Two months ago, on Midsummer’s night… ‘Burn witch, burn! Burn witch, burn!’ cry the townsfolk, as an elderly woman is tied to a stake. Seven strange beings stand before her, and one of them lights a fire. The old woman admits that she will burn, for they have bound her in the old ways - meaning even one such as she cannot escape them. ‘But vengeance shall be mine!’ she boasts, cursing the seven beings before her, and all of New Salem. She reminds the begins that it was she who gave them birth, before warning them that she will give them death, then the wheel will turn again. ‘So swears Agatha Harkness!’
The woman known as Gazelle reminds the stern Vertigo that Harkness has the power to bring the curse to fruition, but Vertigo replies that Harkness had the power, for now she is old and they are young. ‘She is alone and now we are seven!’ Reptilla reminds Vertigo that Harkness withdrew their powers from them once before when she banished Nicholas Scratch to the nether realms. Vertigo points out that Scratch was alone after they deserted him, and their powers have been restored, so they can withstand Harkness’ empty threats.
The reasonable Gazelle asks Vertigo how she can call any threat of Agatha Harkness empty. ‘Who are you to say she is defenseless?’ Gazelle adds, before Thornn reminds everyone of Harkness’ friends the Fantastic Four and the Scarlet Witch. Vertigo points out that such people have never defeated them in the past, for it was always Harkness that led their victories. Vertigo boasts that she now leads the Salem Seven’s victories, for she is the priestess of this coven, by acclamation of all 666 New Salemites. Vertigo asks what are friends compared to flesh and blood.
Vertigo reminds her teammates that Nicholas Scratch was born of Agatha Harkness, and that the seven of them were born of Scratch’s wives. Vertigo boasts that they are of the same stock as Agatha Harkness and asks if one such as the Scarlet Witch can prevail against them. ‘No!’ cry Hydron, Vakume and Brutacus. Vertigo remarks that they speak the truth, and boasts that under her leadership, Salem’s Seven are supreme among witches now. Looking over at the stake where Agatha is tied, burning fierce, Vertigo announces that there grandmother is now dead.
And so, Agatha Harkness departed this life - an event that passed virtually unnoticed this past Summer…. But that was two months ago - this is now. The Summer still flourishes in the high rocky mountain meadows. Riotous bursts of wild flowers, plunging crystal waters, cerulean skies and sun-scented breezes still welcome the occasional visitor. The couple that strolls this gently rolling trail could be the first two people in paradise…even if one is synthetic!
Walking side by side with their arms around each other, the android Vision and the mighty Scarlet Witch a.k.a. Wanda Maximoff are enjoying their time in this serene location. The Vision tells Wanda that it has given him an entirely new perspective on himself, for first there was only himself and his creator, Ultron. ‘Then there was you - my beloved wife!’ he adds, before reminding her that he has now found a mother, a brother, and through them, a father, grandparents and great-grandparents - ‘Cousins! Nephews! Aunts! Black sheep!’ he adds gleefully.
Wanda smiles at her husband, before reminding him that fathers and brothers have their drawbacks too, she should know - for hers are Magneto and Quicksilver! Wanda reminds the Vision that Magneto claims to be reformed, but even so, he still drove her mother to suicide, and exploited her and her twin in his Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. Wanda points out that although Pietro wasn’t evil, he certainly tried to control her life by “protecting” her from the Vision. The Vision smiles and tells Wanda that Quicksilver was only trying to be a big brother.
‘Listen to this! You men stick together, don’t you!’ Wanda jokes, before pointing out that Quicksilver married into the Inhumans and has since moved to the Moon, so she never sees him anymore anyway, however, Wanda motions to the Moon rising over the peaks, figuring that they have at least two hours before the sun sets, and asking her husband how far they are from Gunnison. The Vision replies that the topographic map Mockingbird used to find them was quite simple to memorize, so at this pace, it should take them one hour and forty minutes. He then motions to their path along a ridge.
As the former Avengers make their way down a hillside, Wanda brings up the topic of what the Vision said earlier outside the cave - about having a baby. The Vision replies that he means what he said, for he has a sense of family now, and he sees life like a river flowing through time. Wanda tells the Vision that she can see it moves him to poetry, which she thinks is nice, before pointing out that there are facts involved as well - such as him being a synthezoid.
Wanda tells the Vision that she loves him, and that she knows he is human, that it is only his body which is artificial, but nevertheless, in this case that “only” is everything. Making their way along the ledge, the Vision replies that he understands, and tells Wanda that under normal circumstances, a synthetic man and a human woman - even a mutant human - could not produce children. However, he points out that the Scarlet Witch is someone who can change normal circumstances.
Wanda tells her husband to stop, for although it is a clever idea, one thing that is way beyond her power is creating life. She assures Vision that she wants a baby, but that for them it would mean adoption. Noticing her husband seems to be looking elsewhere, Wanda asks him if he is paying attention, when the Vision guides Wanda’s attention to the large village below the cliff, and asking what it is doing here. ‘I thought we were talking about babies?’ Wanda remarks, to which the Vision replies that they were, but that there was no village shown on Mockingbird’s map, and he cannot be at peace with that anomaly staring up at him.
The Vision suggests to Wanda that they go and see who lives there, adding that it might even be a better place that Gunnison to spend the night. However Wanda points out that the trail looks both dark and cold, so suggests that they move on. ‘What good is wandering in unknown land’s if you don’t wander - Wanda?’ the Vision replies jokingly. Reluctantly, Wanda follows her husband down the trail towards the village, and the Vision tells her that adoption is a fine alternative, but that he wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss - he doesn’t get the chance to say what not to dismiss, as Wanda is knocked over by a powerful surge of water.
The Vision calls out to Wanda, when Thornn and Brutacus of Salem’s Seven approach the Vision, telling him to look out for himself. Brutacus informs the Vision that he has entered the village of New Salem, and warns him that he shall never leave. Thornn attacks the Vision with his thorns, which explode when they contact something solid, so the Vision becomes intangible, only to make his way over to Brutacus, and solidifying himself again, he smacks Brutacus over.
Meanwhile, Wanda manages to get to her feet, as Vakume and Reptilla approach her. Vakume warns his serpent teammate to be careful to stay away from the Vision, for his blows could split her skin like ripe cheese. Reptilla replies that her coils shall encompass the Scarlet Witch instead. Wanda readies a hex, though she is slightly confused that these strange opponents know them, for she has never seen them before. Wanda casts forth the hex, causing Reptilla to get all tangles in her own serpent arms.
Wanda recalls overhearing Brutacus say “New Salem”, before remembering that her old teacher, Agatha Harkness once said that she came from a village exclusively for witches. Wanda fears that Agatha is in trouble, and after blocking Thornn’s attack, she casts a hex at Hydron, turning his water into flames. Vertigo announces that the Scarlet Witch can turn the physical against itself, before boasting that neither the Witch nor the Vision can prevail when Vertigo turns their minds inside out.
As she falls to the ground, Wanda knows she has to act quickly, and casts a spell causing Vertigo’s powers to go above her own head, and start to break a large tree branch. As the six members of Salem’s Seven gather around the Scarlet Witch, the Vision rushes past them and stands over his wife, warning them all to keep back. Vertigo is surprised that her magic has no effect on the Vision, so remarks that he must not be human. The Vision thinks to himself that his mind is indeed human, but his brain is mechanically self-correcting, and right now, he has no complaints.
Vakume steps forward, and absorbs power, explaining that nature abhors a vacuum, so his powers enable him to absorb energy - mechanical energy, or human. The Vision begins to keel from the pain and hopes that his foe is not doing this to Wanda as well. The Vision’s mind may be able to resist Vakume’s attack, but his body complies, and throughout his synthetic architecture, systems struggle to overcome this insidious attack. But one by one they are drained to critical levels and shut down for self protection.
Wearily, the Vision stands over Wanda, telling himself not to fall on her, and with all his might, he manages to push himself to the side, falling down next to her with a mighty crash that would have no doubt killed her had he landed on Wanda. The six villains gather together, ‘The feast will be a good one!’ Vertigo declares.
Sometime later, Wanda awakes in a small cell, which she finds is odd as it is outfitted with talismans and sigels as well as iron and oak. Wanda glances around, and as she sees her husband lying unconscious nearby, she moves over to him, though the six members of Salem’s Seven keep a close eye on her, with Vertigo informing Wanda that the Vision will not recover, and that at dawn he shall die - so until then, they are going to leave him powerless, ‘Unlike yourself’.
Wanda goes over to the bars of her cell so she can speak closely with Vertigo, telling the white-clad woman that she noticed she is awake, but wants to know to what she owes the “pleasure”. Vertigo explains that they are interested in Wanda’s powers, and reveals that she and her brothers and sisters have been mutated magically to their present states. ‘You on the other hand were born to simulate magick - and of course we have cast the circles to preclude you doing so while you remain our prisoner!’ Vertigo boasts.
Vertigo then tells the Scarlet Witch that they are not truly different, not compared to the common man. Vertigo proceeds to offer Wanda a place in the coven of Salem’s Seven, in the village of New Salem where she will not be merely welcomed, but revered. ‘With my uncommon man?’ Wanda asks, to which Vertigo replies ‘Regretfully no! We want only witches here!’ Vertigo informs Wanda that she has come to them at an opportune time, as this night marks the feast of Lammas, where the people bless the harvest by killing the representative of the Corn-God.
‘I saw this movie! It wasn’t very good!’ Wanda mutters, to which Vertigo assures her that the Lammas Feast predates all fiction, and calls her a scoffer. Vertigo then explains to Wanda that at the close of Summer, the God who has ruled them through the growing time must be ritually sacrificed to the coming God of Winter. ‘And you want Vizh to keep your toes warm in January?’ Wanda asks. Vertigo declares that the Vision is a crucial addition, and tells Wanda that she will also be if she refuses this offer, before motioning to another cage, where Gazelle is imprisoned.
Vertigo reveals that their sister Gazelle will be the first offering. Wanda asks what is meant when they speak of “sister”, to which Gazelle explains that in this instance, Vertigo speaks of flesh and blood, before revealing that she was chosen by Coven-lot to die - because she alone opposed Vertigo’s idea to entrap Wanda and her husband. Vertigo reveals to the Scarlet Witch that the astral band sensed her as she fell from the heavens yesterday, and they discussed it beneath last night’s moon.
Vertigo tells Wanda that she must know that what others call coincidence is commonplace among witches, explaining that they call it “synchronicity”. Vertigo reveals that she read the Omen and saw the Hand of Fate in the Scarlet Witch’s arrival at this time. Gazelle announces that she has seen the hand of the thrice-accursed Agatha Harkness. Wanda is startled by the mention of her old mentor. Vertigo senses this and informs Wanda that her mentor in the mystic arts was the Grande Dame of this village once, until she turned against them, and asks Wanda if she was never told this.
Wanda replies that she was unaware of this, while thinking to herself that she did feel Agatha’s presence here during the battle, so she assumes that Gazelle is right - Agatha must have called her and the Vision here without their knowledge. Vertigo smirks as she tells Wanda that her face betrays her thoughts, ‘Because they are incorrect! Dame Agatha did not bring you here…because she is dead!’
‘Goddess!’ exclaims a startled Wanda, before Vertigo reveals that Agatha drew the Salem’s Seven’s powers from them, and banished them to this valley. Vertigo exclaims that it took years to turn Harkness’ magicks back upon her, restoring them and killing her, but eventually the work was done, boasting ‘I did it! I her eldest grand-daughter!’ Wanda is confused by that revelation, so Vertigo exclaims that she is Queen of the New Salem witches now, before asking Wanda if she wants to share Agatha’s fate, or will she choose at last to become a witch like other witches, and rule the coming dark with them.
‘Go…to HADES!’ Wanda angrily tells Vertigo, who simply replies that to them, it is a blessing, not a curse, before the Salem Seven begin to leave the room, with Vertigo assuring Wanda that they will be back at sunrise. ‘Don’t slam the door behind you!’ Wanda mocks, before racing over to the Vision when her enemies depart. Wanda sees that the Vision is so limp and heavy, though she knows he only needs energy to recover, so she tries something, despite the warning that all escape attempts had been blocked.
But shortly, Wanda still kneels beside her husband, she has had no luck summoning a simple hex. Gazelle speaks up, telling Wanda that she looks like a particularly loathsome rat in a trap. Wanda turns to Gazelle and remarks that she thought she might be a bit more helpful considering the fate they all face if she doesn’t find a way out of here. Haughtily, Gazelle tells Wanda that she thinks wrong, for she desires no escape and is proud to die for her people. Gazelle admits that Vertigo may be consolidating her authority at the expense of everyone else, but it is no sin for a witch. She adds that whether she deserves her fate or not, the manner in which it will befall her is a greatly honored one, for someone must die to appease the Winter God. ‘My sole regret is that you will share my consecration!’
‘Then make us both happy and tell me how to escape!’ Wanda exclaims, to which Gazelle replies that she doesn’t believe they can escape, and warns her that if she finds a way, then she would instantly alert the others. ‘You can’t mean that! No descendant of Agatha Harkness could be so evil!’ Wanda exclaims, to which Gazelle remarks that Harkness was her grandmother, but that there was also a grandfather - of sorts. ‘Or do you not understand how children come to be?’ Gazelle asks. Wanda looks at Gazelle for a moment, before turning to the Vision and announcing that if these are to be her final hours, then she prefer to spend them with the man she loves. ‘Understand?’
Wanda puts her hands on the Vision’s face and asks if this is some great trick of fate in punishment for their hubris. ‘Death. When we’d just begun to think about life. Death with the spectre of these horrible offspring here to mock us?’ Crying now, Wanda confirms that she wanted the Vision’s child, and reveals that although he was the first to suggest it she has almost proposed it so many times, except that she thought he would laugh, or cry!
Wanda pulls her husband’s hand up to her face and whispers that she doesn’t know if he can hear her, but if he can, then she hopes it is not too horrible where he is - helpless. Wanda tells her husband that his body has betrayed him in so many ways, adding that he doesn’t know how much she admires him, loves him for never having given in.
Wanda remarks that it took Agatha Harkness’ teachings to make her comfortable in her body with its extra mutant power, not that it ever seemed so strange to her, but other people were always reacting and throwing her off balance. Wanda supposes that is why she accepted the Vision at once - years before he accepted himself, for she saw that they were alike in that. Wanda states that she knows she was the Vision’s anchor through his bad times, but he was her anchor through her bad times. ‘We fit, honey!’
Wanda tells the Vision that she understands it was hard for him to accept himself, always telling others, including her, that he as a coldly logical being, never thinking twice about what might be - but Wanda knew better. ‘I knew you!’ she exclaims, before joking that she never really minded that he called her “curly” when they were alone.
Glancing around, tears still in her eyes, Wanda reveals that she is going to save her power tonight, try to overcome the their containment spells in the morning, and if she succeeds, she swears that they will find a way to have a baby. ‘And if I fail - it will only be our bodies that die! Because our love will last forever!’ Suddenly, the Vision speaks, in hushed tones, he calls to Wanda, who leans down beside him excitedly. The Vision tells Wanda to be still and silent so as not to alert Gazelle. Examining her husband closely, Wanda sees that his lips hardly move.
The Vision reveals to Wanda that he has a plan for the morning, and that he has been “playing possum” so the Salem’s Seven wouldn’t drain him altogether and forestall that attempt. Wanda is shocked that the Vision would let her carry on the way she did, to which the Vision whispers that he did enjoy it, before explaining that he couldn’t risk alerting their fellow captive.
Suddenly, Gazelle exclaims that she is alerted, and boasts that the ears of Gazelle are the sharpest in all the forest! However, Gazelle declares that having also heard Wanda’s words, she sees for the first time why her grandmother chose the Scarlet Witch rather than one of her own in New Salem to become her apprentice. Gazelle remarks that the Scarlet Witch has power - and also love, ‘Which none of us can claim - at least - none of them!’
Gazelle explains that it is her duty to die for New Salem today, but it is not her duty to see Wanda and the Vision die also, so she tells them that if they can escape, then they are to do so with her blessing. Gazelle then remarks that if, as she has suspected, their presence here in New Salem is in someway her grandmother’s doing, then perhaps if she protects them, they will ease her entrance into the realm Agatha Harkness now occupies. ‘Strange, Gazelle’ Wanda begins ‘I was just thinking that you do have a part of the grand old woman in you after all - and so, perhaps it’s your presence here that’s her doing?’
Though the dawn comes late below the craggy mountain peaks, it nevertheless comes. The sunlight that pours through the door as Vertigo opens it is eye-searing after the long dark night, and the breeze that blows in is acrid with wood-smoke. Gazelle paws and prances as she waits for her cell door to be thrown wide, like a race horse impatient to be out the gate. Her luminous eyes throw one final glance at Wanda and the Vision, then as Vakume opens her cells she is gone - and the chanting begins.
Fifteen minutes later, Gazelle’s brothers and sisters return. Vertigo instantly goes over to Wanda and exclaims ‘You must be planning something, witch - but Vertigo will have none of it!’ The arrogant woman uses her powers on Wanda and succeeds in knocking her out, leaving Wanda with no time to try her plan. As Brutacus carries Wanda out, Vertigo orders Vakume and Hydron to ’Hurry with the plastic thing!’
Outside, two stakes spear the smoke drifting darkly from the embers of a third and not even the mountain breezes can cleanse New Salem of the smell. Wanda and the Vision are tied to the stakes which stand on either side of the one where Gazelle was burned alive, while Vertigo cries ’Oh great Lucifer, bright God of the Falling Sun - receive now our second offering!’ All of New Salem has gathered to watch the event, and Vertigo exclaims ’We are the children of the Goddess Diana and the Horned Moon. But we worship you today and we await your answer to our prayer!’
Suddenly, ’Here it is!’ shouts the Vision as he shoots intense beams of energy from his eyes as Hydron and Thornn, before breaking free of his bindings, surprising Vertigo. The Vision remarks that Vertigo may worship the Sun God, and tells his foe that if he worshipped anyone it would be the Sun God also, for that is where he draws his energy from. As the Vision frees Wanda, he tells Salem’s Seven that if they sacrificed he and Wanda at night, after withdrawing his power in that darkened canyon, then they would have been defeated. Vakume boasts that they can still get them, and begins to absorb the Vision’s energies, only for the Vision to point out that Vakume cannot do anything to harm him, as the sun is replacing his energies faster than Vakume can steal them.
Drawing on the strength of the New Salemites, Vertigo exclaims ‘We are 665 to one, Vision - so face, not, the withering forces of New Salem united!’ At Vertigo’s command, the New Salemites begins their chant, a with menacing intention. Then, the power that men have feared since the dawn of time begins to flow into Vertigo, who then hurls it with moonstruck madness at the Vision. The witch-fire grows stronger and stronger - but so does the solar counter-beam from the Vision’s brow which he uses to deflect the enemies power.
In mere moments, it is clear that this is not the dawn of time - it is the age of the android! Vertigo begins to flail, exclaiming that it is too much, though boasting that she will never surrender. However, eventually she falls to the ground, and the New Salemites flee as she exclaims that she cannot control it any longer. Then, like a nuclear chain reaction, the air itself begins to explode. Hydron calls out to his leader, while Thornn remarks that the Vision has beaten Vertigo, meaning without her to control the energy, they will all die.
Wanda steps up and exclaims that she can try something, though the Vision tells her that she is still weak. Wanda points out that they have no choice, and explains that Agatha once showed her how to channel her hex power, so perhaps she can channel this energy. Wanda does so, aiming the energies at the nearby mountain. The Vision can see how much of a strain it is on her, and tells her to stop. Weary, Wanda replies that she can ground the energy in the mountain.
Wanda appears as if she is about to keel over, so the Vision rushes over to her, holding her up and assuring her that he is with her. Suddenly, an astral image of Agatha Harkness appears before Wanda. ‘Wanda! Don’t just channel the power! Use it, darling girl! Use it!’ Agatha exclaims. Wanda looks rather confused, but surges on, until eventually, the mountain explodes, and New Salem is destroyed.
The Vision congratulates Wanda, before informing her that the witches of New Salem are no more. Wanda tidies her hair as she exclaims that the witches are gone, but Agatha isn’t. ‘Agatha? What do you mean?’ asks the Vision, to which Wanda asks if he didn’t see her. The Vision asks Wanda what she is talking about, before noticing that she is feverish. Wanda wonders if it was from beyond the grave that Agatha appeared, explaining to the Vision that ever since they entered this village she sensed Agatha, as a living presence, and now she saw Agatha when she was at her weakest moment - telling her to use the magic power.
‘Use it? Use it how?’ asks the Vision as he helps Wanda to her feet. Wanda replies that she isn’t certain yet, while thinking that she knows what she thought Agatha had meant, so in the split second she had to make her decision. Holding her stomach, Wanda wonders if ‘Maybe…just maybe…!’