(In the Scarlet Witch’s dream)
The stars are afraid tonight. Space crackles and shudders as if in dread or revulsion. The end is drawing near. Eldritch chaos surrounds this bright lonely world. Amazar. Soon it will not need a name at all. Portents are aligned, the signs are right. Vast magicks are woven in a lattice around the planet…and beneath their unwholesome glow, Amazar’s famous floating citadel prepares to die. Wave upon wave of landing pods swarm down through the clouds and strike the citadel rock ready to split open and release their cargo….Iron Golems, large powerful warriors.
Witchcraft keeps the Golems bound and loyal, while malice alloyed into their metal souls drives them on. As they rampage the floating citadel, the Golems know no mercy, no feeling, no remorse - they know only how to kill. The warrior-women of Amazar fall beneath the Golems’ creaking, burnished fists. The Amazites as the warrior-women are known, are famed across the cosmos for their nobility and martial prowess. Now, the white marble halls and terraces of their citadel become their tombs.
The dread Gargan, wizard and conqueror stands atop his huge flying beast, hovering over the madness below on the floating citadel, he relishes the relentless advance of the Golems. For a lunar month he and his forces have laid siege to Amazar. Now they commit it to the fires of never-more. The Amazite women are lost and leaderless, for their witch-queen is sick and dying, and for the last week she has lain in her chambers, suffering from an unknown malady, and thus depriving the Amazites of her vast elemental powers, which are their greatest strength.
Despite that, the Amazites battle on, delaying in the inevitable. Gargan believes his victory is assured and his elaborate plan complete. It is almost too easy….
‘Gargan! Despoiler! Wretched one! You shall not reach our queen!’ one of the Amazites cries, leaping past the Golems, she attempts to strike at Gargan with her sword, ‘Have at thee!’ she exclaims, only for Gargan to bellow ‘Foolish woman!’ and blast her with his power. ‘In death, I taste victory’ he thinks to himself, boasting that their heroism shall not keep him from his appointment with their queen, and blasting apart a door, he exclaims that neither shall sealed doors of bonded steel. His horrid voice sounds, ‘Eleyn, witch-queen of Amazar. I have come. It is time’. Madness has filled the witch-queen, who covers her face, and peers out between her fingers, her eyes wide with fear. ‘Gargan…? The dreams, you monster…you have cursed me…your demons…your demons…’.
Gargan pays Eleyn’s mad ramblings no heed, and his Golems cast the mystic circle into the stone floor with their iron fingertips, and grab the witch-queen, brining her into the center of the circle, screaming. ‘Eleyn. Know this. The process is complete!’ Gargan exclaims, powers radiating from him, he announces that he has reached into the heart of Eleyn’s city and into her heart too, where she now sees his truth. Gargan tells her to submit to his truth, to submit to the inevitable, to give up her heart to her successor. ‘No! No! Noooo!’ screams Eleyn.
‘Yes! Yessss!’ cries Gargan, when suddenly, Eleyn tears at his face, it begins falling apart like wax, only to reveal a woman underneath who looks remarkably familiar screaming ‘The witch is mine!’….
‘Nooooooooo!’ screams Wanda Maximoff a.k.a. the Scarlet Witch ‘..oh please…no’. Wanda sits upright in her bed at Avengers West Coast Compound, 2.15 in the morning. Wanda thinks that the nightmare is worse then other others she has been having, and is too afraid to move. She tells herself that she feels like a child again,desperate to call out to her mother. ‘But…but…’ Wanda thinks, before telling herself to get a grip, as she knows there is only one person who can help her. Wanda steadies her hand and conjures the link through the floating orb in her room, just like she was taught, and proceeds to call out to the woman who is like a mother to her - Agatha Harkness. ‘Agatha? Can you hear me? Are you there?’ Wanda asks.
Miles away, at Agatha’s mansion, the aged sorceress replies ‘Of course, my girl. I’m always here’. Agatha remarks that, from the lateness of the hour, this has something to do with the dreams again. ‘Worse than ever, Agatha’ Wanda replies, revealing that this time, the monster tore away its mask, and its face was that of hers. ‘Oh, Agatha! I’m so afraid!’ exclaims Wanda, revealing that she lives in constant dread of another breakdown, another collapse that will make her turn against her friends, turn evil. Wanda begins to ask if the dreams could be symptoms of - but Agatha interrupts, telling her to hush and calm herself, reminding her that her past has been so troubled, it is therefore understandable that she feels insecure.
Agatha remarks that Wanda and her brother Pietro have suffered much at the hands of others - Immortus and their father Magneto in particular have toyed with their memories, their past, and their being in cruel, subtle ways. Agatha points out that the motional scares that Master Pandemonium left upon Wanda are deep and slow to heal. ‘My dear, you have been manipulated by evil so often in your life, it is little wonder now you dear for your sanity and mistrust the strength of your own mind!’ Agatha tells Wanda that she is strong and must reject all feelings of self-doubt, that she must have faith in her own soundness of mind.
Agatha informs Wanda that she suspects her troubled dreams to be something to do with Wanda being a nexus being. Agatha reminds Wanda that they still know so little of what that means, and assures her that she is still investigating this on her behalf. Agatha promises to contact Wanda the moment she hears anything, to which Wanda thanks her mentor, and Agatha bids her farewell by telling her to sleep well.
A few hours later, at 6.30 AM, freshly brewed coffee scents the air as the Avengers West Coast Compound gets ready to face another day. ‘Hey, take it easy, Wanda! Push that exercise rig any harder and you’ll break something!’ Simon “Wonder Man” Williams tells his teammate and close friend as he enters the gymnasium and begins lifting some weights with ease. Wanda grunts as she pushes the weights some more and replies that she will be fine. ‘I meant the rig!’ Simon jokes. ‘Very funny’ Wanda mutters, before reminding Simon that it was he who insisted all Avengers stick to a tough exercise regimen.
Wonder Man replies that he did, before pointing out that Wanda is not a powerhouse like he or USAgent, and therefore she just needs a good cardio-vascular, aerobic workout to keep her in top condition. Wanda replies by telling Simon that, as an exercise couch, he is far too easy on her. Simon asks Wanda what she would say to a jog around the Compound perimeter, and shortly, they are running side-by-side across the sprawling Compound. Simon asks if he is going too fast for Wanda, to which Wanda insists he isn’t. Arriving back at the Compound, Simon tells Wanda it was a good run and asks if she will join him for breakfast.
Wanda thanks Simon, but reveals that she has one of her regular training sessions with USAgent. ‘You know how crabby he gets if you keep him waiting!’ Wanda remarks, before telling Simon she will see him later, and heading back into the Compound, where, suddenly, she is attacked by someone who trips her up, Wanda steadies herself and turns around, where she is greeted by the handsome Johnny Walker a.k.a. the USAgent, ‘Believe I’m crabby, witch!’ Walker exclaims, pointing out that he has agreed to toughen her up, to prepare her for any danger, so she needs to stay alert and be vigilant. Johnny points out that if he had been a hostile, then Wanda would be dead by now.
‘Good morning to you too’ Wanda replies, before asking Walker what he means by “if” he had been a hostile. Walker ignores that comment and declares ‘Concentration, lady. Discipline and direction. Think of this timber as your enemy’ he remarks, motioning to a thick plank of wood. ‘Stand aside, coach!’ Wanda exclaims, clenching her fist as she stands beside the plank, she thinks to herself ‘Discipline. Direction. Concentration…’ before shouting ‘HA!’ and punches with wood with her mutant hex power, causing it to break in half. Walker tells Wanda that she shouldn’t use her hex power, as it is too unpredictable for combat.
Wanda replies that she can’t help it, when suddenly the intruder alarm sounds. ‘Come on!’ Walker exclaims, and both heroes rush outside, where Wonder Man and their other teammates Julia Carpenter a.k.a. Spider-Woman and James Rhoades a.k.a. War Machine are battling some creatures. ‘What are those blasted things?!’ Walker exclaims. The Scarlet Witch replies that she doesn’t know, but points out that whatever they are, they are taking the best shots that their teammates can hit them with.
War Machine calls out to Wonder Man, asking him to watch their backs, when suddenly, he cries out, as one of the creatures almost tears through his armor. ‘That isn’t supposed to happen!’ he gasps. Suddenly though, the creatures turn their attention to the Scarlet Witch. ‘The witch! The witch!’ they cry in their nasty voices. They begin lunging for her. Suddenly, Miguel Santos a.k.a. the Living Lightning appears and in his electrified form darts towards Wanda, attempting to come between her and the creatures - but as he fries one of the creatures, the former member of the Avengers West Coast, who often comes to visit, realizes that his powers have no effect on the creatures.
Miguel turns to USAgent and asks him how they should proceed. Walker suggests that if the creatures can shrug off fancy tricks like Miguel’s lightning and War Machine’s artillery, then perhaps they should try a little brute force! With that, Walker uses his super strength to propel his trusty shield into the gathering of creatures who are overwhelming the Scarlet Witch. Trapped beneath the creatures, Wanda concentrates, tries to direct her powers, while Walker’s shield smacks into the demons, toppling them like bowling pins and thus freeing the Scarlet Witch.
Wanda wonders why that worked when everything else they have tried has failed, when suddenly, she calls out to USAgent, urging him to look out, as one of the demons fires some sort of energy beam from its mouth, aimed at Walker. War Machine comes to his teammates rescue and uses his armor to take the brunt of the blast, while asking his teammates if anyone has any ideas, pointing out that the demons are not just going to walk away.
Holding on to USAgent’s shield, Wanda exclaims that perhaps it was not the shield itself that caused the demons to get knocked out, but the trace iron in the vibranium that composes it. The Scarlet Witch explains that iron is a poison to the supernatural, which is what she believes these demonic creatures to be. Wanda casts her hand towards War Machine, informing him that she is going to create a hex that will temporarily transform his armor into pure iron. ‘If that’s what it takes, lady…I’m all yours!’ Rhodey replies as his armor is transformed.
War Machine begins tearing through the demons with ease, and Wanda orders Wonder Man to grab the demons once they are immobilized, before calling out to Spider-Woman and asking her to find a way to confine them. ‘One psychic web coming up!’ Julia replies, while Wanda remarks that all they have to do now is figure out why the demons attacked them. Julia remarks to her friend that they were clearly after her, ‘Didn’t you see the way they went into overdrive the moment you appeared?’. Turning to her webbing full of the vile creatures, Julia remarks that someone deliberately sent these creatures after the Scarlet Witch. ‘So nice to feel wanted!’ Wanda jokes, before pointing out that as they have the creatures captive, they might as well get some answers from them, when suddenly, the creatures begin disintegrating, melting away into thin air, until finally, only a set of repulsive jagged teeth is left, ‘Wwitchhh…the witch is mine!’ the teeth exclaim before vanishing.
‘Gone!’ exclaims the Scarlet Witch, ‘Even their ectoplasmic residue is evaporating’ she points out as she sticks her finger in some of the muck on the floor. Wanda adds that there is still no clue as to why the creatures want her dead, and makes her way up a flight of stairs to her quarters, explaining that she needs to go think this through, while Spider-Woman offers to check the Compound’s video cameras to see if they picked up anything that will help them out, and War Machine tells Wanda to holler if she needs them.
Moments later, in her quarters, the Scarlet Witch is communicating with Agatha Harkness again via the crystal ball, informing her that the Compound has been attacked by demonic apparitions. Wanda explains that they were after her and she is sure they are connected to her nightmares. Wanda adds that one of the demons said the very same thing as the creature in her dream. “The witch is mine”, which Wanda believes is too much of a coincidence.
‘Indeed it is, my dear’ Agatha replies, before informing Wanda that since they last spoke, she has discovered that a private library in the New England village of Unity may hold several ancient and obscure volumes that could shed some light on Wanda’s nature as a nexus being. Agatha points out that she knows it is a long way to travel, but given the circumstances, she believes it would be wise for them to follow this up as soon as possible. ‘Then I’ll see you in New England’ Wanda tells Agatha, before looking out her window and remarking that she hopes she is doing the right thing.
Shortly, Wanda informs her friends that she is taking a leave of absence for a few days, a week at the most, as she needs some time away. ‘Taking off when the going gets tough, eh, Witch?’ Walker asks. Wonder Man tells USAgent to back off, as it is Wanda’s call, telling Wanda that she knows where to find them if she needs them. Wanda thanks her dear friend and tells everyone that she will be fine. Out of ear-shot, USAgent whispers that Wanda is lying. Julia asks him how he can be sure, to which Walker replies ‘Trust me. That lady has got quite a lot on her mind’.
Four hours later, in the forests of New England. A deer rushes away as one of the Avenger’s high-tech Quinjets lands. Dressed for the snowy weather in a large cloak with fur trimmings, Wanda tells herself that the Quinjets navi-com says Unity is a mile away through the woods, and that the main road is up ahead. Wanda trusts that she is on time for her rendezvous and approaches the road. Eventually, ‘Hello, my dear. I hope you haven’t been waiting long’ the old woman inside the car remarks. ‘Agatha, you’re as punctual as ever’ Wanda replies.
As they drive along a ridge, Agatha motions to Unity below them, remarking that it grew up as a fishing community two hundred years ago, but that no one has lived there for thirty years. ‘You mean it’s a ghost town!’ exclaims Wanda. ‘Not in the literal sense’ Agatha replies, explaining that the area was over-fished, so with their livelihoods gone, the townsfolk sold up and moved away. ‘Sooner or later, someone will redevelop the area’ Agatha supposes, remarking that, until then, it boasts one of the finest churches in the East, revealing that the library they have come to see is in the church crypt.
Pulling up outside the ominous church, Agatha exclaims ‘Welcome to Unity, Wanda!’, unaware that someone - something - is watching them. Wanda looks up at the church and remarks that it is so eerie, her skin is crawling, as if there is something watching them. ‘Don’t be absurd’ Agatha replies. ‘I fear, young lady, that perhaps you’ve been watching far too many horror movies for your own good’.
Entering the creepy old church, Wanda asks Agatha who the parish church of a forgotten town end up with an important an unique library collection. Agatha replies that the incumbent priest back in 1843 cherished an interest in the esoteric, and the collection is primarily his, leaving it as a legacy to the parish after his death. ’Don’t tell me…he died in mysterious circumstances…’ Wanda remarks. ’Only if tuberculosis is mysterious’ Agatha replies, before asking Wanda to kindly curb her imagination and follow her.
Bats fly past the pair as Wanda asks who runs this place now, who keeps it open to the public, to which Agatha replies that she actually hasn’t the faintest idea. Arriving a stairway which leads down, Agatha exclaims that it is down here, before pointing out how dark it is. ’A little hex can solve that!’ exclaims Wanda as she uses her powers like a small flame, asking what they are looking for. Agatha replies that a number of potentially helpful books are rumoured to reside here - the Book of Eibon, the Celeano Fragment, the Pnakotic Manuscripts, the Vermis Mysteriis….
Agatha explains to Wanda that, what would be particularly useful to them is Karkoth’s Ensorcielammia or the infamous Necronomicon. The Scarlet Witch replies that she thought abominations like that had long since been destroyed, to which Agatha replies ‘Abominations like that may be your only hope, Wanda’. ‘How reassuring’ Wanda mutters, rounding a corner, she asks Agatha to check down the other direction, while she searches these shelves, adding that the books seem to be in no particular order. The Scarlet Witch exclaims that this may take hours as there are hundreds of thousands of volumes here, when suddenly, she sees a hooded figure up ahead.
‘Hello? Hello? I’m trying to…hello?’ Wanda exclaims when she gets no response. Wanda approaches the mysterious figure, apologizing if she has disturbed the, a horrid voice suddenly replies ‘You have not. I have been awaiting your arrival, Scarlet Witch’. Suddenly, the hooded figure reveals himself - ‘Master Pandemonium bids you welcome!’ the uber-villain exclaims, while a shocked Wanda cries ‘Nooooo!’….