoulders, 'Do you hear yourself, Lilia? You can't let it control you!' Margali tells her. Lilia reveals that she found a one-time incantation that would being the Crown to her, and that it was trapped, in a frozen place, so alone. 'We'll find the girl. Now take the Crown off' Maria tells her.

The illusion vanishes and the pink lights die out. 'And that is what was shown to me' Taboo tells Damballah, asking him if he knows the maker of the Crown. 'Of course! Set, great God of Chaos!' Damballah declares, asking if he is being primered in sorcerery like a child. 'No. But I am showing you how the battlefield divides' Taboo explains, before beckoning Damballah down a spiral staircase, back towards his study, where he tells him there is a face on the wall, and asks Damballah if he recognized it. Damballah lets his snake fall to the floor, and he tells Taboo that it is a visage of the Dark Elder, Chthon. 'Yes. And this book is his bible. The Darkhold' Taboo reveals, holding the large book. Taboo explains that he is the book's keeper, and with the knowledge he holds, comes many responsibilities to Chtthon. 'Should I ignore those trusts, he visits me in my dreams. I do not like those dreams' Taboo remarks.

Taboo continues, stating that once he saw that, he knew what Chthon wanted of him – for if the girl joins the coven, she would ultimately be in the service of Set. 'We cannot allow that to happen. She is special to Chthon' Taboo explains. Damballah asks Taboo how he came to think of him as an ally, to which Taboo boasts that he is the equal, or, dare he say it, the better, of each witch, but he is outnumbered, and that Damballah's power ultimately derives from Set, so once he is near the Crown, his magic will grow, uncoiled. A portal opens in the room, and both men start to walk into it. 'It is worth the battle. How are their skills?' Damballah enquires. Taboo replies that they are formidable, but still, they are European witches and all of their defenses lie in carefully worked hexes and spells for foes they would expect. 'They have never encountered anything like you' Taboo assures Damballah, asking him if he is ready. Damballah replies that he does not fear the challenge, but that he does not trust Taboo. 'You can completely trust me' Taboo replies, and as the portal closes, the case with a smiley face vanishes, and is replaced by the severed head of Damballah's faithfullfollower.

The Castle Russoff:

Maria Russoff and Margali Szardos walk alongside Wanda, who looks around the glorious corridor and declares that she has never been anywhere like this. 'What is it like to live here, Mrs Russoff?' she enquires. 'I could tell you... or you could find out for yourself' Maria replies. 'Live... here? Oh, no. My family, I -' Wanda begins, to which Maria assures Wanda that her family would be welcome, for the large cottage in the back is rarely used. 'You needn't live anymore in a cramped caravan. You're all welcome here' Maria announces. 'Really? I don't understand. Do you want me to work for you?' Wanda asks, as Maria touches her face. 'No, dear, we want you to join us' Lilia announces as she emerges from one of the paintings on the wall, surprising the others. She apologizes for excusing herself earlier, explaining that she had to let her latest suitor, Baron Mordo, know she couldn't see him today. 'I didn't tell you that was a portal painting' Maria declares. 'It's obvious to the wearer of the Crown. You wouldn't deny its use to one of the coven, would you?' Lilia replies, while Margali crouches beside Wanda and tells her to never forget that she can only trust the power that comes from within her. 'Magic from anywhere else always serves the purpose of another'.

'I think there's a mistake. I'm not a witch' Wanda announces. Maria starts to cast a spell which wraps around the four women, and tells Wanda that there is no mistake, before they are transported to the courtyard.

'Showoff. She can only transport within these grounds, Wanda. Don't be impressed' Lilia mutters. 'Oh!' Wanda gasps, while Gregory Russoff standing nearby asks, 'Ladies, is it already time?'

Margali declares that tonight the coven will add a new member. Wanda looks up at the women, 'But – I don't – please, I -' she begins, but  Maria tells her that divinations show that tonight her ability will manifest, and explains that they are making her a very rare offer. 'You can shed the skin of ordinary life. We'll show you a world of wonders' Lilia adds. 'No one will be -' Maria begins, when she looks up and realizes there are no storm clouds, but red energy glows above them. 'Are you doing that?' she snaps at Margali, who replies that she is not.

Suddenly, a portal opens. 'TABOO!' Lilia exclaims as Taboo and Damballah emerge from the portal. 'Hello, Lilia. We're not interrupting anything, are we?' Taboo asks.

Lilia remarks that if her uncle is here, then more is going on than they know. 'This is sacred coven ground, you may not pass!' Maria declares, while Margali stands with the frightened Wanda. Wide-eyed, Damballah remarks to Taboo that this is strange for him, for he is used to fighting crocodile gods, not beautiful women. 'Very... beautiful women' he adds, mesmerized. Taboo explains to Damballah that they routinely keep entrancement charms going, so he should not succumb to them. 'Just remember: witches are like overripe wine. Very potent in early years, but it ages horribly'. He then points at Lilia and tells her that she and her littermates are up to machinations. 'We are here to rescue the young lady from your clutches' he explains. 'Uncle, stay out of this! You really want my book, don't you!' Lilia declares, creating a large magical hand which she extends to ht her uncle. 'Another? Forfend! I am trying to rid myself of my own book!' Taboo replies.

'The Crown is mine!' Damballah declares as he reaches out and tries to pull it from Lilia's head. 'No! It will never come off!' Liliah exclaims. 'Then your head will!' Damballah warns her, reading his sword, while Lilia screams. Maria reaches into a pouch and pulls several small bones from it. She casts a spell and tosses the bones towards Damballa. The bones then grow into large skeletons which rise from the ground. 'This does not go to plan!' Taboo utters, nervously, while Damballah growls and raises his swords to the man skeletons now attacking him. 'Summon all the dwad you wish!' Damballah tells Maria as he cuts through them with ease. 'You shall see...' he starts to say, while Gregory puts the pendant over his neck, and Damballah's large snake seems to multiply, as one of them lurches forward to Maria, who screams. Another slithers over towards Margali, who keeps it at bay, while Wanda crouches behind her, and another moves towards Lilia. '...why Damballah is the rightful Sorcerer of Set!' Damballah declares.

Gregory's transformation is complete and in his wolfen form, he strikes out at the snake confronting Maria, biting into the snake, while another looms over Wanda, who falls backwards over one of the skeletons, 'Help me!' she screams. 'Hold tight, Wanda!' Margali tells the girl. 'Sands of time!' Margali declares, casting a spell at the snake, who vanishes – just as another wraps its jaws over Margali's head. 'No!' Wanda exclaims. The snake continues its attack on Margali, and Wanda raises a hand, energy ripples through the courtyard, stopping everyone from their battle, and the Serpent Crown suddenly rises from Lilia's head. 'What is...' Damballah utters, before a boice booms 'I... am... CHTHON!'

Margali, Lilia, Maria, Gregory, Damballah and Taboo are thrust into the air and held in energy, while Wanda looks up at them. From the Serpent Crown, the energy and voice seem to materialize, as Chthon declares that a great sorceress has awakened this night. 'With her first hex, Chthon touches your world. Chthon speaks to you... through seven hells.

Chthon speaks through his hostages now, firstly Lilia, who announces that the influence of Set will reach here no more. 'The Serpent Crown returns to the ice' Damballah declares. 'Got  too, acolyte of Set. Lest you harm my faithful charge' Margali states, and Damballah glows, before vanishing. 'Know this...' Chthon says through Gregory. '...the young witch is special to Chthon...' he adds through Maria. 'She will be loyal to no coven. I leave you with this prophecy' Chthon adds through Lilia, while Wanda looks up at them, her eyes suddenly glowing red, 'All of you will bear children of occult significance. Fear Chthon before all others' Chthon tells the sorcerers through Wanda, whose eyes stop glowing. She looks confused, then clutches her head and throat.

The witches rush over to Wanda, while Taboo remarks 'So, the Dark Master does notice my works'. Gregory goes over to Taboo, ' are the keeper of the Darkhold. Tell me... does the book mention the wolf curse?' he asks. Crownless, Lilia asks Wanda if she hurt him. 'I'm so sorry – the Crown -' she begins, but Wanda replies 'Um... no!' before asking if that demon will be appearing again.

Taboo informs Gregory that he believes the Darkhold will free him, but that there is a steep price. 'Yes?' Gregory asks. 'We will discuss it, and if you agree, meet me in Istanbul one year from now' Taboo responds. Lilia tells Wanda that it is unlikely the demon will be back, and explains he was briefly able to reach through the infinite because Wanda's powers manifested for the first time. Margali states that there is some connection, and tells Wanda that she has little choice – she must learn the art of enchantment from an accomplished witch. 'But not us. I'd sooner drown than row to that shore' Maria declares. Margali informs Wanda that she will try to contact her again, but that if she can't, then there is an American witch she should seek out. 'Harkness? Who knows if she's even alive?' Lilia asks, before going over to her uncle, Taboo, and starts pointing at him. Margali leads Wanda away and remarks that they can at least feed their one-time apprentice before they take her home. Maria and Gregory embrace, 'So that's our grand plan? Creating sorcerers by procreation?' he asks. 'Well, certainly out child would be the most powerful' Maria declares. 'Now that's a plan I can get behind' Gregory declares, holding the amulet.

Soon, Wanda runs from the caravan that has driven her home, 'Truly she will be a force. The way she interrupted all our magics with her first hex...' someone inside the caravan begins. There, Margali, Lilia and Taboo watch Wanda go, and Lilia points out that the first manifestation is always impressive with witches, and adds that she hopes Wanda can shake her bond to the Dark Master one day. 'She could. Her ability now is naturall – wait until she adds study' Margali declares, before pulling her cloak up over her rams-horn headpiece, she points out that one who could bring magic and science together would have no limits. 'But that's a far-off day. Today, she's still a child'. And with that, the caravan moves on, while Django throws Wanda into the air, she smiles with glee as Marya and Pietro gather around her.

Characters Involved: 

Wanda Maximoff

Pietro Maximoff


Django & Marya Maximoff


Margali Szardos

Gypsy Queen / Lilia Calderu

Laura Russoff Russell

Baron Gregory Russell


Taboo II








Story Notes: 

This issue follows Mystique Arcana: Magik and Mystic Arcana?: Black Knight, and is followed by Mystic Arcana: Sister Grimm.

This issue comes with a bonus story, part 3 of “Ritual of the Sphinx” starring Ian McNee

Chthon mentions that Margali, Maria, Gregory, Lilia and Taboo will bear children of occult significance. Margali's daughter is Amanda Sefton, Maria and Gregory had Jack Russell (Werewolf by Night) and Phillip Russell, Lilia's daughter is Astrid Mordo, Taboo's son is Algon and his adoptive daughter is Topaz.

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