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Darkhold

The Book of the Darkhold is a volume of parchments transcribed eons ago, by the demonic Elder God Chthon containing all of the arcane knowledge that he had amassed through the millions of years he spent learning to control the dark mystic forces of the cosmos. Chthon was one of the major Elder Gods created by the Demiurge as the first life forms on Earth. When the wars among the Elder Gods threatened the evolution of organic life on Earth, the Elder Goddess Gaea gave birth to the first of the newer gods, Atum. In his form of Demogorge, Atum destroyed most of the Elder Gods, who had degenerated into demons. To protect himself, Chthon decided to flee the Earthly plane. Before doing so, he created the Darkhold, transcribing his mystical knowledge upon parchments, to serve as his touchstone with the Earthly dimension. Chthon managed to escape into a nether dimension before Demogorge could slay him. When the Darkhold passed into the hands of intelligent beings at some later date, Chthon would have an indestructible medium through which to manipulate Earth pawns as well as a talisman that could one day be turned into a dimensional portal for his return to Earth.

Since Chthon wrote the Darkhold long before human beings evolved on Earth, it was not written in any human language. Presumably Chthon imbued the parchments with magic that would enable any sentient being with mystic potential to see the Darkhold as written in a language he or she could comprehend.

Any mortal who reads the Darkhold risks becoming corrupted by it and even becoming the slave of Chthon himself. However, mystics of great skill and will power, such as Doctor Stephen Strange, Earth's sorcerer supreme, and men of deep and strong religious faith, such as the members of the Montesi family, have proved to be able to resist being corrupted or mentally dominated by the book.

The Darkhold was first discovered by human sorcerers of pre-Cataclysmic Atlantis who founded a cult called the Darkholders. Seeking vengeance on their enemy, Kull, king of Valusia, the Darkholders used the spells contained in the book to create the first vampires. The Darkholder Varnae, who was dying, volunteered to be a subject of this spell and thus became the very first vampire. However, Varnae and the other vampires turned against the other Darkholders, slaying most of them. Surviving members of the Darkholders managed to remove the Darkhold from Atlantis before the continent sank in the Great Cataclysm.

It is not known who possessed the Darkhold during the Hyborian Age, but it fell through a succession of hands over the following millennia, including those of Babylonian savants, Egyptian priests, and Hebrew scholars.

In the Sixth Century A.D. the parchments found their way to Britain where the sorceress Morgan Le Fey had them bound into book form for the first time. It was at this time that the work was first named the Darkhold. Morgan used the book to summon Chthon to the Earthly plane for the first time, but discovered that Chthon was too powerful to be compelled to do her bidding. It took the sorceress might of Morgan and her new band of Darkholders to repel Chthon from the mortal plane. A renegade Darkholder named Magnus stole the Darkhold, placed it in a tower, and wove an intricate spell whereby no one of evil intent could enter. The great wizard Merlin called upon the early Christian Church to put an end to the menace of the Darkhold. The Church sent St. Brendan, a monk skilled in white magic, to the tower. An apprentice sorcerer named Modred misguidedly entered the tower and had his soul corrupted by Chthon. But St. Brendan intervened, using white magic to seal the Darkhold in a mystic globe. He then entombed Modred, who remained in mystical suspended animation until recent years. Brendan tore apart the Darkhold and scattered its indestructible parchments throughout Europe in the hope that no one would ever reassemble them.

However, in the Twelfth Century a corrupt Spanish monk named Aelfric gathered together most of the scattered pages of the Darkhold. Aelfric was burned at the stake for heresy, and the Church took possession of the Darkhold parchments he had collected. They were given into the keeping of Paolo Montesi, a young priest appointed by Pope Eugene VII to be curator of the Church's library of the occult in Rome. To prevent anyone from falling under Chthon's power, Pope Eugene decreed that Montesi, who had proved able to resist the Darkhold's evil influence, would be the only priest authorized to handle the Darkhold scrolls. Furthermore, the Pope gave Montesi a special dispensation permitting him to marry and sire children, whom he would train to take over his work in time as custodian of the Darkhold. Pope Eugene also had the scrolls bound into a single volume, which was officially named the Book of Sins.

Varnae, now the leader of Earth's vampires, knew that the Church sought a means of exterminating his kind and that the Darkhold would provide the means to accomplish this task. Hence, Varnae and a host of vampires invaded Rome, seeking to kill Montesi and steal the Darkhold. The vampires were driven off, but Varnae succeeded in murdering Montesi. But by this time Montesi's infant son, Giacomo, had been born, and years later he took over his father's work as custodian of the Darkhold. It wag Giacomo who translated most of the Darkhold into Latin, and most sorcerers from that time who have used spells from the Darkhold have derived them from this Latin translation. (Apparently, handling the Darkhold somehow mystically extended the life span of the various Montesis who were its custodians.)

Giacomo Montesi believed that the spell to destroy vampires was contained in one of the Darkhold parchments missing from the Church's collection. In the mid-Fourteenth Century one of Varnae's agents murdered Giacomo Montesi, who was succeeded as keeper of the Darkhold by his son, Marcello.

Before the end of the Fifteenth Century, Varnae perished and Dracula became ruler of Earth's vampires. Around 1600 A.D. Dracula learned of the existence of the Darkhold and that it threatened the existence of vampires. He forced the gypsy thief Murgo to steal the Darkhold from the Vatican Library in Rome. However, the sorcerer Cagliostro, king of the gypsies, murdered Murgo and took the Darkhold for himself.

For nearly two centuries neither Dracula nor the Montesis could locate the Darkhold. There was a rumor that in the early Nineteenth Century it was in the possession of the British vampire, Lord Ruthven, who spent much of his time in the Greek islands.

Shortly after World War II, the Darkhold was sold in Istanbul by the sorcerer Taboo to the scholar Baron Gregor Russoff of Transylvania. Russoff had the Darkhold bound inside the diary in which he recorded his occult experiences. The possession of the Darkhold triggered Russoff's hereditary tendency towards lycanthropy and turned him into a werewolf.

Russoff had inadvertently brought the Darkhold close to where the Earthly essence of its demonic author had been imprisoned, Wundagore Mountain. Believing that Chthon would free him from the curse of being a werewolf, Russoff used the Darkhold to try to bring Chthon back to Earth. The High Evolutionary, his Knights of Wundagore, and Magnus fought Chthon. When Russoff, forced by Magnus, used the Darkhold to banish Chthon back to his own dimension, Chthon struck Russoff dead. Dracula, who had suspected Russoff owned the Darkhold, now planned to seize the book himself. However, the Darkhold was then shipped to Russoff's ex-wife in the United States, along with most of his other possessions. Later, her second husband sold Russoff's estate, including the Darkhold, to an American named Miles Blackgar. Ruasoff's son Jacob, known in America as Jack Russell, inherited his father's lycanthropic curse and stole the Darkhold, believing it contained a spell for curing him. Russell lent the Darkhold to Father Ramon Joquez, a priest, in the hope that he could find and decipher this spell. But due to weaknesses in Joquez's religious faith, he became possessed by the spirit of Aelfric, which had been trapped within the Darkhold. Aelfric was defeated and Joquez died.

Later, Dracula stole the Darkhold from Russell and his ally Topaz in Transylvania. The vampire hunter Rachel van Helsing made off with the Darkhold, but Dracula recovered it, and threw it into the snows of the Alps, believing no one would ever find it.

However, notes that Joquez had made on Russoff's copy of the Darkhold were sent to Monsignore Guiseppe Montesi at the Vatican. Joquez's extensive notes included a transcription of the long-sought spell for the destruction of vampires, which has since become known as the Montesi Formula, Dracula learned of Montesi's discovery, however, and slew him. Guiseppe was succeeded by his brother, Monsignore Vittorio Montesi, who remains curator of the Vatican's occult library today.

The spirit of Morgan Le Fey recovered the Darkhold from the Alps, but the book later fell into the hands of Modred the Mystic, who had been released from suspended animation. Modred then captured the mutant Scarlet Witch, who had been born atop Wundagore Mountain. Chthon then took demonic possession of the Scarlet Witch. However, the Avengers managed to dispossess the Scarlet Witch and re-imprison Chthon's Earthly essence in Wundagore Mountain. The Avengers took the Darkhold with them back to the original Avengers Mansion in Manhattan.

Later, a cult of Darkholders used their magic to increase Dracula's own powers. Dracula attempted to steal the Darkhold from Avengers Mansion, but Earth's sorcerer supreme Doctor Stephen Strange sent it to Castle Mordo in Transylvania. There Strange, wielding the Darkhold himself, and his allies Blade, Frank Drake, and the vampire Hannibal King used the complete Montesi Formula to destroy Dracula and all other vampires on Earth (save for King, who was returned to normal human life) and to create a spell by which vampires could no longer exist on Earth. Due to his vast power and mastery of the occult, Strange is the only person ever to use the Darkhold physically in casting spells without forfeiting his soul to Chthon.

Doctor Strange kept the Darkhold in his house, but eventually the house was stolen and removed to another world by the alien sorcerer Urthona. Following a confrontation with Strange, Urthona used the Darkhold to transport himself magically to safety.

Afterward, however, the Darkhold vanished from Urthona's possession. Recently, Agamotto, the first Sorcerer Supreme of the Earth dimension, returned the Darkhold to the keeping of Doctor Strange.

First Appearance: MARVEL CHILLERS #3

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