#5 - Return to Hell
"Strange Tales, Conclusion"
The stench of sulphur and brimstone assaulted his nostrils, as Cain Marko surveyed his surroundings.
Mere moments ago, Earth's current Sorceror Supreme, Doctor Stephen Strange, had transported Cain and himself to the realm inside the mystical Ruby of Cyttorak. The last time the Juggernaut was here was when he had been imprisoned by Onslaught. Cain was forced to battle the entity who had granted him his powers, the god-like Cyttorak himself, to gain freedom from this realm.* Cain shuddered as he remembered that ordeal.
(it happened in X-Men Unlimited #12 - Eric)
Cain watched as Strange cast a spell, and the air around the sorceror seemed to shimmer and become hazy. After a few seconds of concentration, the shimmering stopped, and the sorceror turned to Cain, "This way... the source of the mystical alteration to your friend, Black Tom Cassidy,* is this way..."
(as revealed in issue #1 - Eric)
The unlikely pair headed off into the harsh landscape. The ground was barren and cracked, leaving gaping chasms in some places. Volcanoes dotted the land, spewing forth molten lava and hot ash. Several times, Strange had to erect mystical shields to protect himself from the elements. The Juggernaut trudged on unperturbed, his own mystical shield protecting him.
"So, Doc," Cain addressed Strange, "is Cyttorak the one behind all o' this?"
"No Marko, he is not." replied Strange, "The true object of our quest is something much more powerful than the Red God."
"Hey! I thought Cyttorak was the one behind this! Last time I fought him, I nearly got meself killed!", Juggernaut exclaimed, "And now yer tellin' me that what we're gonna face is more powerful than Cyttorak?!"
"Hopefully between our combined magicks, we can reverse the tampering done to your friend... hopefully..."
Not another word was exchanged between the pair as the continued on through their nightmarish surroundings.
The great being sat in the massive stone chair, exactly as Cain remembered him from his last visit. Unmoving, the giant stone figure would have looked like a statue to someone not in the know, but Cain knew better.
"Cyttorak..." was all he said, and Strange nodded in agreement.
"We need his help Juggernaut, for without the assistance of Cyttorak we shall surely fail..."
Strange approached the huge stone figure, and the earth around them began to shake violently. A massive cracking sound could be heard, as the statues eyes began to glow with an eerie ruby light.
Cain Marko approached and stood next to strange as the huge stone figure arose from its' chair, and glared down at the invaders in his realm.
"I AM CYTTORAK!" cried the figure, in a great booming voice.
"Mighty Cyttorak, we have entered your realm seeking your aid on a matter most dire," explained Strange.
"What could be so dire that would warrant my helping you?" Cyttorak scoffed.
"A dark magic indeed, mighty Cyttorak, one that originates from your very realm."
"Why should I help the one that has taken my gift of power, and used it so dishonourably?" asked Cyttorak, turning his head to glare at the Juggernaut. Cain Marko actually felt himself shiver.
"You will need his aid as your avatar great one, for if not stopped, this magic threatens to destroy your realm, and you..." Strange answered grimly.
Cyttorak pondered for a moment, shifting his baleful gaze from Strange to the Juggernaut and back again. After a few moments of painful silence, Cyttorak announced his decision.
"Very well, I shall aid you..." he replied. Stretching out his massive stony arm and pointing at the Juggernaut, "But know this, gem-wielder, henceforth you shall prove yourself WORTHY to bear my power. No more shall you waste my gift on your petty endeavours, lest I strip you of mine power forever!"
Cain looked at Strange, who nodded in agreement. It didn't take Cain long to agree to Cyttorak's terms - he was doing this for Tom, not for himself.
"Deal." was all Cain said.
"So be it!" boomed Cyttorak, and with a massive clap of his hands, the three figures disappeared from sight.
It was a cloud of darkness, pulsing with pure evil. It stretched across the horizon as far as the eye could see.
"Strange, what IS that?"
"It's the source of your friend's alteration, Marko. This is what the Hand tapped into when they mystically altered Black Tom."
"But how are we supposed to fight a cloud?!" asked Cain.
"We must reveal it's true form..." replied Strange cryptically.
Spreading his arms wide, Strange summoned on the power of the mystical Eye of Agamotto. The eye opened, and a beam of dazzling white light shone forth, piercing the cloud. Within seconds, the blackness began to swirl and coalesce into a humanoid form, one that stood as tall as Cyttorak himself.
"What the...?!" said Cain, as he stared in amazement.
"WHO DARES DISTURB ME?" the towering black figure demanded.
"WHO DARES INVADE MY REALM?" Cyttorak boomed at the figure.
A pair of yellow eyes formed within the head of the black figure, and they cast their gaze on Cyttorak.
"I have nothing to fear from you, little god! I was ancient before you were even DREAMED of! I AM CHTHON!"
Both Strange and Cyttorak seemed to gasp in amazement, but all Cain could say was "Who?".
"Chthon is an ancient entity," Strange explained hurriedly, "an elder god, evil personified..."
Cyttorak bellowed with rage, and took a step towards Chthon.
"WAIT!" cried Strange.
Cyttorak stopped, and looked down at the sorceror, "You dare?!"
"Yes, Red God, I dare! For you to combat Chthon alone is sheer folly, even if this is just an avatar of the ancient one! Have you not forgotten most of your power now resides within this mortal?" Strange asked, pointing to the Juggernaut, "For you to have any hope of banishing Chthon from your realm, you must merge with your avatar, NOW!"
Cyttorak knew the sorceror's words to be true, and stepped over towards the Juggernaut. There was a blinding flash of ruby light, and Cyttorak had disappeared, leaving the Juggernaut, now standing at the same height that Cyttorak was, standing in his stead.
Cain Marko could feel the full power of Cyttorak coursing through his veins! He was more powerful than he had EVER been before, and he liked it! He cracked his massive knuckles and looked down at the tiny form of Doctor Strange.
"NOW CAIN!" cried Strange, and the Juggernaut charged at Chthon. The evil god merely grinned, as he lashed out at the oncoming avatar of Cyttorak with a pure black hand, striking the Juggernaut and sending him reeling backwards. The Juggernaut kept to his feet, and shrugged off the blow. If it was at all possible, Chthon would have seemed surprised at this moment.
Gritting his teeth, Marko charged again and crashed headlong in to Chthon. The clash of these two primal forces was so great, Strange was forced to summon his most powerful protective shields as chunks of debris were thrown up all around him.
The Juggernaut and Chthon traded deafening blows, and Strange was amazed that Cain had managed to fare this well. But his amazement soon turned to dismay as Chthon began to gain the upper hand.
"You cannot hope to defeat pure evil, foolish mortal! Even with the power of your puny god to aid you, you are no match for ME!"
With that, Chthon delivered a devastating blow, which felled the Juggernaut. Chthon's humanoid figure advanced on the fallen avatar, and placed a massive foot upon his chest.
"Though I loathe physical confrontations, I must say you have provided me with a little amusement." Chthon grinned, "But I grow tired of this - farewell Cyttorak, you were always a lesser god..."
Chthon began to crush the Juggernaut's chest, and Cain winced in agony. Try as he might, he could not move Chthon off him.
"CYTTORAK!" cried Strange, as he took a step towards Chthon. What he hoped to do against such an ancient evil he did not know, but he had to do something.
Chthon turned and looked down at the Sorceror Supreme. He laughed as Strange attempted to bind him, and enveloped Strange within a shell of pure darkness, immobilising him. Chthon then turned his attention back to Cyttorak in the Juggernaut's body.
What he saw, however, he had not expected to see. The Juggernaut was glowing with an eerie ruby light, as he gripped Chthon's foot and hurled the dark god away. Rising to his feet, the booming voice of Cyttorak emerged from his mouth.
"BEGONE EVIL ONE!" cried Cyttorak, from within the Juggernaut's body, "You shall not take my realm today, nor ANY day!"
The Juggernaut roared, and leaned back one huge fist, and smashed it through Chthon's body, shattering it into a million shards of black crystal, which disintegrated as soon as they hit the ground.
The shell encasing Strange disappeared in time for him to see Cyttorak and the Juggernaut separate. Cain fell to his knees, exhausted at having hosted the full power of the Red God.
"You did well, mighty one!" Cyttorak addressed the Juggernaut, who turned his attention to his benefactor.
"Don't... mention... it..." wheezed Cain.
Cyttorak laughed, "Use my power willingly mortal, for you have proven yourself worthy to wield my gift!" The god nodded thanks to Strange, and strode off into the distance.
"Well, that was fun..." muttered Cain as he got to his feet, "but I tell you one thing Strange, never again! All this mystical crap makes me nervous..."
Strange was silent as he teleported himself and the Juggernaut out of Cyttorak's dimension.
Black Tom groaned and sat up, shaking his head. When his vision cleared, he saw his old friend and the Sorceror Supreme standing before him.
"Tom!" cried Cain, "Yer alright!"
"Aye laddie," replied Tom groggily, "though I feel like someone's been dancing around in me skull..."
Cain shook Strange's hand, "Thanks Doc! How can I ever repay ya?!"
"Just don't ask me to take on any more elder gods anytime soon, Marko, and we'll call it even." replied Strange.
The Juggernaut nodded, and then helped Tom to his feet. Strange's manservant, Wong, escorted the pair out. Once outside of Strange's domicile, Tom suddenly realised something wasn't right, and saw the wood virus that he had been infected with once before had returned.
Cain saw his friend's troubled look, "Don't worry about it Tom, I'll explain it to ya on the way to Canada..."
"Canada? What's in Canada?" asked a bewildered Black Tom.
"The Weapon X Project..."
Next: The Juggernaut is heading back to the Weapon X project to get a cure for Black Tom, but what happens when he runs across the scourge of the Canadian wilderness - the savage Wendigo?! Don't miss this prelude to the big Weapon X Redux crossover!