Magic and Mania

Five Years Ago

“Why did she dress like that, my mother I mean.” Theodosia was a sixteen year old looking through digital photos and video footage of the long gone Avengers, paying particular attention to the Scarlet Witch.

Agatha Harkness did a good impression of sitting on the couch next to Theo. As a ghost or astral projection she could not actually sit on the couch, but it was a passable imitation. “In red? It was sort of her thing; Scarlet Witch and all.”

“No, I get that. It’s a good color. I meant the skimpy outfits.” Theo held the tablet up to show a photo of her mother wearing a particularly suggestive leather corset prominently featuring a pair of gravity defying breasts. They were almost magical.

“Of course she didn’t always dress like that. Her wardrobe contained more … traditional outfits as well. She did strike quite the figure, though. You have to remember, she was on a global stage, performing across the planet, often in alternate dimensions. So she put on a bit of theatrics. It’s almost a requirement for you superheroes.”

“Why are you looking at me like that? Oh no, not me. I want to help, sure, but I’m not cut out for all that hero business.” Theo couldn’t help but feel self conscious at the thought of being in front of the entire world no matter what she was wearing. She glanced down at her own developing breasts and blushed.

“Neither was she until she was.” Agatha signalled Theo to keep scrolling.

“And the other things they say about her? That she was ... insane?” Theo wasn’t quite sure how to broach that subject and had been putting it off for some time.

Agatha considered her words carefully, something she was wont to do frequently. “In the beginning, her powers gave her the ability to manipulate probability over short ranges and only within her line of sight. Specifically to the detriment of others. Does that sound anything like an eleven-year-old we knew?” Agatha was referring to Theo’s own powers which had manifest similarly. “When your mother’s powers underwent their next evolution the ability to manipulate chaos magic became her thing. She literally had the power of death in her hands. She was then able to resurrect the dead and create a child while skipping the usual steps. Not you dear, you were conceived the good old fashion way, but several years later. And before you work yourself up over it, no, they weren't zombies, those children. Her final manifestation of ability went beyond anything I’d seen before. And I’ve been around for a long time. She was able to completely alter reality. With all this power Wanda was able to create an entirely new reality. You have heard me mention it before, briefly. She didn’t keep journals of her exploits or what she intended to do, but I’ve pieced together the spells she was researching, some of them at least. I have no proof of it because she restored this reality in the end, but she was never the same. Her mind became … fragmented after those events.”

“I’m confused Aunt Agatha. If she restored this reality in the end, how do you know she did anything at all? And what exactly is it she’s supposed to have done?”

“She did what she was not supposed to do. I’m not a telepath in the literal sense, but I picked up words and names from her mind. At first I disregarded these thoughts of hers, but she had grown increasingly reckless and frenetic and her mind was broadcasting more than thoughts by that point. She couldn’t stop herself, was not in control of the images her mind regurgitated. I saw what she’d done and it was terrible. In that alternate reality the events came to be known as the House of M. It started with the most powerful and pervasive spell the world had ever seen. Dead comrades and loved ones were restored to life, mutants and humans alike were entrenched in idyllic lives that embodied their deepest desires for happiness and your mother convinced even herself that she were normal, no longer a mutant and she lived a peaceful life raising her magically restored children, completely oblivious to her true past and deeds. With the exception of one or two rare individuals, the entire world accepted this reality without challenge. What you need to know is that she was finally happy, but at the expense of so many others. It was wrong what she did, but she was happy. Those few who felt somehow this reality was not natural or their own ruined all that for your mother. They forced her to remember what she’d chosen to forget; that her children were dead or had never lived in the first place. But more damaging I think, she remembered the death of her twin, your Uncle Pietro.”

“Uncle Pietro died?! You mean he disappeared in the Poof?” It was clear Theo was confused; trying to keep track of the various realities Wanda Maximoff had tampered with and created would be confusing to anyone. Agatha held up her ghostly finger to quiet Theo.

“And when she came to her senses, or rather, when she regained her memories and lost her senses, she fixed this terrible blunder by committing another. She returned the world to normal, except for the small detail of making sure 90% of the mutant population was stripped of their powers.”

“That's why there are so few of us left.” Theo sounded like she was trying to latch onto a part of the story that she could understand again, a part that she was more familiar with.

“Not exactly. The House of M was a terrible mistake. Terrible. Fortunately, your father was able to send word back in time to prevent it from happening. There's far more to it than that, but a young girl needn't know everything.”

“I thought Doctor Strange sent word back to prevent the Infinity Wars. Are you saying this was the second time my father warned us against my mother?” Theodosia was looking at a photo of Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver embracing one another. She didn’t look like the kind of person who would decimate an entire population, but if the stories were to be believed…..

“Stephen Strange has warned the world against your mother more than twice. She required a great deal of cleaning up after when she was in those states of mind. So you see, even without the proof, I know she did those things because she did them again, only this time she was so thoroughly ... Unstable that the spell could not be reversed because it had been performed when she was … not well.”

“You mean when she went crazy.”

“That's a harsh thing for a girl to say of her mother. You weren't there. You didn't see the enormous pressures placed on her shoulders. With so much power at her fingertips, it is understandable how your mother has lost her mind on more than one occasion.”

“And if I follow in her footsteps I should be seriously worried about joining her in the looney bin too, right?” Theo tried to sound like it was a joke, but her eyes showed her all too real concern.

“Your mother was never in an asylum. By the time it may have been necessary it was no longer capable of containing her. I believe insanity happens when the mind cannot reconcile with reality. Your mother tampered with reality on a daily basis. It was her job; a tool in her arsenal for carrying out her heavy burden. I had hoped you would never know the weight of such a burden, but you are moving towards your powers with an advanced awareness of the possibilities they will cultivate. It’s my belief this will allow your mind the opportunity to come to grips with these potentialities over time. That’s the only reason I trouble you with this information. I would never disparage your mother, but she did not have your opportunity for foresight and preemptive introspection. And she was not entirely insane nor in such a state indefinitely. It was a recurring wave that overcame her during powerful events.”

“Could you tell when she was… less than sane?”

“No, not always. Your uncle Pietro was better than any of us at watching out for her, but no, we did not always know.”

“Did she ever know when she was… losing it?”

“I don't believe so. She would never have done those things had she known. I’m sorry Theo. I’m sorry to be telling you all this now. I’m sorry I didn't tell you before. I’m sorry your mother isn’t here to explain these things to you herself. She was remarkably capable of defending herself and team against outside threats, but it was the hidden dangers within her own mind that posed the most peril. She loved you, I know that, but she could not accept the loss of her earlier children.”

“You said Uncle Pietro died? And that was what sent her over the edge? But she restored her reality before depowering the mutants?” Theo was trying to piece it together. She had pictures of herself with Uncle Pietro, the timing just didn’t work out.

“As I said, your mother tampered with reality on a daily basis. It was within her power to restore Quicksilver to life so she did. She would have done anything to keep her twin with her. They were inseparable. Much like you and your cousin.”

“I love Niko. I would murder the world for him.”

“That’s an alarming statement given the things I’ve just told you of your mother.”

“You know what I mean. So, did she restore Quicksilver to life or prevent him from dying?”

“It makes little difference, Theo.” Agatha looked uncomfortable with the question.

“Oh it makes a difference. One way he had to die first and be brought back to life. The other he was spared the dying all together. I think Uncle Pietro would tell you it makes a big difference.”

“Pietro would die a thousand times if it helped save your mother. He would do anything for her. And she would bring him back a thousand times because she loved him and could not go on without him.”

“So… how many times? Do you think he died more than once?” Theo was looking at her own hands as if trying to weigh the power they contained.

“We all die eventually, Theodosia. It was never your mother’s burden or task to prevent that. It will never be yours either. Each of us will die. Do you understand me, dear? You cannot save the world from the natural order of life and death.”

Theo did not look up to accept Agatha’s consoling. The wheels were already spinning inside her sixteen-year-old head. Crimson tendrils of neon fog coalesced and evaporated then formed again in her hands as she stared down at them. What if she could save the world? What if there was a way to restore her family and the Avengers? What if she could fix what her mother could not?

From the doorway an eighteen-year-old Niko watched a disturbing smile creep across Agatha Harkness’ face. And a dissimilar, yet equally disturbing smile form on his cousin’s.

< Prev : Niko at Night Next > : Niko meets Scarlet Spider ... at Night