…The Dane Curse?

Figure 00

When Polaris was introduced it was revealed that she was Magneto’s daughter, firstly by Mesmero in X-Men #50…

Figure 01

…and then by the master of magnetism himself in X-Men #51.

Figure 02

In X-Men #52 Iceman suggests that both villains had lied and that Lorna’s parents had actually died and she had been adopted by her father’s sister and brother-in-law…

Figure 03

… further supported by the revelation in X-Men #58 that the Magneto who partnered with Mesmero and claimed to be her father had actually been a robot.

Figure 04

Figure 05

And that was pretty much the state of affairs for the next thirty plus years, until a convoluted series of stories in recent years which have stupidly revealed Lorna’s mother apparently having had an affair with the self-styled master of magnetism, making her Magneto’s daughter after all.

But that’s not the end of the matter.

In Astonishing Tales #3, we were introduced to a character named Zaladane who was a priestess of the sun god, Garokk, and a member of his tribe of Savage Land followers.

Figure 06

After floating around in the background for over a decade, playing a small role as Garokk’s high priestess, Chris Claremont brought her forward into the spotlight, initially in Uncanny X-Men Annual #12 where the High Evolutionary introduced her to Havok as his assistant Zala…

Figure 07a

…during his plot to restore the then barren Savage Land to its former state during the Evolutionary War.

Figure 07b

She came face to face with the X-Man Havok during this time, who found her strangely familiar looking.

Figure 07c

Zaladane remained out of most of the action fighting in this Annual, content with the power that had become hers as the High Evolutionary’s second-in-command.  However it was at this point she began her association with the Savage Land Mutates.

Figure 07d

Claremont then follows this story up with a two-part storyline in Uncanny X-Men #249-250 (“The Dane Curse”) with Zaladane as the main villain, having Lorna Dane captured…

Figure 08a

…and brought to the Savage Land…

Figure 08b

…where her real name is not only revealed as Zala Dane…

Figure 08c

…but she addresses Lorna as her long-lost sister whom she has “searched the world for”.

Figure 08d

In the following issue she uses the High Evolutionary’s Transmutator, a machine capable of transferring superpowers from one individual to a genetically compatible match, to steal Lorna’s magnetic powers and graft them onto herself.

It is also here that Havok can’t help but notice a family resemblance between the two.

Figure 09b

But Polaris obviously had no clue about Zaladane being her sister since she showed as much surprise as readers at the suggestion.

Figure 09c

However, a few issues later, in Uncanny X-Men #254, Lorna makes it to Muir Island where Moira MacTaggert checks her over carefully and asserts that Zaladane “must” have been some sort of close relative for the power transfer to have worked.

Figure 10

While we know from X-Men #52 that Lorna was actually adopted by her aunt, fans have used this to suggest that Zaladane was her aunt’s daughter and therefore Lorna’s cousin, who had acquired her aunt’s married surname.

However, in terms of genetics first cousins have 12.5% of each other’s genes (implying, inversely, that 87.5% of their genes are different), whereas siblings have 50% of their genes in common with one another.

Figure 11

So these hints Claremont adds, particularly Moira’s comments, would all seem to point to him intending Zaladane to be Lorna Dane’s sister, and not her cousin.

Claremont has Zaladane return eighteen months later, in Uncanny X-Men #274, trying to steal Magneto’s powers as well…

Figure 12a

…though she was ultimately defeated and killed.

Figure 12b

Again fans’ theories claim that if her power-stealing technique was workable at all with Magneto, this was meant to be a heavy hint on Claremont’s part that Zaladane, Polaris, and Magneto were in fact all closely related. In recent years this has led to the whole long-discredited assertion about Lorna being Magneto’s daughter being dusted off and not only waved in our faces by Chuck Austen, who is on record as having been the worst writer on any core X-title in history, but made established continuity by Peter David.

However, I would argue that Claremont did not mean to hint at this at all, and here’s why!

During his swan song, in X-Men #2, he had made a big deal that Moira MacTaggert had taken genetic samples from Magneto after he had been reverted to infancy in an attempt to cure the instability in his central nervous system caused by his manipulation of the Earth’s magnetic field which had been responsible for his becoming a villain.

Figure 13a

Moira was too thorough to have not cross-referenced Lorna’s DNA during her countless periods on Muir Isle with those she had of Magnus’s, particularly after claims during her introduction as his daughter.

Figure 13b

Nevertheless, Claremont’s first run on Uncanny X-Men ended not long after this, so we never discovered his plans for the true familial connection between Polaris and Zaladane.

If Lorna is her long-lost sister, however, one can adduce that Zala’s father was similarly the sister of the couple that adopted Lorna.

But despite general fan consensus, this is not the only clue we have.

That is, there is one additional clue which has been RIGHT THERE since Zaladane’s introduction…

…the meaning of her name…

While it initially seemed to be an insignificant, arbitrary collection of syllables, upon further analysis one finds the last syllable “dane” means “valley dweller” which could suggest her and Lorna’s ancestors originate from a valley.

Where that valley could be is anyone’s guess until one looks to Zala’s first name which means “beautiful” in Slovene.  So her full name would mean “beautiful valley dweller” (certainly NOT out of the realm of possibility for parents to name their daughter).

This leads to the question: Is there a “valley” in the Balkan region that has been the setting of any stories, or identified as the birthplace of any characters, within the Marvel Universe?

Well not necessarily, until one considers the valley that shared a western border with Yugoslavia which Slovene was considered to be part of at the time of both characters’ introductions.

This valley was below Wundagore Mountain, and was otherwise known as Transia!

Figure 14a

Figure 14b

Figure 14c

So might this suggest that Transia was the birthplace of either siblings, or at least their parents?

And if their parents ARE from Transia, might they already be established characters in the Marvel Universe?

While there are perhaps a number of famous candidates for their father, it would seem unlikely that it is Phillip Masters, the Fantastic Four supervillain known as the Puppet Master, since after marrying Alicia’s mother, the couple went on to have NO children of their own.

Figure 14d

One could argue the same for Django and Marya Maximoff as they were already accounted for as parents, having adopted the twins Wanda and Pietro, otherwise known as the Scarlet Witch & Quicksilver, from the High Evolutionary after the their mother Magda’s disappearance.

Figure 14ei

That leaves the High Evolutionary himself, Herbert Wyndham.

Figure 14f

But while he knew who Zaladane was when he engaged her as his lab assistant during the Evolutionary War, he did NOT appear to show any paternal instinct toward her.  It is interesting that he DID show paternal feelings at this time to Alex Summers though, the boyfriend of Lorna Dane.  In addition, his surname is not “Dane”.  However, given the fabrications Wanda and Pietro were told with regard to their own biological origins, he could very well have paid Lorna’s adopted parents to change their surname to “Dane” and take on the youngster.

But more on this later, since for now I wish to turn to their mother, a character for whom there was no mention made before the end of Claremont’s first run.

Since Lorna is blissfully unaware of her true origins, to investigate this question I feel we need to look more to Zaladane who was at least aware she had a sister, and for some time apparently given her claim in Uncanny X-Men #249 that she had been searching “the world for you, dear sister”.

Very little was known about the past of Zaladane by the end of Claremont first run.  While not a native of the Savage Land, the circumstances and timing of her arrival in the prehistoric land hidden within Antarctica have yet to be revealed.

One thing is clear though, the dark-haired beauty was mad for power.

So is this a trait she inherited from one of her parents…

…her mother perhaps?!

It is interesting to note that Claremont penned another story closely similar in its attempt to resolve a familial connection back in 1982.  I’m speaking about where he brings the Viper into the pages of Spider-Woman from issue #42, having Jessica interfering with her operations, during which time several characters note the remarkable similarity between the two women.  In her private thoughts Claremont repeatedly has Viper lament over how much she loved Jessica, even while outwardly demanding her death.

Figure 15a

The “truth” then comes in issue #44 that the terrorist, and all-around nihilist, had been possessed 50 years earlier on Mount Wundagore by Chthon who had planned to use her in an unexplained way to free him from his arcane prison within the mount.  But for some reason the demon-spirit found some flaw within Viper that put an end to his being able to use her to end his extradimensional exile.

Figure 15b

Less than a year later J.M. Dematteis retcons Viper being Spider-Woman’s mother in Captain America #281, revealing that Morgan Le Fay had actually implanted her with false memories that she had mothered Jessica on behalf of Chthon.

Figure 16

With his plot nixed, did Claremont then decide to carry it on through the mystery of Lorna and Zaladane’s unrevealed origins?

If so, I’d suggest he would reveal that Viper’s memories weren’t entirely false and Chthon had not implanted the memory of her being a mother but instead the identity of whom she and her daughter had been.

But why the Drews…

To answer this, we perhaps need to go back to why Viper was on Mount Wundagore in the first place, and what of her background up to Claremont leaving had been.

Throughout Viper’s career as a terrorist, in her Marvel comic appearances, she had consistently been shown to use neurotoxins and haemotoxins derived from reptiles.

Figure 17a

Figure 17b

Figure 17c

Figure 17d

But she had never been shown to employ anyone to produce these on her behalf.

This would seem to suggest she had an innate understanding of toxins which may suggest she was secretly an accomplished biochemist herself.

So I’d suggest it works something like this…

After surviving her family’s murder during an unnamed revolution in Europe, the woman who would become Viper came to settle in the valley below Mount Wundagore, Transia.  But while she had escaped with her life, I would posit that the scarring she sustained on the right side of her face was a result of being raped while crossing the border which resulted in her becoming pregnant.

Figure 18

As for when, I’d suggest that it coincided with Jonathon Drew’s departure from Mount Wundagore after the 6th century sorcerer, Magnus, relinquished control of his body after successfully re-binding Chthon within the mountain once again.

Figure 19a

This was in 1958.

But Spider-Woman #44 revealed Viper had been possessed fifty years earlier by Chthon which, since the issue was set in 1982, would mean she arrived on Mount Wundagore as far back as 1932.  However, no revolutions in Europe occurred just prior to this time, the closest being the Klaipėda Revolt which took place in 1923 in Prussia and approximately 1,200kms from Transia.

I’d instead argue that Chthon had lied about how long he’d controlled Viper for and she had in fact arrived in Transia toward the end of Magnus and the High Evolutionary’s Knights of Wundagore’s campaign against the demon-spirit.

Figure 19b

If so, the most likely revolution Viper had escaped with her life from is the Hungarian Revolution.

So she arrives in Transia with a young daughter, and is perhaps even witness to the battle.

She struggles to make ends meet after escaping her home and, with an additional mouth to feed in the form of her young daughter, she takes to a life of petty crime such as stealing which continues when she arrives in the valley of Transia.

After settling in the village, she hears rumours of a tower of marvels and thinks she’s hit the payload.  And so it is not long before she makes her way up the mount to break into the High Evolutionary’s “Tower”.

Figure 20a

However, she is discovered by his New Men, who bring her before their master.

Figure 20b

But instead of turning her over to the village’s authorities, he is struck by her appearance and so begins further conversation with her.  Discovering she has an innate flair for biochemistry he encourages her to move into the citadel with her daughter, Zala, and takes her under his wing, having her eventually fill Jonathon’s role as his laboratory assistant.

Having not previously used his Genetic Accelerator on reptiles due to his concern about how aggressive a fully grown Serpent-Man might become, he entrusts her to begin researching how this issue might be overcome.

During their time working together the two fall in love, get married in the citadel and Viper goes on to become pregnant with their daughter.

Unbeknownst to Herbert though, she co-opts the study she has been tasked with to develop a serum derived from reptilian cells to heal the scarring on the right side of her face.  Since the mountain is abundant with vipers (specifically vipera ammodytes which are native to the Balkan region), they become the specimens she exploits for her experiments.  But after countless efforts she is unable to fully ameliorate her facial disfigurement.  However, she does develop a deep affinity for the viper (her studies of
them leading to her becoming an expert in neurotoxins and haemotoxins).

Still tormented by her facial scarring though…

Figure 21a

…she becomes distant from Herbert, obsessed with resolving it.  Due to scientific efforts
being unable to resolve it for her, she recalls her arrival in the village and the battle with Chthon and Herbert recounting how young Jessica’s father, Jonathon, had used the Darkhold to rebind the demon-spirit after Baron Russoff, their neighbour, had used it to attempt to release him.

Figure 21b

One night, telling Herbert she is after additional specimens for her studies, she instead makes her way to Russoff’s castle and, using her skills learned while on the run, breaks in and steals the Darkhold.  She then performs the book’s Spell of Ascension but some flaw within her prevents Chthon from being able to break free from his Earthly prison.

As for what the flaw in Viper is, I’d suggest it is connected to the serpent serum she used on herself in her efforts to cure her facial scarring.  That is, since the serum she injects herself with is derived from vipers living around Mount Wundagore, I would posit that the snakes have been irradiated by the same mineral that similarly binds Chthon within the mountain.  However, while the large mineral stores in Wundagore were previously believed to be uranium, I’d posit they are in fact vibranium (in line with my Grand Unified Vibranium Theory and I’ll explain why further down).

But Viper does succeed in summoning the demon-spirit and begs him to cure her facial scarring.  He agrees to only if she hands over the daughter she currently carries (i.e. Lorna) once born, which in desperation she agrees to.  But as most deals with demons
go, and while her scarring vanishes, she doesn’t quite get what she bargained for.

The spell over, Viper returns to the “Tower” where she is supported by Herbert and Bova to give birth; but upon doing so the demon appears in the birthing chamber to claim baby Lorna as his own.

Sensing Chthon, the sorcerer Magnus returns from the spirit-world once more and this time enters the High Evolutionary, using Herbert’s armoured body to protect Lorna and bear her to a chamber in the citadel where he exposes the infant to a sample of vibranium from the Earth surrounding the mountain.  This immediately protects the child from Chthon’s attempted possession, and it has the additional outcome of turning her hair momentarily green (which occurs again, but this time permanently, when her magnetic powers manifest).

The immediate threat of Chthon having passed, Magnus leaves Herbert’s body but not before explaining to him what has occurred and how vibranium deposits from the surrounds of Mount Wundagore, but not the core, act as a deterrent to the demon.

Since Chthon is unable to claim Lorna, the bargain defaults immediately to Viper who he goes on to possess and when Herbert goes to comfort her she suddenly becomes cold, aloof, distant and detached toward him.  From now on she has no free will and her sole existence is that she will be employed as his puppet, the demon forcing her to carry out his bidding while still retaining a sliver of true humanity in the back of her mind.

As Chthon’s first act in possession of Viper’s body, he compels her to open a portal to his prison using the black orb he has replaced her right eye (similarly damaged when her face was scarred from her assault during the Hungarian Revolution) after Magnus has relinquished control of the High Evolutionary’s body so he can be sent to his domain.

Figure 22

But Herbert manages to overpower her once he dons his armour.  Upset, but similarly enraged that his wife is now beyond his reach and the fact that she was willing to sacrifice their daughter to the demon, he banishes her from the citadel.  While refusing to let her take Lorna he is unable to stop her from taking the older Zala with her.

And so it is Viper leaves Mount Wundagore and the village of Transia with daughter Zala, going on to become agent of Hydra and eventual international terrorist.

Figure 23

Worried that Viper will be compelled by Chthon to eventually return for young Lorna, the High Evolutionary decides it much safer if he adopts her out as he had done with the children of Magneto.  But he decides much further away is necessary this time.  He seeks the counsel of his dear friend Jonathon Drew who approaches his sister who lives in New Haven, Connecticut with her husband who were unable to have children of their own.  Believing it is better to hide her in plain sight, Herbert and Jonathon decide it is best Lorna goes by the surname of her mother and sister, which is Dane, believing if Viper does decide to hunt Lorna down she is unlikely to look for a family with her own surname.  Their plot hatched, Herbert organises the paperwork so Drew’s sister and her husband become “Dane’s” after which they to move from New Haven to prevent anyone drawing conclusions that she has been placed her relatives of Jonathon.  And so it is that Jonathon’s sister and her husband move to southern California where they go on to raise young Lorna.

Over the years Chthon’s hold on Viper begins to weaken, and in the back of her mind she begins developing a desire to be reunited with her daughter/s.

Figure 24

Chthon is not happy about the idea, though, given his inability to possess the siblings due to their relative exposure to vibranium.

Also, in addition to realising he’ll be unable to convince Viper that she had never been on Wundagore due to their pact the demon recalls another child had lived at the citadel he could use to free himself from his mountain prison… young Jessica Drew.  Given her father Jonathon’s own involvement in hiding Lorna, the demon-spirit feels a delicious irony at the prospect and so implants memories in Viper’s mind that she is in fact Merriem his wife and not the estranged wife of the High Evolutionary.  He even goes so far as to mystically adjust Viper’s facial appearance to be more like the adult Jessica to make the memory real not only to Viper but others around both of them as well.

Does this not provide a much more intellectually-satisfying resolution to the 30 years plus mystery for how Viper came to believe she was Merriem Drew and Spider-Woman was her daughter than the retconned explanation we received from J.M. Dematteis in Captain America #281!?

As for Zala Dane, living under the influence of an agent of Chthon she cannot help but develop a similar nature to that of her sociopathic mother.  Having two such personalities living in the same household causes problems however, leading to Zala leaving her mother who goes on to eventually join the terrorist hordes of Hydra.

Having learned of the mutative effects of the mineral of Mount Wundagore while herself taking an interest in geophysics while living in the High Evolutionary’s citadel, I would posit that Zala independently discovers it is vibranium and comes to understand that she has developed mild psionic abilities as a result of her exposure to the radiation it emits from the Mount.

And so, after leaving her mother, she develops similar plans for world domination and comes to believe the mineral will enable her to fully achieve these goals.

Realising she can never return to Transia due to the mountain being under the protection of the High Evolutionary’s Knights of Wundagore…

Figure 25

…and the vibranium mound in Wakanda being similarly protected by the Panther Cult…

Figure 26

…she comes to learn of the Antarctic variant (perhaps by meeting Parnival Plunder) and so travels to the hidden prehistoric land there.

Figure 27

While there she learns of the Sun-People’s god Garokk whom she comes to believe has the power to draw forth the land’s vibranium deposits.  And so using her psionic abilities, which she convinces others are magical skills, she manipulates herself to become their high priestess.

However, upon Garokk returning to the Savage Land she found she couldn’t easily control him and so after his death…

Figure 28

…she had the tribe’s acolytes kidnap radiologist Kirk Marston (who previously helped Ka-Zar defeat the villain Klaw, another vibranium mutate), and exposes him to the liquid from the black pool beneath their city.  Upon being transformed into the Sun God…

Figure 29

…she effectively exerts her control over him using her vibranium-induced psionic abilities and begins compelling him to take over the whole Savage Land.  Despite her psionic abilities leading Garokk to make significant progress in unknowingly helping her achieve her long-term goals…

Figure 30

…Ka-Zar’s allies the X-Men manage to defeat Garokk not once, but twice.

Realising Garokk is not bringing her the success she so desperately craves Zaladane begins changing her game plan.

Taking control of her cult she next allies herself with Sauron…

Figure 31

…who she learns of Polaris from, and ends up deducting the mutant mistress of magnetism is her younger sister left behind on Wundagore.

She then attempts to track her down after her defeat at the hands of the X-Men once again, with the aim of exploiting Lorna’s magnetic powers so she can draw forth all of the Savage Land’s vibranium and use it to threaten the world’s governments if they do not hand control over to her…

…but the trail goes cold once Polaris is possessed by Malice and recruited to lead Mister Sinister’s Marauders, the psionic entity managing to block Zaladane’s psionic tracking.

Figure 32

Once Mister Sinister was seemingly killed during the crisis known as “Inferno” though, Malice’s hold over Polaris weakened, leading to Lorna gaining the upper hand and being able to contact the X-Men for help.

Figure 33

As soon as this occurred, Lorna came back on Zaladane’s radar and her capture by the Savage Land Mutates was almost instantaneous.

And so there you have it, the mystery behind Zaladane and Polaris, and “The Dane Curse” finally resolved after some 25 years!

But I’m not done yet since as there’s still Malice!

Figure 34aIt’s pretty obvious that Chris Claremont drew his inspiration for this character from science fiction author Piers Anthony’s first published novel, Chthon, which was nominated for both the Nebula and Hugo Awards for Best Novel in 1968.

Figure 34bIn this story the main protagonist commits the crime of falling in love with a strange and extremely beautiful woman in the forest named Malice and is therefore condemned to death in the subterranean prison of Chthon.  The protagonist comes to discover that Malice is a legendary and dangerous siren called a minionette, which are females all identical to each other and semi-telepathic, their beauty and youth maintained eternally by negative emotions, whereas positive emotions cause them pain and sufficiently intense love kills them.

I’d therefore posit that Malice is Lorna’s twin sister and she became a being of pure psionic energy while a foetus in her mother’s womb, as a result of Viper’s possession by Chthon, his evil energy making it so that she was able to merge with the negative emotional instincts of others, overriding their personalities and taking control of their bodies.  Her being Lorna’s twin would finally explain why Malice’s energy matrix was so compatible with Polaris’s powers and, if we go by Moira’s theory in Uncanny X-Men #254 about Zaladane, how the two became so easily grafted together, effectively inseparable.  This would further explain why, when Malice attempted to leave Lorna…

Figure 35

…Mister Sinister informed her that he was aware of the connection and that was why he had suggested their union in the first place, telling her that she is “the unchanging pole star”.

Figure 36

We have never previously understood quite what Sinister meant by this phrase, but now it becomes so damned obvious.  Polaris, the brightest star in the constellation Ursa Minor, is a BINARY STAR, a system which consists of two stars orbiting around their common centre of mass.  So when Davan Shakari (Eric the Red) gave Lorna the codename Polaris…

Figure 37

… he obviously knew she was a twin and that she would come to be psionically bonded to her.  Sinister obviously also knew Lorna and Malice were twins, but as to how he discovered this and what destiny his bringing them together pointed to, don’t you think it’s time I was offered a break;)

This has been Nathan Summers, continuing to live up to the sobriquet of “He Who Can Explain Every Claremont Dangler Given Enough Time”!

Postscript: Incidentally, Wyndham means “village near the Winding Way”.  Given Herbert Edgar Wyndham established his citadel of science on Mount Wundagore, above the village of Transia, might this finally suggest it was there that Chris Claremont intended Margali Szardos to have also been born!?

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…Magneto’s resurrection after X-Men #3?

This fix, contributed by Paty Cockrum, ex-Marvel artist and colourist, and wife of the late Dave Cockrum, creator of the All-New, All-Different X-Men, takes place sometime after X-Men #3, Chris Claremont’s last issue on his first run which saw Magneto and the Acolytes sent on a fiery fall and proposes a more intellectually-satisfying way he could have been brought back as opposed to the one plotted for the execrable Fatal Attractions…

After realising his views and those of his friend Charles Xavier were incompatible, the mutant calling himself Magnus went on to became the infamous master of magnetism, Magneto. As he increased the usage of his mutant abilities, Magnus began to suffer brain seizures that would lead to debilitating pain wracking his whole body. His lover, Isabelle, before her death, theorised that manipulating the Earth’s planetary magnetic field through his body, specifically his central nervous system, could very well be affecting his brain via the seizures. During the time Magneto was regressed to infancy, Dr Moira MacTaggert attempted to modify his genetic matrix in an effort to eliminate the unstable overload of energy and prevent a progressive degradation that would affect the electrochemical balance in his brain. Some years following his restoration to adulthood and after he had broken his ties with humanity, Magneto finally discovered that Moira had performed said procedure on him in an attempt to save her own son. Believing his primacy of judgement had been compromised, and thus his reform period was not the result of free will, Magneto took Moira captive and forced her to perform her procedure on half of the X-Men, pitting them against their teammates. But the fight ended as the suborned X-Men regained their true natures. The revelation that Moira’s procedure was a failure because every use of a mutant’s power restored that person’s “default” state came too late for the master of magnetism. The toll of the recent battles he had waged left Magneto seemingly dying, his last act being to maintain Asteroid M’s structural integrity to enable the X-Men to escape, after which it exploded in space. As for Magneto… the self-styled master of magnetism is Missing-In-Action and presumed dead… unless you know him well…

DEEP PURPLE

by Paty Cockrum

The sea was a piece of red glass fading, on the eastern horizon, to a deep purple as night approached.

“His colors,” thought the scarlet clad woman in the small rowboat.

She maneuvered the boat towards the ancient and oddly carved jetty. The rocks were encrusted with old, dead deep sea detritus and had a weird, thrumming sensation under her gloved hand. After attaching the rope from the bow to a weathered ring, she clambored onto the large slab that led to the front gates of the citadel.

From her vantage point on the jetty, she surveyed the island. It wasn’t big, and most of it was taken up by an immense citadel of outrageous proportions and esoteric design. No human hand built this citadel.  Theory amongst the superheroes she interacted with was that it was a forgotten race of giants that constructed it. It had vanished under the waves long ago and had only been raised by her father a few years ago. He had made it one of his fortresses… his hidey holes. He had been missing for some time now, but if he were still alive, he might just be here.

She looked out to sea. Tonight it was like glass, with only a few shallow ripples to pick up the westering sun’s crimson and gold light.

“False calm…” she whispered to herself. She knew the sea was a bit more turbulent outside the electromagnetic shield that safeguarded the island… through which she had passed a short while ago. Even with a hurricane howling outside the shield, the waters herein would have only moderate waves and breezes. Her father’s doing. And obviously his devices were still active. No unsynchronized or unshielded mechanical device could operate within the shield. The Avenger’s yacht had cut out when it crossed the boundary… and had to be maneuvered back to the outside of it while they still had momentum. The Vision waited there for her, keeping the boat well clear of the shield interface.  She had had to row to the island… and would have to row back, she assumed… but this mission was too important to her to abandon it.

She looked up at the gold and crimson spangled walls. Something was different from the last visuals she had had of the island.

“Foliage!” she muttered to herself. “There’s plants all over the walls!” That was odd, for, even though the island was situated in the Bermuda Triangle and was tropical, it had gone for years without much, if any, foliage softening its exterior and lending a feeling of life and warmth to the eerie coldness of the stones. But the island, this night, was lush with tropical growth. Greens fading to blue in the shadows, reds deepening into the rich purple that reflected the sea’s deep swells. Golds that flitted like fireflies across the rich tropical growth that hung on the walls and dangled from overhead parapets and walkways.

She strode up to the towering and heavy gates and placed a scarlet gloved hand on the alien metal. It vibrated at her touch, and a darkly robed and cowled figure appeared just inside its ornamental grille.

“Who goes there?” A deep and vibrant challenge.

“The Scarlet Witch… Avenger…” a slight pause, and then she added “…Magneto’s daughter!”

The gate swung silently open a few inches… enough for her to slip in. “If you are truly our Lord’s daughter, then you are welcome here.”

She slid into the inner courtyard and heard the gate clang shut behind her.

A flash of white sparkled under the purple cowl of the imposing figure who had granted her admission.

“Father?”

A vibrant chuckle as the tall mutant rearranged his enveloping wings that had looked so much like robes and cowl. “No, Magnus daughter… if that is who you are…” the iridescent blue/purple veined and leathery wings fell back and she saw the shock of white hair that shimmered from a scaled head and tumbled in soft waves down the mutant’s back.

“Oh, sorry… the hair…”

“Often a side effect of mutation, I believe.” He turned from her to greet a diminutive figure approaching. “Greensleeves, this woman says she is Wanda, our Lord’s daughter. Speaks she truly?”

The diminutive figure, clad in purple and red samite, stretched out a hand that was opalescent in its beauty. Fire red and shimmering greens played across its surface like mother of pearl. “May I touch you, lady? It will not harm nor hurt you, but if you have our Lord’s gene structure, I will know it immediately… it is my power to know all living things… and to command some of them.”

“I thought my father had everyone else’s power turned off on this island.” Wanda removed one of her scarlet gauntlets and held out her hand to the faerie like creature.

A cool, almost icy touch, like a snowflake, and the tiny woman sank to her knees and bowed her head. “Mistress Wanda… I bid you welcome.”

The tall, dragon-like gatesman sank to one knee,  bowed his head and rumbled “I bid you welcome, Magnus daughter.”

“Oh for God’s sake… get up!” Wanda shook her head. “Stop all this bowing and kowtowing… is my father here?”

“Sadly, no.” the giant flowed like purple water to his full height of well over seven feet. He stretched the iridescent bat like wings above him and the crimson light of the sun made them glow with jewelled color.

“Then what are YOU doing here?”

“We were not on the satellite when it fell. We heard about it… and decided that if Magneto survived, he would come to one of his other strongholds. We knew of this island, so we came to make it comfortable for him if he should choose to come here. Your father is a survivor, Mistress, we do not think he died in that fiery fall.”

“Nor do I… which is why I am here.” Wanda frowned, then looked around her. “You have done a good job… the place is lovely, what I have seen of it. It used to be so… stark. He’ll be pleased… he likes green things. There were so few living things in Auschwitz.”

“Thank you my Lady.” the crystal like voice of Greensleeves danced merrily. “I have fashioned the gardens specifically for him… although, until he comes, we enjoy them too. They provide color and food to sustain us here. Will you bide a while with us even though your father is not here? It would be our greatest pleasure to serve you.”

“I think not.” Wanda shook her head and smiled at the two. “But I thank you for the offer of hospitality. I guess you don’t get many visitors out this way, do you?”

“Not hardly…” Dragon rumbled. “I almost never get to say ‘who goes there?’ It was kinda fun…”

“I have to get back… the Vision is waiting for me in a boat outside the shield wall. Night is coming and it’s a long row out.”

“You do not wish to try it in the dark.. You can get lost on the sea at night… and it is dark of the moon. Bide here with us this night. and we will have one of the merfolk tow you to your boat.”

“If daddy dearest isn’t here, I should get back…Vision will worry.” Wanda smiled wistfully.  “But thank you anyway…”

“Dragon, go fetch Fishface while you can still find him… I will let her rest herself in the temple and see that she has some refreshment. Go on… hurry up… you haven’t much light left.”

The dragonesque creature with the flowing white hair sighed deeply. ” He’s going to be out to sea… you know how he is with a storm coming…”

“Try.”

“My Lady…” a bow to Wanda and the incredible wings spread and he lifted into the sultry air, shimmering iridescently as he rose into the stronger sunlight.

“Wow… couldn’t he have just towed me out?” Wanda watched the flying man disappear almost straight up.

“Nah… he hates flying over water. He will go straight up and look down for Fishface. Come, let me show you the gardens.”

Greensleves led down a pathway towards an interior area that, because it was sheltered by the walls, was beginning to go blue and mauve with the fading sunlight.

Lush greenery spread before Wanda in generous profusion. Shimmering walkways cut through the verdant green like multicolored brick roads. All paths led to a round, Grecian temple in the center of the gardens, where a small light flickered in the growing shadows.

“How lovely… did you do all this?”

“Only the plants… they grow at my command.  Granit did the stone…” the tiny lady sighed deeply… “Granit was one of us. He actually knew our Lord… for a short while. He worshipped him and built the temple for him. It contains a resting place for his body if we should find out that he has died.  Beside it is a tomb for the remains of his wife, Magda, which we brought here to rest beside him.  Granit died making the temple and we interred him there, to be near the master he so loved. We keep vigil there praying for the return of our Lord… one way or another.”

“Dear God! You do this for…Magneto?”

“You do not understand what he means to us, dear.  He is our guiding light, for he is right about many things when it comes to mutants and humans. We know you and your brother may not believe this.  It is, however, a truth that the prophet is never respected in his own house.” she chuckled.  “Familiarity breeds contempt… happens in every family, don’t you know?”

“Right… uh… who is that?” Wanda pointed to a monk like figure, clad also in deep purple robes, entering the temple.

“That is Regis. He came here one night and we allowed him to stay because he had the mark.”

“The mark?”

“The mark that identified him as a Holocaust survivor… the numbers tattooed on his arm. He said he knew Magnus in the camp. He doesn’t sleep well at night, so he takes the night-time vigil to tend the flame. He is a sad man.”

“Ah… is he a mutant, too?”

“Not that we can tell… He has an aversion to being touched, so I have never scanned him. The mark is his passage and instant acceptance here. He is a quiet man. I cannot imagine what he and our Lord went through in that horrible place when they were children!”

The diminutive woman led Wanda to the temple. ”  There are benches to sit and rest and meditate here.  The light is always burning, so please rest and I will fetch you some refreshments while we wait for Dragon and Fishface to come. Regis may or may not speak with you.  Don’t push him, he is frail and mostly silent… and I think he waits for death to release him from his body and his memories.”

“How tragic… I will not disturb him if he does not wish company. I’ll just sit here and rest. This whole building is Granit’s work? He was a genius and an artist.”

The faerie smiled sadly. “He was only twelve.”

“Dear God… and he did THIS? For my FATHER?”

“Yes…” and she was gone, disappearing into the twilight like the magickal creature she so closely resembled.

Wanda sat and looked at the glistening sheen of polished marble. Pearly white and shimmering black and green marble. Cascades of sparkling amethyst crystals clustered and grew around the foot of a greater than life-sized figure of her father.  What love created this beauty? What effort from a child, done to please someone that she, his daughter, considered arrogant and overbearing and sometimes crazy!

“What did you see in him, I wonder…” she murmured to herself as she contemplated the artistry before her. She looked around and saw the old monk seated in the shadows. Maybe he could explain the dedication these people showed the very memory of her father. She didn’t want to bother him… but… he would have an outsiders view of everything. She had to ask… to try to understand.

“Excuse me, sir… I don’t want to intrude on your meditations… or prayers… but … um… you knew my father?”

“As well as anyone…” the voice was almost a whisper but had once been a pleasant one, Wanda thought.

“You were in Auschwitz…?” She didn’t know quite how to proceed.

“Yes… a hateful place. You do not want to hear of it… even if I could bring myself to talk about it.”

“Ah… no… I have studied the history books and photographs. It is better left to the dead…”

“But not forgotten… If it is forgotten, it will happen again… to people like you.. and your brother… and the children who keep this island .”

Wanda gulped… might as well ask… “What was he like… my father? What do you remember of him? You sit here every night and look at that statue and it must mean something to you… what?”

The man gathered his robes around him and shrank deeper into the shadows and Wanda thought she had gone too far… pressed too hard…

“They think of him as a God. He never wanted to be thought of as a god… only as a man. He… wanted to die so many times… but he knew it would happen again… and he had to survive to keep it from happening again. He never wanted to rule the world… his power just ran away with him. Do you understand?  He couldn’t control it when he needed to in Auschwitz… and later, it grew so big that it nearly killed him every time he used it. But he still had to use it because he feared it would happen again.” The old man drew in on himself. “All he tried to do was to save his people.”

“He did it the wrong way. He was arrogant and treated those beneath him as things to use and throw away. My brother and I…”

“He did not know who you were, did he? Your mother saw to that. He did not know you existed. Family was the most important thing in his life… because he had none. He lived only to help his people. And his vaunted power ate him alive.” The man’s whispery voice was almost a sob in the darkness. “He didn’t know you were his children. When he found out, he wept… both for joy, at the miracle of your existence… and for sorrow, at his treatment of you in the days of his madness.”

Wanda was silent for a moment. “His madness… the backup of power that made him act insane. Moira MacTaggert corrected his gene anomaly and opened the floodgates of his power. Why did he hate her?”

“It was not what she did… it was how and why she did it. She experimented on him to see if she could help her child. It wasn’t done for him… the benefit to him was a by-product of her experiments.  Do you know how much that smacks of Mengele? Of experiments performed on him before he was a sonderkommando? Before he had the relative safety of that hated position?” the voice was stronger now… low and growling… a voice with outrage and pain in it.

“I can’t even imagine what you… and he… went through in Auschwitz.  I do know it warped him terribly.”

A low chuckle. “Warped? Yes, maybe you are right. But the same fires that destroy can temper, too. So many died. Weaker willed men bent and were not as… warped… as the strong ones. But the weaker ones are all dead, now… some of them from suicide… some from the infirmities that broke them. Not your father. He may have been warped, but he knew he had to survive… to fight…”

“You think he is alive?”

Silence.

“Look, if you know him so well, and you think he is alive, can you tell me where he is or might be?”

“Why would you want to know? You and your brother have written him off as a mindless terrorist…”

“I just… need… to talk to him… to see if there is any glimmer of intellect there that I could reach… because I think we have found out what may be driving him crazy these days.”

“And you would like to give him this information? A man you consider arrogant and insane? A terrorist? Why would you do that?”

It’s not that simple. I have to talk to him… to gauge if what I know could be used wrongly. It would give him so much more power… and if I  couldn’t be sure he would use the knowledge wisely…”

“More power? The power he has now drives him mad at times… even with MacTaggert’s tampering. What could possibly be the benefit of giving him more? Do you want him to go totally insane?”

“It’s not like that. The Vision and I have been doing some research… and if what we think is true, it would explain all the aberrations of his behavior.  It could let him control his power… and power he hasn’t even dreamed of. I just don’t know if I can trust him with the power that the knowledge would open up to him. I have got to know how he really IS. I have to know how he thinks and what he thinks… and what he really wants to do.

“He wants to save his people from another Holocaust… that is what he wants. He is not Emperor of the World material… it would bore him silly.”  The monk slumped back into the seat from which he had almost risen. “His people, his followers, know what he wants. That is what this island… this shrine… is all about. They may treat him like a god… but they know he is not one. They know your father better than you will ever know him… because your heart is hardened against him.”

“His own fault…”

“Possibly true… but you still see him as more than he ever wanted to be… and less than he is.”

“You like him, don’t you?”

“I respect what I know of him… what I understand of him…”

“OK… let me run this by you… but you have to promise that no matter what, you will never tell him. I have to be the one to do that…OK?”

“He will never hear a word of what passes between us from me in any way shape or form. Are you sure you wish to tell me this?”

“You might know how he would react… whether I SHOULD tell him what we found out… or not.” I just don’t know what to do with it… that’s why I wanted to talk with him.”

“I understand your quandary. If this information is as potent as you say…”

“You tell me.” She heaved a great sigh. “The Vision and I did a graph to find out what might possibly  influence Magneto’s rampages… social factors, laws against mutants, you name it, we looked and looked to no avail. I believe some wanted us to succeed so they could use the information to set a trap for him.  Long after others had written off our studies, we found it. Simple, really, if you consider his basic power. Wonder is that no one thought of it before…”

The man shuffled listlessly… striving for a comfortable seat on the cushioned granite. It seemed as if he didn’t really care if she told him or not.

“So simple… my father’s power is to channel and use the magnetic flux of the earth.”

“This is well known…”

“But every once in a while, he goes off the deep end… we thought at first it was emotional trauma from Auschwitz. Making him go nuts and trip himself up… put roadblocks on his own power…”

“That could well be… Auschwitz traumatized many beyond all measure…”

“No… it has everything to do with the nature of his power. If there is too much of it, it backs up and causes an overload… a short circuit of the mind, as it were.”

“Yes… and this causes him to lose control and act irrationally.”

“Exactly. Moira should have fixed that… the flow of the earth’s magnetosphere is steady and strong… no great surprises there…”

“So why does he still go crazy at times?”

Wanda smiled. “Sunspots! He’s drawing power from the sun and when the sun flares in those huge magnetic storms called sunspots, they overload him.  He doesn’t know he can draw power from the sun… y’see? If he did, he might be able to control how the sunspots affect him! He might be able to know when one of them is going to happen and adjust his ability to deal with it or channel it. But that’s a lot of power… and to let him know he could possibly do that… you see my problem?”

Silence.

“Yes… you DO see my problem. What do I do when and if I find him? How can I judge whether to clue him in to this potential solution to his problems? Or do we just let him run around like a nutball and never understand what he could DO … or control? Is it better for him to be less powerful with no control or more powerful with control of all that power?”

Silence.

Was the old guy even awake? “Uh… Mr. Regis…?”

“I am here…”

“So what do you think?”

“I think you have a very difficult choice to make when you find your father.”

“You think he’s alive?”

“Yes…”

Wanda slumped where she sat.  “I just don’t know what to do. I am almost glad he wasn’t here. I don’t know if I’m ready to face him with this… y’know? I am afraid he would roar out BWAHAHAHAHA and go dancing around like a demented loon! He’s done that, you know…”

A small chuckle from the shadows. “Yes… I know…”

“You know, sir, you have been a great help to me… even if you haven’t said much. Sometimes you just have to get things out on the table…and when you explain them to others, you see them a lot clearer yourself. Thanks.”

“For what?”

“For just being here and letting me sort this out in my own mind.”

“And when you find your father, what are you going to do? What will you tell him?”

“That will depend on him, won’t it?” She looked up to see Greensleeves hurrying towards the temple in the deepening dusk. Beside her was an even smaller figure. “I think my ride is here. It was nice talking to you, sir. I could wish my father was as gentle a person as you are. I wouldn’t have a problem then, would I?”

“Who knows… it was nice talking to you, too. You have brightened my evening.”

“Wanda, this is Fishface…”  Greensleves glided in as if she were walking on air… and a wet, very fishy appearing youngster sloshed beside her. “…he will pull your boat back to your yacht, so you don’t have to row. You’d best come along…it is already quite dark… but that won’t bother Fishface any… he already knows where your friend is waiting and watching for you. He will have you there in no time… and I have some fruit and something to drink for you to take with you.”

“Thank you Greensleeves…” she turned to the shadowed figure on the other end of the marble seat…” and thank you, Mr Regis for your help.”

“I did nothing…”

“You listened. Your promise…?”

“Not a word from my lips.”  She smiled and turned to leave with Greensleeves and Fishface. Soon they were all lost in the deep purple haze of evening.

The monk got up, stretched and walked to the front of the statue. He adjusted the brazier so that it would not go out in the middle of the night. He swept the concealing cowl back from his face and looked up at his own marble visage.

Magneto smiled to himself. “Bwahahahaha, indeed.”  He settled back on the cushioned slab… He WOULD sleep tonight… and tomorrow, he would greet his newfound compatriot… the sun.

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